From the video recap of Ignite Northside 2016, shot by Pittsburgh Tall.
The spirit of innovation and entrepreneurship was thriving on November 19 when Ignite Northside held a showcase and celebration for program participants at the Pittsburgh Project, 2801 N. Charles St.
During the first half of the event, five Igniters participated in a pitch competition where two were able to win $500 towards furthering their mission of elevating Northside communities. Attendees of the celebration were able to vote for their favorite pitch; the winners were Giannie Braafhart and Kenny Chen.
Braafhart came to the stage with Social System Development, an interpretation and translation service for businesses and nonprofits. She said there are communities of people who are moving to Pittsburgh and the Northside, but are not proficient in the English language and it is hard for them to understand what is being said in social situations. Braafhart is a skilled interpreter and has been an independent contractor with Pittsburgh Public Schools for the past three years. She has created trusting relationships with families and gave examples of the need for her services, like when a Latino woman called her in a panic saying that her child’s school wouldn’t take her money and sign her child up for a program. The woman didn’t understand why, and by handing the phone back and forth it was then understood that the child was young enough to enter the program for free.
“We need to start building bridges in our communities,” Braafhart said.
“The best way to invest is in people.”
The $500 that Braafhart won will be used to help pay for transportation to and from the homes of those in need of a translator and the time she spends with them at their destination. She has also applied for other grants so she can fund research to find out where the Latino communities are on the Northside. In the next two to three months, Braafhart is hoping to help at least 40 families and aid them with communicating and integrating into their surroundings.
“The intention is to work together to better communities and bring people in from every angle,” Braafhart said.
The second winner Kenny Chen, co-founder of involveMINT with Daniel Little, started the business with the intention of awarding those who donate time to better communities. Through volunteering hours with businesses and nonprofits, people are able to garner TimeCredits that can be used at local participating businesses on the Northside.
“People like yourself are how involveMINT was inspired and created,” Chenn said during his pitch.
Currently, involveMINT has partnered with Light of Life: Rescue Mission, 10 E. North Ave., which serves the homeless and marginalized demographics of the Northside. Volunteers with LOL can redeem TimeCredits at James Street Gastropub, 422 Foreland St.; Photo Antiquities Museum of Photographic History, 531 E. Ohio St.; and Venture Outdoors locations.
“Every interaction with Ignite Northside and One Northside has been an exciting and warm collaboration environment where you can feel comfortable and expect something good is going to happen,” Chenn said. “Today was definitely good.”
The pitch competition was followed by “Mentor Madness: Speed Date an Expert,” where entrepreneurs were given time to connect and collaborate for a chance to pitch and win another $500. Anne George, creator of the Yellow Glove Project, won the collaboration prize, which was decided on by a panel of judges.
George partnered with Northside Common Ministries to create the Yellow Glove Project, which helps offset the items that are not covered by food stamps through the Northside Food Pantry, i.e., cleaning and feminine hygiene products. As a member of the Allegheny Elks Lodge and a food pantry volunteer, George has now applied for and received two $10k grants from the Elks National Foundation to help fund the project. The $500 will go towards extending the supplies for the food pantry and continuing to help people not have to choose between paying rent, utilities, or having a clean home.
Those who competed in the pitch competition received T-shirts from North Shore Teez, 605 E. Ohio St. with a “Spirit of Innovation” design created by artist Chris Brown. Food was provided by Café on the Corner, 2700 Shadeland Ave.
The night opened with a short video created by Ryan Haggerty of Pittsburgh Tall and Haggerty Media, documenting the Ignite Northside journey with feedback from participants over the past several months. After the viewing, Ignite Northside program manager Ebony McQueen-Harris, said the video brings light to the great things that are happening on the these 18 Pittsburgh neighborhoods.
“Look around, this is your support. You can dig deeper. You don’t have to travel, you don’t have to wander, your support is here,” McQueen-Harris said.
The Ignite Northside program through New Sun Rising and Riverside Center for Innovation have been able to support 58 program participants and further entrepreneurial development in the Northside in partnership with the Buhl Foundation to help activate the One Northside Community Plan.