SCHUYLKILL HAVEN, Pa. — The doors of opportunity are now open for individuals in Schuylkill County who want to start or grow a business. LionLaunch is Penn State Schuylkill’s community-based entrepreneurship program that is funded by Invent Penn State, a Commonwealth-wide initiative to spur economic development, job creation and student career success.
Penn State President Eric J. Barron, community leaders, and winners of this year’s Business Plan Competition gathered Wednesday, Aug. 9, at 15 E. Main Street in Schuylkill Haven for the dedication and ribbon cutting. Centrally located in Schuylkill Haven, the new home of the LionLaunch Innovation Hub offers a facility with an open workspace area for collaboration, videoconferencing, 3D printing and more.
“From start-up funds for entrepreneurs and new businesses, to workshops on growing and strengthening businesses, to mentorship, LionLaunch will serve the needs of the region, our students, faculty and staff,” Barron said.
Darcy L. Medica, interim chancellor of Penn State Schuylkill, outlined the three components of the LionLaunch program: a boot camp, a ten-week program to assist and mentor budding entrepreneurs; a business plan competition for start-up funds or business expansion; and the opening of a facility for working, networking and meeting space.
Penn State Schuylkill already hosted its first LionLaunch business plan competition. Among those who competed for and won seed money to grow or start their small businesses were a one-stop online shopping experience for car enthusiasts, an archery range, and an entrepreneur who artistically fashions recycled soda tab cans into beautiful handbags.
Looking to the future, Medica said, “We plan to host business and community events and workshops in this space to facilitate and develop an expanded ecosystem of entrepreneurship in Schuylkill County.”
LionLaunch is one of 17 Penn State campuses to receive seed grant funding to open similar innovation hubs in their communities. Barron cited several additional achievements of the Invent Penn State initiative in the last year: 400+ industry research contracts; 48 startups formed with support from thousands of entrepreneurs; 50+ community partnerships; and a $2 million investment in emerging Penn State technologies. Also of note is the successful inaugural Penn State Venture and IP Conference that attracted nearly 600 attendees, 95 capital seeking ventures and 69 venture capitalists.
Emphasizing that people are the key, Barron stated, “We believe we can do even more for this region through partnerships and strategic investments that expand existing relationships with legislators, area businesses and community leaders.”
Other dignitaries speaking at the dedication included Bob Carl, president, Schuylkill Chamber of Commerce; Gary Hess, Schuylkill County Commissioner; and Michael Tobash, Pennsylvania State Rep. from the 125th Legislative District.
Tobash, the emcee of the inaugural LionLaunch business plan competition, said, “We love the ingenious power of partnership.” He underscored the important connection between business and education, remarking, “The ability to bring this into our communities and offer experiential learning through an outstanding university — a leader in research, education and athletics like Penn State — really makes this program work.”