This isn’t the first time Bryant University students and brothers Killian Lathrop ’24 and Tiernan Lathrop ’26 have tabled at the annual Bryant Ventures Entrepreneurship Expo, but it was definitely their most impressive showing. Representing Lifted Blends, the post-workout CBD recovery beverage business they run alongside their two other brothers, the pair presented with confidence and presided over an impressive array of marketing collateral.
Their polished outing, they say, is the result of hard work and practice. Each year, their business has grown a little bit more and now Lifted Blends is available online and in stores across New England — and they’re close to finalizing a distribution deal that will help them take the company even further.
“We have pictures of us drawing designs for the cans back in 2020 with colored pencils. It’s almost weird to see those drawings come to life as actual products,” Killian reflects.
The Expo, the brothers say, has been an important part of that journey. "Even two years ago, I’d look around at some of the other business and think, 'I could never do that,’ " says Tiernan. "And now we're here."
This year’s Expo saw Bryant students present start-up businesses and business ideas ranging from curated kits for a romantic evening to eco-friendly clothing lines. Organized by Bryant Ventures, the startup and small business accelerator arm of Bryant’s chapter of the Collegiate Entrepreneurs Organization (CEO), the event drew students, professors, alumni, and even potential investors excited to learn more about Bryant’s student entrepreneurs.
“The biggest thing young entrepreneurs need is a place to start and the encouragement to make it happen.”
The annual exposition is a manifestation of the Bryant Ventures mission statement, says Tyler Griffin ’25, the organization’s president. “It's a big jump to go from having an idea to making it real,” he notes. “Ventures is here so that students get a real sense of what it’s really like to be an entrepreneur, beyond the lessons and definitions you’d find in a book.”
There’s a space in entrepreneurship for everyone, Griffin notes, and the Expo provides an opportunity for students to fine tune and test ideas. “The Expo is like a mini trade show, but the big difference is that here everyone wants to support you and help you grow your business,” he says. “The biggest thing young entrepreneurs need is a place to start and the encouragement to make it happen.”
Building a brand
Sometimes, the hardest part of starting your own business is finding a missing piece that’s a perfect fit for you and your ambitions — and no one knows that better than LEGO reseller Matthew Fiore ’25.
When Fiore was in 8th grade, he desperately wanted a job but was too young for most positions. When he realized that millions across the globe shared his lifelong love of LEGO bricks, Summerfield’s Bricks was born.
His father and uncle helped Fiore set up an eBay store, where he sold pieces from his own collection, and his business grew from there. A Bryant University Entrepreneurship grant helped him improve his shipping process but, as an online retailer, he’s still learning how to pitch in person, Fiore admits. That’s where the Expo comes in. “I’m a little out of my comfort zone doing this, which is good because it's giving me a chance to practice,” he says.
“We have such a strong and growing Entrepreneurship program here and just seeing us together like this is pretty inspiring.”
The Expo is also a chance for Bryant students to try out new ideas. The son of a craft brewer, Zenon Kolcio ’26 is workshopping a start-up called New Tap Marketing, which will help breweries distinguish themselves in a crowded market. Tabling at the Expo, he says, helped him gather feedback on his concept. “I want to see what people think of it and I want to see what I can change to make it more effective,” he says.
Kolcio came to the event for the same reason he goes to Bryant Ventures meetings, “It’s the best way to jumpstart my business,” he notes. If it weren’t for the spark Ventures provides, “I probably wouldn't have ended up making a presentation like this,” he says.
Creating a community
In addition to a space to share ideas, obtain advice, and practice presenting, the Expo allows Bryant’s entrepreneurial minded to gather as a community.
Fiore, who also founded the Bryant Builders student organization, remembers first attending the event as a first-year student. “I met a lot of different people, and they gave me a lot of great ideas on things that I can do and pursue and other people that I can contact,” he recalls. That welcoming environment is one of the reasons he keeps returning.
The founder of The Fresh Kick, a start-up selling a three-in-one sneaker accessory, Nina Karlin ’24 notes that the Expo can also be seen as a celebration. “We have such a strong and growing Entrepreneurship program here and just seeing us together like this is pretty inspiring,” she says.
“There are pitches you can learn from and others you have to nail. Events like the Expo helps students learn from their experiences now so they can nail the important ones later.”
Several alumni, many of them former CEO and Bryant Ventures members themselves, returned to campus for the Expo to offer encouragement and advice — drawn from experience — on everything from business models to logos. Mitchell Depalo ’27, who was presenting his idea for an app called “Post It” that would use artificial intelligence to help business owners populate their websites, appreciated a conversation he had with Nick Cianfaglione ’20, founder of band management company Artist’s Republik and restaurant booking service Restaurent, on how to hone his elevator pitch.
Cianfaglione gave him advice on how to present a complex idea in a simple, yet enticing way, Depalo says. “It was definitely really helpful,” he states.
Through sharing the lessons they’ve learned, the alumni are paying forward the help they’ve received, notes Bradly Adams ’17, founder of software company Aerogami and Expo attendee. “There are pitches you can learn from and others you have to nail,” he points out. “Events like the Expo help students learn from their experiences now so they can nail the important ones later.”