PA Wilds Center issues RFP for Lycoming County Business Outreach Specialist
Proposals due by September 3, 2021
Individuals based in Lycoming County and interested in helping small businesses grow are encouraged to respond to a Request for Proposals (RFP) issued by the PA Wilds Center for Entrepreneurship, Inc. (PA Wilds Center) for an Outreach Specialist. The RFP details an opportunity for a short-term, paid contractor who will “help to build, connect and cultivate the Wilds Cooperative of Pennsylvania (WCO) Value Chain Network.”
The WCO is a network of artisans, businesses, nonprofits and communities located in the PA Wilds that is managed by the PA Wilds Center. Members are promoted by PA Wilds Center as part of the overall PA Wilds experience, and they are also the primary product line for PA Wilds market opportunities, including physical PA Wilds Conservation Shops and the new PA Wilds Marketplace at shopthepawilds.com. In addition to gaining access to new markets and marketing, WCO members receive branding assets, networking and professional development opportunities, and referrals to technical assistance providers. The program is free to join.
The Outreach Specialist will help more local businesses take advantage of WCO benefits by reaching local artisans, producers, and small-scale manufacturers in Lycoming County and encouraging participation in the network. Key partners in this outreach will include the Williamsport/Lycoming Chamber of Commerce, Lycoming County Visitors Bureau, Penn State Small Business Development Center and The Covation Center.
Responses to the Lycoming County Outreach Specialist RFP, available at pawildscenter.org, are due by 5:00 PM on September 3, 2021. Interviews will take place in September and a candidate will be selected in October. The goal is for the selected candidate to begin onboarding in November and the contract would extend through June 30, 2022. The total contract amount is $20,000, made possible by a capacity-building grant from the Williamsport Lycoming Community Fund at the First Community Foundation Partnership of Pennsylvania (FCFP). That grant will also allow the PA Wilds Center to implement a focused marketing effort to increase awareness of Lycoming County’s status as being a part of the PA Wilds region. (More information about the FCFP can be found at www.FCFPartnership.org.)
“One of the primary goals of the PA Wilds effort has always been to uplift and celebrate our region’s rural maker culture and artisan products that reflect our region’s incredible beauty, bounty and rural traditions. This continues to be one of the ways that our nonprofit supports our mission of marrying conservation and economic development,” said Ta Enos, Founder + CEO of the PA Wilds Center. “Through our PA Wilds Conservation Shop and the PA Wilds Marketplace, we invest in and uplift artisans in our rural communities to help them reach new markets — people inspired by our place-based brand: the PA Wilds. We also operate a charity checkout for conservation on our commerce platforms, so shoppers can donate to support PA Wilds parks and forests.”
PA Wilds Center purchases products outright from regional makers at wholesale prices for PA Wilds Conservation Shops.
“Ninety percent of our inventory comes from regional makers — so this has real impacts in our communities. For example, our flagship store at Kinzua Bridge State Park (KBSP) has generated just over $1.5 million in revenue since opening in 2016. That equates to about $500,000 in direct product purchases from regional producers. Beyond inventory, the remainder of the revenue brought in goes first to sustaining the Conservation Shop operation, including jobs, and supporting our nonprofit’s mission,” said Abbi Peters, PA Wilds Center EVP of Operations and co-founder of the PA Wilds Conservation Shops.
The PA Wilds Marketplace is an online maker marketplace that launched this past spring in an effort to provide new market opportunities under the PA Wilds brand for businesses that may not be positioned for wholesale orders. The platform features more than 10 regional creative businesses so far, but it looks to grow.
Through the online marketplace, ShopThePAWilds.com, the region’s rural producers and makers can sell direct-to-consumer with the added marketing power of the PA Wilds brand. Companies participating in this marketplace control their own inventory and keep 85% of each sale. The remaining 15% supports the marketplace’s platform administration and development.
“Our current goal is to scale from one unit of the Conservation Shop to six over the next 10 years, and to expand ShopthePAwilds.com from our initial starting crew of 11 vendors to 150 in the next five. The projected economic impact of doing so would be huge for rural PA. To continue to scale this commerce platform to benefit our rural communities in the PA Wilds, we need to build more awareness among rural producers and makers about what we are building and how it can benefit them,” Peters explained. “This is why it is critical to ensure we build capacity around outreach to existing and new businesses to continue to expand our value chain and ensure that we have enough participating producers to keep up with demands for regionally-made and PA Wilds branded products, services and experiences.”
The deadline for applying to this contract has closed.
ABOUT THE PA WILDS
The Pennsylvania Wilds is a 13-county region that includes the counties of Cameron, Clarion, Clearfield, Clinton, Elk, Forest, Jefferson, Lycoming, McKean, Potter, Tioga, Warren, and northern Centre. The PA Wilds Center for Entrepreneurship, Inc., is a 501(c)3 nonprofit organization whose mission is to integrate conservation and economic development in a way that inspires the communities of the Pennsylvania Wilds. The PA Wilds Center promotes the region as a premier outdoor recreation destination as a way to create jobs, diversify local economies, inspire stewardship and improve quality of life. The PA Wilds Center’s core programs seek to help businesses leverage the PA Wilds brand and connect with new market opportunities, including: the Wilds Cooperative of PA, a network of over 300 place-based businesses and organizations, and the PA Wilds Conservation Shop, a retail outlet primarily featuring products sourced from the WCO. For more information on the PA Wilds Center, visit www.PAWildsCenter.org. To learn more about the WCO, visit www.WildsCoPA.org. Explore the PA Wilds at www.pawilds.com.