Northwestern Alumni Association launches alumni-owned small business directory


Daily file photo by Evan Robinson-Johnson

A Northwestern Alumni tent. NU alumni celebrating their reunions this year will participate in virtual events this weekend.

Ellen O'Brien, Reporter

The Northwestern Alumni Association recently developed an alumni-owned small business directory to help connect and support Northwestern alumni who are small business owners.

The directory, which launched this month, includes more than 400 alumni-owned small businesses. Submissions to the directory are verified and vetted by the Northwestern Alumni Association.

Larry Irving (Weinberg ’76), president-elect of the Northwestern Alumni Association, said during the pandemic, people want to come together and support small businesses, especially those owned by members of the Northwestern community.

“We know the small businesses are hurting,” Irving said. “And if we can help our small businesses in the Northwestern community, it’s a powerful thing. I’m glad we were able to pull this together quickly. I think it will only grow.”

Irving, who said he is a “fan” of independent bookstores and local craft breweries, said he found some alumni-owned small businesses through the directory that he plans to visit on future trips.

Melissa Zimmerman (Communication ’07) owns It’s A Cuppie, a cupcake business selling “cuppies,” which are cupcakes with cookies inside. Since the start of the pandemic, Zimmerman said more people are ordering shipments of cuppies and sending them to friends or relatives for birthdays and holidays.

Zimmerman said she hopes the directory will increase the number of orders. She said she also enjoys being part of a network of NU alumni who are small business owners.

“I love feeling connected to my school in that way,” Zimmerman said. “Especially now, when everyone is struggling, to say the least, I think it’s a really cool idea to support fellow alumni.”

With trips canceled and borders closed, Iman Childs (Communication ’14) said no money is being transacted right now through her travel consultant business, Booked by Iman. Childs said she is currently focusing on creating more digital content for her business and boosting her online following.

Childs said she saw the directory as a great opportunity to make Northwestern alumni aware of her business. While she hasn’t seen any monetary impact since being listed in the directory, Childs said she has seen people clicking on and looking through her website as a result of the directory.

Jennifer Kaifesh (Weinberg ’03) is the founder of Great Expectation College Prep, which assists high school students in navigating their high school experience and the college admissions process. Kaifesh said she decided to submit her business to the directory primarily to stay connected to the NU community.

“I think that’s just what makes the school special, is that they actually go out of their way to create this, when there’s no true benefit to the school itself,” Kaifesh said. “It’s for the community, which is lovely and exactly why I love the school.”

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