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Bad Girl Ventures expands to Covington, opens next door to UpTech

Earlier this month, The Covington City commission unanimously approved a deal that allows Bad Girl Ventures (BGV) to expand its reach to Covington, Ky., where it will move into a space on Pike Street next door to the tech accelerator Uptech. The space will be used as office headquarters for BGV and as a hub of entrepreneurial support and advocacy for female entrepreneurs by offering co-working space to Bad Girls, access to mentorship, and workshop and networking events.
 
“We’ve been trying to find the right space for about a year,” says Corey Drushal, BGV Executive Director. “We noticed that 30 percent of our entrepreneurs were from Northern Kentucky; we even had some driving up from Louisville and Lexington. Covington is where we want to be.”
 
The BGV and UpTech co-working spaces will connect, allowing the entrepreneurs from both programs to collaborate in new ways and learn with entrepreneurs from different industries.
 
“BGV is excited to become part of another strong community where entrepreneurs of all kinds are being nurtured. With BGV, UpTech and BioLogic on the same block, entrepreneurs have every resource at their fingertips. BGV will better help female-owned companies find a stronghold in the community by expanding our presence to Northern Kentucky,” Drushal says.
 
Currently, BGV is active in Cincinnati, Columbus and Cleveland, and has trained 521 female entrepreneurs. In Cincinnati, they are going into their 10th class and have given out $510,000 in loans in the state of Ohio thus far.
 
“Now that we have our new space, for this next year we’re going to focus less on physical expansion of the program and more on expansion of our services, redeveloping curricula and providing more resources for our Bad Girls,” Durshal says.
 
 
 

Grand City Experiment aims to make inclusivity viral in Cincinnati

By now, anyone with a Facebook account and/or Internet access is familiar with the ALS ice bucket challenge. Now imagine a similar charitable idea but one that is instead focused on your specific city, community and neighbors. In just over a month, we’ll see such an idea come to fruition when the Grand City Experiment begins.
 
The Grand City Experiment (GCE) is an initiative started by 15 members of the Cincinnati USA Regional Chamber’s young professional leadership development program C-Change. Their challenge is to make Cincinnati a more welcoming city; they aim to do so by engaging Cincinnatians with daily activities that can have a large cumulative effect on the city.
 
“Each year we provide a guiding principle to our C-Change class,” says Julie Bernzott, manager of C-Change at the Chamber. “The idea of making our community more welcoming had been on the top of our mind for several months. We’d all read an article in the Enquirer about a woman who lived in Cincinnati for two years and didn’t feel like she made one close friend. That story got an unprecedented response from others who felt the same way about our city, and we knew we wanted to do something about it.”
 
The Grand City Experiment is one of several answers the C-Change class has come up with to tackle this issue. Right now, they are collecting email addresses at www.thegrandcityexperiment.com, and starting October 1, every person signed up will receive a daily challenge via email to take some action that can brighten someone’s day, build community, encourage diversity and strengthen the city.
 
“One challenge might simply be to ask some personal questions to a person in the service industry the next time you’re in a cab or a restaurant,” says Aftab Pureval, an attorney at P&G and a member of the C-Change class working on GCE. “Or simply to offer to buy coffee for the person behind you in line. We also have a some challenges that will deal with themes of culture, health issues and more, but the idea is to find small ways to have a large impact on someone’s day.”
 
Through social media and word of mouth, GCE’s initial push has garnered them more than 1,000 participants via email; their goal is to have 30,000 signups by the end of the month of October.
 
“I want people to challenge themselves to learn something new about another person or community,” Pureval says.
 
To find out more information about other C-Change projects and application materials, you can visit http://blogs.cincinnati.com/cchange/ or attend the C-Change information event on August 28 at Mt Adams Pavilion.

Artworks Big Pitch Profile: Misfit Genius

Throughout the summer, Soapbox is profiling each of the eight finalists in the Artworks Big Pitch competition, presented by U.S. Bank, which offers artists, makers, designers and creative entrepreneurs a chance to claim up to $20,000 in cash prizes, as well as pro-bono professional services. The competition concludes August 27 at the American Sign Museum with the eight finalists each giving five-minute presentations to a panel of judges. You can read Soapbox’s article on the Big Pitch here.

It’s not often that you find a business that wasn’t founded to create specific products or services, but instead simply to inspire. Many businesses have core values, but to make your core values into a business is something different. But then again, Cordario “Monty” Collier and Jason Matheny, founders of Misfit Genius, have never been too concerned with what everyone else is doing.
 
Misfit Genius can be summed up as a lifestyle brand, but the two founders are quick to point out that they mean something slightly different by that phrase than most other companies.
 
“Most companies that say that, it’s just based around clothing,” Collier says. “Yes, we sell clothes as well, but we’re more about community-building. The clothes are there to remind us of these values we live by.”
 
Collier and Matheny met in 2008 as students at Thomas More College, where Collier approached Matheny and asked him about a sweater he was wearing. This opened up the initial conversation about fashion, a common interest they both shared.
 
As a business, Misfit Genius was started in 2010. It has remained a very fluid process as Collier and Matheny have been working to find the best way to share their message.
 
“The last four years has really been like going to college for entrepreneurs,” Collier says. “We’ve been through a lot of failure and seen some success, too; the moments of success are what carry you through.”
 
After initial dreams of opening a retail store and creating their own fashion lines, the two men went back to the drawing board several times to find what would really work for them.
 
“We learned that it was more about the idea and the message,” Matheny sas. “The more we focused on that idea of challenging people to pursue their passions, we kept getting signs that that was where we should go.”
 
Now, Misfit Genius describes the clothes they offer as the “back end” of their services. The core of their business is based around five values: Passion, Loyalty, Intelligence, Confidence and Humility. Collier and Matheny have started giving motivational speeches around the area in schools and universities based on these values.
 
“The premise of Misfit Genius is that it’s the misfit in you that makes you who you are—you have to embrace that,” Collier says. “The five values we identified are what you use in order to take that difference and become the genius.”
 
Ultimately, Matheny and Collier want Misfit Genius to become a creative hub in Cincinnati, where ideas and inspiration are bred and real connections are fostered.
 
“At first we were thinking of our brand in a more competitive mode,” Collier says. “Now we’d rather work with other businesses and see how we can help each other to get further. We’re building community one person at a time.” 

Check out these other Artworks Big Pitch finalists:

ReelAbilities Film Festival moves headquarters from NYC to Cincinnati, plans biggest year yet

The ReelAbilities Film Festival, A weeklong festival of independent, award-winning films, aimed at stirring discussion and celebrating diversity and shared humanity, has moved its headquarters from New York City to Cincinnati. The headquarters in Cincinnati is now overseen by the local nonprofit Living Arrangements for the Developmentally Disabled (LADD).
 
