Business Tools to Help Entrepreneurs Begin in Greater Reading

To understand an entrepreneur’s journey, one must recognize their challenges and appreciate the many tools and services it requires to go from a business plan to opening. Despite the difficulties that can often serve as barriers to success, a recent blog showed that 92% of entrepreneurs do not regret launching their businesses. 30% of those surveyed are also serial entrepreneurs who have founded or run more than one business.

How are entrepreneurs in Greater Reading creating their success? What tools and services are available regionally to ensure our creators have what they need to survive and thrive? We asked some local, Berks County expert agencies and compiled their responses below.

Sonya Smith, MBA, Associate State Director of Programs & Policy| PA Small Business Development Centers I Kutztown University of Pennsylvania

  1. What local business tools can you recommend for entrepreneurs?
    • PASBDCThe Pennsylvania Small Business Development Centers (SBDC) provide education and no-cost consulting services to entrepreneurs and small business owners. The SBDC is ready to help you start, grow and prosper your business. The SBDC offers free business/strategic planning, resources for business loans, business taxes, online learning, marketing assistance, financial management, small business resources, webinar & workshops, and more.
    • SBA — The U.S. Small Business Administration (SBA) continues to help small business owners and entrepreneurs pursue the American dream. The SBA is the only cabinet-level federal agency fully dedicated to small business and provides counseling, capital, and contracting expertise as the nation’s only go-to resource and voice for small businesses. The SBA offers resources to plan, launch, manage, and grow your business, free business counseling, SBA guaranteed business loans, home & business disaster loans and federal government contracting.
    • SCORESCORE’s mission is to foster vibrant small business communities through mentoring and education. With the nation’s largest network of volunteer, expert business mentors, SCORE has helped more than 11 million entrepreneurs since 1964.
    • DCEDThe Department of Community and Economic Development’s (DCED) mission is to encourage the shared prosperity of all Pennsylvanians by supporting good stewardship and sustainable development initiatives across our commonwealth. With a keen eye toward diversity and inclusiveness, we act as advisors and advocates, providing strategic technical assistance, training and financial resources to help our communities and industries flourish.
    • AWBCAssociation of Women’s Business Centers (AWBC) works to secure economic justice and entrepreneurial opportunities for women by supporting and sustaining a national network of over 100 Women’s Business Centers (WBCs).
  1. What virtual business tools can you recommend to entrepreneurs?
    • Grow with Google — Offers free training and tools to help you grow your skills, career or business.
    • Constant Contact — A simple, user-friendly email marketing tool
    • Canva— An easy, affordable way to create digital content for your business.
    • Hootsuite — Helps to organize multiple social channels and allows you to schedule posts and manage social media channels all in one place.
    • Amazon Small Business Academy – Resources to empower small business owners to be successful sellers, authors, makers, service professionals and delivery service providers with resources on Amazon.
  2. What resources have successful entrepreneurs shared with you that worked best for them?
    Anything that helps teach the basics on social media, digital transformation/e- commerce, as well as finance education for startups and existing businesses.
  3. What is one piece of advice you would give an upcoming entrepreneur that may help them get organized/prioritize?
    Create a business plan—this will help to organize your goals and to keep you on track as you begin your entrepreneurial journey.

Michelle Lehman, MBA, Director of Student and Client Services & Donald Schalk, Director of Business & Corporate Development I The O’Pake Institute I Alvernia University

  1. What local business tools can you recommend for entrepreneurs?
    Alvernia University provides considerable resources through its O’Pake Institute. The Institute includes a business incubator, tech transfer office, The Center for Entrepreneurial Leadership and other resources. Other resources in the region include SCORE, SBDC, and the Penn State Launchbox.
  2. What virtual business tools can you recommend to entrepreneurs?
    I recommend that all entrepreneurs become familiar with Canva! This graphic design platform is easy to use and allows entrepreneurs to communicate their brand visually.
  3. What resources have successful entrepreneurs shared with you that worked best for them?
    Entrepreneurs succeed when they surround themselves with advisors, mentors and advocates. Entrepreneurs paired with a solid team and steady support system, are better equipped to stay accountable and succeed. – Michelle Lehman

    It is important for entrepreneurs to surround themselves with a team. Many have excellent ideas but need help with writing a business plan and support in other key business functions. When done the chance of success increases greatly. – Donald Schalk

  4. What is one piece of advice you would give an upcoming entrepreneur that may help them get organized/prioritize?
    Have a vision and make a plan. Business planning is one of the most important activities that an entrepreneur can do. Although a business plan is a living document, it provides an entrepreneur with the time and space to fully flush out every aspect of their venture. – Michelle Lehman

    It is important to show passion for your venture. Investors bet on the jockey as much as they do the business plan. If you do not believe it, why should they? – Donald Schalk

Sadan Kulturel-Konak, Ph.D., Professor, Management Information Systems, Director, Flemming Creativity, Entrepreneurship and Economic Development (CEED) Center, Coordinator, Entrepreneurship and Innovation (ENTI) Minor, Courtesy Faculty, Harold and Inge Marcus Department of Industrial and Manufacturing Engineering & Lisa Weaver, Healthy Community Program Associate, Social Entrepreneurship Specialist I Penn State Berks Campus

  1. What local business tools can you recommend for entrepreneurs?
    Penn State Berks has two Entrepreneurial Centers – one located on campus; one located in the Goggleworks Center for the Arts in Reading:
  1. What virtual business tools can you recommend to entrepreneurs?
    • Business Model Canvas
    • Microsoft Project for project management
    • is full of business strategy and innovation resources 
    • offers an easy-to-use platform for developing your first website 
    • offers free customer service software to help manage and engage your leads 
  1. What is one piece of advice you would give an upcoming entrepreneur that may help them get organized/prioritize?
    Verify their business assumptions through the interviews with their potential customers.-Sadan Kulturel-Konak, Ph.D.Systems drive our behaviors, so prioritize establishing systems in your business that propel your growth rather than stymie it. -Lisa Weaver