Contest showcases students’ business savvy

An “American Idol” copycat made its way to Philadelphia, but in this competition the contestants were not asked to sing.

Instead, 32 students from eight area colleges tested their business savvy in the first annual Philadelphia’s Entrepreneur Idol. The event, hosted by Fox School of Business, was held March 2 at the Great Court in Mitten Hall. The event celebrated National Entrepreneurship Week and was the first citywide student entrepreneurial competition.

After successfully completing five timed rounds of business-related tasks, the winner would receive $1,000 and a private luncheon with Dr. Richard Caruso, the 2006 National Entrepreneur of the Year and founder of Integra LifeSciences Corp. The project’s creator, Rebecca Davis, who is also the project coordinator for the Innovation and Entrepreneurship Institute, said the competition is based on the hit TV series “American Idol” and focuses on students’ talent strategies.

“Whether it’s singing or pitching business
ideas, that same stuff applies,” she said. Davis took the idea to the city’s department of commerce, which became a sponsor for the event. “How do we attract and keep talented young people in the city and in the region? One way to do that is to encourage and foster entrepreneurship,” said Josh Sevin, manager of Knowledge Industry Initiatives in the department
of commerce.

Davis also invited the following panel of established entrepreneurs to serve as judges: Richard Bendis, CEO of True Product ID, Inc., Paul Green, founder of the Paul Green School of Rock Music and Jon Herrmann, founder of Campus Philly, which was also a sponsor. Lyn Kremer, publisher of the “Philadelphia Business Journal,” Alan Lewenthal, founder of Marquis Auto Restoration and Hal Real, founder of World Cafe Live also assisted in the judging.

University President Dr. Ann Weaver Hart attended the event and said she was thrilled that Temple was the host.

“It’s very exciting and in fact, even though this is the first one, the idea is so compelling that we’ve learned that a number of other colleges are thinking of copying us,” Hart said.

Contestants were asked to develop a slogan for SEPTA, create a new item using a plastic plate, construct a plan to increase print publication subscriptions and think of interview questions to hire an assistant.

Temple students Sean Massenburg, a sophomore marketing major, and Jenna Strausser, a junior entrepreneurship major, were named finalists. In the last round, each finalist and his or her two assistants were asked to use a $10,000 budget to plan next year’s Philadelphia’s Entrepreneur
Idol, in which the attendance would not be limited to students. After much deliberation, the judges declared
a tie, agreeing that one contestant had a good idea while the other had a good plan.

Although Strausser said she was not satisfied with her performance in the last round, she wasn’t surprised by the judges’ decision.

But Massenburg said he “thought we had it, no doubt.” Even the judging resembled “American Idol”, in some respects, Bendis said.

“We really didn’t have a Simon Cowell. I don’t think, did we? Maybe [Paul Green], the school of rock guy,” Bendis said.

Green admitted that he was harsh. “I was cheating and looking at [Lyn Kremer], the woman next to me,” he said. “I’d give a two and she’d give a five. It was funny.”

Amanda Snyder can be reached at

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