URA Welcomes Catapult Minority Business Incubator to Hill District

PITTSBURGH, PA (February 24, 2021) The Catapult: Startup to Storefront Program recently launched its third cohort and first Hill District cohort. The Hill District cohort is part of the Avenues of Hope initiative.

Administered by Catapult Greater Pittsburgh (formally Circles Greater Pittsburgh), Catapult is a 12-month business incubation program which aims to support new and growing minority-led businesses in the City of Pittsburgh. Business consulting is provided by Paramount Pursuits. Funding is provided by PNC Foundation, the Urban Redevelopment Authority of Pittsburgh (URA) and City of Pittsburgh. In August 2020, the PNC Foundation awarded $1 million to the URA for the Catapult program.

To date, $375,000 has been invested into the program: $175,000 from the URA and $200,000 of the PNC Foundation funds.

“By building wealth and entrepreneurship, we are bringing more opportunity to neighborhoods citywide, and there is no better place to go next than the Hill District. I am so grateful to all of our partners and Councilman R. Daniel Lavelle for their commitment to this effort,” Mayor William Peduto said. 

The program completed its second cohort at the end of 2020, bringing the number of program alumni to 30.  

In the fall of 2020, recruitment began for both 2021 cohorts. In January 2021, 16 businesses began the third cohort; an additional 16 businesses began the Hill District cohort. The third cohort will continue to be based in the Gallery on Penn, Catapult’s dedicated retail incubation space on Penn Avenue in East Liberty. The Hill District cohort will be based in the new Gallery on Centre, located in the Centre Heldman Plaza. The Gallery on Centre is scheduled to open in the second quarter of 2021.

“We’re very excited about the Hill District cohort,” said URA Deputy Executive Director Diamonte Walker. “Many of these entrepreneurs have ties to the Hill and will now be supported to start or grow their business in their neighborhood.

“With the expansion of the Catapult program into the Centre Heldman Plaza, we are demonstrating how placed-based strategies can serve as wealth building tools for diverse businesses — which is a core component of Avenues of Hope,” said Walker. "The new Gallery on Centre will bring much needed investment to the neighborhood.”

Since the Catapult program began in early 2018:

  • 100% of the participating businesses have been minority-owned; 80% are women-owned.
  • 6 businesses from cohort 1 opened spaces in the Gallery on Penn.
  • All of the cohort 2 businesses have participated in tabling events at the Gallery on Penn.
  • An estimated 30 full- or part-time jobs have been retained or created.
  • Cohort members have received more than 500 mentoring hours.
  • Several businesses have sold their wares in other retail venues, including love, Pittsburgh; the Steel City Craft Emporium; and the I Made It! Market.
  • 8 Catapult businesses have participated in the Get Online and Grow Online program.
  • One Catapult business was selected as a technical assistance provider for the Get Online and Grow Online program.
  • 18 Catapult businesses are listed on Gallery on Penn virtual site.

“It's been a pleasure to work with the URA in developing and growing our Catapult: Startup to Storefront Program,” said Tammy T. Thompson, executive director, Catapult Greater Pittsburgh. “Having access to the intellectual resources that they've provided as well as the financial support has made a difference in how we have been able to develop, grow and implement this program. The URA’s consistent support over the last three years has been invaluable and a major impact on how we’ve been able to serve our community.

“We’re extremely proud of the opportunities that we've created through this program for primarily Black, women-owned businesses,” said Thompson. “We welcome the opportunity to expand the Gallery model into the Hill District, and we hope to work with many institutions within the Hill District to offer this opportunity to even more people.”

The URA will be highlighting the entrepreneurs in each cohort on its social media platforms and will follow along with the build out of the Gallery on Centre space once construction begins, leading up to the grand opening. Follow the URA on Facebook, Instagram, and Twitter.

The First Hill District Cohort:

  • Ardelle Vivienne Robinson - designs by viviénne: Photography, afghans and waist beads
  • Danya'le Northern - Northern Scents Candle Co: Hand-poured soy candles and more
  • Patricia Strothers - PaJunes Divine Designs: Handcrafted jewelry
  • Nikkia Ingram - SimpleMEE Collection
  • Sheniq Withers - Steel Sisters Automotive
  • Phyllis Ghafoor - PDG Crafts and Gifts
  • Lakeisha Gray - Business name pending
  • Nicole Manns - Nikki’s Magic Wand; Cosmetics
  • Princess Spencer - Styles At Goodies Go Go
  • Dominque Lewis - Natures Crown: Health and beauty products
  • Whitney Mims - VantiBling: Fashion boutique and talent agency
  • Constance Jones - Switch It Up Boutique
  • Eric Walker -  Hyght Apparel: Men’s fashion apparel
  • Geneva White - Unique Boutique
  • Dominique Watkins-Wise - Watkins-Wise Wood Work
  • Adrianne Holmes - Phoinix Premier Events: Premier event management & design

The Third East Liberty Cohort:


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Timothy McNulty
Communications Director
Mayor's Office