By Joyce Gannon
WWR Article Summary (tl;dr) Creative entrepreneurs in Pittsburgh are coming together to share their stories in an effort to build support for the city’s entrepreneurial community. From finding clients, to securing financing, no subject is off limits at this week’s “Fulltime Festival.” Organizers named it the “Fulltime Festival” because, as one of them pointed out,”When you own a business, you’re always working. It’s not a 9-to-5 thing.”
Almost every Thursday, Rachel Arnold Sager meets for coffee in Lawrenceville with other designers, writers and photographers to share stories and concerns about what it’s like to be a creative entrepreneur in Pittsburgh.
At one of the group’s gatherings in 2014, graphic designer and print shop owner Dan Rugh began brainstorming with those assembled about a festival that would feature their work along with entertainment, food and drink supplied by other creative types throughout the city.
“I said absolutely,” recalled Ms. Sager, 33, whose design and illustration firm, Second Block Studio, is based at her home in the city’s Westwood neighborhood.
“My business was just starting, and Dan wanted to shine a bright light on the vibrant entrepreneurial spirit here.”
With the help of friends from the coffee group and others, Mr. Rugh launched the festival, dubbed Fulltime, he said, because, “When you own a business, you’re always working. It’s not a 9-to-5 thing.”
Tonight, Fulltime will kick off its third annual slate of activities with a country cooking dinner prepared by local chef Trevett Hooper of restaurants Legume and Butterjoint. It will be held in a private home in Mt. Lebanon.
One or more events will be held daily today through Sunday at various locations around the region and the festival concludes with a book launch for Pittsburgh author Siobhan Vivian on Tuesday evening at The Livermore, a bar in East Liberty.
On Thursday, Ms. Sager will co-lead Creative/Maker Hustle, a lunch and panel discussion for small business owners and artists during which she and other entrepreneurs will talk about challenges they’ve faced including finding clients, securing financing, managing the business books as well as creating products and working at home.
“In the creative maker world, there’s a bit of a disconnect where people don’t think those things apply to them,” said Allison Glancey, whose print design firm, strawberryluna, is based in her Friendship home.
She will co-lead Creative/Maker Hustle with Ms. Sager at the Left Field Meeting Space on Federal Street, North Side.
Other activities scheduled during Fulltime include a sketchbook show and coloring book release by artist Mike Budai; a dance party featuring members of Pittsburgh Opera at the Carnegie Museum of Art; a demonstration by skateboard maker Troika Skateboards; a tour of pop-up design studios in Lawrenceville; a Designer Discard sale for artists and designers; and a Beer Barge river cruise featuring 12 local breweries and music. The cruise is sold out.
Mr. Rugh, who with his wife, Shannon Rugh, operates Commonwealth Press in the South Side and Mt. Lebanon, said he tapped his close friends to participate in the first Fulltime in 2014 because, “I own a business, and so do many of them. I think running a business takes a bit of creativity.”
The concept of organizing a multiday festival was daunting, so he asked friends to take the lead on events they wanted to stage.
“We put the feelers out. It was a real do-it-yourself atmosphere and everybody jumped in.”
While some activities like Creative/Maker Hustle are designed to provide inspiration and assistance to other business owners, the underlying aim of Fulltime is to raise awareness of the diverse Pittsburgh maker community and how these entrepreneurs contribute to the local economy, said Mr. Rugh.
“It’s less trying to reach other business owners than spreading the word. All these people have started their own businesses, and it’s the backbone of Pittsburgh. It’s living proof if you have a good idea you can make it happen.”
According to the U.S. Small Business Administration, there are 28 million small businesses nationwide that provide 55 percent of all jobs in the country and 54 percent of domestic sales.
In December, Pittsburgh was ranked among the top 10 places in the U.S. for “Main Street Entrepreneurship.”
That ranking, by the Kauffman Foundation of Kansas City, Mo., measured activity among small businesses with one to 50 employees that had been operating at least five years. It also measured the percentage of business ownership in the broader population.
The Main Street report was in sharp contrast with an earlier report by Kauffman Foundation that put Pittsburgh last among 40 metro regions for startup activity nationwide. The earlier report measured the rate at which individuals were starting companies instead of the health of existing businesses so Pittsburgh showed a better climate for existing, small-to medium-sized enterprises, the Kauffman Foundation said.
Ms. Glancey and Ms. Sager worked for larger companies before launching their own firms.
Ms. Glancey, whose husband, Craig Seder, is a partner in her business — though he works full time as an advertising agency creative director — worked for years as a human resources manager for Big Burrito Restaurant Group while she pursued design and screen printing as a hobby.
Her studio’s work ranges from posters and designs for NBC’s “Today” show summer concert series to art prints for homeowners and business owners.
Ms. Sager worked for 12 years at Elias/Savion, a Downtown communications agency. She left to raise her daughter and launch her own studio.
Among the toughest challenges of working solo, she said, is being the final decision maker.
“Instead of just getting up and going to someone else’s location and doing what you’re told to do, you’re responsible for all aspects of the business. It’s hard to shut it off; it’s more all-encompassing.”
For more information, go to www.fulltimepgh.com.