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Bunbury founder helps create new resource for bands, promoters

Bill Donabedian, founder of Bunbury Music Festival and Midpoint Music Festival and a fixture of the Cincinnati music and entertainment scene, has teamed with Ian and Nathan Bolender of Cincymusic.com to create CloudPressKit. CloudPressKit is an online tool that allows bands/artists to create a press kit that they submit to venues, clubs, festivals and events. For event promoters, it offers a simple way to review artist submissions in a streamlined way.
For those in the music industry, this may sound similar to sites like Sonicbids and Reverbnation; it’s supposed to. Donabedian had the idea for CloudPressKit after dealing with these sites one too many times.
“This sector is dominated by Sonicbids and Reverbnation, and I’ve never liked their services,” Donabedian says. “I’ve used them on both ends, as a band and also while running Midpoint; I never felt like it was a good deal. So I decided while doing Bunbury that we needed a new system, one that was easy, elegant, user-friendly and was a good deal for both bands and promoters.”
Donabedian tapped Ian and Nathan Bolender, who, in addition to Cincymusic, have also worked with Bunbury, Nederlander Entertainment and the Southgate House in the past, to develop the platform.
Instead of monthly fees, CloudPressKit requires that bands submit to a single promoter/event per year and that automatically renews their press kit online for a year. And on the promoter end, instead of negotiating a contract and dealing with a much more cumbersome system, users simply create an account, create an event and are ready to go.
“The great thing about CloudPressKit is that we don’t need to be out there aggressively selling it,” Donabedian says. “It’s something we developed to help what we were already doing and simplify parts of the process of working on a festival like Bunbury. If it starts to pick up traction, that’s great, but we have the luxury of time to get it to work really nicely; we don’t have to be first to market.”
In addition to Bunbury and CloudPressKit, Donabedian continues to work on creating new events in and around Cincinnati. He’ll debut the Buckle Up Music Festival, focusing on Americana, country, bluegrass and folk music, this summer at Sawyer Point. Donabedian promises that there will be more to add to the list soon.

By Mike Sarason

Local startup Sqrl saves businesses time and money, secures $550K in seed funding

Sqrl (pronounced squirrel) has raised $550,000 in seed funding from investors such as CincyTech, Hyde Park Ventures and Vine Street Ventures. Sqrl addresses the issue of lost time, efficiency and profitability for businesses due to manual information gathering and processing with a request engine that automates and manages routine communication and requests.
The genesis of Sqrl came not from a desire to create the next massive company, but from a pair of accountants who wanted to improve their business. Ryan Watson, Ryan Baker and Craig Baldwin had started their own online accounting firm, Upsourced Accounting, and were experiencing a problem.
“About a year into the business (late 2012), we finally caught our stride with client acquisition and revenue,” says Watson, CEO of Sqrl. “What we hadn’t nailed, however, was any kind of efficiency and, thus, profitability. We realized the primary culprit was the hours of back and forth e-mails we’d send between our clients requesting, following up on and gathering the documents we needed to perform their accounting work.”
So the team decided to build a solution, initially as an internal tool. After checking in with other accounting firms to see if they had a similar issue and to ask if they had a solution for it, gears started to turn.
“The feedback was overwhelmingly that yes, our fellow accountants did have the same problem, and what’s more, they were all asking to use our solution when we were finished,” Watson says. “At that moment, Sqrl stopped being just an internal tool for our accounting firm and became a broadly applicable product we would ultimately market to the industry.”
From that point, the founders took their idea through the Over-the-Rhine-based accelerator the Brandery and continued to refine the solution they created.
“Initially, we’ve been tailoring our message towards small to medium accounting firms and their accounts,” Watson says. “However, among the users that implemented our platform in its first week, more of them were from outside industries (mortgage, legal, digital advertising, insurance) than not. This problem clearly spans the entire professional services segment, and we believe our product is well positioned to those industries.”
Sqrl is now publicly available and free to use, so visit www.getsqrl.com to give it a try.

