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People's Liberty, Brick Gardens


According to the U.S. Department of Agriculture, a "food desert" is an area where substantial numbers of residents live in poverty and lack access to affordable, nutritious food. Under this federal definition, Cincinnati has several neighborhoods that qualify as food deserts, including Avondale, Bond Hill, Evanston, Northside and South Fairmount.

Domonique Peebles, a 2016 People's Liberty grantee, wanted to do something about it.
 
Peebles first had the idea to activate vacant spaces throughout the city by turning them into urban gardens, and then share the resulting produce with those in need of fresh food. As he began to research his concept, he realized there are already dozens of urban gardens throughout the city, and he didn't want to replicate existing efforts.

Not only that, but traditional gardening has its limitations: the growing season is limited, the weather is unpredictable and garden spaces are not universally accessible. That's when Peebles decided to address food access issues in Cincinnati in a cutting-edge way: vertical farming.
 
Peebles, a resident of Over-the-Rhine, envisioned vacant buildings in his neighborhood as possible locations for vertical farming set-ups.

"There are all kinds of benefits," Peebles said. "Activating empty space in the city, getting rid of blight, getting rid of run-down structures, physically growing food that can be distributed and teaching people how to grow food."
 
Peebles traveled to Detroit to learn from an urban gardener who was using an innovative vertical farming set-up to grow produce year-round. Peebles spent over a year researching methods of how to build vertical farm "stacks," as he refers to them, and he received a $10,000 People's Liberty grant for his project, Brick Gardens.
 
Though vertical farming may sound complex and expensive, the whole process from building the stack to harvesting the produce can be learned in less than an hour. A stack includes trays for the plants, a growing medium, a water reservoir and standard fluorescent lighting. Stacks can be assembled from commercially available components for under $200. Ongoing maintenance of the system is minimal, and it also recycles water, so it is inexpensive to maintain the growing plants.

"It's really hands-off once you get the initial planting done," Peebles said. "It's really just a daily maintenance check. It seems like it's very technical, but once you do it once, you can do it the rest of your life."

Peebles said that a single stack, of a size that could be maintained within one's own home, is able to produce about 56 heads of lettuce in 21 days.

"A person might grow that amount of lettuce on an acre of land, with two harvests per year," Peebles said. With vertical farming, a person could get about seven harvests every three months.
 
Peebles has a working model of a small stack that's suited for home production in his shop Featured, which is on Main Street in OTR. People interested in learning how to create a stack are welcome to reach out and arrange a time to view the model and ask questions.

Peebles has also partnered with the agriculture department at Cincinnati State and has two stacks growing there. With these stacks, Peebles is experimenting with growing different types of crops that are less commonly grown indoors on vertical farms, such as tomatoes. He also maintains six stacks at New Prospect Church in Roselawn.
 
Vertical farming is so much faster and more efficient than traditional methods that Peebles had his first Brick Gardens harvest less than a month after starting seeds.

"I had no idea I would be so successful," he said. "But my very first time was a 100 percent success rate on sprouting."

The stacks continue to flourish: "Once a week we've been going to all the sites and harvesting one to three pounds per site." Brick Gardens donates the harvested produce to community members in Roselawn, to students who help to grow the produce at Cincinnati State and to Gabriel's Place, a nonprofit in Avondale.
 
Peebles has high hopes for turning Brick Gardens into an ongoing enterprise.

"It's something that could be done in multiple neighborhoods," he said. "These could be put anywhere — elementary schools, hospitals, nursing homes."

There are pre-made vertical farming systems currently on the market, but Peebles wants to encourage people to consider going the DIY route. He says that the system he designed is about half the cost of pre-built systems.
 
Peebles ultimately hopes to continue partnering with schools, universities, local neighborhoods and even restaurants in need of access to fresh, local produce year-round.

"The thing with growing food is there's not really competition," he said. "There's always going to be a need for food production. People are always going to need to eat."
 
Those interested in learning more about Brick Gardens are encouraged to visit its website.
 
Twice per year, eight grantees are chosen per grant cycle to prototype solutions to civic challenges. Project grantees are supported with $10,000, a launch event and access to People’s Liberty’s workplace and mentorship.

 

New bar concept coming to renovated Mutual Building in downtown Covington


The team that brought us Over-the-Rhine’s Rhinehaus and Pendleton’s Nation Kitchen and Bar is at it again, but this time, they’re opening a place in Covington. The Hannaford at Pike & Madison, which is located at 619 Madison Ave., will open at 4 p.m. on Nov. 23.
 
