2014 UP2P's 3rd graduating class. From L-R: Robert Stein (Interim Director), Hugh Williams (Proudfoot Heating & Cooling), Brandon Rice (Home Healthcare Group), Connie Spearman (Home Healthcare Group), Eugene Thomas (Quik-It Chicken), Jacob Huffmyer (3E Studios), David Burns (3E Studios), Rhonda Carson Leach (Urban Entrepreneurship Director)
According to the Small Business Association, seven out of 10 new employer firms last at least two years, half of which hit the five year mark. A third of those businesses exist for 10 years, and only one-fourth of the remaining stay in business for 15 years or more. While these national statistics can be daunting, one program at the University of Pittsburgh’s Institute for Entrepreneurial Excellence that helps to beat these odds is the Urban Entrepreneurship Program.
Through the Urban Power to Prosper program, the Institute has promoted the establishment, growth and long-term success of businesses in Pittsburgh’s urban neighborhoods. This nine month certificate program focuses on the evolution and sustainability of small businesses. Offering more than 100 hours of classroom instruction and peer-to-peer forums, it combines personal business experiences with a concentrated approach toward creating a strategic growth action plan. Small business professionals find themselves not only gaining valuable knowledge in strategic capital, financial management, and planning, but also becoming exposed to an invaluable opportunity to network and connect with other businesses, both large and small, in the region. The importance of interconnectedness within a business community is an imperative theme that lies within the Institute’s objective. This program targets the urban, inner city, and under served communities of western Pennsylvania in order to make prosperity more of a possibility as it is in our other communities.
Tuesday, June 24th marked the third graduation for the Urban Power to Prosper program since its establishment in September 2012. Six graduates representing four companies were recognized among family and friends as they received their certificate for completing this nine month endeavor. Through education, consulting, and networking, the Urban Entrepreneurship department teaches business owners the value in community adaptation to help stimulate personal and economic revitalization.
Director, instructor, and ultimately jack-of-all-trades, Rhonda Carson Leach is certainly the fire behind the success of Urban Power to Prosper. “We take businesses out of isolation and into existence,” said Carson Leach. Her successful strategy involves creating a macro-view of an individual business by removing owners from the vacuum of day-to-day activity. The four modules (business & leadership, financial management, sales & marketing, and resources) provide intensive educational instruction. But the takeaway goes beyond the classroom. It is the ability to put knowledge into practice, and translating that practice into a growing business that better serves the community.