LaunchBox Ladies Event Discusses Securing Capital for Small Businesses

By Colin McEvoy on January 26, 2022

The LaunchBox Ladies event was moderated by Catherine Bailey (leftmost) and included panelists (left to right) Sally Handlon, Yajahira Rodriguez, and Jevata Crawford. (photos courtesy Lehigh Valley LaunchBox)

A panel of female entrepreneurs and business professionals in the Lehigh Valley shared their thoughts about how to start, grow, and seek funding for a small business or startup company.

Penn State Lehigh Valley and the Lehigh Valley LaunchBox hosted a virtual event on Jan. 26 from their LaunchBox Ladies series, with the title “Securing Capital for your Small Business.”

The event sought to allow business-minded professionals to offer their experience on securing proper financing to support all aspects of business needs, according to Dr. Tina Richardson, Chancellor of Penn State Lehigh Valley.

“One of the ways we help entrepreneurs is by giving them access to top-tier advisors from the Lehigh Valley business community,” Richardson said.

The panel was moderated by Catherine Bailey, retired President & COO of Rea.deeming Beauty, Inc. Panelists included Sally Handlon, founder & President of Handlon Business Resources LLC; Yajahira Rodriguez, Associate Lender at Rising Tide Community Loan Fund; and Jevata Crawford, Founder of ProjectMOVE.

Handlon Business Resources helps business owners meet their goals by implementing projects in customer and market development. Handlon suggested people interested in starting a company seek such services as early as possible so they can get a feeling for where their business is, what their needs are, and what resources or funding they could seek.

Handlon also said people starting their own company must be realistic. For example, someone leaving a six-figure job cannot expect to immediately make that same salary with a startup. She also said startup owners should expect to invest some of their own money into the company, rather than depend entirely on outside financing.

“You have to make a commitment,” Handlon said. “You’re going to have to use your own savings, and the question is, ‘How much of that do you want to commit?’ and that really will depend upon what you are seeking in financing.”

Crawford said she participated in pitch discussions while developing her company. In addition to potentially obtaining financing through prize money, she said these competitions are helpful in developing a business model and an understanding of the audience of a product or service.

“The first thing I’d say to someone preparing a pitch is I would never recommend someone do it on their own,” Crawford said. “Even though you may be a solo entrepreneur, you cannot operate in a silo.”

Bailey also emphasized the importance of having support when starting a business: “Having a mentor or someone that you can bounce your ideas off of, and be encouraging as opposed to discouraging, is so important. You need that outside support and not do it alone.”

Rodriguez said she has seen several participants visit the Rising Tide Community Loan Fund with a good business idea, but lacking a formal business plan in writing, which she said is an important element in getting started.

“Sometimes when you are helping a business owner and they have a plan, they can actually see, ‘Wow, this is a little more than I thought, I will need a little more help in this area,’” Rodriguez said. “The business plan is so important for providing a big picture and letting them know what they are getting into.”

Lehigh Valley LaunchBox connects aspiring entrepreneurs with microgrants, co-working space at Velocity in downtown Allentown, legal and intellectual property services, business advice and mentorship.

Since it was formed in 2015, Lehigh Valley LaunchBox has helped more than 50 startup companies graduate from its program since its inception in 2015, and has distributed more than $128,000 in microgrants to a diverse array of entrepreneurs, Richardson said.

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