September 23, 2023

UNIVERSITY PARK, Pa. — This spring, the Penn State Small Business Development Center (SBDC) wrapped up the second annual cohort of its Business Plan Bootcamp. The eight-week accelerator program, sponsored by SCORE Mentors of Central PA, led participating businesses through the full journey of writing a business plan using LivePlan, a business planning, cash forecasting, and financial performance tracking tool for small businesses and startups.

“A well-written business plan can help entrepreneurs articulate their differentiated value, obtain financing, and design a plan for growth and financial success,” says Elizabeth Fegert, SBDC educational program coordinator who co-taught the program. “The Business Plan Bootcamp was designed to help entrepreneurs launch and operate successful businesses, and we are thrilled to partner with SCORE and LivePlan to facilitate that success.”

Business owners from across the state applied for entry to the program and 12 were chosen, representing a variety of industries. The entrepreneurs received guided instruction through individual and group coaching sessions that helped them examine assumptions, identify their value proposition, project sales and expenses, prepare financial documents, plan key marketing initiatives, and strategize team development.

The bootcamp culminated in a pitch competition, when participants presented their business idea to a panel of judges for a chance to win up to $500. Judges included Justin Hardersen, director of government and academic partnerships at Palo Alto Software, the creators of LivePlan; Britani Peterson, staff attorney at the Penn State Law Entrepreneur Assistance Clinic; and Margy Boal, retired vice president with extensive experience in the financial services industry.

“The entrepreneurs put a lot of thought and research into each component of their pitch, particularly their financial projections,” Hardersen said. “The end result was polished and compelling pitches and entrepreneurs who are more prepared to take the next steps for their businesses.”

Winners were selected based on their understanding of their target customer, product market fit, business model viability, and financial analysis.

  • First Place ($500): Julie Mader, Artwork by Julie Mader
    As an experienced artist and educator, Julie Mader of Smethport, Pennsylvania, plans to launch “Artsy Albert,” a series of curated, subscription art kits for the elderly population that can be gifted or used in independent living/care facilities.
  • Second Place ($150): Woody Wilson, Wilson Home Farms
    Based out of State College, Pennsylvania, Wilson Farms provides a unique agricultural experience that installs private vegetable gardens, fruit orchards, compost bins and cold frames for clients then maintains them throughout the growing season. 
  • Third Place ($100): Scott Guinther, I.T. Shield
    I.T. Sheild, of Reading, Pennsylvania, provides advanced security solutions to protect independent users and companies from malicious threats that can compromise the safety and data security of organizations and their employees.  

“Like many people, my business has been impacted by the pandemic,” first-place winner Julie Mader said. “The change in income projected for this year was a red flag that I needed help to evaluate my business and build a plan for growth. Through the group sessions and coaching calls, I gained knowledge about my competition, identified my target audience, and now have confidence in the value of my product along with a business plan, marketing strategy, and milestones to lead me toward my business goals.”

The Penn State SBDC offers ongoing programs, trainings, and events to support the establishment, management, and growth of area businesses. Visit the website for a list of upcoming trainings.

About the Penn State SBDC

Funding support and resources are provided through a cooperative agreement with the U.S. Small Business Administration; by the Commonwealth of Pennsylvania through the Department of Community and Economic Development; and in part through support from Penn State and with assistance from Lock Haven University. All services are extended to the public on a nondiscriminatory basis. SBDC services are not available to individuals or entities that have been debarred or suspended by the federal government.

SBDCs are hosted by leading universities, colleges, state economic development agencies and private partners, and funded in part by the United States Congress through a partnership with the U.S. Small Business Administration. There are nearly 1,000 local centers available to provide no-cost business consulting and low-cost training to new and existing businesses. The Penn State SBDC services Centre, Clinton, Lycoming and Mifflin counties in central Pennsylvania.