The Philadelphia Clef Club of Jazz and the Performing Arts was looking, in a sense, to change its tune. The Fox School of Business’ equivalent of the Fab Four helped the organization do just that.
Four students nearing completion of their MBA programs in Spring 2016 – Prince Ebo, Meco Sparks, Jim Shovlin, and Tom Finnerty – used their capstone project within the renowned Fox Management Consulting practice to develop a strategic plan for the 50-year-old organization. And the plan, said Anne Edmunds, the Clef Club’s strategic advisor, has been “transforming.”
“At the start of the process, the Philadelphia Clef Club did not have a clear direction and strategic planning process,” she said. “The mission became clear. The direction became clear.”
Because of the plan, the organization’s leadership has been galvanized. Partnerships have been formed between the club and the School District of Philadelphia, as well as other local musical organizations. And perhaps most importantly, fundraising has been ramped up.
Within the Fox Management Consulting (Fox MC) practice, students apply, integrate, and demonstrate business training by delivering professional-grade strategic solutions to paying clients. For the clients, who stem from the private, public, and social sectors both locally and globally, Fox MC offers unmatched cost-effective, research-based consulting.
“It’s the interface between business school and the business world,” said Dr. TL Hill, Academic Director of the Fox Global MBA program. “We’ve conducted more than 300 projects, and in each case, we’re always looking to solve a strategic problem, and provide a business solution for the client and live, experiential learning for our students.”
The Clef Club, described by project executive Omar Woodard as “a jewel of the community,” began in 1966 as a trade union for African-American musicians denied access to other unions – Dizzy Gillespie and John Coltrane have been among its members — and later branched out into performances and music education.
Edmunds, who runs her own consulting firm, did an initial assessment of the organization in 2014.
“I found they were not fundraising,” she said. “They were trying to be self-sufficient, living on earned income. They were getting themselves in debt, trying to work day to day.”
The four students in question knew little about the club before delving into the project, much less its plight. But Dave Nash, Fox Management Consulting’s Director of Operations and an Assistant Professor of Strategic Management, circulated an email in December 2015 about a potential project involving the organization, and it caught Ebo’s eye.
“I’m a big music fan,” said Ebo, who grew up in West Philadelphia and is the son of Nigerian immigrants. “I said, ‘Why not apply my business knowledge to this special organization?’ ”
Truth be told, he had been preparing for the capstone project from the moment he began studying toward his MBA three years earlier. He remembered being told during orientation that it was imperative to assemble a strong team, and he took that to heart.
He and Sparks, who had several classes together, were the first to cross paths.
“We realized we clicked as far as our work styles,” he said. “We both agreed that we have to come up with a dream team.”
He was left with a positive impression of Shovlin after the two had teamed on a project in a finance class one summer. And Shovlin, who had shared some classes with Finnerty, felt he too would be a good fit. The die was cast. Ebo took on the role of project manager. Sparks specialized in marketing and branding. Finnerty was the self-described “finance guy.” Shovlin zeroed in on strategic planning, though Finnerty also thought his big-picture thinking was invaluable.
“He would step up to the white board and draw things out (during meetings),” Finnerty said of Shovlin. “He did a fantastic job of tying together all of our ideas.”
It proved to be a tight-knit team. Everybody pulled his or her weight. Dissension was never an issue. And momentum quickly built.
“I don’t know how we ended up being so lucky,” Ebo said. “There was too much laughter and good times. It worked out perfectly.”
The task was daunting, though.
“Basically it was trying to do two full-time jobs at once,” Sparks said. “We promised the moon and the stars, and we had to deliver. That was the biggest challenge.”
All four continued working their day jobs. Ebo is the manager of Neighborhood Business Development Strategies for the City of Philadelphia, Sparks a marketing manager at Delaware Investments, Shovlin a corporate real estate manager at Johnson & Johnson and Finnerty the procurement manager at PBF Energy.
None of that stopped them from doing the necessary legwork for the project.
“Our goal was to dive as deep as we should,” Shovlin said. “We wanted to make sure to cover all the key components and not overlook anything.”
