Ariell Johnson, BBA ’05, at Amalgam Comics and Coffeehouse. (Photo: Ryan Collerd)

When Ariell Johnson, BBA ’05, was a kid growing up in Baltimore in the 1980s she cut comics out of newspapers, glued them to construction paper, and tried to sell them.

Back then, there was no way of knowing she’d one day open a comic book shop, Amalgam Comics & Coffeehouse, in Philadelphia. Or that Ira Glass would interview her there for an episode of “This American Life.” Or that MacArthur Fellow Ta-Nehisi Coates and Civil Rights Movement icon and Congressman John Lewis—both of whom have recently been involved in comics, with the Black Panther series and March, respectively—would visit and stroll Amalgam’s shelves. But even as a kid, Johnson was a gifted entrepreneur and her family knew she was destined for something amazing.

“I always marched to my own drum and I was always business-minded,” recalls Johnson. “My mom would joke that she’d never have to worry about me being broke because I’m a hustler. I had a very crafty grandma who taught me how to knit and crochet and embroider. And anything I learned how to do, I’d try to make money from it. I would even make things out of Play-Doh and sell them. I’ve always been entrepreneurial.”

When Johnson moved to Philadelphia to attend Temple University, she initially wanted to study dance. But her sister, an actuary, convinced her to major in accounting at the Fox School. After graduating in 2005, she briefly worked in retail and as a bookkeeper for a nonprofit and a local community newspaper. She considered becoming a certified public accountant, but the thrill was gone.

“I enjoy accounting,” she explains, “but I couldn’t do it all day, everyday. There’s a part of me that loves sitting and staring at spreadsheets, but I need a creative aspect to my work.”

Johnson, while a student at the Fox School, had the idea of opening a comic book shop. She’d fallen in love with comics after watching the X-Men cartoon in her youth—especially the character Storm—and she dove headfirst into Philly’s comic book scene. She became a regular at Fat Jacks Comicrypt. After scoring new books, she’d read them over hot chocolate at the nearby coffee shop, Crimson Moon.

“I loved nerding out in public,” she says, “and being at a coffee shop thumbing through a comic was really cool. When Crimson Moon closed, I had the idea for Amalgam. I didn’t have a place to go, so I thought it would be great if the comic book store were a coffee shop and a community space, too. That was the rough idea, but I was still in school then and not thinking about it too seriously. It was my pipedream.”

It took a terrible tragedy to push Johnson’s plan forward. When her mother died, it caused her to re-evaluate her life goals. She decided she needed to do something daring, something that would make her happy, and so she grabbed her dream and ran with it.

Amalgam Comics and Coffeehouse. (Photo: Ryan Collerd)

In December of 2015, Amalgam Comics & Coffeeshop opened its doors along the Frankford Arts Corridor in the Kensington neighborhood. The space is hip and fun, with exposed brick walls, high ceilings, industrial flourishes, colorful furniture, and thousands of comics. She knew it was wise to diversify, and so Amalgam includes a coffee shop where people can read and sip hot chocolate, just like Johnson did back in the day.

Amalgam is much more than just comics and a café. There are nightly events, including readings, workshops, signings, open mics, comedy shows, and book clubs. The program calendar at the store is already jam packed, and business is about to get even busier. Earlier this year, Amalgam was one of 33 projects chosen to win a prestigious Knight Foundation grant. The project? Creating Amalgam University.

“It’ll allow us to have dedicated, enhanced space for programming,” Johnson says about the grant. “Our hope is to create a multipurpose room and to provide affordable comic book education, including writing, penciling, coloring, and professional development, such as how to pitch comics and put together a portfolio. We’ll especially be targeting underrepresented groups, including people of color, women, and people from the LGTBQ community.”

It’s been an exceptionally busy first two years. Johnson has juggled running the shop, managing nine employees, expanding the business and programming, and fulfilling dozens of interview requests from the press. In addition to being interviewed by Glass, she has been featured in articles by NPR, The Philadelphia Inquirer, CNN, and The New York Times. One question everyone asks her is when she’s opening another store.

“I’m making sure this one’s sustainable before I think about opening a new one,” she laughs. “We’re still a very small business, so I’m watching everything that’s going out and coming in, and if I know the store’s going to be quiet, I’ll work a shift by myself. We’re expanding so fast, but when I first saw this building, I knew immediately I wanted to turn it into an educational space. I had all these ideas, but I never dreamed we’d be able to do them so quickly.”

“And now it’s all happening.”

Ariell Johnson. (Photo: Ryan Collerd)

What Ariell’s Reading

Godshaper, by Simon Spurrier and Jonas Goonface

“It takes place in a world where the rules that govern science and technology stop working, so there are no modern conveniences. Instead, everyone has their own personal god that fulfills what technology used to. The class of people capable of shaping gods are godless themselves, and live as vagabonds, so there are interesting parallels with current events, mainly discussions about immigrant workers.”

Frostbite, by Joshua Williamson and Jason Shawn Alexander

“It’s a post-apocalyptic world where scientists were trying to fix global warming but they messed up and froze the world. The new currency’s heat, and frostbite is this highly contagious disease where people turn to ice. To reduce chances of spreading it, they have to burn entire cities down. It’s interesting because there are still people denying climate change today, and who knows where we’ll be in 20 years.”

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Allison Francis Barksdale at the 2017 Temple University League for Entrepreneurial Women Conference. (Photo: Melissa Kelly)

Imagine being thankful your husband allowed you to attend a business meeting. Many of you probably rolled your eyes, but this used to be a common occurrence. While we’ve come a long way, we still have far to go to achieve a diverse and inclusive workforce.

The good news is many women are creating their own paths through entrepreneurship.

According to the 2016 Kauffman Index of Startup Activity, women comprise 40 percent of new entrepreneurs in the U.S. At the Temple University League for Entrepreneurial Women Conference, hosted by the Fox School of Business at Alter Hall, we learned that many of today’s female executives are building diverse and inclusive organizations.

The League, which holds an annual conference, is an advocacy initiative that addresses the growing challenges and interests of entrepreneurial women in the Greater Philadelphia region. It was co-founded by Dr. Elizabeth Barber, associate dean of Temple University’s School of Sport, Tourism and Hospitality Management, and Betsy Leebron Tutelman, senior vice provost for strategic communications. The Innovation and Entrepreneurship Institute (IEI), under the leadership of Ellen Weber, executive director, co-hosts the event.

Fox Focus spoke to two of the conference speakers. Here is the advice Judith von Seldeneck, founder and chairman of Diversified Search, and Allison Francis Barksdale, EMBA ’00, CEO of RISE Leadership, have to offer women who want to start their own companies.

What advice do you have for women starting their own business?

Judith von Seldeneck: Have a good idea for your business. Something that fills a viable, current need. Take it slow, one step at a time. Stay in control of it. Be wary of partners or owners. There’s time for that down the road. Do the work yourself. No delegating early on; hire others to work for you when you can afford it. Have someone you trust who has no interest in the business but who is smart, good at things you aren’t, who you can learn from. You must learn it somehow early on if you don’t have it.

