Growing a Business, Plants, and Community

Growing a Business, Plants, and Community  

Omicelo Cares has enabled business owners in Pittsburgh communities to grow their business through strategic planning within their 7 Pillars™ of Sustainable Business program. Within this program, participants have the opportunity to focus on seven sectors of their business: strategy, technology, communication, finance, legal, capital, and people.

Ebony Lunsford-Evans recently graduated from the 2021-22 program of 7 Pillars™, concentrating on the financial pillar of her business.

“It’s helped me as a business owner learn to focus on the important things in my business and keep an eye on the way things grow in business,” she said.

And Lunsford-Evans certainly loves to watch things grow. As an urban farmer and lifelong educator located in the West End of Pittsburgh, Lunsford-Evans has dedicated a good portion of her life to helping things grow: fresh produce, the community members she teaches, and her businesses, Farmer Girl Eb and Out of The End, Incorporated.

Through her participation in Omicelo Cares’ 7 Pillars™ program, Lunsford-Evans had the opportunity to work with attorneys and create a consignment agreement for her business, Farmer Girl Eb. Before she completed this program, her consignment agreement created a 100% increase in entrepreneurial partnerships for her produce store.

The 7 Pillars™ Process: Growing Her Business

Through the 7 Pillars™ of Sustainable Business program, Omicelo Cares came alongside Lunsford-Evans to help her build her strategic plan. Her plan outlined her personal and financial goals in a yearly structure. Omicelo Cares’ employees were able to support her by helping her to create a clear focus on where she was headed. As a result, this strategic plan produced tangible results.

With the guidance of Omicelo Cares, Lunsford-Evans increased her entrepreneurial partnerships by 100% before completing the 7 Pillars program.

During the program, Lunsford-Evans felt respected for who she was in her creativity. She said that the Omicelo Cares Staff supported and guided her by listening to her goals and recognizing her strengths. This support enabled her to successfully develop her business into what she truly wanted it to be. 

Impacting Her Community Through Growing Plants

Lunsford-Evans began her business pursuit with a desire to educate others. After teaching in the public school, she utilized her skills as an educator to build her business in urban farming and agricultural education. 

She began by renovating an “eye-sore” of a vacant lot into a beautifully lush urban farm. She now owns two urban farms, one in the West End and the other in the North Side. These farms supply her corner produce store, Farmer Girl Eb, along with other entrepreneurs she partners with. 

“We grow fresh produce there on both lots,” Lunsford-Evens said. “They’re both teaching sites for the community to come and learn to grow and sustain fresh food that we grow right in the ground.” 

With these resources, she has impacted her community in many ways. Through her non-profit organization, Out of the End, Inc., she has educated community members on how to sustain and grow food from seed, harvest produces, build a relationship with the land, understand soil health, scale and distribute food, and understand herbal medicines. 

“We have farmers from 3 years old all the way up to 83 years old,” she said about her students within the community. 

Lunsford-Evans explained how the ability to grow and sustain food decreases the social determinants of health, saying, “Now that a lot of people are becoming more aware of how to have a relationship with their land, grow food, and eat healthier, negative impacts on the social determinants of health are decreasing. People are not having the illnesses that they were experiencing.”

She is passionate about educating her community on the importance of eating healthy because of how it can impact their overall health issues. 

“I’ve had to literally tell the community, ‘I’m not a doctor,’” she said. “But I’ve had people literally be healed from just eating right and creating medicine from the land.”

7 Pillars™ of Sustainable Business

The 7 Pillars™ of Sustainable Business program empowers business owners to create clear goals and achieve substantial results. This program unites business owners passionate about their communities with our experts at Omicelo Cares, who strive to co-power community members to own financial assets, grow their business, and increase their income. 

Lunsford-Evans was able to take part in this program and watch not only her business grow but also the communities she is serving. Her desire to benefit her community overflows into her work as she strives to make fresh food available for the community as a whole.

Learn more about how the 7 Pillars™ of Sustainable Business program can help you impact your community through business growth.

Vision. Mission. Focus. Obtain Your Business Goals with 7 Pillars™ of Sustainable Business

Vision. Mission. Focus. Obtain Your Business Goals with 7 Pillars™ of Sustainable Business

Taylor Ford knew she needed to find the time to slow down and work on her business because she was struggling to find focus. She owned one IT business that offered numerous facets of IT work. However, Ford struggled to create a clear direction for her services because of the company’s extensive reach.

Aware that she needed help to develop and focus her business, Ford signed up for Omicelo Cares’ 7 Pillars™ of Sustainable Business program. This program centers on seven different business sectors, which are Strategy, Technology, Communication, Finance, Legal, Capital, and People, gearing toward each participant’s business’ unique needs. 

This program provided Ford with mentorship, guidance, and support focusing on the strategy and marketing pillars.

“My favorite part about that was actually the one-on-one mentoring with 7 Pillars™ Manager, Shannon,” Ford said about the Omicelo Care’s team member. “She became a real friend in my business; a real partner. And she helped me with my strategy, and she helped me conceptualize who I actually was in business and what I wanted to do and the impact that I wanted to make.”

Focusing and Strategizing Her Business 

Through the support of Omicelo Cares, Ford successfully separated her business into two distinct companies: Taylor Made IT Services and IT’s For Me. Both of her businesses are centered on giving technology access to minorities, but each has its specific focus.

Taylor Made IT Services offers IT managerial services with on-site help, unique from most IT companies.

“What differentiates Taylor made is we have a lot of on-site help,” Ford said. “We literally contract out our department. We come embedded in integral parts of our clients’ environments and ecosystems because we are their staff members; we are their technicians.”

