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The Brandery's HackOTR debut deemed a success

Seven teams of hackers, designers and marketing specialists joined forces Friday, March 6 for The Brandery’s first-ever HackOTR, and for 24 hours straight they hacked and programmed to come up with a pitchable idea. With help along the way from local startup founders who'd already established themselves, hackers presented their ideas at the end of the hack-a-thon Saturday evening to an enthusiastic and engaged audience.
“We were absolutely thrilled with the diversity of people who showed up,” says Emily Cooper, marketing and operations manager for The Brandery. “We had everyone from a high schooler to someone with 30-plus years of experience working together. Everyone chipped in to try to make their teams the best — the work ethic was unbelievable.”
Winners were announced Saturday evening, with the “Overall Best Hack” award, sponsored by Cincinnati Bell and Cintrifuse, going to Habitable, a website and app that uses cultural inputs like dress codes to help millennials find a job that fits their lifestyle. As a reward, Habitable received three months of office space at Cintrifuse along with free Dell laptops.
“Habitable had a consistent level of quality across the board,” says Connor Bowlan, CEO of Cintric. “Ideation was good, their pitch was good and execution was good. They had a great UX."
Other winners included Sideline, whose wearable app for referees and sports fans attracted the attention of The Brandery’s own Strap as the “Best Wearables App.” Team members were awarded with Pebble smart watches.

Another Brandery graduate, Frameri, gave impromptu prizes to two other teams, Informed and Staq — Informed aggregates media recommendations, and Staq helps the user manage credit card payments on one platform. The two teams won glasses and sunglasses for all members.
Petbrosia, another well-established Cincinnati startup, selected Pet Plates as its favorite “side hack.” That team put together a dog food recipe compilation site, much like Allrecipes.com for pet owners.
Other startup founders simply enjoyed the judging process.
“I had a great time judging HackOTR,” Bowlan says. “There was a very impressive level of quality among all the hacks.”
The Brandery has already scheduled their next HackOTR for Aug. 7-8. Stay tuned for details.

Follow up: ADDYs celebrate Cincinnati advertising icons and newcomers

Local and national advertisers convened at Memorial Hall Feb. 27 to celebrate Cincinnati's 2014-15 American Advertising Awards (ADDYs), with some familiar brands (and familiar advertising firms) among the winners as well as recognition of lesser-known artists and innovators for their work in the field. Organizers had made several upgrades and changes heading into this year's program, and the overall results were favorable.
National digital marketing firm Possible took home the Best in Show award with their Downy + Febreze commercial in which actors revel in the extra hour afforded by Daylight Savings Time snuggled in their great-smelling sheets. Possible has won multiple ADDYs in the past, and this year they also took home the competition's first People's Choice Award — attendees voted on their smartphones for another Downy television ad.
One of the event's Cinderella stories involved Sunrise Advertising, which took home a whopping seven awards for their "origami" campaign for AAA and another for their Cincinnati USA ad. Sunrise Advertising, whose Creative Director Todd Jessee is a former ADDY chair, hadn't entered the competition before.
"I think (Todd) talked the boss into letting him enter this year," says Judy Thompson, Executive Director of AAF Cincinnati (a.k.a. the boss).
Another first-time entrant was Forza Marketing and Public Relations, which scored the gold for non-traditional advertising with a port-a-potty ad for The Urology Group.
Another favorite of the judges was Northlich, the downtown strategic communications firm that was recognized numerous times for campaigns surrounding Givethemten.org (part of the Joanie Bernard Foundation), a no-kill cat movement that encourages more no-kill shelters and mandated spaying and neutering of pets. Northlich picked up recognition for several elements of the public service campaign, including best sound element (a jingle, essentially) and best collateral (a pack of two orange gumballs that remind you to spay and neuter your pet).
"The Northlich Creative Director, Jason Schmall, was taking a lot of bows on ADDY show night," Thompson says.
Finally, the show featured an impressive number of entries from students this year. This is the first time the ADDYs have received entries from Northern Kentucky University students, and one of them, Kyle Eli Ebersole, won Best in Show for his poster campaign.
You can view all of the winners in the 2015 ADDY showbook. Winners now proceed to regional and national competitions.

