Ascend: Mountain Climbing in The Wilds of South Side

Ascend is a stunning place to walk into. The first thing you notice is the literal indoor mountain that takes up the center of the 27,000 sq. foot space. It is at once intimidating and inviting, with bright colorful hand and footholds dotting every facet of the massive arching structure. It is joined by 4 more separate walls, all built by Walltopia, a leading manufacturer of climbing walls globally, with each one featuring different angles and heights ranging from 13 to 24 feet.

The facility also features a fully equipped and staffed Yoga center, a childcare center, a retail area with climbing gear, food and beverages, a fitness center for non climbers, locker rooms with showers and free, on site parking. All of this is housed in Pittsburgh’s South Side, an epicenter of commerce and culture for the city.

On Tuesday, March 14th, Ascend climbing gym opened it’s doors for the first time. It was the culmination of many years of dreaming and planning and hard work by Alex Bernstein, Paul Guarino and Aaron Gilmore.

Alex Bernstein started climbing around 10 years ago. He would climb in Pittsburgh with his father and sister while his mom would spectate. Around a year later, as they were visiting his sister in San Francisco and were visiting a climbing gym, his mom questioned, “Why doesn’t Pittsburgh have this?” A seed was planted. When Alex returned to Pittsburgh, he started planning. Between the business plans, financing proposals, and looking into real estate options, it was a daunting task. Time passed.

4 years later, after returning to the U.S. from getting his Masters degree in Austria, he wanted to start something new. He wanted to start something that “people get to enjoy in person and they’ll leave and can tell people about and smile and have a great time.” He wanted to make something tangible and real. The idea of the climbing gym returned. This time he sought out the assistance of fellow climber Paul Guarino and the two were joined shortly thereafter by Aaron Gilmore. Things finally started to come together.

According to Alex, the biggest challenges in putting together the gym have been finding the right real estate/location and the money to make it happen. Finding the right location for the gym was particularly difficult due to it’s unique nature. Size for a project like this is critical, and very hard to find, especially in the city. They had a few false starts, including landlords pulling out at the last moment and problematic zoning issues, but they finally settled on a South Side site 3 years in. The gym is funded by a combination of private investments, The Progress Fund and Enterprise Bank, and a loan from the Urban Redevelopment Authority.

“The majority of the time it took was to raise the equity.” Says Jay Murgi, Relationship Manager at Enterprise Bank. “They were eager, very eager and they did whatever they had to do to get this to work.” Ascend started working with Enterprise in 2013, and Jay was there with them every step of the way. He recalled seeing the location when it was just an empty warehouse with CAD drawings on the walls. Once everything started to take shape and things actually  started to look like the drawings, he was impressed.

How has it been working with Enterprise? “Awesome.” Alex says. “Couldn’t have asked for a better bank.” He was surprised at the sheer amount of paperwork involved, but shared that working alongside Jay was a pleasure. “The process was not that bad for a loan and a project of this size.”

For Alex, the most satisfying part of the journey so far has not only been opening a climbing gym, but finding that it is so much more. “To give people a home and to be a hub for the community, not only the Pittsburgh community but also the south side community and the climbing community, we want this to be this hub of community and awesomeness.”

“We’ve been waiting for this moment.” “This is it, this is the dream being realized.”

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Winter 2016 Newsletter

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To read our full newsletter please click here: winter-2016-newsletter

Industrially Unique: KinetiGear, LLC

When I walked into the KinetiGear, LLC, makers of BoXZY, headquarters I knew I was in a unique space. There were mechanical pieces and parts everywhere and the people looked energized and happy. BoXZY is a 3D printer, CNC Mill, and Laser Engraver in one made to help fill a gap in the industry.   As a client of Enterprise Bank I was granted the opportunity to visit the headquarters and speak with one of the founders, Joel Johnson. After a tour of the headquarters itself I sat down with Joel, who started the business with his brother Justin, and talk about their experience creating BoXZY from the ground up. Joel and Justin have experienced extreme success with BoXZY earning the title of Pennsylvania’s Most Successfully Funded Tech Campaign on Kickstarter and Pittsburgh’s most Successfully Funded Campaign. I decided to start from the beginning and ask Joel what is motivation was to become an entrepreneur with his brother. “I always say that being an entrepreneur is who we are,” he replied, “I don’t think you just suddenly say you want to be an entrepreneur, it’s just us.” Joel continued to tell me about how he and his brother would constantly be evaluating their surroundings, asking themselves how they would sell certain products or make a profit off of them. Since they were kids they have been indulging their entrepreneurial spirit and challenging themselves until they came up with the idea for BoXZY. “It was actually an extended process,” Joel explained as he started to tell the story of BoXZY. Joel had decided to help his brother run a contracting company and started talking about small business issues and education’s link to it. Then they started investigating local maker/incubator spaces such as Tech Shop and noticed the three things that were most used in those spaces; 3D printing, CNC milling, and Laser engraving. And that was how BoXZY was born.

