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New tool helps nonprofits analyze program outcomes

Sprout Insight, the market research and insight consultancy, has added a new addition to its suite of research services called ShutterLIGHT. ShutterLIGHT integrates a user-friendly online research platform to help nonprofits collect and analyze data to document program outcomes. Integrating ShutterLIGHT into the outcomes measurement process increases staff efficiency and data accuracy.
“Before starting Sprout Insight just under three years ago, we ran a nonprofit called Harmony Garden for many years,” says Lisa Mills, co-founder of Sprought Insight. “We understand that it can be a struggle and you often are dealing with very limited resources. ShutterLIGHT helps with the daunting task of documenting outcomes through a cloud-based service and simplifies what used to be a very time consuming process.”
Sprout Insight believes that with the correct focus, filter and frame (its three-step process of integrating ShutterLIGHT), nonprofits can leverage the power of this new technology to maximize and target resources toward meeting business objectives and organizational mission.
“Nonprofits need to become more modern and incorporate these systems to understand the community they are working with and addressing,” Mills says. “With our three-step process, we help them identify the right question to answer, fine tune and further customize measurements, and create opportunities for them to receive a return on their investment.”
After pivoting to become Sprout Insight in early 2012, one of the biggest projects Mills and company have landed so far is through a partnership with a group called Student Sports, based in Los Angeles. The company has been looking to learn more about high school boys, one of its most important segments.
“Through this partnership and the technology and research methods we have, we are gaining insights into this segment that help us better understand what their challenges and preferences are,” Mills says. “We have 5,000 teenage boys on a panel, some of which are elite high school athletes. Given the prominence of issues like bullying and concussions in sports right now, we think it is especially important to help the public better understand these students.”
To learn more about Sprout Insight, check out their website here.

By Mike Sarason

CRESBI Crates offer more efficient, sustainable alternative to shopping bags

Linda Fritz, creator of CRESBI Crates, hates waste. For this reason (and a few others), she created a reusable crate that is more sturdy and durable than reusable or plastic bags, can be cleaned in a dishwasher and folds up flat for easy storage. Now she’s on a quest to bring a crate to every home in America.
It all started with having just a little too much edamame. As the owner of Sun Sugar Farms in Veron, Ky., she has been growing edamame and sun sugar cherry tomatoes for several years. By 2012, she was selling hundreds of pounds of edamame and donating some to schools with a goal of getting Kentucky children to eat healthier.
“I was transporting the edamame in boxes, and I hated that the boxes were getting soggy and probably getting thrown away,” Fritz says. “So I bought a couple bins like the produce guys at the grocery store use. And I thought that if only it was a little taller and a little lighter, why couldn’t we use this?”
The bins Fritz bought originally were a bit too large and industrial for what she was looking for, but after many trials and tribulations, she found a crate that was the perfect size and weight for her idea, sunk her savings into it and hasn’t looked back.
Fritz dubbed the crates CRESBI as an acronym for Collapsible Reusable Environmentally-friendly Stackable Box Idea.
“One CRESBI crate can replace up to six plastic bags and also can replace reusable bags, which start to fall apart if you wash them, and there’s nowhere to recycle them,” Fritz says. “But the best part about the crates is the time they save. You simply put your items in them with the barcodes up and have the checker use their handheld scanner to scan the items right in the crate.”
Currently, Fritz is selling the crates on her website, www.cresbicrate.com, but has also struck up deals with a few local vendors to carry them in the Ohio/Kentucky area. In her first year, with only her website, she’s already received orders from across the country.

