Berks LaunchBox earns $125K grant from County of Berks for small business funds

berks launchbox_SP 2023
Credit: Berks LaunchBox

WYOMISSING, Pa. — The Berks LaunchBox powered by Penn State recently received a $125,000 grant from the County of Berks. The funding will be used to create microgrants for Berks County entrepreneurs. Of the total grant awarded, $12,000 will be set aside for Penn State Berks student entrepreneurs participating in the college’s Flemming Creativity, Entrepreneurship and Economic Development Center Customer Discovery Lab, which will be distributed to awardees in $1,000 increments.

“We have identified the LaunchBox as an incredibly effective partner and service provider to our entrepreneur and small business community,” said Pamela Shupp Menet, director of community and economic development for the County of Berks. “These grants are part of our strategy to increase access to capital.”

The grant is part of the county’s IMAGINE Berks Strategic Economic Development Action Plan. The plan includes six areas of focus, with one area being small business and entrepreneurship. A key strategy in the plan is to support small businesses working to scale their operations to increase efficiency and achieve exponential growth.

The microgrants applications will be accepted during three submission periods per year, over a three-year period. During the first and second submission periods, Berks County entrepreneurs with early-stage business ideas and gross revenues of less than $200,000 can apply for microgrants up to $2,000 to move forward with their business by building a prototype, developing a marketing plan, setting up a website, and more. Submission will require an application, a Business Model Canvas, and a one-hour meeting with the Berks LaunchBox.

During the third submission period, entrepreneurs can apply for microgrants up to $4,000 each. They will participate a free customer discovery process program to determine whether their product or service will be successful in the marketplace.

The first submission for funding of up to $2,000 is now open for applications on the Berks LaunchBox website. Applications will be accepted through May 30. Visit the website for details and deadlines for subsequent submission periods.

“These funds would go a long way to supporting early-stage startups and entrepreneurs in Berks County helping them to de-risk their startup and scale their business successfully,” said Erica Kunkel, director of Berks LaunchBox and continuing education at Penn State Berks.

In 2023 alone, Berks LaunchBox assisted 202 entrepreneurs (42% from under-represented groups), taught new skills to 479 community members in its Makerspace, offered entrepreneurship classes to 500 community members, and impacted 362 students (elementary school through college) with free classes and activities. In addition, 16 entrepreneurs were awarded Creative Entrepreneurs Accelerator Grants, with the help of the LaunchBox team and 14 entrepreneurs and organizations received assistance developing their prototypes.

About the Berks LaunchBox

The mission of Berks LaunchBox, located in Suite 105 of the GoggleWorks Center for the Arts in downtown Reading, is to support economic development and entrepreneurship. An innovation hub of Penn State Berks, the LaunchBox connects local early-stage entrepreneurs to the support, resources, and facilities that they need to build sustainable and scalable businesses with a viable plan for growth. Services include assistance with prototyping, conducting market research, and connecting with advisers. Berks LaunchBox offers entrepreneurship workshops, coworking space for startups, Meetups focused on business development, a makerspace with 3D printers for prototyping and special youth programs.

Berks LaunchBox is supported by Invent Penn State — a commonwealth-wide initiative to spur economic development, job creation and student career success. For more information, visit or contact Erica Kunkel at 610-396-6221 or via email at [email protected].