John Peterson is a Penn State Small Business Development Center (SBDC) business consultant serving Centre County. He took some time to chat with us about his background, what makes the small business community of Centre County unique, and what small business owners can gain from attending Global Entrepreneurship Week Penn State.
Q: Can you describe your professional background?
A: My background has really been in operations and production. So, I’ve been a manufacturing manager, operations manager. Also, a background in sales. So, I’ve worked for many entrepreneurs as well, some large publicly held companies, and that’s helped me really build value when I work with different businesses here at the Small Business Development Center.
Q: What is unique about the small business community in Centre County?
A: Center County is a great community. It’s in the heart of Pennsylvania and the Commonwealth, not only because of the university that we have here, but when you look at infrastructure, we have great resources. When we look at transportation, we have a great airport. We have the 99 Route 80 corridor that we have here. So for freight and trucking and supply chain amazing resources. We have a great community when it comes to arts, and individuals are very creative and making inspiring things in the segment of arts and entertainment. And it’s a great way to raise and develop a company from the ground up with the resources that we have.
Q: What is your favorite part of helping small businesses?
A: I really enjoy helping out with the different variety that we have here at Center County. The businesses, again, they range from a lot of different people from different backgrounds, whether they were raised in the community or they came here for whatever reason. And with Center County, it gives a lot of different businesses the ability to grow and flourish. And through that, what I see what really helps them out is how we provide different tools and resources. And that might be where they need help with their accounting practices. Maybe they need some help with strategic planning and to really help implement their goals and their dreams.
Q: I’m starting a business in Centre County. Where should I start?
A: Yeah, I think there’s many resources that we have here in Center County. I think for those who are aspiring to start a business, there are some key elements. I think the first element is, you know, they can work through what we have here at the Penn State Small Business Development Center and we’ll get you connected through different resources that we have and a lot of partners that we refer to.
So it might be with a local chamber that we have in our community here. It could be additional resources, whether it’s through Ben Franklin Technology Partners, it could be through PennTAP. We have a great LaunchBox that’s in our community. And we also have a wonderful law clinic that we have to help out entrepreneurs in our community.
So what we really do is we provide tools and resources and really understand what it is the clients need to get started out. And everyone’s path is always different. And what we want to make sure is that we understand what their goals, what their values are.
Q: What’s one key piece of advice you have for anyone starting a business?
A: For those that want to start a business, I would really highly recommend, you know, to really understand the product and service that you’re going to deliver. Is it really solving a problem or are you really delivering some type of attribute or feature to the marketplace? And you really need to understand your market. If you have a great product, you really need to have a market that you can sell it to. And if you don’t have people to sell something to, it’s really hard to have a business that’s going to sustain.
So, I really recommend developing good products that people need, but you need to really understand what the problem is. We talk about developing a strategy and that’s really understanding what it is that customers need. And we call that customer discovery.
Why should small business owners attend Global Entrepreneurship Week?
A: Global Entrepreneurship Week is a great event here at Penn State. Entrepreneurs can come and have amazing networking events, workshops and learn a lot of different things through the programing.
And those tools, resources that are provided are not just through Penn State, but they’re through a lot of community partners that we have here, whether it’s in Center County or in any of our neighboring counties. And that really builds up a sense of education, community connection and really drives and flourishes and helps out the economic development that we have in our region.