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Blink makeup studio offers hand-mixed body care, makeup in Northside

During their careers as professional makeup artists, eventual best friends and colleagues Niki Mcclanahan and Megan Kelly felt their industry was straying too far from its roots.

"We felt it was becoming more about how much product you could sell," Mcclanahan says. "It was getting away from being fun and creative, and helping people find a look they never thought they could achieve."

She and Kelly joked off and on for a few years about striking out on their own, but by last spring, the joke became serious. After careful research and planning, they started Blink makeup studio. The freelance makeup artists have a shop in Northside International Airport, an eclectic retail, arts and entertainment space.

Blink sells its own line of handmade soaps, shower gels, lotions, bath bombs and essential oils. The shop also features an essential oil bar.

"We started from scratch, and did a lot of research on how essential oils and natural oils work," says Mcclanahan. "If a customer comes in to our oil bar, we can mix a custom blend right in front of them."

Among their most popular products is a brown sugar lip scrub. "People have really started using it all over their bodies because it's a very gentle exfoliant," she says.

Blink has recently expanded into the founder's first love—makeup. They've worked with an outside company to develop Blink's artistry makeup line. They're starting out small, offering products for eyes, lips and cheeks.

For their more environmentally-conscious clients, Blink offers mineral-based eyeshadows, a line they plan to expand.

Cincinnati is taking notice of Blink. It's was recently featured in CityBeat's 2013 Best of Cincinnati issue and in Cincinnati Magazine's Bridal Buzz blog.

By Feoshia H. Davis
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RentShare changes how rent is typically paid

RentShare, an online service that allows tenants to pay their rents online, is set to become a standard for the global home rental industry.

Started largely with support from The Brandery, RentShare's Manhattan-based entrepreneurs came to Cincinnati to benefit from the area's powerful startup community. RentShare, only a burgeoning idea when it entered the Queen City, has emerged as a functioning business that was ready to change how people pay their rent.

Any tenant with Internet access can use RentShare. The service allows renters to simply split rent payments, along with bills and expenses (including house cleaning services in the future), with roommates. By helping to eliminate one of the most common frustrations among people who share apartments or houses, RentShare is designed to help irritated roommates who are sick of absentee payers or passive-aggressive notes left on their refrigerators.

In addition, since rental payments are the only use of paper checks for many people, RentShare helps to eliminate the hassle of having another type of payment option available for only one bill. By automatically sending your landlord a check in the mail, with a detailed status report of which tenants’ payment is accounted for, there is no change for the landlord, who doesn’t even need to be notified directly that renters have opted to use RentShare.

RentShare founders Ian Halpern, Christopher Toppino and Trevor Geis focused on catering to tenants, rather than the landlords. In fact, landlords are not required to register for the service, as long as the necessary information is supplied by the renters.

By Sean Peters

Proposal could boost solar panel manufacturing, reduce city's carbon footprint

Cincinnati Vice Mayor Roxanne Qualls introduced a motion that could change the way residents and businesses pay for powering their spaces with solar energy.

She says the benefits are two-fold: increasing the demand for solar panel manufacturing and lowering the city's reliance on fossil fuels.

This plan is one of several energy-saving initiatives introduced since City Council adopted the Green Cincinnati Plan in 2008. That plan included a goal of one in every five Cincinnati buildings incorporating rooftop panels fueled by solar power by 2028.

"There's an emerging solar manufacturing sector here, and we would be creating a financing mechanism that would allow the demand to emerge for solar energy," Qualls says. "It's not a viable option for many property owners right now."

Qualls introduced a measure that directs the city to look into working with local environmental organizations like Green Umbrella, the Greater Cincinnati Energy Alliance and the Port of Greater Cincinnati Development Authority to help create a Property Assisted Clean Energy, or PACE, financing program.

PACE programs is a public/private initiative that are enabled by legislatures in nearly three dozen states across the country—including Ohio—which help business and homeowners pay for energy upgrades to existing buildings. Typically, participating property owners can finance those upgrades as a property tax assessment for up to 20 years.

