PASSHE seeks state funding for entrepreneurs, small business workers

Pennsylvania’s State System of Higher Education (PASSHE) is seeking state funding in the amount of $112 million to address the need for entrepreneurs and small business workers. 

Funding would be used to train students in six in-demand, high-growth jobs, business among them. PASSHE universities would invest $19 million of the $112 million to provide direct financial aid in the form of university-funded scholarships to business students. The scholarships would save students an average of $5,000 per year. To serve more students, an extra $2 million would be used to enlarge business programs. 

PASSHE Chancellor Dan Greenstein said in a statement that for Pennsylvania companies to be successful in a competitive marketplace, they need employees with business training and skill. 

“The combination of their knowledge, passion, and dedication helps to drive the commonwealth’s economy and create sustaining jobs,” said Greenstein. 

Greenstein added that unless more low-and middle-income students can afford the education they require, Pennsylvania will struggle to fill needed jobs. 

“Investing in our students to reduce their cost to a business degree will unlock the door of opportunity for more Pennsylvanians and expand the pipeline of talent from the classroom to main street and rural communities,” said Greenstein. 

PASSHE stated in a press release that Pennsylvania needs approximately 8% more business professionals by 2030. Filling those jobs will require employing thousands of additional people with knowledge gained by a business degree. 

As large corporations impact significantly economic growth, employees with strong business skills are highly sought after. The same is true of small businesses, which number 1.1 million in Pennsylvania, employ nearly half of the state’s private sector workforce. 

“State system universities are ready to partner with the governor and legislature to educate more business professionals and entrepreneurs,” Greenstein said.

Pa. veteran entrepreneurs to get expanded support from Biden-Harris Administration

Pennsylvania veteran business owners are among entrepreneurs who will receive expanded support from the federal government.

The Biden-Harris Administration announced Friday expanded support for the Veterans Business Outreach Centers from 22 to 28 locations, fully servicing all 50 states, the District of Columbia, Puerto Rico, U.S. Virgin Islands, Guam, and American Samoa. 

There are nearly two million veteran-owned small businesses in the U.S., employing over five million people and generating over $1.3 trillion in annual revenue. Organizations receiving grants from the Small Business Administration (SBA) demonstrate a commitment to addressing challenges facing veteran-owned small businesses and help them succeed through the Department of Defense’s Transition Assistance Program. 

“Our servicemembers have protected our nation with selfless honor and sacrifice, and the Biden-Harris Administration is committed to supporting them with resources and opportunities as they pursue their American dreams of business ownership,” U.S. Small Business Administrator Isabella Casillas Guzman said in a statement. 

“With this expansion of our veteran-focused network of small business centers, we can help more transitioning service members, veterans, National Guard and Reserve members, and military spouses start and grow their businesses and advance our economy.” 

Grants will support a variety of services, including the following: 

  • Business planning: Provides veterans with training and counseling on accounting financial planning, and management. 
  • Assistance accessing capital: Provides veterans help in understanding the multitude of sources of capital available to them, as well as helps them in accessing financing, loans, and grants. 
  • Marketing and outreach: Provides marketing and outreach services to promote veteran-owned businesses in their communities and beyond. 
  • Transitioning. Provides Boots to Business instruction to help active-duty service members transition out of the military.

Acting Associate Administrator for the Office of Veterans Business Development Timothy Green said Veterans Business Outreach Centers (VBOC) are a one-stop shop for business training, counseling, and resource partner referrals to transitioning service members, veterans, National Guard and Reserve members, and military spouses who are interested in starting a small business or expanding an existing one. 

“The new centers will provide additional resources to increase support and access for nearly 2 million veteran-owned small businesses,” said Green. “The expanded locations aim to enhance the veteran small business owner experience with more opportunities for training and less appointment wait times.”

Entrepreneurs in Food & Beverage TechCelerator can win up to $30,000

Food and beverage entrepreneurs and start-up companies have the chance to win up to $30,000 in Ben Franklin Technology Partners’ first Food & Beverage TechCelerator.

The TechCelerator is open to those in Ben Franklin’s 32-county Pennsylvania footprint who are “developing scalable, innovative and technology-focused products/services in the food and beverage industry,” a release explained.

Ben Franklin Technology Partners’ Julie Bratton said there have been previous TechCelerators but this is the first time the concept is targeted to a specific industry.

The 10-week virtual business boot camp provides an opportunity for enrollees to build and de-risk their business model, culminating in a pitch competition with a chance to win up to 30 grand.

More specifically, Food & Beverage TechCelerator participants explore the likelihood of success and learn to minimize risks; take part in one-on-one mentoring with business coaches from Ben Franklin and college Small Business Development Centers; expand their network and engage with other entrepreneurs; and create an investor pitch to present to a panel of local judges.

