Have you recently bought a greeting card at a store and noticed someone looking over your shoulder, observing your behaviors, and jotting down notes? If so, that someone might have been Fox School alum Ali Moore.
Moore, MBA ’16, is the founder of Groundswell Greetings, an online greeting card company that makes artistic, hip, forward-thinking cards with millennial consumers in mind. One of the ways Moore conducted research before launching her company was by lurking around card aisles to see what people were buying.
“I stood in the card aisle at drug and grocery stores a few times every week and watched people. It was creepy, but very anthropologic,” recalls Moore, who studied anthropology as an undergraduate. “I tried to figure out what cards people were attracted to, how they responded to different types of card, whether they flipped them over to look at the back, what price points they were attracted to, and on and on. I did a lot of research in the wild.”
If you’re looking for a birthday card with Beyoncé or Frida Kahlo on it, or a wedding card for a same-sex couple, Groundswell has what you’re looking for. Plus, they’re all designed by Philadelphia-based artists: One of Moore’s goals is to harness the creative economy and energy in Philly, and she plans to slowly increase the brand’s radius by launching in other cities.
5. You’ve Done Your Research
“I tried to learn as much as possible about the industry and my competitors. There are a lot of designers that create gorgeous cards, but I wasn’t seeing people capitalize on that by pairing it with a super-modern, user-friendly e-commerce experience. I did a lot of research on other direct-to-consumer brands and what those experiences are like. For instance, Dollar Shave Club is one that everyone knows about. Millennials love door-to-door brands that disrupt traditional industries, and I wanted to harness that. I had read a case study in business school about American Greetings—which, along with Hallmark, is the other big card company—and it was about transitioning the industry to the digital era and how it would survive. I thought it was fascinating because I love cards, and most people I know love cards, yet there was this consumer niche that hadn’t been capitalized.”
— Groundswell (@groundswellgtgs) July 25, 2017
4. You’ve Found Your Consumer
“The way we still buy greeting cards at physical stores and that they take up floor space at CVS is astonishing to me. I wanted to come up with an idea that connected fresh content that spoke more to millennials—let’s get rid of the sparkly butterflies and the cheesy poems—and make things that are more relevant to how people communicate in 2017. Everything from the look and words in the cards, to also considering, for example, how there aren’t many gay wedding cards or Ramadan cards. I wanted to attract a more diverse audience, and create a place where you could get a greeting card no matter who you are. And to this day, it blows my mind in greeting card aisles the amount of sophomoric, fart joke cards that make so much money. Who wants that? Who loves these cards? No one I know wants that card on their birthday. I’m honing in on a specific niche: people who care about recycled paper and care about a locally made product that’s really artful and playful.”
3. You’re Willing to Fail
“I was nervous about failure. I had a lot of support from friends and family, but I was nervous about risking my professional reputation. I had a great thing going with Comcast and I walked away from it, so I was worried about how this would look on a resume if I failed. I know many small businesses don’t work out, so I’m aware of all the obstacles I’m facing. I tried to weigh general advice, like that you should stay in a job for at least a few years, with the impulse of wanting to do my own thing. I was insecure about falling into these millennial stereotypes about how the grass is always greener, and that we can’t sit still, and that we’re always looking for something more exciting. Right now, I don’t have any regrets. But it’s good to talk to a lot of people and get a lot of opinions before you do it. Definitely calculate your risks. Even if I fail, I won’t regret it. Even if I go back to working for someone else, I’ve gained some really valuable knowledge.”
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2. You’re Prepared to Break Rules
“In business school, everyone told us not to try to change people’s behavior, but here I am trying to do exactly that. I’m trying to get people to stop going to CVS and Walgreens to buy cards they’re disappointed in. Instead I am moving that purchase process online. I need to get people used to ordering their cards online, and that’s a big challenge. There are so many great competitors out there, so I have to constantly be thinking about how I can get people’s attention and get people excited about the brand in a new way.”
1. You’re Ready to Be Your Own Boss
“One thing that’s been really hard for me is knowing what to do every day. All of a sudden, you’re the master of your domain and you don’t have someone telling you what to do. It’s a bit paralyzing. Now that the company is operational and legally sound and I have a product and all the supply chains are in place, I wake up every day and think about how I can get a new customer. I think about how I can raise brand awareness and how I can sell a card, and there are millions of ways to answer those questions. I created a massive list of things to do—like have coffee with a new collaborator, learn more about digital advertising, talk to local press, attend an industry event—and there are literally a billion things. I try to knock five to 10 of them out every single day.”
Learn more about the Fox School’s Global MBA program.
