Local Businesswoman Takes Center Stage as SBA Pittsburgh Young Entrepreneur of the Year

| May 17, 2017

blibertoCLARION, Pa. – Five years ago, dancer BreAnna Liberto executed the biggest leap of her artistic career– opening the doors to her own performing arts education center. Now, the 23-year-old founder and director of Clarion Center for the Arts is in the spotlight as U.S. Small Business Administration’s (SBA) Pittsburgh’s 2017 Young Entrepreneur of the Year.

Her award-winning community asset, rich in both arts and philosophical education, was lauded in a nomination submitted by the Clarion University Small Business Development Center (SBDC).

“It was a surprise and definitely an honor,” exclaimed Liberto. “I’m excited to begin recognizing the people who have gotten me to this place.”

As part of the celebration, members of the community are invited to join Clarion Center for the Arts at the 800 Center for the biggest open house event they’ve ever hosted.

“Families will get to enjoy face painting, karaoke, magnetic poetry, a photo booth, art, and pizza,” Liberto explained. “And everyone will learn some dance steps because moving makes people happy.”

Dancing since age seven, Liberto quickly added piano and voice to her creative repertoire performing in high school musicals settling on matriculating at Clarion University. Majoring in musical theater and minoring in business, the up-and-coming artist not only transferred her talents to Clarion University’s stage; she auditioned for a California-based theater group which focused on bringing arts into the classroom.

“I had my heart set on heading west and was planning on deferring my enrollment,” Liberto added.

Instead, Liberto found herself rewriting her script for success when the opportunity to bring art to the classroom beckoned right smack-dab in downtown Clarion.

“I always wanted to open up a performing arts center, but I thought I would be 40, not 19,” Liberto explained. “I started sharing the vision with families in the community who were really excited about what Clarion Center for the Arts would do for their kids.”

Switching her major to business administration and earning a full academic scholarship, Liberto went to Clarion University’s SBDC for assistance in choreographing a location and an SBA Microloan for her new venture.

“I was negotiating a lease at 19 and had never done anything like that before,” she said. “A friend who was an attorney helped me sort through the legal aspects while the building manager assisted with the studio design.”

Liberto soon found herself spinning through life as a full-time student, teaching dance five evenings a week while juggling all office and administrative work.

“It was pretty crazy, but I made it work,” she added. “And, I have no regrets; I have an opportunity to be a light and teach my students to do what’s right and to use the arts to influence society and make a difference.”

SBA Pittsburgh Deputy District Director Regina Abel, whose son is employed as an entertainer, has nothing but praise for Liberto’s philosophy.

“When a person uses their gifts to tell a story, it provokes thought, encourages self-expression and brings communities together.”

Liberto’s done just that from her summer camp dubbed Project Ignite to her Sparky Bucks initiative; her positive messaging is teaching tots to teens the importance of helping others.

“Project Ignite is a week-long day camp where we paint, film, write and dance all with themes and discussions centering on making a difference,” Liberto said. “Our campers have auctioned artwork and held bake sales raising money for children around the world and for the recent Orlando victims.”

At the Center, students are given Sparky Bucks rewarding them not only for working hard at their craft but also for encouraging each other and conflict resolution. Those dollars then can be redeemed at Clarion Center for the Arts’ Sparky Store on everything from stickers to hair ties and even goats.

The Center used the Sparky Bucks incentive to purchase a goat from Compassion International.

“Our teachers read a book to their classes explaining that a goat for a family in need can provide so much,” added Liberto. “Goats provide milk which the family can drink for better nutrition. They then can sell the milk and purchase household items and clothes for school.”

And when the students collect and donate 1,000 of their hard-earned Sparky Bucks, Liberto coordinated the goat purchase.

Liberto, who graduated in three years from Clarion University, hasn’t hung up her ballet slippers. However, instead of dancing on stage, she shares her story via speaking engagements.

“I hope to inspire students,” she said. “I was never scared because of the people I had around me. Knowing the right people can make all the difference.”


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Category: Local News, News