In each room of Braddock’s new incubator, you’ll find another woman-powered business ready to thrive.
From lash extensions to competitive dancers to cake makers, the grand opening of The Hollander Project on Braddock Avenue later this month provides female bosses from the Braddock area with a space to grow their businesses and develop their professional skills.
The brainchild of Kristen Michaels and Gisele Fetterman of For Good PGH, The Hollander is both an incubator and a coworking space that allows female entrepreneurs to operate their businesses outside of their homes at an affordable rate of roughly $100 a month. The rate was set just to cover the monthly rent on the building.
“Overnight we’ve got about seven new business owners,” Fetterman says, “and they’re mostly all moms.”
That’s what The Hollander is all about: creating a space “where women in the community could take the step from businesses in their homes to having a business in the community,” Michaels says.
The idea has long been in the works. Fetterman says she often heard from women in Braddock looking for a space to operate their business. She repeatedly had to tell them, “There’s no such building.”
It was time to make it happen.
They found the perfect building at 910 Braddock Avenue, occupied during the 20th century by drug store Hollander’s, and most recently the home of Sullivan Plumbing, Heating and Cooling.
Property owner John Sullivan agreed to lease the space to The Hollander Project at a discounted rate.
Donations came from the Hillman Foundation, Peoples Gas, The Pittsburgh Foundation, The Heinz Endowments and the S. Kent Rockwell Foundation. And the beautifully mismatched hardwood flooring was donated, as were the furniture and paint.
With help from contractor Absolute WIN, the space now shines. Crisply painted white walls are decorated with paintings and a mural about the power of women.
So far, nine tenants — all women — are confirmed. They include Wakela Jones’ Lashed by Bebe, East Side Laser by Bridget Miller, Oli’s Angels by Brandy Rawls, notary Mary Nesby, Sittoy Fashions by Yottis Tinsley, Beauty in Brokenness by Kim Fairley, Cakes by Joelisa by Joelisa McDonald, the Royal Outlawz owned by Tia Johnson and family therapist Judith Krynski.
Most of the women will have their own space within the building. The Hollander Project will also feature a shared coworking space and a large room that can hold up to 75 people. The hope is that it can be rented for events to bring in revenue for the project.
Wakela Jones, 27, of Verona, operated Lashed by Bebe out of her basement prior to moving into The Hollander Project. Jones, who is certified in lash extensions, hopes to use this to build her client base and eventually open her own shop.
After only three days in the new space, she’s feeling the drive and strength from the women around her.
“It’s empowering,” she says.
The Royal Outlawz dance team, a group of 17 kids from age three to 17, used to practice at the library or even outside prior to The Hollander Project, says head coach Kenya Mosley, 26.
The large open room in the back of the building with partial brick facade was perfect for the troupe. They now have their own keys and can practice whenever they want.
“This space is a blessing,” Mosely says.
Professional development will be offered for everything from resume assistance to women’s self-defense classes both for the community and the business owners operating at the building. Already, people are stopping by to offer their assistance for the women business owners.
“If we can use the small platforms we have to elevate them and their work,” Fetterman says, “that’s what we want to do.”
A grand opening will be held on July 28 at 4 p.m. (details here), including a ribbon-cutting ceremony and the chance to meet the female entrepreneurs setting up shop at The Hollander Project.