University of Pittsburgh

alumni hall

Italian-Style Enterprise

Written by Lauren Mylo

Ten children scramble around a mock restaurant as they plan a pretend lunch for more than 100 employees at Universal Electric in Lawrence, Pa. They prepare a menu, predict how much food they’ll need down to the last hot dog, and set tables. In the thick of the action, Cindy Iannarelli (KGSB ’83, ’92)—a consultant who helps family businesses to thrive—observes the kids as they use problem-solving and teamwork skills.

Around the country and internationally, Iannarelli hosts dozens of workshops that teach kids and adults about entrepreneurship. Twenty-five years ago, she established the Bernelli Foundation to continue the sort of entrepreneurial development work she had done as a training coordinator at Pitt’s Small Business Development Center when she was a graduate student. Through her foundation, she not only leads mock-restaurant workshops for kids, but also frequently leads seminars for small-business owners and business students at the Bernelli Education Centre in Trentino, Italy. She takes attendees on tours of her own family’s nearby business, a resort on the Riva Del Garda in Italy, where she connects the entrepreneurs to other families who have operated businesses for decades in the Italian mountains, fostering a cross-cultural exchange of business ideas. She also teaches courses online through Bernelli University, her foundation’s most recent endeavor.

After the pretend lunch is “served” at Universal Electric, Iannarelli and the youngsters talk about the successes and failures of their operation—how they wasted time on this, spent too much money on that.  She gives them tips on ways to succeed. After all, she knows how.