BBA ’08 | Supply Chain New Model Launch Leader, Ford Motor Company, Brazil
Hometown: São Paulo, Brazil
Overseas home: “I loved every single aspect at Temple. I always felt at home.”
Fernanda Guedes achieved her goal of studying in the United States, made life-long connections, and ascended the ranks at Ford Company in Brazil.
In Fall 2005, Fernanda Guedes, BBA ’08, carefully took in the entire scene as she stood in the middle of Temple University’s Main Campus for the first time. She saw students of all walks of life scurrying to and from class, sitting on the benches while reading, or catching up with peers by the Bell Tower.
Guedes smiled as she realized she was living her dream.
“Being at an American university was like watching a movie and recalling scenes from it,” she said. “I had the best time of my life at Temple.”
Three years later, Guedes graduated with Bachelor degrees in International Business and Human Resource Management from the Fox School of Business, and developed her experience in international trade, management and logistics. She’s combined her background and experience to excel in the role of the supply chain new model launch leader at Ford Motor Company in Brazil.
Watching U.S. films and television shows, Guedes knew from a young age that she wanted to receive an education in the United States. In 2004, Guedes enrolled in an Au Pair exchange program in New York City, serving as a nanny for a family in the city. Guedes visited a friend who lived in Philadelphia and quickly fell in love with the City of Brotherly Love.
“Philadelphia is a big city where you can find everything you need – from fun nightlife to easy access to nearby beaches – without the crowdedness and craziness of New York,” said Guedes, 33.
When the Au Pair program ended, Guedes moved to Philadelphia to find an undergraduate program for which she could apply. After researching universities, hearing opinions, and weighing her options, Guedes choose Temple.
“At Temple, I always felt at home and I met many fellow international students, and also American friends who’ve always been kind and supportive,” she said. “I never felt out of place.”
Ofo Ezeugwu’s business started at Fox. And it keeps on growing.
In a late-night meeting in spring 2012, Ofo Ezeugwu, BBA ’13 and his Temple Student Government peers sat quietly as an idea came to him — what if he and TSG provided a way for students to rate their landlords, so future students knew what to expect before signing a lease?
In asking that question, Whose Your Landlord was born. “The goal of Whose Your Landlord is to bring quality to the rental experience,” said Ezeugwu, who at the time served as TSG’s vice president. “The goal is to make tomorrow better for student living.” Three years later, the website Whose Your Landlord serves more than 85,000 active users and features reviews and ratings of landlords in more than 100 U.S. cities. After sharing the idea, the Entrepreneurship major at the Fox School of Business took the first steps to starting his Yelp-like Web service for renters.
Ezeugwu, 23, realized it would take too much time to develop this service through the school and student government, so he immediately began creating a plan to launch Whose Your Landlord as a business. (Side note: “Whose” is an intentional grammatical error; Ezeugwu and his team chose the possessive form of the word in an attempt to return power in the decision-making process to the tenant.)
By summer 2012, Ezeugwu put together his team, consisting of Felix Addison and Nik Korablin. The three co-founders released a beta version of Whose Your Landlord to Temple, George Mason University, and University of Maryland students in October of that year. After overcoming some obstacles including limited resources and getting users’ reviews, Ezeugwu and his team launched the website in September 2013.
In 2015, Whose Your Landlord experienced a 156-percent growth rate. There are more than 3,000 reviews of more than 2,000 landlords in Philadelphia, New York, Washington, D.C., San Francisco and more.
Whose Your Landlord has also given Ezeugwu the chance to attend and speak at some remarkable events and engagements. The young CEO spoke on a panel last month at the White House’s “I Have a Dream Summit” and was one of 120 attendees at the event. Ezeugwu and Addison were invited to attend Google’s F50 Founder Night.
Ezeugwu and his platform have also been featured in local and national media like CBS Philly, TechCrunch.com and, most recently, Newsweek. Last November, Ezeugwu appeared on MSNBC’s “Elevator Pitch,” where he received a score of nine out of 10 from both of the show’s panelists.
Frontier Development and Hospitality Group’s Founder & Managing Principal, Evens Charles carved a name for himself in the hospitality-focused, real estate development business, and wants to provide Temple juniors and seniors similar opportunities through a scholarship
BA ’94, M.Ed ’95 | Founder & Managing Principal, Frontier Development and Hospitality Group LLC
Hometown: Washington, D.C.
