Who’s Next

Who’s Next Entrepreneurs: 17 self-starters growing business in Philadelphia

Up-and-coming entrepreneurs are the focus of this month’s Who’s Next.

Photos by Danya Henninger/Billy Penn and design by Jayna Wallace/Billy Penn

As Philadelphia evolves, so does its business scene. And young people are on the front lines of starting their own — everything from boutiques to breweries to tech startups to large firms.

Welcome to this month’s edition of Who’s Next, a Billy Penn feature with support from the Knight Foundation that works to highlight some of the city’s most dynamic young people. These small business owners, CEOs, founders and startup leaders were nominated by their peers for their outstanding work here in Philadelphia.

In the last year, Billy Penn has highlighted more than 200 of the city’s up-and-coming leaders through the Who’s Next feature, from teachers to artists to musicians to chefs. Without further ado, meet the next generation of entrepreneurialism in Philadelphia — Who’s Next: The Entrepreneurs, presented by Comcast.

Submitted by Nelly Arnold

Nelly Arnold

Founder, personal | space
32 years old

Arnold founded personal | space, a coaching service for the style-minded professional that aims to help clients build self-confidence through the power of personal style and interior design. Originally founded in 2014 under the name Decked Style, Arnold recently rebranded the company as personal | space. The company customizes style needs to each client, and offers closet consultation, personal shopping, space optimization, workspace organization, homewares styling, finish and furniture selection and exercises designed to build confidence for four to six months. Arnold's background is in digital marketing, product development and interior design; she previously worked at both Urban Outfitters and the Philadelphia Convention and Visitor's Bureau. Her average day includes creating personal plans for clients, researching best practices and networking. In 2017, Arnold will be working on pop-up shops with homewares and workshops on interior design and personal style from area experts.


Danya Henninger/Billy Penn

Nick Bayer

Founder and CEO of Saxbys
38 years old

Saxbys CEO Nick Bayer founded the company in 2005, but he says he never really considered it to be a coffee company — instead, he wants Saxbys to be "a hospitality company fueled by great coffee." It's grown from one corner café to a 30-unit business headquartered in Center City with locations in nine states and on a number of college campuses. Bayer says he's worked to keep Saxbys involved in its community. The company actively works with more than 30 non-profits and most of Saxbys’ 450 team members are entry-level positions. He was named one of the Philadelphia Business Journal’s Most Admired CEOs and, for eight years, has volunteered as a Big Brother with Big Brother Big Sisters Independence Region, where he also serves on the board. In addition, Bayer is currently Entrepreneur in Residence at Cornell University’s School of Hotel Administration and an adjunct professor at Drexel University, where he teaches entrepreneurial franchising. He's a frequent guest lecturer at The Wharton School of the University of Pennsylvania, Temple University’s Fox School of Business, American University’s Kogod School of Business and Penn State’s Smeal College of Business. He also serves on the board of Drexel University's Steinbright Career Development Center.

Left: Luke Bowen Right: Trevor Hayward

Left: Luke Bowen Right: Trevor Hayward

Provided by Evil Genius

Luke Bowen

Co-founder, Evil Genius Beer Company
33 years old

Trevor Hayward

Founder at Evil Genius Beer Company
32 years old

Luke Bowen and Trevor Hayward founded Evil Genius Beer Company in 2011, and the craft brewery has grown to include distribution across the Mid-Atlantic and New England regions. Bowen runs sales and business development functions for Evil Genius, including securing strategic partnerships, building the distribution network and growing public awareness. Hayward works largely on the operations side from sales and marketing to accounting. Since its inception five years ago, Evil Genius has grown from operating on what the founders call a "shoe string budget" to producing 20 different beers across seven states and it recently opened a beer garden near Fishtown. The company makes charitable donations to causes in the community, including being the beer sponsor for the Philadelphia MS Society at their largest summer event, The Preakness at the Piazza.

Danya Henninger/Billy Penn

Jonas P. Cleveland

29 years old

In 2012, Cleveland founded COSY, a firm that uses advanced artificial intelligence and computer vision to allow mobile devices to accurately position themselves indoors, for accuracy GPS can't achieve. The company enables Walgreens and other retailers to use software via commercially-available robots to survey inventory overnight -- it's less expensive, more accurate and far more frequent than employees can count wares. At COSY, Cleveland develops "next generation" artificial intelligence techniques and robot vision approaches. The company's semantic labeling engine lets a robot classify over 10,000 different objects, and partners with several retailers nationwide. The same technology runs on a smartphone -- using its camera, it gives turn-by-turn directions to a blind person searching for products in the store. In his free time, Cleveland mentors several middle-school and high-school students with the goal of getting more women and minorities into STEM fields.

