Photo courtesy of Ebony McQueen-Harris

By Alyse Horn

Annie O’Neill has been the owner and proprietor of her photography business for eight years, but a workshop she went to in March had her “thinking of things I’ve never thought of before.”

Ignite Northside held its first meeting at Chateau Café and Cakery on March 19, and has hosted two since then at various locations around the Northside. The next will be on Saturday, June 18 at Heathside Cottage, 416 Catoma St.

Ebony McQueen-Harris, Ignite Northside program manager, said these workshops allow budding entrepreneurs or veteran business owners to collaborate and share their talents with one another.

“It’s amazing to see everyone connect and come up with ideas,” McQueen-Harris said.

O’Neill said she decided to attend the first workshop after hearing McQueen-Harris speak at a community meeting and “immediately loved her energy.”

Once at Chateau, O’Neill said the workshop was “really well-run and thoughtful” to each individual in attendance.

“I never officially did a business plan, which sounds ridiculous, but sometimes you start things when you need to start them,” O’Neill said.

After owning her business for almost a decade, O’Neill recently bought a building on James Street and is in the process of turning it into photo studio that doubles as space for the community to “learn and gather,” with photography at the center. O’Neill said she believes what she has learned through Ignite will help her further the new phase of her business.

“My partner Nancy [Andrews] and I have been photographers for a long time, and have a lot of [photographic] connections not only in Pittsburgh, but around the world,” O’Neill said. “We want to bring that to our space.”

O’Neill said McQueen-Harris emphasized actionable steps that could be taken, and it was one of the things she loved about the workshop. Jamie Johnson, founder and CEO of Build You Up! LLC, also attended the workshop at Chateau and said her biggest take away was “being challenged to break down my [business] process.”

Johnson said her advice to other individuals in any stage of a business endeavor is to attend an Ignite workshop.

“It’s good to meet other people and [learn] what they are doing and where they are in their process,” Johnson said. “It doesn’t matter if you’re an established [business owner] or just have an idea, you can go and learn your own process on how to be successful.”

Brettney Duck, executive director and founder of Go Girls Inc., will be attending the workshop on June 18 after hearing great things from Johnson and McQueen-Harris. Duck said collaboration with other likeminded people is important, as it will “make Pittsburgh and the Northside a better place.”

“I would say knowledge is power,” Duck said. “Going to a workshop and getting this information can help you and your organization, but you also have to advocate and spread the news.”

For more information on Ignite Northside and the upcoming workshop, click here.

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

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