Last Friday, eight students traveled to Cambridge, Mass. to attend an entrepreneurship seminar led by Carl Barron ’38.
Before becoming a renowned businessman, Barron graduated from Bowdoin with a degree in economics. He created the first-ever furniture-leasing company, Putnam Furniture, the start of his entrepreneurial success. Barron Plaza and Barron Building in Cambridge, Mass. are physical reminders of his achievements.
President Barry Mills, Director of Student Activities Allen DeLong, and the Office of Alumni Relations arranged the five-hour-long seminar series with Barron for a select group of students interested in entrepreneurship. Members of the Bowdoin Entrepreneurship Club, the Bowdoin Women in Business Club, and the founders of CampusFoodTrucks (CFT) were invited to attend.
Economics major Steve Borukhin ’14, an co-founder of CFT, described Barron as “96 years old, so very set in his ways, very knowledgeable, and pretty opinionated.”
Borukhin said the seminar exposed him to a business perspective that he had never encountered in a traditional classroom setting.
“I think that he was a very good speaker,” he said. “More than that, he has a crazy network of people who admire him and look up to him as a pioneer of entrepreneurship. You wouldn’t have this opportunity at other schools.”
Romeo Ibanez ’15, founder of the Bowdoin Entrepreneurship Club, also attended the seminar with Barron. He said he admires the loyalty Barron and other alumni show to the College.
Bowdoin has a “unique relationship with our alumni who are committed to sitting down and democratizing access to not only resources, but great information as well,” said Ibanez.
Borukhin said he appreciates the help of the alumni network and accredits some of CFT’s success to it.
“The [people] who have reached out to us because of the [food] truck are alumni. Just from hearing about it, thinking it’s a good idea, wishing they’d had it,” Borukhin said.
The owners of CFT partnered with alumni through the Bowdoin Career Advisory Network. Andrew Cashman ’03 currently works as CFT’s lawyer.
According to Borukhin, Barron invited four guest speakers to share their experiences at the event. These included Ackers Vending Machine Services Inc. Owner Louis Fiorenzi Jr., who spoke about developing business models and adjusting to trends within a market.
Joseph Roller II and Stephen Caputo ’85, president and vice president of Cambridge Trust Company respectively, discussed how to obtain business loans and balance sheets.
Managing Director of CORT Global Ken Barron, Carl Barron’s son, spoke about globalizating his company, which operates in over 65 countries. Ken Barron was president of Putnam Furniture until CORT Furniture Rentals purchased the company in 2001.
Barron “had some quirky sayings,” Borukhin said. “He said the most important things you’ll learn about business won’t be from your Bowdoin economics classes. They’ll be from learning finance and accounting. He wishes Bowdoin had accounting classes.”
Ibanez said he started the Entrepreneurship Club last fall to provide Bowdoin with the kind of business opportunities available at schools such as Harvard, MIT, and Yale.
“There was a lack of support on campus for entrepreneurs,” Ibanez said. “But in spite of that, we have this broad network of alumni consisting of some of the world’s greatest entrepreneurs, who are interested in actively coming back to Bowdoin and supporting it. All I did was build a structure that was able to marry these two forces: the students who are inspired and have great ideas, and these benevolent alumni who are able to come back and support them.”
“Being an entrepreneur is just a side job, or side opportunity, when you’re going to Bowdoin,” Borukhin said. “It’s difficult to apply whatever business you’re doing to the classes you’re taking.”