An Iowa State alumnus chose his adventure, now he helps others find theirs

Courtesy of Gretchen Bachrodt

Kai Creswell

Serial entrepreneur and creator of the Young Entrepreneur Convention (YEC), Brandon T. Adams, does everything he can to inspire, motivate and educate others.

He’s currently the vice president of business development for the film “THINK: The Legacy of Think and Grow Rich” and also a co-host for a new TV series, “Ambitious Adventures.” 

His annual event, the YEC, is now in its second year. This year’s convention will feature speakers, exhibits and other events, taking place Friday and Saturday at the Iowa State Fairgrounds. 

The lineup features speakers collectively worth more than $1 billion.

An entrepreneur who has seen massive success in his work, Adams has taken on a new focus: helping others figure out what they want to do and offering them opportunities to get there.

“My goal is to impact one billion lives in a positive way by Dec. 31, 2019,” Adams said. 

By impact, Adams means that somebody has consumed a film or one of the products he has created, because if he can inspire, motivate, educate and entertain his consumers, they’ll get the information they need.

“Once you know your big goal, you should only do things that align with that goal,” Adams said. “If it doesn’t align with it, I don’t care how much money it is, I won’t do it because I value my goals and my life more than anything in this world.”

But before his rise to success, Adams was a freshman at Iowa State who got kicked out of Helser Hall with a 1.6 GPA.

He was going through the motions of being a college student, but it only took one person to completely turn his life around.

He was attending an extra credit lecture for a class where he was introduced to “Cactus” Jack Barringer, CEO at “Cactus Jack’s Marketing” — a product sourcing firm in Ames.

Inspired by his message, Adams spoke with Barringer, who led him to the right resource: a book titled “Think and Grow Rich” by Napoleon Hill.

After reading the book, he realized that people like Andrew Carnegie, Thomas Edison and Henry Ford weren’t given their success; rather, they all had a vision and didn’t accept no for an answer — they did whatever it took to achieve it.

Barringer would later become a mentor and business partner for Adams.

And at that moment when he was sitting in college, Adams realized it didn’t matter that he grew up in a town of 750 people. It didn’t matter that he wasn’t getting the best grades. And everything else that he thought was holding him back? It didn’t matter.

“What mattered was if I really wanted something in life and I set out for it, I would eventually get it,” Adams said. “I realized that if I surrounded myself with the right people, had the right mindset and didn’t listen to the bulls—, I would eventually get to where I wanted to go.”

He applies the principles in Hill’s book every day — in every business endeavor and relationship — and lives by the quote, “Whatever the mind can conceive and believe, the mind can achieve.”

So many people go into things and think they need to do something because it’s what society thinks they should do, Adams said.

“But really, they need to do what they love the most and are most passionate about,” he said. “Because in the long run, if they find a job or create a job that is something they’re passionate about, they’ll live the most fulfilled life, get the most wealth and be happy.”

Three years after graduating in 2012, he created a podcast show, “University of Young Entrepreneurs” (now called “To Live the Grind”), to share with a younger version of himself everything he didn’t know.

“I’m just looking at a younger version of myself,” he said of his target audience. “That drove me. I wanted other people to succeed much faster than me, and learn from my mistakes.”

Before last year’s Young Entrepreneur Convention, when it was still just an idea, Adams came back to Iowa State during Business Week to speak about the event and his need for interns.

Sabah Ali, senior in apparel, merchandising and design, hated speakers coming in, and like Adams, had only been in the audience for extra credit.

“He was really passionate about what he was doing, which is why I became so interested and intrigued with the speech that he gave,” she said.

She had an interest in entrepreneurship, so she approached him after his lecture and asked if she could help.

One Skype call later, she was working as an intern for the Young Entrepreneur Convention.

“Sabah is the ultimate success story for me,” Adams said. “That drives me to do what I do.”

Seeing what entrepreneurship has done for him, facing the struggles and knowing that others are going through their own is what makes him so passionate about entrepreneurship.

“If I can create work that helps people get to their goals faster, then it’s a win for me,” Adams said. “It’s my passion.”

After a successful crowdfunding campaign, he’s now able to live out his passion for the second year through the Young Entrepreneur Convention this Friday and Saturday at the Youth Inn at the Iowa State Fairgrounds.

Last year the event brought in more than 500 people. A group of them generated a six-figure company from the event. At the event, a few attendees connected with CEO and Grammy-winning producer Jeff Hoffman, and now consider him a business adviser. One person even received a phone call from the co-founder of Apple Inc., Steve Wozniak.

“There were so many success stories,” Adams said. “And they happened because these people made it a point to talk to other people in the room.”

He urges those who attend to ask questions and connect, because with any event, the most value that people can get is by putting themselves out there.

At the last convention, Adams connected with keynote speaker Greg Rollett, now co-host with Adams for a new TV series “Ambitious Adventures.”

This year, the two best friends are going to film part of an episode on the YEC industry tour and will air the premiere of the Des Moines episode of “Ambitious Adventures” Friday night.

“This [YEC] is where it all started,” Rollett said, “So we can really tell that story, and I think we can really make that emotional connection with the audience.

“And also to show them, ‘look, in one year’s time, one connection that you make at this event can change your life’ and this is proof of it,” he said.

Last year’s Young Entrepreneur Convention garnered huge results, creating a high expectation for this year’s event. Adams has learned that to create a great event, one must create a great experience — filming and premiering the TV show helps create that experience.

But the team’s vision for this convention, Adams said, “is to take it across the country and maybe even to a global platform.”

“And it all started at Iowa State,” he said. “If I wouldn’t have gone to that lecture by Jack Barringer, this would have never happened.”

That domino effect led to an event, a TV show and countless connections.

“It’s crazy, because it just takes one thing to happen at college, just one thing that you do out of your comfort zone, that will decide your adventure at Iowa State.”