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Big Pitch Finalist: James Avant, OCD Cakes

James Avant wants to help start conversations about mental illness with his custom baking business, Obsessive Cake Disorder. He is one of eight finalists in the Artworks Big Pitch program presented by U.S. Bank.
Avant is clear that the name of OCD Cakes is not mean to be poking fun at OCD, but rather making mental illness part of the conversation — the baker himself struggles with OCD and anxiety. A recent University of Cincinnati grad, Avant saw his ticks and quirks increase significantly with the increased stress of the first few years of college, which prompted him to seek treatment.
“I told my parents, ‘I’m experiencing a lot of stress and I really can’t concentrate or focus, and these rituals I’m doing are really stopping me from being productive,’” Avant says.
College was also when Avant began to change a longtime interest in pastry arts into a business. Coming from a family of cooks, Avant hadn’t considered cooking as a profession — he followed the pre-med and neuroscience track in high school and college, which ended up leading him back toward baking.
“I really love the scientific element and rigidity of baking, but it can also be creative,” Avant says. “It’s the perfect merger between the two, and I really just found a place where I can be calm, I can be me and I can be in control.”
About two years ago, while watching the show Two Broke Girls with a friend, Avant got the idea to start a cupcake business. He eventually went through Artworks’ CO.STARTERS program for new small businesses, where he refined the concept of his baking business: gourmet cakes and desserts to “take a bite” out of the stigma of mental illness.

The idea is to break the ice around talking about mental illness by combining it with something familiar and celebratory — cake.
OCD Cakes is not a nonprofit undertaking, but it does aim to have a positive community footprint, making it a kind of social enterprise. Avant donates about 5 percent of his profits back to organizations that do work around mental illness, such as Warrior Run, and gives free talks to community organizations and college campuses to raise awareness about mental illness and start conversations.
“I thought as someone who has had a negative experience with OCD, but has also had many positive experiences with it, I think that it’s my job to kind of educate people and get people comfortable talking about it, reaching out and getting help," Avant says.
In March, Avant became a founding member of the Findlay Kitchen, which gives him the space and resources to do his baking. Now, he has brought enough success to his business that he’s looking to branch out through the Big Pitch. With the competition’s prize — up to $20,000 in business grants — Avant hopes to start a sort of sister brand to OCD Cakes.
“Bakeologie” would focus on the experience of baking by offering professional baking classes in an affordable, accessible way. Avant wants to help people think of baking as more than cakes and cookies, but as a medium for food preparation, allowing the oven to become the star of the show.
Avant entered the competition to start a new step, but has found the structure and mentorship offered by the program useful in enhancing the practices of his existing business.
“It gives me the opportunity to kind of get my ducks in a row and do this next piece right from the beginning,” Avant says. “I’m excited for just the opportunity to be on this type of platform and have other people excited about my business and learn about my business for the first time.”

ArtWorks Big Pitch Presented by U.S. Bank is a 10-week mentorship program that culminates in a pitch competition Oct. 6 at Rhinegeist. You can purchase tickets here.

Bad Girl Ventures opening new hub in Covington, announcing second Launch class

Bad Girl Ventures will host a public reception in their new Covington headquarters Sept. 8 as well as announce the members of its second Launch class.
For several years, BGV has been operating out of the HCDC space in Norwood. They will maintain an office and continue holding classes there, with the Covington location offering new opportunities.
“Our Covington space represents an expansion of our programming — a widening of our net, so to speak,” BGV Executive Director Nancy Aichholz says. “We cross industries, we cross the state of Ohio and now we cross the river.”
This has been a big year for BGV, with the rollout of their new curriculum and now moving into their new home — all part of the organization's efforts to become the leading resource for female entrepreneurs in the region.
“Our vision for the Covington space, which is more 'our own,' is to have a very welcoming combination of offices and meeting spaces where Bad Girls and all female entrepreneurs are welcome to stop in for an hour to visit with other women in their same situations, or come and work all day, bring clients for meetings, etc.,” Aichholz says.

BGV’s Covington home will create a new hub of activity within the StartupCincy community.
“We have great relationships on both sides of the river,” Aichholz says. “We look forward to having our women engage in as many programs that the Cincinnati entrepreneurial ecosystem has to offer.”
Details of the new space have, understandably, not been revealed yet, as BGV is saving the first peek for those attending the reception.
The other big announcement will be the businesses joining BGV’s second Launch class. The inaugural class began in February and wrapped up in June. Eight female-led companies participated in classes and a mentorship program, which culminated in a pitch night, with a prize of a loan from BGV that would take the winning company to the next level.

