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Local program partners YPs with nonprofits to achieve goals

ReSource On-the-Rise helps local millennials apply their talents to projects and challenges facing nonprofit organizations.

“Young professionals have a lot to offer and are our next generation of leaders,” says Christie Brown, ReSource's executive director. “Our goal is to plant the seed for these YPs so that they will be best equipped to serve on a future board or committee.”

Through its core mission — offering corporate donations of excess office furniture and supplies to area nonprofits — ReSource already has established relationships with small and big cos throughout the region. It also sees the need its nonprofit partners have in developing capacity as well as engaging younger volunteers and donors.

Several years ago, ReSource piloted a YP program and revived it last year to help fill that growing need. The second On-the-Rise class began in June.

After recruiting YPs through board and sponsor contacts, ReSource asked its nonprofit partners to submit projects or problems that would benefit from the expertise of the 16 On-the-Rise participants.

“ReSource acted as a match-maker, connecting the best candidates with the projects that made the most sense with their skills and talents,” Brown says.

After some initial training by ReSource on the world of nonprofits, teams of four YPs went to work with their partner organizations. The four On-the-Rise teams began meeting monthly last month, in addition to spending time outside the meetings working on their projects, which are:

  • Helping Cancer Family Care develop a method to recruit volunteers to assist its cancer clients with household work.
  • Organizing a block party in Milford to celebrate Cleats for Kids, which is opening a location there later this summer.
  • Helping The HealthCare Connection plan its 50th anniversary gala, which will take place in October.
  • Working with the Interfaith Hospitality Network to coordinate and staff its third annual Walk with Family 5K in August.

“Our hope is that as they learn more about the agency they are working with, they will continue to work with them or help another organization in the community,” says Brown. “YPs utilize the program as an introduction to the nonprofit world. They gain valuable exposure from our training, with their partner agency and from the other agencies involved. It's up to them if they will stay involved long-term, which is our hope and goal of the program.”

The third class of ReSource On-the-Rise will take place in the spring. Application information for young professionals and nonprofit organizations will be available through Facebook.

Cincy Stories opens second gallery in Price Hill as part of Street Stories project

The Greater Cincinnati area spans communities across Hamilton County, each holding their own contribution to the city, its history and unique stories.

Last year, community building initiative Cincy Stories opened an unusual gallery in Walnut Hills that created a snapshot of the neighborhood at that moment in history. The Walnut Hills Redevelopment Foundation approached the storytelling initiative, offering a storefront free of charge (for the month June, 2016) to help build the community and allow visitors to the gallery to record their own five-minute story about their lives in Walnut Hills.

As the next project for Cincy Stories’ executive director Shawn Braley and creative director Chris Ashwell, another story gallery opened on July 7 in Price Hill. Made possible through partnerships with the Haile Foundation, LISC, Price Hill Will and Artswave, this gallery is just the second of many future community steps for the duo, as they see the friction between long-time residents and newcomers, as well as economical shifts, that can weigh on a neighborhood.

“Through the work of storytelling in Walnut Hills, an entire neighborhood little league is being started by neighborhood residents,” Braley says. “Cincy Stories will capture the shifting populace and stories that intersect as the neighborhoods develop and varying people groups learn to become neighbors.”

The story gallery is an actual gallery — Braley says to picture an art gallery, coffeehouse and living room all in one. Free food and drinks from local eateries, live music and more are available for attendees, depending on the day. It's a place where people can come together and bridge the gap in what can often be tough neighborhoods, allowing for more understanding and sustainable change.

By sharing who they are through community narratives, people can come together more effectively than just sharing opinions on the neighborhood itself.

Now through Oct. 31, people can stop by the neighborhood story gallery in East Price Hill and share their stories with others. Making it their goal to go where the people are and not wait for people to come to them, Braley and Ashwell will produce the stories tod by community members, as they did in the Walnut Hills gallery last year, and the stories will be published on their website, cincystories.net.

Visitors will be able to share stories in face-to-face interactions as well as in a private story booth. The booth is set up as a small, private tent with a chair, microphone and video camera. Braley and Ashwell then take each video segment and edit it into a three- to five-minute video segment that airs on the television screens in the “living room” area, as well as in conjunction with other videos.

Over time, Braley and Ashwell hope that they can collect at least 20 stories from each of the 52 neighborhoods in Cincinnati. By creating relatable stories, the pair believes they can change communities for the better.