Nick Delmonico wasn’t sure which professional direction he would follow upon entering the full-time Global MBA program at Temple University’s Fox School of Business.
A passion for healthcare ultimately led to him to creating Strados Labs, a company dedicated to health technology for improved management of asthma.
Delmonico’s pursuit of a Fox MBA, with a concentration in Healthcare Management, will conclude with graduation in May. His career, however, is only beginning.
After struggling to manage his asthma as a child, Delmonico had sought to create a product that could enable asthmatics to better understand their symptoms. With the help of his Strados Labs team, Delmonico committed to a plan of creating smart-sensor wearable technology that provides better data in real time about conditions, while improving asthma management and reducing the risk of complications.
The 27-year-old first pitched his idea for Strados Labs at a Thomas Jefferson University Hospital health hackathon event, where he met eventual Strados cofounder Dr. Kan Au.
“It was nice that Temple and the Fox School exposed (students) to that event,” said Delmonico. “They encouraged us to go the event. After Kan and I met at that health hack, a few of the people that I work with said, ‘Hey this is a good idea. We should keep working on it,’ and that’s what we did.”
At the 2016 Be Your Own Boss Bowl, a Temple-wide business plan competition, Strados Labs finished in second place in the track designated for staff, graduate students, and alumni. Then, Delmonico took his idea to WeWork’s Creator Awards, where he won the Incubate Award — an award for entrepreneurs with innovative ideas that need funding. The award granted Strados Labs a $36,000 prize.
“It validates that we’ve put in the right amount of work so far,” Delmonico said. “We’ve been able to show that asthmatics, parents of asthmatics, and healthcare providers want this, but now it’s about determining exactly what they want and how exactly that is going to look, feel, and function.”
Currently, the Strados Labs team is working diligently with the hope of gaining more capital — a move that could take its products out of the beta-testing stage and into the market, and making an innovative solution available to the public.
“You don’t always need to have the best idea, but you need to know how to solve the right problems with the right solutions,” Delmonico said. “Sometimes, it just takes a few discussions with people in a certain area and then brainstorming ways to fix that problem.”
For Daniel Isaacs, a cup of coffee turned into a learning opportunity for his students.
This summer, Isaacs took a coffee break from designing a new Online MBA Sustainability in Business course. As he walked to Temple University’s Saxbys café, he thought about the central questions for his course, which included how businesses are looking to reduce waste and increase efficiency and profit through sustainability.
At the Saxbys counter, Isaacs, an Assistant Professor of Legal Studies at Temple’s Fox School of Business, asked, “What does the café do with its used coffee grounds?”
“The manager responded, we throw them out — anywhere from 80 to 100 pounds each day,” Isaacs said. Then he realized, “I had a real-world example that my students could use to apply the sustainability concepts that we would study.”
Using the figure from Temple’s Saxbys café as his guide, Isaacs estimated that close to 500,000 pounds of used grounds were left unused annually between Saxbys’ 14 Philadelphia-area locations. Isaacs explained that “to maximize efficiency, companies need to search their value chains for waste.” And citing Cradle to Cradle by Michael Braungart and William McDonough, he added that, “waste equals food.”
Isaacs challenged his MBA students to develop a consulting project around the use of Saxbys disposed coffee grounds. The students, from Fox’s Online and Part-Time MBA programs, were to create strategies for how Saxbys could best put to use the used grounds. This provided the students with an opportunity for experiential learning, which is integral to the Fox School’s fabric.
The result: In August, two students delivered their findings and recommendations to executives in a presentation at Saxbys’ corporate headquarters in Philadelphia. Ittai Marom and Ashley Murgatroyd compiled the strongest findings from the class to develop a comprehensive presentation.
For Murgatroyd, she liked the idea of offering the grounds to local farmers for use in their composting piles. “In theory, that works,” she said, “but from a practical sense, composting can only take a certain percentage of coffee grounds, so the grounds would have needed to be more widely dispersed.”
Marom believed strongly in a redesigned atmosphere at Saxbys locations, with space in each café reserved for growing plants and herbs, and producing compost to be used to make and bake products for the individual shops.
Isaacs said he has since spoken with representatives of Saxbys, who conveyed their positive feedback from the presentation. CEO and founder Nick Bayer referenced one of Saxbys’ core values: “We do more with less. We believe in finding ways to be sustainable in everything we do every day.”
“Years after you finish a degree, the courses that stand out are those that involve practical, hands-on learning,” said Marom, who will complete his Fox Part-Time MBA in May 2017. “I don’t think I’ll soon forget this course, and this project.”