ReelAbilities was founded in 2007 in New York City by the Manhattan JCC, and has grown to become the largest film festival in the country dedicated to sharing the stories, lives and art of people who experience disability. The festival now takes place in 14 U.S. cities across the country. In Cincinnati, the biennial festival will next occur February 27-March 7, 2015.
 
“Cincinnati has been so receptive to this festival, it makes perfect sense for it to be here,” says Christa Zielke, National Field Director of the festival. “From the funders to our partners and the festival goers themselves, everyone has really rallied around this.”
 
In 2013, the festival brought 24-plus events to the Cincinnati area, held at a variety of venues including the Contemporary Arts Center, National Underground Railroad Freedom Center, Cincinnati Art Museum, Esquire and Mariemont Theaters and more. More than 250 people volunteer, and the festival saw a 514 percent increase in attendance last year from the previous festival in 2011.
 
“By telling these diverse stories through film, ReelAbilities shines a light on our common human spirit,” says Jeff Harris, a board member and funder of the festival through the Saul Schottenstein Foundation B. “Last year’s festival was truly amazing in its ability to draw that connection and include the entire community.”
 
This year, LADD has partnered with several organizations to continue to raise awareness and promote discussion around these topics outside of the festival. This summer, they partnered with 3CDC and Washington Park to sponsor a screening of Finding Nemo.
 
“We’ve also partnered with the education and legal communities to engage people with these ideas, and to celebrate and acknowledge difference,” Zielke says.
 
Among ReelAbilities advocates is Danny Woodburn, a professional actor who plays the voice of Splinter in the new Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles movie.
 
“Actors with disabilities are 90 percent less likely to be seen, and many characters with disabilities aren’t actually played by actors with disabilities,” Woodburn says. “It’s important for work like this to be done, and if I have the chance to speak out and be heard because I’m recognizable from being in the public eye, then I feel it’s my responsibility to do so.”
 
“But this isn’t just about actors getting work,” Woodburn continues. “Two-thirds of people with disabilities are unemployed; we need to raise awareness of that fact. If we want that to change, we as a society have to create an environment for change.”
 
For more information about the 2015 ReelAbilities Festival, visit www.cincyra.org

New co-working space merges work and play

Cincinnati’s newest co-working office, MOVE, is opening early next month and hopes to stimulate its clients both mentally and physically. The workspace is attached the Foundation Fitness gym and promises to be full of energy, motivation and “people taking breaks to climb ropes, sneak in a few squats or flip the tires a few times.”
 
Located at the intersection of the Brighton, Over-the-Rhine and West End neighborhoods in Cincinnati’s Historic Brewery District, MOVE sits less than half a mile from Findlay Market. Co-founders Patrick Hitches and Ryan Meo say they opened MOVE because they saw a need for collaborative workspace in the city.
 
“I was looking around town and was honestly shocked at how few co-working spaces there were, especially in and around downtown,” Hitches says. “At MOVE, we’re looking to cultivate the local entrepreneur/soloprenuer scene, and the idea is that being active and healthy helps to spark creativity, productivity and innovation. We merge work and play to help our members reach their own personal potential in both body and career.”
 
But the founders emphasize that MOVE is not just for the physically fit. “I have been running an online company for seven years now, and it did no favors at all to my body and health,” Meo says. “I sat all the time, worked long hours and inadvertently ended up in terrible shape; I needed a change without sacrificing my growing business. MOVE was the change I needed and why Patrick and I came together to offer this opportunity to those in the same position I was.”
 
MOVE will feature a variety of amenities including Commercial Broadband Wifi, 24/7 access, showers, lounge area, indoor hanging bike racks and more. Move will have its soft opening on August 6 before launching fully at the beginning of September. 

Artworks Big Pitch Finalist: Heather Britt, Heather Britt Dance Collective

Throughout the summer, Soapbox will profile each of the eight finalists in the Artworks Big Pitch competition, presented by U.S. Bank, which offers artists, makers, designers and creative entrepreneurs a chance to claim up to $20,000 in cash prizes, as well as pro-bono professional services. The competition concludes August 27 at the American Sign Museum with the eight finalists each giving five-minute presentations to a panel of judges. You can read Soapbox’s article on the Big Pitch here.
 
Heather Britt is not a movement. She is movement. She is also one of those people you meet every now and again who, once you know who they are and what they do, it’s impossible to imagine them doing anything else in life.
 
Britt is a dancer and what she’s created here in Cincinnati, in addition to an impressive career, is an outlet for expression, creativity, energy and emotion through dance. She is the founder and operator of the Heather Britt Dance Collective (HBDC), which acts as the umbrella organization for her various projects including her dance class, DANCEFIX, choreography for the Cincinnati Ballet, flash mobs and more.  
 
“I’ve been dancing since I was 3. I went to the School for Creative and Performing Arts (SCPA) in Cincinnati and have been dancing, teaching and choreographing ever since,” Britt says. “I’ve lived in San Francisco and Colorado, as well, but have been back here since 2000, and this year decided that I wanted to bring all the work I do together under the HBDC name.”
 
While in San Francisco, Britt became involved with a dance fitness class called Rhythm and Motion that changed her life.
 
“In San Francisco, I saw people of different, diverse backgrounds, who were not professional, but were passionate nonetheless, and I thought that that was it for me,” Britt says. “Dance has always been therapeutic for me. It’s also a great way to stay in shape, but I do it because I have no choice—I have to do it. When I saw other people like that, I came back to Cincinnati and I thought, ‘Cincinnati needs this.’”
 
So Britt brought the Rhythm and Motion concept back to Cincinnati, only she found that the community was different and the structure needed some changing to meet the needs of the people here. As a result, she adapted the program and changed the name to DANCEFIX.
 
“It’s all about making connection through dance and getting in shape in the process,” Britt says. “It’s all choreographed by myself and teachers I’ve trained; all different styles are represented in the class, and it’s been really successful so far.”
 
Currently, Britt has 10 teachers and 16 classes, both downtown at the ballet and in Kenwood at Yoga Alive. Britt hopes to continue growing into the surrounding areas including Northern Kentucky, the suburbs and eventually, perhaps, to neighboring cities. She hopes to use the cash prize from Artworks Big Pitch to help her with this growth.
 
“Everything so far has been word of mouth, but my hope is to be able to have someone to help out with marketing, social media and just general online presence,” Britt says.
 
When asked to compare her class to other dance classes in the area, Britt is quick to note the difference: “Zumba, for example, uses dance as a way to get fit and get in shape, which is great, but that’s not what I’m about,” she says. “DANCEFIX is more about dancing for the love of dance and creativity, and it just also happens to be an awesome workout. The class is open to anyone at any level. You don’t have to already be a dancer; we’ve become really good at meeting everyone at their own level.”
 
