Born into a wealthy family in New England, Peter J. Burns III would have exposure to opportunities around him that most people would never know. But Peter’s father made sure he and his two younger brothers understood that they were to make their own money and success for themselves, and it is just something ingrained into the very fiber of Peter’s being. Even as a child, he had a knack for finding and capitalizing on opportunities with outside-the-box thinking.
Growing up in New Canaan, CT, the “Land of the Fortune 100 CEO” was not exactly conducive to becoming an entrepreneur. Yet, even at the tender age of 7, Burns was out by one of the local country club’s water holes, ostensibly peddling lemonade but really wading into the water and then selling the duffers’ balls back to them.
The enterprise ended abruptly when the club’s manager called his father, one of their members, and asked to have him removed from the course.
“Peter is just a child,” his mother said to his father. “Don’t worry, he’ll be like the other children.”
But it was just not in Peter’s makeup to be like other children. There is a certain freedom that comes with entrepreneurship, freedom of independent thought and flow of ideas, and of testing and exploring those ideas… That kind of mind you can never fully box in for long.
Numerous other entrepreneurial ventures sprang up throughout his youth. “Boogie at the Beach” became an annual summer event where he rented out the beach club where his family belonged, throwing a huge keg party with hamburgers and hot dogs galore and a live rock band – all for an admission price to his “thousand closest friends.”
“He’s just trying to find his place in the world,” his mom told his dad.
Little did anyone know that in the process, Peter was educating himself with the real-time practical application of supply and demand, inventory control and the pluses and minuses of an all-cash business, concepts that most young people learn about through higher education, and then only in theory.
Meanwhile, Peter barely made it out of high school. And when one of his “sure thing” business deals soured and his father couldn’t take it anymore, he found himself with the unenviable choice of paying for college himself or joining the Army.
Off to basic training he went, and after four months in the swamps of Ft. Polk, La. (the only hole above ground), Burns found himself the proud and somewhat surprised recipient of a Secretary of the Army Appointment to the United States Military Academy at West Point.
Since the Academy had started for the year, he was placed at the United States Military Academy Preparatory School, where he met another cadet candidate whose father was the colonel in charge of the Army ROTC Scholarship Program. He learned that it was much better to be an officer than an enlisted man, and he surmised that going to a civilian school and coming out a full-fledged officer would be more fun than matriculating to ‘the Point.’
Burns was regular Army and the ROTC program was for civilians. Still, he persisted and to everyone’s surprise, he won a spot.
He started at the University of Virginia in the fall of 1976. He relinquished his West Point appointment to some deserving alternate, and off to college, he went.
The university was great fun. He spied a second-semester course at University of Virginia’s venerable McIntire School of Commerce that really resonated with him – Entrepreneurship. The challenge was that he was a freshman and the course was a senior elective. But Burns doesn’t view obstacles the way most people might; he simply looks for ways around them, and always pushing the envelope.
After filing his petition with the professor at the business school, he was forced to verbally defend himself in front of the entire class with why a “lowly first-year student felt that he merited the honor of being in a fourth-year course.” He was successfully admitted into the class, where he seemed to fit in as he had never before.
The course requirement was to come up with a potentially viable idea and draft a business plan to make its case for funding. Burns had a cool idea and convinced a couple of the business school needs to help draft the pro formas and put the plan together. That brainstorm – the importation of mopeds from Europe to the United States, with the plan of establishing rental operations at select resorts – became the subject of his class project.
He got an “A” and then he decided to go for it in the real world during the summer break.
In May 1977, he rented a dirt lot in downtown Nantucket Island, bought a folding table and cash box from the local thrift shop for 50 cents, unloaded his 15 new mopeds and started his first official business. He quickly threw away the class business plan, since nothing they researched and forecasted had any resemblance to the “rough and tumble” world of real-life business ownership.
He learned many invaluable lessons that summer and after counting his pennies ($55,000 worth) at the summer’s end, he tendered back the three remaining years on his ROTC scholarship, wrote his professor to tell him that he’d been right about him, and set about on his expansion plans for world domination in the recreational rental industry. And within a 20-year span, Burns created the largest recreational rental chain in the world, eventually opening up over 100 locations around the U.S. and Caribbean.
Thus, Peter J. Burns III officially launched into entrepreneurship on a full-time basis, and thirty years and 100 businesses later – from renting mopeds and exotic cars to e-mail marketing, cost segregation, dining cards, destination clubs, magazines and more – his parents were still wondering when he was going to get a real job.
ACADEMICS AND HONORS
This first business venture also opened doors for Burns in the realm of academia and formal education. Though Burns himself never graduated from college, he managed to return to the University of Virginia each of the next 10 years to lecture in that same professor’s class until he retired from academia. Along the way, at the age of 29, Burns was accepted to Harvard Business School’s Owners and Presidents Program, the youngest member in its history. That same year, he became one of the original members of the Young Entrepreneurs Organization (now called EO), a collection of independent business owners that could be considered the world’s 52nd-largest economy with $100 billion in annual sales among 6,500 entrepreneurs in 40 countries.
Burns eventually found himself in the “Wild West” and in the first 12 years, he had been involved with a dozen different enterprises – some good, some bad and some great. In that time, he had undertaken one of the greatest challenges in his career and entered into the world of entrepreneurial education. After a one-year pro bono stint at ASU’s Barrett Honors College teaching some “Entrepreneurship 101” courses, he decided to start the country’s first “pure blood” college of entrepreneurship. Grand Canyon University had stepped up to the plate. In January 2007, they began offering a combination of fantastic courses taught by “entrepreneur-teachers,” offering startup capital to select student businesses and granting the first-ever Bachelor of Entrepreneurship degree from the first-ever fully accredited College of Entrepreneurship in the country.
