The creators of an online financial marketplace aiming to improve the consumer’s buying power in financial transactions won the grand prize at the 17th annual Be Your Own Boss Bowl®, a Temple University-wide business plan competition.
RatesForUs.com, co-founded by CEO and Fox School of Business alumnus Ben Stucker, MBA ’13, and CTO Alec Baker, took home more than $60,000 in cash prizes, in addition to products and professional services, at the April 16 final presentations at the Fox School.
“If I could have burst out of my skin, I would have. This was one of the most rewarding and exciting moments of my life,” said Stucker, a longtime mortgage industry professional.
RatesForUs.com, which registered its website domain only two months prior to the final presentations, hopes to become the top online destination for mortgage shoppers, Stucker said. He and Baker first met in February to lay the foundation for their company and “then we wrote our business plan in three weeks,” Stucker said.
What sets apart RatesForUs from others in the marketplace, Stucker said, is that they have worked closely with consumers to understand and support their needs. From increased consumer privacy to allowing consumers to confidently obtain lower interest rates, Stucker said RatesForUs has taken steps to drastically improve the online shopping experience. With RatesForUs, Stucker said, personal information will only be shared when necessary and agreed to by the consumer, eliminating “the bombardment of calls and potential bias based on race, ethnicity or gender,” he said.
The cash and prizes from Be Your Own Boss Bowl® will support the continued development of the marketplace for RatesForUs, Stucker said.
“Our expenses to date have been minimal,” he said. “That’s intentional. We only take a step if we can measure the results for future decision-making purposes. First, we wanted to be sure consumers would value our service, so we talked to them. Then we took our survey results to the lenders that would be supplying the loans and they were interested. We’re going to continue using this lean methodology and complete the development of our marketplace. We are looking forward to continued interaction with those in our marketplace – lenders, consumers, and professionals.”
The annual Be Your Own Boss Bowl®, the flagship program of Temple’s Innovation and Entrepreneurship Institute (IEI), is one of the most lucrative and comprehensive business plan competitions in the country. This year, 12 business plans representing five of Temple’s 17 schools and colleges were selected as finalists. They competed for more than $160,000 in cash prizes, plus related products, professional services, and incubation space.
The competition features three distinctly different tracks: the Undergraduate Track, open to current Temple undergraduate students; the Upper Track, open to Temple graduate students, alumni, faculty and staff; and the Social Innovation Track.
Winners from each track were:
- Upper Track: RatesForUs.com
- Social Innovation Track: ROAR for Good, LLC, a developer of wearable self-defense tech designed for women. (Yasmine Mustafa, FOX ’06; Anthony Gold; Peter Eisenhower, ENG ‘11; Charlotte Wells, CLA ’15; Hunter Vargas, FOX ’16; and Christina Kazakia)
- Undergraduate Track: Habitat LLC, a platform for students to buy and sell goods within their college communities. (Fox School students Andrew Nakkache, Michael Paskiewicz and Brandon Bahr, and Kathleen Chen)
For the sixth year, the IEI awarded the Chris Pavlides Spirit of Entrepreneurship Award to an undergraduate student who demonstrates a strong passion for entrepreneurship. This year’s recipient was junior entrepreneurship major Vincent Paolizzi.
Temple alumnus Christopher Wink, CLA ’08, received the 2015 Self-Made & Making Others Award. Wink is the co-founder and editor of Technical.ly, a network of local technology news sites and events.
Be Your Own Boss Bowl® participants benefit from coaching, mentoring and networking opportunities with the Philadelphia area’s leading business professionals, including members of GPSEG, the Greater Philadelphia Senior Executive Group. Overall, the competition receives support from 300 executives and entrepreneurs.
–Christopher A. Vito
Be Your Own Boss Bowl® 2015, by the numbers
$200,000 Value of monetary, products, services and mentorship prizes awarded
300 Mentors and preliminary judges
143 Overall participants in BYOBB
64 Senior executive mentors
61 Registered company submissions
32 Participating finalist team members
13 Temple University schools and colleges represented in BYOBB
13 Presentation coaches
12 Finalist teams representing five Temple schools and colleges
6 Finalist judges
Armed with cell phones, students filling seats near the runway snapped photos and admired their peers’ attire. On this day, the first floor of Alter Hall had been transformed into the setting of a chic fashion show.
Helping to define the dos and don’ts of business attire, the Center for Student Professional Development (CSPD) at the Fox School of Business hosted its third annual “Work Your Wardrobe: A Fashion Show For Young Professionals” event April 15 in Alter Hall’s Undergrad Commons.
