Welcome to New Wharton SBDC Director Celeste Corrado

By Clare Leinweber WMP’05/GR’14, Managing Director, Wharton Entrepreneurship

I am delighted today to welcome Celeste Corrado as the new Director of the Wharton Small Business Development Center (SBDC)! Celeste was appointed after an extensive search by a committee of leaders from the University of Pennsylvania, Wharton Entrepreneurship, and the Pennsylvania Small Business Development Center. She brings to her new role over 20 years of professional experience in consulting, innovation, strategy, and education.

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Lessons from the Wharton Small Business Development Center

By Michael Mirski W’14

Graduation is a time for reflection. After four years of Wharton classes and three years at the Wharton Small Business Development Center working with dozens of businesses, I’ve thought back on my time in business school to try to articulate a few fundamental lessons about “business” that I’ve experienced through the years. I hope they might be useful to both current and aspiring entrepreneurs:

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Combining Entrepreneurship and Experiential Learning: The Wharton SBDC

By Pirkka Padmanabhan WG’15

Editor’s note: This post originally appeared in The Wharton Journal.

Young rising stars helping young rising stars – what may sound like a cheesy slogan from a dubious self-help group is, in my opinion, the best description of the work that is done by the students, staff and supporters of Wharton’s Small Business Development Center (SBDC). One of the oldest institutions of its kind, the SBDC supports locally-based entrepreneurs and small businesses of all kinds and sizes: freshly launched start-ups, highly growing ventures and established small businesses.

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AppItUP!

By Shilpa Kannan, ENG’15/W’15

“Have a great idea for a mobile app? AppItUp!” That was the challenge from UPStart and the SBDC to Penn students this fall. Students from across the University submitted great ideas for mobile apps, and investors evaluated these ideas and chose the best to be featured at the AppItUP Fall Challenge Event on Friday, November 22. Ten semi-finalists, chosen out of nearly 200 submissions from members of the Penn community, pitched their ideas to a panel of “sharks,” five software development companies who planned to each choose one of these ideas to turn into reality. The twist: the ideas were so good that one company chose two, for a total of six winners!

Let me tell you: it was pretty thrilling. The winning venture ideas ranged from software that allows for recommendations of coffee blends based on taste to devices that automatically call 911 and relay patient information if anaphylactic shock occurs.. [For a complete list of the winners, click here.]

As a consultant and then practice leader at the SBDC, I have worked with several entrepreneurs from industries as varied as energy and party planning. In each engagement, we have looked for the “problem,” the big issue with their business. Reflecting on the past year and a half and all of the issues I’ve observed in these companies, I realize that I’ve become somewhat cynical of start-ups. But in the process of talking to entrepreneurs and hearing their passions, I also learned that it is easy to be critical of an idea, but coming up with a viable business proposition, a plan to actually service a need, is ten thousand times harder.

For me, AppItUP was most exciting because it forced people like me, not entrepreneurially minded, to leave my comfort zone of analytics and critical thinking, and move towards creativity and idea generation. I saw how many different needs were identified and then addressed in unique and imaginative ways. The two hours spent listening to ideas pitched and ventures proposed led me to believe that maybe it’s time I begin to think about my passions and how they can translate into a potential venture. It’s time to challenge myself.

Shilpa photoBio: Shilpa is a junior from Potomac, Maryland studying Finance, Management, and Computer Science. She has been with the SBDC for about a year and a half and has enjoyed working with entrepreneurs in the area to tackle their business issues. Outside of the SBDC, Shilpa loves to teach; she is currently a TA for CIS 121 and is excited to TA for FNCE 101 next semester. She is also a director of the Financial Literacy Community Project and a dedicated member of Phi Gamma Nu, one of Penn’s professional business fraternities. Her hobbies include photography, biking, and playing tennis.

Wharton’s Role to Reduce Commercial Building Energy Consumption by 20 Percent by 2020

By Jacqueline Jenkins, Wharton MBA 1996; Energy Efficient Buildings Hub Director for the Wharton Small Business Development Center
 

The Wharton Small Business Development Center (SBDC) is a leading contributor in catalyzing the advanced energy retrofit (AER) sector at the Energy Efficient Buildings Hub (EEB Hub), a $125 million regional innovation cluster funded by the U.S. Department of Energy. The EEB Hub is charged with the goal of reducing the Greater Philadelphia region’s commercial building energy consumption by 20 percent by 2020, and creating a model for national expansion.

Buildings are responsible for approximately 41 percent of the energy consumption in the U.S. and one of the heaviest consumers of natural resources. The conflict in oil-producing regions, volatile energy prices, heightened concerns of climate change, and global population growth, are fueling demand for more energy-efficient products; “greening” the nation’s buildings is a substantial opportunity.

