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Philadelphia Convention and Visitors Bureau welcomes new ceo and a major national conference


In January, the Philadelphia Convention and Visitors Bureau (PHLCVB) welcomed its new president and CEO Julie Coker Graham with an announcement ceremony featuring Mayor Jim Kenney and leaders of the National Medical Association (NMA). America’s oldest and largest organization representing African American healthcare professionals, NMA will hold its annual conference in Philadelphia in July 2017. (Flying Kite heard from Graham a few weeks ago when she spoke at Philly’s Women at the Wheel forum.)

According to Graham, the conference will bring 3500 attendees to the city, with an estimated $5 million economic impact. And it’s extra special because current NMA national president is Philly’s own Dr. Edith P. Mitchell, a medical oncologist and associate director of Jefferson University Health System’s Sidney Kimmel Cancer Center.

Dr. Mitchell is pleased to represent a partnership between Jefferson, the NMA and the City of Philadelphia. When the NMA was formed in 1895, "doctors like me were denied membership in other organizations," she explained at the ceremony. Mitchell appreciates the opportunities at Philly’s many medical and educational institutions and asked, "How we can all work together to fight disparities and head toward healthcare equity for all?"

NMA Executive Director Martin Hamlette introduced Dr. Mitchell with the same themes. He pointed to the NMA's many corporate and political partnerships that tackle the issues both African-American physicians and their patients face, with a special focus on chronic conditions, aging and wellness, and fair access to healthcare.

"We get lobbied by a lot of cities," said Hamlette of deciding to bring the 2017 conference to the Pennsylvania Convention Center. (The last NMA conference held here was in 2003.) Philly was chosen not only because it’s a vibrant, "progressive" city where it’s good to conduct business, but also because it’s "a city that embraces diversity."

"Philadelphia is going to lead toward healthcare equity for all of us," added Dr. Mitchell.

According to PHLCVB, the organization’s convention bookings over the next several years will bring close to two million visitors to the city and generate an estimated $4 billion in regional economic impact.

Writer: Alaina Mabaso
Sources: PHLCVB and NMA speakers

 

Could Philly's next big healthcare company come out of the Digital Health Accelerator?

Six early-stage healthcare companies comprise the 2016 class at the University City Science Center’s Digital Health Accelerator (DHA). These startups are developing technologies as diverse as enrolling sick pets in clinical trials to providing treatment for chronic wounds without a doctor’s visit.
 
Each startup in the just-announced sophomore cohort will receive up to $50,000 in funding, professional mentorship, and networking opportunities with key healthcare stakeholders including insurers, pharmaceutical companies, hospitals and research institutions. They’ll also receive a 12-month membership at the Innovation Center @3401 -- a partnership between the Science Center and Drexel University in collaboration with Ben Franklin Technology Partners of Southeastern Pennsylvania and Safeguard Scientifics
 
The 2016 DHA companies are:

Grand Round Table
The company's product emails primary care providers a daily summary of their scheduled patient follow-ups so they can better manage high-risk patients, keeping them out of the hospital.

Graphwear Technologies
This startup has developed the first graphene patch to measure dehydration, glucose and lactic acid levels, all from your sweat.

InvisAlert Solutions
The company uses a wearable device to help care providers monitor patients in institutional settings, improving compliance.

Oncora Medical
This enterprise has a tool for planning personalized cancer radiotherapy, reducing the incidence of toxic radiation side effects in patients and improving cancer center efficiency.

One Health Company
This startup helps to enroll ill pets in trials of cutting-edge therapies, improving their wellness and encouraging the development of new therapies for human medicine.

Tissue Analytics
This company transforms the smartphone into a platform for evaluating and measuring things like chronic wounds, burns and skin conditions. 
 
The 2016 class was selected from a pool of 69 applicants via a multi-stage process that emphasized the inclusion of women and minority entrepreneurs. The DHA employs a selection panel of industry and investor professionals -- including a number from outside the region -- to review applications and make recommendations.
 
As it turned out, all of the selected companies have some connection to the University of Pennsylvania or Drexel. Four of them -- Grand Round Table, GraphWear Technologies, Oncora Medical and Tissue Analytics -- are graduates of DreamIt, also located at the Innovation Center. Of the six companies in the second DHA class, three are women or minority-owned.
 
The Science Center launched the DHA in 2014; seven companies from the inaugural class have since gone from prototype to commercialization, creating 68 new jobs, generating over $1 million in revenue and raising almost $9 million in follow-on investment.
 
Funding from the U.S. Small Business Administration Growth Accelerator Fund enabled the second class of the DHA to continue to focus on minority and women-led businesses. The DHA also received support from the Commonwealth of Pennsylvania’s Department of Community and Economic Development

WRITER IN RESIDENCE is a partnership between the University City Science Center and Flying Kite Media that embeds a reporter on-site at 3711 Market Street. The resulting coverage will provide an inside look at the most intriguing companies, discoveries and technological innovations coming out of this essential Philadelphia institution.
 