“I know that the inclusion of additional voices—diversity—will lead to better decision making in our global economy.” – Allison Francis Barksdale

Allison Francis Barksdale: I thought I had to do it all on my own. It is so much easier now that I am willing to seek help and follow the examples of others who are experts in areas where I am not. It isn’t always necessary to reinvent the wheel. You can find mentors and other resources. Take advantage of all that is available. You can learn from things on social media (such as LinkedIn), your alumni association (such as the Temple Women’s Network), and lots of other opportunities.

We’ve seen some inspiring stats about women in business. How do you feel the world has changed for women over the last few decades?

JVS: When I started, I was almost a unicorn, constantly dealing with men, competing with men, which I actually enjoyed being the only woman. Now I am surrounded by strong, successful, younger, executive women, and there is indeed encouraging news for women in business: over the last decade, the number of women-owned firms increased 45 percent, compared to just 9 percent for the national average. Female ownership of businesses is up almost 10 percent over the last decade. But there is also one big, troubling statistic to go with all of that cheery news: Women start 38 percent of new businesses, but still only receive between 2 and 6 percent of all venture capital funding. That’s an issue because it tells me that banks and venture capitalists still do not see women as solid leaders and their businesses as solid investments. There is more work to be done, especially on the VC side of the ledger.

However, I believe the momentum for women has turned a corner very recently and we are much more integrated, respected, capable, savvy, and confident as people, not just women, in our abilities to succeed in building and growing businesses! Today, we have great successful women role models like never before. Plus, women now want to generally help each other be successful.

“I can’t think of a better career path for women than owning your own business.” – Judith von Seldeneck

AFB: We have made great progress! The biggest change I see is that women are leading as they are. When I was coming into the workforce in the late 1980’s, women wore bowties and power suits and acted like men. Today, women are leading with feminine power. I am a big proponent of authenticity. My company, RISE Leadership, helps women build their impact and income through authentic leadership. To be the best speaker, leader, or anything, you have to be yourself. You can’t be anyone else better than you can be yourself. That’s what truly creates connection and power.

Judith von Seldeneck at the 2017 Temple University League for Entrepreneurial Women Conference. (Photo: Melissa Kelly)

How should companies respond to this change to cultivate more diverse and inclusive staffs?

JVS: Any company that wants to develop a diverse and inclusive staff has to make that commitment from the top: at the board level, at the CEO level. If there are not clear and strong mandates from leadership to install mechanisms and performance metrics to produce a more inclusive workforce, particularly at the C-Suite level, it’s all lip service. It doesn’t happen organically. It happens when people in power make a conscious decision to open their doors wider, and implement policies and procedures that are fair and direct and will produce that result. How are you scouting for new talent—and where are you looking? You cannot tap new talent streams if you are only going to look in the same places you have been looking for the past 30 years. You should also hire Diversified Search to help find great talent!

At the conference, you said your path has been like the Game of Life. Can you translate your experience into advice for future generations of women in business?

AFB: My entrepreneurial journey was not a straight path to success. The first business I started failed. I opened a flower and tea shop in 2005, which could not weather the economic downturn in 2007. People were losing their homes, so they were not buying a lot of small luxuries. As in life, things don’t always go as planned. There is an element of chance. If you take a look at the board in the Game of Life, the roads have lots of curves, twists, and turns that you cannot always anticipate.

As for advice, I learned to never stop believing in myself. Above all else, you cannot give up on you! Deciding to take an entrepreneurial path will push you to grow in ways that you never anticipated. If you stay focused on success, there may come a time when you have to say to yourself, “Okay I am not letting this defeat me. Where’s the good in this, the lesson that I can learn and move on?”

You have to be willing to see your vision of success differently than how you planned it. Rather than going into business to do and make money, focus more on serving and solving problems that you are designed to solve best. Enjoy the day-to-day and not just the final outcome of your future success. Whatever happens along the way, good or bad, it’s an opportunity to learn and grow, personally and professionally.

What will the future hold for women in entrepreneurship and business?

JVS: I can’t think of a better career path for women than owning your own business. The future is bright and getting brighter. There are now 11.3 million women-owned businesses in the U.S., employing nearly 9 million people and generating over $1.6 trillion in revenues. Those kinds of statistics would have been an unthinkable pipedream 40 years ago. Time heals many misevents. Sometimes it takes longer than we would like. Technology is leveling and normalizing the playing field everywhere and disrupting long-established traditional practices in one fell swoop. I think there is a tremendous benefit for women in business in this explosive transformational environment that is happening so quickly. We need to be riding this tidal wave that is disrupting business everywhere.

“Deciding to take an entrepreneurial path will push you to grow in ways you never anticipated.” – Allison Francis Barksdale

AFB: There isn’t a one-size-fits-all approach. Generally, a company will take on the values of its leaders, especially in the case of entrepreneurs. As in my case, authenticity and speaking up are personal as well as organizational values. It’s exciting to see how more and more women are igniting their power and speaking up. Women are leading in various ways—in small businesses, corporations, politics, and nonprofits (I prefer the term for-purpose). Even though we still have quite a ways to go, especially in corporate and board leadership, I know that the inclusion of additional voices—diversity—will lead to better decision making in our global economy. Women will play a key role in building a more inclusive, cooperative, and optimally functioning workforce. I plan to do my part to make this happen.

To continue the dialogue on women in business and leadership, feel free to contact Allison: Allison@ImpactwithRISE.com

The Future of Business is Female

The following Temple students and alumnae pitched their companies at the conference:

  • Jess Rothstein, Fox MBA, Class of 2018, Play Bucket, playbucketapp.com
  • Emily Knight, Engineering major, Class of 2018, Prohibere, biomaterix.com
  • Karima Roepel, MTHM ’06, Ambrosia Food Group, ambrosiafoodgroup.com

The Fox School of Business Innovation and Entrepreneurship Institute (IEI) proactively promotes entrepreneurial spirit throughout all 17 schools and colleges at Temple University. IEI offers many years of experience in business development and consulting, a wide variety of skills, extensive networks, and boundless enthusiasm for new ventures and experiential learning.

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While studying finance at the Fox School of Business, Tamika Boateng, BBA ’06, learned all about asset management and risk—she also learned the value of giving back to the community.

Boateng, now the senior vice president of institutional and donor services at National Philanthropic Trust, credits her commitment to volunteering for her professional success.

“While at Temple University, I discovered several new things that are meaningful in my life today, such as giving back,” Boateng says. “When I was 19, I applied with Big Brothers Big Sisters and was matched with an 8-year-old girl from North Philly. Every other week, I’d go to her house or bring her to campus. I tried to give her the college student experience and got to know her life. The experience made me realize the small things you do make a big impact on people’s lives.”

Boateng also joined the National Association of Black Accountants (NABA), where she eventually served as the student professional organization’s vice president. In addition to helping jumpstart her career—namely through networking and securing internships with Johnson & Johnson and Vanguard—she was able to help other students achieve similar goals.

