Small Businesses Rooted in Community Receive $10,000 Comcast RISE grants

Aug 4, 2022

Last week, Comcast announced the 100 Allegheny County small businesses owned by women and people of color who will be receiving $10,000 business grants through the Comcast RISE Investment Fund!

Neighborhood Allies was one of 3 local organizations chosen by Comcast to conduct outreach and provide technical assistance to our vibrant network of local small business owners. Over the course of one month, we spread the word about this grant opportunity, including to those businesses who participated in our Get Online and Grow Online Program. We also held 6 assistance workshops and offered one-on-one help with applications during the two-week submission window. Plus, our amazing partners at First Sip Studios, a former Get Online and Grow online participant and grantee themselves, offered FREE headshots, product photography, and social media and business consults to attendees. Altogether, we served more than 125 businesses through our collaborative work.

We are thrilled to congratulate all 100 businesses who received the grant! We are especially proud of all of those businesses who we know, love, and support as part of our Neighborhood Allies family. We’re honored to have helped many of the successful grantees access this opportunity or even submit their applications. Read about just a few of them below…

Pyramid PGH, LLC

Sadik Roberts started his business, Pyramid PGH, LLC. as an undergraduate student at Duquesne University in 2015. Back then, the business focused on planning parties and social and cultural events. However, towards the end of his time at school, Sadik saw the need for a shift in this business model.

“I started to evaluate what I had gained from creating Pyramid PGH, and what I took away most from it was our ability to bring people out, to bring people together, and to bring people to ideas,” said Sadik.

He realized that what Pyramid PGH was doing all along was advertising…they just weren’t calling it that. So, Pyramid PGH delved deeper into digital marketing and advertising for local small businesses and organizations. From website building and ad campaigns to social media planning and operational growth and development, Pyramid PGH covers a wide range of business needs.

Sadik recently left his day job to pursue Pyramid PGH full-time and says the Comcast grant is going to help him set his business up for future success. He plans to use some of the funding to advertise his services across the region.

Sadik’s collaborations with Neighborhood Allies include The Homewood Experience, our neighborhood positive image campaign, and, more recently, serving as a technical assistance provider in our Get Online and Grow Online program!

Cabaret Banquet Hall and Event Center

After working as a Pittsburgh police officer for 23 years, Simone Godson got into the business of real estate and began purchasing properties and creating spaces.

In 2009, the space that would become Cabaret Banquet Hall and Event Center (a former tool rental shop) went up for sale. Because the owner wanted the building to stay in the hands of someone from the Homewood community, he offered Simone, a resident of the neighborhood, the opportunity to purchase it. He even turned down other offers and made accommodations so that she could buy it.

Since then, Simone has been building her space from the ground up.

“I believe in my community,” said Simone. “And I’m here for my community because somebody trusted me and believed in me to do right by this space for the community.”

Cabaret focuses on affordability and community-oriented events. During COVID, when business was suffering, Simone still opened her doors to community members who needed space, access to the internet, or childcare. Yet, this wasn’t new for her – Simone always opens her doors when the community is in need.

This grant will help Simone continue making renovations, as well as begin pursuing a liquor license for her establishment.

Neighborhood Allies is also currently working with Simone through our Centralized Real Estate Accelerator Program! We are providing funds to pay for an architect in order to obtain a temporary occupancy permit that will allow her to utilize Cabaret’s parking lot as an expanded outdoor event space.

Mele’s Gifts and Party Planning

Jarmele Fairclaugh has been planning events and parties all her life. From her son’s birthday parties to neighborhood get-togethers, she was always in planning mode.

“I love a party,” she said. “I don’t even care whose party it is! I want people to have a good time.”

When her grandmother fell ill, Jarmele needed to cut back on events to help care for her. Eventually, her grandmother moved into a nursing home, and Jarmele used her talents to bring joy and comfort to her on a daily basis.

“I would take her stuff, but I would always make it look pretty,” said Jarmele. “My goal became that every day was going to be a good day [for her]. I said ‘I can’t be here all the time, but you will have something to look at every single day.’”

Jarmele started bringing gift baskets for her grandmother’s roommate, too, and then the nurses’ station, and it snowballed from there. And that’s how custom gift baskets became a staple of her business.

“I love making other people happy. And for me, making the gift baskets is making other people happy.”

The Comcast grant will help Jarmele continue to make improvements to her business, as well as recover from some of her losses during COVID.

Jarmele was a participant in our Get Online and Grow Online program. She also was a part of Catapult Greater Pittsburgh’s first ever Startup to Storefront program, which we supported early on with a grant in 2018.

First Sip Studios

Dennis Guy, co-owner of First Sip, says he’s always wanted to be an entrepreneur. Growing up, his mom worked multiple jobs just to make ends meet. Since then, he has aimed to build a future where his family didn’t have to face the same obstacles that he did. So, after serving for 8 years in the U.S. Army, he set out to fulfill his dream of starting his own company. Soonafter, he met his wife and co-owner Sammie, and together they built First Sip Brew Box

Above all, First Sip is a storytelling company. For the first 5 years, they focused on sharing stories within their Brew Box – a monthly subscription or one time gift box for the ultimate craft beer enthusiast. They did this through creative artist driven merchandise and unique items made from beer from the United States to Rwanda, Africa and more. However, they’ve grown and have begun sharing stories in other ways, too.

“Since 2020, we have evolved to tell stories visually through our video production arm, First Sip Studios, using what we have learned from small businesses all over the world. But we didn’t stop there,” said Dennis. “We saw a massive creative asset gap with disadvantaged businesses from their peers. First Sip is also Black, veteran, and woman-owned, so we know firsthand the struggles facing that demographic in having the technology, knowledge, and means to create engaging content.”

To address this, First Sip created the SYP “Share Your Purpose” program – a 6-month course with the power of First Sip Studios that creates video and photo assets for disadvantaged businesses and empowers them to overcome any immediate obstacles they are currently facing.

The Comcast grant will allow First Sip to invest in more technology and resources and continue to grow their team. Their programming is currently offered throughout Mt. Oliver, but they plan on taking it city-wide soon, and launching it in Columbus, OH before 2023.

These business owners agree that $10,000 is going to help them take their businesses to the next level. Yet, we know that we must continue to support them in their growth, helping them not just to survive, but to thrive. By lifting up our local small businesses, especially those that are minority and women-owned, we are lifting up our communities as a whole. Each of these businesses bring immense value to every space in which they work, and serve to strengthen the very fabric of our neighborhoods.

Top Header Image Photo Credit: Prototyping Larimer Stories by artist John Peña, photo by OPA