Saying goodbye (for now) to Callowhill with a look back at neighborhood voices


As Flying Kite transitions from its most recent On the Ground residency at Asian Arts Initiative, it’s worth looking back on neighborhood voices from the past few years. After all, this area just north of Center City has many names and many stories.

Last week, we spoke with Mural Arts freelance project manager Dave Kyu. He's been involved with the Asian Arts Social Practice Lab since 2012. His past projects include "Sign of the Times," which collected thoughts and reflections from the neighborhood and broadcast them on signs mounted on a truck driving around the city, and "Write Sky," which solicited ideas from community members that became messages in the sky with the help of sky-writing pilots.

To launch projects like this -- including his current work on a light and sound installation near the Viaduct -- he needed to get to know the neighborhood. Kyu began with a small survey of about fifteen people, hoping to learn what people’s perceptions of the area were. He recently shared the results with Flying Kite. The themes raised in surveys conducted in late 2012 through early 2013 reflect dramatic neighborhood change.

One question he asked his subjects was a deceptively simple one: What do you call this neighborhood?

To some, it’s Chinatown North, but it’s also Callowhill and "North of Vine." Others call it "the Viaduct area" -- certainly a label that’s gaining traction now -- and others call it "Eraserhood" or the "Loft District."

Kyu says all of these names just represent different factions of people trying to preserve what they see as their piece of the neighborhood as development advances.

Back then, respondents noted that the area was becoming a haven for the "creative class" and other entrepreneurs. The addition of galleries, bars and restaurants -- from artists and collectives at the 319 gallery building to nightlife startups like Brick and Mortar and W/N W/N Coffee Bar, and services like GoBeer -- have borne this out.

Kyu also asked subjects, "What is the best thing that could happen in this neighborhood in the next year?" Answers included a launch to the first stage of the new Viaduct Park (on its way), and "some type of festival that is accessible for all." Last fall’s Pearl Street Passage project offered a taste of this possibility.

The survey also noted that the area was "ripe for development" and changing extremely fast. Projects from the Philadelphia Chinatown Development Corporation’s Eastern Tower to new high-end residential units on Spring Garden, speak to expanding live/work opportunities in the neighborhood.

Keep an eye out for our continued coverage of happenings in Callowhill as it searches for its 21st century identity. And come say hello in Strawberry Mansion, where we will begin our next On the Ground residency soon.

Writer: Alaina Mabaso
Source: Dave Kyu
, Mural Arts Project and Asian Arts Initiative

Follow all our work #OnTheGroundPhilly via twitter (@flyingkitemedia) and Instagram (@flyingkite_ontheground).

On the Ground is made possible by the Knight Foundation, an organization that supports transformational ideas, promotes quality journalism, advances media innovation, engages communities and fosters the arts. The foundation believes that democracy thrives when people and communities are informed and engaged. For more, visit knightfoundation.org.
 

Crystallized Skulls, Crocheted Skeletons: Art meets zoological specimens at the Science Center


What are a crystallized alligator skull, crocheted bird skeletons and a "couture taxidermy" peacock doing at the University City Science Center? They are among the works of 12 artists on display at Methods of Collection, a new exhibition opening this week at the Esther Klein Gallery.
 
For almost its entire 40-plus-year history, the Center has employed a curator to draw the connection between science and art. The gallery itself -- which opened in 1976 and bears the name of a well-known Philadelphia philanthropist -- has a mission to use "the creative arts as a platform to explore relationships between art, science and technology."
 
According to Angela McQuillan, the current curator, the concept for the new show emerged from her personal experience. As a cancer researcher earlier in her career, she saw animal studies as "a necessary evil. It’s better to test on animals than on humans," she says. "But I also don’t think it’s right. So this is a difficult subject. This show is based on my feelings from all those years working in a lab."
 
And as the Center notes, "Preserved animal specimens have been collected for centuries for the study of natural history and the advancement of science."
 
McQuillan acknowledges the show’s ick factor for some viewers.

"Some pieces could be considered creepy or morbid," she muses. "I want to look at these things as objects of science and I want people to see the beauty in that… If [visitors] are grossed out at least they’ll think about it."
 
Among the pieces are:
  • Embellished taxidermy birds by Philadelphia artist Beth Beverly
  • "Alternative taxidermy" dogs made of breed-specific fur by Lauren Davies of Cleveland
  • A stuffed bear with intricate embroidery depicting anatomically correct blood vessels by Deborah Simon of Brooklyn
  • Pieces by Philadelphia artist Pierre Trombert, who will do a special performance piece at the opening reception: 5 to 7:30 p.m. Thursday, February 11 at the Esther Klein Gallery (3600 Market Street)
Methods of Collection will continue through March 25.

