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UC professor gets state grant for innovative education platform


University of Cincinnati professor Vali Tadayon says he's witnessed a variety of challenges that college students face when it comes to accomplishing their academic goals. 

With 29 years of experience as a faculty member at UC under his belt, he's not only witnessed these challenges, but he's committed to problem solving so he can help students tackle them.

"Millennials can be impatient, result-oriented and seek instant gratifiction," Tadayon says. "This is not a shortcoming of this generation, but rather a new trend that requires rapid innovation within the realm of education."


With the help of the HCDC Business Center, Tadayon launched his startup Always Education two years ago, and this past June, he launched Always UC — a pilot project that will place among UC's political science department this coming semester. 
 
"The current Learning Management Systems that are in place need to be fundamentally redesigned from the ground up," Tadayon says. "Always Education is designed to be a logical layer that connects various databases to create the next generation learning ecosystem."
 
Always UC will bring Always Education to life, thanks to a $100,000 grant from the Ohio Third Frontier Technology Validation Startup Fund. Tadayon applied for the grant after completing I-Corps@Ohio, a seven-week, hands-on training program designed to promote entrepreneurial success. He went throught this program with his HCDC business coach and mentor. 
 
"There has been significant growth in software, startup and jobs in Cincinnati," Tadayon says. "The TVSF grant has helped with the needed resources to launch our pilot successfully. We have hired local software engineers and hope to continue growing our business in Cincinnati." 
 
In addition to promoting economic growth throughout the region, Always UC will allow students to collaborate and engage with one another in new ways. After its one-year test phase, Always UC will be eligible for a new round of grants totaling $1 million and a potential learning platform that can mitigate the challenges millennials face in their post-secondary years.
 

Diverse by Design symposium to focus on inclusion and diversity initiatives in Greater Cincinnati


The Fifth Third Bank Diverse by Design™ Leadership Symposium will focus on intentional inclusion at its sixth annual event on Oct. 11.

“The Symposium is intended to be a community-focused event that creates a vehicle for us to bring together business leaders from across the region with the objective to inform through the Diverse by Design updates, engage through the business connection and inspire through the thought leadership of the keynote speaker,” says Mary McFarland, vice president and manager, Inclusion and Diversity at Fifth Third Bank.

The event originated in 2008 as an internal Fifth Third program. The collaboration with the Cincinnati USA Regional Chamber began with the 2012 release of Diverse by Design: Meeting the Talent Challenge in a Global Economy regional indicators report.

“The Symposium is an opportunity to have authentic conversations about what it would take to become an inclusive community,” says Mary Stagaman, senior inclusion advisor at the Cincinnati USA Regional Chamber.

The day will start early with a networking breakfast followed by keynote speaker Jeffery Tobias Halter. Halter, the former director of diversity strategy for The Coca-Cola Company, now leads a consulting firm that focuses on advancing gender equity.

After his presentation, Halter will switch from speaker to moderator to facilitate a panel of senior business and community leaders who will discuss his talk and provide an update on local initiatives.

Following a networking break, attendees will be able to choose from one of four breakout sessions to attend.

“We have done a lot around inclusion of people with cognitive and developmental disabilities,” says Stagaman. “This year, we are focusing on physical disabilities with panelists from EY, Ethicon, P&G and Fifth Third.”

Mary-Frances Winters, author of We Can’t Talk About That at Work will lead a workshop on constructive conversations around difficult subjects. “Winters explains how we can have those conversations productively to build bridges not walls,” Stagaman says.

“While all the sessions promise to be powerful, the session on Polarizing Topics at Work is one that is particularly important in today’s climate,” McFarland adds.

A session on supplier diversity will offer innovative ideas for big companies with existing programs as well as tools for small companies unsure of how to start.

Julie Nugent, vice president and center leader, Catalyst Research Center for Corporate Practice will share a research-based approach on gender equity.

“The Symposium is for leaders with an interest in seeing the workforce and region become more inclusive and diverse and for anyone who cares about building an equitable community,” Stagaman says.

Tickets for the event are available now, and the first 200 registrants will receive a copy of Winters book.
 


Cincinnati USA Regional Chamber's CINC program celebrates five years


For the past five summers, the Cincinnati USA Regional Chamber's Cincinnati Intern Network Connection program has helped connect college students to the region while they work in their respective summer intern and co-op positions.

CINC is a summer-long program that exposes interns and co-ops around the Cincinnati area to all that the region has to offer. It's free to students and participating companies, thanks to the help of many investors, including Presenting Investor: Xavier University’s Summer Intern Housing; Excellence Investors: P&G and Western & Southern Financial Group; Participating Investors: Cintas, EY, Kroger Technology, Miami University, Northern Kentucky University, Patheon Pharmaceuticals and the University of Cincinnati; and Contributing Investors: the Cincinnati Reds and the Cincinnati Zoo & Botanical Garden.

