Lee Ann and Turtle Patterson are no strangers to entrepreneurship. For 10 years the couple owned and operated D.P. Dough, a well-known pizza shop in downtown State College, PA. But in 2007, the couple decided to take a break from the rigorous demands of running a business and sold the shop. After some time off, they were ready to take on a new venture in 2019 and started Party on Graphics, a promotional products business that catered to sororities and fraternities.
But when the COVID-19 pandemic hit, Party on Graphics’ operations came to a halt. The couple used the down time to sustain the company but also re-visit their entrepreneurial dreams. As the couple explored ventures that aligned with their vision, they recalled family vacations in North Carolina and their favorite beach treat: Sunset Slush. The gourmet shaved ice company’s laid-back brand resonated with the couple, and they knew the treat would be a hit in Centre County. In hopes of bringing a little bit of the beach to Happy Valley, the pair began to explore licensing agreements with Sunset Slush.
Lee Ann and Turtle ultimately applied for a licensing agreement with the company, and with their vast business experience and access to a unique market, the owners of Sunset Slush saw the couple as perfect partners. When pandemic restrictions lifted, the Pattersons traveled to North Carolina and spent a week with the owners learning what makes the company successful.
When they returned from the trip, Lee Ann and Turtle ordered the necessary operating equipment and set up weekly meetings with Penn State SBDC Business Consultant Elizabeth Hay to determine a launch strategy. They also worked with Penn State Entrepreneur Assistance Clinic to determine a name and operating structure, ultimately deciding on Sunset Slush of Happy Valley, which would operate as a DBA under Party on Graphics.
With continued support from Hay, the couple then navigated food license requirements, point-of-sale systems, marketing strategies, and business partnerships. “In just a few meetings, we had determined startup costs, monthly costs, and revenue projections, and our funding was in process,” said Patterson. “[Working with the SBDC] has been a wonderful experience so far.”
In May 2021, Lee Ann and Turtle hosted a ribbon-cutting event in downtown Bellefonte, PA. They were joined by members of their family and support system, representatives from Downtown Bellefonte Inc. and Pennsylvania State Representative Glenn Thompson’s office, and staff from the Penn State SBDC who were on hand to facilitate the event. The pair continued grand opening celebrations throughout the week, ultimately hosting nine separate events.
Lee Ann and Turtle are the perfect example of a pandemic pivot and the choices many entrepreneurs had to make in response to COVID-19. The Penn State SBDC looks forward to assisting Sunset Slush of the Happy Valley in this first year of operations and is confident of the couples’ continued success.