Olivia Royce tried not to be nervous.
She was a sophomore, competing in an international selling competition against juniors and seniors from colleges across the country, and she knew these students had all kinds of professional selling experience.
She had none.
She had rehearsed her pitch for two weeks, looking in the mirror and reciting it sometimes 50 times a night. She won the first round. Then came the big test.
She slipped on her black blazer with the HPU pin, and before going in to face a trio of judges, she repeated in her mind what her friend, HPU graduate student Antwon Foreman, told her.
“Just be you,” he said. “Let your personality shine through.”
She did. In November, at the International Collegiate Sales Competition in Orlando, Florida, Royce placed third in a speed-selling contest. It lasted 90 seconds. But Royce will remember it for a lifetime.
Royce has been selected as the Extraordinary Leader for March. And why?
Her exceptional selling skills are only part of the reason.
The “Primerica Kid” Grows Up
Royce is a Presidential Scholar and recipient of two Alumni Memorial scholarships. She is a resident assistant at North Hall and the executive vice president of the PSB Professional Selling Club.
PSB stands for Phillips School of Business. Royce, a sales major, grew up in business.
Her father, Christopher, runs Primerica Financial Services. Her mother, Sherri, is a partner in the family’s business. They run the business from their hometown in Manlius, New York, a small town just outside Syracuse.
Royce’s parents help families learn how to manage their money. The business started in the family’s duplex, and Olivia remembers being 5 and seeing her dad heading out the door at night to talk to clients.
“You’re leaving!” Royce would say.
“Honey,” her dad told her, picking her up and putting her on the kitchen counter. “This is just as hard for me as it is for you. Every time I leave, I want you to look at me and say, ‘I know it’s worth it.’”
That has happened. Her father now supervises 12 offices across New York and in California, and Royce became what she calls a “Primerica kid.” She has spoken to conference crowds as large as 700 people.
Royce started at age 10.
By 12, she had earned her black belt in karate.
By 19, she won third place in an international selling competition for college students. That was five months ago.
Minutes after the awards ceremony in Orlando, she called her parents with the news.
“Honey, that’s incredible,” her father told her. “How many people were you competing against?”
She told him 140. Her work had paid off. Her prayers, too.
In her second-floor room in North, she has a Post-it note in which she wrote “2 Timothy 1:7.”
“For the Spirit God gave us does not make us timid, but gives us power, love and self-discipline.”
Royce knows that verse by heart.
“Bright As Heck”
On how Royce discovered HPU, she can thank her younger brother, Nate.
He researched HPU for a middle-school research project after his parents discovered the university on a business trip and liked what they found.
The university reminded them of what the family studied together in their living room every Sunday night – all things God, family, country.
Royce liked what she saw when she checked out HPU online. Then, when she came to visit, she found the patriotic speech of HPU President Nido Qubein refreshing as well as what she discovered on the Kester International Promenade.
All she had to do was look down.
She saw countless granite slabs of quotes.
“You see the university’s beliefs in the ground, and that’s so inspiring,” she says today. “I knew then there were no if, ands or buts. I knew this is where I wanted to go because this is who I want to be.
“I want to be the kind of person unafraid to share my beliefs. Just like High Point University.”
Royce plans to graduate in December 2019, a semester early. Then, she plans to follow her parents’ footsteps. She’ll run her own Primerica business. She wants to help people reach their dreams.
That doesn’t surprise Larry Quinn, one of her professors.
“She’s bright as heck, and she’s willing to take on new things,” says Quinn, a co-advisor of the PSB Professional Selling Club and chair of HPU’s Department of Marketing. “In Florida, you’ll see students get scared, quit and cry because of the pressure. But she didn’t.
“She placed third in the country. She is the best of the best.”
An Impactful Moment
Royce’s friend, Ashley Britton, had an idea.
She wanted to visit the older couple who live on the corner of Panther Drive and East Farriss Avenue, and she asked Royce to join her. Royce jumped at the chance.
The two bought an $8 flower bouquet from the Food Lion up the street, prayed together and walked up the driveway. That’s when they met an older woman walking down the stairs.
“Are those flowers for me?” the woman asked.
Royce and Britton said yes. They told her they had come to meet her.
The woman broke down.
“You have no idea how much this means to me,” she told them, crying.
Her name is Martha Ellen Ward. She is 74, a retired interior designer. In a span of three weeks last fall, Ward lost her husband and her 101-year-old mother.
Then, she met Britton and Royce in her driveway.
Today, Britton and Royce see Ward every week since that first meeting in October. They talk in Ward’s home for at least an hour about everything.
“We can bring a little light to her life,” Royce says, “and she has brought a little light into ours. That is so cool.”