Next Leap is a hybrid program where the core technical sessions will be held virtually, and the Entrepreneur Meetups and Graduation will be held in person. The optional Entrepreneur Meetups will allow participants to collaborate, problem-solve, and help each other. These in-person gatherings will be held at the Creative Business Accelerator’s new office space at 901 Hay Street, in the Wilkinsburg Train Station.  The program will end with a culminating graduation event and celebration where participants will show their hard work and accomplishments in a five-minute presentation. Participants are expected to attend all seven learning sessions and complete assignments outside of classroom time. Next Leap requires, on average, five-to-eight hours a week to participate.

In partnership with Bridgeway’s Creative Business Accelerator, Next Leap will be facilitated by Ascender, a 501(c)3 and vibrant community of innovators located in Pittsburgh’s East Liberty neighborhood. Ascender helps entrepreneurs start and build their companies by offering educational programming, mentorship, expert coaching, incubation, and a collaborative coworking space. Annually, Ascender touches 500+ entrepreneurs across many industries and works with venture track and small businesses. From fledgling tech companies, healthcare innovators, and nonprofits to makers, creators, services, and shops, Ascender is for Pittsburgh’s entrepreneurs.


    • Identifies as an artist, maker, designer, craftsperson, and/or small-batch manufacturer*
    • Has operated a creative business for a minimum of three years
    • Has access to a computer and the internet (to complete homework)
    • Aspires to become a full-time creative business owner
    • Able to attend virtual and in-person sessions at the CBA’s classroom in Wilkinsburg, PA
    • Agrees to conduct pre- and post-program surveys
    • Businesses must be located in Western Pennsylvania and Northern West Virginia

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


  • 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 companies with evidence of and/or aspirations for social impact
    — Creating quality jobs
    — Reactivating postindustrial spaces
    — Revitalizing Main Street corridors
    — Elevating underserved populations

Program Benefits and Goals

Phase One: Build the Plan

  • Ten weeks of intensive sessions to measure the strength of your creative business and target growth opportunities
  • Work with a team of business experts to “look under the hood” for your creative business to reveal hidden weaknesses and strengths
  • Develop an ambitious and data-driven plan to take your business and creative practices to a higher level
  • Define the operational and financial goals to move toward in Phase Two with ongoing CBA support

Phase Two: Start the Plan

  • Partner with the CBA to receive tailored and specific support to realize goals, including leads on retail and production spaces, assistance with hiring, and more
  • Receive support to apply for the $2,000 Creative Entrepreneur Accelerator (CEA) grant
  • Access to Bridgeway Capital’s patient and flexible loans and other lending partners such as Kiva

Get to Know Next Leap 2023

Eight creative businesses from across the Pittsburgh region were selected for the 2023 Next Leap Program.

Meet the cohort

Next Leap Session Dates & Times

Wednesday Evenings
June 7th – August 16th
Both Virtual and In-person (Hybrid)

Session Topics

Next Leap Orientation (In-person) Wilkinsburg Train Station

Join this in-person Orientation to meet and greet with Next Leap program facilitators and fellow cohort participants. We will discuss the program details in-depth and have plenty of time for questions.

Financial Projections (Virtual)

Understand your current business state and the growth opportunities identified previously, and learn how to make financial projections. 

Homework:  Complete the financial projections template provided and work with their mentor for feedback.

Study Week & Entrepreneur Meetup (In-person) 

Next Leap participants are invited to meet in person at the CBA’s Hay Street Gallery at the Wilkinsburg Train Station to study, share ideas, and receive support from a Next Leap mentor.

Study Week & Entrepreneur Meetup (In-person) 

Next Leap participants are invited to meet in person at the CBA’s Hay Street Gallery at the Wilkinsburg Train Station to study, share ideas, and receive support from a Next Leap mentor.

Identifying Growth Opportunities  (Virtual) 

Learn how to discover growth opportunities for your business and map out and assess the pathway to these opportunities. 

Homework:  Research requirements (legal, business, timelines, sales cycles) to achieve identified growth opportunities. Draft potential space, workforce, and production needs for a starting point for the next session.

SWOT, Customer & Competitor Analysis (Virtual) 

Learn how to complete a SWOT and Customer/Competitor analysis. Based on time, begin drafting your own to receive immediate feedback. 

Homework: Complete each draft to share with the mentor/Ascender leader for review and feedback. Participants are asked to bring financial statements to the next session if available.

Understanding the Current Health of Your Business (Virtual) 

Discover the indicators for measuring the sustainability of your business, including understanding financial statements.

Homework: Adopt tools and templates to generate financial statements with the assistance of Next Leap coaches. Participants will work with their mentor to understand their business’s health and create a summary of their standing.

Presentation Training  & Executive Summary (virtual)

This is a two-part session. In the first part, participants will learn how to summarize what they have learned about their business and future opportunities in 5 minutes. Additionally, participants will learn how to put an executive summary together.

Homework: Complete the short presentation and work with a mentor for feedback. Also, complete an executive summary for your business.

Presentation Practice Week (Hybrid)

Participants will spend the week working on their short presentation for the graduation event next week. An Ascender mentor will be available to meet virtually or in-person to help participants summarize what they have learned about their business and future opportunities in a short slide deck. 

Graduation Presentation & Celebration (In-person)

Next Leap participants, facilitators, and mentors will gather at the CBA’s Hay Street Gallery within the Wilkinsburg Train Station to share and celebrate their growth during the program. Friends and family are invited to attend while participants share their presentations and mix and mingle, enjoying their successful completion of Next Leap! 

Check Out Our Next Leap Participants

The Creative Business Accelerator

The CBA helps creative businesses grow their businesses in ways that support equitable economic development. Questions? Contact us to start a conversation.

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