Local businesses find room for growth at Ignite | Local news

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“We’re trying to help entrepreneurs at every stage of their business,” said Ignite Executive Director Max Miller. “We’re also helping existing businesses and people who were working out of their living rooms.”

The business incubator, operated by Washington & Jefferson College at 57 E. Chestnut St., offers offices, conference rooms and creative space for entrepreneurs.

Highlights

  • “I’m a former event planner, and events weren’t happening,” Garda said.

  • One of those people getting out of her living room is North Franklin Township resident Jessica Garda. Her business, The Cheerful Balloon, was born out of the pandemic.

“People started to reach out to see if they could hire me to make creations for their kids’ parties,” Garda said.

So Garda taught herself a new skill – balloon art – and was able to build a business offering balloon décor and custom gifts. It started with making balloon animals for her two daughters. Business started to take off when she shared some of her creations on social media.

Then she began making balloon bears for residents of assisted living facilities who were unable to see their loved ones due to COVID-19.

Her budding business began to take over her home, which she says became “an absolute nightmare.”

“It has taken every square inch of the house,” Garda said. Wanting to establish a separation between home and work, Garda was initially unsure where to go. She was not ready for a brick and mortar location, and most co-working spaces did not have space for her to be inflating balloons without disrupting others.

She found her solution at Ignite. Garda is one of seven current Ignite members, according to Miller.

A monthly membership is $65, while one of eight fixed work stations costs $150 a month while an office runs $500 a month. There is also a daily rate of $15 for those without a membership. Members have 24/7 access to the building. While the front of the building has traditional office spaces and conference rooms, the back is more of a warehouse, and there Garda has a 10-by-10 “cage,” where she can store her supplies and construct elaborate balloon displays.

“Sometimes the coffee shop meetings just aren’t going to cut it. I can still have an office, show (clients) samples,” Garda said. “It checked all the boxes for me.” Also making a space for herself at Ignite is Peters Township resident Debbie Magyar. She started Launch and Balance Consulting LLC in 2018.

With a designated area for creative entrepreneurs, Garda gets dual use out of Ignite, as she can still make use of the other amenities, and she said it is a good place to meet with clients. “Having that as an option is not something you’re seeing anywhere else. Especially not so local. This place is five minutes away from where I live. Even if I could find something in Pittsburgh, I want to be here in my hometown, and in my market. I’m trying to keep most of my business local,” Garda said.

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