Robert Irvine’s Advice to Philly Small Businesses

Consulting with the Restaurant Impossible host was a prize in a recent Comcast contest for entrepreneurs.

Robert Irvine

Robert Irvine

Robert Irvine wants business owners to know that if they’re scared of technology, they won’t stand a chance at success.

The British business guru behind Restaurant Impossible was in town recently in his role as celebrity ambassador for Comcast Business, the cable giant’s fast-growing division. Irvine and other experts offered one-on-one advice to the winners of Comcast’s Innovations for Entrepreneurs contest, where five grand-prize winners took home a $30,000 grant.

“I always tell businesses — whether they’re a hotel, restaurant or car dealership — that technology is changing our world so fast that you need to embrace it,” said Irvine in an interview days later. “Being scared and afraid of change isn’t going to get you very far.”

Take the restaurant industry for example. Irvine says iPad menus, computerized inventories and refrigeration systems, and server tips being distributed via debit cards, are all coming down the pipeline — and entrepreneurs in the industry had better realize that tech is playing a much bigger role in the business.

He also touted Philadelphia’s startup scene and said he’s excited to see so many people taking chances and starting businesses.

“If you’re not happy, start your own business,” said Irvine. “The entrepreneurial spirit is alive, well and growing in Philly.”

Irvine also said that all entrepreneurs need to figure out what makes them unique (“It doesn’t matter if there are 500 Italian restaurants, yours can still be unique,”) and that forging the right partnerships is key (“If you’re going to to get in bed with somebody, make sure you trust that they understand your business and are going to do something that’s going to enhance it.”)

Other experts in the program included Sam Schwartz, Comcast’s chief business development officer; Louis Toth, managing director for Comcast Ventures; and Patrick Fitzgerald, an entrepreneurship lecturer at the Wharton School.

One of the grand-prize winners was Jon Herting of The Training Room Physical Therapy in Garnet Valley, Pa., who won because of his plan to implement motion-analysis cameras and central nervous system monitoring into his rehab plans. It’s a way to get everyone — from a Little League baseball player to an Olympian — the same level of care.

Herting called the one-on-one expert sessions “awesome” because he was “able to pick the brains” of successful entrepreneurs and business folks he respects.

“For a small business, it’s invaluable to get tips from Robert Irvine, marketing consultants, and the other experts,” said Herting. “These are all people who are entrepreneurs focused and could give us business tips.”

Here’s a list of the grand-prize winners who each received a total of $30,000:

  • Act II Consignment – Littleton, Colo. A consignment boutique for fashion clothing and accessories.
  • Fresh Co Home Inc. – Bloomfield, Mich. A building company providing home-improvement services such as painting, roofing, siding and gutters.
  • Camp Curiosity, Curiosity Shoppe & Toddler Center – Doylestown, Pa. Provides educational programs and summer camps for children, ranging from infants to teenagers.
  • The Training Room Physical Therapy – Garnet Valley, Pa. Offers sports and orthopedic physical therapy and rehabilitation services for athletes and active individuals
  • Noggin Builders – Northbrook, Ill. Provides educational classes, events and summer camps for children ages two to 12.
  • Big Minds – Pinole, Calif. An interest-based school for 2e (twice exceptional) elementary children.