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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

NKU student-run business wins award at national entrepreneurship conference

A team of entrepreneurship students from Northern Kentucky University earned the Best Chapter Business Award at the Collegiate Entrepreneurs Organization National Conference in Chicago last month. The award honors the most creative, unique and successful student-run business among the 400 schools in attendance.
Michael Stubbs, Jason Hulett and Paul Kemp presented their student-designed apparel line, Punch Press Threads.
“Punch Press Threads came about from an idea of students sharing artistic creations with other students and with members of the community in a more tangible way,” Hulett says. “Gallery shows and art exhibits are great, but we thought T-shirts could go a lot further in helping to develop and strengthen the relationship between students on campus.”
From this idea, Stubbs and Hulett decided to create a T-shirt design contest to help promote entrepreneurship in the art community at NKU. After a successful contest, the Punch Press Threads brand was created.
Each print is produced in limited quantity to help create an environment of exclusivity. Each garment is packaged with an information card that has a picture of the designer, information about their background and a short description of the meaning of the design, along with a custom-made button that mimics the design.
The CEO conference put Punch Press on a bigger stage when they were selected as one of four school finalists to present their business to a panel of judges.
“We prepared the week leading up to the conference, on the drive to Chicago and in the hotel room hours before showtime,” Hulett says. “We all rocked the presentation and came home victorious as the 1st Place Best Chapter Business in the Country.”
Through teaming up with other students in NKU’s media informatics and marketing departments, Punch Press has been able to spread its reach across the campus community, where many students are eager to support one another's design efforts.
“We’ve also received tremendous support and mentorship from our advisors on the faculty,” Hulett says. “NKU provides a great ecosystem for budding entrepreneurs to test and accomplish their goals.”
Punch Press is getting ready to launch a Kickstarter campaign to produce their first line of branded apparel and are gearing up for a second design contest to be held in the spring in NKU’s digitorium. To learn more visit their Facebook page

By Mike Sarason

UC partners with Cardinal Solutions to harness evolving technology

Cardinal Solutions, a national IT solutions provider with headquarters in Cincinnati, signed an agreement with the University of Cincinnati’s Department of Information Technology this fall that aims to provide an exchange of ideas and experiences to enrich both organizations.
“As part of the IT2019 strategic plan for the Department of Information Technology at UC, we recognized the importance of establishing deep partnerships with IT industry leaders,” says associate professor Hazem Said. “We took several steps to define and establish such partnerships. The agreement we signed with Cardinal Solutions, and with Cincinnati Bell Technology Solutions before that, is a manifestation of this effort.”
Cardinal Solutions will leverage its extensive experience in technology solutions including mobile application development, user experience and custom application development to help bring real-world experience to the students. The goal is to help affect curriculum in a manner to drive productivity of students when they graduate and enter the workforce.
“Students will now have multiple opportunities to know and interact with IT professionals in our corporate partners inside and outside the classrooms,” Said says. “Faculty in the IT program will also benefit from this partnership through opportunities to work with corporate teams and to conduct research related to problems faced by the industry.”
The partnership will help Cardinal Solutions interact with the talented pool of students. As the IT industry job landscape continues to be more and more competitive, Cardinal will get to know students from a recruiting perspective and ensure the students are prepared to enter the job force.
Although the partnership is just getting started, within the first few weeks, Cardinal professionals began to advise on senior design projects. Additionally, UC students and faculty are gaining exposure to the methodology and user interface design techniques at which Cardinal excels.

“We are hoping that the partnership will reduce Cardinal’s time and cost to hire,” Said says. “Furthermore, we are hoping that the partnership will enable UC to increase quantity and quality of its incoming IT students and its graduating IT class.
“To meet the challenges in the Information Technology sector, both academia and industry need to think differently and take new initiatives to change the status quo to increase the quantity and quality of graduates and to ensure continued professional development for the current workforce. The partnership model that we started at UC is just one step.” 

