Startup Alleghenies helps area veterans in business
Many veterans are among the entrepreneurs benefiting from Startup Alleghenies
(Altoona Mirror, November 4th, 2018)
An initiative of the Southern Alleghenies Planning & Development Commission, Startup Alleghenies is a free program that connects existing and potential entrepreneurs with the nonprofit’s experienced coaches to help them navigate a vast network of partners at economic development groups, private organizations, colleges and universities.
It was launched with a POWER grant from the Appalachian Regional Commission and additional support from the Pennsylvania Department of Community & Economic Development. Since launching in June 2017, the nonprofit has registered 221 entrepreneurs from Blair, Cambria and Somerset counties.
“Veterans make a significant impact on the economy as owners of their own businesses,” Debbi Prosser, director of business development at Southern Alleghenies Planning & Development Commission, said in a statement.
“Right now, our entrepreneur coaches are working with 11 veterans who are starting businesses in areas as diverse as transportation, CrossFit exercise, gluten-free baking, catering, hospitality and the development of a shotgun retention device for law enforcement. It’s possible that other entrepreneurs in our ecosystem also are veterans, but haven’t yet let us know about their military service. We hope they will reach out since we’re here to help.”
For example, Army veteran Vinzeal Wolf started ETAL Transfer Authority. Wolf identified a gap in prepaid, scheduled and dependable transportation in his community that was hindering business growth and industry development. Wolf’s company provides affordable transportation between Pittsburgh and Johnstown.
Wolf believes his military experience played a big part in the development of his company.
“Not only do I credit my service for my drive, tenacity and discipline, but it also shaped who I am today. I learned there are only three roles to play in life: You lead, you follow or you get out of the way,” Wolf said in a statement.
Others include Marine Corps veteran John Skelley, who founded his CrossFit Excursion affiliate in Johnstown, and Coast Guard veteran Danielle Tissue, who created Food Fairies LLC, specializing in gluten-free bakery treats in Somerset, while maintaining her “day job” at Seven Springs Mountain Resort.
Startup Alleghenies coaches routinely conduct outreach to veterans organizations throughout the area.
“We already have a great relationship with Veteran Community Initiatives and Department of Veteran Affairs in Cambria County,” said Jose Luis Otero, Startup Alleghenies coach and director at Johnstown.
Help with critical business plan development also is available through Startup Alleghenies’ partner, the Saint Francis University Small Business Development Center.