The Corner LaunchBox catalyzing local business, entrepreneurship
This article is part of a series celebrating the five-year anniversary of Invent Penn State’s LaunchBox & Innovation Hub Network. Learn more here.
Located on Fifth Avenue in downtown New Kensington, The Corner LaunchBox has helped a majority of the businesses on its own street, and in return, has helped revitalize the town’s business district. The innovation space has directly helped or interacted with more than 80 percent of small businesses within the downtown corridor, providing programing, business advice, networking events, and other resources to the community.
Since opening in 2017, The Corner LaunchBox has assisted 194 entrepreneurs, hosted 88 community events, and has helped create 32 jobs and 15 internships. Over the past couple years, its clientele has mostly consisted of local small businesses and community members.
“The Corner LaunchBox is a part of something so much bigger,” says Corinne Coulson, manager of strategic communications and marketing at Penn State New Kensington. “It was meant to be a catalyst for change, and it certainly has been and continues to be. We offer our signature programs, but we’re also here to serve the community. To see what has happened in several short years has been fantastic, and it all started with The Corner LaunchBox.”
One of 21 innovation spaces in the Invent Penn State LaunchBox & Innovation Hub Network, The Corner LaunchBox offers co-working and office space, accelerators, and legal and intellectual property advice. It also provides access to mentors, or “Corner Coaches,” who offer free advice in areas such as budgeting, taxes, and human resources.
Accelerators offered by The Corner LaunchBox include a 10-week Opportunity Accelerator, helping participants dive into customer discovery, and a four-week Idea TestLab, helping people discover the value of their business ideas.
Preserving, a New Kensington-based record shop, which buys, sells and trades vinyl albums, CDs and cassette tapes, is a business that has participated in a variety of programs offered by The Corner LaunchBox. Starting Preserving in 2019, owner AJ Rassau has since grown his business to also include a concert venue and event space housed, along with the shop, in a former church in downtown New Kensington that he bought and renovated in 2020.
Currently, The Corner LaunchBox hosts monthly open houses for entrepreneurs, innovators, and businesses. During these open houses, visitors can use the space and learn about LaunchBox programing. In addition, the innovation space hosts a monthly speaker series, where there is a dedicated entrepreneurial speaker plus networking opportunities.
“New Kensington is a diverse area that has a long-storied history,” says Alyssa Pistininzi, community operations manager at The Corner LaunchBox. “The impact Penn State has made, helping regenerate and revitalize here, has been tremendous. We’re very proud that we’ve been able to help so many people realize their dreams of becoming an entrepreneur.”
The Corner LaunchBox partners with other organizations including the SBA, which provides resources and programs for veterans and minority-owned businesses. The innovation space also works with the Center for Women’s Entrepreneurship at Chatham University, which creates economic opportunities for women through entrepreneurial education and training, mentoring, and networking.
In spring 2022, the Digital Foundry at New Kensington, a digital innovation lab, is scheduled to open a couple blocks away from The Corner LaunchBox. The Digital Foundry will provide access to modern software tools to assist new product development, manufacturing, automation, operations, and overall business management. This digital innovation lab will work in tandem with the Penn State New Kensington-spearheaded Nextovation initiative, which focuses on real change and regional revitalization in the new digital economy. As entrepreneurial strategies, ideas, and thinking are taught at The Corner LaunchBox, the Digital Foundry will further allow innovators to gain hands-on experience and training with the technology.
“With the Digital Foundry becoming a part of our ecosystem, it’s about transforming a small Rust Belt town into the future with all of these pieces, which includes The Corner LaunchBox,” Coulson says. “We hope this becomes a model that other communities like ours can use, with university, private, and public partnerships.”
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.