Invaluable, great program, and helpful are just a few words participants of the Wilkinsburg Community Development Corporation’s Core Four Small Business Workshop Series used while describing their experience. During the graduation ceremony held at the end of June, WCDC Executive Director Tracey Evens congratulated participants of the eight-week course. “This is one of my favorite parts of this program. I love hearing your stories, watching you grow and flourish.” Focusing on the marketing component of the course she encouraged them to talk about their business, and to utilize social media outlets. “Now that our offices are open, come in and continue to ask for help. Thank you for your hard work.”

Designed to equip aspiring and existing business owners with the fundamental skill sets needed to set themselves up for success, the Core Four Workshop Series creates a baseline in business planning areas. Launched in 2015 and orchestrated by the WCDC’s Business Development Specialist, Gordon Manker, the workshop series assists entrepreneurs to understand business terms and concepts to prepare them to work with financial institutions to obtain funding. “The series provides an extensive overview of the core components of business planning including research, marketing, accounting, cash flow. We augment our current program by working with participants throughout on identifying real potential funding sources and technical assistance needs specific to their business. For new entrepreneurs in the program, we provide help in determining commercial space needs as well,” explains Manker. The Core Four topics guiding the course are Success Planning, Market Planning, Cash Flow Planning and Operations Planning.
WCDC officials boast that to date, more than 125 people have graduated from the program since it’s pilot. Graduates participating in the June 2021 ceremony from the 2020 and 2021 sessions were Amber Benjamin, Brenda Lowry, Roxanne Epperson, Felicia Welsh, Scherrita Folks, Rosie Jones, Jovan Cephas, Syreeta Squair, Christine Curry, Kanitra Lane, Ebony Giles and Shawn Thomas.
Perspective businesses presented during the ceremony include photography, cleaning, coaching and consulting, real estate, wholesale plumbing and electrical supplies and a Steak Escape franchise. Several people are authors and involved in motivational, inspiration and self-care development as well.
Enthusiastic about the next steps of business, Felicia Welsh says she has been dreaming about starting a business for ten years. “Gordon has been a light to me. He really has built up my confidence and has provided many opportunities.” She is now looking for the appropriate space to open a franchise business.   
Supporters of the program in attendance included The Honorable Marita Garrett, Mayor of Wilkinsburg, Michael R. Wholihan, EdD, Assistant SBDC Director; University of Pittsburgh, Lamarcus Thurman’ Assistant Vice President, Office Manager of Northwest Bank, Carl Peterson, Branch Manager, Vice President of Chase Bank, Geogory Whitted, Co-Founder of the Pittsburgh Housing Development Association, Inc. and Vernard Alexander, of the Minority Networking Exchange, owner and founder of CKV Suites and Director of E3 Alliance of Pittsburgh at Riverside Center for Innovation. Gail Manker served as photographer for the event. 
Graduated participants not in attendance during the ceremony were Keysha Gomez, Jennifer Rick, Kimberly Gardner, Kimberly Hart, Brenda Lowry, Celeste Powe, Leslie Lockhart, Myya Ligons-Means, Lauren Webb, Sarah Gilbert, Tenicka Thompson, Lisa Hart, Deborah Nelson, Jacquelin Featchurs, Eugene Featchurs, Denise Sheffey, and Cheneal Relazez Hilton.
Since 2008 the WCDC has been fostering positive community and economic development in the Borough of Wilkinsburg. With an emphasis on strengthening the Central Business District, the vision of its board of directors and staff is to develop a prosperous, healthy, and inclusive community regarded for its strong business district and neighborhoods, historic charm, convenient location, desirable quality of life, and community pride.
Stressing the importance of resilience and overcoming adversity; ready for the next challenge in the aftermath of the COVID-19 pandemic, Manker is in the mist of planning for the next Core Four Small Business Workshop Series to take place Wednesday evenings 6pm to 9pm September 29th through November 17th, 2021. To register, call 412-727-7855 or email Gordon Manker
By Diane I. Daniels – DID & Associates