The weekly Zoom classes are Tuesdays, starting Jan. 10, 2023, and running through March 14, 2023. One-hour online mentoring/coaching sessions will also be provided each week. Deadline to apply is Dec. 2.

Paula Wolf is a freelance writer

StartUp Lehigh Valley calls entrepreneurs to pitch ideas for cash

StartUp Lehigh Valley, a pitch competition for area entrepreneurs developed and hosted by Factory LLC, with financial support from Penn State Lehigh Valley’s LaunchBox, is back for a third year.

After a virtual event in 2020, this year’s competition will be held live at Factory’s headquarters in south Bethlehem and broadcast live on WFMZ-TV 69News. The competition is scheduled for Oct. 27 from 6:30-8:00 PM.

In a Shark Tank-style event designed to showcase startup companies in the Lehigh Valley community and throughout Pennsylvania, 10 finalists will pitch their products and businesses to a panel of judges in front of a live and virtual audience, according to PRNewswire. Ten thousand dollars in prize money is up for grabs, along with essential resources for startup businesses.

“The StartUp Lehigh Valley pitch competition is designed to showcase the entrepreneurship that’s already happening in the Valley and get the community excited about supporting these local startups,” said Richard Thompson, managing partner at Factory. “We are thrilled to be partnering with WFMZ this year to broadcast the event live and reach more people than ever before. We also want to applaud Penn State Lehigh Valley’s LaunchBox for working with us to pull off this competition, and for providing vital resources to our local entrepreneurs year-round.

“We considered dozens of cities across the U.S. before building our innovation and scaleup facility, and we found exactly what we were looking for here in Bethlehem,” Thompson said. “The Lehigh Valley has easy access to major airports and cities, a competitive talent pool, top-tier universities, and an exploding logistics industry. It’s perfectly poised to become a hotbed for innovation, and this competition is all about building that entrepreneurial community.”

The grand prize winner will take home $5,000. The first runner up will receive $2,500, and three additional finalists will receive LaunchBox Boost awards of $500 each. The live and virtual audience will also vote for the winner of a $1,000 Audience Choice award. Entrepreneurs have until October 15th to apply and can find all the details at startuplehighvalley.com.

The prize money is presented by lead sponsor Lehigh Valley LaunchBox, a hub of resources for entrepreneurs located at Penn State Lehigh Valley in Center Valley. All participants will have the opportunity to network at the event and can take advantage of LaunchBox’s comprehensive startup services, including free legal counsel, access to grant funding, coaching, and more.

“From the first person to rub sticks together to start a fire to those who sparked the industrial age, innovation has lit our pathway to progress,” said Tina Q. Richardson, chancellor of Penn State Lehigh Valley. “But an idea, no matter how bright, is just an idea until an individual with talent, support – and gumption – captures, creates, packages, and successfully promotes it for profit: the entrepreneur. They are the backbone of our workforce, the root of all business and the reason we formed LaunchBox – to double down on our commitment to foster innovation in our region. We are so pleased to be part of this exciting event and look forward to helping these aspiring entrepreneurs gain exposure and traction through this partnership with Factory, and by connecting them to Penn State’s massive network of startup resources moving forward.”

JPMorgan Chase & Co. also contributed towards the cost of producing the event. The company is committed to supporting entrepreneurs and small businesses that create jobs and build vibrant communities.

“As our firm continues to grow in the Lehigh Valley, we couldn’t be prouder to support Factory’s StartUp event,” said Susan Youngs, relationship executive for JPMorgan Chase Commercial Banking. “JPMorgan Chase has a strong commitment to small businesses and entrepreneurs as they generate jobs, create diverse communities and are vital to prosperous cities. It’s our pleasure to help shine a spotlight on local entrepreneurs.”

Startup founders and entrepreneurs 18 years and older from any industry can apply to pitch.

The pitch contest will be hosted by Thompson and Nancy Werteen, an anchor and reporter for WFMZ-TV. Each pitch will last for two minutes, followed by a round of questions from the judges.

This year’s panel of judges is comprised of local business leaders and innovators:

Sue Yee is the founder and CEO of Active Data, a digital products and services company focused on event commerce and online ticketing. She has also served on the boards of many area organizations, including the Lehigh Valley Health Network Board of Trustees and the PBS-WLTV 39 Board of Directors.

Dan Bosket is an entrepreneur and owner of several small businesses who also serves as a board member of the Allentown Chamber of Commerce, director of the Community Action Development Corporation of Allentown, and advisor for Lehigh Valley LaunchBox.

Tony Iannelli is CEO and president of the Greater Lehigh Valley Chamber of Commerce. He hosts Business Matters, a local business show broadcast by WFMZ-TV.