By Mike Sarason

New downtown law firm is geared toward startups and small businesses

The Law Office of Paul H. Spitz announced the opening of its new office in the Cintrifuse space at 299 E. Sixth St. in downtown Cincinnati. Headed up by attorney Paul Spitz, the boutique business law firm opened its doors in December 2013, offering entrepreneurs, startups, and small and mid-sized businesses legal counsel for their business law and transactional needs.
Cintrifuse is an innovation network designed to successfully launch high-growth startups, specifically focusing on tech companies, and also offers a co-work space for entrepreneurs, programs, mentors and business consultants in its downtown office. Spitz, who had been living and working in San Francisco for the past 14 years, is excited not only by the substantially cheaper cost of doing business here, but also by being a part of the nascent entrepreneurial community in Cincinnati.
“Working out of Cintrifuse puts me right in the center of the startup scene,” Spitz says. “I'm able to interact with the other people using the Cintrifuse space to launch their businesses. I see a lot of enthusiasm from people, a real desire to build something and make an impact. I also see them struggling to find resources that are abundant in the Bay Area, like software people and access to capital. But the community as a whole seems really dedicated to working together to provide mentorship and other assistance to entrepreneurs.”
The law firm provides services such as startup counseling, business formation, choice of entity, founder agreements, contract review and negotiation, commercial real estate leasing, non-disclosure agreements, consulting agreements, employment agreements, corporate governance, and other business law services.
Recognizing that many startups and small businesses are priced out of the market for legal services by high billing rates, Spitz designed his firm to be lean, with very low overhead, so that he can pass those savings on to clients through lower rates and flexible billing arrangements.
"My firm is also just starting up, so I share many of the same experiences and struggles of my clients, giving me a unique empathy as I serve their needs,” Spitz says.
 By Mike Sarason

Ahalogy raises $3.1M Series A funding, offers new tools for Pinterest marketing

Ahalogy, one of the leading platforms for Pinterest marketing optimization, has secured $3.1 million in Series A financing. As part of the funding Ahalogy received, there are two additions to the Ahalogy board of directors: Brent Hill, partner, Origin Ventures and former executive at Twitter, Google and Feedburner, and Tim Kopp, former chief marketing officer, ExactTarget, and former executive at Procter & Gamble and The Coca-Cola Company.
The Cincinnati-based startup helps companies such as KIND Healthy Snacks, Kellogg’s, HSN and some of the world’s other largest consumer brands scale engagement and sales results on Pinterest.
“We believe Pinterest is the first social media truly made for marketing,” says Bob Gilbreath, president and co-founder of Ahalogy. “People turn to Pinterest for ideas and inspirations on many topics like food, fitness, beauty and home décor. Our mission is to help marketers take advantage of the opportunity of Pinterest, which paired with the right technology, helps boost business results in a way that is meaningful to their customers.”
Ahalogy works with brands to deliver specific performance results and is typically funded from working media budgets.
“Our company grows when we help our brands scale engagement and results,” Gilbreath says. “We accomplish this through technology and data science, a pay-for-performance business model and our proprietary Ahalogy Content Network.”
Ahalogy is the only Pinterest marketing company with a proprietary content library that brands can utilize. Ahalogy clients have instant access to more than 100,000 articles and images from more than 1,000 content creators. These creators deliver over 200 million page views per month.
Gilbreath and co-founder Michael Wohlschlaeger brought their business to Cincinnati first through the Brandery, a nationally ranked startup accelerator, and have found it an ideal fit for their business.
“We can think of no better place to launch a marketing technology company than Cincinnati,” says Gilbreath. “It’s home to some of the world’s biggest marketers, like Procter & Gamble, Kroger, Macy’s and Luxottica, and we’re able to hire talent that deeply understands what these companies need.”
In 2014, Ahalogy is hoping to bring several more large brands onto Pinterest through their unique platform and in turn help them reap the marketing benefits available through the site. 

