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First-ever National Women's History Month Festival to be held in March

March is Women's History Month, and to celebrate, two Cincinnati organizations are bringing a one-of-a-kind event to town.

Women empowering women through art and lectures is the premise of the first annual National Women’s History Month Festival, which is happening from March 3-18. AlivenArts and MUSE are partnering up for two weeks to bring the festival — filled with art of all kinds — and conducted by women.

The hope is for this year's festival to be the first of many. Each year, AlivenArts will pick a local group to receive proceeds from the event, and this year, they chose MUSE Cincinnati Women’s Choir.

“There's still a place, there's still a reason and there's still a way and need to celebrate women, and what better way to tell the history than through the artistry,” says founder and former associate director and accompaniment for MUSE, Rachel Kramer. “Whether that's singing, theater, dance, film, literary — whatever it is — the story can be told and history can be told through the artistry.”

The inspiration for the festival started when Kramer attended Dayton LUNAFEST in 2017 as a guest. From there, it developed into booking other guests and eventually turned into a much larger festival.

One of the goals of the festival is to help bridge the gap between women who work from home and women who own businesses.

“Women have always had these cottage industries, like teaching piano in their home, crafting or book club,” says Kramer. “Then there's these women owning these huge businesses and they don't intersect. It's been a real eye opener.”

Some of the women to be featured at this year’s festival include Xavier University adjunct professor Dr. Brenda Portman, who will present an organ recital; Miami University’s Dr. Tammy Kernodle, who will conduct a lecture on women’s rights; the LUNAFEST Film Festival; and many more.

The National Women's History Month Festival will be held various places throughout Cincinnati, including the Harriet Beecher Stowe House in Walnut Hills and St. Michael’s Street Sanctuary in Price Hill.

Passes for the festival are $40, which includes one ticket to each of the main events. For single day passes, prices vary, depending on how many events a person chooses. 

Pokemon craze gets people on the go across Greater Cincinnati

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

JoeThirty offers new round of feedback events for startups

A new round of JoeThirty community feedback and networking events will begin Oct. 14. Hosted by the Greater Cincinnati Venture Association (GCVA), it’s a place where startups and entrepreneurs are able to get feedback on specific questions or problems.
The idea, created by Brad Kirn and Jake Hodesh, is that attendees and presenters have a cup of joe and 30 minutes of conversation to discuss some of the issues facing that company or organization. Each event features one startup presenting three specific challenges for feedback ahead of time.
When they started JoeThirty last year, Kirn and Hodesh wanted to create a different kind of platform for feedback.
“We wanted to not just have another event,” Kirn says. “We wanted to provide value back to our community.”
So, taking inspiration from the national series 1 Million Cups, they created a unique format. While there are lots of forums around the city for entrepreneurs to pitch to an audience, most of them have several startups making general pitches at the same time. JoeThirty is different in its focus and the space it provides for conversation.
Kirn and GCVA hope that their setup provides something useful to both the community and the presenters. They actively try to choose startups who would be helped by the format and invite community members who would provide the most relevant feedback for those entrepreneurs, although anyone is welcome to attend.
Kirn, who was a founding partner at Differential and is now with Astronomer, knows the importance of getting fresh ideas and constructive criticism for a new venture.
“People want to help,” he says. “Ever since I started talking to people in the startup community, they want to tell their story and almost everybody is open to feedback.”
The first startup to share its story in this round of JoeThirty will be Linkedu, which has designed software to help teachers share resources and ideas with each other.
“What I’m most excited about is hearing about how their pivot is going,” Kirn says.
Linkedu is looking to expand its software product beyond exclusively K-12 educators and make it available for a wider range of communities that need to share the knowledge and resources they build. This kind of pivot is common among startups trying to find the business model and niche that works best for them, but it also comes with its own set of challenges.
Linkedu will be able to use its JoeThirty session to get input from people with a variety of backgrounds and specialties.
For Kirn, providing that opportunities and being able to help fellow entrepreneurs are the best parts of organizing the events.
“What keeps me going is the conversations I have with presenters afterward,” he says. “When presenters say they have gotten something valuable out of their experience, that’s what makes the events worth it.”
The biggest change to JoeThirty events this year is that they’ll take place every other month, alternating with another GCVA morning event, the Breakfast Club. While JoeThirty focuses on a single presentation, Breakfast Club will provide time for four entrepreneurs to make pitches at each event.
“We’re creating this morning series,” Kirn says. “It’s kind of a nice change of speed instead of another monthly event.”
The Oct. 14 JoeThirty event is scheduled for 8:20-8:50 a.m., with mingling both before and after, at Rookwood Tower, 3805 Edwards Road at the Rookwood shopping centers. Admission is free but requires advance registration.

Casamatic creates curated real estate listings for Cincinnati homebuyers

When Alex Bowman returned to Cincinnati after 10 years away, he and fellow Cincinnati native Chris Ridenour found themselves commiserating over the home buying process. As tech-savvy startup veterans, Bowman and Ridenour looked to home buying websites to fine-tune their search.
"Sites like Zillow force buyers to pick smaller areas," Bowman says. "People don't understand all the great places to live in their city. They don't have to limit themselves by geography."
Bowman, a Mason native and former employee of Blackberry and Amazon, had originally limited his home search to neighborhoods like Oakley and Hyde Park. When he finally looked outside that geographical box, he and his wife found a home in Norwood with which he couldn't be happier. His positive experience is why Cincinnati — and regions nationwide — need Casamatic.
Casamatic is a home buying site that curates listings for its users based what's important to them.

Once open for business, the site will ask users for a location as well as questions related to the importance of family, food, commute time or environment. The Casamatic team then parses that data with MLS listings to find the listings that are perfect for the user. The site also pairs the buyer with a Casamatic-approved real estate agent.
"We're trying to get a confirmed showing with a realtor in under an hour," Bowman says. "No matter what, you'll get a response from an agent. And quickly."
Bowman met Ridenour while Ridenour was organizing Startup Weekends for UP Cincinnati. As co-founder of Lisnr, Ridenour is actively involved in the Cincinnati startup scene. The two decided to move forward with Casamatic when they realized the flaws in the online home search process, and they entered Ocean's accelerator program, graduating in April.
"We really liked the founders of Ocean," Bowman says. "Tim, Tim and Chad are great guys, and once we decided to do Casamatic full-time we thought we'd give it a run with them."
Though Ocean has been deemed a faith-based accelerator, the Casamatic team was drawn to other aspects of the organization, not necessarily the faith component.
"We're open-minded," Bowman says. "We wanted to see what it was all about."
Since Demo Day in April, Bowman and Ridenour have collected a team of five individuals to get Casamatic off the ground. They recently brought a Northside real estate agent on board as well as a full-stack engineer and were invited to move with two other local startups into the new 84.51 Center downtown.
"The entire team is extremely passionate about Cincinnati and active members of the community," Bowman says. "That's a big thing we look for in bringing on new team members."
Casamatic hopes to have a fully-functioning website for Cincinnati homebuyers by August. Once established, the company will look to real estate agents as their primary source of income. 
"We're giving them access to the fastest growing segment of homebuyers, millennials," Bowman says. "They'll get regular notifications from their target market."
The company also plans to pursue seed funding this fall. Assuming all goes well, Casamatic hopes to expand to other markets in 2016.
On a personal level, both Bowman and Ridenour are thrilled to be in Cincinnati.
"Chris (Ridenour) is a Cincinnati lifer," Bowman says. "He loves it here. I really wanted to come back to Cincinnati because there is so much activity here."
During the rare moments when he's not working, Bowman and his wife enjoy the Cincinnati restaurant scene. While he's a big fan of OTR hotspots like A Tavola and crowd favorite Eli's, one of his favorite places is right in the middle of his newfound neighborhood, Norwood.
"The Bluebird Cafe," he says. "You can't beat breakfast for 6 bucks."