Lasting Connections: “My key takeaway from Temple was the strong academic foundation I developed and the key relationships I made with students who eventually became prominent professionals and long lasting friends.”
Once an underprivileged student from humble beginnings, Evens Charles takes pride in supporting his community.
That is why the founder and managing principal of Frontier Development and Hospitality Group, LLC, has endowed a scholarship for students from Temple University’s Fox School of Business and School of Tourism and Hospitality Management (STHM). Charles knows first-hand the financial obstacles motivated entrepreneurial students face. Maxed out from student loan providers, Charles finished school because of a football scholarship he received during his junior year, after he had earned a starting position.
“Without that funding, I don’t know if I could’ve continued my education,” Charles said.
Following graduate school, Charles became interested in real estate. He taught himself everything he could, entered the business, and amassed a good amount of residential real estate. He was inspired to enter the hotel business in 2008, after attending a conference in Washington D.C., hosted by the National Alliance of Black Hotel Owners Operators and Developers Association (NABHOOD). There, he heard a speech by the association’s chairman, developer R. Donahue Peebles. He initially partnered with another Temple alumnus, Paul Patel of Pennsville Hospitality Group, who had the experience of running and operating hotels.
“It was a very humbling experience because it meant partnering with folks who had industry knowledge that I did not possess,” Charles said.
By evolving his business into hotel acquisitions, Charles has achieved a great deal of creative freedom. He finds his work rewarding because it allows him to control his own destiny and influence economic development.
Charles gave $25,000, which was matched by the Dean’s Match program of the Fox School of Business. The $50,000 scholarship is awarded to underrepresented junior and senior students from the Philadelphia, Baltimore, and Washington D.C. metro areas. The scholarship will alternate each year, between students from Fox and STHM.
“It’s a shame that many students with the desire and drive can’t always continue school because of finances,” Charles said. “If I can help to make a difference in the lives of even one or two students, it’s a start to giving back what I’ve been given.”
Robert Roach’s time at Temple laid the foundation on which he built his career in ethics and compliance
BBA ’74 | Vice President and Chief Compliance Officer, New York University
Major Growth: “Temple was an incubator for my personal and professional growth. I met people of all walks of life, received a foundation for my career, and I left prepared me for the real world.”
In discussing his professional journey, Robert Roach, BBA ’74, quoted the famous line from the Grateful Dead’s song “Truckin’.” He said, “Lately it occurs to me, what a long, strange trip it’s been.”
Roach felt those lyrics described how serendipity gets in the way of major life planning, especially in relation to one’s career.
“You work hard and plan in advance, but something happens that puts you on a much different path,” Roach said. “I didn’t expect to be on the path I’m on, but I’ve been happy nonetheless.”
The Vice President and Chief Compliance Officer of New York University originally saw himself in business administration.
After four years of working 25 hours per week at a gas station in Northeast Philadelphia, balanced with a full course load and an active campus life – he was the president of the Fox School of Business’ student government – Roach started working at Air Products & Chemicals, Inc., in Quakertown, Pa. While working at Air Products & Chemicals, Roach realized he wanted to further his education. In doing research, he chose to pursue law school instead of a master’s in business administration. He earned his law degree from Georgetown University in 1978.
Roach worked briefly in corporate law in Philadelphia before moving south to work for the American Civil Liberties Union. He later worked within the New York Attorney General’s office and the Manhattan District Attorney’s office, further building his career in compliance and ethics. His undergraduate coursework at the Fox School came in handy when, for example, he executed his own forensic accounting while prosecuting white-collar defendants.
“The biggest challenge in my career was finding one that suited my personality,” he said.
Roach joined NYU in 2006, after serving as chief of staff at the New York City Department of Investigation.
Roach recommends that recent and soon-to-be graduates embrace curveballs life throws their way.
“When you take advantage of serendipity and try something new, you may find it to be personally and professionally rewarding,” Roach said.
Justin Rosenberg’s business plan started at Fox, and recently earned $25 million in investment funding
MBA ‘09 | Founder and Partner, honeygrow
Hometown: Melville, N.Y.
Adopted home: “Philadelphia is often overlooked by other companies and concepts. I’m a Long Islander, but to me, I can’t imagine doing business anywhere other than Philly.”
When writing his business plan, Justin Rosenberg was meticulous, gathering more information than he’d ever use—or need.