“The idea for the name came from our initial exploration of the neighborhood,” said Andrew Salzbrun, who along with Aaron Kohlhepp and Jack Weston, are the Hickory Wald Group. “At the time, the intersection of Pike and Madison was one of the busiest intersections in Kentucky, and we wanted to identify that in our brand.”
 
They’re also paying homage to the life of famed architect Samuel Hannaford, who designed the Mutual Building. The 100-year-old, three-story building is currently undergoing renovations, and will soon be home to upscale apartments, commercial space and The Hannaford.
 
“We saw a lot of opportunity to pay homage to Hannaford and to share some of his original expressions in the space,” Salzbrun said.
 
Hickory Wald is preserving different aspects of the space, including the original mosaic tile flooring and the foundation’s concrete walls. They’re also reusing scrap lumber from the old Coppin’s building — now Hotel Covington — in the bar’s interior.
 
The Hannaford’s drink menu will be seasonal, and will be based on generous, well-composed, traditional cocktails.
 
“Our mission with our venues is to plant flags in neighborhoods by building ‘clubhouses’ for adults,” Salzbrun said. “Just as with our past ventures, we intentionally seek out neighborhoods that are gaining steam in their development, but have an opportunity for a place that fosters conversation and relationship growth.”
 
Keep tabs on The Hannaford’s Facebook page for details regarding its opening.
 

People's Liberty project grantee, Your Productions


Robert Wilson, a 2016 People's Liberty project grantee, is also the owner of Sabercomm Productions, a company that handles video and media projects for local public access television, businesses and nonprofit organizations. He saw few  outlets for teen voices and decided to put his production expertise into creating youth media to affect social change.
 
As part of his People's Liberty project, Wilson developed a two-week summer camp called Your Productions to provide at-risk youth with the tools to share their voice through video production and audio public service announcements.

During the summer of 2016, a group of 11 teens from Avondale, ages 12-18, worked together to shoot, produce and edit four short public service announcements about topics that they felt were relevant to their communities.

"It was important to allow young people to talk about what affects them," Wilson said.

Ultimately, the teens selected four issues to focus on: immigration, health, litter and Black Lives Matter and the experiences of young African American women.
 
"They had a deep grasp of what they were facing in their community," Wilson said. "I was blown away by the amount of maturity that they held. So often we think that young people don't have that grasp, we don't even ask their opinions."
 
Wilson and fellow videographer and activist Lamonte Young facilitated the camp and provided technical instruction, but Wilson said that it was always intended to be a student-led effort.

"They vetted these things and worked through problems on their own," he explained. Wilson said that unlike other video camps, Your Productions did not provide a prompt or limitations on the topics they could explore. "A lot of people don't want to get into the hard subjects, so they give them something to do. It's not the freedom to create on their own."
 
Wilson has plans to offer another two-week camp in the coming year.

"We’re going to continue this program whether there is funding for it or not," he said. Ultimately, Wilson wants to use the success of Your Productions to develop it into a model for others who want to run similar programs. "We want to help other people empower young people. Our goal is to create a template with a syllabus so that other people can come to us from other cities, and we can hand it off."  
 
The PSAs from the Your Productions 2016 camp will be screened on local public access channels and can be viewed on Facebook and on the Your Productions website.
 
Twice per year, eight grantees are chosen per grant cycle to prototype solutions to civic challenges. Project grantees are supported with $10,000, a launch event and access to People’s Liberty’s workplace and mentorship. Stay tuned to Soapbox for profiles of this year's 15 other grantees.
 

People's Liberty, Let's Dance Academy


Kathye Lewis and Gregory Norman have a shared passion for ballroom dancing, which led them to cofound Let’s Dance Academy in November 2015. They received a $10,000 grant from People’s Liberty to make their dreams a reality.
 
When the pair started Let’s Dance, they focused on teaching fifth and sixth graders at South Avondale Elementary School how to ballroom dance.
 
“We wanted to bring culture to the kids at South Avondale, and show them a different way to dance,” Norman said. “We also wanted to help them understand the history around the dance and where it came from.”
 
Norman has been ballroom dancing for the past 10 years, and was taught by instructors in both Detroit and Los Angeles. He has also studied ballroom dancing on his own to learn the history, various styles and importance to the African American community on a national and international level.
 
Lewis doesn’t have an official background in ballroom dancing, but has been a dancer for her entire life. She’s taken classes and workshops, and has come to know a national community of ballroom dancers.
 
