Success Stories

When America’s oldest ice cream company — Philadelphia’s Bassetts Ice Cream — first opened in1861, international product distribution was unthinkable. Founder Lewis Dubois Bassett, a Quaker school teacher and farmer, made and sold ice cream from his backyard using a mule-turned churn. But, over the four generations of family ownership that followed, the Bassetts grew their home-based business into a household name across the eastern United States. From Bassetts’  headquarters in Philadelphia’s historic Reading Terminal Market, the company won customers up  and down the East coast and as far west as Chicago. Thanks to Bassetts’ heirloom family recipe and nearly 150 years of dedicated work, national prominence was in sight, but exporting internationally remained completely off the radar screen. 

But, in 2008, everything changed — both for Bassetts and for ice cream lovers as far from its Philadelphia home base as China. That year marked Bassetts’ President Michael Strange’s... Read More

Pennsylvania Culinary Firm Writes Own Ticket for Success

Kathy Wolper has some advice for fellow-small business owners: take full advantage of every business-building opportunity. 

But, for Wolper, as with many small business owners, opportunity isn’t always easily recognized or easily tapped.  So, when opportunity seems out of reach, Wolper simply creates her own.  And, according to Wolper — with the right mix of research, passion, and tenacity — other small business owners can do the same.

Wolper founded her successful cooking instruction and specialty baking business — Kathy’s Just Desserts/Cooking Wizards — when her then-employer’s bankruptcy left her unemployed.  Wolper turned that unemployment into to opportunity when she used her technical training and elementary education experience to found a business based on her life-long passion: baking.  And, when Wolper faced the challenge of financing her firm’s growth, she, once again, created her own opportunity—this time, with the help of the SBA. 

Do What You Love... Read More

Not so very long ago, much of the storied Philadelphia Navy Yard lay dormant.  Once a vibrant hub of the nation’s maritime industry — employing 40,000 at its height during World War II and building and launching the likes of the battleship New Jersey into U.S. Naval service — the Yard closed in 1995, and 7,000 jobs were lost.  Although the Navy maintained some military facilities on the Yard’s western end post-closure, acre after desolate acre of the sprawling 1200 acre shipyard lay abandoned.  

For many, the decaying Navy Yard stood in silent testament to the broader decline of industrial America.  By the turn of the last century, untold numbers of industrial and manufacturing sector firms were shuttered in Philadelphia, alone.  Marketplace changes and foreign competition ravaged those sectors, and industry stalwarts like Rhoades Industries, a mechanical contracting and fabrication firm doing business in Philadelphia since 1938, were no exception.  

But endings often... Read More

Raising the bar—for herself, her employees, her patients and her community.  It is all in a day’s work for Lehigh Valley optometrist Sylvia Medina, O.D.  Drawing on her own life’s journey, which includes an incredible rise from 15-year-old high school drop out to well-respected optometrist, Dr. Medina’s life has been devoted to increasing access to healthcare, education and opportunity for otherwise struggling communities.  As the founder of the Lehigh Valley’s only Spanish-English bilingual optometry practice, Dr. Medina is making quality eye care attainable for a Spanish-speaking population that travels from as far as New York City to her Bethlehem, Penn. offices for treatment.  As a self-styled mentor for the patients and employees she sees every day, she is changing lives. 

From Dr. Medina’s own earliest years, the power of community environment and mentorship to change life’s path has been striking.  Dr. Medina’s youth was marked by teenage pregnancy, dropping out of... Read More