I had to find out more about their process creating BoXZY completely from scratch and how they would describe their entrepreneurial journey. “It was wonderful… and horrible, all of the above,” Joel explained, “I was a psychology and philosophy major and I had to learn robotics.” He further explained to me that Justin was the inventor out of the two of them, but both of them had a lot to learn before they could launch BoXZY. Joel also told me about how their different view points coupled with their sibling competitiveness fueled their processes. “Conflict is not bad, it’s not the kind of thing that should leave a stain, it’s the kind of thing that should come to a conclusion and a solution,” Joel said while describing how their brotherly competition stays friendly and always gets resolved. This way they are able to continue to be partners and keep their relationship in tact. While Joel admits that their journey through creating their company wasn’t perfect, he chooses to see mistakes as feedback and information about their environment. Sometimes through mistakes you learn more than you would have if you had “done things right”. “The one thing I would do differently is use an experienced contractor in situations where I don’t need labor. Mistakes in labor can cost you hundreds of thousands of dollars before you even know what happened. A mature contractor can stabilize a lack of experience,” Joel explained.

Joel’s favorite item that they made using BoXZY? “It’s not going to sound cool, but it’s a utility knife. It’s super pretty, super personalized, and it’s definitely my favorite.” Joel explained that they have made a lot of different projects that he is really proud of, but he is most proud of the diversity of the projects. They have participated in artistic projects such as paintings, gear sets, and fine woods. A big part of what Joel and Justin do is go to Maker Faires to network and show off what their product can do. “Maker Faires have… people from art, crafts, robotics, someone making their first product for Kickstarter,” he explained. It’s an incredibly diverse network of people coming together to learn more about how they can make what they love. The intellectual capital exchange is Joel’s favorite part of the Maker Faires because they inspire Joel and Justin to create better improvements. What is Joel’s advice for those looking to become an entrepreneur? “Avoid venture capital, think of yourself as a small business, interrogate your environment and your life for resources,” he said. He says also to take advice with a grain of salt, as advice is uni-directional. Instead of having someone tell you the path you should take, you should have someone who challenges you constantly. “You need to be brutal when you look at the resources available to you,” he continued.

Joel and Justin found Enterprise through well-placed connections in the industry. Joel explains that he knew someone who received a loan from Enterprise and were happy with their experience. Joel then went to his financial advisor to talk about if Enterprise was the right choice, which we were. Joel only has nice things to say about Enterprise and his experience with us as a whole. “They’re partners with us in the process and have consistently overcome obstacles,” he explains. He explains the process as adaptive and flexible with Enterprise focusing on their needs as a small business. He says that while many organizations said they would help, no one ever really lived up to what they said until Enterprise.

After my discussion with Joel I went to discuss their success with their Relationship Manager Randy Davidson. Randy is incredibly proud to be able to witness the success of Joel and Justin with BoXZY. “My first impression of them is that they were highly intelligent and high tech,” Randy told me. He continued to talk about how they had a great vision for their future and the future of BoXZY. When Enterprise and KinetiGear, LLC met, KinetiGear was still in the start up phase but was growing rapidly. Enterprise was able to provide an SBA loan to Joel and Justin for inventory purchases and working capital. Throughout the process Randy describes Joel and Justin as very cooperative which led to a smooth process. Randy also mentions working with Hadley Pratt, the Head of Corporate Services, with which he has developed a good, strong relationship. “Joel and Justin are headed in a really strong direction and I’m excited to see how they continue to grow in the months and years to come.”

To learn more about BoXZY please visit http://www.boxzy.com/.