Over the past 10 years, Dancing with the Stars has brought more exposure to ballroom dancing. According to Norman, the ‘70s and ‘80s saw partner dances like the hustle, but the ‘90s and early ‘00s didn’t have a lot of partner dances. Now there is a renewed interested in ballroom dancing.
 
“The dominant driving force for us is to get young people into ballroom dancing so that culture doesn’t die again,” he said.
 
Lewis and Norman did an initial two sessions with the students, providing meals and dance costumes for them through the People’s Liberty grant. They also held a graduation ceremony, where they handed out trophies and invited the students’ family members and the community.
 
At the moment, Let’s Dance is focusing on teaching adults how to ballroom dance.
 
“We’re trying to grow classes and are expanding our reach within the adult community,” Lewis said.
 
Ultimately, they want to expand classes and offer them at different locations throughout the city. Classes are $5, and are currently held at the College Hill Recreation Center.
 

People's Liberty grantees create mammoth bean bag art installation


Amy Scarpello and Abby Cornelius share a unique love: bean bags.

“We’ve both been bean bag enthusiasts for the bulk of our lives,” Scarpello said. The two artists met while studying sculpture at the Art Academy of Cincinnati.

The pair were brainstorming project ideas one night when the idea to create a giant 20-foot bean bag as a pop-up public art installation was born. Though it was initially an off-hand idea, the concept persisted.

“We had both made small soft sculptures, but nothing to that scale, so we knew it would be a new endeavor," Scarpello said.

The idea continued to develop, but the duo also realized that the materials to create their giant bean bag would not be cheap.

On a whim, Scarpello and Cornelius decided to apply to People’s Liberty for a $10,000 grant to fund their project, which they called Plop! To their delight, they were awarded funding.

“We’re probably the least likely people that received it,” Scarpello joked.

Instead of a single giant bag, the idea evolved into a family of three oversized bean bags, affectionately named Hex, Pal and Wedge after the bags' various shapes. The bags were so large that creating them “was kind of a ridiculous process,” Scarpello said.

Designing the bags and determining the volume of filling for them required a thorough comprehension of geometry. “My high school math teacher would be proud."

After completing the design process, the pair ordered filler beads and marine-grade vinyl that is weather-resistant and anti-microbial. Rosie Kovacks, owner of the soon-to-open Over-the-Rhine furniture shop Brush Factory, helped them fabricate the shells using a specialized sewing machine that could stand up to the weight of the fabric.

Once the bags were created, the pair carted them around to public spaces where they were placed for up to five consecutive days. Plop! popped up at locations throughout the area, including Art off Pike in Covington, the Clifton Cultural Arts Center, Fountain Square and The Mockbee.


“It was really exciting to watch how different groups of people would interact with it throughout the day," Scarpello said. "We would have business people having lunch on it like a picnic, later kids would play on it and later in the evening people on dates would be eating ice cream on it. It’s so satisfying to see people actually use them and be excited by it.”

Plop! is now retired for the winter, but Scarpello hopes to continue the project during the spring and summer of 2017. To stay up-to-date on 2017 appearances of Plop!, visit its website or follow Plop! on Facebook or Instagram.

Twice per year, eight grantees are chosen per grant cycle to prototype solutions to civic challenges. Project grantees are supported with $10,000, a launch event and access to People’s Liberty’s workplace and mentorship. Stay tuned to Soapbox for profiles of this year's 15 other grantees.

 

People's Liberty grantee takes spirit of Carnival to the streets


Larry Malott is taking art and creativity to the streets with Amazing Urban Adventures. Earlier this year, he received a $10,000 People’s Liberty grant to help jumpstart his project, which had a soft launch at Northside’s Fourth of July parade.
 
Malott was inspired by Carnival and similar events that celebrate, parade and dance in the street while wearing a mask and costume.
 
“I sought funding from People’s Liberty because they fund individuals and projects that engage the public, and they’re willing to fund projects that are a bit out of the ordinary, so it just seemed like the perfect fit,” Malott said.
 
Amazing Urban Adventures features people dressed up in costumes made from reusable materials like trash bags, aluminum and cardboard boxes. It also encourages kids of all ages to get creative through mask-making workshops.
 
“This is the natural evolution of my public performance artwork, and builds upon my previous work by engaging more people and encourages them to join in the celebration and performance instead of just being a viewer,” Malott said.
 
The official launch was at Riverfest, where Amazing Urban Adventures performed on the P&G Pavilion stage and then paraded across the Purple People Bridge. Since then, Malott has taken his project to Art Off Pike and the most recently the Mini Maker Faire.
 
