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iMAGiNExpo seeks to open doors for entrepreneurs, creatives, inventors

On Saturday, May 17, the Covington branch of the Kenton County Library will host iMAGiNExpo, a free event that spotlights and supports creativity and innovation. iMAGiNExpo is a new collaboration between the NKU Steely Library’s Intellectual Property Awareness Center (IPAC), Public Library of Cincinnati & Hamilton County, and Kenton County Public Library.
The event, which runs from 1-4 p.m., is intended to give an overview on what it takes to work in a creative field, covering topics like intellectual property rights and basics of business.
“We want to bring together some of the most creative and curious minds, young and old, to mingle with entrepreneurs and inventors,” says John Schlipp, associate professor at NKU and librarian at the IPAC. “It is part of our charge as a designated patent resource center to work with the community.”
The iMAGiNExpo will also feature a creativity and innovation panel with representatives from the Inventor’s Council of Cincinnati, the Better Business Bureau, NKU’s Virtual Business Center and more.
“We want people to be aware of the vast amount of resources we have to offer, most of which are free,” Schlipp says. “This event will show people some of that, but it will also show off how we are growing innovation in the region here.”
In addition to the panel, there will be a student creativity exhibit showcasing regional high school students’ digital media presentations. Submissions are based on the students' project-based research, and awards will be given out for the best projects.
The program’s partners aim to make iMAGiNExpo an annual event, rotating between Cincinnati and Northern Kentucky each year.
“Small business is important. We’re seeing a lot of growth in Cincinnati and areas of Covington, like the eZone,” Schlipp says. “But we think there is still a huge opportunity to spur the growth of people creating new things here and filing for more patents. We want to educate our community on how they can be part of that.”

By Mike Sarason

Converted West End space becomes new model for fitness: Foundation Fitness

Speak with Patrick Hitches for one minute and you’ll understand that you are talking to a man with vision. Hitches, a Cincinnati native currently splitting time between Cincinnati and Washington, D.C., is a consummate entrepreneur and owner of the newly opened Foundation Fitness located in a converted West End warehouse space.
In addition to being an entrepreneur, Hitches has long been a fitness enthusiast (to put it lightly).
“Fitness has been in my veins since about 6th grade,” says Hitches. “It’s one thing that’s always stuck with me, it’s been my safe haven.”
After earning a degree in nutrition science, Hitches became a personal trainer for many years, working in several locations such as Raleigh, N.C., and Washington, D.C. As time went on, though, he began to hear more and more good things about his hometown.
“I’ve got a great setup in D.C., but hearing about the shift going on in Cincinnati really inspired me to go back to my roots and be a part of what’s happening here,” Hitches says.
About a year ago, he began exploring the option of finding a space for a gym in Cincinnati.
“Within 10 minutes of looking online, I found a warehouse space that caught my attention,” Hitches says. “That week, I flew out to take a look at it, and six months later Foundation Fitness had its soft opening.”
Foundation Fitness is not your average gym, nor is it trying to be. Hitches feels strongly that most chain gyms are set up on a sales model that benefits more from members not coming to the gym and has only a bottom line in mind, rather than members' actual health goals.
“What gyms really should be is a place where you’re able to execute your fitness training, have access to knowledge that can get you to the point you want to be at, find that perfect blend where body, spirit and mind all collide and create the best possible version of you,” Hitches says.
To that end, Hitches has set up his gym on an invitation/recommendation basis only, preferring to bootstrap his business, grow slowly and bring in only people who are serious about their fitness goals.
“My opinion is that the industry shift should be towards small pockets of little communities, training together,” Hitches says. “That’s what we’re building at Foundation Fitness. 

