Ben Franklin Bootcamp
Winners Announced

The Ben Franklin TechCelerator@Altoona, an important component of the Startup Alleghenies initiative, enabled six entrepreneurs to participate in an intensive 8-week Business Startup Bootcamp.  The program offered those from the community, who had a business idea they wanted to explore, the opportunity to receive entrepreneurial training in a fun, relaxed environment at Catalyst Space in downtown Altoona.

On Tuesday, March 13, 2018, those six entrepreneurs pitched their business concepts to a team of local judges for the chance to win a cash prize of up to $10,000 from Ben Franklin Technology Partners. Attended by nearly 50 community and economic development partners, as well as family members, the graduation/pitch event was the culmination of hours of hard work by all the individual participants who also became friends and part of an overall supportive team during the 8-week bootcamp.

A three-member panel of judges from the community made the decision to award two cash prizes:

  • First Place and $7,500 was awarded to Tony Biddle, with Site Rite, who has developed a clip-on rear site for hand guns that dramatically improves accuracy. Biddle will use the prize money to further market his product and develop additional sizes.

  • Second Place and $2,500 was awarded to Benjamin Hutchinson, with Your Reptile Company, who has a concept to create a way to protect pet reptiles through proper caging techniques.  Hutchinson will use the prize money to develop a prototype.

“Two area entrepreneurs took home a check from Ben Franklin’s TechCelerator@Altoona.  But, this is a rigorous process, and everyone who participated is a winner in our book,” said Bob Dornich, program manager.

Other presenters included: Mark Kasterko, with M&T Arms, who has developed a device for securing an officer’s weapon during an incident where he/she needs to restrain a perpetrator; Daniel Bowers, with Advanced Diabetes Technologies, who is developing an app that allows for the safe and easy monitoring of blood glucose; Jobe Matula, with The LiveFirst Company, who has developed a product that protects pets from accidental poisoning; and Joey DiGangi, with AssureTech, who is developing a technology that helps people with food allergies keep their medication easily on-hand.

New Business Takes Off at
Altoona LaunchBox

With a passion to own and build a successful business, Rob Wentz, known by his radio name as Rob Z, decided to leave his full time radio DJ job and pour his energy into a project he had been developing on the side. But working out of his basement wasn’t getting him to where he wanted to be fast enough.  Then he heard about the Altoona LaunchBox. Rob had a triage meeting with Donna Bon, John Horell, Rich Lasiak, and Steve McKnight. He left that meeting with financial information to better set up his business, a new office space, and new connections to expand the scope of the business.

Nearly a year after setting up his podcast booth at the Altoona LaunchBox, Rob says his client base has grown to a point where he is looking for an assistant to help with his expanding social media marketing services. He’s also expanding his business model to include a 30-part video series for businesses to learn how to build their social media. Rob foresees holding free seminars at the Altoona LaunchBox to introduce area start-ups and entrepreneurs to this series, which they can then purchase. He still continues to enjoy his podcasts talking about anything local and promoting his sponsors and their businesses, but being part of the Altoona LaunchBox atmosphere, where he interacts with other like-minded entrepreneurs who bounce ideas off each other, has jump-started his social media marketing segment and the instructional video aspect.

Rob encourages everyone he talks to who is thinking of turning their dream into a business, to make a triage appointment at the Altoona LaunchBox, use the space, network with the people there, and focus on the next steps of launching their business.

For more information on the Altoona LaunchBox and to set up a triage appointment, call 814-949-5500 or stop by at 1331 12th Avenue, Suite 103, Altoona, PA 16601.

Penn State Altoona Enactus
Regional Champs!

Penn State Altoona’s Enactus team has once again been named Regional Champions at the Enactus USA Regional Competition, held Monday, March 19, 2018, in Philadelphia, PA.

As a regional champion, the Penn State Altoona Enactus team advances to the 2018 Enactus USA National Competition, to be held May 20–22 in Kansas City, MO.

