At the Social Entrepreneurship Summit, profits and people go hand in hand.
The third annual summit, hosted by the Innovation and Entrepreneurship Institute (IEI) at the Fox School of Business, is focused on supporting entrepreneurship initiatives that make a positive impact on both Temple University and the Philadelphia region. The summit gives students a space to present new innovative ideas for cash prizes and to network with faculty, staff and professionals in the business community.
On Nov. 20, several contestants with their own social entrepreneurship projects went head to head in a competition, pitching their ideas to a panel of judges. Six graduate and seven undergraduate finalists from across the university demonstrated how their ideas could change the world—and make money.
“There have been a couple of companies that started here and went on to get funding. It’s really incredible; this is a great place for startups,” says Steven Reichert, a junior entrepreneurship student attending the event for the second year in a row.
Natasha Graves, MBA ’18, won this year’s Grand Prize with her idea “VacayAbility.” She describes it as “a user-generated review site where people with disabilities can review places like accommodations and hospitality-based businesses like hotels and restaurants based on accessibility and mobility.”
“I travel a lot and I have a disability. I have chronic illnesses and every time I travel it’s hard to find places that are accessible,” Graves explains. “Recently, I was going to Scottsdale, Ariz. When you google top ten things to do there, it’s [mostly] hiking, and obviously, I can’t hike. So I wanted to make a platform to find things for people even if they have various disabilities.”
Graves also came in second place in the upper track of this year’s Innovative Idea Competition. Her focus on inclusivity in innovation is an excellent example of the Fox School’s commitment to foster an inclusive community, as one of the four main pillars in the school’s Strategic Plan 2025.
This year, Erik Oberholtzer, a Temple alumnus and co-founder of the company Tender Greens, came to advise the young entrepreneurship students as the keynote speaker.
Oberholtzer’s mission in Tender Greens is to provide broad access to good food, specifically to those in low-income communities. After working as a chef and obtaining his culinary degree from Johnson and Wales University, his passion for the culinary arts is what drew him to launch the company.
His advice? “Start with an inner passion and calling. Then, connect that to something in the world that needs your passion,” Oberholtzer says. “If you build skills, tools and techniques around that passion, then you can find products and services that create positive outcomes.” He goes on to say, “When you innovate a solution to a problem that nobody else is solving, you can monetize. You can add value and make money. In this case, money sponsors good deeds. Money scales positive impact.”
Graves and all the students in this year’s Social Entrepreneurship Summit are an inspiration for the future of double- or triple-bottom-line companies. By competing, they are innovating a better world.
Learn more about the Innovation and Entrepreneurship Institute.
Student pitch their ideas LIVE! at the 22nd Annual Innovative Idea Competition
It was standing room only in the 1810 Accelerator as the 2019 Idea Competition finalists prepared to pitch their ideas to a live audience and judging panel Thursday evening. Finalists, made up of undergraduates, graduate students, and alumni, and representing five schools at Temple (The College of Engineering, The College of Liberal Arts, The College of Public Heath, The College of Science and Technology, and The Fox School of Business), had three minutes to make their pitch and two minutes to respond to questions from the competition’s expert judging panel. In the end, six of the twelve finalist ideas came away with a piece of the $7500 prize package, and CLA junior Zimri Hinshaw was awarded the $2500 grand prize for his idea to launch a vegan leather apparel company.
2019 Innovative Idea Competition Winners
GRAND PRIZE WINNER!
The Vegan Leather Co.
Zimri Hinshaw, College of Liberal Arts ‘20
Upper Track Winners
Nikita Patel, Fox School of Business ‘20
Natasha Graves, Fox School of Business ‘18
Undergraduate Track Winners
Elliott Fix, College of Engineering ‘20
Adam Gasiewski, College of Science & Technology ‘21
2019 Global Innovation Winner
Gabriel Marte, College of Public Health ‘19
People’s Choice Winners
Kavya Sreeram, College of Engineering ’20
Adam Gasiewski, College of Science & Technology ’21
What do you want?
That’s the question Lisa Wang, USA Hall of Fame gymnast and co-founder and CEO of SheWorx, asked the crowd at the 20th Annual League for Entrepreneurial Women’s Conference at the Liacouras Center. As the keynote speaker, Wang challenged attendees to shift their personal goals from perfectionism to “enoughness.”
“There is a significant difference between trying to make myself proud, versus simply being proud of myself,” says Wang. A self-proclaimed overachiever for most of her young adult life, Wang shifted her perspective after an unsuccessful attempt at qualifying for the 2008 Beijing Olympic Games. It was then that she realized that nothing is ever “enough” in the pursuit of perfection.
After a return to intensive training and victory in the form of a USA Hall of Fame induction, Wang left the world of gymnastics and founded SheWorx, which aims to close the funding gap for women through collaboration and support. Through her experience, she learned what she believes are the three traits of successful leaders.
- Self-awareness – the ability to recognize within yourself the fears and desires that are motivating you.
- Anti-fragility – the ability to grow stronger from the things that hurt you.
- Abundance – the ability to trust that what you know deep down is right.
Wang ended her address with a piece of advice: “Trust what you want, trust in your abilities to make it happen and trust that that it is enough.”
The conference also included Temple Talks featuring 10-minute talks from successful entrepreneurs and a Q&A moderated by Sheila Hess, BBA ’91, Philadelphia City Representative. Avi Loren Fox, CLA ’10, of Wild Mantle, Charisse McGill, STHM ’03, of Lokal Artisan Foods, LLC and Adriana Vazquez of Lilu presented their business concepts to the crowd and fielded questions on their entrepreneurial journeys thus far.
The talks were followed by a conversation with Shirley Moy, executive director of Temple University Lenfest North Philadelphia Workforce Initiative, who discussed the state of the organization’s efforts to career-building resources to residents of North Philadelphia.
