Will Tondo ’19 admits it: His office is a mess. But it's a mess with a purpose. The co-founder of two startups with other Bryant alumni — House Enterprise and RestauRent — and the co-host of the award-winning podcast “Beers, Business, and Balls,” Tondo’s computer is a riot of open tabs and his walls and desks are covered in sticky notes — the product of a dedicated creator always pushing to build something new and take it to the next level.
Amidst the chaos of post-its and big ideas, though, is a bit of nostalgia: a framed issue of the Bryant Archway student newspaper hanging on his wall, featuring an interview Tondo conducted with Apple Computers co-founder Steve Wozniak. It was his first big story for the Archway, Tondo notes, but the article has come to symbolize more: It’s about inspiration and authenticity and a willingness to give back.
“Going to Bryant, and learning from the professors you have, and hearing from guests and alumni who have done so many successful things, it's hard not to ask yourself, ‘Well, why not? Why can't I do this too?’ ” he says.
For Tondo, a Marketing major at Bryant who was recently named to Rhode Island Inno’s 5 under 25, the journey toward entrepreneurship began with a conversation. During the pandemic, he and his good friend and fellow Bryant alum Jake Zimmer ’19, looking for a creative outlet, started “Beers, Business, and Balls” as a lark, a freewheeling podcast that centers around craft beer, the latest business news, and what's going on in the world of sports.
“It felt like: Now, we have a seat at the table.”
“We started the podcast just to pass the time, talk about the things that interested us, and meet some cool people,” Tondo says. Their philosophy was simple, he states: to come at topics from an informed, but not expert, perspective, and talk about the things on everyone’s mind. “When we have a guest on, we want it to be like if the three of us were out at a bar having a conversation about our lives, our passions, and what's going on in the world,” he explains.
That comfortable authenticity, he states, is key to a good podcast — and to any successful creative or commercial project. “It’s about finding your niche, and what you’re passionate about,” says Tondo. “It is a crowded field out there, but if you're finding something that you're passionate about that people aren't talking about, you can easily create content from that.
“Authenticity stands out,” he reflects.
Over time, Tondo and Zimmer’s podcast found an audience. “It was originally just a way to keep the conversation between friends going, but as we started getting more comfortable, we also started getting some really good feedback from people — including other Bryant people,” Tondo relates.
If you're passionate about sports or business or craft beer or pop culture, or whatever else, you should have an outlet to showcase that.
More than 150 episodes in, the show, which was recently awarded a “Golden Crushie” for best beer-related podcast, is making an impact. “It’s been quite the journey,” says Tondo, “from talking to people from across the country and around the world to being invited as one the first guests at the Cincinnati Soccer club, to working with Barstool Sports and being featured on various national publications and broadcasts.
“I think one of the biggest ‘pinch me’ moments for us was when we had on Jesse Palmer, who was a former NFL Quarterback and is the host of ‘The Bachelor,’ ” reflects Tondo. “He only did five interviews during that first cycle: It was ‘Good Morning America.’ It was the ‘Today’ show. It was an ABC podcast. It was Barstool Sports. And it was us.
“It felt like: Now, we have a seat at the table,” he says with satisfaction.
The success of the podcast led to the creation of the House Enterprise network, Zimmer and Tondo’s bid to help other creators find their niche and thrive. House Enterprise now includes more than 40 creators — spanning from Rhode Island to Florida — who produce more than a dozen shows. “Initially, it was just a first attempt at legitimizing this little pipe dream we had,” says Tondo. “It’s been amazing to see it grow.”
His pitch for House, he says, is simple. “If you're passionate about sports or business or craft beer or pop culture, or whatever else, you should have an outlet to showcase that. We tell them, ‘Have fun creating something and we'll help handle the heavy lifting of editing and promoting.’ ”
“I don’t know if I consider myself an expert. But if you come to me with a question, I’ll try to help.”
In recent days, Tondo has extended his aspirations by becoming a co-founder of RestauRent, an Airbnb for restaurants spearheaded by Nick Cianfaglione ’21 that helps customers book venues for the important events in their lives. RestauRent, which counts numerous other Bryant graduates among its employees, has grown to support more than 350 venues on its platform since its inception in April. “I believe in the mission; it’s about helping the restaurants and venues that we all know and love recoup a lot of the losses that they've endured during COVID and tough economic times,” says Tondo
Tondo has also become a supporter of the larger Rhode Island entrepreneurial scene as a board member of Founders/Friends, a community nonprofit that aims to bring together the Ocean State’s entrepreneurs as a supportive network and collective force that drives the state’s economy forward.
In many ways, this is his most ambitious project of all. “I am originally from New York, but I chose to go to a school in Rhode Island because of Bryant and what it had to offer,” Tondo points out. “I chose to look for Rhode Island's businesses to work with rather than go into Boston or back to New York because I got to know the people here and realized its beauty. The state has so much potential, but I think we can be more than that; we can be one of the country’s top entrepreneurial places.”
In his spare time, Tondo has made a habit of returning to Bryant to share what he’s learned, whether it be as a guest speaker in the classroom or by meeting with the students involved with the Bryant Ventures startup incubator. “I remember, early on at Bryant, when alumni came back and they gave us their time, it made me feel like the most special person in the world.
“It’s a funny feeling to come back now and be in front of the group as ‘Mr. Tondo,’ ” he admits. “I don’t know if I consider myself an expert. But if you come to me with a question, I’ll try to help.”