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Paying It Forward: Creating Opportunity for the Next Generation

In 2015, Corinne Courtney left her corporate job in New York City to pursue her dream of building a hardware store from a woman’s perspective. When she was researching the independent home improvement industry, Courtney came across Scott Wright and the North American Hardware and Paint Association (NHPA). 

“Scott was an absolute delight and a plethora of information, and when I finally met him in-person that August, I still had nothing but an idea,” Courtney says. “He told me about this course he had newly introduced with a local university, the Retail Management Certification Program, and it sounded amazing.”

Courtney says she loves to learn, and the curriculum of the program—involving real people, circumstances and strategy—was appealing as a young, budding entrepreneur. While she was interested in attending, the financial investment was an obstacle. 

“I was building a business from scratch, and I had little help and fewer resources,” Courtney says. “It was also relatively expensive for me, a brand new entrepreneur, and I had no affiliation with a co-op or any relationship within the industry to garner a much-desired scholarship.”

Not one to give up easily, Courtney continued to connect with Wright. 

“There were two things I knew,” Courtney says. “One, I knew I needed to attend this course to quickly learn how to survive and hopefully thrive in this industry. Second, I knew Scott. He took all my calls, gave great advice and put up with my pleading of how to get me into the course.”

Her persistence paid off. Three years after Courtney met Wright, he called her with a grant for half the tuition, offered by NHPA, and she was able to attend the Retail Management Certification Program.

“I was floored and so very grateful. Scott truly created a path for me to attend,” Courtney says. “There were many times during this journey I was humbled by people and what they did for me, but never as much as that moment.”

While Courtney’s journey in the independent hardware industry ended after seven years, she was so grateful for the opportunities the Retail Management Certification Program provided to her. She was so grateful she gave a generous donation back to NHPA to use for a future Retail Management Certification Program student. 

“Outside forces made me sell the property. To recreate that business in another town at that stage proved too much for me, and I decided to close the store,” Courtney says. “That sale, however, put me in the position to pay it forward. I will never be able to express how much it meant to me to have that support from NHPA.” 

During her time in the Retail Management Certification Program, Courtney says she most appreciated the people she met during the course. 

“There were so many smart and successful businesses growing and collaborating,” Courtney says. “It was a true pleasure to meet and learn more about the industry particularly from all perspectives and areas of the country. Remarkable insight, remarkable people!”

For retailers who are on the fence about committing to the course, Courtney says they should not hesitate. 

“It was 1,000 times worth it. I was introduced to so many people that I would not have been exposed to and other ways of doing business,” Courtney says. “Successes, failures, insight, strategies, people and true circumstances were all part of the curriculum, and it was definitely one of the highlights of the journey. I will eternally be grateful for it and hope this scholarship offers the same opportunity for others that may not have the resources. I am honored to have been part of this.”

Click here to learn more about the NHPA Retail Management Certification Program and the Pay it Forward Scholarship or reach out to Scott Wright at swright@YourNHPA.org.

About Melanie Moul

Melanie is the communications and content manager for the North American Hardware and Paint Association. She joined the NHPA team in 2016 as an editor for Hardware Retailing and now helps lead the communications team to deliver relevant, timely content to the industry.

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