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Rural entrepreneurs kick off first PA Wilds PACE Program

PHOTOS PROVIDED At left, PA Wilds PACE participants get to know each other at the kick-off event.

ST. MARYS –The first ever rural entrepreneurship cohort offered to small businesses in the Pennsylvania Wilds kicked off on Feb. 17 when individuals representing 10 businesses came together to begin the inaugural PA Wilds PACE Program.

Ten businesses were selected for the 10-week long professional development course that will help entrepreneurs understand how to scale their businesses alongside the Pennsylvania Wilds brand. Participating entrepreneurs are also members of the Wilds Cooperative of Pennsylvania, a network of about 300 businesses, artisans and nonprofit organizations from across the 13-county region.

PACE is an acronym that stands for Plan, Accelerate, Commit and Expand. Offered by the PA Wilds Center for Entrepreneurship, Inc. through a partnership with the Covation Center, the first year of the cohort is funded by the Pennsylvania Council on the Arts (PCA).

Representatives from all three organizations were present and spoke to the cohort, including: Abbi Peters, EVP of Creative Commerce at the PA Wilds Center, who welcomed the participants; Jamie Dunlap, Chief of Creative Catalysts & Lifelong Learning at PCA, who spoke about how the PA Wilds PACE Program represents a regional model approach to economic development through the arts; and Dr. Stephan Brady, Executive Director at the Covation Center, who launched the coursework for the cohort.

The kick-off was held at the new Straub Brewery Visitor Center & Tap Room, and Cathy Lenze, Vice President of Sales, Marketing & Public Relations at Straub Brewery, welcomed the group and spoke about how the American Legacy Brewery has leveraged the Pennsylvania Wilds brand in its own marketing efforts. Straub won the 2017 Best Brand Ambassador PA Wilds Champion Award for strategically incorporating information about the Pennsylvania Wilds as a region and a brand into its sales and marketing strategy, sharing this background information with its extensive network of wholesalers and distributors across the region.

The company also further promotes the PA Wilds through the use of locally-inspired names for their Adventure Series beers. “Many people don’t realize that the Pennsylvania Wilds region is already supporting a $1.8 billion tourism industry annually. Through the PA Wilds Conservation Shop, our gift shops tied to the regional brand and visitor experience, PA Wilds Center is aiming to help move more than $4M in local products and services in the region by 2030,” said Abbi Peters, EVP of Creative Commerce at the PA Wilds Center. “The PA Wilds PACE Program will help participating entrepreneurs better understand their businesses and how to grow them, in addition to revealing how they can better utilize their membership in the Wilds Cooperative of PA to achieve their business goals.”

Covation Center blends curriculum-based and facilitated cohorts with one-on-one mentoring to ensure participants are able to develop their own unique plan for business growth. This model has been successfully demonstrated in the Scale-Up America program and the PA Department of Community and Economic Development’s Engage! Program.

2020 participants include:

— Ryan and Brandi Magaro of Rich Valley Wines

— Marie Lewis of Pine Springs Pottery

— Tim Thomas from Elkwood Arts

— Mickayla Poland of PA Made LLC

— Christine King from King Krunch Gourmet Brands

— Tara Heckler of Blackberry & Sage Market

— Kevin Coolidge of From My Shelf Books & Gifts

— Kathleen Schnell of Cottage Glassworks

— Allison Schanbacher of Lucky Shot Photography

— Michelle Munksgard of Icyy Ink Screen Printing

The PA Wilds PACE Program will be offered again in 2021 and 2022 thanks to funding from the U.S. Economic Development Administration.

Learn more about the 2020 PA Wilds PACE Program and see a directory of 2020 participants at https://wildscopa.org/wco-pace-program/.

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