UpTech's March 12 Demo Day at NKU presents seven new startups

UpTech presents its third class of startups at the accelerator's Demo Day on Thursday, March 12. Though the event will feature happy hour and live presentations at Northern Kentucky University, startup enthusiasts need not leave the comfort of their own home/coffee shop/office to watch the events unfold.
UpTech will also be live streaming the event on their website to the benefit of those who cannot attend.
That said, the presentations at NKU's Digitorium should not be missed. The facility features a floor-to-ceiling media wall that will bring each startup's ideas to life.
UpTech is in its third year of operation since launching in 2012. Its home in the heart of Covington has provided over 60 jobs and, as an accelerator, invested $1.3 million in startups. Past UpTech graduates have received a combined $2.1 million in investments and won numerous contests and grants since leaving the program.
UpTech will graduate seven companies from their Covington accelerator this year. The startups have been housed at UpTech since September, collaborating with mentors and tweaking their ideas to make them more attractive to investors. There is no "prize" awarded at the end of this event — it's simply an opportunity for each startup to strut their stuff in front of an interested and engaged audience.

UpTech's 2015 portfolio includes:
Dr. Scribbles: uses interactive games and activities to make medical intake forms more fun.
Hapzing: activity-driven publishing platform that tracks the user's favorite events.
linkedü: social content-sharing platform for K-12 educators.
Nekst: real estate web app designed to simplify the user's closing process.
Hello Parent: social planning app for parents.
Travel Notes: seamless solution for credit card issues that arise when the user is a frequent traveler.
Wayger: social gambling app for sports enthusiasts who want to bet on games against their friends.
UpTech's Demo Day begins at 5 p.m. at NKU's Griffin Hall. Pre-registration is recommended for both the NKU event and the live-stream viewing option.

InnovateHER Cincinnati to recognize leaders in female empowerment March 9

Anyone who watched the Oscars last week undoubtedly remembers Patricia Arquette’s call to action in the name of female equality. Programs and competitions across the country have been held year after year to help bridge the gender gap that currently exists in the workplace.
Next week, Cincinnati is playing its part.
InnovateHER is a competition conjured up by the Small Business Association's Office of Women's Business Ownership to call attention to business owners who, through their products or services, show a commitment to female empowerment. On March 9 at The Brandery, a panel of judges will select up to 10 startups to represent Cincinnati at the national level. The Brandery and UpTech are hosting the event.
“The Challenge is looking for entrepreneurs to create a product or service that has a measurable impact on the lives of women and families, has the potential for commercialization and fills a need in the market place,” says UpTech’s Amanda Greenwell.
InnovateHER is accepting applications from startups through March 5. Startups will be asked to pitch their idea, much like they would on an accelerator’s Demo Day, and in doing so attract the attention of judges from The Brandery, UpTech, HCDC, Bad Girl Ventures and Viable Synergy.
The 10 lucky startups to reach the national competition will have the opportunity to pitch their idea in Washington, D.C. on May 8. The prize money totals $30,000.
To Greenwell, the success of InnovateHER rests on female business owners’ willingness to share their innovative ideas with the rest of us.
“These programs are only successful if founders take the chance to put themselves out there and apply to participate in these competitions,” Greenwell says. “If you know someone who has a great idea that can impact and empower the lives of women and families, tell them about our competition.  Lift them up, encourage them and urge them to apply for the opportunity to get valuable exposure and feedback on their idea.”
The winners of this year’s InnovateHER competition will be announced during the March 9 ceremony at The Brandery from 7 to 8:30 p.m. Tickets are free, but registration is requested. Those who wish to pitch for the event should fill out the application online.