Britt is excited to continue working on her business throughout the weeks leading up to the Big Pitch and is appreciative of the opportunities afforded to small business in Cincinnati.

Check out these other Artworks Big Pitch finalists:

NKU attracts diverse group of student entrepreneurs for Jumpstart Camp

Last month, the Northern Kentucky University Center for Entrepreneurship hosted entrepreneurially minded high school students from 15 schools across northern Kentucky/Greater Cincinnati. This inaugural program, titled NKU Jump Start, focused on giving students hands-on experience in ideation, team building, opportunity validation and pitching.
 
Students spent the weekend in NKU dorms working with current NKU college students participating in the INKUBATOR. Together they came up with dozens of ideas before being asked to carefully boil down the number to four and then present to a panel of judges.
 
“Over the weekend, these high school students, who didn’t know each other beforehand, created apps, videos, logos and more,” says Rodney D’Souza, assistant professor of Entrepreneurship at NKU and founder of the INKUBATOR. “The judges, which included some of Cincinnati’s best known serial entrepreneurs, were blown away by these students.”
 
"I've judged a number of startup events, and these high school students were as prepared and as professional as the adults,” says Taerk Kamil, one of the judges at Jump Start and a local entrepreneur. “Their passion for entrepreneurship was evident. I only wish this type of event existed when I was in high school!"
 
First place at the event went to an idea called Medimaze, a medical system that changes any consumable medication into flavorless, scentless vapor. Using an innovative cartridge system, Medimaze is able to record when and how much medication the patient receives and automatically links it to the doctor. The winning team was made up of students Jake Franzen, Jane Petrie, Riley Meyerratken and Tori Bischoff.
 
The students were grateful for the experience and said they wished the camp could have lasted longer. Based on the feedback they received, D’Souza and his team at NKU are looking at expanding the camp to four days to show the students more of the campus and have more time to work together.
 
 “Both the students and the judges gave us some much good feedback; I think everyone was really impressed by the outcome of the camp,” D’Souza says. “It’s great for us as a university to attract young talent, and it’s also great for our region to be able to continue to grow and expand entrepreneurship on the whole.”

Adopt a Class and Sales Genesis team up to stoke young entrepreneurs

Increasingly, when we think of startups and the entrepreneurs behind them, we tend to think of tech-savvy people in their twenties sitting behind a screen working with datasets and codes. In Cincinnati, the Adopt A Class Foundation is proving that entrepreneurs can come in many forms—and ages.
 
Adopt A Class, a mentoring program that connects pre-K through 8th grade students with local businesses, teamed with local marketing company Sales Genesis to work with the 4th grade class at St. Peter Claver Latin School for Boys. By the end of the school year, the boys had their own small business, the Refreshing Lemon lemonade stand, complete with a business plan, business model, logo and marketing materials.
 
“We first met the boys in December 2013,” says Sales Genesis founder and CEO David Mentzel. “It was very interesting: We talked about what they were passionate about, and they all were very into the NBA, but instead of wanting to be basketball players, they dreamed of owning a team.”
 
After getting to know the students and their interests a little better, Mentzel and his team decided that the best thing to do would be to introduce them to the entrepreneurial process and just what it takes to own a business.
 
“We narrowed it down to a lemonade stand so that it was more feasible to start with,” he says. “Then we talked to them about company structure, showed them what a business plan looks like, and they voted each other into different roles and really adapted to them.”
 
The group went about setting a budget, determining costs and designing marketing materials. The project culminated when the Refreshing Lemon stand was put up for one afternoon in May on the corner of Main and Thirteenth Streets in Over-the-Rhine. In just an hour and a half, the stand earned more than $100. The earnings were then split up among the boys, who decided to donate a sizable percentage to their neighbors at the Mary Magdalen House on Main Street.
 
“We also talked to them about the importance of putting some away for yourself and saving for the future,” says Katie Burroughs, executive director of Adopt A Class. “We want them to feel that they have the skill set and knowledge to run their own business one day.”
 
Adopt A Class works with several schools and businesses around the city, but will continue the partnership between St. Peter Claver and Sales Genesis next year. 

Cincinnati Chamber's Minority Business Accelerator grows portfolio with three new firms

The Cincinnati USA Regional Chamber’s Minority Business Accelerator (MBA) has had a busy year. This month, the MBA has announced the addition of three local corporations to the organization’s current portfolio of 34 companies, ensuring those minority-owned enterprises the MBA’s assistance with working with larger companies of substance. 
 
Additionally, two new MBA Corporate Goal Setters were unveiled today, joining the ranks of 37 regional organizations that have pledged a significant commitment to using a diverse group of suppliers.
 
Joining the MBA as Portfolio Companies are K-COR, LLC, a specialty subcontractor specializing in reinforced steel led by former Cincinnati Bengals linebacker Kevin Walker; PAK/TEEM Acquisition Company, Inc., a dust control technology leader; and Business Technical Services, LLC, an infrastructure company specializing in pipeline integrity management.
 
“The Cincinnati region is made up of somewhere around 20 percent minorities. We want to make sure that they, as individuals and companies, are given every opportunity to grow to their fullest potential,” says Crystal German, vice president of the MBA and economic inclusion at the Cincinnati USA Regional Chamber. “These three portfolio additions are not only examples of the measured growth of our MBA, but represent strong minority advancement in manufacturing, one of our region’s most significant industry sectors.”
 
In addition to this, the MBA announced last week at its 2014 Annual Stakeholder meeting that the Goal Setters companies spent $1.04 billion with local minority-owned companies in 2013, the highest level in the MBA’s 11-year history. Goal Setters are local corporations and nonprofit organizations that commit to an annual spend goal. Also announced at the meeting, average revenues for the MBA’s 34 Portfolio Firms reached $32 million in 2013, a 10 percent increase from 2012, and a 100 percent increase from 2009.
 
“Thirteen years ago, there was major racial tension here, and one of the biggest issues was a lack of opportunities for minorities, specifically in business,” says Lance Barry, public relations manager at the Cincinnati USA Regional Chamber. “To be able to say that now we have one of the leading minority business accelerators in the entire country is incredible.”
 
Indeed, since the MBA’s formation 11 years ago, the cities of Dayton, Ohio, Lexington, Ky., Greensville, S.C., and Charlotte, N.C., have all begun similar programs in their respective cities and have modeled them on Cincinnati’s MBA program

Xavier Partners with American Dreamers radio show to support entrepreneurs

X-Link, a Xavier University Williams College of Business initiative to support locally-owned business creation in Greater Cincinnati, is collaborating with the local radio show American Dreamers to profile local entrepreneurs.
 
