Erin Patton credits the New Pittsburgh Courier as the first media source to write about his accomplishments. Since then he has been quoted in the USA Today, Time, Newsweek, Business Week, the Wall Street Journal, Fortune and Inc. Magazines and has appeared on ESPN, NBC, CNN, VH1 and Fox News.

TELLING IT LIKE IT IS— Former entrepreneur and director of the Allegheny County Department of Minority, Women and Disadvantaged Business Enterprise, Ruth Byrd-Smith shares some  wisdom during the Micro 2 Millions Microenterprise Symposium.

In Pittsburgh recently sharing his wisdom and expertise on how the Hip-Hop Generation is influencing the brand on sports and pop culture, he says, “Pittsburgh made me what I am.”


A 1987 Peabody High School graduate growing up in Homewood, he credits his introduction to hip-hop at that juncture in his life. In his book “Under the Influence: Tracing the Hip-Hop Generation’s Impact on Brands, Sports and Pop Culture.” He says he fell in love with the genre in 1986 when first listening to the rapper Rakim. It has been his life ever since. To day he is acknowledged for counseling Fortune 500 brands Motorola, AT&T, Exxon-Mobil, Adidas, Converse, Mercedes-Benz, Ford Motor Co., Coors Light, Absolut and Macy’s in addition to sports icons LeBron James and Venus and Serena Williams. While working with Nike he is said to have been hand-picked by Michael Jordan as the original architect for the Jordan brand.

Patton served as keynote speaker for the YWCA of Greater Pittsburgh’s Microenterprise Symposium. Known as a branding and marketing guru, he shared his strategies and techniques with a crowd of more than 125 participants.

“It’s something about Pittsburgh that gives you the ability to withstand,” he said. “It takes faith, desire and persistence to make it,” he said, pointing out that he was the youngest of three raised by a single mom. Likening growing up in such circumstances to operating a business, he said one has to have dreams and desires and has to turn obstacles into opportunity. Reminding the audience that they possess uniqueness, he said, “You all have gifts to work with.” As an entrepreneur, he said those gifts have to be connected with others while using external tools and resources. “Everyone needs a support group and should have a mastermind group,” he remarked. His two-year- old company is named The Mastermind Group, influenced by author Napoleon Hills’ classic, “Think and Grow Rich.”

He emphasized that building a brand means knowing one’s audience. “Understanding what drives the culture of the business and the touch-points.” With innovation at the fingertips, he also says the best way to predict the future is to create it.

Other highlights during the symposium entitled “Micro 2 Millions” were the various business-related workshops, the Million Dollar Business—Unlocking the Code to Success panel and the opening session presented by Ruth Byrd-Smith, director of the Allegheny County Department of Minority, Women and Disadvantaged Business Enterprise.

As a former entrepreneur, Byrd-Smith suggested to the mixed crowd of small business owners and budding entrepreneurs, to understand that to stay in business one has to know their financial conditions. She pointed out the importance of monitoring the cash flow and accounts receivables of the business, establishing a line of credit and developing an appropriate marketing strategy.

“Develop strategic alliances,” said Byrd-Smith. “Meet purchasing agents, network, join organizations and look for good advisers—not family members, someone who understands your industry and that you have chemistry with,” she said.

Held at the Carnegie Mellon University at the Tepper School of Business, the symposium was sponsored by the YW Enterprising Women’s Program, a part of the Asset Development Initiative of the YWCA Greater Pittsburgh in affiliation with Students in Free Enterprise/Carnegie Mellon University. Other sponsors included Allegheny County, the city of Pittsburgh, the Small Business Administration, The Soul, the Carnegie Library of Pittsburgh and the National Organization of Women Business Owners.

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