Widener Small Business Development Center Aids 40 Local Artists in Securing Creative Entrepreneurship Grants

Emma Irving '18
Terrance Harden and SBDC staff and students look at cards he created for his small business
Terrance Harden, along with SBDC staff and students, look at playing cards created for his small business.

When Terrance Harden started T-Boyz Table Games in 2020, his time and energy went fully into innovating products for his board game development and publishing company. Having worked in videography and motion graphics for over a decade, Harden certainly had the creative spark and skill to turn his passion into his business but not so much the entrepreneurial know-how, until he got connected with Widener’s Small Business Development Center (SBDC).

Thanks to the SBDC, Harden was one of 40 local artists referred by Widener to receive a grant from the Creative Entrepreneur Accelerator (CEA) program. Funded by the Pennsylvania Council on the Arts and administered by The Greater Philadelphia Cultural Alliance, the CEA program seeks to connect local entrepreneurs in visual arts and crafts, music and entertainment, film and media, publishing, design, and similar fields with consulting services like those offered at the SBDC. 

Widener students and staff at the SBDC referred and aided in the application of 49 creative entrepreneurs from Delaware and Philadelphia counties to the grant program. Of those applicants, 40 received grants, nearly all for the maximum award amount of $2,000, bringing the total secured over two rounds of funding to $78,650 for Widener SBDC-referred clients.

In total, the CEA program distributed 90 grants totaling $176,500 across Bucks, Chester, Delaware, and Montgomery counties, making Widener’s SBDC the single most successful referring organization involved in the program.

Monica Herrera-Zuniga, CEA referral coordinator for the SBDC, says aiding local artists is both institutional mission and a deep passion for the center.

“Supporting entrepreneurs as they start, grow, and prosper in their businesses is what we do best,” she said. “We’re proud to have facilitated 44 percent of the grants awarded in our area, and know these artists will use their grants to grow their businesses and give back to the community many times over.”

Terrance Harden working with SBDC staff
Terrance Harden working with SBDC staff on campus.

Knowledge, Passions, & Values
    
Key to that success were Widener students like Caitlin Martinez, using their classroom knowledge to make a real-world impact on local businesses. Though Martinez is pursuing her MBA in Health Care Management, she says her work as an assistant business consultant to these creative entrepreneurs not only expanded her skillset but touched her on a personal level.

“There’s a story behind every business and every person who wants to share their gift with the world,” Martinez said. “I’m so proud to know that the work I did helped these companies to succeed.”

Martinez’s work with the CEA program included conducting research, reviewing business plans, and providing administrative support to ensure that their clients met all the necessary requirements for the grant application process. Whether she was utilizing research tools to find local businesses for one client to sell his handmade cards or organizing data from all CEA applicants to identify trends, Martinez felt fulfilled knowing she was empowering local artists.

“It’s truly rewarding to know that the CEA program and my work in it serves to uplift BIPOC-owned businesses and low-income communities. The Philadelphia region is comprised of so many artists of diverse backgrounds and all their businesses deserve to thrive,” she said. “Working on this project solidifies my commitment to making diversity, equity, and inclusion cornerstone to my future work.”

The arts have long been important to Martinez, who grew up taking classes in painting and drawing and now counts photography and videography as passions too. As she looks forward to pursuing a career in healthcare and one day running a hospital department, she credits her work in the CEA program as an exceptional hands-on learning experience in combining her academic knowledge, creative passions, and personal values into one project.

What Creatives Need
    
For Martinez, Herrera-Zuniga, and the entire SBDC team, taking an individualized approach to the unique needs of entrepreneurs in a wide variety of fields is key to the success of the center and its clients.

“At the SBDC we believe that everyone has the potential to start a successful business, and that begins with high-quality guidance and access to information and resources,” Herrera-Zuniga said.

While Harden continues developing games, his grant money will be going toward expanding marketing for T-Boyz Table Games using the principles he learned during the CEA trainings and consultations. He says having Widener back him up in his endeavors to get his marketing on its feet gives him more confidence about his business plan.

“What I really appreciate about the SBDC is how they understand what those of us in creative fields need as opposed to other entrepreneurs who have studied business. They’ve been able to match my intellect, expertise, and talents with the resources I need to fill in what I don’t know,” Harden said.

For Martinez, she’s looking forward to spending the summer before she graduates exploring local art shows and new small businesses to purchase from. She has no small directory of excellent artists to shop from and can’t wait to see how their businesses continue to thrive.

Pennsylvania’s CEA funds have been renewed with the next round of applications expected to open by the end of this year, and the SBDC team is eager to help even more local artists secure grants. Artists in Delaware and Philadelphia counties can contact the SBDC on their website.

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