By Mike Sarason

Such and Such celebrates three years of design and fabrication, grows with new facility

Such and Such founders Zach Darmanian-Harris and Alex Aeschbury have quite a bit to be proud of. This month, their Over-the-Rhine-based design and fabrication studio celebrates three years in business, six months in its new 10,000-square-foot shop and a partnership with local PR/design firm PB+J that has helped grow the business considerably. Still, the founders have their sites set even higher for the rest of 2014 and into the future.
Darmanian-Harries and Aeschbury, both graduates of the University of Cincinnati’s Industrial Design program at DAAP, decided to join forces while both working on their senior thesis using rapid prototyping technology to create custom products.
“After we graduated, it took us about a year to figure out how to get the funding we needed to get started,” says Darmanian-Harris. “Meeting Chris Heckman (of Losantiville Design Collective) really helped us get going.”
After meeting Heckman, Such and Such moved into Losantiville’s Main Street shop for two and a half years. But as Such and Such’s production needs increased, they began to look for alternatives.
“Once we needed to grow, it just wasn’t right for us anymore at Losantiville,” Aeshbury says. “We didn’t want to monopolize their space, but we needed more equipment and employees.”
So near the end of 2013, Such and Such moved its fabrication shop to a warehouse space located on the border of OTR and the West End owned by Carl Solway, whose Carl Solway Art Gallery is right next door.
“Carl initially came to us with a project for New York artist Peter Halley,” Darmanian-Harris says. “That ended up leading to us getting this huge workspace, which has been great.”
Such and Such has spent the last few months getting the new space running, hiring two new employees and further deepening its relationship with PB+J. While Aeschbury spends most of his time at the shop, Darmanian-Harris works primarily out of PB+J’s Main Street office, interfacing with clients and overseeing the business side.
“We just work really well together,” Aeschbury says of the relationship with PB+J. “Together, we have the ability to holistically design PR campaigns and/or brand identities, bring them into a physical space and give customers something super competitively priced.”
After working on projects for the Contemporary Arts Center, Procter & Gamble, Miami University and more, in 2014 Such and Such will launch its own line of furniture in addition to its client work. 

By Mike Sarason

Crossroads community providing fertile ground for entrepreneurs with Unpolished, Ocean Accelerator

Crossroads Church, already known as one of the biggest and most influential churches in the Cincinnati area, has begun to make more of an impact on the entrepreneurial ecosystem in 2014. 
Previously, Soapbox reported about the Unpolished initiative, which began in June 2013 as a grassroots group of Crossroads members gathering together to “encourage, educate and engage aspiring entrepreneurs.”
Since then the group has hosted a handful of events, which have attracted anywhere from several hundred to several thousand people, held office hours to provide members with free legal, marketing and tech advice, and begun offering “coworking” days at Crossroads for entrepreneurs to work side by side and learn from one another.
Now, some of the same people spearheading Unpolished are starting a new, high-tech accelerator called Ocean. Tim Metzner of Differential, Chad Reynolds of Baterii and Tim Brunk of Cladwell have come together as the leadership team of the project.
“From a high level, what we’re trying to do is more than just throw companies toward exit,” Brunk says. “We want to build a company that comes along with great founders, trains them how to build great businesses.”
Brunk, Metzner and Reynolds, all founders of their respective companies, have promised that Ocean will be unique among other accelerators in the region.
“We have this bond because of our faith and because we’ve been participating in Unpolished together,” Brunk says. “The group allows us to have conversations that we couldn’t have in other groups.”
The launch date for Ocean is tentatively set for January 2015, with applications for the first class opening late summer/early fall of this year. In addition to the faith-based component, Ocean’s accelerator format will be different in that it is a six-month program, with Demo Day—the day that the accelerator’s companies present to investors—arriving in the middle of the program, as opposed to at the end.
“Our philosophy is that a rising tide lifts all boats,” Brunk says. “I hope that in the longterm, this accelerator can contribute to that rising tide by pumping more successful companies into the Cincinnati ecyosystem.”
By Mike Sarason