American Dreamers airs every Sunday at 9 p.m. on 55KRC, 550AM and his hosted by Sun Ho Donovan and Tom Tasset. The hosts will feature a profile on a different member of the Cincinnati Independent Business Alliance (CiNBA) each week as a benefit membership of CiNBA.
 
“When I found out about CiNBA, I immediately became a supporter of their mission to aid small businesses,” Donovan says. “It’s absolutely the same thing we’re doing with the show, so it made sense for us to work together and support each other.”
 
The profiles will include on-air interviews with the featured entrepreneurs or discussion spots focused on their local businesses, as well as the impact of independent businesses on a community level.
 
“Our partnership with American Dreamers creates some unique benefits for CiNBA members,” says Owen Raisch, founder of the X-Link program and of CINBA. “Of course, radio airtime allows us to share our member stories, but we'll also be offering CiNBA members and supporters exclusive content online in the form of extended interviews that Tom and Sun Ho hold with different experts on the show. Soon, we expect the partnership to bring game-changing ways for local business owners to learn from each other online.”
 
Both CiNBA and American Dreamers agree on the fact that small business growth and entrepreneurship are the way to strengthening individuals, communities and cities.
 
“I was born in South Korea, and my parents have the classic immigrant turned entrepreneur story,” Donovan says. “Seeing their path has really strengthened my belief in the idea that business ownership and supporting small business is the way to change neighborhoods.”
 
In addition to this partnership, CiNBA continues to actively seek out new partnerships in an effort to grow entrepreneurship in the region.
 
“As we strengthen ties throughout more than 20 neighborhood business districts in the region, we're looking to develop strong partnerships with local financiers—ones committed to creating vibrant communities by funding local small businesses,“ Raisch says.
 
To learn more visit www.gcinba.org

UC grad's senior design project wins first prize at housewares competition

Amanada Bolton, a recent graduate of the University of Cincinnati’s nationally No. 1 ranked industrial design program, tied for first place in a student design contest put on by the International Housewares Association (IHA). Bolton was awarded first place for her B-PAC Kitchenware, which was designed to aid the visually impaired.
 
The impetus for the design came from an evening when her grandmother, Barbara, who had lost her eyesight, went to brush her teeth and accidentally used Bengay instead of toothpaste.
 
“That was an aha moment,” says Bolton, who now works at Design Central in Columbus, Ohio. “Most of the visually impaired community doesn’t read braille. So I started thinking about the idea of inclusivity in industrial design.”
 
After that, Bolton began doing research and empathy training with the Cincinnati Association for the Blind and Visually Impaired, including a three day period spent blindfolded during her final term at the University of Cincinnati College of Design, Architecture, Art, and Planning.
 
“I realized there were a ton of issues,” Bolton says. “Precise measuring was difficult; safety was a big issue.”
 
In response, she created three products for her B-PAC line. A silicone collar or pot guard snaps onto a standard pot to prevent the blind from experiencing burns when checking on cooking food. When flipped down, the collar protects hands from hot surfaces. She also created a measuring cup that pops out buttons to indicate quantity as it is filled, food-storage container lids that feature embossed shapes indicating contents and date of storage.
 
“I learned from this project that it’s easy to impact people as a designer if your methodology is all about simplicity and tactile and intuitive cues,” Bolton says.
 
As a result of winning the IHA competition, Bolton was invited to present her designs and her findings to industry professionals in Chicago at the International Home + Housewares Show. She’s been able to secure patents on all three of her products and is in talks with manufacturers about developing a fully functional prototype, while still focusing on her career at Design Central.
 
“With B-PAC, the ultimate goal is to get it into the hands of people that can use it,” Bolton says. “However, even if the products don’t come on the open market, I’m getting interest from a lot of health groups that want to share these methods and open up a conversation about inclusive design. I’d love for my project to be the innovation spark for this idea.”

Food truck festival on Fountain Square grows, benefits local charity

Local nonprofit Josh Cares, an organization within Cincinnati Children’s Hospital designed to benefit hospitalized children who are alone or in need of support, will take over Fountain Square on June 18 for Food Truckin’ for Josh Cares: Presented by General Mills and Kroger.
 
The lunchtime event is set for 11 a.m. to 2 p.m. and will feature more than 10 diverse food trucks from around Cincinnati including Eli’s BBQ, Dojo Gelato, C’est Cheese, Red Sesame, Street Pops, Blue Ash Chili and more. Frank Marzulo of Fox 19 will emcee the event, which culminates with a “Golden Spatula Awards” contest, with best entree and best sweet treat chosen by a celebrity panel that includes Elizabeth Mariner, co-publisher and creative director for "Express Cincinnati;" Ilene Ross, chef and editor of 513Eats.com; and Jeremy Lieb, executive chef at Boca. Judging will be headed up by Warm 98 hosts Bob Goen and Marianne Curan, who will be broadcasting live from the event.
 
“If you look at just how many people have come together to build this event and make it successful, it’s truly a testament to our city as a whole,” says Tom Howard, member of the Josh Cares Young Professional Council. “We also couldn’t have made this happen without the support of Rockfish, who selected us to be the recipient of $50,000 of pro-bono digital marketing and branding services.”
 
The Josh Cares program began as a grassroots initiative within Cincinnati Children’s Hospital in 2005. Today, there are six Josh Cares Child Life Specialists at the hospital to ensure that no critically ill child endures a lengthy hospitalization alone, feeling afraid and abandoned. Food Truckin’ for Josh Cares has become the organization’s biggest public event and awareness builder.
 
“Last year, we raised $17,000; this year our goal is to more than double that,” says Joy Blang, executive director of Josh Cares. “The bottom line is that ,while it will be a great day celebrating the great food truck scene here, it’s really all about making these children a little happier.”

Want to learn more about Cincinnati street food? Check out "30 Must-Try Cincinnati Food Trucks."

Joe Thirty provides new format, opportunity for entrepreneurs to connect

In May, a new series of morning networking events called Joe Thirty kicked off on the 20th floor of the Cincinnati Enquirer building downtown. The series holds events every second Wednesday of the month at 8 a.m., and offers individual entrepreneurs/companies a chance to present to a group of their peers, make connections and receive feedback.
 
At each event, only one local entrepreneur is selected to speak. They are given six minutes to present and talk about any issues they are dealing with or help they may need. The remaining 24 minutes are reserved for community feedback (totaling 30 minutes for the entire event). The main organizers of the event are the Greater Cincinnati Venture Association (GCVA) and local startup and entrepreneurial partner Differential.
 
“GCVA and Differential have been getting together to think about how we could create a program that gathers together the startup community and gives one company at a time the chance to make a pitch to them, not for money, but for resources,” says GCVA volunteer Jake Hodesh. “Our goal is that hopefully by the end of that 30 minute event, that startup leaves with at least one, if not multiple, connections, whether they be to mentors, developers, beta testers or anything else.”
 
