‘Special Sauce’ and ‘Future Stars’ at the SBDC
- by Wharton Magazine
Meet the “Rock ‘n’ Roll Professor” and the “Green Business Builder,” two more alumni who have helped the Wharton Small Business Development Center become such a successful entrepreneurial hub.
By Paul Richards, C’10
In the latest issue of Wharton Magazine, we feature several alumni who work or volunteer at Wharton’s Small Business Development Center. The cast of alumni characters at the SBDC is not limited to those featured in our summer magazine. In this complementary online article, we examine two more alumni who are giving back to Wharton and shaping the Philadelphia business community through their work at the Center.
They call him the “Rock ‘n’ Roll Professor.”
When not teaching business planning to budding entrepreneurs at the Wharton Small Business Development Center (SBDC), Lawrence Gelburd, WG’91, can often be found laying down beats and editing tracks in the recording studio. In the music industry, Gelburd goes by Gelboni, and his dual citizenship in both the business and entertainment worlds creates a unique juxtaposition in the classroom.
“I made a pledge to myself to be the first Wharton instructor ever to have a gold or platinum record,” jokes Gelburd.
He has what he calls a “strategic alliance” with Grammy-award-winning producer Phil Nicolo and regularly travels to artists’ home bases for intensive, one-on-one studio work. He primarily produces rock and pop records.
Once insistent on keeping his two worlds separate, Gelburd’s social media presence has effectively knocked down the walls he erected between Wharton and the music world. Now, he sees his disparate background as a distinguishing factor.
“It’s my special sauce,” he says.
In teaching entrepreneurship, which he has done at the SBDC for the past decade, Gelburd draws a number of parallels to his role as a record producer. Proper idea marketing, for instance, can make or break musicians and businessmen.
In both worlds, barriers to entry have been greatly reduced—but a great idea is not enough on its own.
“You have to make them aware of who you are,” he says. “That’s the biggest downfall for many of my tech startups.”
To bolster his entrepreneurial prospects, Gelburd makes a habit of being available and volunteering his time, saying “yes” to anything interesting that comes his way.
“So much happens just from being social and meeting with people,” he explains. As he likes to say to his class, “No business plan in history has ever been funded; people are funded to implement business plans.”
Gelburd has certainly put himself out there. In addition to teaching at the SBDC and producing records, he speaks at the Philadelphia Free Library on behalf of the SBDC, teaches in Wharton’s Leadership in the Business World program for high school students, sits on a music critiquing panel at South by Southwest, and consults with Goldman Sachs’ 10,000 Women and 10,000 Small Businesses initiatives. He also volunteers as a member of the Huffington Post/AOL Small Business Board and contributes to MSNBC’s show, “Your Business.”
Students in Gelburd’s SBDC classes range from age 17 to 70, and he takes great pleasure in keeping them entertained, engaged and ultimately leading them to the realization that, just as his own spheres of expertise intersect, they have a lot of core issues in common.
The Green Business Builder
Across town, another alum at the SBDC is engaged in a different sort of project. At the Philadelphia Navy Yard on the Delaware River in South Philly, Jacqui Jenkins, WG’96, works at the Energy Efficient Buildings Hub, where she represents the SBDC in a partnership with 24 other entities from across the state and country. The EEB Hub is funded by a five-year, multiagency grant led by the U.S. Department of Energy with a goal of promoting sustainability in the building sector through research and outreach.
“Building energy use is about 40 percent of total national energy use, which is a big number,” says Jenkins. “Buildings are kind of the last frontier, and our goal is to look at how you create efficiencies.”
Jenkins’ team advises businesses seeking to grow in the energy efficient building space. She also conducts monthly outreach and holds workshops and seminars at the Hub to help position businesses to enter the energy efficiency space. More than 100 businesses have participated so far. They range from a janitorial service (and one of the largest female-owned employers in Philadelphia) looking to develop an energy savings plan, to a heating-cooling contractor developing efficient technologies for smaller industrial spaces.
Jenkins is also working on a project with Wharton’s Real Estate Department to help finance smaller retrofit projects.
“What we’re doing at the Navy Yard is positioning future stars,” Jenkins explains, adding that through her work she hopes to help entrepreneurs grow businesses that will be renowned for their energy efficiency.
Jenkins brings to her role a long history with the SBDC and her own experience as an entrepreneur. She was an MBA student-consultant with the center during her time at Wharton, briefly served as the SBDC director following her graduation and taught business planning at the center for five years. She also worked at Ernst & Young helping small businesses develop loan packages, became the chief finance officer of an Internet startup company during the dot-com era and established her own consulting business that performed financial analysis for organizations like Philadelphia’s local PBS station.
With that groundwork behind her, moving into the building sector felt like a logical transition.
“I always look at what’s coming up next,” she says. “Given climate change, given our low energy prices, an opportunity is going to come.”
Founded in 1980, the SBDC is one of 18 small business development centers in Pennsylvania, and the only center of its kind among peer business schools. Wharton SBDC is part of the Sol C. Snider Entrepreneurial Research Center within Wharton Entrepreneurship. Its mission is to “help businesses start, grow and prosper,” says SBDC Director Therese Flaherty. Programming is focused on individuals with a startup idea, to businesses that may have several million dollars in revenue.
For more information about the center and the alumni who power it, read “The Not So Small Center” from the summer 2013 edition of Wharton Magazine.