Brighter Dates offers charity event-driven dating service for Cincinnatians

Brighter Dates, Cincinnati’s first event-driven dating service, offers a unique approach to modern dating, allowing singles to meet organically and safely in person while supporting local charities.
The next event hosted by Brighter Dates will be “Cheers to Baseball” on March 26 from 7-8:30 p.m. at the Green Diamond Gallery, typically a members-only establishment featuring the largest private collection of baseball memorabilia. Wine, local beer and mini-desserts will be served, and a portion of the proceeds from the event will be donated to The Character and Courage Foundation.
Launched locally by husband and wife team Stephanie and Justin McGuffey in January 2014, Brighter Dates came to fruition after the McGuffeys heard from countless friends about the pitfalls of online dating, meeting at bars and other common methods. The idea came to Justin in March 2013, and the couple has worked on it since.
“After I had the idea, our first step was to test the waters to see if anyone would even be interested,” Justin says. “There are positivies about both online dating and traditional dating. Some like one, some prefer the other; we give you the best of both worlds.”
The unique process guarantees that all guests are single and commitment-minded. Guests are able to learn about one another at each event without the pressure of exchanging numbers or contact information. At the conclusion of the mixer, guests can log in to their confidential online profiles and select those with whom they formed a connection.
If the attraction is mutual, both users will gain access to each other’s profiles and have to option to connect further. All of this occurs while supporting local causes.
“Our mission is to help commitment-minded individuals find love in a relaxed and fun way,” Stephanie says. “We are excited to offer a proactive approach to dating that also supports the local community.”
To learn more or sign up for the March 26 event, visit www.brighterdates.com

By Mike Sarason

Uptech graduates second class at Demo Day this week

UpTech, the Northern Kentucky accelerator affiliated with Northern Kentucky University and several economic development agencies, will graduate its second class at its upcoming Demo Day 2014 event on Thursday, March 6. Seven companies will showcase their product or service through interactive presentations held at the NKU Digitorium from 6-8 p.m. and will be streaming live on the internet as well.
UpTech was launched in 2012 as a way to connect talent, funding and ideas to spur the economy by helping to launch informatics-related businesses in the Cincinnati/Northern Kentucky area. Companies accepted into UpTech have access to a unique set of resources.
“Each company is provided access to intensive, weekly education and interaction with national and regional experts,” says Amanda Greenwell, program manager of UpTech. “Additionally, UpTech provides each startup with a dedicated team of business professionals and mentors that have an area of expertise relevant to their line of business; we have a list of 200 volunteers who are willing to give their time, and make connections for our companies.”
The seven companies presenting at Demo Day are 3DLT, New Home Marketing Services, Bearhug Technologies, Tixers, Inteo, Touritz and Liquid. They range from dealing with health care to tourism to data collection to 3D print design. These companies will present to a room of investors, venture capitalists and entrepreneurs alike.
“Demo day provides an opportunity to remind UpTech's current supporters the value of their investment in addition to attracting new investors into the UpTech ecosystem,” Greenwell says.
The UpTech ecosystem has continued to expand and invest into the Northern Kentucky community. In November 2013, UpTech made a $1.5 million investment by moving into its new headquarters in Covington.
“The space validates our program's mission—create an informatics cluster in Northern Kentucky—and it enables the change we are trying to make in our community,” Greenwell says.  “We will continue to embolden the angel investor community in Northern Kentucky, make investing fun by offering opportunities to engage and mentor our startups, and ultimately provide a return on investment for UpTech investors and the region at large.”
To attend UpTech’s Demo Day 2014, RSVP here or request a link for the live stream here.

By Mike Sarason

Makers wanted: Manufactory opens its doors to creatives

The Krieg family, owners of Lee Corp Printers for three generations, has turned what was the headquarters of their business into a new venture called the Manufactory. Located on Mosteller Road north of Cincinnati, the Manufactory is a shared membership workshop that offers tools, equipment and workspace to turn ideas into reality.
The Manufactory had its soft opening at the beginning of 2014, with a formal ribbon cutting coming in the spring  It operates similarly to a gym membership, with daily, monthly or yearly membership plans. Inside the Manufactory are all kinds of machines for manufacturers including a 3D printer, vinyl cutter, various types of saws, lathes, welding tools, woodworking tools, plastics tools and more.
Lee Krieg, president of the Manufactory, had the idea for the business while researching a California-based company called TechShop.
“For the past 10-15 years, the printing company has seen a decline, mostly a result of the explosion of the internet,” Krieg says. “Eventually, we realized that we had too much space in the 35,000-square-foot building that we owned to justify that company occupying all of it. I was looking into 3D printing and I came across the TechShop, which also has all kinds of tools as well and a similar membership-based approach. I was hooked on that concept and pitched it to my family that week.”
Converting the space to its current state was a yearlong process that involved hauling off hundreds of tons of material, much of it antiquated equipment, and investing a significant amount into new, state-of-the-art manufacturing equipment.
“Safety is of paramount importance in our space,” Krieg says. “New members must participate in a brief safety orientation class. Additionally most of the major pieces of equipment have a safe use class that must be taken prior to a member operating the equipment. We also offer additional classes that members may take to learn more or just for fun. Some dive deeper into advanced ways of using a machine or performing special tasks.”
A large portion of the Manufactory’s clientele so far are engineers, but the venture also caters to artisans, tinkerers, teachers and anyone part of the emerging maker culture in Cincinnati. In fact, the Manufactory sponsored the Cincinnati Mini Maker Faire event at Washington Park this past October.
“Despite the terrible weather, our booth was packed all day,” Kreig says.
In the coming months, the Manufactory will be hosting a number of events, tours and classes open to members and non-members. To find out more, visit their site here.

