Eric Bonin, a graduate of Bryant in 2008 and the founder of PILLARS, answers questions for The Archway about his journey to become a successful entrepreneur.
Q: Can you introduce the company for those who are not familiar
Bonin: Pillars Yogurt is a rapidly growing startup company based in Framingham, MA. Pillars is the only drinkable yogurt on the market with no added sugar along with both pre and probiotics. I launched Pillars in early 2014. The idea was the result of an unfortunate spill of a cup of Greek yogurt onto my dress pants while driving to a meeting (the idea of convenience), combined with my disappointment of other products that were on the market filled with sugar and junk. I delivered the first case of yogurt out of the back of my car to the local Whole Foods in Framingham, MA in August, 2016. Today, Pillars can be found in about 500 stores across 12 states, with plans to triple that store count by the end of the year.
Q: How do you feel Bryant University has played into your success with Pillars?
Bonin: Bryant provided a great education and an environment which helped develop and refine a lot of skills that I use every day. Integrating entrepreneurship into academia was just getting its start towards the end of my time at Bryant, but it’s great to see the school now on the forefront of the subject, offering new classes and programs and supporting campus organizations, such as CEO, in doing amazing things to expose students to alternatives beyond the ‘traditional’ job path.
Q: Following graduation, you did equity research. Did that play into your desire to start a company? How did skills from researching varying securities help you?
Bonin: Finance and equity research jobs were a way to a means for me. I always knew I wanted to build and create something and not work for someone else for the rest of my life, but you need skills and knowledge to do anything on your own and a job to support yourself. These jobs were that for me; they helped me develop my analytical skills and supported me financially until I was comfortable going out on my own.
Q: What has been the biggest challenge in starting a company?
Bonin: There are too many to count! Right now, a huge challenge is trying to navigate scaling our rapid growth and transitioning from a business into a corporation. We need to progress from 100-hour work weeks of a one man show into a company with an awesome and supportive team.
Q: What is the most fun you’ve had as an entrepreneur running your company?
Bonin: The feeling of walking into a store and seeing your product on the shelf that you’ve poured literal blood, sweat, and tears into creating is an incredible feeling that will never get old!
Q: Is there anything you would recommend to Bryant students today studying business in terms of successful post-graduation plans?
Bonin: Whatever it is you want, just go for it… really! If you don’t know where to start, choose something that you are either extremely good at or really interested in and start there. Seek out people who are doing what you want to do or have accomplished what you want and ask them how they got there.
Bryant has become one of the top university’s in the country for entrepreneurship. It has one of the strongest C.E.O. organizations, a strong curriculum, and many successful alumni. As Bonin says, whatever you’d like to do in life, it is important to “just go for it.”