By Alyse Horn-Pyatt
Being an entrepreneur comes with the understanding that stepping stones are required to take an idea from business plan to earning a profit, and support throughout that process can be crucial to the survival of a business.
This is something that Leigh Solomon Pugliano recognizes. As the founder and director of her own business Barrels to Beethoven, she made her first project as the Director of Opportunity for New Sun Rising to create Grow, a residency program for established business owners and the third tier of support for entrepreneurs that builds on the nonprofits Ignite and Launch programs.
The first iteration of Grow was from May through November and included six established female business owners. The bulk of the program consisted of weekly individualized consulting sessions with Pugliano accompanied by three group meetings over the course of six months. Each business also received a $2,000 award for their participation.
Through her experience engaging with the startup and entrepreneurship community, Pugliano saw “what was missing not just for me, but for the entrepreneurs that don’t meet the [criteria] for [support from] established program[s].”
Grow resident Casey Droege, owner of Small Mall and founder of Casey Droege Cultural Productions, said Pugliano’s leadership was “invaluable” for her businesses and the group sessions gave her the “rare opportunity to have a group of women going through similar obstacles get together and share information.”
“I’ve been through a lot of entrepreneurial development programs and artist development programs, and with [Pugliano] and New Sun Rising, there is a level of follow through that doesn’t happen in other places,” Droege said.
Droege has utilized New Sun Rising for over three years to build her businesses “because it’s the only [organization] that has kept by my side,” and said the creation and execution of the Grow program is “changing the way that Pittsburgh” supports entrepreneurs.
Gabrielle Haywood, a Grow resident and founder of Virginia Dere Swimwear, was also a participant in the Launch Wilkinsburg program. Haywood said through the accountability and camaraderie she experienced in the programs, she has benefited exponentially from her partnership with New Sun Rising. In the Grow program specifically, the support from Pugliano was “absolutely amazing.”
“I don’t think I would have gotten as far without her input and meeting consistently,” Haywood said.
Haywood was also able to get funding through a Grow Loan from New Sun Rising’s Vibrancy Funds, which allowed her to take her business to the next level in terms of manufacturing. In addition to providing low barrier loans between $5,000 and $35,000, over 30 organizations have received Vibrancy Funds support through a number of grant, award, and loan programs throughout the year.
Pugliano said she is planning to begin the next Grow program in the spring. For more information, email firstname.lastname@example.org. In addition to Casey Droege Cultural Productions and Virginia Dere Swimwear, participants in the 2018 Grow Residency included Black Tech Nation, Pearl Arts Studios, Prototype, and Tupelo Honey Teas. The program was supported through a grant from the Henry L. Hillman Foundation.