Cincinnati Public Schools students create apps to "gameify" STEM concepts

Sixth grade math teacher Stephanie Bisher wants to open her students’ eyes to the business world.
Each spring, her sixth graders engage in the kind of learning experience most only hope to encounter after reaching adulthood. In 2014, in partnership with locally-owned Madisono’s Gelato, her students at Kilgour Elementary in Mt. Lookout were tasked with designing a mobile application that “gameifies” the ins and outs of the gelato business. The resulting app was launched just last month.
Kilgour was one of two Cincinnati Public Schools recipients of a $1.1 million “Straight A” inaugural grant last school year. The grant is intended to provide an incentive to deploy case-based Socratic learning techniques in the grade school classroom.

State-funded tablets in hand, students at Kilgour and Hyde Park School were able to apply skills gained in their STEM-related classes to real world business decisions. The apps that resulted were due to a collaborative effort between Cincinnati Public Schools, Northern Kentucky University's College of Informatics and nonprofit Partnership for Innovation in Education (PIE).
Cincinnati-based PIE is dedicated to developing transformational STEM K-12 educational tools that actively prepare students for the workplace. PIE provided mentors for the Cincinnati Public Schools app projects.
“It has been our pleasure to participate in this first-ever program, offering a curriculum found currently only in STEM graduate and undergraduate science, medical, engineering, mathematics, law and business programs,” PIE CEO Mary Schlueter said in a letter to Kilgour parents. 
The gelato project is now an important and much anticipated part of each Kilgour sixth grader's experience. The task facing Kilgour students each year is that of choosing a new gelato flavor for Madisono’s. From research/development and data collection to cost analysis and marketing, students take the process from start to finish.
“The math (the students) are doing is pretty complex, but not a single student complains,” Bisher says. “They use Excel spreadsheets, learn how to input formulas, all the kinds of things adults do in their daily jobs.”
The process culminated with a successful marketing campaign for Madisono’s at the Kilgour Carnival.
“There is no abstract concept here,” Bisher says. “The students can truly see the value of what they’re doing and self-evaluate as they go.”

The winning flavor last year was Triple Chocolate Dare. This year students will present their new flavor — vanilla with brownies, chocolate chips and a caramel swirl — at the Kilgour Carnival on May 16.

After the winning flavors are chosen, students proceed to the app development stage. With help from NKU informatics experts, last year's students came up with a fun, fanciful app called Gelato Hero. This app and the one created at Hyde Park School, Sweet Revenge, seem to be the first-ever examples of global apps created by elementary school students.
Due to the fact that the project placed heavy emphasis on the intersection of math and business as opposed to more advanced tech, Kilgour students had very little to do with the actual coding involved in the app creation. That said, Bisher believes that coding is the next step for tech education at the grade school level.
“Kids can absolutely handle it,” she says. “App development can and should be in elementary schools. It’s still in its beginning phases, but it’s definitely on the radar.”
Though the Common Core curriculum model allows little room for tech-based training, both Schlueter and Bisher believe a shift in mentality is coming.
“PIE is always looking for educators who love technology,” Schlueter says. “This is a relatively new opportunity in the last 5-6 years. We’re just now starting to encourage educators.”
Gelato Hero and Sweet Revenge are now available for iOS and Android for $.99 each. A portion of each app's proceeds will return to the school responsible for its creation.

Local startup Strap attracts $1.25 million in investments for wearable tech

It looks like nice guys can finish first. That's certainly true when it comes to Strap, the Brandery grad and Soapbox-profiled company that's created the first software and analytics platform for wearables.
Charlie Key, cofounder of Cincinnati's Modulus and angel investor for Strap, describes the company as having "all the pieces." He describes founding partners Steve Caldwell, Patrick Henshaw and Joey Brennan as "extremely likeable, intelligent people."
Maybe that's why the company announced a $1.25 million round of seed funding last week. The round secured investments from CincyTech, Mercury Fund, Vine Street Ventures, Danmar Capital, Hyde Park Venture Partners, New Coast Ventures and a number of angel investors, including Wendy S. Lea, CEO of Cintrifuse.
The founders' sparkling personalities aside, Strap also seems to have been in exactly the right place at exactly the right time. With the popularity of wearable technology slowly gaining ground, Strap's "toolkit" for developers entered the market while the market was hot. Their team, made up of startup veterans and truly brilliant technical talent, was also more than prepared to dive in.
"Well-timed, right team, right tech team — all investors look for that," says Caldwell, who serves as CEO.
Strap's technology, called StrapMetrics, is already compatible with wearables such as Pebble, Android Wear and Google Glass. The tool's ability to optimize sensory data from wearables is a key element in the growth of the industry.
Though nothing was set in stone, Caldwell and his team knew to expect an increase in capital as far back as early November. They've been fundraising since June and July, but it was The Brandery's Demo Day that truly ignited investor interest. In the past couple of months, Caldwell, Henshaw and Brannen have moved their families from Mississippi and truly settled into Cincinnati. They've since posted five job listings (four developers and one VP of engineering), reflecting their anticipation of a change in workload. They also recently already hired a marketing specialist, Sophie Turcotte.
For now, Strap will remain at The Brandery on Vine Street. By February, however, they expect their staff to have increased to 12 people, a number too large to fit into the accelerator's workspace. At that point, they'll start looking for another location in Cincinnati to call home.
"The goal is to grow the company significantly," Caldwell says. "This is a billion dollar industry, and we believe we can be a billion dollar company."

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

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

By Kyle Stone

Metro now offers stored-value cards to riders

Many city-dwellers are continuously faced with the arduous task of budgeting their quarters between two priorities: bus fare and laundromats. While both woes can be remedied with a little planning, some people are forever caught in the cycle of rifling through their pockets at a moment’s notice to either catch the bus or feed the washing machine. But Cincinnatians have been presented with a new method of relieving these tribulations with the new Metro stored-value cards.

The cards can be purchased in prepaid increments of $10, $20 and $30 from Metro’s sales office. They work just like cash in any bus-related payment situations, including transfers and multiple riders. Metro’s stored-value cards are replacing the 10-ride Zone 1 tickets, although those will be honored until the end of 2013.

For those familiar with bus fare rates and simple mathematics, however, things don’t quite add up: with normal inner-city fares set at $1.75, the prepaid increments of $10, $20 and $30 won’t deduct even portions, leaving some untouchable funds on the cards, as they are incapable of being recharged with additional cash. If your card’s balance cannot pay the full fare, the difference can be paid in cash or with an additional stored-value card when paying at the front of the bus.

While it might be possible to budget your stored-value card so as not to have any residual funds before it is redeemed, this discernible anomaly might prove problematic for local bus riders who might be better off with the 30-day rolling pass, which is good for unlimited travel in a zone of your choice for a 30-day period.

The new stored-value cards are available for purchase at Metro’s sales office, which is located in the Mercantile Building arcade downtown, weekdays 7 a.m. to 5:30 p.m.

By Sean Peters

The Happy Maladies want YOU to write their next album

The Happy Maladies has issued an open invitation for composers of all levels to submit original pieces of music for the band to interpret.

The project is titled “MUST LOVE CATS,” and it will be an album of five compositions. The tunes will be featured not only on a professional studio-produced album, but in performances across the Midwest (including Cincinnati). A booklet will also be made, which will profile each of the five selected composers.

“We’ll be accepting any kind of composition until January 1, 2014,” says violinist and vocalist Eddy Kwon in the band’s recently released YouTube video that officially kicked off the exciting new endeavor.

The band, which is comprised of founding members Benjamin Thomas, Peter Gemus, Stephen Patota and Kwon, utilizes the violin, double-bass, guitars, mandolin and banjo.

“We really don’t want composers to try to ‘fit’ our sound, or limit themselves to what they think these instruments sound like,” says Kwon. “We’re really willing to do anything.”