While the grand opening was held on July 7, there are gallery parties every Friday in July from 6 to 10 p.m. Weekly events will also be held throughout the duration of the gallery. The gallery is open from noon to 7 p.m. Wednesday-Saturday at 3117 Warsaw Ave.

Click here for more information about the gallery, Street Stories and the two-year nonprofit Cincy Stories.

NKU's Inkubator invests in people rather than their ideas

Right now, six teams of NKU students and recent alumni are “inkubating” their business ideas at Northern Kentucky University’s Inkubator.

Rodney D’Souza is the director for the Center of Innovation and Entrepreneurship, which houses the Inkubator as part of the Haile U.S. Bank College of Business. In 2012, D’Souza was working with a lot of existing business accelerators but discovered a missing link in the process.

“We found that there was a lack of a good feeder system to existing accelerators,” he says.

After a study of the best practices of university business incubators across the country, NKU’s Inkubator was founded in 2012. Now the program is ranked in the top 5 in North America by UBI Global, an organization that aggregates data on universities and their business incubators.

“It’s very selective,” D’Souza says. Of the 55 applications that were submitted to the Inkubator this year, only six teams were selected. The Inkubator tries to recruit students from all disciplines, not just business students.

“This year, we decided to put teams through boot camp so they understand what it takes to be a part of this process,” says D’Souza. “Not everyone understands what’s going to come up in these 12 weeks.”

The teams that proved their commitment are currently participating in the Inkubator’s 12-week summer program. D’Souza says that the program is different from other incubators with its focus on workshops rather than lectures. “Right now, we focus on how to get them the right tools to succeed."

In the five years since its inception, the Inkubator has seen a lot of success. 16 businesses have been launched as a result of the Inkubator and 10 remain in business. In addition to successful business launches, 57 jobs have been created.

One of the biggest success stories is Vegy Vida, a 100-percent natural dip to entice kids to eat their vegetables. Now Vegy Vida can be found in 1,400 Walmart stores all over the country.

D’Souza says that the Inkubator is successful because it invests in people rather than ideas. “We value them and their team rather than the idea. It’s very gratifying to see the transformation.”

Southeastern Indiana towns adopt new bike share program

Cincinnati and Northern Kentucky aren't the only local areas jumping on the shared bicycle train.

In just eight weeks, the River Cities Bike Share program has exposed about 1,300 people to all that Southeastern Indiana has to offer.

The towns of Aurora and Lawrenceburg collaborated to promote connectivity within the two cities, as well as to its sister cities of Greendale and Rising Sun, through a municipal bike share program that Guinevere Emery, city manager of Aurora, says is the first of its kind.

“The River Cities Bike Share program's mission stems from Aurora’s ‘Big 5’ ideas that highlight downtown revitalization, neighborhood revitalization, tourism and outdoor recreation, riverfront development and quality of life and community connections,” Emery says. “It maximizes exposure to our local assets, such as the Ohio River, the historic business districts, neighborhoods and the Dearborn Trail.”

Thirty “ride and return” bicycles are dispersed among three locations — downtown Aurora (on Main Street across from the Aurora City Building), along the Dearborn Trail (109 Manchester Landing, Aurora) and in downtown Lawrenceburg (between Ivy Tech and the Event Center).

The bike share system is accompanied by an app that allows for Bluetooth locking and billing, in addition to cloud based administrative software. (The app is available for both Apple and Android devices.)

“The program is based on a user friendly rent, ride and return premise,” Emery says.

Bike rental costs are $3 for the first hour and $2 for each additional hour, making it affordable for residents and visitors alike.

The program is not only successful, but Emery says it’s also sustainable, as Aurora and Lawrenceburg have set up a shared River Cities Bike Share Program Donation Fund.

“The City of Madison, the town of Vevey and facilities in Texas have sought more information regarding our River Cities Bike Share program. The overwhelming success reflects the program's ingenuity, localized support for shared connectivity and fortitude to recognize our region with quality experiences."

Environmentally conscious store occupying PL storefront until July 23

If you haven’t yet visited The Green Store Cincy, you have until July 23 to stop by the pop-up shop to gain insight, purchase sustainable clothing or perhaps engage in Namast’ay Green — a community yoga class.

The Green Store is the result of Joi Sears’ innovative idea made possible by People’s Liberty and one of its three annual Globe grants.

With $15,000 in funding and a free space to utilize (PL's storefront, the Dept. of Doing), Sears operates her shop from 11 a.m. to 7 p.m. Wednesday-Saturdays, and hosts special events on Sundays. She opened her shop at the end of June, and will occupy the storefront on Elm for six weeks.

