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Monthly Archives: November 2015

Bridgeworks Enterprise Center has exciting end to 2015

PEDA Plaque

It’s been an exciting month for the Bridgeworks Enterprise Center in South Allentown. That is, a month that’s been 26 years in the making.

In late-October the Pennsylvania Economic Development Association, at its fall conference in Altoona, honored Bridgeworks as the 2015 Economic Development Program of the Year. It was recognized for its considerable impact and effect on the region.

Bridgeworks was founded in 1989 in the former Mack Trucks Plant 4A with a goal of bringing new companies to the Queen City to support economic development through a business incubation program. Since then it has been home to 59 companies that have created or retained 286 jobs in the region.

But Bridgeworks has always been about more than a place where companies can rent space. “Startup companies come here because they are looking for an environment where they can thrive and grow into profitable self-sustaining organizations,” said Anthony Durante, Program Manager.

Today the Bridgeworks Enterprise Center is home to 11 startup companies that span a range of industries and generate more than $4.3 million in sales and employ 38 full-time, part-time employees and contractors. And while the companies might come for the business space, they stay for the value that Bridgeworks provides to them through the incubation program.

A new training series called “Growing Your Business” teaches business owners about marketing, branding, and sales. A Peer-to-Peer Mentoring program that is lead by a certified business coach teaches executive team members how to work together to address challenges facing their business.

In the mid-1990s, following a national trend, AEDC started the Home Office Alternative with seven offices that could be rented by small businesses. These one or two-person entities needed affordable yet professional places at which they could work.

In late-2010 the Hive 4A coworking space was added to the mix to lure professionals out of their home offices and into a common work space with other professionals where ideas could be shared and collaboration could develop. But despite the vision behind these spaces, they never realized their potential and were overdue to be re-envisioned.

Enter the SBA Growth Accelerator Challenge, which was discovered by AEDC intern Vincent Daily from DeSales University in summer 2014. The AEDC staff submitted an application for a $50,000 challenge grant last summer to renovate and update the coworking space and offices into a flexible launchpad space for technology-based companies.

It was one of 50 winners selected by the SBA and was awarded the grant last November. Renovations took place over the course of this year and were recently completed. On November 13 the space was officially re-launched as the Flex Launch & Coworking Space. AEDC held a daylong event with an opening ceremony, speakers, lunch, and a happy hour.

These two recent events combined with $1.6 million investment in physical improvements to the building, primarily spent on a new roof, has culminated an exciting year for Bridgeworks and AEDC.

 

“Growing Your Business” educational sessions help Bridgeworks entrepreneurs

Every entrepreneur knows that starting a new business is hard to do. It takes time, dedication and, perhaps most importantly, funds! But once it’s up and running, the day-to-day maintenance of that business can be harder than anticipated.

Over the years AEDC has offered educational seminars for clients of the Bridgeworks Enterprise Center in south Allentown. Topics have covered a wide range of issues such a finances, legal issues, and human resources. But only a few of the sessions were a home run in clients’ opinions. So Anthony Durante, Program Manager for Bridgeworks, collected their feedback and put on his thinking cap to come up with a solution.

And from that the “Growing Your Business” entrepreneurial education program was born. Started this past September, the four classes in the series are taught by either Jon Zack, Founder and CEO of EggZack, or Andrew Stanten, Founder and President of Altitude Marketing. Both men are entrepreneurs in their own rights but each speaks within their areas of expertise related to business plans and sales, and marketing and branding, respectively.

“We decided that we were going to dedicate the majority of our entrepreneurial education programming to driving the growth of an early-stage company,” said Durante.

The September class, taught by Jon Zack, was called “Back to the Plan” was created to encourage companies to revisit their business plan now that they are in operation to see how it might be tweaked. It also focuses on determining a company’s value proposition, identifying their customer base, and closely examining their competition.

The October class, also taught by Jon Zack, was entitled “Understanding the Sales Model” and dealt with analyzing how companies are selling their products by dissecting the sales cycle, customer relationships, and sales channels.

“As someone who has started and grown several companies, the best piece of advice I can give to an entrepreneur is to make sure they are 100 percent committed to their goals,” said Zack. “The road is long and hard and not designed for the weak or partially committed. Ideas are good, but a constantly evolving and well executed business plan is what is needed to succeed.”

The November and December sessions will be led by Andrew Stanten and will deal with marketing and branding. The November session, entitled “Branding Your Company,” specifically focuses on how a brand evolves as a company grows and how to continue developing it. The December session, called “Crafting a Marketing Communications Plan,” deals with creating this plan for your company and features a real plan from a real company as a working example.

“The single most important thing a business owner needs to do is to be able to articulate why their company, product or solution is different and better,” explained Stanten. “If there is one thing participants will walk away with from these seminars it will be an understanding of the critical importance of creating their ‘verbal tool kit;’ the key terms, messages, statements and proof points that form the building blocks of all their positioning and marketing copy, including the most critical element – the elevator speech.”

“As our client companies grow steadily and become more successful we can teach other concepts on a one-on-one or small group basis as needed,” Durante explained. “We hope this new, focused approach to our educational seminars will be helpful to our client companies and provide them with expert advice that they can immediately use and put into practice.”

 

 

Three Questions with… Melody Bradford of LVEDC

Melody Bradford - LVEDC

Earlier this year Lehigh Valley Economic Development Corporation hired Melody Bradford as its Director of Business Outreach Programs. She came to the organization from the Greater Lehigh Valley Realtors, and also previously worked for Rodale and Millennium Medical Education.

1. You joined the staff at LVEDC this past summer. What’s been the most important thing you’ve learned about business in the Lehigh Valley in the first few months in your new role?

