PG series: The Entrepreneurs

Much has been made about the economic importance of entrepreneurs. We take a look at some of Pittsburgh's entrepreneurs, and see how they fit into the business landscape.


Oct. 16: WildCard owner embraces local artists, Lawrenceville

When entrepreneur Rebecca Morris opened WildCard gift shop five years ago, she was something of a pioneer in Lawrenceville.

Aug. 14: Starting a beer distributor in Pennsylvania poses unique challenges

Shane Lohman didn’t exactly dream of opening a beer distributor as a child, but he always knew he wanted to run his own business.

July 16: East End Plumbing keeps on plugging with second generation

When Art Mascilli Sr. started East End Plumbing and Mechanical in 1957, he had $4,000 from a cashed-in veterans’ life insurance policy, the support of his wife, Florinda, and little else. Nearly six decades later, his sons Arthur Jr. and Anthony have taken on the day-to-day operations of the company.

May 1: Fiks: Reflective makes bike safety attractive

Nick Drombosky's business idea stemmed from a simple principle: He wanted to make bicycle safety a little less dorky. 

April 23: PortaBeer tackles the keg problem, wheels up

When Albert Ciuksza, Todd Barnett and a couple of friends took a beer keg on a camping trip in 2009, they quickly realized the challenge of keeping beer cold and pourable.

April 8: Frontiers International Travel evolves with the times

Frontiers Travel, which opened its doors in1969 and now has 64 employees, began carving out a niche client base well before the advent of the Internet.

March 27: Lawrenceville prenatal center thrives as a niche business

Since her clientele is only part of her niche demographic for about nine months, Ms. Blumenfeld works to retain students after they've given birth. She also is always networking to develop new clients, unlike a a traditional yoga studio that can have clients returning over 10 or 15 years' time.

March 19: Pittsburgh entrepreneurs encouraged to go global  

Connecting with a global audience might not seem like the most obvious priority for a new small company, but two Pittsburgh organizations want entrepreneurs to prepare for the world beyond Allegheny County's borders. “I tell startups that as soon as you put up a website, you’re a global company,” said Reed McManigle, who works in Carnegie Mellon University’s technology transfer office.

March 12: Pet adoption group CARMAA finds even nonprofits have to watch nickels and dimes

April Minech and four other women started the Coalition to Adopt, Rehome and Match Abandoned Animals (CARMAA) because each of them had worked for at least one of the three major animal shelters in the Pittsburgh area, and realized there wasn't a lot of overlap in the services being offered. They worried that the needs of a lot of animals were falling through the cracks.

March 5. 2014: Passionate owner of two suburban Pittsburgh restaurants attuned to social media

When she opened Bocktown Beer and Grill in 2006, Chris Dilla almost didn't care if it closed the next day.
"I just wanted this to exist," she said, sitting in a booth in the North Fayette eatery on a recent afternoon. "I just was so happy that it was finally three dimensional."


Dec. 22, 2013: Norman Childs of Eyetique: Making an impact by starting off small

Mr. Childs, owner and founder of Eyetique, started his business in 1979 as a one-man operation in a tiny store on Murray Avenue in Squirrel Hill. Today, his eyewear boutique business has grown to include 13 stores in Western Pennsylvania, dozens of employees, a manufacturing center in California and a Squirrel Hill headquarters in the same location as the original store -- just four times larger.

Dec. 23: Life of Pie: After a convoluted journey, two philosophy students are finally making some dough

The business plan was simple, if a little unusual. Two philosophy students, Louis Butler and Wren McGalliard, had $300, no formal culinary training and no business experience.To translate into pie vernacular: Their plan to make dough looked a little flaky. But less than a year later, the Pittsburgh Pie Guy has turned a profit, has regular customers and Mr. Butler is now employed full time by the still-mobile business.

Dec. 24: Belle Vernon dog grooming business pops up virtually overnight

Nobody can say that Candy Hepple is afraid to make a big decision quickly and stick to it. After all, she married her husband Gene exactly 29 days after they met in 1989 at Naval Base San Diego. This February, they will celebrate their 25th wedding anniversary.