She says she would love to look into expansion. “I'd love to see a Green Store New York, Los Angeles, Amsterdam and/or Berlin in the future. But in the near future, I would love to find a permanent home for The Green Store in the ‘Nati — and I already have a bunch of ideas on what that could look like.”

The shop currently houses Sears’ own sustainable clothing brand — Amsterdamage — in addition to other local and international brands.

Events she’s hosted so far include everything from workshops and classes like Recycling 101 and Zero Waste Cooking to a “Sunday Funday” event called Waves, which served as a fundraiser for Charity Water.

According to Sears, the average American produces nearly 1,700 pounds of waste each year, and the reason so many individuals — particularly millennials — say they care about the environment but don’t necessarily shop sustainably is because they don’t understand what eco-fashion is. They don’t think they can afford it or they simply don’t know where to find sustainably stylish items.

Sears is here to change that. She’s conducted her research and is now putting her ideas into action via creative placemaking and the support of her community.

Learn more about The Green Store Cincy here.


Cincinnati Zoo paves the way in green and sustainable efforts

The Cincinnati Zoo & Botanical Garden was named the greenest zoo in America in 2010. Since then, the zoo has pioneered green initiatives, projects and programs that make it a leader not only in the animal conservation field, but also in the sustainability community.

“The Cincinnati Zoo has certainly been at the forefront of this topic within our industry,” says Michelle Curley, communications director for the zoo. “Due to our significant array of various green infrastructure, zoos and aquariums from all over the world have come to us to learn how they might engage in similar practices. And it isn’t just within our industry, as over the years, thousands of engineers, architects and planners have come to see how we have been able to pull off what we have. These professionals are then taking this knowledge back to their various clients and pushing them to pursue similar projects.”

The zoo’s green status was first earned through construction projects. Between 2006 and 2016, the zoo earned numerous LEED certifications, including two LEED Silver, four LEED Gold and a LEED Platinum.

“For the gorilla exhibit, we will be achieving at least LEED Gold,” Curley says. “It incorporates a really creative storm water catchment system under the new addition, as well as various energy efficiency enhancements that will keep the environmental footprint for this project as low as possible.”

When the Painted Dog exhibit opened in Africa last year, the Zoo took green buildings to an entirely new level, becoming the first zoo in the world to receive recognition from the Living Building Challenge. The LBC applies rigorous standards to how a building actually performs, requiring spaces not only be energy efficient, but also to have a positive impact on the community and environment.

“The LBC is, by far, the most difficult and aggressive green building standard in the world,” Curley says. “After many years of taking on the LEED rating system with great success, the zoo was looking to take things to the next level and the Painted Dog exhibit felt like the time to make the leap.”

In addition to green buildings, the zoo’s sustainability efforts focus on water, renewable energy, solid waste and energy. Anyone who has driven past the zoo’s Vine Street parking lot has seen the solar array that shades cars and provides electricity to the surrounding zoo.

“We are also working on developing a micro-grid at the zoo by utilizing battery technology and large-scale generators, in conjunction with our substantial solar assets, to make the zoo resilient and dynamic when reacting to what is happening to the electric grid in our region,” says Curley. “This cutting-edge concept would be a first for our area.”

Baby Fiona may be the new star of the Africa exhibit, but the zoo and the sustainability community are fans of the exhibit because it includes a storm-water run-off system that keeps 13 million gallons of water out of the local sewer system each year.

“We are working hard on the next phase of our storm water initiative, getting us closer to our goal of having zero rain water leave our zoo, which in turn helps keep water out of the combined sewers that contribute to pouring billions of gallons of sewage out of the river and our neighbors basements,” says Curley. “We currently capture roughly a third of the rainfall that hits the zoo’s property and the goal is to be at 100 percent by 2025."

Although most of the zoo’s sustainability efforts are hidden behind the scenes, the zoo offers special programs at the Go Green Garden Exhibit, collaborates with the community and provides sustainability tips for individuals and families to engage the public in its environmental efforts.

Uptown is at the center of a new development that focuses on innovation, research and education

Over-the-Rhine and Covington are abuzz over startup innovation, as incubators and accelerators like Aviatra Accelerators, The Brandery, CincyTech and UpTech work to grow Greater Cincinnati's core. That innovative focus is now shifting Uptown, as Uptown Consortium partners with some of the city's largest institutions to create the Uptown Innovation Corridor.