In the next few months, Malott will be doing parades and performances around downtown, especially around the holidays. There will also be a kids’ mask making workshop and parade on Dec. 28 at the Cincinnati Art Museum. Malott has a larger event in the works for the beginning of March.
 
Twice per year, eight grantees are chosen per grant cycle to prototype solutions to civic challenges. Project grantees are supported with $10,000, a launch event and access to People’s Liberty’s workplace and mentorship. Stay tuned to Soapbox for profiles of this year's 15 other grantees.
 

People's Liberty grantee takes his mobile science lab to streets


Aaron Greene has a passion for science. As the program chair for bioscience technology at Cincinnati State, his work “encapsulates everything from pharmaceuticals to environmental biology.” Bioscience technology is applied to things as varied as the creation of insulin for diabetics, techniques for cleaning up the Mill Creek watershed and the development of new foods and flavors.

Though Greene is well-versed in the many applications of science in our everyday lives, he recognizes that not everyone shares his understanding, and that many people regard science as intimidating.

“What I hear is that ‘science isn’t for me, I’m not good at it’,” he said. “But it’s not something for somebody else, and it’s not something you’re good at to start with. It’s for everyone.”

A desire to dispel the misconceptions about science led Greene to apply for a $10,000 People’s Liberty grant for a project he calls It’s Just Science.

“My main goal is to show people that it’s not scary," Greene said. "It’s much more accessible than people give it a chance to be.”

When he applied for the grant, he had to clarify exactly how he’d make science approachable for the general public.

“How do we get it out there and into the hands of people?” Greene briefly considered using a tent or a pop-up camper to house a portable science lab. “But we really wanted to reinforce the accessibility and make it as mobile as possible, so we settled on a tricycle.”

Greene worked with a custom tricycle company based in Oregon to create a collapsible lab on wheels. The trike includes fold-out shelves on the side, which Greene will pack with microscopes and DNA extraction kits as he travels throughout the city.

Greene is busy reaching out to local libraries, community centers, events and even breweries to bring his mobile lab to learners of all ages and experience levels. “The trike is to break down the initial barrier, lowering the hurdles to the public," he said.

“Demystifying science is at the heart of this whole project,” Greene said. The soft launch of the It’s Just Science tricycle will happen in the coming weeks, but Greene already has his sights set on big goals for the future.

“I’m looking at a physical presence in an unused storefront to do a larger launch,” he shared. Ultimately, Greene has dreams of establishing a community lab where people can explore science in a less stressful environment than the classroom, under the supervision of scientists and graduate students who know science and can answer questions.

“As a scientist, I already understand the uses for these technologies,” Greene said.

But he anticipates that engaging people from different backgrounds in scientific exploration could yield new approaches to old problems. “I’ll be interested to see what comes out of it. When you think outside the box and let new minds come in, that’s where you get a lot of new innovation.”

To get up-to-date information on upcoming It’s Just Science appearances and find out where you can catch it next, visit its Facebook page.

Twice per year, eight grantees are chosen per grant cycle to prototype solutions to civic challenges. Project grantees are supported with $10,000, a launch event and access to People’s Liberty’s workplace and mentorship. Stay tuned to Soapbox for profiles of this year's 15 other grantees.

 

People's Liberty project grantee, POPPED ART


POPPED ART mobile gallery is on a mission to “increase community interaction using the power of art within public spaces in a unique and vibrant way.” In early 2016, local artists Janet Creekmore, Ben Jason Neal and Melissa Mitchell won a $10,000 People’s Liberty grant to make that vision a reality.

Back in 2013, the trio was running a stationary version of POPPED out of a vacant space on Short Vine in Corryville. According to Creekmore, before POPPED started, that area of Corryville “was a ghost town,” lined with about a dozen vacant buildings. But after creating POPPED, foot traffic to the area increased as people came for openings and events.

Creekmore explained that the vibrancy the popup gallery brought to the area helped to build a sense of community, increase safety on the street, and drive economic development.

The gallery developed a following, but could no longer stay in the same building. “We had all this momentum,” Creekmore said, so they decided to apply for a People’s Liberty grant to take the gallery on the road.

The team converted an original 1963 rainbow camper that had been sitting unused in Neal’s driveway into a mobile art gallery. Mitchell, who has a background in art curation, filled the converted camper with consigned local art from about 30 artists.

