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Innovation News

Flywheel social enterprise hub moves to "startup central" at Union Hall

Flywheel Executive Director Bill Tucker is bringing the social enterprise organization to OTR's startup hub at Union Hall

Bill Tucker (right) would like to apply the success of MASTER Provisions (John Eldridge) to Cincinnati's wider startup ecosystem


The region’s social enterprise hub will soon be found in the heart of #StartUpCincy headquarters, Union Hall, when Flywheel Cincinnati completes its long-planned move to Vine Street in Over-the-Rhine.
 
Although Flywheel focuses on connecting nonprofit, for-profit and faith-based social enterprises to resources and each other, Executive Director Bill Tucker sees an important point of overlap between the city’s social enterprise economy and its startup ecosystem.
 
“A couple of years ago,” he says, “I started to realize that in order to have a real impact in this community it’s really about job creation.”
 
Flywheel works to provide the social enterprise community with momentum toward the greatest social impact possible, ranging from the economic development of job creation to the sustainability, scalability and funding opportunities of local social enterprises.
 
Moving into Cincinnati’s urban core from Covington will allow Flywheel to expand its network in the civic, venture funding and business communities, although Tucker emphasizes that the organization will maintain deep connections in its Northern Kentucky home as well.
 
“It’s remarkable how being shoulder to shoulder with other individuals in this space has created opportunities for connections that I never could have predicted,” Tucker says.
 
In addition to the networking connections, the move to Union Hall allows Flywheel to expand its services to social enterprises by providing co-working space. Tucker has wanted to start this program for a long time, but the move makes it possible without Flywheel having to develop its own brick-and-mortar building.
 
Tucker points out that work spaces new nonprofits are often able to afford come nowhere close to the environment provided by Union Hall.
 
“For a nonprofit or social enterprise to be able to step into a space like this that has the latest technology, it enables a totally different kind of connection than anything else can,” he says.
 
To Tucker, the presence of social enterprise at Union Hall provides a crucial link between startups and social enterprise. Flywheel can provide visibility and resources to tech-focused companies that may want to do social good, while the startup ecosystem provides sustainability (and sometimes even “fast failure”) models for organizations focused on social good.
 
For Flywheel, being an integrated part of the local startup environment highlights the economic legitimacy of social enterprise in Cincinnati. To demonstrate the impact of the “real work, real jobs and real people” involved in Greater Cincinnati social enterprise, Tucker tells the story of Flywheel’s 2016 Social Enterprise Award MASTER Provisions, which finished second in the recent SVP Fast Pitch competition.
 
This organization began by providing food, clothing and orphan care in Northern Kentucky and grew enough that it was able to purchase refrigerated trucks for food deliveries. When staff members weren’t using the trucks for food deliveries, MASTER began renting them out to partners for expedited food delivery, earning revenue to support the rest of its work. MASTER then added another dimension to this social enterprise — using the trucks for a job training program for drivers, allowing individuals with barriers to employment to learn and grow into full-time employment.
 
For Tucker, it’s a perfect example of the benefits and sustainable reinvestment social enterprises can achieve.
 
“This is all about moving a larger community around social enterprise,” he says.
 
That community will surely grow with Flywheel’s move to Union Hall in addition to the recent expansion of its board and look forward to 2016’s Social Enterprise Cincy week in October.
 

Read more articles by Nancy Yerian.

Nancy Yerian is an independent public historian interested in local history and the power of museums. She graduated from Smith College with a major in American History and a concentration in Museum Studies.
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