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Business Observer Thursday, Oct. 28, 2021 1 month ago

Hurricane products entrepreneur gives $4M to college

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The Rist Family Foundation gave another significant gift in 2020 to the Daveler & Kauanui School of Entrepreneurship.

FORT MYERS — The Rist Family Foundation recently committed to a multiyear, $4 million donation to the Daveler & Kauanui School of Entrepreneurship at Florida Gulf Coast University in Fort Myers.  

The donation follows a $1 million gift in 2020 toward construction of the entrepreneurship school’s building, Lucas Hall, with a portion designated for the Newton Ethical Leadership Initiative to help expand ethics-based education. The foundation is the charitable arm from Brian Rist and his wife Kim. Brian Rist grew Fort Myers-based hurricane, storm and home protection business Storm Smart into a $73 million company over 25 years. Storm Smart reached record annual sales in 2020 before Rist sold a controlling interest in the business to a Maryland-based private equity firm.

The school's institute, according to a statement, will now be known as the Rist Family Foundation Institute for Entrepreneurship, in recognition of the gift. The institute is responsible for the Daveler & Kauanui School of Entrepreneurship's outward-facing community engagement, including the Runway Program and the Veterans Florida Entrepreneurship Program. The funds will be distributed over several years, focusing on specific needs within the school, the release adds.

"I got involved with the university almost a decade ago," said Brian Rist. "I've watched it grow. I've watched the things they've done and how they've changed Southwest Florida. That motivates my family and me to get more involved."

The Rist Family’s contributions to the Daveler & Kauanui School include the Rist Family Foundation Maker Space, designed to help students create products for their businesses. The Maker Space has 3D printers, a laser cutter and virtual reality development kits.

"Support like Brian's is what makes our school so unique," says Sandra Kauanui, director of the school, in a statement. "He is providing the resources that will last a very long time. It will continue to support the school for many years. Having his name on the institute gives us the drive to be as successful as he's been.”

The Daveler & Kauanui School of Entrepreneurship recently celebrated the opening of Lucas Hall.

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