Businesswomen in Pittsburgh are about to get a boost.
Chatham University recently announced the opening of a new 3,000-square-foot Entrepreneurship Hub located at its Penn Avenue Eastside campus. Run by Chatham’s Center for Women’s Entrepreneurship and its Women’s Business Center, the Hub will provide a variety of valuable services for female entrepreneurs in Pittsburgh and throughout Western Pennsylvania.
Funded through the support of The Claude Worthington Benedum Foundation, Google.org and the PNC Foundation, the Hub is described as a nexus for mentoring, training and networking events. Programs are offered for free or for a nominal fee to Chatham students and non-students, with a special focus on women from economically and socially disadvantaged backgrounds and women veterans.
“For women who are interested in starting a business, are in the early stages of starting one or have been in business for many years, we have now with this new hub a very good series of programming, training, counseling and mentoring to support all their needs,” says Anne Flynn Schlicht, director of the Women’s Business Center.
She believes the Hub will help women overcome challenges they face in the business world.
“We really try and focus a lot of what we do on feedback we get back from clients, and what they’re struggling with,” says Schlicht.
The Hub features a Financial Literacy program that includes workshops and seminars headed by various partners, including accountants, CDFI lenders, banks and bookkeepers. With help from Google.org, it will also host a series of digital literacy training programs about building and sustaining a compelling online presence.
“It’s not about how amazing your website is, it’s how you drive traffic to your website,” says Schlicht, emphasizing that the program pushes women to think beyond a local level. “We are in a global economy now, so we’re looking at reaching out to customers not just here in Pittsburgh or in Pennsylvania, but throughout the United States and the world.”
Another outstanding aspect of the Hub is a Prototyping and Design Lab for makers. Set to open in August, the Lab will offer a variety of easy-to-use tools and equipment from local startups and established companies, as well as small creative and crafts materials, a multi-function 3D printer, and other fine machining and textile processing tools. Local professionals will assist with demos and hands-on workshops.
“The Lab will empower women by providing them access to advanced manufacturing skills and tools in an inclusive environment to inspire creativity and innovation,” says Nazli Saka, who oversees the Lab and serves as the community and student engagement manager at the Center for Women’s Entrepreneurship.
The Hub represents one aspect of Chatham’s ever-expanding mission to aid both aspiring and established women business owners. The Center for Women’s Entrepreneurship currently runs Concept To Launch, a low-cost six-week training program for women with startup concepts. With funding from PNC, the Center also developed Empowering Women in the Communities. The program launches this fall in the Hill District, where it will provide underserved female residents with the hands-on training and tools necessary to become an entrepreneur.
“It’s giving them a better understanding of the core financial things they need to understand in order to make a business successful,” says Schlicht.