In an effort to support the development of businesses in the building energy efficiency sector, the Wharton SBDC, SAP, EEB Hub, Penn Institute for Urban Research (PIUR), Wharton Risk Management Center, and the Initiative for Global Environmental Leadership (IGEL) were sponsors of the “Building Energy Efficiency: Seeking Strategies that Work” conference on May 8, 2013 at the SAP headquarters in the Philadelphia suburb of Newtown Square. Conference attendees included industry partners, small business owners, policy makers, students and representatives from academia.

The Wharton SBDC hosted a panel on financing options for emerging companies in the commercial AER market. Jacqueline M. Jenkins (WG ’96) moderated a panel that included Mark deGrandpre, Director of Investment, Physical Science, Ben Franklin Technology Partners of Southeastern PA; William Sisson, Director of Sustainability, United Technologies Research Center; and Shari Shapiro, Partner, Cozen O’Connor Energy, Environment and Public Utilities Practice Group.

The panel discussed the growing number of opportunities for innovative companies capable of producing solutions in key energy efficiency areas such as performance measurement technologies, building knowledge and process management. Larger companies such as United Technologies Corporation are contracting with emerging businesses for niche offerings. Ben Franklin Technology Partners of Southeastern PA recently launched a fund to invest in early-stage companies within the building energy efficient market. Shari Shapiro highlighted the lack of building energy efficiency knowledge within the current marketplace. As the market evolves, opportunities will emerge for innovative companies. To learn more about the EEB Hub, please visit www.eebhub.org.

 

Jacque Jenkins

Bio: Jacqueline Jenkins, EEB Hub Program Director for the Wharton SBDC, leads the effort to support business development in the energy efficient building market for the EEB Hub. Earlier in her career, she successfully raised early-stage capital and launched her own consulting practice. She also served as COO for a financial services firm. 

 

Everyone’s An (Early Stage) Entrepreneur

By Erin McGowan, Associate Director, Wharton Small Business Development Center

I meet a lot of people in my daily life.  When new acquaintances discover that I work at the Wharton Small Business Development Center (SBDC), their first question is always “What do you think of my idea?” Their next question is “How can I take advantage of the Wharton SBDC’s services to start or grow my business?” For the early stage entrepreneur with a new idea, I tell them to take First Step. 

First Step is the introductory workshop for the Business Building program at Wharton SBDC.  Business Building is an integrated program of educational workshops and individual and group consulting for the very early stage entrepreneur. This workshop, held two evenings a month, draws almost 500 aspiring entrepreneurs from the Philadelphia area every year. A key part of the First Step program (and the Wharton SBDC program in general) is to connect entrepreneurs with each other.  Beginning in First Step, these entrepreneurs develop relationships, learn from each other, and evaluate and give feedback on each other’s ideas. 

The First Step attracts highly diverse individuals from a range of backgrounds – technologists, teachers, artists and craftspeople, and health professionals, among others.  Many of the attendees are working full time; some are unemployed, looking to improve their situation.  Some are innovating brand new problem-solving ideas, bringing cool new products to market and hoping to become “the next big thing.” Others plan to enrich their communities by launching social enterprises, restaurants, cafes and other neighborhood businesses.  During the workshop, a team of experienced consultants coach small groups of these entrepreneurs.  We help these entrepreneurs 1) develop a short list of effective next steps toward their business goals and 2) define and refine their business vision. Many workshop participants go on to write business plans and launch their businesses. Others realize that their business idea is not feasible, but the experience and knowledge have primed them to pursue the right idea at a future time.

First Step is offered twice monthly at the Wharton School.  More information can be found here.  

 

McGowenErinBio: Erin McGowan, Associate Director, joined the Wharton Small Business Development Center (SBDC) in 2007. Erin supports entrepreneurs and small business owners in the Wharton SBDC Business Building program.  Prior to the Wharton SBDC, Erin was at a New York City-based non-profit, Housing Works, and in Corporate Services at the Federal Reserve Bank of San Francisco. Erin has a Master’s Degree in in Nonprofit Leadership from the University of Pennsylvania.

Consulting to Growth Companies (MGMT 251): A Course in Entrepreneurial Management, An Opportunity for Impactful Experience

By Trevor Crombie, Wharton 2014

Trevor

“Management 251: A course centered on experiential learning, ‘Consulting to Growth Companies’ elevates the largely technical curricula otherwise prominent at Wharton. Professor Eric Siegel encourages his undergraduate students to draw on fundamentals mastered in their core classes and then apply them to very real business engagements. In partnership with the Wharton Small Business Development Center, Siegel’s students spend their fall term working for local growth-stage companies in official consultant capacities. Students adopt and manage projects ranging from business plan development to advanced financial analysis, from marketing strategy design to supply chain organization.”

