Correction: In the August print edition of The Northside Chronicle, Finesse Institute Founder Naomi Ritter was incorrectly identified as a mother. Ritter is not a mother. We sincerely regret the error.
Naomi Ritter started her content development firm, The Finesse Institute, in 2018. Based out of Arnold’s Tea on East Ohio Street, it’s an asset to hyperlocal businesses in the Northside.
By Amanda Andrews
Photo by Robert Waters of Graffight Photography
Naomi Ritter is driven. She is the Founder of The Finesse Institute, LLC, Program Director of the E.A.T. (Empowerment, Awareness, Training) Initiative at Eminent Hospitality Solutions Co., and an employee and manager at Arnold’s Tea in Historic Deutschtown. These are just a few of the titles she holds.
Ritter, a 26-year-old resident of Brighton Heights, started her content development firm, The Finesse Institute, in July 2018. Her firm provides services that range from designing websites to creating business plans. She describes herself as a “writer by trade.” Her friends used to come to her looking for resume assistance, and before long, Ritter realized a real business could be made out of the work she was doing.
“This is a concept that can transfer to virtually any business. Everyone is going to need a business plan or a website, or something like that,” said Ritter. “I sort of just expanded my skillset in order to become an asset to a lot of my entrepreneurial friends.”
Much of Ritter’s inspiration and the qualifications she has for The Finesse Institute stem from her academic roots. A Pittsburgh native, Ritter attended Pittsburgh Creative and Performing Arts (CAPA) School and discovered a love of writing. She has written professionally since 2006 and graduated from CAPA in 2010 with a major in creative writing. At Duquesne University, Ritter pursued a bachelor’s degree in political science and a master’s in social and public policy.
Growing up, Ritter was also influenced by her father’s work as a graphic designer:
“I thought it was really funny whenever I started to do graphic design because I’m like, ‘Oh my god, I’m just like my dad.’” Ritter has received a lot of positive feedback since starting The Finesse Institute. “I have had a lot of people who, [for] one [thing] love the name, which is really cool,” she said.
Besides the name appreciation, Ritter said her clients realize that she provides time saving, quintessential services for businesses. Ritter also enjoys that her firm is based out of Arnold’s Tea on East Ohio Street, making it hyperlocal to the Northside community.
When not helping local businesses with their media content, Ritter is focused on another passion of hers: food policy.
“I have been primarily involved with food policy and serve as an advocate for people who have little to no independent access to food. More specifically, residents living in food deserts,” Ritter said. “Growing up, I had a very complicated relationship [with] food and once I was in college and graduate school and had the opportunity to cook for myself, I had a better understanding of how important a balanced diet is and more specifically, how it can affect, positively or negatively, one’s mental health and productivity.”
As the Program Director for the E.A.T. Initiative, Ritter partners with organizations like the Pittsburgh Food Policy Council (PFPC) and Sustainable Pittsburgh to help as many hungry families as possible. The E.A.T. Initiative, a part of Eminent Hospitality Solutions Co., started in 2014. They do “hands-on cooking demonstrations and career development via hospitality training focused in food-vulnerable families” and are a caterer, according to their website and Facebook page. It helps that Ritter has had a personal connection with PFPC since her time in graduate school and has been able to maintain a working relationship with the group ever since.
“I truly appreciate the work that they have done in the city and more importantly, their commitment to inclusion,” said Ritter. “The director acknowledges her privilege as a white woman and continuously lifts while she climbs to ensure persons of all backgrounds have access to opportunities. They are working on a state level to change legislation around food access.”
Ritter likes being able to pursue inventive media solutions and food policy as they engage with and impact different areas she cares about.
“With Finesse, I am able to be a servant to other businesses. With E.A.T., I am able to serve my community. I’m thankful for each opportunity that has come across my path,” said Ritter.
Ritter does not allow her creative talents to go exclusively into the services that The Finesse Institute, LLC and Eminent Hospitality Solutions Co. provides, though. A self-described “artrepreneur,” she has always valued art and continues to pursue it.
“Man, art is my life. I grew up doing creative writing and dance, I played the violin, I played the steel drums, I played the piano,” she said. “…I recently learned I can draw and paint, so going to a creative high school and just being a promoter of the arts, I really believe that it’s essential to thriving in one’s life.”
While she mostly promotes client art on The Finesse Institute’s website and Instagram account, Ritter also runs a blog with her personal musings. Additionally, she is working on a poetry anthology set to be released by the end of this year. There’s another upcoming project as well called the Green Girls Podcast, which centers on high school girls navigating climate change and how to live sustainably. Ritter explained that the podcast will include the voices of students of color who are often left out of conversations about the environment.
A longtime activist for communities of color, Ritter feels that this advocacy extends into her work with The Finesse Institute as well as her projects involving food policy.
“It’s important for minority businesses to support each other because we’re likely to support outside of our communities. When that happens, we are not circulating our dollars within our communities, which in turn gives us less say-so in the future for our communities,” said Ritter.
“One of the most important things that I try to preach and that I promote within my networks is that we work together and that we support each other. That way, we have options that we feel like are relevant to us—socially, culturally, financially—to sustain ourselves, instead of depending on other people to sustain us.”
Activism is a priority for Ritter, but she knows it’s important to take care of herself as well.
“I love yoga and meditate daily. I have bouts of anxiety which force me to slow down when needed, and I listen to my body for when it is time for me to take a break,” said Ritter. “To be honest, I would love to do more or feel like I’m further along, but I am confident in myself and my journey, and I have grace with myself knowing that I cannot save the entire world in one day.”