News and information about CAN DO for the community, investors, volunteers and board members.
For entrepreneurs who dream of starting a business in the food industry, one of the biggest barriers to entry is having the resources and access to professional kitchen equipment. That's why the latest addition to Downtown Hazleton's entrepreneurial ecosystem is working to make it easier for people to start their own culinary business.
The Hazleton Kitchen Incubator, located inside the Hayden Family Center for the Arts at 31 West Broad Street, is the latest project from The Hazleton Innovation Collaborative (THInC) designed to help entrepreneurs and startup companies. The kitchen incubator program gives regional food and beverage businesses a low-risk opportunity to start small, test and develop a business idea and plan, and scale their operations without the cost of equipping and maintaining their own commercially-licensed culinary facility.
CAN DO staff members recently visited several Hispanic-owned businesses across parts of Hazleton and West Hazleton as part of an ongoing educational outreach campaign regarding the business development and support services that CAN DO offers to small businesses.
CAN DO’s Director of Business Development, Mark Minnig, and Director of Economic Development, Jocelyn Sterenchock, partnered with Fermin Diaz, Entrepreneurial Instructor for the Hazleton LaunchBox, to talk with the business owners about their needs and the many ways CAN DO can help.
Minnig said, “The staff at CAN DO recognizes the important role the Latinx community has played – and will continue to play – in the growth of our community. This outreach initiative gave us the opportunity to get out and introduce ourselves to many Hispanic business owners in Greater Hazleton.”
CAN DO announced it has promoted Mark Minnig to Director of Business Development. Prior to his promotion, Minnig has served as the organization’s Business Development Specialist since April of 2019. As the Director of Business Development, he will continue to play a critical roll within the CAN DO staff by serving as the business liaison throughout Greater Hazleton to both industries and small businesses. Additionally, Minnig will continue his role within the organization of economic development financing matters for CAN DO as well as its clients within the community.
Moving forward, Minnig will look to expand the organization’s business retention and expansion program, Engage!, through new initiatives such as CAN DO’s business newsletter, Dollars and Sense, and through his role as Secreatary of the Humboldt Park Association. Minnig will also play a key role in the pursuit of attracting new development to the Greater Hazleton area.
Charles Burkhardt, who has served on the CAN DO Board of Directors for the past 26 years, has been appointed as the next chairman of the board.
Burkhardt, who was an art instructor in the Hazleton Area School District for nearly 40 years before retiring in 2010, has served as a co-advisor of the CAN DO Student Action Committee since his first year on the board. He was the Community Relations Committee chairman from 2005-2013, held the role of board secretary from 2018-2019 and was Vice-Chairman of the Marketing and Community Relations committees for the past two years before assuming the role as chairman. He received the Chairman’s Award in 2012, which is the highest award given to a CAN DO board member.
For Keystone Ballet Academy owner Emily Finer, the ability to expand her dance studio in stages but remain in the same location at the CAN BE Innovation Center has been an integral part of its success since opening in 2017.
Finer said that CAN BE has been an ideal location to start her studio because it has offered her the ability to expand when it fit the needs of her growing studio without having to move to a bigger location each time.
“Knowing I could expand where I am already located is ideal. My customer base is familiar with my existing location and the expansion will allow us to grow within a reasonable budget. As we acquire more students and have an increase in our classes, we will be able to move to a space that will really suit us and our students,” Finer said. “We are so fortunate to have access to additional space within the CAN BE Innovation Center, allowing our school to grow. From the beginning, I envisioned our growth here.”
Owner Maribel Chavez began thinking about creating a food-based business in November of 2019 when she started making Dominican sweet beans before transitioning to desserts.
“All of our desserts are handcrafted and made with love. They are made with fruits, a hint of cinnamon and vanilla and contain no preservatives, artificial color or high fructose corn syrup,” Chavez said.
The shared kitchen incubator was created through a partnership between the Downtown Hazleton Alliance for Progress, the Hazleton Art League, The Hazleton Launchbox, CAN BE and other members of The Hazleton Innovation Collaborative (THInC). The organizations worked together with local and regional food, entrepreneurship and culinary arts education providers to develop a program designed to support aspiring and existing food entrepreneurs.
Ranek Technologies founder and CEO Joe Halcisak had the idea and vision for an innovative app. But, he needed to find the guidance to create a business plan and a place to launch his computer software development startup. It all came together when he discovered the CAN BE Innovation Center.
Halcisak formally founded Ranek Technologies in May of 2020 and officially moved into the CAN BE Innovation Center this year. But his association with CAN BE and CAN DO Director of Economic Development Jocelyn Sterenchock began in 2018. Halcisak was a member of a team that won the tecBRIDGE High School Business Plan Competition that year and went on to be named the Greater Hazleton Chamber of Commerce’s Young Entrepreneurs of the Year, an award that is sponsored by CAN BE.
For many entrepreneurs, having a vision and innovative idea for a product or service is the easy part of starting their own small business. The challenges come in figuring out what to do next.
As Halogen Hair Co. owner Ashley Evert said, “No one really tells you how to run a business in beauty school.” However, Evert’s decision to reach out to CAN BE and CAN DO Director of Economic Development Jocelyn Sterenchock when she opened her salon has been vital to the success of her operation.
Brinn Gammer and Starling Reyes were recently recognized as winners of the Greater Hazleton Chamber of Commerce’s Young Innovator of the Year award for 2020 and 2021, respectively. The award is sponsored by CAN DO’s entrepreneurial arm, the CAN BE Innovation Center.