For three and a half years, we have followed creative and inspiring people a week at a time in our NEXT Up section. We’d like to say a huge thank you to all our superstar NEXT Uppers for sharing their daily routines, projects and thoughts about our city. It’s been enlightening and entertaining.

It all started with Todd Owens — co-founder of Nonprofit Talent and one of the most social guys we know — who had the idea for the column and was first up in revealing plans for his week in early March 2014 when we launched NEXTpittsburgh. We’re thrilled that Todd is back this week to share his latest plans and projects in Pittsburgh and beyond.

To shake things up, we are rebooting NEXT Up with a new Q&A format. We hope you’ll find this just as interesting and we welcome suggestions for questions.

After working as everything from a bartender to a tour manager in the music industry, Todd now helps community-based organizations with their leadership needs as co-founder and principal of Nonprofit Talent. When not working, you can find Todd spending “as much time as possible outside” with his “amazing” wife, Jami, and their two French Bulldogs.

Todd Owens
Todd at a Shady Lane School fundraiser.

Best part of your job?

I consider myself very fortunate in that I have the best job in the world. My business partner and I have the privilege of getting to know important community-based organizations on an intimate level, and then working our butts off trying to find the best leaders possible to take them to their next phase of organizational existence. Throughout that process, we get to meet amazing leaders, learn from them and feel good about our work. It never gets boring, and is never the same day twice. We are also dedicated to using our profits for good, which is why we started our Good Ideas Forums to help expose the southwestern Pennsylvania nonprofit and philanthropy community to expansive thinkers and amazing leaders such as Vu Le, Doug Ulman, Tony Wells and Jacob Harold.

Your wish for Pittsburgh?

To ditch our lingering inferiority complex from the loss of so many jobs due to de-industrialization, and be a more personally welcoming place for those not born here – particularly people of color.

Best PGH brunch spot?

Kaya. Nothing says brunch like sweet potato fries and chipotle aioli. Paired with a Kaya Burger with an egg on top. Ridiculous.

What is your favorite creative outlet?

Cooking without a recipe, or attempting to play Afro-Latin-Cuban hand percussion.

At what Pittsburgh restaurant do you always order dessert?

SOBA. The perfect sweet/salty combination in the chocolate pretzel stack. Do it. You can thank me later.

Favorite Pittsburgh brewery?

At the moment, I’m loving the beers, vibe and music at Allegheny City Brewing on the North Side. Props to my friend Tereneh Mosley for introducing me to this little neighborhood gem. Have a pizza delivered there and camp out for a while. They’ll be happy you came in to sample this family’s hard work in a glass.

Todd and Jami in Bloomfield after a Thai dinner with “one of the most talented families in Pittsburgh, the Mosleys.”
Todd and Jami in Bloomfield after a Thai dinner with “one of the most talented families in Pittsburgh, the Mosleys.”

Besides the essentials (keys, wallet, phone), what do you always carry with you?

In my car, at all times, you’ll find lip balm, sunglasses, a skateboard, paddleboard paddle, cycling gear and running shoes. You never know when you might have to engage in an impromptu workout, or have some mandatory fun.

Which Pittsburgh band would you like to play in your living room?

I’ve really been enjoying Cisco Kid ever since seeing them for the first time at the Pour at the Park event benefitting the Allegheny County Parks Foundation. Great stuff. Or, any set by DJ Selecta. His music knowledge is deep, and the respect he pays to the past is impressive.

Where will we find you on a Sunday morning?

Up early. Either paddleboarding on the Allegheny River or mountain biking with friends at Bavington at 7 Springs – or somewhere farther outside of Pittsburgh. This is my “church,” and for me, the act of being in the great outdoors is always a centering, spiritual experience.

What events are you attending this week?

  • Tuesday, September 12: Vision Pittsburgh event at the Duquesne Club with the incredible Dr. Chris Howard, president of RMU.
  • Wednesday, September 13: Attending the Nonprofit Learning Lab’s Nonprofit Institute in Philadelphia.
  • Thursday, September 14: Meetings in Philadelphia; Dining Out for Life event in support of the powerful work of Moveable Feast in Baltimore.
  • Friday, September 15: Jamming (from the audience) with the incredible Valerie June at Mr. Small’s in Millvale.
  • Saturday, September 16: Mountain biking with friends, and paddleboarding with my athletic and adventurous wife, Jami.
  • Sunday, September 17: Late brunch at Kaya, followed by reading The New York Times and more time outdoors.

See who else is NEXT Up here.

Have a suggestion for NEXT Up? Email us!

Jennifer BaronArts & Entertainment / Jobs Editor

Jennifer has worked at the Mattress Factory, Brooklyn Museum of Art and Dahesh Museum of Art and is co-author of Pittsburgh Signs Project: 250 Signs of Western Pennsylvania. She also is co-coordinator of Handmade Arcade. Musically, she is in a band called The Garment District and is a founding member of Brooklyn's The Ladybug Transistor.