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Grant supports minority business owners in Wilkinsburg

The Wilkinsburg Community Development Corporation recently secured funding to implement a Business Image Improvement Fund, which will offer support to African American business owners within Wilkinsburg's Central Business District.
 
Projects that the fund may support include renovating a storefront, developing a sign or logo and establishing an online presence. The program was created in response to feedback from Wilkinsburg’s business community.
 
Funding for the Business Image Improvement Fund was provided in part by a grant from the Poise Foundation, a local organization that assists Pittsburgh’s black community in achieving self-sustaining practices through strategic leadership, collective giving, grant making and advocacy.
 
Leslie Parr, owner of Wilkinsburg-based Shining Stars Creative Childcare & Learning Center, is one of several business owners who support the Business Image Improvement Fund. She explained, “The WCDC has supported my aspirations of owning my own business … The WCDC works diligently with businesses in the Wilkinsburg community to successfully match resources and programs to businesses’ needs.”
 
Jennifer Salmans, WCDC program coordinator, explained that business owners have requested assistance with purchasing a storefront sign or improvements like updating interiors that maybe haven’t been renovated in 10 years. Salmans said chosen applicants will meet with a consultant to approve the improvement project.
 
“The goals are to do improvements that will enhance the appearance of the business,” she said, noting that the WCDC has an end goal of improving the Central Business District as a whole.
 
The Poise Foundation’s $5,000 donation has launched the program and, Salmans says, the WCDC is grateful. She added that she would like to see the fund grow to reach $50,000 with help from other donors. If the fund does expand, Salmans said the WCDC may open up the program to all Wilkinsburg Central Business District storeowners.
 
The Business Image Improvement Fund will be available in early 2015 and will be dispersed through an application process. Applicants must be already-existing businesses operating in Wilkinsburg’s Central Business District. Interested applicants should contact Jennifer Salmans at (412) 727-7855 or jennifer@wilkinsburgcdc.org for more information and an application.
 
Source: Jennifer Salmans, WCDC

Non-profit helps veterans find much needed resources

The more than 97,000 veterans in Allegheny County now have a new tool to help them find necessary resources once they return home.

Checkpoint, a new organization created by Pittsburgher and Iraq War veteran Jared Souder, is a web platform that provides a database of veteran-friendly resources, as well as reviews and feedback by fellow veterans to help future veterans make informed decisions about the outlets they seek for services.

“The idea for Checkpoint really came out of my own frustration with the fragmentation of resources in the Veterans’ space and the incredible effort required of veterans or military family members who were trying to find the right things,” says Souder. “I spent four years working with homeless veterans as the head of a local agency and even as someone who worked in this field full-time and knew a lot about what was going in, I would still run into roadblocks and come up with a lot of unanswerable questions. I kept saying to myself that there’s got to be a more effective way.”

Checkpoint helps alleviate some of this frustration by bringing together the vast world of veteran services into one, easy to access platform that empowers veterans to have a voice in their own community.  Checkpoint users can identify specific providers serving specific needs like career advancement, medical care, and more.

Although there are national databases that provide similar information, Souder says they lack a local presence and ultimately have little local visibility and support. Local agencies also compile their own lists of contacts, but these lists are only affective if the veteran is already connected with the agency. According to Souder, Checkpoint will help bridge the gap.

“We’ve got the touch and presence of a local agency because we’re part of the local community, but we’re using a lot of the same sorts of technology that you’ll see with commercial information aggregators like Yelp! And Angie’s List,” says Souder.

So far, the response from the veterans’ community has been appreciative.

“I think within the veteran community, there’s been a recognition for a long time that this ahs been a problem, but nothing has really been able to fill the void effectively,” says Souder. “When I go out and talk about what we’re doing, I constantly have people coming up to me and telling me how they needed this and how excited they are to see it develop.”

