A half-dozen students are blurring the line between a place of residence and a place of business.
A pot of coffee is brewing on the stove as the housemates amble through the living room. On this morning, one is eating homemade parfait out of a Tupperware container, while another texts feverishly from the edge of the couch. Two others are gathered near the kitchen table discussing their company, through which their friendship and careers intersect.
In all, six 20-somethings from Temple University inhabit a house near 19th and Diamond streets in North Philadelphia. Five currently live there. The sixth, who used to call the two-story townhouse his home, reports there daily for work.
The housemates refer to the house constantly by its street number. But it could just as well be called the House of Entrepreneurs.
It’s where eight businesses are operated between these six guys – three with Temple degrees, and three more set to graduate within the next two years. A number of those businesses are thriving and profitable. Others are either designated as not-for-profit, or are simply too new to turn a profit – at least for now.
“Money isn’t the priority at the moment,” said Jesse DiLaura, FOX ’16. “We’ve prioritized community, learning, and supporting one another over solidified careers.”
DiLaura would know this better than most. One of the house’s current residents, the rising senior switched majors at the Fox School of Business – from Risk Management, which boasts a 100-percent job-placement rate for its graduating students, to pursue a degree in Entrepreneurship.
While The Princeton Review and Entrepreneur magazine rank Temple’s undergraduate- and graduate-level degree programs in Entrepreneurship among the top-10 nationally, career paths for budding entrepreneurs aren’t so easily defined. That’s why these friends cull from their cumulative expertise to make their dreams more of a reality.
“If we need photography for a website, a social-media campaign, or for Kickstarter, we have somebody for that,” said Justin Swallow, TFMA ‘16. “If we need a videographer, a graphic designer, someone with experience writing business plans or working to secure seed funding, chances are someone in the house has done it already and can help you out.”
DiLaura and Swallow are two of the originals at the house. They moved in more than two years ago with Beau Rosario, TFMA ’14, who with the help of his brother, Clint, as well as Swallow and others operates a successful multimedia business out of the house’s basement. Brandon Study, FOX ’17, Tim Mounsey, FOX ’16, and Sean Hawkins, SMC ’18, live in the house, too.
The friends are a melting pot of skills, opinions, and experiences.
Over the summer, Study and DiLaura attended a Philadelphia-based pitch competition, where DiLaura won $500 and received personal congratulations from FUBU clothing-line founder Daymond John, one of the billionaire investors who appears on “Shark Tank.” At the event, John later fielded Twitter questions, one of which came from Study. He tossed a shirt from his fledgling clothing line onto the stage, where John picked it up and gave his approval for the design and concept behind Study’s business.
Those moments are not uncommon for these housemates.
From time to time, the guys within the house will develop business-plan models, then gather his housemates and curate his idea among them as though he’s pitching to John and the rest of the “Shark Tank” panel. More often than not, however, the friends discuss their separate ventures over informal meetings – in meet-ups over lunch, while squeezing in a video-game break to cut the tension from work, or on after-hours rides through the neighborhood on their longboards.
And friendship, they all agreed, does not get in the way of candor.
“We all accept and seek each other out for feedback,” Hawkins said. “We are all radically different people and we embrace that any comment is coming from a place of positivity. That’s why, while living here, it’s very easy to be inspired by one another.”
A stroll through the home, at 19th and Diamond, offers a glimpse of their collective creativity. The living-room walls are littered with samples of their work: Photography portraits of their friends, cropped tightly to show only their faces. Posterboards of past business-plan events that they have either hatched, competed in, or won. Discarded Philadelphia streetsigns rigged with lightbulbs, and converted into impromptu lighting fixtures.
Creativity, like entrepreneurship, is a thread that binds these students.
“The collective drive of this house and the diversity of projects being undertaken at any given time provides us with a depth of insight and experience that I think we all apply in our projects and businesses,” said Mounsey. “The collaboration that goes on here not only fuels professional success, but it fuels our personal success.”
“It’s safe to assume we talk a lot about our work, but we talk about our lives, too,” added Study. “It’s not just about forwarding our businesses; it’s about forwarding our friendships.”
Ellen Weber can attest to the value afforded by entrepreneurial collaborative space. As the executive director of Temple’s Innovation and Entrepreneurship Institute (IEI), Weber has spent most of her professional career working in the areas of entrepreneurship, investing, start-ups, and consulting.
With these students, Weber sees “a group that gives as much as it takes.”
“When entrepreneurs occupy collaborative, co-working spaces, they push one another, share ideas, and make one another better,” Weber said. “You can see the energy magnifying within entrepreneurs when they have mentorship opportunities like this. And for these specific students, they not only eat, sleep, and breathe entrepreneurship; they’re living it, too. It’s 24/7 for them, and it’s pretty remarkable.”
Like their academic majors, their business ventures are just as unique.
DiLaura, who will graduate from Fox in January, founded RepairU. The company offers iPhone and iPad repair services for college students by college students at discounted rates. He hopes to operate it out of a food cart near Temple’s Bell Tower by the start of the academic year.
Rosario, who in 2014 graduated from Temple’s School of Theater, Film and Media Arts (TFMA), got his start as a provider of wedding photography, videography, and disc jockey services. He turned Beau Rosario Photography into Philamedia, a commercial media provider. His brother Clint, who lived at the house during his breaks from Eastern University, is the company’s sound engineer. And Swallow, who graduated from TFMA in May, is Philamedia’s commercial videographer.
“We’ve grown from getting free furniture for doing a photoshoot at Kardon/Atlantic (Apartments at Temple) to now generating ads for SEPTA Silverliner, the Mann, the Philly Pops, and many more,” said Beau.
While Swallow is employed by Philamedia, he supports his housemates’ ventures. A graphic designer, Swallow has provided input and collateral for “pretty much every business that’s ever come through here,” DiLaura said.
Study, who will graduate in May, twice considered art school before pursuing an Entrepreneurship degree from the Fox School. He started a non-profit in 2015 called Into The Nations, to help artisans in developing countries develop sustainable business models. And in July, he launched a Kickstarter campaign for Understand Your Brand, an apparel company that utilizes all-natural dyes and an ethically responsible, no-waste factory in Cambodia that pays its employees above the living wage.
“We were learning about the state of the apparel business in this class at Fox, and I wondered, ‘Why is no one else panicking about this like me?’” Study said. “It started as a social-awareness campaign for the class, and it’s become so much more.”
Mounsey, who earned his Entrepreneurship degree in 2016, is a business development analyst by day with Philadelphia-based private equity firm, LLR Partners. He’s also founded a Temple-wide innovation festival, What IF, which held its inaugural events in April. Back in 2015, Mounsey also paired with Study to develop Cycle Clothing Company, a zero-waste lifestyle apparel company which became the foundation for Study’s Understand Your Brand Kickstarter. Their venture placed third in the social-impact track of Temple’s Be Your Own Boss Bowl, which is considered one of the nation’s most-lucrative college business plan competitions, according to Entrepreneur magazine.
“The success and marketing effort of What IF wouldn’t have been possible without the collaboration of our house,” Mounsey said. “Every design, marketing flyer, and video script was created in collaboration of at least two to three house members. It was the perfect opportunity for all of us to combine our expertise.”
Lastly, there’s Hawkins, who will graduate in 2018 with a Communication Studies degree from the School of Media and Communication. He’s presently in the pilot phase of launching a branding company, Big Boi Studios, and a related YouTube channel.
Six friends. Eight businesses. One house.
“If you would have asked me years ago about my college experience, I never could have envisioned it would look anything like this,” Rosario said, “and I hope I’m still doing something like this, and with these same guys, in 10 or 20 years.”