The program showcases the Cincinnati region through a series of four summer events, which are also free to all interns and co-ops that attend. According to Jules Shumate, special projects leader for the Chamber, it was a record summer for CINC.

"A record 1,050 interns and co-op students signed up for CINC this summer, representing 216 companies, 165
colleges and universities, 45 countries and 36 states,” Shumate says. “Over 500 of those interns came from outside the Cincinnati MSA. CINC significantly increases our ability to attract and retain skilled, global talent to the region’s workforce."

While many of the interns stem from local colleges and universities, some come from schools outside of the Greater Cincinnati area as well.

Heeding from the University of Florida as a Material Science and Engineering major, Ilana Krause has been participating in CINC throughout the summer as she continues her internship with P&G. She says that while she came to the area hesitant, the program and Cincinnati in general has exceeded her expectations.

"I really enjoyed the work experience itself, as the opportunities that P&G provides give interns a lot of freedom and autonomy on their projects, while also giving them the resources to enable them to really contribute to the company,” Krause says. “The work we are given is challenging and interesting, and the people within the company are so supportive and genuinely want interns to succeed and have a great experience.”

According to the Chamber, over 51 percent of the students in CINC are currently employed or have already started their careers in Cincinnati, highlighting the strength of the program in developing area connections for interns and co-ops.

“By connecting students to internship opportunities, interest groups, social scenes, community engagement and Cincy’s flavor, we will deepen their affinity for the region and what it means to have the best in life when they choose Cincinnati after graduation,” Shumate says.

And, from what Krause says, her experiences here have deepened her personal connection with the area. “Coming from Florida, I was hesitant that I would ever consider any other place like home. But after this summer with P&G, programs by the Chamber and the incredible people I met, I could see myself returning back to Cincinnati and continuing to create a network in Ohio.”

Leading up to its closing event for this year’s program, the 2017 CINC program surveys say that 93 percent of interns will consider starting their careers in Cincinnati, something locals can look forward to in the professional realm.

The Chamber is ecstatic to introduce college students and the local community to a brand-new event that will amplify Cincinnati as the #hottestcityinAmerica to over 2,000 students from 18 local member colleges and universities. The Big College Event is a large-scale event for college and university students from all over the region, which will take place form 4 to 9 p.m. Oct. 19 at the Duke Energy Convention Center. Click here for more information regarding the event.
 


Sibling duo brings ancient art of tea ceremonies to East Walnut Hills


Siblings Lily and Max Raphael are the founders of Hearth, a project that creates community through tea and ancient ceremony. You can most often find them at Clear Conscious Movement in East Walnut Hills, where many healers and teachers share a space for their events and classes.

Soapbox sat down for a Q&A with the Raphaels to learn more about how they strengthen and heal Cincinnati through tea.


Why did you choose your location?

Lily: Hearth exists wherever we are. At this time, most of our activities take place at Clear Conscious Movement; however, we also take Hearth to the community, stewarding tea ceremonies at yoga studios, retreats, nature hikes, festivals, art installations and most recently, the Covington Farmers Market.

 

Max: Doing ceremony after ceremony at Clear, we’ve witnessed not only how tea can positively impact the space it’s in, but also all the people who share it. While we hope to expand beyond just tea with Hearth, I think the stillness and connection these ceremonies offer — on so many levels — really captures the overall spirit behind our project.

 

What services do you offer?

Lily: Inspired by our travels in Southeast Asia and Latin America, the goods we offer capture the beauty, culture and human connection we have found in the many places we have gone. These goods root back to all things cozy, providing a sense of home and respite while on the journey. Currently, we offer a selection of teas that Max came across while practicing tea ceremony in Asia. All our teas are clean, organic and in some cases, even wild, and sourced from personal connections to farms and tea merchants in Taiwan and Southern China.

 

Max: Our inspiration to share tea comes from connecting with it as a plant medicine, as I first did while studying in Taiwan. So rather than approach tea as a fancy or exotic beverage, we hope to facilitate a deeper, more personal connection to it, which we’ve found for ourselves.

 

What would surprise people about a tea ceremony? Why would someone want to try it?

Lily: During the ceremony, what I find time and again is that people are surprised by the level of stillness and connectedness they experience through a fairly simple practice. The mere act of sitting in silence and drinking tea allows us time and space to journey inward in a very accessible way that can easily be replicated at home. So much of our time is spent interacting with others, it is hard to find a moment to look inward. Even in just under two hours, it is amazing what one can discover about him/herself while silently sipping a bowl of tea.

