NEW KENSINGTON, Pa. — Tenacity, persistence, vision and self-awareness are just several key traits of successful entrepreneurs. This lesson was just one of many taught to nearly 30 campus and New Kensington community members during a workshop held at Penn State New Kensington’s new entrepreneurial center, The Corner.
The seminar, titled “Understand What Innovation and Entrepreneurship Can Mean for You,” was the first entrepreneurship workshop conducted at the space located at 701 Fifth Avenue leading up to its grand opening this month.
“The best thing about today is that we had community members and we had campus folks here,” said Kevin Snider, Penn State New Kensington chancellor. “That’s what this place is supposed to be about … bringing the campus into the community and bringing the community into the campus. It is a great way to start.”
Workshop participants were able to hear directly from two Pittsburgh-based entrepreneurship and innovation leaders.
Nicole Muise-Kielkucki, director of social enterprise at Idea Foundry, a nonprofit economic development organization working with entrepreneurs, wanted to make sure participants understood that while business acumen is important, one does not need a business degree or background to be an entrepreneur. “It takes all types of people to run a business,” she said.
Stephen Mueller, chief operating officer of Ascender, an organization providing coworking, entrepreneurial programming and incubation, echoed Muise-Kielkucki’s sentiments stating, “There are people who have thoughts in their heads, and they have a fantasy of some business idea, and it sometimes just takes a place like this to exist to get you off the couch and go activate that idea.”
While the purpose of the workshop was to introduce entrepreneurship and innovation to attendees, Snider and others noted the deeper importance of The Corner to the City of New Kensington.
Elyse Williams, a resident of New Kensington, attended the event to find out more about the center’s intended impact. “My hope for New Kensington is that people beyond New Kensington see its greatness and potential,” said Williams. “I live here, and I know many great people who live here. There’s a lot of great potential here. I have to be part of the solution. It was important for me to come and be part of today. We can start to see some really great returns.”
Mueller agreed that a space like the one at The Corner can have benefits beyond its walls. “I think it’s a great way for an organization like a university to do something meaningful and engage with their community,” he said.
Penn State New Kensington has been working to open the entrepreneurial center since being one of the first campuses to receive a $50,000 seed grant through the University’s Invent Penn State initiative. The Corner is also part of a bigger collaborative effort occurring in New Kensington with the help of the campus. It anchors one end of the “Corridor of Innovation” that runs along five blocks of Fifth Avenue to Westmoreland County Community College’s New Kensington Education Center.
The campus, with the help of the Community Foundation of Westmoreland County and the City of New Kensington, has led the Corridor of Innovation effort. The project began with a facade improvement, mini-grant program for businesses and organizations that helped revamp and upgrade 15 buildings, create multiple artistic murals and install colorful bike racks and benches along the stretch. A brand new parklet, known as the Corner Courtyard, is another added feature thanks to the work of volunteers from the campus, Arconic and the city.
The Corner and the Corridor of Innovation will be showcased during the entrepreneurial center’s grand opening celebration on Dec. 6. The space will host its second workshop titled, “Navigating the Entrepreneurial Eco-System” at 1 p.m. on Dec. 8.
Mueller and Muise-Kielkucki will lead the discussions once again. “Our intention is to get a little more in the weeds on some frameworks on how you should think about your ideas, your process and your early storytelling,” said Mueller.
The goal of the campus initiatives is to foster a positive environment that will attract new investors, businesses and customers to the City of New Kensington while also serving as a model for revitalization and economic development efforts in ‘rust belt’ areas of the region and Commonwealth.
“I think the biggest thing we can give New Kensington at this point is hope and encouragement and let them know that we’re here to stay,” said Snider. "This is a place that is worth investing in, and it’s worth developing, and that’s what we’re going to do. I hope that means a lot to the people here.”
For more information about The Corner and its offerings, visit http://thecorner.place.
For more information about upcoming events at The Corner, including entrepreneurial programming, visit http://newkensington.psu.edu/corner-launchbox-events.