10 Local Entrepreneurs Selected for Groundbreaking Making Space Program in Philadelphia

PhiladelphiaImage by David Mark

PHILADELPHIA, PA — Philadelphia Parks & Recreation, in partnership with REC Philly, the City of Philadelphia Commerce Department, and the John S. and James L. Knight Foundation, recently announced the ten local business owners selected as finalists for the inaugural Making Space: Reimagining Recreation program.

“Congratulations to these ten entrepreneurs! They have so much creativity and passion with strong community-oriented mindsets. This is an exciting next step for Making Space as we get closer to bringing small local businesses to rec centers and empowering the next generation of creators and makers,” said Kathryn Ott Lovell, Commissioner of Philadelphia Parks & Recreation.

The new entrepreneur-in-residence program attracted more than 600 applications from local creatives, makers, and entrepreneurs. Selected businesses will be invited to run their business in under-utilized space in a Philadelphia recreation center. In exchange, the entrepreneurs will commit to providing meaningful, free youth programming and mentorship opportunities at the rec center.

“When you don’t know what to do, you end up doing what you know. This is the issue we are facing with most of our youth in Philly. I’m excited about partnering with Making Space to help give our youth more information and opportunities through personal finance, entrepreneurship, and financial literacy concepts , through the prism of social and emotional learning,” said P. Michael Boone, one of the finalists.

Finalists were selected based on the strength of their business idea, their connection back to Philadelphia’s diverse neighborhoods, and their desire to grow their business in a community setting. With support from The John S. and James L. Knight Foundation, each finalist will receive $1,500 seed funding, and business planning and development support as they move into the final stage of consideration.

“I’m really excited and inspired by the Making Space finalists that I’ve been working with and coaching through this process,” said Will Toms, co-founder of REC Philly. “Getting a chance to get to know them and their work intimately, see their passion and be able to add critical strategy to set them up for success has been incredibly rewarding. No matter who wins the final grant and access to the rec center spaces, our city and its youth will undoubtedly be better because of it.”The ten finalists are invited to submit a formal proposal to the City as the next stage of consideration. Based on these submissions, four winners will be invited to grow their business and free youth programming at a rec center.

The final winners will be selected based on their proposals. Winners and rec centers are expected to be announced in the spring of 2023.

The following Philadelphia-based creators and entrepreneurs will progress to the final stage second round of consideration.

P Michael Boone operates the Junior Barber Academy, which introduces young people to creativity through barbering. Students learn to cut hair and develop soft skills such as communication. Boone is looking to open a barber school at a recreation center and plans to offer an afterschool program and summer camp.

Vernique Fields is the founder of the female DJ and agency Into Fields Live Entertainment, which currently does not have commercial space. Fields is looking to run a DJ, photo booth, and production business at a recreation center and teach youth about different entertainment fields.

Valerie Gay runs Fuse Vox, a fashion and culture brand built on bringing communities together through textiles. Products are sold online and at a retail location. Gay would like to scale the brand by centralizing business operations in one location at a rec center. She plans to offer youth programming during after-school hours and weekends.

Rahmi Halaby owns Linden Ave Studio, a multidisciplinary creative studio with a design and technology focus with services geared to B2B and design and marketing. The studio has worked on projects with brands such as Converse, New Balance, and the WNBA. Halaby plans to teach young people entrepreneurial, design, and marketing skills.

Buddy Hall operates USG Print and Press, a printing company that produces apparel, including hats, t-shirts, socks, and hoodies. Hall wants to run his business in a rec center to teach youth about business communication, accounting, and marketing while learning how to use machinery.

Ariell Johnson owns Amalgam Comics & Coffeehouse, a comic book store and community space that used to be located on Frankford Avenue. Johnson is looking to reopen the store in a recreation center and offer youth programming in art, writing, and storytelling.

Maritza Pedlar runs FLOWS Grocery, a retail and online grocery and personal care business featuring Black-owned products. Pedlar wants to run the business in a recreation center to sell products during set retail hours while also featuring pop-up shops and healthy food demonstrations. She would offer programming in healthy cooking, content creation, and entrepreneurship.

Erica Stewart is looking to open Social Impact Cafe, a new community cafe that would be run by staff and volunteers. It would serve healthy dining options while using rescued food in Philadelphia. The cafe would feature a rotating menu and a “pay what you can” model. Youth would learn about the food service industry, conservation, and sustainability.

June Thompson plans to open a recording studio in a recreation center. The studio would record and produce music and radio ads. It would also connect local voice talent with producers in remote markets. Youth programming would include teaching music production and career skills to help young people become the next generation of music producers.

Talia Young runs Fishadelphia, a community seafood program that makes fresh local seafood accessible to Philadelphia’s diverse communities. Fishadelphia has been based in schools and communities in Philadelphia, but Young would like to operate the business in a dedicated space in a rec center. Young plans to teach youth how to run a community-oriented business.

The selected, winning entrepreneurs will receive access to business-ready space and additional support. Between $25,000-$75,000, based on needs, will be allocated for the design build of the space and business equipment, made possible by Knight Foundation.

“Advancing equitable neighborhood development through engaging public spaces has been a focus of our work in Philadelphia,” said Ellen Hwang, Knight Foundation’s Philadelphia Director, “and Making Space is an innovative way to do that. It also supports collaboration among local makers, entrepreneurs, and community leaders who are working together to address an unmet community need.”

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