The native New Yorker remembers spending hours at the Fox School of Business, curling up in Alter Hall’s lounge chairs while developing the business model for what would become honeygrow, the Philadelphia-based, fast-casual restaurant that offers fresh-to- order salads and stir-fries with seasonal, local ingredients.
In June, honeygrow received $25 million in investment funding from Miller Investment Management, which will support further expansion of honeygrow and updates to the company’s technology platform.
“It seems like I was just in Alter yesterday,” said Rosenberg, MBA ’09. “Building honeygrow was one of the most challenging things I’ve ever done, but it was worth it.”
The Fox School alumnus worked as a financial analyst and asset manager while pursuing his Global MBA. Deep down, he said, he desired to build a company of his own. Rosenberg was a vegan at the time and sought more creative, locally grown meal options than most restaurants offered. So he crafted a restaurant concept to his liking.
He found information about touch-screen ordering systems by calling companies that utilized them. He even contacted restaurant owners from as far away as California, to inquire about the size of their bowls and to best determine price-per-ounce figures.
Then, he took to the streets. Rosenberg wasn’t above knocking on doors to find investors, or working the weekend. Following 40-or-more-hour workweeks, Rosenberg would ride a bus to Washington, D.C., where he’d work in the kitchen of a friend’s restaurant. He navigated Saturday night dinners and the Sunday brunch rush, before heading home to his wife, Halie, who at the time was pregnant with the first of their three children.
In June 2012, he opened honeygrow’s first location—at 16th and Sansom streets in Philadelphia. In three short years, Rosenberg and honeygrow continue to blossom and will have expanded to eight locations in Pennsylvania, New Jersey and Delaware, and 20 corporate employees by the end of 2015.
“It’s a sacrifice. Every step was a humbling experience, but it was how I learned that, for a company to be successful, you have to embrace it and make it your life, and obsess over the details,” Rosenberg said. “There’s this mirage that, if you’re your own boss, life is great. It can be, but only if you work hard and continue to remain focused.”
Johanna Walters’ networking skills landed her in wealth management, where she began as a Client Associate and worked her way to Senior Vice President – Wealth Management
Johanna L. Walters
BBA ’00 | Senior Vice President, Wealth Management and Wealth Management Advisor, Glassman Walters Associates, Merrill Lynch
Hometown: Muskegon, Mich.
Guiding with math: “My work is like a complicated math word problem. I gather all of the puzzle pieces of clients’ lives and provide the answers and guidance to help them achieve their goals and dreams.”
Her love of horseback riding put Johanna Walters, BBA ’00, on track to become a Senior Vice President – Wealth Management and Wealth Management Advisor within one of Merrill Lynch’s largest wealth management practices, Glassman Walters Associates.
While attending the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill, the then-18-year-old student calculated the costs and benefits of pursuing a career in veterinary medicine.
“After mapping it out, I realized I would never be able to own my horse, which was something I really wanted,” Walters recalled.
She transferred to the Fox School of Business to study finance and business law, and reconnected with her former employer — and future business partner — Saly Glassman. As a teen, Walters worked in Glassman’s stables and watched her daughter in exchange for horseback riding lessons.
Glassman offered Walters a 20-hour-per-week job at her Merrill Lynch office. This job, along with her Fox School classes, influenced Walters’s interest in wealth management. Walters graduated and joined the firm as a Client Associate. She worked her way up to her current role as Senior Vice President – Wealth Management of Glassman Walters Associates at Merrill Lynch.
“It’s amazing to work on one of the largest wealth management teams in the firm. We are fortunate to have a lot of autonomy to continue to create unique solutions for our clients.” Walters said. “Although with that work comes great responsibility.”
Walters never let hurdles get in her way. Although gender bias is still an issue in the industry, Walters does see improvement as more women continue to enter the field. Early in her career, Walters’ age presented challenges, at times, since some had difficulty taking a young person seriously. Being a successful wealth management advisor helped her exceed expectations.
Walters said her ongoing professional and personal successes proves you can excel when you believe in yourself and have a vision.
“Be honest and come from a place of integrity,” Walters adds. “If you can do that, you will be successful.”
Yasmine Mustafa aims to change the world with her company, which manufactures wearable self-defense technology jewelry designed for women
BBA ’06 | CEO and co-founder, ROAR for Good
Hometown: Royersford, Pa.