By Mike Sarason

Website where parents can buy and sell used kids' clothing launches

Loteda, the Cincinnati-based startup that offers an online marketplace where parents can buy and sell children’s gently used clothing by the lot, has launched their beta site via Shopify.
Loteda (pronounced lot-i-da), began earlier this year when Josh and Anna Fendley learned that they were expecting a baby girl, who was was born in August. They already had two boys and were left with bins and bins of outgrown boys clothing and a need for an entire new wardrobe of baby girl clothes.
“I really wanted to try and recoup some of our investment, in hopes that I could put the money toward some baby girl clothes,” Anna Fendley says. “I started researching online and was shocked at how limited the options were.”
Fendley began working on an idea for the marketplace that would become Loteda, while Josh, a partner at local digital marketing and product development agency Ample, began to work on building the site they envisioned.
In August, Loteda won second place in the fifth annual Cincinnati Innovates competition, earning them a $10,000 cash prize from seed-stage investor CincyTech.
“We’ve used the money to launch our beta site, and are now in the final step of our testing phase,” Fendley says.
With the beta site up, Fendley is hoping to attract parents with a similar need who want to earn a little money back on their kids' outgrown clothes and/or who save money/time by buying an entire season’s worth of clothing in one fell swoop (known as buying “by the lot," hence the name).
Between starting a family and starting a business, the Fendleys understand the need to save time as much as anyone.
“We’re very fortunate to have a network of family and friends who help us, with the kids and the business, so that we can spend as much time together as possible,” Fendley says. “We’re really inspired by the entrepreneurial ecosystem Cincinnati has going right now; it’s motivating to know that the community genuinely wants startups to succeed.”
In 2014, Loteda will continue to raise capital to build out the full site and recruit users looking to save time and money when it comes to their children’s clothes. To join the marketplace, visit www.loteda.com.  

By Mike Sarason

Noble Denim offers American-made products using regional partnerships

Just over a year ago, Chris Sutton launched his own high-quality, American-made jeans company in Over-the-Rhine called Noble Denim. With a year under its belt, Noble Denim has found some key partners to help the business expand while continuing its dedication to sustainably made, quality product.
When Soapbox last featured Noble Denim, the startup was looking to hire three to four employees to boost up production.
“We quickly realized that the average person isn’t able to pick up the craft that easily, but we knew that Chris alone couldn’t keep up with demand,” Abby Sutton, co-founder of Noble Denim, says. Instead, they were able to form a partnership that made the work they do even more meaningful.
“Through a random e-mail, we were connected with a family-run factory in Tennessee that used to make jeans back in the '70s and is just getting back into it,” Abby says. “We met them in May and fell in love. They are incredible craftsman with 40+ years of experience sewing. They are kind and the perfect people for us to work with.”
“Before we met Danny and his team in Tennessee, the vision for Noble Denim had felt very individualistic,” says Chris Sutton. “When we learned that those counties in Tennessee used to be bustling with orders until NAFTA went into effect and caused the massive outsourcing of jobs, it clicked. We realized that it is about a lot more than just me sewing; it is about employing a community and letting them continue to do what they do best.”
With the current partnership, Noble has allowed the family factory to remain one of the few such factories in the heart of America to stay in business, while it frees up the Cincinnati shop to continue focusing on small batches of unique products.
“We really value small business and try to work as local as we can find,” Abby says.
A few more of Noble Denim’s partners include South Paw Prints (Cincinnati-based), Steamwhistle Press (Cincinnati-based), Cone Mills for denim (White Oak, N.C.-based) and more.
“We are proud and grateful of how Cincinnati has embraced us,” Chris says. “In our first year, we sold 95% of our jeans to locals. We’re excited for 2014, when we’ll launch a small line of clothes in addition to the jeans.” 

By Mike Sarason

Rockfish launches 2014 pro-bono marketing program

Rockfish digital marketing and branding agency has opened applications for the company’s 2014 corporate giving program, which will reward two nonprofits with pro-bono digital marketing services for a project worth up to $50,000 in agency time.
“Rockfish has a long history of giving back to the community, through pro-bono work and volunteering, but we wanted to do something to formalize that process that helps nonprofits further their philanthropic causes,” Kari Wethington, senior manager of communications for Rockfish says.
Interested organizations that meet eligibility guidelines are asked to visit www.rockfishdigital.com/rockfishgivesback to submit their application by Dec. 15, 2013. The two selected nonprofits will be notified by mid-January 2014. Projects can include digital marketing work ranging from web and mobile design and development to branding to social media strategy and more.
“We are open to all types of organizations and encourage groups of all missions and sizes to apply and let us know how digital marketing could help further their mission,” Wethington says.
Some of Rockfish’s past volunteering work includes the ongoing mentoring work they do for the Brandery, the Over-the-Rhine based startup accelerator, and their participation in the Special Olympics of Hamilton County's Corporate Olympics on Fountain Square.
“Nonprofits, like most companies, are seeking ways to engage their target audience, inspire action and drive support via fundraising,” Wethington says. “In order to capture today's on-the-go consumer, it's important for nonprofits to build a strong digital presence with relevant messaging across channels.”
“Nonprofits also are seeking ways to maximize their budgets, and sometimes that means a digital marketing campaign or project will be put on hold. Our hope is that by offering this program, Rockfish can do its part to help nonprofits meet and exceed their goals for bettering the community.”
 By Mike Sarason 

