ORIGINS supports and celebrates Black makers, designers, artists, and craftspeople starting and sustaining creative businesses in the Pittsburgh area. It is a multifaceted effort driven by Bridgeway Capital’s Creative Business Accelerator to foster personal pathways for Black creatives to maximize business success, creative growth, and community impact. The initiative also advances Black voices and aesthetics in the regional arts and cultural economy and ecosystem.

A multifaceted approach to support Black creatives navigating complex challenges and pursuing transformative opportunities


Leverage best practices and lessons learned from a peer group of aspiring and entrepreneurial creatives.


Access stable and affordable space needed to start and sustain a professional and profitable creative career.


Engage with passionate experts to build strong and lasting foundations for a creative business.


Cultivate new clients that appreciate and support diverse voices in the arts and cultural ecosystem.


Create the planning and build the assets needed to turn a creative practice into a sustaining enterprise.


Advisory Group

For ORIGINS to fulfill its promise of elevating and empowering Black creatives, the program requires direction and insight from Black leaders in the arts and cultural, small business, and community development sectors. Therefore, ORIGINS established an Advisory Group to ensure it maximizes intentional impact. The five goals of the Advisory Group are listed below:

  • Provide transparency and accountability on activities to an objective team of content experts and community leaders
  • Obtain innovative ideas for opening doors of local, regional, and national opportunity for Black creatives
  • Determine resources and supports necessary to counter and/or reverse negative effects of systemic racism
  • Learn and leverage best practices from regional and national programs elevating Black entrepreneurs
  • Build intersections between ORIGINS Advisory Group and Black creatives to identify business opportunities across industry sectors

Advisory Group Members


Nikki + Mallory

Owner & Designer

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Aaron Aldrich

Bridgeway Capital

Growth Loan Officer

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Elmer Moore

Scale Up Milwaukee

Executive Director

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Cathryn Easterling

Bridgeway Capital

Erie Office Director

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Corey Pemberton

Crafting the Future


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Shawn Thomas

Bridgeway Capital

Entrepreneur Lending Director

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LaShesia Holliday

Naptural Beauty Supply

Owner & Designer

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Talpha Harris

Bridgeway Capital

Entrepreneurship Hub Manager

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Kia Weatherspoon

Determined by Design


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yvette shipman

sacred ground collective

Partner & Facilitator

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Khamil Scantling


Chief Executive Officer

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Majestic Lane

City of Pittsburgh

Chief Equity Officer & Deputy Chief of Staff

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Christine Bethea

Women of Visions

President & Artist

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Shad Henderson

Neighborhood Allies

Director of Equity & Inclusion

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To accomplish these goals, the Advisory Group convenes in two annual meetings to review and discuss (1) programming activities of ORIGINS, (2) progress of participating creatives, and (3) ideas for future opportunities. Members participate based on their professional and personal experience in four main sectors including arts and culture, business, government, and making/manufacturing.

Besides providing input and feedback during two annual meetings, Advisory Group members provide more direct support to the program. This support includes one-on-one coaching, leading webinars, providing paid services, and/or intervening in ways that increase the likelihood of ORIGINS participant success and sustainability.

The Team

Nisha Blackwell

Project Consultant & Business Coach

Since 2018, design, maker, and entrepreneur Nisha Blackwell powered Bridgeway Capital’s Creative Business Accelerator to channel its business development capabilities into business growth for Black artists, makers, designers, and craftspeople. To elevate other creatives, she leverages her own best practices and lessons learned in the evolution of Knotzland. Nisha’s creative business embodies the triple bottom line spirit. Her bow ties are made from reclaimed fabric and she creates economic empowerment opportunities through their production. For the ORIGINS Initiative, Nisha provides strategic guidance and works one-on-one to help regional Black creatives navigate the challenges and access the opportunities needed to create, sustain, and grow meaningful creative businesses.

Katie Johnson

Associate Director, Creative Business Accelerator

Katie Johnson is a craft practitioner turned craft advocate. She is a skilled ceramics artists with over 15 years experience in the arts and cultural ecosystem in Pittsburgh and beyond. After a successful run launching and growing Braddock Tiles, as well as other creativity-driven community programs around the region, she joined Creative Business Accelerator to help launch ORIGINS. Katie also coordinates and a range of other high-impact projects for the CBA including the Fallingwater + Monmade Design Residency and efforts to support creative businesses in the rural areas and mill towns of Southwestern Pennsylvania. For ORIGINS, she serves as a vital intermediary ensuring that its creatives access all of the resources offered by Bridgeway, and the many other small business development organizations and programs around the region.