Inside Tyler Street Lab's one-stop shop to empower entrepreneurs and revitalize storefronts

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PITTSFIELD — Michelle Peoples is an entrepreneur in the making.

Since September, the Morningside neighborhood resident has been selling stylish, affordable jewelry directly to family, friends, church members and, through social media, total strangers.

Currently, Peoples relies on Facebook and word of mouth to promote the product line she orders online; the next step is getting her own store in the Tyler Street area.

"I'm ready to get in," she said. "When I do, I have some great ideas."

Peoples could land that space she needs to grow her business, courtesy of the Tyler Street Lab.

Located at the Goodwill Industries of the Berkshires headquarters on Tyler, the lab held an open house Thursday afternoon to introduce how it can help further revitalize the neighborhood. The collaboration of individuals and organizations, such as Berkshire Community College, will focus on providing community-based enrichment programming. The activities through the month of August also include helping potential entrepreneurs learn how to start a business, implement a program or help those like Peoples fill up vacant storefronts in the area.

"We want to start to reclaim spaces that are underutilized for arts and other uses," said Amewusika "Sika" Sedzro, lead planner for the state-designated Tyler Street Transformative Development Initiative.

Created two years ago to help boost the area's economy and improve the lives of residents, the initiative has been exploring ways to attract new business, increase housing opportunities and allow for some creativity. The city and state hope to build on the individual redevelopment in the Morningside area, such as the opening six years ago of the Silk Mill Apartments, the conversion of a century-old factory into affordable housing, and the ongoing search for tenants to the William Stanley Business Park that will include the Berkshire Innovation Center.

The lab is an outgrowth of last year's Pittsfield Better Block, a one-day event to showcase what Morningside businesses, artists and nonprofits have to offer the community.

Peoples, along with Roots & Dreams and Mustard Seeds Inc., as well as Rose and Cole's Co-op, will be on display at Goodwill in August, representing the entrepreneurial aspect of the lab.

City Ride is among the eight individuals and groups promoting enrichment for Morningside residents. City Ride is the brainchild of Nick Russo, traveling around Pittsfield offering adults and children free bicycle rides. Russo began his project this spring making two to three bikes available for a 1 to 2 mile casual ride.

"My next step is to have a regular schedule of times and locations," he said.

Goodwill will host activities for the 14 to 21 age group, helping them identify and best use their strengths to achieve their goals and priorities.

Those sessions are from 2:30 to 4 p.m. the next three Mondays.

"When we do things in a group, you get some great ideas," said Kathy Anker, Goodwill's mission services director. "People need to believe in themselves and know their skills."

Dick Lindsay can be reached at rlindsay@berkshireeagle.com and 413-496-6233.


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