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Andy Schweizer CAPS’11 Named 2017 Alumnus of the Year

Andy Schweizer CAPS’11 is a missional leader and entrepreneur who has served at the helm of several companies, spearheading strategic growth and innovation. (Photo submitted by Andy Schweizer)

When he was 14 years old, Andy Schweizer CAPS’11 trudged along a snowy sidewalk in south Minneapolis with a sack of newspapers slung across his back. His first and only employee—whose wage was a dime a day—had quit as soon as the temperature dipped below zero, leaving Schweizer to deliver the Star Tribune himself.

Now, more than four decades later, Schweizer is a successful entrepreneur, a member of the Twin Cities Salvation Army Advisory Board, and Bethel University’s 2017 Alumnus of the Year for the College of Adult & Professional Studies. Much has changed since Schweizer’s days of delivering the paper, but he says his persistent work ethic has served him well in a career marked by both adversity and adventure.

“In my first labor experience, all the risk was on me,” Schweizer says. “That meant all the profits were on me, so I had to work harder than anyone else.”

Schweizer remembers putting in 100-hour weeks as a partner in his brother’s garbage and recycling company, ACE Solid Waste, where he got up at 4 a.m. to drive a bright-red service truck. When Schweizer bought his brother’s share of the company and grew his customer base from 25,000 to 80,000, he realized he had to be more than a manager—he had to be a leader with a vision.

“I knew how business worked, but I didn’t always understand the theory,” Schweizer says. “People say that if you have a successful business but not a degree, you’re lucky, not good. I wanted to prove that I was good.”

With a full-time job and a family of five, Schweizer enrolled in Bethel’s adult undergraduate business management program. He came to class early and stayed late, quickly establishing his place in the front row and asking as many questions as he could fit into a four-hour window.

“What I learned on Monday night, I’d apply on Tuesday in the lunchroom with my work folks,” Schweizer says. “The company changed from week to week as I learned more and put it into practice.”

Now, his diploma sits in a stack of papers at his office—to him, a symbol of a completed journey. He remembers walking across the commencement stage in Benson Great Hall just a few days before his 50th birthday to cheers and applause, but he wasn’t thinking about any of that. He was asking himself what he’d do next.

The answer came in 2014, when Schweizer sold ACE Solid Waste after 21 years at the helm. While he loved everything about the garbage and recycling business, he knew it was time to move on when it became clear his kids wouldn’t be part of the succession plan for the company.

“Selling ACE was the most difficult decision I’ve ever had to make,” Schweizer says. “The math, the money—that was easy. But the emotions of selling the company . . . that was hard.”

Schweizer has given himself 10 years to build another successful company—one his kids can take over when he’s gone. He founded Wheelhouse Capital, a holding company that owns and operates commercial real estate properties, and two of his children have already joined him in his new venture.

The business has a nautical theme, a fitting tribute to Schweizer’s lifelong love for sailing. He learned the difference between port and starboard as a teenager, when he bummed rides off a family friend. Now, he has boats of his own—and when he’s not chasing his next set of goals for Wheelhouse Capital, he’s chasing the horizon.

“There’s nothing more exciting than the thrill of going where you’ve never gone before—on the water, in business, and in life,” Schweizer says. “You can’t always see where you’re going . . . but if you know your destination, you can sail past the horizon without fear.”

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