By Mike Sarason

SCORE celebrates 50 years of helping small businesses

SCORE, the nonprofit business counseling organization, is celebrating its 50th anniversary this year. The Cincinnati chapter of the national organization was initiated in 1964, originally offering free business counseling through retired executive members, primarily focusing on businesses with 25 employees or less.
SCORE’s purpose today is still to provide free business counseling through its members, who include working and retired executives, with the Cincinnati chapter counting 100 volunteer executives and specialists who donate their time. Most chapters also offer business seminars at a nominal cost.
In Cincinnati, SCORE helped more than 1,500 clients in 2013, leading to more thab 350 new jobs in the area. The local chapter was also picked as the runner-up for Chapter of the Year out of 360 chapters nationally. SCORE held 47 free or low-cost workshops for 938 attendees locally, covering topics such as business plan development, startup basics, marketing and sales strategies, and more.
“Even though we are considered a small market city, we as a chapter consistently out-perform the major cities, such as LA, New York City, Chicago, etc.,” says Dennis Murphy, SCORE counselor for the last six years and chair of the SCORE fundraising committee. We have been a Top 5 Performing Chapter ever year that I’ve been with SCORE Cincinnati.”
One of Murphy’s clients, Mary Helen Boedekker, owner of Mary Helen Clothing, began working with SCORE a year ago.
“After my first meeting with my mentor, I knew this organization was special,” Boedekker says. “SCORE gives small business owners the opportunity to move beyond being a small business and get to the next level. Their ability to guide me in the right direction has helped more than I could have imagined. Any time I have a question or need help, I call Dennis and he helps me find a solution.”
“The time is right for the Greater Cincinnati area,” Murphy says. “Cincinnati is well-positioned to lead the Midwest as a hub for entrepreneurs and startups. The investors are here, the support is here; I don’t see any deterrents to huge area business growth on the horizon in 2014 and beyond.”
To learn more about SCORE Cincinnati, visit www.greatercincinnati.score.org.

By Mike Sarason

Visually impaired 'Pixel Painter' from Super Bowl ad exhibiting work at UC

Hal Lasko, the 98-year-old visually impaired grandfather featured in a recent Super Bowl commercial, has brought a broad collection of his creations—landscapes, still life, abstracts—to the University of Cincinnati in February for the first solo exhibit of his pixel paintings. DAAP Galleries at UC is presenting "Hal Lasko: The Pixel Painter" at the Philip M. Meyers, Jr. Memorial Gallery from Feb. 3-March 30, with an artist reception on March 13 from 5-7 p.m.
Lasko’s Pixel Painter name is derived from his use of Microsoft Paint as a medium to create art. While to some it may seem like an antiquated program, Lasko's deft use of the program elevates the technique to a fine art.
“Hal started working with MS Paint in the 90s, so at the time it didn't seem outdated,” says Ryan Lasko, grandson of Hal. “Now, 15 years later, MS Paint is just a tool to him, like an artist would use a paintbrush and canvas.”
Lasko started out as a graphic designer, working in the military during World War II drafting maps. After his military career, he worked on creative projects for several companies and eventually retired from American Greetings in the 1970s. As his sight began deteriorating, it became harder for him to paint. Things took a turn though when his family bought him a computer on his 85th birthday; the computer came loaded with MS Paint.
"When I got the computer and saw what the Paint program offered, I started a whole new career almost,” Lasko says.
Lasko’s story has captured many people’s attention. A short film about his life made by his son and grandson led to the family being contacted by Microsoft and Lasko being featured in Microsoft’s “Empowering” Super Bowl XLVIII commercial.
Additionally, the video caught the attention of Aaron Cowan, program director of DAAP Galleries.
“I connected to the video and his work on an artistic, human and very personal level and believed others would as well,” Cowan says. “It also seemed to me he deserved recognition for his work in a formal gallery setting, and I wanted to make that happen.”
Learn more about Lasko’s story and the DAAP exhibit.