Fifty-one thousand residents, including students, are at the core of this new economic development.

Three projects are already in the works: the Uptown Gateway, the 1819 Innovation & Research Accelerator for the University of Cincinnati and the UC Gardner Neuroscience Institute.

With the new interchange at I-71 and Martin Luther King Drive expected to open this summer, Beth Robinson, president and CEO of Uptown Consortium, expects the area surrounding it to become “a gravitational force for accelerated industries that radically improve quality of life.”

Uptown Gateway — the project’s “flagship development” — will be a mixed-use office, retail, residential and parking development at the southeast corner of Reading Road and MLK Drive. Construction is slated to being later this year.

Plans for improved pedestrian and bicycle connectivity, in addition to shuttles, will increase residents’ ease of Uptown access, and as the project develops, residents will receive job training so they can immerse themselves more fully into the community while learning skills and generating income.

“Job training that’s informed by the Corridor will evolve as our past and current career-focused initiatives have — through partnerships,” Robinson says. “We want to make sure job growth is inclusive and diverse from the beginning of our projects. We hope to leverage our partnerships with UC, MORTAR and others to secure more job training programs in the area.”

The 1819 Innovation & Research Accelerator, slated to open next fall, will serve as a hub for both private and public collaborations. It will also provide space for startups launched from UC developed technologies, while the UC Gardner Neuroscience Institute will open in 2019. Construction began on the Institute earlier this month.

“The Innovation Corridor is surrounded by our region’s research powerhouses,” Robinson says. “The Uptown Innovation Corridor tenants will learn from, inspire and most likely integrate with the institutions of Uptown and the region’s future-facing businesses. It will continue to unfold as a center for research, collaboration and entrepreneurship.”

Fill up on great convo and food! tomorrow as Soapbox goes to Findlay Market

This Wednesday, June 28, it’s all about scale, as Soapbox returns to host Cincinnati’s foremost foodies for the annual Food Innovation Economy speaker series at Findlay Market.

The event kicks off at 6 p.m. in the Farm Shed (located in Findlay Market’s north parking lot) and will feature big bites and big ideas from Pho Lang Thang, LaSoupe, Hen of the Wood and Babushka Pierogies.

Wash it all down with craft beer from local favorite The Woodburn Brewery, tangy kombucha from Fab Ferments and a Rhubarb Shrub Punch and signature mocktail from Queen City Shrub made for this one-night-only event.

Click here to purchase tickets for this year’s event, where you'll meet five talented local food producers and hear why it's the right time to scale and how Cincinnati's growing food ecosystem is helping them get there.

All ticket holders will be automatically entered to win two passes to the 2017 Cincinnati Food + Wine Classic — a value of $480! Plus, you'll be partying with a purpose: proceeds benefit Findlay Market, now open Wednesdays until 8 p.m. all summer long.

Come hungry and enjoy the menu as follows:

6 p.m. Check in at the Farm Shed, located in Findlay Market's North parking lot
6:15 p.m. Welcome from Soapbox's publisher, Patrice Watson
6:20 p.m. Food Innovation District overview from Joe Hansbauer, CEO of Findlay Market
6:30 to 8 p.m. Breakout talks and tasting stations

Station #1 (Farm Shed) presented by Findlay Market, featuring:

  • Duy Nguyen, Pho Lang Thang
  • Kombucha pairings from Fab Ferments

Station #2 (OTR Biergarten) presented by Cincinnati Food + Wine Classic, featuring:

  • Suzy DeYoung, LaSoupe; Nick Markwald, Hen of the Woods; Donna Covrett, CFWC
  • Beer pairings from The Woodburn Brewery -"Red, White, and Brew" traditional American wheat ale and "Salmon Shorts Sightings" blonde ale with strawberries and Rooibus Tea

Station #3 (Findlay Kitchen) presented by Findlay Kitchen, featuring:

  • Pierogie/cocktail pairings from Sarah Dworak of Babushka Pierogies and Justin Frazer of Queen City Shrub

Seating is limited, so reserve your ticket today and check out the full schedule of Findlay Market events and featured vendors here.

CSO and CCM team up for one-of-a-kind fellowship prograpm

The Cincinnati Symphony Orchestra and the College-Conservatory of Music, University of Cincinnati have just completed the first year of their innovative Diversity Fellows program.

