SoBe founder shares entrepreneurial journey at Tufts Entrepreneurship Center event

Tufts Entrepreneurship Center Director Jack Derby speaks with trustee John Bello (A '68), founder of SoBe, at the inaugural Tufts Legends of Innovation & Entrepreneurship Series in Cohen Auditorium on Nov. 2. Courtesy Carol Denning and Nana Younge

John Bello (A ’68), founder of the SoBe brand of beverages, discussed his journey from Tufts student to successful businessman at the first Tufts Legends of Innovation & Entrepreneurship Series, held in a packed Cohen Auditorium on Nov. 2. Bello serves on Tufts’ Board of Trustees and Board of Advisors for Athletics.

The bi-annual event — hosted by the recently rebranded Tufts Entrepreneurship Center (TEC) of the Gordon Institute — features a Tufts alum who is an entrepreneurial “legend,” according to Jack Derby, TEC director and Cummings Family Professor of Entrepreneurship, who moderated the event.

Bello opened the talk by touching on his love for Tufts. He said that he met his wife during his time at Tufts. Bello also discussed his time as president of National Football League Properties, the marketing arm of the NFL, and as founder of SoBe. He interspersed his stories with entrepreneurial advice, saying that it is important to “abandon yourself to other people’s strengths” and “be exciting, new and different.”

He encouraged students to apply themselves in their endeavors.

“You’ve got to get out, you’ve got to be aggressive, you’ve got to go through the doors of opportunity that are presented to you,” he said.

During his presentation, Bello spoke about his time as a student at Tufts. Bello was a member of the football team, an ROTC student with the Navy (which he later joined) and a member of Delta Upsilon (DU). Bello Field, home of Tufts’ men’s soccer, men’s lacrosse and women’s lacrosse teams, is named in his honor.

Current DU member and Tufts football player Dan Dewing, a senior, introduced Bello onstage alongside fellow senior and women’s lacrosse player Maria Dattolo. They came to support John and learn from his career.

“Hearing from a guy like that is very important for young students who are trying to set their own path,” Dewing said.

In an interview after the event, Bello shared what Tufts taught him outside of academics.

“What I really learned was how to interact [with] and deal with people. I had a broad cross-section of relationships — the football team, fraternity, Navy ROTC. I was in a rock ‘n’ roll band who I’m friends with to this day,” he said.

Alex LaPiana, co-captain of Tufts’ football team and member of DU, said that the event went very well, thanks to Bello and Derby, and that he would certainly go to future talks in the series.

“Bello and Jack Derby are both two guys who have been really successful and have a lot of things to tell people,” LaPiana, a senior, said. “It was great to hear them talk to one another and bounce ideas back and forth and talk about how they’ve been successful in their careers. I thought they did a fantastic job.”

This speaker series is part of an ongoing effort to spark entrepreneurship on campus and encourage learning outside the classroom, according to Derby.

“It’s the idea of being an experiential learner outside the classroom,” Derby said. “Our mission is to bring entrepreneurship to all of the 10 colleges [that make up Tufts].” 

The next speaker will present in April, in conjunction with the TEC’s $100K New Ventures Competition, according to Derby.


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