 

Max: What’s most surprising is how close everyone feels with one another by the end of the ceremony, even though we’ve never met before, and just spent about an hour or more in silence, not conversation! The ceremony is its own sort of nonverbal conversation; with yourself, with nature and even with others.

 

Actually, the organic flow of it all, and the beautiful responses from people right after it, often catch me by surprise, too. Each ceremony is completely different, even when the same people are gathered. In the Japanese tea ceremony, there’s a saying that captures this: ichi go ichi e, "one chance, one encounter." One meaning of this is that any ceremony (or really any kind of gathering) has its own flavor and essence that could never be duplicated again. This exact assortment of people might never gather again. So tea can help us enjoy this unique time and space together. I usually like to start the gatherings by saying “this experience would not be the same if even one of us weren’t present."

 

How does this ceremony enhance the culture of Cincinnati?

Max: It’s a really special way to spend time with people, whether they’re new or old friends. We have many ways to connect and gather, but so few like this, if at all. To share silence with each other, without it being awkward or rigid, is both rare and meaningful. Most of us already drink tea, and this is just one way to find an even deeper connection with it, and through it, to something beyond tea itself. And the best part is, you don’t have a to be a certain way, or believe in any particular idea. You don’t need to know anything about tea or be a meditator, anything like that. You just sit and drink tea, and without any effort you begin to relax. Your senses gently awaken, and you feel you can set aside the usual masks or armor that some of us need just to get through the day.

 

We’re not sharing tea or the ceremonies to push any ideas, or even to make it into something exotic. We’re just creating a space each time for you to simply be as you are, and take away whatever meaning the experience has for you. To us, this is something so rare and needed not just here in Cincinnati, but everywhere.

 

What rewards you about this business?

Lily: There are so many rewarding aspects to Hearth. I love that it gives everyone an excuse to sit down and connect with each other, and that we have the opportunity to share these very special pieces of our journeys with people in our hometown. I am also grateful that it has brought so much purpose and continuity to what my brother and I love doing.

 


Four UC entrepreneurial law students are using their knowledge to help other entrepreneurs

 

Four University of Cincinnati entrepreneurial law students are gaining experience and valuable mentorship as they work to provide eight startup clients with free legal assistance through HCDC. The startups applied for assistance in the spring; all eight businesses are HCDC entrepreneurs.

The students’ work consists of everything from preparing service contracts to website terms and conditions — legal work that is often difficult for small startups to afford.

“Everyone really benefits from this,” says Thomas Cuni, supervising attorney and mentor to the four students placed at HCDC this summer. “The attractiveness is that students get to deal with clients. This isn’t mock trial — not that there’s anything wrong with mock trial — but they gain practice learning how to interview, which is most important.”

This is the fourth summer that students have collaborated with HCDC, which is touted as one of the top business incubators in Ohio. However, the program has been around since 2011, when UC’s College of Law opened the doors to its Entrepreneurship and Community Development Clinic under the directorship of Prof. Lewis Goldfarb.

While the program occurs on a year-round basis, summer sessions are more intensive, as students work full-time for their clients.

For Maximilian DeLeon, working at HCDC has been his favorite experience as a law student.

"Some highlights I’ve had this summer include forming a Delaware C Corporation, drafting a convertible note for an investor and drafting a service agreement that will be used across the whole country," he says.

Alex Valdes, another student placed at HCDC, shares similar sentiments."I have noticed my own personal growth this summer, but the most rewarding aspect of working at the HCDC has been the relationships forged with my clients who are incredibly passionate small business owners who would not be able to afford legal work if it were not for the services of the clinic. I am proud to play my small, humble role in the growth of Cincinnati."

Check out this story from earlier this year that explains more about the partnership between UC and MORTAR.
 


Cincy Stories opens second gallery in Price Hill as part of Street Stories project


The Greater Cincinnati area spans communities across Hamilton County, each holding their own contribution to the city, its history and unique stories.

Last year, community building initiative Cincy Stories opened an unusual gallery in Walnut Hills that created a snapshot of the neighborhood at that moment in history. The Walnut Hills Redevelopment Foundation approached the storytelling initiative, offering a storefront free of charge (for the month June, 2016) to help build the community and allow visitors to the gallery to record their own five-minute story about their lives in Walnut Hills.

As the next project for Cincy Stories’ executive director Shawn Braley and creative director Chris Ashwell, another story gallery opened on July 7 in Price Hill. Made possible through partnerships with the Haile Foundation, LISC, Price Hill Will and Artswave, this gallery is just the second of many future community steps for the duo, as they see the friction between long-time residents and newcomers, as well as economical shifts, that can weigh on a neighborhood.

