Corey Nobile ’22 and Nick Oliveri ’22 have big plans for GeoProtein, the rapidly growing “functional foods” company the pair started as high school students in 2016 and continue to build as Bryant students. “We want GeoProtein to be ubiquitous,” says Oliveri, the company’s COO. “We want to be in stores, grocers, and online channels across the nation and around the world.”
With their line of protein superfood bars, featuring flavors such as Cookie Dough and Wedding Cake, the pair has already made strides toward reaching that lofty goal. They’ve raised more than $125,000 in strategic capital, and are partnering with the likes of the Boston Celtics eSports team as well as national distributors. In May, they presented at the PAC 12 Student Athlete Health Conference, which serves the top Division I athletic conference in the country.
They’re aiming to make their mark on the world. “You get to make your company whatever you want and write your own story, which I don’t think you can accomplish in many other fields besides entrepreneurship,” says Nobile, GeoProtein’s CEO.
Youth and energy
GeoProtein started with Nobile developing the company’s first protein bar on his own after classes. But after years of hard work, fundraising, and continuously reimagining everything from their product line to their packaging, they’re now poised to be contenders in their industry. Once the domain of just two employees, GeoProtein now boasts an advisory council made up of high-level industry professionals, a neurosurgeon who serves as chief product officer, and even interns.
“Learn everything you possibly can about your field – and then learn more. Never stop learning new things.”
How does a pair of young entrepreneurs, juggling both business deals and a full load of college courses, run a company at such a high level? “It can be tough,” Nobile says. “You need to get the age question out of the picture as much as possible. You need to convince investors and the people you’re working with that it doesn’t matter that you’re 18 or 19 – you have the skills necessary to execute your vision.”
In fact, their youth can sometimes be an advantage. “As college students, we have energy, passion and a connection to our customers,” says Oliveri. “We know exactly what our peers want.” That doesn’t mean, however, that there haven’t been obstacles along the way. “People have told us ‘no,’ or ‘we’re not interested’ many, many times,” says Oliveri. “You have to be prepared to get knocked down and then get up again.”
That level of commitment, they say, is ultimately the key. “For us the end goal has always been there, and the vision has been consistent,” says Nobile.
Learning valuable lessons
The duo’s Bryant experience is helping them to make their vision real through results-oriented coursework. “I’m currently taking courses in management and marketing. My favorite parts are definitely the case studies, where we get to look at real companies in industries similar to ours and the real-world problems they've had to deal with,” says Nobile, who is majoring in Finance. “It's kind of cool to be in class, then run back to the room, and say ‘OK, so what would happen if we were to do this?’”
“Everything here, from the Academic Innovation Center to the new Data Science program, is a sign that the school understands where the future is going to be.”
The range of classes they’re taking in both business and the arts and sciences is also helping them juggle a broad set of responsibilities. “You need to be flexible, and have a dynamic set of skills across a variety of disciplines,” notes Oliveri, also a Finance major.
“That’s one of the biggest pieces of advice we could give somebody starting their own business,” Nobile says. “Learn everything you possibly can about your field – and then learn more. Never stop learning new things.”
Spirit of innovation
Nobile and Oliveri were recently joined at GeoProtein by Finance major Sean MGowan ’22, who they’ve brought on as the company’s acting CFO. McGowan is excited to be part of the company and the creative spirit that suffuses Bryant. “There’s so many talented people here in such close proximity to one another. That breeds innovation,” he says.
“If you’re lucky enough to go to a university like Bryant, you need to take full advantage of all of the resources available"
That’s crucially important for a start-up like GeoProtein, he notes. “You need to be constantly be iterating in every aspect of your business. Not just in the products you’re developing but with everything – your branding, your marketing, your product fulfillment – everything.”
Innovation is what attracted Nobile to Bryant. “Going to a forward thinking school was definitely important to me. I saw that Bryant was a school that was growing very, very quickly, with a very sharp focus on the future of business,” he says. “Everything here, from the Academic Innovation Center to the new Data Science program, is a sign that the school understands where the future is going to be.”
Network of support
The fledgling company has also found support from the Bryant community. Through Bryant Ventures, the University’s start-up incubator, they’ve been able to connect with other student entrepreneurs across a range of industries, share ideas, and take advantage of each other’s talents. “If you’re lucky enough to go to a University like Bryant, you need to take full advantage of all of the resources available to you,” McGowan says.
“Being socially responsible has always been on our minds. We’re working toward a better future.”
Oliveri and Nobile are also two-time recipients of Bryant’s Jackson W. Goss Prize in Entrepreneurship, presented annually to advance the creativity, innovation, and entrepreneurial spirit of undergraduate students. “Being awarded the Goss prize was a milestone for us coming in as freshmen, and it felt like a validation,” notes Oliveri, who describes the award as “profoundly important” for the company. “It also made us feel a little bit more of a part of the University as well, knowing that Bryant cared about what we were doing and wanted us to succeed.”
Making a difference
As they go forward, GeoProtein’s executives say they are dedicated to more than the bottom line. As recent inductees into the prestigious Kairos Society, which connects young leaders with organizations grappling with global issues, Oliveri and Nobile are committed to running a socially conscious company. From a commitment to using eco-friendly bioplastic packaging to donating a portion of the company’s profits to charity, it’s their intention to make a difference, too.
“Being socially responsible has always been on our minds,” says Nobile. “We’re working toward a better future.”