Meaghan Dunklee’s company Wedding Bags won the $25,000 loan, while Melyssa, Michelle and Christine Kirn of Grainwell received a $12,500 loan.
“All of the companies had great media attention,” says Angela Ozar, BGV’s Cincinnati/NKY market manager. “We’re staying in close contact and are excited to have them be part of our BGV network.”
Based on participant feedback, BGV is making a few tweaks and one big change to the program — the second class of Launch will welcome the public to its pitch night.
Two applicants to the round two class are recent graduates from BGV’s Explore program, which is the first class in BGV’s curriculum series.
“Explore is about helping entrepreneurial women find the right direction for them, and helping them be successful in any field,” Ozar says.
BGV is still accepting applications for the next round of Explore, which begins Sept. 14.
“The changes to the BGV curriculum we made last year are working,” Ozar says. “With our approach, we are able to provide continual support to our companies as they grow.”
Grow is the ongoing support plank of the BGV curriculum. Those classes, which will begin in the fall, will be held at the BGV Covington headquarters and other venues in the region. The Grow program is open to BGV graduates as well as any other female-owned businesses.
Click here to register for the Sept. 8 open house. 

AMA rebrands, uniting the national organization and chapters across the country

As one of the leading marketing centers in the country, it should come as no surprise that Cincinnati has one of the largest and most active chapters of the American Marketing Association. Last week, they welcomed AMA CEO Russ Klein to officially launch the organization’s new brand and direction.
“AMA has over 30,000 paid members in a one-size-fits-all model, so we’re blowing that up,” Klein says. “We want to increase engagement and relevancy, and shape the professional development of marketers. So we’re creating benefit bundles with targeted products, services and prices.”

For the first time since 1976, AMA revealed a new logo and brand, “Answers in Action,” to reflect the diversity of its membership. With 11,000 undergraduate students, young professionals, mid-career and C-suite professionals — plus academics and researchers — AMA covers every step in a marketing career.

“AMA is to the individual marketer like Nike is to the individual athlete,” Klein says. “We affirm the power of marketing and the individual marketer. We revere and know the marketer. We are stronger together and bound by common values.”
AMA Cincinnati was one of a handful of AMA chapters selected to participate in the AMA Brand Task Force, and to pilot the roll out of the new brand.

“The Task Force discussed and created ways to ensure that the new brand was communicated with clarity and excitement, that chapters had what they needed to engage and activate the new brand locally, and that “One AMA” intention was front and center,” says Gina Bonar, president of AMA Cincinnati. “The new brand is not just fresh, simple and current, it is now the cornerstone for all of us to build around, and makes us all much stronger and more connected.”

One of the biggest changes to the AMA brand is that previously, individual chapters had separate identities from the national organization. Now, the national office and all the chapters will work within the same brand template. AMA Cincinnati began transitioning their branding in May and completed it August 1 with the move to their new website.
“The early adopter cities, including Cincinnati, helped us understand what it takes to roll out the brand at the chapter level,” Klein says. “Chapters represent the face of the AMA and are the engine of professional development. The new brand is a beacon and a source of energy for the organization and its members.”
AMA Cincinnati currently has 400 members that represent 400 companies from every industry in town, even the nonprofit community. The organization is open to traditional marketers, as well as people working in public relations, graphic design, social media and digital communications. The chapter hosts events throughout the year, including a Signature Speaker Series, the first of which is scheduled for September 23 and will feature a representative from Google.
“AMA Cincinnati has long embraced the diversity of our audience,” Bonar says. “We host evening events that are more accessible for young professionals, featuring activities like Speed Networking and Recruiter Panels. We bring in top national and local speakers and run workshops that are specifically focused on practical, hands-on development. For several years we have run a CMO Roundtable in partnership with the Cincinnati Chamber. Last year we also launched a new annual program, the CMO/CIO summit.”
The rebranding is the visible piece of AMA’s effort to address the intellectual agenda and infrastructure of the association.

“The brand and organizational alignment we now share with our national organization is dramatically improved,” Bonar says. ‘We look like, feel like, and act like one association, with the national driving much of the thought leadership, and chapters driving much of the connectivity. The experience design work that Russ mentioned will help further define the communities, the deliverables and the channels — it’s all coming together to better serve the individual marketer.”

Creative App Project and Future Leaders of OTR partner to create app and community

The new “Treasures of OTR” Android app that leads users on a scavenger hunt to find Over-the-Rhine community landmarks comes with a surprise backstory: It was created by 12 young people in the Future Leaders of Over-the-Rhine program with the assistance of the Creative App Project.