“Through the work of storytelling in Walnut Hills, an entire neighborhood little league is being started by neighborhood residents,” Braley says. “Cincy Stories will capture the shifting populace and stories that intersect as the neighborhoods develop and varying people groups learn to become neighbors.”

The story gallery is an actual gallery — Braley says to picture an art gallery, coffeehouse and living room all in one. Free food and drinks from local eateries, live music and more are available for attendees, depending on the day. It's a place where people can come together and bridge the gap in what can often be tough neighborhoods, allowing for more understanding and sustainable change.

By sharing who they are through community narratives, people can come together more effectively than just sharing opinions on the neighborhood itself.

Now through Oct. 31, people can stop by the neighborhood story gallery in East Price Hill and share their stories with others. Making it their goal to go where the people are and not wait for people to come to them, Braley and Ashwell will produce the stories tod by community members, as they did in the Walnut Hills gallery last year, and the stories will be published on their website, cincystories.net.

Visitors will be able to share stories in face-to-face interactions as well as in a private story booth. The booth is set up as a small, private tent with a chair, microphone and video camera. Braley and Ashwell then take each video segment and edit it into a three- to five-minute video segment that airs on the television screens in the “living room” area, as well as in conjunction with other videos.

Over time, Braley and Ashwell hope that they can collect at least 20 stories from each of the 52 neighborhoods in Cincinnati. By creating relatable stories, the pair believes they can change communities for the better.

While the grand opening was held on July 7, there are gallery parties every Friday in July from 6 to 10 p.m. Weekly events will also be held throughout the duration of the gallery. The gallery is open from noon to 7 p.m. Wednesday-Saturday at 3117 Warsaw Ave.

Click here for more information about the gallery, Street Stories and the two-year nonprofit Cincy Stories.
 


NKU's Inkubator invests in people rather than their ideas


Right now, six teams of NKU students and recent alumni are “inkubating” their business ideas at Northern Kentucky University’s Inkubator.

Rodney D’Souza is the director for the Center of Innovation and Entrepreneurship, which houses the Inkubator as part of the Haile U.S. Bank College of Business. In 2012, D’Souza was working with a lot of existing business accelerators but discovered a missing link in the process.

“We found that there was a lack of a good feeder system to existing accelerators,” he says.

After a study of the best practices of university business incubators across the country, NKU’s Inkubator was founded in 2012. Now the program is ranked in the top 5 in North America by UBI Global, an organization that aggregates data on universities and their business incubators.

“It’s very selective,” D’Souza says. Of the 55 applications that were submitted to the Inkubator this year, only six teams were selected. The Inkubator tries to recruit students from all disciplines, not just business students.

“This year, we decided to put teams through boot camp so they understand what it takes to be a part of this process,” says D’Souza. “Not everyone understands what’s going to come up in these 12 weeks.”

The teams that proved their commitment are currently participating in the Inkubator’s 12-week summer program. D’Souza says that the program is different from other incubators with its focus on workshops rather than lectures. “Right now, we focus on how to get them the right tools to succeed."

In the five years since its inception, the Inkubator has seen a lot of success. 16 businesses have been launched as a result of the Inkubator and 10 remain in business. In addition to successful business launches, 57 jobs have been created.

One of the biggest success stories is Vegy Vida, a 100-percent natural dip to entice kids to eat their vegetables. Now Vegy Vida can be found in 1,400 Walmart stores all over the country.

D’Souza says that the Inkubator is successful because it invests in people rather than ideas. “We value them and their team rather than the idea. It’s very gratifying to see the transformation.”
 


Uptown is at the center of a new development that focuses on innovation, research and education


Over-the-Rhine and Covington are abuzz over startup innovation, as incubators and accelerators like Aviatra Accelerators, The Brandery, CincyTech and UpTech work to grow Greater Cincinnati's core. That innovative focus is now shifting Uptown, as Uptown Consortium partners with some of the city's largest institutions to create the Uptown Innovation Corridor.

Fifty-one thousand residents, including students, are at the core of this new economic development.

Three projects are already in the works: the Uptown Gateway, the 1819 Innovation & Research Accelerator for the University of Cincinnati and the UC Gardner Neuroscience Institute.

With the new interchange at I-71 and Martin Luther King Drive expected to open this summer, Beth Robinson, president and CEO of Uptown Consortium, expects the area surrounding it to become “a gravitational force for accelerated industries that radically improve quality of life.”

Uptown Gateway — the project’s “flagship development” — will be a mixed-use office, retail, residential and parking development at the southeast corner of Reading Road and MLK Drive. Construction is slated to being later this year.