WRITER IN RESIDENCE is a partnership between the University City Science Center and Flying Kite Media that embeds a reporter on-site at 3711 Market Street. The resulting coverage will provide an inside look at the most intriguing companies, discoveries and technological innovations coming out of this essential Philadelphia institution.

 

'Racism is a Sickness' opens at the Art Church of West Philadelphia

Back in August 2015, we looked in on the official launch of Germantown photographer Tieshka Smith’s "Racism Is a Sickness" project. The initiative began as a photo and interview project, and has grown into a full-scale interdisciplinary and interactive installation, now open at the Art Church of West Philadelphia through February 27.
 
Thanks to early interest from 8th District Councilwoman Cindy Bass’s office, Smith hoped to mount "Racism is a Sickness" at a City Hall gallery, but when autumn 2015 passed by without an opening reception date, “I had to make a decision,” she explains.
 
That difficult choice -- to withdraw from a City Hall exhibition -- turned out to be "a blessing in disguise," says Smith. Cara Blouin, a colleague from an earlier project at the Painted Bride Art Center, invited "Racism Is a Sickness" to her space, the Art Church of West Philadelphia, where the project has had the freedom to evolve and expand, 
 
"I’m a huge Tieskha fan," says Blouin. "When I found out what she was doing I wanted to help however I could. This is a total labor of love."
 
The seeds of "Racism Is a Sickness" are the 14 subjects Smith photographed and interviewed in 2015. They each stand in front of an upside-down American flag, which for Smith is a symbol of national distress and institutional racism. The portrait subjects -- a mix of races and ages -- each wear a surgical mask with one word written on it, symbolizing an aspect of racism they want to protect themselves: These include “anger,” “apathy,” “fear,” “selfishness” and “suspicion.”
 
A placard alongside each collage offers the subjects' answers to three prompts. The first -- “Racism makes me…” -- inspires answers ranging from “squirm” to “mad” to “scared.” The second -- “Racism makes America…” -- draws responses such as “poorer,” “a failure,” “ugly,” and “profitable.”
 
The final prompt asks about one aspect of racism subjects wish they could eliminate or heal. Their answers include “stereotyping,” “blindness,” and “dehumanization.” The Art Church installation includes an area for viewers to add their own responses to the prompts on Post-it notes.
 
Other interactive pieces of the project grew out of Smith’s "#HastagsOfHeartbreak" action for victims of police brutality, which she began online last summer to "to document and amplify all of the victims that I was aware of via social media." One wall of the Art Church display is devoted to "Death By a Thousand Cuts," a commentary on the practice of settling cases of state or police brutality out of court with payments to the victims or their families.
 
"We like to throw money at our social ills," explains Smith in the display. "We believe money solves problems and shuts people up, especially if the people are poor or otherwise marginalized…The cumulative effects of these acts on poor, black and brown bodies seeps into our collective consciousness and settles there."
 
Visitors are invited to participate in the piece by writing the name of someone they know who has been "personally affected by police brutality, police misconduct, or state-sanctioned violence" on a piece of faux money, using a Band-Aid to affix the name to an upside-down American flag.
 
Visitors to the exhibit are also invited to bring in prescription pill bottles with their labels removed, then to write down a positive anecdote that combats instances of racism, and put them in the bottles.
 
The installation's run, which Blouin and Smith hope will be the first of many for the project, features a wide range of events including discussions, performances and film screenings.

"Racism is a Sickness" runs through Februaru 27 at the Art Church of West Philadelphia (5219 Webster Street).
 
Writer: Alaina Mabaso
Sources: Tieshka Smith and Cara Blouin, Racism Is a Sickness 
 

Engaging Philly business owners on the issue of litter

Last week, we took a look at the ways the Philadelphia Chinatown Development Corporation and other members of the new Keep Philadelphia Beautiful (KPB) city-wide anti-litter coalition are tackling illegal dumping in Philly. Another important conversation revolved around encouraging business owners to be more active in combatting litter.

Beth McConnell, policy director of the Philadelphia Association of CDCs, Michelle Kim, a program officer at LISC Philadelphia, Director Alex Balloon of the Taucony CDC, Akeem Dixon of the People's Emergency Center and the Enterprise Center, and Mayor’s Office of Sustainability Deputy Director of Policy Andrew Sharp participated in this discussion.

Participants noted possible best practices as well as existing challenges.

"There’s no cross-city litter program in the city," explained Sharp. "It’s incredibly siloed."

"We should not be afraid to say the City should be paying more money for these things," McConnell suggested.

Another theme was encouraging SEPTA to take a greater role in combatting litter by ensuring properly maintained receptacles at transit stops. Dixon expressed concern about plans for new surface transit shelters that don’t also include a nearby place to put refuse. Trashcans should be better aligned with transit routes, the group agreed.