Two-dozen student-models wore styles appropriate for smart business, business casual and business professional scenarios, with each of the looks originating from one of three sources: their personal closets, local consignment shops, or from CSPD retail industry partners.
“I have to be honest – I never knew the difference between the three styles,” said sophomore Chirag Chandna, a Management Information Systems major who modeled a business-casual look. “Now, I can say that I do.”
Work Your Wardrobe has become a staple for Fox’s CSPD, said co-organizers Holly Pfeifer, Assistant Director of Corporate Relations, and Lindsay Teich, Assistant Director of Career Competencies. Pfeifer and Teich said their interactions with Fox students generated a large volume of questions in regard to the culture of business-appropriate couture, leading to the event’s inception.
“One of the core components of the CSPD model is impression management, which accounts for both the verbal and nonverbal communication vehicles of a student’s professional development,” Pfeifer said. “The show is, and continues to be, a great success among students, faculty, staff and employers because it breaks the stereotypical mold of what resources a business school should provide.”
Work Your Wardrobe is a part of the CSPD’s full-service approach to preparing Fox’s students for the professional world upon graduation, engaging students with resume reviews, interview clinics, internship and job fairs and more.
An interactive, hour-long event, Work Your Wardrobe encourages those in attendance to vote on the origin of each outfit. In between walks down the runway, student-models acted out brief skits centered on educating students on how to properly accessorize or tie a necktie. Student-models also offered tips, like avoiding open-toed shoes and maintaining confidence in their looks.
“Feeling comfortable is important, but looking business-appropriate is just as important,” said senior Kehinde Adewunmi, a Management Information Systems major who modeled a smart-casual look. “I’d say a majority of students, before they work with CSPD, just don’t know the dos and don’ts of what to wear to work.”
“I used to think smart-casual meant a nice T-shirt and a nice pair of jeans,” said junior Ryan Rinaldi, a Finance major who sported smart-casual attire. “Obviously, there’s more to it than that, and that’s what Work Your Wardrobe tries to teach students before they make a regrettable fashion mistake in the workplace.”
Dr. Samuel D. Hodge prides himself in using unconventional methods, like animated, voiced-over videos, to instruct his students.
Recently Hodge, Chair of the Legal Studies department at the Fox School of Business, turned to web-conferencing platform WebEx to bridge the geographic gap between his Business Law students at Temple University and a prominent guest speaker.
CNN Chief Product Officer Alex Wellen virtually addressed Hodge’s students from New York City during a March 31 class session.
As a guest speaker in Hodge’s course, Wellen discussed creative career paths for those with a law degree. Wellen, LAW ’97, served as a teaching assistant under Hodge while pursuing his graduate degree at Temple University’s Beasley School of Law.
“A law degree teaches you how to think outside of the box. Alex is a classic example of that principle,” Hodge said. “I wanted to show students that having a law degree can be a stepping stone for a number of career paths outside of practicing traditional law.”
Before joining CNN, Wellen produced and co-hosted an Emmy Award-winning television series, Cybercrime, which aired on TechTV. Cybercrime was the first investigative TV series devoted to covering high-tech crime. Wellen told students that, in his youth, he was fascinated by the thought of inventing new products. His childhood passion is now a reality, he said. In his current role, Wellen develops new products for CNN’s mobile, web, video, TV, data and emerging platforms and oversees the global business operations for CNN’s digital platforms.
“It’s important to analyze how people are getting news now and how they will retrieve it in the future,” Wellen told Hodge’s class. “It’s my job to figure all of that out and understand how we can make a business out of it and create good journalism.”
CNN is widely regarded as one of the top cable news networks, responsible for delivering breaking news from across the globe. Thusly, students asked Wellen questions relating to the importance of being first to break a story. Social media, Wellen said, has changed the game, in regard to how quickly people expect to receive news.
“It’s more important to be right than be first,” said Wellen. “Social media allows us to connect with people from across the planet and receive news from first hand witnesses. So it’s extremely important to confirm details before we release information, just like in law.”
Wellen challenged Hodge’s students to view a law degree in a creative way. When starting out in the industry, Wellen said he hadn’t considered a career in journalism.
“You never know who you will meet along your professional journey that will help you get in the door,” Wellen said. “I’ve had great champions in my life that have opened my mind up and taught me how to look at my life untraditionally and to always be open to new experiences.”
Somewhat like Hodge’s innovative methods for bringing elite guest speakers to his students in a Philadelphia classroom.
Toward the end of an academic semester, students traditionally prepare to take final exams. However, students enrolled in Dr. Crystal Harold’s course at the Fox School of Business are undertaking projects centered on service and improving relationships in the Philadelphia community.
