READY FOR BUSINESS—Urban Innovation21 startup business winners are ready to roll. Linsey McDonald of Lively Roots, Jomari Peterson and Walter Lewis of Hajj Media, Michael White of Uncle Mikes Sandwich Shop and Keir Wells of Homecare Sustainability Solutions. (Photo by Diane Daniels)


In November of 2012 the staff of Urban Innovation21 introduced to the Homewood-Brushton community the Homewood Business Grant Competition to an audience of approximately 50 potential and existing entrepreneurs. During a July 17 awards ceremony and business expo, the group awarded $70,000 to four startups and four existing businesses and numerous of the program participants displayed their products and services.

Urban Innovation21 officials say that in August a Kiva Trustee will announce 10 additional awards of $1,000 toward a Kiva Zip zero-interest loan of up to $5,000. This, according to Carolina Pais-Barreto Beyers, the group’s Vice President and Pittsburgh Central Keystone Innovation Zone Coordinator, leverages the Internet and a global network of more than 1 million lenders. In total $100,000 will be granted to Homewood Business Grant Competition participants.

“This is great. This program is helping me get back on track toward reestablishing my sandwich shop. Fulfilling a dream I have been holding on to since 1995,” said Michael White of Uncle Mike’s Sandwich Shop. White is a recipient of a $10,000 startup grant.

Linsey McDonald of Lively Roots and Keir Wells of Homecare Sustainability Solutions also were $10,000 startup business recipients and Jomari Peterson and his partner Walter Lewis owners of Hajj Media received $5,000.

In the existing business category, $10,000 recipients were Yolanda Hill of East End Notary, Etc., Neal Dorsey of Dorsey’s Records and Steven and Amber Dent of Lady D’s Mini Market. The $5,000 recipient was Denise Jones and Brittce Clay of Jones Printing.

“More than announcing our grant winners, this event is a celebration of the entrepreneurial drive and fighting spirit that exists in this community,” said William Generett Jr., Urban Innovation21’s President and CEO. “I am excited about what is happening here. Over 80 people originally participated in this program.”

A predominantly African-American community, it is reported that Homewood is one of the poorest neighborhoods in the State where more than one in three residents lives in poverty. Growing up in the neighborhood, Generett says he remembers Homewood as a thriving community. “This is personal to me. I remember the business corridor of the 1970’s and 80’s. I left Pittsburgh, but when I returned, I shedded tears. Now there is hope. There is a lot of great work happening in Homewood. We are excited to work with Homewood based nonprofits to play a collaborative role in rebuilding this community.”

Strictly designed for for profit businesses, Generett said the Homewood Grant Competition will and is bringing other nonprofit organizations into the community to create an environment where businesses can grow. “Our goal is to establish businesses that will add jobs and revitalize the community,” he emphasized.

Urban Innovation 21, based in the Hill District is defined as a public-private partnership that boosts regional economic development through 21st century innovation-driven entrepreneurship. The organization is concerned with the stagnation of local communities like Homewood and the Hill District in contrast to the rapidly changing global market. The group’s belief is that a successful innovation economy can drive economic growth, but lasting regional progress occurs when all communities are connected to wealth generators.

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