For the students, the experience turned out to be about much more than the technical side of building a smartphone app.
Creative App Project, the People’s Liberty-funded endeavor of Mark Mussman, has been around for over a year now and had some success with its adult class, where individuals created apps ranging from biking calendars to historic preservation platforms to selfie tools.
The class as a group also created Upz in collaboration with the Safe and Supported program to help connect LGBTQ youth experiencing homelessness or at risk of homelessness with resources and services. The app was presented at the True Colors Summit in Houston last year, an iOS version is currently in development and more than 100 people have downloaded it to their devices, which pleases Mussman.
“The idea is that as many people have it on their phones as possible so that then if you or someone you know is in a crisis, you have that information readily available,” he says.
The success of Upz and the first class pushed the Creative App Project to expand in new directions, including moving into teen education this summer. Although Mussman originally envisioned CAP as primarily adult education, two 17-year-olds participated in his 2015 class, which opened his eyes to the need for technology skills education for youth.
Mussman points out that just because young “digital natives” grow up using technology doesn’t mean they have the skills to build it.
“Not all kids have technology skills,” he says. “The fact of the matter is they’re going to be consumers rather than producers.”
Mussman saw an opportunity for collaboration between CAP and OTR Future Leaders, the nonprofit program for young people ages 13-17 who either live or go to school in Over-the-Rhine. The program focuses on social and personal development, community engagement and being guided by the interests of the youth participants.
Mussman and CAP facilitator Key Beck took these goals to heart when working with the Future Leaders. The class met just four times but packed a lot into those few sessions, using the process of creating an app as a lens for exploring themselves and their community.
“We asked them ‘What is the make up of their community? What are they grateful for? What are the stories of their community?’” Mussman says. “They responded with ‘We love our neighborhood, we want to show it off in some way.’ In one of the early brainstorms, one of them said ‘What if we did a scavenger hunt?’”
The students were divided into teams based on their strengths and interests to work on different elements of the app: art and design, storytelling and programming.
“Future Leaders are always so excited and enthusiastic about doing stuff, we have to say ‘You can’t do everything,’” Mussman says.
They came up with the concept of using fragments of pictures combined with clues to direct app users to each stop on the scavenger hunt. Once the user gets there, he/she must check in using the GPS on their phone. (Mussman points out that the app was developed before Pokemon Go was released.)
As the students selected the stops that would be featured, more questions about the nature of their community emerged.
“We talked about places in their community and they would say, ‘I’ve never been in there,’” Future Leaders Youth Program Director Renáe Banks says. “When we talk about being inclusive, there are kids who have lived in their community all 12 or 14 years of their life and these new businesses are popping up and they’ve never been inside.”
Once the stops were chosen and the prototype created, the Future Leaders class got the first opportunity to test their own app.
“It was neat to see them play the game and get excited about it, seeing the little circle and saying, ‘I know where that is!’” Mussman says.
Banks agrees, saying, “They had a blast!”
For the students, it was an opportunity to see their ideas come to life.
“I can’t believe it was so easy to put our ideas to real life,” Leonate Moore says.
“The process was easy, all we had to do is put our ideas together to make it for people to download,” Dionne Parker says in agreement.
Banks encourages the public to download “Treasures of OTR,” both to experience Future Leaders’ vision of their community and as inspiration for more technology. She wants to see more apps designed by and for local communities.
“Downloading the app gives them tangible evidence that people care about what they do, that they have an impact on the community,” Banks says. “We need more apps like this! I want people not only to say, ‘Look what the youth did,’ but to see it as a foundation they can build upon.”
“One of the things we saw come out of the first class was that lots of the ideas had something to do with Cincinnati,” says Mussman, who plans to continue building CAP classes. “It’s something we really need in our community. We need to have more technology education accessible to everyone.”

Learning to treat nonprofits as more than charity cases

The U.S. nonprofit sector has been set up to fail, Dan Pallotta says. A centuries-old Puritanical approach casts all nonprofits as charities in Americans’ eyes, making it difficult or impossible for organizations to reinvest money in themselves and thus create stronger and more effective operations.

Nonprofits are usually forced to forego the kinds of basic business tools that for-profit businesses invest in every day — from new computers and basic building repairs to employee training and marketing — to ensure that “overhead” remains low. The organizations might save themselves from the “temptation” of overspending, but at what cost?
“Why have our breast cancer charities not come close to finding a cure for breast cancer or our homeless charities not come close to ending homelessness in any major city,” author and advocate Pallotta asks in a 2013 TED Talk. “Why has poverty remain stuck at 12 percent of the U.S. population for 40 years? The things we’ve been taught to think about giving and about charity and about the nonprofit sector are actually undermining the causes we love and our profound yearning to change the world.”

Pallotta’s books Uncharitable: How Restraints on Nonprofits Undermine Their Potential and Charity Case: How the Nonprofit Community Can Stand Up For Itself and Really Change the World lay out the basic framework for his latest endeavor, the Charity Defense Council. Tom Callinan, former Cincinnati Enquirer editor, serves on its advisory board.

After retiring from journalism, Callinan threw himself into working with local nonprofits like Charitable Words, which he founded and still directs, and Social Venture Partners. Those efforts have connected him with dozens of other local and national nonprofits.

“I never knew how hard it would be,” Callinan says. “Especially raising money.”
Since Pallotta began aggressively agitating on behalf of the nonprofit sector, Callinan says he’s begun to see a slow shift on how nonprofits and their funders approach their work and giving.

“You hear more and more discussion about impact now, not overhead,” he says. “The whole industry is starting to get that now, and Dan has certainly been a catalyst for that.”
Pallotta points out that nonprofits often lose their effectiveness when they don’t invest in basic business tools, making it nearly impossible for them to actually accomplish the lofty goals they seek. The misguided “overhead myth” creates insurmountable obstacles to moving the needle on causes we hold most dear — poverty, homelessness, curing cancer, treating AIDS and so on.
“These social problems are massive in scale, and our organizations are tiny up against them,” Pallotta says in his TED Talk. “And we have a belief system that keeps them tiny. (But) which makes more sense: Go out and find the most innovative researcher in the world and give her $350,000 for research, or give her a fundraising department and use the $350,000 to multiply it into $194 million for her breast cancer research?”