“We connected students with employers,” recalls Boateng. “We invited different companies and leaders to speak at our weekly meetings and we connected students from different schools in the Philadelphia area. We also had an annual conference with a career fair and professional development that helped students learn critical skills, such as networking, public speaking, and interviewing. It helped our NABA members prepare for internships and careers. Being part of NABA made me more career-focused and successful, and I know it had the same impact on others, too.”

Boateng’s commitment to volunteering continued beyond her time at the Fox School. After graduation, she was hired by Vanguard—which happened as a result of the internship she landed through NABA—and she eventually became the global head of bank strategy and relations. While there, she co-led a program in partnership with Big Brothers Big Sisters of America where 60 of her coworkers became mentors to students at a school in the Kensington neighborhood of Philadelphia. The program cultivated relationships between students and professionals with the goal to increase the school’s graduation rate.

Her current volunteer activities include being a member of the board at the Settlement Music School Germantown Branch—one of the largest community arts schools in the country, alumni include Albert Einstein, Kevin Bacon, and Chubby Checker. Boateng connected with the school through Leadership Philadelphia, which matches the skills of professionals in the Philadelphia area to board opportunities with organizations in need. Boateng is passionate about music education (her twin sons both play piano), so it was a perfect match.

“My experiences in philanthropy made me the leader I am today,” says Boateng. “You gain so many skills through volunteering. While volunteering back at Temple, I did not fully grasp at the time all of the benefits. But I gained valuable communications skills and learned how to work with diverse groups of people from all different backgrounds; both these things would help me so much in the future. It’s so important to give back. I wouldn’t be where I am today without those experiences.”

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Eleven alumni leaders share insights on how technology is shaking up today’s major industries and constantly reshaping business possibility.

You can’t open a magazine, a newspaper, or Twitter now without encountering a story about the rise of artificial intelligence and how this will impact businesses and economies around the world. Will the robots displace workers, leaving behind a massive trail of catastrophic unemployment? Or will the relationship be more harmonious as robots optimize productivity and maximize efficiency boosting both the bottom line and free time for us humans? Nobody knows. But one thing is for certain: Technology has brought and will continue to bring radical changes and thrilling opportunities for business innovation industry-wide. To get a firmer grasp on how some of the major industries and fields of business are positioning themselves for the future, we asked 11 Fox School of Business alumni leaders—representing a variety of industries from finance and professional sports, to transportation and healthcare—to examine what’s on the horizon and to share their insights.

James Poyser (Photo: Jim Roese)

MUSIC/ARTS

James Poyser, BBA ’92
Grammy Award-winning musician, The Roots
“Advances in technology have totally changed how music is made, performed, taught, marketed, and sold. Hit records are not only made in studios anymore, but in bedrooms, basements, and even on smartphones. Traditional instruments are being replaced with digital ones (check out a Stro Elliot video on YouTube). Artists are foregoing the traditional route of signing to record labels, and putting their music out online or finding other ways to collect payment. And more changes are coming, too. The rules keep changing and evolving. What new advances are in the future? I know they’re coming. How will we create music in the future? How will we listen to music in the future? How will we purchase music? Actually, will music even be purchased anymore? (This is when it gets scary: Do I matter anymore? Is there any value left in music?) Whatever changes take place, I believe those that adapt to the changes, keep their heads on a swivel, or have the mindset to change, will be positively affected.”

ACCOUNTING

Eric Salfi, BBA ’91
CPA, Partner, Cwienkala & Salfi
“Many CPAs didn’t know how to deal with QuickBooks when it was first released and it put them out of business—the advances in technology and the way accounting is done now has changed even more dramatically since. We’re moving toward strictly cloud-based activities where there’s more interaction and my clients send documents and information through a portal. The accountant’s role has evolved, too. It used to be about bookkeeping—handling bank statements, creating financial reports, and so on. QuickBooks, and now cloud software, eliminated all the people sitting in a room somewhere compiling this information, but it still requires an expert to manage the software. The accountant has evolved and, for me, it’s more of a business consultant role now. Clients don’t just need me to prepare a tax return; I now have deeper relationships with my clients and I act as a personal advisor, helping them value new businesses or solve cash flow problems. One of the big issues, as information’s moved to the cloud, is cybersecurity. There’s more data accessible now, so creating a safe, encrypted portal that allows clients to interact with us is essential. You need to adjust and adapt with technology or you’ll be left behind. I look forward to embracing whatever changes come next.”

INSURANCE

Adam Lyons, BBA ’09
Founder & Chairman, The Zebra
“Technology has changed and is changing insurance, though no one would hesitate to admit the industry was painfully slow to welcome the insurtech revolution. At the Zebra, we’re a technology company in the insurance space, and we believe the right technology, applied by people who truly understand the profound complexities of the insurance industry, can create efficiencies which simplify everything from assessing risk to distribution to claims management and beyond. We’ve seen incredible developments in the property and casualty insurance industry, like peer-to-peer insurance and pay-per-mile models, and we’re creating an insurance search engine where consumers can access, understand, and use all of these innovations. We’re creating essential technology which informs and educates consumers so they can understand their options and make the right decisions for their unique needs. Environmental factors are critical as well, but they’re unpredictable. Still, we’ve seen trends showing an increase in devastating storms, most recently Hurricanes Harvey and Irma, for example, which just reaffirms the need for people to have the resources to find the right coverage for their circumstances to protect themselves.”

REAL ESTATE

Bob Rosenthal, BBA ’85
Partner, Envision Land Use
“Real estate, like everything, is in the middle of the internet revolution. Philadelphia was dead 20 years ago, back when I went to Temple. There was a void between City Hall and the suburbs—then the millennials came. The parts that have grown, like Fishtown, used to be manufacturing areas, and the buildings have now been repurposed. Everyone talks about the retail change and how people now buy online, but the same has happened in everything from healthcare to office space. What once was a retail center is no longer a retail center; this battle’s been going on for years in the city and is now hitting the suburbs. I’m 57 and right now I’m working from my car on an iPhone. People don’t need office space the way they did—with a lobby, a huge campus, and a front desk—especially younger people without ties to old ways of doing business. And when the millennials come back to the suburbs—which they’re already starting to do—they want lifestyle options just as they do in the city. They want to be able to easily Uber or walk to a bar or a restaurant. So even in new developments in the suburbs, we’re aiming to make these changes. With more businesses moving online and changing needs, land uses change so quickly that governing authorities can’t keep up and many aren’t willing to change. People are always frightened of change, but we must keep moving forward and adapting.”

GOVERNMENT

Heather Qader, MBA ’16
Manager of Business Development, City of Philadelphia Department of Commerce
“Technology is slowly changing local government for the better. Philadelphia, like other cities, is realizing that to compete at a global and national scale, it must adapt its infrastructure. These adaptations look like the digitization of SEPTA’s ticketing system, installation of Indego Bike Share citywide, parking kiosks that allow the use of cards instead of change, and an overhaul of the City of Philadelphia website to create a more user-friendly interface and allowing for more public engagement and user ease. With every new administration, personnel changes occur and there is a transitional period required to get new personnel up to speed. One initiative that has survived the Michael Nutter administration and is currently embraced by the Jim Kenney administration is StartupPHL, a platform that funds worthy initiatives and connects startups to resources in the Philadelphia tech ecosystem. The most recent StartupPHL call for ideas round funded five organizations with $100,000 to train instructors, supply equipment, and teach children the technology skills that they need to be globally competitive. We are keeping up—not as fast as many of the lean startups here in Philadelphia—but progress is being made.”