While offered at Fox, the course, titled The Leadership Experience: Leading Yourself, Leading Change, Leading Communities, is open to all honors students at Temple University.
Harold, an Associate Professor of Human Resource Management at Fox, said she created the human resource honors elective three years ago to help students learn the process of leading by organizing events that benefit the community. The course also focuses on reflection, assessment, and development on the core skill sets required of effective leaders. Throughout the semester, students are asked to identify their strengths and weaknesses as leaders in order to gain insight into their leadership evolution.
“I chose to have students focus their efforts on organizing a charitable or community-focused event for a couple of reasons,” Harold said. “First, the community aspect helps the students develop a greater appreciation for the community in which Temple University operates. Second, there is a growing interest among this generation of students engaging in social responsibility and community activism. This project not only teaches valuable lessons about both leadership and followership, but also appeals to the students’ desires to help.”
The student-led events include an April 17 charity 4-on-4 basketball tournament, to raise money for the Family Memorial Trust Fund of fallen Philadelphia Police Officer Robert Wilson III, who was killed March 5 in the line of duty.
“After hearing of the tragic passing of Officer Wilson, we decided to hold this event in order to provide his family with as much financial support as possible,” said Cameran Alavi, a senior mathematical economics major. “It’s a chance for us to come together and support a worthy cause, as well as honor the life of a great man who was loved by everyone he knew.”
Another group organized a Philly Block Clean-Up for April 18. Kevin Carpenter, an environmental science and biology double-major, said his group decided to focus on an event geared toward the improvement of environmental needs in the surrounding Temple University community.
“Having pride in the neighborhood, even though a lot of students aren’t permanent residents, is extremely important,” he said. “Making an environmental impact, helping the community at large and being able to connect with Philadelphia residents through environmental action is a great feeling.”
One group decided against hosting an event, and instead partnered with the People’s Paper Co-Op and Philadelphia Lawyers for Social Equity (PLSE) over the course of the Spring 2015 semester. People’s Paper Co-Op and PLSE offer free expungement clinics for those in the Philadelphia community who wish to clean up their criminal records and learn viable skills, like public-speaking or how to expand upon their professional networks, to help them re-enter the workforce. After sitting in on the clinics, group members will present their suggested areas of improvement on how to further develop the expungement program to the leadership of both the Co-Op and PLSE.
“One hardship of the criminal justice system is the challenge of re-entry for individuals trying to restart their lives,” said Jacob Himes, a junior double-majoring in Italian and lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender studies. “Our group attends each clinic, volunteers and looks for avenues of improvement in the program.”
Fox School junior Sarika Manavalan’s group assembled an April 19 Bookdrive Benefit Concert, to benefit Treehouse Books. Treehouse Books is a non-profit organization in North Philadelphia that serves youth in the community by giving children the opportunity to enhance their literary skills by focusing on the importance of reading. The entry fee for the event is one children’s book, or a monetary donation in lieu of one.
Manavalan said Harold’s course has provided countless intangible lessons.
“You can learn about leadership skills in the classroom but it’s really when you work hands on with other people that you develop them,” said Manavalan, who is double-majoring in Marketing and Management Information Systems (MIS) at Fox. “Whether or not our events are successful, it’s more about creating your event from scratch and learning how to work with non-profit organizations and finding ways to benefit the community.”
Scheduled Event List
4-on-4 Basketball Tournament (benefitting the Officer Robert Wilson III Family Memorial Trust Fund)
Friday, April 17, 6-9 p.m.
Cost: $20 registration fee per team
Location: Pearson Hall Courts (3rd Floor), Temple University
Contact: Cameran Alavi, firstname.lastname@example.org
Bookdrive Benefit Concert (benefitting Treehouse Books)
Sunday, April 19, 7-8:30 p.m.
Runway event makes its way into Inquirer
In an article highlighting April networking events, the Philadelphia Inquirer included the Center for Student Professional Development’s annual Work Your Wardrobe event, a fashion show with Fox students modeling styles ranging from business casual to business professional.
Innovation isn’t suffering in the Motor City
Despite Detroit’s downtrodden manufacturing reputation, the city is a leader in American innovation, in regard to patent output, according to the research findings of Dr. Ram Mudambi, Professor of Strategic Management at Fox. Mudambi covered this topic and more in a recent radio interview with the Michigan Business Network’s globalEDGE Business Beat show.
An identity crisis for Philly brands?
Will an international audience embrace Philadelphia-area brands like Rita’s Water Ice or Philly Pretzel Factory, should these companies choose to expand? PBJ spoke with Dr. Jay I Sinha, Associate Professor of Marketing and Supply Chain Management at the Fox School, for a closer look at brand identity.