Although Souder is the founder of Checkpoint, he says the organization wouldn’t have been possible without the support of The Heinz Endowments who provided him with the financial resources he needed to get Checkpoint moving, as well as connections and expertise.

“I can safely say that without them this would still be just an idea in my head,” he says.

Souder says he’s also received significant support from organizations like Steel City Vets, Team Red, White & Blue, and The Mission Continues.

While Checkpoint will start out as a very local resource, Souder has big plans for the organization.

“I absolutely think what we’re doing has the potential to impact communities all over the United States, so in my heart I believe that we’ll expand, but right now we’re really just trying to fine tune our model and processes here in Pittsburgh so we can make sure we have the best, most positive impact in southwest Pennsylvania.“

In these infant stages of the organization, financial support and awareness are vital to Checkpoint’s success. To help on both of these fronts, the organization is hosting an event Oct. 3-5 called The Crucible. This event will be a three-day, 70-mile extreme hike through the Pennsylvania Laurel Highlands Trail.

“The event is designed to bring together a group of veterans and civilians and simulate perspectives, support and mirror some of the challenges and conditions veterans face on a daily basis,” says Souder.

Visit www.thecheckpoint.org to learn more about what Checkpoint is doing for the Veterans of southwest Pennsylvania.

85 Broads renames and rebrands to Ellevate

The Pittsburgh chapter of the global organization 85 Broads recently announced the organization’s transition to a new name and branding. The entire organization is now called Ellevate and features a more modern look and additional tools and resources for its chapters across the globe.

Ellevate Pittsburgh made the announcement at a recent networking event held at Savoy along with Young Professional Women in Energy to benefit Special Spaces Pittsburgh Metro.

"We decided to use the opportunity to share the news of what exactly changed with the organization with the crowd of members and nonmembers at the event," says Kristina Martin, Events Assistant for Ellevate Pittsburgh. "It was an educational opportunity. We brought fliers and promotional pieces and our president addressed the crowd and we answered guests questions."

Ellevate is an organization for women “trailblazers” who want to advance in their career and lives surrounded by likeminded women who can relate and help them reach their goals. The organization was designed to provide women a global network of backing and ensure that women realize they can succeed professionally. Ellevate has more than 40 regional chapters and campus clubs in 130 countries.

“Ellevate uses the term ‘women trailblazers’ to describe females who are driven and dedicated,” says Martin. “These women want to make leaps and bounds and land on top in their respective fields. They want to propel forward, so they devise a plan for how they’re going to do just that.”

Membership includes women of all ages and in all professional stages.

“Membership is across the board,” says Martin. “We attract everyone from high school and college students to senior level professionals. You’ll find there’s an energy you can’t fake here and the women you meet genuinely wish to share advice, help make connections and lend a hand.”

Beyond the new name, the new Ellevate also features new membership levels, an updated website, new promotional materials and updated methods and capabilities for communication to aid local chapters in better informing the public about Ellevate and what the organization can do for its members.

“The organization has tweaked its membership levels and added a new category called ‘entrepreneur’ to keep up with the times and cater to the ladies of 2014,” says Martin. “The updated look of the website and the ability to feature local members on the website are also bonuses.”

For 2014-15, Ellevate Pittsburgh is hoping to hit the ground running with its new branding and introduce some new programming including skill share sessions, a second story slam, a daylong unconference, and one-on-one sessions with experts in various fields.

“More than that though, we truly want to bring together women in the name of fun and empowerment, and I mean that,” says Martin.

For more information, follow Ellevate on twitter @EllevatePIT

Pittsburgh Public Market launches Kickstarter for a shared use kitchen

Pittsburgh Public Market, a non-profit founded by Neighbors in the Strip, launched a Kickstarter campaign to garner the last bit of funds needed to launch The Market Kitchen, a commercial kitchen space to help local food businesses grow at their own pace.