ENTREPRENEURSHIP

Salvatore DeTrane, BBA ’93
Managing Director, Empactful Capital LLC
“Most innovation in healthcare technologies in recent decades has been in medical devices, drug therapies, and medical diagnostics. These have led to people living longer, more productive lives. The downside is these advancements have resulted in a financially unsustainable cost trend. The next frontier is entrepreneurs disrupting healthcare with innovative information technology solutions. There have been massive investments in the last 15 years in electronic health records, claims systems, genomics, social determinant data, and big data software. Some of the innovation opportunities include practical applications of machine learning, natural language processing, intelligent workflow advancements, and advanced analytics that offer actionable insights. Proactive interventions will enable healthcare providers and payers to better manage care, reduce healthcare costs, improve quality, and assess risk of managing populations and encourage business model evolution. With the expected increase of today’s industry expenditures in the U.S. from $3.5 to $5.5 trillion by 2025, this transformation will prevent a financial crisis. All payers—whether health plans, employers, or consumers—are demanding more efficient and effective healthcare and transparency. The industry now stands at a pivotal moment. It must transform into a system that leverages these data/IT investments to support better, more informed decisions by each major constituent. And I think Temple, given Fox’s programs and its health system and medical school, is positioned to support the innovation required to transform our healthcare system.”

Getty Images

SPORTS

Joe Heller, BS ’05
Vice President of Marketing, Philadelphia Flyers
“Broadcast coverage of live sports events continues to evolve and advance at a rapid rate. Viewers are getting more access to their favorite teams and players through virtual and augmented reality, cable cams, and GoPro cameras. In the future, I wouldn’t be surprised to see dedicated channels allowing viewers to experience the duration of a live game straight from a players helmet through a virtual reality headset. This could be similar to the way motorsports has cameras mounted on cars, or the NHL on referees and players at the All-Star Game. Stadiums and arenas will be continually challenged on new ways to adopt VR/AR into their venues, improve WiFi, provide charging stations in the seats, show live video helmet feeds on the big screens, and alike, to bring the comforts and expectations of home viewing to the game. From an NHL team perspective, the Flyers recognize we’re becoming our own media company by placing a greater emphasis on content about the team, connecting players and fans through mobile platforms, providing behind the scenes access, and much more. As tech advancements are made, pro sports will continue to look for new ways to be early adopters and integrate them into event coverage, for home viewers and in arenas and stadiums.”

TRANSPORTATION

Marco Herbas, MBA ’15
Whole Securitization Funding, Ford Motor Company
“Self-driving cars are an inevitable reality that will disrupt and transform the industry for its incumbents as it opens new doors for non-traditional, automotive value-chain players able to purvey hardware and software that enable interconnected and autonomous vehicles (AVs). AVs, along with mobility and continuous development of electrified powertrains, are creating a paradigm shift in the lengthy, bureaucratic processes engrained in traditional automakers’ decision-making, essentially forcing them to become more agile in their product and systems development lifecycles to emulate these potential tech entrants. The notion of AVs is not only disrupting the auto industry, but the transportation ecosystem as a whole. Some examples may include public transportation, where cities may have to partner with automobile purveyors to deploy fleets of self-driving vehicles, as well as insurance providers where AVs create a safer commuter environment, meanwhile curtailing risk and impacting insurers’ revenue streams. Ford has communicated it intends to pursue automotive and high-growth mobility businesses. In 2016, senior leadership announced the company would commence mass production of level-4 autonomous vehicles by 2021 available for ride-sharing/ride-hailing services. Key underpinnings include the launch of the next generation Fusion Hybrid Autonomous Development Vehicle, the creation of its mobility division, as well as its acquisition of Chariot, an app-based, on-demand shuttle service. And Ford is investing $1 billion in start-up Argo AI to further its advancement in AV development by leveraging the startup’s robotics technology.”

CYBERSECURITY

Andrew Bertolazzi, EMBA ’97
Vice President, Ronin Security Solutions LLC
“Seaborne shipping accounts for approximately two-thirds of global trade, with over $4 trillion worth of goods transported annually. One of the major challenges the industry faces—increased global competitiveness, new regulations, reliance on automation, etc.—is security. This includes compliance with layers of domestic and global requirements, physical security, and protection of the supply chain. But the most insidious risk with the potentially greatest impact is cybersecurity. The industry, both afloat and on land, is increasing the level of automation across the value chain to improve efficiencies, reduce cycle times, enhance safety, and drive down cost. The greater use of technology leads to the need for increased knowledge and specialized tools, as well as the risk of breaches and compromises. A recent example of cybercrime’s impact on global shipping is the Petya ransomware attack, whose disruptions cost over $300M to one of the world’s major shipping companies. The federal government and industry associations are working to raise awareness and offer assistance to organizations across the supply chain through focused outreach, education, and grants. And the private sector is improving cybersecurity through assessments, training, and adding specialized security tools, processes, people, and consulting support. Each organization must evaluate the amount of resources of time, people, and funding needed to appropriately address the threats. The level to which they’re able to do so will determine the impacts and stimulate innovations in technology, business processes, and approaches to security.”

HEALTH

Ron Iller, BBA ’93, MBA ’95
Director at Large, Fox Alumni Association
Director, Product Management-Analytics and Data Discovery, Change Healthcare
“The move to value-based care and risk-based contracting within the healthcare market has changed the game. It’s about providers and payers applying data and analytics to effectively provide better care at the lowest cost. Overall, it will be a very positive change in terms of working to improve outcomes. The focus will be on the individual and patient populations, and how their level of health impacts the cost of the system. Organizations will focus more on keeping people healthy as opposed to getting them healthy by utilizing care management programs and other forms of outreach. Change Healthcare will inspire a better healthcare system and deliver wide-range financial, operational, and clinical solutions to payers, providers, and consumers. I’m focused on helping hospitals and health systems move from fee-for-service to a value- or risk-based payment model. This involves taking a broader view of the patient or population, either in terms of payment, health status, or access to care, not only within the walls of the hospital, but extending to the broader community. We do this by providing a data platform for health systems to acquire and aggregate massive amounts of data at scale and then applying analytics in the transition to value-based care. The data we gather and what we can do with it will continue to improve with new technology, and ultimately allow us to improve the quality of care we provide even more.”

