Ben Hall was working at The Pennsylvania State University Applied Research Laboratory (ARL) when professor Dr. Jonathan Lynch approached him with an idea for manually dissecting plant roots for analysis. Due to Ben’s research expertise and involvement, the initial idea expanded into using lasers and a camera to construct 3D models of a species to capture quantifiable characteristics and measure fluorescence. With the idea and continued mentorship of Dr. Lynch, Ben decided to start a company, Lasers for Innovative Solutions (L4is). The company provides laser analysis services to universities and private research facilities in agriculture, advanced materials, and life sciences. Researchers can send in samples like roots, leaves, and stems, and L4is ablates the sample with the laser and provides clients data and findings.
As interest in the business grew, Ben saw an opportunity to expand the business and sell the equipment directly to research facilities for use in their own labs. In late 2019, Ben was referred to the Penn State Small Business Development Center (SBDC) and ultimately connected with business consultant, Will Hooten. Prior to working with the SBDC, Ben also worked with Ben Franklin Technology Partners of Central and Northern PA, a technology-based economic development program in the same ecosystem as Penn State, to raise funds for his business. With these funds and the support of Hooten, Ben was able to accelerate the growth of L4is.
Hooten helped Ben acquire industry research to learn current trends and build his sales strategy. Part of the strategy was to give L4IS’s website a facelift, so Will helped with website design and content creation. Later, the two developed specification sheets and pamphlets to distribute to potential customers.
It didn’t take long for interest in L4is’s equipment to build, so Ben decided to partner with a manufacturer. He identified a business in Belgium with a great reputation for high-quality engineering and manufacturing, and together they developed three units, one desktop model and two larger units the size of a refrigerator, each with unique capabilities. At that point, Ben worked with Hooten and Martin Brill from the Kutztown SBDC, an international trade specialist, to navigate import and export regulations and requirements.
The future looks bright for L4is. Units have already been sold to Penn State and Nottingham University, and there has been interest from many others. Ben and Hooten continue to develop L4is’s marketing and sales strategy.