Having been born and raised here, it was amazing for me to discover all of the wonderful businesses that also call the Lehigh Valley home. This is a thriving, pro-business region with an incredible amount of resources dedicated to helping companies prosper in the Lehigh Valley. Part of LVEDC’s mission is to help companies come here, grow here, and start here, and with access to markets, space, capital, labor, and a phenomenal quality of life, we are very well positioned as a region. I’m happy to be part of a skilled, educated, and committed team that works hard to market the collective assets of this area.

2. What are the biggest issues local companies are facing when it comes to expanding and/or staying in the region, and what tools does LVEDC use to help them?

I’ve had the pleasure to meet with several high-impact manufacturing employers in the Lehigh Valley. One of the top challenges they seem to face is an aging skilled-employee population. As a skilled workforce prepares to retire, many companies and schools are working with us, through our Education and Talent Supply Council, to address the changing supply and demand factors affecting workforce skills. Beyond that we are also working with these companies to secure financing for expansion and equipment projects, and we’re working with partners to address and facilitate discussions on infrastructure improvements that include both highway and rail.

3. How do you envision assisting small businesses like the ones operating in AEDC’s Business Enterprise Center with their growth and expansion into larger facilities in the region?

I have begun meeting with Lehigh Valley companies, large and small, to identify their needs and link them to our dedicated team. LVEDC offers information and access to an ecosystem that can help them in their growth efforts to secure capital, identify space, and sourcing opportunities to help them stay and prosper here. In addition, I serve as staff liaison to both LVEDC’s Entrepreneur Council of the Lehigh Valley, and our Local Sourcing and Business Diversity Council, who meet regularly to address the needs of these important stakeholders and develop programs and events that benefit our business community, such as the Lehigh Valley Meet the Buyers Expo.

Flex Launch & Coworking Space Opening at Bridgeworks Enterprise Center

SBA Growth Accelerator Award Project Ready to Launch

Allentown, Pennsylvania — On Friday, November 13th, the Allentown Economic Development Corporation (AEDC) will formally open its Flex Launch & Coworking space at the Bridgeworks Enterprise Center in south Allentown. The opening marks the culmination of the project that won the 2014 Growth Accelerator Challenge put on by the U.S. Small Business Administration.

“The Growth Accelerator Fund competition was designed to empower accelerators and startups on the cutting edge of innovation. The Bridgeworks Enterprise Center’s Flex Launch and Coworking Space is an example of that innovation, providing small businesses with flexibility and room to grow. The Lehigh Valley is gaining a tremendous resource and I look forward to seeing successful small businesses emerge from the Bridgeworks program,” said Michael Kane, Deputy District Director of the U.S. Small Business Administration’s Eastern Pennsylvania District Office.

The opening festivities will include a full day of free coworking for anyone interested in exploring the coworking experience firsthand. AEDC will be serving snacks and beverages to everyone in attendance. At 10:00am there will be a short ceremony to mark the opening of the finished space. During lunch, speakers will be featured, including representatives AEDC and Lehigh Valley SCORE talking about their respective programs. Additionally, Chris Kauzmann of Lehigh University’s Baker Institute of Entrepreneurship, Creativity and Innovation will deliver a keynote discussing the ideation process of entrepreneurship. The day will wrap up with a Bridgeworks Happy Hour event exclusive for those in attendance where coworkers and guests will have the chance to meet clients of the business incubator and learn more about the program from those operating inside of it. Beverages from The Colony Meadery, HiJinx Brewing Company and County Seat Spirits will be featured at the happy hour.

“We are looking forward to having a full day of activities for everyone to enjoy,” says Anthony Durante, Program Manager for AEDC. “We think the Flex Launch & Coworking space is unique in the Lehigh Valley and has a lot to offer both tech entrepreneurs and independent professionals alike.”

In the summer of 2014, AEDC applied for the SBA Growth Accelerator Challenge after DeSales University intern Vincent Daily brought the competition to Durante’s attention. Daily and Durante submitted a 15-slide PowerPoint presentation for the first round of judging. After successfully clearing the first hurdle, AEDC submitted a 5-minute video pitch for the project that was almost entirely scripted, filmed and edited by Daily. AEDC was one of 50 projects that were selected to receive a $50,000 prize to fund their project out of a field of over 800 applicants.

“We wouldn’t be opening this space on Friday if it weren’t for Vincent,” says Durante. “He practically got us through the application process single-handedly.”

The concept behind the Flex Launch & Coworking space is that a small technology-based startup, typically made up of one or two founders, can take up residence in an office after being accepted into the business incubation program. As they grow to add employees, the company can simply add on desk space in the open office by completing an inventory sheet. Pricing is built-in to the initial lease, so no other negotiating is needed.

Coworking space will also be available for independent professionals for a simple monthly fee. Coworking is a concept where independent professionals can work out of a more formal office space rather than out of their homes or a coffee shop. They get all of the amenities of a professional office without the burden of a lease.

The Flex Launch & Coworking space features nine offices sized for two to four people and seating in the open office area for as many as 30 additional people. Amenities include broadband internet, a spacious kitchenette and dining area, and a lounge. Clients and coworking members will have access to two conference rooms with seating as many as 25 people. There are also two small “phone booths” where someone can take a call in a small soundproof room so they aren’t disturbing anyone in the open office.

“We wanted to create a fun space that could be as close to a turnkey space for technology entrepreneurs to get started,” explains Durante. “Making the agreement flexible allows for the founders to focus on growing their companies fast rather than the logistics of negotiating a lease time and time again as their needs change.”

For more information about the opening event and to register for the day, please visit: https://flex-launch-grand-opening.eventbrite.com

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