NKU student receives award for role in local startup

Robert Crawford, a junior computer information technology major in the Northern Kentucky University College of Informatics, received ConnectKentucky’s Postsecondary Technology Award at the organization’s Tech Day last month.
The award is presented to a Kentucky college student who has recognized the benefits of using broadband technology and promotes and implements its use in creative and inspiring ways. Crawford was awarded the honor for his continuing role as the lead developer for a Kentucky-based social technology startup called InstrumentLife. This marks the fourth time in five years that a student from NKU’s College of Informatics earned this recognition.
“We are proud of Robert and all his accomplishments,” says Kevin Kirby, dean of the NKU College of Informatics. “This recognition underscores how students are being challenged with a mix of academics and real-world collaborations to impact the regional economy and develop the technology of tomorrow before graduation. Experiential learning is a win-win for economic development, the region and our students. Organizations get high-tech help from innovative students, and our students receive valuable experience, better preparing them for their careers.”
InstrumentLife is built around an online suite of applications which bring musicians, music enthusiasts and retailers together in new ways. The platform consists of a musician-oriented social network where musicians can share performances; learning tips/information; general updates and photos; and a work order systemthrough which retailers and manufacturers can track repairs/sales and relay the information to clients in innovative and effective ways.
“I’m excited to be a part of this startup that received its initial funding from the regional UpTech accelerator,” Crawford says. “Programs like these are perfect avenues for student talent.”
Crawford credited NKU with giving him valuable training and experience in his field.
“The College of Informatics at NKU has, with the help of its caring and well-spoken professors and lecturers, prepared me for the future in ways I hadn't even imagined,” Crawford says. “The experiential learning has helped me to further sharpen my skills and solidified my thirst for knowledge in the areas of information technology and computer science. I am also learning a wealth of business knowledge, which further prepares me for my future career.”
By Mike Sarason

Awesome Collective of Covington to host film premier party

On Friday, December 20, the Awesome Collective of Covington (AC) will premier the Index of Awesome, a film celebrating the awesomeness of Covington, at the Carnegie in downtown Covington from 6 to 9 p.m.
The collective is a group of engaged citizens of Covington dedicated to celebrating the “awesomeness” of the city through community projects which aim to engage residents, youth, visitors, schools, businesses and organizations.
Funded through a successful Kickstarter campaign as well as a Center for Great Neighborhoods’ Place Matters Mini-Grant, the film highlights the people and gathering spots that make Covington a wonderful place to live and visit as voted by the public in an online survey earlier this year. The film was produced by local media company Matic.
The Index of Awesome began in 2012 as a free printed zine and accompanying online digital version.
“Due to the success of the printed zine, we decided to replicate the project in 2013 using a vehicle that could be shared across the world,” says Teresa Burns, core member of the AC. “We knew that a film would allow the message of Covington’s awesomeness to be delivered far and wide.”
The AC promises that the film will features residents, visitors, patrons, entrepreneurs and change-makers all sharing the same message: Covington is awesome.
“Our sincere hope is that people receive a message of pride, strength and inspiration, and share that message with others in their community whether that be Covington or elsewhere,” says Jerod Theobald, another core member of the AC.  
“The time is now in Covington,” says Lydia Cook of the AC. “There is the development of the Hotel Covington, Gateway Community & Technical College’s Urban Campus, new entrepreneurs are joining the pioneers, and businesses, residents and organizations are working together toward the same vision. The Awesome Collective is one small part of the gigantic team moving Covington ahead.”
To learn more about the Awesome Collective of Covington or about the premier of the Index of Awesome, visit www.facebook.com/AwesomeCollectiveofCovington.      