Conducting Research in Bolivia

Eat, Sleep, Change the World, Repeat! The Enactus Project International Impact Bolivia team spent spring break in Bolivia. Six students went to Guayaramerín, Bolivia, in partnership with Love in Action International Ministries. The goal was to see if opening a coffee shop would be a feasible idea for the orphanage, Andrea’s Home for Hope and Joy. The students were able to conduct market research, analyze the landscape of the area, and hold interviews with locals. They are now working to complete a marketing mix, situational analyses for each target market, and a cost analysis from their findings. In addition to the research, the students spent time each day with children at the home. They witnessed the arrival of two new children as well as attend a quinceañera. The team returned with real-world business experience and unforgettable memories.


Sheetz Fellows Gain Global
Business Perspective

The junior and senior classes of Sheetz Fellows were in Europe over spring break. The founding benefactors of the Sheetz Fellows Program at Penn State Altoona, Steve and Nancy Sheetz, believe the students need to understand global markets to be an effective leader.  The junior and senior Sheetz Fellows are able to take advantage of this 10-day Eurpopean trip through an endowment created by Steve and Nancy Sheetz, who traveled with the 26 students, along with Chancellor and Dean Lori Bechtel-Wherry and Professors Donna Bon, Paul Cooney, and Richard Singer.

Highlights from Berlin, Germany:

  • The Berlin Wall
  • BMW motorcycle production plant
  • Innovation Factory
  • Food walking tour


Highlights from Amsterdam, Netherlands:

  • Amsterdam Stock Exchange
  • Van Gough Museum
  • Flower auction
  • Anne Frank House
  • Canal cruise


Financing Entrepreneurial Ventures

Kevin Ramsier
CEO of SIER Capital

Thursday April 19, 2018
5:30 p.m.

Altoona LaunchBox
1331 12th Avenue,
Suite 103
Altoona, PA  16601

COST:  Free and open to those who want to start their own business.

RSVP:  Email
Seating is limited to 25.


Sheetz Fellows In Action

Saturday, April 28, 2018
Noon–6 p.m.

The Juniata neighborhood will transform near N. 4 Ave. into a
beautification and arts block party, spanning two blocks, restyling the area for community and creativity.

With ArtsAltoona and the sophomore class of Sheetz Fellows, community leaders, organizers, and groups are welcome to take part in a new kind of event aimed at bringing out the best of the
area. Artists, musicians, volunteers, and the community will engage together to bring about “beautification” in many different ways, from planting flowers, painting street walls, to
multiple free band performances.

There will be many opportunities for individuals and families to
participate in the event. Anyone who is interested in participating is encouraged to sign up on the
event’s website,

The Sheetz Fellows senior class worked in partnership with the Pink Zone and the Penn State Lady Lion Basketball team to raise money for the individuals and families affected by breast cancer. The seniors worked to improve the Pink Zone’s website, created a newsletter, and secured raffle items to help raise money at the event. They also helped the day of the Lady Lion Basketball game.

Servant Leadership

The Sheetz Fellows was busy performing servant leadership on Saint Patrick’s Day in Tyrone, by helping the Joshua House with its 5K/10K fundraiser!


Carmen Bilek
Consultant—SMIP Team, First Energy/Penelec

Jim Wertz
Owner, Wertz Media
Retired Owner, Wertz Landscaping

Penn State Altoona students have the opportunity to meet one-on-one with successful business leaders and entrepreneurs several times each semester. The EIR program provides students with opportunities to expand their network and get immediate feedback on their ventures or entrepreneurial career goals and aspirations.

Zoom Sessions with Sheetz Fellow Alumni

Technology brought Sheetz Fellow alum Dan Kennedy into the Team Meeting in March. Dan shared with the current Sheetz Fellows how he used lessons he learned in the program about himself and finding his passion to seek and secure his current position. He is the coordinator of admissions and dual enrollment at Montgomery County Community College.

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