New Sun Rising and Ignite Northside continue their monthly workshops offering opportunities for aspiring entrepreneurs

By: Alyse Horn


During a July 26 Northside Leadership Development workshop, improvisation was turned into an unlikely tool for entrepreneurs to put empowerment skills into action.

Held at Alloy 26, 100 S. Commons, the event was hosted by Ignite Northside project manager Ebony McQueen-Harris and fiscal sponsorship director at New Sun Rising, Dan Stiker.

McQueen-Harris said the workshop was geared towards taking “the deeper dive into the development of skill building and decision making.”

According to Stiker workshop attendees would be using different exercises to flex the “creative muscle” that is the brain.

“Improv gets you out of your comfort zone and helps you deal with uncomfortable and difficult situations,” Stiker said. “The more you practice, the more you flex that creative muscle.”

Photo courtesy of Ashley Smilotz and Haggerty Media
Participants stand in a circle at Ignite Northside workshop in Alloy 26 at Nova Place. Photo courtesy of Ashley Smilotz and Haggerty Media

As a first time Ignite Northside participant, Drew Brumbaugh said he found many of the skills helpful for dealing with “the people side” of starting a business. He also said he attended the event by chance.

After getting his dates mixed up, Brumbaugh said he “came to the wrong place at the wrong time,” but being an entrepreneur he decided to stay and see what the workshop had to offer.


Brumbaugh said he has been working with the startup community at the University of Pittsburgh and his primary focus has been on “product market fit” and “the business side of things.”

“Improv and those sort of skills aren’t something that get taught that much in the side of entrepreneurship that I’ve seen first hand, so it was really different than what I was expecting,” Brumbaugh said.

After the event, Brumbaugh said that teaching skills like improv “absolutely makes sense” and he believes he will find it very useful in the future.

A representative from ioby, also attended and participated in the workshop, spoke to Igniters about how to get financial backing for their projects. According to their website, ioby is a crowd-resourcing platform, designed to connect community and project leaders with funding and support. The organization has an 87 percent success rate and has funded over 1,200 projects throughout the country.

Miriam Parsons, the Pittsburgh action strategist at ioby, said at the end of the evening she was “energized by the trust and warmth in the room” and explained the different ways the ioby can help transform “ideas into action.”

McQueen-Harris said connecting participants to potential investors and with the community is an important part of Ignite Northside, but that comes with understanding the process and the necessary steps needed to fulfill entrepreneurial goals.

An Ignite event held in June at Oakglade Realty, 2246 Wilson Ave., harped on the importance of interconnectedness within communities and McQueen-Harris used the physical space as an example.

The building that holds Oakglade Realty was a grocery store before it became abandoned, and recently was transformed into a co-working space that can be used for $25 per month and $25 to host events. McQueen-Harris said a space like Oakglade allows minorities and residents in low-income neighborhoods to realize that entrepreneurship can be a reality.

“We want people to know that there are resources here in the Northside. Even if you don’t know what you’re doing, that’s a good place to start. You’re building your foundation,” McQueen-Harris said.


The next Ignite Northside workshop will be a peer networking event from 6 p.m. to 8 p.m. on Thursday, September 26 at Alloy 26.
For more information on the workshops and how to get involved, visit or email


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.

Cover photo courtesy of Ashley Smilotz and Haggerty Media.

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