By Mike Sarason

Cincinnati State hosts LEGO robotics tournament

Cincinnati State played host to the FIRST Lego League Regional Robotics Tournament on Saturday, December 7th.
The FIRST Lego League was founded by health care technologist and Segway inventor Dean Kamen as a way of introducing middle school students (ages 9-14) to real-world engineering challenges by building LEGO-based robots to complete tasks on a thematic playing surface. It is designed to encourage creativity and build interest in engineering, math and sciences.
Students had been working since the end of August to design, build and program their LEGO Mindstorms robots to accomplish missions on a thematic LEGO playing field. In addition to the robot game (which took place in the afternoon), students spent the morning being judged on their robot design. Students came from all walks of life and represented several area schools including Walnut Hills High School, St. Williams Middle School, Loveland Middle School, Monfort Heights and more.
“We felt that the FIRST organization does a tremendous job in introducing students to career opportunities in the fields of design, engineering and technology, so we wanted to show our support by hosting this event,” says Josh Haldeman, program chair of the Industrial Design Technology (IDT) track at Cincinnati State.
This year marked the third consecutive year that Cincinnati State hosted the competition. Cincinnati State also sponsors the high school level FIRST Robotics Competition Queen City Regional, which is hosted at Xavier University each spring.
“By hosting this competition, we’ve discovered that we have helped to encourage more schools, organizations, parents and leaders to form a team and get involved,” Haldeman says. “The number of teams in Cincinnati has doubled since we started hosting this event. The students who are on a team get the chance to see real-world applications of design, science, technology, engineering and math, and therefore, are better engaged in the classroom.”

By Mike Sarason

One More Pallet secures new funding, reflects on first year

One More Pallet, the Cincinnati-based shipping startup company that helps smaller businesses find inexpensive transportation for their products, recently closed a $300,000 round of funding from Queen City Angels' First Fund IV along with an additional $95,000 directly from investors. The company, which started in 2012, has pivoted its model a few times in its first year of business to meet customer demands.
“Based on feedback, we simplified the user experience and have built a list of enhancements that will continue to make our system more convenient to use,” says Bill Cunningham, CEO of One More Pallet.
One More Pallet’s basic premise is that carrier trucks can average between 30-40 percent empty space, and the idea of adding “one more pallet” would increase efficiency and profitability. One More Pallet connects these trucks/trucking companies with small, underserved shippers to create value for both parties.
“We look for companies who need a trusted source for their shipping and are also looking for a quick and efficient way to move their goods,” Cunningham says. As is often the case in startup companies, Cunningham has had to shift priorities along the way.
“Our core value has changed from low-cost shipper to becoming the trusted source for small-volume shippers. We have found that customers value quality as well as low pricing," he says.
No stranger to the demands of starting a business, Cunningham has a long list of entrepreneurial experience. He began along this path in the early 1990s, counts One More Pallet as his sixth startup and also spent time as the director for the Xavier Entrepreneurial Center.
“I’ve seen entrepreneurship from all sides: as a founder, investor, academic, mentor and more.”
For 2014, Cunningham hopes to see One More Pallet transform into small shippers’ trusted source for LTL shipping; his goal is to reach more than 1,000 satisfied customers by the end of next year. And he urges Cincinnatians to support local businesses like his.
“Buy from local startups, just like you go to your local farmer’s market," he says. "We can provide you with excellent service, and you help our region prosper by choosing us.”

