Friday, October 26, 2012

3 of the best industries for Philadelphia entrepreneurs

One of our core missions is to provide adult learners in Philadelphia with the best outlook on the regional job market and the tools to help them succeed in it. So when Campus Philly shared some information about the best industries for Philadelphia entrepreneurs with us, we wanted to spread the knowledge to our blog readers. Read on for Campus Philly's take on three hot start-up industries in Philly right now.

By Cara Donaldson, Campus Philly

If America were a start-up venture, Philadelphia would be its national headquarters. Historically, the city has been the core of revolutionary activity in the Unites States, so it should come as no surprise that now more than ever, entrepreneurship is the name of the game in the Philadelphia job market.

Currently, there are three distinct areas exploding within the start-up world—technology, food, and social responsibility. Keeping your finger on the pulse of these trends is important, as they signify an upward swing in the DIY career, and somewhat of a departure from more traditional career paths. To get you inspired, here is a snapshot of how ideas brewed in basements are making their mark on the new Philly job scene.


These days, it’s not so much the creation of advanced technology, but what you do with it that’s impressive. College towns like Philadelphia are experiencing a boom in start-ups, and incubators and angel funders are starting to take notice and invest. Shindig, TicketLeap, and are just a few of Philly’s success stories.

The community of techies sharing ideas and resources has developed at a rapid pace in Philadelphia. The civic network Open Access has started a digital inclusion project, the Freedom Rings Partnership, to provide citizens across Philadelphia with access to technology, and Mobile Monday facilitates networking events and sit-down chats to encourage innovation in the mobile industry.

According to venture capital firm First Round Capital’s Managing Director, Josh Kopelman, you don’t need a big server and an office to be self-sustaining, just a phone and a computer. That’s thanks to cloud technology and the co-working space culture in Philadelphia. Some other good co-working organizations include CultureWorks, Indepedents Hall, and Benjamin’s Desk. In addition, Campus Philly will be hosting our Tech Start-Up Crawl on November 6 to introduce students to the endless opportunities Philadelphia has to offer when they create their own business or product within the tech world.


Philadelphia is indeed a foodie town, with restaurant wizards Garces, Starr, and 13th Street’s Turney and Safran kicking off the movement to go far beyond the infamous cheesesteak. Now, Philly is taking it a step further by embracing the practice of growing and buying local with an emphasis on connecting farm to city.

Organizations like Philly Food Shed and Fair Food are instrumental in organizing urban, community gardens to the point where they can become the main source of healthy, locally grown food for the restaurant community and residents. Both for- and not-for-profit companies have taken on the food justice cause, and as such, there are numerous opportunities for employment within the sectors of serving, growing, and connecting that you should be on the lookout for.

Food trucks are also an expanding and beloved staple in Philadelphia. From The Food Trust’s Night Markets to Penn’s food truck blog, the industry is heavily embraced and growing more profitable every day. This can be seen with locals frequenting trucks like Lucky Old Souls, Buttercream Cupcake, The Daper Dog, and Rival Brothers Coffee. We also got involved in the food truck scene with our food truck village at this year’s Campus Philly’s College Day, our annual fall festival for college students.

Social responsibility

Community activism and civic engagement have ascended the typical volunteer circuit and have spawned new businesses and organizations dedicated to specific social responsibility ventures. In 2008, Mayor Nutter pledged to make Philadelphia the greenest city in America. Since then, the city has taken efforts to create a number of offices committed to sustainability issues. The Greenworks program has made significant strides in accomplishing this goal, including rewarding local green contractors and service providers with city contracts.

Outside of City Hall, there are a number of local champions committed to sustainability in Philly. This includes Grid Magazine, which consistently shines a light on civic-minded Philadelphians and Philly based companies. Clothing retailer SA VA makes 90 percent of its garments locally with fair trade and eco-friendly textiles. Yikes Web Design and Development prides itself on being a socially responsible business that observes the “triple bottom line” (people, planet, profit), and Wash Cycle Laundry bases its operation around the principle of reduce, reuse, and recycle.

Philadelphia citizens are also on board with the go-green push, and are consciously looking to incorporate sustainable options into their daily lives, creating even more of a demand for the business community.

Not only are Philly natives discovering that they can be their own boss right in their back yard, but businesses from outside Philadelphia are also becoming wise to the trend and relocating to take advantage of this movement. Keep an eye on CampusPhilly as we follow entrepreneurship in Philadelphia, and sign up for our newsletter and mailings to stay in the know.

Cara Donaldson is Campus Philly’s Program Manager for Editorial and Public Relations, and also project manager for College Day, the organization’s annual fall welcome back festival for the region’s college students.