Entrepreneur Bre Pettis provides his keys to success at University Lecture talk

Hieu Nguyen | Contributing Photographer

Bre Pettis, an entrepreneur, spoke in front of a crowd at Hendricks Chapel on Tuesday.

Bre Pettis said the successful people in the world “who do kick-ass and cool stuff” are part of their own figurative club. The only thing required to join the club, he said, “is to try to do something awesome.”

For Pettis, that was founding the company MakerBot, which creates easy-to-use 3D printers, and later being the “machine operator” at his newest business, Bre & Co. The entrepreneur spoke Tuesday night in Hendricks Chapel as part of the Syracuse University Lecture series.

Pettis has made a number of stops during his career, from everything from his time as a puppeteer to serving as the co-founder and CEO of MakerBot and to later starting Bre & Co.

Bre & Co harnesses Pettis’s passions for “making things and increasing friendship,” by providing people with a place where they can buy gifts for their friends.

During his lecture, Pettis covered how he became successful and the values he pursued in doing so as he attempted to inspire his audience to do the same.

Pettis urged “indulging in obsession” as a way for people to discover themselves.

“There’s something interesting that happens when you have an interest in something and you start paying attention to it: You start to figure out what you like,” Pettis said. “This is probably one of the hardest things to do as a human in the modern world. When we think about what we actually want, for whatever reason we think, ‘Well, I want what she likes or he likes,’ rather than thinking, ‘This is what my soul thinks is cool.’”

Applying this principle is what Pettis said led to him creating MakerBot, a company that enabled his rise to prominence.

He and his co-founders, Adam Mayer and Zach Smith, thought MakerBot was at first going to be “a side thing.” Instead of working an hour a week, as Pettis originally thought, he was working “100 hours a week” because he wanted the project to succeed.

Pettis’s advice for achieving success is to break from the normality of society and to pursue innovation, he said.

“If you do something completely stupid, completely absurd, completely weird, almost always you will encounter something completely innovative that actually is relevant in the normal world,” Pettis said. “Try to figure out a way to contribute to society that brings you happiness. Uncover your ability to do things.”

In his work life, Pettis said he prefers an intimate setting of a diverse group of employees. He said he would never want to be in a leadership position at a company and be unaware of what people are doing. Knowing his employees personally helps Pettis to avoid bumps in the road, he said, adding that relationships with his employees and friendships in general are important to his ideology.

“Make deep friendships when possible,” Pettis said. “Have a group of people that you have a mutual understanding with.”

That value is what Pettis said helped him create Bre & Co. In launching the company, he said he wanted to answer a specific question: “How do we get more goodness in the world?”

He said he felt products that are made “by the millions for the millions” are “meaningless and disposable,” so he decided to create something he believed has meaning.

“I made a website where people can give other people really awesome gifts that make them feel recognized,” Pettis said.

Said Pettis: “You can either buy things made with craftsmanship, or don’t buy anything at all.”


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