Approximately $600,000 has already been secured for the project thanks to the Mary Hillman Jennings Foundation, the Allegheny County Development Community Infrastructure and Tourism Fund, and the US Department of Health and Human Services Office of Community Service. With the help of the Kickstarter campaign, Pittsburgh Public Market hopes to raise an additional $10,000 for the project. The campaign will end on July 31 and this last bit of funding will be used for construction necessary to finish the space.

Plans for the kitchen have been a long time coming according to Kelly James, Kitchen Manager at the Pittsburgh Public Market.

“Neighbors in the Strip recognized the impact that The Market Kitchen project would have on Pittsburgh Public Market and began planning the shared use kitchen in 2005,” she says. “Like starting any other business, feasibility and funding had to be considered from every angle. We also obtained the ideal space for the project when Pittsburgh Public Market moved to 2401 Penn Avenue.”

According to Kelly, the food industry can be extremely challenging for entrepreneurs and often requires substantial loans and a brick and mortar location to retail from. Other than La Dorita’s shared use kitchen in Sharpsburg, food entrepreneurs who can’t afford their own private space are left scrambling for rental spaces in local churches or community centers and these types of rentals are often unpredictable in scheduling.

“The Market Kitchen offers an alternative to sky high rent and utility bills,” she says. “Kitchen members will also have the opportunity to benefit from being able to utilize Pittsburgh Public Market to retail and market their product. They will be able to build their brand at their own pace. Personal chefs and cake decorators will have a home to base their business from, food trucks can use the kitchen as their commissary kitchen, and even existing businesses that have the need for more prep space can benefit. Best of all, the members of The Market Kitchen will be part of a supportive community of chefs.”

Groundbreaking for the kitchen will happen in the next couple of weeks and it's hoped the kitchen will be ready for use in late August or early September. Once completed, the fully licensed commercial kitchen will include brand new, high quality equipment, onsite cold and dry storage, and loading dock access.

The Market Kitchen will be able to accommodate four users at a time and will be available to rent 24 hours a day, 7 days a week. Bookings are already being made for the space and several businesses already have permanent schedules in place.

“I will be curious to see how many businesses we will be able to support,” James says. “At this stage we are seeing so many differing needs and schedules and we will continue to plug in users until the schedule is completely full.”

For more information about The Market Kitchen project and Kickstarter campaign, visit https://www.kickstarter.com/projects/1607216439/the-market-kitchen-is-a-food-entrepreneurs-dream-c
 

CMU grads develop smartphone case to prevent sexual violence

After three roommates at Carnegie Mellon University each had friends fall victim to sexual violence, they decided to do something about it.

Alan Fu, Jayon Wang and Siri Ramos founded the company Lifeshel after they graduated in October 2013. The company’s first product is called Whistl, a mobile alert system smartphone case that emits sound at 120 decibels that can be heard up to 300 feet away. The sound is comparable to the level of noise from a rock concert. The case, when partnered with the Lifeshel mobile application, will alert the case owner’s family and authorities that they are in trouble.

“This product is important to us because we feel the problem deeply,” says Ramos, the company’s chief technology officer. “While attending school, all three of us had close friends that experienced sexual violence. This made us realize that this problem doesn't only happen to friends, and that it could just as easily happen to our siblings, parents, and children. We’ve created this product for them and anyone else who has experienced sexual violence.”

Ramos added that sexual violence is a topic that has been gaining attention in the media and is hopeful this increased publicity will help incite change and that Lifeshel can help.

“In the past few months, the problem of sexual assault has finally been gaining massive media attention,” says Ramos. “It is a welcome sight to see people taking action to stop it. However, it is a problem that has existed in our society for way too long. Lifeshel aims to protect people and communities via our brand and our smartphone cases. Our cases are the equivalent of a home or auto security system except for your person.”

Although there are traditional forms of self-protection like whistles or pepper spray, Ramos believes that Lifeshel products are more likely to be carried by individuals and can harness the powerful features of smartphones to aid in the case of an attack.