Fox earns reaccreditation from AACSB
An MBA-centric online outlet that reports on graduate business programs in a number of major U.S. cities, Metro MBA Philly repurposed Fox School’s press release regarding the news that it had earned reaccreditation by AACSB International, the hallmark of excellence in business education.
Fox School #1 in the nation for graduate-student entrepreneurial mentorship
Discussed in this issue:
• Entrepreneur magazine ranked the graduate programs at Temple University’s Fox School of Business No. 1 in the nation for entrepreneurial mentorship
• Fox School alums receive $25,000 in seed money from DreamIt Ventures
• Fox alumna, Melissa Alam, named one of Billy Penn’s Top Philly Start-Up Leaders
• 15th Annual League for Entrepreneurial Women’s Conference inspires women
Leading the way
Dr. Crystal Harold’s course “Honors: The Leadership Experience” requires students to organize an event to benefit a nonprofit or charitable cause. One of the groups in this semester’s course has organized an April 17 basketball tournament between Temple Police and Temple students to improve student-police relationships. Additionally, proceeds from the event will support the family of fallen Philadelphia Police Officer Robert Wilson III. CBS 3 spoke with Harold, Associate Professor of Human Resource Management, for a story, and one of her students was featured in a podcast.
A research study co-authored by Fox School Professor of Marketing and Supply Chain Management, Dr. Maureen “Mimi” Morrin, is believed to be the first to show the affects of fragrance on consumers’ feelings and an impact on their purchasing habits. Temple’s daily, university-wide e-newsletter picked up the story on Morrin’s research.
Bridging education and entertainment
Looking to spotlight professors with unique teaching styles, the student newspaper profiled Dr. Samuel D. Hodge, Chair of Fox’s Legal Studies department, who often utilizes animated videos he designs and voices to entertain and educate his students.
Fox prof weighs in on Gov. Wolf’s budget
Dr. TL Hill, Associate Professor of Strategic Management, spoke with Region’s Business, the Philadelphia-based monthly business magazine, for a story on Pennsylvania Gov. Tom Wolf’s budget. Hill makes a case for why Wolf’s budget should include education-fund increases.
40 Under 40
Philadelphia Business Journal’s annual “40 Under 40” list for 2015 includes four Temple alumni and one staff member, profiling those who have reached tremendous milestones early in their careers. Including in PBJ’s list is Tom Kegelman, Director of Marketing at the Fox School.
There’s a crucial strategy in online advertising that could revolutionize the way marketing agencies target online consumers, according to Fox School of Business researcher.
Dr. Xueming Luo studied how the strategy of competitor-poaching in online advertising influences consumer behavior. His most-recent publication on the topic was named Best Track Paper in Social Media & Digital Marketing at the 2015 American Marketing Association Winter Educator Conference Feb. 14 in San Antonio, Texas. It also received the conference’s honorable-mention distinction among all submissions.
Competitor-poaching in online advertising is responsible for why consumers can search the term “iPhone” using Google’s search engine, and corresponding ads for the Samsung Galaxy, Apple’s closest competitor, will appear, said Luo, Professor of Marketing, Strategy, and Management Information Systems. In his research, Luo uncovered that this strategy results in “clicks wasted,” as consumers glance over the competitor’s ads while remaining loyal to their initial preferences.
“It’s a double-edged sword,” Luo said. “You can increase the impression of the competitor’s brand, but you cannot get consumers to purchase the poaching brand.”
This effect is partly seen because online consumers often develop specific brand loyalties by word of mouth or from reviews that sites like Amazon and Google provide, he said. Firms, Luo found, seek to continually build brand equity and increase positive socialization around their products in order to thwart attempts at online poaching.
“Online poaching impresses non-loyal customers, but fails to get more sales conversion from customers who have high loyalty to the brand under attack” Luo said.
Asking a consumer why they want or prefer a certain product or brand, and how price influences their decisions, can help clarify what incentivizes shoppers, Luo said. Marketing agencies should then target their competitor’s keywords with advertisements that include discounts, he suggested, to capture consumer curiosity.
“To switch consumers from a brand, you need a deeper incentive, such as a 30-percent discount,” Luo said. “If you do this the wrong way, you’ll waste your money. That method can only engender clicks, but not sales conversion.”
This research, Luo said, is a part of his greater interest in how online marketing interweaves big-data analytics, mobile strategies, and consumer insights. As founder of the Global Center on Big Data in Mobile Analytics, which is housed at the Fox School, Luo is interested in investigating how big data gleaned from search engines reveal varying patterns in the evolving sphere of online ads and mobile targeting.
“This is a great way to outsmart competitors and connect customers for superior company performance,” Luo said.