Gannon University: Gannon SBDC Honored as Best in Western PA

The spotlight is shining brighter on Gannon University’s Small Business Development Center (SBDC) three years after appearing on the Discovery channel reality show “Undercover Billionaire.” The center was lauded as the U.S. Small Business Administration Western Pennsylvania Small Business Development Center of the Year.

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Appropriately, center personnel who remained on site throughout the pandemic helping thousands of local small businesses, will receive their award during National Small Business Week, held each year during the first week in May. This year’s free virtual summit features access to federal resources, educational workshops, and networking to help the nation’s 32.5 million small businesses pivot, grow and seize new opportunities.

“THIS FEELS AWESOME AND I’M SO PROUD,” SAID DIRECTOR MAGGIE HORNE. “THIS AWARD NOT ONLY IS FOR MY TALENTED AND DEDICATED FIVE-PERSON TEAM, BUT FOR EVERYONE THAT HAS WORKED AT THE CENTER DURING THE PAST 40 YEARS, BECAUSE THEY EMBRACED AND BROUGHT TO THE TABLE THE DREAM OF BECOMING A SMALL BUSINESS OWNER.”
SBDCs are SBA- and state-funded entities helping entrepreneurs in every phase of development. Last year, Horne’s staff assisted in opening 45 new business throughout Erie, Crawford, Mercer and Warren counties. “We’re so excited for the Gannon SBDC team,” said SBA Western Pennsylvania District Director Dr. Kelly Hunt. “Their appearance on the reality television show truly depicts the top-notch assistance provided by the SBA’s nation-wide network of SBDCs and we’re grateful that more and more entrepreneurs now know where to go for no-cost support to start, grow and expand a business.”

Horne stated entrepreneurs, communities, the economy, and her colleagues throughout the country are benefitting from the exposure. “Glenn Stearns really gave a shout-out to the SBDC network on national entertainment and talk shows,” she explained. “When I went to a national SBDC conference, directors from everywhere told me about the increase in traffic they are receiving at their centers.”

She said the same holds true for her center. “Our First Step Seminar, which discusses the basics of small business ownership, has steadily maintained 25 attendees each month,” she said. “The small business community is recovering, and entrepreneurship is thriving again.”

Steven Freysz said the center helped he and his wife finally realize their lifelong dream of owning a small inn. “Thanks to Maggie and her team, we now own Spencer House Bed and Breakfast, a six-room 1876 Victorian mansion,” he stated. “Four years ago, the SBDC was a valuable resource for us. They provided information on area lodging and helped us put together financial projections enabling us to become small business owners.”

Gannon SBDC has a track record working with small businesses catering to tourists like Spencer House Bed and Breakfast. After all, it’s located near the picturesque Presque Isle State Park. The area, brimming with sandy beaches and boating, fishing, hiking and biking activities, is a recreation hub for visitors and residents alike. Gannon’s niche helping those businesses start, grow and thrive led to its selection as a state SBDC Center of Excellence specifically serving the travel and tourism industries.

“Businesses in these industries were among the hardest hit during the pandemic,” explained Horne. “We worked with national groups to ensure these important small businesses across the Commonwealth were able to secure special pandemic funding. We’re also providing continuous education on operational guidance, marketing, reopening strategies and assisting seasonal employees.”

Horne, who is celebrating 16 years at the center and 10 as its director, estimates she has personally assisted approximately 2,500 clients. “The number isn’t important, it’s the people behind those small businesses that matter” she stated. “I am so grateful to be in a position and help them…SBDCs are key in finding resources for our clients and that’s what we do every day – even in a crisis situation.”

She dispenses the same advice for northwest Pennsylvania entrepreneurs as she did for the billionaire client that worked with her center. “Use the free resources in your community…you don’t need to do this alone.”

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