The Catapult: Start-up to Storefront incubator program welcomed its second cohort on September 9th. The 12-month program is an initiative designed to help local, minority businesses thrive and prosper in East Liberty and the East End. The program began last year as a partnership between ELDI, Circles Greater Pittsburgh, the Urban Redevelopment Authority, the Larimer Consensus Group and Paramount Co-Op. Paramount is an incubator program and co-working space based out of Ambridge, Pennsylvania that is developing content and helping coordinate the program.

Over the course of the next year, the incoming cohort of 15 entrepreneurs will learn about topics necessary for success in entrepreneurship through workshops and seminars. These topics range from “Building a Strong Foundation for Your Business” to “How to Market Your Business” to “Understanding Your Numbers”.

“Our goal is to ensure these entrepreneurs have a strong foundation to start and grow their businesses,” explained Trish Digliodo, president of Paramount Co-Op. “All of our programming was created by entrepreneurs and is taught by entrepreneurs, which makes our program unique.”

Each cohort member will be assigned a primary mentor—either Trish Digliodo or Lisa Purk—both Paramount team members. Throughout the next year, Digliodo and Purk will provide guidance and connect the entrepreneurs in the cohort with other experts and mentors who can help advise them in specific areas, bringing in specialists in business, law, accounting, branding strategy, web design and more.

“Last year, we were able to connect a cohort member to an industry-specific mentor who had been on Shark Tank,” Digliodo said. “Our goal is to ensure each entrepreneur is surrounded by a team to help them throughout their entrepreneurial journey.”

With one year of the incubator already under their belts, the Catapult team was able to adjust the program to better serve the needs of this year’s incoming entrepreneurs.

“One of the many lessons we’ve learned after the first cohort is the need to extend the program from nine to 12 months. Specifically, in preparing participants for retail businesses,” said Tammy Thompson, executive director of Circles Greater Pittsburgh and director of the Catapult program. “We need more time to include retail specific training.”

Upon completion of the Catapult program, participants will be considered for entry into Gallery on Penn, Catapult’s dedicated retail incubator space on Penn Avenue in East Liberty.​

The following businesses make up Catapult’s second cohort:

  • I.T’s 4 Me: Taylor Ford and Ginay Clarke — information technology systems
  • Zuri Beads: Kecia Chantel — jewelry design and creation
  • Gentleman Brand: Thomas Gentry — leather crafting
  • Minnie and Me, LLC.: Miquel Moon — personalized design
  • Flowers Designs: Kerry Flowers — wedding stationary and design
  • Clean and Classy Candle Co.: Ravin Scott — artisan candle making
  • Happysac412: Fredericka Greenwood — medical marijuana accessories
  • The Covering: Ameela Boyd — clothing designer
  • RoyallyFit LLC: Aquene Watkins Wise — fitness apparel and lifestyle products
  • Soil Sisters Plant Nursery: Raynise Kelley — urban gardening and education
  • It’s Amore by Amari: Amari Green — women’s apparel
  • Merle’s Party Planning: Jarmele Fairclaugh — specialty party favors and gifts

Thompson is optimistic about the impact they can make with the second cohort.

“I’m really excited about continuing to increase intentional opportunities for minority businesses to learn, grow, and expand in Pittsburgh,” she said. “Being able to have an active part in supporting the hopes and dreams of these entrepreneurs is really an honor, and I’m excited to see how they change Pittsburgh’s business landscape.”

Meet the new businesses at the Catapult business mixer on October 3rd

Catapult will host a business mixer for the community to say hello and network with the new businesses on Thursday, October 3rd from 6 to 8 pm  at Gallery on Penn, 5937 Penn Avenue. RSVP via the Facebook event page.

For questions and more information on the Catapult program, contact Tammy Thompson at