“Whistl is always on your smartphone, so it is always on you,” says Ramos. “In our age of constant connectivity, hardly anyone forgets their phone. In fact, most people always know where their phone is 24/7. This is in stark contrast to traditional self-defense solutions that get buried at the bottom of purses or left at home.”

The mobile application Lifeshel has developed will work in conjunction with the case to send automatic notifications to loved ones, friends and police when the alert noise is activated and will also include features like location notifications, a strobing flash to disorient attackers and automatic sound and video recording to be used as evidence.

“Our app and network will enable helpful locals to protect their community against sexual assault,” says Ramos. “This means that if you are ever in a panic situation, people on our network will be able to get to you and help you, even before the police can. This will be the difference between actual prevention versus simply dealing with the aftermath of a painful event.”

The Whistl smart phone case and Lifeshel mobile application are currently in the prototype phase of development. They hope to start testing the prototypes with college students in Pittsburgh.

After successfully launching Whistl, Lifeshel hopes to develop additional personal safety smartphone cases like a case that includes a pepper spray feature without being bulky or cumbersome.

More information about Lifeshel can be found at www.lifeshel.com or by following the company on Twitter at www.twitter.com/lifeshel.
 

Idea Foundry aims to bring awareness to the virtues of impact investing

It’s been tough to get investors to sit still for business ideas that also have a social or environmental mission, says Nicole Muise-Kielkucki, business manager for social enterprise at Idea Foundry, Inc., the nonprofit economic development agency in Oakland.
 
But a few years ago, Idea Foundry began to get more and more applicants whose business ideas had a social enterprise – a mission to do good. Idea Foundry thought that was great. “But when they present their story,” Muise-Kielkucki says of these prospective startups, “a lot of traditional investor-types kind of tune out."
 
“We need to attract a different type of investor,” she says. “There are very few impact investors in Pittsburgh.”
 
Idea Foundry is hoping to bring more awareness to the benefits of financing socially aware companies, known as impact investing. Their InterSector program, which coaches and gives early funds to such companies is taking applications for its third round of funding, due April 15. Partnering with Pittsburgh Venture Capital Association, it is hosting a panel discussion with experienced impact investors from other cities and three local social entrepreneurs.
 
The April 8 lunch event at the Duquesne Club will feature Eric Weinberg, founder and CEO of Impact Capital Strategies, LLC, and Jacob Gray of the Wharton Social Impact Initiative.
 
Large global foundations have long attempted impact investing, but trying to get venture capitalists to go for such projects is the aim of this event. It will highlight the success other cities are seeing already.
 
“We want to get past some of the misconceptions about social enterprises,” says Muise-Kielkucki. “We are aiming to show that there is a strong business case” for it. Pittsburgh in particular, she concludes, “is ripe for this.”
 
Writer: Marty Levine
Source: Nicole Muise-Kielkucki, Idea Foundry

DATA award finalist AGLogic seeks to help kids communicate in a safe space

AGLogic’s latest creation – one of 75 finalists worldwide for the 2014 Design, Art and Technology Award (DATA) from Pittsburgh Technology Council – is being tested as a way to help avoid future tragedy.
 
According to C. Scott Gilbert, the company’s founder and director, a participant in a large youth group at a local megachurch had committed suicide without the child’s fellow youth-group members or the child’s parents understanding why, until private journals were discovered. The church wanted to create a way for its youth group members to reach out in a friendly environment with concerns and troubles, so that no one would suffer in silence in the future.
 
The church asked AGLogic to create a private social network whose members can invite future members, fostering a trust among participants.The solution was So Communique:The Responsive Social Network. It has a “safe zone” to ask anonymous questions –which will be answered anonymously.
 
Kids who use the network, which is still in beta, can ask questions about difficult issues, says Gilbert, and “trust the response because it came back from the trusted source” – members of the network designated to handle the queries. “For kids, it’s a non-threatening way for them to ask questions.”
 
