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 community building.

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.