Ben Stucker has always had a thirst for entrepreneurship. Back in the late 1990s, as an undergraduate college student in Vermont, he started two companies, including a taxi service that he likes to call “the original Uber.”
Ellen Weber, right, Executive Director of Temple’s Innovation and Entrepreneurship Institute, awards Ben Stucker, MBA ‘13, the grand prize of the 2015 Be Your Own Boss Bowl.
But after more than a decade of experience in the business world, he said he felt like he was “missing something” and enrolled in the Fox School of Business’ prestigious Part-Time MBA program. That decision turned into a great launching pad for Stucker, who began his mortgage-lending startup, Rates For Us, after winning last year’s Be Your Own Boss Bowl®, a lucrative business plan competition put on annually by Temple University’s Innovation & Entrepreneurship Institute.
With the win, Stucker earned the $40,000 grand prize and additional cash prizes as the winner of the competition’s Upper Track, and, perhaps more importantly, was offered the necessary legal, marketing, and web services to turn his business plan into a full-fledged company.
“It was one of the most exciting moments I’ve ever experienced,” said Stucker, a 2013 Fox grad. “When you’re starting a business, you always look for validation. … That enabled us to launch the company. We would have done it otherwise, but it wouldn’t have gone from 0 to 60 as fast as it did.”
For Ellen Weber, the Executive Director of the Innovation & Entrepreneurship Institute (IEI), opening the Be Your Own Boss Bowl (BYOBB) to Temple graduates like Stucker and anyone else with an affiliation to the university is what sets the competition apart from others around the country and, she noted, is “one of the great ways we can give back to our alumni.” But while it’s rewarding to see those alumni move on to launch their companies — often because of the mentorship opportunities that the BYOBB provides — most of IEI’s mission is rooted in helping current students value entrepreneurship and, as Temple University President Dr. Neil D. Theobald stated, “learn to adapt to constant change and find success in fields that have not yet been invented.”
On top of running annual business plan competitions like the BYOBB and the Innovative Idea Competition, IEI provides internship opportunities, business-planning workshops, seminars, mentoring, and additional resources for students across all of Temple’s 17 schools and colleges. These initiatives have been going strong for many years but gained momentum recently following President Theobald’s 2013 commitment to “entrepreneurship across disciplines” as a way to power the university’s future.
“The goal is for everyone to develop an entrepreneurial mindset,” Weber said. “This is reflected in all of our programs.”
In November, Temple became one of only five colleges or universities nationally to place both its undergraduate and graduate Entrepreneurship in The Princeton Review’s top-10 rankings. The programs, which are housed at Fox, earned Nos. 8 and 10 rankings, respectively.
Weber admitted that thinking about starting a business while in college or in graduate school can be difficult. But, she added, “for the students who really want to do this, the fact that we support them is really very meaningful.” One example is Justin Rosenberg, MBA ’09, the founder of the fast-growing restaurant chain honeygrow, and who Weber said was “supported by IEI and given interns to work with” while developing his business plan as an MBA student at Fox.
Weber’s been equally excited by some of the business ideas that other students have developed, especially those who follow the social impact track that is popular among young entrepreneurs today, and especially at Temple, where Lindsey Massimiani, the IEI’s Director of Strategic Marketing Initiatives, said that kind of thinking is “infused in the culture” of the university, in part, because of its diverse and self-motivated student body.
Recently, during a class Weber was teaching, three students delivered a presentation about bringing affordable solar heating to an African village from which one was a native, telling Weber they specifically enrolled at the Fox School to learn how to have an impact on their community. “That was a ‘Wow’ moment for me,” Weber said.
“With all the resources that universities offer,” she added, “I firmly believe that there is no better time to work on a startup or to test your idea than while you’re in college.” And the Fox School provides the platform to do so.
FOSTERING ENTREPRENEURSHIP AT FOX
Entrepreneurship is a pillar at the Fox School of Business and Temple University, where students are given the resources to develop business plans and provided a platform upon which to launch new ventures, all while completing their respective degree programs. Alumni can get involved with students, too, by providing leadership, sharing knowledge, and helping to launch businesses.
- Mentoring student entrepreneurs
- Judging business competitions
- Hiring students as interns
- Sharing your story at entrepreneurship events
- Investing in student-led ventures
- Sponsoring prizes
Alumni can remain active with IEI to achieve their own
- Attending programs, events, and workshops
- Receiving mentorship and advising
- Entering business plan competitions
- Enrolling in the Master of Science in Innovation Management and Entrepreneurship program
- Enrolling in certificate programs, offered in Innovation Strategy, Innovation & Technology Commercialization, and Healthcare Innovation Management
- Taking individual graduate courses