By semester’s end they presented a 60-page report to the club’s 11-member board, along with an executive summary, a detailed financial model and a calculator (produced by Finnerty, of course) that would enable the club to price things correctly.
“It stood out as an incredibly thorough job,” Woodard said.
And for the students, an enjoyable one. That was particularly true in Sparks’ case, since she remains a marketing consultant to the Clef Club, but it extended to the rest of the dream team as well.
“Working with a nonprofit was something I wanted to do,” Finnerty said, “not only as a resume-builder but from a mission standpoint. I feel like I did something good that semester. I miss it somewhat. My wife, not so much.”
Ben Stucker has always had a thirst for entrepreneurship. Back in the late 1990s, as an undergraduate college student in Vermont, he started two companies, including a taxi service that he likes to call “the original Uber.”
But after more than a decade of experience in the business world, he said he felt like he was “missing something” and enrolled in the Fox School of Business’ prestigious Part-Time MBA program. That decision turned into a great launching pad for Stucker, who began his mortgage-lending startup, Rates For Us, after winning last year’s Be Your Own Boss Bowl®, a lucrative business plan competition put on annually by Temple University’s Innovation & Entrepreneurship Institute.
With the win, Stucker earned the $40,000 grand prize and additional cash prizes as the winner of the competition’s Upper Track, and, perhaps more importantly, was offered the necessary legal, marketing, and web services to turn his business plan into a full-fledged company.
“It was one of the most exciting moments I’ve ever experienced,” said Stucker, a 2013 Fox grad. “When you’re starting a business, you always look for validation. … That enabled us to launch the company. We would have done it otherwise, but it wouldn’t have gone from 0 to 60 as fast as it did.”
For Ellen Weber, the Executive Director of the Innovation & Entrepreneurship Institute (IEI), opening the Be Your Own Boss Bowl (BYOBB) to Temple graduates like Stucker and anyone else with an affiliation to the university is what sets the competition apart from others around the country and, she noted, is “one of the great ways we can give back to our alumni.” But while it’s rewarding to see those alumni move on to launch their companies — often because of the mentorship opportunities that the BYOBB provides — most of IEI’s mission is rooted in helping current students value entrepreneurship and, as Temple University President Dr. Neil D. Theobald stated, “learn to adapt to constant change and find success in fields that have not yet been invented.”
On top of running annual business plan competitions like the BYOBB and the Innovative Idea Competition, IEI provides internship opportunities, business-planning workshops, seminars, mentoring, and additional resources for students across all of Temple’s 17 schools and colleges. These initiatives have been going strong for many years but gained momentum recently following President Theobald’s 2013 commitment to “entrepreneurship across disciplines” as a way to power the university’s future.
“The goal is for everyone to develop an entrepreneurial mindset,” Weber said. “This is reflected in all of our programs.”
In November, Temple became one of only five colleges or universities nationally to place both its undergraduate and graduate Entrepreneurship in The Princeton Review’s top-10 rankings. The programs, which are housed at Fox, earned Nos. 8 and 10 rankings, respectively.
Weber admitted that thinking about starting a business while in college or in graduate school can be difficult. But, she added, “for the students who really want to do this, the fact that we support them is really very meaningful.” One example is Justin Rosenberg, MBA ’09, the founder of the fast-growing restaurant chain honeygrow, and who Weber said was “supported by IEI and given interns to work with” while developing his business plan as an MBA student at Fox.
Weber’s been equally excited by some of the business ideas that other students have developed, especially those who follow the social impact track that is popular among young entrepreneurs today, and especially at Temple, where Lindsey Massimiani, the IEI’s Director of Strategic Marketing Initiatives, said that kind of thinking is “infused in the culture” of the university, in part, because of its diverse and self-motivated student body.
Recently, during a class Weber was teaching, three students delivered a presentation about bringing affordable solar heating to an African village from which one was a native, telling Weber they specifically enrolled at the Fox School to learn how to have an impact on their community. “That was a ‘Wow’ moment for me,” Weber said.
