Alena Arendt – Sioux City, Iowa
I remember the first time I heard about the Southwestern Advantage program – I was about 12 years old. I didn’t have the traditional “book kid” experience that most get – as my dad and four of my aunts and uncles have all taken to the Bookfield. Honestly, I didn’t know much about it, other than my dad “sold books” during the summertime in college. However, during my sophomore year of college one of my best high school friends called me and said that she had just finished selling books (just like my dad!). Alyssa, my friend, shared about all that she had learned and how much she grew and the money she made. She asked me if I would like to meet Matt, her sales manager, and of course I agreed (me being a finance major I am always allured by money). I remember the first day I met Matt in the library on my small campus in Sioux City, Iowa. He went through his presentation, telling me all the pros and cons, what attracts people to the program and what scares them away, and I remember getting this feeling inside that this was it. This is what I needed; it would help me to overcome all the challenges that I was being faced with. Of course I still had my doubts, so I did the research assignments, talked to my friends, and my boyfriend at the time. It took me a long time to decide whether this was for me or not, because I would have to give up my college cross-country career. I remember talking to my dad about selling books and he said “Alena, there is no other single thing that I have done in my life that I learned more from.” So I decided I would do it.
I remember being so scared while I was preparing for the summer. I was so anxious at sales school, everyone seemed so excited to be there and I didn’t know anyone at all because I was the first person from my school to do the program. But, I have always prided myself on working hard, whether it was in track or in school or even at home with my dad and our farm. So I figured that if this thing really worked like my dad told me it would, that if I just worked hard the way they coached me to, I would be successful.
I remember my first day on the Bookfield; I was selling in Swarthmore, Pennsylvania, a suburb of Philadelphia. Quite a shock for a small town girl from western Nebraska. I had never driven in a city bigger than Omaha! I started work on time, knocking, trying to remember what to say. Door after door I knocked on all day, thinking that hopefully this will work for me. At about 4 p.m. I found a customer! Her name was Doreen. I was soooooo nervous, and she was so kind and patient. She laughingly filled out the order form for me because I couldn’t stop fumbling! I remember thinking to myself, “All I have to do is find the cool people like Doreen each day.” I bought into the program; I trusted that if I worked hard, that I would find a few customers each day, and I would be successful. After all, I had already found some without even getting past my learning curve. I had to fight my negative thoughts and emotions that entire summer. My mind would drift and start telling me, “This is hard and uncomfortable – stop doing it.” I shed a lot of tears. There were numerous occasions where I wanted to hop on I-90 and head for the comforts of home, but I then I remembered giving Matt and Alyssa my word that they could count on me – that I was the type of person that finished what I started. And I did. I finished my first summer as a Top First Year, saved over $13,000, and enjoyed a trip to Cancun. I can remember the feeling of finishing and showing my savings check to my dad. I remember how he cried when he told me how proud he was of me. There was no greater feeling in the world.
I can’t thank Southwestern Advantage enough for its leaders and for the life they have helped me create for myself. There is no better place to become the caliber of person you’ve always thought of being, inside and out.