According to Creekmore, the gallery highlights “outsider art, art from self-taught artists and more up-and-coming artists.” The majority of the pieces for sale are two-dimensional, such as paintings and drawings, but they also have paper sculptures and jewelry.

“There’s an approachability to our little venue,” Creekmore said. “Like our T-shirts say: it doesn’t have to be in a museum to be art.”

Through making a friendly, engaging space, POPPED seeks to expose local artists and bring artwork to people who haven’t experienced it in this way.

During summer 2016, POPPED appeared at a variety of local events in seven different Cincinnati neighborhoods, including the City Flea, Art Off Pike and the Mini Maker Faire. It also went out on “rogue stops”; the gallery appeared unannounced in a local neighborhood to provide an unexpected opportunity for people to engage with art.

Though the 2016 season has largely concluded, the POPPED team is working on plans to continue in the years to come.

“It’s been so well-received, it seems like it needs to evolve into something,” Creekmore said. “We’ll decide over the next few months exactly what shape it will take.”

Those interested in partnering or seeing if POPPED is available to come out to a specific event are encouraged to reach out. “We will entertain any conversation,” Creekmore said. “We want to continue it, but we need strong community partnerships and financial partnerships, which is what we’re looking for right now.”

To stay up-to-date on all things POPPED, visit its website or follow them on Facebook, Twitter or Instagram.

Twice per year, eight grantees are chosen per grant cycle to prototype solutions to civic challenges. Project grantees are supported with $10,000, a launch event and access to People’s Liberty’s workplace and mentorship. Stay tuned to Soapbox for profiles of this year's 15 other grantees.
 

UC Blue Ash to host another Entrepreneur Speaker Series


JTM Food Group, one of the world’s leading food-processing companies, is sponsoring an entrepreneurial class at the University of Cincinnati Blue Ash. The fourth installment of the Entrepreneur Speaker Series will feature Tony Maas, president of JTM, whose family started the company more than 50 years ago with a butcher shop.
 
The class is open to business owners, entrepreneurs and anyone who is interested in hearing from an international business leader. During the class, Maas will share secrets to his family’s success.
 
Maas will share details of how in 1960, his father founded Maas Brothers Meats and created a vision for the company and identified growth opportunities. Today, JTM products can be found in delis, restaurants, schools, convenience stores and grocery stores around the world. JTM also provides packaged foods to the U.S. military.
 
 Kent Lutz, UC Blue Ash business/economics professor will interview the speaker on stage and take questions from the audience in this interactive format.
 
Past ESS speakers include Patty Brisben, founder of Pure Romance; Craig Kurz, owner of Honeybaked Ham; Buddy LaRosa, founder of LaRosa’s Pizza; and Jeff Wyler of Wyler Automotive Group.
 
UC Blue Ash College Entrepreneur Speaker Series featuring Maas will be held on Oct. 26 from 7 to 8 p.m., with a reception to follow, in the Muntz Auditorium on the UC Blue Ash Campus. The event and reception are free and open to everyone.
 
Seating is limited and registration is required. To register, visit www.ucblueash.edu/ess, or call 513-936-1632 for more information.

You can watch past ESS events here, as well as view photos.
 

Five retailers to score free rent and $1,000 for holiday pop up shops


This summer, the City of Cincinnati released its Downtown Retail Action Plan. The plan outlines a series of strategies that will help create a more lively retail environment for residents and visitors.
 
Part of that plan includes Cincy Pop Shop, which will open up vacant storefronts during the holiday season to future business owners who may have had trouble finding accessible, affordable and flexible spaces. The city teamed up with Downtown Cincinnati Inc. to help business owners to create, expand and nurture their businesses with relatively low risk.
 
As part of Cincy Pop Shop, applicants will receive free rent from Nov. 1-Dec. 31 in individual or co-op retail spaces in the Central Business District. Exact locations will be announced in the next few weeks, but they will be near other active retail spaces, holiday events and Fountain Square.
 
The city has allocated up to $1,000 for each selected business, with a total of up to $5,000 available for the entire program. Applicants will be able to use the funds, which are made possible through the city’s Community Development Block Grant, for merchandising materials like racks, hangers, shelving, window displays and payment processing equipment.
 
Applications for Cincy Pop Shop will be accepted through Oct. 23, and winning applicants will be announced on Oct. 28. Applicants will be able to move into their retail space on Nov. 1, and a kickoff event will be held on Nov. 25.
 
Interested business owners can download the application here.
 