By Mike Sarason

Xavier rolls out new MA in Urban Sustainability

Xavier University has developed a new Master of Arts in Urban Sustainability and Resilience, an innovative new degree aimed at addressing the complex issues surrounding urban sustainability. The program is the first graduate-level program in a suite of sustainability degrees that Xavier has introduced recently.
“The impetus for this degree is certainly a response to the market and the growing field of sustainability,” says Liz Blume, director of the Community Building Institute at Xavier. “There are more and more positions in corporate, government and institutional settings for people working on improving sustainability outcomes for their companies and communities. 
“The degree also arose out of the research of several faculty here at Xavier; John Fairfield, Kathleen Smyth, Nancy Bertaux, Becky Luce. These faculty members have been writing and working on sustainability issues and interacting with students who are expressing interest in careers that will make a difference.”
Xavier’s program looks to fold multiple disciplines into the program to address sustainability in a unique way.
“Our program is designed to integrate business practices, environmental sciences, public policy and planning considerations,” Blume says. “The goal of the program is to take students who come from one or more of these types of backgrounds and expose them to a wide set of content knowledge, skills and theory that will make them leaders in corporate, government and technical/professional settings able to solve complex sustainability issues.”
To that end, the program aims to engage with the City of Cincinnati directly and use it as a case study. Students are required to find an internship as part of the course so that they are learning about regional issues not only as observers and researchers, but also as participants.
The first class for the new MA will begin in Fall 2014; applications are being accepted now. To learn more about this opportunity contact Liz Blume at blume@xavier.edu.

By Mike Sarason


Murals bring new life along the Licking River

The city of Covington has designated blank walls along the Licking River Greenway and Trails network as canvases for artists of all types to add their own creative stamps among the series of murals created by ArtWorks.

The city and ArtWorks have partnered for the past 18 months on a series of 17 murals along the Licking River as part of the Licking River Greenway and Trails network in Covington. The murals were designed by local artists and represent the energy of the area through interpretations of its recreational resources, nature, history and people.

Phase one of the project was completed in September 2012. The final nine murals were completed last summer. Since completion, one of the mural structures has been repeatedly tagged. 

“Creative individuals are inspired in all types of ways and express their art in manners that aren’t always in line with the standard submittal processes we developed for this project,” says Kristine Frech, manager of The Licking River Greenway and Trails Project for Vision 2015, a shared public plan that serves as a catalyst for growth in Northern Kentucky

“We could have painted over the unsolicited artwork and continued to keep that side of the mural blank, but instead we want to embrace community members who want their art to be seen. So, we redesigned the blank walls to be used for street art.”  

The wall is now open to community members to draw, write and craft what “Art is …” to them.

“Our first wall has already been given life! Not only did someone come and add art, they added a ‘Thank you Covington’ message,” Frech says.

Before Vision 2015 actively engaged urban artists, the blank sides of the mural structures were being tagged.  So far, providing a wall as a canvas has produced great results.

“If you challenge individuals to leave something meaningful, they will rise to the challenge and leave something behind that adds vibrancy to the community,” Frech says.

Vision 2015 is a local nonprofit organization implementing a 10-year strategic plan for Northern Kentucky.  Vision 2015 sought input from nearly 2,500 people throughout the region to identify six goals Northern Kentucky must meet in order to enjoy economic prosperity and a high quality of life for all residents. 

Three trail day events have been scheduled for 2014: May 3, June 21 and November 8. Events details and volunteer opportunities will be available on the Licking River Greenway and Trails website.

Matthew Woolley

New Nitelife app makes Cincinnati bar-hopping cheaper and easier

A group of University of Cincinnati students recently designed an iPhone app to assist with planning nights out at local bars.
The app, NiteLife, was developed to connect the bar industry with customers by streamlining the process of finding daily specials. NiteLife identifies users' locations and all nearby bars and specials, while allowing users to narrow searches by region. 
The team is comprised of five UC students: Chad Ackerman, Britney Bogard, Anna Hoop, Dave Johnson and Matt Regnold.
"We wanted to give our users an experience where they could have an idea of what the bar scene is like before they even go out," says Ackerman, one of NiteLife's creators. "So they have more confidence in the goals they're trying to reach, to have a good time and try to save money, and to kind of have a better idea of everything that is going on."
To create a user-friendly interface, NiteLife's main screen, The Buzz, sorts through each bar to only feature ones offering specials, with additional browsing options available.
"You're able to see all of the information you need up front as quickly as possible and as easily as possible," Ackerman says.  "We're taking the information [users] want and pulling it to the front page."
When developing the app, the team focused primarily on ease of use and its simplistic nature.
"There's a lot of [apps] out there that have everything in them, and you can take hours to find what you wanted," says Regnold, another NiteLife creator. "This is more just focused on night life—and that specifically—so you'll only find bars."
Nitelife is currently only available for iPhone, but the creators plan to release an Android version of the app, as well as expand to surrounding areas, beginning with collegiate areas like Miami University and others within a two-hour radius. 
Other features the team plans to roll out include sorting options like draft lists and events, as well as "favoriting" bars in individualized accounts.
"The gameplan is to take [NiteLife] everywhere," Regnold says. "We took the time so far to build something that we think is going to be a great product. We want to hone in on certain things that we want to continue to improve as we get feedback from our initial users to build the best product we can."