Sweaty business: Eccrine Systems announces $1.5 million in seed funding

For nearly two years now, Eccrine Systems LLC has been in the business of perfecting and commercializing a technology, trademarked "Sweatronics," that uses human sweat as a data-generating tool. Its efforts got a boost last week with the announcement of $1.5 million in seed funding.
With technology developed and licensed at the University of Cincinnati, Eccrine Systems uses disposable electronic patches to collect biomarker data. Co-founder of the company and lead researcher on the topic, Jason Heikenfeld sees sweat as "best non-invasive fluid source for secure, real-time monitoring of human physiological function or dysfunction."
Contrary to what some may imagine, the "Sweatronics" platform doesn't involve a wearable. Eccrine Systems is less concerned with making this a consumer product and more concerned with the data-gathering potential this technology has in store.
"Our efforts are aimed at specialized and regulated medical and business markets that expect proof of data accuracy and chronological assurance," says Robert Beech, Eccrine's co-founder. “There are very large opportunities in areas such as medication adherence, clinical trials management, industrial safety, medical diagnostics, treatment effectiveness, nutrition support and elite performance optimization."
The $1.5 million in funding comes from a variety of investors, though the majority of the funding traces back to CincyTech and their partners. The seed-stage investor sees incredible potential for Eccrine's technology.
“The implications for real-time trending and interpretation of sweat biomarkers, derived from very tiny amounts of sweat captured under a small electronic patch, are profound,” says CincyTech's Mike Venerable.
In turn, the Eccrine team hopes to benefit from CincyTech's market savvy to further promote their product.
As for the future of the company, the options are many.
"We foresee many high value applications for our Sweatronics platform across medicine, industry and sport," says Heikenfeld.

AAF Cincinnati revamps this week's ADDY awards event

Cincinnati advertising and marketing enthusiasts gather every year to celebrate the most talented members of the industry. This year, the team of volunteers behind the event are catering specifically to the feedback from past years’ attendees, which means better presentations, better entertainment and — wait for it — an open bar Feb. 27 at Memorial Hall.

The American Advertising Awards (“ADDYs”) are sponsored by the American Advertising Federation and involve a three-tiered competition that begins at the local level. Winners of the city competitions move on to regionals and then nationals.

The Cincinnati ADDYs have recruited judges from all over the country, including past ADDY award recipients, advertising executives and even a morning radio personality.

Tara Pettit, volunteer chair of this year’s ceremony, says that this year’s local entries — submitted by everyone from big local agency experts to DAAP students — have serious potential for national recognition. As an AAF volunteer, Petit’s role is to make this event a true celebration of Cincinnati’s particular flavor of media.

“There are a ton of Fortune 500 companies in Cincinnati,” event Vice-Chair Jaclyn Smith says. “The city attracts a lot of talent, and we want (the big companies) to know that we’re utilizing that talent.”

Celebration of advertising specialists is hardly new in Cincinnati. The Advertising Club of Cincinnati emerged in 1904 and evolved into AAF-Cincinnati in the 1980s. Judy Thompson as been executive director of AAF-Cincinnati — and therefore responsible for all ADDY volunteers — since 1982.

This year, the Cincinnati ADDYs are making a point to show all of their local submissions, not just this year’s winners.

“(The artists) were proud enough to submit it, so we’re going to put it on display,” Petit says.

Other adjustments include the ability to see the submissions in their proper medium. For example, instead of displaying audio visual work on a 2D-printed panel, 50-inch monitors will be installed throughout the venue.

Finally, the entertainment. Petit and Smith have managed to secure Second City veteran comedian TJ Shanoff as their MC. Local jazz ensemble Burning Caravan will be providing live music as well. The $75 ticket ($65 for AAF members, $45 for students) also covers unique appetizers from Cuisine East West catering as well as a full open bar.

Winners at all levels of the ADDYs competition are chosen using a points-based system. There are 200 categories of work — ranging from print magazine ads to graphic design to package design — and each piece is judged on its own merit, not in comparison with other submissions. Not every category is represented, and not all of them claim a winner. 

Competition aside, Friday's awards ceremony will help give advertising professionals a reason to stay in the Cincinnati market. Through community events, plenty of help with job placement and formal recognition on a national scale, Thompson and her team of volunteers hope to maintain Cincinnati’s place as an advertising hot spot.

