Hazleton LaunchBox Helps Diverse Community of Entrepreneurs Launch
This article is part of a series celebrating the five-year anniversary of Invent Penn State’s LaunchBox & Innovation Hub Network. Learn more here.
Anchoring the first floor of the recently renovated bingo hall on West Broad Street in downtown Hazleton, the new Hazleton LaunchBox supported by Pasco L. Schiavo Esq. demonstrates how collaborative economic development and public-private partnerships can revive Pennsylvania communities.
Opened in September 2019, the 4,000 square foot Hazleton LaunchBox offers a myriad of services to its clients, including coworking space, startup educational programs and consulting, legal and intellectual property clinics, and even website design – all for little or no cost. Hazleton LaunchBox has already hosted more than 200 community members and provided a range of services and support for more than 30 businesses.
Unique to this LaunchBox is its bilingual startup resources. Located in a 54 percent Latinx community, the Hazleton LaunchBox offers bilingual programs to help local entrepreneurs make their business ideas a reality, regardless of their language. The programming has included multiple startup educational sessions, with topics ranging from idea design to business skill improvement and has extended to cover ways to help entrepreneurs deal with the COVID-19 pandemic.
More than 160 attendees have participated in these sessions, taught both in English and Spanish – a testament to the value the facility is providing to the region’s diverse community. Hazleton LaunchBox has also referred 38 clients to the Wilkes Small Business Development Center (SBDC), and another 11 clients to the Penn State Intellectual Property Law Clinic, the Pennsylvania Technical Assistance Program (PennTAP), and Penn State Extension to further their entrepreneurship efforts.
Hazleton LaunchBox is also fostering workforce development through high school student programs, such as the eight-week Youth Entrepreneurship Pitch Competition program for students in the area’s eight high schools. LaunchBox has completed four sessions of this program both in person and virtually since the summer of 2019. Recruitment is underway for this fall’s cohort.
Students have pitched ideas such as an insulated cake-delivery box that maintains an internal box temperature to within two degrees, preventing fragile buttercream frosting from degrading in transit. Another young entrepreneur developed a sports cleat with an interchangeable sole for athletes who compete on multiple playing surfaces – an innovation with the potential to become a sustainable business, according to the pitch competition’s judges.
According to William Andahazy, entrepreneurship education coordinator at the Hazleton LaunchBox, the program helps students understand how their ideas can help the world around them and to help them answer the question, “What’s your passion?”
“If we can help foster passion in new entrepreneurs, high school students or Penn State students, we’re accomplishing our goal,” says Andahazy.
Hazleton LaunchBox was the result of extensive cooperation amongst area organizations, including the Greater Hazleton Chamber of Commerce, CAN DO – the industrial and economic development entity for Greater Hazleton, the Community Association for New Business Entrepreneurship (CAN BE) Innovation Center, and the Greater Hazleton Chamber of Commerce’s Downtown Hazleton Alliance for Progress.
Hazleton LaunchBox was made possible, in part, by a gift from former local attorney Pasco Schiavo who bequeathed $1 million to Penn State Hazleton to help accelerate entrepreneurship, which was matched by Penn State. Additional support has been received from the state grants, local businesses, and banking institutions.
“The Hazleton LaunchBox is a tremendous example of the progress that can be made when organizations collaborate. Our partners, donors and sponsors eagerly anticipate the impact our LaunchBox will have on the Hazleton area business community and economic development,” says Gary Lawler, chancellor, Penn State Hazleton.
About Invent Penn State
Invent Penn State is a commonwealth-wide initiative to spur economic development, job creation and student career success.
The Invent Penn State LaunchBox & Innovation Hub Network is made up of 21 innovation spaces embedded in Penn State campus communities offering no-cost co-working space, makerspace, accelerator programs, pitch competitions, speaker series, access to experts and mentors, and legal and IP advice through Penn State Law clinics. Five years since opening, the Invent Penn State LaunchBox & Innovation Hub Network has supported 3,325 community entrepreneurs, created 194.5 jobs, and helped to launch 164 new Pennsylvania companies. Gifts to support the network, as well as select economic development initiatives across the commonwealth, are a priority of the University’s current fundraising campaign, “A Greater Penn State for 21st Century Excellence.”
To learn more about how to make a gift and secure a match before the campaign concludes on June 30, 2022, please contact Heather Winfield at firstname.lastname@example.org. Information about the campaign is available at greaterpennstate.psu.edu.
To find a location near you, visit invent.psu.edu/programs/pa-innovation-hubs.
This article was updated on Sept. 30, 2021.