Kyle Stone

Miami U internship program pairs startups with entrepreneurial students

Miami University is looking to bring new businesses and entrepreneurial students together with its Altman Summer Scholar Internship Program.
The program, beginning no earlier than May 19, offers an opportunity for students to gain at least 10 weeks of full-time work experience with a startup—which includes compensation—and provides a reimbursement to the host company for part of what the intern is paid.
"[Program founder John Altman] really saw a vision for always doing stuff that is experiential," says Jessica Reading, assistant director at the Page Center for Entrepreneurship at Miami. "Entrepreneurship is not something that is taught in a classroom or from a book. It's taught by learning and doing it."
Creating an experience mutually beneficial to students and startups—as well as the university and surrounding entrepreneurial community—is one of the program's primary goals, allowing students to work side-by-side with key business members. 
Altman recognized that many startups didn't possess the capital—whether money or time—to train and prepare for interns, so the program was created to provide companies with the opportunity for assistance.
"Instead of it just being where students sign up for an internship and they go work for a summer, they sign up for experience in which they not only add value to an entrepreneurial company that has the need, but they learn to seek out opportunities within that company to continue to contribute to what that startup is doing and understand and connect to the entrepreneurial ecosystem," Reading says.
Last year, the 12 participating students met with the cohort program's founders weekly to discuss experiences and attend coaching sessions on business models and ways to identify opportunities within their own entrepreneurial environments.
"We became kind of known in the entrepreneurial ecosystem as the Altman interns in the area," Reading says. "So there was a berth of them that you could think about or go to for thoughts about what the university was doing."
The program, active in both Cincinnati and Chicago, has previously partnered with host companies such as Roadtrippers, Greater Cincinnati Energy Alliance, Go Health, Built in Chicago, among others.
"We ask that [students] are employed full time, whatever that looks like," Reading says. "From a compensation standpoint, that can either be hourly or a stipend for the summer. Typically, it's probably about $1,000 that we give back."
The deadline for host company applications is January 24.

Kyle Stone

Emmy Award-winning producer Mark Burnett to speak at Crossroads Church

Emmy Award-winning producer Mark Burnett, along with community business leaders, will speak at Crossroads Church’s Unpolished Entrepreneur Hour on Tuesday, January 28.  The event will highlight businesses that have developed and grown through Unpolished in 2013, followed by Burnett’s own entrepreneurial journey. 

Unpolished is a grassroots initiative of Cincinnati’s biggest church, Crossroads, to “encourage, educate and engage aspiring entrepreneurs” within the Crossroads community. The group's initial event was held in June 2013.

“It is called ‘unpolished’ because these events don't have a lot of bells and whistles,” says Brian Tome, head pastor of Crossroads Church.

“Burnett approached me through a phone call. He was looking to see if I was interested in knowing about his new feature movie called 'Son of God,'" Tome says. "In the course of the conversation, I realized that I wasn't just talking to arguably the most successful producer in the history of television, but something more. He came from England with only a few dollars and a dream.”

Mark Burnett is a British-American television producer based in Los Angeles. He is currently the executive producer of five network television series. Burnett’s lineup of hit television programs includes “The Apprentice," “Survivor,” “The Amazing Race," “The Voice," and "The Bible" miniseries, among many others. According to Unpolished, he created the show “Shark Tank” because of his heart for entrepreneurs. 

