Phil the Thrill Studios

Shippensburg University SBDC Client Success Story
With Small Business Owners in Mind

Phil George might be known as “Phil the Thrill” to locals, but his love for the small business community goes beyond the brand he has created. Phil grew up in Cumberland County and developed a passion for art and community. After art school, he became an on-air radio personality on multiple radio stations throughout the area and created the “Phil the Thrill” brand.

“Bruce gave me some good pointers and got me in contact with
the right people to move forward pretty quickly”

During COVID, Phil created artwork to assist small business owners in downtown Carlisle that were being affected by COVID restrictions and the lack of customers in their shops. The illustrations included the façade of the business or their most beloved products. When he sold his paintings, he gave the profits to
the local shop owners. He sold these drawings through Etsy and artist markets.

Also, he created a podcast called the “Down to Small Business Podcast” that features downtown businesses and their owners. The monthly series focuses on a different small business owner to discuss everything about their business. Key topics include how they started their business, how they have navigated throughout the pandemic and what lies ahead in the future.

His freelance artwork and graphic design expanded into commissioned artwork. For example, the summer film series at the Carlisle Theatre had window artwork created by Phil such as Jaws and Goonies. It had fun artwork to welcome people to the Theatre and advertise their movies.

When Phil is not working on his business, you can find him working his full-time job in Downtown Carlisle as the Assistant Main Street Manager. This position is proof that the man behind the “Phil the Thrill” brand has a strong commitment to his community so all residents can live, shop, play and create in downtown Carlisle.


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Widener Small Business Development Center clients at an awards event for their business in Philadelphia

Silvercare Nursing and Rehabilitation Facility

Widener University SBDC Client Success Story

Widener Small Business Development Center clients at an awards event for their business in Philadelphia

As owners of Silvercare Adult Daycare, LLC, and Everest Medical Care, LLC in Upper Darby, Pennsylvania, Dr. Li and Dr. Wang have created the Silvercare Nursing and Rehabilitation Facility to serve people who have lower incomes or struggle with language barriers, and can’t or don’t know where to find the healthcare that they have a right to. Creating the name of “Silvercare Campus,” was to gear this center towards the seniors in the community, and others who need various services, not just simple doctor visits.

"Widener SBDC consultants helped us plan and access capital for our project."

Across five different buildings, and over 300 thousand square feet, this 42 million dollar project will create a campus that will lead to the creation of 300 high-paying jobs in our community. The end-goal: to provide the best healthcare for our community’s seniors and patients, while also providing a boost to Chester City’s tough economic situation. To best create this campus, Dr. Li and Dr. Wang are opening in phases. Thus far, phase one has been completed, and is providing urgent care in Chester City. The urgent care facility is estimated to serve 20 to 40 thousand people every year, alone.

Following their successful experiences in Upper Darby, they plan on expanding significantly within the next four phases. Some of those expansions will include the creation of 200 long-term senior care units, 100 apartment units, 1000 drug and alcohol rehabilitation units, and many other healthcare and general accommodations. Dr. Li and Dr. Wang understand that Chester City, as an Act 47 community, deserves to have access to better health care, and they hope that their Silvercare Campus will do just that.

After attending the “Engage!” Program, the Widener University SBDC’s Center of Excellence for Health and Life Sciences leaped into action. We began by acquiring valuable market research, financial feasibility analyses, and information to best understand economic programs like LERTA, Chester City’s CDBG program, and local zoning processes. We also introduced them to various lenders, and guided them in applying for New Market Tax Credits and commercial loans needed to acquire and redevelop the property. With that assistance, Dr. Li and Dr. Wang were able to purchase the site and obtain a bridge loan from the Community First Fund. That funding and the completion of phase one, has already provided top level healthcare for tens of thousands of people, and Dr. Li and Dr. Wang’s next four phases will help provide for tens of thousands more.


