To learn the game, 'be a sponge,' business coach tells aspiring entrepreneurs

Darren Lacroix

“Get up and do something; don’t just raise your hand,” Darren Lacroix ’88 told attendees at the  Bryant University Northeast Entrepreneurship Conference (BUNEEC)  on Feb. 20. That was his advice after dozens of hands shot up when he asked, “Who wants a free copy of my book [ Laugh & Get Rich ]?”

Who got the book? The student who rushed the podium and flung himself at a visibly pleased Lacroix!

Video clips – depicting Lacroix’s painful 1992 debut as a standup comic and his 2001 speech which earned him the World Championship of Public Speaking Award by besting 25,000 contestants – and stories aptly portrayed the title of his keynote speech’s title: “From Chump to Champ: Secrets, Stories and Strategies from Behind the Scenes.”

Lacroix offered these (and other) nuggets of wisdom to the aspiring entrepreneurs from colleges and universities from throughout the Northeast:

  • You are the CEO of you and your brand; everything you do is your brand.
  • Don’t wait to make something perfect before you get it to market; get it out and then tweak it constantly. “There are a lot of poor perfectionists out there.”
  • "If anyone’s ever called you stupid … you’re on the right path.”
  • The people you spend the most time with affect your habits and progress.
  • Who are your mentor’s mentors? Can you meet them?
  • “The #1 guarantee: You will never make it if you never start.”

“Be a sponge,” Lacroix advised, saying that is what helped him when he was seeking out top comedians to learn their habits. “Learn from someone who’s the best in your field.”

Students were stunned into silence when he asked: “Are you a farmer or an MBA?”

Subway’s best franchisees were farmers, he explained. With a good work ethic, they knew they lacked knowledge of the franchise business and were wise enough to adhere to a proven plan. In contrast, Lacroix, with his degree, thought he knew more than Subway; he immediately made changes … and failed soon thereafter.

His father’s message: “I don’t care what you want to do, just be the best” still resonates for Lacroix, who encouraged students to commit to be the best at what they do. “Don’t just have dreams … commit to be the best; start now and put your plans into actions.”

Why did he come back to speak at Bryant? “Catholic guilt; I couldn’t say no to my own school … I loved Bryant [and] want to give back.”

In addition to Lacroix, the conference featured inspiring talks by:

  • Jenna Atkinson , personal branding consultant featured in  Success Magazine  The Huffington Post  and  IN Business Magazine;
  • Marques Ogden, former NFL offensive lineman, author, and motivational speaker.

This was the  Bryant University Collegiate Entrepreneurs Organization’s (CEO)  fifth annual conference. The event also offered students the opportunity to participate in interactive competitions and breakout sessions that allowed them to dive deeper into topics of interest.


Bryant’s alumni network is 45,000 strong – accomplished men and women who influence, lead, and innovate in their professions, industries, and communities around the globe. They remain engaged with the University by sharing their expertise with students and faculty during campus visits and through the career center network, participating in alumni activities, and making Bryant a priority for their philanthropy.