“With all the resources that universities offer,” she added, “I firmly believe that there is no better time to work on a startup or to test your idea than while you’re in college.” And the Fox School provides the platform to do so.
FOSTERING ENTREPRENEURSHIP AT FOX
Entrepreneurship is a pillar at the Fox School of Business and Temple University, where students are given the resources to develop business plans and provided a platform upon which to launch new ventures, all while completing their respective degree programs. Alumni can get involved with students, too, by providing leadership, sharing knowledge, and helping to launch businesses.
- Mentoring student entrepreneurs
- Judging business competitions
- Hiring students as interns
- Sharing your story at entrepreneurship events
- Investing in student-led ventures
- Sponsoring prizes
Alumni can remain active with IEI to achieve their own
- Attending programs, events, and workshops
- Receiving mentorship and advising
- Entering business plan competitions
- Enrolling in the Master of Science in Innovation Management and Entrepreneurship program
- Enrolling in certificate programs, offered in Innovation Strategy, Innovation & Technology Commercialization, and Healthcare Innovation Management
- Taking individual graduate courses
Kevin Si hadn’t even left the interview room in October 2014 when he was offered the internship he coveted at computer software company SAP. And the Fox School of Business student has a pretty good idea why the decision was made so quickly.
“For most of the interview, we weren’t talking about my previous internship experience,” said Si, a senior. “We were talking about my leadership experience.”
Si has plenty of that, thanks to Fox’s renowned student professional organizations (SPOs). Si has served as the director of finance and the president of the International Business Association (IBA), before this year assuming the role of president of the College Council, which oversees all SPOs.
And while it’s often been difficult balancing those extracurricular responsibilities with his internships and classes, Si quickly learned that SPOs, which focus on professional development through guest speakers, visiting different companies’ headquarters and more, are imperative in helping college students like himself get adequately prepared for the real world and ultimately land their dream jobs.
“I think being a part of an SPO and being a leader within it adds to your street smarts,” Si said. “It gives you those soft skills that you need, skills like communication, networking, teamwork and leadership. Those are extremely important.”
David Kaiser, Fox’s Director of Undergraduate Enrollment Management and the administration member who oversees Fox’s SPOs, won’t argue with the importance of soft skills. He can also attest to how badly they are needed for today’s college students – a generation for which, he noted, “communication can be an issue at times.”
“You meet students who will barely look you in the eye when you shake their hand,” said Kaiser, MBA ’14. “And three or four years later, they’re a leader in the school.”
For Kaiser, witnessing personal growth is the most rewarding part of the job, and he’s seen more students get those out-of-classroom opportunities as Fox SPOs have grown in size and stature.
According to Kaiser, there are roughly 2,300 undergraduates in 21 active organizations. Students usually find the SPO that best aligns with their major, which represents about a 1,000-person increase from when he started in his current role more than 12 years ago. Many of Fox’s SPOs have earned national praise.
For instance, Fox’s Sigma chapter of Gamma Iota Sigma, a professional international fraternity for risk management and insurance majors, has won the Edison L. Bowers Award in 16 of the last 20 years, which annually goes to the fraternity’s most outstanding chapter.
“They’re obviously one of the better groups, but we have a lot of groups that have been very successful,” Kaiser said. “When we have groups competing on the national level and succeeding, it makes the students and the school look good.”
One of the big reasons for Gamma’s success is its commitment to community service, as it recently hosted a financial literacy seminar to educate area high school students on personal finances. Prior to that, Gamma raised more than $11,200 for Brave Hearts and Young Minds, a charity that supports children who have lost a parent.
Of course, charity is a big component of all of Fox’s SPOs, as it is for the College Council, which collected 2,000 pounds of food for Philabundance last fall and $3,000 for Relay for Life in the spring.
“It requires professional training to get students in the mindset of giving back to the community that they are a part of,” Kaiser said, noting the students’ passion for fundraisers. “Part of our sales pitch is getting them to understand it’s not just about academics. It’s different from high school. Companies want well-rounded students with developed interpersonal skills, developed professional skills and developed soft skills. And you really can’t get those other skills strictly by being in a classroom.”