CENTER VALLEY, Pa. — For its most recent panel discussion, Lehigh Valley LaunchBox powered by Penn State’s LaunchBox Ladies Series focused on the crucial role financing plays for any aspiring entrepreneur looking to achieve long-term success.
The Jan. 26 virtual event, “Securing Capital for Your Small Business,” brought together four business professionals offering a wealth of great advice on getting the right financing in all aspects of running a small business or business. a startup.
The panel consisted of Jevata Crawford, founder of ProjectMOVE; Sally Handlon, Founder and President of Handlon Business Resources LLC; and Yajahira Rodriguez, associate lender to the Rising Tide Community Loan Fund. Catherine Bailey, former President and COO of Rea.deeming Beauty Inc. and member of the LaunchBox Advisory Board, moderated the discussion.
Crawford, the 2021 Lehigh Valley LaunchBox Idea TestLab winner, said she worked hard to develop a great pitch for her company, which provides personal organization and decluttering services. In October, she was one of 10 finalists in the annual Lehigh Valley StartUp Pitch Competition hosted by Lehigh Valley LaunchBox and Factory LLC.
Pitch competitions aren’t just a way to get funding, but are also extremely useful for better understanding your business model and audience, according to Crawford.
“The first thing I would say to someone preparing a pitch is that I would never recommend anyone do it on their own. Even if you’re a solo entrepreneur, you can’t operate in silos,” Crawford said. “Through LaunchBox, I had access to people who were very good at marketing, very good at strategy.”
Indeed, Bailey said anyone starting a business should do all they can to find good advisors like Crawford did through LaunchBox.
“Having a mentor or someone you can bounce ideas off of and encourage rather than discourage is so important,” Bailey said. “You need that outside support and don’t do it alone.”
Rodriguez said a number of budding entrepreneurs come to her without a formal business plan, which is key to getting started.
“Sometimes when you’re helping a business owner and they have a plan, they can actually see, ‘Wow, that’s a little more than I thought; I will need a little more help in that area,” Rodriguez said. “The business plan is so important to provide the big picture and let them know what they’re getting into.”
In her business, Handlon assists entrepreneurs with customer and market development, a process that should start early in order to determine appropriate resources and funding, she said. Additionally, business owners should expect to invest some of their own money in their business rather than relying solely on outside investors.
“You’re going to have to use your own savings, and the question is, how much do you want to commit? And it will really depend on what you are looking for in terms of funding,” Handlon said. “Passion for what you do is what will get you through these seemingly overwhelming times. This is what will allow you to cross.
About Lehigh Valley LaunchBox
The High Valley LaunchBox is a Penn State-sponsored, community-sponsored business accelerator program created as part of the Invent Penn State initiative. The Lehigh Valley LaunchBox program awards micro-grants to budding entrepreneurs. Lehigh Valley LaunchBox partners connect micro-grant recipients with alumni, business leaders, and university partners to provide mentorship and help launch ideas and turn them into useful products. All members of the Lehigh Valley community and Penn State faculty, staff, and students who have a scalable business idea are welcome to apply for Lehigh Valley LaunchBox membership.