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One-room schoolhouse at NKU to be transformed into modern learning space

Imagine taking a history course in a building that, by its very nature, is a testament to how far education has come over the centuries. At Northern Kentucky University, plans are underway to create a space that creates that very opportunity, and more.
 
In the coming months, renovation projects will ensue to turn a one-room, 1850s schoolhouse into a technologically modern learning center. The log cabin-like structure will be equipped with wifi, a smart board and other modern classroom materials. That said, instead of gutting the building, project leader and Masters in Public History professor Dr. Brian Hackett wants to keep the design of the cabin as loyal to 19th century design standards as possible. This means primitive lighting and perhaps a coal-burning stove, if they're lucky.
 
Dr. Hackett, along with the grounds and maintenance crew at NKU, has been pushing to make this building usable again for years. The cabin arrived on campus grounds in 1979 after being transferred from Grants Lick, Ky. The university's former president, Dr. W. Frank Steely, brought the building to campus to provide a contrast to the modern amenities students were enjoying at that time. For decades, it simply sat on the grounds.
 
Furthered by a push from the Facilities Management Department at the university, Dr. Hackett finally made a move to change that. After years of bringing his museum management students to the building and asking them, "If someone handed you this building, what would you do with it?" Dr. Hackett finally decided to do something with it.
 
According to Hackett, the cost to carry out the project is surprisingly low. Financially backed by "money that should have been spent years ago" and aided by the help of dozens of student and faculty volunteers, the renovations should be complete by next spring. Once finished, Hackett and his teams envision that the building will provide a space for all disciplines, not just history.
 
"Any professor can take their students to the cabin for a class," Hackett says. "[The cabin] is meant to be integrated into the philosophy of the whole university."
 
That philosophy is characterized by a sense of collaboration. NKU's Ecological Stewardship Institute Initiative, its Masters in Public History Program and even its cabinetry department will all be working together to make Dr. Hackett's vision a reality.
 
The grounds surrounding the cabin will also serve an important purpose. In the coming months, the fields behind the structure will serve as living laboratories for students studying the sciences.
 
As for the cabin itself, it will allow NKU students to escape the distractions of the average learning space and truly return to a simpler time.
 
"I think people are going to use it more than they think," Hackett says. "If you're looking for a place to, say, write the next great American novel, there's really no better option."

Local startup Lisnr finds a home with Techstars and R/GA

When you’re a company like Lisnr, accelerators come to you, not the other way around. As a relatively established Cincinnati startup, Lisnr already has millions in investments, a solid employee base and an even more impressive product. So when one of the largest accelerators in the country approached its chief executive, Rodney Williams, he was not planning on settling for just anything.
 
That accelerator was Techstars, a Colorado-based, nationally recognized accelerator that has recently teamed up with R/GA, an equally acclaimed design and advertising firm. As the Wall Street Journal blog reported a couple of weeks ago, the duo is seeking startups that are far past the seed-stage and well on their way to generating revenue. Techstars and R/GA hope to attract companies just like Lisnr by offering them a worldwide network of investors, customers and developers.
 
That said, Techstars and R/GA’s more-than-appealing offerings were not what convinced Williams and his team to come on board. There had to be a spark.
 
"When I usually meet an agency, they’re trying to understand Lisnr," Williams says. "Within a few minutes of speaking with R/GA, they not only understood us, they understood how impactful we could be in the market."
 
Lisnr, which describes itself as a “premiere smarttone technology company,” develops software that uses ultrasonic technology to transfer data through audio. It could mean big things for retailers who want to reach their customers directly, in real time. Anything, from advertising data to promotional announcements, can be transferred through audio waves directly to a consumer’s smartphone or other device.
 
Working with Techstars and R/GA means that the technology can now become more prolific than ever. According to Williams, it has the potential to replace Bluetooth. This is no small task, and where an accelerator could prove very beneficial.
 
"The R/GA client base is incredible for Lisnr," he says. With success stories like Microsoft, Beats by Dre and Nike Fuel Bands on their resume, R/GA has proven extremely successful in marketing products to the exact customer base Williams hopes to reach. As for Techstars, Williams anticipates that they will help him to recruit even more top talent in the area to even further perfect the software.
 
