Gannon University Alumna Opens Business in Downtown Erie
Posted: July 31, 2018
Coffee has long had been prized for its ability to provide a
jolt of energy and act as a catalyst for action. That's certainly
true in the case of Hannah Kirby '11M, a Gannon University graduate
who used coffee to jump start a dream of entrepreneurism and
Kirby, with both engineering and Master of Business
Administration degrees from Gannon University, worked for LORD
Corporation as a quality engineer. Yet the Waynesburg, Pennsylvania
native also developed a passion for helping to rebuild the Erie
community that was nourished by extensive volunteer work. Still,
she realized that just wasn't enough.
Kirby who worked as a barista throughout high school, acquired a
refined palate of a well-made cup of coffee, and that was just the
wake-up call she had been looking for. Coffee would be the
substance that would complement her desire to make a mark on Erie's
future. The idea for Ember+Forge was born.
Kirby looked to the Gannon Small Business Development Center for
assistance with creating a business plan and financial projections,
and with choosing a loan program that might be a good fit for what
she was trying to accomplish.
In addition to the services from the SBDC, she utilized
assistance from a number of resources including a Cleveland-based
consultant with expertise the café/coffee roasting industry,
Schaffner, Knight, Minnaugh & Co., the coffee industry
consultant's accountant, a family friend for branding, and another
friend who is a Chicago interior designer.
The decision of where to locate the venture was all Kirby's. She
chose a 200-year-old building that was built to house a ship's
chandlery and candle-maker. That was the ember.
Because the heavily trafficked corner location in the heart of
downtown Erie next to the Erie Art Museum is close to Gannon
University, Erie Insurance, UPMC Hamot and other large downtown
employers, Kirby hoped her business would help to forge a new
vision of Erie's revitalization.
With guidance from the SBDC, Kirby submitted her business plan and
projections to Bridgeway Capital for consideration for funding her
venture. In August 2017, she was successfully funded by Bridgeway
and Ember+Forge was launched.