“Orchestras across the country acknowledge that there are under-represented populations in the world of orchestral music and that the programs to improve representation haven’t worked,” says Christopher Pinelo, vice president of communications for the CSO.

Just as the first class of fellows began their academic and performance work last fall, The League of American Orchestras published a study evaluating orchestra fellowships.

“It’s almost as if this program was designed specifically to address the deficiencies in fellowship programs nationally,” Pinelo says.

“One of the issues identified as a flaw in most fellowship programs is the sense of isolation that fellows experience,” adds Ahmad Mayes, director of education and community engagement with the CSO. “Our program brings in five fellows in year one with an additional five in year two, with the hope that they connect with each other and create a feeling of being in it together. We are also working to ensure that they feel part of the entire orchestra.”

The partnership with CCM is also unique. Each fellow earns an Artist Diploma from CCM — the performance-based equivalent of a master’s degree — while they rehearse and perform with the CSO.

“At first, it was a bit much,” says Fellow Emilio Carlo. “You’re not just a student — you are part of the CSO and we need to keep a level of quality. But I found balance and it was helpful to have colleagues to go to who were in the same situation.”

Carlo’s other Fellows included Diana Flores, Blake-Anthony Johnson, Vijeta Sathyaraj and Maurice Todd. Four of the fellows will be returning to complete the second year of the program. Johnson will not be returning, as he secured a position with the New World Symphony as part of the auditions all fellows are required to participate in during the program.

“What measures success for us is if we are helping these fellows meet the next phase of their career,” says Pinelo. “We are trying to build a supportive environment for them to flourish. They perform with the CSO and Pops on a wide range of materials.”

Auditioning for a professional orchestra is an intense experience, one which the Fellows are more prepared for, thanks to the CSO and CCM.

“My mentor went above and beyond to help me get mentally and physically ready to audition,” says Carlo. “The musical growth I’ve seen in myself and the other Fellows has been fun to watch, and playing with the CSO has been the highest achievement I’ve had.”

The emphasis on real-world experience for the Fellows, rehearsing and performing with the CSO and participating in education and community engagement outreach is a critical part of the program.

“When Peter Landgren (Dean of CCM) came to us about starting a fellowship program, he was drawing on his own experience as a student when he substituted with CSO and the impact that had on his career,” says Mayes. “There is no other fellowship that pairs a degree with professional orchestra performance opportunities.”

As the program, which has been generously funded by The Andrew W. Mellon Foundation, enters its second year, orchestras from around the country are calling to find out how it started, how its working and how it could be replicated.

“The rest of the country is looking to Cincinnati to be a leader in this area,” Pinelo says.

And Cincinnati audiences will hear the benefit of this innovative program as nine Fellows take the stage with the CSO and Pops when they return to Music Hall later this year.

Five local artists will showcase their findings about segregation through art

Five artists immersed themselves within the Walnut Hills community to chat with residents and business owners about the issue of segregation and how it’s affecting their community.

The project was initiated by the Walnut Hills Redevelopment Foundation and is inspired by renowned activist Carlton Turner and his vision of artists as researchers who take their findings to create art that prompts discussion and pursue social justice.

Community members are invited to Cincy Stories at 4 p.m. on June 30 to see the walking exhibit where they can see the interpretations by artists Alan Haley, Michael Ellison, Dyah Miller, Herschel Johnson and Benjamin Thomas.

There will be a break for dinner, and the WHRF encourages people to try the restaurants in the business district. At 7:15, there will be a panel at The Monastery with the artists and community leaders.

According to Johnson, the goal of the project is to empower residents to continue the conversation the artists began.

Here’s what the artists discovered:

“People said they see the kids hanging out with their own race at school,” says Thomas. “And Kroger — it should have been in a thriving place — but people weren’t feeling comfortable to come into a predominately black neighborhood to shop. Businesses close because of that.”

Thomas is using the mediums of aerosol and paint to create “We Are Cincinnati," a mural of four Walnut Hills residents — everyday people without privilege whose portraits will be iconic in nature. Those who attend next week’s event will have the opportunity to see a live demonstration, as Thomas will be working on the mural at the time.

For Ellison, the neighborhood scape has changed. The highway now inhabits his former home, and he rides his bicycle to Clifton to go grocery shopping. He and fellow photographer Miller will display their collection of portraits and places, and at the culmination of the project, will auction their photos off with 25 percent of the proceeds benefitting the Walnut Hills Little League.

Other projects include a documentary, a 3D shield and a partnership with St. Francis de Sales to offer students the opportunity to learn to sculpt. Each artist’s project includes a plan for community building and community betterment, both now and in the future.