"As we look at the next four months, it’s really about connecting with companies, creating standards," Williams continues. "Demo Day, for us, will be about becoming the new standard."
 
After their time with Techstars and R/GA, Lisnr hopes to appear on millions of devices and have developed a team both in Cincinnati and New York that can further that goal. Though their New York office provides an important hub for the business, Cincinnati is still home.
 
"There are no better developers than here in the Midwest," Williams says. "Cincinnati has been amazing for us."
 
The company plans to move into its new building at 12th and Broadway in the next month, where it will have more room to expand and grow as a brand.
 
"The team is uber-excited," Williams says, "and so motivated to speed this up within the market."

The Hamilton Mill adds a microbrewery to its roster

At The Hamilton Mill, "startup culture" is about to take on a whole new meaning. In the coming months, the Hamilton incubator will be welcoming a microbrewery to the old firehouse it calls home.
 
Municipal Brew Works is the brainchild of six businessmen, three of whom hail from the Hamilton area and all of whom bring some sort of microbrewery or business experience to the table. By 2015, the bottom floor of the Mill’s High Street location will house a taproom and boast production of nearly 2,500 barrels of craft beer per year. Not a bad deal for the Mill’s current residents, who are more than encouraged to use the taproom as a workspace.
 
The Mill, which has undergone a rebranding during the past three to four months, describes itself as Southwest Ohio’s green incubator for startups focused on manufacturing. Companies who join the Mill usually remain on board for three to four years, taking full advantage of the Mill’s excellent relationship with the city of Hamilton and its utilities department. As a board member at Cintrifuse, the Mill also offers its companies access to Cintrifuse’s mentor network and venture capitalist connections.
 
Most of the companies who sign on with the Mill are somehow related to green technology, but the arrival of Municipal Brew Works highlights the Mill’s broader focus on craftsmanship and artisan efforts. Just like the other companies at the Mill, the brewery will have access to the business development tools the incubator offers. A presence at the Mill will help the brewery in its growth stage.
 
The Mill’s director, Antony Seppi, is more than excited to bring the brewery on board.
 
"The response we got [from the community] was pretty incredible," Seppi says. "The city has a strong history of both manufacturing and beer creation that dates back to the late 1880s."
 
The even greater news? Bringing in a brewery means that other artisan businesses may look to the Mill as an incubator. The ridiculously convenient access to a frothy pour of craft beer for all Mill residents certainly won't keep people away. 

UC grad designs fall fashion collection

A graduate from UC's College of Design, Architecture, Art, and Planning (DAAP) released a fall fashion collection that includes clothing, bags and accessories.
 
Mallory Muddiman, who opened Shop Mallory a month after graduating from DAAP, designed the line with her mother, who joined shortly after Muddiman began. They handcraft all of their work in their Newport studio.
 
"As a designer, I fall in love with each collection we create a little bit more than the one before," Muddiman says. "The goal is to create something different and more exciting each season."
 
During the design process, Muddiman begins with one or two pieces, using it as inspiration to base the rest of the line.
 
"This fall season I started with lipstick as this beginning inspiration," Muddiman says. "From there my mom and I begin sketching out ideas for motifs and garments. We sketch over and over again until we like it as a whole. Simultaneously we source materials and notions to make sure we have everything we need to make the pieces we want to make."  
 
After conceptualization, they shift their focus to a collection's more tangible elements.
 
"After that we create flat patterns, make mock-ups, do fittings, make prototypes and then finally start production," Muddiman says. "Things are very fluid and flexible in this process. We do our best to keep open minds the whole time."
 
Muddiman plans to use the fall collection as a means to increase future production and eventually offer her designs through other retailers.
 
"Our goal [is] to sell enough of this collection to be able to have our spring '15 collection made in an American factory," Muddiman says. "This is our next big step."
 

Mount St. Joseph University and Education At Work collaboration adds more than 100 jobs

A recent collaboration between Mount St. Joseph University (MSJU) and Education At Work created more than 100 jobs for college students. 
 