Pallotta says the current “overhead myth” view of nonprofits stems from a concept created 400 years ago when the Puritans ventured to the New World to escape persecution and make their fortunes. They considered the very practice of making money to be sinful, requiring penance, which they turned into charitable giving. Their 5 percent tithe to charitable causes (in those days more direct contribution to poor individuals than to social service organizations) created the moralistic framework that still guides our thinking about giving to this day.
Pallotta experienced the “overhead myth” firsthand through his own nonprofit, Pallotta TeamWorks, which he founded in 1994 to raise money via multi-day biking and walking events. He raised funds to benefit AIDS and breast cancer charities, and the hugely successful events netted $305 million (after all expenses) in nine years.
Suddenly, in 2002, major sponsors began to abandon TeamWorks. There had been a lot of negative press around his organization, specifically regarding its overhead expenses — in his case, a full 40 percent of all revenue was being used to provide better customer service and create magic experiences at the events while investing heavily in marketing and fundraising.
In short order, press attacks shuttered the TeamWorks doors, 400 jobs evaporated overnight and AIDS and breast cancer charities lost some of their biggest annual fundraising events. Assuming that Pallotta’s success would have continued otherwise, those same causes have cumulatively lost hundreds of millions dollars in the years since.
Callinan recalls the first time he heard Pallotta speak while in California for a conference.

“He talked about the media and how the public does not understand these ideas (of the overhead myth),” Callinan says. “I walked up to him afterwards and said, 'You have just changed the way I think about this issue after 35 years in the media business.’”
He says he then began to wonder, “How much damage have I done by not understanding these ideas? How many times (while at The Enquirer) did I order a little graphic showing 'overhead’ to print alongside a story about a nonprofit?”
Callinan points out that local organizations such as People’s Liberty and ArtsWave have funding models that look more at impact than at how every dollar is spent. They recognize that training, buildings and computers are important tools and that, without them, nonprofits might be less effective.
Pallotta established the Charity Defense Council to combat our counterproductive approach to and perceptions about charitable giving. It’s currently collecting feedback on an initiative called Rethinking Charity, which asks people to watch Pallotta’s TED Talk and take a short survey to collect their impressions. Watch the talk here and take the five-minute survey via a link on the page.

Director of Mobilization Jason Lynch says that survey results so far have already helped to create a stronger framework for the Council’s mission and recruit interested individuals to the cause, and he’s hoping that the data will eventually help make the case for additional funding for the Council.

Skube founder benefits from local entrepreneurial programs, gives back to other startups

For local entrepreneur Monica Kohler, a simple idea has become a growing business thanks in part to Cincinnati’s startup ecosystem and range of support programs for entrepreneurs.
Like many businesses, Skube began with a need that led to an idea.
Kohler and many of her female friends and family members were fitting exercise into busy schedules and didn’t always have time to change out of leggings or athletic clothing after a workout and before going out to eat or to pick up a child from school. Kohler wanted an article of clothing that covered from the waist to the knees and transformed workout clothes into fun and expressive casual attire. She had some sewing skills, so after years of talking about the idea with friends she created a skirt in the form of a tube — the first skube.
The prototype Kohler created and wore got so much interest from her own circles that she began to wonder if she might actually be onto something. After nearly a year of wearing her skubes and making them for friends and family, she enrolled in ArtWorks’ Co-Starters program to explore turning the idea into a business.
That exploration proved to be the first step on a new path for Kohler.
“I had no idea Cincinnati had such a deep, rich pool of entrepreneurs and programs to help someone move into that space,” she says. “I wasn’t aware there were so many people willing to share their wisdom.”
With a background as a nurse practitioner and years of experience in healthcare management, making and selling skubes was a completely different direction for Kohler, but after developing her business idea through Co-Starters she took the leap. She started working more on designs, creating simple reversible tube skirts with a variety of bright, expressive colors and patterns and selling them at street fairs and festivals.
The response she got from consumers inspired her to continue building the business.
“I was encouraged to take the next step, which for me was Bad Girl Ventures,” Kohler says.
She is now a graduate of BGV’s first “Launch” class, designed to help newly established women entrepreneurs take their businesses to the next level. For Kohler, this intense, focused class was helpful for answering the question, “I have a product that seems to be in demand, now what do I do?”
The class, along with mentorship from Jim Cunningham of Queen City Angels, helped Kohler lay out the next steps for Skube.
Then, just before graduating Launch, Kohler went to a Small Business Association mixer at Rhinegeist and met John Spencer of First Batch. Skube is the kind of product First Batch looks for — a manufactured product that’s been tested by the market and is ready to scale up production.
Skube was accepted into the current 20-week First Batch accelerator program, where Kohler will find ways to produce more skubes and begin selling them online through a newly re-designed website (currently under construction).
“I’m a believer in hard work and being where you need to be, but I’m also sort of a believer in serendipity,” Kohler says. “It was always in my mind how much help I received, and I wanted to not lose that.”
Kohler feels she’s received the help of Cincinnati’s innovation ecosystem at every step in her journey, and along the way she’s committed to giving back as well.
“Strong women can help young girls become strong women,” she says.
Kohler helps by giving back and sponsoring programs when she can for organizations like Girls on the Run and Mortar, making possible for others the same support and mentorship that have helped her grow her passion into a business.