The “Power Pitches” portion of the day brought back competitors from the Innovation and Entrepreneurship Institute’s 2019 Be Your Own Boss Bowl®, including Olaition Awomolo of BuildLab, Shari Smith-Jackson of Pay it Forward Live, and Elina Khutoryansky of Haelex, to give three-minute pitches on their early-stage ventures.
The event concluded with a Hall of Fame induction ceremony to “recognize alumnae who have demonstrated entrepreneurial spirit and made outstanding achievements as innovators, entrepreneurs and leaders.” Samantha Berger, Aisha Chaudry, DPM and Donna Lynne Skerrett are this year’s inductees.
The League for Entrepreneurial Women, 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 Betsy Barber, professor and executive director of Business Development and Partnerships 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 Executive Director Ellen Weber, co-hosts the event.
It was Philadelphia that Ben Franklin called home when he tied a key to a kite, flew it during a storm, got struck by lighting and discovered the harnessing power of electricity. Since then, the City of Philadelphia has not only been known as the birthplace of our country but a haven for thinkers, innovators and misfits looking to create the next big thing. Commonly known as the City of Brotherly Love, it was here that Todd Carmichael, founder and CEO of La Colombe Coffee, felt he could live up to his full potential.
Last Friday morning, Todd joined the Innovation & Entrepreneurship Institute’s Executive Director, Ellen Weber, for a sit down conversation about what it takes to be an innovator, changes in the coffee industry, and the core values he championed when starting La Colombe Coffee. Todd began by explaining how he views innovators, and his belief that “innovation favors the restless and the unhappy.”
When Todd moved to Philadelphia in the 1980’s, he was at the bottom and so was the city. “Everything starts with an urge, and if you’re going to get on the elevator it might as well be at ground zero,” explained Carmichael. He moved into a cheap apartment in Rittenhouse Square, and opened his first La Colombe cafe. When he began, all that he knew was that he wanted to be what his grandfather always taught him to be—a decent person. He wanted to create a decent company.
To his surprise, the first several months were spent explaining to customers—used to drinking regular hot coffee—about lattes, cappuccinos, and the many variations of coffee that can make it such a treat. The La Colombe brand began to grow into the industry staple it is today, and Carmichael noted that its always been clear to him that innovation played a role in continual market shifts—even if they weren’t always thought of as “innovations.” The biggest of them all? What Carmichael referred to as the “ice age” of coffee—the beginning of drinking your coffee cold, now a societal norm.
In realizing the importance of innovation in the continued success of any large company, Carmichael makes it a priority in La Colombe’s overall business strategy. “In any company, innovators have to be in close proximity to the decision makers,” Carmichael emphasized. He meets with his innovation team twice a week, for at least four hours each time. “If you lessen the importance of the innovation team, they become cost savers, less like dreamers, and your company will get left behind.”
The Innovation Leader Speaker Series is an on-going series that features breakthrough leaders in innovation from a variety of industries from food and beverage to the medical industry. For more information on additional upcoming events from the Innovation and Entrepreneurship Institute visit iei.temple.edu or email us at email@example.com.
The Innovation & Entrepreneurship Institute (IEI) was excited to welcome innovating alumnus, David Paul, back to campus last week to be the latest speaker to be featured in the Innovation Leader Speaker Series. Paul, founder and executive chairman at Globus Medical, stopped by for an intimate conversation about his journey from engineer to entrepreneur to CEO of the now publicly traded Globus Medical Inc.
At Globus, Paul perfected the art of teasing out true problems that doctors were experiencing, which allowed him to design new and superior solutions. When companies fail to identify innovations, Paul said, it’s almost always a failure of leadership.
Paul himself almost failed to invest in robotics despite the recommendations of his team but was enlightened by an experience with his teenage son. Paul spoke about how finding a higher purpose, serving the patients and the healthcare providers who treat them, enabled him to persevere even when facing barriers, such as being sued by his former employer. He described how the key to his success was developing a better, more efficient process for engineering new medical products. This enlightened discovery has allowed Globus to acquire robotics companies and start bringing Paul’s vision for robotics and the future of surgery to fruition.
When the time came to go public in 2012, Paul insisted on maintaining a controlling share of the company. When his investment banker objected, he made them study the long-term profitability of public companies with founder control. Turns out, they discovered that those companies, who founder controlled companies, did significantly better over time.
In 2017, Paul stepped down as CEO but maintains an active role in the company as executive chairman of the board. Paul holds a M.S. in Computer Integrated Mechanical Engineering Systems from Temple University. Paul was interviewed by Dr. Charles Dhanaraj, the H.F. “Gerry” Lenfest Professor of Strategy, and Founding Executive Director of Fox’s Center for Translational Research in Business.
Takeaways from our attendees:
“IEI’s Dealing with Disruption event with Globus Medical’s Executive Chairman David Paul was excellent. How often do you get the opportunity to meet with somebody who built a billion dollar company from scratch and ask them questions about their entrepreneurial journey? I even had the chance to chat with Mr. Paul during the networking part of the event, which was really terrific.”
“It was interesting to learn about his view on the healthcare industry in the U.S. He pointed out that the operations and marketing teams are important when you launch a venture, as important as the technology and management teams.”
B. PHL—Philadelphia’s first citywide innovation festival—will take place from October 15th-17th, aiming to build the city’s reputation as an innovation hub and highlight entrepreneurial organizations ranging from universities to Fortune 500 companies to individual entrepreneurs. Spearheaded by several of the city’s leading corporate innovators, including Independence Blue Cross, Comcast, and Visit Philadelphia, B.PHL will offer 150+ events featuring hundreds of speakers across three days—all intended to inspire festival attendees and create connections that will move Philadelphia’s innovation efforts forward in big ways.