The jobs, which entail providing customer service support for Macy's and Bloomingdale's websites, are available to full, part-time and online students.  
 
"[Students] are learning problem solving and communication, and we hope that we can give them that transferable skill set that can go into whatever career they go into," says Education At Work program coordinator Whitney Barkley. "But also what we want to do is help students come out of school with little to no debt."
 
After students have been employed in one of these positions for four months, they are eligible to receive up to $6,000 per year in tuition assistance, in addition to a $9 per hour base wage. The amount of tuition assistance depends on the student's GPA. In addition, students must maintain at least a 2.5 GPA to receive tuition assistance. Students can be working toward a bachelor's or master's degree.
 
"Any caliber students, we're looking for," Barkley says. "If you are a student who's not in school, and can give a plan—a timeline of what you want to do, how you plan to get back into school—or if you don't have that 2.5 GPA but have a plan to bring it up, we accept those students as well. And that's on a conditional basis."
 
Work sites vary; some are on campus, at MSJU, and others are off campus, at Education At Work's Norwood office. Students usually work 15-30 hours per week, Barkley says.
 
"It's all based on their class schedule. We're big on flexibility and making sure students have enough time to get to class and have enough time to study. Because sometimes students don't really have the option, between going to school and going to work."
 
Mount St. Joseph University held a ribbon cutting ceremony for the on-campus center Thursday. In addition, Education at Work is currently accepting applications for the student jobs.

Couple launches international food subscription service

Two local entrepreneurs recently launched a food subscription platform to bring international snacks to people's homes.
 
The business, Universal Yums, features different snacks from a different country each month, which co-founders Monique Bernstein and Eli Zauner select. The couple chose Germany for the first month to recognize the country from which Bernstein's grandparents emigrated, as well as Cincinnati's heritage.
 
"When you receive the box, you'll get a clue to our next country, so there's a little bit of a guessing game each month," Bernstein says.
 
Bernstein and Zauner began Universal Yums in May after deciding a previous food platform idea was going to be unsuccessful, after surveying a group of friends to see who would purchase their products.
 
"A lot of things have changed, but one thing that has stayed the same is our commitment to our business," Bernstein says. "I think there's a need for people who might not have as many international grocery stores close to them."
 
Customers can select two sizes: the "Yum Box" or the "Yum Yum Box." The Yum Box (currently $10 per month) contains some of the snacks, while the Yum Yum Box ($20 per month) contains all of them.
 
Universal Yums is now accepting subscribers and plans to deliver its first snack collection in December. The first selection contains a variety of German snacks, including chocolates, peanuts, cookies, pretzels and chips, among others.
 
While most of Universal Yums' business comes from Cincinnati, the couple hopes to eventually expand into a larger operation.
 
"Right now our future is just looking outside of Cincinnati, but hopefully it will be looking outside the U.S. someday as well," Bernstein says.

Rockfish seeks applicants for corporate giving program

Digital business accelerator Rockfish is seeking applicants for its 2015 corporate giving program. Two chosen applicants will receive $50,000 of agency time from Rockfish, focusing on topics within the realm of digital communication, such as social media and website development.
 
Aside from being a nonprofit organization, applicants must demonstrate financial need and be headquartered within 50 miles of one of the following cities in which Rockfish operates: Dallas, Cincinnati, Atlanta or Rogers, Ark.
 
"We ask for things like, 'What kind of service are you going to provide to the community and how many people are you reaching?'" says Rockfish associate director Kari Wethington. "But the main part is, 'What will we be helping you with by working with you? Of the $50,000 of agency time that we'll be providing, what can we help you tackle?"
 
Rockfish's selection committee, spread throughout multiple offices nationally, will select the two organizations in January.
 
"By the end of January, companies will know their status," Wethington says. "And we do contact people whether they're chosen or not, so every organization that submits an application will hear from us one way or another."
 
While last year's program attracted about 100 applicants, Wethington expects the number to double for 2015.
 