Impulcity builds Cincinnati buzz

Impulcity, the online service that connects users with events and venues in their city, has quickly and not-so-quietly built a buzz in Cincinnati.
After graduating in late 2012 from the Brandery, Impulcity was originally launched in February 2013 as a nationwide app that was more of an event aggregator. Alhough it racked up 150,000 users nationwide and was even featured on the Today Show, CEO and founder Hunter Hammonds eventually decided to scrap the model and start from scratch.
“When we launched, we just thought about building something cool, we didn’t think about process-driven things,” Hammonds says. “It was too much. Now we’re really trying to keep things as simple as possible.”
The current model of the platform has both an app and a website, but has scaled back to only include Cincinnati, with Louisville and Washington D.C. soon to follow. 
“The main idea is that it shouldn’t be time consuming to find something to do that interests you,” Hammonds says. “We’ve spent time looking up and cataloguing the hidden treasures here so you don’t have to.”
In addition, Impulcity has recently been publishing more and more content of its own, which has been making the round on social media sites like Facebook and Twitter. Recent articles like “The 13 Best Brunches in Cincinnati,” “19 Things You Have to Explain to Out-of-Towners About Cincinnati” and “The 10 Best Cocktails in OTR” have gone viral in the Cincinnati area.
“We’ve spent a lot of time figuring out how to talk to our audience,” Hammonds syas. “We want to continue building that trust; that’s how we’ll continue to grow.”
So far, Impulcity’s decision to pivot seems to be paying off; less than a month into the relaunch of the site, traffic on Impulcity’s site is well above projections, Hammonds says.
To sign up for the app for free, visit www.impulcity.com.

By Mike Sarason

Xavier partners with Colombian firm to offer Spanish project-management certificate

Xavier Leadership Center (XLC) will expand its project-management reach globally, partnering with Casmena, an executive education firm headquartered in Bogota, Colombia. Casmena itself is an international organization that provides executive education to corporations in a variety of industries, including automotive, IT, banking, education and production.
For the first time, Xavier Leadership Center will certify an industry-driven and internationally recognized project-management certificate series in Spanish outside the United States. Casmena, in partnership with XLC, will initially offer two project-management programs, Introduction to Project Management and Project Controlling and Earned Value, beginning in April 2014.
“From Xavier’s perspective, the partnership demonstrates XLC’s ability to support our clients globally and consistently, by overseeing the quality of the training by building a global network,” says Bruce Miller, director of the XLC. “For Casmena, the partnership instantly raises the visibility and credibility of their training programs in Colombia by having a recognized U.S.-based university partner.”
Casmena had been looking for a distinguished U.S. university to endorse and certify its programs.
“Xavier was selected due to our responsiveness, the flexibility in our proposed partnership model, and the Williams College of Business’ ranking/reputation in international business (currently No. 19 for 2014-2015 by U.S. News and World Report),” Miller says.
With this partnership underway, Xavier hopes to expand its reach both regionally and internationally.
“Our relationship with Casmena allows XLC to ensure the delivery of high-quality and high-impact project-management programs endorsed by Xavier internationally,” Miller says. “We anticipate replicating this model in support of our global clients with a growing portfolio of offerings.”
By Mike Sarason


Former Kroger developers form Atomic Robot, offer app development for small business

Not unlike the planning of a perfect heist, Atomic Robot was formed when Jeremy Black, Alex Robinson and Patrick Hammond came together with a master plan to take over the world, er … form an app development company.
Atomic Robot is a mobile development company located in Cincinnati focused primarily on developing premium mobile apps for technology startups and small businesses. The founders are all veterans Cincinnati's development community who met while working on the Kroger Company’s mobile team.
“Prior to starting Atomic Robot, I was a founding member of Kroger’s mobile team responsible for mobile application development, architecture and strategy,” Robinson says. “We helped them launch their app close to four years ago, which reached a million consumers within a year without any advertising.”
After seeing success as part of that team, Robinson and his co-founders began seeing more opportunities for consulting work on the side. Soon enough, they decided to make the jump, and in 2011, Atomic Robot was formed. However, the initial focus was more on creating apps for the general marketplace.
“We developed a few apps, but didn’t know how to market them properly,” Robinson says. “Last spring, we decided it was time to move on instead and find other companies opportunities to get into mobile.”
Since then, Atomic Robot has worked for a variety of clients, covering a range of focuses. Sporty’s Learn to Fly, the most popular pilot training course in the app store, is an Atomic Robot creation, as is Postseason Game Ball, an app developed for the 2012 Major League Baseball playoffs. 
“I’ve been a software designer for a very long time, but my work was always very technical and hard to explain,” Black says. “The Kroger app was the first time my wife started using something I made. Now with the expansion of smartphones, so many doors have opened up for everyone, and I can work on something that is more helpful for more people.”
In 2014, Atomic Robot is growing and looking forward to moving into its first office space. To find out more about the company, visit http://www.madebyatomicrobot.com.