FINANCE

James Sanders, EMBA ’12
President-elect, Fox Alumni Association
Vice President, Commercial Lending, Customers Bank
“Fintech is providing access to capital, especially to small businesses, at a right-now rate. People are getting loans on mobile devices and it happens quick. Mobile and cloud technology, whether people use it to bid on contracts or communicate with employees, is helping small businesses evolve faster. It used to be more difficult to start a small business; now there are infinite online resources people can tap into. You can watch a YouTube video that will tell you how to do it (but, keep in mind, that won’t help you when it comes to actually executing a successful business). Small business owners are getting younger, too. There’s a lot of buzz around millennials and how they have a fresh way of thinking and handling business. With platforms like Etsy, eBay, Amazon, and Instagram, there are many ways to make money. My son started a tech company; he designed the app and everything. I’m very optimistic about the future of small and medium sized businesses—they’re the backbone of America. Their names aren’t plastered on the highways when you’re driving downtown and you may not see them on TV or the internet. But they’re everywhere and they’re creating and driving new industries and opportunities.”

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Have you finished your holiday shopping yet? If not, you better hurry, because time is running out to find the perfect gift for the people on your list.

To help make your final holiday giving decision, here are a few gift options from companies founded by alumni entrepreneurs from the Fox School of Business. From tasty food to wearable tech fashion, and greeting cards to apparel for a good cause, these alumni businesses have you covered.

honeygrow

Honeygrow, the fast-casual restaurant founded by CEO Justin Rosenberg, MBA ’09, now has more than 20 locations in nine states. There must be someone you know who lives near one who would love a honeygrow gift card so they can chow down on a salad or stir-fry bowl.

Ivory Ella

Everyone loves elephants. And you can find all kinds of cool elephant-inspired gear (T-shirts, sweatshirts, tote bags, and more) at Ivory Ella, the apparel company co-founded by Richard Henne, BBA ’15. Ivory Ella donates 10-percent of its profits to Save the Elephants and other charitable organizations, so you’ll be supporting a good cause, too.

ROAR for Good Athena

ROAR for Good, the company co-founded by CEO Yasmine Mustafa, BBA ’06, makes wearable smart technology devices that aim to reduce violence against women and make users safer. Athena is a fashion-forward wearable that features a built-in alarm, notifies contacts in an emergency situation, and allows users to share their location with friends and family. “This piece of tech jewelry,” wrote Brit + Co, “might save your life someday.”

Factory Donuts

Do you love donuts? Of course you do—everybody loves donuts. Well, David Restituto, BBA ’96, opened Factory Donuts this year in Northeast Philadelphia and the people in your life would surely love it if you showed up to a holiday party with a dozen donuts, especially Factory’s maple bacon explosion option.

Groundswell Greetings

A card is both a great gift and a great gift supplement. And Groundswell Greetings, created by Ali King, MBA ’16, has unique, fun, cool cards designed by Philadelphia artists for nearly every occasion, including the upcoming holiday season. For instance, the Philly-inspired “Home for the holidays” card (above) created in collaboration with Habitat for Humanity, which receives a portion of the proceeds. Good cause, great card.

Any more suggestions for gifts made by Fox School alumni? Please contact us!
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Brett Kratchman speaks to attendees at the Musser Awards for Excellence in Leadership dinner in November 2017. (Temple University Photography/Joseph Labolito)

Temple University served as Brett Kratchman’s entrée into the food-and-beverage industry. Now the food distribution professional has committed to supporting future educational opportunities at his alma mater.

The founder and chief executive officer of BK Specialty Foods, Kratchman has pledged $50,000 to Temple University’s School of Sport, Tourism and Hospitality Management (STHM).

His gift, and STHM’s vow to match it, has helped create the BK Specialty Foods/Judith L. Kratchman Endowed Scholarship Fund. Once fully funded, the scholarship will be available annually to a STHM student of financial need who graduated from a Philadelphia- or South Jersey-area high school.

“My mother and my father met at Temple University. They married and began a family before she could finish her education,” said Brett Kratchman of his mother, Judie, who passed in 2016. “She was smart, savvy, and always willing to give someone a second chance. This scholarship is a lasting tribute in her memory.”

“Mr. Kratchman’s success and professional goals align with the interests of many of our students, and gifts like his will support our students as they pursue their college education and launch their professional careers,” said Dr. Jeremy Jordan, associate dean of STHM.

Kratchman was introduced to the food-and-beverage field while simultaneously earning his Bachelor of Business Administration in business and law from Temple’s Fox School of Business. He worked for his father, Sheldon, who founded Delaware Valley Fish Company—an exporter of live fish, eel, and carp to the European markets.

After graduation, and while taking graduate-level courses at STHM, Kratchman branched out and teamed with a classmate to sell frozen novelties out of an ice cream cart in Philadelphia’s Society Hill neighborhood.

Brett Kratchman, right, receives an alumni leadership from STHM Dean Dr. M. Moshe Porat, left, and Warren V. “Pete” Musser during the Musser Awards for Excellence in Leadership dinner in November 2017. (Temple University Photography/Joseph Labolito)

From there, Kratchman founded BK Specialty Foods in 1986 with just one product line—fruit pops on a stick that he sold for a dollar apiece.

“In one weekend, we did $60,000 in sales and that started this path for me,” Kratchman said. “I hired sales people, bought a truck, bought a warehouse, then two warehouses. Today, we employ more than 100 people, distribute products in six states, and sell more than 6,000 local, regional, and imported individual products.”

Kratchman said his company is truly a family enterprise. His mother spent more than 30 years as BK Specialty Foods’ office manager. His sister, Karen, and brother, David, are also involved with the business. His brother, Barry, is in the industry, too. He serves as president of the fish-exporting company founded by their father, and owner of Classic Cake Bakery.

He also credits his success to the support of his wife, Robyn, and their three daughters—Rayna, a 2013 graduate of Temple’s College of Public Health; Madison, who is pursuing a graduate degree in psychology at Temple’s College of Liberal Arts; and Mia Rose, described by her father as “a future Owl.”

“From the academic side to athletics, we’re supporters of Temple through and through,” Kratchman said. “Supporting STHM’s students and honoring my mother in this way just seemed like the perfect fit.”

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Rear Admiral Mark J. Fung

Rear Admiral Mark Fung, MBA ’11, knows what it takes to be a leader.

He joined the United States Navy in 1988 and he was deployed in support of Operation Desert Storm and the Global War on Terrorism. Among his earned decorations are the Legion of Merit and the Bronze Star Medal; his current positions with the Naval Facilities Engineering Command are deputy chief of civil engineers and deputy commander. In his civilian life, Fung is a project manager with AmerisourceBergen. As a student, he earned bachelor’s and master’s degrees in mechanical engineering from Villanova University.

That’s not all: Fung also completed his MBA at the Fox School of Business in 2011.

There’s a thriving community of veterans at the Fox School and Temple University, which has been called one of the “Best Colleges for Veterans” by U.S. News & World Report. Between 2013 and 2017, 249 veterans earned degrees from the Fox School, and there are currently 442 veterans and veterans’ dependents enrolled at the school.

During a recent visit to the Fox School for Military Appreciation Month, Fung met with several Fox alumni veterans and deans, as well as the Temple University Veteran Association president. We had an opportunity to talk to him about how earning his MBA impacted his work as a Navy Officer and shapes his leadership strategies and practices. Here’s what he said.

