FORT MYERS, Fla. — In 1996, Brian Rist founded a company that’s become a huge success and just about a household name here in Southwest Florida called Storm Smart.
While his products sold through Storm Smart are to help protect families from natural disasters like hurricanes, Rist wanted to use his quarter-century of experience to help young entrepreneurs in SWFL avoid disasters with their budding businesses.
“It sounds weird to say, but I’m now known as Professor Rist,” said Rist. Professor, the new title he’s taken on on top of being an entrepreneur. He says being a professor is a dream come true.
His college course is all about taking an idea and turning it into a business. “If I can help just one student to be a little bit more successful to maybe not have to struggle with some of the challenges that are going to come, I would consider this a huge success.”
That’s the goal but how he hopes to do it is by sharing what he went through as a business owner which includes the good, the bad, and the ugly.
“I try to tell some of the stories and lessons I’ve learned along the way of growing a business for 26 years and eventually employing over 200 people,” said Rist.
When he went to school, he said he barely had computers, and entrepreneurship was really a newer science. He said that’s why when the opportunity to teach was offered he thought this was going to be a unique opportunity for both himself and the students where you have somebody who walked the walk.
Ryan Berry, is a Junior Entrepreneur student in Rist’s class.
“Honestly it was a little bit of a shock because when I walked in, I actually recognized Mr. Rist so I knew who he was before this,” Berry said. “I think it’s honestly pretty cool because you get to learn from someone who’s done it all and is giving back to the university and teaching kids like us.”
The students say they are thankful to learn from someone who has already done it but for Rist said, “I think I’m really the lucky one I think I’m probably learning as much as they might be learning from me, some of them are on a great path a great trajectory that I think they’ll make some awesome business people in the future.”