“Our job is to keep the talent here,” Smith says.

The event takes place 6-10 p.m. Friday, Feb. 27, at Memorial Hall in Over-the-Rhine. Attendees are encouraged to come as they are; there's no specific dress code. Register here.

Cintrifuse deepens partnership with Techstars Ventures to boost startup mentor and support options

Techstars Ventures, the Boulder, Colo.-based accelerator known for investments in companies like Uber and GroupMe, has teamed up with Cintrifuse to add to their network of successful, fast-growing companies across the country.

Cintrifuse is making its sixth major venture investment in Techstars Ventures due to the accelerator’s reputation as a company builder, not to mention their $150 million Seed and Series A fund. Techstars was attracted to the Cintrifuse mission due to the success of the Cincinnati ecosystem in recent years.

“Cincinnati has large, high-caliber corporations and a thriving startup community,” says David Cohen, Techstars co-founder and managing partner of Techstars Ventures, “so partnering with Cintrifuse will just continue to bolster the region’s flourishing startup ecosystem.”

Techstars Ventures is known for co-investing in companies that have graduated from the Techstars accelerator or are otherwise connected with the Techstars alumni network. Major Techstars players like Cohen are constantly looking to expand that reach, and the Cincinnati ecosystem proved just the market they were looking for.

“Bringing the attention of this Boulder-based startup stalwart to Cincinnati is a testament to the impact of our strategy,” says Eric Weissmann, director of marketing for Cintrifuse.
The investment in Techstars Ventures comes from Cintrifuse’s Fund of Funds, a for-profit fund that invests solely in other venture funds. With this fund, Cintrifuse hopes to increase venture capital activity in the region.

“Building a startup ecosystem around a fund of funds that’s supported by major corporations is very unique and already garnering national attention for the access it’s providing to both startups and corporates alike,” Weissmann says.

The investment means that Cincinnati startup companies, particular those connected with Cintrifuse, will see their network of mentors and investors expand tremendously. With the implementation of Techstars Ventures’ regional engagement plan, Cincinnati startups will see the benefits of the partnership quite quickly.

wineCRAFT and Riverghost forge partnership based on mutual respect

Two power players in the region’s libation world have decided to join forces.

Kentucky beer and wine distributor Riverghost Distributing  and wineCRAFT, an Ohio wholesaler and importer of fine wine from around the world, reached an agreement last week to bring wineCRAFT’s expansive selection across the river.
Riverghost, responsible for Rhinegeist’s craft beer distribution, is more than familiar with wineCRAFT’s reputation and connections to wineries and producers around the world, making them an ideal addition to Riverghost’s team. The distributing reach of Riverghost means wineCRAFT’s wines will soon be found in Kentucky restaurants and stores.
In the past, wineCRAFT has used brokers to distribute their products across Kentucky, which has somewhat limited their reach.
“This effort marks a more fully realized presence of our portfolio in Kentucky supported by a sales team excited about our products and educated on their provenance,” says Sebastien Hue, marketing and purchasing lead for wineCRAFT. “With regard to product, it’s a slam dunk. wineCRAFT and Riverghost are passionate about high quality libations and the value they offer.”
Hue credits the partnership’s predicted success to the Riverghost team.
“We have worked closely in the past with Zack Moscow, Riverghost’s Director of Sales,” Hue says. “He is a bright forward-thinker with an insatiable appetite for growth. And of course there are Bob Bonder and Bryant Goulding (of Rhinegeist), impressive gentlemen who have proven themselves to be fresh pillars of Cincinnati’s business community.”
Though pending legislation in Kentucky has thrown a wrench into the future of the Rhinegeist/Riverghost distributing model, the wineCRAFT partnership is an independent strategic operation the state hasn't directly challenged. The looming legislation aside, the market for fine wines is growing in Kentucky and the timing could not be better.
“The partnership makes sense because we share a similar value proposition to the market, one that is easily communicated: affordable, high value products with lots of wow,” Hue says. “To us it’s not ‘why now,’ it’s a celebration of a partnership realized that will move both of these dynamic brands forward in the market.”