In what new ways did earning an MBA challenge you?

I have a normal civilian job and I have my military responsibilities. As I’ve climbed the ranks, my military work gets more and more demanding. Balancing that and earning an MBA was a big challenge, but absolutely worth it. It required a whole different thought process. It was great being surrounded by people with such different backgrounds, representing different industries, and bringing different ways of solving problems to the table. It really broadened my horizon.

What was the most important thing you learned?

The ability to think on the fly. Fox taught me the basics of business, of course, but some of the courses I had really pushed my ability to react properly to the unplanned. As a military officer at this level, we face a lot of challenges that are unwritten—there’s no instruction manual on how to handle certain things. Whether working with allies, partner nations, or different governmental agencies, much of the work we do is work you’re not going to learn how to do from a book. The MBA taught me how to think outside the box; it taught me how to be open to new ideas and to diverse ways of thinking.

How has your personal leadership style been shaped by your work, military, and MBA experiences?

My MBA experience strengthened my ability to act as a team leader and as a coach. There’s this thought within the military that we’re very regimented, and that if you tell someone to do something, they do it. But that’s more of the Hollywood version. We want people to do the right thing all the time, even when their leader is not there. You do that through coaching and mentoring, and these are all traits and experiences I acquired from working on my MBA. It taught me how to motivate people to bring out their personal best.

Can you talk more about the importance of improvisation in your business and military roles?

In 2004 and 2005, my unit was mobilized and we went to Iraq. My part of the Navy does a lot of construction and civil engineering. We were in Fallujah rebuilding the city. There is no manual to tell you how to do that. Everything had to be done very nimbly, on the fly, with changing conditions. We had to learn how to work with people who didn’t speak the same language as us, people with different cultural backgrounds, and in collaboration with foreign government and non-governmental agencies, all who were trying to do good work.

What two books do you recommend to every freshman business student to prepare them for the future?

The first is Sun Tzu’s The Art of War. You have to read the entire book. It’s not a big book, but a lot of times people will just Google the main points and not understand the meaning behind them. Read it, and it will tell you about business operation, decision, and conduct. The second is Asia’s Cauldron: The South China Sea and the End of a Stable Pacific, by Robert Kaplan. It’s a geopolitical book, but you have to understand that the majority of trade in the United States comes across the water. Our economy is deeply tied to Asia so understanding the importance of the South China Sea and trade is essential to our economy and future.

If you were starting college today, what would you study?

I’d be more involved with information technology and information dominance. It’s a huge part of global commerce and the military now. The career opportunities currently in that field, and the growth opportunities in the next five or twenty years, are incredible.

You’ve achieved so much. What keeps you focused and ambitious?

I love what I do. Life is too short to do something you don’t enjoy. I enjoyed my time at Temple, and at Fox, and I enjoy my work with the Navy. That’s the secret. And I like to achieve and I like to win. What drives me, especially at this level of the Navy, where the stakes are high, is that there’s no room for second place. Even in the business world, you make decisions that affect the outcome of those who work for you and with you. It’s this responsibility to my team that makes me strive to perform at a higher level.

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Life is unpredictable. Tammylynn Rodriguez, BBA ’17, can attest to that.

Rodriguez initially enrolled at Temple University’s Fox School of Business to earn a traditional, on-campus Bachelor of Business Administration degree. And despite a fire in her family home and maintaining full-time employment, she wasn’t willing to put her dreams on hold.

Tammylynn Rodriguez

“(Fox’s program) really allowed me to be myself,” said Rodriguez, who addressed fellow students during her undergraduate commencement ceremony in May.

Is there an appropriate time for students like Rodriguez to transfer into an online degree program?

U.S. News & World Report asked that question and spoke with Rodriguez, who’s now a Fox Online MBA student. U.S. News also reached out to Elvita Quiñones, who often counsels Fox students making their academic transition through the school’s Center for Undergraduate Advising.

Learn more about Rodriguez, and the Fox Online MBA and Online BBA programs by reading the full story at usnews.com.

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Andy Hagerman, BBA ’08, asks big questions. As the co-founder of the Design Gym—a New York City based company that offers public workshops and consulting services aiming to boost organizational creativity, leadership, and collaboration through design thinking pedagogy—it’s his job to ask big questions.

“How do we get people excited about their work again?” asks Hagerman, who studied marketing and international business at the Fox School. “How do you translate people’s real emotions and behaviors into real things of impact, and products and services that create value in their lives, not just value in the company?”

Hagerman, however, doesn’t merely ask questions. He gets students and clients—which, since the company launched in 2012, have included Etsy, LinkedIn, Facebook, Porsche, the New York City Department of Education, and the Rockefeller Foundation—to ask them. And, most importantly, Hagerman and the Design Gym provide design thinking tools to answer those questions in exhilarating and beneficial ways that help deepen relationships with collaborators and customers.

“More diverse collaboration has the impact to change the world,” says Hagerman about the Design Gym’s ideals and objectives. “It’s an imperative way that businesses are working now. We want businesses to develop more empathetic, human-centered relationships with customers and to foster creative leadership. We want to give people the tools, confidence, and language to be able to raise their hand if they think work can be done better. If they see things that are broken, or things being done just because that’s the way they’ve always been done, we want to help people feel confident to change that.”

To learn more about the work the Design Gym does, we asked Hagerman to share with us some insights on the five phases of design thinking and how it can benefit students, clients, and businesses.

1. Interact Directly with Your Customers

“When people solve problems, they want to move as fast as possible; it’s all about efficiency. Design thinking builds a few more steps into problem solving that don’t necessarily slow things down, but make us think more divergently than normal. Instead of identifying a problem and picking a solution quickly, it forces us to ask questions. Who are the users? What is their challenge? Who will be using the solution? How do we build empathy with the users and customers of the work we’re doing? How can we learn more about them? Most people don’t have time for deep ethnographic research or interviewing customers, but you can block a half day off your work cycle to go out and find inspiration. Go to the places where your customers hangout, go to the stores your customers go to, talk to the people they talk to, take them out to coffee and talk to them. A little inspiration and empathy gets you out of your normal ways of thinking about your customer.”

2. Reframe Your Problem—Then Get Creative

“Once you have this great data combined with research, you synthesize it into insights. This is where design thinking meets strategic thinking. Based on what we’ve learned and accomplished, how can we reframe the challenge to solve the right problem? Once you talk to your customers, you can better see and solve the problem through their eyes. And you’ll get more creative.”

3. Move Beyond Obvious Solutions

“Once you have a new way to see your challenge, the impetus is to push yourself beyond the obvious solutions. Many times, when we have a challenge, a few ideas pop into our heads immediately, but they’re usually the obvious ones. Based on time, that’s what we run with. This phase is about finding more creative solutions so here we teach new tools to help people do that. One is called ‘lateral inspiration,’ which is about looking outside your industry at how other companies solve for similar customer or business needs. If you’re a bank, how can you look to the entertainment industry or the tech world to see how they’re addressing similar needs? What would it look like if we tried to solve that problem in a similar way that is authentic to us?”

