Awards and Accolades

OWN Celebrates the Entrepreneurial Soul

June 21st, 2016

A Legacy of Support for African-American Leaders in Business.

On Mother’s Day in 1991, entrepreneur Ola Jackson received a greeting card and check from her husband, Daryl, and son, Armon, that changed the direction of her career.  The greeting card read, “Happy Mother’s Day from the staff of Jackson Communications,” later changed to OWN: The Onyx Woman Network. Her “staff” were her husband and son, and the business was rooted due to a family dilemma. A year earlier, Armon was diagnosed with autism, which motivated Jackson to become self-employed so that she could work from home and be accessible to meet her son’s ever-changing needs.

Twenty years later, her business is now celebrating its anniversary for giving voice to female entrepreneurs and entrepreneurs of color in Pittsburgh.

In honor of her anniversary, the award-winning publisher, who last year won the SBA Minority Champion Award for her advocacy of minority-owned businesses, will celebrate 20 distinguished business owners and business advocates during a reception to be held on Thursday, August 18, 2011 at the Hill House Kaufmann Center Elsie H. Hillman Auditorium.

The distinguished leaders have been in business for decades or have supported minority business ownership over the years. They have served as inspiring role models, mentors, and trailblazers.

The event is co-sponsored by E. Holdings and FedEx Ground.

The list of honorees include:

  1. Janai Williams, Principal, E. Holdings
  2. Ruth Byrd-Smith, Dept. of Minority, Women, & DBE
  3. Grace Robinson, State Farm Insurance
  4. Chris Moore, Radio and Television Personality
  5. Doris Carson, African-American Chamber of Commerce
  6. Rod Doss, The New Pittsburgh Courier
  7. Eric Strong, Strong’s Cleaners
  8. Lynne Hayes-Freeland, The Lynne Hayes-Freeland Show
  9. Rosemary Crawford, Crawford McDonald, Esq
  10. Connie Portis, The Black Pages
  11. Bev Smith, The Bev Smith Show
  12. Vice Chancellor Robert Hill, Public Affairs University of Pittsburgh

Dave Broniecki
Data Engineer, Associate Project Manager

Dave is a NASSCO certified Mechanical Engineer. Specializing in retrieving and analyzing data from various sources to support condition assessment and capital improvement planning activities. Utilizing data to coordinate and track progress on key organizational performance indicators, he assists stakeholders in making decisions related to strategic planning. He has been integral in establishing data management programs essential for planning the future repair and management of large-scale sewer networks.  David works with clients to develop training programs and SOPs that address current maintenance needs and future Capital Improvement Planning.


Christine Barton, PE, PLS
Project Engineer

Christine Barton is a registered civil engineer and land surveyor with expert experience in site design, land development, water resources design for civil/site projects including layouts, utility plans, and permitting, and coordination/management of field survey work.  She has successfully held positions as project manager, project designer, and office manager to serve the needs of the clients within the residential, commercial, military, industrial, and healthcare industries. Core proficiencies include coordination with local land development planning agencies, county conservation districts, the Pennsylvania Department of Transportation, and the  Pennsylvania Department of Environment.


Irvin Williams, President

As the President and founder of E. Holdings, Irvin is currently focused on the company’s succession, strategic growth, and development. He has both a professional and personal interest in Pittsburgh’s success.  A Pittsburgh native and founder of several development companies, he has an extensive understanding of finance and business, which are vital to the success of this company. He has served in numerous management positions including financial advisor, senior vice president, project manager, general contractor, developer, and construction manager. Active in the local community, he made the decision to dedicate his expertise to rebuilding economically sustainable communities with the approval of their existing residents. In 1996, he and his wife became the first African Americans in Western Pennsylvania to develop and own a commercial office building, Williams Square. He graduated from Pennsylvania State University with an AAS in Mathematics.

Contact: | 412-434-6290

Amy Wiles, AICP
Manager of Planning & Design

Amy’s professional experience crosses a variety of disciplines, ranging from county and multi-municipal comprehensive plans and land use ordinances (zoning and subdivision and land development) to specialized planning studies, such as wayfinding master plans and parks, recreation, trails and greenways plans. She has been employed by E. Holdings for two years and has 20 years of professional experience.

Contact: | 724-448-0286

Alexis Meier, MPP
Director of Communications

Alexis is the Director of Communications at E. Holdings. There she has worked as the Municipal Coordinator for an in-depth municipal assessment project for the Allegheny County Sanitary Authority (ALCOSAN). She oversees all of E. Holding’s public relations and public outreach efforts. She also brings experience as a Government Affairs Manager for Duane Morris Government Strategies. She worked on community development projects and developing and executing government relations strategies as well as fundraising efforts. She has also spent time navigating our political system in Washington D.C. as the Legislative Staff Assistant for U.S. Senator Rick Santorum. Her understanding of legislation and politics gives her a unique viewpoint when collaborating on civic projects. 

Contact: | 412-656-8850

Janai Williams Smith, MCP
Managing Director and EVP

Janai Smith is the Managing Director and Principal of E. Holdings, Inc. Janai is a versatile, goal-oriented Program Manager with 20+ years of experience supporting the strategic direction of large-scale programs, setting budgets and managing risks while achieving overall company goals and exceeding customer expectations. As a planner and economist, Janai has been involved in a diverse array of projects, among them master plans, urban revitalization plan, visioning studies, brownfield and infill redevelopment projects, strategic planning and infrastructure improvement programs.

Janai’s interest in urban planning, design and infrastructure programs is rooted in a passion for the creation of sustainable communities that deliver equity in planning and implementation by making connections with people and their built environment. Her affinity for complex problem-solving can be seen in the diverse array of projects in which she’s been engaged from revitalization plans for depressed urban neighborhoods to brand new communities and programs. Leading a process-oriented, multidisciplinary team, Janai’s dedication to achieving consensus in her client’s goals and stakeholders’ vision has made a significant contribution to the successful development of numerous projects. 

Contact: | 412-728-5726