Jenny Sharpe
Jenny Sharpe

Jenny Sharpe is passionate about empowering all kinds of Pittsburghers to follow their dreams and start businesses. As Program Director at Ascender in East Liberty, Jenny created the nonprofit’s Starters and Builders Series to strengthen entrepreneurial literacy in local communities. The founder of two businesses and a lifelong music fan, Jenny also has the super cool job of producing Ascender’s annual Thrival Innovation and Music Festival. A native of Fond du Lac, Wisconsin, Jenny lives in Shadyside.

What upcoming events are you excited to attend?

It’s great to see Pittsburgh’s music scene grow through the opening of new venues. I am very excited to be supporting the new Roxian Theatre this summer. You can catch me dancing at Yonder Mountain String Band on July 26.

Jenny Sharpe
Jenny traveling in Belize.

What is the best part of your job?

At Ascender, I get to split my time between helping entrepreneurs launch their businesses and producing the Thrival Innovation and Music Festival. I adore being surrounded by so many creatives and dreamers. It’s an honor to be able to create opportunities for others and positively impact their journey.

What is your big idea for Pittsburgh?

My big idea for Pittsburgh is to create a community fluent in entrepreneurial literacy. I believe that anyone from any background can follow their passion and start a business. All you need to know is how to talk the talk and utilize the right tool kits. At Ascender, I focus on creating accessible learning opportunities through our Starters and Builders Series. I’d like to see a Pittsburgh that supports all startup businesses, whether it is a new tech innovation or a corner bakery. Startups are a core component to Pittsburgh’s future thriving economy.

What book would you highly recommend?

I highly recommend “The War on Normal People: The Truth About America’s Disappearing Jobs and Why Universal Basic Income Is Our Future” by Andrew Yang. The book explores the current state of the economy and what’s been influencing the average American over the last decade. Very eye-opening.

What’s one thing you’d love to change about Pittsburgh?

I’d love to see a Pittsburgh that’s more excited to attend live music performances, especially by local artists. There are lots of fantastic and enthusiastic people working to grow our music scene in the city, but at the end of the day, it’s the people who attend the shows that make all the difference and can propel Pittsburgh into a top tier entertainment city. I’d love to live in a Pittsburgh where I never again have to hear ‘Ugh my [insert favorite artist] skipped Pittsburgh on their tour.’ I encourage you to get out there and attend more shows so that we can grow together!

What is one thing that would surprise Pittsburghers most about you?

I think it might surprise Pittsburghers to know that I’ve attended over 30 music festivals in the U.S. and Europe since 2013. When it comes to planning the Thrival Music Festival, I come from the perspective of trying to recreate the vibrant experiences for Pittsburgh that I’ve experienced at other premier festivals. It’s definitely not just a job for me, but rather a true passion. There’s magic in bonding with strangers over live music.

Thrival Festival staff, 2017. Courtesy of Thrival.

What’s been bugging you lately?

Honestly, I’m still not over the final season of “Game of Thrones.” Bran??? Oh, come on.

What song in your playlist is on endless repeat?

I’d say my favorite song right now is Can’t Get Enough off of Griz’s new album, Ride Waves. Griz’s future funk sound mixed with his activism for the LGBTQ community makes him one of my favorite artists to date.

Fill in the Blank: In Pittsburgh, I can’t live without my ______.

Friends! Okay, I know that might sound like a cop out. BUT, three years ago I moved from Wisconsin to Pittsburgh as part of Venture for America. Moving to a new city amongst a dozen other like-minded, startup loving peers really helped me acclimate to my surroundings. Pittsburgh felt like home from day 1 and I’m very thankful to the other VFA fellows for their friendship and guidance.

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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.