|The Fourth Annual Social Entrepreneurship Conference was held on Wednesday, April 8, 2009, to increase awareness about social entrepreneurship. Temple University’s Fox School of Business’ Net Impact, Students for Responsible Business (SRB) and the Innovation & Entrepreneurship Institute (IEI) made this year’s conference possible along with PNC Bank, the Fresh Grocer, Sodexho and many other co-sponsors.|
The day began with keynote speaker Dr. Dickson Despommier, professor at Columbia University, discussing the vertical farm project. He explained how this is an up-and-coming endeavor to keep the production of food consistent with the constantly rising population, which will be vital in the future. “I was amazed by the talk about farming in buildings inside of urban areas,” expressed Erick Glenn, assistant vice president of the PNC Branch on Temple’s main campus.
Local entrepreneurs and organizations such as the Fresh Grocer, Trader Joes, Michelle’s Granola from Baltimore, Md., the Community Design Collaborative and many other fresh food and farming entrepreneurs were at the conference. “Supporting local producers has several benefits like protecting your community, environment, and health,” said Ben Schneible, Students for Responsible Business (SRB) president. Panelists highlighted the importance of buying local and fresh food as it helps keep the local community stronger, which in return supports area businesses.
“At the conference, students learned that purchasing locally grown food benefits communities in three ways, including the creation of businesses, jobs and revenue for local communities; providing a fresher, healthier alternative to traditional supermarket foods; and reducing green-house gases generated by commercial vehicles,” said Jaine Lucas, executive director of IEI. “Such triple bottom line businesses are proof that entrepreneurs can make profit while also doing good.”
At the conference, students listened to a panel of speakers who discussed a variety of issues surrounding fresh and local food businesses such as the “Impact of Local Food on the Food Supply Chain” and “Access to Healthy Foods in Urban Areas.”
Reed Wilmerding, an MBA student with a concentration in MIS, attended the conference because he wanted to gather information for a consulting project through the IEI for Weavers Way, a farmers market in Mount Airy. “I was able to learn what other industry experts and businesses are saying about farming,” explained Reed.
“Ultimately, we hope that students were inspired by the stories and successes of the speakers, and start to think about how they can create entrepreneurial companies of their own that benefit people and/or the environment,” added Lucas.
“I have learned a lot by listening to what the other panelists are doing to become innovative, like the hydroponics idea that was discussed,” said George Cashmark, one of the panelists and the district manager at Sodexho.
The expo of local producers allowed students to put a face to what they were learning. For example, the Fresh Grocer gave out free samples of a new product they are making in their stores, called the cocoPop, made with rice, corn, wheat and sea salt. “We are working on fresh and healthy products like this one to meet customer demand and to offer more healthy options in our grocery stores,” said Eric Kim, co-founder of the cocoPop machine.
The Fresh Grocer displayed the plans for their new store in the expo being built on Temple’s campus in Progress Plaza, behind the 1300 Residence Hall. “The opening of the store will provide more than 100 jobs for the community,” said Sheila Lajoie, director of human resources for the Fresh Grocer. One student, a north Philadelphia native, said, “There has not been a grocery store in the area for over a decade.”
In December 2009, students will be able to walk over to the plaza and buy fresh and locally grown products, which is part of the sustainability process that many students learned about at the Social Entrepreneurship Conference.
[PRINTER FRIENDLY VERSION]