Temple University will serve as an official location for the festival, hosting nine unique events across campus in partnership with the Innovation & Entrepreneurship Institute, the Temple University Office of Research, several University schools and colleges (including the College of Liberal Arts, College of Science and Technology, College of Engineering, Fox School of Business, and Lewis Katz School of Medicine), and the brand new Charles Library. The University’s B.PHL efforts are being lead by IEI Executive Director, Ellen Weber, and Temple University Entrepreneurship Academy Director, Alan Kerzner.
“Temple University has always made entrepreneurship and innovation central to its mission,” shares Kerzner. “The school was founded by an entrepreneur. Entrepreneurship can be found everywhere on campus, and, along with other Universities in the city, Temple has been an integral part of the innovation community here in Philadelphia.”
Events hosted by Temple University during B.PHL will include the League for Entrepreneurial Women, a conference focused on female leaders in the entrepreneurship space; a speaker session on Empowering Innovation through Intellectual Property Strategy featuring Aon’s Chief Commercial Officer, Brian Hinman; a talk on the Future of Libraries featuring a tour of the new Charles Library; and an Oktoberfest Beer Garden in Temple’s 1810 Accelerator highlighting entrepreneurship in the brewing and craft beer industries.
Stay tuned for more details on Temple University’s B.PHL programming, and visit the B.PHL website to learn more about the festival.
Just over three months after taking the stage as finalists in the 2019 Be Your Own Boss Bowl, twelve Temple University entrepreneurs—along with three others who joined them as members of the Summer 2019 Startup Studio Accelerator cohort—once again got up to pitch their big ideas. This time, they presented an update on their progress since the April 19th Bowl.
“This event is really the culmination of the work that the BYOBB finalists do while they are in the Accelerator program,” says IEI Executive Director Ellen Weber, who launched the inaugural Demo Day event in summer 2018. “It gives them the opportunity to share their progress as well as the milestones they’re still working toward reaching, and to describe the support and funding they need to reach those milestones.” To that end, Demo Day provides a platform for presenting entrepreneurs to make connections with the people who can help them get there.
A crowd of 75 packed into the 1810 Accelerator to see this year’s presenters. Made up of local investors, community professionals, student entrepreneurs, and mentors who have volunteered their time working with University entrepreneurship programs, attendees at the event had the opportunity to visit with each of the presenting companies at an expo prior to the official program. Once the program began, everyone in the crowd shared their feedback in real time via feedback forms completed after each presentation and then shared with the companies. Attendees could include constructive comments, suggestions, or offers of ways they can help.
“Feedback from the business and investor community during Demo Day is an important added value the teams receive for participating,” says Accelerator Director, Greg Fegley. “Several of our teams received key feedback on potential pivots with their business and revenue models, as well as great connections they otherwise would not have made.”
Startup Studio member and co-founder of Switch Stream, Sarah Stanton, agrees. “As young entrepreneurs, it’s important to hear from industry experts and entrepreneurs who’ve been in our shoes before. We’ve learned from other’s mistakes, built relationships, shared knowledge with other cohort members, and refined our pitches for an investor audience.”
The combination of the BStartup Studio member and co-founder of Switch Stream, Sarah Stanton, agrees. “As young entrepreneurs, it’s important to hear from industry experts and entrepreneurs who’ve been in our shoes before. We’ve learned from other’s mistakes, built relationships, shared knowledge with other cohort members, and refined our pitches for an investor audience.”e Your Own Boss Bowl, the Startup Studio Accelerator, and Demo Day—all happening over the course of just a few months—is meant to propel participating companies toward progress, milestones, and success they might otherwise not have the resources to reach.
“Coming off of the BYOBB win, I was overwhelmed with what felt like a daunting feeling of ‘where do we go from here?’” shares Izzy Jackson of Dwell City, LLC. “Startup Studio gave my co-founder and me tangible next steps that helped us progress in measurable ways. I loved the fact that we were encouraged to keep a journal during the nine weeks we were in the program. It helped us track the progress we were making and our thoughts along the way. Plus Greg and Ellen kept us informed of ways that we can leverage resources within the city to move forward.”
Demo Day was one of those ways. And, not unimportantly, it was a way for this group of entrepreneurs to celebrate their completion of the program, a success in itself.
“Demo Day was so much fun,” shares Rachel Cox, founder of Airapy. “It was the biggest crowd I have ever presented to but I wasn’t nervous. The audience was very positive. We got connections to a few potential customers and a local investor that wants to learn more about us. It was very productive.”
Thanks to recently expanded resources and programs for entrepreneurs at Temple University, Demo Day is not the end of the support these entrepreneurs will receive. This past spring, the 1810 Accelerator was launched, and the space includes co-working areas, a creativity lab, a collaboration lab, storage lockers, and conference rooms that can be used by members and alumni. Greg Fegley remains on board full-time and will spearhead the growth of current programs and the creation of new ones to continue supporting entrepreneurs and helping them launch their companies.
“With Greg on Board, teams can stop in at any time to ask questions, share progress, and get advice and guidance,” shares Ellen Weber. “Greg’s being here provides important continuity throughout the program.”
“With the new 1810 Accelerator we now have the space to build our entrepreneurial community within Temple and to leverage the Philly entrepreneurial ecosystem as well,” says Greg. “It also allows us to scale and offer a broader range of programs to shepherd our entrepreneurs through the process from inspiration to fund and launch. We’re excited about these new opportunities and to see our entrepreneurs succeed as a result.”
Want to learn more about the 1810 Accelerator? Email firstname.lastname@example.org.
Last week, the IEI partnered with Vanguard’s Innovation Studio for the second installment in the Innovation Leaders Speaker Series, a program launched this past spring to highlight best-practices for innovation in corporate settings. The event featured Lisha Davis, Head of the Innovation Studio, who sat down with Professor Robert McNamee to discuss how the Studio operates alongside the larger Vanguard organization and best practices for accelerating innovation at the enterprise level.