Jazzy, folksy and classically trained, the unique group is hard to classify, but infinitely easy and enjoyable to hear. In the band’s five-year career, they have explored so many genres that they’ve developed an omnipotent musical identity.

“All of us are really, really supportive and advocates for new music,” says Kwon. “We are hoping this project can be a new model for the way composers and bands and performers interact and work together.” 

By Sean Peters

Zooted Delivery now available every day

Zooted Delivery brings food to your front door from restaurants around the city that don’t typically deliver. While it was only a weekend operation from the beginning, Zooted now offers service seven days a week, with their delivery radius spanning Hyde Park, the downtown business district, the Banks, Clifton and Norwood.

Created by Sheroz Zindani, a recent graduate of the University of Cincinnati’s business program, Zooted Delivery works in conjunction with more than a dozen restaurants to bring their menu items to hungry customers’ homes. 

The company has a recurring message that it reiterates to customers: “You drink, we drive.” This message targets the late night crowd, which is why Zooted Delivery operates until 3 a.m. on weekends.

Registration is not necessary to use the service—you only need to have access to Zooted’s website. The order is placed online, “zooted” to the restaurant automatically, and the customer need only “sign and dine.” Payments can be made with cash or credit cards. The service and delivery fee is nominal and the convenience is unparalleled. 

Offering a broad range of restaurants, this added service is sure to accommodate nearly every type of palate. If not, it’s likely that whatever type of food they would want already delivers directly, so it’s a win-win for homebodies. 

Interview by Sean Peters

CincyMusic Spotlight hits airwaves

CincyMusic Spotlight is a new radio show dedicated to highlighting new and exciting music in the Queen City. Featured on The Project 100.7 and 106.3, the show’s format provides a much-needed outlet for local musicians. Hosted by veteran band promoters and DJs Venomous Valdez and Joe Long, the show’s end goal is to help expose new local artists to the general public.

“The Project already has added a handful of bands hailing from Cincinnati in their established playlist," says Valdez. "If a song does really well on the show, it has the ability to live in regular rotation. The Project would love nothing more than to help break a Cincinnati band."

Valdez, who is known by just about every venue owner as the booking agent and promoter for Wussy and The Sundresses, is a longtime ally to Cincinnati musicians.

“Cincinnati has a deep, rich musical history," she says. "For many generations, this has been a music town, so it’s in our blood. We have more genres available, more venues catering to original music than most cities larger than us. Overall, I think we have a great support system with musicians, promoters, booking agents and venues that encourages and nurtures the creative outlet."

Listeners can tune in Sunday nights at midnight on The Project 100.7 FM and 106.3 FM. Podcasts will be available on cincymusic.com and cincinnatiproject.com.

By Sean Peters

Intern in Ohio program launches today, connects students with internships

Today, Detroit-based Digerati launches its Intern in Ohio program to the public, which is sponsored by the University of Toledo. Like eHarmony, the program uses an advanced matching algorithm to match students with internship opportunities.
Intern in Ohio is free to both students who are looking for internships and businesses who want to post internships. To register, students and employers visit Intern in Ohio’s website to sign up and create a profile or post internship opportunities. Students fill out a short questionnaire about their preferences, and employers share information about the position. The system then identifies the top seven matches for each student, as well as for each position. When the match is made, both the student and employer are notified, and they must show interest before any contact information is shared.
“We encourage diverse companies—large and small, for-profit and nonprofit, government and corporate,” says Wendy Pittman, director of Digerati’s Classroom to Career. “It’s a great chance for employers to broadcast their company and internship program across the state and reach a larger pool of applicants.”
Only companies in Ohio can post opportunities to the Intern in Ohio website, but all types of internships are welcome. There are posts for marketing, engineering and social media, among others, says Pittman.
The program is open to all students who live in Ohio, whether they’re in-state or out-of-state students. Research shows that not only do internships often lead employment offers after graduation, but that students are more likely to remain in an area where they held and internship.
“This is the first replication of the Classroom to Career technology from Michigan to Ohio,” says Pittman. “Experiential learning is a game-changer; and we’re looking forward to working with smaller communities to make a difference.”
In 2011, Digerati launched its Intern in Michigan program, which has resulted in more than 127,000 matches and introductions between students and employers. Over 1,000 Michigan businesses have posted 4,824 internship opportunities, and 1,049 colleges and universities in the state use the site.
Full disclosure: Soapbox’s parent company, IMG, supplies content to Intern in Ohio on a contractual basis.
By Caitlin Koenig
Follow Caitlin on Twitter

Thinking outside the box: Home bakery turns Gail Yisreal into cake boss

Going on maternity leave changed Gail Yisreal’s life in more ways than having a new baby to take care of.
When she returned to work, Yisreal says she learned her position was no longer there, so she began to look for a different job.

As wife and mother to a blended family of nine children, she might bake up to 11 birthday cakes in a year. But she hadn’t considered turning her knack for kneading dough into earning dough until she baked a wedding cake for a couple from her family’s place of worship. Not only did they like the cake, they suggested she start selling them.
Listening to her fans, Yisreal founded A “Mother’s Touch” Cakes with the nurturing tagline, “Making fresh homemade cakes when you don’t have the time.” Celebrating her two-year anniversary as a registered business in August 2012, A “Mother’s Touch” features signature and custom made flavors of fresh, savory gourmet, organic and vegan cakes and cupcakes that are good—and good for you.
“I didn’t know anything about decorating, so I took a class to learn more decorating skills," Yisreal says. "And I was shocked to find out that 95 percent of the cakes you buy are box cakes—because everybody wants the decoration. I started doing some research about the trans-fats and artificial ingredients, and I vowed that everything I baked would always be natural and from scratch.”  
After working as a waitress for two years and in management at Starbucks for six years, Yisreal developed a love for coffee. She jokes that most ex-Starbucks managers feel they know enough about coffee to create their own line, which she actually did for A “Mother’s Touch.”
Having tried organic coffees with weak flavor profiles, she researched and found Dean’s Beans, a fair-trade pioneer that allowed her to design her own custom blends. Her signature A “Mother’s Touch” blend is made with Mexican and Indonesian beans and pairs with her carrot cake as an after-dinner coffee.
“I’m really proud of my coffee and the fact that it really was custom blended for what I wanted to complement my desserts,” Yisreal says. And, true to her mission to serve natural, sustainable goods, she says that her blends are 100 percent organic, fair-trade certified and are shade grown.
Being on the scene without a storefront hasn’t stopped Yisreal. Instead, she’s building her brand as the “cupcake lady” who networks everywhere and invites people to taste samples of her creations. Yisreal also tapped into hidden markets by hosting deals through social media.
“I did a Living Social promotion last year, which was huge,” Yisreal says. “That first day, I think I got 1,500 hits on my website, and probably about 85 deals, which I thought was really good for people who didn’t know who I was.”
And even though she sells more cakes today, the ease of transporting cupcakes built her clientele.
“When I first came out, because of my financial situation, literally, cupcakes were paying my rent,” she says. After she and her husband separated, she remembers what it was like to go from making an annual salary of $60,000 to less than $20,000 a year. But she doesn’t do it all alone.
“I have three almost-teenage girls; 12, soon to be 15 and 17, so they are my preppers,” Yisreal explains. “It’s hilarious because we’ll be in the kitchen and everybody has their big bonnets on, and they’re scraping carrots, mashing fruit, lining the liners. I have a girlfriend who I’ll sometimes sub-contract out to do deliveries. And if it’s a huge event—like for the Autism Foundation, I had to knock out 40 dozen cupcakes—I have two sisters, and at the time I had just split up with my husband so we were in literally an 800-square-foot apartment. The kitchen was all of maybe 150-square-feet, we put out six-foot tables and we were like an assembly line! It was hilarious, but we got it done. It was like an I Love Lucy episode!”
By Mildred Fallen

Body Boutique fitness classes pump up Hyde Park

Candice Peters doesn’t reach for platitudes when asked what she wishes women knew about working out. Her goal is simple and straightforward: “That they can lift heavier!” The trainer and founder of Hyde Park Body Boutique has carved out a niche just a few miles north of downtown with her women-only workout facility.