By Mike Sarason

Angelhack will provide free local opportunity for developers to build skills

Angelhack, a global series of hackathon events, is coming to the Cincinnati area for the first time next month. The hackathon will take place the weekend of May 3-4 in Covington at local accelerator Uptech.
At the hackathon, developers will come together to create projects from scratch, usually working through the night. At the end of the weekend, projects are presented to a set of judges (Angelhack boasts an impressive list of judges including Dave Knox of Rockfish, Mike Bott of the Brandery and Chris Bergman of Choremonster) and the most unique and interesting project wins, similar to the recent Startup Weekend held at Uptech.  
“Where Angelhack differs from Startup Weekend is that this is really about making a working product,” says Alex Bowman, director of marketing at Choremonster and organizer of the local Angelhack event. “Startup Weekend is more focused on creating viable business ideas. This is more developer-focused.”
Before joining Choremonster, Bowman attended two Angelhack events while working for Amazon and recognized not only the value, but also the fun involved in attending the event.
“I emailed the CEO and convinced her that we needed to bring this event to Cincinnati,” Bowman says. “With the community we’ve created here in the past few years, I knew it was the right time. I want to show that this city can hold a really strong and coordinated event and give our developers here a chance to build new skills and work with new tools.”
To that end, Bowman worked with Angelhack to make the event free for all participants. The winning team will be granted acceptance into the HACKcelerator program, a global pre-accelerator program designed to help top hackathon teams turn their hacks into market-ready products.
“I want our local developer community to check this event out and leave feeling like they’ve improved their craft,” Bowman says.
To register for the free event, visit http://www.angelhack.com/event/angelhack-cincinnati-spring-2014/.

By Mike Sarason

Local Startup Liquid simplifies data collection and analysis

Jacob Shidler was actually trying not to be an entrepreneur. Both his father and grandfather started businesses; Jacob rebelled by studying science, eventually receiving his masters in environmental science at the University of Cincinnati with a focus on rainwater.
Fast forward a few years and he has now started his own company, Liquid, which streamlines the process of data collection and analysis for the 21st century, allowing custom forms to collect data from anywhere in the world and then sync with an online database that can be shared and worked on collaboratively in real time. For Shidler, as with many entrepreneurs, it all started with a problem.
“I was working on a project in the Comoros Islands, which is an island chain between Mozambique and Madagascar,” he says. “There’s no water infrastructure there—they are nearly 100% dependent on rainwater. I was interested to see how the materials of their gutter system would affect the overall quality of the water.”
Shidler was working on the project sans grant money and thus had very limited funds. He had 10 days to collect a large number of sample data, catalogue it and include pictures.
“Many of the sciences are still stuck in a paper system, which I found too time-consuming, wasteful and filled with error,” Shidler says. “I couldn’t afford to use those methods, so I came up with my own.”
Shidler’s method was to mix and match different technologies like digital photography, iPad apps and services such as Dropbox to bring his data into the digital realm.
“We hacked together a system for the whole collection portion of my project, and it worked great,” Shidler says. “My advisors ended up being more excited about my collection methods than my actual research.”
Upon hearing this feedback, Shidler realized he had a serious opportunity on his hands and began working on creating a tool that could do everything he’d patched together for his research, only more easily and efficiently.
In January 2014, Liquid released a free alpha version of the product to a small test group.
“We’re now up to about 180 users, including researchers at UC, NKU and in Ghana, and the feedback we’re getting is great,” Shidler says. “People are finding the tool organically because the need is real. We’re still refining it, but we’re excited about what’s to come.” 