Owner of M & M Odds & Ends standing in front of her white truck

M & M Odds & Ends LLC

Kutztown University SBDC Client Success Story

Owner of M & M Odds & Ends standing in front of her white truck

M & M Odds & Ends is a cleaning service that was started in 2021 by Beatrice Pierre of Berks County, Pennsylvania. Beatrice is originally from Brooklyn, New York, but currently resides in Reading. Before starting her own business, Beatrice worked for a homecare agency in the human resources and payroll department. Before that she worked as a home health aide. Once Beatrice had her son, she decided that she needed to figure out a way to earn an income while still having the flexibility to take care of her son. Beatrice’s love of cleaning and the low start-up cost required for the business, mixed with her son’s father’s encouragement and her motivation for a better life for those around her, made her determined to start this business. This is where the SBDC started to play a huge role in Beatrice’s business. Beatrice stated, “The SBDC is a great resource. The people I got to work with have been responsive and they really care about their clients. They motivated me to work harder because they worked hard for me.”

In the process of starting her business, Beatrice had many obstacles and challenges she needed to face. Along with being a new mother, she had to balance working and paying her bills. There were many times Beatrice had to cold call to get clients and was often rejected. Along with cleaning, Beatrice also had to complete all the administrative tasks that come with owning a business. One of the more difficult obstacles Beatrice had to face was getting declined for a loan by both M & T Bank and Community First Fund.

“The SBDC is a great resource. The people I got to work with have been responsive and they really care about their clients. They motivated me to work harder because they worked hard for me.”

With the help of the SBDC, Beatrice was able to better solidify her business plan, financial projections, and obtain government contracts. She found out about the SBDC through a YouTube video while researching how to start a business. Beatrice started planning in July of 2021, obtained her LLC in August of that year, then got her first client in December. Her first major contract was cleaning Amazon warehouses which she received in May of 2022. Beatrice also received help from the SCORE Berks/Schuylkill Chapter and is currently working with the O’Pake Institute at Alvernia University. While these two institutions helped Beatrice in many ways, the SBDC specifically provided assistance with obtaining funding by developing projections, understanding of government contracts, discovery of bidding websites, and writing her business plan.

Funding for Beatrice’s business came from a $50,000 loan from the State Small Business Credit Initiative (SSBCI) loan program via the Chester County Economic Development Council and a $50,000 matching loan from the Greater Reading Chamber Alliance/Greater Berks Development Fund.

Since Beatrice has started working with the SBDC her revenues have grown by 80%. Not only is this good for Beatrice, but it is also beneficial to the ten employees she has been able to hire. Beatrice has changed her mind set when looking at other businesses. She now sees opportunities and can appreciate the time and effort other business owners put into their business. This opportunity allows her to have the flexibility to take care of her son and impact her friends, family, and employees in a positive way. Starting this business has made those around her realize that you can achieve your dreams and goals if you’re willing to put in the work.

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Brandenburg & Stein Funeral Parlor, Inc.

Shippensburg University SBDC Client Success Story

Rhea Brandenburg and Jim Stein previously worked together in the funeral industry and agreed that someday they would like to have the opportunity to offer those experiencing the death of a loved one with a more meaningful experience and a larger variety of options. With preparation and perseverance, their dream became a reality with Brandenburg and Stein Funeral Parlor opening at a unique church and cemetery property located in Gettysburg in the summer of 2022.

“The SBDC was a valuable asset to us and without their assistance things would have been more complicated and time consuming to complete.”

Rhea has worked in the funeral industry for seventeen years and became a funeral director working in Maryland since 2011. She currently lives in Waynesboro with her husband Thomas and infant son, Fox. Rhea is a licensed mortician, funeral director, and cemeterian in both Maryland and Pennsylvania. Rhea’s partner Jim has worked in the industry for 25 years and currently lives in Gettysburg with his wife, Sheri. Jim is a Veteran of the United States Navy and his son currently serves in the United States Air Force. Jim is also a licensed mortician, funeral director, and cemeterian in Pennsylvania and Maryland. He is also a certified crematory operator and certified celebrant.

Brandenburg and Stein Funeral Parlor

In their preparation and research to become entrepreneurs, the duo learned about the services of the Shippensburg University SBDC while working with M&T Bank to complete the necessary documents to purchase and renovate the property. They were connected with the Jennifer Horning, SBDC Business Consultant, who assisted Rhea and Jim with the development of their business plan and financial projections. According to Jim and Rhea, “the SBDC was a valuable asset to us and without their assistance things would have been more complicated and time consuming to complete.”

