The 9th annual Bryant University Northeast Entrepreneurship Conference (BUNEEC) gave students the opportunity to develop entrepreneurial skills they can use in any career. Through networking with, and learning from, high-level industry professional and each other, BUNEEC (pronounced “be unique”) enhanced their education with a supportive community and real-world insight.
The conference, organized by Bryant’s chapter of the Collegiate Entrepreneurs’ Organization, also helped attendees of all majors figure out how to turn their passions into careers they love – whether they go into business for themselves or bring their entrepreneurial skills to an existing company.
“Through BUNEEC, I hope that students see how their careers can be exciting and add purpose to their lives,” said BUNEEC Director Melissa Gurzenda ’21. “It doesn't have to always be about numbers or a salary. It can be about making a difference in the lives of others and adding creativity to what you're doing.”
“BUNEEC is a chance for us to take everything we’re learning in the classroom, across all these different subjects, and see how we can apply that in ways that inspire us,” stated Bryant CEO President Nick Anketell ’19.
The BUNEEC attendees were guided in that pursuit by professional insight. Keynote speaker Mitch Lowe, Co-Founding Executive of Netflix and CEO of Movie Pass, shared the experience he’d gained over the course of his career with some of the world’s most successful companies. Perseverance, he said, was the key to any field. “Success is never a straight line,” he noted. When he initially told his family about the idea for Netflix, now a multibillion-dollar media services platform, Lowe said, “My kids looked at me and said ‘That’s the stupidest idea I’ve ever heard.’”
Yet with determination anything is possible, Lowe told the crowd. “I am absolutely certain there’s a couple of you who will be up on stage five to ten years from now talking about your own great innovations.”
“The community around entrepreneurship here at Bryant is fantastic. I love being able to surround myself with people who want to own their own business and excel in what they do.”
Aspiring entrepreneur and Psychology major Annie Burdick ’19 was inspired by the keynote delivered by Lavonna Roth, learning specialist, author, founder of Ignite Your S.H.I.N.E.® and CEO of LaVonna, Inc.. “I was really impressed with how she mixed business and social enterprise. She’s able to help people through her company, which is something I want to do.”
Attendees could choose from a variety of breakout sessions, each focusing on a different aspect of business and featuring speakers drawn from a wide range of career paths. “When selecting speakers, we asked ourselves, ‘What questions have I always had? What am I nervous about? What steps do I need to take to make what I’m passionate about real?'” said Gurzenda.
“One of the big advantages of being a student-run conference is the fact that we know our peers the best. We know exactly what we want to hear about and we know exactly who we want to hear from,” Anketell added.
“We hope that students left BUNEEC with the understanding that they absolutely have what it takes to do what inspires them. They just need to find it within themselves.”
Former NFL player and author Marques Ogden discussed bringing a “CEO mindset” to all aspects of life in his breakout session. “Figure out what you want to do and start working on that goal now,” he urged students. He also pointed toward conferences such as BUNEEC as vital to their professional development. ““You don’t have to know everything. Learn to be able to take advice.”
Learning by doing
The attendees also learned a great deal from one another. An Entrepreneurship Fair highlighted Bryant students who already have turned their great ideas into businesses, and a question-and-answer session gave other students a chance to ask their most pressing questions.
The panelists all agreed that college is a great time to start a business. “At Bryant, we have so many resources geared toward entrepreneurship and helping entrepreneurs,” said Scott VanCoughnett ’22, COO of the Lunar Drip sports apparel company. “I know first-hand that there are so many people here to support you.”
Garrett Moloney ’22, the founder and CEO of Signature Decals, which helps small businesses around the country with their tangible marketing needs, and a founder of Lunar Drip, was recently awarded a Jackson W. Goss Prize in Entrepreneurship by the University. “The community around entrepreneurship here at Bryant is fantastic,” he said. “I love being able to surround myself with people who want to own their own business and excel in what they do.”
“A conference like BUNEEC helps motivate all of us,” noted Melissa Hernandez ’21, founder of M E L Designs & Prototypes.
For Gurzenda that support, and the inspiration it sparks, is what makes the conference special. “We hope that students left BUNEEC with the understanding that they absolutely have what it takes to do what inspires them,” she said. “They just need to find it within themselves.”