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Why I Built My Business in Pennsylvania

"As a creative small business, I couldn't think of a better place to be."

By Brittany Anas on June 2, 2020

Skippack / Jason Craparo

When entrepreneurs choose where to launch their businesses, they consider important factors like the local startup culture, entrepreneurial support and mentorship, and a quality talent pool. But smart leaders don’t overlook other amenities like affordable housing and fun things to do when they’re not at work. Are there museums to explore, home teams to cheer for, and cool happy hour spots to unwind after a hard day? Countless business owners have found that Pennsylvania strikes an ideal balance. Here they can grow their businesses and enjoy their downtime while embracing the state’s motto: “Work smart. Live happy.”

We talked with the founders of five thriving businesses about why they chose to launch and grow their dream careers in Pennsylvania. Here’s what they had to say – and why you might want to join their ranks…

Philadelphia / Hilary Young

Hilary Young

Founder of Hilary Young Creative, established in Jan. 2015 

Location: Philadelphia 

Employees: 1, but regularly hires freelancers and contractorsYoung provides content strategy, brand messaging and marketing messaging services to small and medium-sized businesses. She also works with female entrepreneurs as a marketing and branding coach to help them work through the process of launching a new business or rebranding an existing one. She began Hilary Young Creative when she was seven months pregnant and working full-time with a medical device company. “While I acknowledge that it was nutty of me to launch a business before also launching into motherhood for the first time, I was just incredibly determined to create a work-life situation that was balanced on my own terms,” Young says. “It’s hands down the best thing I’ve ever done.†After her daughter was born, she signed more clients and transitioned fully to self-employment. She’s planted roots in Philadelphia where she’s raising two girls, ages two and five.

What do you love about doing business in Pennsylvania? “I moved to Philly from NYC in 2011 and fell hard for the city of Philadelphia. I found that without the manic hustle and bustle of New York City, I had more freedom to pursue my creative passions. Many people who don’t live or spend a lot of time in Philly don’t know what a creative vibe the city has. From being surrounded by public art, to incredible restaurants and bars, to awesome small music venues – Philly has a way of inspiring people, but also giving them enough space to create. As a creative small business, I couldn’t think of a better place to be.”

Best coffee shop for a meeting: “I can’t just pick one! I live and work in Queen Village, which is an incredible neighborhood. Depending on my mood, I’ll ask people to meet me at Philadelphia Java Company, where they have wonderful homemade zucchini bread, or Red Hook for healthy, fresh food and great tea.

What’s next for your business? “I am working on eventually developing webinars or courses for people who need help with content and marketing, but don’t have the budget to hire a consultant like me to be hands-on with them. This would be a way for me to guide them through the process in a way that works with their budget.”

Best business advice you ever got: “I received an invaluable piece of advice from a good friend and fellow entrepreneur, Amanda Alappat, years ago and it has never left me. She told me to learn to let go easily, trusting that nothing good will ever leave my life unless something better is coming. It truly applies to every situation, in life and in business.”

Jenkintown / Leza Raffel

Leza Raffel

Founder of Communication Solutions Group, established in Sept. 1992

Location: Jenkintown

Employees: 10

As a full-service public relations and marketing firm, Communication Solutions Group has established itself as a firm to call for crisis communication. “We are great at helping the public understand information that is complicated or controversial,” Raffel says. Many of her clients are school districts, municipalities, trade associations and nonprofit organizations. “We are great at telling ‘good news,’ too,” she says. 

What do you love about doing business in Pennsylvania? “Pennsylvania’s colleges produce some super-talented and savvy students. About 100 of them have interned with me and I have hired quite a few over the years. I also love that our state has such a nice balance of large and small businesses and is supportive to women-owned companies.”

Why did you decide to start your business in Jenkintown? “My husband and I were living in Philly and sharing a car. I needed a location on the train tracks so I could commute to work that way if the car was not available. Jenkintown was an adorable little town so here I am. I am more than just a business owner in Jenkintown, however. I also own the building that I operate my company out of, I provide PR for the volunteer fire department and the borough; I eat, shop and breathe this town. It is a great place.

Best coffee shop for a meeting: “White Horse Coffee & Creamery – they grow their own beans, they have non-dairy dessert options and you always see people you know there.”

What’s next for your business? “Get out of quarantine and have a celebration with my staff with Indian food delivery from Lilly’s.”

