Pop Star: Kate Stoltzfus of CreativeMornings and Yinzpiration
After leaders of Pittsburgh's Kids+Creativity Network
discussed forming a local chapter of CreativeMornings to showcase some of the city's most inspiring minds, they next considered who would lead it.
One name surfaced quickly: Kate Stoltzfus.
"She is a perfect fit," says Dustin Stiver of The Sprout Fund, and "one of our cities most dedicated champions."
The monthly breakfast series for creative types was a way to bring more people together on a regular basis, which ultimately sold Stoltzfus. "I wasn't sure if I was ready to jump into one more project but it really aligns with everything I'm doing," says the energetic and affable multi-tasker. "And my husband was super excited about it!" she adds. "Plus I really admire, Tina, the founder."
CreativeMornings is in 40 cities worldwide, from Brooklyn where it was founded, to Tokyo. And now it's in Pittsburgh one Friday a month and free, thanks in large part to Stoltzfus and her volunteer team.
If the name Kate Stoltzfus sounds familiar, there's good reason. She's the bright personality behind the hit blog, Yinzpiration
. And she co-founded Propelle--a local venture dedicated to helping women entrepreneurs take flight—after meeting someone she interviewed for her blog.
. I work
. I write
. I host
," she writes in her blog intro.
Stoltzfus first arrived in Pittsburgh in 2005 fresh from Goshen College to be with Nik Stolzfus, now her husband. At the time, she was involved with the nonprofit PULSE
(Pittsburgh Urban Leadership Service Experience),which pairs college graduates with local nonprofits for a year. For Stoltzfus, that meant working at Ambiance boutique, a nonprofit social venture owned by Bethlehem Haven, a women's shelter.
She immediately took to the city. Now she lives in Garfield where she owns a building with Nik. In true urban style, they live on the third floor, with tenants on the second floor and their business—Plumb Media-- on the ground floor.
Pittsburgh "is a great place to be a young person and a great place to start things,” she says “I feel very welcome here and supported and just so lucky to be surrounded by amazing people and lots of different opportunities. In larger cities, it may be a bit harder to start your own thing. Here you can jump on to somebody else’s project or start your own.”
Like the one she just launched. “When I checked out CreativeMornings I knew that Pittsburgh would embrace it,” she says. "We have an awesome creative community and we have had a full house for our first three events.”
The first few inspiring minds featured at the free events included Nina Barbuto of Assemble who spoke about making learning a party, Mike Capsembelis on "All the Awesome that Money can Buy" and David "Mr. McFeely" Newell on happiness. Each month in the series focuses on a different theme.
It was another lecture series—PodCamp, the annual Pittsburgh technology conference-- that led Kate to her Yinzpiration blog which catapulted her to local fame.
“The presenter was talking about how it’s good career insurance to meet someone in your potential network for coffee once a week,” she says. “I thought to myself, ‘I can do that.’ ”
A month later, on October 18, 2010 Yinzpiration was born, with a goal of interviewing 100 Pittsburghers in their 20s and 30s by the time Kate hits her 30th
birthday, which is July 28 of this year.
The blog, which averages 3,000 monthly visits, also features a collection of various tweets called “57 Reasons to live in Pittsburgh" and short articles such as 10 reasons to love Highland Park and the inspirational "What's Stopping You?"
Will she hit her goal?
“I’m going to have to really step it up,” she says with a laugh. “The primary focus of the blog is to help people "live yinzpired" and I do that through my 100 interview quest as well as my weekly feature emails meant to inspire creativity, positivity, and create momentum in Pittsburgh and beyond.”
Kate gets interview recommendations on her site or by word of mouth. She has filtered through countless requests in her quest for 100.
“There have been so many great stories,” she says. “I wish I could interview everybody.”
Some standouts include: Chaz Kellem
, the manager of diversity initiatives for the Pittsburgh Pirates, who was born with a rare bone disorder, which causes bones to break easily. “He’s super inspiring,” Stoltzfus says, who cites him for always working hard, promoting diversity and inclusion for people with disabilities.
Once at an event she met a couple who told her that her blog contributed to their decision to relocate to Pittsburgh. “They literally had just moved here that week,” she says. “I was so thrilled to hear this.”
A February 2011 interview for Yinzpiration led to a business partnership between Stoltzfus and Carrie Nardini. The pair, along with Emily Levenson, founded Propelle.
“Kate's energy, enthusiasm, optimism, and love for others comes through in all that she does," says Nardini. "It is really valuable to have her skill set and perspective to pull from.”
Levenson concurs. “Kate is one of the most positive and engaging people I know. She has a knack for connecting others, for seeing the best in every person and situation, and is a true inspiration to every single person she comes in contact with.”
And whether she makes it to 100 interviews by her birthday doesn’t really matter.
“There could be more than 100,” she said. “I enjoy it so much. I definitely think as long as I’m in Pittsburgh, Yinzpiration will be part of my life in some way."
To sign up to receive notices about CreativeMorningsPittsburgh, click here.
Interested in sponsoring one? Talk to Kate.
The Pop City editor contributed to this story.
Photographs copyright Brian Cohen