By Mike Sarason

This Land's Growing Value Nursery to provide sustainable food supply to Cincinnatians

This Land, a local nonprofit that aims to bring educational opportunities to the Greater Cincinnati area in permaculture, green building and sustainable living, is pushing forward its Growing Value Nursery. The nursery, located in Northside, offers more than 120 varieties of perennial edible plants, with the aim of giving permaculturalists and gardeners tools to create “abundant and resilient landscapes.”
Braden Trauth, founder of This Land and the Growing Value Nursery, firmly believes in the need to create a sustainable local urban environment and cites the tenets of permaculture as his methodology for how to do so.
“Permaculture looks at ecology, understands how ecosystems have worked for 2 billion years and looks at how we can model our human systems off of that,” Trauth says. “It actually pulls a lot of its theoretical framework form industrial design, which is what I’m trained in.”
Trauth was initially turned on to sustainable design in the early 2000s by Dale Murray, the coordinator of the Industrial Design Program of the School of Design, in the college of Design, Architecture, Art and Planning at the University of Cincinnati.
In 2007, after studying topics such as housing, energy, green business and permaculture around the world, Trauth noticed that Cincinnati was severely lacking in resources for these areas, particularly so in educating the population about them. In 2008, he began teaching permaculture classes in Cincinnati, and in 2011 went on to form This Land to continue to educate and disseminate ideas on how to create systems for sustainable living.
“The Growing Value Nursery spawned out of our permaculture courses,” Trauth says. “We realized that we didn’t have a supply line of good plants to supply homeowners, home gardeners, landscapers with diverse edibles; most of what you’d get is mail order, and most of the plants are small. We wanted to do something bigger.”
In 2013, the Growing Value Nursery received a $1,200 grant from Fuel Cincinnati, which allowed them to accelerate growth so the program could be more self-sustaining through the nursery and classes.
“You talk with Braden for a half hour and you realize that we have world-class experts on permaculture right here in Cincinnati,” says Fuel chair Joe Stewart-Pirone. “Fuel knew we wanted to help launch this project as soon as we saw it.”
For more info on the nursery or to schedule an appointment to visit, e-mail info@this-land.org

by Mike Sarason

Venture for America looks to expand partnerships in Cincinnati

On Thursday, Feb. 27, the Brandery, the Over-the-Rhine-based startup accelerator, will play host to Venture for America’s 2014 Cincinnati Launch event. Modeled after Teach for America, Venture for America provides a path for entrepreneurship to college grads, placing them with emerging startups and early-stage companies in lower cost cities such as Cincinnati, Detroit, Providence, R.I. and New Orleans for two years.
Venture for America (VFA) has now recruited two classes (2012, 2013) of “fellows," with the Cincinnati fellows representing a variety of startups in the Cincinnati area including Roadtrippers, Lisnr, Bioformix, Cintrifuse, OneMorePallet and several others. With VFA’s Cincinnati Launch, they will be looking to add to this list, seeking additional partner companies with which to place their 2014 fellows.
Jason Tarre, startup partnerships manager for VFA, will be in town to preside over the event, where current VFA partners and fellows will also be in attendance.
“We have two VFA fellows working with us,” says James Fisher, co-founder and CEO of Roadtrippers. “Chelsea (Koglmeier) and Matt (Fulton) are two of the most focused and driven young graduates I have come across. I don’t say that lightly.”
“I started at the Brandery then at Roadtrippers, both under the VFA umbrella,” says Chelsea Koglmeier, operations manager at Roadtrippers. “When I got the job at Brandery, I thought this was the coolest job anyone could ask for after college. Now honestly, I feel even luckier to have the job at Roadtroppers, with a team that I believe in and a product that is amazing. I hit the ground running significantly faster because of my training with VFA.”
Before being placed at a company, VFA fellows go through a five-week training camp that covers everything from the basics of using Excel and creating websites to learning how startups and investment works, meeting with venture capitalists and more.
“One of the most important things VFA has given us is a framework,” Koglmeier says. “Now, as we go through the system, we have this network of highly motivated, connected individuals who each have different types of intelligences and are used to performing at extremely high levels. That network is huge and allows us progress and continue building new relationships.”
Venture for America’s 2014 Cincinnati Launch event will take place Thursday, Feb. 27 at noon at the Brandery.