Unlike the typical gym, there are no ellipticals and no treadmills; the primary services offered are various workout classes, as well as in-home personal training provided by Peters and her staff. It can be hard to identify the most popular class because they’re usually booked with young professionals in the evenings and, often, new or stay-at-home moms in the mornings, but Peters says TRX and Spincinnati (think of a spinning class with light weights and pumped-up music) classes fill up quickly.

“We cater to women of all ages,” Peters says, noting a concentration of young professionals ages 25-34, especially those who recently got married or plan to have kids soon. Still, she adds, “We have athletes, we have people who haven’t worked out in years and we have people who are looking to lose 150 pounds.”

Peters’ staff comprises an office manager and five part-time trainers who help local ladies get stronger. Peters isn’t a proponent of crash dieting or even protein powder in particular, and she says that she reminds all of her clients that 80 percent of their fitness is due to nutrition, not working out.

Another 80/20 rule she follows is her advice about effort levels. “In general, if you have to be doing great things 80 percent of the time, the other 20 percent of the time you can slack off. You have to give yourself a break.”

She should know; Peters works an 80-hour work week, and plans to launch Over-the-Rhine Body Boutique in June. Along with her training and teaching, she’s fundraising with SoMoLend and planning a social media campaign to raise crowdfunding for new equipment. For a woman on the move, it's just one more way to stay active.

By Robin Donovan

Olivetree Research helps large companies grow their brands

Big, established brands can get stale, so in the fast-changing and hyper-competitive consumer products market, rapid, results-oriented market research is a real asset for large brands.

Olivetree Research in Hyde Park builds on founder Carol Shea's decades of experience in consumer marketing research to help brands shake things up a little. Olivetree helps find new answers to the perennial question: What do consumers REALLY want?

Shea started Olivetree Research about 11 years ago, not long after Sept. 11, 2001.

"It was the right time for me to make a split from my former company," she says. "I'd been in marketing research for 25 years, and had been thinking about starting my own business for a long time. Sept. 11 was a wake-up call for living every day the way you want."

Additionally, Shea served as adjunct faculty of the Williams College of Business at Xavier University as a former member of the Advisory Council to the U.S. Census Bureau.

Olivetree works with large and mid-size local firms that are looking to solve marketing and sales challenges that stunt growth.

"We're working with companies that are committed to positioning new product development that meets the needs of their consumers," Shea says. "We work with companies who want to spend time up-front on research, understand what positioning is and are willing to engage in that process."

Through her work, Shea has helped brand everything from pickles to neighborhoods, all by finding what customers want and what the company needs to do to market and meet those needs.

Companies often come to her when their marketing efforts are flagging, they have a decline in sales or a new competitor enters the market. With Olivetree, companies look to strengthen their brand, reinforce customer loyalty, expand into new markets or develop new products and services.

The market research process takes about three to six months, and can continue over years as a company evolves. In addition to consumer products, Shea often works with healthcare and financial services agencies.

This year, Shea is growing her own business by starting an online training company that will offer courses for new market researchers.

"It will help them understand what techniques work best in certain situations," she says. "The training will help them have confidence in their position. It can be very difficult for someone new in market research to speak with authority on how you should proceed based on the (research) results."

Shea plans to launch the new company sometime later this year.

By Feoshia H. Davis
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Kilgour School awarded $24K innovation grant to boost tech access, entrepreneurial skills

A new financial literacy enrichment course at Kilgour School is expanding, spurred by a $24,000 innovation grant awarded by tech communications company MiCTA.

The grant builds on a class that Cincinnati's Partnership for Innovation in Education (or PIE) piloted at the school, called Student MBA: Bringing Business to the Classroom.

Mary Welsh Schlueter, PIE's founder and chief executive, developed and taught the five-week class at Kilgour as part of a student enrichment period. Schlueter, a Kilgour parent, modeled the class after a Harvard Business School course.

"I taught basic concepts, including the SWOT analysis, the five Ps of marketing and the product life cycle," says Schlueter.

Students' tech, financial and entrepreneurial skills were tapped when they were asked to find ways to increase lemon sales.

"They developed many new ideas and used lemons in different ways, not just as a food source or cleaning agent," says Schlueter.

The project led to the creation of an Android app, a game called Lemon Smash. "The goal of the game is to smash lemons to make lemonade so you can make some moo-lah," its description reads. Proceeds from the 99-cent app go back to the school.

The class and app creation brought on some big partners. Sprint donated the technology, UC's Economics Center wrote and compiled all the achievement assessments and NKU’s Center for Applied Informatics helped students design and develop the app. There are plans to make it available for the iPhone as well.

"This was a $100,000 project, and all of the work was done pro-bono," Schlueter says.

The MiCTA grant will allow the class to continue. It will also fund 20 new handheld tablets for the school's gifted program.

NKU will partner with the school to offer an app development class, which will also be available to any Cincinnati Public Schools student who has access to take the class virtually.

PIE is looking to expand funding opportunities for the STEM-aligned program using app development and technology to "incubate" students' entrepreneurial efforts and promote across the globe,  says Schlueter.  It's a way to help students learn valuable skills, provide a new revenue stream for schools, and allow deeper tech uililzation for K-8 students and teachers across all subject areas.

By Feoshia H. Davis
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The Garage Group helps established companies tap entrepreneurial spirit

Entrepreneurship isn't just for startups.

That's the tagline and philosophy behind The Garage Group, a Cincinnati-based consultancy that helps large, established companies tap into their entrepreneurial spirit.

The Hyde Park-based company was co-founded by Jason Hauer and Ann Lauer, two business colleagues who left their jobs at a small innovation firm to start their own businesses.

"The concept for The Garage Group reflects what we've liked to do across the lifetime of our careers, unleashing the entrepreneurial spirit of a startup, along with the discipline and focus of a larger, established organization," Lauer says. "Our skill sets complemented one another."

Lauer spent 17 years working in the corporate and nonprofit worlds. She's experienced in strategic planning, leadership and business development in addition to marketing and research. Hauer's experience lies in business model creation and scale up, entrepreneurial and growth strategy, idea creation and project movement.

More companies are turning to this type of internal entrepreneurship to create new products and services, as economic pressures force them to do more with less, Lauer says.

The Garage Group offers one-on-one business consulting as well as workshops that help companies address specific innovation challenges.

"We work in three main areas: strategy, ideas and organizational development," Lauer says. "We help organizations develop a platform to support innovation. We look at how the organization assigns roles, how people interact with each other and company culture. There are seven different elements we look at in developing an entrepreneurship structure within a company."

The company's clients have included Cincinnati Children's Hospital, Greater Cincinnati Health Council, Nationwide Insurance, Kantar, a consumer insight company and LPK.

"Most companies don't have an entrepreneurial strategy, or if they do, it's too short-term or too experimental," Hauer says. "We can help them come up with a pipeline of ideas, drive focus and create a process for testing those ideas."

The Garage Group's ultimate goal is to help its clients create a process that allows a constant stream of innovation, tapping internal talent to grow.

By Feoshia H. Davis
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Cincinnati salon owner helps peers get new clients through HairSalonDiscount.com

Cincinnati area salon owner Gary Benz took a chance and offered an idea that's grown his own business — New Client Invitation — to his fellow Greater Cincinnati hair care experts.

"I've been invited to try exercise clubs and exclusive country clubs by way of new client invitation," Benz says of the idea behind HairSalonDiscount.com. "If it works for them, it should work for me."