“In MBA classes, it’s important to learn theories that you can ultimately put into practice,” said Murgatroyd, who will complete her Fox Part-Time MBA in December 2017. “That’s what we accomplished for Saxbys, and it was great to see their senior leadership group process our research and evaluate our suggestions.”
The Executive MBA program at Temple University’s Fox School of Business is considered one of the best in the United States, according to Financial Times.
The Fox Executive MBA earned a No. 18 national ranking by Financial Times, which announced its 2016 rankings of the world’s top executive MBA programs on Oct. 17. The London-based business and economic news outlet has ranked the Fox Executive MBA among the nation’s top-20 programs six times since 2010.
“Our inclusion as one of the nation’s top Executive MBA programs over an extended period of time is illustrative of our program’s consistency and strength,” said Fox School Dean M. Moshe Porat. “This ranking speaks to the quality of our students and alumni, and our sterling reputation as a leader in business education.”
Financial Times’ rankings surveyed the Executive MBA Class of 2013 on salary growth, career progress, work experience, and aims achieved since graduation. School diversity, measured by international and female students, among other factors, comprises 25 percent of the weight. Idea generation, or the percentage of faculty with doctorates and research published in a list of 45 select academic journals, corresponds to 20 percent of the ranking.
Fox’s Executive MBA program, which can be completed in only 16 months, is built on face-to-face classroom time delivered one weekend per month and supplemented by interaction with classmates and faculty via WebEx, the premier web-conferencing platform. Online collaboration reduces travel and minimizes the time students, who average 12 to 14 years of industry experience, will spend away from home and office.
Courses for the program are held at The HUB, a vibrant business center located in Center City Philadelphia. The HUB features comprehensive communication services and state-of-the-art audio and visual equipment.
“The Fox Executive MBA was designed to fit the needs of mid-level professionals looking to become senior or c-level executives,” said Dr. Michael Rivera, Academic Director of Fox’s Executive MBA.“ With our mantra, ‘Learn over the weekend, apply on Monday,’ students almost immediately notice a powerful impact on their careers.”
The Global MBA program at Temple University’s Fox School of Business is ranked among the top-50 programs in the United States, according to The Economist’s annual Which MBA? rankings.
The Fox School reached No. 44 nationally among all full-time, U.S.-based MBA programs, and is ranked No. 68 worldwide by the London-based weekly news magazine.
Released Oct. 13, The Economist’s Which MBA? rankings recognize the top-100, full-time MBA programs worldwide, according to three years of data (2014-2016) drawn from questionnaires of business schools, students, and recent graduates in areas such as quality of faculty and career services, student diversity, breadth of alumni network, and salary increase following graduation.
The Fox School earned a pair of top-10 national rankings from The Economist for its attention to career services and professional development.
The percentage of Fox Global MBA students who reported earning a job offer through Fox’s Center for Student Professional Development ranked No. 8 in the United States. The percentage of Global MBA students who received a job offer three months of graduation ranked No. 9 among U.S. programs.
The Fox Global MBA features RoadMap™, a revolutionary personal- and professional-development platform for assessing student performance using Microsoft Power BI, a suite of analytics tools used to analyze data and share insights. RoadMap™ allows students to identify gaps in their preparation for business leadership and provides a visual representation of their skills across all courses and competencies.
Students in the Fox Global MBA program benefit from experiential-learning opportunities for real clients within the Fox Management Consulting (Fox MC) practice capstone and a structured internship. Dual-degree options with the Fox School’s array of specialized master’s programs are also available.
The Online MBA program at Temple University’s Fox School of Business is once again ranked among the best in the world.
The Fox Online MBA earned a No. 3 global ranking in The Princeton Review’s 2017 ranking of the best online MBA programs, published Sept. 20. The program improved two places from The Princeton Review’s 2015 ranking.
“The Fox Online MBA program is truly unique, and it is with great pride that another top publication has ranked it among the best in the country and the world,” said Fox School Dean M. Moshe Porat. “The program integrates cutting-edge technology and accredited, high-impact curriculum. It places an emphasis on quality, rigor, and integrity, and applies student feedback to deliver an unmatched experience. This ranking could not have been accomplished without the work of Dr. Darin Kapanjie, the program’s academic director, and our Online and Digital Learning team, which delivers the best advancements in technology to a quality, online-format education.”
The Princeton Review compiled its global rankings by surveying students and administrators from more than 90 online MBA programs worldwide. The surveys focus on the following core criteria: admissions selectivity, graduation and retention rates, faculty training and credentials, technological infrastructure, student indebtedness, professional development and career outcomes, and more.
For more information on the Fox Online MBA program, visit fox.temple.edu/omba.
