First Young Alum of the Year Uses Business Expertise to Give Back
Warm Hands, Warm Heart
Where do the seeds of success take root? For business administration major Bryan Papé ’07, recipient of the first Young Alum of the Year award, it might have been while observing his grandfather and uncle build a successful business from scratch.
Or when former Seattle Pacific University soccer coach Cliff McCrath recruited him to play for the Falcons. Or when Papé made the decision not to play soccer after all but to instead build a video production company by making a documentary about the men’s soccer team.
Ultimately, the trend line of his success was forecast when freshman Papé was introduced to his SPU business mentor, Kevin O’Keefe. In monthly lunch meetings, the financial advisor provided valuable business insights. In Papé’s junior year, he heard of O’Keefe’s best friend Rick Wood’s startup company, Little Hotties Warmers. Wood needed additional help but couldn’t pay much. Papé signed on, eager for a summer internship and intrigued by the corporate name and product: hand warmers for the outdoor recreational market.
It was a ground-floor opportunity for a company that erupted in sales. Papé describes himself then as “barely old enough to be trusted,” but trusted he was. As the company’s only employee, he says, “I did anything and everything.” He built the firm’s website, answered the phones, placed orders, and observed Wood. He managed temporary workers who built pallet displays for Costco, Little Hotties’ first major brand-boosting account.
Papé received a bonus plan with compensation tied to performance. He used the bonus to buy his fiancee, Rebecca Vance ’07, an engagement ring.
At summer’s end, Papé received the offer of a full-time job with Little Hotties to commence the following spring, just ahead of graduation. Ironically, he says, “I bombed my final business class, ‘Strategic Management,’ because I was in China working on our supply chain!”
As director of operations and marketing, his youthfulness startled many an ocean freight vendor upon first meeting.
“I spent countless evenings on the phone to China with our suppliers and a translator,” remembers Papé. “But along with the headaches came rewards. When I
visited one of our factories a couple of years ago, every line worker applauded me and thanked me for the business we had brought them. Rick and I alone provided hundreds of jobs to people. One woman asked why we cared so much about them. Some might see this as unpatriotic [to the U.S.], but to me it’s humanitarian. Providing for others goes beyond borders. It’s the light of Christ.”
Little Hotties, a dominant industry force, has since sold to Implus Footcare. Papé helped in the transition, then last fall gave notice in order to pursue new business projects that he says will take him down another path about which he is equally passionate.
Giving back is ingrained in his life. He has “corralled” fourth graders at University Presbyterian Church and volunteers at Seattle Children’s Hospital, where he loves to make kids laugh. He is also a member of the Papé Family Foundation. He believes in taking his gifts and using them to improve the lives of others. It’s all part of what Papé calls his “positive expectancy paradigm,” where truly anything is possible.
—Photo by John Keatley
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