 

People's Liberty project grantee, Rachelle Caplan


Local musician Rachelle Caplan recently received a $10,000 People’s Liberty grant to turn a vintage van into a mobile music discovery studio, or Caravan. The Ford utility van was gutted, painted with a vibrant mural by artist Jen Warren and rebuilt with comfortable couches, tapestries and an assortment of unusual instruments for any visitor to pick up and play.

The idea for Caravan came out of Caplan’s experiences as an organizer for Ladyfest Cincinnati, a local music, art and activism festival based in Northside. As part of the event, organizers put together an interactive pop-up music lab for children.

This session was the first opportunity many of the children had to play an instrument. Through this, Caplan learned that lack of access to musical instruments was a huge barrier to entering the creative community.

“Caravan was just like writing a fantasy grant," Caplan says. "I thought if I could do anything, I’d buy new instruments that no one has seen before, pack them in a van and have everyone learn with me. And now that’s what’s happening.”

The instruments in Caravan originate from all over the world. Some are electronic like the theremin or the Korg Kaossilator, a digital pad that was popularized by '90s rave music. Others are acoustic, such as a copper Hapi drum that Caplan says makes a sound like a steel drum mixed with a Tibetan singing bowl.

Many of the instruments are rare or exotic, such as an African Kalimba thumb piano with an amp pickup, or an electronic Indian drum machine from 1972. Caplan has amassed a collection of 13 instruments, but only a few of them are available at each public appearance of Caravan.

Caplan aims to make music accessible to everyone through Caravan. “If you’re old enough to hold something to make sound, that’s awesome. I had a 3-year-old be completely fascinated by the guiro, a giant frog you run a stick over. He was jamming so hard that his parents joined him. I am trying to target something across age. I had my 77-year-old grandmother at a session, and she loved it.”

Caravan isn’t just an opportunity to make music in the moment. Each session will also be recorded and will go on the Caravan website to stream for free. These recordings will be minimally edited, serving more as field recordings than complete songs.

Caplan has ideas to take the recordings made at these sessions and turn them into additional works of art.

“I got really floored by the idea of taking some of those soundscapes and giving those pieces to visual artists,” she says. “The recording could be the prompt for another piece, a platform to create from.”

Caplan also plans to share the recordings with musicians, who will help build the original recordings into finished works of music.

Caravan’s official debut is Friday at this year’s Ladyfest. From 7 to 8:30 p.m., Caravan will be parked in the lot across from Northside Tavern on Hamilton Avenue, and will be open for any curious passerby to come in and pick up an instrument.

Caplan aims for Caravan to be approachable for people who don’t have musical experience, but she also invites musicians to jam and help facilitate sound exploration at each session.

“Typically I have two or three musicians sit in,” she says. “I really want to have the spontaneous feel of organic creation as it manifests.”

Her “partner-in-crime” Daisy Caplan, of the local bands Lung and formerly Foxy Shazam, is at each session. Local musician and artist Warren, who painted the outside of Caravan, will also be there for the launch.

Caravan will be visiting festivals, craft fairs and other local events all over Cincinnati through spring 2017. To stay up-to-date on upcoming appearances and dates, visit Caravan's website or follow them on Facebook.

People interested in bringing Caravan to an event are encouraged to reach out to Rachelle Caplan directly.

Twice per year, eight grantees are chosen per grant cycle to prototype solutions to civic challenges. Project grantees are supported with $10,000, a launch event and access to People’s Liberty’s workplace and mentorship. Stay tuned to Soapbox for profiles of this year's 15 other grantees.
 

People's Liberty project grantee, Access Cincinnati


Kathleen Cail and Nestor Melnyk have known each other for years. After working individually to make the world a more welcoming and accepting place for children and those with special needs, they realized their work wasn’t just about disabilities.
 
“We want to create an environment where everyone is accepted and no one feels singled out,” Melnyk says.
 
Two years ago, Cail and Melnyk spearheaded a program called LivAble Cincinnati as part of the ReelAbilities Film Festival, which was developed around a video short that highlighted the obstacles people with disabilities face when navigating a city.
 
“What was most striking was that most of the obstacles were very minor and were simple to overcome,” Melnyk says. “These were obstacles that if corrected, would benefit everyone. They were really issues of universal design.”
 
After the program, the group stayed active and tried to come up with ways to promote universal design. LivAble Cincinnati looked at ways to educate, promote and develop those concepts in the areas of live, work and play in order to make the city a more livable, welcoming place.
 
