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Fostering Future Entrepreneurs: Q&A with Saxbys CEO Nick Bayer

When Nick Bayer took to Philadelphia magazine’s ThinkFest stage in 2014, he shared his personal journey from ambitious, ice cream-loving kid tethered to the door of his parents’ apartment building, to maxing out his credit cards to start Saxbys, to finding his niche and steadying the helm as CEO.

In his ThinkFest discussion, he outlined an innovative idea to not only inspire, but also educate, the next generation of entrepreneurs through experiential learning cafes. Three years later, Bayer is breaking ground on the next phase of his plan to make Philadelphia a hub for innovative minds in any—and every—industry.

Your ThinkFest discussion called for more investment in teaching future entrepreneurs with real world experiences. How can Philadelphia accomplish this?

Philly is in a great position for entrepreneurs—if the city was a stock, I’d buy up every share. Our colleges and universities are committed to entrepreneurship. Drexel [Close School of Entrepreneurship] is the nation’s first freestanding school of entrepreneurship and there’s tremendous opportunity, not just for tech entrepreneurs, but also food, beverage, and hospitality.

You mentioned plans to partner with Drexel and create a student-run experiential cafe. What stage of that plan are you in today?

I gave my ThinkFest talk in November 2014 and we launched our first cafe at Drexel in April 2015. It’s a Saxbys exclusively run by students—from the student Café Executive Officer (C.E.O.) to the marketing team and baristas. This is an incredibly successful business in which every aspect of it is entirely controlled and driven by undergrad students. The students come into our headquarters every month to present their previous month’s profit and loss statement, they sustain a business that employs 32 other students and have become a critical community partner to the many student organizations on campus. So far, it’s been a resounding success.

Why is experiential learning so important for future entrepreneurs and business owners?

The experiential cafes give students hands-on experience running a business. They can execute ideas and challenge themselves with real-world situations versus looking at case studies. A majority of universities now teach entrepreneurship but [with the experiential learning cafes] students now have a place where they can learn real-world application. In the case of our experiential learning program, students are truly responsible for every aspect of the business.

What is one piece of advice you have for aspiring entrepreneurs?

People who get far in life are taking care of others—at Saxbys we call it

“Serve Yourself by Serving Others.” Human beings are wired to inherently act in their own self-interest; however, we truly believe that you’ll personally get so much more out of your efforts if they are first directed in the interest of others. We’ve built a business predicated on this philosophy.

Innovation starts by serving the community, and the people, who inspire you to chase your passion. That’s why UnitedHealthcare is proud to shine a spotlight on Philadelphia’s forward thinkers and their outside the box ideas through the Inspiring Innovation series.

To find out more about UnitedHealthcare, visit uhc.com/phillyinnovation.