"It's tax neutral, promotes 'going green' and reduces our carbon footprint," Qualls says.

The city has used the property tax assessment mechanism before for property owners who have been responsible for other large fixes, Qualls says.

"It has been done to pay for costly repairs over time—that's the same principle PACE follows," she says.

Ohio passed its PACE law in 2009. In 2012, the Toledo-Lucas County Port Authority issued the first PACE bonds in Ohio for a project to upgrade the City of Toledo’s municipal buildings.

Cincinnati must pass its own legislation for a local PACE program. Quall's motion directs the administration to bring the legislation back to Council within 60 days.

By Feoshia H. Davis
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Novak Consulting Group moves to HCBC

Novak Consulting Group was started on a dare.

Egged on by her husband and friends, Julia Novak felt compelled to earnestly pursue starting her own consulting business for leaders in government and non-profit communities. She began her solo venture at home, and has since hired staff around the country and progressed to working out of the Hamilton County Business Center. There, her consulting firm continues to serve clients all over the country.

While consulting with governments and nonprofits in public works, public safety, human resources, finance, planning and IT sectors, Novak Consulting Group aims to service more fields than other firms by working with a skilled team whose members offer a broad range of expertise.

With a background in city management, Novak has found success serving local governments across the United States. Having her own Cincinnati-certified small business has allowed her to take her talents to different types of clients. But her emphasis is in personalized service that suits each situation’s needs.

Expanding the office to the HCBC means dedicated meeting and collaboration space as well as increased support from other local ventures and small business advocates.

By Sean Peters

Platform 53 brings coworking to Covington

On April 12, Platform 53 is hosting a “jelly” for those interested in coworking. A “jelly” is a temporary coworking event that Platform 53 plans to host every two weeks.
 
Adam Dean launched Platform 53 in January 2012 at Northern Kentucky University’s Startup Weekend—but under the name 3C-Coworks. At the time, Dean was an intern at Bad Girl Ventures, and he saw a need for a coworking space in Covington. He partnered with Stacy Kessler, an ex-P&Ger whose background is in consumer understanding and strategy, and the name was eventually changed.
 
The name references the railroad and the impact it had on the area. The “53” refers to 1853, which is the year the Covington train station at Eighth and Russell was built. Platform 53 also symbolizes the role the group wants to play in the community, by being a platform upon which people can build their businesses.
 
“I was used to a traditional office setting and office resources, but then I started working at home and out of coffee shops, and I realized I needed something different,” Kessler says.
 
About 30 percent of the private workforce in the United States works independently, Dean says. “We want to create a network of opportunity in the area and be a hub for independent workers.”
 
Dean and Kessler have a vision for Platform 53’s physical workspace, which they’re hoping to secure by the end of April. They want to have an open work environment with a combination of phone booth rooms, meeting rooms and conference rooms, plus flexible desk options or dedicated office space for those that wish to have their own offices.
 
“We want to make people feel at home, and have a platform to celebrate successes and make announcements,” Dean says.
 
Platform 53 is for entrepreneurs, small businesses, independent workers and those with flexible work arrangements who want to run and grow their businesses and connect with others.
 
“To me, coworking is about ‘accelerated serendipity,’” Dean says. “You might not know what you need, but you’ll eventually see the opportunity by being around others.”
 
Currently, Dean and Kessler have had about 75 people show interest in Platform 53. And the group isn’t just tech-focused. “The magic happens when you bring together people from different walks of life,” Kessler says.
 
They’re looking for different skill sets but shared values among members.
 
“We want to be part of the startup corridor,” says Kessler. “The Brandery and Cintrifuse are in Over-the-Rhine, and UpTech and Platform 53 are here in Covington—we’re like bookends that connect the region.”
 
By Caitlin Koenig
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Cincinnati board game developer works to add to his success with Family Vacation

Yes, blockbuster video game releases get all the buzz and rake in a lot of money, but the tried-and-true board game still has a following. And it's even made a mini resurgence in the past decade.