Plans for improved pedestrian and bicycle connectivity, in addition to shuttles, will increase residents’ ease of Uptown access, and as the project develops, residents will receive job training so they can immerse themselves more fully into the community while learning skills and generating income.

“Job training that’s informed by the Corridor will evolve as our past and current career-focused initiatives have — through partnerships,” Robinson says. “We want to make sure job growth is inclusive and diverse from the beginning of our projects. We hope to leverage our partnerships with UC, MORTAR and others to secure more job training programs in the area.”

The 1819 Innovation & Research Accelerator, slated to open next fall, will serve as a hub for both private and public collaborations. It will also provide space for startups launched from UC developed technologies, while the UC Gardner Neuroscience Institute will open in 2019. Construction began on the Institute earlier this month.

“The Innovation Corridor is surrounded by our region’s research powerhouses,” Robinson says. “The Uptown Innovation Corridor tenants will learn from, inspire and most likely integrate with the institutions of Uptown and the region’s future-facing businesses. It will continue to unfold as a center for research, collaboration and entrepreneurship.”
 


Fill up on great convo and food! tomorrow as Soapbox goes to Findlay Market


This Wednesday, June 28, it’s all about scale, as Soapbox returns to host Cincinnati’s foremost foodies for the annual Food Innovation Economy speaker series at Findlay Market.

The event kicks off at 6 p.m. in the Farm Shed (located in Findlay Market’s north parking lot) and will feature big bites and big ideas from Pho Lang Thang, LaSoupe, Hen of the Wood and Babushka Pierogies.

Wash it all down with craft beer from local favorite The Woodburn Brewery, tangy kombucha from Fab Ferments and a Rhubarb Shrub Punch and signature mocktail from Queen City Shrub made for this one-night-only event.

Click here to purchase tickets for this year’s event, where you'll meet five talented local food producers and hear why it's the right time to scale and how Cincinnati's growing food ecosystem is helping them get there.

All ticket holders will be automatically entered to win two passes to the 2017 Cincinnati Food + Wine Classic — a value of $480! Plus, you'll be partying with a purpose: proceeds benefit Findlay Market, now open Wednesdays until 8 p.m. all summer long.

Come hungry and enjoy the menu as follows:

6 p.m. Check in at the Farm Shed, located in Findlay Market's North parking lot
6:15 p.m. Welcome from Soapbox's publisher, Patrice Watson
6:20 p.m. Food Innovation District overview from Joe Hansbauer, CEO of Findlay Market
6:30 to 8 p.m. Breakout talks and tasting stations

Station #1 (Farm Shed) presented by Findlay Market, featuring:

  • Duy Nguyen, Pho Lang Thang
  • Kombucha pairings from Fab Ferments

Station #2 (OTR Biergarten) presented by Cincinnati Food + Wine Classic, featuring:

  • Suzy DeYoung, LaSoupe; Nick Markwald, Hen of the Woods; Donna Covrett, CFWC
  • Beer pairings from The Woodburn Brewery -"Red, White, and Brew" traditional American wheat ale and "Salmon Shorts Sightings" blonde ale with strawberries and Rooibus Tea

Station #3 (Findlay Kitchen) presented by Findlay Kitchen, featuring:

  • Pierogie/cocktail pairings from Sarah Dworak of Babushka Pierogies and Justin Frazer of Queen City Shrub

Seating is limited, so reserve your ticket today and check out the full schedule of Findlay Market events and featured vendors here.
 


CSO and CCM team up for one-of-a-kind fellowship prograpm


The Cincinnati Symphony Orchestra and the College-Conservatory of Music, University of Cincinnati have just completed the first year of their innovative Diversity Fellows program.

“Orchestras across the country acknowledge that there are under-represented populations in the world of orchestral music and that the programs to improve representation haven’t worked,” says Christopher Pinelo, vice president of communications for the CSO.

Just as the first class of fellows began their academic and performance work last fall, The League of American Orchestras published a study evaluating orchestra fellowships.

“It’s almost as if this program was designed specifically to address the deficiencies in fellowship programs nationally,” Pinelo says.

“One of the issues identified as a flaw in most fellowship programs is the sense of isolation that fellows experience,” adds Ahmad Mayes, director of education and community engagement with the CSO. “Our program brings in five fellows in year one with an additional five in year two, with the hope that they connect with each other and create a feeling of being in it together. We are also working to ensure that they feel part of the entire orchestra.”

The partnership with CCM is also unique. Each fellow earns an Artist Diploma from CCM — the performance-based equivalent of a master’s degree — while they rehearse and perform with the CSO.

