Currently about 33.2 million small businesses In the United States, and almost 6 million of them will fail. within the first year, according to the U.S. Chamber of Commerce.
About 18% of companies fail today, but that number will increase to about half in five years and 65% in 10 years.
To help business owners avoid falling victim to these statistics, the American Small Business Development Center Network was invented to provide resources and assistance to small business owners across the United States. Website.
According to the U.S. Small Business Administration's Office of Advocacy, Pennsylvania has 1.1 million small businesses. Currently, the Pennsylvania SBDC network consists of 15 centers located at various universities across the state.
The Lehigh University Chapter was established in 1980 to support small businesses in Lehigh, Northampton, Bucks and Montgomery Counties.
by Lehigh Valley Economic Development Corporation, nearly 85% of Lehigh Valley businesses have fewer than 20 employees, and about half of businesses have fewer than 5 employees. Like all His SBDCs, Lehigh SBDC strives to provide free and confidential consulting to eligible small businesses.
Jasmita Saini ('16G) began working at Lehigh SBDC in 2015 as a graduate student in Lehigh's MBA program. After graduating, Saini continued to work part-time as an analyst, and eventually moved into full-time business as a consultant.
In her role, Saini meets with small and medium-sized businesses to help them create individual business plans, give expert advice and provide support to new business owners.
“What we are trying to eliminate is a lack of knowledge and a lack of resources,” Saini said. “That’s where we step in.”
From September 2022 to October 2023, Lehigh SBDC served 743 customers, resulting in the creation of 56 new businesses and supporting 3,147 jobs, according to the center. annual report.
Soltech Solutions, Bonn Place Brewing Company, and Steel City Bowls & Brews are just a few small businesses in Bethlehem supported by the center.
Soltech Solutions manufactures indoor grow lights that enable indoor farming. Grow lights mimic the sun and allow you to grow plants anywhere indoors.
Owner Paul Hodges decided to settle in Bethlehem after learning that Bethlehem was ranked #58 as the best place to start a business. CNN. After online he discovered Lehigh SBDC, Hodges contacted his Soltech Solutions business seeking assistance with his plans.
“They sat down and never asked me for a dollar. And they always gave me more time than I needed and introduced me to people,” Hodges said. “It was exactly what I wanted. It was incredible.”
Hodges said that through its collaboration with Lehigh SBDC, Soltech Solutions Southside Bethlehem Keystone Innovation Zonewhich provides financial assistance and resources to early-stage startups.
Although Soltech Solutions is no longer a startup, Lehigh SBDC continues to provide additional consulting services free of charge.
“There are so many levels of these resources, but they can all be used at any existing level,” Hodges says. “SBDC has been there for us since the beginning and continues to be there for us.”
Bon Place Brewing Company
Like Hodges, Sam Massotto, owner of Bon Place Brewing Company, moved to Bethlehem and started a small business.
After performing at ArtsQuest during the tour of the off-Broadway show Tony and Tina's Wedding, Mazzotto was inspired to return to Bethlehem with his partner, but this time as business partners.
Mazzotto became interested in learning how to brew beer at home while working part-time at a brewery in New York City. He decided that when he quit acting he would open his own brewery.
Bonn Place Brewing Company, a brewery and taproom, opened in South Bethlehem at the end of July 2016.
Mazzotto contacted the Lehigh Valley Economic Development Center to inquire about financing and was referred to the Lehigh SBDC. He was eligible for the Revolving Loan Fund, which gave him a $30,000 loan at 4% interest to the Bonplace Brewing Company.
Mazzotto said she was nervous about opening her own business because she didn't go to business school and had never owned or operated a business before. But the center has given Mazzotto the opportunity to pursue a business he never thought possible.
“SBDC Lehigh has been a great support and there is no question that they are a big part of why we exist,” Mazzotto said.
When Mazzotto first moved to Bethlehem, he said he didn't know about the resources Bethlehem offered to small businesses. Seven years later, Mazzotto said if he had to start a small business again, he would choose to open one in Bethlehem.
“Moving here and finding the resources available to the community shows that there is a partnership between Lehi and the South Bethlehem area in particular,” Mazzotto said. “SBDC is truly the epitome of great community and partnership.”
Steel City Bowl & Brews
Across the Minsi Trail Bridge, Lee Sand, a lifelong Lehigh Valley resident and bowler, purchased Town and Country Lanes in March 2022. The Bethlehem bowling alley then became Steel City Bowls and Brews.
Despite Santo's extensive bowling knowledge, he knew little about how to run a successful bowling alley.
After an unproductive run at Wells Fargo, Mr. Sundt worked with Fulton Bank, which encouraged him to reach out to Lehigh SBDC. Santo didn't know where to start, but he said Lehi SBDC still allows him to make his business a reality.
Sant said the Lehigh SBDC helped him develop his business plan by providing both templates and one-on-one service. In addition, Sand received cash flow forecasts to learn how to better scale his business.
Santo said the process of starting a small business can be stressful, but it helps to know there are professionals looking out for her. Sandt said that for small business owners new to the area, especially those with limited business knowledge, Lehi recommends he contact the SBDC.
“I was so happy with the relationships we had and what they did for us and the fact that there were people there that we didn’t know were willing to help us.” said Santo. “It was a great resource.”
For more information or to contact Lehigh SBDC, please visit: here.