The Studio itself is located on Chestnut Street in downtown Philadelphia, about 30 miles from Vanguard’s main headquarters in Malvern, PA. It features rows of open work stations, collaboration rooms, and a central space with colorful soft seating that Operations Manager, Colleen Evans, said is fondly called “the living room.” A nearly floor-to-ceiling blackboard highlights progress of the Studio’s donations towards Vanguard’s annual canned-goods drive, inspirational sayings, and a calendar listing national days of designation (National Smile Day, National Wine Day, National Bike to Work Day). It’s a fun, laid-back, high-energy space—not exactly what comes to mind when you think of an industry-leading investment-management firm. But the location of the Studio was intentional—it sits in the center of Philly’s entrepreneurial ecosystem of universities, startups, accelerators, and investors—and its funky design fosters the creativity needed to continually uncover new opportunities and solutions that move the company forward.
Despite geographic distance and a diversion from the traditional corporate environment, the Studio is every bit a part of Vanguard’s overarching mission. Innovation has long been a focus for Vanguard, which disrupted investment management as a startup many years ago. “I have been involved in department level innovation work for years,” said Davis, who was with Vanguard for several years before the Studio launched in 2017, “and innovation was always happening in pockets of the organization.”
Now the Studio offers a centralized place for this innovation to live, and their reasoning behind its launch—to explore the unknown, uncover opportunities to make strategic bets, launch new ventures, explore growth paths, and catalyze a movement at Vanguard—is brought to life by the 40-person, multidisciplinary team lead by Davis.
The Studio takes an exploratory approach to finding opportunities, during which Davis says that “finding the right problem to solve is half the battle.” But once they do, they’re “launching ventures,” Davis emphasizes—ones that can be scaled and rolled out across the enterprise to improve the organization, and, ultimately and most importantly to Vanguard, the client experience.
“Everything we do is for the client,” Davis shared.
Vanguard’s—and Davis’s—dedication to placing innovation at the forefront of the company’s strategic direction made for an ideal Innovation Leaders program partner.
“Showcasing innovation thought-leaders throughout the region is the goal of this series,” Professor McNamee shared. “We want to look at the intersection of innovation and entrepreneurship since that is where next generation innovation programs, structures, and processes are emerging. Vanguard’s Innovation Studio is just a phenomenal example of how large companies can incorporate approaches that originated with entrepreneurial ventures – approaches like lean startup and design thinking – and the impact this can have in an enterprise setting.”
The event was attended by Temple alumni (some now working at Vanguard), students, community professionals, and members of the Innovation Research Interchange—a worldwide network of cross-industry innovation leaders and a sponsoring partner of the Speaker Series.
“Some of the world’s most widely adopted models, such as ‘open innovation,’ ‘front end of innovation,’ and ‘stage-gate,’ were born from the work of Innovation Research Interchange (IRI) members,” said Gary Shiffres, Director of Membership Development & Partnerships for IRI. “IRI values strength in cooperation and partners with other organizations at the forefront of developments in innovation. These partnerships have created a hub for all to convene and contribute in an experimental, noncompetitive, and noncommercial environment. Working with Temple University and Vanguard’s Innovation Studio proved to be an excellent partnership and IRI members are looking forward to more from the Innovation Leaders Speaker Series.”
Davis’s insight and the success of the Vanguard Innovation Studio since its launch exemplify what the Series aims to showcase—that innovation is an imperative for today’s companies and entrepreneurs, and when leveraged in the right ways, can drive organizations—regardless of size or industry—to new levels of customer experience, competitive advantage, workplace culture, and overall success.
“From our earliest conversation I was incredibly impressed with Lisha and this accelerator program,” said Professor McNamee. “It struck me that a successful company like Vanguard could likely rely on incremental innovation for a number of years. However, the fact that they were putting this much focus on experimentation, learning, and disruptive innovation highlights why they are likely to remain leaders into the future.”
Stay tuned for details coming soon on the next installment of the Innovation Leaders series, featuring Todd Carmichael, Founder and CEO of La Colombe, happening Fall 2019.
While the concept has existed since the mid-2000s, gender lens investing is experiencing a popularity boom in recent years. Gender lens investing is the practice of investing for financial return with a dual goal of benefitting women through improving economic opportunities and social well-being.
The reason for the rise of this business trend has been attributed to various factors including #MeToo and the release of data that no longer made the wage gap a subjective topic. For example, a 2017 study by Babson College showed that companies where the CEO is a woman only received 3 percent of the total venture capital dollars from 2011-2013 or $1.5 billion out of the total of $50.8 billion invested.
To dive a little deeper into this topic, Fox Focus met with Ellen Weber, assistant professor in Strategic Management and executive director of Temple University’s Innovation and Entrepreneurship Institute (IEI) and Mid-Atlantic Diamond Ventures. Weber is an expert on topics including funding early-stage companies, entrepreneurial ecosystems and women’s entrepreneurship.
Q: Why do you think gender lens investing has become so important in today’s modern business environment?
A: When entrepreneurs sell their companies, many want to invest in startups in order to give back, and this results in a virtuous cycle. When that pool of exited entrepreneurs mostly consists of white men, males typically receive most of the funding, resulting in gaps in funding for women-funded companies. It is only in recent years that we are seeing successful women founders who have money to invest in startups. These days there are many more women entrepreneurs looking for funding and the number of investors has increased.
Q: What impact has this evolution had in improving and shaping global business practices?
A: There is newfound importance placed on the need to measure behaviors in order to change them. For example, in 2015, venture firm First Round Capital ran the data on its portfolio and found that companies with a female founder performed 63% better than investments with all-male founding teams. The cause for the better performance is attributed to diversity of thought and experience perspective.
Q: What is the impact of gender lens investing on culture?
A: Entrepreneurs are problem solvers. They seek to solve problems that they understand and experience. So, women entrepreneurs are often solving problems that men would not necessarily see.