 

Family Matters: Lake Raystown Resort and Pure Events

In the summer of 1984, Jules Patt opened up the Lake Raystown Resort on the shores of Raystown Lake. Fast forward to April 30th, 2013 when Jules’s children, Samantha and Josh, decided to buy the business from their father. Samantha and Josh then opened up the company Pure Events to manage the Lake Raystown Resort. I got to speak with Samantha and Josh to learn more about their experience with running Lake Raystown Resort for the past three years and how they uphold their father’s legacy. My first question for the siblings was what it is like continuing the business that their father started and ran successfully. “It’s about upholding the legacy. It’s been great being involved in something that was built from the ground up,” Samantha explained. She told me about how she has grown up with the business and it feels wonderful to be carrying on the tradition. This is a business that her children can be involved with and their children’s children. In a nutshell, Pure Events owns and operates Lake Raystown Resort which is a 400-acre outdoor destination. Pure Events leases this land from the Army Corp of Engineers. Because of this unique business, Samantha and Josh never have the same day twice. Samantha told me, “We are very actively involved in the day-to-day operations of Lake Raystown Resort and we always help out where we are needed.” Josh complimented that statement by explaining how sometimes they make pizzas or lifeguard, whatever is needed that day. Samantha and Josh are very actively involved at Lake Raystown Resort and obviously care very much about how the business is run. Recently Samantha and Josh have implemented some updates and changes to Lake Raystown Resort to make it even better. They have added permanent yurts, which are furnished round tents, for visitors to stay in. Samantha explained that these have been very successful thus far and they are looking forward to putting up more of these. They also replaced one of their docks with 64 slips with the ultimate goal to replace one dock per year. Continuing with the renovations and updates, Samantha and Josh renovated one of the lodges about 2 years ago. When updating and renovating Samantha and Josh make sure to give their own style to the grounds while still keeping to their roots and the legacy their father laid down.

The legacy of the Lake Raystown Resort is a very strong and successful one with a rich history. In the summer of 1984, the resort was opened as a small campground, similar to a state park. But as the area grew in popularity, Jules put in more amenities such as water, electric, and cable TV. Lake Raystown Resort started with six cabins and has grown exponentially since then due to the amazing vision of Jules Patt. Jules had multiple properties as a real estate developer such as shopping centers, hotels, and everything in between. The waterpark opened in 1985 and had the highest waterslides in Pennsylvania when they opened. Samantha and Josh have been involved in the resort ever since they were in high school, working different jobs and learning different parts of the business. Once Samantha and Josh graduated college they both moved to different areas of the east coast to pursue their careers. But, their father called them both and asked them to come home to help him run the company. They moved back in 2000 and 2004, respectively, and became limited partners in the business. I asked Samantha and Josh if they had anything they would have done differently in their process of working for, and owning, the business. “Even when you wish things were different, it’s a life lesson. It makes you stronger and more adaptable,” they said. The lesson here is that things may not always turn out the way you thought they would, but sometimes you get lead to a better place.
Enterprise Bank has been connected to Pure Events since 2000, when Enterprise did a round of financing for approximately 30 cabins and 3 houseboats. Joe Novitski has been their relationship manager ever since helping them with whatever they may need. I asked Samantha and Josh about their experience in their 16 years with Enterprise and the response was incredibly positive. “Enterprise has been great, they helped a lot in the purchase of the company from our father. In fact, they were our first call,” they said. They told me that the bank is big enough for the financing they need, but not too big as they get lost in the shuffle. “We know a lot of people by name at Enterprise and it really is a great relationship to have,” said Samantha.
My last question for Samantha and Josh was about what their advice is for those looking to start a business or run a business successfully. “It’s important to stay true to your roots,” they started, “It’s really easy to lose sight of where you started and what started the company.” They also said to make sure you’re involved in what’s going on with the company, and that you’re out there working with your staff. Having a connection with your staff is the backbone of a successful company.


