ELDI and Circles Greater Pittsburgh are piloting a small business incubator program called Catapult: Start-up to Storefront specializing in assisting individuals who want to start or grow small, minority businesses in the East End, particularly in Larimer and East Liberty. We’ve partnered with Paramount Co-Op, an incubator program and co-working space based out of Ambridge, PA who most recently worked in the Hill District, to help facilitate this program. Made possible by generous funding from the URA and Neighborhood Allies, we received and reviewed 28 applications, selecting 15 high-potential local businesses for the first cohort. The program launched April 2nd and will last 9-months. By the end of the year, we hope to raise enough money to welcome another cohort into the program.

We talked to Tammy Thompson, Circles Greater Pittsburgh program consultant and ELDI partner, who will be leading the program on our side and Trish O’Brien Digliodo, managing director at Paramount, to discuss more about this exciting new venture and what it means for the East End business community.


Tammy Thompson_Circles Greater Pittsburgh_Catapult-Startup to Storefront
Tammy Thompson, Circles Greater Pittsburgh executive director and a leader of the new Catapult program.

How did the idea for this business incubator initially come about?

Tammy Thompson: Maelene Myers, ELDI’s executive director, wanted to make sure that local, existing businesses in East Liberty were getting the support they needed to stay competitive in the fast-growing market. Specifically, she wanted to make sure that business owners who felt they were being “pushed out” of the neighborhood were getting the support they needed. She asked me to help come up with ideas to ensure that existing minority businesses and residents with business ideas were being supported with technical assistance so that they could build and grow sustainable, competitive businesses. I immediately contacted Diamonte Walker, the URA’s Minority and Women Business Enterprise program officer, because I knew that if she got involved she would bring, fresh creative ideas to the table, and she did. She suggested working with Paramount Co-Op and things stemmed from there.

What assistance will the participating businesses receive?

Participants will receive technical assistance ranging from setting up legal structures, understanding finances, networking, as well as peer support and one-on-one mentoring.
Catapult Startup to Storefront_ELDI_Circles
ELDI hosted a trip to Paramount Co-Op in January, taking Circles Leaders and other aspiring entrepreneurs to the Paramount facility for a one-day business marketing workshop. Bridgeway Capital and the URA were also in attendance. It provided a snapshot of what was possible for the upcoming program.

What were the criterion for selecting the businesses?

The current criteria are to live or do business in the East End/Larimer community, have a business or business idea that aligns with the East Liberty and/or Larimer Community Business District plans and be willing to work hard and succeed.

Who are the participating businesses?

The following businesses make up our first cohort:

Early Stage Businesses
(Companies who are recent start-ups or in the concept phase.):
  • Steel City Gumbo – Dominic Odom
  • Prater and Sons Contracting – Richard Prater
  • Larimer Free Store/Consignment Concept – Aurelia Carter
  • Mobile Team Room/Tea Shop Concept – Deborah Batten-Reid
Emerging Businesses
(Operational companies generating income, or the owner has entrepreneurial experience or expertise.):
  • Naptural Beauty Supply, LLC. – LaSheisha Holliday
  • Kin of Duncan Apparel – Jasmine Duncan
  • Hill Mechanical – Keith Hill
  • NQ Bike Ride – Laura Thomas
  • 360 Café – Tyleda Worou
  • IMIHI Designs – Alexis Cathie
Established Anchor Businesses
(High-growth potential firms with well-established brands, or brick and mortar presence in the East End. Each is interested in operating in Larimer or expanding in the East End.):
  • CobblerWorld – Terina Hicks
  • Cultural Oasis – Dana Harris-Yates
  • The Brown Insurance Agency – Ronald Brown
  • The Professional Barber Institute – Nena and Wahad Ansari
  • TLC Libations – Erick and Diane Turner
The ELDI Catapult team: (From left to right): Tammy Thompson, Ted Melnyk, and Maelene Myers.

What is the overarching goal of the program?

The overarching goal is to help local business owners get what they need to maintain or build successful, sustainable businesses in these neighborhoods, but also to provide a wealth building opportunity that benefits the community as a whole.
Trish O’Brien Digliodo_Paramount Co-Op_Catapult-Startup to Storefront
Trish O’Brien Digliodo, Paramount Co-Op managing director.

What excites you about establishing this program in the East End?

Trish O’Brien Digliodo: I am not sure you have enough space for my answer! The team we are working with is simply amazing! Every single person working to bring this program to the East End is truly committed to having an impact on the entrepreneurs, the community and the residents of the community. Everyone at ELDI, Circles, the URA and the Larimer Consensus Group have gone above and beyond to bring this program to the East End.

The Paramount team is excited to work with entrepreneurs who live in and/or want to serve the East End.  Our programming has proven successful because we work with each individual client to determine their goals and help them achieve their dreams. After reading through the applications, we knew we could truly help these entrepreneurs find success and impact the community.

What has the response from participants been like so far?

The response has been amazing. While the participants are excited about the speakers we have lined up, I think they are most excited about the one-on-one mentoring and support they will receive in the Catapult Program. If you Google “Help me write a business plan”, there are over 23 million results, but there are few people who will sit down with you at the table and say, “Let’s do this together.”. That is exactly the help these entrepreneurs are excited about.


Catapult will also be hosting monthly community business workshops open to the public. The next one will take place on May 21st at AlphaLab Gear (6025 Broad Street) from 6-8 pm. Stay tuned for news on more workshops and get updates on Catapult by subscribing to the ELDI newsletter and/or following us on Facebook, Twitter, or Instagram.