Every good business has a story about their beginnings – and what helped them get over that proverbial hump. Bellefonte SpringBoard has been exactly that – the little extra push, the additional resources and technical assistance for entrepreneurs throughout Happy Valley.
The Bellefonte SpringBoard Initiative was created in 2016 as a coworking space and business incubator through the collaboration between Downtown Bellefonte Inc., Bellefonte Borough and Centre County Government.
“The idea was that if you allowed new and aspiring business owners access to resources and low-cost space to ‘spring’ their idea into action, that eventually these businesses would graduate out of the SpringBoard space and continue their work in their own space in downtown Bellefonte,” Ellen Matis, Downtown Bellefonte Board President, said. “Not only was the incubator helping to grow a base of entrepreneurs, but it was also filling vacant spaces in downtown Bellefonte.”
SpringBoard officially opened in 2017 with Hello Social Co., a social media marketing agency launched by Ellen Matis to help small businesses grow using their online presence, becoming its first member. Since the time as a SpringBoard business, Hello Social Co. has grown from a one-person to a five-person agency and now works with companies of all sizes across the country.
Having recently moved locations, SpringBoard’s current space allows for any business owner to come in and work from a rentable desk space or utilize amenities, like a kitchen and conference room.
New for 2021, SpringBoard has partnered with the Bellefonte Intervalley Area Chamber of Commerce to offer outdoor coworking space. Opening soon, the area will include seating areas, access to power and access to free WiFi.
“The outdoor coworking space is a great shady spot protected by the elements, so it can be enjoyed all summer and fall,” Matis added. “This is part of an overall plan to position Bellefonte as a great community for remote workers to live in and move to, highlighting that we have a variety of amenities and unique places to work.”
Each year, through a partnership with the Centre County Commissioners, SpringBoard is able to award grants to new and aspiring business owners throughout Happy Valley to develop and execute a marketing plan. There are a wide variety of grant programs available to small business owners that SpringBoard and their partners make sure that entrepreneurs know about, but the organization noted there was a gap in grant programs focused on marketing, a critical component of a new business' strategic plan. The Startup Challenge prize includes grant funding for use on marketing tactics proposed in an application, free memberships to SpringBoard and coaching from local marketing agencies.
Since 2017, SpringBoard has awarded eight Startup Challenge grants to Happy Valley businesses – including 2018 awardee Hoop Stars. Hoop Stars is a basketball program developed by former Penn State basketball player Dan McKenna, who played for the Nittany Lions from 1990-94. The program is designed to teach children the fundamentals of the game. Through the support and funding provided by SpringBoard, Hoop Stars was able to launch a website in 2019 that helped the business consistently sell out classes.
In addition to the successes of businesses that have utilized the SpringBoard, the coworking space has hosted more than 100 entrepreneurs as members, workshop guests or for events. The space also regularly hosts special events and unique, free events such as a monthly Ask a Lawyer event.
If you would like to “spring” your business from an idea into the next Happy Valley success story, you can get in touch with Bellefonte Springboard at https://www.bellefontespringboard.com/work-with-us