"Making Space for Makers" brings urban development specialist to Cincinnati this week

The “Maker Movement” has found its way back to the Midwest, and an expert in the field comes to Cincinnati this week to make sure we're ready for it.

Ilana Preuss, former VP and chief of staff for Smart Growth America, is coming to town Feb. 25 to offer her input on small scale manufacturing in Cincinnati and how it has the potential to strengthen our neighborhoods and enhance our overall economy.

While Preuss is in town, she'll give a presentation on the importance of space, planning and policy within the Maker Movement at the 21C Museum Hotel at 6 p.m. Wednesday. At 9 a.m. the following day, Preuss will lead a workshop at the UC Community Design Center that hopes to foster discussion on the steps necessary to expand the manufacturing sector of Cincinnati’s business community.

The Haile Foundation and Cincinnati Made, a local nonprofit dedicated to such a vision, bring Preuss to town as a consultant from Recast City. She concocted the idea for Recast City after working extensively with small scale producers in a community development context.

“(My work) led me to look at development projects where small scale manufacturers are being put in a position to bring life back to old buildings and bring life to a neighborhood,” Preuss says.

In cities like Brooklyn and San Francisco, she says, big companies and nonprofits are backing manufacturing innovation in a way that allows small-scale producers, and the communities surrounding them, to truly succeed. For instance, in Brooklyn a six-building space has developed into a manufacturer haven. As a result, the community surrounding the businesses has been revitalized. Perhaps above all else, the space is providing jobs for surrounding community members, 40 percent of whom don't have a college or advanced degree.

Preuss sees the Midwest as prime territory for those kinds of results.

“The Midwest has a history of manufacturing,” she says. “The people who are drawn back are risk takers, they want to make a difference in the space.”

With the cost of living being so low here, particularly in comparison to cities on the coasts, Preuss believes that small businesses can see a kind of success that may be harder to grasp in a larger market. The best thing we can do for our region is create a manufacturing-friendly environment.

In a lot of ways, the region is already doing that. Cincinnati Made and local manufacturing accelerator First Batch are already promoting small batch makers. Indianapolis has seen significant investment in their budding textiles industry. And in Louisville, GE-backed First Build is creating an innovation space for appliances and electronics. 

With Preuss’ help and continued financial support from private investors and nonprofit interests, Cincinnati has a lot of potential that expands beyond business development.

“The places with the most success have nonprofit and private sector leadership leading the way,” she says. “The piece I find most the most exciting is where economic development intersects with real estate development and reinvestment.”

When Preuss’ work is done on Thursday, she plans to take a tour of Over-the-Rhine, our city’s prime example of where economic development and real estate reinvestment meet. With adequate planning, Cincinnati will hopefully see a similar revitalization surrounding small-scale manufacturing. 

You can find more details on the event's Facebook page.

Bad Girl Ventures announces new curriculum

Bad Girl Ventures has been supporting our region's female entrepreneurs for almost five years now and, with a constantly expanding alumni and mentor network, is more popular than ever. Last year, the organization welcomed a class of 45, their largest class yet.
With a growing number of applicants entering the program, the BGV team has decided to cater their program to women at every single stage of business development — from expanding on a simple idea to planning an exit strategy — by implementing a brand new curriculum. The driving force behind BGV's refreshed approach is Rani Boukerrou, whose primary focus is maintaining BGV's involvement with the community.
"Our course was one size fits all," says Corey Drushal, executive director of BGV. "It was targeted toward just launching companies, not exactly to the community. (Rani) set out to solve that."
The committee in charge of the new curriculum settled on a three-phase approach: explore, launch and develop.
Phase 1 of BGV's new curriculum is meant for the entrepreneur who is looking to transform an idea into a business plan. Anyone can sign up for the 9 week course and choose to stay on with BGV for the next phase or go on their merry way.
The second phase, described as the launch phase, is similar to the course BGV has offered for the past five years. This 10-week course is targeted to those who have already established a business plan, have launched in the last year and are looking for financing. BGV is doing away with their "finalists" model, instead offering the opportunity for funding to any company that is accepted into the course.
"This opens up the opportunity for us to fund more women," Drushal says.
Phase 3 of the new curriculum is workshop-based. Participants can choose different workshops on an a la carte basis based on their needs. This phase hopes to attract companies looking to expand and grow beyond the startup phase. BGV alumni will be actively involved in this phase, offering advice on everything from advanced HR to marketing to exit strategy.
"This is a really big undertaking," Drushal says. "But we are so excited to harness the energy (from our alumni) and truly engage the community."
All courses will be held at HCDC, Inc. in Norwood even after BGV's new building in Covington opens in April.
"It's important to us to still be a part of Cincinnati, even after we move into the Covington space," Drushal says.