For Olawunmi Thomas-Quarcoo, pursuing an MBA was the first step in fulfilling her dream of becoming a social entrepreneur.
Thomas-Quarcoo, a first-year MBA candidate at Temple University’s Fox School of Business, is the co-founder of Ka Bom Designs, a fashion retail venture integrating African designs into the western market with a focus on empowering African artisans.
“While growing up, we had difficulty identifying with one specific culture, as both our American and African influences played a role in our self-definition,” said Thomas-Quarcoo, of the upbringings of she and her business partner Hannah Obeng. “We wanted to bring the two communities together.”
Thomas-Quarcoo, 30, and Obeng, 28, met in 2011 as social workers for Philadelphia Fight, a community health services organization and HIV/AIDS advocate. Through their background in helping others, they knew their entrepreneurial venture had to be rooted in uplifting their community.
“We love western styles, but they don’t always represent us,” said Obeng, a licensed therapist.
Thomas-Quarcoo, a native of Nigeria, and Obeng, whose origins are in Ghana, said stigmas about African poverty and underdevelopment had led the fashion industry to ostracize their cultures. To remedy this problem, Thomas-Quarcoo and Obeng launched Ka Bom Designs in 2014 as both a platform for African artisans to share their creations and a way to build a coalition of female entrepreneurs.
“I’ve always wanted to be an entrepreneur,” Thomas-Quarcoo said. “With Ka Bom Designs, I was connecting to my roots while also giving back.”
Thomas-Quarcoo found inspiration in her Strategy, Marketing and Social Entrepreneurship course at the Fox School, which helped her understand the importance of competitor analysis, barriers to entering the market, market sizing, and sustainability. Applying that knowledge to Ka Bom Designs provided the foundation for the company’s business model and strategy.
In 2015, the business partners took their venture to the Blackstone Launchpad, a campus-based entrepreneurship program providing students with mentorship services. Aided by the additional support, Thomas-Quarcoo and Obeng refined their idea and reached out to the 25- to 40-year-old demographic to harness a younger generation’s desire to fuse tradition with modernity.
Ka Bom Designs won first place in the People’s Choice and Graduate Student categories at November’s Innovative Idea Competition, an annual event organized by Temple University’s Innovation and Entrepreneurship Institute.
Bolstered by this success, Thomas-Quarcoo and Obeng have shopped around their idea. By giving female entrepreneurs an entrance into the fashion industry, Ka Bom hopes to alter the the conversation surrounding not only women, but Africa and its global value, Thomas-Quarcoo said. Far from its media representation as an area of starvation and strife, she continued, Africa could be seen as an emerging market and source of innovation.
“Fashion is the vehicle, but I see us making a dent in the global view of Africa,” Thomas-Quarcoo said. “The possibilities are endless.”
For Rens Buchwaldt, leading a company through potential financial turmoil is just another day at the office.
The former Chief Financial Officer and interim CEO of FloraHolland, the Netherland’s premier flower auction, has spent more than 30 years navigating the financial pitfalls of the world’s leading companies and yanking them from the brink of economic disaster.
“Staying one step ahead gives me the ability to lead,” Buchwaldt said. “Quite often the conclusion is obvious, but changing circumstances can convolute that. My job is to see through the distractions.”
Buchwaldt received his MBA from the Fox School of Business in 1984. Since attaining his graduate degree, his highly analytical mind has allowed him to navigate changing workplace dynamics—including the merger of two of the Netherland’s largest flower auctions to create FloraHolland.
Tapped to become its interim CEO when the merger yielded insufficient results and failed to meet the challenges of a rapidly changing market, Buchwaldt leveraged the talent of his staff so that FloraHolland’s combined strength was both fiscally responsible and dedicated to a quality product. During his tenure as interim CEO and later as its CFO, the company restructured for the first time in 100 years and eliminated a deficit that plagued its ability produce the flowers that made it famous.
“I’ve never been in a position to do anything by myself, and it’s key to assemble a team that balances out each personality and expertise,” Buchwaldt said. “I try to be more of a coach than a boss.”
Managing expectations and boosting morale was essential in his ability to pull Icon Media Lab — an internet consulting company — out of a sudden nose dive when the dot-com bubble burst. The company, formed during the height of Internet business development, quickly felt the effects of the shaky medium when its services became both defunct and too easily duplicated.
“The company just went under,” Buchwaldt said. “We slimmed down from 2000 to 800 people. That’s a hard situation in which to motivate people.”
