The Penn State Small Business Development Center (SBDC) has a long history of working with partners to educate student and community founders about starting and running a business. They also work to promote small businesses in order to stimulate the local economy. The Penn State SBDC serves Centre and Mifflin counties and has offices in Innovation Park at Penn State, Happy Valley LaunchBox in downtown State College and in Lewistown in Mifflin county.
The organization is perhaps best known to Penn Staters for its award-winning annual event, Global Entrepreneurship Week (GEW) which takes place each November. Penn State’s multi-campus event was ranked #1 among U.S. universities in 2016. Last year’s event featured 105 events held at 16 different Penn State campuses with 4,816 student, faculty, staff and community participants. This year’s GEW will take place November 7-15th and marks the 10th anniversary for the event.
“Invent Penn State and the LaunchBox programs are inspiring an entrepreneurial mindset, and we have students from all over the world reaching out to us for support,” new Penn State SBDC Director Kimberlee MacMullan says. “I’d like the SBDC to keep those students connected to Invent Penn State and the programs and connections no matter where they end up.”
A Pennsylvania native and Penn State Smeal College of Business alum, Kimberlee has extensive experience in business and economic development. After graduating from Penn State, obtaining an MBA and completing her CPA certification, she went to work for Deloitte and Sony Music in New York. From there, she moved to California where she worked at Fox, Disney, Warner Bros., Sony Television and DirecTV. Now that Kimberlee’s back at Penn State, she’s excited to kick off the SBDC’s First Step: Starting a Business seminar series.
A signature SBDC program, First Step is held monthly on Tuesday mornings as a two to three-hour seminar designed to give people the fundamental building blocks needed to start a business. “We want to help businesses identify their legal structure, find funding sources and understand where to find people that need their product or service,” says Kimberlee.
The SBDC plans to expand First Step by offering it on additional days and times in the upcoming year in order to better serve entrepreneurs who may be employed currently but plan to start a business. The SBDC office is also offering webinars and online materials for people who are unable to attend courses in person.
In addition to the First Step program, the Penn State SBDC offers one-on-one consulting to many businesses as well as offering classes on relevant topics for small businesses, such as improving social media skills, how to maintain your business books, regulatory requirements, and how unemployment compensation works — things small business owners need to know. They even offer classes on how to better leverage the use of online storefronts.
“We brought Steve Fafel in from Ben Franklin Technology Partners to do an Amazon seller program, which was a lot of fun,” Kimberlee says. “It was all about selling your products on Amazon and how to go about doing that.”
The Penn State SBDC is always looking for more ways to reach the communities of Centre and Mifflin counties. Whether it’s through their main office at University Park, their satellite location in Lewistown or online, there are resources for small business owners and people ready and willing to help them thrive. For more information about Penn State SBDC programs and webinars click here.