Although Newman alumnus Brandon Brigham graduated nearly six years ago, his time spent at Newman still impacts his life in a big way.
Brigham, who played basketball at Newman and graduated in fall 2009, launched his own company in 2011 called Kansas Filtration. Since then, the company, which he started with the help of a partnership, has grown and expanded into four different companies, all related to industrial air quality.
“We hit the ground running,” Brigham said. “I was more prepared than I thought I was, which was a great position to find myself in. I never had made that assumption, but when I was put to the test, the experiences and the education that I had was more than enough to compete.”
The quick success of Kansas Filtration wasn’t marked as luck in Brigham’s book. Instead, Brigham said he had the high expectations of Newman to thank for his preparation in the business world.
“The business world today has high expectations – you need to do something better, faster, cheaper,” Brigham said. “So to come out of a college without understanding what some of those expectations can be like, I think sets you up for failure. When I came out of Newman, professors had high expectations of me, so it was an easy transition into the real world.”
Brigham’s rise from college graduate to multi-business owner wasn’t quite immediate, although things did move quickly. He found a place in the job market only 30 days after walking across the stage to receive his diploma. It didn’t take long, however, for Brigham to realize he had the ability and drive to start his own business.
“I had relocated to northeastern Kansas. It was a great company and great opportunity, but just didn’t match my personality,” Brigham said. “I wanted to get back to Wichita. It’s a big town with a small-town feel.”
Once back in Wichita, Brigham began working for a company that focused on air quality. After a year, he started his own business. The company soon expanded into four, Brigham said, because he wants to have a hand in every dollar spent, top to bottom.
“We’re in distribution and manufacturing. We’re in retail and wholesale,” Brigham said. “We’re in commercial and industrial, and we work strongly to vertically integrate our business.”
Aside from the impact Newman had on his business skills, Brigham said some of his favorite memories come from his time in the Newman Business Department.
“The challenges they put in front of me made me a better person and have made me a better businessman,” Brigham said.
He added that some of the best moments were in classes led by Associate Professor of Management and Entrepreneurship Ron Ryan, Ph.D.
“He brought in entrepreneurs from all around the city to come and tell their stories,” Brigham said. “As much as I like reading books, when you have a session with a multi-millionaire who’s going to tell you more in 50 minutes than you can read in a hundred books, it’s just unbelievable, absolutely priceless. That was worth everything.”
Brigham said he still stays in touch with many of the speakers Ryan would bring to class, and even makes trips back to campus today to listen to various entrepreneurs speak in Ryan’s classes.
The opportunity to come back on campus and listen to these business leaders speaks to the heart of one of Brigham’s favorite things about Newman, he said.
“It’s a tight-knit community,” Brigham said. “At Newman, you see everybody. It doesn’t matter what their major is … you may have never had a class with them, it doesn’t matter, you still know them. Tight- knit, and there’s a lot of comfort with that.”
The importance of mentoring
Brigham’s personality fits right in with the tight-knit and communal feel that Newman offers. Brigham said everyone under his roof is a Newman grad with the exception of his partner. He said he loves having the opportunity to better someone’s life and hopes Newman students continue to reach out to him.
“I would just about mentor anyone under the sun because I had great mentors who treated me well. That’s why I’m here today,” Brigham said. “Hopefully I can be an inspiration to some of the young adults and grown adults at Newman. I have some grown adults that are customers that go to Newman now and they’ve reached out to me. I tell them, ‘I wish you reached out sooner, let’s sit down and talk about it.’”
Although Brigham is willing to share his knowledge with any Newman student who reaches out, he said he doesn’t doubt Newman’s ability to produce successful students.
“The expectations at Newman are high. It’s not just business, the expectations are high in every program and not to be taken lightly,” Brigham said. “If you understand those expectations, if you meet the requirements, and do it with a smile on your face, which [Newman] makes easy, then you’re going to step out in the real world and it’s going to be an easy transition. If you can succeed there, you can succeed in the real world, no problem.”
Kansas Filtration had a record-setting year in 2014, and Brigham said the outlook for 2015 is to be just as successful. He plans to continue to grow the business and, in turn, himself, he said. Brigham was married in August 2014 and said that family is a number one priority, with work a close second. Outside of work, he spends time with his family or hunting and fishing – although he tries to tie his wildlife trips in with work as often as possible.
With family and an ever-growing company, Brigham doesn’t have much time to think about the past. However, when he can afford this luxury, he said Newman always plays a big role on memory lane.
“I believe my Newman experience is what got me where I am today. I don’t spend a lot of time looking back, but if and when I do, the road behind me is pretty straight and narrow and it went straight through Newman. I believe I am here today, doing what I’m doing because of my past, and Newman was a big part of that. I wouldn’t change a thing.”
-Delaney Hiegert ’18