Roly Nesi is the founder of ROAR Organic, an electrolyte beverage enhanced with vitamins and antioxidants. He partnered with Factory and moved ROAR’s headquarters to Bethlehem in 2020.

The in-person audience is limited to 100, and those interested in attending must register in advance at startuplehighvalley.com. Audience members and finalists will be asked to show proof of Covid-19 vaccination.

Stylists don’t let COVID-19 stop them from their salon dream

Courtney McIntyre, left, and Annie McIntosh of The Deca Salon in Emmaus. PHOTO/SUBMITTED –


The COVID-19 pandemic couldn’t deter a pair of hairstylists from opening The Deca salon in Emmaus. In fact, Courtney McIntyre and Annie McIntosh said the closure gave them the time and the perspective they needed to make their dream happen.

The two were working together at the Hair Cuttery in the Promenade Shops at Saucon Valley. Even before the pandemic hit they had their eye on starting their own salon and were looking for space at the beginning of the year.

“We just wanted our own environment, to be different to create a better atmosphere for our customers,” said McIntyre.

They almost signed a lease right before COVID-19 hit, but fortunately the deal fell through and they went back to the chalkboard at just the right time.

“It gave us the time to work on it,’ she said.

They began meeting with SCORE Bucks County mentor Steve Wolfson to get help with their entrepreneurial aspirations. The advice they received set them on the right track, so once businesses started reopening they were ready to go and began looking for space again.

At the same time Hair Cuttery filed for bankruptcy and was purchased by another company, which started closing many of the salon’s locations. While their location was one of the shops that stayed open, it was a big enough scare to remind them why they wanted to put their fate in their own hands.

“It was stressful,” said McIntosh. “We were on a waiting list for the longest time.”

The toughest part was accepting the possible failure because of the pandemic. But, she said the stress was enough to make them decide that the time was right – pandemic or no – to start their salon.

“We just said ‘let’s take a leap of faith and live our dream,’” said McIntosh.

They ultimately settled on a space in Emmaus that offered the charm they wanted and the space they would need to ensure proper social distancing. “Our space is big enough for having three hair stylists working at the same time,” McIntyre said.

While they can’t use some tricks to stay busy, such as double booking – cutting someone’s hair while another’s color is setting – they can still keep busy enough to maintain the business.

They opened Sept. 28, and were pleasantly surprised to find that many of their regular clients followed them to Deca.

So far, they said the experience has been all they had hoped for.

“It’s nice being able to control what products were using and the atmosphere,” said McIntosh.

McIntyre agreed.

“We get to choose who we work with and who we hire. It’s like working with family every day,” she said.

In addition to the business partners, McIntyre’s sister, Macie Taylor, a licensed esthetician, provides waxing, facials and lash extension services. The owners also hired a third hairstylist as well.

The Deca Salon is on the Emmaus Triangle at 10 S. Fourth St.

Entrepreneurs, hors d’oeuvres and handshakes: innovators to gather at Factory LLC in Bethlehem

With an eye on making the Lehigh Valley an innovation hub of the east coast, Factory LLC, a dormant steel mill-turned business innovation center on Columbia Street in Bethlehem will host an event called Startup Valley on Oct. 30.

Factory LLC in South Bethlehem is an innovation hub that opened earlier this year. (File Photo) –

The event, which will run from 6:30-to-8:30 p.m. will bring local business leaders, angel investors, industry experts, merchants, higher education representatives, students, community members and, of course, entrepreneurs under one roof.

The evening will include a networking cocktail hour with light bites prepared by Factory’s in-house chefs and drinks by Molly’s Irish Grill and Sports Pub of South Bethlehem and Black Hawk Imports, a wine and spirits importer.

Afterwards, Factory-selected innovators will compete in a quick pitch to win cash prizes and Factory services, with the audience voting on their smartphones via DirectPoll for their favorite new business ideas.

The event is sponsored by Penn State Lehigh Valley’s entrepreneurial LaunchBox program, Lehigh University’s Baker Institute for Entrepreneurship, Creativity and Innovation; Lafayette College’s Dyer Center for Innovation and Entrepreneurship; Northampton Community College’s Follett Family Center for Innovation and Entrepreneurship and ArtsQuest.

Factory LLC was founded by former Freshpet and Meow Mix CEO Rich Thompson.

Thompson poured $12 million into the 40,000-square-foot former steel mill at 315 Columbia St. near Lehigh University, SteelStacks and Northampton Community College’s Fowler Family Southside Center.

He hopes to invest in food, beverage and pet product companies with between $2 million and $20 million in revenue.

For a stake in those companies, Factory provides professional services and professional development resources that, he said, can help businesses get to the next level.

Editor’s note: Entrepreneurs interested in participating in the event can contact Grady Barth at 610-442-5663 or email him at [email protected].