Once the temperature drops in Columbus, so does the average daily population on campus as students finally begin exploring the world outside their dorm. They might choose a quaint German Village coffee shop over EspressOH in the Union, or shop for warmer clothes at the boutiques lining the streets in the Short North. Whatever the reason may be, nothing can stop students from getting outside for a good stroll in an autumn-painted Columbus. That’s precisely why the Business Builders Club holds their most wholesome community event for their members every fall.
“We take a group of about 30 of our members and tour them around Columbus’ hottest start-ups,” Kristen Cerne, VP of BBC events, shared with me. “They get to see what the office is like, how they work, speak with top leadership, and really get a vibe on what it’s like to work at a start-up. It’s how we jump into fall, in a way.”
Around the same time of year that students are job and internship hunting, BBC is an informed hand to hold through the process that is your first professional job. They leave campus at 7 a.m., stop at a local coffee shop to heat up before heading out, and return around 3 in the afternoon.
“There’s other organizations on campus that do pumpkin carving, fireside chats, or corn mazes, whatever, and it’s nice, it’s great, but when the air’s crisp, we’re downtown,” boasts president of the club, Jack Hutchinson. “Those type of mornings when you’re out and you can see your own breath in the air and then you walk into a billion dollar company and you’re talking to the CEO, the CFO, and the CTO, something warms you up inside.”
The whole point of the event is to build community between members and exposure to Columbus small businesses. While college is a great place for students to grow, it’s still an idea incubator in a lot of ways before students have the funding and networking to bring business ideas to life.
“It’s extremely motivating,” says Hutchinson. “We get captured in this bubble on campus, you go through the motions every day, you know you’re going to get a piece of paper hopefully in four or five years, at the end of the day we’ll all end up with hopefully a good career. It’s not often we get to see that in action. To be able to walk into a startup and talk to the CEO, CFO, CTO, who’s maybe in their late twenties, early-to-mid thirties… You’re walking in the steps they were ten years ago, twenty years ago.”
Some students who are self-starters and have a little more solid ground under their feet also something to benefit from, according to Cerne.
“Even for our members that have companies, a lot of them don’t have offices. It’s like a company in their dorm room. And then to see people that started in the same place, and now they have a huge office––like Root insurance––in Columbus, just to see where that idea can go, I think people are like, ‘Oh my gosh, that could be me and my idea.’”
Root Insurance is one of the group’s favorite companies to visit, hiring on early teammates from BBC. Hutchinson remembers one of the club’s alumni, who was employee number 70 of what is now a 700-person corporation. SafeChain, a fast-paced real estate company also started in Columbus, is another business that feels like family to the BBC. Other companies they’ve visited in the past include NCT Ventures, Hot Chicken Takeover, and Smart Columbus Experience Center.
The club has rolling recruitment, so undergraduate students are always welcome to join year-round. Open events include their career fairs, weekly meetings with business speakers, and pitch nights.
“The organization is growing, we’re exceeding 100 members on a weekly basis now,” Hutchinson excitedly shares. “It’s a good opportunity for whether you’re a freshman coming in, you’ve seen a few episodes of Shark Tank and now want to do your own thing, or a senior who has decided they’ve gone through several years of education and corporate America’s not right for them, they want to do something different with their lives.”
You can attend weekly BBC meetings on Thursdays at 8 p.m. in Schoenbaum 330. To see a calendar of events or to become a member, go to businessbuildersclub.org. Member dues are $50 for new members and $40 for returners.