By Caroline Barnhill
When Nathan Paris opened up the email announcing his acceptance into Poole College’s new Master of Management program with a concentration in marketing analytics, it took him a minute to process what he was reading.
“To be honest, I wasn’t sure I was going to be accepted,” Paris says. “After all, I had a long road getting to that point.”
Paris started his collegiate career at NC State in the early 1990s, only to find himself making the difficult decision to drop out with just 30 credit hours remaining to earn a business degree.
“I fell into a rut trying to balance school and work,” Paris shares. “Leaving school before graduating was a difficult decision and something I regretted for many years.”
Paris moved on with life. A hard worker, he moved to New York along with his soon-to-be wife and took on a district leadership role with Abercrombie & Fitch while she finished medical school. The two later moved to Tennessee where she completed her residency, while Paris took a position at an automotive aftermarket manufacturer handling the company’s sales and marketing responsibilities.
“I did a little bit of everything – from learning Adobe products to handling national advertising – and all of it self-taught,” Paris shares. “Around that same time, my family was growing. By the time we had our third child, my wife was a physician and we decided it made sense for me to be a stay-at-home parent.”
Paris dabbled in home brewing and after moving back to North Carolina, decided to try his hand at opening his own brewery.
“My kids were all in school at that point, and I found out I was a pretty good brewer, so I gave it a shot,” Paris says.
He opened Flat Top Brewing Company in Banner Elk, N.C., and was surprised to find that he enjoyed the marketing of his business as much, if not more, than the brewing. He developed a keen sense of branding, marketing and advertising and grew the brewery to the position where it was ultimately acquired in 2017 – a sale which he, himself, brokered. Then, at the urging of colleagues, Paris started his own marketing consulting firm. Today, he handles marketing for the franchise group Tands, which owns nearly 70 Bojangles locations across eastern North Carolina and in Richmond, Va.
Back to the Pack
Despite all his professional successes, the fact that Paris never finished his degree always nagged at him. So in 2018, as his daughter was struggling with the decision of whether to transfer from Appalachian State University to NC State to pursue her interest in textiles, Paris made her a proposition.
“I told my daughter that if she applied as a transfer student to NC State, I’d apply for readmission and we could start together in the fall of 2018,” Paris says. “I started back at Poole College to finish my business administration degree with a concentration in marketing – the same program I started in so many years before. Over the next year, I finished my final 30 credit hours earning nothing less than an A- in any course, which is something I wished I could have done 30 years before.”
After graduating, Paris kept up with Poole College news through newsletters and LinkedIn posts. When he saw the announcement of the new Master of management, marketing analytics degree, he knew what he needed to do.
“It was right up my alley. I was increasingly interested in becoming a data-driven marketer. I deal with data every day and know I’ve only scratched the surface of using the data that’s available to me,” Paris says. “Now more than ever with labor and raw material shortages, using data to become as predictive as possible is critical. So I knew this was the program for me. I didn’t think I’d have a chance to get in, but I tried anyway.”
Paris sent a heartfelt note to Poole marketing professor, Rishika Rishika, explaining the long and winding road that led him to that moment. And then he held his breath.
Receiving word that he would have the chance to join NC State once again, this time as a graduate student, is an honor, Paris says.
“This is really the last piece of the puzzle for me to progress in my career and hopefully move into a chief marketing officer role,” Paris says. “I’ve owned and sold my own business. I’ve worked for large and small companies. Being able to lead marketing operations with the knowledge this program will provide is my end-game at this point. And I’m excited to get started.”
This post was originally published in Master of Management Marketing Analytics.