Lisle, Illinois ~ When Alex Johnson, C01, Marketing, moved to the United States from India at age 12, he spoke very little English and his family struggled to make ends meet.
To help, he shoveled snow from driveways in his Skokie neighborhood. As demand spread for his services, he decided to seek out other kids his age to help grow what was becoming a burgeoning business.
“I feel I’ve always had an entrepreneurial spirit,” Johnson said. “My earliest memory is from my grade school days. I would shovel snow during the winter and would recruit other kids to come work for me. In the summertime, I had a similar business for which I did landscaping.”
Fast forward more than two decades and business is still booming for Johnson. However, he’s traded in shovels and lawnmowers for bulldozers and cranes.
Today, he is the president and CEO of LEVEL Construction Inc., a construction firm that was named by Crain’s Chicago Business in 2014 as a “Fast Fifty” for generating revenue growth of 282 percent over a five-year period.
The company has offices in Harwood Heights, Ill., and Houston, Texas. Projects include franchise buildouts, hotels, banks, warehouses, assisted living and retail facilities.
Johnson was awarded several scholarships and loans which helped make attending Benedictine and earning a Bachelor of Business Administration in Marketing in 2001 possible. At BenU, he forged lasting and meaningful relationships, and gained the career support and training he needed to lead LEVEL Construction.
“The education I received at Benedictine is invaluable,” Johnson said. “It helped me realize that no matter what financial difficulties I go through in life, no one can take the knowledge I have gained here away from me. This has helped me overcome obstacles that have led to my success.”
After graduating from Benedictine, he earned a graduate degree in Telecommunications and a certificate in Supply Chain Management. He was planning to attend law school when an opportunity to become his own boss was presented.
“One of my close childhood friends was an architect and suggested that we start a construction company,” Johnson said. “I was hesitant at first because I never had any experience with construction, but he felt I had the marketing, sales and networking skills needed to start my own firm and make it prosperous. So I did my research and gave it a chance.”
They financed the business with a credit card and launched in 2005. In 2014, the company reported $22.5 million in revenue. Benedictine recognized Johnson's professional accomplishments in 2016 with a Who's Who Rising Star award.
Johnson and his partners have since founded other businesses — LEVEL Infrastructure, focusing on public sector construction jobs such as streets, sewers and bridges, and LEVEL Hospitality, which builds and manages hotels. They are currently working on a third venture, swapmotors.com, a startup business and online platform focused on selling used cars.
Johnson encourages students who are seeking a bright future in a rewarding career to aim high and learn from their mistakes.
“One piece of advice I would give students is don’t let failures stop you — my failures have only helped me to learn and be better,” he said.
Benedictine University is located in Lisle, Illinois, just 25 miles west of Chicago, and has a branch campus in Mesa, Arizona. Founded as a Catholic university in 1887, Benedictine enrolls more than 5,000 students in 59 undergraduate and 23 graduate programs. Forbes magazine named Benedictine among "America's Top Colleges" for the seventh consecutive year in 2017. Accredited by the Higher Learning Commission (hlcommission.org). For more information, contact (630) 829-6300, email@example.com or visit ben.edu.