Some of the best-selling modern board games, including Ticket to Ride and Dominion, feature compelling back-stories, are fast-paced and require strategic thinking.

Just in time for summer, a Cincinnati board game developer with a track record of success is working to get his latest game, Family Vacation, on retail shelves. Philip duBarry, with the backing of Jolly Roger Games, has launched a Kickstarter campaign to fund the game's production.

Children and adults alike can play Family Vacation, a game where each player takes their family to various cities and attractions across the United States and racks up or loses happiness points through travel experiences (including chances for bonus points). The player with the most points at the end of the vacation earns the title of "Vacation Master." You can see a video will a complete explanation of the game here.

"Family Vacation is a lighter, more casual sort of game," duBarry says. "It takes about an hour to play." DuBarry previously designed Revolution! by Steve Jackson Games, Kingdom of Solomon by Minion Games and Courtier by AEG.

So far, the Kickstarter campaign has raised about one-fourth of its $12,000 goal.

When he's not creating games, duBarry is a children's pastor at Addyston Baptist Church. He has a B. A. in elementary education from Middle Tennessee State University, and has lived in the Cincinnati area for the past 13 years.

He began designing games as a hobby in 2007, when he created Revolution! and sold a few dozen on the Internet.

"Then Phil Reed of Steve Jackson Games bought one and asked if I'd thought of publishing the game," he says. It was the end of a hobby and the start of a side job.

"I've thought about starting my own company, but really my favorite part of this is designing and making games, so that is what I'm sticking to," duBarry says.

By Feoshia H. Davis
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Applied Decision Science aims to improve decision-making

Applied Decision Science is a field-based research and development company that specializes in the the study and development of new ways to improve decision-making in high stress situations.

Founded by Steve Wolf, along with Laura Militello and Dr. Gary Klein—two authorities in the fields of human cognition and the budding study of naturalistic decision-making—Applied Decision Science is dedicated to improving the choices made by people in arduous situations (medics, soldiers, firefighters, etc).

By obtaining their data firsthand from the field and by interviewing pertinent subjects, Applied Decision Science can create protocol applications that enhance the chances of successful and beneficial decisions. This is a distinct difference from lab-based research, which separates the researcher from the core of their study.

While their military work is confidential, the work the company has done for the healthcare sector continues to enhance peoples’ lives. Their most recent efforts for the Centers for Disease Control & Prevention involve an application that helps healthcare providers identify patients at a higher risk of colorectal cancer, one of the deadliest iterations of the disease.     

Rooted in Wolf’s work of studying the potential for enhanced decision-making, and coupled with Dr. Militello and Klein’s expertise, Applied Decision Science was started largely thanks to the Hamilton County Development Company in Norwood. Through the business incubator, Applied Decision Science has overcome many of the struggles similarly sized startups encounter.

By Sean Peters

Talent Management LLC releases Talent Snapshot

A local company has just released a web-based employee evaluation tool that goes beyond mere checklists. Talent Snapshot is designed for mid-sized companies that are looking to develop existing talent, which is specific to job type. Think of it as employee evaluation 2.0.

"It's really designed for employee development," says Jackie Messersmith, president of Anderson-based Talent Management LCC. "It sets benchmarks, such as 'Where am I today and what do I need to work on?' Employees can be evaluated quarterly, semi-annually or however often you need."

The seven-year-old HR consultant company created Talent Snapshot from its real-world experience with clients. Many companies where dissatisfied with assessment tools currently in the market, Messersmith says.

"There are various tools and evaluations out there, and usually they're done because it's a company policy," she says. "They don't take a long-term view. It has nothing to do with training or coaching, or what you need to do to become a better employee. At the core of the system is how to make employees become more productive. It looks at competencies required for certain jobs, and areas that people can shore up."

Talent Management is a three-person partnership, and Messersmith has more than 16 years experience in workflow improvement projects as president of Workflow Dynamics. Vice President of Product Development and Vendor Relationships Allan Payne was a top human resources executive for Cincom Systems and Kahn’s. And Vice President of Marketing and IT Infrastructure Mike Meszaros is a software and marketing entrepreneur who created PPC Communications.

