The Temple University Small Business Development Center recently welcomed Howard Brown as executive director following a year-long search. We sat down with him to learn more about his background and discuss his goals for the center’s future.
Tell us about your background and experience in economic development.
I started my career on Wall Street at Goldman Sachs. But my heart never left Broad Street. I was born and raised in West Oak Lane and come from a family of entrepreneurs. As I became more successful in corporate finance, I felt a growing desire to give back to the community that made me who I am today. I reoriented my goals, deciding that making a real impact on people was more of my passion than the pursuit of money.
I left Wall Street and started my own business. I come from a family of small business owners, so I have great respect for individuals who turn to entrepreneurship. My grandfather actually ran an economic development nonprofit and later started his own real estate investment business. He was my role model and inspiration. As a kid, I spent significant time with my grandfather and watched him run his real estate business and see the difference he made in the community. I also had the chance to live with him as a student at Temple. In a sense, I wanted to be just like him in many ways and oddly enough, our careers are very similar.
Speaking of college, you got your bachelor’s degree from the Fox School of Business at Temple University in 2005. Then you came back as an adjunct professor in 2022. And now you’re executive director at the SBDC. What is it about Temple that keeps you coming back?
I’m a proud Temple Owl. I’ve learned so much from this university, not just from the incredible professors, but from the students, administrators and life-long relationships I was able to build with my classmates. Temple makes me feel special, the faculty and staff recognized my abilities as a student and helped me to continue that work as a professional. So, I feel a real sense of debt and responsibility to the university.
After I left Wall Street, I found I had a talent and a passion for education. This led me to an opportunity to volunteer for the School District of Philadelphia’s Re-Engagement Center, which provides resources to help get students “back on track” toward high school graduation. It was the first time in my career that I felt the direct impact I was making in the lives of people. Eventually, I became a Philadelphia public school teacher wanting to continue that impact, while running a small business part-time.
But I never forgot about Temple. As I began to win awards and recognition for my work in business and education, the opportunity to teach as an adjunct professor came around, and I hopped on it. There’s something really special about being around young people. Their dreams are big and they feel like they can do everything and anything. I love being surrounded by that positive energy.
This university has given me so much—an excellent education, the opportunity to teach the new generation of Owls, plus I was lucky enough to meet my beautiful and brilliant wife here! I want to do everything I can to help continue the university’s legacy as an institution devoted to high-quality education and community outreach. And I feel like the SBDC is the perfect place to do that.
Why the SBDC?
I’m excited to lead the Temple University Small Business Development Center. This is more than just a job to me. It’s an opportunity to create a real impact for entrepreneurs, especially those who’ve traditionally been underserved. The organization is at the forefront of economic development in Philadelphia, and I want to contribute to the great work the center is doing and lead the needed work to make us even better.
I bring a unique perspective and successful track record across operations and business that we can utilize to improve services for our clients and strengthen partnerships. I’ve been on both sides of the fence, both as a small business owner and as a banker. I know how challenging it can be to access capital as an entrepreneur, but I also know exactly what teams need to function more effectively. This will allow us to better prepare our clients to grow, scale and receive best-in-class services from our team.
Working as the executive director is a chance to lead a team that is clearly dedicated to the SBDC mission. In my short time here, I can already see the commitment our employees bring to serving this community. They have specialized skills and exciting ideas that I’m looking forward to supporting.
What can we expect from you and the SBDC in the coming months?
The center is already doing impressive things in the Greater Philadelphia region. But I want to make us even more accessible. SBDCs across the country are often called the “best-kept secret,” but we shouldn’t be a secret. Every small business owner throughout our footprint should know who we are and see us as the best resource to turn their business ideas into a reality. It is my hope that this will be the last year anyone calls us the “best-kept secret.”
As an ex-Wall Street guy, I plan to leverage my relationships to strengthen our bank partnerships. We can’t provide our services without funding, so it’s critical to establish long-term relationships with banks, which will allow us to invest in high-quality programming that we can offer for years to come.
Lastly, you can look forward to new programs coming out. I’m taking a deep dive into the variety of small businesses we serve, making data-driven decisions on the programs we’ll offer, the technical assistance we’ll provide and the ways we’ll reach out to entrepreneurs who would benefit from our help.
It’s been a great conversation. Is there anything else you’d like to add that we haven't discussed yet?
My top priority as executive director is to create even stronger relationships throughout the region we serve, both with our clients and our partners. The work the center does is good, but I want every entrepreneur, lender and nonprofit organization to know about what we’re doing. We are the go-to resource for small businesses in this community, and I want to make sure everyone knows that.