LEWISBURG — Representatives of state and federal agencies tasked with helping support business enterprise held up local entrepreneurs and the Bucknell University Small Business Development Center as examples of public money well-spent.
Administrators of the U.S. Small Business Administration and Pennsylvania Department of Community and Economic Development visited downtown Lewisburg as part of National Small Business Week.
They met with the owners of RunLites, Play Impossible, Trademark Antiques, A Red Wheelbarrow, Iron Front Events and Civil War Cider, all of whom received or continue to receive support from the Bucknell SBDC.
The SBDC works with both startups and existing businesses to provide consulting, assist in securing loans, guidance on marketing strategies and more. It hosts low-cost training events and workshops and runs a business incubator offering a physical location for entrepreneurs to work and collaborate.
Startup Lewisburg, an SBDC program, as of summer 2018 assisted 33 members — including 10 student-run companies — acquire $15 million in capital, generate $10 million in revenue and create or enhance 254 jobs.
Dennis Davin, secretary, DCED, said legislators make it a point to ask and ask again about the use of tax dollars and the value of such investments in small businesses including through programs like SBDC.
“With results like this, you can tell we’re getting the bang for our buck,” Davin said.
“Yes, they’re doing right with your taxpayers’ dollars,” said Michelle Christian, Mid-Atlantic regional administrator, SBA.
Now in its 41st year, the Bucknell SBDC is the longest running Small Business Development Center in the country.
Karen Holstead cut the ribbon during the event to her communication business, A Red Wheelbarrow, which assists in marketing and website design and maintenance. She’s worked in communications for 20 years and has now launched her own business.
Holstead attended a first-step seminar and continues to meet regularly with SBDC staff.
“They’ve helped me keep track in the beginning of expenses that I would have never thought to do: mileage to meet a client, expenses to get a business prepared, things like that,” Holstead said.
Jessica Sitko — who runs the online-based Trademark Antiques with her husband, Jason — reincorporated in Pennsylvania after moving from Virginia in 2013. When they settled in the Valley, they linked with SBDC.
Sitko expanded her web retail business to include vintage and antique conversion jewelry, using old and new gems and jewels to make necklaces, rings and the like.
Trademark Antiques built a following exceeding 85,000 Instagram users and attempts to use the social media platform to funnel customers to the business’s Etsy page. They work with locals in the jewelry trade and hire locals including university students for photography and writing.
Sitko and her husband worked in government in Virginia, and Jason still does after moving north. An attorney by trade, Sitko said she wasn’t happy in her career.
“I didn’t like what I was doing so this was my fun,” Sitko said. “Do I follow my passion or follow my day job? This is what I chose and since then we’ve been growing every year.”
Tiffin’s RunLites gloves are fitted with LED bulbs and are marketed for athletes, outdoors people and casual joggers and walkers. They’ve been featured on Good Morning America and sold through contracts with QVC, UncommonGoods and the Grommet.
“We have four patents pending on this product, all through the SBDC,” Tiffin said. “If we didn’t have the SBDC, our little business wouldn’t survive.”
Learn more about Bucknell SBDC and its partners at www.bucknell.edu/SBDC.