The Future of Cultivate Lancaster – Supporting Entrepreneurship in Lancaster County   - Lancaster Chamber of Commerce
The Future of Cultivate Lancaster – Supporting Entrepreneurship in Lancaster County  
Chamber Updates, Thriving

by Nancy Keeler, Principal, Allium Development Group

Cultivate Lancaster’s mission is to inform, navigate, connect, and coordinate entrepreneurs with business resource providers to achieve prosperity and equitable economic growth across Lancaster County.  Cultivate Lancaster’s vision is to become Lancaster County’s recognized point of entry for entrepreneurs and organizations in the ecosystem, to provide equitable access to resources, and to inform strategies that drive a thriving and diverse business sector. 

To an outsider, Lancaster County and the City of Lancaster can feel big, but many locals know that this is a tightly knit community. This is why, in 2015, when the Lancaster City Alliance and ASSETS invited a group of small businesses to get together and talk about the local small business landscape, they were surprised that people did not know each other. This initial get together led the City Alliance and ASSETS to convene a few organizations who support small businesses and, yet again, few participants had ever been formally introduced. While local organizations who support small businesses were doing great work, beyond informal relationships, there was no mechanism for these organizations to talk to each other, collaborate, and strategically think about how to collectively support the local small business community.  

From these gatherings, a new collaboration began to loosely take form with the goals to decrease redundancies in programming, increase collaboration, and increase relational equity across organizations who support small businesses. The first point of business for the group was to map the resources that exist for small businesses. In 2017, ecosystem mapping exercises were occurring in developing nations, but the practice was not widely known or understood domestically. The group engaged Nancy Keeler, Allium Development Group, to map the ecosystem and identify recommendations for how the group could function. 

In the spring of 2020, the group was now known as Cultivate Lancaster Entrepreneurship Coalition and was able to collectively respond to the growing global crisis. Cultivate Lancaster became the central point of contact for the Small Business Administration (SBA) to relay information pertaining to small businesses’ recovery funds and access to federal programs. It played a key role in connecting and orchestrating a multi-organizational local grant and loan fund. The group met every week and then every month for over a year to discuss updates and plans around small business economic recovery and support.  

Covid confirmed the value of the collaboration, yet there was still a need for focus and strategy. In 2022, the group started a strategic planning process to solidify Cultivate Lancaster’s place and purpose in Lancaster County. That planning process has led to Cultivate Lancaster’s 2023-2025 Strategic Plan, brand refresh, and website relaunch. In addition, Cultivate Lancaster is now hosted by The Lancaster Chamber Foundation and directed by a Steering Committee with members representing ASSETS, Community First Fund, Lancaster City Alliance, Lancaster Chamber, SCORE Lancaster-Lebanon, and the City of Lancaster. The membership of the initiative includes a range of organizations and businesses all serving the needs of the local small business community.  

The vision for Cultivate Lancaster is to become Lancaster County’s recognized point of entry for entrepreneurs and organizations in the small business ecosystem, to provide equitable access to resources and to inform strategies that drive a thriving and diverse business sector. Cultivate Lancaster does this by marketing and promoting local small business resources and funding options, by creating  opportunities for feedback and participation in planning and development of those resources, and through thoughtfully curated events. Cultivate Lancaster also supports big-picture initiatives, such as tracking and managing data across organizations; weaving diversity, equity, and inclusion efforts throughout; and, taking on special projects as needed. The purpose behind all of the plans, goals, and activities is to improve small business success rates and to increase economic development in Lancaster County.  

How can you engage with Cultivate Lancaster?  

  • Attend Cultivate events and check out resources on the website, The next Cultivate event is scheduled for late summer 2023. 
  • Become a member of Cultivate and support the strategic and collaborative work of the initiative.  
  • Sponsor Cultivate and Cultivate events to help spread the word about all of the great local small business resources.  

The small business resources promoted by Cultivate Lancaster are open to all and include many free programs and services. For organizations, businesses, and others interested in promoting their offerings through Cultivate’s website and events, there are membership options. Membership is open to businesses, organizations, municipalities, educational institutions, and groups interested in supporting prosperity for small businesses in Lancaster County. Organizations and businesses are also welcome to support this valuable work by sponsoring events.  

Cultivate Lancaster is nationally a front runner on the work of intentional ecosystem building and coordinated collaboration. Cultivate Lancaster’s new strategic plan further solidifies Lancaster County as a thought leader in this work. For more information on Cultivate Lancaster check out the website,, or contact Tom Wallace at To learn more about ecosystem mapping and the planning process used for Cultivate Lancaster, contact Nancy Keeler at  


Nancy Keeler


Allium Development Group

This article was first printed in our Spring/Summer 2023 Edition of Thriving Magazine. You can read more here: Lancaster Chamber Thriving Magazine

Join small business owners and the organizations who support you for First Friday drinks and appetizers, a tour of the new Lancaster Public Library’s Business & Reference Center, and display of the newly updated Cultivate Lancaster website.

  • Connect: Meet with local small business owners
  • Collaborate: Partner to find the business resources you need
  • Grow: Access supports to scale your business

“The Future of Cultivate” event is sponsored by the Lancaster Public Library and the Economic Development Corporation of Lancaster County. The initiative is sponsored by the Lancaster County Community Foundation, Lancaster Chamber Foundation, and the Commonwealth of Pennsylvania, Department of Community and Economic Development. It is led by a steering committee with membership from ASSETS, the City of Lancaster, Community First Fund, Lancaster Chamber, Lancaster City Alliance, and SCORE Lancaster-Lebanon along with a growing list of over 20 member organizations.

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