"It’s not about cleaning. It’s about engagement," Kim said of reaching out to business owners who can help combat problems of trash block by block.

Or as Dixon put it, "The best app in the world is called talking to each other."

Participants pointed to the success of ensuring SWEEPs officers aren’t just enforcers, but a friendly face and resource in the streets.

Suggestions for helping businesses included amnesty from fines for any owner who calls 311 to report excess trash outside their building. Currently, many owners and managers may not make the call for fear they’ll be punished for the mess. Sometimes, participants pointed out, trash outside one business may not have come from that business at all, but been illegally dumped there or blown by the wind.

Attendees also said that Streets Department staffers could come to more neighborhood meetings, and that there could be higher-profile awards or incentives for business owners who consistently maintain a tidy street and sidewalk.

Balloon also pointed to an existing City ordinance that needs better enforcement: Take-out restaurants are required to have an external trashcan onsite, but many don’t follow the rule, resulting in piles of Styrofoam cast-offs nearby.

KPB leader Michelle Feldman, chatting with Flying Kite after the meeting, said January’s gathering drew just as many participants as the initial one in October 2015, though this time -- based on surveys following the previous meeting -- the discussion was more targeted and specific. She hopes a unified city plan will emerge from the coalition; the next litter convening will be held sometime in April.

Writer: Alaina Mabaso
Sources: Keep Philadelphia Beautiful Litter Convening members 

Philly's top women business leaders tell their stories

What do Philly's women business executives have to say about their career journeys? To answer that question, the nationally operating CPA firm Citrin Cooperman hosted an inaugural "Women at the Wheel" forum at the Union League of Philadelphia. The January 21 event featured four of the city's most notable business leaders telling their stories and taking questions from the crowd.

Julie Coker Graham, a former Hyatt Regency Philadelphia general manager, is the new president and CEO of the Philadelphia Convention and Visitors Bureau. Suzanne S. Mayes, a 2012 Alice Paul Equality Award winner and leader at several women’s initiative organizations, is the chair of the public and project finance group at Cozen O’Connor. They were joined by Cheltenham native JoAnne Epps -- currently dean of Temple’s Beasley School of Law, she was appointed by Mayor Michael Nutter to chair the new Police Department Oversight Board and earned the Philadelphia Bar Association’s Justice Sonia Sotomayor Diversity Award. Catherine M. Cahill completed the panel. Originally a musician, she has had a distinguished career in arts administration and been the president and CEO of the Mann Center for the Performing Arts since 2008.

Citrin Cooperman partners Mary Brislin and Colleen S. Vallen moderated the panel.

In her opening remarks, Vallen noted that only about thirteen percent of U.S. business board and executive positions are held by women (though in local healthcare and higher education sectors, that number has topped twenty percent).

Graham touted her lifelong "passion for hospitality." Just a few decades ago it was virtually unheard of for a woman -- especially an African-American woman -- to pursue a four-year degree in hospitality management.

"The culinary scene here is just exploding," she said of moving Philadelphia in 2007.

Mayes spoke about her formative years at an all-girls high school where a you-can-do-anything attitude wasn’t aspirational or visionary, "it was a fact," with women leaders on sports teams and in school clubs. She took this attitude with her to college, where she remembers a "five-minute meeting" with her male undergraduate advisor -- she wanted to discuss her grad school options. He told her to focus on finishing college, not going to business or law school.

"Happily, I didn’t listen to him," she recalled, earning her law degree from the University of Pennsylvania.

"It didn’t occur to me that African-American women could run anything," said Epps of her school days; she thought becoming a legal secretary would be the apex of her career. She remembers her own mother, whose school counselor "laughed until he cried" when she said she was interested in medical school and put her on a secretarial track instead. Epps herself went on to attend Trinity College just after it became co-ed and was greeted on her first day with signs that read, "Co-eds go home, we hate you!"

But her years there were successful, leading to a prominent legal career.

"Be vigilant as to what is happening to us, and be vigilant as to what is happening to others," she advised attendees on improving gender parity in the workforce.

Cahill, a Temple undergraduate and Drexel graduate alum, has managed major music institutions such as Lincoln Center’s David Geffen Hall, the Dallas Symphony, the New York Philharmonic and the Toronto Symphony before landing in Philly. She touted a recent "sea change" in the world of leadership for women.

The panel took several audience questions, including one about coping with "imposter syndrome" in high-powered jobs.

"It’s about recognizing the moment of self-doubt," said Mayes. "What do you do about it?" There’s no such thing as a work-life or mom-career balance, she continued. Instead, it’s about "integration" with the right personal and professional support.

Writer: Alaina Mabaso
Sources: Citrin Cooperman Women at the Wheel speakers

 

Venture Capital: What it takes to be an angel (investor), and to get a blessing

If it takes fortitude to be an entrepreneur, it arguably takes even more to be an angel investor -- a high-gamble endeavor for those with deep pockets and an appetite for risk.

