Chris Porter ’19 created the Entrepreneurial Summit to connect students with alumni entrepreneurs.
On a recent Friday evening, Chris Porter ’19 was in his element. He darted around Upper Marshall Hall, greeting attendees of the first-ever Puget Sound Entrepreneurship Summit, a two-day event that he had been planning throughout his senior year.
Chris envisioned the summit as a way to create relationships between successful alumni entrepreneurs and students who aspired to be like them. With the help of his classmate Gabi Marrese ’19, Puget Sound’s Student Alumni Association, and the Office of Alumni and Parent Relations, he recruited seven alumni to speak about their experiences and provide mentorship opportunities. While their professional ventures varied widely—from starting a cryptocurrency portfolio business to creating a baking website—they all spoke to the importance of cultivating a supportive community within a difficult field.
Alumni entrepreneur Jesse Proudman ’07 (left) and Puget Sound Trustee Jeremy Korst ’97 during the Entrepreneurship Summit's opening keynote session.
That first night, Jeremy Korst ’97, president of marketing firm GBH Insights, interviewed Jesse Proudman ’07, founder of crypto trading business Strix Leviathan, about tech and entrepreneurship. Jesse spoke frankly about the difficulties that come with pouring resources into a project that others might not see value in. “At the end of the day, being an entrepreneur is everyone telling you that you can’t do it, and getting punched in the face all day long,” he said. “Recognizing and accepting that is the largest hurdle. It’s grit. You have to be passionate about it.”
On Saturday, before Puget Sound students set up tables to display their own small business ventures, self-described “tech inventor” David Watson ’92, formerly of Disney and Netflix, echoed Jesse when he told his audience that entrepreneurship as a field is “a very lonely place,” but added that it can be perfect for those willing to change their perspective and think differently.
Chris knows how helpful a change in perspective can be. He grew up in a suburb outside St. Paul, Minn., and changed schools frequently. “I never really found the right fit,” he says. He thought that would change when he arrived at Puget Sound, in 2014, and declared a major in biology, but his struggles continued. “I was one year younger than everyone and emotionally underdeveloped. I became very, very depressed,” he recalls. He found himself on academic probation during his junior year. His family had also encountered financial difficulties, and he couldn’t pay the next year’s tuition. “A switch flipped in my head when I found out I wouldn’t be coming back,” he says. He realized he wanted to control his own destiny, so he found a job as an SAT tutor and began saving up money to return to Puget Sound the following year.
Now a senior with a quiet confidence, Chris says entrepreneurship saved his life. When he returned to campus in the fall of 2017, he met business and leadership professor Lynnette Claire, who opened his eyes to the world of entrepreneurship. “She reached out and took me in and showed me how to have fun in classes,” Chris says. He changed his major to business and started working on an app called Pop that will connect students looking for work with staff and faculty members who need odd jobs done. He also took the helm of Puget Sound’s Entrepreneurship Club, which gave him credibility and resources when he announced plans to organize the first Entrepreneurship Summit in Puget Sound history.
The event went off remarkably well, with students and alumni forming connections just as Chris had envisioned. “I’ve never considered entrepreneurship as a field for myself because I just think I’m not that creative,” said Christina Conry ’21, who attended the event with her friend, Anna MacLeod ’21. “But it’s awesome to see how Loggers are so willing to share their experiences with us. I’ve already had alums come up and talk about their experiences, and it’s great to see what people have done with a Puget Sound education.”
Chris couldn’t have asked for more. “This event was the first step in a vision to foster the entrepreneurial spirit on campus,” he said. “We’re not going to bring someone from zero to 100 on entrepreneurship, but we can bring them from zero to 25, or even from zero to one, and that’s all I can ask for. I’m so, so proud of the event we put together.”
Entrepreneurship Summit Photo Gallery:
Chris Porter ’19 opens Puget Sound's first Entrepreneurship Summit
Alumni entrepreneur Scott Reader ’91
A discussion during the workshop "Cultivating the Entrepreneurial Mindset," presented by Scott Reader ’91
David Watson ’92 leads a discussion on the entrepreneurial mindset
President Isiaah Crawford talks with Entrepreneurship Summit attendees
Christina McDougall ’91 moderates a panel discussion with local business owners on entrepreneurship in Tacoma
Summit attendees participate in a mug cake bake-off during a workshop by alumni entrepreneur Kevin Kurtz ’97
Kevin Kurtz ’97, co-founder of online baking brand and destination BiggerBolderBaking.com, shares his philosophy on building "fans for life"
Students gather in Rasmussen Rotunda to network and share their business ideas at the Entrepreneurship Fair
Chris Porter ’19 (far right) with Entrepreneurship Summit featured presenters
By Anneli Fogt Published March 14, 2019 Photos by Sy Bean