Photo: Kristy First (L) and friend Bianca White (R)
Having advanced to the top of Walmart’s “Get on the Shelf” competition with her patent pending gift wrap invention, Florida alumna Kristy First exemplifies the Northwood Idea as she overcomes incredible challenges to pursue her dreams.
Northwood University Florida alumna Kristy First is now living the dream of many entrepreneurs, and the winding road which has led to this point has deepened her belief in the healing power of family and prayer.
As a Northwood University freshman in the late 1980’s, First was excited to pursue her dreams in the Sunshine State. “I was thrilled about attending college at Northwood Florida because I knew I wanted to earn a degree in business, and the sunny South Florida beaches and golf courses, were also calling my name,” smiled the bubbly blonde.
Once officially a Northwood student, the Clare, Michigan native began to establish lifelong friendships while embracing campus life and enjoying fun in the sun, going to the beach, playing volleyball, and boating. “The bonds you establish in college can be some of the most rewarding, and I still count my Northwood friends among the best. Now with families of our own, we enjoy reminiscing about the old days,” said First, who was also an avid skier, sailor, and equestrian.
In 1992, the young professional was enjoying a cushy position as a membership director at an upscale Palm Beach County country club. But her life was about to take a crazy turn. In the summer of 2000 she was nearly fatally injured in a horrific auto accident on Florida’s I-95 interstate. “I can’t describe the experience,” said First of the event which left her unable to walk. “It felt as if it was a bad dream, and I just thank God for my amazing family who left their businesses to be by my side every step of the way for over a year, making the best choices for me in that crucial time.”
While undergoing 14 months of therapy, the young patient was confined to a wheelchair, and decided to make another dramatic move. “I was inspired by a book that a friend gave me titled Miracle Man, and wanted to surround myself with others who were experiencing and overcoming similar challenges, so I packed my belongings and headed to Brazil on a quest for healing,” said First, who still visits the region today after a five year stay.
“While residing at a small village called, Abadiania, in Brazil, I was blessed to meet amazing people from all over the world, including some of the best doctors from Harvard Medical. Having everything I needed, and living life in a simple way, helped focusing on my healing. I lived in a little pousada called Dom Ingrid where they took good care of me by providing three meals a day and regularly cleaning my room. It took me about five years to get my head straight and to feel strong, but all along I knew I wanted to eventually return to America to rebuild my life and to start my own business, so I returned to West Palm Beach in 2006, and my world eventually took on a new form and shape,” shared First. Upon her return, she reconnected with an old love, Steve Scorgie, “Steve and I got to know each other again, and realized that we were meant to be. All of the sudden I went from being a single young woman, to buying a house and becoming the mother of two daughters. It’s the most rewarding role I’ve played to date,” she said.
It was the desire to flex her entrepreneurial muscle while remaining a stay-at-home mom that led the budding entrepreneur to draw from her Northwood experience. “Northwood gave me all the tools and knowledge I needed to start my own business, which I have used every step of the way in developing my invention.”
“Have you ever watched someone struggle with wrapping a present or been in a rush with no time to wrap?” giggled First, “It really isn’t a pretty picture, so I wanted to develop a product that would make it easy and fast for everyone.” Enter First’s patent pending invention, the Wrap Bag – one of the top contenders in Walmart’s “Get on the Shelf” contest.
“When my dad told me about the contest, I thought it was a great opportunity to launch the product,” said First, who is currently manufacturing the product overseas and plans to have it manufactured in the United States when order numbers increase.
Having advanced to the top 8% of the contest’s original 4,000 contenders, the do-it-yourself idea makes it easier for even the novice wrapper to hide surprises. “Steve deserves an Oscar for his performance in the contest video, and it’s been an exciting roller coaster,” said First, now the official President and CEO of Gift Innovations, Inc.
– Suzi McCreery