Pokemon craze gets people on the go across Greater Cincinnati

Health fads are nothing new, but Pokemon Go is taking the craze to an entirely new level by generating innovative ways to get people moving.
Pokemon Go debuted in the U.S. on July 7, and since then the app has been downloaded more times than Tinder. The augmented reality game encourages users to walk around and “catch” Pokemon that are living or hiding in real stores, parks, historic sites, museums and other public buildings.
In Cincinnati, Pokemon are showing up at the Cincinnati Zoo, bars and restaurants in Over-the-Rhine and Great American Ballpark. Pokemon Go events have already been planned for Jungle Jim’s Fairfield and Washington Park.
Articles touting the health benefits of Pokemon Go have been featured on a range of media outlets, including Huffington Post and Washington Post.
Cincinnati is already the fourth healthiest city in the U.S., so lucky for Tristate residents there are already a number of local tools that could help Pokemon Go users find the elusive and rare beasts.
Dan Korman and Katie Meyer’s book Walking Cincinnati offers walking routes in 32 neighborhoods that are no doubt home to many Pokemon.
Downtown walkers can also take advantage of the Go Vibrant walking paths to find urban Pokemon. Outlying Pokemon might be found in some of the region’s great parks; Cincinnati was ranked as having the seventh best park system in the country after all.
The arts-inclined pedestrians might catch Pokemon near the 100-plus ArtWorks murals, and those who are inclined can climb some of the city’s hillside stairways in search of Pokemon, cardio and burning thighs.
Physi app users might find Pokemon near their sports fields or play dates, and soon there may even be a Pokemon Go activity or event.
Users of wearable health tracker like Fitbit or iWatch will see their points increase, particularly if they’re integrated with local health startups like SparkPeople or Strap, although it remains to be seen if Pokemon Go will be woven into fitness engagement challenges.
Across the river Live Well NKY is promoting a diverse assortment of activities to encourage health and fitness, and perhaps some Pokemon may live nearby as well.
Area Pokemon Go players have no shortage of places to explore to capture Pokemon, earn points and burn some calories.

Cintrifuse launches innovation studio for the healthcare industry

Last week, Cintrifuse announced a new branch to the #StartUpCincy ecosystem. On June 30, they launched Spry Labs, a venture-building studio for healthcare solutions. The project is a collaboration between Cintrifuse and Mercy Health with a number of other partners, including The Health Collaborative and Bethesda, Inc. The idea is to find and commercialize solutions to some of the healthcare industry’s most pressing problems.
While accelerators and incubators help entrepreneurs launch and grow the ideas they already have, a venture studio starts with the problems recognized by the industry. Cintrifuse’s healthcare partners will identify problems they and other companies face, and Spry Labs will bring together innovators to come up with and prototype solutions. Then those partners will be the first to test the prototypes.
“What we’re going for is digital healthcare solutions,” says Patrick Venturella, Cintrifuse's content marketing specialist. “We’re trying to get these people all in one room to solve these problems that we know we all have.”
Venturella points out that Cincinnati is a great place to start a healthcare venture lab because of the strong healthcare industry in the region.
Healthcare is the perfect industry for this kind of endeavor because as a whole, it is facing a major disruption. It's in the middle of a revolutionary transformation toward value-driven and patient-centered care, with the goal of reducing costs while also improving outcomes and patient experience.

Of course, this transformation means lots of problems to solve, which means lots of opportunity for Spry Labs. Solutions could be anything, from tools to help patients navigate the healthcare system easily to instruments for tracking community outcomes.
“These shifts are happening as we speak, and we want to do our part,” Venturella says. “Now the hard work starts, and we’re hitting the ground running.”
Spry Labs is launching right into its first design sprint and will premier what comes out of that process at the end of September at the Healthcare Innovation Xchange.
For Cintrifuse, it’s a new frontier, and one that might continue to yield new ventures.
“We’re now in the business of building companies,” Venturella says. “We’re starting with healthcare, but there’s nothing stopping us from branching out.”

Local startup Physi app now helps whole family get active

Cincinnati-based fitness app Physi recently announced that it has added family play opportunities to the range of activities it offers. It launched in 2015, and is a free app that is currently available for download in the Google Play or Apple Store.

