Lori Goodman Novak, president of Northstar Pulp & Paper Co. Inc., says her father will always be her mentor and her grandmother will always be her inspiration.
Northstar has been in business since 1898, but only started recycling plastics 13 years ago, an effort spurred on by Novak.
The Springfield, Mass.-based company began when Hyman Goodman started collecting rags and eventually evolved into paper recycling. But by the early 2000s, customers had started putting plastic scrap on their trailers of paper heading to Northstar, wanting the company to handle that material as well.
It wasn't easy at first, Novak remembered.
“When we began recycling plastics at Northstar, we used brokers to buy the material. We learned that we need to put in grinders at our plant if we wanted to recycle ... properly. When we first started, we had contamination and rejections and it cost us money,” she said.
“It was hard at the beginning,” Novak said, but persistence has paid off over the years for the family-owned, fifth-generation company. She only had to look at David Goodman, her CEO father, for her work ethic.
“It may seem simple, but my father always taught me to work hard and to never give up. I will go into a potential account and see a material I have never recycled before, but I do not give up. I look to find an end user,” she said.
And just as her father has always been her mentor, Novak looks to the life of her late grandmother, Sara Goodman, for inspiration.
Sara Goodman, a stay-at-home mom, raised four boys before going back to college, eventually earning a doctorate degree and spending years teaching psychology on the college level.
“When I was young, I just remember so clearly her telling me about the classes she was teaching,” Novak remembered. “She was just a very interesting woman.”
And just like her grandmother, Novak sees the potential of doing something different later in life.
“I would like my final career to be helping people in some capacity. My first job was a teacher, and though I loved the impact I had on other people, I had a strong desire to follow in my father's footsteps and work in the family business,” she said.
“I love watching the changes that have been implemented since I became president. Once I am ready to have successors take over the business, I would like to go back to school and get my PhD in psychology,” she said.
“If I could chose my dream job, I would want to work as a therapist in a company. I want to help people have balance in their life. Technology has made work a [24-7] job, and I do believe we all need to break away from work and be in the moment.”