After Gunter Pfau enrolled at Community College of Philadelphia, he learned never to be afraid to question the status quo.
As an entrepreneur and CEO of Stuzo, a marketing and digital advertising company, that lesson is one he still uses regularly. “In technology, there’s no other choice,” he said. “In fact, I would say you have to seek out change. If you don’t change, you’ll die.”
Since our founding in 1964 and opening our doors to students for the first time on September 23, 1965, Community College of Philadelphia has been expanding minds, changing lives and transforming generations. Pfau is one of 54,000 Community College of Philadelphia graduates, many of whom contribute to the city as job creators, police officers, firemen and business leaders.
He believes his community college education afforded him an edge in business. Here, he learned to trust his instincts and gain that sense of confidence that would help him take his business from good to great.
Pfau’s opportunity for game-changing risk and reward occurred in 2008 at the South by Southwest conference in Austin, TX. After hearing that Facebook needed help in advertising and running promotions, he approached one of the social network’s vice presidents.
“Are you looking for platforms?” Pfau asked.
The VP replied in the affirmative and just like that, Pfau made a decision to throw out the old Stuzo concept, which was developed as an online marketplace for students, and go after Facebook as a client. He watched his company morph into a software engineering firm. “They say luck is when preparedness meets opportunity, Pfau said. “We had built apps, and we were prepared.”
Pfau’s pivot turned into business gold.
Today, Stuzo’s name is just about the only part of the original company remaining. Stuzo’s team boasts 50 employees across three offices — one in Philadelphia, two in Europe — and counts as its clients Fortune 500 companies such as Procter & Gamble, MasterCard, CBS, Coach and Allstate, along with some of the world’s most respected advertising agencies. Recently, Stuzo was named one of the region’s top branding, marketing and media service agencies by the Philadelphia Business Journal.
Continuing its focus on future multi-device marketing, Stuzo recently launched MEG.com, a mobile marketing company.
Just as he did in business, Pfau shunned the conventional academic path, perhaps because he was never conventional himself. Born in Romania, his family fled communism and relocated in Austria as political refugees. The Pfaus came to Philadelphia when Gunter was 11.
Though smart, Pfau said he was far from an exemplary student — he was even expelled from Northeast High. He earned his GED and pondered his options. Community College of Philadelphia seemed like his best bet.
“Initially, I didn’t know what path to take and I had a lot of fears,” said Pfau, a 2002 graduate. “At Community College of Philadelphia, professors helped me build a tremendous amount of confidence that helped me move forward.”
He graduated from Temple with a B.S. in finance and entrepreneurship and had dreams of opening a gym. “I never thought I’d end up in technology,” Pfau said.
And now he is among the legion of young entrepreneurs redesigning the economic landscape with jobs and opportunity.
Pfau’s words of wisdom for those who create their own jobs and companies?
“It’s going to be a rollercoaster,” he said. “There will be ups and downs multiple times throughout the day. Learn how to push through the downs. It’s part of the game.”
Watch Gunter Pfau in our Moving Philadelphia Forward video series.