Correction appended: March 12, 2013.
The Penn State Small Business Development Center has assisted local industry for 15 years and integrates with students at the university.
The SBDC was founded in 1997, and according to a performance review on its website, has helped start 224 businesses from 2002-11.
“There’s a whole process with this. It just isn’t as simple as waking up and saying, ‘Gee, I’d like to start a business,’” said Linda Feltman, senior business consultant.
The organization celebrated its 15th anniversary with a luncheon at The Penn Stater Conference Center Hotel on Oct. 5.
Start-ups aren’t the only sort of venture the SBDC deals with. In addition to seminars on business topics, the organization assists companies with all basic operations, according to its website.
In 2011 alone, the SBDC helped start 52 businesses, worked with 699 clients and accounted for a total sales increase of $11.4 million dollars, according to a performance review on the organization’s website.
Local businesses such as Webster’s Bookstore and Café and Otto’s Pub and Brewery were assisted by the SBDC with reopening and expansion, respectively.
Webster’s closed in the end of July 2010, but reopened in April with the help of the SBDC.
The SBDC is continuing to work with Webster’s beyond its reopening by pioneering an arrangement with a Marketing 422 (Advertising and Sales Promotion Management) class taught by Karen Winterich, a professor of marketing in the Smeal College of Business.
The class will create a marketing plan to develop their advertising techniques, focusing on what Webster’s can offer differently than similar businesses in the area, Winterich said. The classes will then pitch their idea to Webster’s, whose board will decide which ideas to implement, Winterich said
Carolyn Todd, also a marketing professor in Smeal who teaches Marketing 422, works with two other businesses in the area. Todd said companies value what students have to say, especially when students are their target market.
But companies aren’t the only party benefiting in this situation, Winterich said. The program helps give students hands-on experience in working with a company. She said it helps them to “realize that business isn’t as straightforward as they think.”
Along with interacting with classes and students at Penn State, the SBDC has assisted student entrepreneurs for many years. Since 2005, the organization has helped five student entrepreneurs succeed, according to its website.
“When we started we were only focused on the community, but where we have grown into and where we will continue to grow is the student entrepreneurs,” said Heather Fennessey, director of the SBDC.
Eric Morgenstern, Class of 2011, founded Lionneeds.com with the help of the SBDC. The company, which was acquired by GroceryU, was a concierge service that provided items to students late at night so they wouldn’t need to drive to buy groceries, Morgenstern said.
Loune Jobi Calixte (senior-finance) also received assistance from the SBDC to launch her company, Biatha, which specializes in coffee and other imports from Haiti.
After 15 years of reaching out to State College businesses, Feltman is optimistic about the future of the SBDC.
“We’ll continue to help the small businesses no matter what. I really see the student engagement being an exciting opportunity to expand our horizons into Penn State,” Feltman said. “I see the student involvement growing […] certainly the SBDC will serve a continued need in the community.”
An earlier version of this article incorrectly stated information regarding Lionneeds.com. The company was acquired by GroceryU. The above article reflects the correct information. The Daily Collegian apologizes for this error.