What do a former Temple University football player, a self-titled “chief trash collector” and a film student have in common? What about a student housing development company, an environmentally focused apparel company and a bill registry to help students crowdfund their expenses?
Each idea was developed while these individuals – Shawn Bullard, Brian Linton and Jazmin Butler – were students at Temple. These alumni returned to campus Nov. 20 to pitch their businesses in lightning-round format during the 17th Musser Awards for Excellence in Leadership, hosted annually by Temple’s Fox School of Business.
The Musser Awards honor outstanding achievement and service by a distinguished member of the business community, and this year the award went to university Trustee Lewis Katz, director of the Katz Foundation. Given Katz’s remarkable success as an entrepreneur and the Fox School’s national reputation as an innovation and entrepreneurship leader, the night showcased university-wide entrepreneurship.
Staying true to the theme, the awards program featured “Power Launch,” a spin on event-host Tyler Mathisen’s CNBC show “Power Lunch.” Each of the three alumni was given 180 seconds to pitch their respective businesses to Katz and past Musser Award recipients Warren V. “Pete” Musser – the award’s namesake – and Joan Carter.
Bullard kicked things off with Konkrete Investments, a student-housing development company he launched after winning Temple’s 2009 Be Your Own Boss Bowl®, which the Fox School organizes via the Innovation and Entrepreneurship Institute (IEI). Bullard, a former football player and School of Tourism and Hospitality Management graduate, took the $10,000 grand prize and turned that into $10 million in assets.
Butler followed and pitched her company, MyBillRegistry, and its counterpart MyClassroomRegistry. MyBillRegistry functions as a crowdfunding platform for students’ monthly expenses. Students register on the site and list their bills. People or organizations that wish to support a student may pledge any amount of money toward a given bill. The donations are then consolidated and paid directly to the specified expense.
Butler, who graduated from the School of Media and Communication in 2012 after winning IEI’s Innovative Idea Competition, has also partnered with Scholastic to create MyClassroomRegistry. Through this program, educators sign up and list their classroom needs. Supporters can contribute toward or purchase those supplies through The Scholastic Store.
Linton, chief trash collector, founder and president of United By Blue, gave a compelling overview of his company, which removes one pound of trash from oceans and waterways for each item of apparel or accessories the company sells. The for-profit company is based on the idea that, “Everything from the birds to the moose and mosquito all need water to live, and in that way we are all truly ‘United By Blue,’” Linton said.
A College of Liberal Arts graduate, Linton also won the Be Your Own Boss Bowl® during his time at Temple. Since then he has been named a finalist in the Bloomberg Businessweek America’s Best Young Entrepreneurs competition and in the Wall Street Journal’s Small Business, Big Innovation contest.
To support current and future entrepreneurs, such as Bullard, Butler and Linton, proceeds from this year’s Musser Awards supported the Lewis Katz Entrepreneurship Scholarship Fund, which is especially fitting considering Katz got his start as an entrepreneur when he and fellow alumnus Bill Cosby founded an on-campus entertainment and speaker series. The Fox School will oversee the fund and use it to support student-entrepreneurs from all majors and colleges at Temple.
Just before the evening came to a close, Katz shocked the crowd of 350 regional business leaders with one final announcement – a pledge to give the university $25 million, which would represent the largest single gift in university history.
“Lewis Katz is the epitome of an entrepreneur and philanthropist who has emphasized giving back in each of his many successful business ventures,” Fox School of Business Dean M. Moshe Porat said. “To Lew, entrepreneurship and philanthropy are inextricably linked. We were proud to highlight that linkage on a night of historic proportions.”