Sarah Mayer and Eric Sloss of UpTo Mainstreet

A new community workforce development program will be popping up on main streets throughout southwestern PA.

Starting April 28th, UpTo Mainstreet will begin dropping by local business districts and conducting pop-up  sessions in vacant storefronts. The goal of UpTo is to assist communities in the region by offering low-cost, high quality design, public relations and digital media work to promote their businesses, says Eric Sloss.

Sloss and Sara Mayer, owners of marketing firm ShiftCollaborative (“Making Shift Happen”), launched the initiative though a pilot program last year that was held in East Liberty and Butler.

Everyone benefits through the process, says Sloss. Creative professionals establish new clients and expand their portfolios; businesses gain invaluable marketing and business assistance.

Wilkinsburg’s business district, which is on the cusp of a comeback, has everything to gain, agrees Tracey Evans, executive director of the Wilkinsburg Community Development Corp. (WCDC).

“We’ve been working on our business district for several years. Properties that are vacant are now selling. Buildings long empty are acquiring new owners and showing signs of new life.

“This is a great opportunity for those businesses to refresh their images,” she adds.

The Wilkinsburg pop-up will kick off UpTo Mainstreet’s 2014 season. Meetings will be scheduled from April 28 to May 1 at 619 Penn Avenue. Interested businesses and customers may sign up online for a ½ hour consultation. During the sessions, staff will assist customers with solutions and designs right on the spot.

UpTo is part of the Idea Foundry’s InterSector accelerator program, an initiative that funds businesses with social or environmental benefits. The program is also part of the Allegheny Conference’s Strengthening Communities Partnership, which is designed to address disparities in communities in the Pittsburgh region.

It’s a way to challenge ourselves and help local neighborhoods thrive, say the co-founders.

Appointments may be made online at

Expect future UpTo events to pop-up in Connellsville, McKees Rocks, Braddock, Washington, Charleroi and other communities throughout southwestern Pennsylvania and West Virginia.

Deb Smit

Deb is an award-winning journalist who loves ancient places and cool technologies. A former daily newspaper reporter and Time-Life Books editor, she writes mostly about Pittsburgh. Her stories have appeared...