After my discussion with Samantha and Josh I spoke with Joe Novitski, their relationship manager, about his experience with them and how he became connected to Pure Events. My first question was about Joe’s first impression of Samantha and Josh. “They were young and ambitious,” he explained, “they wanted to keep this a family-run business, keep it successful, and make it grow.” Joe spoke very highly of the entire family with an emphasis on how the second generation has thrived as they’ve owned the business for the past 3 years. Joe became connected to Pure Events through another bank that Jules was working with back in 2000. The bank was looking to do financing but needed another participant, so they called Joe Novitski to help with the loan. From there, Joe has also helped with other deals including the sale of the company to Samantha and Josh. “They have been very easy to work with throughout my time with them. They are hands-on operators of the company and strong leaders,” Joe told me. My final question for Joe was about his experience at the resort itself and how he enjoys his time there. “It’s a fun, relaxed, family atmosphere for summer recreational fun. There’s boating, camping, fishing, and so much to do. They also have an old time showboat called the Proud Mary that they do parties and cruises on,” Joe explained, “It’s beautiful.” Joe also told me that the land used to be a town inside of a valley, which the Army Corps flooded for their own use. It is said that the town is still perfectly preserved under there. After talking with Joe I can see that he has a large amount of respect for the entire family and has enjoyed his time working with them.
To learn more about Pure Events and Lake Raystown Resort please visit http://www.raystownresort.com or call 814-658-3500.

Bella Terra Vineyards Grand Opening!

Our Relationship Manager, Jay Murgi, had a busy weekend this past weekend.  In addition to attending the Grand Opening of Voodoo Brewery’s Erie location he also attended Bella Terra Vineyards’ Grand Opening!  Jay said that there was a really nice crowd to enjoy the wine and the entertainment.  “There were tons of people… a lot of people brought their own lunches and had picnics,” he explained.  Jay has had Bella Terra’s wine before and has always said that they have a great selection with great taste. The rain stayed away on Saturday so that the event was dry and comfortable.  The band was very entertaining and the day was picturesque.  To learn more about Bella Terra Vineyards you can visit them on Facebook at https://www.facebook.com/bellaterravineyards/.

Voodoo Brewery Erie Location Grand Opening!

Voodoo Brewery had their Grand Opening of their Erie location this past weekend and it was a blast!  Our relationship manager Jay Murgi attended with his RMA Evan Hayward and had a great time.  The event was kept to around 50-60 people to keep it comfortable.  As you can see in the pictures, Jay and Evan shared some food and they only had great things to say about it. “The bacon platter was delicious!” Jay exclaimed as soon as I asked him about the food.  Both Evan and Jay were extremely impressed with both the food and the beer.  If you’re interested in learning more about Voodoo Brewery at their Erie location you can visit their Facebook page at https://www.facebook.com/VBErie/.