Joe Herbst is active with Robin Hood Ventures, an angel consortium based at the University City Science Center. At a recent "Coffee & Capital" event at the Science Center’s Quorum, he shared his thoughts on what it takes to be a successful angel -- and what it takes to get a blessing.

Herbst is one of 40 Robin Hood members who meet monthly at Quorum to consider pitches. Founded in 1999, the group has invested in over 50 companies; Herbst, an active angel since 2004, has 20 companies in his personal, early-stage technology portfolio. (Robin Hood members invest individually, not as a group.)

What drives Herbst and his fellow angels? His personal motivation is the potential for higher returns. (Members typically look for at least a 20 percent return on investment.) As for the group, "Robin Hood invests in companies in the Philadelphia region," he explains. "I believe it is important to support rapid-growth, early-stage businesses to retain talent and create good paying jobs in the local community."

The organization's investors usually focus on capital-efficient, business-to-business companies in the technology sector. They typically make about six new investments per year -- ranging from $150,000 to $400,000 -- and aim to exit profitably within about eight years.

They look for enterprises that are scalable and have already demonstrated a market for their product or service.

"We like to see a product running -- not a prototype or a test... -- that has been bought, paid for and re-bought," says Herbst. The members also look for an entrepreneur who has invested some of his/her personal money and demonstrates "deep domain knowledge: Someone who has lived and breathed in that industry for a decade and has seen problems that are not getting solved."

Still, there are exceptions. Herbst cites LuxTech, an LED lighting company whose young CEO pitched three times to Robin Hood before winning funding.

Robin Hood's success stories include the sales of Locus Energy to Genscape, LiveLOOK to Oracle and Novira Therapeutics to Johnson & Johnson. 

Still, according Herbst, "We have more losers than winners. That’s why we spread it around. And the winners have to be big winners."

WRITER IN RESIDENCE is a partnership between the University City Science Center and Flying Kite Media that embeds a reporter on-site at 3711 Market Street. The resulting coverage will provide an inside look at the most intriguing companies, discoveries and technological innovations coming out of this essential Philadelphia institution.
 

Historic Fair Hill Burial Ground works to get its due

Historic Fair Hill (HFH), a landmark burial ground on Germantown Avenue, houses the remains of some of America’s most prominent abolitionists and women’s rights advocates. After decades of neglect, the rejuvenated site is planning another year of programming growth under new executive director Jean Warrington.

A Philly native and current Chestnut Hill resident, Warrington got involved with the project over a decade ago. In 2004, the HFH board hired her as its part-time program director and as of January 1, 2016, she took on the role of the organization’s executive director.

The HFH site dates all the way back to the early 18th century. It was started by George Fox himself, founder of the Religious Society of Friends and the land’s original owner. According to HFH, his will asked that the space be used "for a meeting house, a burying ground, and a garden and grounds" for kids to play and learn.

The site’s adjoining Quaker meeting house at Germantown Avenue and Cambria Street was sporadically active from 1703 all the way until 1967, when shrinking attendance led the Philadelphia Yearly Meeting to sell the property. Maintenance of the grounds -- the site of the graves of American luminaries such as Lucretia Mott and Robert Purvis -- deteriorated.

In the late 1980s, "it was the biggest open-air crack cocaine market in the city," says Warrington of the five-acre site. In the 1990s, a dedicated cross-cultural neighborhood coalition slowly reclaimed the site as a safe green space. Outreach to local Quaker leader Margaret Hope Bacon (a Mott biographer) resulted in renewed attention and eventually a nonprofit that raised funds to buy back the grounds in 1993.

"What we’re doing is using a historic site…to carry forward the values of the people buried there. We’re using the past to serve the present," explains Warrington of HFH’s current work, which hearkens back to Fox’s will by focusing on urban gardening -- both on and off-site -- and a reading program at the neighboring Julia de Burgos School.

There are currently 20 HFH "reading buddies" who volunteer in the classroom there and work to restore the school library that was closed down (along with many others across the city) in 2010. A large local Hispanic immigrant community means this kind of support is crucial: Many local kids have parents who don’t speak English, so bridging the English-speaking literary gap is important.

"The kids are so lovely," says Warrington. "They are respectful, eager, curious, bright. They’ve got to have a library. They’ve got to have books. They’ve got to have people who can read with them."

In her new role as executive director, she wants to increase the number of reading buddies to 50 and expand the site’s existing gardening programs. Working outside "increases the peace," she argues. It correlates with better performance at school and is "just a good thing in this society that is so wired and pushy and loud and unjust."

Also on the horizon is increasing the site’s visibility with an improved website, better social media presence and monthly events. That includes an upcoming Women’s History Month tour on March 12 honoring the graves of leaders of the 1848 Seneca Falls Convention, the first women’s right’s convention.

