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The Hill CDC hosts a variety of programming that helps encourage entrepreneurship within the Hill District. Through our BLAST (Business Leadership Academy for Social Transformation) cohorts, other BizU programming, BizLab, and One-on-One Business Support Office Hours we are able to equip local entrepreneurs with the knowledge and support they need to find success in the business world.


BLAST (Business Leadership Academy for Social Transformation)

2018 BLAST Cohort


The 2018 BLAST cohort focused on developing business leadership skills, mastering a strong elevator pitch, and effectively casting a vision that will attract investors to advance the growth of their business within their community and beyond. The 2018 cohort was facilitated by Vernard Alexander of the Minority Networking Exchange.

Our commitment to bolstering the success of minority and women business entrepreneurs was reflected in our participants who all identified as African American, seven of whom were also women. These 2.5 hour, weekly sessions covered a myriad of topics including perfecting the Elevator Pitch, Branding 101, and understanding legal business structures from lawyer Quinntarra Morant. Throughout the course of the program, our cohort interacted with several other guest speakers including Deidra Washington, an active Hill District entrepreneur who was the 2017 Best Pitch Winner; and Emily Keebler from Kiva Pittsburgh, a small business lending firm. The program aims to be outcomes-driven, and took into account participants' immediate needs. This resulted in six of our participants receiving headshots, two receiving logos and business cards, and all of them receiving an accounting template to create a foundation for an accounting system for their business.

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The 2nd Annual Pitch Party

To culminate the end of our 2018 BLAST cohort, we held our 2nd Annual BLAST Pitch Party, a “Shark Tank” style event, which gives our participants an opportunity to receive some much needed resources for their business and bring together business owners and community members alike to share in their success. This year, we had six participants (pictured above with judges): Tamara Boyd of Tweets Candy Shot Glasses, LLC; Yolanda Andrews of Notary Now, LLC; Rashad Colvin of Pittsburgh NFL League; Kristina Johnson Linzie of Divinity Hair Studio and Mentoring Service; Reesha Jackson of RLJDesigns; and Tanya Wilson of Secret Saks. This year’s winner was Reesha Jackson of RLJDesigns who received $1,500 cash towards her business, and an additional $1,500 in business support services.


Do It Now!: BizU with Paramount Co-op

Do It Now! was a 13-week intensive product-based business accelerator program facilitated by Trish and Marcos Digliodo of Paramount Co-Op. This cohort consisted of six participants: Jasmine Duncan, Ardelle Robinson, Michele Ellison, Chef Claudy Pierre, Camille Clark-Smith, and Harry Johnson. During the course of the 13-weeks, our participants met for two hours each week for a variety of classes, seminars, and speakers, as well as participated in a networking event and made industry connections. Topics included understanding the legal structure as a first step towards establishing a business, developing networking skills, and encouraging greater financial literacy through things like record keeping, establishing credit, and cash flow management. In addition, they were given opportunities to workshop their business and marketing plans, learn how to obtain funding for their business, and prepare their businesses for a technology and web-centered market.



The Hill CDC recently created HillBuilds, a new business development program for MWDBE contractors in the construction trades. This program is being brought to you in partnership with Paramount Co-Op and the Riverside Center for Innovation's BizFit program. HillBuilds is a 2-part, 8-month cohort that will develop the business skills of MWDBE contractors in the construction trades, and position them to be prepared to compete on upcoming development projects in the Hill District, including the Hill CDC’s Hill District 100 Rehab Program, New Granada Square, Lower Hill, City’s Edge, Bedford Dwellings Choice Redevelopment, and more.  The first part of the program, which is facilitated by Paramount Co-Op, covers the business basics, including: formal business structure, accounting and financing, business lines of credit, professional bid writing, client communication, and more. BizFit will facilitate the 6-month, second part of the program and will cover intermediate business concepts to grow the participant’s business, including: understanding solicitations, common contract clauses, online bid software, OSHA and other operations/safety requirements, insurance, green and other innovations, and more.

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One-on-One Business Support Office Hours

The Hill CDC offers technical support for businesses interested in pursuing MW/DBE diversity certification, drafting a business plan, or creating a cutting-edge marketing strategy. The partners listed below on the flyer host on-site office hours to help meet your business support needs. This service is available in partnership with the University of Pittsburgh Institute for Entreprenuerial Excellence, the Chatham University Women’s Business Center, and Allegheny County MW/DBE Office.


University of Pittsburgh Institute for Entreprenuerial Excellence

Linwood Mitchell from the University of Pittsburgh Small Business Development Center (SBDC) offers office hours at the Hill CDC to individuals who are seeking consultation about opening or growing a business.  Topics include the process of registering a business, the resources available for conducting market research, and the types of loans available for small businesses.

Chatham University Women’s Business Center

Jonnet Solomon, a consultant of Chatham’s Women’s Business Center offers office hours to provide general business counseling to both those in business and those who are looking to start a business.

Allegheny County MW/DBE

Sue Broadus, a Certification/Contract Monitor from Allegheny County offers office hours to provide direct support to assist business owners with completing their MW/DBE certification application.


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Serving the Greater Hill District of Pittsburgh, PA