Chatham University

COVID-19: Small Business Resources    CLICK HERE

First Leap

First Leap is an entrepreneurial readiness program for startup and emerging creative businesses coordinated by Chatham University's Center for Women's Entrepreneurship (CWE) and Bridgeway Capital's Creative Business Accelerator (CBA).

Whether you identify as an artist, maker, designer, or craftsperson, creative entrepreneurs often possess sophisticated skills when it comes to making, but the business skills needed to turn a passion into a livelihood often remain underdeveloped. First Leap will provide participants the foundations to become business owners ready to pursue growth investments and realize financial resilience.

Through an application process, the CBA and CWE will select 12 emerging creative entrepreneurs and guide them through an intensive yet supportive 7-week program. Participants will leave with increased confidence and an actionable business plan outlined in a class presentation and the Live Plan online tool. They will also be eligible to apply for an emerging grant program.

Apply Here

First Leap guidance will be delivered by experts in business fundamentals as well as experienced creative business owners. Participating entrepreneurs will hone the skills needed to build sustainable and impactful creative businesses, culminating in an actionable business plan presentation. First Leap participants will experience below.



Short and Long Term Goals

Phase One: Build the Plan
Seven weeks of intensive sessions to create guiding documentation that establishes strong foundations

Phase Two: Start the Plan
Six months of steady action to access capital, space, markets, peers, workforce, and guidance for growth


Program Facilitators

Katie Johnson
Associate Director of the Creative Business Accelerator

Before the CBA, Katie was Director of Braddock Tiles, a non-profit business that produces small batch architectural tiles with youth to teach job readiness skills. Before her role at Braddock Tiles, she worked in development for the YWCA of Western North Carolina as a Donor Stewardship Manager, where she worked closely with senior staff to help develop lasting community relationships. With her extensive experience in the arts and non-profit sector, Katie brings a unique set of skills to provide artists, designers, and craftspeople with better access to technical assistance, peer network interactions, grant capital, and opportunities to build their workforce through job creation.

Debbie Magyar
CEO of Virtual Business Design at Launch and Balance Consulting

Debbie is a business strategist assisting small businesses with strategic business planning and digital marketing solutions at any stage of the business life cycle. As an entrepreneur of 20 years, she understands the challenges of working in and on a business. Debbie is the CEO of Launch and Balance Consulting LLC, a nationally certified women owned business, by WBENC, and brings her expertise in small business advising, real estate development, finance, digital marketing, SBIR/STTR programs, and operations to support small business advancement in the region. Debbie received her BA from the University of Kentucky and her MBA from Mount Vernon Nazarene University. She is a certified commercialization specialist and certified in Google Digital Marketing.


Session Dates & Topics

Session 1: The Company Overview
03.14.22 | 5:30 p.m. to 7:30 p.m.
  • Unpacking your goals for launching/growing a creative business
  • Developing a business concept around your creative output
  • Designing your unique value proposition, mission, and vision
  • Developing a business plan outline for your business concept

Session 3: Breaking Down the Market
03.28.22 | 5:30 p.m. to 7:30 p.m
  • Evaluating and sizing your market and sales potential
  • Developing short & long-term marketing strategies
  • Auditing your online presence and brand awareness
  • Balancing distribution channels, e-commerce, and storefronts

Session 5: Designing a Financial Forecast
04.11.22 | 5:30 p.m. to 7:30 p.m
  • Introducing to financial statements and financial management
  • Assessing your holistic financial needs
  • Understanding business budgeting and forecasting
  • Getting tools and techniques for cash flow management
Session 2: Defining Your Products & Services
03.21.22 | 5:30 p.m. to 7:30 p.m.
  • Evaluating the deliverables (products, services, and pricing)
  • Understanding creative output and your target market
  • Promotion and distribution/economies of scale
  • Conducting a competitive and SWOT analysis

Session 4: Understanding the Business
04.04.22 | 5:30 p.m. to 7:30 p.m.
  • Creating a sustainable action plan and sales strategy
  • Managing workflow processes and mindset
  • Defining and delegating business operations
  • Securing key partners, advisors, and technology

Session 6: Creating a Business Plan Summary Deck
04.18.22 | 5:30 p.m. to 7:30 p.m.
  • Techniques to deliver a business plan overview
  • Tools and templates to build content and collateral
  • Design and presentation tips for pitching successfully
  • Downloading and working with your new business plan
Session 7: Business Plan Summary Presentation
On Monday, April 25, 2022 from 5:30 p.m. to 7:30 p.m.
First Leap participants will present to each other and to a range
of business startup and growth experts in order to put a final polish
on their plans.


This program is funded by a grant from The Claude Worthington Benedum Foundation.


Upcoming Events

Please sign up for our newsletter or check back to hear about the next session of this program.