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From attendee to owner: BU alum Paul Tedeschi shares career success story

When Paul Tedeschi attended CollegeFest for the first time in 1985, the festival’s importance didn’t dawn on him immediately. 

“It didn’t really have the light bulb effect at the moment,” he said.

Tedeschi, then a freshman at Boston University, would go on to buy the rights to CollegeFest 28 years later. He continues to run it to this day. 

A billboard welcoming students to CollegeFest at Fenway Park
A billboard welcoming students to CollegeFest at Fenway Park. CollegeFest is a networking event for students in the Boston area run by Boston University alum Paul Tedeschi, who attended the festival as a freshman in 1985. CAITLIN BEAL/DFP PHOTOGRAPHER

CollegeFest, an annual event that allows students from Boston colleges to connect with brands and vendors, originated in 1985 at the BU Armory, now Agganis Arena. CollegeFest is now owned by The Campus Agency and located at Fenway Park.

The event attracts over 10,000 college students and over 70 brands, including Dunkin’, Army ROTC, iHeart Radio and Citizens Bank. The festival “blend[s] music and interactive performances with high energy experiences from local and nationally recognized brands,” according to the CollegeFest website.

Tedeschi has operated the festival for two stretches of time — from 2005 to 2008 and from 2013 to present — under the ownership of the advertising companies he founded. 

Tedeschi said he first became interested in youth marketing when TDK Cassette partnered with BU’s cheerleading team: “I thought it was really neat that a brand would be so focused to target students, but in such a personalized way to make it BU-specific,” he said. 

That first spark — coupled with his time as advertising manager of The Daily Free Press, where he picked up some entrepreneurial skills — led him to form his first advertising company, Collegiate Advantage, during his junior year at BU. If not for the experience of being advertising manager, Tedeschi said he didn’t think he would have started the company.

At the time, an advertising agency that linked brands to college students didn’t really exist.  Collegiate Advantage filled a gap in the market by helping clients place ads in college papers and tabling events that got products directly in front of students. 

The company’s location on Commonwealth Avenue and clients such as UPS and Citibank allowed Tedeschi and his business partners to work there full-time senior year. 

“The headstart that we got coming out of school, already having a company with employees and accounts, I guess you can’t quantify that, but it comes at a personal cost,” Tedeschi said. 

The personal cost for Tedeschi was free time. While running the company, he had to schedule all his classes between 6 and 9 p.m. This left little time for anything other than work or school, until he graduated in spring of 1989 with a BS in Marketing from the College of Communication.

After years of growing Collegiate Advantage, Tedeschi sold the company to Student Advantage in 1998, a move he called a “great early success story for me.” 

Building off the momentum of Collegiate Advantage, Tedeschi went on to co-found his second advertising company, Mr. Youth, in 2002. Mr. Youth resembled a larger-scale version of Collegiate Advantage and catered toward a more digital world. 

Due to Mr. Youth’s work with high-profile clients including Victoria Secret PINK, JetBlue and Microsoft, the owners of CollegeFest approached Tedeschi and offered to sell him the event. Thus began Tedeschi’s first stretch as owner of CollegeFest in 2005, back when it took place at Hynes Convention Center.

Tedeschi left Mr. Youth in 2008 and, in 2011, founded The Campus Agency, where he currently works. 

Chris Nyland, president of The Campus Agency, has worked beside Tedeschi since the company’s creation.

“It’s been a wild ride ever since day one,” Nyland said. 

The pair have been instrumental in CollegeFest’s operation since they bought the festival back from Mr. Youth in 2013. The event relocated to Fenway Park and has remained there ever since. 

“That’s what’s cool about [CollegeFest],” Tedeschi said. “[Students] are meeting new people, but they’re also discovering brands and they’re interacting with them authentically.”

Nyland said he’s learned a lot from Tedeschi over the years.

“The most important thing he’s taught me is that you can be a good person,” Nyland said. “You can be kind and be successful.”

Beatriz Goncalves, a freshman at Massachusetts College of Pharmacy and Health Sciences and an ambassador for CollegeFest, said she only has good things to say about Tedeschi.

“I would say he’s a very generous, flexible boss,” Goncalves said. “I’m more than grateful to be working with him.”

In addition to running CollegeFest and The Campus Agency, Tedeschi has found time to give back to his alma mater. For the past 20 years, he has been a guest lecturer in the advertising department at BU.

Tedeschi said COM provided invaluable networking opportunities and was “a great starting point for me to really kick off my career.”

For students seeking to start their own business, Tedeschi has a few pieces of advice. 

“There’s no harm in trying,” Tedeschi said. “If nothing else, you’re going to learn valuable experience about yourself, what you’re good at [and] what you’re not good at.”

Looking to the future, Tedeschi said he wants to find other cities for CollegeFest’s expansion. 

Since operating the festival, Tedeschi said he hasn’t missed a single one and doesn’t plan on stopping. 

“I kind of feel like ‘Mr. CollegeFest’ is my legacy,” Tedeschi said. “We really understand how to make it successful.”

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