Writer: Alaina Mabaso
Source: Jean Warrington, Historic Fair Hill

 

Scaling Up: A West Philly landscaping and home improvement business gets a boost

Recently, we took a look at the Enterprise Center’s ScaleUp America Initiative, a federally funded curriculum targeting mid-range Philadelphia businesses that have had success in their markets but need additional support to get to the next level.

West Philadelphia native Jameson Harris, 35, is a member of ScaleUp’s Elevate! Cohort 2016; he got started with the year-long program earlier this month. In 2002, Harris founded Brothers of Nature, a West Philly-based landscaping, home improvement, and property maintenance company.

The business started with three part-time employees, grew to about eight by 2014, and 16 this year. In 2005, Harris won a minority business plan competition with the Enterprise Center -- grants totaling $35,000 went towards supplies to expand the venture.

When he got started, Harris was one of the only landscaping companies based in his West Philly neighborhood. One of his largest early clients was the nonprofit ACHIEVEability, an affordable housing program with over 150 homes. As Harris expanded, the landscaping work expanded to include property maintenance for ACHIEVEability tenants and others.

Brothers of Nature now offers mowing, pruning, and leaf and snow removal, in addition to home improvement services such as painting, flooring, kitchen and bathroom installations, plumbing and electrical services. The company’s clients include the City of Philadelphia: They maintain vacant lots (keeping them mowed and clear of debris) in a span between 33rd and 15th Streets, Washington and Snyder Avenues.

Harris realized early in his career that entrepreneurship was the way to go.

"I knew a regular job couldn’t support what I need to get done," he says of finding something he could rely on in tough times. He’d been working for a landscaping company and decided to launch his own venture in the same field.

2016’s ScaleUp cohort will attend a total of seven seven-hour class sessions throughout the year, as well as one-on-one mentoring for targeted challenge areas and plenty of networking opportunities. One major goal for Harris this year is transforming his business from a sole proprietorship to an LLC.

"ScaleUp has taught me to involve my guys more in the business of what’s going on and how to grow, how to take on more customers," he says. That shift is not just about lightening his load, but about letting him focus on crucial administrative aspects of the business including his longterm business plan. Upcoming goals include growing his employee roster and transitioning part-time workers to full-time.

Writer: Alaina Mabaso
Source: Jameson Harris, Brothers of Nature

 

Your chance to join Philly's biggest anti-littering coalition

Anti-litter efforts are nothing new, but Keep Philadelphia Beautiful (KPB) Executive Director Michelle Feldman is hoping to take them to the next level in 2016 by convening the city’s most comprehensive forum on littering to date.
 
KPB is involved in the community outreach and educational aspects of neighborhood greening, sustainability and beautification, working with motivated local groups through micro-grants, workshops and classes.
 
Last October, Feldman helped organize the initial session of a new consortium: KPB is partnering with the Commerce Department, the Streets Department, the Philadelphia Association of CDCs and the Philly chapter of the Local Initiative Support Coalition (LISC). 
 
"Heads of neighborhood-based organizations have meetings together all the time," explains Feldman, but they’ve never focused specifically on issues of litter. The long-term coalition aims to share resources, challenges and best practices while also looking to the future for a concrete joint project spearheaded by KPB.
 
"I want to form an advisory committee of folks who are on the ground in different neighborhoods around the city," she says. "I want to hear, what are the challenges in [for example] West Philly versus North Philly…and what are the ways that Keep Philadelphia Beautiful at a city-wide level can help to address those challenges."
 
The first meetings -- they aren’t branded yet, but Feldman is calling them "litter convenings" -- are already getting a big response. The October session at the Municipal Services Building (MSB) drew about thirty people. An invitation to the next meeting on Wednesday, January 20 (10 a.m. - 12 p.m. in MSB’s 16th floor Innovation Lab) quickly garnered a raft of RSVPs.
 
The January 20 agenda includes small group work on best practices in youth and business owner engagement, preventing illegal dumping, and examining existing data/metrics on the issue. All attendees will have the chance to see and comment on the top concepts from each breakout group.
 
"It’s going to dovetail nicely with a new administration and their focus on littering," enthuses Feldman.
 
Community stakeholders interesting in attending should RSVP to michelle@keepphiladelphiabeautiful.org.
 
Writer: Alaina Mabaso
Source: Michelle Feldman, Keep Philadelphia Beautiful 

 

Yards, La Colombe and Shake Shack team up for a limited edition Coffee Stout

A new collaboration between Shake Shack, Yards Brewing Company and La Colombe Coffee Roasters is giving Philly a rich and tasty new brew for the cold-weather season, available on draft at select locations while supplies last.
 
On January 8, Shake Shack Culinary Director Mark Rosati, La Colombe co-founder Todd Carmichael, and Yards founder and brewmaster Tom Kehoe officially launched their limited-edition Coffee Stout at Center City’s Sansom Street Shake Shack location.
 
