Penn State Helps Adults Become Entrepreneurs

By Stephen J. Pytak
Republican & Herald, Pottsville, Pa.

WWR Article Summary (tl;dr) From business boot camps to Pitch competitions, there are plenty of opportunities available for Pennsylvanians who want to take a shot at entrepreneurship.

Republican & Herald, Pottsville, Pa.

A few years ago, Mariann T. Young, Pottsville, learned to make jewelry out of seed beads and Swarovski-brand crystals.

Now, Young is working to turn her hobby into a business, and for guidance, she recently enrolled in the first Lion Launch program at Penn State Schuylkill, an effort to inspire entrepreneurs of all ages.

“What I’ve found, in just the couple weeks we’ve been into it already, is a treasure-full of information. It gives you a lot of information about starting your own business. I’m hoping that when I retire it will be a little something for me to pursue.

I go to craft shows and I have a little following. And I do enjoy it,” Young, 59, a staff assistant at Penn State Schuylkill, said Monday.

“Lion Launch is open to anyone over 18, including faculty and staff and students and anyone from the public,” Laura E. Hoppes, the Lion Launch coordinator, said.

Two years ago, the Schuylkill Chamber of Commerce and Penn State Schuylkill introduced an program to inspire middle school and high school students to become entrepreneurs. Now in its third year, it’s called the Schuylkill Young Entrepreneurs Academy — YEA!

This year, Penn State Schuylkill had the opportunity to develop a similar program for adults.

In January 2015, Penn State University started a program called Invent Penn State to encourage entrepreneurial endeavors. Penn State President Eric Barron came up with the concept.

“Invent Penn State is a commonwealthwide initiative that blends entrepreneurship-focused academic programs, business startup training and incubation, funding, and key regional partnerships together for the benefit of Pennsylvania and beyond,” according to the Penn State website at

Penn State gave $50,000 grants to six Penn State campuses for programs.

“Penn State Abington, Behrend, Harrisburg, Lehigh Valley, New Kensington and Wilkes-Barre submitted winning proposals to receive $50,000 in seed funding,” according to the site.

In June, Penn State gave $50,000 grants to six more campuses: Penn State Altoona, Penn State Berks, Penn State Grant Valley, Penn State Schuylkill, Penn State Shenango and Penn State York.

The program developed by Penn State Schuylkill is called Lion Launch. And in September, Penn State Schuylkill hired Hoppes,Pottsville — a part-time GED Instructor for Schuylkill Intermediate Unit 29 — as the part-time Lion Launch coordinator.

The cost to enroll is $100 per participant and 16 signed up.

It’s a three-phase program:

–Phase One is a 10-week business boot camp that started Nov. 2. Participants meet once a week at Penn State Schuylkill to hear guest speakers and experts from the fields of accounting, human resources, law, marketing and social media, Hoppes said.
On Wednesday, J. Russell Hoke, a mentor with Berks and Schuylkill County SCORE, gave a presentation on marketing.

–Phase Two will include a business plan competition in front of a panel of judges and experts comprised of Lion Launch Community Partners.

“These organizations include members of Schuylkill Chamber of Commerce, Pottsville Area Development Corp., Schuylkill Economic Development Corp., Northeast Pennsylvania Manufacturers and Employers Association, Schuylkill Vision, Berks-Schuylkill SCORE and Invent Penn State. Seed funding will be awarded to business plan competition winners for various initial startup costs,” Hoppes said.

–Phase Three will consist of offering office space in an incubator-type format for entrepreneurs to utilize for six months. The location for the office space is still being determined, Hoppes said.

Lion Launch is still seeking volunteers to be members of a Lion Launch advisory council and mentors to participants. Interested persons can contact Hoppes at 570-385-6065 or

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