By Mike Sarason

New all-inclusive popup gallery to open on Final Friday

Inspired by the idea that art should be all-inclusive, a group of Cincinnati artists and creatives have launched Cincinnati’s newest art gallery, The Red Door Project. The gallery will feature artwork from several Cincinnatians from different backgrounds and will be a popup style gallery only open on Final Fridays.
“Everyone sees art differently and everyone deserves to have their work appreciated,” says gallery founder Barbara Hauser. “I’ve never considered myself an artist, but when I had the chance to see my work on display at a similar type gallery and have it purchased, I realized that I wanted to create a space that celebrates the artist in all of us.”
Each month there will be an open call for submissions based on a different theme. All art submissions must adhere to the theme and be delivered by the Saturday preceding Final Friday to allow the committee to curate and price the show for silent auction. The Red Door Project will host its first show at 1232 Vine St. on Feb. 28 from 6-10 p.m. The show will feature mixed-media art around the theme of “cycles."
Hauser, currently the community relations manger for Procter & Gamble, has been a resident of Over-the-Rhine for 10 years. While living on Milton Street in Prospect Hill, she grew fascinated with the late 19th century/early 20th century brick homes in the neighborhood and made one piece showcasing the series of red doors going up the street. Several years later, this piece is now the namesake for the popup gallery.
While Hauser has entertained the idea for such a project for many years, The Red Door Project came together when she was able to find a committed group of arts patrons around the Over-the-Rhine area who could help bring her idea to life.
“There used to be a similar type gallery around 10 years ago; I’d wanted to see it come back,” Hauser says. “Now, with support from friends who work with companies like Agar, Fotofocus and the Frameshop, I felt like the timing was right for me and also for the community.”
To learn more about the gallery and upcoming themes, visit The Red Door Project Facebook page.

By Mike Sarason


Gateway and Citi Partnership wins national Bellwether Award for Workforce Development

A 10-year partnership between Gateway Community and Technical College and the Florence, Ky., site of financial services company Citi has received the prestigious national Bellwether Award for Workforce Development from the Community College Futures Assembly and the University of Florida.
The Gateway-Citi partnership was one of 10 national finalists for the award, which recognizes public and/or private strategic alliances and partnerships that promote community and economic development.
"Our president, Dr. Ed Hughes, met with the site president, Mr. Gregg Morton, and they created the idea of a partnership,” says Dr. Angie Taylor, Gateway vice president of Workforce Solutions and Innovations. “Mr. Morton believed that education was a business strategy and wanted to explore partnership opportunities with Gateway.”
The Gateway-Citi partnership emphasizes career development and provides resources to enable Citi employees to begin or complete college credentials. Nearly 2,900 Citi employees have been served by the partnership, and Citi has replicated parts of it at three other sites across the country. In addition, Gateway has replicated various components in numerous companies in the Greater Cincinnati/Northern Kentucky region.
“We created an Operations Management Certificate for Citi, which is comprised of 12 credit hours,” Taylor says. “The four courses are embedded in the Business Administration Associate Degree. These courses, which lead to the Operation Management Certificate, have not only been taken by many Citi employees, but five other local companies are providing it for their employees.”
For 2014, Taylor says they will be offering customized client excellence training and will move into leadership and sales training, and that they will continue to strive for replication of services to other companies interested in making education a business strategy.
“One of the finest outcomes of this entire partnership has been the collaboration and willingness to take risks. We had never offered college courses off campus before or had an academic advisor on site at a company. We didn’t know if employees would have an interest in career mapping or shadowing. What we learned is that education is a very positive motivator for helping people stay engaged in their work while increasing their skills and abilities through credentials such as certificates and degrees. It has been a win for the employees, Citi and Gateway.
By Mike Sarason