4. Experiment—and Abandon the Illusion of Perfection

“This is all about rapid prototyping and bringing ideas to life in low-fidelity ways. The focus isn’t on building, but learning. The first version of an idea is almost never going to be the best or the perfect one, but the sooner we get it in front of people to get feedback, the sooner we can improve it. One activity we do is encourage the team, and when you ask them to build something, ask for the 40 percent version, and tell them to do it in 45 minutes. Set false constraints that are impossible. You’ll never create the best version, but as a creative leader you should ask for something concrete quickly so people can respond. It’s better for the creativity of the team and the finished product.”

5. Create Audience-Specific Narratives

“This phase is about telling a compelling story that will get buy-in and action. We encourage people to go back and put those empathy goggles on and think about the other project stakeholders. If you’re pitching the operations department, they’re probably thinking about logistics and cost, so you need to tell a story rooted in those things. If you’re pitching a senior executive, they may be concerned about sustainability and ROI—so how do you tell that story? We encourage people to use a storyboard for this, and create that comic book level version of how a new service or product may show up in your customers or stakeholders life.”

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Ever since that first brave soul cut a hole in a slab of dough, shaped that slab into a circle, tossed it in hot oil, pulled it out, sprinkled some sugar on it, and took a bite, human beings have been gaga for donuts.

In recent years, donut-mania has ramped up to a whole new level, with boutique shops popping up in cities across the country. Philadelphia hasn’t been immune to this craze—the city loves donuts. And everyone in Philadelphia can now celebrate because there’s a new donut option in town. It’s called Factory Donuts and the founder’s a Fox School alumnus.

Factory Donuts opened its doors, in the Mayfair neighborhood in Northeast Philadelphia, in August. Founded by Heather and David Restituto, BBA ’96, it offers about two dozen colorful and creative options, including the maple bacon explosion, blueberry bake, pumpkin pie, and David’s favorite, mint chocolate chip. The shop boasts high ceilings, exposed brick, and a trendy, industrial vibe.

“We put our own spin on the design and concept of the store to differentiate ourselves,” says David, a self-described “sweet tooth.” “We tried to make the outside and inside appear like a factory, with red brick, the layout of the machines, the lights hanging from the ceiling. And we want people to be able to see their product made right in front of them—from batter to a finished donut—in just a few minutes.”

Factory Donuts is David’s first time as a business owner, but he’s no stranger to operating a business. He has run Rita’s Italian Ice franchises, as well as several Philadelphia area Meineke franchises with his father, who initially encouraged him to major in finance at the Fox School.

“My father guided me toward finance and taught me it’s what separates a business from doing well or not well,” explains David. “Not understanding the numbers makes a huge difference. Growing up in the business, with my father teaching me about cost of goods and labor percentages, and how to put financing around the business aspects, it taught me how to run a business. Most importantly, it taught me how to grow a business.”

Given David’s long history with franchises, it may come as no surprise that franchising will be the next step for his business. They’ve already received hundreds of unsolicited offers from people interested in opening their own Factory Donuts location. The next move will be opening a corporate headquarters to handle the franchisor transition.

“We have so much positive interest from people,” says David. “We’re ready to launch the franchise end of the business and we’re planning for future growth. It’s a very exciting time.”

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For one couple, the next chapter of their #TempleMade love story is ready to be written.

Zahra Safa visited Main Campus recently, believing she was there to film a testimonial video for the professional development office at Temple University’s Fox School of Business. What the Fox alumna did not expect was a marriage proposal.

Fellow Fox graduate—and now fiancé—Bijan Barikbin surprised Safa at O’Connor Plaza near Founder’s Garden, dropped to one knee, and asked her to marry him.

Spoiler alert: She said yes. (But watch the video.)

This year, the Fox School’s Center for Student Professional Development (CSPD) celebrates its 20th anniversary. A 2014 accounting alumna, Safa credits CSPD for aligning her with PricewaterhouseCoopers, where she is employed as a talent acquisition senior associate.

To Safa, it seemed natural that CSPD would ask her to film a brief on-camera testimonial to be played during an upcoming anniversary event. After all, Safa met Barikbin in 2014 in CSPD’s offices, where she held a student-worker position. Barikbin had asked to borrow a stapler, and the rest is history.

“We met at Fox, and it just seemed right to get engaged on campus,” said Barikbin, who earned a BBA in Management Information Systems in 2013, and a Master of Science in IT Auditing and Cyber Security in 2014.

Temple’s motto is “Perseverance Conquers.” Ask Safa and Barikbin. They’ll tell you that love does, too.

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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.

https://www.instagram.com/p/BSBz_Gohcww

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.”

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.”

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.”

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Every brand has a story to tell and they often need help telling it. This is where Lauren Moreno comes in.

Moreno, MS ’16, is the co-founder of Team 624 Communications, a Philly-based firm that develops and executes social media and content strategies for small- and medium-sized businesses in the fashion and lifestyle space.

“I’ve always loved working with small businesses,” says Moreno. “And I always knew I’d go into business for myself.”

Soon after completing her MS in Digital Innovation in Marketing at the Fox School, Moreno and longtime friend Kaitlin Cleary launched 624. Their many clients include Printfresh Studio, a textile design studio that runs a stationery brand and a fashion line, and Whimsy Greenville, a wedding-focused gifts and stationery company. We recently caught up with Moreno and asked her to share some of the big marketing mistakes brands make with their social and digital content strategies (and lack thereof). Here’s what she said.

5. Not Having a Unique Voice

“You can’t be everything to everyone. A lot of brands don’t intentionally try to do that, but they end up doing it by not paying attention to how they’re talking to their customers and to what message they’re sending. We develop brand voice to stand out from the competition and to have a consistency that builds trust. We work with clients to develop personas, and that makes it easier to speak to particular audiences and to what they care about. This makes it more tangible—to say, ‘A customer who cares about how her clothes are made is going to be more interested in the details of the clothing we’re promoting, in hearing the story behind the clothes, than how other people are wearing the clothes.’ One recent client saw that their main competition’s social strategy included a lot of social speak, like ‘omg’ and ‘lol.’ But the client was telling a very different story: They were more serious, more thoughtful. We developed their voice to capitalize on these brand traits and show how different they were from the competition.”

Lauren Moreno of Team 624 Communications.

4. Not Engaging Followers and Building Community

“Social media is a great customer service tool and it’s important to answer questions promptly and respond to people’s comments. Beyond that, social media is also about being part of the conversation. When brands come to us and want to increase their Instagram following, posting pretty pictures and having a consistent voice isn’t enough: They need to interact with followers and other influencers. Otherwise, they won’t see the results they want. You have to be aware of the conversations your customers care about, then find a way to drive that conversation and be a part of it.”

3. Obsessing Over Going Viral

“Some clients are obsessed with the idea of things going viral, but things don’t just go viral. There’s a lot of planning and strategy, and most often a lot of money put behind it; it doesn’t just happen on its own. Distribution strategy is just as important as the content itself, and you need to look to paid social to get that content to the people who care about it.”

