Earlier this semester, 14 Penn and Wharton undergrads met up at the headquarters of Saxbys, a Philadelphia-based company best known for its popular cafés. The students weren’t there just for the caffeine — they were there to learn about how the company embeds social impact in its business practices.
The students, all members of the Turner Social Impact Society, were on a “social impact career trek” — a daylong visit to a handful of companies to explore how they’re driving impact.
During this year’s trek, TSIS students met with:
- Saxbys, a hospitality company with a social impact mission that champions education and opportunity.
- Seed Spot, a nonprofit that educates and invests in social entrepreneurs.
- FulPhil, a company that empowers college and high school students to be impactful leaders through social entrepreneurship. (Alumna Tiffany Yau, C’18, C’19, Founder and CEO.)
- The Rooster, a restaurant that gives 100% of its profits to Broad Street Ministry, a local nonprofit that provides meals and vital social services to vulnerable Philadelphians. (Alumnus Steve Cook, W’95, Co-Founder.)
- GenHERation, a network that connects young women and companies through a digital platform and national events. (Alumna Katlyn Grasso, W’15, Founder and CEO.)
Here’s what they had to say about the experience.
Melinda Hu, W’20
“I was impressed by Saxbys’ dedication to education and opportunity, and their Experiential Learning Program. I’ve never before heard of a company that invests this much in students’ training and development and allows them to serve as manager ‘CEOs’ for its coffee shops across Pennsylvania. An experience in running a business is extremely impactful for young people. Although many might see Saxbys as just a place to grab their morning latte, I see Saxbys as a company that has built social impact in the core of its business.”
Gustavo Hachenburg, W’19
“My main takeaway from our conversations with Seed Spot and FulPhil is that the entrepreneurial path is not at all linear — it is a mix of preparation and serendipity. I think that recognizing this nonlinearity will help me in the future. I learned that the best ideas are often a combination of multiple smaller-scale innovations.
I also learned that Philadelphia has a thriving start-up ecosystem and that there are numerous resources that can help any entrepreneur solidify and grow their idea. I was surprised to find out that Philly’s social impact start-up ecosystem is very well connected — it seems like everyone knows each other and can help point entrepreneurs in the right direction by linking them with the right people. Both Seed Spot and FulPhil were very optimistic about the potential of Philadelphia’s start-up scene, saying that it is slowly becoming the east coast’s Silicon Valley.”
Peter Hissey, W’20
“Being socially focused and giving all of their profits to Broad Street Ministry, The Rooster is making a bold statement that you can ‘eat well and do right’ at the same time. Our visit with The Rooster challenged me to continue to develop skills that can be used for social impact. I loved how the restaurant owners created a nonprofit restaurant rather than give a percentage of their profits to a charity. They used their core competency and leveraged it by creating an avenue for social impact. Whether it’s the restaurant business, investment banking, or tech, these careers can provide a platform to increase social welfare. The goal is to be aware and seize the opportunities when they come.”
Alicia Lu, EAS’21
“I had the opportunity to speak with the founder and CEO of GenHERation, Katlyn Grasso, and learn about her journey to entrepreneurship. It was not only very inspiring, but made me realize the importance of being self-aware and open to growth, especially in the workplace. Her company, which started from a Wharton Social Impact-funded research project, now has fifty partner companies and holds 60 national events a year.
As a growing organization with positive, ethical relationships with corporations like Google and Capital One, GenHERation exemplifies how social impact entrepreneurship is not only achievable but also sustainable. I thought that GenHERation’s internal business practices were also unique in that the board of directors is half men and half women, providing diverse perspectives for the trajectory of the company. This experience really opened my eyes to the different ways that careers in social impact are possible.”
Undergrads, want to get involved? Learn more about the Turner Social Impact Society.
Posted: May 23, 2019