COVID-19 has forced many entrepreneurs to rethink how they do things and the same can be said for organizations that serve them, like the University of Scranton Women’s Entrepreneurship Center.

The center, which celebrated its 10th anniversary, was created as a partnership between the university’s Kania School of Management and the Small Business Development Center. Student interns and SBDC staff offer business startup information, guidance, and encouragement to low-income women, those in transition or those trying to make a better life for themselves and their families.

One of the most popular center programs is StartUP, a six-week series that walks participants through the process of starting a business. Participants learn basics such as marketing and social media fundamentals, accounting and budgeting skills, business plan development and financing options and requirements. Local women business owners serve as mentors, offering guidance and encouragement by sharing experiences.

More than 300 women have completed StartUP over the past 10 years and 46 have started their own small businesses. One example is Sherry Boykin, inspirational storyteller, author and consultant. Boykin is the proud founder of Faith and Tales and a 2019 graduate of the StartUP program. Her life experience, creativity, and enthusiasm helped her start her business as well as tips she learned at StartUP. She wanted to influence others through faith while striving to help other women. Now she is doing that.

Photographer Nadine Kloss-Gannon of NKG Photography completed the StartUP series in 2019. As a photographer, it is crucial to be able to share a vision with others in order to capture that perfect image, which Kloss-Gannon strives to do. To aspiring entrepreneurs looking to open small business, Kloss-Gannon believes that having passion for business and the time to grow it is important to success.

The center has a lasting impact not only on the women who participate in the program, but on interns. “The Women’s Entrepreneurship Center has allowed me to meet the most inspiring and empowering women in this area,” said Emilee Barrett, Clarks Summit, a marketing major at the university and intern at the center. “Being a local student, I have loved interacting with the community and assisting in serving local women entrepreneurs. I have been able to apply my coursework to the real world.”

“My experience at the Women’s Entrepreneurship Center has taught me a lot about the fundamentals of starting a small business,” said Hollyann Serp, Commack, New York, who double major in entrepreneurship and psychology at the university and interns at the center. “I have been inspired by the committed women throughout their process of starting a business. I have gained many skills including writing business plans and conducting industry research. I have also been able to learn from sitting in consulting meetings and learning directly from the clients. I am excited to apply these skills to my future endeavors.”

Fifty-two interns have completed the program. They work on everything from conducting demographic and industry research to helping write business plans, developing and presenting content to StartUP classes.

Normally offered face-to-face on campus, StartUP kicked off this fall on a virtual platform, with 18 women in attendance. This year, StartUP is funded by a grant from the Appalachian Regional Commission.

“While we never expected to have to modify the delivery of our StartUP program because of a global pandemic, we’re taking this opportunity to be adaptable and innovative,” said Lisa Hall Zielinski, director of The University of Scranton SBDC. “We teach our entrepreneurs and our students that persistence and adapting to change are critical for success and so we are leading by example.”

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