Kehoe chatted with Flying Kite while taking full advantage of an impromptu Shake Shack combo -- making a vanilla custard float with his stout. The collaboration has been in the works for about two months. The strong, dark, and smooth ale gets bright notes of lavender, orange and caramel from ethically sourced beans that come to Philly via the Haitian village of Fatima (as part of La Colombe’s three-year investment in the Haiti Coffee Academy). 
 
The base stout is very similar to Yards' Chocolate Love Stout, brewed with the same chocolate malt. It gets its mellow coffee flavor directly from the beans in a secondary fermenter.

"Coffee really works so well with the beer," said Kehoe. "It’s definitely a beer for winter because of the robustness of it."
 
Sales will benefit the City of Philadelphia's Mural Arts Program (MAP), Center City Shake Shack’s official charitable partner. $2 from each pint purchased will go to MAP.
  
So where can you get your hands on some of this buzzy brew? Pints are on sale for $5.75 at Yards’ Northern Liberties tasting room, La Colombe’s Fishtown café (1335 Frankford Avenue) and all three Philadelphia-area Shake Shack locations (Center City, University City, and King of Prussia).
 
Writer: Alaina Mabaso
Source: Tom Kehoe, Yards Brewing Company

Science Central: Five questions for Choosito!

For young students, the Internet can be a big, messy, cluttered, unreliable or even dangerous place. Choosito!, a University City Science Center startup, has devised a technological solution to help K-12 teachers find age appropriate resources for their students. The company's tagline sums up its mission: "Because the web is not a library and search engines are not librarians."
 
We asked co-founder and CEO Eleni Miltsakaki five central questions about his growing enterprise.
 
What is your big idea?

Although progress has been made in returning quality search results, the focus is on improving the relevance of results to the query, not the user, and on improving the online shopping experience. 
 
Choosito! is a web search filtering application designed to personalize search specifically for learners. To achieve this, we shift our focus from the keyword to the user.

Let's take the example of the query "polar bears." The user making the query could be a second or fifth grader searching for cool facts about polar bears to bring to class the next day; a group of middle school students working on a science project; a language teacher looking for a short story or news about polar bears at different reading levels; a foreign language learner; or even a polar bear expert.
 
The key to personalizing results for learning is understanding who the user is, what she wants to learn and what she knows already. Choosito is building technology that combines text analysis algorithms with statistical representations of each user’s current and evolving experience with the topic of the query to make adaptive recommendations of relevant resources.
 
What is your origin story?

I am a linguist and natural language processing scientist. In 2006, I started teaching educational technology at the University of Pennsylvania’s Graduate School of Education and was quickly confronted by frustrated teachers who were reluctant to let their students use the web because it was a distraction, took a long time to find something useful and was not reliable.
 
Co-founder Christos Georgiadis and I started operations in 2012. We are now surrounded by a talented team of educators, technologists and entrepreneurs dedicated to personalized learning.
 
What is your timeline for growth?

We launched our beta Choosito! Search and Learn in October 2014. Users can establish search criteria to filter websites by reading level and theme. Since our launch, we’ve gotten over 30,000 users.
 
On our first anniversary, we released our premium product Choosito! Class to help K-12 teachers integrate the teaching of information literacy into their curriculum. Choosito! Class also helps teachers assess the progress of their students’ critical thinking and information literacy skills by accessing quantitative data about their students’ methods of inquiry and evaluation of information.
 
In March, Choosito received a $1 million Innovation Award from the National Science Foundation. We’re currently at work to extend our machine learning text analysis technology by offering website recommendations based on what each student already knows and understands about the topic of inquiry.
 
Why does the marketplace need your company?

There is currently no other tool that can leverage the power and size of digital content to offer a sustainable solution not only for K-12, but lifelong personalized learning. Choosito!’s competition offers either automatically retrieved non-leveled resources or limited collections of resources organized by reading or grade level that become obsolete in less than a year.
 
What is your elevator pitch?

Choosito is a linguistic application that personalizes learning by making adaptive recommendations of resources that are not only relevant to the topic of interest but also relevant to the user and what they already know.

WRITER IN RESIDENCE is a partnership between the University City Science Center and Flying Kite Media that embeds a reporter on-site at 3711 Market Street. The resulting coverage will provide an inside look at the most intriguing companies, discoveries and technological innovations coming out of this essential Philadelphia institution.
 

On the Ground: Callowhill's W/N W/N shakes up the restaurant model

If I were running this business, what would I do differently? It’s a question most restaurant, café or bar staffers have probably asked themselves at some point in their careers. Last year, a group of Philly entrepreneurs came together to answer it for themselves.

