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Emmitt, '04 & Aikens, '05

Emmitt, '04 & Aikens, '05

How does a political science degree plus a criminal justice degree equal a multi-million dollar insulation business? Best friends and business partners Andrew Emmitt, ’04 and Robert Aikens, ’05 will tell you it takes flexibility and hard work.

The two manage the Grand Rapids based company Air-Tite Insulation Inc. The business provides insulation services for residential, commercial and industrial clients. The customer service area stretches from Traverse City to as far south as St. Joseph, Michigan.

Upon graduation from Grand Valley State University, Andrew Emmitt had his sights set on a career in politics. After a stint as the political director for Kent County Republicans, Emmitt met the love of his life and settled down. In 2006, while weighing his career options, he had a discussion with his home builder father-in-law who suggested Emmitt start an insulation business. At first, the idea was laughable, but after some thought, he got serious and took a leap of faith.

“We bought a truck and a machine and we were on our way,” he said “At 22 years old I took a $20,000 risk and it paid off.”

Emmitt’s childhood pal, Robert Aikens, got wind of the business’ success, joined the payroll and eventually adopted the titles, “Business Partner” and “Director of Operations.” Aikens is responsible for Field Management, while Emmitt takes on sales and scheduling of the company which now employs 22 people, several of whom are fellow Grand Valley graduates.

The late nights and early hours of business ownership continue to pay off. Air-Tite recently bought out a competitor and moved to a larger location in Byron Center. Emmitt believes 2012 will be the company’s most successful year to date, estimating $2 million in sales.

Aiken’s favorite quote is “The harder you work, the luckier you get.” If his mantra is at all true, Aikens and Emmitt may just prove to be Air-Tite Insulation’s lucky charms.

The two, who have been friends since their grade school days in Holly, Michigan, say they refined their work ethic in the classroom at Grand Valley. They motivate and challenge each other.

“I took from Grand Valley the ability to work toward a goal and to think about a process, trouble shoot and be task oriented,” said Emmitt.

The liberal arts focus at Grand Valley made it possible for two transfer students to pursue their dreams, even before they turned 30.

Still having a sustaining career after taking a financial risk is what Emmitt says make him most thankful.

“It’s a proud moment every time I get to sign a pay check. It makes me feel good. I help feed the children of 22 people, only two of which are mine.”

Posted November, 2012.

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