“When he said, ‘people who need to be certain in everything never accomplish anything,' I realized I needed to ask him to come and address the Cincinnati entrepreneurial community at Crossroads. Unexpectedly, he said yes,” Tome says.

Burnett was named one of the world’s most influential people by TIME magazine and Producer of the Year by TV Guide Magazine. He has won five Emmy Awards and five People’s Choice Awards. In addition to his work as a producer, he has published eight books. 

The event is being held at Crossroads Church located at 3500 Madison Road, Cincinnati, Ohio 45209 and is free to the public. Presentations begin Tuesday at 7 p.m. with doors opening at 6:30 p.m.

Matthew Woolley

Read more about Unpolished in Soapbox

Graeter's unveils two new treats

Cincinnati’s own Graeter’s Ice Cream is officially launching its first significant product expansion in the manufacturer’s 144-year history. Graeter’s announced last Wednesday it they would add gelato and “A Little Less Indulgent” ice cream to it brand offerings. The new lines are available in Graeter’s retail stores and online, and will be available in select grocers later this month. 

“Graeter’s has focused solely on hand-crafting our super-premium ice cream for four generations, and we’ll certainly continue to serve to our tried and true fans, but we’re excited to open the door to new customers and experiences with our gelato and reduced-sugar lines,” says Richard Graeter, CEO of the 4th generation, family-owned company.

“A Little Less Indulgent and our gelato will still be made by hand, two gallons at a time, through our French pot process, but they’ll have a few differences that make them unique,” Greater adds.

Customers can rejoice with the option of a low-fat, less-sugar product with the same flavor of Graeter’s traditional ice cream. The secret for the “A Little Less Indulgent” line is a natural sugar substitute made from Monk fruit extract. It is 150 times sweeter than regular sugar but releases slowly into the body, so blood sugar will not spike. The new line has 50 percent less sugar, and also has about 25 percent less fat and 25 percent fewer calories than Graeter’s traditional ice cream. Those at Graeter’s felt that current reduced-sugar options do not suffice and wanted to create a line that has all the flavor of Graeter’s original, but will less sugar and fat for those who need to watch their consumption. 

Chocolate Chip, Mint Chocolate Chip and Madagascar Bourbon Vanilla Bean are among the flavors in the new “A Little Less Indulgent” line.

According to Graeter’s, the new gelato line is the most authentic gelato available in the United States, closely resembling that found in Italy. Graeter’s gelato is created using the same process as Italian gelato machines. Gelato has only half the butterfat content of premium ice creams. 

The new gelato flavors include Caramel Truffle, Hazelnut Truffle, Vanilla with Milk Chocolate Truffles and Dark Chocolate Truffle. The truffles are made by Gertrude Hawk, a family-owned candy company in Pennsylvania.  

Kroger will be the first grocery store to sell the new lines. In March, Graeter’s Gelato and “A Little Less Indulgent” ice cream will roll out in select grocery stores across the United States.
Matthew Woolley

Cincybite offers city's first third-party restaurant delivery service

A new way to order restaurant food recently made its way to Cincinnati. 
Cincybite, a third-party food delivery service created by local restaurant owner Robbie Sosna, who runs Freshii's downtown franchise, opened December 2 and is now fully operational.
Sosna, who grew up in Cincinnati, returned from Los Angeles after working a variety of jobs in the film, television and restaurant industries. He then began laying the groundwork for Cincybite, met with support from many surrounding restaurants.
"Once I got established in Cincinnati, I started looking for a third-party delivery service, and it just didn't exist," Sosna says. "I kept saying, 'Somebody needs to do this, somebody needs to do this,' and at some point I said, 'Well, I'm going to be the person who does it, because I understand the value and benefit, being a restaurant owner'."
Cincybite, functioning both online and by phone, currently delivers food from Freshii, Buca di Beppo, Jefferson Social, El Coyote, Local's Bar & Grill, and M Wood Fired Pizza.
"I started talking to some people and to the restaurants, and everybody realized very quickly that this was a service necessary for the city," Sosna says. "I wanted to do a smaller platform launch, so now that we've kind of worked out all of the kinks and everything seems to be functioning properly, we're getting ready to put up the additional restaurants and keep on going from there."
Cincybite service extends to downtown Cincinnati, OTR, Clifton, Columbia Tusculum, Walnut Hills, Hyde Park, Oakley, Norwood, Covington and Newport, with plans to expand to the northern suburbs along I-75 as the business develops.
"We have four restaurants that we will launch by the end of January, and then after that, now that we're an established business, many restaurants are contacting us," Sosna says. "Up until this point, for the most part, all you've been able to deliver is pizza or a random Chinese restaurant that might be in your neighborhood. But delivery has not been an actual part of our life here."
Open 7 days a week from 11 a.m. to 10 p.m., Cincybite's delivery prices range from $4.99 - $6.99, varying by location. 
"We're 30 minutes for downtown deliveries," Sosna says. Or if you live in Hyde Park, Clifton, Oakley, Norwood, Columbia Tusculum or Mount Adams, we'll say it'll be 45 minutes from a downtown restaurant, and vise versa."

