Richard Bilodeau showed his entrepreneurial inclination early; he was heavily involved in clubs and organizations at Deering High School. He was co-editor of the school newspaper, a three-year member of the Key Club, and handled advertising and public relations for the yearbook. You might think it was a straight shot to his current role as director of the Center for Entrepreneurship at the University of Southern Maine (USM), where he also teaches courses in design thinking, creative strategies, and marketing.
But his path was not at all direct. His first interest was in science, inspired by a couple of Deering High science teachers who persuaded him to submit a project to the state science fair. His experiment, using electrical fields to identify proteins in the blood, won the physics prize and led to a summer job in the Maine Medical Center laboratory. Each summer, his love of laboratory science deepened. Mrs Fink, his senior Chemistry teacher, convinced him that he could make a career out of it. “That science fair project really helped me get involved in something that I thought I didn’t really care about,” he recalled.
He graduated fourth in his class in 1988 with a mind full of things that would prepare him for college and the real world. Bilodeau headed for the University of Vermont to study chemistry. “High school really did help me lay a solid foundation,” Bilodeau remarked. “Deering taught me how to think, and that gave me a lot of opportunities.”
After completing his Bachelor’s degree, he worked full-time in the labs at Maine Medical Center. He made regular appearances in Mrs Fink’s classes, sharing his work experience with students to help them understand the connection between class work and jobs in science.
Bilodeau said that science helped him gain an “inquisitive mind,” but over time he realized that he wanted to apply that “inquisitive mind” to the business world. He received an MBA focusing on marketing from USM and became a successful entrepreneur, partnering in two different startups. Now, he consults with companies in the US, Canada, and Europe and works with undergraduate and graduate business students throughout the University of Maine System.
Lately, he’s been working on savoring life: practicing yoga and meditation and enjoying the Portland restaurant scene. “10 years from now, I want to be retired, so teaching is a good thing to do—it gives me an opportunity to think more about my impact.”