In the Fox School community alone, there are dozens of examples of this. Emily Kight, the 2018 Social Impact winner of IEI’s Be Your Own Boss Bowl® (BYOBB®), a business plan competition, developed an in-home, non-invasive urine test that screens for ovarian cancer. In 2017, she was awarded second place for bioengineering a leave-in conditioner to lessen the effects of trichotillomania, a hair-pulling disorder. She was also awarded funding by the Lori Hermelin Bush Seed Fund.
The Lori Hermelin Bush Seed Fund supports women in entrepreneurship. The Fund provides seed funding ranging from $500-$10,000. Funds are provided with the purpose of supporting companies in proving their concept, and where the money will have a significant impact on the company’s ability to progress.
Q: How is Temple University helping to support women’s entrepreneurship?
A: One of the most exciting things is the ability to offer students and alumni the opportunity to flex their entrepreneurial muscles in a supportive environment with competitions and calls for submission, like the Lori Bush Seed Fund, the BYOBB®, and the Innovative Idea Competition.
There are also a host of women’s organizations for students to get involved in at the Fox School, including Women’s Work, Women Presidents’ Organization, Women’s Village and the Women’s Entrepreneurial Organization.
On a personal level and in classes like Empowering Women Through Entrepreneurship, I place an emphasis on what makes entrepreneurs more powerful. One of the ways to do that is to bring in entrepreneurs who are representative Temple’s student body. I want to show my female students that if they can see it, they can be it.
If you are a student who would like to get involved in entrepreneurship or women in business, feel free to contact email@example.com.
This story was originally published in Fox Focus, the Fox School’s alumni magazine.
This past semester, the Temple University Innovation & Entrepreneurship Institute moved over to the new 1810 building on Liacouras Walk, and with the move came the official launch of Temple’s very own startup accelerator program—aptly called the 1810 Accelerator. The new Accelerator offers new and expanded resources to Temple University students and alumni from all 17 schools and colleges, whether they’re looking to learn more about entrepreneurial thinking or hit the ground running to launch their own startup business.
At the head of it all? New Accelerator Director Greg Fegley. This isn’t Greg’s first go-around with Temple Entrepreneurship, though. In fact, he’s been working with student entrepreneurs here on campus for years. We caught up with Greg recently to learn more about his new role, why he wanted to come on board full-time, what’s happening at the new Accelerator, and his words of wisdom for aspiring entrepreneurs.
Your new position as Accelerator Director is not your first connection to IEI. Can you talk about how you became involved with the Institute and what your role has been prior to joining the team full-time?
My first interaction with the IEI was as a mentor for the BYOBB competition 10 years ago. I loved the experience and within two years I was managing a major portion of the mentor pool of over 120 senior business executives. Five years ago I saw an opportunity to get even more involved in the IEI’s mission by teaching entrepreneurship courses to undergraduate and graduate students in the Innovation Management & Entrepreneurship master’s program as an adjunct professor.
Well, now that you’re here full time, we want students to get to know you! Tell us three interesting facts about yourself.
That’s a tough one! Let’s see. Well, I’ve driven cross-country three times. I was a runner in high school, and my sprint relay once won gold watches for first place at the Penn Relays. And I got married at 19 to a girl I met in sixth grade (I won’t tell you how many years it’s been now).
Do you consider yourself an entrepreneur? What has been your career journey and how have entrepreneurship and innovation been part of it?
Before coming to Temple I would have said no. But my experiences here have taught me there are many versions of entrepreneurship. During my business career I worked primarily for small to mid-size companies. Early in my career two of those companies were pioneering new-to-the-world technology. However, they were constantly going through change resulting from acquisitions as well as major shifts in the market which forced us to evolve and reinvent ourselves. In retrospect, that environment taught me to be intrapreneur.
I also had the experience of trying my hand at starting a fashion apparel company with a few of my children about 10 years ago. Going from the software and services industry into fashion apparel was a real learning experience but I loved the challenge and found that most of my business and management skills were transferrable. While that business didn’t survive the economic recession, it was a great opportunity for me to work with my children and mentor them in a way that a father typically can’t.
You’ve been a mentor to many Temple entrepreneurs. What has been your favorite part of working with students on their new business ideas?
Without a doubt it is their incredible energy, insights, and perseverance. I think those three qualities can be found in most Temple students. Another aspect is I really enjoy learning from them, too. I think of myself as a life-long learner and working with Temple entrepreneurs allows me to learn about new technology and keeps me in touch with changing trends in multiple industries.
How does the launch of the new Accelerator change IEI’s role in supporting Temple entrepreneurs? In what ways will it work together with IEI’s current programs vs. offer new ones?
Entrepreneurship and innovation truly need a place—somewhere for entrepreneurs to come together and talk about ideas, collaborate on their ventures, and learn from each other. For the first time, Temple entrepreneurs will have this dedicated space in the IEI and the 1810 Accelerator. Any student interested in entrepreneurship can access our space right from Liacouras Walk and all are welcome to come in and explore it. The new Accelerator space has made us more accessible than ever and given us the physical space to provide the level of resources and programs our student entrepreneurs need to move their ventures forward.
Temple entrepreneurs have to apply to membership to the Accelerator. What does it mean to be an official member of the Accelerator? What is the application process?
When you join the 1810 Accelerator you become a ‘member at large’ which allows you access to the space and invitations to a wide range of programming and events we will be offering. Students who are further along in the process and have a verified opportunity and solution identified, or who may be moving toward launching their venture, can apply to become a member of the Startup Studio. The Startup Studio is Temple’s business accelerator cohort program. Only a small group of qualified students/ventures will be chosen to participate in each cohort. In addition to all of the regular accelerator programing, members of the cohort will also participate in specific 8 week program intended to accelerate their ventures and prepare them to launch.
Now that the Accelerator is officially open, what events and programs are coming up that entrepreneurs should look to attend?