The social network is getting close to launch, being tested in churches, coffeeshops, individual families and even a suicide prevention hotline. Once available, it will be free to nonprofits with 100 or fewer users, as well as to families of five or fewer.
 
“We are absolutely delighted” to be a DATA finalist, Gilbert adds. “That’s going to give us a chance to meet a lot of people, and we are in good company. The DATA is a big deal to us and we’re honored.”
 
One of many local and statewide finalists, AGLogic is headquartered in Brookville, 16 miles from Punxsutawney.  
 
Other local finalists include a Fred Rogers Company/Schell Games collaboration, Wing Ma’am, Eric Singer, Walking Thumbs, Smith Micro, BHiveLab, MARC USA, MarketSpace Communications, Red Privet LLC, Peerless design, inc:, The Frank-Ratchye STUDIO for Creative Inquiry, Lightwave International, Paul Zelevansky, Ecologic and Matthews International, as well as students from Chartiers Valley School District, Blackhawk High School, Fox Chapel School District, West Allegheny Entertainment Technology Academy, Carnegie Mellon University and Point Park University.

Writer: Marty Levine
Source: C Scott Gilbert, AGLogic

Kids pitch their best biz ideas to Entrepreneuring Youth

Pittsburgh-area kids who want to start their own companies are getting an early boost from Entrepreneuring Youth this year,  The group's first business-pitching event was Saturday.
 
"We realized a few years ago that we needed to start earlier with kids … to help them think creatively about ideas they can pursue for a business opportunity," says Entrepreneuring Youth leader Jerry Cozewith. Today the group partners with two local charter schools (Urban Pathways and Manchester Academic) and two schools in Beaver County to guide 6th through 12th graders in underserved neighborhoods through realistic training on how to form and pitch business ideas.
 
This June, the group's kids will participate in the George W. Tippins Business Plan Competition, named after one of Pittsburgh's more successful businessmen. Saturday's pitch, before local businesspeople at Google headquarters in Bakery Square, was practice for the Tippins contest in June.
 
These same business people will be working as coaches of the kids over the next few months, teaching them how to identify markets and customers, how to set prices and other fundamentals.
 
Eighteen kids – half from middle schools, half from high schools – gave two-minute pitches for ideas ranging from party-planning services to bakeries. Last year's competitors pitched lines of cosmetics, a video service, clothing companies and more.
 
Learning to make a two-minute elevator pitch "is a prized skill," Cozewith says, which can help kids learn how to talk to other adults "to get a summer job or into the college of your choice." Still, he allows, talking in front of a roomful of strangers for two minutes is "an eternity to young kids." Some of the aspiring entrepreneurs will not yet have made a single product. "They're as much selling themselves as their ideas," he says.
 
"The parents are proud and even amazed at what their kids can do – the way they speak, the poise they have, the confidence that have."
 
This weekend's six winners received gift cards as seed capital to buy materials for their businesses.
 
"This is just an awful lot of fun for everybody," Cozewith says.
 
Writer: Marty Levine
Source: Jerry Cozewith, Entrepreneuring Youth

Are you part of the creative economy?

Pittsburgh Technology Council (PTC) has teamed with Carnegie Mellon University, the University of Toronto's Rotman School and Echo Strategies to collect data to paint a picture of all the jobs in the creative economy of this region.
 
The results will be reported at the 2014 Pittsburgh Creative Industries Summit on Feb. 19 at CMU's McConomy Auditorium in the University Center.
 
"We’re doing an assessment of the current state of where all the jobs are that actually have some [association] with the historic creative industries,” says Audrey Russo, head of the PTC. Manufacturing companies are now doing website design, which previously they had outsourced or hadn’t even done. “What we’re finding is we not only have more people in this space but it is cutting across traditional clusters,” from multinational corporations to small businesses. The findings set for release at the Summit will help the region understand and benchmark the creative economy.
 
