You give entrepreneurs like Caitlin access to resources that help build successful businesses.
Having her own business was something Fore Folk Design Studio owner Caitlin Backeris always dreamed about. But, believing it would actually happen? That was another story.
During college, graphic design spoke to her creative side but, earning a business degree looked like a safer bet. “Marketing seemed to bridge the gap between creativity and business,” she says.
After earning a degree from Robert Morris University, her resume grew over the next decade with marketing jobs where she supported creatives and entrepreneurs in various ways. She enjoyed her 9 to 5, but, still pursued creative projects on the side. When she left the workplace to raise her newborn daughter, she realized she was at a crossroads.
“Honestly, I had no idea what I wanted to do next,” said Caitlin.
As a stay-at-home mom, she started taking on any project that would come her way: designing wedding invitations, illustrations, even tattoos. “It wasn’t until a friend of mine asked me to do a logo for her new business that I really discovered the world of branding and from that point on, the core of my business became crystal clear.”
Caitlin signed up for a new business workshop with SCORE, a nationwide network designed to mentor small business owners. During the session, one of the speakers mentioned the resources available through Carnegie Library of Pittsburgh. “He said that you could sit down with a librarian and go through your business plan and they would review all the resources that the Library offers, for free!” she says.
She booked a one-on-one meeting with Tammy Stoken, Library Services Supervisor for Workforce and Economic Development, at the Main Library in Oakland. Over the next hour, Tammy reviewed Caitlin’s business plan and the duo combed through library databases, diving into market research to understand the ebb and flow of the current marketplace.
“After sitting down with Tammy and going through everything, she invited me to have my own table at a small business networking series that the Library was offering,” says Caitlin. “I was able to network with other local small business owners as well as the expert speakers at the events. That experience was so invaluable for me and really gave me the boost of confidence I needed at that time.”
Your support helps local entrepreneurs build their businesses and connect with each other.
Tammy also introduced her to another new entrepreneur who needed branding and a website. This was Caitlin’s first non-friend, non-family client. “It was huge,” she says. “Once I completed that project, I shared the work on my social media accounts and slowly began to build up my portfolio.”
“The greatest part of my job is connecting new entrepreneurs with each other,” says Tammy. “It is a win-win situation. Libraries are a great starting point for entrepreneurs. First and foremost, the services, databases and collections are free for patrons to use. This is huge, especially if you are starting out with a tight budget. It is our job to assist patrons the best way we can and to refer them when needed.”
Since 2019, Caitlin has worked with nearly forty clients and is already almost fully booked for the next quarter. “Client relationships are really important to me and so is my own personal time. Right now, I have no intention of building a big agency. Small businesses have direct access to the community. We don’t have to jump through red tape to have a genuine conversation with our clients. Our size actually becomes an advantage because we can make changes quickly and stay ahead of the big guys.”
One wish? That she had known about the Library’s resources much sooner. “I feel like I have only scratched the surface of what it offers,” she says. “As a hopeful or new small business owner, you can easily become overwhelmed by all the advice there is online and get stuck in a loop of negative self-doubt. Everyone has an opinion, and you feel like you should be doing ALL THE THINGS. You don’t. Tammy and the staff at the Library are there to help. Utilize their services. It’s free!
Because of you, small business owners get the help they need to make their dreams come true. Thank you.