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Pitt Entrepreneur Institute Celebrates 2013 Successes, Looks to Future

Deanna Garcia
90.5 WESA

The Institute for Entrepreneurial Excellence at the University of Pittsburgh has been working with businesses in the region for 20 years. Its annual report was released Wednesday at Turner Dairy Farms, one of the members of the institute.

Founder and Executive Director Ann Dugan said in 2013 the institute helped about 900 entrepreneurs.

“We had 47 startup businesses,” Dugan said. “That was where they came through the door with an idea, today their door is open, the lights are on, music is on, they have sales.”

The Institute for Entrepreneurial Excellence helps businesses in the region start, grow and transition.

“We help them think through their business idea, develop their first business plan, get their first round of financing,” Dugan said. “In the growth areas, they’ve hit, oftentimes, a plateau where they need additional capital or they need additional talent, maybe they need to increase their geographic footprint and grow their business, so we’ll help them strategically develop a plan.”

As for transition, that could mean an older, established company adapting to new leadership, technologies and the business climate and trying to reach a higher level. Such is the case with Turner Dairy Farms. Third generation president Chuck Turner said he and his employees benefit from monthly speaker events sponsored by the institute.

“We’ve attended entrepreneurial fellow center where we’ve had three different people go through a really intensive leadership development class,” Turner said. “We’ve participated in peer forums where myself and other members of the family are in small groups with other small family business members like ourselves and we can talk about the issues we’re facing.”

The institute has been moved from the School of Business and will now be housed within the Office of the Provost. Dugan said this will allow the institute to be an economic development office for the entire university. She said the hope is that the institute will also serve as a template beyond the Pittsburgh region.

“Our model, how to connect universities with economic development and entrepreneurs in real ways is something that can and should be replicated nationwide,” said Dugan.

Other highlights from the 2013 report include the creation or impact of 443 jobs, an increase in businesses bottom line by $9 million and raising more than $13 million in new capital. The institute itself does not fund businesses, but rather helps them find funding sources.

In addition to releasing the 2013 report, Dugan announced the new “Entrepreneur Hotline.”

“We’ve decided that throughout March, as people come out of this winter thaw, so to speak, we’re really going to be there throughout the business day, we can answer their questions very quickly,” said Dugan. “People think, ‘well you can just go on a website and get all that information,’ but it’s not the same as having a knowledgeable voice on the other end of the phone that can really talk about it.”

The newly created hotline, 1-844-PITTIEE, will offer the advice free of charge. The institute is funding, in part, by its members as well as through grants. Dugan has announced her retirement and a search is underway for her replacement, she will stay on until her successor is named.