One of the biggest problems I hear from students is finding a co-founder or partner with complimentary skills to help them work through the challenging process of creating a business. We will be launching a series of networking events and a platform for students, called Founder Finder, intended to make that process easier. Similarly, entrepreneurs need access to skills they often don’t have but may be available right here on the Temple campus. To help solve that problem we will also be creating a similar workshop series and a platform call Rent-A-Resource making it easier for students who have these needed skills to find opportunities within our entrepreneurial ecosystem at Temple. We’re excited to help students make these connections.
What is your biggest piece of advice for someone thinking about becoming an entrepreneur?
There is a reason that most startups fail. It is hard work and most people don’t have the commitment to follow it through. Or, they don’t want to follow the process that leads to success and they skip important steps. So my advice is do your homework; be proactive and find out what others have done that led to their success, and then apply it to the problem you’re passionate about.
Want to learn more about the Accelerator? Email firstname.lastname@example.org.
“For me, this is not just an opportunity to flesh out a business venture,” says graduating senior Daniel Couser. “I’m working to really find a solution to a problem that I’ve seen so many people struggle with.”
The problem: Anxiety. According to the Anxiety and Depression Association of America, anxiety disorders are the most common mental illness in the U.S., affecting 40 million adults ages 18 and older. Couser, an entrepreneurship and innovation management major, is currently developing a device that has the potential to provide relief for 18.1% of the population every year.
“A friend I grew up with had terrible anxiety. It was then that I realized what an interruption this disorder can be in someone’s life—the physical manifestations, the emotional toll,” he says. “I found that there weren’t really options on the market to combat anxiety other than medication and breathing techniques.”
Couser is the CEO and founder of Kovarvic LLC, a medical technology company that designs tools to manage cognitive disorders like anxiety. The company’s flagship product is CALM, a handheld device that uses a series of vibrations to relieve anxiety. After learning about research that explored the potential of using vibrations, electrotherapy or light can stimulate the brain to thwart fight-or-flight impulses.
Over the course of about 18 months, Couser began working with business advisors, medical technology companies and a consumer device company to discuss the feasibility of his new idea. He also partnered with the Blackstone LaunchPad at Temple, an organization that helps students get their inventions and companies off the ground, and CALM began to take shape.
Then, in 2018, his pitch for CALM won the undergraduate track of the Be Your Own Boss Bowl®, an annual business-plan competition hosted at the Fox School of Business. The process of working with the Innovation and Entrepreneurship Institute (IEI) was tremendously helpful for Couser. He explains that the IEI team helped him deconstruct his ideas to build them up bigger and better, and exposed him to a vast and lively entrepreneurial network.
“On top of the prize money, it added credibility to my company and help to legitimize my idea,” he says.
After graduation, Couser will work on Kovarvic LLC and CALM full-time. The team is in the middle of a clinical trial for CALM, and he is continuing to research and beta test the technical as well as the usability of the product.
“I plan to continue the long, full, rewarding days building out CALM,” says Couser.
A professor from the Tyler School of Art and a Beasley Law School student won the $40,000 grand prize—as well as $20,000 for finishing in first place in their category—at Temple University’s Be Your Own Boss Bowl® (BYOBB®), which is housed in the Fox School of Business.
Olaitan Awomolo, who teaches architecture and design at Tyler, and her partner, Wesley Davis, a law school student and former community projects coordinator from Pittsburgh, developed BuildLAB as a collaboration and project management tool intended to bring together owners, architects, engineers and foremen. BuildLAB is an online platform for designing, task assigning and managing and a real-time cost and build-time dashboard.
According to Awomolo and Davis, projects run millions of dollars over projected costs because of changes and the miscommunication of those changes between design and construction.
“I wrote a dissertation on the topic (of architectural-engineering-construction collaboration) and I worked as an architect,” Awomolo says.
Davis said the pair plan to use the $60,000 in cash and services to help finish a pilot model of their software so they can take the next step toward putting it on the market.
“I was delighted to see the broad range of participants in today’s event. Lots of us sit home and think ‘I could do this’ and that’s how far that it goes,” says Temple University Provost Joanne Epps. “And what IEI does is help make those dreams a reality.”
The competition featured three tracks, with a first-place finisher in each earning a prize worth $20,000 in cash prizes:
- Social Impact Track Winner: Pay It Forward Live. Shari Smith-Jackson
created the social media app for tracking volunteer hours for her teenage son and is hoping that game-ifying her app will spark more volunteerism and keep volunteers active.
- Undergraduate Track Winner: Mouse Motel. Essentially: a better mousetrap. Engineering student and graduating senior Paul Gehret made simple modifications to the common glue trap that he said has three times the effectiveness of its predecessor.
- Upper Track Winner: BuildLAB.
The audience at the live pitch event at Alter Hall on Temple’s main campus were able to vote for their favorite entry. MailRoom, an app designed by Fox School and Clemson University students, won the crowd favorite award. The app matches users with local businesses, such as coffee shops and bookstores, which contract to safely receive packages through delivery services.
The BYOBB® gave away more than $200,000 in prizes and services to help the participants get their businesses up and running.
Keynote speaker Adam Lyons, BBA ’09, received the Self Made and Making Others Award. Lyons started building The Zebra out of a friend’s basement before moving to an incubator and obtaining funding from billionaire investor Mark Cuban. The Zebra is an online insurance marketplace that reports millions in income each year.
Lyons is now engaged in several efforts to support entrepreneurship including Innovation Works, a seeding program that has invested in more than 200 startups, and The Lyons Foundation, which attempts to inspire entrepreneurship in children.
During his keynote address, Lyons spoke about using the naysayers as inspiration. He also said he ran into several chicken-and-egg type problems with The Zebra—companies wanted users signed up, but users were not going to sign up until there were companies involved. Lyons said he just kept scratching at both sides of the problem until it was solved.
