Alvernia students gain access to micro lending training to support local entrepreneurs through an expanded partnership between the university and Visions Federal Credit Union. The partnership will award the university’s O’Pake Institute for Economic Development and Entrepreneurship a multiyear sponsorship grant to fund training for students and clients in the institute’s student-powered business incubator.
“We are grateful for Visions’ partnership and its support of experiential learning for our business students and our O’Pake fellows while helping us to support new business creation in Reading,” said Alvernia University President John R. Loyack. “Their belief in the Reading CollegeTowne initiative as a catalyst for change for Reading provides a wonderful opportunity to ensure we can support the creation of new business in our community.”
Visions will train students in the O’Pake Fellows Program on what financial institutions look for in startup businesses seeking micro loans. This valuable information is critical to entrepreneurs seeking funding and provides the Fellows with real-world knowledge. In addition, the credit union will also work with incubator clients on entrepreneurial lending opportunities and will look to implement financial literacy training across the campus community.
“Securing funding is a critical component of the entrepreneurial process,” said Vice President, Associate Provost and Chief Operating Officer of the O’Pake Institute, Dr. Rodney Ridley. “By guiding the student fellows and local entrepreneurs in the business incubator, Visions will have a major impact on the economic development activity in downtown Reading.”
The O’Pake business incubator has already served over 50 clients since its launch last year and continues to help new businesses navigate the challenges brought about by the COVID-19 pandemic.
“We are proud to support and educate the student fellows and entrepreneurs through our partnership with Alvernia University,” said Visions Federal Credit Union Director of Impact & Engagement, Lizette Epps. “Financial literacy really is more than just providing education, it is about building confidence. Our goal at Visions is to enable entrepreneurs to be in control of their financial future and take responsibility for every dollar, whether it be for sourcing funds or maintaining the books, all while avoiding some of the pitfalls new businesses may fall into.”
O’Pake serves as the catalyst for educational and business expansion in center city Reading. In addition to the partnership with Visions, O’Pake has secured partnerships with SCORE Berks Schuylkill Chapter, Lehigh Valley Angel Investors, Kutztown University’s Small Business Development Center and Ben Franklin Technology Partners of Northeastern Pennsylvania, as well as the institute’s initial group of sponsors, Pepsi®, Customers Bank, the Wyomissing Foundation, RKL, LLP and the Berks Alliance.
In January, Alvernia started a $20 million renovation project on its newly acquired building at 401 Penn Street, which will serve as the hub of Reading CollegeTowne, a strategic model for economic development in downtown. The downtown location is also where the new O’Pake offerings will operate.