There’s a common saying that goes, “If you do what you love, you won’t work a day in your life.” But how do you get to that point? Many times, you have to make it happen for yourself.
And that’s exactly how Cary Coppola ’04, a computer information systems major, found himself in a position to start his own company.
“Just before I graduated from Simpson, I had a full-time job offer from a company in Des Moines and I took their offer,” Coppola remembers. “I ended up at another web development company, where I met a designer who started pitching me on the idea of going off on our own – starting our own firm.”
At that point in his life, Coppola was married and had a child on the way, so the comfort of his job and salary were very appealing.
“He kept asking and pitching until finally, one day, I said, ‘You know what? Let’s do it!’”
They knew one thing going into the new venture. They would have to put in a lot of hard work. They decided to do an organic start-up so they used the money they earned from their first projects to purchase their own computers and software and built the company themselves.
“We started in the basement,” Coppola said. “But eventually, we knew we needed to step up and get an office.”
They ended up in a self-described “hole in the wall” office for two. Flash forward to today. Their company, Blue Compass Interactive, a web development, design and online marketing company based in Des Moines, has 25 full time employees managing 400-500 projects each year.
That’s a classic example of a Simpson Success Story.
“When I was at Simpson, I was in the computer science club, and that’s when I really focused on my career,” Coppola said.
“I really got involved and (retired professor) Marv Van Wyk worked with me to line up internships.”
Van Wyk, it turned out, had a great influence on Coppola. “He was my advisor, and he was very important to me and stayed with me through my entire Simpson experience. His role as my advisor was more in-depth and he was always an advocate for me in my experience there.”
Professor Lydia Sinapova was also instrumental in Coppola’s future. “I remember one class I had with (Sinopava) and she asked what we wanted to do with our lives and she was really interested in what I had to say. I just remember her really caring about my plans for the future which again, is something that many professors don’t take the time to do,” Coppola said.
That may give a bit of insight into why Coppola decided it was his turn to give back to Simpson College.
“When I started my own company, I kept reaching out to Dr. Sinapova and Dr. Van Wyk, asking them to send their prized students for us to consider as employees. And just like when I was in school, they were advocating for me and our company.”
When Dr. Sinapova reached out to Coppola about a research project her current students were passionate about, he saw a great opportunity for him to assist those students and Simpson College.
The project included sending two groups of students to a national conference in Lexington, KY, that would showcase their groundbreaking research to their peers and other professors. Without Coppola’s donation, they wouldn’t have been able to make the trip.
“Seeing how these students put their heart and soul into the project made it an easy decision for me to support their efforts,” he said. “Plus, it was a great way to thank the professors that invested so much in your success.”
Coppola also supports Simpson in other ways as well. He provides internship opportunities to Simpson students, participates in career fairs on campus and is an active supporter of the EMERGE business incubator program located on campus.
“It’s a really cool experience to be able to be a part of helping students at Simpson just like others supported me when I was there.”