Participants at New Sun Risings Launch:Hilltop

In 2005, Brothers Scott and Brian Wolovich—a physical therapist and a teacher—were so inspired by others doing social good that they did two things. First, they hosted an event called Cultural Gumbo to raise funds for the victims of Hurricanes Ivan and Katrina. Then they  launched a social enterprise venture, New Sun Rising, to help passionate leaders get their ideas off the ground.

In a world obsessed with financial valuations, New Sun Rising set out to incubate social good, providing an opportunity for community leaders to see their solutions move from idea to impact.

This was before the growth of “B” corporations—companies with a goal to not only generate profits but also social impact. Today, B corporations are a fast-growing cohort and New Sun Rising is actively incubating Pittsburgh’s crop of socially-focused enterprises.

“Pittsburgh is a growing hub for radically independent thinkers, socially-conscious project developers and consumers hungry for options with local community impact,” says Scott Wolovich. “And Pittsburgh is solidifying a stronghold as a city of opportunity. We see this opportunity as ripe for innovation, creative sustainable solutions and new model development.”

With funding from the Hillman Family Foundations, The Pittsburgh Foundation and Neighborhood Allies, New Sun Rising reached a critical juncture in 2015 and aggressively launched a series of programs designed to support new ventures in the nonprofit and social enterprise space. “Launch MODE,” for one.

This program focuses on launching pods of social innovators in different neighborhoods in Allegheny County, providing one-year advisory and acceleration services. Two pods are currently in progress—one in Millvale focused on food enterprises and another in the Hilltop neighborhood for impact startups. The two pods are incubating almost 20 new social enterprises. A third one in the Northside is in the works.

Brian Wolovich, a resident and community leader of Millvale, shares how each pod participant is not only advancing their own business but also actively collaborating with others. “Launch Millvale teams are addressing food scarcity, security and employment issues,” Wolovich says. “For example, the Gardens of Millvale are working to purchase their property and employ residents, earning revenue through sales of locally grown produce to another team, Farm Truck Foods. Farm Truck Foods manages the town’s only food market at the Millvale Food Hub.

“The other pod participants — Tupelo Honey Teas, Plated Trade LLC, and Sprezzatura — are all busy securing rental locations in the neighborhood for their future business operations,  he adds.

New Sun Rising’s other programs include Arts MODE which provides professional development for 20 artists and arts organizations, Ignite workshops, fiscal sponsorship and growth services for more established enterprises.

“For the past decade we’ve worked with change makers at the intersection of the creative and innovation economies,” says Scott Wolovich. “We’re most proud of how our leaders value not only their own success but the impact and opportunity they provide to the local community.”

On February 13th, New Sun Rising will celebrate 10 years with an event at Mr. Smalls in Millvale. Once again called “Cultural Gumbo,” the event is an homage to how New Sun Rising started a decade ago with the original event at East Liberty’s Shadow Lounge.

The event will include games by City of Play, music by Pandemic and Pittonkatonk, and a showcase of New Sun Rising’s current crop of entrepreneurs.

More information and tickets on New Sun Rising’s event page.

Leah Lizarondo is a food advocate, writer and speaker. She is also the co-founder of 412 Food Rescue, an organization that seeks to eliminate food waste to make an impact on hunger and the environment. She is the Chief Veghacker, recipe creator and curator at The Brazen Kitchen, where she writes about food and food policy. She writes about the intersection of food, health, innovation and policy.