Along with the long list of accomplishments, Burns has been featured in scores of publications, radio interviews, and televisions including The Arizona Republic, CNN, Fox Business, Entrepreneur Magazine, the Phoenix Business Journal, The State Press, USA Today and The Wall Street Journal.
Honors and Recognitions
- Phoenix Business Journal “Top 50 Power Brokers”
- Arizona FBLA Business Person of the Year
- “Power Players of Phoenix” – Phoenix Business Journal Honoree
- “Top 100 U.S. Entrepreneurs Under 30” – Association of Collegiate Entrepreneurs (3 years)
- Youngest Participant in History (29) – Harvard Business School’s Owners and Presidents Management Program
- Nominated Arthur Young’s “Youngest Entrepreneur of the Year”
- Going Glam: Learn what it really takes to start a glamorous business in college. (11/30/2007)
- Institute for Entrepreneurship Engages Investment Banker to Raise $250 Million in Grants for Student-Initiated Business (3/14/07)
- Institute for Entrepreneurship Celebrates First College of Entrepreneurship at Grand Canyon University (2/09/2007)
- Grand plans: University proposing multimillion-dollar Lake Havasu expansion (2/01/2007)
- Entrepreneurship college opens in Phoenix (1/29/07)
- College of Entrepreneurship to Offer Scholarships to Low-Income Students Seeking to Start Their Own Business (01/16/2007)
- New ASU class teaching student how to create their own 2 business (12/19/06)
- Gen Y makes a mark and their imprint is entrepreneur- 3 ship (12/08/06)
- Entrepreneurial students look to Grand Canyon University (11/30/2006)
Peter J. Burns, III Spearheading Education in Entrepreneurship:
- B.S. in entrepreneurship is anything but (11/15/06)
- Both entrepreneurial, managerial styles bring success (9/14/06)
- University launches $1M entrepreneur fund (7/20/06) Programs teach entrepreneur-ism (7/9/06)
- Letter from Mark Jacobs, Dean of Barrett Honors College (1/12/06)
- Grand Canyon University (no date)
- Grand Canyon University Launching First-Of-Its-Kind College Of Entrepreneurship (no date)
- Undergraduate Entrepreneurship College Opens in Phoenix (no date)
VENTURES AND PROJECTS
As a serial entrepreneur, Peter J. Burns III specializes in the establishment and operation of niche market replicable business enterprises. To date, Peter has over 40 years of experience both nationally and internationally, with over 150 business ventures. He consistently meets between 30-50 people a day, listening to concepts and products and solution pitches, so his reach is truly extensive. He is an innovative businessman who creates and implements many new concepts from the ground up. Below are just a few examples:
- Started the first moped U.S. rental business, eventually expanded to 100 locations (Nantucket Moped 1977)
- First, one to integrate beach stores with rental business and created a large chain (Island Beach Company 1980)
- One of the founding members of the largest international network of entrepreneurs (YEO 1987)
- Created the first “Dolphin Tour” business using jet boats on guided tours through wild dolphin habitats (Water Tours 1995)
- Established the first franchised rental chain of bicycle, mopeds, Harley-Davidsons, exotic cars, water sports (Fun Rentals 1996)
- Created the first integrated media-rich commercial email marketing business (Cybertising 2000)
- Invented the “Insert-A-Zine” niche-publishing concept (NightLife Magazine! 2001)
- Started the first “open source entrepreneurship” organization in U.S. (Club Entrepreneur 2006)
- Started the first independent accredited College of Entrepreneurship in U.S. (GCU CoE 2007)
- Created the template to open CoEs through the development of own curriculum and business process Patent Pending (IfE 2007)
- Pioneered the expanded market for Cost Segregation Studies, introducing a Patent Pending for unique applications (CSS 2008) Expanded to the massive commercialization of cost segregation (HL Cost Seg 2016)
- Established the first self-contained entrepreneurship center in U.S. (eFactory/Club E Office 2009)
- Co-founded the first financing organization for “Creatives” (singers, film producers, artists) (FundingWagon.com, 2013)
- Founded Ethiopian Capital Partners as a bi-lateral platform of commerce between the US and Ethiopia (Expatrepreneur.us 2013)
- Co-founded Luxury Travel Product Placement company that acquired empty time in luxury villas in exchange for luxury products and remarked to Closed User Groups at 40% less than the villa owner could rent out own villa. (HL Villas 2016)
- Co-founded Avia Travel Services by assembling a partnership with an expansive travel booking engine, joining it with an airline ticketing entity and creating a “one-stop-shop” for the corporate group and employee travel at significantly discounted rates. (Avia 2017)
- Commercial funding with Alternate Sources of Debt/Equity Capital formed. (Financing Debt & Equity, 2017)
- Co-founded Entrepreneur Credit Card a non-secured debt resource based on personal credit for entrepreneurs (Entcreditcard.com 2017)
- Founded Luxury Pet Transport Company (Pet Jets Travel, 2017)
- Founded Cannabis Business Banking Services Company (Cannabiz, 2017)
- Founded Credit Repair & Enhancement Business (Entcredit.com, 2018)
- Founded Cryptocurrency Mining Financing Company (Cryptechalchemy.com, 2018)
- Co-created Vietnamese-centric travel platform (Travel.VN 2018)
- Co-created applications of Corporate Barter/Trade for Travel Utility Coin (Hi-Tek.io 2018)