For those who know her, then, it's unsurprising that once Mrs. Hepple had decided to open a dog grooming business, she quickly found a prime downtown Belle Vernon location, did some remodeling, ordered necessary equipment and was welcoming her first customers less than two months later.

Dec. 25: Pittsburgh-based firm started small, grew into a U.S. job creator

A former Steeler, Chuck Sanders played from 1986-87 as a running back. After his brief NFL career, Mr. Sanders worked for a while in marketing for a semi-pro basketball team, before he decided to get on the high road to financial success in America -- entrepreneurship.

Dec. 26: Braddock native and music producer Lee Davis rebuilds himself and his community

As an ambitious 19-year-old with one foot planted in classes at West Virginia University and the other in Braddock's streets, Mr. Davis had hoped the music industry would pave a path toward a legitimate business.

Dec. 27: A trip to Peru detours an art major onto a path to farming

The owner of One Woman Farm, Margaret Schlass said the business has tripled in acreage since she started and she is looking to expand even more. But it wasn't easy getting to this point.

Dec. 28: Builder weathers Downtown Pittsburgh condo storm

His timing was bad, the economy was worse, but somehow Todd Palcic managed to pull off the near impossible during the Great Recession.

Dec. 29: Shaking credit loose can be hard, and risky, for those looking to grow small businesses

Despite conflicting views on the credit availability, the improving economy could help small businesses obtain the capital needed to grow.

Dec. 30: 3 Pittsburgh women blaze law firm trail

When three attorneys left their North Hills real estate firm this year to start their own in Bloomfield, they knew there was no going back.

Dec 31: Bellwood entrepreneur got going early

Donny Beaver's newest business is devoted to cleaning dust in industrial settings. Its main product is a mobile air shower designed to blow silica sand off oil and gas workers' clothes so they don't track it off the field. But like most of his ideas, there are spinouts and hedges along the way.

Jan. 1: Shifting gears: from NYC systems analyst to Verona body shop owner

Mike Sullivan left a six-figure job in Manhattan and purchased a Verona auto body shop for $2.1 million in March and renamed it Flagship Collision.

Jan. 2: The House of Colour's Pittsburgh franchise finds success for all seasons

Julie Peterson's mission is to make people look good, and her first step in doing that is to define her clients by the seasons.

Jan. 3: CMU grad turns senior project into her own business

Kelly Collier just wanted an A.
In her final year at Carnegie Mellon University, Ms. Collier, a dual major in material science and biomedical engineering, teamed with a group of peers on a class project to invent a product for the medical world. She got that A -- and a lot more than she bargained for.

Jan. 4: Economic forecast for 2014 a mix of hope, scattered caution

Entrepreneurs can spend a big chunk of their business hours putting out wildfires, so they miss seeing the forest for the trees. How can entrepreneurs chart a path to success in 2014?

Jan. 5: Helping first-timers steer their ships

In much the same way everybody's a critic, everybody is also a potential entrepreneur.

Dreaming of a game-changing, disruptive business concept by night only to have the idea dissipate to a foggy memory by the lunch hour is more common than one might believe.

March 5: Passionate owner of two suburban Pittsburgh restaurants attuned to social media

The Entrepreneurs: Bocktown's Chris Dilla wanted somewhere for her friends to go and enjoy craft beer. So she built two places.

 March 13: Pet adoption group CARMAA finds even non profits have to watch nickels and dimes

Running a nonprofit organization for pet adoptions didn't mean they could stop worrying about money, the staff of CARMAA discovered.

March 20: Pittsburgh entrepreneurs encouraged to go global

Connecting with a global audience might not seem like the most obvious priority for a new small company. But it probably should be.

 March 27: Prenatal yoga instructor expands business to meet growing demands

Deena Blumenfeld expanded her prenatal yoga classes to include a range of childbirth and baby-related programs for pregnant women.

July 17:  East End Plumbing keeps on plugging with second generation

October 16:  WildCard owner embraces local artists, Lawrenceville

When entrepreneur Rebecca Morris opened WildCard gift shop in Lawrenceville five years ago, she was something of a pioneer.


Anthony and Art Mascilli Jr. have taken on day-to-day operations at East End Plumbing and Mechanical with help from their parents.

First Published December 23, 2013 12:59 PM

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