NEW KENSINGTON, Pa. — Those at Penn State New Kensington and in the surrounding Alle-Kiski Valley community are invited to explore their ideas at the upcoming 10-week Corner Launchbox Opportunity Accelerator course to be held at the campus’ innovation hub, The Corner, in February through mid-April.
“The accelerator is designed for entrepreneurs to challenge their own assumptions in order to get you closer to knowing what customers value, how they need to position their business or idea to best meet their needs in a competitive landscape, shaping a sustainable business model, and be ready to take the next step toward launching their business or idea forward,” said Rhonda Schuldt, innovation coordinator at The Corner.
“The No. 1 reason startups fail is because they build something no one wants,” Schuldt added. “This is true for any business, whether a service-based, technology-based, social enterprise or other. Just because you think your idea is good, it’s not sustainable unless the market thinks it’s good and is willing to choose what you offer.”
By learning about customer needs and values early, those with ideas or startups can begin to feel more empowered to build a stronger and more complete business model.
“Customer discovery can be scary, especially for those innovators and entrepreneurs who are passionate about and love their own idea,” said Schuldt. “The commitment will be made to really try to understand the problem they’re trying to solve from the perspective of the customer, and there is always an ‘ah ha’ moment that is most often transformative and energizing.”
The 10-week course is broken up into eight, two-hour workshop sessions between Feb. 6 and April 10, with two weeks of independent work. In addition, those accepted into the program will receive weekly one-on-one coaching, have access to The Corner innovation hub during the program and for three months following participation, and have access to The Corner’s network of advisers and experts. All workshop sessions are held at The Corner, located at 701 Fifth Ave. in New Kensington.
“Any individual or teams who have a business idea that they’ve started to consider and have taken the initial steps of talking with potential customers are in the best position to take the deeper dive that the 10-week accelerator offers,” explained Schuldt.
“With that said, students, faculty or staff who want to come into the Accelerator to learn the process and value of customer discovery to shape a better understanding of a problem, and shaping solutions, can also benefit,” added Schuldt. “It’s a discipline and approach that is applicable in so many different settings where an innovative entrepreneurial mindset brings value.”
The Corner Launchbox Opportunity Accelerator is free, but those interested in the program must apply by filling out a brief online application. Those who would like to fill out a hard-copy application or have questions can contact Schuldt directly at [email protected] or 412-551-4408.
The Corner is one of 21 Invent Penn State hubs across Pennsylvania. In addition to providing signature Launchbox programming, the space also serves as a location for area coworkers via a membership-based system through Pittsburgh’s Beauty Shoppe. Throughout the year, the hub hosts free and low-cost programming, workshops and events through the Corner Launchbox and partners such as Innovation Works, the Small Business Development Center, Westmoreland SCORE, and more. To see a current listing of events, visit https://newkensington.psu.edu/corner-launchbox-events.
The Corner, under the leadership of Penn State New Kensington Chancellor Kevin Snider, also is a foundation in the revitalization of the city of New Kensington and a leader in the region's expansion and preparation into the next industrial revolution, known by some as Industry 4.0.
“I see The Corner as a visible anchor in New Kensington’s transformation to a vital, vibrant community in an industry 4.0 world where we’ve not only retained the essence of the city, but created opportunities for all to participate in its revitalization,” said Schuldt. “I hope the community and the campus sees The Corner as a resource.”