After months of intensive planning, the CEO e-board worked tirelessly to pull off a perfected conference. The idea first came over six years ago, where the young CEO club (Collegiate Entrepreneur’s Organization) first hosted this conference, the “Bryant University North East Entrepreneurship Conference” to be exact. The play on words of Be-Unique, was the small idea a few students created, which has now blossomed into an incredible program that Bryant is happy to have. The goal of the conference was to fuel the passion of the audience, while giving them wisdom, teaching them valuable skills, and having the ability to expand their network.
The night prior to the event was the VIP kickoff. Guest included selected students, alumni, faculty and staff, government officials, keynote speakers, and head speaker- Kevin Harrington. The evening was mostly a networking opportunity for all and to have a toast for the main event.
The first keynote speaker was Radha Agrawal, who knocked it out of the park. She is the founder and CEO of Super Sprowtz, a children’s nutrition education company who has engaged in over 1 million children to make better food choices. She also helped find a drug and alcohol free stress reliever called, Daybreaker, a 6:00am dance fest to help stressed employees have fun. She also talked about defeating feminism in the workforce. She inspired the entire crowd and received a standing ovation. The next was Alan Gertner, who is the co-founder and CEO of Toykyo Smoke, which is a modern lifestyle business of cannabis. He left his job at Google and traveled the world, hoping he could find something in his life that makes him happy and has true meaning. With deep research and knowledge, he uncovered this business and provided great insight into how he discovered this industry projected to be over 100 billion dollars.
In between keynote speakers were breakout sessions, which were very exciting. They were filled with many innovative individuals, such as John Collins, who created his own lifestyle clothing called “Bros of our Lives”. Others included Melissa Bowler who is the Executive Director at the Providence Improv Guild, Dylan Husted who founded SaveOhno, and Alex Stone who is a Marine Corps Veteran and Founder of Athletes of Valor. They all shared their incredible stories, which inspired the attendees.
CEO also brought back some household names and alumni, including John Duke Logan who is now the Patriots Magician, Kris Hart who is the CEO and Founder of Nextgengolf, Edward Brady who is a restaurant entrepreneur and owner of “The Thirsty Beaver”, and Michael Kurson & Neil Quigley, founders of Briggs Original Boston Cranberry. These were fan favorites according to the audience, as they learned about being an entrepreneur at a young age and appreciating Bryant’s valuable resources.
The third keynote speaker was a 2000 Alumni by the name of David Greco. He is the owner of Salespreneur who gave himself a name by confidently walking into the Shark Tank and saying “I can sell anything to anybody at any time.” Dave told his story of diving into the show and competing for details with some of the most successful entrepreneurs. He shared his time at Bryant and gave valuable lessons to the students and viewers. Finally, the grand finale. First, a inspirational hype video played and then the man of the hour ran onto the stage. Kevin Harrington, the inventor of the infomercial, the original judge on ABC’s Shark Tank, and the pioneer of “As Seen on TV”, graced the Bryant Community with such excitement and wisdom. He told his story, and offered incredible life lessons, that the entire crowd was eager to hear. The Archway was fortunate enough to catch an interview with the billion dollar man thanks to Mr. Zimmer. Here are a few of the questions.
Archway Newspaper: Out of the 175 screenings of Shark Tank that you were on, how many closings did you make and were there any that stuck out to you the most?
Kevin Harrington: Out of the 175, I made about 25 deals, which was pretty good. The most exciting venture I was a part of, believe or not, was a product called “CitiKitty”, and it is a cat toilet training product. It is a funky product that actually works and does really well. It is a problem solver that saves you money and aggravation. It has done very well, located in many big name stores with a massive distributor. I knew this product was going to do well, especially with publicity, because it is a crazy idea that I knew was going to work. We got it in all of the big news outlets, such as The Wallstreet Journal, which helped it do very well, so I am thankful I went in on it.
AN: During your time on the show, were there any positives and negatives that stuck with you?
KH: Well the obvious was losing money when we did. Barbara and I went in on a deal with a man by the name of Cactus Jack who had a push-up machine. We made a deal with him and we lost all of the money, which was a huge negative of course. Also, the battles between partners, because they do happen and people do not like to see them. The biggest positive was that I met some amazing people through the show. Not just the other Sharks, who I remain very close with, but other individuals as well. I gained some knowledge from the Sharks, like how they do business and how they make deals and conduct themselves, and that was very knowledgeable for me. People always give O’Leary, Mr. Wonderful, a very hard time because he is aggressive and arrogant on the show, but if you listen to him, he is very intelligent. He has some great points and great business concepts and good strategies, and I picked up these tips from him and the other sharks. As an entrepreneur, you get to learn new stuff every day.
AN: One thing you mentioned was that when you made these deals, you didn’t want to be the CEO, but instead just be involved by offering advice, can you explain why?
KH: So many times I would get involved with a deal, and the people would beg me to be their CEO, which is an honor but is something I never take lightly but I have taken that position before. There are three words to CEO. The Chief and Officer which are great, but it’s that middle word, executive, that gives you the responsibility and puts you on top. It is a huge responsibility and I only will accept it if I can give 110%. I will occasionally take on a chair position, but my main goal is to offer the resources and my guidance. Another problem is that with being involved with multiple companies, and some do better than others and vice versa, problems can arise and fingers get pointed to me.
Overall, the conference can be seen as a success and huge feat not only for CEO, but for Bryant University. All thanks to CEO President Josh Velez, BUNEEC Director Jake Zimmer, and the entire CEO E-Board and Members. See what else they have in store and attend their general meetings, Thursday 5pm in the AIC!