"The hard thing about this process is that we get such amazing applicants, and very rarely are any of them totally disqualified for some reason," Wethington says. "It really comes down to the details when we're reviewing applicants. You get larger nonprofits, you get some smaller that are newer—it's across the board in terms of the kind of work they're doing."
 
Interested nonprofits must submit their applications by Nov. 17.

First POP-UP Cincy installation set for weekend

The first installment of Uptown Consortium's art and cuisine series, POP-UP Cincy, will take place Friday and Saturday, Oct. 24-25 in Avondale. Concept Camp, the first of the series, will focus on the local technology and design sectors.
 
The event aims to provide artists of a variety of backgrounds with a space to work and receive feedback from other people within Cincinnati's creative community, as well as encourage others to articulate and share ideas.
 
"It's kind of about the struggle for a lot of the creative people in the city, that work in different disciplines, to know and have time to share what they do and get feedback from other creative individuals," says POP-UP Cincy organizer Catherine Richards. "There are all these different people working in the city doing amazing things, but they're often times working so hard in their own sphere that they often don't have time to overlap with other spheres of creativity."
 
A group of participating artists plan to make a screen of folded modular paper units that come together, and then install the piece in the storefront window, in which the larger community will collaborate. The event will occupy two storefronts.
 
"At first it was going to be just one space, but we were able to secure another space right across the street, which is where a bunch of artists are going to be working and doing installations," Richards says. "Some people are going to be doing on-site drawings on the wall. We're really taking over these two storefronts with a variety of things."
 
The event will be open to the public Saturday evening, from 5-7 p.m., in Avondale at the corner of Burnet and Rockdale avenues.  

Local entrepreneur invents new iPad case that doubles as battery, hotspot

A local entrepreneur recently revealed a new iPad case that expands wireless networking capabilities. The case, called FiiV, functions as a battery backup and enables users to insert a prepaid data SIM card to establish a WiFi hotspot. 
 
"I came up with this concept back in 2010 after getting an iPod touch for a Christmas gift," says FiiV founder Nathan Ellis. "And much like an iPad, it doesn't really work [to its full functionality] outside of a data connection or wireless network."
 
Ellis wanted to create a solution to purchasing multiple iPad accessories while maintaining the extra benefits, and also give customers the option to switch between wireless data carriers.
 
"The real value is the all-in-one solution. Customers are virtually spending around the same amount, if not less, than they would normally," Ellis says. Most folks don't actually get the choice once they get to a point where they don't like those data rates or terms. "
 
Other devices can also use FiiV's WiFi hotspots.
 
"[The WiFi network] is not just for the iPad connected to the actual case," Ellis says. "It also accommodates other devices as well: cell phones, laptops, other tablets that may be around. It also functions as battery backup."
 
Local design firm The Launch Werks designed the case, which will be released by the brand Viaggi. Ellis plans to launch an indiegogo campaign November 2. 
 
"The goal is to raise enough funds to go ahead and do an initial manufacturing run," Ellis says. 
 
If all goes as planned, Viaggi will launch the first line of FiiV cases by May 2015. Currently, the retail price is set at $149, and the product will come in red, white and black, and also navy blue and brown during the campaign. 

Online photography platform Kandid.ly expands outreach

Since its public launch in August, local photography platform Kandid.ly has been expanding its outreach to cities outside of Cincinnati, recently adding Austin, Denver, Columbus and Detroit.
 
The company, which received the award for best up and coming web tech company at Cincinnati Innovates in late August, aims to streamline the process of connecting photographers with customers.
 
"We actually see an opportunity to change the way moments are meant to be captured," says Kandid.ly founder Sam Ulu. "Folks are going to start realizing that they have a large quantity of photos, but no quality—like selfies, all the grainy photos you take at events where you wish you would have been in it."
 
In an effort to maintain a variety of pricing, quality and availability options, Kandid.ly categorizes photographers into three groups: weekenders, part-timers and full-timers. Users can search for photographers by zip code, which provides portfolios and other details.
 
"We've made it easier for you to actually compare multiple photographers, their work and their pricing all in one place," Ulu says. "Today, it's very challenging to find photographers and then compare their work. You have to open multiple tabs and websites, and even with those multiple websites, it'd be challenging to figure out what each package has and compare them."
 