Rhea and Jim started the process of purchasing the building and establishing their business in 2019 so, undoubtedly, the biggest challenge they faced in their startup were the effects of the pandemic. However, their tenacity was a huge asset as they overcame all of the pandemic related issues as well as the township regulations, industry concerns and state traffic issues.

Brandenburg and Stein Funeral Parlor is proud to bring experienced and personalized funeral services to the area. Rhea and Jim are committed to continuing to make an impact in their community by educating the public of the many options that are available when a death occurs. They specifically aim to highlight the unique options that they provide including green burials and in-home funerals and wakes.

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Susquehanna Fire Equipment Company logo

Susquehanna Fire Equipment Company

Bucknell University SBDC Client Success Story
Extinguishing the Flames of COVID‐19

In 1951, Max Foust Sr. started the Susquehanna Fire Equipment Company selling fire extinguishers out of a garage. Over the last 70 years the company has grown and now proudly provides the most innovative and advanced fire, safety, and suppression equipment and services available to protect lives and property. Today Keith Foust, the 3rd successful generation of ownership, serves as President and leads a firm with 33 employees and two locations.

“The SBDC was a valuable resource and they kept us up to date as information came in.”

Throughout those generations, the company has endured numerous challenges but nothing could have prepared them for the impacts of COVID-19. In March 2020, business as usual was abruptly extinguished: sales declined severely and layoffs were imminent.

As one of the longest-term clients of the Bucknell SBDC - Keith will proudly recall the single-digit “client number” assigned to Susquehanna Fire Equipment Company decades ago - he knew exactly where to turn for help. He reached out to the center for assistance learning about and securing COVID-19 relief funds.

Keith and his team worked quickly and closely with the SBDC as they applied to the U.S. Small Business Administration’s (SBA) Paycheck Protection Program (PPP) and Economic Injury Disaster Loan program (EIDL). The company was soon approved for funding through both programs and every employee was happy to report for duty - even if it meant working in new positions and changed conditions than before the pandemic.

By May of that year, Keith began to see a clearing through the smoke and business slowly began to recover. Keith and his team are grateful for the SBDC, and especially for the EIDL program and both rounds of PPP funding that helped Susquehanna Fire Equipment Company survive the flames of the pandemic.

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Trotfitness logo


Bucknell University SBDC Client Success Story
Building a Business in Excellent Shape

TROTFITNESS was created in summer 2011 by husband and wife team, Nisan and Yorelis Trotter. This dynamic duo is transforming the Susquehanna Valley by offering Personal Training, Sports Performance, Fitness Nutrition, and its flagship program "Fit Body Boot Camp."

Nisan '05 attributes his success to Professor Tammy Hiller and Management 101, a project-based course where students create their own companies, as first kindling his entrepreneurial fire. But it took his wife, Yorelis, to finally convince him that they could take that inspiration and passion and build it into a successful business.

Nisan and Yorelis reconnected with Bucknell by seeking business planning and financial analysis assistance from the Small Business Development Center. They also connected with students in the Markets, Innovation, and Design program at Bucknell's School of Management who helped them to explore and develop an innovative marketing strategy. In 2013, they celebrated their second year as co-founders of TROTFITNESS, home of Susquehanna Valley's No. 1 Fitness Boot Camp.
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Jesiah Jireh Early Learning Center logo

Jesiah Jireh Early Learning Center

Shippensburg University SBDC Client Success Story
Playing it Safe in a Learning Environment

Dinorah Jerez, owner of the Jesiah Jireh Early Learning Center LLC had just celebrated the birth of her third child, realizing the cost for daycare and wanting to contribute to the household income along with her husband, Fabio Arias, Dinorah decided to become a licensed childcare provider. Dinorah and Fabio are the proud parents of six boys, having adopted 3 of their 6 children. They also have been Foster Parents for more than twelve years. Their love for taking care of children goes beyond their immediate family and Dinorah is proving this every day at the Jesiah Jireh Early Learning Center LLC.

Upon making the decision to start a daycare, Dinorah connected with Barbara Green from Childcare Consultants to obtain her family daycare license. Obtaining her family daycare license gave Dinorah the ability to take care of her newborn son and be available to her school age children while assisting her family financially. After 2 years of successful operations, Dinorah decided to start looking for a building to operate her Center. Having a deep faith, Dinorah prayed for guidance and the property on Carol Road became available for rent.

