If you’ve ever been to a Pitch Dingman informal session, it’s likely you’ve met Entrepreneur-in-Residence Harry Geller. Harry generously volunteers his time every Friday to meet with students, providing advice and valuable feedback on starting a new business. He also helps prepare students for Pitch Dingman competitions, coaches students participating in the China Business Plan Competition, and mentors Cupid’s Cup finalists. Keep reading for Center Stage with Harry Geller.
How did you get involved with the Dingman Center?
About 8 years ago I worked with the Smith School of Business mentoring MBA students and at the time I was still quite busy with my various business interests. In early 2009, I sold my interest in a large restaurant group and approached [former managing director] Asher Epstein with the idea that I had more time and wanted to spend it helping aspiring entrepreneurs.
What do you look for in a good pitch?
An idea that is easily understandable within the first 15 seconds. The simpler the better.
How did you start your first business?
How most people do – after years working in a specific industry, in my case the logistics field, I became frustrated with the corporate world. I figured I could do it better than the company I was working for.
What has been your greatest entrepreneurial challenge?
My first startup experienced hyper growth. Being 20-something and virtually overnight managing hundreds of people and tens of millions of dollars in sales was quite a challenge.
What made you want to work for yourself?
My dad was an entrepreneur and I spent a lot of my early years around the various businesses he had in Washington, DC, so I had a good basis for entrepreneurship.
What makes a Cupid’s Cup winner different from companies that compete, but don’t win?
Showing passion for the idea, having a proven track record for execution, and being well prepared for the presentation.
What advice can you give to students entering a Pitch Dingman competition?
Use the resources at the Dingman Center to practice your pitch and develop your business idea. Have all your bases covered regarding what the idea is, what problem you’re solving, what market you’re serving, and what your competition is. Make sure the numbers add up, and refer to question 2, keep it simple so the judges understand right away what you are pitching.
Why do you spend so much time with the Dingman Center?
I’m blessed that I have the time, and I enjoy hearing business ideas and helping and learning from the next generation of entrepreneurs.
Harry Geller is an Entrepreneur-in-Residence and a member of the Dingman Center Board of Advisors. He is also on the University of Maryland, President’s Advisory Board and has been an active mentor of entrepreneurial students at the Smith School. Harry founded SoDel Concepts, a successful restaurant development company focusing on upscale, relaxed resort dining that has opened and operated five fine and casual dining seafood restaurants. Previously, Harry owned and managed seven multi-million dollar businesses, mostly in the logistics and distribution fields. He is the former CEO of the America’s of Deutsche Post, the world’s largest logistics company that now operates under the DHL/Global Mail name. Four of his companies have been named to the INC. 500 list of fastest growing companies, the most recent one in 2009. Geller is married to a successful entrepreneur Nicole, and they have two children, residing in McLean, Virginia.