Ryan Buonaugurio ’18: Bryant education accelerates his boat business
There was a new booth at both the Providence and New England Boat Shows this winter, for a small but growing business named RPB Marine. Owned and operated by Ryan Buonaugurio’ 18, RPB is expanding beyond its humble beginnings, a product of Buonaugurio’s determination, knowhow, and a Bryant University education that inspired him to think bigger and helped him develop the tools to succeed.
Buonaugurio, a management major and economics minor, has always loved boating with his family. “When I was a kid, we used to spend all our time together on the boat,” he remembers.
A Bryant education is helping Ryan develop business acumen as well as his small business.
It was an older boat, so he used to work with his father on making sure it was ready to sail. Over time, Buonaugurio developed a knack for repairing the boat himself. He took a job as a sales associate with West Marine, which operates a chain of boating supply and fishing retail stores, and used his skills to ensure his customers found the right parts for their watercraft.
Start small, then grow
In his senior year of high school he began to do some work on the side helping boaters install equipment and training them to use it. “I knew the product lines from work,” he remembers, “and I knew the electrical from my work on my own boat.”
After a couple of installation jobs, “something clicked in my head,” he says. “I realized people appreciate my work and I can actually make some money at this.”
Word of mouth grew his reputation to a point where he went into business for himself, hiring an assistant, enlisting his aunt to help with the bookkeeping, and choosing the name RPB Marine (his initials) for his venture.
Additional inspiration: Bryant CEO, Bryant Ventures
“I started at the most basic level and worked my way up,” he says.
Today RPB specializes in areas including marine electronics sales, installation, training, fabrication and captaining. The company operates from May to September in Massachusetts, New Hampshire and Rhode Island, and aims to expand.
Charting a course through Bryant
Buonaugurio decided that a Bryant education would help him develop business acumen as well as his small business. “I didn’t want average,” he says. “I wanted to go to somewhere where I would get first-rate, business-specific knowledge and have really experienced professors.”
First-year coursework helped him understand how to write a business plan, which he credits as essential in figuring out how to grow RPB. Classes in marketing and managerial accounting provided important grounding and experience he could apply directly to running his company.
He found additional inspiration through Bryant’s Collegiate Entrepreneurs Organization (CEO), which fosters the spirit of entrepreneurship on campus. CEO’s guest speakers shared their stories about how they grew their businesses from humble beginnings.
“I would listen to all these entrepreneurs and I’d think 'Man, this is really awesome. ... I really want to get to this point.’”
Incubating ideas through Bryant Ventures
Buonaugurio also engaged with Bryant Ventures, an experiential component of the University’s Global Entrepreneurship Program that serves as an incubator for student startups. It gives them the opportunity to develop their business ideas and work with faculty mentors and fellow students. Brainstorming with like-minded students, he was able to workshop ideas and discuss problems and issues they shared.
“CEO gave me inspiration,” he says. “Ventures helped me put that inspiration into action.”
"I’m getting all this experience that can take you years of management programs to acquire."
With booths at both the Providence and New England boat shows, RPB hit a milestone this winter. There, alongside competitors from nearly every maritime industry, Buonaugurio knew that his once fledgling business had reached a new level.
“It shows that I’m doing something right,” he says. “The fact that I’ve been able go get to this level is important to me. There’s a real sense of 'I’m doing it, it’s actually happening.'”
Entrepreneurship Prize "a huge help"
He’s also gaining knowledge that will aid him in the future. “I put together all of the marketing materials for the boat show myself. It was a real learning experience.”
RPB’s presence at the shows was made possible by a Jackson W. Goss Prize in Entrepreneurship, presented annually by Bryant to advance the creativity, innovation, and entrepreneurial spirit of undergraduate students. The prize helped Buonaugurio pay the exhibitor’s fees as well as fund a special display showcasing RPB’s work.
“The Goss prize has been a huge help,” he says. “It was crucial to gaining new entrepreneurial skills as well as growing the company.”
He came away from both shows with new clients, new skills, and enhanced confidence in his business’s future.
“I came back with the biggest smile.”