“What does that mean in terms of skill set development, in terms of jobs?" Russo asks. "What does it mean for talent attraction and development? Those jobs exist in so many clusters. It’s not just technology, it’s tied to innovation. It’s tied to design. I’m excited because this is the first time we’ve had this different type of snapshot of our region.”
 
The people at Echo Strategies, which helped collect and analyze the data, "think there are indicators potentially that can give us a clear path on what our opportunities are … what we should be doing and what we shouldn’t be doing," Russo concludes.
 
The study focuses on seven key sectors – design, communications, entertainment, fine art, data science, software and hardware, and creative industry support services – in eight counties: Allegheny, Beaver, Butler, Washington, Fayette, Westmoreland and Armstrong. The keynote speaker will be Kevin Stolarick, the Rotman research director whose work backed the ideas in Richard Florida’s book, The Rise of the Creative Class.
 
Writer: Marty Levine
Source: Audrey Russo, Pittsburgh Technology Council

Athena Award nominations kickoff with panel on advancing women's leadership

"We're really excited about leveraging the Athena Awards to elevate the discussion of women and leadership in our region," says Beth Marcello, chair of the event's host committee and director of women’s business development at PNC.
 
The Greater Pittsburgh ATHENA Award, to be given on Sept. 30 this year, recognizes not only established women who are leaders, but through the ATHENA Young Professional Award honors an emerging leader age 35 or younger. While it's true that more American CEOS are female than ever, just 18 women – less than four percent – head Fortune 500 companies. So instead of simply calling for nominations, as Athena has done in the past, organizers are holding a special April 25 panel discussion and breakfast to kick off the nominating process this year, which ends June 28.
 
"Women in Leadership: The Male Point of View" features Robert Krizner (managing partner at KPMG), Daniel Roderick (president and CEO of Westinghouse Electric Company) and John Barbour (CEO, managing director and chairman of the board of Buchanan Ingersoll & Rooney). Tickets may be purchased for $25 here before April 22. The panel will be moderated by Bill Flanagan, Allegheny Conference executive vice president for corporate relations and host of "Our Region's Business" on WPXI.
 
"We wanted a strong diversity in terms of age and experience and men who have opinions and a story to share," says Marcello of the panelists. "These are all companies that are advancing women's leadership. These men are leaders in our community. Other leaders in the community in general value what they say." Thus, participants will have the chance for "a real program that explores women's leadership in our region, to talk about their perspectives, what their companies are doing and what their challenges are for our region."

To those who question why a male perspective is needed -- don't men always chime in, even if no one asks them? -- "hopefully we're going to get the views of the progressive men," Marcello says. "From a corporate perspective, women are only going to advance when men and women work together.
 
"We're trying to reach as many people as possible to stimulate the discussion and to get people thinking about the women in leadership in their companies who should be nominated for an Athena Award," she adds. "Hopefully the pool of our Athena nominees will really reflect the quality of who we have here."
 
Writer: Marty Levine
Source: Beth Marcello, The Greater Pittsburgh ATHENA Award

Youth philanthropists challenge youth entrepreneurs: start Hill District businesses

"There's a lot of negativity displayed in the media toward the Hill District youth, and I wanted to give Hill District youth a chance to be better than the stereotype," says 17-year-old Dynae Shaw, leader of a group of 12 high-school students who together form the first Youth Philanthropy Initiative (YPI).
 
YPI participants, ages 13-18, come from the Oakland Planning and Development Corporation’s School 2 Career Program and are looking for young entrepreneurs to support in the Hill, Uptown and West Oakland. The group raised $614 this summer and program co-sponsor McAuley Ministries, part of the Pittsburgh Mercy Health System, matched it 5 to 1.
 
