August 2013 Features

A Kick-Start for Entrepreneurship

Tamara Kirby Crump ’97 launches her own PRO Martial Arts franchise.

By Lini S. Kadaba

After stints in social services and higher education, Tamara Kirby Crump '97 recently launched her own PRO Martial Arts franchise.

After stints in social services and higher education, Tamara Kirby Crump ’97 recently launched her own PRO Martial Arts franchise.

After stints in social services and higher education, Tamara Kirby Crump ’97 realized her entrepreneurial dream this year when she opened a PRO Martial Arts franchise in Drexel Hill, Pa. Although opening a dojo might seem like an unusual career move for someone who studied Spanish and sociology at Bryn Mawr, Crump says it was the logical next step in a career devoted to making a difference in how communities work.

“I really like working with people and developing programs that have an effect on society,” says Crump, a Haddonfield, N.J., native by way of Philadelphia who now lives in Upper Darby with her husband and children. She plans to focus the studio on training children and educating them about bullying and predator prevention.

Crump’s interest in sociology has guided her since she managed youth development programs for Congreso de Latinos Unidos in Philadelphia. After earning a master’s degree in organizational dynamics at the University of Pennsylvania in 2005, she began to explore franchise opportunities. But then, the opportunity to enter higher education came in the form of a job offer from Cheyney University, where she worked for the Keystone Honors Academy, admissions office, and first-year programs. In 2009, she moved to Delaware State University, where she worked as executive assistant to the president. She currently serves in the position of executive director for adult and continuing education, even as she builds her martial arts business.

Here, she reflects on her path from Bryn Mawr to the dojo.

Why Bryn Mawr? “I knew the moment I stepped on campus that that’s where I belonged,” Crump says. “It was serene and peaceful. It gave you a feeling you could take your time and learn.” She also appreciated the fact that she could go to class in her pajamas without worrying about primping for the opposite sex.

Defining Mawrter Moment: Getting kicked out of Enrique Sacerio-Gari’s Spanish class. When Crump couldn’t find the Spanish words and turned to a classmate for help, the Dorothy Nepper Marshall Professor of Hispanic and Hispanic-American Studies told her to leave and not return until she was better prepared.

“I was so angry,” she says, “but that day I learned the importance of going the distance and beyond. It wasn’t good enough that I’d prepped the material; I needed to have been prepared to discuss and express the material effectively in Spanish.” She never ran afoul of Sacerio-Gari again and still counts him among her favorite professors because he “believed enough in me to push me that far.”

Sociologist at Heart: Crump says Professor of Sociology Mary J. Osirim inspired Crump “to think about things from different perspectives and, most important, to become involved in making a difference—not just gather information but do something productive with the information you gather.”

Literary Inspirations: The Bible and a vintage Nancy Drew volume. The former, she says, is “a foundational element to understanding life,” and the latter, part of a collection, offers the “best boost of female empowerment.”

Lucky Break: While making a college visit to Cheyney with a relative, she was offered a job on the spot by the admissions director. Her bilingual skills and bubbly personality (not to mention sense of humor) did the trick, she says.

Setting The Wheels In Motion: Crump is a self-described “car girl” who can change her own brakes and oil. Her wheels of choice? A Mustang. She spent several years pursuing a Midas franchise; however, she ultimately decided to move in a different direction.

Going PRO: Crump has no experience in martial arts, but PRO Martial Arts’ impressive corporate culture convinced her to take the leap of faith and risk a good chunk of change. Her favorite move is the sidekick—for the range of motion it demands and the power it delivers.