“At first, it was a bit much,” says Fellow Emilio Carlo. “You’re not just a student — you are part of the CSO and we need to keep a level of quality. But I found balance and it was helpful to have colleagues to go to who were in the same situation.”

Carlo’s other Fellows included Diana Flores, Blake-Anthony Johnson, Vijeta Sathyaraj and Maurice Todd. Four of the fellows will be returning to complete the second year of the program. Johnson will not be returning, as he secured a position with the New World Symphony as part of the auditions all fellows are required to participate in during the program.

“What measures success for us is if we are helping these fellows meet the next phase of their career,” says Pinelo. “We are trying to build a supportive environment for them to flourish. They perform with the CSO and Pops on a wide range of materials.”

Auditioning for a professional orchestra is an intense experience, one which the Fellows are more prepared for, thanks to the CSO and CCM.

“My mentor went above and beyond to help me get mentally and physically ready to audition,” says Carlo. “The musical growth I’ve seen in myself and the other Fellows has been fun to watch, and playing with the CSO has been the highest achievement I’ve had.”

The emphasis on real-world experience for the Fellows, rehearsing and performing with the CSO and participating in education and community engagement outreach is a critical part of the program.

“When Peter Landgren (Dean of CCM) came to us about starting a fellowship program, he was drawing on his own experience as a student when he substituted with CSO and the impact that had on his career,” says Mayes. “There is no other fellowship that pairs a degree with professional orchestra performance opportunities.”

As the program, which has been generously funded by The Andrew W. Mellon Foundation, enters its second year, orchestras from around the country are calling to find out how it started, how its working and how it could be replicated.

“The rest of the country is looking to Cincinnati to be a leader in this area,” Pinelo says.

And Cincinnati audiences will hear the benefit of this innovative program as nine Fellows take the stage with the CSO and Pops when they return to Music Hall later this year.
 


Five local artists will showcase their findings about segregation through art


Five artists immersed themselves within the Walnut Hills community to chat with residents and business owners about the issue of segregation and how it’s affecting their community.

The project was initiated by the Walnut Hills Redevelopment Foundation and is inspired by renowned activist Carlton Turner and his vision of artists as researchers who take their findings to create art that prompts discussion and pursue social justice.

Community members are invited to Cincy Stories at 4 p.m. on June 30 to see the walking exhibit where they can see the interpretations by artists Alan Haley, Michael Ellison, Dyah Miller, Herschel Johnson and Benjamin Thomas.

There will be a break for dinner, and the WHRF encourages people to try the restaurants in the business district. At 7:15, there will be a panel at The Monastery with the artists and community leaders.

According to Johnson, the goal of the project is to empower residents to continue the conversation the artists began.

Here’s what the artists discovered:

“People said they see the kids hanging out with their own race at school,” says Thomas. “And Kroger — it should have been in a thriving place — but people weren’t feeling comfortable to come into a predominately black neighborhood to shop. Businesses close because of that.”

Thomas is using the mediums of aerosol and paint to create “We Are Cincinnati," a mural of four Walnut Hills residents — everyday people without privilege whose portraits will be iconic in nature. Those who attend next week’s event will have the opportunity to see a live demonstration, as Thomas will be working on the mural at the time.

For Ellison, the neighborhood scape has changed. The highway now inhabits his former home, and he rides his bicycle to Clifton to go grocery shopping. He and fellow photographer Miller will display their collection of portraits and places, and at the culmination of the project, will auction their photos off with 25 percent of the proceeds benefitting the Walnut Hills Little League.

Other projects include a documentary, a 3D shield and a partnership with St. Francis de Sales to offer students the opportunity to learn to sculpt. Each artist’s project includes a plan for community building and community betterment, both now and in the future.

“Segregation is a condition,” Thomas says. “It’s really a mentality that’s subconsciously or intentionally placed in the minds of folks because of money, greed, power — whatever it is — and I don’t want to point a finger, but I want to recondition the condition of segregation by introducing people to others and giving platforms to people who don’t have them.”
 


Entrepreneur of the Year gala to highlight entrepreneurial spirit in Ohio Valley Region


The 2017 Ernst & Young Entrepreneur of the Year season is underway, and on Thursday, Cincinnati will honor about 30 Ohio Valley Region finalists for their innovation, financial performance and commitment to their businesses and communities.

Now in its 31st year, the EY Entrepreneur of the Year is considered to be the world’s most prestigious business awards program for entrepreneurs, and it has grown to reach 25 U.S. cities and more than 60 countries around the globe. Regional winners are eligible for the Entrepreneur of the Year national program, which convenes Nov. 18 in Palm Springs, with a winner then selected to compete for World Entrepreneur of the Year in June 2018.