"When I found out about the money I was really excited," says Shaw, a Garfield resident and senior at Pittsburgh Obama, "because I really wanted to help the Hill District. Youth should be decision makers. We wanted to make sure it was for bettering the Hill District, so we want little projects that can turn into something big." She envisions youth with artistic talent teaching classes in inexpensive or donated spaces, "or a lawn business to make the Hill District look more appealing," she says.
 
Grants of $500 or $1,000 will be given to applicants, who must attend a two-hour workshop on Oct. 27, from 10 a.m. to noon at the Hill House Association. The workshop, run by Hill-based UrbanInnovation21, will help hopefuls devise their business plans and learn to run a thriving business. Applications will be due on Nov. 19 at 5 p.m. via the POISE Foundation.
 
YPI members spent the summer getting acquainted with the grant-making process and are learning now how to evaluate applicants' presentations.
 
"I hope that it will inspire other youth to stand up and follow their dreams," Shaw says about the YPI program. "This will give them not only the chance to do something they haven't been able to do without the money, but to tell them that people care about their community." Shaw hopes YPI will be done again in the future, and that perhaps it will expand to East Liberty and other neighborhoods.
 
"We're not looking at overnight change," she adds, "but we hope people will look at the businesses and say, 'I can do that.' We hope they will look for other grants or say they can volunteer in their community. We also hope to inspire other businesses and other foundations to give youth a chance."
 
Writer: Marty Levine
Source: Dynae Shaw, Youth Philanthropy Initiative

With Oreo bonbons and skin creams, teen entrepreneurs head to New York contest

When Jesse and Joziah Council, then 11 and 12, first entered Biz Camp sponsored by Pittsburgh's Entrepreneuring Youth group, EY's Cathy Blanchard remembers their motivation:
 
"The only reason they went to the first camp was that they were going to get paid," she says.
 
"And then the entrepreneurial spirit latched onto us," says Jesse, laughing. After three years of camp -- and that initial camp investment of $50 in materials to help the Council brothers with their idea of making a soothing skin cream for arthritis sufferers -- the brothers are winners. Their idea, which has now morphed into a line of all-natural products, won them first place in the local Youth Entrepreneur Regional Business Plan Competition sponsored by the Tippins Foundation. They and second-place winner Lisa Huff, 15, will journey to New York City to compete for a $25,000 prize in the Network for Teaching Entrepreneurship's 2012 national competition in October. Last year's Tippins winner made it to the semi-final round.
 
So how do teens turn into entrepreneurs?
 
Jesse and Joziah's great-uncle was their first inspiration. He had arthritis and was searching for a natural way to relieve the pain. The brothers took training from a local herbalist to make their skin cream. They even made their own commercial, starring themselves with local actors.
 
"When they see an African-American running a business, educated, believing in ourselves and our future," says Joziah about his fellow Beaver Area High School students, "it actually gets
them excited and wanting to do something with their lives as well."
 
The first product the brothers hope to manufacturer is an all-natural germ-killing room spray from mint, rose and other essential oils. "Mass production is one of the feats we have to accomplish," cautions Joziah.

Empowering Youth teaches kids the rudiments of entrepreneurship at the Biz Camp cosponsored by the Franklin Center of Beaver County in Aliquippa. However, says Jesse, "their goal isn't to teach you how to make a business and get it running but so you'll have that mindset."
 
The entrepreneurial mindset has also captured Lisa Huff, a Christian Hope Academy student in Aliquippa whose Decadent Delight business involves cooking up Oreo Bonbons (Oreos and cream cheese dipped in white chocolate). Hers will be a catering business, although she has had success selling small packages of Bonbons at the mall.
 
Entrepreneuring Youth, she says, " has definitely given me people skills and marketing skills," helping her gain confidence after preparing numerous business presentations and participating in other business-plan competitions.
 
"I have big hopes for Decadent Delights," she says. "In New York, we will knock it out of the park and beat Jesse and Joziah." Plus, she adds, "Who doesn't like to eat sweets?"
 