2015 Green Home Tour kicks off this Saturday

With migraine-inducing heating bills becoming the norm this season, it's nice to know that green technology is out there — and on the rise.
Though the movement is a slow one, more and more buildings across the tristate area are attempting LEED certification, a green building designation that requires an examination into the design, construction, maintenance and neighborhood development (among other factors) of a certain property or building. A primary focus in LEED certification is energy efficiency, though the prestigious label goes much farther than that.
Fortunately, many LEED-certified building, residential and not, are popping up in neighborhoods across town. Thanks to the U.S. Green Building Council and its local Green Living Member Circle, Cincinnati residents have the opportunity to tour some of these properties during the year-long "This is a Green Home" tour, which kicks off this Saturday, Feb. 21.
The first stop along the tour is in the Mt. Airy/Northside area, a green home known as the Wright House. With a Gold LEED Certification under its belt, the house also received the City of Cincinnati's CRA Tax Abatement, which is offered as an incentive to pursue such certification. The abatement will save the owners over $40,000 in a five-year period.
This particular home received bonus points for limiting the use of turf in the yard, sustainable design of the building itself, regionally-sourced building materials, durability, low VOC coatings and sealants, low water usage, tight insulation, thick air filters and a geothermal heat pump that sends waste heat back into the water heater, among other features.
Edward Wright of Wright Design and Pete Subach of Graybach are responsible for the contemporary design and sustainable features of the residence. The tour accommodates 20 people and is already sold out.
Additional tours will feature a number of houses like the Wright House. A tour of the Nutter House, featuring the city's only known rainwater flush toilet system, will take place on March 21. There will be a tour of the Imago for the Earth community in Price Hill on April 25, while the Boulter House in Clifton, a Frank Lloyd Wright masterpiece, opens its doors in May.
For a complete list of stops on the tour, check out the Green Cincinnati Education Advocacy website.

Young scientists unite: UC Blue Ash hosts Science Olympiad March 7

Since 2007, the University of Cincinnati's Blue Ash campus has hosted the Cincinnati Science Olympiad Tournament, a yearly competition that brings together hundreds of junior and senior high school students to show off their skills in several science-related events. The Olympiad comes to UC Blue Ash once again on March 7, featuring 23 events requiring expertise in everything from meteorology to anatomy.
Students race against the clock to complete several experiments, both in teams and individually. After six hours of competition, awards are offered to both individual students and the participating school with the highest point tally, though the focus of the tournament is more on highlighting the talents of each individual student.
The Cincinnati tournament is one of eight regional tournaments and one of dozens of competitions taking place across the country. If students are successful, they have a chance to compete at the national level. The Science Olympiad is a national non-profit organization that hopes to encourage STEM subject prowess in high schools across the nation.
In 2013, the Cincinnati Olympiad joined iSPACE, an organization that offers student, teacher and corporate development courses to promote STEM-related career awareness. The Cincinnati tournament's involvement with iSPACE secures its position as a part of the national Olympiad and reinforces UC Blue Ash's mission to maintain a strong focus on STEM-focused career paths.
The March 7 tournament in Blue Ash hopes to achieve a similar goal by providing an entertaining atmosphere and fostering a competitive spirit. It offers young students the opportunity to flex their intellectual muscles in front of a live audience. Depending on their skill sets, participants will have the opportunity to build robots, construct gliders and even collect forensic evidence.
The Cincinnati Science Olympiad is open to the public and still looking for volunteers. Contact Steve Schrantz, tournament coordinator, if you'd like to learn more or Danielle Schrantz to volunteer.