In summer 2014, six Philadelphians began to take a serious look at developing a cooperatively owned and operated bar and restaurant. One has since left the venture, but five service industry veterans remain to run Spring Garden Street's W/N W/N Coffee Bar: Will Darwall, Michael Dunican, Max Kochinke, Alden Towler and Tony Montagnaro.

The crew soft-launched the location at 931 Spring Garden in December of last year, and held a grand opening in late January 2015. Since then, the five coworker/owners have been experimenting with their model in a democratic government-by-consensus process (they have three additional employees who are not partners in the business).

Chatting with Flying Kite about their first year in business, Darwall says the ownership model is based more on "sweat equity" than the capital brought to the venture (that capital was treated as third-party loans, and does not entitle the owner-investor to a greater share of the profits). Each of the five owners works multiple shifts each week cooking, serving, bartending, busing tables or performing maintenance.

"What worker/ownership gives us is equal legal ownership over the company, which means a right to participate in decision-making and a right to accrue profits from the business," he explains. "The way that we pay out those profits is proportional to how much work we all do, counting the hours up.

"We thought that coming together and working as a cooperative, we’d be able to create a structure where we could support each other…and use our collective creative energy and potential to come up with good solutions to the problems we faced, rather than feeling frustrated about things that we thought could go better."

W/N W/N's menu features local, sustainably sourced foods, with a focus on canning, preserving and pickling. (Ed: Flying Kite recently held a meeting there and the food was phenomenal.)

The innovative business model extends to the customers: patrons can buy membership shares. They run $25, and each time the member buys something, 25 percent of their bill is deducted from that pre-paid fee – meaning that W/N W/N members infuse the business with $25 up front, and then receive that money back as they pay only 75 percent of the purchase price on any given item.

Darwall estimates that about 10 percent of the café’s customers have bought into the membership model, and that’s fine for now -- as the founders tinker with their business plan and assess what worked and what didn’t in their first year, they’ll continue to explore what kind of cooperative model might thrive going forward.

W/N W/N will be scaling back its food menu beginning in January, though food service will still be on offer. It currently opens at 5 p.m. Monday through Friday, closing at midnight every day except Friday and Saturday, when it’s open until 2 a.m. The doors open at 10 a.m. on Saturday and Sunday for brunch.

Follow all our work #OnTheGroundPhilly via twitter (@flyingkitemedia) and Instagram (@flyingkite_ontheground).


On the Ground is made possible by the Knight Foundation, an organization that supports transformational ideas, promotes quality journalism, advances media innovation, engages communities and fosters the arts. The foundation believes that democracy thrives when people and communities are informed and engaged. For more, visit knightfoundation.org.

Writer: Alaina Mabaso
Source: Will Darwall, W/N W/N Coffee Bar

Federal dollars from ScaleUp America come to West Philly

In December, the Enterprise Center (TEC) in West Philly announced a special program to augment their 25-year mission: giving local women- and minority-owned businesses the tools they need to grow. TEC is one of only seven organizations nationwide -- and the only one in Philly -- chosen to receive over $1 million in federal funds through the U.S. Small Business Administration's ScaleUp America Initiative.

According to TEC, ScaleUp provides "growth-oriented" small businesses with a targeted twelve-week curriculum and six months of one-on-one mentoring from experts aimed at developing a three-year strategy. TEC narrowed the field of applicants down to 25 businesses featuring minority owners or executive managers.

Iola Harper, TEC's executive vice president of business programs, says that the companies served by TEC and ScaleUp America are often "sandwiched" between early startups "in the idea phase" and large firms that can attract venture capital. To qualify for participation in the ScaleUp program, businesses had to have local impact and have proven themselves in the market via $150,000 to $700,000 in annual revenue.

"We call them scalers," says Harper, and they are often neglected in the venture capital world.

One marker of companies like this is a relative lack of managerial experience, in addition to inadequate access to capital and technical assistance.

"I find that these businesses tend to work in their business and not on their business," explains Harper. "So this program forces the participants to step out of their businesses," encouraging management to look at the big picture: business goals, scalability and understanding the numbers.

The ScaleUp initiative is a mentoring curriculum, but another component of working with TEC is the access to capital. The organization can make in-house loans of up to $200,000 to qualified participants, and if a business’s capital needs exceed that, there are banking partners on hand.

Harper is excited about "the fact that these are all local or minority-owned firms, and they’re typically the pool that has the hardest time accessing these services that we’re offering."

That difficulty is two-fold: Not only does TEC focus on women and minority entrepreneurs who get a smaller percentage of America’s venture capital in general, but it also targets companies outside of the tech and pharmaceutical realms. Current ScaleUp participants include food, manufacturing, personal service and construction businesses.

TEC is focused on ventures that "bring a lot of social capital to our community," enthuses Harper. "They bring a lot of intellectual capital to our community, and most of all they bring jobs to our community."

Writer: Alaina Mabaso
Source: Iola Harper, The Enterprise Center

 
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