“Segregation is a condition,” Thomas says. “It’s really a mentality that’s subconsciously or intentionally placed in the minds of folks because of money, greed, power — whatever it is — and I don’t want to point a finger, but I want to recondition the condition of segregation by introducing people to others and giving platforms to people who don’t have them.”

Nonprofit GreenLight Cincinnati focuses on unique philanthropy model to fight poverty

Venture philanthropy may be an unfamiliar concept to many, but that will change as the GreenLight Fund brings its model to Cincinnati and starts working to solve problems around poverty.

The GreenLight Fund formed in Boston over a decade ago to apply venture capital principals to the nonprofit sector. The idea: Find organizations that are generating impact and results for chronic issues and expand its work into new markets through investment and advising. The model has proven so successful that the organization has expanded into five other cities, including Cincinnati.

“Overall, our focus is on addressing the challenges of children, youth and families in high poverty neighborhoods,” says Tara Noland, GreenLight Cincinnati's executive director. “But the needs and resources vary by city, so we conduct a thorough assessment annually before selecting a focus. We are not interested in forcing a model on a community.” 

GreenLight Cincinnati and its advisory board of investors and experts review the local nonprofit landscape for the gaps in services related to poverty. Using the resources of its national network, GreenLight Cincinnati finds nonprofits already operating in multiple cities that offer a possible solution and are willing to expand to Cincinnati. Meanwhile, it raises an investment fund and identifies potential local partners to help bring that solution to the city.

“Our investments are structured to be paid out over four years, which gives the organization time to become part of the local nonprofit community, demonstrate results and find support that allows them to stay here long-term,” Noland says.

Although the terminology is different than that of traditional philanthropy, the investment GreenLight Fund makes in its portfolio of nonprofit organizations is in fact a grant. GreenLight Cincinnati itself is a nonprofit and raises its seed funding from a combination of grants and tax-deductible donations.

Duke Energy, a partner of GreenLight Charlotte, recently announced a multi-year funding commitment to GreenLight Cincinnati, joining other investors including P&G, the United Way of Greater Cincinnati, the Bank of America Charitable Foundation and the Manuel D. and Rhoda Mayerson Foundation.

“Last year, our focus was on returning citizens,” says Noland. “There are a lot of organizations working on pieces of the issue, but the need is so great and complex, we felt that was an area where we could help.”

GreenLight Cincinnati’s first investment will bring the Center for Employment Opportunities to Cincinnati. They provide transitional work and supportive services for recently incarcerated individuals, preparing them for a program like Cincinnati Works, one of its local partners.

“What is so great about the venture philanthropy model is that it identifies a need in the community and then finds a solution that is not duplicative and fills that niche,” says Noland. “Our community partners are often the most excited about our investment because they see what it can do for their clients.”

GreenLight Cincinnati will announce its second investment later this summer.

Unanswered questions to Cincinnati's effort to reduce useable waste

Almost three months into the orange bag recycling initiative, Cincinnatians are still unclear about the procedure. But overall, this initiative is good news for Cincinnati. As the city continues to grow and evolve, so must its practices.

When are the bags picked up? Where are the goods going? What prompted this initiative?

Soapbox connected with the Director of the Office of Environment and Sustainability, Larry Falkin, to gain some clarity.

Falkin says that so far, the initiative is going well. “More than 80,000 pounds of material have been rescued from the landfill and returned to the economy.”

But where are the donations going?

The collected goods are sorted at a facility to be sold to thrift stores and commodities markets. To date, three full tractor-trailer trucks have been sent to the sorting facility.

Residents claim missed pick-ups. Others are unsure when the bags are picked up.

The bags are to be picked up every two weeks on the resident’s regular recycling day. Falkin says that the beginning of every new program carries some start-up issues. When a missed pick-up occurs, residents should call the phone number on the orange bags and Simple Recycling will return, generally within 24 hours.

The City of Cincinnati has partnered with Simple Recycling, a for-profit organization that, according to its website, is "committed to offering residents the most simple and easy way to keep usable materials from the landfill.”

"Cincinnati was looking for a way to recycle old clothing because it is one of the biggest components of residential trash," Falkin says.

The city published an RFI to find a partner for textile recycling, and Simple Recycling was chosen due to its success in other cities similar to Cincinnati like Austin.

