IEI executive director Ellen Weber addresses Philadelphia area high school students at the Youth Entrepreneurship Conference.
IEI executive director Ellen Weber addresses Philadelphia area high school students at the Youth Entrepreneurship Conference.

It’s never too early to embrace entrepreneurship.

That’s what nearly 100 Philadelphia high school students learned March 12, in gathering at Temple University’s Fox School of Business for the fourth-annual Youth Entrepreneurship Conference.

The collaboration between Temple University’s Innovation and Entrepreneurship Institute (IEI) and Network for Teaching Entrepreneurs (NFTE) made for a successful event, providing NFTE students the opportunity to meet business educators, leaders and mentors who ignited their entrepreneurial mindset. Participating Philadelphia high schools in the one-day conference included Boys Latin Charter School, Esperanza Charter School, Franklin Learning Center and Lincoln High School.

Private sector leader Jeff Brown, President and CEO of Brown’s Super Stores, served as the event’s keynote speaker. Brown, who also operates 11 Philadelphia-area ShopRite supermarkets, shared how he has utilized entrepreneurial thinking to operate supermarkets successfully. Hiring local residents, incorporating healthcare services and offering financial services not previously available, he said, have impacted the surrounding neighborhoods.

Staff and faculty from the NFTE and Temple’s Innovation and Entrepreneurship Institute recently held their fourth-annual Youth Entrepreneurship Conference.
Staff and faculty from the NFTE and Temple’s Innovation and Entrepreneurship Institute recently held their fourth-annual Youth Entrepreneurship Conference.

Sylvia McKinney, Executive Director of NFTE, and Tyra Ford, IEI Director of Operations and Strategic Marketing Initiatives, opened the conference with welcoming remarks.

“It may not happen in the next 12 months. It might happen five years from now,” McKinney said, “but the entrepreneurial mindset we’re developing with these students is going to go with them for a lifetime.”

Two faculty members from the Fox School – IEI Managing Director Rob McNamee and IEI Executive Director Ellen Weber – led presentation workshops and interactive activities to share their insights on becoming successful entrepreneurs. Additionally, David Kaiser, the Director of Undergraduate Enrollment Management at the Fox School, offered helpful tips on getting into the college of your dreams.

“It was great to see how engaged and energized the students were in learning about the different ways to innovate,” Weber said. “Students learned how to create experiments to test assumptions that are core to their business models, using the hypothetical Onion Goggles Company.”

According to the participating high school students, the takeaways from the event varied.

“Innovation is key,” said Jose Asencio, a student from the Franklin Learning Center. “Innovation helps express creativity and helps build and maintain relationships.”

“If you work hard enough, you can be anything you want in life,” said Shadeed Savage, another student from the Franklin Learning Center. “I learned from the instructors that not everybody started out at the top. Many people have to find their way on their own terms.”

Founded in New York City in 1987 by Steve Mariotti, a former entrepreneur turned high school math teacher in South Bronx, N.Y., NFTE began as a program to prevent dropouts and improve academic performance among students who were at risk of failing or quitting school. NFTE inspires young people from low-income communities to stay in school, recognize business opportunities and plan successful futures. Visit www.nfte.com for more information.

The mission of the Innovation and Entrepreneurship Institute is to proactively promote the entrepreneurial spirit throughout all 17 schools and colleges of Temple University. The IEI’s highly skilled staff and faculty provide consulting services to project groups and new ventures while developing and maintaining the IEI’s rich offerings of programs and relationships. The IEI offers many years of experience in new ventures launched and consulting, extensive networks and boundless enthusiasm for experiential learning.

Click here to learn more about IEI.

On April 24th, innovation and disruption expert Michael E. Raynor joined the Fox School to talk about:

  • The distinction between Strategy and Innovation
  • How to stop disruptors from stealing your lunch
  • Why your previous strengths might be your future weaknesses
  • How to respond to, and take advantage of, disruption in your market

Michael E. Raynor presented “Strategy and Innovation:  Where Differentiation Meets Disruption,” a talk that highlighted the differences between strategy and innovation by providing empirical evidence of how and why business models and enabling technologies can disrupt the market place. His thinking challenges how we view organizational constraints, and offers insights that can help managers make better decisions.

Prior to his visit to Fox School, Raynor shared his insight on the three rules with an intimate crowd gathered for the 8th Annual Frederic Fox Leadership Lecture and Innovation Leadership Speaker Series (ILSS) at the Ritz Carlton Philadelphia.

Over a five-year period, Raynor and co-author Mumtaz Ahmed analyzed 45 years of data on more than 25,000 publicly traded companies. Of those companies, Raynor and Ahmed found only 344 to be “miracle workers” with truly exceptional, long-term performance.The trick for those companies was fundamentally about creating value for customers, Raynor said. The miracles workers all produced better products before cheaper products. To capture value, the companies focused on increasing revenue before cutting costs.

The Three Rules became:

1. Better before cheaper

2. Revenue before costs

3. There are no other rules

Of course rules only work if you follow them.  “We all excuse ourselves from rules at one time or another,” Raynor said, but rules can work magic if you use them even when you are pulled in the other direction. This is especially useful when companies are looking to innovate in ways that push beyond today’s frontier of the possible. Where strategy is about making tradeoffs, innovation is about breaking tradeoffs to get more for less, Raynor said.

The three rules apply here and can help companies make the leap of faith that innovation often requires. “Rules allow you to do what’s right even when it doesn’t look or feel right,” Raynor said.  He sees a future where chief innovation officers manage innovation the way chief strategy officers manage strategy. “The companies that innovate best are the companies that take it seriously and treat it like a thing to be managed,” he said.  Those companies will succeed if they view all decisions through the lens of these hard and fast rules. “If you want to play house odds,” Raynor said, “you should bet on better before cheaper.”

Michael E. Raynor is co-author with Professor Clayton M. Christensen of The Innovator’s Solution, which was on The Wall Street Journal and The New York Timesbestseller lists, and sole author of The Innovator’s Manifesto, released in 2011, when the Financial Times called Raynor “one of the most articulate and interesting” thought leaders in the field. Raynor’s The Strategy Paradox was named by Strategy + Business as one of its top five picks in strategy, and BusinessWeek named it one of the 10 Best Business Books for 2007. Most recently, Raynor co-authored The Three Rules:  How Exceptional Companies Think, which was selected by The Globe and Mail as their #1 business book for 2013.

Raynor is a Director at Deloitte Services LP and the Innovation Theme Leader in the firm’s Eminence function. In addition, Raynor is an advisor to senior executives in many of the world’s leading corporations across a wide range of industries.