The announcement makes sense, given Physi’s social focus. What makes it different from other fitness apps is that it’s not just about getting people exercising — it’s about connecting users to each other so they can get active together.
“There are a lot of technologies out there that are very performance-oriented, and that’s great if you’re training for a triathlon,” says Physi's President and COO, Marty Boyer. “But this is just as much on the social side as it is about just being active.”
Physi works to connect users based on location, interests and skill levels. It helps people build communities and social networks as much as it helps them be healthier. The activities offered range from yoga to dog walking, and users can meet each other through planned activities or spontaneous “play now” options, like if a flag football team needs an extra sub that day.
The new family play offerings continue this trend, but provide opportunities for parents and families to meet each other by arranging active play dates. Physi is also planning to roll out improved pairing soon by offering “proactive pairing,” where the app will suggest pairs or groups based on interests and skill levels, then users will be able to message each other to set up activities. This way, the app puts an even greater emphasis on those connections.
Physi also has a corporate option, which Boyer points out works well because it gives employees easy, organic ways to get active together, rather than feel like a corporate kickball tournament is forced on them, or maybe it just doesn’t appeal to them.
“For people to get active, you have to remove the overhead of decision-making,” Boyer says. “On Physi, there’s always someone out there ready to play.”

People's Liberty hosts Globe Grant info session, accepting applications for 2017

People’s Liberty hosted “Globe in the Dark” June 24 to introduce Julia Fischer’s Play Library, the second of three winners of its 2016 Globe Grants that award exhibition projects $15,000 and six weeks in its Globe Gallery storefront across from Findlay Market.
Fischer’s Play Library is exactly what it sounds like, a “library” that loans toys and games instead of books. Through donations, memberships and the help of volunteers, the project aims to make a variety of toys and games accessible to people of all ages to encourage the benefits of creative play.
For visitors who might be inspired by Play Library’s opening to ask themselves what they’d do with the gallery space, Globe in the Dark came at a perfect time — the 2017 Globe Grant application process is now open.
“We are extremely excited about the next round of Globe Grants,” says Jake Hodesh, People’s Liberty Vice President of Operations. “We have high hopes for 2017, and we think the applications will be as strong as ever.”
For applicants who want to learn more about Globe Grants, People’s Liberty is hosting an information session at 6 p.m. June 28 at its Over-the-Rhine headquarters. Like all People’s Liberty grants, winning projects should be fun and engaging but also have a lasting impact on the community.
“The best applications to date have given the public a reason to come back to the Globe storefront again and again,” Hodesh says. “We’re looking for individuals in the Greater Cincinnati area who have exciting ideas to transform the storefront. This isn’t just an opportunity to hang artwork — this is a chance for someone or a small group of folks to create a one-of-a-kind unique experience.”
People’s Liberty staff members are available for one-on-one informational meetings with potential applicants July 5-19. The final deadline to apply for a 2017 Globe Grant is July 20.

Tech Cafeteria serves up community, technology, and grade school nostalgia

Where can you learn what a city’s water system has in common with Facebook? Where can adults in Cincinnati eat delicacies from elementary school like square pizza served on vintage lunch trays? And what does any of that have to do with the local entrepreneurship ecosystem?
The answer is Tech Cafeteria, a program hosted every month by local software development consultancy Gaslight.
When Gaslight moved to Walnut Street downtown in February 2015, the company wanted to make sure it was involved in the innovation and technology community there and in Over-the-Rhine. The six-year-old firm, which works on custom software and projects like Bus Detective, opens its office every Friday morning to the community for free coffee and conversation, but they were looking to do a different kind of program to invite people into their space.
“We wanted to do something sort of kitschy and fun,” says Gaslight’s marketing director, Michelle Taute. “We thought, ‘What if it was like a cafeteria?’”
And so Tech Cafeteria was born. Gaslight invested in divided lunch trays and found sources for cafeteria-style foods. It gives out free lunch on the first Wednesday of each month, while hosting speakers on a variety of innovation-related topics.
They even have a lunch lady — sort of. Ruby the Lunch Lady is the Tech Cafeteria mascot, whimsically named after one of the programming languages they use. Lunch is served by lunch ladies or lunch gentlemen wearing smocks and hairnets.
“There’s a great nostalgia from picking up a vintage lunch tray and getting served square pizza,” Taute says.
That nostalgia has proven appealing to the Cincinnati tech and innovation community. Each event can accommodate 50 people, and there’s often a waiting list.
Of course, the speaker topics are just as big a draw as the cafeteria theme. Tech Cafeteria had its first event in March 2015, and over the past year has covered topics like designing Lumenocity, getting women involved in technology, and open data in the City of Cincinnati. The events often include different demos, such as 3D printing.
Taute says the company tries to engage a broad variety of interesting topics.
“I try to think of something I would like to learn more about,” she says. “We’re able to get a variety of different speakers now that we’re more established.”
Gaslight will continue that trend at its next event on July 6, with Sam Hatchett of CitiLogics speaking on data, analytics and water systems. Hatchett will talk about how innovative technology is being applied to municipal water systems that are crucial to daily life, but are often in disrepair and even crisis.
“Water pipes are actually a lot like Facebook in the way they work,” Taute says.
But to learn just how exactly, you’ll have to RSVP to join Ruby for hamburgers, oven fries and ambrosia salad.

