Bryant CEO, Bryant University’s chapter of the national Collegiate Entrepreneurs’ Organization, fosters and promotes innovative thinking and entrepreneurship by connecting students with educational resources, networking opportunities and real-world experience. The organization’s focus on support and mentoring aids young professionals in developing a competitive edge and the know-how to get things done.
A leader in its field, Bryant CEO has won the Best Chapter award 7 times in the last 15 years—including a win in 2020—and was a runner up for Global Chapter of the Year and Best Cross Campus Networking and Innovation at this year’s Collegiate Entrepreneurs’ Organization Global Conference. They were also a finalist for Chapter Leader of the Year and Best Social Media and Marketing.
Matthew Hird ’22, a member of Bryant CEO’s executive board, believes the chapter’s success can be attributed to the opportunities it provides students to build their own path to success. “We offer professional development and leadership opportunities that ensure our members are prepared to take the initiative,” he says.
“We’re a student-run organization and, because of that, we can tailor what we do to what students want and need.”
Connecting students with resources
One of CEO’s main goals, says Bryant CEO President Meghan Schulze ’22, is to infuse the entire Bryant community with the entrepreneurial spirit. “We try to bring people together from different majors and interests because different viewpoints and different perspectives really help with innovating new ideas,” she notes. It also helps to build a supportive network. “Someone who's really good at Finance and looking to start a business can connect with an Accounting major or someone who understands technology,” say Schulze. “Or a Biology major with a really great idea can get advice from others on how to get it to people.”
The group’s weekly meetings include workshops on developing key skills, mindsets and strategies, as well as a speaker series that brings in entrepreneurs and business experts–many of them successful Bryant alumni–to share advice. The chapter also runs certification programs such as “So You Want To Be A CEO” which offers a Business 101 education, and another focusing on event management. “Our goal is to not only connect students with the resources they need but also show them how to start making their own connections so that they can also be a resource for others,” says Schulze.
"The biggest thing students need is support for their ideas, both in terms of encouragement and in helping them figure out the way forward. By working together, we can provide that support for one another."
CEO-sponsored campus events such as the annual App-A-Thon, in which students compete to develop an app that improves life on campus, and Entrepreneur Fair, which showcases Bryant’s student business owners, provide outlets for creativity and networking. The organization’s annual Bryant University Northeast Entrepreneurship Conference (BUNEEC) is the largest of its kind in the region, attracting keynote speakers from a wide range of fields and aspiring student entrepreneurs from across the country.
“We’re a student-run organization, and because of that, we can tailor what we do to what students want and need,” Hird explains.
Every workshop and event, says Schulze, is designed to energize students and propel them forward. “Hopefully we help spark an idea in them so they can move onto that next phase, where they start their own business or otherwise take their projects to the next level,” she says.
When students are ready to take that next step, Bryant CEO’s “Bryant Ventures” start-up incubator helps them turn their ideas into reality. Through Ventures, Hird notes, he was able to form professional connections with other entrepreneurs committed to aiding each other. "The biggest thing students need is support for their ideas, both in terms of encouragement and in helping them figure out the way forward,” he says. “By working together, we can provide that support for one another."
The Global conference was a chance for Bryant CEO to extend that support network on an international level. Nine members of the group and faculty advisor Adam Rubin, Senior Lecturer of Management, traveled to Tampa, Florida to learn from keynote speakers, workshops and interactive bootcamps and take those lessons back to campus, where they could share them with the Bryant community.
"We don't necessarily want to be known as just the club for future entrepreneurs–we want to be known as a club that's going to help you succeed in whatever you want to do.”
“We were able to talk one-on-one with successful entrepreneurs like Travis Rosbach, the founder of Hydroflask, and experts like Jason Feifer, the editor in chief of Entrepreneur magazine,” says Hird. “They told us their story and then we were able to ask them the questions that were important to us.”
“It's a great opportunity to collaborate with one another and share ideas,” notes Schulze, who led a panel on growing chapter membership. “It was good to be able to look together at some of the challenges we’ve been facing and compare notes and work through them with others because someone else might have dealt with that before and come up with a new answer or might have a different perspective.”
Making it real
Everyone can gain something from CEO, says Schulze, even students who aren’t looking to start their own businesses. Employers, she states, are looking for “intreprepreneurs” who can bring creativity and the entrepreneurial mindset to established organizations. “Companies want candidates that have new ideas and can think outside of the box. They also want people who know how to network, build and work on teams and share their ideas. CEO helps students with all of that,” Schulze says.
CEO, Hird notes, is an ideal complement to any course of study. “This is about taking what we learn in class and making it real,” he says. “It’s about taking it out into the world and doing something with it on your own.”
It’s also a perfect fit for Bryant University, he says. “Bryant is working to prepare students to be creative thinkers who can make an impact on the world. That’s our goal with CEO as well. We don't necessarily want to be known as just the club for future entrepreneurs–we want to be known as a club that's going to help you succeed in whatever you want to do.”