Taylor Made’s next goal is to take over the charter school scene to make sure that there is a Taylor Made technician in every charter school serving minorities, Ford said.

On the other hand, IT’s For Me teaches the community how to utilize various mainstream technology through summer programs and after-school camps.

“The after-school programs help the children be creative and innovative using technology,” Ford explained. “It supports the theme that they don’t all have to be basketball players and football players. They can be astronauts, they can be engineers, they can be scientists, and allowing them the space to create, to be innovative, to think, has really changed the game for them.”

IT’s For Me currently partners with after-school programs, but they will host their own after-school programs and summer camps next year. At these programs and camps, the kids can work on varying projects, including designing websites, building fliers, working on their resumes and cover letters, learning the Microsoft Office Suite, and collaborating in a group. These events focus on varying sectors of technology.

Ford explained that her companies didn’t change all that much; they both still offered the same services.

“It was more so an internal separation that really needed to happen for our clients,” Ford said. “There was a service shift.”

This focus and separation improved her work environment by establishing a clear direction for her team by always relating their services to their mission. 

“It’s improved my overall quality of life because I have a tidbit of my sanity back because now I know which way I am going,” Ford said. 

Support On Her Business Journey

Omicelo Cares and their partners came alongside Ford to support her as a business partner to obtain tangible results by slowing down and working on her business.

“They helped me build upon what exactly my company does,” Ford said. “So, that’s why I separated them. They were able to help me to clarify my message for each of them because they don’t do the same thing. They don’t have the same clientele. They’re not the same target market.”

The program’s collaborative nature enabled Ford and other participants to focus solely on their business with the help of Omicelo Cares’ business professionals. 

Separating her two businesses clarified which services were being offered to each customer. 

7 Pillars™ of Sustainable Business

Ford highly recommends the 7 Pillars™ of Sustainable Business program because of how the mentors support you and become your partners and friends. 

“[They] built a rapport with me that is very hard to build, and they kept that rapport,” Ford said.

The 7 Pillars™ of Sustainable Business is a hands-on, personalized experience that forces you to work on your business, Ford said. It teaches that with all seven pillars, your business can be structured to achieve income growth and sustainability:

The 7 Pillars™ include:

  • Strategy
  • Technology
  • Communication 
  • Finance 
  • Legal 
  • Capital
  • People

Visit our website to learn more about the 7 Pillars™ of Sustainable Business program and how it can help you grow your business.

A Different Approach to Real Estate

A Different Approach to Real Estate

In 2017, Tenika Chavis signed up for what she expected to be just another real estate training. With few expectations, she thought she might make a connection and, once again, talk about the basics of real estate investing. 

She recalls going to these series of sessions, thinking, “I shouldn’t take up space in something like this that’s meant for the community.” She felt her real estate knowledge was already “adequate,” not realizing the impact this series would have on her and her community.

Before taking Omicelo Cares’ Real Estate Co-powerment Series, cocreated by Neighborhood Allies, Chavis worked in property and project management and as an advisor for other real estate investors. Prior to her education with Omicelo Cares, Chavis, like most real estate professionals, was taught to buy cheap, negotiate low, and do as few repairs as possible to create the largest market value and purchase price gap possible. 

But during this series, she learned that this form of real estate investment was affecting her neighborhood’s demographics and causing displacement in her community. 

“It opened my eyes,” Chavis expressed. “I was part of the problem and that bothered me, learning that the median income in the area is $45,000 and hasn’t changed in almost 25 years but the prices of real estate have accelerated.” 

This knowledge propelled Chavis into her journey of learning how to be part of the solution. 

Improving Neighborhoods by Finding Real Estate Solutions 

Chavis left the Real Estate Co-powerment Series fully prepared to change how real estate was affecting her community. She became a real estate investor and changed her approach to real estate, ensuring a win-win situation for both the investor and buyer. 

“It changed the way that I approach real estate now because I will actually try to work with the family to give them what they need,” Chavis said. “Some families need monthly payments, some of them need a lump sum, some just want to get rid of the property because it’s a problem. I spend more time getting to know the family and what they need.”

She approaches the situation aware of the profit she needs to make, the median income in the area, and varying places she can take money from for rehab and repair. 

“I’ve found different ways to profit rather than just charging market-rate rent and overpricing each property,” Chavis explained. 

Expanding Her Real Estate Impact 

Five years later, Chavis has her own real estate business and construction company:

“My business in real estate improves my community because I can empathize with the end user,” Chavis said. “I have a different perspective than a corporate investor or an investor from another part of town. I feel that I can relate better to the circumstances on the ground in the area which make me a better owner and a better resource to the community.”

Before the series, she owned one property; since then, she has owned seven at one time. She also works with other private investors and asset-based lenders.

Additionally, she has become a trainer with Omicelo Cares for the Real Estate Co-powerment Series and, through this, has had the opportunity to share her real estate journey and help others build beneficial connections. She also speaks at other events about being a woman in construction and real estate.

“[The program] has made me more confident as a real estate professional because I have access to other services and professionals that I didn’t even know existed before,” Chavis said.

Real Estate Co-powerment Series

This program is a 7-week series that demystifies the real estate development process, demonstrating how community members can get involved in real estate. 

“It provides a good baseline of knowledge for putting things together,” Chavis said. “You get a great start to getting into real estate and a lot of connections.”

This program is excellent for:

  • Community-based organization staff
  • Property owners
  • Small business owners
  • Active community members 
  • Those interested in learning the real estate investment process

Learn more about our Real Estate Co-powerment Series and begin your journey of strengthening your community through real estate education.