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Cocoapreneur PGH Black Business Relief Fund | Grantee Q&A with Official Entertainment, Inc. & Steel City Indie, LLC.

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The mission of Cocoapreneur is to foster an environment of economic prosperity in order to ensure more sustainable neighborhoods for the historically African American communities and neighborhoods around Pittsburgh, PA. Through support to businesses via advertising, marketing and consulting, Cocoapreneur aims to normalize the idea of entrepreneurship and make becoming a business owner a more feasible and attainable goal for African Americans in the greater Pittsburgh area.

In response to COVID-19 and increased discussion around race-based disparities in America, Cocoapreneur PGH created the Cocoapreneur Collaborative as another pathway to fulfilling their mission. Aiming to address more social needs of the Black business community, the fund is meant to provide relief and aid to Black owned businesses and Black initiatives that aren’t able to get funding and support through other means. It was initially created to assist businesses that were vandalized after the George Floyd protests in Pittsburgh in May 2020, but has extended its reach to help others facing challenges because of COVID-19, as well. To date, the fund has provided over $50,000 to businesses in the Pittsburgh area!

As part of Cocoapreneur’s 2020 Healthy Neighborhood Awardee highlight week, we will be spotlighting some of the amazing businesses that received mini grants from Cocoapreneur for everything from new equipment, to salaries, to scholarships for youth programs!

Here’s a Q&A with Courtland Kenley, owner of Official Entertainment Inc. and Steel City Indie, LLC.

Tell us about yourself and about your business.

“My name is Courtland Kenley, owner of Official Entertainment Inc. & Steel City Indie, LLC. I’m located in Pittsburgh at 1256 Franklin Avenue in Unit 1 in the Community Forge building. I’m a screenwriter and filmmaker. I coach adult and youth film in-person and virtual workshops. Our kids write, act, and shoot their own short films. That’s what we’re currently crowdfunding for. You can donate here. I’m currently scheduling 4-week, 8-week, and 12-week sessions. In the 4 Week Session, kids will write & produce a 1 to 5-page screenplay. In the 8 Week Session, kids will write and produce a 5 to 10-page screenplay.  In the 12 Week Session, kids will write and produce a 5 to 10-page screenplay and take part in our new junior entrepreneur program where kids get to learn how to run their own apparel company. They’ll learn pitching, contracts, and production. All our options teach team building, self-confidence, and commitment.”

What inspired you to start your business?

“I initially started my business to begin my journey into becoming an international screenwriter and filmmaker. Before Jackie from Pittsburgh Learning Commons, also located in Community Forge, reached out asking businesses in the building if we wanted to offer an activity I never thought I could enjoy teaching kids. Lol! But I definitely enjoyed working with them and watching them create. It’s important to give our youth a space to create. Especially during the times we’re in. They’re having to adjust to constant changes through the COVID pandemic and unable to do a lot of the things they’re used to doing, including going to school. I strongly believe it’s critical to fill their down time with as many positive and productive activities as possible. Growing up, I didn’t have these options and often chose negative options to fill my down time with. There’s nothing better than seeing a kid’s face after they completed something from start to finish that they can say “I did that.””

How did COVID-19 affect your business?

“I ran a youth film after-school program that was forced to shutdown. My kids couldn’t complete their podcasts, projects, etc. I had to refund contracts related to the screenwriting and filmmaking side of my company. I lost thousands of dollars. But working with my business coach Trish from Paramount and my Community Forge family I was able to take care of my bills and build two new companies — introducing new pay streams that I wasn’t thinking of. For example, having virtual sessions utilizing platforms like Zoom.”

What does receiving Cocoapreneur’s mini grant mean to you?

“The Cocoapeneur mini grant was a blessing. It was the first grant I received. I was able to invest in software and equipment more suitable for kids when it comes to screenwriting and short film production. I’m also able to award some kids some scholarships to my program whose parents can’t pay at this time.”

As our 2020 Market Confidence Awardee, Cocoapreneur PGH is truly creating healthy neighborhoods by supporting local, Black-owned businesses in all aspects of entrepreneurship. We are proud to recognize their work!

Follow the 2020 Healthy Neighborhoods Awardee Campaigns on all of our social media channels and by searching #2020HNAwards!

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