Alumni panel gives business advice

Alumni talk about experiences since graduating. (Courtney Wirths / Photo Editor)

A panel of four entrepreneurial alumni of the College joined William Keep, dean of the Business School on Friday, Sept. 13 to kick off the third annual Mayo Business Plan Competition. The event doubled as one of the Business School’s “Third Wednesdays,” meetings, which look to provide students with networking opportunities and exposure to various industries.

“You came tonight because you thought it was in your own best interest,” Keep said, gesturing to the crowd of students. “But here, you also form a community of people and you all have a shared interest.”

This year, the total sum of prize money being awarded is $30,000. The first place winner receives $16,000, second place $9,000 and third place $4,500, according to Keep.

The panel on Wednesday night provided students with their stories of entrepreneurship and answer any questions about starting a business from just an idea:

Shelly Hewson:

Shelly Hewson graduated Trenton State College in 1980.

After graduation, she began her own landscaping business.

Hewson advanced her education through joining professional organizations and earning various certifications for her business.

She also joined organizations for other women business-owners.

“I like being the boss,” she said. “I like steering my own ship.” Hewson told students to look at what they like to do when deciding what area of business to go into.

Joe Gesualdo:

Joe Gesualdo was a member of the class of 2011. At the College, Gesualdo was a finance major.

“I knew I was good at math and I wanted to make a lot of money,” Gesualdo said. Gesualdo was offered a full-time job at Price Waterhouse before his senior year. After three weeks working in a finance and corporate environment, the recent graduate realized it was not the line of work for him.

“You don’t know what you want to do,” he said. “But you find out what you don’t want to do.”

Gesualdo decided he wanted to be in the technology industry. He and a friend set up a workstation in their apartment and began to teach themselves programming.

“I wanted to be a part of a small company or start my own,” Gesualdo said. “There are a lot of really interesting things that are going to change the world.”

Soon they began the company Homespree. Homespree puts homeowners in touch with contractors to do home improvement jobs.

Finding an industry you are really interested in is what’s important, Gesualdo explained. Then, he said, students should implement technology.

Gregg Hollmann:

Gregg Hollmann graduated the College in 1993 with a degree in finance. He wanted to have a fast-paced job, something where he had to hustle.

In his late 20s, Hollmann bought his first DJ mixer and began DJ-ing at friends’ parties. He then moved on to doing events on the weekends and eventually full time. His business, Ambient DJ Services, was exploding, he explained and he was soon making the same money he had been in the corporate world.

“Dip your toe in and test a concept,” Hollmann said. “If you do it well, down the road you can do it full time.”

Chris Hindley:

Chris Hindley graduated from the College in 2004. After a short time working in marketing, he decided he wanted to be on the other side of the table and start his own business.

“I liked taking a business that hadn’t happened yet and helping it grow,” he said. Hindley explained that he wanted to be in e-commerce because of the tremendous number of available consumers.

Inspired by his struggle to sleep with triplets in the house, Hindley invented the Hoodiepillow. The company took off within weeks and went on to be on the business investing show Shark Tank.

“Just jump off that cliff,” he said. “We get our hands dirty, and we run our own business.”

After the panel had concluded, Dean Keep briefly elaborated on the valuable lessons that students can learn when applying classroom lessons to real world scenarios.

“We can’t teach you everything that you need to know,” he said. “We can teach you things of value, but I don’t know what you need to know yet, because I don’t know where you are going.”