Photo by Ryan Haggerty
Anne George explains her app iXMessage to Demo Day attendees. The app is designed to create a trusted environment for tween girls to socialize.

By Alyse Horn

“I know people who want to start their own business, and they need to be here.”

DeLaina Smith, who attended the Ignite Northside Skill Swap Demo Day on May 16, said she felt welcomed into a supportive environment that was unlike other events she had attended over the years.

“Sometimes it’s hard to find help within your own craft, because people think you’re trying to steal their clients or whatever,” Smith said. “Even though we are all coming from different areas, I didn’t feel that tension or heaviness here.”

The Skill Swap Demo Day was created to allow participants to showcase their business or project to community members and other Igniters for feedback.

Smith said she started her soap-making business, A Living Organ, three years ago when dermatologist recommended skin products could not fully soothe the sensitive skin she and her family have. Once she began digging deeper in to the market, she decided to cut out the middle men and make her own products.

During the Skill Swap, Smith said she received useful feedback from other participants and attendees. As a homebased business, she appreciated hearing other people’s ideas and questions and said they challenged her to think deeper about her target market.

Stephanie Romero, founder and executive director of Awaken Pittsburgh, participated in the first Ignite NS program last year and found it “extremely helpful.” With over 20 years of experience in education, Smith said McQueen-Harris’ help in creating a business plan and marketing strategy was welcomed.

“You may not have all the tools and a way to look at what you’re doing,” Romero said. “Having that other person who has a business background looking at your business plan and seeing the gaps you don’t even know are there is so beneficial to guide you.”

Romero’s business focuses on helping individuals in high stress professions re-learn mindfulness and self-care practices, especially in careers like education, social work and health care. She said a lot of people in these jobs will let their stress impact the relationship with their clients, and learning “how to self-regulate will actually make the outcomes for their patients, clients, and students better.”

Romero said starting a new business is overwhelming, but she has found the help and guidance from the Ignite NS program “invaluable” in creating her brand.

The next Ignite NS event, “Mindfulness in Action,” will take place from 6-8 p.m. on Tuesday, May 30 at Alloy 26, 100 S Commons Suite 102.

On Thursday, June 8, there will be a Peer Networking Event from 6-8 p.m. at Oakglade Realty, 2246 Wilson Ave.

For more information on the workshops and how to get involved, visit www.newsunrising.org/ignite-northside or email ebony@www.newsunrising.org.

Ignite Northside is an initiative by New Sun Rising  in partnership with the Buhl Foundation and One Northside, working together to help neighborhoods gain control of their narratives.