For Buchwaldt, the kind of nimble maneuvering required to keep Icon Media Lab afloat was a part of the education he had attained as a graduate student at the Fox School of Business. (Originally from Bussum, a town located just 10 minutes outside of Amsterdam, Buchwaldt attended the Nyenrode Business University to receive his undergraduate business degree.) With a passion for finance, Buchwaldt augmented his skills by throwing himself in to the Fox School curriculum, finding particular success using Michael Porter’s highly lauded book, Competitive Strategy: Techniques for Analyzing Industries and Competitors.
“Temple’s MBA offered me a lot of interesting options,” Buchwaldt said. “The students were very serious and brought real-life experience. From a business perspective, it was an eye-opener.”
Buchwaldt entered the industry eager to gain the same real-life experience, and joined the National Cash Register (NCR) Corporation, a global computer hardware and online technology firm in Dayton, Ohio. Sitting at the table with senior executives, Buchwaldt relied upon Porter’s principles of cost leadership, differentiation and focus to demonstrate his ability to resolve almost any problem. He spent 14 years at the company before moving on and eventually settling in at FloraHolland.
After spending a significant amount of time abroad, working for FloraHolland was Buchwaldt’s homecoming and he credits the company with helping him return to his roots.
“Tulips are about as Dutch as you can get,” Buchwaldt said, laughing. “(FloraHolland) is very technical and fast-paced, but it’s all about the beauty of nature, feelings, and action.”
At 54, Buchwaldt is preparing for his first break since 1984 and looks forward to spending time with his sons, 11-year-old Florian and 8-year-old Marnick, while examining his next steps in industry. As he figures it out for himself, he counsels those just jumping into their professional careers to be fearlessly original.
“Don’t follow in anyone’s footsteps, make your own,” Buchwaldt said. “If you look at my career, I’ve taken risks, but each leap has been a learning experience.”
In her career as a healthcare administrator, Dr. Johana Vanegas had never worked closely with designers, programmers, and artists – until the second week of November, that is.
Invited to attend the Independence/Jefferson Health Hack, a weekend event focusing on improving the access to and delivery of healthcare, Vanegas and her team delivered a winning presentation in one of the event’s three tracks. She and her teammates conceived of a six-sided device that could record the emotional states of patients and, as a result, reduce hospital readmissions.
“Patients don’t want to necessarily enter data into a smartphone app and, to be honest, not every patient has a smartphone,” said Vanegas, a student enrolled in the Part-time MBA program at Temple University’s Fox School of Business. “That’s what makes CareCube so unique.”
The Director of International Patient Access at Philadelphia’s Fox Chase Cancer Center Vanegas and her teammates designed CareCube. The device offers its user the opportunity to answer one basic question – for example, “How are you feeling?” – six different ways. Then, the patient’s responses are collected and sent to a database. The key to CareCube, Vanegas said, is that there are many applications on which it could be effective.
“It’s the type of device you might have for an elderly and otherwise healthy parent living at home, or for someone in a nursing home, or for someone who was recently discharged from the hospital,” said Vanegas, adding that while a USB cord powered the device’s prototype, future renderings of CareCube will be wireless. Vanegas said CareCube also will include voice-recording capabilities to match the tracked response with related intimation provided by the patient.
The Health Hack winnings accrued by Vanegas and her team included: $5,000 in cash; access to Microsoft BizSpark, which offers software and services for start-ups; dedicated space at the Independence Innovation Center; and memberships to NextFab, a collaborating workspace for Philadelphia innovators. Winners from each track also will share lunch with Independence Blue Cross executives Brian Lobley, Senior Vice President of Marketing and Consumer Business, and Terry Booker, Vice President of Corporate Development and Innovation.
Health Hack, held Nov. 13-15 at Philadelphia’s Thomas Jefferson University Hospital and sponsored by Independence Blue Cross, gathered 250 professionals, from artists, web developers, and engineers, to healthcare professionals, patients, and students, to brainstorm solutions to today’s greatest healthcare challenges. The event’s participants were tasked with developing solutions in one of three tracks: the reduction of readmissions, wearables, and drone-based healthcare delivery.
“It was a terrific event and I was very fortunate to have been invited to attend and participate,” said Vanegas, who was encouraged to apply for Health Hack by James Moustafellos, Assistant Professor of Management Information Systems at the Fox School, to apply the business design and innovation skills she learned in his course, Design Inquiry and Research.
Vanegas is slated to complete her Fox MBA in May 2016.
“It’s a difficult task, managing a full-time career, the pursuit of your MBA and your family,” she said, “but it’s incredibly rewarding, and it’s setting a good example for my two daughters. It says to them, ‘When you have an opportunity to do something special, you should take it.’”