Bonnie Pfister

Looking for a new career in 2016? You’re not alone: studies show that January and February are prime job-hunting times across the nation, and the Pittsburgh region is no exception. The competition is fierce, so don’t waste your time hopping from site to site in search of hot jobs and industries: you can explore it all at ImaginePittsburgh.com, your one-stop shop for jobs across the 10-county region. Whether you want to get involved in the region’s vibrant energy sector, be a part of the high-tech entrepreneurship that thrives here, work in a downtown skyrise or in a place of rural beauty, you can find it all in one place: ImaginePittsburgh.com.

Here are few of the jobs available from our Featured Employers:

Director of the new Media Innovation Center at Point Park University

Strategic Consultant at Alcoa

Senior Machine Operator at MSA

Communications Specialist at Federated Investors

Technical Programmer / Systems Analyst at Elliott Group

Prefer a personal connection? Check out our Neighbors page to see what kinds of jobs other young and experienced professionals are pursuing. You can reach out to them for networking ideas via the LinkedIn addresses include in their profiles. They’re ready to help!

Please pass the word about ImaginePittsburgh.com, and save our link in your favorite read-it-later app. You can also sign up for career news about the region through our RSS feedFacebookTwitter or monthly newsletter.

Here’s to 2016!

 

 

NEXTpittsburgh

Powered by NEXTpittsburgh / Written by Kym Lyons

The new batch of companies in East Liberty-based accelerator AlphaLab includes a virtual travel agent, a company that aims to improve online product recommendations, and a platform to connect nonprofits with sponsors for their major events.

Founded in 2008, AlphaLab helps to launch innovative technology companies through 20-week programs that offer funding, guidance and office space. Its successful start-ups include NoWait, ShoeFitr and Jazz (formerly The Resumator, founded by ImaginePittsburgh.com Neighbor Don Charleton.)

The startups of AlphaLab’s 15th cycle are at different phases of readiness but all have at least some experience to speak of, says executive director Jim Jen (who is also an ImaginePittsburgh.com Neighbor). Most have done some form of customer validation, and some have products and revenue already.

“This group of companies is well-aligned to the trends in the industries they’re tackling,” he adds.

It was a highly competitive process to whittle down the field of companies—their largest ever—and drew from a national applicant pool. Three of the seven companies are from out of state.

They’ll spend the next several months availing themselves of all the resources, networking and training the incubator has to offer.

ViaHero
CEO Greg Buzulencia has a modest goal for his startup. “We just want to revolutionize the travel agent space,” he says with a chuckle, “like Airbnb did for the hotel industry.”

ViaHero curates customized travel recommendations from experts who have either traveled extensively to your destination or are locals. It flips the revenue model on its head, by compensating the person providing the guide information, Buzulencia says, rather than the hotel or airline trying to sell the most lucrative trip. For instance, an expert on Barcelona might advise visitors to order Cava instead of Sangria and avoid certain touristy areas in favor of more authentic local hangouts.

He’s only got five experts signed up so far, but Buzulencia is focused first on making the experts’ recommendations robust in one location, and will scale the platform from there. His dream location to get expert travel guides: Cuba, which is a newly-available travel destination for some (but not all) Americans.

“There’s so much pent-up demand, and there are so few people who have traveled there,” he says. “It’s the kind of place a lot of adventurous people are going to want to go.”

Endorsevent

Planning a fundraiser on a shoestring budget? Endorsevent will help connect you with brands to help sponsor part of your event. The goal is to connect small organizations and nonprofits with small and medium companies who are looking for branding opportunities.

“Let’s say you’re a pizza shop and you want to promote your company,” says Endorsevent CEO Amber Stradford. The pizza shop could provide pizza for a fundraiser in exchange for its name in the program, or its signage at the event, she explains. The Endorsevent platform connects organizations who may not have the resources to hire an event planner or the staff to do outreach to find local companies seeking promotion. Companies can donate funds or in-kind services to organizations with whom they wish to partner.

Stradford, whose background is in digital marketing, funded the building of the platform herself and is hoping AlphaLab can help her build her network here.

Amber Stradford, Endorsevent. Photo courtesy AlphaLab/InnovationWorks
Amber Stradford, Endorsevent. Photo courtesy AlphaLab/InnovationWorks

Twined

Twined is a response to all the lousy product reviews which leave consumers wondering which opinions are real and which ones are paid for by brands, CEO Phil McKeating says. Twined will enlist what it calls “tastemakers” to offer recommendations based on product reviews, McKeating says.

Its tastemakers are handpicked from around the web based on their expertise in a given subject matter.

