Small Business Development Center

The Small Business Development Center’s office located at Innovation Park on Tuesday, March 16, 2021.

Though some businesses have experienced challenges amid the pandemic, Penn State’s Small Business Development Center is an opportunity for local business owners and alumni to have a fallback.

Penn State’s SBDC aims to assist local entrepreneurs in the development of their business ventures — including Penn State alumni throughout the state.

According to Tim Keohane, director of Penn State SBDC, the center provides three core resources: information, educational programming through free workshops and webinars, and free one-on-one consulting for entrepreneurs.

Keohane said both the state and federal government funds the SBDC through grants. Additional funding was provided through the Coronavirus Response and Relief Supplemental Appropriations Act, the federal stimulus bill passed in March 2020.

Using the funds, Penn State’s SBDC partnered with the SBDCs of Clarion University and the University of Scranton to form the Agriculture Center for Excellence. The ACE helps farms and other food services businesses with financing and food safety protocols.

Keohane said the best part of working at the SBDC is helping “the entrepreneurs who have the desire, the dream to start their own business — to see that go from just an idea to a reality and then the success that comes along with that once we get the business up and running.”

Penn State’s SBDC services Centre, Lycoming, Mifflin and Clinton counties, as well as Penn State alumni across Pennsylvania.

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Thaddeus Lorenz is one Penn State alumnus from the class of 2020 who the SBDC assisted, and he is the founder and owner of the Tourney Challenge App. Tourney is a BMX biking app that enables users to compete in leveled contests by uploading 10-second video clips. Lorenz plans to expand the business to include all sports.

Lorenz said the SBDC helped him with setting up the app’s revenue plan, networking in the extreme sports industry and planning for the future.

“As an entrepreneur, you think short-term — you can get tunnel vision sometimes,” Lorenz said. “Having somebody help you map things out and rope you in a little bit more, it helps you really accomplish your goal.”

Lee Ann Patterson, co-owner of what will be Happy Valley’s Sunset Slush location — an Italian ice company based in North Carolina — is another entrepreneur who was assisted by the Penn State SBDC. Sunset Slush will open virtually for Penn Staters in May.

Patterson, who co-owns Sunset Slush with her husband, Turtle, said they were “confident business owners” ever since they moved to State College in 1996. However, Patterson said they needed help developing their mobile capacity, so they turned to Penn State SBDC for funding.

She added that the SBDC assisted with Sunset Slush’s business plan. In the past, Patterson said they never considered writing a formal business plan.

“Just over a few meetings, we have those startup costs and our monthly costs and our revenue projections and our funding is in process,” Patterson said. “It’s been a wonderful experience so far.”

Patterson said the SBDC explained how to develop marketing and sales approaches, and how to engage with local communities.

On March 17, the organization celebrated the National SBDC Day with a webinar called “So You Want to Build a Website.” The organization will continue to expand its outreach with the next webinar on March 18 called “Going Green: Energy, Efficiency in Agriculture.”

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