Danya Henninger/Billy Penn

Jenny Du

Principal at BrainDo
39 years old

BrainDo is a digital marketing firm founded by Du and Brian Cosgrove in 2013 that offers services in analytics, development and creative. Since then, the team has grown to 15 people who manage projects on a daily basis and collaborate directly with clients. In addition, the brains behind BrainDo founded THRIVE Philly, a N3rd Street coworking space designed for emerging businesses that provides advanced technology inside a sustainable work environment. Du said she's most proud that over the last three years, BrainDo has kept its company culture which she describes as "a collaborative environment where our employees are able to grow and dip their feet into waters that they were interested in." In addition, Du is part of the Dude Hates Cancer Committee, a year-round fundraising campaign that benefits the Leukemia and Lymphoma Society, culminating in an all-day Big Lebowski-themed bowling tournament every fall. She's also a partner at BarLy, a beer and sports bar in Chinatown.

Danya Henninger/Billy Penn

Justine Haemmerli

Founder & President of Pedalogical
32 years old

In 2013, Haemmerli founded Pedalogical, a firm that provides business development coaching and educational consultation largely to non-profit clients looking to transition how they work. Her background is in public education, but since founding Pedalogical, the company has grown to provide support to businesses organizations that are looking to expand but struggle with how. The company works with organizations to facilitate professional learning communities, create and manage educational programs, design staff retreats and staff wellness initiatives, support executive teams and provide career coaching. Most days for Haemmerli include managing programming and the more than 100 people in the firm's courses at any given time; meeting with foundations, non-profits and business leaders and hosting events or teaching classes in the evening. Haemmerli is also the president of PhilaSoup, a nonprofit dedicated to supporting Philly teachers and students by providing microgrants directly to teachers at tri-annual community meals. In addition, she's part of the 2016-17 Leadership Philadelphia Connectors and Keepers cohort.

Danya Henninger/Billy Penn

Renee Kakareka

Founder & CEO at Olive Devices
22 years old

Earlier this year, Kakareka founded Olive Devices, a startup working to develop smart glasses for use by the deaf and hard of hearing that turn speech into captions. However, this recent college graduate has been developing the concept for the device since February 2015 when she started working with a deaf client at Philadelphia University who was having trouble talking over the phone and in group conversations. So she designed a concept for the engineering of the frames and the mobile application. Since graduating, Kakareka formed a team to help develop the company and the device. They've raised capital through competitions, grants and pilot funding from BioAdvance. The company is also launching a crowdfunding campaign in September and holding a launch event at their main office in 2 Commerce Square. As the CEO, Kakareka organizes daily group work, meetings, strategy, research and everything else from design to finances. Kakareka says her success comes from her childhood. She grew up learning sign language at 7 years old and "loved being able to speak the language and have friends that were deaf and hard of hearing."

Danya Henninger/Billy Penn

Vicky Kinzig

Co-Founder at KickUp
28 years old

Kinzig is the co-founder of KickUp, an educator-founded company focused on helping districts better support and develop their teachers. Founded in 2014, KickUp is a blend of technology and serve that works with school districts and professional development providers to clearly define their goals, design forms used to track progress and provide data in dashboards so districts map out their plans and visually share progress and needs. Kinzing leads customer success and product and play some role in a number of other areas including marketing, sales, UI and UX. KickUp has built a team largely made up of educators, and has raised about $1.5 million from investors. This past year, KickUp went through the Imagine K12 business accelerator in San Francisco, but came back to Philadelphia in February to continue building its team here.

Danya Henninger/Billy Penn

Peter Merzbacher

Founder, Head Baker at Philly Bread
27 years old

Philly Bread was founded in March 2013 with the purpose of producing bread that artisan bakers dream of eating. To make such a product, founder Peter Merzbacher says Philly Bread sources the best ingredients like flour from the high plains of the American Midwest and whole grains from Pennsylvania farmers. At the bakery on N. 5th St., Philly Bread mills the local grains into fresh flour and takes great pride in slowly fermenting the flours using traditional techniques. His most famous product? It's called the Philly muffin, and it's sort of like an English muffin-bagel hybrid. Merzbacher's primary responsibility is to manage the output of the team, including bakers, packers, drivers, administrators and customer representatives. But, he admits, he's as much a baker as he is a businessman,  spends about half his time baking bread, training the staff and upholding standards for product excellence. (Merzbacher also noted that Philly Bread is hiring!)

Danya Henninger/Billy Penn

Stacey Mosley

Founder & CEO of FixList
29 years old

FixList is a real estate data analysis company that offers a Zillow-like service to help real estate developers, investors, neighborhood associations and more identify properties that are ripe for redevelopment, even if they're not actively listed for sale. Founded in 2015 by Mosley, FixList launched to public users in May and it aggregates and analyzes property data to both provide detailed information about each individual address and statistical information about the surrounding area. Mosley's the sole employee, so on a daily basis she does everything from coding a new feature to taking sales meetings to working on a potential marketing strategy. Outside of FixList, Mosley serves on the board of Young Involved Philadelphia as the programming chair and she helps plan and manage a calendar year of events.

