Penn State students learn about entrepreneurship at PA Wilds Conservation Shop at Kinzua Bridge

Students from the Pennsylvania State University visited Kinzua Bridge State Park on March 24 for a field trip program that was part of Penn State Startup Week.

Students learned about the power of place-based brands and outdoor recreation for rural communities. They also toured the PA Wilds Conservation Shop to learn more about how PA Wilds Center is helping connect visitors to regionally made products and experiences.

During an “Outdoor Industry Exploration Roundtable,” the students were able to hear from and ask questions to a panel of entrepreneurs in the outdoor industry.

Penn State students heard from Piper VanOrd (Allegheny Outfitters), Esperanzo Wilcox (PA Mushroom Company), Josh Helke (Organic Climbing LLC and Nittany Mountain Works), Mickayla Poland (PA Made Art & Clothing Company) and Libby Bloomquist (PA Wilds Center Sustainable Commerce Director).

Some of the questions the panelists answered included the following:

  • Why did you want to start a business in the PA Wilds?
  • What were some of the challenges you initially faced and how did you overcome them?
  • Were there any specific programs or resources that you took advantage of as part of setting up your business?
  • What inspires you during difficult times?
  • Describe how you see your business as part of the region’s outdoor industry and outdoor recreation economy.
  • Visitation to the PA Wilds has grown exponentially over the years, with the 10 years prior to covid seeing record-breaking spending by visitors in the region. Eight times the region’s population visited for an overnight trip in 2015. Has that impacted your business? If so, how?
  • How did you determine that you were ready to grow/expand your business?
  • What natural asset or key destination in the Wilds would you say has the greatest impact on your business? How / why?
  • Describe how your skills have evolved since starting your business. Do you participate in any professional development programs or associations to keep abreast of industry trends and knowledge?
  • What is your greatest memory or success story?
  • Do you see other opportunities for entrepreneurship in the region’s outdoor industry?
  • What recommendations or advice would you give a prospective outdoor industry professional?

They also enjoyed lunch catered by a local Mount Jewett restaurant, Kaffe Sol, and were able to experience “The Hike and The Height” of Kinzua Bridge with a hike to Kinzua Creek and an outdoor activity featuring the thrilling views from the Kinzua Skywalk.

The field trip was coordinated by Penn State’s Office of Commercialization and Entrepreneurship as part of Penn State Startup Week powered by PNC Bank.

Leave a Comment

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.