According to Melnyk, people with disabilities comprise about 20 percent of the nation’s population. There is a consumer market out there that many businesses and organizations are missing out on if they don’t embrace accessibility and universal design.
 
“With momentum growing in Over-the-Rhine, downtown and The Banks, one of our ideas was to see how we could create an information source for people who might want to take advantage of bars, restaurants and other venues in those areas, but are concerned about their physical conditions,” Melnyk says.
 
During their research, Cail and Melnyk found that there were people who had never gone to those areas because they didn’t want to take their chances of going to OTR and finding out they couldn’t get into a restaurant due to physical limitations.
 
Access Cincinnati was born out of that research, and helps provide objective information that allows people to make their own decisions about what bars, restaurants and venues will work for them.
 
Cail and Melnyk looked to People’s Liberty for resources and funding — they were part of its Project Grant III class and received a $10,000 grant to execute Access Cincinnati, focusing specifically on the area from OTR to The Banks, along the streetcar route.
 
The pair developed a strategy to survey about 300 bars and restaurants in the project area, and held a survey launch event in August to educate volunteers on what Access Cincinnati is. Over the next few months, they will assemble information and provide an interactive mobile website that is similar to Google Maps or Yelp, but with accessibility details. The locations will be graphically represented and communicated via icons; Cail and Melnyk are also developing window clings for the bars, restaurants and venues to display.
 
Access Cincinnati will officially launch in early 2017. A relaunch will happen just in time for the National Veterans Wheelchair Games, which is being held in Cincinnati. During the Games, over 600 wheelchair athletes will be staying in and around downtown, along with their trainers, coaches, officials, staff, family members and spectators.
 
Twice per year, eight grantees are chosen per grant cycle to prototype solutions to civic challenges. Project grantees are supported with $10,000, a launch event and access to People’s Liberty’s workplace and mentorship. Stay tuned to Soapbox for profiles of this year's 15 other grantees.

 

Fifth annual Cincinnati Street Food Festival brings food trucks and music to Walnut Hills


The Cincinnati Street Food Festival is in its fifth year, and will be part of the larger We Are Walnut Hills Weekend on Sept. 30 and Oct. 1. Seventeen of Cincinnati’s favorite food trucks will be on hand, and beer from the newly opened Woodburn Brewery will be available for sale.
 
“The festival promotes not only Cincinnati food trucks and local entertainers and artists, but it also shows the promise and potential of Walnut Hills,” says Sondra Palivoda, development co-op for the Walnut Hills Redevelopment Foundation. “Change is happening in Walnut Hills, and we want to show that development is possible and necessary, but so is community utilization and celebration.”
 
One of the major areas for redevelopment in the neighborhood is along E. McMillan, right where the festival is being held.
 
This year, the Street Food Festival will include interactive artists from Chase Public, the Cincinnati Art Museum, Head Start, the Walnut Hills Historical Society in partnership with Cincy Stories, the Walnut Hills Area Council and WordPlay, as well as a stiltwalker and a screen-printing poster station.
 
Sledge from WNKU will be at the festival hosting games and handing out prizes, and there will be a petting zoo featuring a kangaroo and a camel. As for music, four bands will take the stage with DJ Carl Hunt entertaining in between sets.
 
Food trucks include: Adena’s Beefstroll, Andy’s Mediterranean, C’est Cheese, The Chili Hut, Contini's Pizza, Dojo Gelato, Empanadas Aqui, Hungry Bros., Just Jerks, Red Sesame, Slice Slice Baby, Street Chef Brigade, Streetpops, U-Lucky DAWG, Urban Vistro, Waffo and Wicked Hickory.
 
The Street Food Festival will be held from 11 a.m. to 5 p.m. on Oct. 1 on E. McMillan Street between Concord and Copelen streets.
 
Also that weekend is the Five Points Mural Dedication and Art Out Loud Biergarten at 7 p.m. on Sept. 30. There is an open call for artists and performance artists who want to showcase their work during the event. For more information, check out WHRF’s Facebook page.

An after party and Music Off McMillan will be happening at 5:30 p.m. on Oct. 1 after the Street Food Festival. The biergarten will be in Five Points Alley and there will be music from HuTown Holler.
 

Airstream trailer to house Camp Washington coffee shop


A new coffee shop, Mom N’ Nem, is slated to open at 3132 Colerain Ave. near Camp Washington Chili in early 2017. The shop will be inside of a 1969 31-foot Land Yacht Airstream trailer, and will have an adjoining coffee garden where patrons can enjoy a fresh espresso beverage and relax.

