Alex Vipond, DMSB’16, is a global citizen and a budding entrepreneur, a guitar player in a tight-knit band and a member of Northeastern’s Huntington 100. Here, he reflects on his past five years at Northeastern and looks ahead to the future.
You studied business administration, with a concentration in supply chain management and social entrepreneurship. What’s next?
I have a few ideas. One possibility is that I return to Interise, a nonprofit in the small business development sector, where I completed my final co-op as a marketing and communication intern. It’s a really cool organization with a lot of great people, and I’m sure I can learn a lot there. The company is really interested in self-motivated employees and gives them every chance to use their skills to the best of their abilities.
Another possibility is that I continue to work on The Compost Project, a startup that I co-founded with Harrison Ackerman, SSH’15, and Eli Brown, E’16. In essence, we want to recycle organic waste into fertilizer. Our vision is to help create a world with healthy soil, healthy people, and a healthy economy.
The three of us are currently working with IDEA to conduct consumer research, with a particular focus on Boston-based farmers and home gardeners. And we’re also looking to incorporate social impact into our business model, by collecting food waste from schools, restaurants, and coffee shops in low-income areas of Boston and possibly donating some of the compost to local urban farmers.
You completed three field research projects through the Social Enterprise Institute, including two in South Africa and one in Latin America. How did these experiential learning opportunities inform your business model for The Compost Project?
Both contributed to the business model in a big way. First and foremost, my experience in Latin America sparked my interest in working in the agriculture sector. I visited Cuba and the Dominican Republic, where I came face to face with people I could be working with and saw the areas in which I could be working in 10 to 15 years down the line.
In Cape Town, South Africa, I was focused on looking at how to measure improvement in people’s lives, which can be very difficult to quantify when you’re working in the environmental sector or running a social enterprise. But reporting on success can guide your business forward, helping you pursue new investment opportunities and secure new grants, and while there I learned that it’s important to develop strategies for measuring impact.
What will you miss most about the Northeastern community?
The diversity. At Northeastern, students come from all over the country and all over the world. They have a broad range of interests and study different topics, and yet they’re still able to come together and work toward common research, and academic, and professional goals.
The main thing I’ve learned from the experience is that there is more than one way to solve really complex problems, solutions to which are often informed by people’s backgrounds and critical thinking skills, what they know and where they’re from.
Describe your fondest memory of the past five years
One of my most enjoyable experiences has been playing guitar in an indie rock band called Yohannes, which is named after the manager of the building in which my band mates and I currently live. We—that is, Brown, Zach Bachiri, CIS’16, Keenan Hye, E’16, and I—started jamming during our freshman year and have continued to write and record music ever since.
The experience has taught me a lot about working in a professional environment. What I’ve learned is making a quality song [is similar to collaborating in the workplace.] You need to know when to step back and be quiet and let the talents of your bandmates shine through. You have to allow them the time and space to show off their skills.
What advice do you have for incoming students?
When you make important decisions, like what to major in and what co-op to go on, think less about how these particular choices will impact your future career path and more about who you will be working with, what you can learn from them, and what you might be able to teach them too. As big as these decisions might seem, there will still be room to explore. Have a plan but don’t feel like you have to complete every part of the plan in a specific order. Be flexible and take things one day at a time.