Feature Stories Campus Events

Scaling the Entrepreneurship Summit Jesse Evans '20 spent his summer ensuring that this year's summit, which took place Sept. 21-22, would be a success.

Jesse Evans ’20

“I want to ensure that all students know about the Entrepreneurship Summit and the value it can add to them. With over 100 alumni coming into town, there are plenty of learning and networking opportunities.”

Hometown: Jacksonville, Florida
Major: Business Administration
Minor: Environmental Studies

What makes the Entrepreneurship Summit such an important event at W&L?

The Entrepreneurship Summit offers W&L students immense opportunities. We have intentionally invited alumni from all disciplines, so any W&L student from any major can find value from the summit. We have awesome keynote speakers this year: Chip Mahan ’73, from the finance industry, and Amy Bohutinsky ’97, from the real estate industry. We also have seminars and panel discussions that relate to almost any major on campus, from computer science to music and finance.

Aside from the vast knowledge that these alumni bring back, there are many networking opportunities during the summit that I recommend students attend. Alumni really want to help current students and even offer jobs to their startups. The alumni, as well as students, pitch their business ideas at the summit on Saturday– a fantastic event that every student should attend to see the creativity and ambition of their fellow students and alumni.

What is your role in the Entrepreneurship Summit?

I am the chair of the marketing committee for the summit.

What made you want to be part of this work?

I was a member of the Entrepreneurship Summit Marketing Committee last year and I really enjoyed my experience. So, I took full advantage of having the opportunity to lead the marketing committee this year. Additionally, I have a general interest in marketing and advertising. I enjoy the work for its creative and strategic aspects. Aside from my interest in marketing, I wanted to be deeply involved with the summit because it is such a valuable event for the W&L community and I really want it to be successful. I want to ensure that all students know about the Entrepreneurship Summit and the value it can add to them. With over 100 alumni coming into town, there are plenty of learning and networking opportunities.

What has an average day for you looked like on this project?

An average day is tough to say. There are so many irons in the fire. I have so many marketing channels and moving deadlines that my days are certainly not the same. Some days I am hanging posters around campus, then the next day I am designing Instagram stories, then the next day I am sending emails to department heads. Much of the prep work is done over the summer. The marketing committee, for the most part, has already planned our strategy prior to the start of the semester. So during the semester, we execute the plan we already made. However, we do leverage and devote resources to other marketing opportunities that present themselves unexpectedly.

Has it been challenging in any way? If so, how?

The Entrepreneurship Summit is certainly challenging to put together, but this is why we have several committees to delegate tasks. No Venture Club member has the bandwidth or resources to successfully lead the student and alumni pitches, operations team, marketing team and panel discussions.

The most challenging part for my committee was probably designing the plan during the summer to ensure that we are taking advantage of all possible channels to advertise to students. We want to make sure that all students know about the summit and no one misses the opportunity to attend due to ignorance of the event.

How does the project relate to your wider experiences at W&L in terms of student-faculty relationships?

The Entrepreneurship Summit, while a Williams School event, caters to all majors. We design our panels and speakers to address topics in most departments at W&L. For instance, we have panels on food entrepreneurship, the fashion and music industry, Blockchain and many more.

What is your role in the Venture Club?

I am a member of the Executive Committee. There are five other students on the committee, and we work to lead summit committees, and after the summit, we lead the club and design the schedule. During the year with Venture Club, we work with our professors, Shay and Junkunc, to create fun and interesting projects that enhance certain business and entrepreneurial skills for our members. We also bring in speakers, alumni or other professors, to lecture the club on various topics.

Has your work on the summit impacted your future plans in any way?

Yes, but I think my attendance at the summit has an even larger impact. The more I work with the Venture Club, the more I fall in love with entrepreneurship. I enjoy hearing from alumni at the summit about their businesses and their non-linear paths to success. At the summit, alumni show that there are many paths to reach a single goal. I am very driven and self-motivated to put all my resources into an idea that I am passionate about. There is a saying in entrepreneurship that an entrepreneur avoids a 40-hour work week only to work 80 hours. If you are passionate about an idea, then you put all your time into it to ensure its success.

How did W&L prepare you for this experience?

The Entrepreneurship Summit is a great opportunity for networking, and W&L really does a great job of teaching students how to network. I really look forward to the summit to meet successful alumni and hear their stories.

Additionally, for my marketing committee specifically, my business classes have given me the skills to successfully create awareness and consideration among the students. When developing the marketing plan this summer, I had many previous business class lessons in the back of my head: understand your target consumer, define your consumer persona, understand what your consumer wants, define marketing channels, etc.

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More About Jesse

What extracurricular activities do you do?

Venture Club, Intern for the Sustainability Office on campus

Why did you choose your major?

My attraction for business began when I co-founded a dog walking and pet service business, Happy Hounds, at the beginning of high school with my friend, Chris Prattos. We started with one client and grew to over 40 clients and four employees. We turned the business over to neighbors after our freshman year of college. The business started as an accident when a neighbor walking her dog saw me running and asked me if I wanted to run her dog for money. When Chris heard that I was running this dog after school, he said we should start a business. So, we ordered business cards and walked door-to-door every summer after that. This business experience, while minimal, piqued my interest in learning more about business and wanting to start another business. I am currently working on two: Colonnade Oaks and Vesper Media Group.

Has anyone on campus inspired you? 

Two friends of mine, Graham Novak ’19 and Steve Allen ’18, have inspired me, and both have been immensely helpful. Both were highly involved (Graham is still currently involved) in Venture Club. Two years ago, they started a global co-living community for digital nomads in Portugal, called NomadX. I was amazed at their hard work and the number of hours per week they spent starting the company. It showed me the dedication needed to successfully launch a company. Both Graham and Steve have been great mentors to me, helping me with my studies and business pursuits. Steve helped guide me with my current website design and social media marketing business, Vesper Media Group, that I co-founded with John Harashinski ’20.

What’s your personal motto?

Be a solution finder.

Favorite place to eat in Lexington? What do you order?

I order the Phoenix salad with a scoop of hummus at Blue Phoenix.

Favorite W&L memory:

One of my favorite memories was an overnight hike on Big House Mountain at the end of freshman year with two close friends of mine.

Favorite class:

Freshman geology lab with Professor Jeff Rahl. Jeff is a fantastic professor and just an overall great professor. He was very helpful in and out of class and just made the class fun. I always looked forward to going to class. The best part of the class was that once a week we would go into the field for our lab. I love nature and hiking, so this was a highlight of the week. We even went swimming in a creek and went caving for the last field lab.

Favorite W&L event:

The Entrepreneurship Summit, of course!

Why did you choose W&L?

I choose W&L because when I visited for the first time, I felt so welcome to the community and everyone was so friendly. After attending this university for two years, I truly believe the community is one of our best characteristics. Additionally, the small class sizes, close student-professor relationships and beautiful geographic area were also significant factors in my decision to attend.