To make money, Kandid.ly takes commissions, depending on the photographer's skill level.
 
"That commission can go from anywhere between 5-15 percent," Ulu says. "It's kind of like tiers."
 
More established photographers provide Kandid.ly with lower commissions. In addition, for security, Kandid.ly requires photographers to undergo background checks through local startup myrepp.
 
Ulu hopes that Kandid.ly will bring new people interested in photography to use the platform.
 
"We're providing services that might bring folks who love photography, but never really considered doing it as business because of the amount of work it takes."
 

ArtWorks and Cincinnati Metro transform bus shelters into photo exhibit

ArtWorks and Cincinnati Metro recently collaborated on a venture to transform Cincinnati's bus shelters into a photo exhibit. As part of FotoFocus 2014, the project features the work of acclaimed photographer Richard Renaldi, as well as four ArtWorks youth apprentices and two local professional photographers.
 
The idea behind Renaldi's project, titled "Touching Strangers Cincinnati," is to capture interactions between strangers using the public transportation system—in which he encourages the subjects to pose together—and examine the diversity within the community. 
 
Renaldi visited Cincinnati in June to complete the project, and Cincinnati Metro hopes it will encourage people to use public transit.
 
"One of the reasons we agreed to host this display of public art in our shelters is because we wanted to show on public transportation, people can become friends," says Cincinnati Metro public affairs manager Jill Dunne. "We think it's really cool to show that if you put two people together, anything can happen."
 
Cincinnati Metro is hosting a celebration Oct. 16, in front of the Chiquita Center, between 5th and 6th streets. 
 
"It's meant to dedicate and really show off the shelters to the public," Dunne says. "We have some photos that are inside the bus, as well as a wrapped bus with one of the images on it."
 
ArtWorks has provided a map showing where "Touching Strangers Cincinnati" will be displayed. In addition, ArtWorks is hosting a lecture and presentation, featuring Renaldi, at the 21C Hotel at 6 p.m.

Cincinnati hosts first ProductCamp conference

Cincinnati recently hosted its first ProductCamp, a business conference held internationally that focuses on business development. The conference encourages attendees to be the speakers and uses crowd-sourced topics for discussion, including topics on product development, how to market products, brand management and how to run a startup, among others.
 
"One thing that I've noticed, living in Cincinnati, is we have a really good background when it comes to product management or brand management—more traditional practices," says ProductCamp organizer Brian Craft. "And then we have this new wave of tech—and even non-tech—startups. So what I thought would be neat is if we tried to pull together that traditional and new mix into ProductCamp."
 
Much of Craft's inspiration came from similarities he saw between the traditional and startup companies.
 
"Whether you're talking about a small company or a large company, a manufacturer or a software company, a lot of the same challenges [apply]," Craft says. "How do you find the right thing to build and sell, and how do you know that people are going to buy it, and how do you reduce your risk in getting it to market?"
 
More than 100 people attended the event and 15 topics were chosen from a pool of 20 crowd-sourced ideas.
 
Craft says he plans for ProductCamp to become an annual event.
 
"I think the big win was two things," Craft says. "One: seeing how people can have very similar challenges in what they're trying to do, who likely normally don't get to interact with each other, and all got together and hung out on a Saturday afternoon. And two: seeing people trying to build new things in our community, and some of that inspiration came from our event."

Love Bite aims to improve party planning options

As one of Bad Girl Ventures' (BGV) 2014 finalists, one startup is looking to provide people with a one-stop-shop for kitchen and party supplies.
 
Morgan Hamilton and Aris Yowell created Love Bite as a platform to share their love for cooking, hosting and parties. The duo, whose collective experience includes marketing and food industry work, plans to sell a variety of products: cards and invitations, kitchen and cookwear, handmade platters, cocktail supplies and artisanal treats. 
 
"We're trying to highlight people who are making well-made party supplies," Yowell says. "People who are making something unique at affordable prices. We want to have a variety of products and price points so it's accessible." 
 