By Mike Sarason

Creatives can compete for cash and services in Big Pitch contest

For creative business owners looking to grow their business in Cincinnati, there is no time like the present. Announced this month, Artworks Big Pitch, presented by U.S. Bank, offers artists, makers, designers and creative entrepreneurs a chance to claim up to $20,000 in cash prizes, as well as pro-bono professional services.
Applications for the Big Pitch are open now and will be accepted through May 16. Applicants will then be narrowed down to eight finalists, each of whom will have five minutes to deliver their pitch to a live audience and panel of experts at the ArtWorks Big Pitch event on Aug. 27, 2014 at the American Sign Museum in downtown Cincinnati.
The business with the best pitch will be awarded a grand prize of $15,000 cash. The finalists also will have the opportunity to be awarded an additional $5,000 by popular vote. Two runners-up will be awarded professional services such as legal, accounting and branding support.
The Big Pitch is yet another transformative project presented by Artworks' Creative Enterprise division, which also manages CO.STARTERS (formerly Springboard).
“A stronger creative community builds a better Cincinnati,” says Caitlin Behle, Creative Enterprise manager for Artworks. “This funding is a huge stepping stone to supporting the greater Cincinnati community. So far the biggest hurdle for us is that it sounds too good to be true.”
To provide opportunities for interested applicants to ask questions in person, ArtWorks is hosting two events—the Creative Enterprise Open House on April 24, and ArtWorks Big Pitch Q&A Info Session on May 7.
“We’ve been seeing more and more opportunities for web/tech/app-based companies in Cincinnati, but we felt like the handmade creative community was getting overlooked,” says Katie Garber, director of Creative Enterprise for Artworks.
As a sponsor and collaborator on the event, U.S. Bank will provide each of the eight finalists with a mentor who will coach them for the 10 weeks leading up to the event. For more information on the event, visit http://www.artworkscincinnati.org/creative-enterprise/artworksbigpitch/
 By Mike Sarason

Quest for the Queen offers adventure and community building for Cincinnatians

On Saturday, April 26, Cincinnati will play host to an “adventure race” throughout the city called Quest for the Queen. The event, the brainchild of proud Cincinnatians Matt Feldhaus and John Klingler, promises to lead participants through several of the city’s 52 neighborhoods while engaging them with Cincinnati’s past, present and future.
Quest for the Queen will run throughout the day. Participants will divide into teams of two and will be given a list of riddles, each one directing teams towards checkpoints around the city. The checkpoints will provide opportunities for participants to engage with the community, discover new neighborhoods and businesses, and learn about the history and character of the city.
Participants will be asked to take a photo at each checkpoint, and the first team to get through all the locations will be declared the winner.
“We both love Cincinnati for different reasons, and we wanted to provide a way to show people some of those things and give them a chance to make new discoveries of their own,” Feldhaus says.
An interesting twist to the race is that participants won’t be allowed to use cars or GPS devices (like cell phones) to help them get from place to place.
“The reason for the rules is that we don’t want people to rely on technology—we want them to get familiar with the neighborhoods and the different things going on in them,” Klingler says. “We’ve got a lot of local businesses on board as well; in the end we just want to engage Cincinnatians with their local communities.”
Feldhaus and Klingler are recommending that participants make their way through the quest by bike and public transportation. To that end, the two have secured a partnership with Metro to guarantee all participants a free day pass to ride the buses throughout the course of the race.
“We got Metro involved because we wanted to show that Cincinnati does have viable and efficient public transit options,” Klingler says. “This provides an easy and fun way for people to try out our city’s bus system.”
Registration for the race is open now. To learn more about Quest for the Queen or to sign up, visit http://questforthequeen.webs.com.

