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 funding plays for any budding entrepreneur intent on long-term business success.
The Jan. 26 virtual event, “Securing Capital for Your Small Business,” featured four business professionals offering a wealth of good advice on securing proper financing in all aspects of running a small business or 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 at Rising Tide Community Loan Fund. Catherine Bailey, former president and chief operating officer of Rea.deeming Beauty Inc. and LaunchBox Advisory Board member, moderated the discussion.
Crawford, the 2021 Lehigh Valley LaunchBox Idea TestLab winner, said she worked hard on developing a great pitch for her company, which provides personal organizing and decluttering services. Back in October, she was among the 10 finalists at the annual StartUp Lehigh Valley pitch competition hosted by Lehigh Valley LaunchBox and Factory LLC.
Pitch competitions are not only a means of securing funding, but also are extremely helpful in terms of better understanding your business model and audience, according to Crawford.
“The first thing I’d say to someone preparing a pitch is I would never recommend someone do it on their own. Even though you may be a solo entrepreneur, you cannot operate in a silo,” 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 go out of their way to find good advisers like Crawford did through LaunchBox.
“Having a mentor or someone that you can bounce your ideas off of, and be encouraging as opposed to discouraging, is so important,” Bailey said. “You need that outside support and not do it alone.”
Rodriguez said a number of aspiring entrepreneurs come to her lacking a formal business plan, which is critical to getting off the ground.
“Sometimes when you are helping a business owner and they have a plan, they can actually see, ‘Wow, this is a little more than I thought; I will need a little more help in this area,’” Rodriguez said. “The business plan is so important for providing a big picture and letting them know what they are getting into.”
In her business, Handlon assists entrepreneurs in the realm of customer and market development, a process that should begin early on for the purposes of determining appropriate resources and funding, she said. In addition, business owners should expect to put some of their own money into their companies rather than just rely solely on outside investors.
“You’re going to have to use your own savings, and the question is, how much of that do you want to commit? And that really will depend upon what you are seeking in financing,” Handlon said. “Passion for what you’re doing is what’s going to get you though those times that seem overwhelming. That’s what’s going to get you through.”
About Lehigh Valley LaunchBox
Lehigh Valley LaunchBox is a Penn State- and 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. Partners of Lehigh Valley LaunchBox link micro-grant recipients to alumni, business leaders, and academic partners to provide mentorship and to help launch ideas and turn them into useful products. All Lehigh Valley community members and Penn State faculty, staff and students who have a scalable business idea are welcome to apply for affiliation with the Lehigh Valley LaunchBox.