“So instead of random crowdsourced reviews, we offer recommendations,” McKeating says. “Instead of finding out what a restaurant is like on Yelp, we’d get the opinion from someone like a qualified food critic.”

He envisions most of Twined’s recommendations being valuable to young families, “who don’t have time to read a dozen reviews, but might need help picking out baby products.”

Clarabyte Solutions

Time to purge that old hardware or device? Clarabyte has a three-pronged group of digital solutions, says CEO James Deighan. Say you’re looking to sell your old smartphone. Clarabyte’s software will allow you to purge and destroy the digital data, provide automated hardware testing to determine if all the parts are in working order, and then let you list it for sale on several e-commerce platforms, like Amazon and eBay, all at once.

Skick’D
Some $50 billion in credit card rewards go unredeemed by consumers, says Matthew Kennedy, founder of Skick’D. Under new regulations, that doesn’t make banks happy because it creates liability on their balance sheets. Skick’D would connect consumers with highly-tailored offers that will let them redeem their rewards points so everyone walks away happy.

Matthew Kennedy, Skick'D. Photo courtesy AlphaLab/InnovationWorks.
Matthew Kennedy, Skick’D. Photo courtesy AlphaLab/InnovationWorks.

Mighty
Think of Mighty as a concierge service for contractors in the home improvement industry, suggests CEO Mike Regan. Instead of bids for service like one might find on sites like Angie’s List, Mighty would manage all the contractors needed on a particular home improvement job. “It will aggregate contractor services the way Uber aggreggates driving,” Regan says. He’s working to make Mighty scalable during his stay in AlphaLab.

Flagtag
Remember the old game Capture the Flag? Combine that with location-based advertising and you’ve got the general concept of Flagtag, says CEO Omar El-Sadany. Its target audience is college students, who would use the Flagtag app to find nearby food and drink specials from advertisers, on a geolocated map. The first person to claim the deal would then clear all the other nearby users’ “flags,” adding a competitive aspect. The app is still in private beta, El-Sadany said, and he and his team are hoping their time at AlphaLab will get them ready for launch.

 

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Looking for a job? ImaginePittsburgh.com features more than 20,000 open positions on our powerful, 10-county job search engine. Find yours today!

NEXTpittsburgh

Powered by NEXTpittsburgh

For several reasons, Megan Stearman and her husband moved to Brookline seven years ago when they were expecting their first child. “It has a walkable business district,” says Stearman, “with great parks and playgrounds and it was affordable for a young family.”

They’re still there today, now with two young children, for those reasons and more. “We’ve since stayed in Brookline because we’ve got great neighbors – some who have lived here their whole lives, and some newbies like us.

“There is a rich diversity of people here and we love that our kids are able to interact with and learn from kids of different backgrounds, languages, and cultures,” says Stearman. “Plus who doesn’t love to be able to walk a few blocks for a Saturday brunch of donuts and tacos?”

Jocelyne and Joe Chahine might agree but they represent another segment of the Brookline population. Some say they have been on a 41-year-long honeymoon in Pittsburgh.

The Lebanese natives honeymooned in Pittsburgh after their wedding in 1974 when a civil war broke out in their home country. The couple sought asylum in Brookline, working with relatives at Pitaland and in the 80s they bought the store, moving it to its current location on Brookline Boulevard.

“We were always in Brookline,” says Donna Tweardy, their daughter and now office manager of Pitaland. Similar to many stores in Brookline, Pitaland is family-run, with siblings working alongside their parents.

It’s that kind of community: family-oriented, tight-knit and traditional and as authentic as they come. But now there’s an infusion of new businesses and energy and especially, young people like the Stearman family as well as singles moving in. The affordable houses in this walkable neighborhood in the South Hills—with its rumbly bricked streets and an enviable location close to downtown Pittsburgh—have attracted the young and young families, giving Brookline one of—if not the—largest population of under 18 in the city, according to some in the neighborhood.

Las Palmas attracts customers from all over Pittsburgh. Photo by Tracy Certo

Las Palmas attracts customers from all over Pittsburgh. Photo by Tracy Certo

It’s also a community that is becoming increasingly diverse. “Diversity is part of the richness of the Brookline community. There’s an openness to diversity, and the contribution that comes from diversity. You can see it as you go down Brookline Boulevard,” says Sister Janice Vanderneck of Casa San Jose, a community resource center for Latino immigrants.

For years, Sister Janice was searching for a location for her outreach program until St. Mark’s Lutheran Church on Brookline Boulevard offered its basement. Since then, Casa San Jose has had success partnering with local businesses such as Las Palmas, the hot destination Mexican grocery on Brookline Blvd. with the ever popular taco stand, and Cannon Coffee, a charming and welcoming spot which doubles as a community hub.