By Kyle Stone

Cincinnati-based Scenario Learning's SafeSchools Training named top product four years straight

For the fourth consecutive year, SafeSchools Training, the leading staff training system for K-12 schools, has been named a District Administration Magazine Readers’ Choice Top 100 Product. SafeSchools Training is a product designed by Cincinnati-based Scenario Learning.
Scenario Learning began when Brian Taylor and Greg Estep set out to create a web-based learning management system that could help make schools safer and efficient.
“Not long after the shooting at Columbine High School, Greg Estep and I set out to talking with districts,” Taylor says. “We learned that they had an immediate need for compliance and safety-related training for staff. It was a very costly problem for them.”
This led to the creation of SafeSchools Training. Since that time, the program has helped thousands of districts around the world reduce costs and increase safety through effective staff training. Districts that have most successfully implemented the online training program have realized a 51 percent decrease in the severity of property and liability claims and a 58 percent decrease in workers’ compensation claims, saving hundreds of thousands of educational dollars a year.
“From the outset, we decided that every course would be 100 percent designed for a school worker, so you won’t see any ‘general industry’ content; it’s all designed to meet the unique needs of school employees,” Taylor says.
In recognizing the most innovative products, the annual District Administration Readers’ Choice Top 100 Products award informs superintendents and other senior school district leaders about products their colleagues around the country are using to help their districts excel.
“The education industry is poised for great growth,” Taylor says. “Many entrepreneurial companies are offering higher quality solutions at attractive values for the education space.”
In addition to education, the product lines at Scenario Learning have also grown to include a full suite of web-based solutions to help clients with chemical compliance, incident reporting, and accident tracking and investigations.
“We’ve had a terrific 2013, finishing up 45 percent in sales,” Taylor says. “In 2014, we’ll be moving to a new, larger office space, continuing to grow internationally and launching a new major product line.”  
For more information, visit www.scenariolearning.com.

By Mike Sarason

St. Elizabeth Healthcare and TriHealth launch collaborative venture to improve health care

St. Elizabeth Healthcare and TriHealth announced last month they have signed a letter of intent to establish Healthcare Solutions Network, a collaborative venture that enables the two organizations to more quickly achieve the Institute for Healthcare Improvement’s “Triple Aim” goals of better health, better patient experience and lower costs.
While such an agreement is new to the Cincinnati area, nationally, a range of healthcare collaborations recently have been announced between organizations that want to work together but not merge.
“This is simply a way that organizations can work together on certain projects while remaining independent on others,” Joe Kelley, spokesperson for TriHealth, says. “The community benefits because these collaborations can be done relatively quickly and can start to deliver new services to employers and consumers more efficiently.”
Healthcare Solutions Network is a unique, regional health organization that brings together the physicians and hospitals of St. Elizabeth Healthcare and TriHealth—both of which are nationally recognized health systems. Healthcare Solutions Network will arrange for high-quality, individually tailored and coordinated care to patients in Ohio, Kentucky and Indiana.
“We recognize health care is changing rapidly,” St. Elizabeth Healthcare CEO John Dubis says. “It’s imperative to be able to accelerate ways to streamline patient care, improve quality outcomes and help eliminate or lower unnecessary costs. This kind of innovative teamwork is needed to accomplish these goals.”
First year priorities include introducing a new Medicare Advantage product to the market for this exclusive network, creating a single network to enable employed physicians, independent physicians and hospitals to align to improve quality and outcomes under a common infrastructure and more.
Dubis and TriHealth CEO John Prout will be in charge of the Healthcare Solutions Network together, and both are promising reduced costs for health care.
“A shared infrastructure will increase value and reduce redundancies of tests and procedures by sharing information,” Prout says. “It will also help better coordinate care and improve outcomes.”