By Mike Sarason

UC researchers' Smartlight could lead revolution in interior lighting

Two researchers at the University of Cincinnati have collaborated across disciplines to create a new technology called SmartLight, which uses tiny, electrofluidic cells and a series of open-air ducts to transport light directly from the sun throughout a building, even into windowless workspaces.
Anton Harfman, an associate professor in UC’s School of Architecture and Interior Design and associate dean of UC’s College of Design, Architecture, Art and Planning (DAAP), and Jason Heikenfeld, professor of electrical engineering and computer systems and creator of the SmartLight's electrofluidic cells, first began working on the idea in 2007.
“UC was participating in an event called the Solar Decathlon in Washington, D.C. (a biennial competition put on by the U.S. Department of Energy),” Harman says. “It was quite an intense project, and it was there that the brainstorming for SmartLight began. We honed in on the idea of how to better take advantage of the light that hits the side of a building.”
The innovations of Harman, Heikenfeld and their team of researchers may prove to be groundbreaking and trigger a shift not only in building design, but also in the way we use energy and sunlight. A typical photovoltaic array (think solar panels on a roof) loses most of the sun’s energy when it gets converted into electricity, which is often then going back into powering light bulbs. But with SmartLight, Harfmann says the sunlight channeled through the system stays, and is used, in its original form, which is far more efficient and sustainable.
“Traditionally, the way light has been channeled through a building is through fiber optics, which is very expensive and needs to be physically run through the building,” Harman says. “Smartlight is unique in that it’s all done without needing to install new wiring, ducts, tubes or cables.
Harman and Heikenfeld recently presented their research paper, "Smart Light—Enhancing Fenestration to Improve Solar Distribution in Buildings" at Italy’s CasaClima international energy forum. In the meantime, they are working on securing funding to build out a fully functional prototype of the technology.
To learn more, read UC’s press release on SmartLight here.

By Mike Sarason

Infomotion Sports Technologies launches smart sensor basketball

Ohio-based Infomotion Sports Technologies has announced the launch of its 94Fifty Smart Sensor Basketball that measures and diagnoses key skills critical to building confidence, versatility and success in the game.
The 94Fifty utilizes nine sensors inside the ball to deliver real-time shooting and ball-handling feedback, including shot speed, backspin and arc measurements, to an iPhone or iPod touch via Bluetooth Low Energy, giving players of any skill level the ability to improve important muscle memory skills more efficiently and effectively.
“The 94Fifty gives coaches insight into data they've never had before such as shot release time, spin rate, launch angle, dribble force and much more,” Tarek Kamil, Executive Director of Online Strategy at Infomotion, says. “With that data, coaches can develop customized workout plans for their players and, most importantly, can measure progress.”
The sensor technology inside the basketball was initially developed as part of a missile guidance system and takes 6,000 different measurements per second. The goal of the ball is to serve as a way to quantify a player’s skill level, an idea that has historically been very subjective.
“If we could ‘see’ skill, we could then measure it (Am I improving?), compare it (How does my skill compare to others by age, gender, geography, etc.?) and improve it (Based on your data, watch these three videos to help you improve.),” Kamil says.
Infomotion has already received noteworthy praise for its innovative technology. In addition to positive feedback from youth players all the way up to NBA players, Apple was so impressed by the 94Fifty when they found out about it that they signed an agreement with Infomotion to carry the ball at every one of their North American stores.
In 2014, Kamil says that Infomotion will continue to expand the online community for its users so they can compete online, look at leader boards, watch prescriptive videos and more.
“We’re looking forward to what we can do with this technology and are also working towards expanding into other sports next year,” Kamil says.
Kamil himself has been heavily engaged in the Cincinnati startup scene, having been involved in different capacities as a founder, investor, mentor and more through organizations like The Brandery, Cintrifuse, UpTech and the Greater Cincinnati Venture Association.
“I consistently try to deliver the message that you do not have to leave this area to do something awesome,” he says. “I’ve proved it in the past, and I hope we’re proving that again with Infomotion.” 

By Mike Sarason

Tom + Chee prepares for rapid growth in 2014

Tom + Chee, the locally owned purveyor of grilled cheese and tomato soup, has quickly and perhaps not so quietly become the fastest-growing grilled cheese empire in the U.S.
After starting in 2009 as a food tent on Cincinnati’s Fountain Square, the company opened its first brick and mortar store just under a year later. In the past three years, that number has gone from one store to six (three in Cincinnati and three in Louisville), with two more opening before the year’s end (Lexington and East Lansing). But that’s just the tip of the iceberg.
In the first quarter of 2014, Tom + Chee will open 11 more stores and is currently under contact to open more than 100 locations in the next three years. The catalyst? Getting dunked in the Shark Tank.
In May of 2013, Tom + Chee was featured on ABC’s hit reality TV show “Shark Tank.” Founders Trew Quackenbush and Corey Ward appeared on the show, when they won an investment deal with “shark” Barbara Corcoran after pitching expansion plans for their restaurants offering fancy comfort food with fresh ingredients. In the time since then, they’ve been inundated with franchise requests.
“We’ve had over 9,000 requests,” Ward says. “They’ve come from all 50 states, Canada, the Phillippines, Dubai and even the Czech Republic.”
In spite of their impending growth, Ward mentions that many things have and will stay the same.
“When we started this, we wanted to provide fun and inexpensive food, and that hasn’t changed,” Ward says. “And with lots of people getting into the foodie culture, we wanted to provide a fun option that would appeal to that but also didn’t exclude anyone by being too costly.”
“If there’s one thing that has changed it’s that now we actually have some money in the bank,” Ward laughs. “When we were still on Fountain Square, we were putting all of our own money into this, so it’s nice not to worry about being able to pay our rent.” 