Benz, who, with his wife owns Benzie Salon in Montgomery, has tripled sales since starting the salon in 2004. He attributes part of that success to his New Client Invitation marketing program, expanded online at HairSalonDiscount.com. The targeted programs attract new potential clients with half-off pricing on services. It's similar to popular major daily deal websites, but the salon services are 50 percent off at most, instead of the up to 70 percent at some major daily deal sites.

It's a price point Benz says is both attractive to a potential buyer and to the business owner. Benz works to market the site to certain groups, like new homeowners and people who've moved into target neighborhoods that the salons typically service, which include Norwood, Oakley and Hyde Park.

Benz, who has a background in SEO and web development, also promotes the site through organic and paid online search results, he says.

The deals work like Groupon or Living Social — users go online and purchase a service deal. The deals are marketed as New Client Invitations and Benz says the goal is to attract five new potential clients each week for participating salons.

That's in contrast to the major daily deals sites that market to mass buyers, with deeper discounts. Those sites can bring businesses hundreds of new customers, but often they aren't the repeat clientele that salons seek, Benz says.

"We sold 350 deals (with another site), and a lot of people had no intention of ever coming back again," Benz says. "There are a lot of mass emails through those sites, and the next time another salon has a deal, they're going to hit up another salon."

The site has about 20 salons on its roster so far. While the bulk are from Cincinnati, it has already attracted salons from Georgia, Northern Kentucky and Dayton. He hopes to soon add some Chicago area salons, with an ultimate goal to include salons from every state.

"As long as I stay true to my brand, and to quality, I think it's a feasible business plan," he says.

By Feoshia H. Davis
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Cincinnati Parks go digital with new video-tagging program

There’s something decidedly sci-fi about digitizing green plants, but that’s what a new partnership between the Cincinnati Park Board and local tech startup QuipTV hopes to achieve.

This month, the duo launched a pilot project that allows Ault Park visitors to access informative videos about specific plants, the community and the park by using smartphones or handheld devices to scan QR-tagged plants. 

So far, 87 specimens have been tagged with another 40 to be added in the coming weeks, according to the Parks. Plans are also in the works to extend the project to Krohn Conservatory in time for its 2012 holiday exhibit, “Trains, Trestles & Traditions,” which runs Nov. 17-Jan. 6.

“We would like to expand the program to more locations in the future, but we will wait to see some of the responses from the pilot projects at Ault and Krohn,” says Deborah Allison, business services manager at the Parks.

You don’t have to visit the sites to learn about the plants, either. The informative videos can also be accessed remotely via the Cincinnati Parks’ YouTube channel and its mobile app, which was launched in July.

According to Kris Kubicki, co-founder of QuipTV, the videos also direct users to local vendors that sell the featured plants.

“We own a small nursery and were trying to figure out a way to generate enthusiasm for plants and let people know that we exist,” says Kubicki. “Recognizing that many small businesses are struggling and need the support of their community, this project helps them, too. In this technology-driven culture with smartphones in the hands of many, we can take a moment of curiosity and educate with a 20-50-second video.”

Organizers hope the project will help people connect more with the outdoors and interact with other Cincinnatians through existing groups like the Greater Cincinnati Master Gardener Association and the Civic Garden Center.

“This project engages people with their surroundings and provides options for citizens to be more proactive,” says Kubicki. “We all need each other. Supporting our local communities is where we start fixing the future.”

By Hannah Purnell
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Cincinnati roads safer for cyclists

As the first phase of a 2009 plan to make the city more bike-friendly is coming to an end of its first phase this year, innovative and much-needed changes to city roads and intersections are heading in the right direction.

City cyclists know the pain of sitting at a lengthy light with  no way to trigger the sensors. Some resort to pressing the pedestrian crossing buttons. Five intersections, MLK Jr. Avenue and Woodside, Pullan at Hamilton, Madison at Woodburn, Millsbrae and Woodland at Madison, now have markings painted on the roads to notify bikers where to put their bikes to trip sensors that change lights. A sixth, Knowlton at Hamilton, is being installed after construction at the intersection finishes.

Melissa McVay, a planner at the city’s department of transportation and engineering, worked with Queen City Bikes and Mobo Bicycle Co-op to choose sensor locations. The sensors were reworked to detect the weight of most bikes, though bikes made out of carbon or aluminum may not be heavy enough. Mcvay will continue to research to accommodate all cyclists and decide other intersections at which to add the markings.

“Queen City Bikes and the Mobo were critical in our plan to implement these markings,” McVay says.

Other safety measures include signs that notify drivers that they must pass bikers by changing lanes, which will be located mostly in lengthy corridors of “shared lanes,” which include Spring Grove Avenue and Central Parkway. These signs also help police officers enforce laws that protect cyclists, by giving drivers fair warning of the rules of driving on shared roads. Louisville is the only other city in the region McVay knows of that is installing these kinds of signs

“We’ve seen some other cities doing this, but there isn’t much like this being done in the Midwest,” McVay says.

Beechmont Avenue along the Mt. Washington Business District will boast the first buffered bike lane, or a wider bike line for protection on the busy street. Also, new “Sharrows,” which are pavement markings to notify drivers of bikers, are being painted on Jefferson and Ludlow avenues in Clifton, since there is not room to create separate bike lanes.

New phases of the plan continue through 2025

By Evan Wallis
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Local mother launches Grateful Grahams all natural, vegan snacks

After a career in marketing, Linwood mother Rachel DesRochers decided to stay home full-time after having her second child. Soon, she got the itch to work and create.

"I needed something to do," she says. "When you finally don't have a job, you get bored. You can only clean the house so much."

DesRochers turned to baking last year, specifically graham cookies and snacks. She started sharing them with friends and family and her tasty treats were a hit. That's when she decided to sell them.

"People loved them. So I thought, 'I'm going to do it," she says.

She unveiled Grateful Grahams, home-made, vegan graham snacks, at this year's Earth Day event at Sawyer Point. She developed and perfected the recipes for the snacks. The soft, square snacks currently come in two flavors, cinnamon and sugar, and chocolate. Snack packs retail for $4 and large bags for $6.

"I did research on grahams. I started playing around with ingredients and made a recipe that worked. It was important to me to use simple, green ingredients," she says.

You can find Grateful Grahams at a number of local stores including Picnic and Pantry, Park +Vine, and Joseph Beth and Blue Manatee bookstores. You can also find them at local Whole Foods stores.

DesRochers plans to expand her offerings with a pie crust and a line of holiday flavors.

She bakes in a commercial kitchen that she shares with a local bakery. She recently had a third child, and Grateful Grahams allows her to do something she loves and spend time with her family, she says. Like her grahams, she is grateful.

"I don't want to work 80 hours a week. I want to be a mom, and show my kids that I have something I love do to. It can be hard juggling a family and a business, but I have a network that supports me and really that's from where the company is driven," she says.

By Feoshia Henderson
You can follow Feoshia on Twitter @feoshiawrites

Local #HireFriday Twitter movement gives resources, voice to unemployed worldwide

Nowadays, most people know a friend or relative who's been laid off, or "downsized," from a job. It might even have happened to you. In today's job market, people of all backgrounds and experience levels have faced the frightening prospect of unemployment. With national unemployment hovering around 10 percent, it can take months, or even years, to find satisfying full-time work.

The slog to full employment can be tough to go through alone. That's why one local human resources professional known on Twitter as @HRMargo started a movement called #HireFriday, which in a few short months has gone international with a focus on job seekers.

The woman behind the avatar is Margo Rose, a Hyde Park human resources professional who runs her own HR consulting business. She started #HireFriday in February 2010, as a spinoff on the popular #FollowFriday Twitter trend where each week Twitter users recommend other users to follow to get interesting content.

She began #HireFriday by tweeting the names and qualifications of friends who were looking for jobs. Many of the 5,700 people who follow Rose on Twitter are Human Resources and recruiting professionals, which put those friends in front of the very people who could help them find new jobs. That #HireFriday tag allows those specifically looking to hire to find all potential applicants in together on Twitter.