Seeking financial assistance, Dinorah went to Jill Bollinger with Community First Fund and was referred to Jen Horning, Business Consultant with the Shippensburg University SBDC for assistance with preparing documentation for the loan process. Dinorah said “Honestly, in the beginning I was frustrated at times and was tired mentally and emotionally because when I thought everything was good it was not good enough, but Jen was there for me every step of the way. Jen continued encouraging me and telling what to do.” Jen assisted Dinorah with business and financial planning, along with community trends and research. Dinorah was approved for a SBA loan and most recently received support from the emergency pandemic assistance available to small businesses to endure the challenges brought on by COVID-19.

According to Dinorah,” The pandemic did impact my business but at the same time was a blessing for my business because we received support from the EIDL Program and the PPP.” In a time when many Centers were facing adversity, Jesiah Jireh Early Learning Center LLC was able to remain in operations and even increase their enrollment. Dinorah’s main concern was giving the children of all the parents working on the front line and the essential workers a safe place to learn.

Jesiah Jireh Early Learning Center LLC is making many contributions to the community. The center is committed to quality childcare encouraging children’s inquiring minds and stimulating their developmental growth through active educational play. The young children are immersed in learning and utilizing the Spanish language. The Center is serving families with exceptional care for their children in the York community.Jesiah Jireh Early Learning Center logo

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WYElectric LLC

Shippensburg University SBDC Client Success Story
Coworkers with a Shared Vision for a Brighter Future

Crystal Shank and Waylon Yohe began their journey as coworkers at a local contracting company. As the two colleagues worked together and grew in their careers, they performed very different roles as Waylon is a fully certified master electrician, while Crystal’s focus is on operations with a degree in business management. The vision for establishing their
own electrical contracting firm that provided high quality service at a competitive price with a strong focus on customer service grew out of business planning over a six-month period. Together they realized they had the knowledge, skills and experience to make it happen and WYElectric, LLC was created in February of 2019.

According to Crystal and Waylon, “WYElectric is an electrical construction contractor that excels in cost-saving technologies, quality work and strong customer relationships.” Crystal is operations focused and performs all of the job bidding, scheduling, recordkeeping, and budgeting for the business while Waylon’s electrical expertise is utilized working in the field often more than five days a week ensuring the work is completed on time and to a customer’s specifications. Their partnership utilizes the strengths of each individual while also working collaboratively to ensure all aspects of the business are covered to keep the business operating efficiently.

During WYElectric’s startup, Crystal learned about the services of the Shippensburg University SBDC and reached out for assistance in refining her business plan, securing financing, becoming a certified women-owned small business and pursuing government contract work. Crystal remarked how Consultant Jennifer Horning has provided valuable resources of learning and knowledge to assist with their small business needs. However, in early 2020 as the pandemic began to impact WYElectric’s business operations, Crystal was grateful to have Jennifer as a trusted resource to learn more about COVID specific assistance available to small businesses so that WYElectric could utilize the assistance available at the county, state and federal level. In reference to her SBDC Consultant, Crystal commented “I feel like she genuinely cares about what happens to my business.”

WYElectric has experienced slow sustainable growth over the almost three years since it launched despite the challenges the owners have faced with scaling the operation and navigating the pandemic. Together, Waylon and Crystal have created an electrical construction small business that excels in cost-saving technologies, quality and strong relationships with customers, contractors and suppliers. The future is bright for WYElectric as they are not only growing in revenue but employee count in 2021.

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UpClose-RV logo


Shippensburg University SBDC Client Success Story
Campground Alternatives…

Mike and Kim Lockwood, owners of UpClose-RV met at a military school in Fort Eustis, Virginia. Both of them spent many years stationed around the country and on deployments in service to our country. While Mike was stationed at Carlisle Barracks attending the Army War College, they fell in love with the small-town environment and decided to become part of the community by buying a home in Carlisle, PA. Mike retired in 2019 as a full colonel with 39 years of total service.