Talent Snapshot is the company's first software product. It was released in January, and the company is working to sell it through an affiliate network of HR-related professionals.

The company, which has been self-funded, is also preparing for an investment round, Messersmith says.

By Feoshia H. Davis
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Irish graffiti artist Maser creates mural in Pendleton neighborhood

Final Friday is going international this month with a kick-off event for "Get Up," a dynamic mural fashioned by world-renowned graffiti artist Maser. The Cincinnati piece is the second of a series of inspirational public art installations that Maser is creating across the United States.

The colorful mural features figures that are pushing and pulling each other out of situations in which they've been mired, explains Andrew Salzbrun, managing partner at AGAR. The Over-the-Rhine based company, which creates authentic "immersive experiences" between brands and consumers, brought Maser to Cincinnati.

Maser and AGAR first connected during a project they worked on together, a skateboard park in Bentonville, Ark. As the company found out more about Maser and his work, they thought he would make a great addition to Cincinnati's public art culture.

"This piece is about positive social messaging," says Salzbrun. "It's about grabbing one's neighbor or peer and pulling them up out of a bad a situation. That situation could be debt, it could be addiction, it could be poverty. The figures are hoisting each other, and striving to get each other out of the bad situation."

Maser began creating the mural in mid-March. It's on a wall in the Pendleton neighborhood—at 522 E. 12th St. It's at the intersection of 12th, Pendleton and Reading. The mural was filled in with primer and finished in spray paint.

The mural will officially be unveiled this Friday as part of Pendelton's Final Friday. Dubbed "An Urban Ballyhoo of Artistic Expression," the free reception will be held from 7 to 11 p.m. in the warehouse next door to the mural. Inside, Maser will be showcasing additional art installations, and live music will be provided by Archer’s Paradox, Black Signal and DJ Clockwork.

“Maser is not only shedding a positive light on graffiti,” says Josh Heuser, owner of AGAR. “He is inspiring and motivating people through his unique art style.”

Maser has been creating art across the globe since 1995. You can see his work in Austria, Belgium, Copenhagen, Germany, Holland, London, Prague, Slovenia, Spain and Sweden, as well as his birthplace—Ireland. Maser has studied fine art and achieved a qualification in Design Communication. Among his many achievements, he has been awarded with a membership to the International Society of Typographic Designers.

By Feoshia H. Davis
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Substance adds a touch of style to OTR

With a focus on the quality and design of its inventory, the fashion boutique known as Substance strives to sell its customers clothing that will stay fashionable for years by rejecting the seasonal craze that tends to encourage fashionistas to completely “update” their wardrobe.

Instead, Substance practices sustainability by offering durable and fashionable products that are projected to stay fashionable four to five years longer than other garments.

“We sell the clothes you keep,” said Christina Getachew, founder and owner of the fashion boutique Substance. “That’s our motto.”

Getachew adopted this attitude toward fashion after working in the industry in New York City for years. While she still does business with many East Coast designers, she has a special appreciation for community-driven initiatives that encourage locals to interact.

Substance takes great pride in showcasing locally designed and sourced items, including Molly Sullivan’s “Metal Bark” line of jewelry and knitwork by Pauline Sung. Rachell Wagers, a co-op student from the University of Cincinnati’s school of Design, Architecture, Art and Planning, currently tends the store and offers clothing of her own making.

Located in Over-the-Rhine, this is the second Substance in operation—the original location is in Columbus. A prerequisite for Substance to open for business is that it is located in a revitalized building, and reuses older locations instead of wasting the resources to build another storefront.

“It’s nice because the buildings already have their own character,” said Getachew.

With an array of high-end but affordable women’s clothing and accessories, Substance is a fashionable addition to OTR’s line of storefronts.

By Sean Peters

TEDx hosted by Xavier University for second year

TEDx, an independently organized intellectual conference licensed by the global TED event, will be hosted by Xavier University at the Cintas Center on April 17. Last year's premiere of TedxXavierUniversity was met with great success, and this year's event will include a multitude of speakers.

