The Power of the Alumni Network
So, here we are, self-isolating during the COVID-19 pandemic. How can we feel connected during this time? By reaching out to the broad and diverse Tabor alumni network, a dedicated group of graduates who are a resource for students and alumni alike. Recently, Bill Phelps ’74 and Seb Salvo ’11 shared their perspectives on networking with the Tabor alumni community.
Phelps is a successful entrepreneur and co-founder of emerging and established brands such as Wetzel’s Pretzels, Blaze Pizza, and Dave’s Hot Chicken. Salvo, a budding entrepreneur, connected with Phelps last year while seeking advice on launching his new business venture, StayBizze (@staybizze), an app providing free digital business cards worldwide. Not long ago, Salvo found himself searching LinkedIn and the Tabor alumni directory to connect with Tabor graduates to seek advice on a startup he was developing.
While he enjoyed his work as a high school math teacher and baseball coach, he longed to put his own business plan into motion. Like most entrepreneurs, there were days when fear of failure became a hindrance rather than a motivator for success. There were plenty of moments when he felt he didn’t have the answers, and stress and doubt were his constant companions. Then he asked for help.
Salvo reached out to a close friend and fellow Seawolf, Alex Nugent ’11. With Nugent’s guidance, he was able to complete his pitch deck and build a strategy to raise capital. They secured a six-figure investment, established a limited liability company, and began developing their digital business card application. Then, he reached out to additional Tabor alumni. While perusing Tabor’s Instagram feed, Salvo noticed a post about Bill Phelps and his business partnership with LeBron James. Phelps’ company, Blaze Pizza, had been voted America’s favorite quick-service pizza chain. “I had to reach out to him because here was a Tabor alumnus doing business with my favorite professional athlete,” Salvo shared.
The two connected and Salvo explained that he’d developed a state-of-the-art business card application that replaced the paper card. “I don’t like your idea,” Phelps told him. “I love your idea. It’s a crazy good idea.” His words reaffirmed Salvo’s belief in his business plan. More importantly, Phelps allowed Salvo to pick his brain. They talked about their time at Tabor and the importance networking has on career growth.
For Salvo, the conversation was both inspirational and transformational. “Entrepreneurs have a natural bond because they can relate to the struggles they will inevitably face,” says Phelps. “A favorite line of one of my business partners, Rick Wetzel, is the road to success is a smooth, straight path up—said no one ever!’ I told Seb that Rick and I built Wetzel’s Pretzels through networking early on, and that the connections we made there have helped us in all of our businesses over the last 25 years.”
Salvo is now in the initial testing phase for his StayBizze app. “Tabor is a special place that allows young people to find their passion and chase their dream,” he said. “If you need guidance or mentorship on your career path, now, more than ever, is the time to be proactive and reach out to fellow members of the Tabor alumni network.” “We must remember that there are two sides to the networking process,” explained Phelps. “There are people seeking opportunities and there are people looking for team members or partners to help them achieve their vision. Don’t be afraid to ask anyone for help or a lead.”