First Batch Incubator to provide jump-start for makers, entrepreneurs

Local makers and inventors looking for funding and assistance in scaling and launching a business have a new resource in Cincinnati. First Batch is accepting applications from entrepreneurs seeking production funds, mentorship and business development training. Applications are open from February 17 through March 17.
First Batch is a four-month accelerator program that connects inventive entrepreneurs with the resources, training and funding needed to take a prototype to the first batch of manufactured product sales. From June 2 through the end of September, participants will refine existing prototypes, make local connections to supply and distribution chains and receive one-on-one guidance. First Batch will also cover up to $8,000, per participant, of expenses incurred in manufacturing the first round of product.
The First Batch program was born from Cincinnati Made—a group of makers and manufacturers that proudly celebrate Cincinnati’s roots as a manufacturing hub.
“Cincinnati Made is a nonprofit effort to promote, connect and scale the small batch manufacturing community in Cincinnati,” says Matt Anthony, founder of Cincinnati Made and co-founder of First Batch. “We started the process more than a year ago at a community level to understand the needs other small makers had and how we could better band together to help solve problems and build a local-made identity.”
“There has been a lot of national focus in pursuing how to become the next Silicon Valley,” Anthony says. “And while tech funding and digital entrepreneurship is important to growing talent in any city, Cincinnati specifically has a perfect storm of elements that make us great for physical product start-ups.”
The Carol Ann and Ralph V. Haile Jr./U.S. Bank Foundation, who funded a pilot of the program last year and continues to support this initiative, also sees this as an opportunity to reshape the city’s future.
"The Haile Foundation supports the creation of a viable, local makers community because it delivers on the goals of creative placemaking, diversified economy and local entrepreneurship,” says Vice President and Senior Program Manager of Community Development Eric Avner. “First Batch program is a unique accelerator that has the potential to boost Cincinnati's economic activity, leverage and retain local talent and grow creative enterprise efforts by giving makers an opportunity to scale their businesses."
First Batch also partners with Design Impact, a Cincinnati-based creative community development firm, to help with program production, management and outcome measurement.
First Batch organizers will host an open house on Thursday, February 20 at Losantiville Design Collective from 6-8 p.m. for those interested in learning more about the program. Losantiville is located at 111 W. McMicken in Over-the-Rhine. Visit www.firstbatch.org for additional information.

By Mike Sarason

UC sled design brings home bronze medal at Sochi Winter Olympics

This past weekend, U.S. Olympian Matt Antoine took the bronze medal in the skeleton competition at the 2014 Winter Olympics. The skeleton sled he used while competing, the ProtoStar V5, was designed by a team led by Grant Schaffner, an assistant professor in the University of Cincinnati’s Department of Aerospace Engineering and Engineering Mechanics.
The sled design team, also headed up by Tuffy Latour, the head skeleton coach for the U.S. Bobsled and Skeleton Federation (USBSF), are celebrating the bronze in addition to the gold and bronze medals awarded to drivers of the ProtoStar V5 skeleton sled last fall in World Cup competition.
The development of the skeleton sled is a partnership between Cincinnati-based ProtoStar Engineering (the lead company for the technology team), UC’s College of Engineering and Applied Sciences (CEAS), Fairfield-based Machintek Corporation, deBotech Inc. of North Carolina and Carpenter Technology Corporation of Pennsylvania. Testing got underway last September at the A2 Wind Tunnel, a premiere aerodynamics testing facility in Mooresville, N.C.
The skeleton competition is similar to a luge, only the athlete lies with their head at the front of the sled instead of the rear. The skeleton sled has a speed range between 70-to-90 miles per hour, with each track taking a minute or less to complete.
One of the founding principles of the Protostar’s design is to bolt it together, rather than weld it together, making it easier to change out parts. “This has allowed for a continuing improvement process, whereby we can adjust the structural characteristics of the sled from one race to the next, or try things out during test sessions, to find out what works best,” Schaffner says.
Antoine’s bronze medal marks the first medal for an American man in the skeleton competition since Jimmy Shea’s gold in 2002. 