UK fans bring small batch toy manufacturing to Cincinnati

Two University of Kentucky fans have embarked on a journey to bring locally made collectibles to the region's sports fans.
Their business, Monster Mascots, is a small-batch production toy company that draws inspiration from the Japanese monsters of lore. Monster Mascots uses 3D printing technology to create molds for 9-inch mascot figurines which are manufactured and hand-assembled in the United States.

Founders Natalie Mathis and Quincy Robinson are no strangers to the 3D printing game. Their other company, 3DKitbash.com, has established itself as a source for 3D printable toy designs and 3D printer test kits. The company hopes to make 3D printing at home easy and affordable.
With a successful company under their belts, the idea for Monster Mascots emerged when Robinson and Mathis were enrolled at First Batch, a Cincinnati manufacturing accelerator.
"Since we were already working in this space, we had a natural curiosity for seeing whether we could discover a new process that could push the limits of traditional manufacturing," Mathis says.
First Batch helped the team to establish their concept of an American-made series of plastic mascots that mimicked the Japanese tradition of battling monsters. Mathis and Robinson graduated from the program in 2014 and now have a prototype of their product. As die-hard University of Kentucky fans, their first mascot is a bright blue Wildcat.
"The idea is that mascots will battle it out, as you see in Japanese monster movies, on a national level in online communities," Mathis says. "We think fans will get a kick out of posting selfies with the Mascot online with messages for UK and for their rivals."
The online community aside, Mathis and Quincy see a growing market for sports memorabilia in general. They do recognize, however, that they face a lot of competition.
"UK's brand is strong, and we know that fans clamor for UK-related items that represent their personal relationship with one of the most unstoppable teams in history," Mathis says. "The market for this sort of item is also crowded, which is why we differentiated our Monster Mascots using the Japanese monster narrative."
Mathis and Robinson first attempted a campaign on Kickstarter, but the idea has yet to pick up steam on the crowd-funding website. While 3DKitbash.com found success with Kickstarter, Monster Mascots needs to find another source of funding.
"We've proven that Kickstarter is not where UK fans buy UK-related figures, not yet anyway," Mathis says. "It just isn't the right fit."
Instead, Monster Mascots will begin selling their bright blue wildcats through more traditional routes, both on their website and in several brick-and-mortar stores. They will look to obtain licenses from other universities based on the success of their Wildcat prototype.
"We're proud of what we've accomplished so far, and we have a vision for the future," Mathis says. "There's a lot yet to do in the space. We're grateful and excited."

Roadtrippers alum launches international bike donation company

Two weeks ago, Cincinnati native and Roadtrippers veteran Chelsea Koglmeier decided to pursue her dream.
Part of the original team of six who turned Roadtrippers from a startup to a success story, she decided to leave her position at the growing Cincinnati company in order to pursue an idea she had while studying in Uganda in college.
While in Africa, Koglmeier noticed a staggering problem with transportation. The lack of viable transport between areas could mean the difference between employed and not employed, fed or unfed.