That’s how I would write the course description for Management 251: Consulting to Growth Companies. Within an undergraduate culture where the allures of institutional careers are rarely denied, this course challenges students to examine business in an entrepreneurial light and outside the singular lens of a financial spreadsheet or a SWOT analysis. A comprehensive perspective like that equips students to better approach and tackle problems in real business functions.

I enrolled in MGMT251 in September 2012 and immediately found my quelled passion for creativity, problem solving, and cross-discipline solutions reinvigorated. Throughout my consulting engagement, I was able to not only apply skills learned through my coursework to aid my client and their company, I was also – and perhaps more importantly – encouraged to challenge the expectations of what a student is capable of contributing to established corporations. No longer was I to simply assume the role of a relatively inexperienced student; rather, I was to leverage my skills and technical proficiencies and rise to meet the demands of my client. That experience of simultaneous personal and professional growth was vital to my development as a business student.

The consulting engagement during the course evolved over time. I worked on a three-person team and was initially hired by a firm to assist in the re-launch of one of their products. Specifically, we were hired to assess the competitive environment, devise a marketing strategy, and construct a high-level business plan for the potential spinoff of the product into a subsidiary company. As the team began to evaluate the project, however, we determined that essential strategic steps during the product design and the target market identification processes had been overlooked. As such, we realigned the goals of our engagement to address the client shortfalls.

With the goals of the engagement redefined, my team was able to create value for our client. We determined that customer needs could be better matched through a slight redevelopment of the product and outlined ways by which that could be achieved. We acknowledged the necessity to circumvent highly saturated and competitive markets and identified opportunities to reach new market segments. We assumed the preferences of the targeted segments and built financial models to predict the success of various adoptable pricing strategies. Ultimately, we were confident the client was left in a better position to resume activities to achieve a more successful product launch.

Engagements like the one my team held have the potential to serve as a capstone to the undergraduate experience at Wharton. The work involved draws resources and skills from a variety of disciplines and studies, forcing students to analyze business activities with an appreciation for complexity. The exposure to real business functions that is afforded by the Consulting to Growth Companies course is invaluable.

Bio: Trevor Crombie is a 2014 candidate for Bachelor of Economics at The Wharton School. His concentrated areas of study are in finance and management, with specializations in entrepreneurship and innovation. Professionally, Crombie is a small business owner and has worked as a growth company consultant, a political speechwriter, and a governmental policy analyst. He is also President of the Beta Nu Chapter of Delta Sigma Pi, a professional business fraternity at The Wharton School.

Getting Inspired, One Entrepreneur at a Time

Stephan Jacob (WG’11/G’11), Co-founder & CEO of Kembrel on Small Business Saturday in Philadelphia (November 24, 2012). Photo credit: Philly.com.

By Lauren Tulp (WG’14), Consultant, Wharton Small Business Development Center Business Building Program

It has only been two months since I started consulting for the Wharton SBDC Business Building Program, and I can already tell something very special is happening in Vance Hall.

Every week pairs of MBA students meet with local Philadelphia entrepreneurs to advise them on whatever challenges they happen to be facing – big and small. I have brainstormed potential business models with a woman wanting to employ foster youth. I helped convince the founder of a marketing firm to increase her prices. Being an entrepreneur is an isolating, soul-searching process, and I can see the visible relief our clients feel in being able to test their ideas and share their challenges with us.

The most striking meeting I’ve had occurred a few weeks ago. I met with a single mother living in public housing who dreams of opening her own salon. Currently she does hair out of her home, but she’s ready for the next step. In previous meetings the SBDC helped her estimate her costs and track her current customers, and during our session we helped her determine how many customers she will need to break even in a salon. I was impressed by her grit and determination. “In two years, I want this to be a reality,” she told us.

Entrepreneurship is a hot topic in MBA programs these days. But most entrepreneurs will never be backed by a VC firm or take their companies public. The entrepreneurs I’ve seen are people aspiring for a better life for themselves and their neighbors. They may be working on the local scale, but each week I’m inspired by their drive and passion.

Bio:

Lauren Tulp is currently in her first year in the Wharton MBA Program where she is a member of Wharton Women in Business, the Wharton Consulting Club, and the Wharton International Volunteer Program.  Prior to Wharton, Lauren earned her B.A. from Harvard and worked for philanthropic foundations in Boston and Palo Alto.