"I tweeted instead of #FollowFriday let's do #HireFriday, and put America back to work," Rose said.  

Anyone looking for work can be part of HireFriday on Twitter. On her blog, Rose asks job seekers to type the #HireFriday in their tweet, along with a link to a resume or LinkedIn profile. Margo and other #HireFriday users then will retweet that profile, potentially getting the person's professional profile out to thousands of people in a position to hire.

"If the tweet goes viral, it has the potential to get out to 40,000 to 50,000 people," Rose said. "It can really amplify a job search."

Rose estimates she has retweeted 50,000 times since she began #HireFriday. She personally knows of several dozen people who have gotten jobs by connecting through the Twitter stream.

"In fact, I know two new people who have gotten jobs just this week," Rose said.

The #HireFriday phenomenon has recently gone worldwide. There are autonomous movements in England, Canada, France and Switzerland, Rose said.

#HireFriday continues to grow because it focuses on people, not jobs, Rose believes.

"Our stream focuses on people, and isn't just another spammy job site. People tend to shy away from those because they believe they are relevant," she said.

#HireFriday has developed into a community, and includes an interactive LinkedIn and Facebook group.

"This (LinkedIn) group is really an active, boots-on-the-ground group of people. They offer tweet critiques and advice on loading (online) resumes with key words. The Facebook group offers career advice," Margo said.

#HireFriday's focus on people and community is an effort to support those looking for jobs, and perhaps shake them out of their comfort zone by finding a new way to reach potential employers, Rose said.

"People get very weary in job hunting, especially if they have been out of a job for a year or more it's very discouraging. I really think #HireFriday can help," she said.

Writer: Feoshia Henderson
Source: Margo Rose, founder #HireFriday

You can follow Feoshia on twitter @feoshiawrites

Venturepax startup uses technology to connect users with the Great Outdoors

Hyde Park entrepreneur Danny Stull wants to you help you get away from it all by spending time in a park, in a canoe or on hike. But before you get too far away, he's hoping you'll take a look at his new web site Venturepax, a hyper local site that helps you locate the perfect nearby activity.

Venturepax doesn't just tell you where the nearest Greater Cincinnati campsite or park is, but what you can expect to find when you get there. For instance, if you go to the site looking for a place to cycle, you'll get a list of bike trails, their level of difficulty, trail photos and other available nearby activities. Drill down deeper and you can find parking information, the length and type of trail (paved or dirt), and the ideal season for tackling it.

"What we are trying to do is offer one, easy-to-use, intuitive location to find a place to get outdoors and explore natural beauty," said Stull, the site's founder. "All the information is being gathered by (volunteer) local pros. We've recruited people who love the outdoors and are cataloging the places they go."

The site is currently in beta, and Stull is working on building a business around Venturepax. His is one of five companies who won a spot in the inaugural class of The Brandery, the city's new consumer marketing venture accelerator.

Venturepax fits the bill because it's more than an information site. In order to generate revenue the site will offer recommendations for - and allow users to purchase - gear that best suits the experience users seek. Those experiences range from camping and fly fishing to backpacking and running.

Stull is also working to develop a smart phone app that will allow users to "check in" to their destination like geolocation application Foursquare. Once a person checks into a park or other scenic area, they'll be directed to deals for coffee or dinner, for instance, at a nearby local business.

"We really want to help the local business compete," said Stull, a 2007 Miami University marketing grad.

Stull is near the end of 12-week entrepreneur course at The Brandery, which includes a $20,000 investment, business mentoring and access to marketing and legal services. As the course ends, he along with other Brandery companies will pitch their idea to potential investors.

The course has helped Stull focus on the financials of his business, he said, setting up a strong foundation for its future.

"A whole group of mentors have volunteered their time, and it's really forced me to take a deeper look at my own company, the financials, and really straighten things out. This will help me to have a sustainable company," he said. He plans to eventually expand the site to other cities.

Writer: Feoshia Henderson
Source: Danny Stull, founder Venturepax

You can follow Feoshia on twitter @feoshiawrites

Bed Bug Detection Services canine sniffs out pesky critters

"Good night, Sleep tight," a once-popular bedtime nursery rhyme, has been adopted as the battle cry of Cincinnati's latest four-legged superhero. 

A 3-year-old beagle, known to friends and family as Cricket and currently serving as Chief Canine Officer (CCO) of  Cincinnati Bed Bug Detection Services, in Hyde Park, is on a mission to expose those pesky biting bugs so that the rest of us can finally get a good night's sleep.

Owners, trainers, and brother-sister duo Ryan and Caroline Grafton adopted Cricket from a family friend in February 2009, after the super-sniffer pup had undergone an intensive eight month training regimen at the J & K Canine Academy in High Springs, Florida.  The nationally recognized facility trains stray and rescue dogs to detect a variety of specific scents, including narcotics, weapons, explosives, melanomas, cadavers, and (in the case of Cricket), bedbugs.   

Despite the rigorous instruction and discipline instilled at the Canine Academy, "training does not end there," says Caroline Grafton, explaining that "it is a vital and continual part of Cricket's daily routine."  

The growing epidemic of these blood-sucking pests has been a "mounting health issue since the early 70's when the Environmental Protection Agency outlawed the use of the pesticide DDT," explains Grafton.  "Contributing to the problem is the increase in international travel and trade."   Born survivors, bedbugs can live up to a year without feeding and are prolific reproducers.  Female bedbugs can lay up to five eggs per day.

The health concern presented by this outbreak has drawn the attention of local officials, including State Representative Dale Mallory, who have recently met with Cincinnati Bed Bug Detection Services and area pest control agencies to discuss and formulate an action plan to combat the bedbug crisis in Cincinnati.

In the meantime, Cricket is hard at work, sniffing out the pesky perpetrators in residences, healthcare facilities, hotels, apartment buildings, theatres and more.  "It's somewhere new every day," says Grafton.  

With an impressive detection rate of 97 percent, nearly three times more accurate than that of trained pest control technicians, Cricket can effectively "sweep" 50-60 rooms per day.  For the canine wunderkind and his team at Cincinnati Bed Bug Detection Services, "it's all in a good day's work."  For the rest of us, it's all about a good night's sleep.   

Source:  Caroline Grafton, co-owner- Cincinnati Bed Bug Detection Services
Writer:   Alyce Vilines

Blackbook/Hype survey asks young professionals: What keeps you in Cincinnati?

A survey co-sponsored by BlackBook EMG and Cincinnati USA Chamber's HYPE is looking for young professionals to share their work and community life experiences to gauge the risk of the region losing young talent.

The 25-question survey, located here, takes about 10 minutes to finish. It's geared toward anyone who lives in the metro Cincinnati area and is employed. The results will be unveiled at the HYPE talent symposium Oct. 19. The symposium's theme is "Ignite the Fire! Leverage Cincinnati's strengths as part of your recruitment and retention strategies."

BlackBook, whose Compass technology matches employee performance with local events, venues and businesses, has a 2,000-person response goal for the survey. So far, just under 1,000 people have responded, said Carla Messer, Blackbook's senior vice president of operations. To encourage responses, participants can enter to win one of three iPads. Survey results are kept confidential.

The survey asks questions related to the concept of "community embeddedness" or the experiences, people and places outside of work that keep a person in a particular area.

"The survey asks how an employee fits into culture of an organization, and also how people are connected to other people and places where they live. At the workplace you're made to feel like it would be a great sacrifice to leave, but from a community standpoint often things outside the workplace that keep people retained in the organization aren't considered. Things, if you left behind, like a country club, church or neighbors would feel like a big sacrifice to leave," Messer said.

The survey is an effort to drill down into how or even if workers have those outside connections. Under the theory of community embeddedness, the more satisfying community links a person has, the less likely they are to leave a current city or place of employment.

"Companies spend a lot of time and money trying to explain why people leave. We are trying to evaluate why people stay, and create those connections and experiences that get people to stay," Messer said.