Local Small Business Resource: TAB Pittsburgh

30 years ago Allen Fishman was part of his family’s business when they were sold to a regional public company. As so happens with a lot of those transactions, Allen was able to stay on for a few years as an executive and ended up attending his first board of directors meeting. Allen looked around him and saw the amazing reality of multiple intelligent people coming together to discuss business issues. He wasn’t able to utilize that when he was at the company earlier and thought to himself, “Everyone should be able to have access to a board of professionals that can help discuss business issues.” When Allen left a few years later he started The Alternative Board, also known as TAB, in Denver, Colorado. TAB has grown into a worldwide organization since then with chapters all over the country and the local Pittsburgh chapter has a strong relationship with us at Enterprise Bank. I sat down with Glenn Flickinger, owner of Pittsburgh’s TAB, to discuss TAB and what the small to medium size business owner needs to know about this company.
What TAB does is bring business owners together in a group of their peers to discuss business topics that are relevant to them. Each month, a business owner will meet with a group of their peers for approximately four hours where each member will bring up a topic they need to be counseled in. Since you meet with the same people every month you get a unique view into different companies and industries. Each board, of which there are seven at present in Pittsburgh, has a TAB coach that acts as a sort of “chairman” of the board. The TAB coach works with each business owner on an individual level but also facilitates discussion during the meeting. Glenn emphasized that the coaches are indeed coaches and not consultants. “I would never say anything negative about consultants, there’s a time and a place for them. But, consultants will leave eventually and our coaches stay with you as long as you are a member of TAB.” Each coach will go to meet with the members of their board individually once a month to develop a plan to further their business goals. The coach is also available whenever the member needs them; they’re just a phone call or an email away. Glenn discussed that even though the members they have operate across a wide range of industries, including B2C and service companies, around 85% of the topics discussed are the same. “No matter what industry you’re in you’ll tackle problems in marketing, HR, finance, and other topics,” he said. Ultimately there ends up being 200+ years of experience around that table and that is a priceless resource. Currently TAB is available in 11 other countries and Allen Fishman’s son-in-law, Jason Zickerman, is the President & CEO of the present company. Allen’s daughter is involved with the company as well in the International side of the business. TAB prides itself on being family owned and operated just like much of the companies they work with.
Glenn Flickinger is a banker by trade with experience in both commercial and investment banking in the Pittsburgh area. In 2007, he started the Pittsburgh franchise of TAB in the South Hills. In February of next year he will be celebrating 10 years in business with 68 members involved. “Something I take pride in is the fact that out of the 18 companies we started with, 10 are still members 10 years later,” he explained to me. It’s obvious that Glenn takes a lot of pride in being in such a unique business and being able to help people on a daily basis. Glenn’s role in TAB as the owner of TAB Pittsburgh is all-encompassing. Glenn facilitates and coaches two boards and also oversees all the sales and marketing efforts to recruit new members. Currently at TAB Pittsburgh there are 7 boards, 6 of which are owners boards and one which is a key executive board. The owners boards are exactly as described above while the key executive board is designed for key executives and management of companies, who are not necessarily owners. Next generation owners generally take advantage of the key executive board to gain experience before they take the reins in their company. The members of TAB come from companies that range from all sizes. The core 80-85% of companies involved in the organization are somewhere between $1 million and $20 million in size.
As we came to the end of our conversation I started wondering about how Enterprise Bank and TAB came to get to know each other. Glenn explained that one of our clients was a member of TAB and that was how he was connected to our Loan Development Officer, Dave Miller. As the years have gone on we have also found that a number of our clients are also members of TAB. When Glenn is helping one of his members get connected to financing he always introduces them to multiple banks, but Enterprise Bank is always on the list. Glenn describes his relationship with Enterprise as “very positive” when I asked him. “My members always have a good experience when they work with Enterprise. They’re experienced, knowledgeable bankers.”
My last question was to Glenn as a business owner and someone who works with business owners: What is your best advice for those looking to start a business? His response was clear and simple. “Get sound, trusted professional advice from multiple people who have been there and done that successfully,” he answered. And that’s exactly what you can do at TAB, get sound professional advice from those that are on the same path as you. To learn more about TAB Pittsburgh please visit their website at http://www.tabpittsburgh.com.

A Sip of Beauty: Bella Terra Vineyards

Jay and Joanna Bell are living the dream at Bella Terra Vineyards. The couple lives on 17 acres of beautiful land that they’ve transformed into a winery and weddings/events venue. Currently they are renovating the winery/tasting room and will have their grand opening on September 17, 2016. I was privileged enough to sit down with the Bells and talk to them about their experiences opening up their own business. As we started the conversation it was easy to see that the couple loves wine and honestly has a blast working every day on Bella Terra. My first question for the couple was about their motivation to be entrepreneurs and work for themselves. “The opportunity fell in our lap when we bought the property,” Joanna explains. Jay and Joanna bought their 17 acres with the idea that they wanted to capitalize on the amount of land they had. Jay has a strong background in horticulture so they knew that they wanted to do something with farming the land. As they were deciding what industry to go into they started noticing a strong demand for wine in the area and loved wine themselves. At first they were just going to have the vineyard as an added benefit to the wedding/event venue, but as they started to experiment with making their own wines they knew they had to open the winery. It was the perfect venture for them and it’s something they love doing. In regards to the wedding/event venue, currently it is an outdoor venue only, but will be expanding into a building in the next 2 years or so. The wedding/event venue was something they decided to launch because they realized that there was a shortage of places like this in the area. “The difference between getting married in a ballroom at a hotel and a barn is huge. We wanted to have something that was in between,” Joanna said.