So far, the program is looking good. The effort to reduce usable waste in landfills is beginning to succeed. While nonprofits should not be forgotten, the orange bags are an accessible option for Cincinnatians who cannot manually drop off donations at nonprofit facilities.

Local Northside resident Alistair Probst is excited about the program and feels that it could help people with limited transportation donate their usable goods.

The program has only just begun. While the first few months have showed success so far, Falkin says they are still fine tuning. “Operational procedures are constantly being reviewed to improve customer service and program efficiency.”

To find out more about what can and can't be recycled through the city's new textile program, click here.

Entrepreneur of the Year gala to highlight entrepreneurial spirit in Ohio Valley Region

The 2017 Ernst & Young Entrepreneur of the Year season is underway, and on Thursday, Cincinnati will honor about 30 Ohio Valley Region finalists for their innovation, financial performance and commitment to their businesses and communities.

Now in its 31st year, the EY Entrepreneur of the Year is considered to be the world’s most prestigious business awards program for entrepreneurs, and it has grown to reach 25 U.S. cities and more than 60 countries around the globe. Regional winners are eligible for the Entrepreneur of the Year national program, which convenes Nov. 18 in Palm Springs, with a winner then selected to compete for World Entrepreneur of the Year in June 2018.

Nine of this year’s Ohio Valley Region finalists are making a difference right here in Cincinnati. Soapbox sat down with one of those nine — Mary Miller of JANCOA Janitorial Services — to discuss the honor and to learn more about how she’s changing the landscape of her business and of the community.

How do envision yourself and your role at JANCOA?
Being a family business, I wear many hats: CEO, wife, mother, mother-in-law, sister-in-law and chief Dream Manager! I have the best role in the company.

I get to let everyone know just how great our team is and create more opportunity for them and their families. I love each one and look for ways everyday to make the lives of our 600+ team members, their families and the community better for all the tomorrows to come. JANCOA has become an international example of what businesses can do to be successful and care about the people that make that happen.

Once I heard that Warren Buffet said the most important job a CEO has is to be the cheerleader for their team members — that was when I knew I was in the right job.

What is a Dream Manager, and how did the idea come about?
In the late '90s, JANCOA was an average “mom-and-pop” cleaning company with the average turnover of team members at about 400 percent. We decided (after being fired by a consultant) to stop being average and decided to become “the best in the world” at taking care of our people so they can take care of our customers. We used our entrepreneurial spirit to try a lot of ways that had never been tested previously, including creating our own transportation system to get employees to work. The program has evolved into an international model that changes the culture of the company, and that creates results of quality of service, retention of team members, employee engagement and profitability.

By nature we are a service business cleaning up after other people. Our work, though, is helping people build the courage to overcome obstacles and reach for their dreams of a bigger future. This is a model people can connect with and frequently believe is too good to be true. The best selling book The Dream Manager by Matthew Kelly has popularized the programs we began years ago to build a business of value, and today we are focused on creating value for the people we work with everyday.

What advice do you have for other entrepreneurs wanting to make a difference?
There are a lot of resources available to entrepreneurs with best practices in many areas of business. I believe the true value entrepreneurs create is when they look at these practices and add their unique talent and natural gift to the mixture. This is when we are being true to ourselves and to the world. Trying to be what others tell us to be will always miss the mark of possibility. Being true to what we are made to be will create the difference the world is craving to receive and believe.

How does it feel to be selected for the EY Entrepreneur of the Year program?
The EYEOY feels like the Oscars for entrepreneurs. I have been aware of the award for more than 20 years but never really put that down as something within my grasp. I think entrepreneurs have a drive within that pushes us constantly to make things better (in our business and everything we see), and being recognized by EYEOY builds a sense of confidence that I have done some things right and gives me energy to keep moving forward and go after those ideas I have that no one else seems to understand.

I would like to believe that seeing me recognized by EYEOY will encourage many other entrepreneurs to trust what they know to be true, without any proof, and go after the big opportunities even when no one understands what they are trying to do.

Click here to see the other Ohio Valley Region finalists.

Thursday's awards gala will be held at the Hyatt Regency Cincinnati, 151 W. Fifth St., downtown.

Vintage travel trailers offer chance to camp in a piece of history

Founded in 2014, Route Fifty Campers offers outdoor enthusiasts a unique twist on your typical camping experience. Owner and operator Debbie Immesoete rents refurbished vintage travel trailers to those who want to camp simply, yet with style.