By Mike Sarason

Roadtrippers rolls out new embeddable maps

Roadtrippers, the Cincinnati-based startup that helps users discover, plan and book road trips customized to their own individual preferences, now has embeddable maps so that users can display a road trip on their own blog or website.
“Now the trips, bucket lists and places that users can create on our site don’t just have to live on Roadtrippers; they can live on other digital properties, which is really exciting,” says Chelsea Koglmeier, Operations Manager for Roadtrippers. “If you go on a trip and you’re blogging about it, you can display your trip right there. People can see where you stopped and interact with the places. If someone want to re-create the trip, they just have to click on the box and it takes them over to the Roadtrippers main site, where they can customize the map and use it for their own adventure.”
The embeddable maps function is as simple as logging on to Roadtrippers.com, creating a trip, clicking the “share trip” button, and choosing the proper dimensions for your site. Roadtrippers has also increased the maximum waypoints on a trip from 25 to 40, which is four times the Google Maps limit.
“An interesting facet is that we initially rolled this technology out for a website called theonering.net,” Koglmeier says. “They were taking a road trip to a comic book convention and really wanted an embeddable map to document their trip, so we rolled it out really quick for them. It was bare bones, but since then, people just love it. They keep asking for it and asking for it.”
After starting with the stripped down version, the Roadtrippers team worked long and hard to make the maps simple and easy to use. But the team has much further to go; up on the wall in their Over-the-Rhine office is a list of all of their 2013 and 2014 product goals, many of which have yet to be rolled out.
“The maps are just one piece of a bigger puzzle. A huge part of the travel offseason is that we continue to grow and people continue to be excited about our startup, even though it’s not travel season," Koglmeier says. "With the maps, it’s putting our brand in front of more eyes. Each time you post one on your site, it’s putting us in front of new people.”

By Mike Sarason

Max Training Program finds new method to address job market gap

MAX Technical Training, the Cincinnati-based IT training company, launched its new Java Developer Apprenticeship program, aiming to address employment and talent issues in the region.
The program, created by MAX founder Denise Bartick, is an innovative approach to retraining unemployed or underemployed people and addresses two interrelated business/economic/job sector issues: primarily, the issue of the rising number of trained professionals unable to find jobs in their field, and the simultaneous rise in unfilled demand for trained IT professionals due to a lack of talent.
“In recent years, our clients, who are mainly Fortune 1000 companies, have been saying, ‘We need more IT people, we need more software developers,’ but not many people have thought to look within for these positions,” Bartick says. “In many cases, companies are just poaching from each other out of the same, limited talent pool.”
Bartick’s program can handle everything from recruiting, assessing and selecting candidates to training them and, ultimately, placing them into new IT careers. Students in the program are trained to use JAVA, HTML, .NET and CSS, and are taught several other important skills in order to increase their marketability. Last year, MAX worked with Great American Insurance Group to successfully train and transition 10 people into JAVA Developer roles.
“MAX Technical Training’s approach to sourcing new IT Developer talent has been a huge success for us,” says Piyush Singh, VP and CIO at Great American Insurance Group, Property & Casualty Information Technology. “Recruiting JAVA developers has been a challenge for us over the past five years, and we were facing the same recruiting challenges as our peers in our industry. We needed something different and long-term. Collaborating with MAX to strengthen our team of JAVA developers has proven to be a rewarding investment.”
So far, the training program has been rolled out on a small scale; two classes of students have graduated the program as either .NET or JAVA developers and Bartick is opening the door for businesses looking to fill similar needs.
“We’re looking for creative, open-minded businesses and individuals,” Bartick says. “This is the right thing to do. We’ve got to invest in our region and our economy now.

By Mike Sarason

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