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I asked Jay and Joanna if they had faced any challenges in starting Bella Terra Vineyards. Jay smiled and started telling me about their contractor. “We had everything set up with our loan for building the wedding/event venue, redoing everything and had the contractor ready to go. Then he called us to tell us he was going out of business.” Jay said that they had to try to find a new contractor and started getting a flood of phone calls wanting the business. As they met with different contractors they started to hear a lot of new ideas about the building and different plans they could be implementing. Jay says that it turned out to be a great thing as they decided to hold off on the building for a few years and take those ideas into consideration. This way they will get a building they love right from the start. Joanna sums up the situation perfectly, “these were terrible things that made us pull out our hair… but they turned into this is what we should be doing. All of those challenges have led us to where we need to be. We don’t even see them as challenges anymore.”
As we continued our conversation I grew more and more curious about the wines themselves. All of these wines I will describe will be available to sample and purchase at their grand opening. Bella Terra has 3 dry wines for the 2015 year, the Reserve, Raspberry Cabernet, and Peridot. Their Reserve Cabernet is described as a smooth oak flavor with a peppery bite and a lingering black cherry finish. Make sure to swirl the Reserve to release all of the flavors. Their Raspberry Cabernet is a surprisingly dry fruity cab that has raspberry and blackberry flavors. Jay and Joanna say that the Raspberry Cabernet has been a surprise hit. The Peridot is a dry Riesling with zesty grapefruit and pear that is described as a mellow drink.
Bella Terra has one semi-sweet wine and 3 sweet wines for the 2015 year as well. The semi-sweet wine is called Riesling which has notes of honeydew and vanilla and is more of a classic Riesling. The sweet wines are Sunday Afternoon, Duvall, and Sweet Finley. Sunday Afternoon is sweet with notes of berry and peach and is known for its beautiful color. Duvall is slightly tart with hints of lemon and plum, and has medium notes of black cherry for balance. The last sweet wine is Sweet Finley and is their most popular wine to date. Sweet Finley has deep, rich flavors of Concord and the subtle, earthy notes of Niagara that gives a sassy and sweet all-around flavor.


Through all of this discussion I also became very curious as to how the Bells found Enterprise Bank. Jay describes that we were referred to him through the 504 Company, who they initially started working with on the loan. Jay gave the impression that the loan process was very quick and thorough. “The experience has been easy… they’re easy to get ahold of and easy to get stuff done.” Jay and Joanna have been working closely with their relationship manager, Jay Murgi, for any of their needs. Jay and Joanna have only nice things to say about Jay Murgi and their experience with him specifically. “We like him!”
My last question for the Bells was if they had any advice for those looking to start their business. “Make sure your business plan is completely bulletproof and looked at by many, many people.” Jay and Joanna strongly hit on the fact that you have to have people look at the business plan that will be completely honest with you. Constructive criticism will only help you. Their last piece of advice from Joanna was, “as cliché as it sounds, make sure you do something that you love.” A lot of hard, tiresome work goes into starting your own business so you have to make sure that you love what you’re doing. That’s what makes it all worth it.
After my discussion with Jay and Joanna Bell, I went off to have a discussion with their relationship manager Jay Murgi to talk about his experience with the Bells. The first thing I wanted to know was his first impression of the Bells. “It was positive. They were very motivated… they’re good people and hard workers, they go after what they want.” Jay Murgi speaks very highly of Jay and Joanna Bell, and after speaking with them myself it is all too obvious that he speaks honestly. The most important opinion that Jay Murgi can have is, of course, of the wine itself. I asked him of his first impression right after his first tasting so that his thoughts were fresh in his mind. “I was surprised, I thought it was very good and they had a wide selection.” Jay Murgi specifically brought up the uniqueness of the different wines available and that he was incredibly impressed with the variety. As we continued to discuss Bella Terra we started talking about how Jay helped them with their loan needs to get them where they are today. Jay Murgi echoes Jay and Joanna’s earlier discussion about how they had to change their business plan completely and that he helped them transition from the larger loan to the smaller one. “They had to change their plan and instead of giving up they just said we can make this work.” The overall experience so far has been very positive and it is obvious that Jay Murgi works well with the Bells. Jay said that he can’t wait to see how Bella Terra grows in the next few years and is excited for the event center to open up. You can tell that he has a lot of pride in his work with Bella Terra and genuinely cares for the business and the people behind it.
The grand opening is on September 17, 2016 from 11am-6pm. There will be food, drinks, and a beautiful day of fun. There will be an acoustic band playing from 1pm-4pm, and the event is completely open to the public. If you are interested in attending, or just would like more information about the winery, you can call Jay Bell at (724) 331-7210 or visit Bella Terra at http://www.bellaterravineyards.com.