Pittsburgh + Forward Cities: 3 Ways To Stay Connected

July 27, 2021 | By

Emily Bezak

Whether or not you’ve heard the news in Pittsburgh, you’ve stumbled across this article for a reason. After a successful one-year community entrepreneurship accelerator, the Steel City has graduated to find a new home with the E3 Alliance of Pittsburgh and Riverside Center for Innovation.

This transition has been months in the making, and the Forward Cities team has been working tirelessly with the local community and organizers to help it progress smoothly. Let’s take a look at what we’ve accomplished together in Pittsburgh since its inception in Fall 2019, as well as a few ways Pittsburgh will continue to accelerate efforts to make small business more equitable.

Lessons Learned and Optimism Remains in Pittsburgh

Our team of small business experts and consultants set up shop in Pittsburgh with its initial pilot in Fall of 2019. Today, we’re passing the torch to a local accelerator of our own design to carry on the work with the resources and ecosystem we’ve established in Pittsburgh. Here’s everything you need to know.

Forward Cities Enters Pittsburgh

To prepare for our pilot, Brett Brenton started work in Pittsburgh for Forward Cities in the Summer of 2019 by establishing a job description and role for the Navigator Program. Pittsburgh was the first test market.

“We have seen the Navigator work grow into multiple other cities, we've learned a great deal about the best use of a platform to connect ecosystems, and we've learned how to properly lift up a cross sector council and empower them to take direction for the good of a community,” says Brett Brenton, senior director of learning networks at Forward Cities.

In addition, Brett remembers learning about Pittsburgh’s unique advantage of being chock full of ESOs and a deep desire to invest locally. Another important learning from the Pittsburgh market Brett mentions is how to appreciate and nurture an engagement with the investing community, including large organizations like The Hillman Foundation and the RK Mellon Foundation, where they didn’t simply write a check but authentically engaged and worked with the team to spark entrepreneurship in the region.

Riverside Center for Innovation and The E3 Alliance of Pittsburgh

So, how is Forward Cities connected to Pittsburgh going forward? The same team that built the Forward Cities Pittsburgh team created the E3 Alliance of Pittsburgh, trained and equipped the team with resources, and will be available to the E3 Alliance and RCI as needed for overarching strategies and building on the work done over the last year.

RCI will carry out the daily work Forward Cities has done to this point in Pittsburgh, allowing Forward Cities to expand into other cities and develop new programs and resources to benefit all cities in the ecosystem. We’re not the ones you’ll talk to everyday, but we hired and trained them and we gave them the rule book.

“The future of the Pittsburgh entrepreneurial ecosystem is directly related to the E3 Alliance,” says Hassan Bazzi, Director of Community Innovation. “The Equitable Entrepreneurial Ecosystem Alliance (E3 Alliance) of Greater Pittsburgh, is a new organization that serves as the coordinating body for Pittsburgh’s entrepreneurial ecosystem, working to foster a culture of equity for every entrepreneur. The organization will lead and synchronize a diverse group of stakeholders in the development and implementation of strategies aligned with shared outcomes to ensure the long term sustainability of this work in the Pittsburgh ecosystem.”

"The future of the Pittsburgh entrepreneurial ecosystem is directly related to the E3 Alliance.”

Hassan Bazzi, Director of Community Innovation
Forward Thinking: 3 Ways The E3 Alliance Can Accelerate Small Business Growth in Pittsburgh

#1: Local Funding, Support, and Operations
Our team has built the framework to support and activate small businesses in the Greater Pittsburgh region based on our experience in many other cities across the country. Now that the foundation is laid, the missing ingredient is an operator in the local area that understands the unique needs and challenges facing Pittsburgh entrepreneurs. This transition will keep the daily operations local to allow for agile, meaningful connections and growth.

#2: Transitional Resources and Training
A transition team has been developing resources and collaborative digital platforms from each group for Pittsburgh to continue to access Forward Cities beyond the end of this engagement. The transition team is made up of experts from Forward Cities and the E3 Alliance of Pittsburgh via RCI to ensure a smooth offboarding. In addition to a formal and detailed transition playbook, the two teams will continue to work together on key deliverables outlined in the 2019 Forward Cities grant, including pilot programs and other launches.

The Riverside Center of Innovation is a physical space in the Pittsburgh city skyline with office space and local entrepreneurs that accelerate small businesses just like us. If your city goes through a transition like this one, know that you can still access Forward Cities resources in perpetuity in addition to the new resources available to you from the incoming organization.

#3: Shining Light On Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion
Forward Cities’ proprietary ABIDE program is still available to Pittsburgh after the transition and puts the spotlight on the importance of equity and inclusion in the local small business community. ABIDE stands for Access, Belonging, Inclusion, Diversity, and Equity, and provides a framework and space for entrepreneurs to discuss, learn, and become allies.

Small Business Resources for Pittsburgh Entrepreneurs

Starting and managing a small business in Pittsburgh is challenging. With so much going on in your day-to-day, you can certainly use a pocket full of resources from seasoned small business owners in the region.

Join the community by signing up for our emails for resources, tips, and best practices to help you start your small business in Pittsburgh with ease. Our team can help you navigate the challenges of being a small business owner in Pittsburgh.