5 Small Businesses Making a Difference in PA
Home to 1.1 million small businesses employing 2.5 million individuals, Pennsylvania’s entrepreneurs and innovators play a huge role in their communities. From extraordinary chocolates made by extraordinary people to responsible fabric, PA’s small businesses have become champions for their local neighborhoods and the greater good. At the PA Department of Community and Economic Development (DCED), we strive to make a difference in communities across the state. Here are five businesses doing just that.
Years ago, clothing designer Eve Baum opened a package left on her doorstep containing a rugged military uniform and a request to transform the uniform into a handbag. Eve knew she had stumbled onto something big. Fourteen years and one People magazine mention later, Military Apparel Company has found success as one of the only companies in the U.S. creating handbags and accessories out of military uniforms, helping to showcase and preserve the stories of American heroes.
2. Thread International
Thread International’s motto is Responsible Fabric from Ground to Good™, and the Pittsburgh brand lives it by recycling plastics bottles from Haiti into different fabrics — more than 35 varieties! Thread has partnered with several brands, including Kenneth Cole and The Pittsburgh Opera, and Timberland, which used its responsible fabric in a line of clothing.
Based in Wellsboro, Pa., Highland Chocolates is a nonprofit candy company that provides vocational training and employment for up to 20 adults with disabilities and four full-time staff members. Together, they learn valuable job skills while handcrafting and packaging chocolates and interacting with visitors who stop in for a sweet treat.
With more than 500 million monthly users, Pittsburgh-based (and former Carnegie Mellon startup) Duolingo has organically become the most popular way to learn languages online. The free, science-based language education platform has partnered with the Peace Corps to create new courses for volunteers across the globe to learn Swahili.
5. Soccer Shots
In 2005, Soccer Shots began franchising from its Harrisburg-area home office. Now, it offers intro-to-soccer programs for age groups ranging 2-8 years old in more than 200 territories across 37 states, and is positioned as the best-in-class children’s soccer program with a focus on character development. The company also partners with local nonprofit organizations to provide growth for underserved youth through the innovative soccer programs of its nonprofit arm, Soccer Shots Foundation, and is consistently by Entrepreneur Magazine as the #1 Children’s Fitness Franchise in the U.S.
Interested in starting your own business, or looking for advice on your current business operation? Visit the PA Business One-Stop Shop to learn more about operating and growing a business in PA, and follow along for more #PASmallBiz success stories on DCED’s Twitter, LinkedIn, and Facebook channels.
Neil Weaver has two decades of experience in non-profit and government management, operations, and communications. During his career, Neil has served in executive management at both the Pennsylvania Department of Community and Economic Development and the Department of Environmental Protection. In his current role as Acting Secretary at DCED, Neil functions as the chief executive of an agency that is responsible for administering grants, loans and tax credits that spur economic growth, community revitalization, and job creation throughout the state by providing strategic technical assistance, training, and financial resources to help our communities and industries flourish.