A group of community organizations will host the first-ever Homewood Small Business Expo, an event dedicated to helping small business owners and entrepreneurs in the East End neighborhood.
The Expo will provide an opportunity for Homewood entrepreneurs and owners of storefront, online and at-home businesses to “meet and network with community members, seek advice from business development resource providers, engage with fellow business owners, and participate in growth opportunities.” The day-long event will take place on Saturday, July 9 at the former foundry-turned-incubator space on 7800 Susquehanna Street.
The new venture was created by a team consisting of several stakeholders concerned with the future of the predominantly African-American neighborhood, which has suffered from decades of economic hardship. Headed by Urban Innovation21 and the Homewood-Brushton Business Association (HBBA), the planning committee included representatives from the Office of the Mayor’s Bureau of Neighborhood Empowerment, the Penn State College of Communications, Operation Better Block and the Minority Networking Exchange.
Marteen Garay, who serves as the director of entrepreneurship programming for Urban Innovation21, believes the event will draw attention to the past, present and future of the historic Homewood small business community.
“Some of the oldest African American-owned businesses in Pittsburgh are located in Homewood,” says Garay. “We want residents to celebrate that and to learn about other small businesses located in the community and throughout Pittsburgh. The Expo is just one part of the efforts coming together to revitalize the community.”
It will also allow others in the region to better connect with Homewood. Many have never been to the community, as Henry Pyatt, small business and neighborhood redevelopment manager for the City, points out. “This expo is a chance to change that, to come meet Homewood, mostly black entrepreneurs who have largely been part of a separate economy from the residents of, say, Point Breeze. This is a chance for us to end that divide and help build an inclusive city.”
The Expo will begin with a morning of panel discussions focused on business banking, and the local accelerator and incubator scene. The speakers include members of various organizations and companies, including the Urban Redevelopment Authority, Bridgeway Capital, PNC and the Riverside Center for Innovation. Guests looking to expand their online presence can participate in a social media and commerce workshop lead by Homewood native Shimira Williams, a STEM education advocate who founded Productivity LLC and Tekstart.
“We wanted to target companies and institutions that have had a great impact on the ongoing revitalization of the Homewood community, and those that can connect Homewood’s entrepreneurs to the larger entrepreneurial ecosystem in Homewood,” says Garay.
“One of the many things that make Pittsburgh so unique is that each of its neighborhoods is defined by unique characteristics,” says Councilman Corey O’Connor. “This Expo gives us all a great opportunity to experience the flavor of another neighborhood’s own special mix of businesses and sense of community.”
While morning sessions are restricted to those who registered for the event, the Expo will open to the public during the afternoon to present free entertainment such as a live dance performance, an elevator pitch competition and other family-friendly activities.
The Homewood Small Business Expo will begin at 8 a.m. Urban Innovation21 president and CEO Bill Generett Jr. will deliver a pre-lunch keynote address.Tickets are available for purchase at Eventbrite, and include the option to pay for an HBBA membership. The public portion of the event will run from 1 to 4 p.m.