Student Entrepreneur Speaks at International Conference

Thursday, November 19, 2009

With sweaty palms, Joseph Mirarchi grips the podium positioned at the front of a conference room at NYU Stern’s Berkley Center for Entrepreneurship and Innovation. Just two days prior, he learned he was the only undergraduate student presenting at the 6th Annual Conference of Social Entrepreneurs on Nov. 4. Poised in front of the room of distinguished academics, Mirarchi is composed and articulate, despite his sweaty palms, as he addresses the crowd. He relaxes by repeating in his head what has become his mantra over the years: “Everything happens for a reason.”

As a 12-year-old growing up in Swedesboro, NJ, Mirarchi always found creative ways to make money. He describes himself as a “saver, not a spender” as he details the strategy behind his lawn-maintenance/snow removal business, which he launched using available resources (his dad’s lawn mower and snow shovel) as a way to begin saving money.

Years later, as an undergraduate at Saint Joseph’s, Mirarchi stoked his entrepreneurial spirit through course work and a job in Washington, D.C., with the Small Business Administration. This opportunity was possible through Saint Joseph’s Washington, D.C., internship program and, along with his management courses at Saint Joseph’s,  “furthered my aspirations to learn more about entrepreneurship,” says Mirarchi.

During his sophomore year at Saint Joseph’s, Mirarchi took advantage of an opportunity to travel to Mexico as part of a service immersion trip. During his visit, Mirarchi says he was exposed to entrepreneurs of a different variety – social entrepreneurs. Although academics struggle to clearly define exactly what that is, Mirarchi says social entrepreneurs are individuals who embark on efforts to improve society.

In Mexico, Mirarchi speaks of a honey hut he visited where he observed a group of women working to sustain their basic, human needs through the profits they generated as a result of selling honey, which the women harvested from their own beehives. “In a way, these women were social entrepreneurs,” Mirarchi says. “But they weren’t born into a situation where they had access to the same resources that I was privileged to have when I first began expressing my entrepreneurial spirit.”

With his mantra fresh in his mind, Mirarchi coupled his academic experience with the lessons he learned in Mexico to embark on scholarly research this past summer, through the University’s summer scholar’s program, which ultimately culminated in his presentation at the 6th Annual Conference of Social Entrepreneurs.

In partnership with Kenneth Kury, Ph.D., assistant professor of management, Mirarchi sought to answer the question: “How can social capital be used to obtain resources?” He explained how it was important to him to research how social entrepreneurs, such as the women running the honey hut, can strengthen their business operations using available resources.

To conduct his research, Mirarchi needed access to a large, viable network of social entrpreneurs who were willing to share their information with him. The Sustainable Network of Philadelphia allowed Mirarchi to survey the network of over 500 members to test his hypothesis that a greater presence of social capital is positively related to a social entrepreneur’s ability to acquire resources.

While Mirarchi’s early findings were presented at the conference of social entrepreneurs, he has continued plans for his research. This winter, under Kury’s supervision, Mirarchi will run a statistical analysis on the data he has collected to more clearly illustrate a relationship between social capital and access to resources. Mirarchi hopes to publish his findings this spring.

As for what’s next for this senior after graduation, he has just been accepted to the Teach for America program, a national corps of outstanding recent college graduates who commit two years to teach in urban and rural public schools. The organization has solicited Mirarchi to teach high school mathematics in San Antonio, TX. When asked if he will commit to the organization, Mirarchi simply says: “How can I not? Everything happens for a reason, right?”

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