The next event will be held on Wednesday, June 11 and will feature Sue Reynolds of ArtifactTree. ArtifactTree is a tool that lets users log and track family heirlooms and other rare items in their possession. This tool is aimed to make it easy for families to share who has what, add notes, and even tap a network of specialists within ArtifactTree to have your possessions rated, commented on and appraised. 
 
“There’s still a very real need for startups to access mentors and connections in a general sense,” Hodesh says. “We held the first event, and we had a really good crowd, so it was pretty obvious that there are people who are still hungry to participate and to help.”
 
Since the first event, GCVA and Differential have received a flurry of inquires from various startups about presenting at Joe Thirty. Hodesh says they plan to roll out an application process to evaluate each company and determine whether or not Joe Thirty will be able to connect them with the resources they need.
 
“Cincinnati is a resource-rich environment for entrepreneurs right now,” Hodesh says. “The greatest opportunity is that there are so many opportunities. We’re just doing our part to connect people with them.” 

Xavier offers LaunchCincy entrepreneurship workshops in Spanish

Xavier University’s X-link program, a Williams College of Business initiative to support locally owned business creation in greater Cincinnati, has expanded its LaunchCincy entrepreneurship workshops to include a workshop for Spanish speakers called LaunchCincy Juntos.
 
Currently, LaunchCincy hosts free workshops in six neighborhoods including Madisonville and Price Hill in an effort to give new entrepreneurs the resources, guidance and network they need to start a business.
 
“The objective at a theoretical level is to help people active in the informal economy transition into the formal economy,” says Owen Raisch, founder of the X-link initiative at Xavier. “At a practical level, it’s about getting people with entrepreneurial interest to realize it and get started.”
 
The workshops take place in a four-part series, as they help participants take their businesses from idea to revenue. Partnering with the Hispanic Chamber of Commerce and Transformations CDC, the new workshop is developing skills and ideas with 10 Spanish-speaking immigrants in Price Hill. To create the course, Xavier undergraduate students Gali Zummar, Laura Forero and Ronald Vieira translated the outline of the English workshop into Spanish.
 
“As a Jesuit university, it matches up with our mission to be reaching out to help communities that might not otherwise get the attention,” Raisch says. “The Hispanic population has disproportionately high rates of enterprise, and to create this program and have a chance for our students to be involved is really key.”
 
X-Link plans to expand its Spanish-speaking program into Carthage this fall, in partnership with the Catholic Charities of Southwestern Ohio and Su Casa Hispanic Ministries. They also plan to build the LaunchCincy curriculum into the university curriculum so that students will get course credit for designing and implementing the workshops through Xavier’s entrepreneurship program.
 

The next LaunchCincy workshop is Saturday, June 14, at Speckled Bird Cooperative in Norwood. Learn more and sign up for free. 


OTRimprov announces Cincinnati's first national improv festival

OTRimprov, the improvisational comedy troupe based out of Over-the-Rhine’s Know Theatre, announced last week that in the fall it will put on Cincinnati’s first national improve festival, IF Cincy, September 12-13, 2014.
 
The festival will take place at the Know Theatre and, in addition to shining a light on the improvisational talent here in Cincinnati, it will bring in some of the best talent nationwide from cities like Chicago, New York, Detroit and Louisville, with more acts still to be announced.
 
"We're excited to share the national acts OTRimprov is bringing in," says Tara Pettit, a cast member of OTRimprov and IF Cincy executive producer. "Between those groups, the local troupes doing great work, and Cincinnati natives who have been performing in other cities who are returning for the festival, it will be two nights of really amazing improv.”
 
The IF Cincy festival will take place around the four-year anniversary of the OTRimprov troupe, who joined together as a group of likeminded performers looking for more opportunities to create a scene around improv performance, similar to the culture that has been created by institutions like IO (formerly ImprovOlympic ) and Second City.
 
“We’ve been able to build up a regular schedule of shows, do some private performances and even some company training sessions,” says Kat Smith, OTRimprov co-director. “But what we really want to do is build an audience and a community that are excited about improv in Cincinnati. We want to make improv more visible in this city and do everything we can to support other troupes locally.”
 
Currently, the festival is pushing its Indiegogo campaign, where supporters can donate to help make the festival happen and receive exclusive benefits and rewards in return. Additionally, OTRimprov has been leveraging existing partnerships to create IF Cincy.
 
OTRimprov brought on local actor Kevin Crowley, who studied and performed improv in Chicago for years, often with Second City. After returning to Cincinnati, Crowley has continued teaching and performing improv. He recently opened a training and innovation company, Inspiration Corporation, that teaches the methods of improv to corporations and individuals.
 
The other key partner is the Jackson Street Market, a resource-sharing program run by the Know Theatre.
 
"The Jackson Street Market and Know Theatre have been there since the beginning,” Smith says. “Their impact on our troupe overall has been immeasurable. We wouldn't be planning the festival, or performing as a troupe, without their support."
 

Xavier partners with Colombian firm to offer Spanish project-management certificate

Xavier Leadership Center (XLC) will expand its project-management reach globally, partnering with Casmena, an executive education firm headquartered in Bogota, Colombia. Casmena itself is an international organization that provides executive education to corporations in a variety of industries, including automotive, IT, banking, education and production.
 
For the first time, Xavier Leadership Center will certify an industry-driven and internationally recognized project-management certificate series in Spanish outside the United States. Casmena, in partnership with XLC, will initially offer two project-management programs, Introduction to Project Management and Project Controlling and Earned Value, beginning in April 2014.
 
“From Xavier’s perspective, the partnership demonstrates XLC’s ability to support our clients globally and consistently, by overseeing the quality of the training by building a global network,” says Bruce Miller, director of the XLC. “For Casmena, the partnership instantly raises the visibility and credibility of their training programs in Colombia by having a recognized U.S.-based university partner.”
 
Casmena had been looking for a distinguished U.S. university to endorse and certify its programs.
 
“Xavier was selected due to our responsiveness, the flexibility in our proposed partnership model, and the Williams College of Business’ ranking/reputation in international business (currently No. 19 for 2014-2015 by U.S. News and World Report),” Miller says.
 
With this partnership underway, Xavier hopes to expand its reach both regionally and internationally.
 
“Our relationship with Casmena allows XLC to ensure the delivery of high-quality and high-impact project-management programs endorsed by Xavier internationally,” Miller says. “We anticipate replicating this model in support of our global clients with a growing portfolio of offerings.”
 
By Mike Sarason

 

Creatives can compete for cash and services in Big Pitch contest

For creative business owners looking to grow their business in Cincinnati, there is no time like the present. Announced this month, Artworks Big Pitch, presented by U.S. Bank, offers artists, makers, designers and creative entrepreneurs a chance to claim up to $20,000 in cash prizes, as well as pro-bono professional services.
 