“There are plenty of biergartens, but you don’t really see a coffee garden,” says co-owner Tony Ferrari.

Mom N’ Nem will be the second coffee-related venture for Tony and his brother Austin Ferrari. The duo own another small coffee shop in San Francisco called Provender, as well as Hillside Supper Club with fellow chef Jonathan Sutton, also in San Francisco.

“My brother and I are doing this for my mom, Theresa,” Tony says. “She has been a contractor her whole life. We call her superwoman.”

Theresa Ferrari will be overseeing the trailer renovation and will also serve as general manager once the shop opens, which takes its name from a long-standing Ferrari family saying.

“When we were kids, whenever my dad would call he’d say ‘How’s Mom and them?’” The name seemed fitting for a family venture, and the shop logo will even feature a smiling characterization of Theresa’s face.

The Ferraris have yet to settle on the coffee roaster that will supply the shop with fresh beans. They plan to have one main roaster, but will also do a quarterly rotation of guest roasters to keep things interesting.

“We will have a focus on natural espresso,” Ferrari says. “We’ll serve minimally and naturally processed coffees, and there are only so many roasters that do this well and consistently.”

The shop will also serve baked goods from Tom McKenna. The menu will include toasts, pastries and an exclusive dish called “The Dirty ‘Nati,” which is a savory pastry featuring goetta.

The Ferraris have been working closely with architect Daniel Ewald to develop the rendering and design of the space, which will capitalize on the retro vibe that the trailer invites. Ferrari hopes that the space will serve as a community gathering place and a catalyst for new development in Camp Washington.

“This is a project for the community that we hope will bring more opportunity,” Ferrari says.

The Ferraris have worked closely with Joe Gorman, Paul Rudemiller and others from the Camp Washington Community Board throughout the planning process, and they're grateful for the warm welcome by the Camp Washington community.

The stationary coffee trailer will be the first of its kind in Cincinnati.

“I’m always taking a risk, but I know it will work,” Ferrari says.

Ultimately, Ferrari is driven by a desire to bring about new vibrancy to the West Side. “It’s important to give neighborhoods more opportunity, and we need to showcase this community," he says.
 

Carabello Coffee celebrates three years in Newport with expansion


Last weekend, Carabello Coffee kicked-off its anniversary weekend with the grand opening of its expanded coffee roasting space and Analog Slow Bar.
 
Three years ago, Carabello Coffee opened its coffee bar and roastery in a rented storefront at 107 E. Ninth St. in Newport. Once open, it only took a few months to outgrow the space. Owners Justin and Emily Carabello launched a Kickstarter campaign in 2014 to help with the cost of purchasing the building in advance of an eventual expansion.

With a boost from the Catalytic Fund and a Duke Energy Urban Revitalization Grant, the couple purchased the building and began renovations in early 2016.
 
With the addition of a new, attached storefront space and significant outdoor renovations, Carabello has doubled its space. There is now expanded seating in the original coffeeshop for daily customers, and the space now houses Carabello’s larger coffee roaster, a space for coffee and espresso professionals to learn on and test out new equipment and a large table that can be reserved for special events or meetings.

 
Unique for the area is Carabello’s new Analog Slow Bar that offers limited-engagement coffee tasting events for those interested in a more curated coffee experience. Similar to a wine tasting, the Analog Slow Bar features specialty coffees prepared and presented multiple ways during the five-course, hour-long events.
 
A highlight of the weekend was a visit from Nicaraguan coffee farmer Luis Alberto Balladarez. Carabello has been serving his beans for five years, and learning the ins and outs of coffee cultivation from him along the way.

During his stay, Balladarez helped curate the weekend’s Analog Slow Bar tasting menus using his own coffees.
 
As it expands, Carabello is committed to maintaining its philanthropic business model. Since the company’s beginning, the Carabellos have been committed to using a portion of their proceeds to support “works of compassion” locally and in coffee-producing communities in Nicaragua, such as an orphanage near Balladarez's home.
 
When to go
Carabello Coffee is open from 7:00 a.m. to 8:00 p.m. Monday-Friday and 8:00 a.m. to 8:00 p.m. Saturday. The Analog Slow Bar will be offering a “Taste of Analog Coffee Experience” during its first two weeks of business. Tickets can be purchased here.

After the first two weeks, the Analog Bar will be available by reservation.
 
Carabello Coffee is also served at multiple locations in the Cincinnati area and whole coffee beans can be purchased at the coffeeshop or at any of the locations where it’s served.
 
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