Lehigh Valley LaunchBox creates $145,000 endowment for long-term sustainability

students sitting at a table interacting

Eight Advisory Board members from Lehigh Valley LaunchBox powered by Penn State have created a $145,000 endowment to sustain the business accelerator's long-term efforts. The board members contributed $72,500 to the fund, which was matched by Penn State. 

Credit: Michelle Bixby

CENTER VALLEY, Pa. — Since its inception in 2015, Lehigh Valley LaunchBox powered by Penn State has helped hundreds of local entrepreneurs achieve their goals. Now, the business accelerator is taking steps to ensure it can assist countless more businesses in the years to come. 

The LaunchBox Advisory Board recently created a $145,000 endowment to sustain the program’s business development efforts. Eight members of the board contributed a combined $72,500 to the fund, which was then matched by Penn State. 

The contributing board members are: Michelle Landis, founder and principal of Pinnacle 7; Chris LaBonge, co-owner of Trolley Barn Public Market and founder of Adtell Inc.; George Lewis, Lehigh Valley Economic Development Corp. vice president; Bob Thomson, SCORE mentor; Mark M. Capofari, Penn State Lehigh Valley lecturer in project and supply chain management; Catherine Bailey, SCORE mentor; Michael J. Krajsa, president of KRA Marketing Consulting; and Justin Kresge, director of Lehigh Valley LaunchBox.

“It’s fantastic to be part of this dedicated group of individuals who not only give their valuable time but also offer the financial support to make what we do possible,” Kresge said. “Their generosity will enable the next wave of entrepreneurs to thrive in the Lehigh Valley.” 

The endowment will directly benefit the more than 100 entrepreneurs LaunchBox assists annually, via its seven main programs for starting and growing companies and its microgrants initiative.

More than $100,000 in microgrants have been distributed by Lehigh Valley LaunchBox. In addition, more than 1,000 people have attended its regular events, including the popular LaunchBox Ladies speaker series, while over 40,000 people watched last year’s StartUp Lehigh Valley pitch competition sponsored by LaunchBox and Factory LLC. 

The contributing Advisory Board members were happy to help start the endowment, given their commitment to LaunchBox’s mission. 

“Some ideas just need a little jumpstart and a little marketing help. With that help, they’ll grow bigger and more impactful than you could ever imagine,” said Landis, the Advisory Board’s chair. 

“Recognizing an opportunity and taking action is what the entrepreneurial mindset is all about,” added LaBonge, Advisory Board immediate past chair. 

Now, the Advisory Board is looking to encourage other philanthropically inclined businesses and individuals to start their own endowments, the principal for which will never be spent, ensuring gifts will continue to support entrepreneurship in perpetuity. 

The minimum pledge is $25,000, which can be spread over five annual $5,000 contributions. Invent Penn State will match up to a total of $1 million, and a gift of $1 million includes naming rights for the donor. The match is only good through the end of the campaign scheduled to end June 30.

For more information on starting a Lehigh Valley LaunchBox endowment, email [email protected].

This support will advance "A Greater Penn State for 21st Century Excellence," a focused campaign that seeks to elevate Penn State’s position as a leading public university in a world defined by rapid change and global connections. With the support of alumni and friends, “A Greater Penn State” seeks to fulfill the three key imperatives of a 21st-century public university: keeping the doors to higher education open to hardworking students regardless of financial well-being; creating transformative experiences that go beyond the classroom; and impacting the world by serving communities and fueling discovery, innovation and entrepreneurship. To learn more about “A Greater Penn State for 21st Century Excellence,” visit greaterpennstate.psu.edu.

Gifts to support select economic development initiatives across the commonwealth are a priority of the campaign, and two opportunities to leverage University funds – the LaunchBox Matching Program and the Economic Development Incentive Matching Program – are available through the end of “A Greater Penn State” on June 30, or until the pool of support is exhausted. To learn more about how to make a gift and secure a match, contact Heather Winfield at [email protected] Information about the campaign is available at greaterpennstate.psu.edu.

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.