Writer: Marty Levine
Sources: Jesse and Joziah Council; Lisa Huff; Cathy Blanchard, Entrepreneuring Youth

ATHENA winners named--see video of them here

If the nearly 900 attendees at the annual ATHENA luncheon this past Monday were looking for inspiration and role models, they came to the right place.

M.J.Tocci, a principal at Trial Run, was announced as the 2011 ATHENA recipient. "She empowers women to ask for and achieve what is rightfully due to them. She is a great example to all of us," Rebecca Harris of Chatham College who nominated her.

Jennifer Cairns was announced as the recipient of the Young Professional award. The second women to become partner at her firm, McGuire Woods, she is also a member of the Pittsburgh Passion football team, and, like M.J., a mentor who is highly involved in the community. Get acquainted with both these inspiring women in these video profiles.

To see a video profile of MJ Tocci, click here. To see Jennifer Cairns' video, click here.

Source: Rebecca Harris, director, Director, Center for Women's Entrepreneurship at Chatham University

Young Pros rise to Athena Awards this year -- but only if you nominate them

And you thought award season was over with the Oscars.

The Athena Awards are searching for nominees by June 29 in a new category this year -- Young Professionals -- as well as its traditional women's leadership prize.

Not that there is a huge tradition yet. But in a mere 13 years of the Athena, organizers have seen women from the business world finally balance nominees from the nonprofit sector, reports Sara Gaal, events and communications services manager for the Allegheny Conference on Community Development.

"Prior to the Athena Award," says Barbara McNees, president of the Greater Pittsburgh Chamber of Commerce, "there was not a recognition in the community of successful professional women, active in their community and committed to mentoring other women. Because our focus is not solely on a woman's professional success, we are fortunate to have a more well-rounded and varied group of nominees."

More than 40 were nominated for the Athena last year. The new award for rising young pros comes with $1,000 for a conference or educational course. The hope, says Maris Ann Bondi, chair of the ATHENA Awards Program Pittsburgh, is that this early recognition will "encourage young professionals, as they balance work/life issues, to continue on a path of leadership, community involvement and professional development while setting a role model for others."

Pop City is pleased to be an Athena Award sponsor this year.

Do Good:

• Send recognition someone's way -- nominate her for an Athena Award here.
 
Writer: Marty Levine
Source: Sara Gaal, Allegheny Conference on Community Development


Art Out of the Box should put you on the edge of your seat -- but you'll be standing

Samantha McDonough emerged from art school realizing that the creative process was entirely too hidden from public view.

"It's just a very solitary practice, spending hours and hours making this thing," she says. "Nobody ever sees all the work. It seems like it's just magical, and it appears out of nowhere."

So McDonough created Art Out of the Box's Mobile Studio Project: "mini-residencies" that let artists create a new work and answer questions in public places for a week each this summer, about eight hours a day, starting May 3. It's half art, half performance, and all part of her plan to make art more accessible.

First up among the five in the Project's initial group is glass artist Jessica Amarnek at the Glass Lofts (5491 Penn Ave.) now through May 8. She is followed by installation/assemblage artist Alberto Almarza at 12th and Carson streets in the South Side, June 14-19; sculptor Will Schlough, June 28-July 3, at Lawrenceville's Wild Card (4209 Butler Street); mixed-media printmaker Deanna Mance at 3060 Brereton Street, Polish Hill, July 12-17; and visual artist Ian Green, Aug. 2-7 in the North Side's Commons Park.

All the artists' work will be featured in an exhibit during the next Downtown Gallery Crawl, and a documentary on the Mobile Studio Project is planned as well. Sponsors include the Sprout Fund and Pennsylvania Partners in the Arts.

Do Good:

• Support this fledgling movement by donating here.

Writer: Marty Levine
Source: Samantha McDonough, Art Out of the Box
Image courtesy of Samantha McDonough, Art Out of the Box

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