Urban & Community Entrepreneurship Program (UCEP)

Thriving communities are built on the restaurants, shops, professional services, and other local businesses that make up those neighborhoods. UCEP is a resource for those business owners.


Bridgett Creach

Ramah International Service Enterprises

Bridgett Creach hoped to strengthen the framework of her business, Ramah International Services Enterprises (R.I.S.E), a language instruction service, to allow room for growth by enrolling in Community Power to Prosper. “The strategic planning course showed me how to progress and how to move forward little by little,” Creach said. She first expanded her thinking to strategize and partner herself with other organizations.

With the knowledge from the course, Creach learned how to find good employees and put together a strong team opposed to doing all of the work herself. With that extra help, she is now able to focus on the business itself without having to teach every class.

Creach credits the class with opening her eyes to the limits she was putting on herself. Now that she has taken a more strategic approach to her business, she is able to focus on her long-term goals such as developing more contracts with organizations, rolling out catalogues of classes, and having her own concrete location to teach. Because of Community Power to Prosper, Creach is able to fearlessly rise above her limits.

“This program certainly helped expand my thinking as a small business owner and helped me look beyond just myself. Before the class, my thinking was narrow minded. I have a more strategic mindset now and am focusing on partnering with other organizations instead of trying to run everything on my own. The program also helped me realize that my goals are attainable and taught me to be confident in myself and my abilities.”

Tim Jones

Salon Blue, LLC
From a very young age, Tim Jones has had a passion for hair styling. The Community Power to Prosper Program helped him take his passion to the next level and allowed him to step back and establish a more holistic view of his salon.

Prior to enrollment in the program, Tim had never written a business plan for Salon Blue. As a graduate of the program, he now realizes the importance of really understanding his numbers.

The program also helped encourage Tim to expand his services beyond hair styling. He is currently working on developing his own product line, Salon Blue Organics, which includes both hair and skin care products.

Since completion of the program, Tim’s product sales have increased and he’s been taking a closer look into optimizing his supply chain by finding the most efficient ingredient and container sources for his products.

“This program offered me a lot of scope. When you are so involved in a business day to day, you often do not actually realize how well you are doing or what you need to improve on. This program helped me get a better look at my business in that sense.”

Alexis Russell

Russell General Contracting, LLC

Alexis Russell took full advantage of the broad curriculum offered in the Community Power to Prosper Program. Throughout the course, she discovered helpful hints for her business as well as opportunities for growth.

“Something I had not considered was social media. My business had social media, but there were little nuisances, and the information that was received [in Community Power to Prosper] was helpful,” Russell said. With the help of the social media strategy course, she was able to update her social media accounts to be more attractive and boost her marketing efforts. Ultimately, building a stronger social media presence allowed her to discover another way to focus on growing her business.

The program also gave her the opportunity to network and partner with other graduates of the program. “Now we are in a position where we could help some of the younger organizations that came through the program and take them to the next level,” Russell said. She has aspirations to develop Russell General Contracting by broadening what she can offer, completing her current portfolio, and acquiring as many as 25 new residential units in the coming months.

“All small business owners know that when running a company, it is easy for things to get overwhelming. This course breaks down the information that business owners need to know and feeds it to participants in bite-sized pieces that are easy to digest. All the main areas of business are focused on to provide a comprehensive view of how to successfully grow your business.”

Brandon Jackson & Kate Kobylinski

Bistro To Go Cafe & Catering

Nikki Heckman decided to open her café and catering company, Bistro To Go, over a decade ago out of a desire to help the community and contribute to the East Allegheny neighborhood in a positive way. She enlisted the help of the Pitt Small Business Development Center (SBDC) which helped her, over many years, develop and build the foundation for the success her company sees today.

In addition to working with the SBDC, Nikki enrolled in Community Power to Prosper to continue to sharpen her business practices. She credits the program with helping her connect to other business owners to see that she is not alone.

The course also helped Nikki see the big picture for her business. Right now, she is in the process of transitioning her business to Brandon Jackson, who joined Bistro To Go over 10 years ago, and Kate Kobylinski, who has been with company for five years. “I encouraged Brandon and Kate to enroll in the program because I knew through this course they would learn everything they need to know about running Bistro To Go.” Both Brandon and Kate, Bistro To Go’s general manager and executive chef respectively, are members of the 2019 Community Power to Prosper class.

“One of the best parts,” Brandon said, “is that we get to meet and network with other small business owners during the classes.” Brandon is confident that after completing the Community Power to Prosper program, he and Kate will be fully prepared to take over the business.

Nikki had a vision that East Ohio Street could once again thrive and made it part of her mission by starting Bistro To Go. She finished her mission, and in passing the business to Brandon and Kate, she knows that they will continue its success and create their own mission and vision for the business and the community. Nikki will remain involved but wants to step back and let Brandon and Kate lead the next generation of Bistro To Go. And she knows that with their ongoing connections with Community Power to Prosper, Pitt SBDC, and the Institute for Entrepreneurial Excellence as a whole, support is not far away.

“Being in a group of like-minded entrepreneurs stimulated my thinking and helped me think outside the box. This place truly is full of great individuals who are willing to help you reach your full potential.”

Ali Simms

Odd Jobs Property Management, Inc.

Prior to Community Power to Prosper, Ali Simms did not even consider leveraging social media for his construction company. The program taught him that social media engagement is key in growing a company. “The course on social media opened my eyes to an entire world that I did not know existed.”

Additionally, the accounting courses helped Ali realize that he could eliminate certain expenses and still keep his net profits the same. On a percentage basis, he is now keeping more of what is coming in because he has cut out those costs. He credits the class with helping him sharpen his skills in several areas of business.

“How can you consider yourself an entrepreneur if you are not furthering your education and participating in programs like this? Trust me when I tell you participating in this program will help your business grow exponentially.”

Diana Lowe

Humbly At Your Service

“This program provides participants the unique opportunity to learn from both instructors that are already professionals in their respective fields and from other small business owners in the class. This course helped transform me into the well-rounded business owner that I needed to be in order for my business to excel.”