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by Phil Yacuboski

It’s no stretch to say Joy Zazerra enjoys running her own business as well as teaching yoga.

The former teacher and college athletics administrator is now the owner of ‘Yoga with Joy.’ Her studio is in Mayfield on the Scranton/Carbondale Highway.

“What I struggled with was finding the right location,” she said, “in affordability in both price and square footage and in visibility. I didn’t want to get in over my head.”

A new study from the Ewing Marion Kaufman Foundation found that entrepreneurs are struggling with far more in Pennsylvania. The business advocacy group based in Missouri recently found Pennsylvania is one of the worst states to start a business; it ranked as one of the worst for new entrepreneurs. Many argue it’s Pennsylvania’s tax structure and lack of infrastructure that bring down the numbers.

“I’m on the side of more positive,” said Lisa Hall-Zielinski, director of the Small Business Development Center, located at The University of Scranton, which serves eight counties in Northeast Pennsylvania. “I know there are obstacles, but I see so many things that are helping to make things easier.”

She explained many people get tangled in licensing and regulations. She added, however, that Pennsylvania recently made things easier by creating the One Stop Shop.

“It’s a website so that it’s simpler for people,” she said.

Hall-Zielinski said there are constant conversations between the counties they serve, the state and the city of Scranton about how to make the process easier.

“What really didn’t surprise me is the necessity entrepreneurs,” she said. “That’s because we have such a low unemployment rate. We also see entrepreneurships rise when unemployment is higher. They are driven to start a business to make life better.”

“I’m always intrigued to see how they (Kaufman) survey the landscape as a place to do business in Pennsylvania,” said Steve Stumbris, director of the Small Business Development Center at Bucknell University, which serves six counties in central Pennsylvania.

He said ‘results may vary.’

“We’ve had great success here,” he said. “I do see differences in what’s happening here locally compared to what is happening throughout the Commonwealth.”

He said those who are typically struggling with starting a business are often those the SBDC is not hearing from during the process.

“They will face the greatest challenge,” he said. “They simply don’t know about the resources out there to help them on a local, state and national level. It’s always my piece of advice to do research to educate themselves.”

Stumbris said in the past year, 31 new businesses have started in the Bucknell SBDC client area; he said they’ve helped more than 150 existing businesses with various regulation and loan programs.

Zazzera’s entrepreneurial spark came from the family’s business – Zazerra’s Grocery Store in Forest City. The business recently closed after it opened in 1976. She planned a year in advance of opening her studio in October after learning the ropes from a national yoga instructor in 2018. She’s at her studio five days a week and teaches as many as 15 classes a week.

“I have more good things to say about it than negative,” said Zazzera. “I felt very motivated from the get go and I felt super prepared.”

“There are a lot of people in local chambers of commerce and other organizations that will bend over backwards to help people get started,” said Hall-Zielinski. “If we all stick together and help each other, it really helps everyone.”

“We are here to help people start businesses,” said Stumbris, “and we’re also here to help them stay in business.”