The survey is open until Oct. 1.

Writer: Feoshia Henderson
Source: Carla Messer, Blackbook senior vice president of operations

You can follow Feoshia on twitter @feoshiawrites

New P.I.E. media web site highlights education innovation, profiles trends and innovators

A new Cincinnati-based web site, Partnership for Innovation in Education, or P.I.E. has taken to the web to highlight innovative educators across the country, and to be part of the conversation about moving the U.S. education system forward in exciting ways.

P.I.E. launched last week with original blog content, an RSS feed to education news from national media outlets, and soon-to-come video interviews.

Partnership for Innovation in Education, a nonprofit organization with a 14-member board, was founded by Mary Welsh Schlueter. She has extensive marketing and writing experience. She has worked as a consultant to Procter & Gamble, previously worked in the marketing department of Federated Department Stores, and was a University of Cincinnati adjunct instructor in the Department of Marketing. She also attended Harvard Business School.

Schlueter, a married mother of four, ran for Cincinnati Public Schools Board of Education in 2009. She said her experience running for Cincinnati School board led her to create P.I.E.

"When I was running for school board I talked about innovation and what it concretely looks like, and quite a few people at CPS were doing creative things. I lost the election, but after it was over I got so many interested comments about innovation in education, and people said 'Let's keep this going," Schlueter said.

The original blog content on P.I.E. will profile education innovators and their work across the country. The first profile, which Schlueter posted on Sept. 2, is of Cincinnati Public School Superintendent Mary Ronan.

"What we will do is look at leaders in educational debates. We'll interview those individuals and talk about why they believe innovation is pivotal in education development," Schlueter said. "We want to do this in a way that is highly readable and engaging."

P.I.E also seeks to reach out to people outside of the education community with its content. Education improvement is important to the business world, she said, and education innovation is imperative for today's students to be competitive in tomorrow's global workplace.

"We provide smart talk about education because educational rigor and success determines the opportunities we offer our nation's children and ourselves.  With an educational sector operating both effectively and inclusively, we guarantee our relevance in the competitive economic marketplace," she said.

Writer: Feoshia Henderson
Source: Mary Welsh Schlueter, founder and CEO Partnership for Innovation in Education

You can follow Feoshia on twitter @feoshiawrites

TLC to take a peek into reality makeover show Kim's Closet, pilot to shoot this summer

A planned makeover reality show set in Cincinnati is back on track after a setback for creator Kimberly Anderson.

The show, Kim's Closet, was set to launch last fall but was put on hold after the death of Anderson's father. This spring Anderson is again ready to tackle her dream of creating a reality show focused on everyday beauty for busy women.

"We are not flying guests to exotic places to shop. We are taking men and women shopping right in their hometown. The guest and the viewer truly cannot learn style lessons if the resources that we show them are not accessible," Anderson explained.

In this show, Anderson will serve double duty as both host and stylist, where she'll makeover Cincinnati men and women in way that works with their lifestyle and can be maintained.

Anderson brought along an all-Cincinnati cast of stylists and a photographer to help pull participant's style together. They are Lyndsey Yeager of Glossa Makeup in Covington; Leah Spurrier, of HighStreet Lifestyle Store and Studio; Cassie Dusold, of  Bella Rey Salon; and Robert Romundo, Ramundo Photography of Cincinnati.

The show is being developed with Kikilu Productions, a Cincinnati a creative agency specializing in the development of lifestyle television programming.

The cable network TLC has shown interest in the show's pilot, which is scheduled to be shot this July, she said.

"We are currently very busy shopping the concept and will shop the pilot once completed. TLC has asked to see the pilot, but there are no firm network or cable outlet (commitments) at this time," the Hyde Park stylist said.

Jackie Alexander, a special education coordinator and mother of five from Hebron, in Northern Kentucky, has been selected to appear in the pilot.

The show has also picked up a sponsor, California Closets, an international custom closet and storage installation company with a location in Mason.

"I really like Kim's approach to helping everyday people regain their personal style.  She genuinely wants to help people, in a very uplifting way, feel good about who they are.  This is not a show about glitz and glamour only; it is about rediscovery and real people," said California Closets President Charlie Meyer.

Writer: Feoshia Henderson
Source: Kimberly Anderson, creator of Kim's Closet

You can follow Feoshia on twitter here.

Cincinnati entrepreneur wins $10,000 national social media marketing prize

Girlfriendology.com founder Debba Haupert won the $10,000 top prize for her winning social media marketing idea in a national company's contest.

Haupert, of Cincinnati, was one of five finalists chosen from across the country who presented ideas to promote Genesis Today, an Austin, Texas-based health food product developer.

Haupert has a background in corporate marketing, and has worked for Fortune 500 companies including Honda, Acura and BMW. In 2006, she founded Girlfriendology.com, a multi-media Web site founded on social networking, friendships, discussions and women-centered business and activities.

Her winning idea is based on the "flash mob" group concept where people work together to get healthy, in part by using Genesis Today products. The "mobs" will compete against each other and the winners will get a form of recognition by Genesis Today. The plan will become part of the company's marketing and social media strategy.

“Girlfriendology.com is all about helping women improve their lives, so it’s a real thrill for me to work with a company with a shared vision,” said Haupert. “I’m looking forward to helping them explore the world of social media in some new, exciting ways.”

Haupert originally submitted the contest idea in October. In January, she and the other finalists went to Austin to present their ideas in person making live presentations to a panel consisting of social media experts, bloggers and Genesis Today representatives at their Austin headquarters.

Writer: Feoshia Henderson
Source: Genesis Today

Share Some Sugar makes neighborhood borrowing high tech

When Manhattan transplant Keara Schwartz moved from her Over-The-Rhine apartment to a house in Hyde Park, she needed a lot more "stuff."

But she didn't necessarily want to buy things that she'd only use occasionally, like power tools or a snow blower or a ladder. 

"There was so much stuff I need for a house. Every time I'd buy another tool, I'd think, 'There has to be someone in my neighborhood who has this,'" the graphic design manager said.

That formed the idea for Schwartz's new web site, Share Some Sugar, an online neighborhood borrowing site that launched just weeks ago.

The free service, which is in Beta, has three main components. Users can offer an item to share, look for an item by neighborhood or zip code, or discuss neighborhood issues like block party plans or safety issues.

Users sign up for the service by creating a profile which allows them to list, look for items or have discussions. Currently nearly 300 items have been listed on the site including sprinklers, wheelbarrows, a carpet steamer, GPS and digital camera.

Schwartz said Cincinnati is a perfect place to launch the site because of its neighborhood awareness. The city has 52 neighborhoods and numerous suburbs. The site allows users to save money, reduce their environmental footprint, and meet their neighbors.

"That exchange - of helping someone the first time you meet them – is a good way to start off a new friendship in your neighborhood," she said.

Schwartz is promoting the site and working up the inventory through local media and social networking sites. Eventually, she plans to spread the concept to other cities.

Share Some Sugar hosts a 'neighborhood swap meet' this Sunday, December 13 at Coffee Emporium. Learn more here.

Writer: Feoshia Henderson
Source:  Keara Schwartz, founders Share Some Sugar

85 Broads comes to Cincinnati

Cincinnati’s broads soon will join the ranks of 20,000 high-powered professional women across the globe with a local chapter of 85 Broads, the cheeky moniker for the networking organization founded by women who worked for NYC's Goldman Sachs.

85 Broads, founded in 1997, takes its name from the 85 Broad Street address of Goldman Sachs. The exclusive organization has 27 regional chapters worldwide, representing women from 82 countries.

“Over the past decade, 85 Broads expanded its membership to include women who are alumnae and students of the world's leading colleges, universities, and graduate schools worldwide. Our members are located in 82 countries around the world and work for thousands of for-profit companies and not-for-profit organizations,” said Jessica Deye, founder and co-president of 85 Broads Cincinnati. Deye, a process analyst for Kroger Co, and Adhrucia Apana, Junior Consultant for Artesiaa Global Management, co-founded the chapter.