SE Cincy launches Elevator program to accelerate social enterprises

Flywheel Social Enterprise Hub and its Social Enterprise Cincy program continue to make big strides and take local social entrepreneurs with them. Now the organizations have added another tool for supporting and growing nonprofits and businesses with a “double bottom line” that aim to do good and earn revenue at the same time.
Flywheel moved into Cintrifuse’s Union Hall building on Vine Street several months ago, linking the organization even closer to the #StartupCincy community.
Flywheel Executive Director Bill Tucker and staff have been able to see first-hand how programs like The Brandery, Ocean and UpTech make a substantial impact on local startups. These accelerator and incubator programs inspired SE Cincy to start a similar resource and support program for social enterprises dubbed Elevator.
“Our move to Union Hall in March really helped accelerate that because we were immersed in the community and those organizations are interested in what we’re doing,” Tucker says.
According to Tucker, many social enterprises face similar challenges as new for-profit startups, and it made sense that they could benefit from a similar program.
With collaborators and inspiration from Design Impact, United Way and elsewhere, SE Cincy is currently taking applications for its new program, dubbed an “elevator” to set it apart from accelerators and incubators. Like an accelerator or incubator, the program will provide social enterprises with classes, resources and mentorship to help them get their footing and raise capital.
“Unlike the other accelerators, we don’t have a financial reward at the end,” Tucker says. “Our focus is on getting people in front of impact investors and ready to be investable.”
Using this “teach a man to fish” model, SE Cincy Elevator will use curriculum and mentorship to position participants in front of funders who see their return on investment as both financial and having social value.
SE Cincy Elevator will differ from other accelerators and incubators in a few other ways as well. To tailor the program to social entrepreneurs, SE Cincy has formatted it to fit the schedules of individuals working full time — meaning much of the 20-hour-per-week, eight-week-long commitment will take place on evenings, with options for online curriculum.
Applications are open until July 4 for the program’s first round, and only five social enterprises will be chosen for this pilot run. SE Cincy is looking for enterprises that are market-tested (either through market research or taking the solution to market), can have a substantial impact on the Cincinnati region and are viable, scalable and ready to grow. Incorporating technology would be helpful but isn’t a requirement.
Tucker says that the most important requirement of any applicant is a team of dedicated, passionate people willing to work hard for eight weeks in preparation for Demo Day at the Social Enterprise Cincinnati Summit on Oct. 3.

Bad Girl Ventures graduates first "Launch" class of women entrepreneurs

Bad Girl Ventures will hold a graduation event for its first “Launch” class at New Riff Distilling on Wednesday, June 15. The eight graduating businesses have just completed the “Launch” segment of BGV’s revamped “Explore, Launch, Grow” program, meaning they’re women entrepreneurs already somewhat established in their businesses and ready to take them to the next level.
BGV Executive Director Nancy Aichholz explains that the new format of Launch classes provide participants with a smaller, more intimate and more focused experience than they would have gotten in BGV’s previous class formats.
“We saw extreme growth from the day they started in Launch,” Aichholz says. “We were so impressed. This group was very supportive of each other, but they were all business. There was no messing around — these women were serious.”
The graduation event will give attendees a chance to learn about the companies, both through conversational networking and short 30-second pitches given by each business. The event will also feature tours of New Riff Distillery in Bellevue, refreshments and the presentation of a $25,000 investment loan award to the winning participant’s company.
Although BGV doesn’t directly fund all the participants of its classes, it does set them up to fundraise for capital on their own. The organization is also trying a new peer-to-peer fundraising platform on its Facebook page to encourage individuals to fundraise and become funders.
In addition to the pitches and awards, the event’s keynote speaker will be Kenton County Judge Executive Kris Knochelmann, speaking about the innovation and entrepreneurship boom in Northern Kentucky. The choice of speaker is particularly appropriate as BGV is preparing to move into its new permanent facility in downtown Covington in about a month.
“We really want it to be a resource center for all female entrepreneurs,” Aichholz says of the new Pike Street space. “I think it’s going to be very exciting.”
Aichholz says the space will allow BGV to continue to expand, including fully kick-starting its “Grow” workshops in the fall. Those workshops, the final puzzle piece of the “Explore, Launch, Grow” system, will offer la carte classes and discussions of issues of interest to women entrepreneurs but, unlike most of BGV programming, will also be open to men.