Applications for the Big Pitch are open now and will be accepted through May 16. Applicants will then be narrowed down to eight finalists, each of whom will have five minutes to deliver their pitch to a live audience and panel of experts at the ArtWorks Big Pitch event on Aug. 27, 2014 at the American Sign Museum in downtown Cincinnati.
 
The business with the best pitch will be awarded a grand prize of $15,000 cash. The finalists also will have the opportunity to be awarded an additional $5,000 by popular vote. Two runners-up will be awarded professional services such as legal, accounting and branding support.
 
The Big Pitch is yet another transformative project presented by Artworks' Creative Enterprise division, which also manages CO.STARTERS (formerly Springboard).
 
“A stronger creative community builds a better Cincinnati,” says Caitlin Behle, Creative Enterprise manager for Artworks. “This funding is a huge stepping stone to supporting the greater Cincinnati community. So far the biggest hurdle for us is that it sounds too good to be true.”
 
To provide opportunities for interested applicants to ask questions in person, ArtWorks is hosting two events—the Creative Enterprise Open House on April 24, and ArtWorks Big Pitch Q&A Info Session on May 7.
 
“We’ve been seeing more and more opportunities for web/tech/app-based companies in Cincinnati, but we felt like the handmade creative community was getting overlooked,” says Katie Garber, director of Creative Enterprise for Artworks.
 
As a sponsor and collaborator on the event, U.S. Bank will provide each of the eight finalists with a mentor who will coach them for the 10 weeks leading up to the event. For more information on the event, visit http://www.artworkscincinnati.org/creative-enterprise/artworksbigpitch/
 
 By Mike Sarason

Open Data Startup Weekend pulls in new ideas, new entrepreneurs

Innovation, talent and resourcefulness were all on display this weekend in Covington as local accelerator Uptech played host to the Open Data Startup Weekend. This year, Cincinnati Startup Weekend partnered with Code for America, the nonprofit aimed at connecting citizens with better design and tech services, and Open Data Cincy, a regional initiative to use public data to encourage transparency, innovation and civic engagement.
 
The goal of the event was to foster social entrepreneurship by accessing public data to launch new ventures, analyze patterns and trends, make data-driven decisions, and solve complex problems in our community.
 
A diverse crowd of participants turned up for Startup Weekend, which asks participants to split into groups and create viable startup ideas over 48 hours. Among their ranks were high school and college students, lawyers, engineers, techies, and designers representing several age groups and varying experience levels, from complete newbies to previous Startup Weekend attendees.
 
“I enjoy the fact that people come from diverse backgrounds and working together really intensely,” says Racquel Redwood, who was participating in her second Startup Weekend on an idea called Potholer.
 
“While I work for a large company here, its great that there are opportunities here to explore the entrepreneurial space as well,” says Benjamin Danzinger, R&D engineer at Johnson & Johnson.
 
After spending the weekend refining their ideas, getting advice from the event organizers (who themselves also represent local startups like Choremonster, Lisnr, BlackbookHR and more), running focus groups and scouring data, each group presented Sunday evening to a duo of judges—Eric Avner of the The Carol Ann and Ralph V. Haile, Jr./U.S. Bank Foundation and Elizabeth Naramore of GitHub, which provides powerful collaboration, code review, and code management for open source and private projects.
 
First place went to UMO, which addresses “the achievement gap” and is a platform for prospecting students to learn about the true cost of a college education at various universities based on scholarships available, average ROI of the degree they’re interested in and actual published attendance costs. For winning, they received six months of desk space at Cintrifuse, a meeting with a local venture capitalist, and a GitHub gold account—all things to help continue their startup. 
 
Second place was kNOwait, an app that publishes drive times along with wait times at local urgent cares, DMVs, etc. to help users determine the actual fastest option near them. They received desk space at Cintrifuse, legal advice from Taft, and a GitHub bronze account. The next Startup Weekend will take place in November; visit www.cincinnati.startupweekend.org to stay updated.
 
By Mike Sarason

Cincinnati Center for Adult Music Study opens this week

This week marks the opening of a new music education program in Cincinnati, the Cincinnati Center for Adult Music Study (CincyCAMS). Founded by Rachel Kramer, pianist, teacher and arts administrator, and her business partner Mary Chaiken, CincyCAMS will offer programs on all aspects of music in multiple venues around the greater Cincinnati area. 
 
Chaiken and Kramer have been friends for some time, having made music together as a part of Muse, Cincinnati’s Women’s Choir, until Kramer retired from the choir in 2013. In 2014, they’ve decided to become business partners.
 
“I had always wanted to start a program like this,” Kramer says. “Mary had just finished her last grant-based job in medical research—she is a molecular biologist—and was looking to do something new. We got to talking and CincyCAMS is the result.”
 
The programs offered include more traditional lessons, performance groups, lectures covering a wide range of musical topics and more. Programs are intended to be short (nothing more than six weeks) so students will not only cover several topics throughout the course of the year, but will also visit several different venues in various areas of the city.
 
“We want to be the community meeting place for people to come, make music and realize a dream come true,” Kramer says. “We want to enrich lives and inspire adults to make their own kind of music.”
 
CincyCAMS is also looking to collaborate with current music teachers and music professionals in the Greater Cincinnati area.
 
“We will be using our professional colleagues as facilitators,” Kramer says. “We also would like students of our community teachers to come to CincyCAMS for enrichment classes and performance opportunity, and we would like to send cincyCAMS participants who want further study to our area teachers.”
 
To that end, CincyCAMS has already partnered with the University of Cincinnati’s College Conservatory of Music, as well as with Northern Kentucky University and the Music Teacher’s National Association.  
 
To learn more about the program, visit www.cincycams.com.

By Mike Sarason

The Carnegie takes inspiration from local farming, adopts Community Supported Art program

The Carnegie, Northern Kentucky’s largest multidisciplinary arts venue located in Covington, has announced the inaugural season of Carnegie Community Supported Art (Carnegie CSA), which will allow arts enthusiasts to buy “farm boxes” filled with works of art created by local artists.
 
Inspired by Community Supported Agriculture initiatives (CSAs), which allow consumers to buy food directly from local farmers, The Carnegie’s CSA program applies the same “buy local” ethic to art and seeks to enrich the experience for artists and collectors at all levels.
 
“We hope that this program will bring new collectors in and make it easier for collectors to discover new artists,” says Matt Distel, exhibitions director at the Carnegie. “We included a diverse array of local artists so that no matter what your level of experience buying art is, everyone will wind up with something new.”
 
