Meet Bob Richards, one of the Deming Center’s Catalyst Board Members and a seasoned entrepreneur with an enthusiasm for the Outdoor Industry.
Bob didn’t always see himself becoming an entrepreneur, but he realized over time that entrepreneurship excited him. He was hooked on the entrepreneurial way of thinking after starting his first venture, Cubetek, years ago. Bob’s background ranges from being the Marketing Director of the Ice Cream Division for Carnation/Nestle Foods (yum!) to starting the first multi-state chain of climbing gyms in 1991 called Rockreation. After selling his portion of the company in 2004, Bob created a private equity firm, Open Water Ventures, that focuses on investing in active lifestyle companies. Bob has sustained his presence in the climbing gym world by partaking in expert witness work and consulting with climbing gyms. In addition to a list of successful ventures, Bob has been generously mentoring Leeds School of Business graduate students for the past ten years.
Bob started informally mentoring students while his son was at Leeds and eventually began formally mentoring students. Bob enjoys helping students and sharing the bumps in the road that he experienced as an entrepreneur, as well as the lessons learned from those bumps. Bob thrives off of the creativity integral to entrepreneurship and the opportunity to build a cohesive and effective team. As an athlete and former college hockey player, he understands that teamwork is critical to the success of a business.
Bob believes that identifying your personal and professional ideals and values is paramount in your entrepreneurial journey and personal life. Every year he revisits these values to see if they have changed. As part of that process, he believes that entrepreneurship is adaptable and you can create something that fits you!
When asked about one of his favorite aspects of entrepreneurship, Bob stresses the value of learning:
“In entrepreneurship you are constantly learning and it’s absolutely critical. I always found that I struggled more in times during my life that I wasn’t stretching or growing. One of my personal ideals and values is curiosity. Entrepreneurship forces you to grow as a person! You are constantly learning new things to help your business grow and maintain its vitality.”
Advice for Current Students
When asked about advice for future students, Bob encourages students to understand who they are, what’s important to them, and what they want their life to look like. Bob believes there’s no rush when you’re a student:
“The most important thing is to know that there is no rush to be an immediate entrepreneur. If you have the opportunity to work with a great mentor at a bigger company and learn, I believe it’s important to gain skills to help you later and plan your entrepreneurship. Entrepreneurship is also very flexible and you can always choose when you will start.”