Our Mission: To Help You Succeed in Business
The mission of the Penn State Small Business Development Center (SBDC) is to grow the economy of central Pennsylvania by providing entrepreneurs with the education, information, and tools necessary to build successful businesses.
The SBDC at Penn State was founded in 1997 to meet the needs of entrepreneurs in Centre and Mifflin counties. The Penn State SBDC is one of eighteen Small Business Development Centers in Pennsylvania and is an accredited affiliate of the national network of Small Business Development Centers.
The Penn State SBDC provides free, confidential consulting services to individuals looking to start or grow a small business. In addition, the SBDC offers a full roster of specialized educational programs covering many business topics. From helping aspiring entrepreneurs turn ideas into businesses, to helping small firms grow, to providing the information that every businessperson needs to make critical decisions, the SBDC is the resource that entrepreneurs in all industry sectors can turn to for help — help that can make the difference between success and failure!
Our Impact: Helping You and Helping Pennsylvania
The SBDC network surveys the businesses it works with to measure the impact that these clients have on Pennsylvania's economy. Selected information from the Penn State SBDC and the Pennsylvania SBDC annual impacts can be accessed below.
- Impact of the Penn State Small Business Development Center
- Impact of the Pennsylvania Small Business Development Centers
Our Staff: Prepared to Help You
All services are provided by our staff of highly qualified consultants. In addition to practical experience in operating small businesses themselves, our staff members have more than 70 years of business experience and hold degrees in business, communications, engineering, and agriculture. The Penn State SBDC also taps into the expertise of industry experts, successful entrepreneurs, and other business professionals to deliver its educational programs.
Meet Our Staff
Heather Fennessey, P.E., is the director of the Penn State SBDC. Her expertise and interests include tech businesses, renewable energy, energy efficiency, engineering, overall business efficiency, pollution prevention, and worker health and safety. Since joining the SBDC in 2001 she has helped hundreds of small businesses in Pennsylvania to improve operations and receive environmental grants and low-interest loans.
Heather is also the director of PennTAP.
Heather has a bachelor’s degree in chemical engineering from Penn State, a professional engineer license in Pennsylvania in environmental engineering, and many years of experience in pollution prevention, energy efficiency, and environmental compliance. Prior to coming to Penn State, Heather worked with the military and NASA to solve joint pollution prevention projects. She is currently pursuing a master’s degree in energy and mineral engineering, with an option in environmental health and safety engineering, at Penn State.
Denise Bechdel, CEA, REM, REPA, REP
Denise Bechdel provides environmental consulting assistance to small businesses throughout Pennsylvania offered by the Penn State Small Business Development Center’s (SBDC's) and Environmental Management Assistance Program (EMAP). She performs on-site pollution prevention and energy efficiency assessments and assists with regulatory compliance issues with small businesses. Since she joined the EMAP team in 2002, she has assisted more than 453 small businesses and has performed 195 on-site assessments to improve environmental compliance, reduce energy consumption and associated costs, decrease pollution created and related costs, and improve worker health and safety.
Denise holds an associate's degree in environmental technology from the Pennsylvania College of Technology and a bachelor's degree in environmental resource management from Penn State. Prior to becoming an environmental consultant for the EMAP team in 2002, Denise was employed by the Pennsylvania Department of Environmental Protection (DEP) in the waste management department for two years, all of which gives her an unusual depth of experience that benefits her clients.
To that end, three of Denise’s clients were national Energy Star® for Small Business award winners in 2006. Two of her clients received the Governor's Award for Environmental Excellence: one in 2007 and one in 2008. Since 2005, eighty-three (83) of Denise’s clients applied for and were awarded $1,421,468 in federal and state grants with matching funds of $2,988,391 in owner investment for the pollution prevention, energy efficiency, and renewable energy projects in their respective small businesses savings.
