A foundation built for entrepreneurship: Brian Folmer
A foundation built for entrepreneurship: Brian Folmer
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See how the combination of different on-campus experiences, global opportunities and Ohio State’s alumni network helped shape Brian Folmer’s (BSBA ’11) development as a Fisher student and fostered his curiosity and passion for entrepreneurship.
What programs at Ohio State and Fisher do you remember having made the biggest difference in your career?
Studying abroad in Milan through the Fisher Student Exchange Program probably had the biggest impact on me from a career and personal development standpoint. It was an absolute game-changer, and I highly recommend it to every student. The opportunity helped me grow as a person and meet people doing incredible things from all over the world. The experience and network it gave me has helped open countless doors.
Do you have a favorite business faculty member or mentor who helped shape who you are today?
Professor Harold Green was the best professor I had while at Fisher. The two classes I took with him were very different from any others. They were extremely conversational and interactive which made learning more enjoyable. Professor Green would challenge us on our thoughts and make us think through things on a deeper level. His real-world experience before becoming a professor made a huge difference, and I’m grateful to have been a student of his.
What is your favorite business school-related memory?
During my senior year I helped organize a resume workshop at Fisher for younger students who were trying to nab their first summer internship. It was really rewarding helping them build and refine their resumes. It also felt good paying forward what was given to me when I was just a sophomore trying to make it.
Did you have a favorite spot on campus?
The RPAC was one of my favorite spots on campus; there was so much to do. I’d play pickup basketball with friends one day, then jump over to racquetball with roommates the next. It was a social scene, too, where it was easy to catch up with old friends or meet new ones. I’m not sure I’ll ever be a member of a gym or rec center that’s on the same level as the RPAC. That may have been my peak.
What service activities were you involved with as a student, and are you currently serving any organizations?
I joined the Fisher Student Exchange Buddy Program, where I helped welcome international exchange students and supported them during their time in America. It felt great to show them the ropes and hopefully make their experience as memorable as mine was when I was a visitor like them.
Today, I’m a part of several organizations helping startup founders navigate the challenges of building a brand. This includes teaching classes on pitch decks, thinking through growth strategies or making introductions that hopefully move the needle.
Graduating from Ohio State meant…
I would always have a family. The friends and relationships I made have been invaluable. By having such a support structure, it’s given me the opportunity to pursue greater challenges and feel more fulfilled in life.
Tell us about some of your recent accomplishments.
I’ve had two big recent accomplishments: the first was founding and launching my own company, FirstLook. It’s a subscription box full of emerging consumer brands for early-stage investors. The response has been great, so now I’m trying my best to keep the positive momentum going.
FirstLook is currently occupying just about all of my time, and much of what I learned at Ohio State has helped make it a success so far. First would be networking. Venture capital is such a relationship-driven industry. As a founder, it’s impossible to go at it alone and succeed. This all lends well to Ohio State, where building relationships is a cornerstone to thriving. Another key skill or muscle Ohio State helped me develop was to always be curious. In many cases in life, asking the right questions is sometimes the hardest part.
The second recent accomplishment was a best man’s speech I gave at my best friend’s wedding. It’s not often you get a chance to share what makes your relationship with someone so special, especially with a mic in your hand!
What advice do you have for a current student or recent Fisher graduate?
It’s important to realize that whether you’re in school or not, you’re always a student of life. You need to become your own champion of learning. To get started, I highly recommend current students and recent grads read as many books as possible.
So much content today, especially online, is condensed down for quick reading. This means you’re missing out on all the finer details of a given topic. Books, on the other hand, let you go deep where boundaries are pushed. This is where you begin to think for yourself and gain an edge over so many others.
How did your Fisher experience shape your entrepreneurial curiosity and skills?
Fisher is loaded with alumni who have gone on to build amazing companies. Hearing their stories and realizing I was sitting in the same desks they sat in influenced me to steer myself toward the entrepreneurial world. I had the mindset that “If they did it, then so can I.”
The Fisher ecosystem is a great environment to create and test new ideas. This helped me build a lot of the foundational skills founders learn early on — heavy networking, pitching your idea to others, leveraging (free) resources and testing and refining things on a large audience.
What advice do you have for students interested in pursuing entrepreneurship?
Start building something right now! Even if it’s something small where you only have a handful of customers or friends, it’s a huge step in the right direction. The more you get into it, the more you’ll start thinking like a founder and understanding the framework of a business. You’ll go down rabbit holes that teach you so much along the way.
Even if you fail, you will have learned a ton and have a way more interesting story to tell than 99% of your peers. This will unlock future opportunities that eventually lead to your next adventure. From here, rinse and repeat until you find that special something that gets you excited to wake up every morning.
Photos courtesy of Brian Folmer
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It’s important to realize that whether you’re in school or not, you’re always a student of life. You need to become your own champion of learning.
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