Berks LaunchBox keeps local entrepreneurs moving forward

Michelle Hnath
April 22, 2020

WYOMISSING, Pa. — The Penn State Berks LaunchBox has re-tooled its consulting and classes to continue to help startups, small businesses and dreamers to keep moving forward during this difficult time. Staff members are available from 8 a.m.­ to 8 p.m., Monday through Friday, by appointment for virtual meetings and assistance.

Since moving all operations to remote delivery, they have continued to help several entrepreneurs and startups. A few examples include:

  • Edna Garcia Dipini, founder of Rize, a youth arts organization, is taking this time to work virtually with Michelle Hnath, LaunchBox Marketing Monday’s host, to create a fresh look for her non-profit marketing materials.
  • Mark Viglione, founder of startup Enigma Networkz, is taking this time to train faculty and design course exercises to help Penn State Berks cybersecurity analytics and operations students to learn his software application in their courses this summer.
  • Rich Whiffen is getting help with research on an early stage software idea for a new method of digital media distribution.
  • Kim Monjoy is pursuing a novel jewelry idea and is working on product research, business formation, and a company and website domain name.

Free courses online

The Berks LaunchBox has many free courses that are being delivered remotely to help people to learn, grow, and come up with innovative ideas for starting a business. All courses can be found at https://berkslaunchbox.psu.edu/updates/.

Sample courses include one on Licensing and Company Creation, scheduled for Thursday, April 30, 6:30–7:30 p.m. via live video. In this course, participants can learn about whether to start a company or license proprietary property, the types of business entities, and how to select an entity structure.

Idea TestLab

In addition, area residents and Penn State students, faculty and staff with unique STEM-related business ideas can apply to participate in the Idea TestLab. Entry is competitive, and the application deadline is April 29.

The first step to take your idea from concept to business is figuring out if you have identified a problem worth solving. This class will help you to get a better handle on the problem you are trying to solve for your customers, determine where to find your potential customers, and identify the value of your product compared to what already exists on the market. 

Participants will learn how to develop a business model, validate their business model through a scientific process, get feedback from faculty experts and other entrepreneurs, and work one-to-one with experienced entrepreneurs who serve as mentors. Participants will also be eligible to apply for a micro-grant of up to $3,000, which can be used to attend industry trade shows, visit potential customers, develop prototypes and cover customer discovery expenses. This class is offered at no cost on Wednesday, May 20, 27, June 3, 10 from 6:30 to 8:30 p.m. To learn more and apply by April 29, visit http://sites.psu.edu/ceed.

About the Berks LaunchBox

The mission of the Berks LaunchBox, located in suite 105 of the GoggleWorks Center for the Arts in downtown Reading, is to support economic development and entrepreneurship. An innovation hub of Penn State Berks, the Berks LaunchBox connects local entrepreneurs to the support, resources, and facilities that they need to build sustainable and scalable businesses with a viable plan for growth. Services include assistance with prototyping, conducting market research, and connecting with mentors. The Berks LaunchBox offers entrepreneurship workshops, coworking space for startups, Meetups focused on business development, a makerspace with 3D printers for prototyping, and special youth programs.

The Berks LaunchBox is supported by Invent Penn State — a commonwealth-wide initiative to spur economic development, job creation and student success, launched by Penn State President Eric J. Barron in 2016. For more information, visit berkslaunchbox.psu.edu or contact Michelle Hnath, Berks LaunchBox facilities coordinator, at mah629@psu.edu or 610-396-6400.

Last Updated April 23, 2020