2. Posting Identical Content Across Platforms

“There’s no reason for your customers to follow you on Instagram if you’re posting the exact same content on Facebook. We work with clients to tailor content that fits into the ecosystem of each specific social platform and on strategically choosing which platforms brands use in the first place. We’d rather them do one platform really well than do two or three poorly, and just use the same content across them all.”

1. Not Having a Goal-Based Strategy

“We have a lot of brands that are active on all these channels, and they’re creating great content, but they’re not clear on how the work they’re doing is aligned with their business goals because they’re not taking time to develop a good strategy. There should be a good business reason, for instance, for creating an Instagram profile. And it’s important to plan the content and what you’re actually sharing so you can be consistent with your brand voice and image. What you’re putting into the world needs to have an impact on your business, otherwise you’re wasting your time. Small businesses have limited resources, so they need to make the most of what they have while ultimately providing value to their customers.”

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“Don’t be afraid to take chances,” says Richard Henne, BBA ’15. “You have to try something new even if you fail, because you can learn from failure.”

Henne is the co-founder of Ivory Ella, an apparel company that donates 10% of its net profits to Save the Elephants and other charitable organizations. Along with five friends, Henne launched the company in 2015. Now they have nearly 100 employees, a 40,000 square foot office space, and have donated over $1 million to important causes.

On Saturday, Henne gave the keynote address during Temple University Alumni Weekend’s Lead and Learn Summit. Hosted at the Fox School, the topic was failure, namely how a series of alumni entrepreneurs have been able to spin their failures into victories.

We asked Henne to share with us a few of the mistakes he made along the way to Ivory Ella’s success. From overseas raids on intellectual property pirates to driving a U-Haul truck around the country seeking inventory, here are some of the ways Henne learned from his mistakes.

1. Not Having a Business Plan

“We had no business plan, no customer service strategy, no idea what we were going to do. We took a T-shirt design, put it online, and it went viral. We were chasing our tail the entire time. It was hectic. We didn’t lockdown supplies, printers, employees, anything. We sold out 500 shirts in 15 minutes, so once we hit that preorder button, we were chasing demand for the next year. I wouldn’t recommend doing it that way, but it was a good problem to have. Definitely have a plan in place before you launch.”

2. Not Having a Talent Hiring Plan

“When you’re in a situation like we were, we were desperate for help. We hired friends, family members, and pretty much anyone who would come work for us. We didn’t have a talent scout, we didn’t have people looking for experienced managers, we just brought in anyone we knew who worked hard and was willing. Things worked out, but it wasn’t the most effective approach. You have to be careful when you bring in talent; it shouldn’t just be a shotgun spread kind of approach.”

3. Trusting Everyone

“Not being in the industry for long, and not knowing how big business worked, we went from a company that started in a basement to shipping our millionth order last month. It’s stressful and you’re put in situations you aren’t prepared for. We would have a lot of suppliers tell us, “We’re going to get this to you, it’s going to be perfect, don’t worry about it.” And nine times out of 10, those promises were fake. People will tell you what you want to hear, then won’t deliver. With our company, we started off wanting to do the exact opposite: We set goals, then we try to blow them out of the water, and never come up short. Various suppliers promised us shirts, and that fell through, so I spent the first few months driving around the country in a U-Haul truck buying shirts and driving them back to our factory. It was crazy.”

4. Underestimating Scale

“When we started, we were in a basement. We quickly rented out a storage space, and outgrew that. Then we moved to a section in a strip mall, where we bought two printers, hired a big staff, and a had big front room. That lasted three months, then we rented out the car dealership across the street, which we used for storage. That only lasted three months before we outgrew it. Then we moved to Mystic, Conn., where we shared a building with Aqua Massage International, so on the other side of the building, these guys were making aqua massage beds. From there we finally found a 40,000 square foot warehouse in Westerly, R.I. I can’t imagine we’ll have to grow again, but having a plan in place for growth and space would’ve initially saved us a lot of time and money. Our new location is huge. We only use about half the space right now; the other half is a basketball court and recreation area for our employees. We have a lot of space to grow. And we’ve learned how to manage our inventory, so as long as we stay on top of that, we shouldn’t have to expand again. Who knows, maybe an international office is in the future.”

5. Not Preparing for Intellectual Property Issues

“We have counterfeits all over. We take down about 100 a week. We even conducted a raid on Chinese soil to shut down a factory, but when we got there it was abandoned. It’s been an interesting process, and it wasn’t something I knew about going in. Like with so much else, we’ve had to learn fast. Other manufacturers steal our designs, so if we sell a shirt for $31.99, they sell it for $9.99. We donate 10%, they don’t donate anything. It’s people who want to wear the brand but not pay the cost. Big brands deal with this every day, but not knowing from the beginning this was going to be such a huge epidemic for us, it left us unprepared out of the gate. IP is huge, so think about it and have a plan before you jump in.”

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Greg Silvesti, MBA ’09 | Director of Global Customer Insights, Patient Technologies and Personalized Medicine, Teva Pharmaceutical Industries

Hometown: Philadelphia, PA

On being a Philly lifer: “I am a die hard Eagles fan—season tickets have been in my family since 1962, and the last home game I missed was in 1988. And I spend my summers down the shore in Stone Harbor. We’re total beach people, you can find us there every weekend.”

If you want to develop a great product, you need to know where to start. “You need to have a human-centric approach,” says Greg Silvesti, Director of Global Customer Insights at Teva Pharmaceutical Industries, MBA ’09. “You don’t start with the technology, you start with the individual. Unless you have a firm understanding of the individual and the problem you’re trying to solve, you’ll be lost.”

Silvesti has been at the forefront of the thriving intersection of health, technology, and innovation. He previously worked at Johnson & Johnson and Bristol-Myers Squibb. For the last two years, he has worked with Teva, a multinational pharmaceutical company where one of the main goals is to “go beyond the pill.”

“The pharmaceutical space is being commoditized very quickly,” explains Silvesti, “so we’re going ‘beyond the pill’ and creating new business models, new technologies, and new ways to promote health and wellness without simply relying on a drug. When I joined, I brought in a new process for understanding who our customers are—whether they’re caregivers, patients, family members, or health care providers—and a human-centric attitude to product development.”

One big project Teva has been working on, in collaboration with IBM Watson Health Cloud, is the development of a portfolio of connected inhalers for asthma patients. Connected to GPS and mobile devices, it monitors treatment goals, as well as environmental factors that might impact patients (such as pollen counts and allergy forecasts) to offer predictive health solutions.

Silvesti’s approach and his ability to stay ahead of a rapidly changing industry was honed at the Fox School.

“The best thing at Fox was the final semester capstone and the consulting engagement,” recalls Silvesti. “It gave me a snapshot of moving into a company I wasn’t familiar with, and having to get up to speed and developing a different approach to solve their specific challenges. Coming into a company with 40,000 employees worldwide, I had to teach the organization on the fly how to do things differently. There are a lot of strategies and tactics I’ve taken from Fox and brought to Teva to align the organization and drive innovation. I learned a lot in that class.”

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