Immesoete says the idea for Route Fifty came from two places: She lives in a small house and wishes she had an extra bedroom for visiting family. This practical consideration, combined with her attraction to retro style travel trailers, fit well. “I fell in love with these lovely trailers from the past,” she says.

Immesoete knew that her business would have to start small, and after saving money, she purchased her first trailer. To help her understand the business world, Immesoete took two classes at Aviatra Accelerators (formerly Bad Girl Ventures).

The classes not only taught Immesoete the basics of what it means to run a business but connected her to mentors, insurance agents, lawyers and other small business owners.

Route Fifty now boasts a fleet of four vintage trailers. Immesoete says that her campers are easy to use but it still feels like you’re camping.

“People tell me they’re done sleeping on the ground,” she says. “They want something simple but they want a bed. These are perfect for that.”

None of the travel trailers have TVs or hot water, but all of them include air conditioning, board games and colorful interiors. Her travel trailer options include:

  • 14’ 1958 FAN: The compact silver trailer can sleep up to four people and includes an adorable yellow kitchenette. Immesoete says this is the only trailer without a water holding tank.
  • 15’ 1964 Winnebago: With the signature Winnebago ‘W’ streak across the side, four or five people can enjoy a sleep comfortably inside.This is the only Route Fifty travel trailer with a Laveo Dry Toilet — the rest don’t have interior bathroom facilities.
  • 15’ 1969 Aristocrat Lo-Liner: Up to five people can camp in this trailer’s bright blue interior.
  • 13’ 1985 Scamp: What the Scamp may lack in size, it makes up for in character. A family of four will fit comfortably in this blue travel trailer.
Renting the campers is a simple process and can be done either online or by phone. Immesoete says that there’s no time limit on rentals, if the calendar permits. She says campers can take the trailers anywhere except the 1958 FAN, which she prefers to keep local. Otherwise, as long as her customers can safely tow the trailers, they’re free to roam in retro style.

To rent a travel trailer for your next camping trip or for more information about Route Fifty, click here.

ArtWorks now accepting applications for 2017 Big Pitch business grant competition

ArtWorks is seeking Cincinnati and Northern Kentucky-based creative business owners and entrepreneurs to apply for its fourth annual Big Pitch, a mentorship program and pitch competition for established creative businesses in the area.

The program, designed for businesses with at least a two-year history and located within 30 miles of the ArtWorks office in downtown Cincinnati, selects eight finalists to participate in a 10-week mentorship program. In addition to valuable exposure, each finalist will receive business coaching and help with next steps for reaching their full potential.

The program culminates in a public pitch event to be held in late September where finalists will have the opportunity to compete for both the Grand Prize ($15,000) and and Audience Choice Grant ($5,000).

“This program gives small businesses the chance to take the next step in reaching their dreams,” says Tamara Harkavy, ArtWorks' CEO. “We thank U.S. Bank for again offering its expertise this year to this important project.”

2016 winners James Avant (OCD Cakes) and Scott Beseler (The Lodge KY) took home $15,000 and $5,000, respectively. Avant launched Bakeology classes in January and has maintained a 60 percent fill rate. Monthly social potlucks have also helped OCD Cakes to draw in community members to the unique and creative nature of both food and the business.

Avant was also awarded the OTR Chamber "Entrepreneur of the Year" Award, and is now building relationships with local community groups to tackle access to food disparities and ways to make the cooking/baking experience more accessible to a larger number of families in our city.

Avant attributes much of his recent success to ArtWorks’ dedication to local businesses.

“Besides the cash prize, each finalist walked away with hours dedicated to the intentional growth and sustainability of their business, a community of entrepreneurs and friends who want to see the other thrive in their respective businesses, a network of mentors who always want to see you succeed and exposure many people and businesses would pay to have access to,” says Avant. “I'm incredibly thankful to ArtWorks and U.S. Bank for creating a platform to give creative entrepreneurs the opportunity to grow their business, expanded community outreach and actively contribute to the city's ecosystem.”

Beseler is continuing to work on his project, The Lodge. Located in Dayton, Ky., The Lodge is a one-stop-shop for musicians — there's a recording studio, graphic designer, screenprinter and photographer in-house, and it seems that Beseler is adding other amenities every day.

Applications for the Big Pitch are due by June 23 and require a $25 application fee. Finalists will be notified of selection by July 14 and must accept by July 17.

The 10-week mentorship program runs from July 21-Sept. 28. For more information on the Big Pitch, last year’s winners and more, visit www.artworkscincinnati.org.

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