MotivaTED: In May, Mustafa was one of 14 speakers at TEDx Philadelphia, an independent and not-for-profit one-day conference that builds dialogue on topics of scientific, social awareness, and cultural significance. Mustafa’s talk covered the birth lottery, the concept of being born into a set of traits and circumstances that shape life’s opportunities and challenges.
A formative moment in Yasmine Mustafa’s professional life occurred by happenstance. A fellow Fox School of Business student couldn’t finish his internship and Mustafa, who already had an internship, decided to tackle another simultaneously. In this new opportunity, she worked closely with early-stage entrepreneurs, helping to craft their business plans, marketing strategies, and funding pitches.
Mustafa knew she’d wanted to become an entrepreneur, but it was then that her interest in the technology sector had been sparked.
“I remember being in awe of these makers, I’d call them, and I’d think, ‘Man, I want to be one of these one day,’” she said.
Mustafa, BBA ’06, is the CEO and co-founder of ROAR for Good, LLC, a developer of wearable self defense technology jewelry designed for women that acts as a fashionable high-tech alarm which also messages loved ones and calls the authorities. Manufacturing of the flagship device began in September, and Mustafa expects it to be available to consumers in February.
She’s raised more than $200,000 in funding from Philadelphia-based investors for the product, called “Athena,” after the Greek goddess of power and freedom. Athena, which Mustafa designed to replicate fashionable jewelry, will sync with the user’s smartphone to alert a designated emergency contact, as well as the appropriate authorities, to criminal activity with one-touch technology. It also emits an alarm and a flashing light when activated.
“I see a long-term vision of changing the world, and ROAR having a profound impact,” said Mustafa, 33. “A key component is that we’ll be investing part of our proceeds into nonprofits that teach children about empathy and healthy relationships. … I get excited by the potential. In reality, our goal is to have a world where technology like ROAR’s doesn’t need to exist.”
The Kuwaiti-born Mustafa worked under-the-table jobs to support her education, which includes her Bachelor’s degree in Entrepreneurship from the Fox School. The two-time winner of the Be Your Own Boss Bowl®, a Temple University-wide business plan competition, is a self-described “serial entrepreneur,” with numerous smaller ventures prior to her work with ROAR.
“I see a much bigger reach with ROAR,” she said. “I’m a person who thrives on making a difference, so I’m excited about what the future holds.”
Rahul Merchant built his career from the ground up, beginning the moment his flight to the United States landed
MBA ’89 | Chief Information Officer and Executive Vice President, TIAA-CREF
Hometown: Mumbai, India
Divided allegiance: Having earned his Master of Science degree in Computer Science from Memphis University, and his MBA from Temple, Merchant is torn when the two schools meet on the basketball court as members of the American Athletic Conference. “John Chaney was a legend, and I’m a fan of Fran Dunphy,” Merchant said of the Owls’ coaches, past and present, “but they’re both great schools and great teams.”
Rahul Merchant moved to the United States in 1979. His flight from India had landed at New York’s John F. Kennedy International Airport and, not long after, he managed to lose one of his two suitcases. Merchant sat curbside in a blue wool suit with the late-August sun bearing down. A taxi driver picked up Merchant, and took him to his destination without asking for a fare.
“The driver said to me, ‘When you make money, you can pay somebody else,’” Merchant said. “That was the fundamental principle I learned in this country, and I’ve been touched by that moment ever since. That was a great experience for me, and I feel that in the corridors of TIAA-CREF.”
Merchant, MBA ’89, applies the same principles to his position with TIAA-CREF. As Chief Information Officer and Executive Vice President, Merchant oversees the existing information technology and implementing new IT initiatives for the nearly 100-year-old financial services firm.
“Today, 90 percent of business is closed over the wires and without even hitting the trading tickets,” he said. “It’s all electronic. What does that mean? The systems are more technologically driven and efficient, but the other side of the IT coin is that business is done openly and transparently.”
Merchant’s career began in the technology field, before earning his MBA in Finance from Fox. Ever since, he’s worked in the financial markets arena, with Exigen Capital, Fannie Mae, Merrill Lynch, and as New York City’s first Chief Information and Innovation Officer.
In September, Merchant was recognized as Fox’s 2015 honoree in the Gallery of Success, which showcases exceptional alumni from each of Temple’s 17 schools and colleges.
“I’m incredibly proud of my Temple education and all that the university has afforded me,” Merchant said.