In our latest “Alumni Spotlight” blog, we interview Brent Comstock (NE-2012), who began his start-up venture in digital consulting at age 12, and has now built a number of associated public-serving ventures. Brent’s company, BCom, exemplifies how entrepreneurship and public service can go hand-in-hand. In a nation that celebrates innovation in business, philanthropy and service, USSYP encourages creative, bold leaders like Brent to reach for their dreams and forge new pathways to tackle our country’s greatest challenges.
USSYP: Please tell us about your path, academically and professionally, from being a USSYP delegate to being a “rural entrepreneur”? Were there any key turning points along the way?
Brent: I participated in USSYP my junior year of high school and at that point was just getting started with my first “entrepreneurial venture.” I had no idea, though, that I would be embracing the rural piece so much seven years later.
Washington Week was one of the most transformative weeks of my life. It wasn’t just about the visits to places like the White House (cool, don’t get me wrong!), but more about the diverse group of admirable people that came together to become lifelong friends. It’s a great honor that I can call some of these people my best friends today.
After high school, I pursued a dual enrollment program through the Robertson Scholars Program at UNC Chapel Hill and Duke University. In North Carolina, I connected with more USSYP alums. To date, I’ve had the pleasure of working with some incredible alums.
I think the “turning” point along the way was realizing how important rural communities are to our national political scene. At every program – like USSYP – rural communities played an important role at the table. As our company continued to grow, I realized how important it was that we were passionate about “Middle America.”
USSYP: What is your start-up, BCom, and what challenge inspired you to start the company?
Brent: BCom is a digital consulting company focused on providing digital services to campaigns, causes, and companies. Our company has a global footprint, but started with humble beginnings in Auburn, Nebraska because I saw an incredible void in the technology gap in rural America.
USSYP: Why is growing rural entrepreneurship important to you?
Brent: I grew up in a middle-class family in a small town in Nebraska. Many of my mentors and friends were entrepreneurs or small business owners. In rural communities, sustainability is dependent on the people of the community. There are fewer franchises and big companies. So, it’s up to the people of the community to build what they desire. I think this is incredibly powerful as we look at how communities grow in the future.
USSYP: How does your vision for the Rural Innovation Catalyst Program, that you shared in your TedX Lincoln talk, tie to your passion for public service?
Brent: I loved where I grew up. So much so, that after four years on the East Coast, I returned to Nebraska. I believe that everyone should have an opportunity to live in a community where they feel valued and feel that they can provide value. The Rural Impact Hub is a partner-driven movement serving all rural communities. We believe citizens, corporations, and organizations should collaborate as a community to strengthen and develop our rural America. Our vision at the Rural Impact Hub is deeply rooted in using community engagement and entrepreneurial thinking for the betterment of this area — and all rural America.
USSYP: Who have been your mentors or key supporters along this journey?
Brent: I’ve had incredible mentors in the most unexpected of ways. From former White House appointees to Fortune 500 executives to the local insurance salesman. I think it’s absolutely critical that every leader have a diverse group of mentors supporting them along the way.
USSYP: What are your favorite aspects of start-up life?
Brent: I’m deeply invested in our people at BCom – both our team members and our clients. Nothing makes me happier to see our team fighting hard to build something great for a client of ours. To do that, I believe, we have to have a mix of incredibly talented people internally, as well as externally as our customers.
USSYP: As a past USSYP delegate and Coca-Cola Scholar, can you share how those programs and networks have benefited you?
Brent: Networking is probably one of the top 2-3 reasons why we’ve achieved the success we have to date. Regardless of the program, always take advantage of an opportunity to build relationships with people anywhere in the world. I’m so blessed to have the friends, family and connections that I do. I owe it to programs like USSYP and Coca-Cola Scholars for helping kick-start this for me.
USSYP: Do you have aspiration to run for public office?
Brent: No. I do care about public service, though. I believe that the calling is the same for people who support a candidate or politician behind-the-scenes as it is for those who take the leap to run for office. Our company supports dozens of candidates, though, every year from every type of background, from both political sides of the aisle, from local campaigns to national races.
USSYP: What advice would you have for USSYP delegates who are considering pathways that are hybrids of entrepreneurship and serving public good?
Brent: For me, entrepreneurship and public good go hand-in-hand. I don’t look at entrepreneurship as simply “owning a small business.” To me, the true entrepreneur is willing to take risks and jump into solving the greatest problems our world faces. For us, that means using our team’s digital expertise to provide an online presence to anyone running for office, no matter how small or “rural” their campaign might be.