Schuylkill entrepreneurship program completes phase one, now offers seed money

SCHUYLKILL HAVEN, Pa. — Penn State Schuylkill’s new LionLaunch entrepreneurship program is in full swing and has successfully completed its first phase, the LionLaunch Boot Camp.

The session was a ten-week, public course offering consisting of tips on marketing, finances, business law, and more for participants with an interest in establishing or growing their small business. On Jan. 25, the 16 registered camp participants wrapped up their coursework with one last class, hosted by a panel of three successful local business owners who shared their experiences and advice. Each panelist was given 20 minutes to counsel participants.

Panelist Stephanie Premich, a Blue Mountain graduate and owner of Mud & Maker Handcrafted Artisan Goods, Pottsville, Pennsylvania, touched on location selection, data collection, and how passion lent to her success. She explained that Schuylkill County simply made sense for her business as it is inexpensive, and she acquired her pottery studio, complete with kilns, from her mentor. She claims that the urban environment of downtown Pottsville brings her patrons from all over the county looking for evening entertainment. In relation to data collection, knowing her clientele and how to target them is essential to marketing her business. She stressed the importance of social media and how data collection is critical to marketing to the right audiences.

Premich closed by advising participants to “Be passionate. It’s your biggest asset.”

John Albertini, AIS Consulting, had similar suggestions for the participants, urging them to craft a tight business plan to remain focused while networking as much as possible. Albertini began working on electronics while serving in the United States Navy before finding a position with the electronics conglomerate, Sony. After moving back to Schuylkill County to raise a family, he chose to forge his own path and established a cyber security company. Albertini explained how difficult it is to establish any business without making connections in a strong, well-rooted business community, stating, “Don’t bite those hands. Be loyal to them.” In addition to establishing strong connections, he echoed Premich’s advice by saying, “No matter what job you do, care about doing it well.”

The final panelist of the evening, Pat Falco, has owned Paw Prints Pet Salon, a Schuylkill County staple, for more than 18 years. The business has been so successful that she has expanded a few times, adding a mobile salon and a doggie daycare for roughly five dogs while their owners commute long distances to work. The diversity in her businesses is no mistake and she advised LionLaunch participants, “In business, don’t put all your eggs in one basket.”

Like Albertini, Falco also greatly benefited from having a business plan to hold her focus. It was very important to her because she funded all of her endeavors with her own money. “It’s imperative that you save as much money as you can,” said Falco. “But also remember to always pay yourself, and also make the place that you live better by giving back.”

The Boot Camp participants collected a lot of valuable advice in their last course and much of it may come in handy as the LionLaunch program transitions to its second phase, the Business Plan Competition. In this phase, participants from the campus and local community will pitch a business plan or an idea to improve an already existing small business to a panel of judges that may grant them up to $5,000 per team. One lucky team may even be awarded a small, incubator-style office space in the community for six months while they get their business up and running. This incubator period will be the third and final phase of the LionLaunch entrepreneurship program. Interested participants must apply by Feb. 25 in order to compete in the Business Plan Competition on March 1 at 6 p.m.

Penn State Schuylkill is proud to foster small business and entrepreneurship growth in Schuylkill County. There has been an enthusiastic response to the Boot Camp program and program administrators and mentors are eagerly anticipating the next phase of the LionLaunch program and hope for boisterous competition. In the meantime, congratulations and best wishes to all participants of the Boot Camp program.