Bryant students and alumni joined to participate in the virtual Bryant Alumni Entrepreneurs Panel October 21, hosted by the Collegiate Entrepreneur Organization (CEO) and sponsored by the Office of Alumni and Parent Engagement.
Established Bryant alumni entrepreneurs shared their journey and inspiration stories. The five speakers included Corey Adams ’06 Founder, Southern Swells Brewing; John Del Vecchio, Jr. ’98 Owner, Parabolix Research; Ignacio Pinilla ’93, Franchise Owner, British Swim School; Jeff Rubin ’06 Co-Founder, SportsMe; and Laura Vaudrain ’05 President, Branded Promotions. Cade Jenkins '22, Director of Alumni Relations for CEO, moderated the discussion, which incorporated questions from the audience.
The alumni entrepreneurs provided the audience with some background on their career paths, and what drew them to running their own businesses. From how to choose and validate an industry or niche, to researching and buying domain names, to taking a salary, and practicing self-care, the Bryant alumni had good advice to offer the web audience of current and would-be entrepreneurs.
Like a number of Bryant students, some knew from an early age that they wanted to work for themselves, but all of the evening’s panelists began their careers by working for other companies, large and small, before venturing out on their own. This gave them perspective and experience that proved valuable in their own endeavors later on.
New franchise owner Pinilla, who was born in Venezuela, began his new endeavor in early 2020, only to be quickly paused by the coronavirus pandemic that shut down so many businesses. He said the brand equity that came with being a franchise owner appealed to him, and hopes to welcome customers to his facility soon.
Rubin discussed how his fan talk & opinions app has been gaining traction, thanks in part to the network of partners he has connected with. “You absolutely need to find smarter people than yourself,” he advised, to help round out a solid business strategy. He also recommended, somewhat tongue-in-cheek, that aspiring entrepreneurs avoid having a baby while also birthing a business, something he recently learned can compound the challenges of both endeavors.
DelVecchio, who has written three books on investing, counseled audience members to stay strong and healthy, because running a successful business is so challenging. “It’s very physically and mentally demanding, so don’t neglect that as you’re building your life-changing, world-changing idea.”
Brewery owner Adams talked about how a business owner must wear many different hats. And he pointed out how critical it is to pivot quickly as business circumstances change – as they did when COVID-19 struck and they moved to online ordering.
Vaudrain, who began her boutique marketing and promotions business at the tender age of 22, shared that she learned early on that client satisfaction needs to be a top priority for a service business. Acquiring new clients is very difficult; keeping existing clients happy is a more effective strategy.
See a replay of the panel discussion here: https://bit.ly/34CyroV.