LANCASTER — During a small, private meeting in March 2013 that included state Sen. Mike Brubaker and the 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 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 in which 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.
His mom, Deborah Mitchell, soon noticed that Sean relentlessly marketed the company’s 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 said.