Greater Hazleton is developing into a thriving entrepreneurial ecosystem in part because of the collaborations and partnerships between members of The Hazleton Innovation Collaborative (THInC) and other local and regional organizations. The partnership between CAN DO and Penn State’s Hazleton LaunchBox Supported by Pasco L. Schiavo,Esq. has resulted in a dream of one local entrepreneur finally becoming a reality.
Charlee Murdock has worked in the beauty industry for two decades as a hair colorist and self-described struggling single mom with three children. As a result, she has a unique perspective of someone who understands how difficult it can be for salon owners to fund their own shop as well as how costly it can be for people to afford even simple beauty services. That's how Murdock got the idea for Project Headway.
“Project Headway has been a dream of mine for decades. The goal of Project Headway is to help people make headway in their lives – using the beauty industry,” Murdock said. “Instead of the idea of the industry being used for vanity, I believe it can be used to help restore confidence and give a person the needed push to walk into a new endeavor, such as a job interview or their first day of school, feeling like they look the part.”
Murdock said the plan is to build a for-profit product manufacturing company with a focus on philanthropy, similar to the philanthropic efforts of national footwear company TOMS® Shoes.
Murdock added, “Through the sale of our future product line to professional salons, we hope to use a portion of the proceeds to open suites for salon owners to offer free, full-service beauty services to people in need and looking to enter the workforce or apply for school. Our goal is to provide not only beauty services but provide individuals with skills and clothing to look and perform their best as they make a change in their life.”
Murdock had the idea but she needed the business guidance and funding. So, when she was unemployed for the first time in her career during the height of the COVID-19 pandemic, she used that time to start researching different ways to obtain start-up funding for a business and found the CAN BE Innovation Center.
She sent an email to CAN DO Director of Economic Development, Jocelyn Sterenchock, who subsequently connected her with Bill Andahazy, Penn State Entrepreneurship Education Coordinator with the Hazleton LaunchBox.
Murdock said working with Sterenchock and Andahazy to launch her idea has been an amazing experience.
“Jocelyn not only listened to my idea, she connected me with an entire network of people who helped me refine the idea and bring it to life,” Murdock said. “Bill at the LaunchBox is absolutely phenomenal and has been instrumental in guiding this project to the path it’s on today.”
Murdock stated that she is grateful there are resources for entrepreneurs like CAN BE and the Hazleton LaunchBox in the Greater Hazleton area and she encourages others to reach out for help if they have a start-up idea.
“I wish someone had told me about them years ago! That’s why I’m telling everyone I come across. Life is about sharing opportunities for success. These programs exist and can absolutely change a person’s life. I cannot wait to see what my future holds and it’s all thanks to CAN DO, the LaunchBox and Penn State University.” she said.
Although Project Headway is just getting started and Murdock is still working on product prototypes, she has already conducted a haircut event at Faith Assembly of God Church in Weatherly and even traveled to HOME Church in Mastic Beach, New York. Murdock said she's excited to get the initiative underway.
“Currently, we’re setting up small outreach events to provide beauty services, simply because we saw a need and could not wait for our prototypes to be released next year to help the community,” she said.
For more information on how you can volunteer or donate money towards products and travel expenses, please visit Project Headway's soon-to-launch website at www.projectheadway.com or follow the Facebook page at https://www.facebook.com/ProjectHeadwayLLC.