Local artists whose work will be featured include Antonio Adams, Keith Benjamin, Carmel Buckley, Barbara Houghton, Casey Riordan Millard, Marcia Shortt, Michael Stillion/Katie Labmeier, Chris Vorhees and Joseph Winterhalter.
 
Individuals interested in supporting the Carnegie CSA will purchase a “share” for $350 and in return will receive a “farm box” consisting of nine pieces of locally produced artwork. Featured works could include items such as mixed media prints, a run of photographs or small original ceramics.
 
The actual works created will vary and will be kept secret until July when participants will pick up their “shares” during the Carnegie CSA harvest party. The program is modeled on a similar program created by mnartists.org and Springboard for the Arts in Minneapolis.
 
“It’s a very innovative way of thinking about how we create a community spirit that is supportive of local artists,” Distel says. “We’re looking to make this an ongoing program so that we can continue to include all kind of artists from the area and cultivate new collectors.”
 
Member shares for the Carnegie CSA will go on sale Thursday, May 1, 2014, and will be available for purchase by contacting (859) 491-2030. To learn more about the program, visit www.thecarnegie.com.  
 
 By Mike Sarason

Class is in Session radio program is Cincinnati's newest forum on education

Cincinnati has a new venue for public dialogue on the topic of education in our city. “Class is in Session” is a weekly radio program on 1230 AM every Saturday from 3-4 p.m., created through a collaboration between the Strive Partnership and Parents for Public Schools of Greater Cincinnati (PPSGC). 
 
The show, which began at the beginning of March, is set up to be an open forum where listeners are encouraged to call in and voice their opinions on issues related to education in the urban core.
 
“Our goal is to engage the community and create great discussions in the education sphere,” says Nia Williams, Community Engagement Coordinator for Strive. “This show creates a consistent space for dialogue and provides constant feedback for us that will inform our work.”
 
Strive, a partnership of Greater Cincinnati businesses, nonprofits, school districts and universities working to improve outcomes for every child in Cincinnati, Covington and Newport, reached out to PPSGC because of their experience engaging the community.
 
“We thought radio would be a good venue because we get to share what’s happening and people can offer feedback at any point during the program,” Williams says.
 
So far, topics for Class is in Session have included the achievement gap, poverty, parent involvement and more.
 
“Parent engagement in the education sphere is crucial,” Williams says. “It can fundamentally change how our education system works; we have to do a better job at reaching out to parents and making that happen. That’s why we’re working with PPSGC in the first place.”
 
Class is in Session will also act as a method of sharing positive developments that are happening in the urban core.
 
“We have a lot to talk about as far as early childhood education, the Preschool Promise and more,” Williams says. “We want listeners to be excited and learn how they can get involved.”
 
The Preschool Promise is a campaign to ensure that every 3-4-year-old has access to quality preschool. This promises to get more children ready for school, reading successfully by the end of 3rd grade, and graduating from high school ready for college and careers.
 
To learn more about Class is in Session, visit the Strive Partnership website.

By Mike Sarason

Cincinnati Preservation Collective creating framework to save historic buildings

Cincinnati Preservation Collective (CPC) officially has the designation of being the newest group of engaged local citizens passionate about preserving Cincinnati’s historic properties.
 
Founded in late 2013, CPC came together as a way for Cincinnatians who care about historic buildings not only to meet up and learn from one another about preservation in the city, but also to create a framework that provides a proactive approach to saving such structures.
 
“CPC was started in part because I was having a lot of conversations with people who were interested in preservation, many of them already involved in different neighborhood type organizations, but who didn’t actually have a way to proactively save buildings,” says co-founder Diana Tisue. “As a community, we’ve been through a lot of really dramatic battles saving buildings and I realized that part of the problem was that we were coming in too late. Our cause can’t be one building; it has to be advocating for preservation throughout the city.”
 
Already, the young group has set its sights on five “impact buildings” that have been selected because they are either in danger of demolition or are in need of considerable rehabilitation. Four of the properties are in Over-the-Rhine (including the Davis Furniture Building on Main Street) and one is in Walnut Hills (The Paramount Building on McMillan).
 
“For a lot of people, being labeled a preservationist carries a stigma with it; it’s anti-development or anti-progress,” says co-founder John Blatchford. “But I think what we’ve seen in Cincinnati, in areas like Over-the-Rhine and downtown, is that we’ve benefitted a lot from saving old buildings and making use of them. And it can be done in an economic, profitable way.”
 
In addition to its five impact buildings, CPC is also rallying the community around the idea of preservation in other ways. Last week, they held their first Pitch Party event at Venue 222, featuring 10 presenters each given five minutes or less to present their preservation related projects.
 
The winners were decided by an audience vote, which ended up as a tie between Brendan Regan of OTR ADOPT and Giacomo Ciminello of PlayCincy, who each were awarded $500 in seed funding. The organizers note that just as important as the seed funding was the social capital gained by presenting to a full room of preservation enthusiast; CPC hopes to host the pitch party annually.
 
The next CPC meeting will be on Tuesday, March 25 at Arnold’s and is free and open to the public. To learn more, visit www.preservethenati.com.
 
By Mike Sarason


Visually impaired 'Pixel Painter' from Super Bowl ad exhibiting work at UC

Hal Lasko, the 98-year-old visually impaired grandfather featured in a recent Super Bowl commercial, has brought a broad collection of his creations—landscapes, still life, abstracts—to the University of Cincinnati in February for the first solo exhibit of his pixel paintings. DAAP Galleries at UC is presenting "Hal Lasko: The Pixel Painter" at the Philip M. Meyers, Jr. Memorial Gallery from Feb. 3-March 30, with an artist reception on March 13 from 5-7 p.m.
 
Lasko’s Pixel Painter name is derived from his use of Microsoft Paint as a medium to create art. While to some it may seem like an antiquated program, Lasko's deft use of the program elevates the technique to a fine art.
 
“Hal started working with MS Paint in the 90s, so at the time it didn't seem outdated,” says Ryan Lasko, grandson of Hal. “Now, 15 years later, MS Paint is just a tool to him, like an artist would use a paintbrush and canvas.”
 
Lasko started out as a graphic designer, working in the military during World War II drafting maps. After his military career, he worked on creative projects for several companies and eventually retired from American Greetings in the 1970s. As his sight began deteriorating, it became harder for him to paint. Things took a turn though when his family bought him a computer on his 85th birthday; the computer came loaded with MS Paint.
 
"When I got the computer and saw what the Paint program offered, I started a whole new career almost,” Lasko says.
 
Lasko’s story has captured many people’s attention. A short film about his life made by his son and grandson led to the family being contacted by Microsoft and Lasko being featured in Microsoft’s “Empowering” Super Bowl XLVIII commercial.
 
Additionally, the video caught the attention of Aaron Cowan, program director of DAAP Galleries.
 