Nine of this year’s Ohio Valley Region finalists are making a difference right here in Cincinnati. Soapbox sat down with one of those nine — Mary Miller of JANCOA Janitorial Services — to discuss the honor and to learn more about how she’s changing the landscape of her business and of the community.

How do envision yourself and your role at JANCOA?
Being a family business, I wear many hats: CEO, wife, mother, mother-in-law, sister-in-law and chief Dream Manager! I have the best role in the company.

I get to let everyone know just how great our team is and create more opportunity for them and their families. I love each one and look for ways everyday to make the lives of our 600+ team members, their families and the community better for all the tomorrows to come. JANCOA has become an international example of what businesses can do to be successful and care about the people that make that happen.

Once I heard that Warren Buffet said the most important job a CEO has is to be the cheerleader for their team members — that was when I knew I was in the right job.

What is a Dream Manager, and how did the idea come about?
In the late '90s, JANCOA was an average “mom-and-pop” cleaning company with the average turnover of team members at about 400 percent. We decided (after being fired by a consultant) to stop being average and decided to become “the best in the world” at taking care of our people so they can take care of our customers. We used our entrepreneurial spirit to try a lot of ways that had never been tested previously, including creating our own transportation system to get employees to work. The program has evolved into an international model that changes the culture of the company, and that creates results of quality of service, retention of team members, employee engagement and profitability.

By nature we are a service business cleaning up after other people. Our work, though, is helping people build the courage to overcome obstacles and reach for their dreams of a bigger future. This is a model people can connect with and frequently believe is too good to be true. The best selling book The Dream Manager by Matthew Kelly has popularized the programs we began years ago to build a business of value, and today we are focused on creating value for the people we work with everyday.

What advice do you have for other entrepreneurs wanting to make a difference?
There are a lot of resources available to entrepreneurs with best practices in many areas of business. I believe the true value entrepreneurs create is when they look at these practices and add their unique talent and natural gift to the mixture. This is when we are being true to ourselves and to the world. Trying to be what others tell us to be will always miss the mark of possibility. Being true to what we are made to be will create the difference the world is craving to receive and believe.

How does it feel to be selected for the EY Entrepreneur of the Year program?
The EYEOY feels like the Oscars for entrepreneurs. I have been aware of the award for more than 20 years but never really put that down as something within my grasp. I think entrepreneurs have a drive within that pushes us constantly to make things better (in our business and everything we see), and being recognized by EYEOY builds a sense of confidence that I have done some things right and gives me energy to keep moving forward and go after those ideas I have that no one else seems to understand.

I would like to believe that seeing me recognized by EYEOY will encourage many other entrepreneurs to trust what they know to be true, without any proof, and go after the big opportunities even when no one understands what they are trying to do.

Click here to see the other Ohio Valley Region finalists.

Thursday's awards gala will be held at the Hyatt Regency Cincinnati, 151 W. Fifth St., downtown.
 


ArtWorks now accepting applications for 2017 Big Pitch business grant competition


ArtWorks is seeking Cincinnati and Northern Kentucky-based creative business owners and entrepreneurs to apply for its fourth annual Big Pitch, a mentorship program and pitch competition for established creative businesses in the area.

The program, designed for businesses with at least a two-year history and located within 30 miles of the ArtWorks office in downtown Cincinnati, selects eight finalists to participate in a 10-week mentorship program. In addition to valuable exposure, each finalist will receive business coaching and help with next steps for reaching their full potential.

The program culminates in a public pitch event to be held in late September where finalists will have the opportunity to compete for both the Grand Prize ($15,000) and and Audience Choice Grant ($5,000).

“This program gives small businesses the chance to take the next step in reaching their dreams,” says Tamara Harkavy, ArtWorks' CEO. “We thank U.S. Bank for again offering its expertise this year to this important project.”

2016 winners James Avant (OCD Cakes) and Scott Beseler (The Lodge KY) took home $15,000 and $5,000, respectively. Avant launched Bakeology classes in January and has maintained a 60 percent fill rate. Monthly social potlucks have also helped OCD Cakes to draw in community members to the unique and creative nature of both food and the business.

Avant was also awarded the OTR Chamber "Entrepreneur of the Year" Award, and is now building relationships with local community groups to tackle access to food disparities and ways to make the cooking/baking experience more accessible to a larger number of families in our city.

Avant attributes much of his recent success to ArtWorks’ dedication to local businesses.