TEDx was started to mimic the larger TED’s format with multiple speakers, demonstrators and performers who seek to share “ideas worth spreading.” Nicholas Turon took on the lead role in organizing this year’s event with Xavier students who study the full spectrum of academic disciplines.

“I love TED and everything it stands for,” says Turon, who studies music education. “This is something we can be proud of. We’ve helped create an environment you don’t normally get in classes.”

Organized entirely by Xavier students, they view TEDx as an important legacy to leave for future students.

“There’s only so much you can do to change a university in four years,” says Sam Seigle, who is the head of speakers and sponsors for the event. “This is our special opportunity to make a lasting tradition. We hope it will grow more prestigious every year.”

Due to budgeting constraints, the event will have a smaller capacity than last year's. While 2012 reached its registration limit of 400 attendees within a week, this year, there will only be 200 available seats. Turon says the scaled-down event will offer participants a more intimate experience with speakers.

The organizers are eager to make TEDxXavierUniversity a continual success, which relies on spreading the word to promoters and interested audiences. Registration for tickets to the event is available here.

By Sean Peters

REPP brings trust, familiarity to online interactions

Many personal interactions that start online are based simply on trust—buying and selling on Craigslist, picking up discarded items from Freecyle, attending a brand new Meetup or even going out on a date.

But what if you could find out a bit more about someone before going out on that first date? Or maybe you'd like to alleviate a buyer's concerns before selling them your old Xbox. A Cincinnati couple started an online profile verification service that allows users to verify and share their identities, photos and background checks with other users.

Co-founders Michael and BreeAnna Bergman are set to launch their service, REPP, in public beta in April. The idea came from the newlyweds' own life. BreeAnna unsuccessfully tried to do a little detective work on her soon-to-be husband before their first date.

They met speed dating, and before their first night out, she had wanted to learn more about Michael. BreeAnna says she couldn't be sure if she had found the right Michael Bergman on social media, and when she tried to run a background check (not uncommon nowadays) more than 100 Michael Bergman's popped up. "It was hopeless," she says.

Luckily, she didn't let her fruitless search deter her. A few months into their relationship, she told Michael about what she had done. He was a little shocked at first but understood. Then came the business idea.

"I found out that every girl does this," Michael says with a chuckle. "There are lots of situations where we meet up with total strangers, and we try to do our due diligence. REPP will give the end result right away."

REPP is a 2012 graduate of The Brandery. Michael has a background in marketing and law, and BreeAnna has a marketing background.

The REPP process starts by providing a name, birthdate and address. The user is asked questions relevant to his or her life that are based on information culled from databases to verify identity. REPP also runs a background check, and the user can provide notes on anything that comes up in it.

Through REPP, users can also connect social media accounts,which gives another level of identity verification. Once a profile is created, anyone can be invited to view it. Users control what they can and cannot view, as well and when they can view the profile. The profile will also have a public link, and viewers can request access. The profile's owner keeps control over who sees what.

Michael sees REPP as the next step in creating higher quality virtual connections.

"It can be used in dating, networking, the peer-to-peer area, or to get to know someone better in a professional capacity," he says. "It's a way to set yourself apart, and it's an easy way for people to get to know each other better."

By Feoshia H. Davis
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UpTech reaches goals during first year, aims high for future

UpTech’s first year has been a big one. The six-month super accelerator attracted 57 ideas, and eight of those ideas were selected to become companies in its inaugural class—all eight of those companies graduated. Three of those companies received $90,000 in grant money; to date, those companies have received $230,000 in follow-on funding.
 
By 2017, UpTech has promised to bring 50 startups to Northern Kentucky, says Amanda Greenwell, UpTech’s program manager. The business accelerator has also promised to create jobs and provide money and support services to area businesses and its companies.
 
“Our goal is to create a culture of entrepreneurship, creativity and innovation in Northern Kentucky,” says Greenwell.
 
