The New Sun Rising initiative helps local entrepreneurs learn how to successfully develop and sustain their ideas.

By: Alyse Horn

It takes a village to build, grow and support business sustainability. And the recent Peer Networking Event at Alloy 26, was an illustration of how Pittsburghers can contribute their impactful ideas to better the 18 Northside neighborhoods.

Sponsored by Ignite Northside with Program Manager Ebony McQueen-Harris and Program Assistant Jamie Johnson, the September 21 event had Northsiders and outsiders sharing developmental advice on each other’s entrepreneurial ventures.

Saving Our Sons and Daughters creator Cecilia Ware, has attended several Ignite Northside events and appreciates how “Ignite is growing and connecting communities.”

Ware’s organization is a community-driven grassroots response to the issues of youth violence, and this summer she received a Neighbor-to-Neighbor grant from The Sprout Fund to create an eight-week program for students at John Morrow Elementary School. The workshops target youth “who have had multiple suspensions or expulsions,” according to The Sprout Fund website, and “addresses ongoing issues of youth violence and lack of respect for authority by teaching critical thinking skills to help resolve a conflict.”

Ware said Ignite Northside has challenged her to elevate her leadership skills, and she welcomes the motivation and energy that McQueen-Harris brings to the table.

(Left) Samuel Arnita, sales rep with Nettime Solutions and (right) Mitchell Smith, Center for Employment (CEO) – VISTA member, share thoughts on how to improve their respective businesses and ideas during the Ignite Northside workshop. Photo credit: Courtney Plaszenski

“Ebony has this way of making you feel comfortable to be where you are developmentally [in your business],” Ware said. “We all start somewhere.”

Jamar White, the owner of Urtax Solutions in Allegheny West, started his business in 2008. He attended the networking event because he believes in the Ignite Northside program and its mission to recenter neighborhood support behind community businesses.

“When you support community businesses, your supporting kids and adults [in your neighborhood] who can get jobs within the community,” White said.

White said creating jobs within communities is also tied to crime rates in those areas, and that 90 percent of crimes are done for financial reasons. If community businesses are supported, so are the families and employees of those businesses.

“If you put money into the community, the community will give back,” White said.

Urtax Solutions was created because White said no one would hire him for an accounting gig, so he made it happen on his own. He sees entrepreneurship as the way of the future, quoting notable hip-hop artist Jay Z, White said, “‘Til you own your own you can’t be free.”

His advice to other entrepreneurs was to “get involved with your community any way you can,” and for White, getting involved in Ignite Northside has been one of his best business decisions thus far.


Ignite Northside is a New Sun Rising initiative in partnership with the Buhl Foundation and One Northside. For more information on workshops and upcoming events visit Ignite Northside. 


Cover photo credit: Courtney Plaszenski.

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