Second annual NewCo Cincinnati expands with more host companies and programs

NewCo Cincinnati, the inside-out international innovation conference, returns July 21 for a second year, with even more host companies and new options for attendees.
“NewCo really demonstrates how strong the business community is here in Cincinnati,” says Patrick Venturella, content marketing specialist at Cintrifuse, which organizes the local event as an affiliate partner of NewCo. “Last year we had more host companies than Austin, and even out-trended Sharknado 3 on Twitter. This year, we have 95 host companies from all over the region.”
Rather than gather as a group in one central location, participants visit host companies to learn about their innovation breakthroughs. The day is broken into six 45-minute sessions with multiple programs happening in each time slot, and none of the sessions repeat.
Based on feedback from last year’s inaugural event, NewCo has added extra time between sessions so attendees can get from one area to another in time for programs that are spread across Greater Cincinnati.
“Host companies invite people into their offices to talk about their work, show off their products, and tell their stories,” says Cindy Edington, volunteer on the NewCo Cincinnati committee. “NewCo is a cross-industry, cross-region event offering many opportunities to connect and network.”
NewCo Cincinnati host companies include startups, Fortune 500s, nonprofits and manufacturing, each offering a wide array of facilities and industries to explore. The Brandery, which just announced its new class, will be hosting, along with other startup stalwarts such as LISNR, Bad Girl Ventures and Ocean. ArtWorks, Elementz and ArtsWave will add a dash of Cincinnati culture, and foodies are represented by Findlay Kitchen, Grateful Grahams and Sundry and Vice.
“NewCo offers a great opportunity to put smaller startups and organizations on the national map,” Edington says. “First Batch was just featured in the NewCo newsletter, and since we’re part of an international festival that can do a lot to raise profiles and foster innovation.”

Venturella says that NewCo is great for job seekers, business development, marketers, design agencies or anyone interested in engaging with the startup ecosystem or who is looking for inspiration, clients or connections.
“It’s really a mindshare across the business community and for people who are passionate about Cincinnati,” he says. “There are opportunities across all industries for takeaway lessons to help your business.”
To facilitate the mindshare and engagement as well as make schedule planning a little bit easier, NewCo has sorted the sessions into themed tracks. The 95 host companies are broken out into Accelerators and Incubators; Breweries and Distilleries; Creative, Diversity and Inclusion; Economic Development; Makers; and Nonprofit. For those who don’t want to change locations, Union Hall will feature a day of sessions in the #StartupCincy headquarters in Over-the-Rhine.
“Diversity of ideas, experience, and people is important both personally and professionally,” Venturella says. “The Diversity and Inclusion track highlights businesses owned and operated by women and minorities, as well as some of the organizations that help those businesses succeed. Festival participants in this track will hear new ideas and continue the discussion on how we ensure everyone in the region has opportunities to prosper."
NewCo Cincinnati wraps up with a happy hour at Anderson Pavilion, which overlooks Smale Riverfront Park. Attendees must register for the happy hour in their NewCo schedule in order to attend.
Session speakers and topics are being added daily to the 2016 NewCo Cincinnati schedule. Registration is $20 for general admission, $10 for students, and $100 for VIP access, which includes a special reception July 20 at The Transept. Group tickets are also available this year.
After Cincinnati, NewCo conferences are scheduled throughout the remainder of 2016 in Austin, Toronto, San Francisco, Istanbul, Barcelona, Los Angeles and Mexico City.

“NewCo is building on the momentum of the startup ecosystem,” Venturella says. “We’re out there letting people know not only that Cincinnati has a strong and cohesive startup ecosystem, but that these companies are doing new and innovative things that can change the way we live. It’s all part of Cincinnati redefining itself and deciding what kind of city we want to be in the 21st Century.”

TEDx Cincinnati Main Stage event aims to open minds and share ideas

TEDx Cincinnati’s seventh annual Main Stage event will take place June 16 at the Cincinnati Masonic Center downtown. The theme is “LEAP,” inspired by the fact that 2016 is a leap year.
“It’s really about what are the big leaps in the future,” says organizer Jami Edelheit. “How do we advance? How do we grow? As a community, as a people, as technologies?”
These themes are evident in the signature element of any TED or TEDx (independently organized) event — the series of short talks given by people passionate about a wide variety of ideas. This year’s speakers include a mixture of local names and national personalities, and the topics they’ll cover range from virtual reality to stem cell medical technologies to music and acrobatic movement, just to name a few.
But Edelheit emphasizes that the Main Stage event is about more than the individual speakers. It’s an entire experience created by combining speakers and the earlier Innovation Alley happy hour prior and the conversations sparked by both.
“We try to have a bunch of different themes that are kind of like a puzzle when you’re putting it together,” she says. “These are all short talks, and it’s all woven together into a production. I just find it fascinating.”
The production begins with the interactive Innovation Alley at 5 p.m. (registration begins at 4:30), curated with the help of Xavier University’s Center for Innovation, where attendees will be able to see and learn about a variety of innovations and ideas. The happy hour event will include food and drink and serve as the venue for the Greater Cincinnati Venture Association to present its GCVA Recognizes awards.
Following Innovation Alley, 15 speakers will present in the theater. For Edelheit, though, this doesn’t mean stopping the evening’s participation, only changing it. She hope the talks will spark new ideas in Cincinnati makers, doers and thinkers and encourages audience members to be present, engage with the ideas and talk with each other.
“The main thing is to be open, just be open,” she says. “You’re not coming to get lectured at. Have fun and meet new people who are thinkers and doers.”
Tickets to the Main Stage event are available here.
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