Hamilton and Yowell believe that offering products and featuring designers established through different mediums—on larger and smaller scales—will help customers find the right products more easily.   
 
"Sometimes it can be really hard to find what you're looking for," Yowell says. "We see an opportunity to do this because [less established designers] often get lost in the mix."
 
In addition to offering brand-name supplies, Love Bite plans to eventually offer proprietary products.
 
"We'll have in-house designed products to cater to our target markets," Yowell says. "When you make it yourself, you can offer it at a lower price."
 
While it's uncertain when Love Bite will begin selling products, the company plans to launch a small collection in spring 2015 through an eCommerce platform.
 
"Our kitchenware will be things you can host with," Hamilton says. "We want to offer unique kitchenware and delicious treats by American makers and designers. 
 
Hamilton and Yowell, as well as the other BGV finalists, are undergoing a nine-week business-planning course at Hamilton County Business Center before making their final pitch to the BGV investment committee.

Sister duo creates superhero-inspired children's book and toy

A local teacher and a graphic designer recently wrote a book and developed a new children's toy that functions as both an alarm clock and nightlight.
 
Annie Richardson was inspired to write the story of SleeperHero as a way to help her son stay in bed at night. Richardson's sister, Meggie Hunley, illustrated the book and created a toy inspired by the story.
 
"The storybook introduces the doll to your kid, so we thought it was a really natural way to introduce the routine," Hunley says. "And most parents are already reading their kids bedtime stories."
 
The toy's timer can be set to a sleep and wake time, and works in conjunction with the nightlight function, as it turns from red to green at wake time.
 
"A few years ago, when [Richardson's] son was trying all the tricks in the book—he wanted a drink, he was scared—she felt like she needed something," Hunley says. "There are things out there on the market, but nothing seems quite special enough."
 
The SleeperHero's timer fits inside the doll, which has a lock on the outside to prevent a child from adjusting it.
 
"We also have some resources on our website," Hunley says. "A sleep chart for your child's progress and a little certificate of courage for when your kids have slept a week, a month, or whatever you feel like is worth rewarding."
 
The duo is currently selling the SleeperHero on their website, and plan to begin selling limited supplies in stores—The Spotted Goose, The Villager, The Blue Marble, Stony's Gift and Toy Shoppe—in November. They'll also be at the City Flea on October 11.

Bad Girl Ventures announces second class of 2014 finalists

Entrepreneurial accelerator and nonprofit organization Bad Girl Ventures (BGV) announced its second group of finalists for 2014 at Mt. Adams Pavilion on Wednesday.
 
The 10 businesses, which comprise Bad Girl Ventures' tenth class in Cincinnati, have the potential to receive funding after undergoing a nine-week course of creating business plans and financial projections. 
 
43 companies applied to compete as finalists. During the selection process, BVG considers a number of factors.
 
"First, we consider the viability of the idea," says BGV executive director Corey Drushal. "We look at whether any testing of the market has been done, what the competition is like, and whether the entrepreneur has the skills or the team to make it work. Beyond this, we look to the entrepreneur herself."
 
Finalists include Linda Aivalotis with Aiva Decor & Remodeling; Barbara and David Gunn with All Care Navigators; Sarah Dworak with Babushka Pierogies; Mary Fennell with Chaddeze; Julie Ball with Get Creative Photo Booths; Aris Yowell and Morgan Hamilton with Love Bite; Erica Norton with Norton Flooring; Lindsay Lescoe with One Fine Day; Kimberly Barach with Poppy; and Davina Eccard and Ryan Sullivan with Tactical Intelligence Group.
 
"We are looking for a more intangible quality in the entrepreneur that shows she is coachable, has the personality to sell her company and has the tenacity it requires to start your own company," Drushal says. "We do not look for someone that knows it all and can answer all the questions from our investment committee correctly. We look for someone that has a good idea and is the right person to make that idea happen."
 
BGV is partnering with NKU's Chase College of Law and UC's College of Law to provide each finalist with legal services during the course.
 
After the nine-week course at Hamilton County Business Center, the finalists will make their final pitch to the investment committee.
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