“Focusing on interrupting crises and barriers to opportunities that can bear the fruit of wealth-building helps families to stabilize so that they have increased bandwidth to focus on short-term and long-term goals of homeownership and entrepreneurship. ”– Tammy Thompson, CEO
Amid COVID-19 restrictions, Tammy Thompson reinvented her nonprofit to better meet the needs of her clients and, at the same time, expanded services. On Jan. 1, 2021, Circles Greater Pittsburgh, a local chapter of a national organization focused on addressing rural poverty, became Catapult Greater Pittsburgh, a stand-alone nonprofit dedicated to helping Black families pull themselves out of generational poverty.
Catapult works to ensure people in systemically disenfranchised communities can achieve economic justice and lead dignified lives. Traditionally, it concentrated on helping individuals learn how to build and maintain wealth so they could buy their own homes, and on assisting entrepreneurs in creating successful businesses.
According to Thompson, “although there is no way to “financial education” people out of poverty, it’s extremely important to help people reconcile their poverty trauma so that they begin to build a better relationship with money. This resolved relationship with money helps people who have been exposed to long-term poverty and the survival mode mentality that is created as a result, shift to think about thriving and long-term goal setting. This is crucial to asset creation and wealth building principles.” Catapult’s SAVE program is a trauma-informed approach to financial education. Before people can enroll in the first-time homeownership program, DOOR, they are required to attend the financial education program.
Harkening back to her own experience of raising her children in poverty, Thompson wondered during the COVID shutdowns what would happen to families with limited resources. She conducted a community survey to determine needs and after hearing feedback, began a whole new set of short-term services. Her immediate focus was on delivering cleaning supplies and personal hygiene products and tracking down spare laptops from businesses like Duolingo and the Pittsburgh Penguins to donate to children learning remotely.
In response to the longer-term needs and growth opportunities, Catapult launched a new culinary program, Catapult: Culinary in August specifically to aid Black entrepreneurs looking to start food-based businesses, such as a bakery or catering services. Catapult has recently partnered with Allegheny Health Network to open a 5000 square foot commercial kitchen for this culinary Program. Once open, this space will be open 24/7 for program participants to use to grow their business.
Catapult also created Startup to Storefront, which helps BIPOC entrepreneurs create and grow their businesses over a 12-month incubation period. Members of the program get to participate in monthly cohorts, education seminars, one-on-one mentoring, and other activities to help them grow. Additionally, Catapult offers a retail location for BIPOC-owned businesses to have retail space in a high-traffic area in the community. They recently opened their second retail space in the Hill District and offer an online store for retailers, as well.