Philadelphia / Jamie Norwood (left) and Cynthia Plotch (right)

Jamie Norwood and Cynthia Plotch

Co-founders of Stix, established in Feb. 2019

Location: Philadelphia

Employees: 2 full-time, 5 part-time

Business partners Jamie Norwood and Cynthia Plotch got the idea to start Stix after Cynthia had an awkward experience running into her boyfriend’s mother while at a pharmacy buying a pregnancy test. “Extremely embarrassed, I called Jamie and we started talking about pregnancy tests and other women’s health products,†Plotch says. “We realized that women shouldn’t have to experience these awkward moments when buying essential products.†The two had worked together previously at a start-up, and dreamed of opening their own business. They combined their passion for women’s health and solving consumer problems to launch Stix, which discreetly ships pregnancy and ovulation tests.

What do you love about doing business in Pennsylvania? “We love working in Philadelphia because of its tight-knit community of entrepreneurs. We also have access to the perks of living in a big city close to New York but with the community and camaraderie that comes with smaller cities,†Norwood says. Plotch is a graduate of the University of Pennsylvania and both she and Norwood are alums of the Venture for America fellowship, which is for recent college graduates who want to become startup leaders and entrepreneurs.

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Best coffee shop for a meeting: “We’re huge fans of Shot Tower in Queen Village! They have the best natural light and killer playlists,†Plotch says.

Best local happy hour spot: Sunday School at Tria is the best! They have the best selections of wine, cheese and beer. It’s a great way to learn about wine and expand our palettes without breaking the bank,†Norwood says.

What’s a compliment you hear about your business that feels great? “We are so happy when we hear that Stix has helped our customers have peace of mind,†Norwood says. “Our mission is to provide women with a comfortable, judgment-free space to buy women’s health products so we love it when we hear that we’re doing just that.”

Hanover / Carnie Fryfogle III

Carnie Fryfogle III

CEO of C3 American Exteriors, established in Oct. 2017

Location: Hanover

Employees: 27

Carnie Fryfogle III was selling real estate when he learned there was a high demand for qualified and trustworthy contractors. As a third-generation contractor, he established C3 American Exteriors in 2017. Led by Fryfogle, a 26-year-old CEO, the company has grown from $2.2 million to $7 million in revenue in just a few years.

What do you love about doing business in Pennsylvania? “Our corporate office is based in Pennsylvania, and we have a lot of Pennsylvania-based employees. It feels great to service our local hometowns and communities. Being a local member of the community and going to a local high school playing sports allowed me to use my name and reputation in a business aspect that helped to catapult my career.â€

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Best local happy hour spot: “The burgers at Staub’s Landing are a go-to.”

What’s next for your business? “Continuing to grow our customer base in different markets, up and down the East coast, and continuing growth until we are one of the top leaders in our industry.”

Skippack / Jason Craparo

Jason Craparo

Founder of Hio, established in Jan. 2015

Location: Skippack

Employees: 14

Virtual hangouts and events have become a new norm. But even before the pandemic, Hio was connecting people virtually around the world for networking events. As an event platform and networking app, Hio users can sell tickets to their events, invite past attendees to future events and allow attendees to have conversations before, during and after events. Amid the COVID-19 shutdowns, Hio announced new features such as “Virtual Lounge” and “Network Now†to allow people to socialize while sheltering in place. The company’s founder Jason Craparo got married after graduate school, and his wife is from Philadelphia. Starting his company in Pennsylvania was a natural choice, he says: He’s close to New York City and Washington City, but enjoys an affordable cost of living and the state has a pipeline of top-notch talent.

What do you love about doing business in Pennsylvania? “I have met some amazing entrepreneurs that are collaborative, accepting and very supportive of others here


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Best coffee shop for a meeting? Bluestone Lane’s Rittenhouse Square Cafe. It’s quiet, they make great coffee and I love the avocado toast.

Best local happy hour spot? “Bar Bombon in Rittenhouse has amazing cocktails and awesome veggie tacos. My favorite are the buffalo cauliflower ones but they have several types of veggie tacos – and empanadas, too.â€

What’s next for your business? “We’re doubling down on all things virtual. Right now folks are having to rely on video conferencing tools to ‘network virtually’ but that’s not networking; that’s talking with audio and video. We have two virtual networking tools and are rolling out two more in the coming month. The goal is to truly mimic the networking and relationship-building people do in real life, but in a virtual setting.”

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