By Mike Sarason

Pique Galleria in East Walnut Hills provides platform for new artists

Pique Galleria in East Walnut Hills has set out a very particular mission for itself. The art gallery, located on Woodburn Avenue by DeSales Corner, was launched as a way for new artists to showcase their work.
“For emerging artists, it’s very difficult to get into a gallery,” Jen Sparks, owner of Pique, says. “Most galleries won’t give artists these chances, so they often don’t even know where to start. We wanted to give these artists a leg up.”
Pique, which opened in August 2013, joins the ranks of Manifest Gallery, Hi-Bred, Le Bon Vivant and others that are working to make East Walnut Hills Cincinnati’s newest arts district.
Sparks, who is a neuromuscular therapist by day, hopes that Pique is filling a gap in the arts community that often leaves artists with a Catch-22 of how to begin their professional careers. If this sounds familiar, it’s because Isaac Selya had a very similar revelation about the classical music community in Cincinnati and chose to found Queen City Chamber Opera to fill in a similar gap. (Soapbox covered Selya’s story here.)
Pique also seeks to attract people who are new to buying art, understanding that it can be intimidating at first.
“Not everyone has $10,000 to throw around for original artwork, so we try to keep the price point of the art that we show here at a level that won’t be daunting,” Sparks says. “Anyone can buy art, and I think that everyone should. I think that to fill your home with something that was created and worked on by a local artist is just good for you, it’s good karma.”
Pique’s openings are usually scheduled around the neighborhood’s Walk on Woodburn, a monthly event showcasing East Walnut Hills’ unique personality, similar to Over-the-Rhine/Pendleton’s Final Fridays. The next opening will be January 24, with a show themed around fiber.
“I’m really hoping to grow Pique into a destination in 2014, meet and work with more new artists and continue to strengthen the neighborhood here,” Sparks says.

By Mike Sarason 

Bad Girl Ventures winner Mommy's Dream Team prepares for rapid growth

In December 2013, Bad Girl Ventures (BGV) graduated its eighth class of entrepreneurs and named Mommy’s Dream Team the winner of its class, awarding the business a $25,000 grant. BGV is micro-lending nonprofit supporting female entrepreneurs in Cincinnati since 2010, and has since expanded to Cleveland and Columbus.
Mommy’s Dream Team is a night-nanny agency that helps newborns to get on a consistent sleeping/feeding schedule while allowing parents an opportunity to get quality rest through the night.
Although the business is new, having just completed its first year, Rachel Jones, founder of Mommy’s Dream Team, has quite a pedigree in the field.
“My mother and aunts worked as nannies and were asked to start doing overnight care about 18 years ago,” Jones says. “It got to the point where they were booked three to six months out purely through word of mouth.”
Six years ago, Rachel’s mother and aunts became nurses and trained her on overnight care. It was only when she discovered Bad Girl Ventures, about two years ago, that she decided to start her own agency.
“It’s a great program because they not only give you a general overview of what you will need to run a company, but they have you meet with experts in that field so you can ask questions specific to your business,” Jones says. “It is amazing the amount of free help and knowledge there is in the Cincinnati community, and so many people are willing to help you if you just reach out and ask.”
So far, Jones’ business has flourished with the aid of BGV and a dedicated clientele that is spreading the gospel of Mommy’s Dream Team.
“In our first year, we have doubled our projections,” Jones says. “Right now, one of the biggest challenges we're facing is keeping the quality we want while growing so rapidly.”
Jones has hired 12 employees in her first year and is looking to double her growth next year, open a second location and hire 10 more employees in the next two months. 

By Mike Sarason
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