In the light-filled Arch Street Meeting house, the entrepreneurs meditated.
“What was your intention when you started your business?” asked Beth Filla, owner of Collingswood, N.J.’s Yogawood yoga studio, who led the meditation session.
Everyone’s eyes were closed and the room was silent, except for the occasional creak of the aging meeting house’s floorboards. It was one of the first session’s of last week’s Junto, a two-day retreat for entrepreneurs focused on a goal outside of profit: social good. It was another sign that social entrepreneurship is on the upswing in Philadelphia.
The retreat, organized by web dev firm P’unk Ave head Geoff DiMasi, was inspired by a series of regular meetings that DiMasi organized in 2007 and 2008. During those early days of a modern Junto, Philadelphians would come to P’unk Ave’s South Philly office to talk about what the modern library should be or how technology is reshaping the idea of shelter. It was an effort that produced offshoots like the popular Ignite Philly and BarCamp, said DiMasi, who put the Junto on hold to dedicate his time to Ignite Philly.
Roughly five years after the Junto called it quits, DiMasi got the itch to do something “in the spirit of the Junto,” he said. He developed a two-day retreat — not a conference, he said, because he wanted the event to be reflective and participatory, not just speakers talking at everyone else.
This year’s Junto involved small group discussions, moments for writing and reflection (“Write down your dreams,” DiMasi said. “I don’t think we have enough time to write down our dreams.”) and a series of talks from people like Weathervane Studios cofounder Brian McTear, ad agency Red Tettemer cofounder Ed Tettemer and WHYY‘s Vice President for Civic News and Dialogue Chris Satullo.
The retreat felt intimate, with roughly 40 entrepreneurs attending, but also because of the nature of the speakers’ talks. It felt more confessional than educational. Filla, the yoga studio owner, spoke of why she left teaching in Philadelphia’s public schools to open her studio. McTear, who focused on legacy, explained what he hoped to create when he started his Fishtown recording studio Miner Street Recordings.
“Legacy is what you leave to the community that survives you,” said McTear, who was told he likely wouldn’t live to be a teenager when he was diagnosed with cystic fibrosis as a child. “The details of your story are what you’re leaving behind.”
“When do you start building a legacy?” he asked. “Probably way sooner than we think.”
Read more on Newsworks, which was also there, here.