Apply to First Leap

The application closes at midnight on March 11, 2024.

Apply Now

The First Leap Journey

Learn

Understand business fundamentals and the elements of a business plan.
  • Join a 10-week intensive business development curriculum that emphasizes learning how to identify the right goals for your business, increase sales and visibility, strengthen your brand identity, and how to legitimize your business.
  • Work with a cohort of 10 to 15 creative businesses that connect in person over the course of the program and are encouraged to continue peer-to-peer learning and support after the program is complete.

Plan

Develop a business plan to guide decision-making and pursue opportunities.
  • Build the framework of a business plan that will help you clearly outline your pathway to growth for the next year and beyond.
  • The actionable business canvas model positions business owners to reach entrepreneurial goals and access capital, like grants and loans.

Thrive

Graduate from First Leap with the entrepreneurial confidence and capital readiness needed to thrive.
  • After the 10-week intensive, the highest engaged participants can access support for up to six months to put their plan into action by working with free business coaches.
  • Participants with business plans will be eligible to apply for Creative Entrepreneur Accelerator grants of up to $2,000 from the Pennsylvania Council on the Arts and patient and flexible loan capital from Bridgeway Capital. Learn more about the $2,000 Creative Entrepreneurship Accelerator grant.
  • Support applying for financing opportunities with Bridgeway Capital

Want to Learn More?

A First Leap Mixer will be on February 29, 2024 where prospects can learn more and meet program facilitators.

RSVP Here

Eligibility

  • Identifies as an artist, maker, designer, craftsperson, and/or small-batch manufacturer*
  • Has operated a creative business for a minimum of one year (has sold products or services)
  • Has access to a computer and the internet (to attend sessions and complete homework)
  • Aspires to become a full-time creative business owner
  • Able to attend in-person sessions at the CBA’s classroom in Wilkinsburg, PA
  • Participating or willing to participate in CBA
  • Agrees to complete pre- and post-program surveys
  • Participants can be return cohort members from previous First Leaps

* Please visit the PA Council on the Arts for samples of creative business types that would likely realize the most success in the First Leap Program.

Priority

  • BIPOC, women, and/or veteran-owned creative businesses
  • Entrepreneurs living and/or operating a business in low to moderate-income areas
  • Entrepreneurs seeking a loan from Bridgeway Capital
  • Creative businesses with evidence of and/or aspirations for social impact:
    • Creating quality jobs
    • Reactivating postindustrial spaces
    • Revitalizing Main Street corridors
    • Elevating underserved populations

Timeline

  • Applications are open now and close March 11th, 2024
  • Mixer and Information session on February 29, 2024, at the Wilkinsburg Train Station, 5:30 – 8:30
  • Applicants complete Business Growth Ladder* assessments
  • Selectees will be notified by March 19, 2024
  • The first phase runs 10 weeks every Thursday evening from April 4th, 2024, to June 6th, 2024
  • Graduation June 6th, 2024, at the Wilkinsburg Train Station
  • The second phase runs six months, from June 2024 to November 2024

* The Business Growth Ladder (BGL) is a survey to gain high-level data to help determine the state of a business.

Benefits

  • Comprehensive Learning Experience: 10-week intensive business development curriculum.
  • Collaborative Environment: Work with a cohort of 10 to 15 creative businesses who can relate to your experience as an entrepreneur.
  • Strategic Business Planning: Build the framework of a business plan to outline your pathway to growth.
  • Financial Support: Eligibility to apply for grants and flexible loan capital.
  • Professional Branding: Receive a professional headshot to enhance your marketing efforts, presenting a polished image to potential clients and investors alike.
  • Ongoing Support: Receive ongoing support for up to six months supported by free business coaches.
  • Access to Funding Opportunities: Eligibility to apply for a Creative Entrepreneur Accelerator grant of up to $2,000 from the Pennsylvania Council on the Arts and patient and flexible loan capital from Bridgeway Capital.

Program Facilitator

First Leap is led by Azriel Weaver, a Pittsburgh-based business coach specializing in supporting creative entrepreneurs. Additional guest experts and experienced business owners will join First Leap sessions to share their special insights and experiences. Participating entrepreneurs will hone the skills needed to build a solid business foundation and realize a meaningful impact in their communities. First Leap guidance is delivered by experts in business fundamentals and experienced creative business owners.

Through an application process, Bridgeway Capital’s Creative Business Accelerator will select 10-to-15 emerging creative entrepreneurs and guide them through an intensive yet supportive 10-week program, then provide opportunities for ongoing support after the sessions to achieve business goals.

