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‘Entrepreneurial boot camp’ accepting applicants from tech startups in Lackawanna County

The Scranton Enterprise Center, located at 201 Lackawanna Ave., is a modern office space with suites for rent.
Haley O'Brien
The Scranton Enterprise Center, located at 201 Lackawanna Ave., houses IGNITE, the Business and Entrepreneurship Incubator Program of the Greater Scranton Chamber of Commerce.

Future tycoons of Lackawanna County with a new technology-based business or an idea for one are welcome to apply for the TechCelerator Program.

Eight entrepreneurs will be chosen for the ten-week opportunity and awarded a $10,000 grant upon completion.

Bob Durkin, president of the Greater Scranton Chamber of Commerce, says this came from an idea to start an entrepreneurial boot camp for people who don’t quite know how to get started.

“Those folks who are in the early stage of their business concept, sometimes called the ideation stage,” he said. “So it’s still an idea, it’s not concrete yet.”

The chamber created the program for Lackawanna County last year, based on a model created by Ben Franklin Technology Partners. It’s funded by the American Rescue Plan Act and administered by TecBRIDGE.

Participants will attend one 3-hour course every Tuesday evening, weekly meetings with a mentor, and complete assignments to further develop their business idea. Brianna Florovito is manager of IGNITE, the chamber’s business and entrepreneurship incubator program.

“We’re gonna say, go out and talk to potential customers and interview them and get that feedback on your product or business idea,” she said. “You’re not only doing the classroom work, but you’re working on your business in real time.”

Local consultant Larry Puleo teaches the classes, which include lessons in scaling, commercialization, structuring a business, taking a product to market, and legal aspects of business ownership.

Don Webster, executive director of TecBRIDGE, calls it a futuristic approach that focuses on customer discovery and providing feedback.

“It’s giving people insights before they jump into the deep end of the pool, they can stick their toe in the water,” he said. “They’re learning about themselves, they’re learning with other entrepreneurs, they’re not alone in the journey, which is one of the big things that entrepreneurs face.”

Not alone is an understatement, and that’s what Florovito says makes this area a great entrepreneurial ecosystem.

“We always like to talk about how in Northeastern Pennsylvania everybody knows everybody,” she said. “If you start working with a partner, they are going to know everybody else in the ecosystem so they’re going to be able to help you land where you need to land to be more successful.”

Florovito invites area business owners to call her with questions, and if she doesn’t have the answer, she knows who to connect them with. She can help the entrepreneurs spend their $10,000 grant by finding the right services to hire or buying equipment for their company. Participants also leave the program with a prepared business pitch.

“You can now go out into the community and eloquently describe what you’re trying to build,” she said. “Because that’s how you get investors, that’s how you get customers. So you’re going to have a whole polished pitch presentation to be able to take with you so that you can start gaining capital, and you can start acquiring customers or vendors. But we’re not just going to leave you there, it doesn’t stop at week ten.”

The Greater Scranton Chamber has two modern office buildings in the county: the TekRidge Center in Jessup and the Scranton Enterprise Center downtown. Both facilities have suites for rent, providing comradery and shared resources for like-minded people.

“The real goal is to say to anyone in Lackawanna County, if you have a business idea, and you want to grow that business, touch base with us,” Durkin said. “We’ll find a way either to connect you into an IGNITE program, or to just help them find the resources they need in the early stages or the growing stages of their business.”

The deadline to apply for the TechCelerator Program is September 14th.

For eligibility, applicants with an existing business can't have more than $15,000 in gross 2023 revenue and the company's address must be in the county.

Those who have a business idea must have a home address in Lackawanna County and establish a business in Lackawanna County to receive the $10,000 grant.

Haley joined the WVIA news team in 2023 as a reporter and host. She grew up in Scranton and studied Broadcast Journalism at Marywood University. Haley has experience reporting in Northeast Pennsylvania and the Lehigh Valley. She enjoys reporting on Pennsylvania history and culture, and video storytelling.

You can email Haley at haleyobrien@wvia.org