Koglmeier also noticed how empowering something as simple as a bicycle could be for people in these developing countries.
"I began to see the power of bicycles to unlock opportunities," she says.
Then, after being accepted into the Clinton Global Initiative Conference while at Duke University, Koglmeier had the opportunity to hear a speech by the founder of Tom's shoes, Blake Mycoskie.
"I heard him speak and immediately thought, 'What a wonderful place the world would be if every company had a double bottom line,'" Koglmeier says.
The double bottom line Koglmeier speaks of involves a company's commitment to both for-profit and non-profit missions. Tom's has done it with their "buy a pair, give a pair" shoes model; Warby Parker has done it with eyewear.
Koglmeier left her Roadtrippers position and is now working full-time to accomplish the same thing that Tom's and Warby Parker did, only with bicycles. Her company is Bikes O.R.O.: Bikes of Reckless Optimism.
"Because of the rise of the socially conscious consumer," she says, "why not create a sustainable link of capital between one side of the spectrum (the for-profit) and the other (non-profit)?"
Koglmeier is currently in the process of establishing a L3C business — a unique fusion of an LLC and a 501c3 non-profit. Ohio doesn't recognize the model yet, but states like Vermont have long embraced the unique business category. Though she may file in another state, Koglmeier does intend to be in Cincinnati for a while to establish the business.
So far, she has a simple website that outlines the company's bottom line and informs interested parties as to how they can get involved. By mid-summer, she plans to launch a Kickstarter campaign to start acquiring bikes.
Bikes O.R.O. will start with three commuter bicycles of high quality and affordability made by a skilled Australian bike maker with whom Koglmeier has worked before. Intrigued customers buy a bike through Bikes O.R.O., and the profits from that purchase are immediately donated to a non-profit organization in Africa (Koglmeier is already working with several of them). That organization would then present a recycled, fully-functioning bike to a person in need.
Koglmeier recognizes the hurdles involved — bike production has a much higher overhead than shoes or sunglasses — but she's more than prepared for the risk and the challenge. Plus she was invited to the Y Combinator Female Founders Conference in San Francisco on Feb. 21 — an entire event dedicated to encouraging women in tech.
"If people want to send extra resources to me because I'm a girl, I'm super down," she says.
For now, Koglmeier is working full-time on getting the business off the ground. Though she's not selling bikes yet, the process is moving quickly and we should be hearing more from Bikes O.R.O. in the coming months.

West End nonprofit ToolBank USA earns $50,000 in web help from Rockfish

Two companies with a Cincinnati presence are joining forces to improve the community.
As a part of their 2015 corporate giving program, Mt. Adams-based Rockfish — the full-service digital innovation company with offices across the world — has offered $50,0000 worth of digital support to two nonprofits. The Cincinnati Rockfish office, along with the Atlanta branch, will be handling the pro bono work for the program.

One of the winning organizations is ToolBank USA, which was established in Cincinnati in 2011 and opened in 2012.
This is the second time that Rockfish's Cincinnati office led a pro bono project for the company. Last year, they helped Josh Cares with its social media strategy.
ToolBank USA facilitates tool donation to its affiliates across the country. The organization has offices across the country that work on maintaining a constant source of funding to meet local need, helping local charities cut expenses involved in purchasing and maintaining a supply of tools. Charities can borrow certain tools for 3% of the retail value of the tool. Cincinnati Community Council is an avid user of those services.
ToolBank USA has more than doubled in size in the past year. The Cincinnati branch alone meets the needs of 189 local organizations. Kat Pepmeyer runs the organization's Cincinnati branch, based in the West End, and has found that her biggest challenge is dealing with an archaic, difficult-to-manage website.
"It's really important to make sure that, as we grow, we have a great website that's functional and accurately presents what we do in the community," Pepmeyer says.
As it stands now, the national website for ToolBank USA is challenging to edit. Each ToolBank affiliate also uses a different web platform, causing a lack of consistency.
That's where Rockfish digital media specialists come in, having worked with clients across the country to develop a compelling web presence. When it comes to ToolBank USA, Rockfish will do a complete overhaul of the national website and create a web template for their affiliates across the country. They'll create a more uniform system that's easy to edit, making the lives of Executive Directors like Pepmeyer much easier.
Pepmeyer was the first member of the organization to learn of the grant opportunity. She encouraged the national chapter to apply in the hopes that every ToolBank affiliate could benefit from Rockfish's services.
"This really seems like a natural fit," Pepmeyer says of the new partnership. "When companies offer pro bono work, it doesn't always complete the job. This is a really good sized grant, and they can do a lot more for us."
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