Q&A with Penn State Small Business Development Center Business Consultant Tom Keiffer

Tom Keiffer is a Penn State Small Business Development Center (SBDC) business consultant serving Clinton County. He took some time to chat with us about his background, resources available to small businesses in Clinton County, and what small business owners can gain from attending Global Entrepreneurship Week Penn State.  


Q: Can you describe your professional background and how you came into consulting? 

A: While at Lock Haven University, I started working at the Small Business Development Center as a student, as an intern. And there I got a chance to kind of dive into business planning, financial projections and meeting with clients. And at that point, I kind of realized that that’s my calling. That’s what I want to do in life.  

So after I graduated, I went out and I got some experience. I worked for a local franchisee. He had six stores. I had an opportunity to do human resources, insurances, you name it, bookkeeping, everything. And then an opportunity came up with Penn State Small Business Development Center. So I took it. And here I am, eight years later. 


Q: What is your favorite part of helping small businesses? 

A: My favorite part about helping businesses in Clinton County is the people themselves. I mean, we have multiple businesses. They never are the same. And it’s just nice to see, like the progression of the business itself. So we start with them from day one. They might just have an idea, and then whenever they actually start business, it’s very enjoying. 


Q: What is unique about the small business community in Clinton County? 

I would say the unique aspect of the businesses in Clinton County is I mean, it’s a very small community. Everybody knows everybody. There’s organizations such as Downtown Lock Haven that really put on a lot of events downtown and the businesses kind of work together. It’s not like some of the other communities that I’ve seen. A lot of businesses actually come up with different promotions together, and it works really nicely. 


Q: I’m starting a business in Clinton County. Where should I start? 

A: A couple of resources within Clinton County is the Clinton County Economic Partnership. They offer a lot of localized loan programs that are at low interest rates, which is really nice because a lot of times some of the projects require them to actually have a secondary piece of the financing and, in some cases, projects won’t go through without that second piece of financing.  

So, I work with the County Economic Partnership very closely. Another one would be the City of Lock Haven. The City of Lock Haven also has a local loan program too. It’s a commercial loan program. Again, it’s very low interest rates for anyone within city limits. And then, last but not least, would be Downtown Lock Haven. We talked about that a little bit already, but they put on a lot of local events and some events geared towards businesses to get consumers downtown. 


Q: What’s one key piece of advice you have for anyone starting a business? 

A: The advice I give to anyone looking to actually start a small business is actually stop by the Small Business Development Center. Work with a consultant, go through all the training seminars that we have on our website, and you’ll get a lot of education. And just having a mentor in place to actually help you out and get started. 


Q: Why should small business owners attend Global Entrepreneurship Week? 

A: Global Entrepreneurship Week is great because it gives you a lot of chances to get out and network. And it might be new people, it might be people you already know, but it’s still a great opportunity to get out there and speak with others. Also, there’s so many different sessions you can learn from, so just tuning in to as many sessions as possible is great. 


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