- Associated Press - Sunday, November 2, 2014

LANCASTER, Pa. (AP) - During a small, private meeting in March 2013 that included state Sen. Mike Brubaker and the U.S. ambassador to Brazil, a security guard opened the door and unexpectedly ushered in someone else: Sean Bruce.

Then 13, Sean was Brubaker’s last-minute guest at the Drexel University reception. He had charmed the dignitaries during a luncheon and then again took over at the small confab that followed.

Brubaker was delighted.

“He was able to, with his smile and his sincerity and his focus … reach people in a very, very unique way,” says Brubaker, who recounted the story to a reporter.

“He is who he is. He has an incredible internal self-confidence without any cockiness to him,” Brubaker says.

So, who is Sean Bruce?

A sales and networking wunderkind, the now 15-year-old from East Hempfield Township has made himself a regular at Lancaster business mixers, maintaining eye contact, asking pertinent questions and making friends one firm handshake at a time.

“I love interacting with people so I have no reason not to go out there and shake hands and talk to people. I love that,” Sean says.

Among his many projects, Sean has spearheaded outreach to the homeless, which was a subject of his conversation with Philadelphia Mayor Michael Nutter at the Drexel reception because he was having trouble getting a permit to set up in Love Park.

The home-schooler’s main job is doing sales and marketing for Lancaster Hummus Co., operated by his parents.

The company, which has a handful of part-time employees, makes hummus once a week in a commercial kitchen in Lancaster and sells wholesale through a distributor and at several seasonal markets.

But Sean is more than the precocious young face of the company - he’s a phenomenon.

Will Potts, a board member of Lancaster Young Professionals, refers to Sean as “the king of networking.”

And Rob Liss, managing general partner of Clipper Magazine Stadium, was so impressed by Sean that he is trying to find a way to get him to be his sales apprentice.

“I’ve never met anybody more polished, more focused, more passionate and somebody that is truly treating sales as a real vocation,” Liss says.

Sean’s Facebook page includes scores of selfies with business people and celebrities, including photos with Brubaker, a shot with celebrity chef Fabio Viviani - whom he considers a friend - and a pose where former Philadelphia Eagles coach Dick Vermeil is giving him a headlock.

“The reason I do everything I do is not because my parents are sending me out there. … It’s that I want to do it,” Sean says.

And Sean wanted to sell from an early age.

When he was 6, Sean sold candy to his friends at church from a magician’s suitcase until his mom got him to stop.

Sean subsequently peddled homemade dog treats and cologne to his neighbors before beginning to work with his family’s hummus company when he was about 10,

His mom, Deborah Mitchell, soon noticed that Sean relentlessly marketed the hummus, circulating at shows or events to pitch the product.

And he kept meeting people, including the time he wandered off at the state farm show and wound up getting invited to a luncheon where he met Gov. Tom Corbett.

“You can’t keep him chained down. He’s just gotta get out,” his mother says, adding that Sean has created his own niche as the company’s chief marketer.

“He’s compensated as any adult would be compensated,” she says, which means he gets a commission on sales and gets paid for staffing a market stand.

Mitchell, who oversees Sean’s home schooling, said that while studies come first, business is part of the learning, including the company’s social media posts that double as Sean’s writing lessons.

Sean, who looks younger than he is, keeps his own schedule for networking events, enlisting family members to give him rides.

At the recent Lancaster Chamber of Commerce & Industry Business Expo, Sean got dropped off by 10:30 a.m. at the Lancaster County Convention Center and was picked up at about 3:30 p.m.

Between those times, he attended a social media seminar and strolled the floor of Freedom Hall like a one-man parade, waving to people and asking details about their businesses and families, leaving a trail of amazed expo-goers in his wake.

“He’s so engaging. His enthusiasm is just infectious,” says Josh Muffley, who was helping staff the booth for Keller Auctioneers.

“You talk about the definition of young entrepreneur, take his photo, tell his story. That is a young entrepreneur,” says Todd Reinhart, who was helping at the Nxtbook Media booth.

In addition to his business and school work, Sean was recently tapped to serve on the Lancaster Public Library’s marketing/community outreach committee.

In the future, Sean says he wants to go to college, and is leaning toward a career in business. But he says he is still considering politics even though he is troubled that the best politician still has many detractors.

“The problem with is that I want everybody to like me,” he said.

Even though he enjoys video games and skateboarding, Sean says 90 percent of his friends are adults since his favorite activities bore kid peers.

“It is hard for (kids) to understand what I do and why I do things,” he says.

At a recent networking mixer for Lancaster Young Professionals at the Lancaster Science Factory, Sean was right at home.

“Networking is complicated,” says Eric Kazda, president of Lancaster Young Professionals. “It can be really intimidating for some people and he takes to it like a fish to water.”

At the mixer, groups went on a scavenger hunt, with teams chosen after attendees picked from a deck of cards. Sean drew the ace of hearts and found his three matches.

“Guys. We have to ace this,” he says.

Trailed by his team members and a newspaper reporter, Sean took the lead in the hunt, falling just short of winning a gift certificate to Quip’s Pub.

After Sean had to rush out to catch his ride home, one of his teammates, Kevin Grim, marveled at his young teammate’s “energetic personality.”

“He probably got more business cards tonight than I got in the past month,” says Grim, a 22-year-old staff engineer with Kleinschmidt. “I didn’t want to say that, but it’s probably true.”

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Online:

http://bit.ly/1ujLdCa

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Information from: LNP, http://lancasteronline.com

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