A hat maker. A painter. A pair of app designers. These are some of the people chosen for the Pittsburgh Technology Council’s (PTC) inaugural Co-CREATE Creative Business Ignition Program.

Started by PTC’s Creative Industries Network accelerator, the 10-month program brings together seven early-stage creative entrepreneurs from six different companies to collaborate on various projects aimed at elevating their businesses in Pittsburgh and beyond.

“We started this Creative Industries Network around five years ago, and we made it our mission to support creatives so that they could make money doing what they love,” says Creative Industries director and Co-CREATE leader Kim Chestney. “We realized there was this whole group of artists and creatives who weren’t far enough along in their businesses, and could take advantage of all the things the Council could offer.”

The Co-CREATORS. Image courtesy of Kim Chestney.
The Co-CREATORS. Image courtesy of Kim Chestney.

The cohorts—called Co-CREATORS—include arts administrator Christine Bethea; painter and illustrator Ashley Cecil; interdisciplinary fine artist Lori Hepner; hat designer Gina Mazzotta; Monica Yope of Pop Craft; and Heather and Dave Wechter of tribepool, an application designed for families on the go.

Chestney says the program was inspired by a study with the University of Toronto and the Richard Florida Group on the creative industries in Pittsburgh.

“We found the most successful creative companies worked with people outside of their sectors,” says Chestney.

Co-CREATOR Ashley Cecil. Image courtesy of Kim Chestney.
Co-CREATOR Ashley Cecil with her artwork. Image courtesy of Kim Chestney.

She explains that they decided to experiment with the findings by choosing Co-CREATORS representing six key creative fields: fine arts, entertainment, design, communications, software/hardware, and industry support services.

“We wanted to try and get a member from each of the different sectors so we would have people with different backgrounds and approaches to creativity,” says Chestney. “We wanted to make everyone as different from each other as we could.”

The program provides a shared working space at PTC’s office, as well as access to mentors from a variety of industries, including the Pittsburgh nonprofit organization Fortyx80, Chatham University’s Center for Women’s Entrepreneurship, and the Carnegie Museum of Art. Each cohort also receives a $1,000 Ignition Grant.

The Co-CREATE Creative Business Ignition Program will culminate with a special demo-day showcasing the cohorts’ projects at the CREATE Festival Innovation Salon during the 2017 Dollar Bank Three Rivers Arts Festival.

Amanda Waltz is a freelance journalist and film critic whose work has appeared locally in numerous publications. She writes for The Film Stage and is the founder and editor of Steel Cinema, a blog dedicated to covering Pittsburgh film culture. She currently lives in Pittsburgh with her husband and oversized house cat.