“Besides the cash prize, each finalist walked away with hours dedicated to the intentional growth and sustainability of their business, a community of entrepreneurs and friends who want to see the other thrive in their respective businesses, a network of mentors who always want to see you succeed and exposure many people and businesses would pay to have access to,” says Avant. “I'm incredibly thankful to ArtWorks and U.S. Bank for creating a platform to give creative entrepreneurs the opportunity to grow their business, expanded community outreach and actively contribute to the city's ecosystem.”

Beseler is continuing to work on his project, The Lodge. Located in Dayton, Ky., The Lodge is a one-stop-shop for musicians — there's a recording studio, graphic designer, screenprinter and photographer in-house, and it seems that Beseler is adding other amenities every day.

Applications for the Big Pitch are due by June 23 and require a $25 application fee. Finalists will be notified of selection by July 14 and must accept by July 17.

The 10-week mentorship program runs from July 21-Sept. 28. For more information on the Big Pitch, last year’s winners and more, visit www.artworkscincinnati.org.
 


Calling all entrepreneurs: Apply now for UpTech's sixth cohort


The Covington-based UpTech entrepreneurial accelerator is now accepting applications for its sixth class of data-driven startups ready to take their ideas to market.

As Greater Cincinnati’s premier tech accelerator, UpTech offers a six-month program that prepares burgeoning tech companies to scale by providing one-on-one weekly advising, free co-working space, dedicated legal and accounting services and valuable early-stage feedback through its extensive investor network.

"We are now entering our sixth year of UpTech and we’re never satisfied with the status quo; we are a startup among startups,” says program director JB Woodruff.

UpTech leadership is implementing two major changes this year: a focus on health tech via a partnership with St. Elizabeth and an overhaul of its investable startup curriculum.

“We believe UpTech is an important part of our community, and St. Elizabeth appreciates collaborations with partners who also want to make our community better,” says St. Elizabeth spokesperson Matt Hollenkamp. “We’re excited to see where this leads. Innovation, entrepreneurship and technology advancements are all keys to the future of healthcare."

Each of the 10 companies that are selected will receive $50,000 in seed funding, as well as access to staff resources for graphic design, entrepreneurial speaker series, mentorship, student intern grant funding and gigabit internet.

UpTech strives to invest in data-driven, tech-enabled startups offering scalable B2B/B2G solutions in large markets. For more information on what UpTech looks for in a team and company, click here.

Entrepreneurs interested in applying to the UpTech program should schedule a one-on-one appointment. Visit uptechideas.org to learn more about UpTech, or click here for scheduling info.
 


TEDxCincinnati returns for its fifth year with a new format and location


TEDxCincinnati returns for the fifth year on June 17, but this time to a newly renovated Memorial Hall. The 2017 Main Stage Event not only features a change of venue, but also a new, innovative program format.

“We had a great turn out for our Thursday night Main Stage Events, but moving to Saturday opens up the event to an entirely new crowd,” says Jami Edelheit, director of TEDxCincinnati. “This year, we’re offering the Main Stage twice, which lets attendees make it part of a whole night out, grabbing dinner before or after the show.”

The 2017 Main Stage Event will feature a mix of local and national speakers and performers who will give their TED Talks at both shows.

“TEDxCincinnati had a big audition night in March and two of those speakers will be on the Main Stage,” says Edelheit. “We had great submissions and it was really hard to narrow them down.”

The first Main Stage Event will run from 5 to 7 p.m., and the second will be from 8:30 to 10:30 p.m. In between the two shows, attendees will be able to network with each other and meet the speakers. The complete list of speakers and performers will be revealed next week; however, all previous TEDxCincinnati Main Stage Events have been sold out prior to speakers being announced.

“TEDxCincinnati is an experience,” says Edelheit. “There are some wonderful stories and ideas, but this is not about looking at a list of speaker's names and deciding to attend based on that. TEDx spurs conversations you might not otherwise have. It creates energy, excitement and engagement.”

The theme for the 2017 Main Stage Event, “Connected,” will be addressed by speakers that range from a retired member of the Special Forces, a 13-year-old working on artificial intelligence and Hamilton County Coroner Dr. Lakshmi Sammarco.

“This is one of the best themes we’ve had,” Edelheit says. “It’s about being human and all the ways we connect in the world through personal interactions, medicine and technology. And it’s central to our mission to live consciously, be authentic and empower others. We are right there in the word: connecTED.”

This year, TEDxCincinnati is also making an effort to connect with local organizations and businesses through its new Community Partners program.

“We want to feature what others are doing by bringing the community together to share ideas,” Edelheit explains. “TEDx is a neutral platform that builds relationships and connects people. We are always looking for new partners and ideas.”

Tickets for the Main Stage Event are on sale now. A limited number of bundle tickets are available, which includes two tickets for a reduced price of $99. All tickets include admission to the between-show reception.
 

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