In a semester that led many to stop and reconsider their lives, the students in Bryant’s chapter of the Collegiate Entrepreneurs' Organization (CEO) committed themselves to moving forward. From helping to launch informational conferences to supporting student start-ups, CEO worked to ensure that innovative students have the support they need to excel.
“As entrepreneurially minded students, we really benefit from working with one another,” notes Jaret Petruzzelli ’20, President of CEO for the 2019-2020 academic year. “We’re all in the same boat right now and it’s important for us to learn from each other’s experiences and work together.”
Bringing people together
This spring, Bryant CEO’s 10th annual Bryant University Northeast Entrepreneurship Conference (BUNEEC) was expected to draw hundreds of college students from around the region, all eager to develop entrepreneurial skills they can use in any career. Unfortunately, however, CEO was forced to cancel the event due to the worldwide changes prompted by the worldwide Covid-19 pandemic.
"I think we need to learn as much as we can from this experience. We need to find new ways to do things and keep pushing forward."
Undaunted, Petruzzelli and Meghan Schulze ’21, the 2020 BUNEEC director, turned their attention to a new venture – the Interconnect Conference virtual event. Spearheaded by students at Kennesaw State University and organized by CEO students from coast to coast, the conference offered students and professionals the opportunity to gain new skills and entrepreneurial insight during a time of great challenge.
“Living life under a stay-at-home order can be very isolating,” notes Schulze, who helped plan marketing, logistics, and other elements of the event. “The conference was a great way for people to connect with one another.”
An important learning experience
The free event covered topics from navigating career moves during a recession to building a digital audience. There were also virtual breakout sessions that offered attendees an opportunity to network with one another. “We focused on the different themes and messages we wanted to share and found corresponding speakers from around the world,” says Schulze.
“The entrepreneurial spirit is all about taking the situation you have and making the most of it,” notes Petruzzelli. “The conference tried to address how people are living and working in their daily lives right now and offer ways to improve things.”
“Bryant Ventures is a club run by students for students. We’re there for each other.”
For Schulze, the conference was a chance to turn a disappointment into an opportunity. “It’s difficult but, as much as you can, I think we need to learn as much as we can from this experience,” she says. “We need to find new ways to do things and keep pushing forward.”
The lessons she’s learned, Schulze says, will help make next year’s BUNEEC even better.
Keeping the connections
CEO also worked to offer support closer to home. Despite their inability to hold on-campus meetings, the close-knit network of student entrepreneurs that make up Bryant Ventures, the University’s start-up accelerator, stayed in touch, offering each other support, advice, and a sounding board for ideas.
“I think that’s one of the reasons why groups like Ventures are so valuable. They inspire the skills and mindset that students need during troubling times.”
“In some ways, this is a great time to work on our businesses because there are fewer distractions,” says Nicholas Cianfaglione ’21, president of Bryant Ventures and the founder of ArtistRepublik, a decentralized networking platform that allows independent music artists to manage, market, and book themselves. “But it can also be hard to stay motivated. Talking to one another and hearing about the progress the other members are making is really valuable.”
“Bryant Ventures is a club run by students for students,” he says. “We’re there for each other.”
Spreading the spirit
Cianfaglione also worked with this spring’s Entrepreneurial Marketing course, taught by Marketing Instructor Loring Barnes, to spread the entrepreneurial spirit. Using Bryant Ventures as their “client company,” the students worked in teams throughout the semester to develop in-depth plans regarding marketing and other elements for the incubator. Cianfaglione was thrilled to help with the course, having taken it himself and knowing first-hand how valuable it was.
Their work, Cianfaglione says, yielded some great ideas he’s looking forward to implementing. It also gave the students experience thinking outside the box and working with clients who have limited money or resources. “It introduces them to the world of entrepreneurship in a lot of ways,” he says.
“Bryant is a great place for student entrepreneurs because even in times, like this you’re still able to connect with the faculty and resources you need.”
Pioneering new ways of doing business is especially valuable in a time of change, Cianfaglione notes – and even people working at established businesses can benefit from an entrepreneurial mindset that highlights innovation and perseverance as the world shifts around them. “I think that’s one of the reasons why groups like Ventures are so valuable,” he says. “They inspire the skills and mindset that students need during troubling times.”
The University has been a great source of support in helping to develop that mindset, says Cianfaglione, “Bryant is a great place for student entrepreneurs,” he says, “because even in times like this you’re still able to connect with the faculty and resources you need.”