He also said there is no skeleton key for the problems entrepreneurs face. Each case, each problem, each startup is different.
“I have started to think that entrepreneurship resembles art more than a science,” Lyons says. “I don’t think entrepreneurship is for everybody, but it is something you can be creative with. If you are passionate about a problem, you can be your own boss. You can make your own destiny.”
Learn more about the Innovation and Entrepreneurship Institute.
Business consultants are problem solvers and, oftentimes, fortune tellers. With the rise of technology in industries such as cybersecurity, healthcare and information technology, consultants have become even more popular because they can help organizations address current and future challenges based on insights, market analysis, resource optimization and more.
The Temple University Management Consulting Program (TUMCP)’s Temple Consulting Club recently partnered with the Innovation and Entrepreneurship Institute (IEI)’s Women’s Entrepreneurial Association to host a panel discussion with the theme of “Women in Consulting.” The four panelists, Daniella Colleta, Gail Blauer, Jessica Podgajny and Katie Stellard have a wealth of knowledge and experience in the field. We caught up with them to ask what they wish they had known in their 20s, and for any advice they have for women in the consulting field.
Never Shy Away From a Challenge
As an advisory manager at Grant Thornton LLP, Daniella Colleta deploys company-wide change management programs to expose employees to new ways of working. Additionally, she leads with a people-first strategy in order to reinforce new behaviors and achieve collaboration across people, processes and technologies.
“It is never too early to begin building a network of peers, advocates and mentors,” Colleta says. “Don’t shy away from those who challenge you. This will pay off dividends and the power of relationships should never be underestimated. Plus, there’s always much to learn and doing it with and around those you enjoy is the real reward.”
Nurture and Grow Natural Strengths
With twelve years of experience, Blauer specializes in business process improvement, business strategy, business transformation and business process outsourcing (BPO). Currently, she serves as the managing director of Deloitte Consulting.
“Be your authentic self. Often we are told that we have a characteristic that other people don’t find appealing, but that is who we are,” she explains. “I have always been assertive and aggressive, and I go after what I want. When I went to graduate school around the age of 22, I tried to suppress my natural assertiveness. As I have grown in my career, I realized it was something to nurture and grow. I advice young women to embrace the natural strengths that other people think are weaknesses.”
Move Feelings of Intimidation to the Backseat
In early 2017, Podgajny founded Blink Consulting, a firm that helps companies with culture, strategic planning, organizational change and design. She is a seasoned leader, passionate about partnering with both established and emerging organizations to catalyze growth. She has a track record of high-energy, high-touch and high-ROI result that have created long-lasting corporate legacies.
“When looking back on what I wish I’d known early in my career, two things come to mind. The first is to bring your whole self to work,” Podgajny says. “Initially, I kept my personal life and work life very separate until I realized that sharing more about myself as a whole person created room for building strong, meaningful working relationships with colleagues and clients. The second is to remember that ‘the boss’ or senior ranking leaders in the company are really just people. They likely don’t have all the answers and have their own strengths and weaknesses. The advice: Move your feelings of intimidation out of the way and have authentic dialogues with all colleagues regardless of their level. It will go a long way!”
Build a Network of Advocates and Colleagues
As a senior manager at Navigate Corporation, Stellard primarily focuses on project management office (PMO); and project and program management. With twenty years of experience in management consulting, she specializes in many sectors of the industry including, pharmaceutical, manufacturing, higher education and real estate.
“My advice to a just-starting-out consultant would be to build a network of peers and mentors that are working in your areas of interest and learn from their experience. They may also serve as your greatest advocates and center you as you navigate your career, even through job changes and challenges along the way.”
If you are interested in pursuing a career in consulting or entrepreneurship, learn more about the Fox Strategic Management department.
“I would not be at the level I am at right now without IEI or the Lori Bush Seed Fund,” says Stephanie Taylor, CEO and founder of TailorFit Laundry LLC. “And I’m really grateful for that.”
Recently, three beneficiaries of the Lori Hermelin Bush Fund, Stephanie Taylor, Emily Kight and Heather Jones sat down together in the new Accelerator at the Innovation & Entrepreneurship Institute (IEI) to discuss their careers, the role that funding played in furthering their business ventures and offered advice to women entrepreneurs.
The Lori Hermelin Bush Seed Fund provides funding to women entrepreneurs ranging from $500-$10,000 based on defined needs. Funds are provided with the purpose of supporting companies in proving their concept, and where the money will have a significant impact on the company’s ability to progress.
The fund, much like its namesake, supports ideas and models that advance women in entrepreneurship. Lori Hermelin Bush, MBA ‘85, is the former CEO of Rodan + Fields. During her time there, she guided the skincare company to an annualized run rate of over $1B in revenue. To learn more about her, click here.
Taylor, a full-time student at the Fox School, taps IEI’s extensive resources to elevate her business, especially while the company is in the startup phase. Since she was awarded funding, TailorFit Laundry, a mobile laundry service based in Philadelphia, has a host of recurring customers and is being discovered on Google by visitors to the area, including a Los Angeles Lakers sports commentator. She has also seized the opportunity to promote her business during events such as Temple Fest.
She advises women entrepreneurs to believe in their ideas and to dive in headfirst. “You have to know your worth in order for others to know your worth,” she says. “And if you overthink it, you’re never going to jump. That’s what you have to do, you have to just jump.”
In 2017, Emily Kight, BSBIOE ‘18, won second place in Be Your Own Boss Bowl®) (BYOBB®), a business plan competition hosted by IEI. She pitched Prohibere, a leave-in conditioner that she created to lessen the effects of trichotillomania (TTM), a hair pulling disorder that Kight has personal experience coping with. With the funding from BYOBB and the Lori Hermelin Bush Fund, she was able to manufacture, create packaging and launch digital marketing for Prohibere, which is now available on Amazon.
