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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 iei@temple.edu

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.