Furthermore, in 2010, Denise received her certification from the Association of Energy Engineers (AEEs) as a Renewable Energy Professional (REP), and in 2009 she received her certification from the Association of Energy Engineers (AEEs) as a Certified Energy Auditor (CEA). AEE's certification programs are recognized by government agencies as the U.S. Department of Energy and the U.S. Agency for International Development, as well as by Fortune 1000 corporations, utilities and energy service companies. In 2007, she received certification from the National Registry of Environmental Professionals (NREP) as a Registered Environmental Property Assessor (REPA). In 2005, she received certification from the National Registry of Environmental Professionals (NREP) as a Registered Environmental Manager (REM). This certification is one of the most respected credentials in the global environmental community and is recognized by many U.S. agencies, state governments, ministries of several foreign countries, and the private sector. Denise is also certified as a Hazardous Waste Operations Specialist.
Denise’s vast environmental experience, educational background, and prestigious certifications enable her to contribute effectively and efficiently to the small business community be that as a one on one consultant, grant writer and trainer.
Senior Business Consultant
Linda Feltman has worked with the Penn State SBDC as the senior business consultant since April 1999. Prior to joining the SBDC staff, over the course of twenty years, she was involved in several small business start-ups as a principal or owner. She has authored a column for Pennsylvania Magazine since 1992, specializing in bed and breakfasts and profiles of interesting people and places, and is the author of several books related to same. She has been an adjunct faculty member in Penn State's College of Communications since 2005 and teaches COMM 493 Entrepreneurship in the Information Age. She is also the faculty adviser for the Penn State student organization Happy Valley Communications, a student-run public relations firm that works with other student-run organizations as well as local small businesses with their publicity initiatives. Linda was the recipient of the 2008–09 College of Communications Deans' Excellence Award for Outstanding Faculty Associate and the 2011 Outreach Vice President’s Award for Engagement.
Linda is a 1976 graduate of Penn State, earning a bachelor's degree with a major in advertising. Prior to that, she attended the University of Montreal (Canada) and the College of Dupage, Glen Ellyn, Illinois. She studied abroad in 1976 attending the University of Manchester (England) through a Penn State program. Although she enjoys living in her adopted state of Pennsylvania, she occasionally visits the Chicago suburb where she grew up to reconnect with family and friends.
Maria T. Kirby, MBA, joined the SBDC in 2012 and brings economic and business development experience from across a wide variety of industries, including manufactured housing, wood products, manufacturing, energy, banking, and retail sales. Maria has coordinated industry consortiums and industrial efficiency improvement initiatives and led companies in workforce development; land, building, and equipment acquisition; product commercialization; and business start-up and expansion. She is a PhD candidate in the Human Resource and Organization Development track of the Workforce Education and Development program at Penn State and has earned Small Business Administration Export Counselor Certification.
Theresa is the administrative support assistant for the Penn State SBDC and PennTAP. Theresa joined the SBDC in April 2012. Prior to her employment with the SBDC, she worked for more than 20 years with The Pennsylvania State University’s Academic Outreach/World Campus as an administrative support assistant for the executive director of Academic Outreach and two directors of the World Campus.
Theresa will be supporting the new SBDC office in Philipsburg, along with a multitude of other duties. She’ll be the first person to greet clients in the lobby of 200 Innovation Boulevard.
Educational Programming Coordinator
Laurie Linton is the educational programming coordinator at the Penn State SBDC. At the center she is the first point of contact for educational programs and sponsorships. She has been with the center since June of 2008.
As the educational programming coordinator for the SBDC, Laurie schedules and coordinates educational programs and works with presenters regarding topics of interest to small business owners. She is also responsible for sponsorships of educational programs, helping clients with grand opens and ribbon cutting events.
Laurie earned her associate degree in advertising and marketing design from Pennsylvania College of Technology. Prior to joining the SBDC, she was a small-business operator and has more than seventeen years of experience in sales and marketing. She is currently pursuing her bachelor’s degree with Penn State World Campus and will continue on for a master’s in instructional systems – educational technology.