“Being selected to compete in BYOBB® and other competitions is nerve-wracking because I had never really talked to anyone about this hair pulling disorder that I have had for 20 years,” says Kight. “I’m not big on public speaking, and this was the last thing I wanted to talk about in front of an audience, but it really helped to get started.”
When getting started with a business, Kight suggests, try to remember that failing isn’t a bad thing. “Failure is how you grow and develop as a businessperson.”
She recently decided to move on to her next challenge and is using her bioengineering education to develop a urine test used to screen for ovarian cancer. Funding from the Innovative Idea Competition, BYOBB® and GoFundMe has helped her partner with an R&D laboratory with the goal of creating an affordable, FDA-approved test prototype.
When Heather Jones came up with the idea for her company Luci, she knew that she
wanted to come back to her alma mater, Temple University, for help from the Fox School. She went to IEI for help building out her concept: a community-driven, multi-benefit skin care line made with vegan, cruelty-free ingredients set at a price that millennial and Get Z consumers could afford.
The line launched in September of 2018 and currently has multiple retail channels. The Luci team is now focused on growing their Glow Getter program across college campuses, where brand ambassadors can earn commission while sharing and promoting Luci products. Luci products are made in Milan, Italy, so the money Jones was awarded from the Lori Hermelin Bush Fund helped her develop packaging, with shipping logistics and supporting marketing efforts.
“The best feedback is when you get it from the customer. As entrepreneurs, we have to pivot very quickly based on what people say. For me, that has been a very important thing to take on,” she says.
Interested in finding out how IEI can help you achieve your entrepreneurial goals? Visit iei.temple.edu.
With $7,000 in prize money on the line, five startups walked away with the cash to grow their ideas at the 21st Annual Innovative Idea Competition in November. The Innovation & Entrepreneurship Institute (IEI) at Temple University’s Fox School of Business hosted the contest, which focused on innovation, entrepreneurship and education.
Big ideas were transformed into reality for the five winning pitches. Grand prize winner PureTrip walked away with $3,500 in winnings for a portable, efficient and lightweight washing/drying machine concept. Created by College of Engineering (ENG) seniors Salmon Alotaibi and Yaqoub Bushehri, the PureTrip team also won the “Crowd Favorite” category.
“The washer can be applied in the real world in multiple ways—military, hikers and even third-world countries can use the equipment for different purposes,” says Bushehri. “We’re creating a prototype with more awareness to attract investors before commercializing and trying to figure out the rights to our idea.”
In the “Innovation” category, Athlete Crush won for a sport-specific, user-generated mobile platform that revolutionizes the way athletes and fans connect. To help athletes build and monetize their brands easily, professor Thilo Kunkel of the School of Sport, Tourism and Hospitality Management (STHM) developed a way to help fans learn more about their favorite athletes, and provides athletes with a platform to promote social good through the medium of sport.
“The idea came while working with professional soccer player Michael Lahoud,” says Joonas Jokinen, Athlete Crush COO. “Michael cares deeply about his homeland of Sierra Leone. He even built a school there. But as a successful athlete, he was having trouble growing his brand. That’s where our idea and inspiration came from.”
Another pitch, Invest Out, founded by Tyrone Glover, FOX ’96, won first-place in the “Upper Track” category. Glover’s company partners home sellers with houses that could potentially sell for more if renovated with capital from interested investors.
“We’re currently beta testing the model with a limited target of area home owners and investors through www.investout.net,” says Glover.
The first-place winner in the “Undergraduate” category was Mouse Motel, a modernized mouse glue trap founded by ENG senior Paul Gehret.
“My dad and I knew how ineffective classic glue traps were and wanted to design a new one that would remedy the (mouse) problem,” says Gehret. “Mouse Motel was our solution. Through many experiments in our basement, we achieved a much higher efficiency than the glue traps that are commercially available.”
Other award-winning ideas included second-place “Upper Track” start-up Miranda, an online legal tech company that provides on-demand, 24/7 remote legal service. Founded by Fox graduate student Nikolas Revmatas, the idea came from Revmatas’ first-hand experience of navigating the U.S. legal system as an international student.
“I’ve had to figure out a fragmented legal system that is often expensive and intimidating,” says Revmatas. “In most cases, I only needed a few minutes of a lawyer’s time. I always wished there was a way to quickly, conveniently and affordably get legal advice, so I decided to create one.”
Founded by Rahul Nimmagadda, FOX ’19, and Jonathan Huynh, FOX ’19, another second-place winner was Mailroom in the “Undergraduate Track”. Mailroom is a digital platform that connects people with trusted small businesses and peers in their community to receive packages.
“We’re looking forward to making a difference in our communities by turning ideas and prototypes into a fully functional Mailroom mobile application that consumers can use,” says Nimmagadda. “We’re hoping that by this time next year, we’ll be making a dent in the package delivery problems that Philadelphians face.”
List of Winners
PureTrip – Salmon Alotaibi, ENG ’19 & Yaqoub Bushehri, ENG ’19
GLOBAL INNOVATION PRIZE
Athlete Crush – Thilo Kunkel, School of Sport, Tourism and Hospitality Management
1ST PLACE – UPPER TRACK
Invest Out – Tyrone Glover, FOX ’96
2ND PLACE – UPPER TRACK
Miranda – Nikolas Revmatas, FOX ’19
1ST PLACE – UNDERGRADUATE TRACK
Mouse Motel – Paul Gehret, ENG ’19
2ND PLACE – UNDERGRADUATE TRACK
Mailroom – Rahul Nimmagadda, FOX ’19 & Jonathan Huynh, FOX ’19
1ST PLACE – CROWD FAVORITE
PureTrip – Salmon Alotaibi, ENG ’19 & Yaqoub Bushehri, ENG ’19
2ND PLACE – CROWD FAVORITE
Mailroom – Rahul Nimmagadda, FOX ’19 & Jonathan Huynh, FOX ’19