From coffee barista to CEO: The fantastic journey of NAU alumnus Lorenzo Johnson

Lorenzo Johnson

Lorenzo Johnson is not your average 24-year-old. The recent Northern Arizona University business graduate and track and field alumnus wears many hats from father to CEO and president of Icovy Marketing. Johnson graduated from NAU’s Franke College of Business with his bachelor’s in marketing in December 2017 and with his master’s in human relations in May 2019, taking only 3 1/2 years to complete the former and 1 1/2 years to complete the latter.

Aspirations for Icovy Marketing began as a young teenage boy who quickly learned entrepreneurship skills by picking up odd end jobs here and there.

“As a two-sport athlete, I didn’t have time for a real job, so I had to find other ways to make money,” the young CEO said.

From collecting soda pop cans to mowing lawns, and even selling candy at school, Lorenzo’s creativity in making money was guided by his drive to become something great, both on and off the field. This passion followed him to college and is what led him to be a division-one student-athlete and to obtain his undergraduate and master’s degrees in just five years, all while being a single father. While working towards his master’s degree, he worked as a marketing graduate assistant in NAU Athletics and as a server at a local café.

“My days started at 5 a.m. and ended at 10 p.m. I was tired both physically and mentally, but I knew this is what I had to do to reach my goal, which was to run my own business,” Johnson said.

These plans changed unexpectedly one morning when he served a cup of coffee to Dan Kasprzyk, the founder and CEO of Poba Medical, a new start-up company that sells medical balloons.

“Looking back, it’s crazy to think that, what at the time seemed like just a random conversation with another customer, is the conversation that eventually changed my life.”

Johnson’s conversation with Kasprzyk, took an interesting turn after he told him about his current experience at NAU and that he had just graduated with a degree in marketing.

“I took a chance on a young coffee barista pursuing a marketing degree, working the 5 a.m. morning coffee shift and a former student-athlete. My risk was calculated, balanced, and I relied strictly on a gut test when there was no real-world experience to back-up a fresh grad’s lack of resume strength,” Kasprzyk said.

In just two short weeks, Lorenzo went from serving cappuccinos at five in the morning to starting his journey of running his own marketing department for a million-dollar company.

Icovy Marketing, once a dream, is now a full-service digital marketing agency currently based in Tucson, Arizona. After being introduced to Kasprzyk and helping him build Poba Medical, to now working with a more established company, Machine Solutions (also created by Kasprzyk), a whole new set of doors into the medical device industry has been opened.

“If someone had asked me what kind of marketing I thought I’d be doing back in college, the medical field probably wouldn’t have even crossed my mind. Now here I am four years later, and 80 percent of my clients are medical device manufacturers,” Johnson said.

Johnson gives a lot of credit to Kasprzyk and his company Poba Medical for not only giving him the keys into this highly advanced industry, but also for taking a chance on a recent master’s graduate.

“Adding Lorenzo Johnson and Icovy Marketing to the Poba Medical team to build out our digital marketing, trade show strategy, web design, advertising, SEO strategy and BalloonU video series has provided enormous value to our start-up brand. Lorenzo has passed every test and exceeded expectations with his greatest strength at Icovy Marketing being his unwavering commitment to pursue a dream,” Kasprzyk said.

Working in the medical device industry has been a very different experience, unlike anything the post-graduate had learned as a marketing major at NAU.

“Having the chance to meet people like Dan Kasprzyk and other talented people in this industry, I quickly learned this is where I want to be,” Johnson said. “The best part about working in the medical device industry is unlike most fields; it’s not just marketing a generic product or service. I get to help grow these companies that are developing products that are literally saving millions of lives.”

Although the medical device industry is their bread and butter, Icovy also works with other companies such as law firms and insurance agencies. From highly advanced and established medical device companies to family-owned start-ups, there is not a business they are not willing to take on. Icovy specializes in website development, social media management, videography, search engine optimization services and more. Unlike traditional marketing agencies, Icovy’s focus is not just to help find ways to sell a product but to offer their creative expertise to help businesses scale and achieve their long-term goals.

Johnson said he has always been a “big picture” kind of guy, and for him, starting a business is more than just being his own boss and making a profit.

“Being able to say that I am in complete control of my life and have built this company right out of school is something that I’m incredibly proud of,” Johnson said. “I’ve always had a dream to be able to take care of those who are close to me and give back to the local and international communities. We’re not there yet, and there is still a long way to go, but that is what I’m working towards. That is what keeps me going every day, knowing that I can create something special that is much bigger than myself.”

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