Danya Henninger/Billy Penn

Sean P. O’Neill

Co-Founder at Bainbridge Health
38 years old

O'Neill, who has a background in pharmaceuticals, was among of team of clinicians from The Children's Hospital of Philadelphia who developed Bainbridge Health, which works to provide clinical resources and tools to reduce medication errors and to provide clinical leaders with data analytics. O'Neill says they were attempting to solve a problem in the medical community: The inability to manage data associated with medication ultimately leads to reduced efficacy of healthcare technologies. The idea to develop a software to address the those challenges was initiated within CHOP in 2014. Over the last two years, the software was incubated within the Office of Entrepreneurship and Innovation at CHOP and, in early 2016, Bainbridge Health brought on a CEO and a CTO. It officially became a standalone company in April. At Bainbridge, O'Neill develops and maintains clinical content and evaluates transactional data retrieved from customers.

Danya Henninger/Billy Penn

Chelsea Pearce

Owner and Curator at Moon + Arrow
35 years old

Moon + Arrow is a socially responsible and environmentally conscious boutique of handmade and vintage jewelry, clothing, accessories and home furnishings that's located in Queen Village for nearly five years. Over the last five years, founder Chelsea Pearce's roles have changed -- she used to do everything from designing and making each piece of jewelry, sourcing and mending all the vintage clothes, housewares and furniture to working the store open to close. Now, she has a small team of women who work to keep her dream space growing. Pearce still does the bulk of the buying, ordering and curating. Moon + Arrow has also recently started hosting workshops which have been a part of the concept of Moon + Arrow from the beginning days. The store recently won Best of Philly in the Gift Shop category and was awarded a store-front improvement grant by the city. Renovations will begin soon on the front of the building and display window.

Danya Henninger/Billy Penn

Ann Schwartz

Founder/Creative Director at The Green Tambourine
33 years old

In the summer of 2012, Schwartz founded The Green Tambourine Music Studio, a musical education business in West Philadelphia. The Green Tambourine aims to provide a fun, engaging and rewarding musical experience to people of all ages and abilities. They now have classes for infants and toddlers, introductory instrumental classes for young children, group classes and lessons for kids, summer music camps, ensembles and electives for kids and adults, beginner adult group lessons and individual lessons for all ages. Earlier this year, TGT moved to 50th and Baltimore, where it's helping to extend the thriving Baltimore Ave. corridor in new directions. Schwartz splits her time between a full teaching schedule and the business side of things, including marketing, going to events and early childhood centers, maintaining the studio schedule, working with and managing teachers, developing curriculum and organizing the studio.

Danya Henninger/Billy Penn

Michelle Silberman

Chief Cookie Officer at ChocAmo Cookie Cups
24 years old

Michelle Silberman and a friend came up with the idea to marry cookies and milk back in 7th grade. It wasn't until years later, after she pitched the concept to her college Entrepreneurship Class at Drexel, when she began prototyping the "Cookie Cup" in her dorm, and what would one day become her business was born. After being officially founded in 2014, Silberman now owns ChocAmo, a company "of millennial foodies" that creates these delectable cookie cups in a commercial kitchen that's surely a step up from a dorm building. She's the founder, but Silberman's favorite title is "Chief Cookie Officer," meaning her responsibilities include baking, prospecting, selling and managing all essential aspects of the business. She's constantly coordinating events and communicating with personnel to make sure orders and standards are met. Want to support ChocAmo? It has a Kickstarter campaign launching soon.

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Photo by Nick Antony, provided by Megan R. Smith

Megan R. Smith

Founder of Brownstone PR
33 years old

Brownstone PR is a media relations, social media implementation and community relations firm specializing in creating integrated communications strategies for clients in the sectors of technology, energy, banking/finance, law/legal services, education, public health and hospitality/tourism. Smith founded the company with the hopes of creating a firm with a high focus on strategic partnerships and establishing relationships, as well as one that implements cohesive communications efforts for mid- to large-sized businesses, major brands and community organizations. On a daily basis, Smith says she's working to figure out how to tell the stories of organizations, companies and lifestyle brands to the audiences who need to hear it. She is also the co-director of the Emerging Leaders of People's Emergency Center, a Philly-based social service agency for homeless women, teenagers and their children.

Danya Henninger/Billy Penn

Michael Tedeschi

Owner, Creative Director at Interactive Mechanics
27 years old

Though Tedeschi founded Interactive Mechanics, a Philly-based user experience design and development firm, in 2012, it wasn't his full-time job until late-2014 when he left his previous job with Azavea. The firm now works primarily with arts, cultural and educational institutions on digital projects, specifically web, mobile and interactive exhibits. Some of Interactive Mechanics' clients include the Philadelphia Museum of Art, Eastern State Penitentiary and Ford's Theatre in Washington, D.C. Tedeschi says he wears a lot of different hats, including managing the day-to-day administrative tasks, finances, human resources and payroll. He also leads the creative end, including the design and user experience of each of the company's projects. Over the last two years, the team at Interactive Mechanics has grown from one person part-time to a team of seven. In addition, Tedeschi regularly teaches workshops and classes on user experience and design, and has been an instructor with Girl Develop It for the past two years teaching their UX101 course. Interactive Mechanics also offers free and low-cost workshops and webinars on technology, and the team recently built a fellowship program that emphasizes inclusiveness for those typically underrepresented in the tech industry.