Skip to main content

The City Journals

Inside the life of a Taylorsville summer-sales phenom

Mar 11, 2020 01:50PM ● By Carl Fauver

University of Utah student Nic Park, of Taylorsville, was recently honored as a top sales performer by an international educational materials marketing company. (Courtesy Southwestern Advantage)

By Carl Fauver | [email protected]

We’ve all witnessed the recent trend of dying brick and mortar retail stores across the Salt Lake Valley and the country. While Sears and Kmart file for bankruptcy, Amazon founder and CEO Jeff Bezos just spent more than a quarter-of-a-billion dollars on not one but two Southern California mansions.

But even long before online sales began to devour strip malls and shopping plazas, another form of sales virtually disappeared.

Anyone seen a Fuller Brush man lately? Has someone rung your doorbell recently, toting a vacuum cleaner or a set of encyclopedias? Does the phrase “ding-dong … Avon calling” mean anything to you? 

We’ve all learned that gentle knock at the door these days is not someone selling us something but someone delivering the item we already bought and paid for, usually adding to Bezos’ $120 billion fortune.

So, amid our evolving retail climate, how does Southwestern Advantage continue to do what it does — sell educational materials door-to-door?

The Nashville-based company starts by finding people like University of Utah student Nic Park, of Taylorsville.

“Since 1868, Southwestern Advantage has offered a sales and leadership program that gives university students a way to afford their degrees and gain transferable skills before graduation,” according to a company statement. “Interns are trained in performing consultative sales, marketing educational products to families in communities throughout the country. Nicholas Park of Taylorsville was one of the top performers (last year), out of more than 1,600 students representing more than 240 campuses across the U.S., Europe and Asia.”

A returned missionary for The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, Park said he was used to ringing doorbells and dealing with rejection.

“I graduated from Cottonwood High School in 2013 (among a handful of students who were bussed at that time across the valley to populate the eastside school) and served my mission in Raleigh, North Carolina,” Park said. “I started at the U. in the fall of 2015 and learned about Southwestern Advantage the following year from recruiters who spoke to my Human Anatomy class. It sounded like a fun and interesting way to earn money, so I pursued it.”

Park’s interview for the Southwestern Advantage door-to-door sales position, in March 2017, was a three-day process. As a part of it, he created a PowerPoint presentation, explaining how he planned to succeed doing this virtually extinct form of sales.

Turns out he was right. In his third summer selling for the company, Park placed in the top 10% of all the company’s salespeople.

“Many people make their way through life avoiding challenge and never truly knowing what they are capable of achieving,” Southwestern Advantage President Dan Moore said. “Nic showed us he is the type who not only embraces challenge but also understands that is where our character shines. We’re so proud to be associated with Nic and the work he did to improve the lives of the families he met.”

In his first summer selling educational materials for the company (2017) Park profited about $7,000, while locating 120 new customers. The following year, Park found 190 new customers, earning $13,000 for himself. Last summer, Nic shattered his previous records, earning $21,653 from 277 new clients.

“It was nice to be a returned missionary because I was used to knocking on doors,” Park said. “I sold materials for young toddlers — things to help them identify colors — all the way up to books for high school students prepping for their ACT and SAT tests. The biggest difference from my mission as that I did not have a companion with me. Here, I had to motivate myself.”

Each of his three summers selling for Southwestern Advantage, Park moved far from Utah to live with host families. His first and third summers were spent in Pennsylvania, while Alabama was his home for that middle summer.

“I will be a field sales manager this summer and will learn where I will be living, in March,” Park said. “I enjoy the work and the challenge.”

Park believes he has proven his sales ability to the point he could make a career with Southwestern Advantage. However, at this point, his plan is to become a physical therapist, requiring him to pursue another degree after graduating from the University of Utah this May.