The organization will have a kickoff event Sept. 1 at the Vineyard Café Wineroom on Hyde Park Square. Event Hostesses includes Deye and Apana, Patricia Gibson President/PMG Communications, Vanessa Freytag, Executive Director of The Women’s Fund of The Greater Cincinnati Foundation, Cincinnati Councilwoman Laketa Cole and others.

So why was Cincinnati the latest city to come into the 85 Broads fold?

“Cincinnati has immense social, intellectual, and leadership capital in its women. This city never ceases to amaze me in the women I meet and the fantastic things they are accomplishing," Deye says. "Upon graduation from college, I was interested in joining a networked organization of strong, empowered women in the Cincinnati community. Although the city boasts a handful of fabulous women's organizations and initiatives, they are independent and splintered; not aligned in a single purpose and vision. By bringing 85 Broads to Cincinnati, we hope to create a much needed central organization.”

85 Broads isn’t just a place to kick back and have drinks with the ladies. It offers professional networking in a multi-cultural, multi-ethnic setting.

“Through the global organization, I was recently connected with an MBA Admissions Consultant (Betsy Massar of Master Admissions) who attended Harvard Business School and is now living across the country in Berkeley, CA. We have been in conversation over the past few weeks regarding my applications to graduate school. Without the 85 Broads network, I never would have had the opportunity to connect with Betsy. The global organization is abound with fascinating, intelligent women like Betsy who want to network without borders, and I am so excited to be bringing this to Cincinnati,” Deye said.

For more information about the new chapter go to the 85 Broads Cincinnati web site or e-mail info@85BroadsCincinnati.com. You can also follow the chapter on Twitter.

Writer: Feoshia Henderson
Sources: Jessica Deye and Adhrucia Apana 85 Broads Cincinnati chapter co-founders and co-presidents

That's what she said. Cincinnati Women Bloggers promote, link talent of 150+ members

Just over a year ago, three local women came together with the goal of linking Cincinnati’s talented female bloggers and giving them a larger platform to promote their work.

So, Cincinnati Women Bloggers was born through Mommy Bits’ Shannon Boyer, of Park Hills, Gilfriendology’s Debba Haupert, of Hyde Park, and Laura’s Carbon Footprint’s Laura Morarity, of Oakley.

“We started Cincinnati Women Bloggers because we realized that there were a lot of very talented women blogging in Cincinnati that had no formal way to get together to share ideas and build friendships. So, we set out to create a community for women. We sent out an invitation encouraging women -- with blogs or who were interested in learning how to blog -- to join us at the BeanHaus in Covington on a Saturday morning. We crossed our fingers and hoped someone would show up. We had about 12 people at that first meeting, and we've been growing ever since,” said Morarity.

Around 150 bloggers now are members of the group, which meets monthly to talk about this growing craft. The next meeting will be Aug. 22 at 10 a.m. at the Cincinnati Ballet.

“We encourage all women to attend who are interested in blogging, even if they've never blogged before,” Morarity said. “We also occasionally hold social events -- we let the guys come to those too. We held a large Christmas party in December 2008 and celebrated our first birthday with a party in late June. We plan to continue holding occasional social events for the entire Cincinnati social media community.”

For those who can’t make the meetings, Cincinnati Women Bloggers has a virtual meeting place online. The CWB Web siteTwitter and LinkedIn pages. Through the website, users can also sign up for an enewsletter.

Writer: Feoshia Henderson
Source: Laura Morarity, co-founder Cincinnati Women Bloggers

Education partnership led by University of Cincinnati awarded $2.4 million grant

Thousands of low-income Cincinnati Public Schools students should get a better shot at getting to college with a $2.4 million federal grant to a Cincinnati partnership led by the University of Cincinnati. The grant, expected to be for a total of six years, will be matched in value of services contributed by the partnership, called GEARUP SCORES, led by UC and Cincinnati Public Schools.

GEARUP stands for Gaining Early Awareness and Readiness for Undergraduate Programs, and it emphasizes increasing the number of disadvantaged students prepared to enter and succeed in postsecondary education. The grant is the highest ever awarded to the partnership since it was first funded in 1999.
The partnership will support sixth-and-seventh-grade students in 31 Cincinnati Public Schools and follow them through their high-school graduation. For the first time, this new funding will also track the success of GEARUP students as they enter their first year of college, trade school or other postsecondary  education.

A total of 4,000 students will be linked through the program over the six-year period, supported by academic and enrichment programs, advising and mentoring to increase student achievement. The program also educates students and their families about higher education options, about dual-enrollment programs in  which students earn high-school and college credit, and about the financial resources to get to college.

Writer: David Holthaus
Source: Dawn Fuller, UC

Money magazine ranks Cincinnati one of six best places to buy a home

In the midst of a nationwide housing crisis, Money magazine came up with a list of the six “best places to buy a home these days,” and put Cincinnati on it. Money said its list is of “the six cities where home prices are likely to rise the most - or fall the least - in the next 12 months.” Of Cincinnati, the magazine said, “The city's manufacturing-heavy economy should benefit from the falling dollar. Commercial building is up, and high-end developments are moving in.”

Home prices have indeed been relatively stable in Greater Cincinnati compared to other metropolitan markets. A 20-city housing study recently reported by the S&P Case Schiller Group found that the average home-selling price in Cincinnati fell 2.5 percent from October 2006 to October 2007, compared to an average drop of 6.1 percent in the 20 cities surveyed.

Money's ranking "is great news considering the national trends," said Cincinnati Mayor Mark Mallory. "The ranking confirms the strength of our housing market."

Writer: David Holthaus
Source: Money magazine

Region's office vacancy rate drops to 16.9 percent

Job growth and a low unemployment rate get the credit for more office space in the region getting filled up, says a leading real estate firm. The overall office vacancy rate in the first quarter was 16.9 percent, a drop from the 17.7 percent seen at the end of 2007, says Colliers Turley Martin Tucker Cincinnati. Both Class A office space (with a vacancy rate of 14.83 percent), and Class B (19.39 percent), showed a slight recovery from the end of 2007. "The positive dynamics of the Cincinnati market have given the area the ability to weather the storms of economic uncertainty created by the subprime mortgage industry," the report says.
Those dynamics include job growth of 0.7 percent in February, area unemployment of 5.2 percent and quality higher education, the report says. CTMT says it expects growth to continue as companies relocate and expand in the area. They include Tata America International Corp., which is establishing a U.S. headquarters in the region, and FirstGroup America Inc., which will be adding 135 new jobs when it expands into its new location downtown. However, concerns about the economy could slow growth.  "We expect much more cautious growth the rest of the year," says Scott Abernethy, a principal with CTMT

Writer: David Holthaus
Source: Scott Abernethy, Colliers Turley Martin Tucker Cincinnati 

Governor spotlights growing small businesses

One day after he proposed a plan to create 80,000 jobs in Ohio, Gov. Ted Strickland went on the road to visit three growing small businesses in the Hamilton County Business Center, an incubator for entrepreneurial ventures.

His visit to Cincinnati highlighted the role of the Hamilton County Development Co., a non-profit organization that owns the incubator, in fostering job growth. Strickland met with Jacobs Automation, which designs machines meant to reduce costs for the packaging industry; with Emersion Design, an architecture, engineering, planning and design firm that has grown from four partners to a team of 13; and with Private Health News, which offers print and electronic marketing materials and information to the health care industry and has seen revenue grow 65 percent in the last 12 months.

“It’s gratifying that the governor recognizes the importance of small business in the future economic prosperity of the state,” said David Main, president of the Hamilton County Development Co.

Source: David Main, Hamilton County Development Co.
Writer: David Holthaus
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