By Mike Sarason

Cladwell makes fashion easy, fast and affordable for men

The Office’s Dwight Schrute may not seem like the best fictitious personality to base a business on, but for Cladwell co-founder Blake Smith, the inspiration was there. Cladwell is an online fashion resource for men that provides customized wardrobe recommendations for everything from casual to business attire, scouring through thousands of name brands and returning the three best options instantly based on user input data.
“For me, the epiphany came when my co-founder, Tim Brunk, and I were working for an entertainment startup and we had a meeting with an LA billionaire,” Smith says. “He had two assistants with him, one dressed in a super sharp, slim-cut suit and the other dressed like Dwight Schrute.”
After the meeting concluded, the sharply dressed man was shaking everyone’s hands while the Dwight lookalike was literally left packing up the cords from the PowerPoint presentation.
“That’s when I started thinking, ‘Which one of those guys am I?’” Smith says. “There’s a conversation going on around us based on what our clothes say even before we speak; I wasn’t sure if my clothes were consistent with who I am.”
Like many men, however, Smith isn’t a big fan of mall shopping, so he called his friend Chris Merchich (now the third co-founder of Cladwell), who was working the floor at Macy’s, to ask for recommendations. Merchich, knowing Smith’s general size and style, sent him a personal email listing a handful of items to buy online. Then Smith had another “aha” moment.
“I wondered, ‘What if everyone had a service like Chris in their lives, something that could take the hassle out of shopping?’” Smith says.
Based on that idea, Smith, Brunk and Merchich quit their jobs in mid-2012, spent nine months capturing fashion rules from sources like GQ, Askmen, Dress for Success and Color Me Beautiful, and converted them to thousands of style algorithms for the tool that would become Cladwell.
“Everyone else in fashion is pushing for perpetual shopping,” Smith says. “With Cladwell, we’re saying instead that there’s a finish line for men that’s probably less than 50 articles of clothing based on individual preferences. With Cladwell, we want to help guys shop faster, cheaper and more efficiently.”

By Mike Sarason

New CampFinder tool helps parents find camps for kids

JB Woodruff and Brennan Sweeney, ex-technology consultants turned entrepreneurs, have launched CampFinder, a new online resource for information on local camps and programs.
CampFinder features a comprehensive list of camp programs and user reviews with focused program searches and social media capabilities. The site lets parents “shop online” for the best program for their child’s specific personality, needs and interests while eliminating the need to visit multiple camp fairs or scour the internet for information.
Woodruff and Sweeney decided to launch the business after working together as mentors at Northern Kentucky Unversity’s INKUBATOR program. Sweeney proposed the idea that became CampFinder as a result of his own struggles finding a place online that not only offered a comprehensive listing, but also one that shared reviews and shed light on the experience his son might have.
“Our region is home to so many great camps, we want to help those camps get noticed, and at the same time we want to make it easier for parents find the perfect camps for their kids,” Sweeney says.
“My passions are helping people, solving problems, challenging myself and learning,” Woodruff says. “There was a natural fit working with the INKUBATOR, and that’s what drew me in to working with CampFinder.”
Previously, both Woodruff and Sweeney had worked as consultants. Both came to discover their love and knack for entrepreneurialism in different ways.
“Brennan began by creating a company where he did property management software,” Woodruff says. “In 2012, I quit my job here and went to Africa and got involved with an accelerator over there called 88MPH. I can honestly say I’m a lot happier now than I ever was in my previous career.”
Currently, there are around 450 camp programs listed on CampFinder.Co, with more camps being added each week. Camps run the gamut from arts, sports, outdoors, science and more, and camp locations span the Tri-State.
“We’re currently exploring different models to find out how we can bring the most value to the camps as well as the parents,” Woodruff says.
To explore programs through CampFinder, visit www.Campfinder.co