UpTech wants to continue building on its successes and contribute to a culture that understands startups. “We want to create an ecosystem in Northern Kentucky and Greater Cincinnati that creates a place for graduates of NKU's College of Informatics. We want to be a catalyst for that.”
 
UpTech is a new business informatics accelerator that was launched last year by several community investors, including Northern Kentucky Tri-ED, Northern Kentucky ezone, Northern Kentucky University and Vision 2015.
 
By Caitlin Koenig
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Cincinnati Chapter of CreativeMornings hosts event March 22

A small group of creatives have launched a Cincinnati chapter of CreativeMornings, which will host its first monthly breakfast and lecture March 22 at 21c Museum Hotel.

CreativeMornings was founded in 2009 in New York City by Tina Roth Eisenberg who owns Swissmiss, a design studio and blog. The concept brings together a wide variety of creative people—from solo entrepreneurs to large agency talent—once a month for breakfast.

Each chapter is organized by volunteers and supported by the community, which includes donated meeting space, coffee and food. Each month's breakfast features a global topic (March's is Reuse) and each chapter invites a speaker to talk on that topic. The lectures are recorded and streamed on the main CreativeMornings website.

CreativeMornings is growing, with nearly 50 chapters around the world. Among the newest are those in Cincinnati, Lima, Warsaw and Dublin. You can see the Cincinnati chapter's video application here.

Jeremy Thobe, from web design firm US Digital Partners, is the lead organizer for the Cincinnati chapter. CreativeMornings is a way to get creative folks across industries together before the workday starts, he says.

"There are a lot of events around here that are industry-specific or sales pitchy," says Thobe. "A lot of them are in the evenings. We thought this was a way to start the day on a high note, and meet people around our industries. We are very interested in what surrounds what we do, and that's harder for us to find here."

A group of about eight people are helping get the Cincinnati chapter off the ground. They've chosen this month's speaker, Bill Donabedian, co-founder of the MPMF and Bunbury Music Festival.

Organizers plan to bring in speakers from a wide variety of professional backgrounds from music, education, healthcare, writing and science. The breakfasts are free, but space is limited, so you have to register. The first breakfast has already sold out, so you'll have to wait for the next one or add yourself to the waitlist.

"We're only limited by our space—we want to keep this as accessible as possible," Thobe says.

CreativeMornings Cincinnati is seeking additional volunteers, speakers and sponsors. If you're interested, you can find the organizers online or by Facebook and Twitter.

By Feoshia H. Davis
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UC App Lab on MainStreet unveils mobile app suites on iTunes, Google Play

Students and faculty have launched their first mobile app suites out of the new UC App Lab on MainStreet.

The University of Cincinnati opened the App Lab, a campus mobile application development center, a little over a month ago. It's a physical space where students, faculty, staff and alumni can develop apps for smartphones and tablets. It's located with ResNet and MobileCats wireless store on MainStreet, and is the only space of its type in the region.

The first two app suites are geared toward the campus community. One is for current students, while the other is for alumni.

Through Blackboard Mobile Learn, current students can access a UC campus map, check grades, track shuttles, access university sports and campus news and events. The app is free for current UC students. The Alumni app accesses campus news and networking events. It allows alumni to donate to the college, volunteer at the college, and connect with other alumni via their social networks, among other features.

This is the just the start for the App Lab, which is working with local businesses and organizations to create new mobile apps.

"We are moving pretty fast," says Nelson Vincent, vice president of UC Information Technologies. "We're working on a second release of the alumni app, and working with some startup companies to see if they are a good fit."

The App Lab is a way to cultivate the region's mobile app development talent. It's a growing part of web commerce and everyday life for millions of smartphone users. In 2012, the average person used some form of mobile 127 minutes a day, Vincent says.

"It's a real generational shift," he says. "Who doesn't have a smartphone today with apps on it? And folks who do this work in Cincinnati are in very short supply."

As the app development program matures, UC is considering partnering with private businesses for mentorship and co-op opportunities.

"This is a really exciting time," says Vincent. "A community of people are coming together to make this happen, and we think this is going to take off."

By Feoshia H. Davis
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