Michael Ryan has been a business analyst with the Penn State SBDC since June 2000. He staffs the SBDC's outreach office located at the Penn State Learning Center in Lewistown. In addition to providing free, confidential one-on-one consulting to current or prospective small business owners, he has developed and instructs educational programs and seminars for the SBDC.
Michael specializes in researching accounting and tax issues and preparing detailed financial reports for SBDC clients. He has worked with clients in many different industries, including construction, landscaping, retail, food service, and real estate investment. Prior to joining the SBDC, Michael worked for a manufacturing company and in the banking industry. He is a Penn State graduate, earning a bachelor's degree in accounting. He has been named one of Pennsylvania Business Central's Top 100 People in Business and served on the board of directors of the Juniata River Valley Chamber of Commerce.
Meet Our Students
Phil Ayoub is a business consultant graduate assistant working with the Penn State Small Business Development Center. Phil is a second-year MBA student at the Smeal College of Business at Penn State concentrating in Finance. Phil did a corporate finance internship at Pfizer, Inc., this past summer. Prior to coming to Penn State, Phil worked for six years in commercial banking at TD Bank in Washington, D.C., most recently as a vice president and commercial lender. Phil graduated with a BS degree from Elizabethtown College double majoring in finance and accounting.
Neha Kala is an MBA candidate at Smeal Business School. After graduating as a petroleum engineer, she was recruited by Reliance Industries Limited to work as a reservoir engineer for the Upstream Oil & Gas Division. She has worked on several assets including heavy oil and shale gas. As a reservoir engineer she estimated oil and gas reserves, ran simulations, strategized development plans, carried out offshore operations, and evaluated oil and gas assets. As an MBA candidate she interned with Chevron as a business analyst.
As a member of the Clean Technology Resource Center at Penn State SBDC, Neha's objective is to learn more about the alternate means of energy and their feasibility to help further the efforts of small businesses focusing in this field.
Eric Layo is a graduate of the United States Air Force Academy, where he earned a Bachelor of Science in Business Management. After serving in the Air Force as a Logistics Readiness Officer, he decided to return to business school in order to obtain his MBA. As a native Pennsylvanian and avid Penn State fan, enrolling in the Smeal College of Business MBA program was an easy decision for Eric. At Penn State, he is concentrating in entrepreneurship, marketing, supply chain management, and strategic leadership. Additionally, as a second-year graduate student, Eric serves as the president of the Penn State Entrepreneurs Network (MBA Association) as well as vice president of the Penn State Smeal MBA Military and Veterans' Association. His professional interests include e-commerce, social entrepreneurship, social media marketing, environmental protection, and sustainable business. Eric's personal interests include traveling, snowboarding, surfing, scuba diving, skydiving, hunting, and fishing.
Anukalp Narasimharaju is a graduate student in energy and mineral engineering with an emphasis on energy management and policy. He has worked as an intern in two oil and gas companies in India. As an engineering undergraduate, he had experience in diverse roles ranging from refinery instrumentation and R&D, to risk management. As part of his research, he is conducting econometric analysis on shale gas pricing based on the arbitrage model by assessing development costs in the Marcellus basin. He is an aviation enthusiast and hopes to acquire a glider-pilot’s license later this semester.
Through his term at SBDC, he aims to develop insight into energy management and energy efficiency, to get involved in a larger role to help communities and industries save on environmental costs.
This institution is an equal opportunity provider.
Funding support and resources are provided by the Commonwealth of Pennsylvania through the Department of Community and Economic Development, through a cooperative agreement with the U.S. Small Business Administration (SBA), the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA), private sponsor and through support from Penn State. All services are extended to the public on a nondiscriminatory basis. Special arrangements for persons with disabilities can be made by calling 814-863-4293. All opinions, conclusions, or recommendations expressed are those of the author(s) and do not necessarily reflect the views of the SBA.
An accredited affiliate of the national network of Small Business Development Centers