Juan Garrett of Riverside Center for Innovation leads a recent Ignite Northside workshop.
Together, Riverside Center for Innovation and New Sun Rising have sparked an entrepreneurial movement with Ignite Northside. Through a free 12-week program (“How to Start Your Own Business on the Northside”), RCI held two sessions per week from July through October, where budding entrepreneurs were guided in building business plans, and supplied information on credit recovery & restoration, the legalities & mechanics of starting a business, how to access capital, and more.
“Ignite Northside engages a number of emerging leaders & entrepreneurs, both internal & external to the Northside community, while preparing them to pilot, fund and implement their products & services,” said Juan Garrett, executive director for RCI.
Monique McCain heard about the program through a friend and thought it would be a great opportunity to hone her dream of owning a bed & breakfast in her Manchester home. Her house was built in 1884, and the idea spawned from her own travels. McCain said while staying at b&b’s, especially in Canada, she felt it was more personal & she was able to relax more than if she had stayed in hotels.
“[The workshops] force you to really look at all aspects [of your business]. Not just a segment of the picture, but the whole picture,” McCain said. “This class takes you from beginning to end & allow you to get all the knowledge you need to make a business plan.”
Garrett said more than 20 Northside residents were enrolled in the program, including some who participated in NSR’s Ignite Northside workshops. Since the program’s completion on October 13, those who were involved will continue to work with RCI on “identifying a Northside location & financing.”
“Riverside Center for Innovation, along with the University of Pittsburgh’s Institute of Entrepreneurial Excellence, will continue to provide one-on-one business counseling that leads to the success of the business,” Garrett said.
Brittany Coleman, who is currently a student in culinary school, has been building a specialty dessert business that will focus on “spiked” delicacies. Coleman said she had catered a friend’s birthday party and thought it would be interesting to use liquor in the ice cream she made for the event. Upon approval from everyone at the party, she decided to fixate on the niche market.
“I’ve always wanted to work for myself [but] it can be overwhelming,” Coleman said. “Where do you begin? [This program] has given me a step-by-step checklist. I’m not drowning, I’m not discouraged – I’m willing to take the risk because it doesn’t seem so impossible now.”
Coleman heard about the workshops through friend & fellow culinary student Yasmin Guy who is in the process of opening a business with her husband Aaron Bivins. The two also attended the 12-week program and want to focus on bringing affordable high-quality food to the northern Northside neighborhoods because “there is such a big need for that,” Guy said. Ideally the duo would like to work out of a food truck so they can travel to the neighborhoods in need, and eventually have gardens to grow fresh produce.
“The best part about the program to me is that we are never going to be left alone,” Guy said. “We are always going to have a counselor, and help from Riverside Center for Innovation and the University of Pittsburgh. It is amazing to have someone we can go to and help us even after we start our business.”
For more information on future programs, contact Ignite Northside Program Manager Ebony McQueen-Harris at email@example.com or Judy McNeil from the Diversity Business Resource Center at RCI at firstname.lastname@example.org.
The Ignite Northside program through New Sun Rising and Riverside Center for Innovation have been able to support and further entrepreneurial development in the Northside in partnership with the Buhl Foundation to help activate the One Northside Community Plan.