The Northern Illinois University (NIU) Board of Trustees unanimously voted Dec. 7 to extend the…
DeKalb, Ill. — Recently named to Forbes Magazine’s annual 30 Under 30 list, NIU alumnus Wilbur You attributes his success to many things.
Good timing. Hard work. Never taking no for an answer. But his main advice?
“Focus on school,” he says. “It’s not overrated. People can take everything from you, your house, your car, your money. What they can’t take away is what you know and the education you’ve got. I’m proud to be from NIU.”
As a young Huskie studying computer science, You remembers well days spent camped out in the computer lab. He’d come to NIU in 2010 to be challenged and gain the “competitive edge” the university offered with its advanced computer science courses, he says.
In between classes his senior year, the Naperville native launched a marketing and development company called Youtech. At age 22 with $600 and nothing to lose, he made 100 sales calls a day.
With a team of two friends he recruited, Youtech worked on $200 and $300 websites at that time.
That company is now valued at $25 million.
Headquartered in both Naperville and Scottsdale, Ariz., with plans to expand into Texas this year, Youtech services more than 1,000 clients, including MillerCoors, Chick-fil-A and 3M. With You as CEO, the company has been ranked in Inc.’s Fastest Growing Companies in the country for the past four years.
And it all began during You’s time at NIU.
Back then and now, You says, he focused on the people around him.
“The best advice I can offer is be nice to people, meet as many people as you can, network, surround yourself with good people,” says You, who graduated with his bachelor’s degree from NIU in 2014.
He went on to earn an MBA from DeVry University’s Keller Graduate School of Management. In 2020, he released the memoir, “Happy. Humble. Motivated.”
“Humbled” pretty much sums up how he feels about the recent Forbes honor, a notable achievement reserved annually for an elite group of young entrepreneurs. He’d dreamt about making the list through the years, but, at age 29, thought his days were numbered. The call from Forbes came early one morning.
“I just was in shock,” he says. “This is all kind of surreal. We work hard and we take it day by day, but we’ve got a lot of great people. It’s really an award for my team, for all the effort they put in and my family and all the sacrifices we’ve made.”
You was 2 years old when he and his widowed mother immigrated from China to Naperville. His mother did not speak English. Her first job was at a Baskin-Robbins, earning minimum wage. Before long, she had earned her CPA and advanced to division accounting manager.
Growing up, You had more than his share of triumphs and failures. At age 10, he built a free server for a popular role-playing game that attracted more than 10,000 active users before the developers sent him a cease and desist letter. His mother grounded him.
He began his first string of businesses at age 18 before landing on success with Youtech.
The company has grown to a team of 50 people throughout both of its offices, shifting its focus through years. Most recently, Youtech has homed in on content for online consumer product retail.
What hasn’t changed, You says, is what he looks for in his employees.
“People who are driven, people who are hard-working,” he says. “We don’t have a lot of Ivy League graduates. We are built from a different cloth. It doesn’t matter where you come from. You can definitely be successful and earn the respect of people just by working hard and grinding it out.”
Media Contact: Jami Kunzer
Northern Illinois University is a student-centered, nationally recognized public research university, with expertise that benefits its region and spans the globe in a wide variety of fields, including the sciences, humanities, arts, business, engineering, education, health and law. Through its main campus in DeKalb, Illinois, and education centers for students and working professionals in Chicago, Hoffman Estates, Naperville, Oregon and Rockford, NIU offers more than 100 courses of study while serving a diverse and international student body.