Photo courtesy of Patrick Comer
On the afternoon of November 4, Patrick Comer (C’96), the Babson Center’s Entrepreneur-in-Residence at the University of the South, gave savvy and uncut business advice in his lecture titled All The World’s a Stage: Sewanee to Serial Entrepreneur.
Having graduated as a Theatre student from Sewanee in 1996 and Columbia Business School in 2001, Comer recounted his multiple positions within the business world and how these successes, but mostly failures, led to his founding of Lucid, LLC, a tech company providing digital marketing services, in 2010.
“Everything was fundamentally changing around us, and we knew nothing of its meaning. It was never grit, it was excitement. We knew we were changing the world,” Comer said of his experience in the dot-com boom.
Now CEO of his business, Comer remembers that when he started his family in New Orleans in 2008, there was no start-up scene, let alone any sort of hope for a commercial breakthrough after Katrina. “I thought, ‘I’m going to have to start a company. Location is not a limiter, it’s an excuse,’” said Comer.
During his senior year at Sewanee, Comer directed the University’s production of The Fantasticks, for which he built the ladders, the central tenant of the set design. Now he advises aspiring businessmen and women to “Build your own ladder and place yourself on top. Do not wait for permission or a path.” He even listed off the individuals you should never seek when starting a business: business executives, lawyers, bankers, venture capitalists (let them come to you), and never overnight business success stories, because the companies that fail at first are more knowledgeable.
Comer’s best business consultants have been his wife, family, and friends. His belief goes against the age-old adage, “Don’t mix business with pleasure,” but he assured the audience that those who know you well will help you make effective and positive changes for yourself and for others. He also noted that Sewanee is an extension of this family that has held him accountable for his success. His parents were seated in the third row during his talk.
He also advised the audience to bask in the heat of the moment, and to have presence in the emotions that they are experiencing. This helps to make the most informed decisions, business and elsewhere. Comer noted that the money is exhilarating, but the most stressful aspect of his work is considering how Lucid’s decisions affect other families, not simply the masses of money at hand. For this reason, he recommended conserving three to five times the amount of money you think you need for any venture.
Comer’s lecture and presence on campus had students of the University glowing with hope and excitement, as Comer serves as a knowledgeable role model and mentor.
Carey Fellow Caroline Owens (C’18) is currently completing the application process for the Carey Fellowship, one of the fellowships with Comer’s company.
“It was a great opportunity to have him here, not only to learn about his entrepreneurial journey, but also to learn more about his company and meet someone who I might eventually call my boss,” said Owens.
Carlton Randleman (C’20) was impressed with Comer’s inspirational talk, explaining, “A lot of the time people only like to hear the success stories, and it was refreshing to hear about his experience dealing with failure and how he learned from his unsuccessful ventures and trials.”
Randleman chose Sewanee largely due to its Business program and its impressive alumni networks, adding, “People like Mr. Comer are driving the world as we see it, and I would love to be a part of that someday.”
Comer finished his talk by saying, “The show must go on. You will eventually have to go out and launch your product.” Failures within the business world of startups and in the theatrical world of liberal arts have taught him to “get it done anyway.”