ABOUT AZRIEL WEAVER

Program Leader

As the Programs Director for Bridgeway, Katie Schaible uses her talents to translate opportunities in real estate development and product design into catalytic transactions for creative entrepreneurs across the region. Katie brings over 14 years of experience in product development as well as entrepreneurial, logistical, and project management skills to Bridgeway. She ran a high-tech design and manufacturing business in which she oversaw the development of multiple products from concept to manufacturing. After a successful exit from her own business, she uses her combined business and product development skills to help companies and entrepreneurs work through the innovation process as a technical consultant.

Program Location

Gather, Learn, Share

All sessions will be at The Wilkinsburg Train Station in the Bridgeway Capital space at 901 Hay Street, Pittsburgh PA, 15221.

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Session Topics

Entrepreneurship 101: Mindset, Mission & Values, Goal Setting

April 4, 2024, at 6:00 p.m.
The Wilkinsburg Train Station
Facilitators: Azriel Weaver & Katie Schaible
Essential Questions:
  • What is the “why” for my creative entrepreneurship?
  • How do I sell out without selling out?
  • How do I sell out without burning out?
  • How do I balance creativity with business practices?

Marketing 101: Product, Audience, Brand & Assets

April 11, 2024, at 6:00 p.m.
The Wilkinsburg Train Station
Facilitators: Azriel Weaver & TBD
Essential Questions:
  • What products and services am I offering?
  • Do I know who my target audiences are?
  • Is my branding consistent and effective?
  • What marketing assets do I need to build my brand?

Financial Literacy 101: Pricing, Bookkeeping, Banking & Credit

April 18, 2024, at 6:00 p.m.
The Wilkinsburg Train Station
Facilitators: Azriel Weaver & Minerva Financial Arts
Essential Questions:
  • How do I know if my products are priced for profitability?
  • Why is it important to get proper bookkeeping established ASAP?
  • Why do I need to consider a business banking account?
  • How can my credit help or hurt my creative entrepreneurship?

Study Session 1

April 25, 2024, at 6:00 p.m.
The Wilkinsburg Train Station
Facilitators: Azriel Weaver & Autumn Edmiston
Essential Questions:
  • How does the content from the first two sessions apply to me?
  • How can I use a Business Model Canvas to organize my insights?
  • What barriers to success am I starting to realize?
  • What kind of financial sustainability and growth am I pursuing?

Legal 101: Intellectual Property, Entity Formation & Contracts

May 2, 2024, at 6:00 p.m.
The Wilkinsburg Train Station
Facilitators: Azriel Weaver & Trellis Legal
Essential Questions:
  • What kind of legal structures should I look at?
  • What can I do to protect my creative IP?
  • Am I doing business legally and protecting myself?
  • How do strong contracts protect my creative business?

Study Session 2

May 9, 2024, at 6:00 p.m.
The Wilkinsburg Train Station
Facilitators: Azriel Weaver & Autumn Edmiston
Essential Questions:
  • How does the content from the last three sessions apply to me?
  • How can I use a Business Model Canvas to organize my insights?
  • What barriers to success am I starting to realize?
  • How is session content informing my thoughts for the future?

Marketing 102: Sales Channels, SEO & Advertising

May 16, 2024, at 6:00 p.m.
The Wilkinsburg Train Station
Facilitators: Azriel Weaver & TBD
Essential Questions:
  • What are the ways I can reach and excite my customers?
  • How do I build marketing into my business routine?
  • How do I determine if my marketing is working?
  • What technology can I use for marketing?

Financial Literacy 102: Projections and Bootstrap to Bank

May 23, 2024, at 6:00 p.m.
The Wilkinsburg Train Station
Facilitators: Azriel Weaver, Katie Schaible, & Minerva Financial Arts
Essential Questions:
  • How does my bookkeeping inform my projections for the future?
  • How can I budget for one week, month, year, or beyond?
  • What are the tax implications of creative entrepreneurship?
  • How do I predict cash flow to keep my creative business thriving?

Study Session 3

May 30, 2024, at 6:00 p.m.
The Wilkinsburg Train Station
Facilitators: Azriel Weaver & Autumn Edmiston
Essential Questions:
  • How does the content from the last three sessions apply to me?
  • How can I use a Business Model Canvas to organize my insights?
  • What barriers to success am I starting to realize?
  • How is session content informing my thoughts for the future?

Graduation

June 6, 2024, at 6:00 p.m.
The Wilkinsburg Train Station
Essential Details:
  • Participants share high-level goals for the future
  • Friends and family are invited to celebrate
  • Lite refreshments are provided by local vendors
  • Additional details to come

SPACE

SPACE

Apply to First Leap

The application closes at midnight on March 11, 2024.

Apply Now