The year is 2010. A young man, age 12, walks into the local liquor store on Detroit’s west side and buys 20 boxes of Mike and Ike candy. To the cashier this may look like a kid with an insatiable sweet tooth on his way to school, but to Andrei Nichols, this purchase would prove to be the root of his entrepreneurial future.
“My very first business venture was in seventh grade when I started selling Mike and Ikes and Now and Laters, two for $1,” Nichols said. “I did that for a week and made $50 and said ‘I could get used to this.’ And after that I really started to like business.”
Nichols then began to ask his father, who is an entrepreneur, questions about how to start a business; the ins and outs of the business world. Since then, the Michigan State University sophomore business major has co-founded the Suits for Success Youth Mentoring Program, launched two podcast series, and secured his first workshop speaking engagement about personal branding for young people.
The Suits for Success Youth Mentoring Program serves as a platform for Nichols and co-founder Kyle McMurtry to provide young men with an environment where they are able to interact, network, and grow as individuals through the building of academic, professional, social, and personal success.
The program’s origin is Renaissance High School, Nichols’ and McMurtry’s alma mater.
“When I was younger, I noticed my dad always wore suits,” Nichols said. “He told me he wore suits all of the time because he was dressing for the job that he wanted, not the job that he had. The principle behind that is what I wanted young men to understand.”
That principle was just the starting point for Nichols, knowing that dressing for success is only the first step.
“My senior year of high school, I went to Kyle with the idea of a mentoring program for young men teaching them about financial education, professionalism, social life, and academics which is the most important,” Nichols said. “Our first program brought out about 40 students which was a great turn out. We got so much positive feedback to keep it going. Now, fast forward to today, we’re pushing to turn it into a non-profit and implement the program throughout the Detroit Public School System.”
While shifting the Suits for Success Youth Mentoring Program into non-profit status is Nichols’s goal for the program, he also uses his skillset to pour into a personally lucrative business endeavor.
“I’m at the point where I’m going to start doing presentations and workshops that allow me to get paid for the things that I have learned, as well as the things that I think other people should know,” Nichols said.
“My first workshop is in July working with a real estate company that has an educational program for Section 8 housing students. I will be talking to 13 to 18-year-olds about personal branding.”
Nichols is only 20 years old but he understands and values the gravity of knowledge and what it means to possess it.
“There is no age limit on success and knowledge,” Nichols said. “You could be 10 years old and possess all of the knowledge in the world, and there will be somebody in this world who will pay you to teach somebody else that knowledge. Knowledge is really the new money.”
Nichols’s time at Michigan State University has provided him with knowledge he says he will always hold on to.
“Integrity and authenticity is definitely something that being at MSU has taught me,” Nichols said.
Amongst his peers, Nichols is also known by another name – “Mr. Duffy,” which is a play on social media users proclaiming to be in their “bag.” The word “duffy” is short for “duffle” referring to a duffle bag.
“After I started the ‘Duffy Szn’ movement, people really started picking up on it and asking questions,” Nichols said. In the third episode of his “#DuffySzn” podcast on Apple Podcast, Nichols explains the roots of ‘The Duffy.’
“When I say ‘I am in my Duffy’ that just means that I am in a constant state of being successful, a constant state of doing me, self-preservation, and living my life to the fullest,” he added, “when I say ‘I am in my Duffy’ that just means I’m going after my passions. I’m going after my love. I’m going after whatever makes me feel good, what’s motivating, what’s inspiring. That is my Duffy.”
Through his podcasts, workshops, and the Suits for Success Youth Mentoring Program, Nichols hopes to impact and inspire those seeking knowledge to get into their ‘Duffy’ as soon as possible.
“There are only two things guaranteed in this world: life and death,” Nichols said. “The question is, ‘If you know you won’t be here one day, what are you going to do to make an impact in this world with the time you have left?’”