By Mike Sarason

Cincinnati Chamber launches $1.7M minority business funding campaign

The Cincinnati USA Regional Chamber’s Minority Business Accelerator (MBA) announced the launch of the first phase of funding for the L. Ross Love GrowthBridge Fund. The MBA is the Chamber’s economic-development initiative focused on growing sizeable minority firms.
The fund will provide flexible debt capital to finance growth projects of established, highly competitive African-American and Hispanic-owned firms in the region. The average loan size will be $175,000. It is anticipated that three to four loans will be made per year. Once they are, they will be the first of their kind in the country.
“The combination of the target market, the geographic focus and the financial product makes the L. Ross Love GrowthBridge Fund unique,” says Crystal German, vice president of the MBA and economic inclusion at the Cincinnati USA Regional Chamber. “The fund will help us grow our impact, the number of firms we touch, and continue to help us fundamentally change the conversation about economic inclusion.”
The fund was named in memory of media owner L. Ross Love. The entrepreneur, philanthropist, former Procter & Gamble executive and founder of Blue Chip Broadcasting was dedicated to minority entrepreneurship. During his career, Love created Blue Chip Enterprises, a company that helped African Americans start their own businesses.
The fund has raised more than $1.7 million from 28 investors since being announced in June 2013, representing both corporations and private commitments.
“The opportunity to make the L. Ross Love GrowthBridge Fund come to fruition was seeded by the Greater Cincinnati Foundation, who was looking for opportunities where they could provide financial investments that also created positive social impact,” German says.
Since its inception in 2003, the MBA has created 1,800 jobs in Cincinnati. The success of the Chamber’s Minority Business Accelerator has served as a catalyst across the country including in Charlotte, Cleveland, Lexington, Dayton and Greenville, where MBAs have since been launched. Learn more about the history of Cincinnati's MBA and how it has become a model for other MBAs throughout the country.

By Mike Sarason

Pass the Thin Mints: Girl Scouts learn valuable entrepreneurial skills

If you need another excuse to crack open a box of Do-Si-Dos, the Girl Scouts has named February 7−8 National Girl Scout Cookie Weekend.

And while you're scarfing down these delectible desserts, local Girl Scouts are not only earning money for their troops, but also learning valuable entrepreneurial skills. According to a survey from the Girl Scout Research Institute, 85 percent of Girl Scout “cookie entrepreneurs” learn money management by developing budgets, taking cookie orders and handling customers’ money. Eighty-three percent build business ethics; 80 percent learn goal setting; 77 percent improve decision-making; and 75 percent develop people skills.

Farah Desai, a Girl Scout Cadette and sixth grader from Cincinnati, agrees that the cookie program teaches essential life skills. “Selling cookies is not only fun, but helpful," she says. I have learned so many things, such as managing money, setting goals and communicating with people, all from the Girl Scout Cookie Program. It's one of my favorite times of the year!”

This year, the Girl Scouts of Western Ohio developed a guide to buying Girl Scout cookies, encouraging buyers to engage the girls as they would adult salespeople so that they can build important business skills through the selling experience. The list includes:
• Say "hi."
• Look me in the eye.
• Please don't call us cute.
• Ask about our inventory.
• Let's talk money.
• Notice our new package design.
• Let us know how we did.

Local girl scouts were also given a jumpstart on the Girl Scout Cookie Program during three rallies held in January. Designed to be high-energy and fun, the cookie rallies provided an opportunity for girls to learn early business skills and proven strategies to boost sales.

Girl Scouts took door-to-door orders throughout January and early February; cookies will arrive and deliveries will begin February 28.

If you missed your chance to order, or just want another opportunity to satisfy your sweet tooth while supporting young entrepreneurs, look for Girl Scouts cookie booths in your community throughout March.

“The Girl Scout Cookie Program is the premier entrepreneurship opportunity for girls, but it is just one part of the Girl Scout Leadership Experience,” says Roni Luckenbill, Girl Scouts of Western Ohio CEO. “Girl Scouts participate in many activities throughout the year and work on many projects. Cookies are just one of those activities. It’s not too late for girls to join Girl Scouting—we want all girls who wish to be a Girl Scout to be able to join. We also welcome adults who wish to make a difference in girls’ lives to volunteer with Girl Scouts.”

By Sarah Whitman
Sarah Whitman is Soapbox Cincinnati's Managing Editor

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