As Black Friday and Small Business Saturday initiated the holiday shopping season, women business owners located Downtown Pittsburgh and East Liberty were primed and ready for the season. Edina Style Accessories in Fifth Avenue Place, Downtown, and the Gallery on Penn, a pop-up store for minority- and women-owned entrepreneurs in East Liberty, met the challenges of the weekend.
Proprietor Edina Greene describes her business as a jewel box that offers designer-inspired handbags and unique costume jewelry for all occasions. Operating as an actual brick and mortar retail shop since mid-October, Greene says, has been positive for her business.
“We’ve been coasting along nicely. Light-up Night, Black Friday and Small Business Saturday has been good for us.”
Originally functioning as a pop-up establishment, first for 90 days, then receiving two six-month extensions, Greene says she is excited that Edina Style Accessories was recently awarded a two-year lease by the management of Fifth Avenue Place. “I am elated about the opportunity of being here, the originality it offers my customers and the possibilities it extends to other artisans.”
In addition to selling the costume jewelry, Greene’s goal is to sell designer-inspired jewelry, including her own as well as authentic artistic wearable art from around the world. Already she sells jewelry from Argentina designed by Maria Metagi. She says her wide range of customers can find Fulani earrings, Masa turtles from Africa, and fresh water pearls and gems from Turkey. “I want to create a hub for local and designers from around the world to sell their goods whether it be jewelry, purses and a variety of wearable art,” Greene said.
A longtime designer herself, Greene says she receives her inspiration from her travels. A lover of color, she points out that her journeys to Italy, Guatemala, Costa Rica and throughout the Caribbean have influenced her. “I find that I am drawn to the tills of the water.”
Originally established in New York more than 30 years ago, Greene, the New Jersey native, has been surviving and expressing herself through her God given gifts in New York, Maryland and Pennsylvania. To make ends meet, Greene, a single mother, began redesigning and restyling broken jewelry. “While wearing it to work people were always inquiring as to where I got it from and eventually began bringing me their broken jewelry to redesign,” and from that a business was created.
She began vending and at the age of 7 her son also sold items he redesigned. During her move from New York to Maryland Greene became a victim of robbery. Utilizing $500 from her mother-in-law, which Greene considered an investment, she purchased jewelry to go along with her current inventory. Her first time out she said she made $1,200 and at that time she knew that was the business she wanted to be in. Since then the business has operated through vending, as a pop-up shop and now a storefront.
Five miles east of Fifth Avenue Place at 5935 Penn Ave., since the beginning of November the owners of CobblerWorld Baked Goods, Naptural Beauty Supply, 360 Cafe LLC, IMIHI Designs, Kin of Duncan Apparel and TLC Libations have been providing a variety of products via a small business incubator program based in East Liberty. The youngest of the entrepreneurs is 12-year-old Jazmiere Bates, co-owner of Kin of Duncan Apparel, a T-shirt business for kids and dogs also operated by her mother, Jasmine Duncan. The most recent additions to the incubator include First Sip Brew Box, Exotic Hush and Jamil’s Global Village.
Launched to help local and minority-owned businesses benefit from East Liberty’s revitalization, Maelene Myers, executive director of East Liberty Development Inc., said the organization was criticized by the operators of Jamil’s Global Village. “They accused ELDI of turning its back to the needs of minority business owners. While the criticism hurt, it caused us to reflect on our work. We helped incubate the first co-working space, the Beauty Shoppe, and have witnessed numerous other co-working spaces, incubators and business support programs move into the neighborhood,” she said.
Realizing that none of the programs were relevant to minority entrepreneurs, she said as a result their support of the Gallery on Penn is significant. “We are excited about this project.”
The Gallery on Penn was made possible by the small business incubator program Catapult: Start-up to Storefront. “Catapult” is a joint-initiative of ELDI, Circles Greater Pittsburgh, the Urban Redevelopment Authority, the Larimer Consensus Group and Paramount Co-Op. Neighborhood Allies also serves as a sponsor and financial contributor.
The brainchild of the executive director of Circles Greater Pittsburgh and manager of the Catapult program, Tammy Thompson, said that “with the development of a physical Catapult: Start-up to Storefront space, we’re really excited to be able to offer this new opportunity to allow our companies to incubate their retail businesses on one of the busiest streets in the city.”
Using Small Business Saturday to debut the bottling of their signature juice blends and syrups, Diane and Erika Turner, the owners of TLC Libations, are pleased with their experience in the incubator. TLC Libations is a beverage and bartending service that offers premium homemade TLC Sangria, custom cocktails, non-alcoholic beverages and they highlight regional wineries and breweries. “Since we’ve been here, we have hosted a cocktail demonstration and have plans to launch our subscription box,” pointed out Diane Turner.
Michelle Cook-Jones, head manager for CobblerWorld, also describes their experience at the Gallery on Penn as positive. They offer breakfast sandwiches and quiche each weekday.
Helping others to heal from the inside out, Tyleda Worou, the owner of 360 Café, views being an entrepreneur as a blessing. “I’m following my dreams,” Worou said.
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