Will Hooten is a Penn State Small Business Development Center (SBDC) business consultant serving Mifflin County. He took some time to chat with us about his background, resources available to small businesses in Mifflin 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: So, after graduating from Penn State, I moved out to Princeton, New Jersey, doing financial forecasting and business valuation in the technology sector for Bloomberg. And then after that, I then owned a vegan restaurant for a handful of years with a business partner of mine. I’m not a vegan, but she was and is and made really good food. So, we got in the business together and then we sold that business and I moved back here to Hollidaysburg, where then I got certified in business valuation for small businesses and international trade so I can help out folks with importing and exporting documentation.
Q: What is unique about the small business community in Mifflin County?
A: Yeah, Mifflin County is unique for business in that this community wants to help each other out. That they know the importance of being able to share referrals, share resources, share word of mouth. And so, anything that happens, word spreads very quickly and they are there to help each other. So, if someone needs to know of a different resource or maybe they need some help with some documentation, marketing ideas, branding ideas, that community really pulls itself together.
There’s a bunch of different organizations out there that are doing entrepreneurial meetups for folks to share ideas. So that community has really pulled itself together to help each other out.
Q: What is your favorite part of helping small businesses?
A: My favorite part about helping the folks out in Mifflin County is to be able to take their dream and help them make it a reality. If they have this idea that they’ve been a creative for their entire life, they’ve worked and they want to go ahead and be their own boss, set their own hours work and do whatever they enjoy their passion is, then be able to say, okay, let’s come up with a plan, we’ll create a business plan.
Here’s everything that you need to do to get that set up. And then we’ll help out with marketing. We’ll help out with finding other local resources. Maybe finding a location. This is how you set up a loan package, maybe to go to a bank for a loan, and being able to then help them through that whole process to then be able to start their business and then help the economy, you know, that’s local taxes.
They can then start to hire local people for employment. And then that helps out with job creation, more tax revenue for the county. So, there’s more than just being able to help the individual, then it helps the local community.
Q: I’m starting a business in Mifflin County. Where should I start?
A: To start a business in Mifflin County, there’s quite a few different places I would go to. Naturally, the Small Business Development Center.
We’re here to help out. Everything we do is totally free and confidential. But there’s also the local chamber of commerce, The Juniata Valley Chamber of Commerce is there with Rhonda Kelly. She’s fantastic. She knows everybody in the community. She’s very warm and bubbly and truly has a heart for small businesses and wants to help people out.
So, connecting with her and the chamber in general, along with downtown Lewistown too. Jim Zubler, who’s there, is also very ingrained in the community, and he knows many different people and they have a facade grant down there. If you want to go to downtown Lewistown to help out with the facade of the building and then get involved with the community, that’s one of the best ways to get started off on the right foot. Work with the Chamber of Commerce because they have an entrepreneurial meet up that meets bimonthly.
And then they also have breakfast clubs that meet in the morning and they have monthly after hours group meetups as well, for you to meet local entrepreneurs, share ideas. So, to start a business you can go to the SBDC, the Chamber of Commerce, Downtown Lewistown, and get involved with the local entrepreneurial community.
Q: What’s one key piece of advice you have for anyone starting a business?
A: Best piece of advice I can give immediately are two things. One, make sure it’s something that you’re passionate about because this is going to be a bumpy, long road. So, there are going to be days that just suck. Things didn’t go well, you got bad news and what’s going to be your North Star? What’s going to be guiding you there? So, that’s extremely important if you’re going to get into the business and spend time and money, make sure it’s worth your time.
Second thing then is to come up with a plan. Business plans are not overrated. They are not old school. They are needed. If you’re going to go into business and put your own money into it, your own time, trying to change the world, and however way that you see fit that you want to go about it, you need to have a plan.
You need to have everything in order and thought out. And that’s what the SBDC is here to help out with. And things are set in order for you to have a smooth sailing launch.
Q: Why should small business owners attend Global Entrepreneurship Week?
A: This is a whole week dedicated to those individuals. They’re coming up with topics that are relevant. You’re going to be meeting folks that are like minded, entrepreneurs, maybe resource partners.
And this is a great way to connect. And the people who have put on these events are entrepreneurs themselves or they’re in the ecosystem. So, they know what’s important, and they’re trying to bring that to the forefront, make it easily accessible for folks to have. So, it’s definitely something to take advantage of.