“Putting the people back in people’s history” is no small task, but Rebecca Fisher ’18 and Joey Leroux ’18 are up to the challenge.
As founders of Beyond the Bell Tours, the two recent graduates are determined to share the stories of Philadelphians who are often left out of traditional narratives.
“Beyond the Bell Tours seeks to create inclusive history tours of Philadelphia,” said Leroux, an economics major. “By creating tours that include people who have been excluded from public history, we hope to create space for more people in public spaces in Philadelphia. Beyond the Bell operates under the premise that we cannot achieve our ideals unless we recognize the times that we’ve failed to do so.”
This summer, Fisher and Leroux are writing and leading tours with Beyond the Bell and learning to grow their business as inaugural fellows in the Haverford Innovations Program (HIP) Innovation Summer Incubator. That program, which is run by VCAM Innovation Program Manager Shayna Nickel and features another team of student entrepreneurs who are launching a different business, is helping them learn the fundamentals of starting a small business in the tourism industry.
Both Fords have long been interested in entrepreneurship and are previous beneficiaries of the Whitehead Internships Program, which supports rising Haverford juniors and seniors in summer work related to entrepreneurship, small business, venture capital, or finance. (In summer 2017, Leroux interned at San Francisco-based Chirps Chips, which makes chips out of sustainable and protein-rich cricket powder, and Fisher interned in Uganda at financial tech startup Ubuntu Capital.) For Fisher, a Philadelphia native, Beyond the Bell has given her an opportunity to apply the knowledge she learned at Haverford and her interest in tourism to creating a more inclusive story of the City of Brotherly Love.
“Summer after my sophomore year I worked at Monument Lab with [Postdoctoral Writing Fellow] Paul Farber,” said the Italian major and peace, justice, and human rights concentrator. “That summer I learned so much about the city that I had lived in my entire life. I started to wonder what stories were and weren’t being told. I picked up a job as a bike tour guide for Philly Bike Tours in summer 2016 and gave bike tours for the next two years on weekends while at Haverford. I started to think a lot about the role of tourism in dictating the narratives of a city.”
“Overall, I am interested in the role of tourism in social change, that’s what Beyond the Bell is all about,” she said.
Beyond the Bell tours cover topics from “Queering Philly History” to “Women’s History” to “PHL101: Center City Deep Dive” in order to accommodate a variety of interests.
While their HIP Fellowship is over at end of the summer, Fisher and Leroux see Beyond the Bell as a long-term career investment.
“I am hoping to work in the tourism sector for the rest of my existence,” said Fisher.
“Honestly, Rebecca’s energy is contagious,” said Leroux of his friend and business partner. “I love working with her and I plan to do so for the rest of my life. I am hoping to write poems that take the form of tours and to think about the ways tourism and art intersect. I think there’s a lot of work to be done in this space.”
Beyond the Bell often offers special events for the Haverford community, including several alumni tours and special programming for the Center for Peace and Global Citizenship and Chesick Scholars. Upcoming events include a “Drunk History Tour” and a “Date Night Tour,” which can be booked on Beyond the Bell’s website, as can their regular programming.
“I think this is the ultimate liberal arts job,” said Leroux. “Designing tours that make sense to people who have never been to Philadelphia, that are accessible, well-paced, and leave people with energy is an art and a science.”
“Where They’re Headed” is a blog series reporting on the post-collegiate plans of recent Haverford graduates.
Photo: Rebecca Fisher (left) and Joey Leroux, both ’18. Photo by Saket Sekhsaria ’20.