Open Data Startup Weekend pulls in new ideas, new entrepreneurs

Innovation, talent and resourcefulness were all on display this weekend in Covington as local accelerator Uptech played host to the Open Data Startup Weekend. This year, Cincinnati Startup Weekend partnered with Code for America, the nonprofit aimed at connecting citizens with better design and tech services, and Open Data Cincy, a regional initiative to use public data to encourage transparency, innovation and civic engagement.
The goal of the event was to foster social entrepreneurship by accessing public data to launch new ventures, analyze patterns and trends, make data-driven decisions, and solve complex problems in our community.
A diverse crowd of participants turned up for Startup Weekend, which asks participants to split into groups and create viable startup ideas over 48 hours. Among their ranks were high school and college students, lawyers, engineers, techies, and designers representing several age groups and varying experience levels, from complete newbies to previous Startup Weekend attendees.
“I enjoy the fact that people come from diverse backgrounds and working together really intensely,” says Racquel Redwood, who was participating in her second Startup Weekend on an idea called Potholer.
“While I work for a large company here, its great that there are opportunities here to explore the entrepreneurial space as well,” says Benjamin Danzinger, R&D engineer at Johnson & Johnson.
After spending the weekend refining their ideas, getting advice from the event organizers (who themselves also represent local startups like Choremonster, Lisnr, BlackbookHR and more), running focus groups and scouring data, each group presented Sunday evening to a duo of judges—Eric Avner of the The Carol Ann and Ralph V. Haile, Jr./U.S. Bank Foundation and Elizabeth Naramore of GitHub, which provides powerful collaboration, code review, and code management for open source and private projects.
First place went to UMO, which addresses “the achievement gap” and is a platform for prospecting students to learn about the true cost of a college education at various universities based on scholarships available, average ROI of the degree they’re interested in and actual published attendance costs. For winning, they received six months of desk space at Cintrifuse, a meeting with a local venture capitalist, and a GitHub gold account—all things to help continue their startup. 
Second place was kNOwait, an app that publishes drive times along with wait times at local urgent cares, DMVs, etc. to help users determine the actual fastest option near them. They received desk space at Cintrifuse, legal advice from Taft, and a GitHub bronze account. The next Startup Weekend will take place in November; visit www.cincinnati.startupweekend.org to stay updated.
By Mike Sarason

Cincy Sundaes combines micro-grant funding and delicious sundae making

While they may not be the first, Erika Fiola and Kristine Frech may be the most recent duo to put the “fun” back in funding. The two enterprising young women have begun a new program in the Cincinnati/Northern Kentucky area called Cincy Sundaes, which combines an ice cream social event with a forum to present, listen to and award micro-grants for innovative ideas from the local community.
The premise and structure is purposely simple. Cincy Sundaes is a series of ice cream socials that take place from 3-5 p.m. on Sunday afternoons, with the first taking place Sunday, April 13 at Rhinegeist Brewery in Over-the-Rhine. The events are open to the public, cost $5 to attend and feature four presenters with innovative ideas intended to improve the Greater Cincinnati area. Each attendee receives one sundae, featuring Dojo Gelato, and one vote. After the presentations, attendees vote for their favorite idea and 100% of the money collected at the door goes directly to the idea that receives the most votes.
“I’ve spent most of my life living in Cincinnati and much of my adult career working in Northern Kentucky,” Frech says. “They are both incredible places to be, but in both areas we noticed that there were people who wanted to be civically engaged but don’t know how. We wanted to create something fun, easy and accessible that can have a real impact.”
The idea for Cincy Sundaes came after taking a trip to Detroit in the fall of 2013 curated by Eric Avner of The Carol Ann and Ralph V. Haile, Jr./U.S. Bank Foundation. Fiola and French, who both were part of the trip, were inspired by much of what they saw and in particular latched on to a similar program called Detroit Soup.
“We want Cincy Sundaes to be a place where people and organizations can come to get involved and democratically engage with ideas,” Fiola says. “It can be difficult to get funding sometimes, especially if you’re not registered as a 501c3, but we want this to be something simple.”
Fiola and Frech have partnered with several organizations along the way. HYPE, the Cincinnati USA Regional Chamber's young professional organization, has signed on to be the “toppings” sponsor. Legacy, Northern Kentucky’s young professional organization, is the “spoon” sponsor. And as of this past week, Cincy Sundaes will receive a one-to-one match from the Big Idea Challenge of the Greater Cincinnati Foundation, so each winner will receive double the prize money.
To learn more about Cincy Sundaes, visit www.cincysundaes.com

By Mike Sarason
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