The idea for the company began during his last two years of service when the Army returned him to the DC area. Not wanting to move his family from Carlisle, and in order to save money and time, Mike bought a travel trailer and planned on camping during the week and commuting home on the weekends. However, he discovered that parking his trailer in DC during the week was a problem. Noticing homes where owners had their own RVs parked in their driveways gave Mike an idea. Mike realized he could rent that space out for his trailer and provide the owner with a little extra income. He knew if he needed a place to park, other camping enthusiasts probably did too. An idea was born!

Seeking guidance, Mike attended a First Step Workshop with the Shippensburg University SBDC and a Beginning Entrepreneur Seminar in Carlisle. Robin Burtner, consultant with the Shippensburg University SBDC assisted Kim and Mike with their idea and provided start-up assistance, business planning and market research. Mike also attended two Entrepreneurial Seminars which had SBDC representation while transitioning from the Army.

Like many other businesses, Mike and Kim had a few obstacles along the way. It was a challenge at first to secure the use of properties where RVs could be parked. They also had to build a customer base for those wishing to use another’s property for the parking of their RVs. To rise to the challenge, they began using social media and venue participation trying to attract both. They also attended venues like the Homesteaders of America Conference, The Hershey RV show and other outdoor shows.

UpClose-RV has 14 business partners who have some small equity in the company. These partners include 7 veterans spanning three generations with a total of over 200 years of combined military service. The company has grown to over 140 property listings in 38 states and Canada. The company boasts 6000+ associated RVers in their database, 1500 of which are members of their platform. They are on their way to more expansion and greater success. They have been featured on programs like Fox Business. For your next adventure, check out UpClose-RV and see if there is a perfect spot for your RV.


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Soul Smoked BBQ

Shippensburg University SBDC Client Success Story
Feeding the Soul

Be careful what you wish for! For TJ Morton, that motto is ringing true. Last year, TJ contacted the Shippensburg University SBDC to start his small business, Soul Smoked BBQ, LLC. As a self-proclaimed foodie and someone who had perfected the art of smoking meats, TJ was ready to explore the options of starting a food truck business. With the support of his loving wife Heather, who helped make all of this possible, TJ is fully employed at his business and sales have exceeded his expectation.

“I could not have asked for a better Business Consultant than Georgina. ”

Prior to opening his business, TJ managed a 4-million-dollar operation at a company for 16 years. His staff averaged around 23 people and he was responsible for staffing, payroll, production, and scheduling among other things. He said that at the time, he felt overworked at a 9-5 position and thought his job was stressful. TJ jokes that he sometimes thinks longingly about those days, especially when he is up at 5AM to prep his smoker for a full day of catering.

TJ has always loved cooking. He says, "I would stay in the kitchen with my mom every time she cooked. I remember a time when I used to get mad because I thought she was melting the ice cream and I would always ask her why. She told me that it was "lard" but I kept insisting it was ice cream. Well one day she got tired of me asking and she gave me some and let me tell you I never asked that question again! As I'm writing this I can still remember that taste "disgusting". As I got older I became infatuated with the smell of BBQ. I started cooking for the family and I burnt up my fair share of food, but then also they just kept telling me how good it was and I honestly thought they were just being kind and not candid. Then requests started coming in for my BBQ and the light went off; maybe they are being honest. So with my love for cooking and my passion for feeding people's souls, Soul Smoked BBQ LLC was formed."

TJ reached out to the SBDC for advice and he says the help he received was phenomenal. “I jumped into this knowing absolutely nothing. I could not have asked for a better Business Consultant than Georgina. She laid out the blueprint, was always there if I had questions and was extremely candid with me good or bad and yes she hurt my feelings sometime lol, but I never gave up. I followed the blueprint and made it to the finish line. I would not have been able to do this on my own. The Shippensburg University SBDC is totally awesome hands down."

Some of the challenges TJ faced were ones he never considered before starting. The physical challenges of processing 500-800lbs of meat every week, picking up 32 quart pans full of water and 16lbs of cooked noodles sitting in boiling water. Despite the challenges, TJ is garnering a reputation for delicious food and his business is growing. He loves working for himself and choosing his venues. Long-term, he dreams of opening a brick-and-mortar restaurant, but for now, he is concentrating on feeding one soul at a time.

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