Close to 10 years ago, three Penn State students envisioned a space to bring community members, entrepreneurs, students, startups and small business owners together. Today New Leaf Initiative, a 5013C Non Profit, has become a vital coworking and collaboration space in the heart of State College. And in 2104 expanded into its current location on the 3rd floor of the State College Municipal Building.
“When you walk in the first thing you notice is, it’s beautiful, light-filled, with refurbished wood, and lots of green leaves,” says Abigail Gaffron, New Leaf’s Executive Director.
Just down the hall from the mayor’s office, the 2,600 square foot space is located at 243 S. Allen Street, members utilize floating desks, meeting rooms, sitting areas, and video call booths. Gaffron explained, “the coworking model fosters community and brings together like-minded people to connect, share ideas, and support one another to stay motivated and focused.”
New Leaf offers a variety of services and member packages including daily, part-time, or full-time access to desk space, wi-fi, printing/copying, conference and meeting rooms, free craft coffee, community events and connection to business resources.
“New Leaf members come to us with a passion or curiosity,” says Gaffron. “Nurtured in our space, they develop both personally and professionally. Many have created thriving local businesses, community projects and freelancing careers.”
New Leaf member Eric Zimmett, the founder of Braden Social Media, LLC, credits New Leaf with giving him the courage to start his own business.
“The community at New Leaf gave me the inspiration and encouragement to quit my job and start my own company,” he said. “It provided me with space and a professional environment for my business to thrive. Now, five years later, I don’t know what I’d have done without this space and the friends I’ve made along the way.”
New Leaf’s founding team included three Penn State alumni—Steven “Spud” Marshall ‘10, Mechanical Engineering, Matt Lobach ‘09, Business and Actuarial Science, and Eric Sauder ‘08, Mechanical Engineering, as well as Maryland Institute College of Art graduate, Christian Baum. All of them were craving a space that would cultivate community in a meaningful and sustainable way.
“In starting New Leaf, we wanted to create a space where the community was invited to dream together, innovate together, and create a new future for our town together,” said Marshall. “We felt the town was lacking a place for the community to collaborate with one another to reimagine the future for the community.”
New Leaf is home to many Penn State alumni but is open to all. Over the years Penn State has provided substantial support and sponsorship to New Leaf as well as having partnered on a variety of programs and events, including the development of Happy Valley LaunchBox.
“The coworking space at New Leaf serves as a landing place for startups and entrepreneurs that have completed Happy Valley LaunchBox programs and are looking for community to continue their business development,” said Gaffron. “Invent Penn State and the Office of the Vice President of Research have been great supporters of New Leaf over the last few years, and we are grateful for the support.”
New Leaf offers a variety of events. If you’re unsure how to start, Gaffron recommends attending New Leaf’s Community Coffee, “Ask Me Anything,” a casual gathering open to all every Thursday at 9:00 a.m. or Salad Club the first Friday of each month, where attendees share a meal and get to know one another.
“Start having conversations, and get really, really curious,” advises Gaffron for those interested in starting their own business. “Allow yourself to be on intake mode for a while and ask lots of questions. Once you understand that, you’ll realize the resources are all here waiting for you.”
Follow New Leaf on Facebook facebook.com/newleafinitiative for their latest events. To become a member, reserve a conference room, or for more information about New Leaf, visit newleafinitiative.org or just stop by.
"The community at New Leaf gave me the inspiration and encouragement to quit my job and start my own company."
Founder of Braden Social Media, LLC