“We found a very welcoming place in Brookline,” says Sister Janice who is quick to offer that they welcome volunteers and they are always seeking bilingual Pittsburghers to help with weekly outreach programs.

At Cannon Coffee on Brookline Blvd. Photo by Tracy Certo

At Cannon Coffee on Brookline Blvd. Photo by Tracy Certo

The New Brookline
“In the last five years, I’ve seen such a change, so much more of a nicer, community-based place. A lot more people are taking pride in the community. A lot more businesses are opening up and staying,” says Tweardy.

The major change has been the recent and extensive $5.3 million renovation of the long and broad Brookline Boulevard, giving the main street much-needed repairs, including extended sidewalks to accommodate more pedestrian traffic, modern lighting and landscaping, benches, bike racks and more.

It’s a main street many communities would die for.

While it has greatly enhanced the street, businesses suffered some losses while the boulevard was under construction.

During the renovations, business owners and community members alike worked together to keep the local businesses up and running, says Nathan Mallory, owner of Cannon Coffee and president of the Brookline Chamber of Commerce. Stores applied together for grants and instituted successful “shop local” campaigns during the 18-month period when store access was limited or nonexistent. “People came out of the woodwork for support during the construction,” he says.

Since the Boulevard reopened last summer, not only has there been an increase in pedestrian traffic but there has also been an increase in new businesses opening, says Mallory.

With 86 businesses on the Boulevard, which includes everything from Mateo’s, a small BYOB restaurant, to a modern and a beautiful new Carnegie Library, “We’re not trying to be the next Lawrenceville or Regent Square,” he says. “We’re emerging to be something uniquely our own.”

To get a feel for the place, Mallory suggests walking the Boulevard. The best strategy? Park at the top of Brookline Boulevard and walk down to the parklet that houses the iconic cannon so you can closely observe the street life and cluster of shops, houses and amenities. Note the welcome from business owners if you stop by.

Owner Nathan Mallory at Cannon Coffee.

Owner Nathan Mallory at Cannon Coffee.

“We’re very close knit,” explains manager of Wyld Chyld Tattoo, Rebekah Miller. “Brookline is different in that the business owners really look out for each other and others who live in our community. We also hold meetings from time to time and plan community events.”

In addition, “It has two private parks and its own community center,” says Tweardy. And Brookline regularly hosts holiday parades and festivals, uniting community members of all ages.

At Mallory’s Cannon Coffee on the Boulevard, it’s not just about a dose of caffeine. The shop is an excellent location to meet locals and become more involved in the community. “Cannon [Coffee] feels a little like home. It’s a springboard to stay engaged and connect with the community,” says Mallory.

The shop features Open Mic Nights, American Sign Language Socials and even vocational rehabilitation training. When Mallory recently applied for a Kiva business loan to expand the kitchen area, it became the fastest funded project to date.

mateo's

BYOB Mateo’s is a small but popular dinner spot. Tracy Certo photo

“There are a lot of great businesses here,” Mallory says. “Pitaland has great baklava, Antonio’s has awesome pizza, and if you’re in the mood for something sweet, check out the Party Cake Shop. If you need a caffeine fix check out Cannon Coffee, and if you want to unwind with a beer, the Brookline Pub is your go-to place.”

The new, modern Carnegie Library provides a nice contrast on the Boulevard. Tracy Certo photo

The new, modern Carnegie Library provides a nice contrast on the Boulevard. Tracy Certo photo

The renovated Pitaland has a new café in the store, where shoppers can taste some of the pita freshly baked on site, along with a vast array of imported spices and traditional specialties such as hummus and baba ghannuj. Like Las Palmas, it’s a destination store that attracts customers from all over Pittsburgh.

Day trippers looking for a more structured visit can sign up for the ‘Burgh’s Bits & Bites Tour. The aptly named “Brookline: Pittsburgh’s Undiscovered Gem” was recently added to the company’s portfolio of tours, and it gives visitors a comprehensive taste of the neighborhood.

On Brookline Blvd. Photo by Tracy Certo

On Brookline Blvd. Photo by Tracy Certo

People from around the city and state are exploring Brookline for the first time on these trips, says Mallory, and he’s glad they’re visiting. “We want everyone to know what we have. We’ve worked hard, and we have something to brag about.”

See more about Brookline in this video by the Sprout Fund published earlier this week by NEXTpittsburgh.

NEXTpittsburgh staff contributed to this article.