Brian Rist helps the community through his business and philanthropy

Published: November 24, 2022 5:11 PM EST
Updated: November 25, 2022 2:40 PM EST

The owner of Storm Smart has built an empire providing materials to keep your home safe in hurricanes. Now Brian Rist is looking at how he makes long-term impacts in our community through philanthropy.

WINK News sat down with the businessman who’s sharing his wealth and knowledge.

Any Friday of the fall semester, you can find the founder of Storm Smart on FGCU’s campus.

Storm Smart hurricane protection. (Credit: WINK News)

“I believe that the only really true way to solve problems is through education,” said Rist.

He’s teaching at the School of Entrepreneurship and helping students take an idea and turn it into a multi-million dollar business like his.

Rist started Storm Smart after Hurricane Andrew.

“There really wasn’t a lot of different types of storm protection, there was plywood and these metal panels that were very difficult for everybody to use. And we just knew there had to be a better way. So we looked at a lot of different materials and came up with this fabric that could be used to protect homes from hurricanes,” Rist said.

Their storm catcher screens grew in popularity. During Hurricane Ian, more than 80,000 homes had Rist’s products on them.

“It’s a tremendous responsibility,” said Rist.

Rist sold the company in 2021 but still owns a small interest and stays actively involved.

Right now, they’re collecting data on Ian and how to protect you from storm surges.

“We’re looking at ways of developing products that maybe, maybe stop that kind of damage from happening in the future,” said Rist.

Like any smart businessman with a good idea, he wasn’t ready to share but said, “It won’t happen in six months. But as long as we work towards solving a problem, if possible, then I think we all win.”

Rist and his wife recently donated money to buy equipment for what is now the Rist Institute for Respiratory Therapy at FGCU to address the shortage in the healthcare industry post-COVID-19.  They also funded the Rist Institute for Cybersecurity.

Each year they generously donate to the WINK March to a Million Meals fundraiser, which benefits the Harry Chapin Food Bank.

This year, Gulfshore Life named Brian Rist a man of the year, saying he sees the value in supporting everything from social services to local business associations, and he does it with a mindset I think we should all adopt.

“There’s certainly no shortage of problems. But what we do is we look at problems and say, how can we solve them?” said Rist.

If you want to read more about Brian Rist and the other men and women of the year, click here.