“I connected to the video and his work on an artistic, human and very personal level and believed others would as well,” Cowan says. “It also seemed to me he deserved recognition for his work in a formal gallery setting, and I wanted to make that happen.”
 
Learn more about Lasko’s story and the DAAP exhibit.

By Mike Sarason


This Land's Growing Value Nursery to provide sustainable food supply to Cincinnatians

This Land, a local nonprofit that aims to bring educational opportunities to the Greater Cincinnati area in permaculture, green building and sustainable living, is pushing forward its Growing Value Nursery. The nursery, located in Northside, offers more than 120 varieties of perennial edible plants, with the aim of giving permaculturalists and gardeners tools to create “abundant and resilient landscapes.”
 
Braden Trauth, founder of This Land and the Growing Value Nursery, firmly believes in the need to create a sustainable local urban environment and cites the tenets of permaculture as his methodology for how to do so.
 
“Permaculture looks at ecology, understands how ecosystems have worked for 2 billion years and looks at how we can model our human systems off of that,” Trauth says. “It actually pulls a lot of its theoretical framework form industrial design, which is what I’m trained in.”
 
Trauth was initially turned on to sustainable design in the early 2000s by Dale Murray, the coordinator of the Industrial Design Program of the School of Design, in the college of Design, Architecture, Art and Planning at the University of Cincinnati.
 
In 2007, after studying topics such as housing, energy, green business and permaculture around the world, Trauth noticed that Cincinnati was severely lacking in resources for these areas, particularly so in educating the population about them. In 2008, he began teaching permaculture classes in Cincinnati, and in 2011 went on to form This Land to continue to educate and disseminate ideas on how to create systems for sustainable living.
 
“The Growing Value Nursery spawned out of our permaculture courses,” Trauth says. “We realized that we didn’t have a supply line of good plants to supply homeowners, home gardeners, landscapers with diverse edibles; most of what you’d get is mail order, and most of the plants are small. We wanted to do something bigger.”
 
In 2013, the Growing Value Nursery received a $1,200 grant from Fuel Cincinnati, which allowed them to accelerate growth so the program could be more self-sustaining through the nursery and classes.
 
“You talk with Braden for a half hour and you realize that we have world-class experts on permaculture right here in Cincinnati,” says Fuel chair Joe Stewart-Pirone. “Fuel knew we wanted to help launch this project as soon as we saw it.”
 
For more info on the nursery or to schedule an appointment to visit, e-mail info@this-land.org

by Mike Sarason


Cincinnati Chamber launches $1.7M minority business funding campaign

The Cincinnati USA Regional Chamber’s Minority Business Accelerator (MBA) announced the launch of the first phase of funding for the L. Ross Love GrowthBridge Fund. The MBA is the Chamber’s economic-development initiative focused on growing sizeable minority firms.
 
The fund will provide flexible debt capital to finance growth projects of established, highly competitive African-American and Hispanic-owned firms in the region. The average loan size will be $175,000. It is anticipated that three to four loans will be made per year. Once they are, they will be the first of their kind in the country.
 
“The combination of the target market, the geographic focus and the financial product makes the L. Ross Love GrowthBridge Fund unique,” says Crystal German, vice president of the MBA and economic inclusion at the Cincinnati USA Regional Chamber. “The fund will help us grow our impact, the number of firms we touch, and continue to help us fundamentally change the conversation about economic inclusion.”
 
The fund was named in memory of media owner L. Ross Love. The entrepreneur, philanthropist, former Procter & Gamble executive and founder of Blue Chip Broadcasting was dedicated to minority entrepreneurship. During his career, Love created Blue Chip Enterprises, a company that helped African Americans start their own businesses.
 
The fund has raised more than $1.7 million from 28 investors since being announced in June 2013, representing both corporations and private commitments.
 
“The opportunity to make the L. Ross Love GrowthBridge Fund come to fruition was seeded by the Greater Cincinnati Foundation, who was looking for opportunities where they could provide financial investments that also created positive social impact,” German says.
 
Since its inception in 2003, the MBA has created 1,800 jobs in Cincinnati. The success of the Chamber’s Minority Business Accelerator has served as a catalyst across the country including in Charlotte, Cleveland, Lexington, Dayton and Greenville, where MBAs have since been launched. Learn more about the history of Cincinnati's MBA and how it has become a model for other MBAs throughout the country.

By Mike Sarason

'Raise the Floor' initiative will prepare women for advanced manufacturing careers

Last week, the Workforce Solutions and Innovation Division of Gateway Community and Technical College in Florence, Ky., launched ‘Raise the Floor,’ an initiative designed to promote manufacturing careers to women and to prepare them for stable, highly paid, high-performance production jobs.
 
Raise the Floor has two primary goals: to help women improve their economic well-being and increase the pipeline of skilled workers—in this case women—to ease the current and projected manufacturing labor shortage. The program was developed by a group of women from a variety of employers including Duke Energy, Emerson Industrial Automation, NKY Chamber of Commerce, Northern Kentucky University and more.
 
“This new program was developed by women for women,” says Angie Taylor, Vice President of Workforce Solutions and Innovation. “A consortium of 26 female manufacturing executives and community leaders met throughout the summer and fall to pull the program together, with the assistance of our Dean of Workforce Solutions, Carissa Schutzman.”
 
A Raise the Floor pilot program is currently under way with a small group of women from other Gateway programs who are involved in an introductory class, which will conclude November 8. 
 
The training portion formally kicks off in January when a group of 10 to 15 women are expected to take the Manufacturing Skills Standards Council’s Certified Production Technician class. This four-credit-hour Gateway course ends in May and includes four assessments. When students pass all four assessments, they receive the nationally recognized Certified Production Technician certification.
 
“We are delighted to announce this new initiative that joins our existing efforts to promote manufacturing careers to high school students, displaced workers and veterans,” says Ed Hughes, Gateway President/CEO. “We now have recruitment efforts aimed at four of the five worker populations identified by the Northern Kentucky Industrial Partnership, and we are working to develop outreach to the fifth, which is senior citizens.
 
“The Raise the Floor initiative is a shot in the arm for our extensive manufacturing pipeline efforts,” Hughes continues. “We are very grateful to the United Way, which has co-sponsored this effort, Partners for a Competitive Workforce and all of the 26 women who so generously volunteered their time to develop this dynamic new initiative.”

By Mike Sarason

Financial Opportunity Center offers new model for social service in Cincinnati

The Local Initiatives Support Corporation (LISC), the nation’s leading community-development support organization, has developed a new model to help struggling individuals and family progress to a state of stability. The program is called the Financial Opportunity Center, and LISC has partnered with several area organizations, most of them with a specific neighborhood focus, to implement the model in and around Cincinnati.
 
While traditional social service organizations and models have revolved around simply helping neighborhood residents secure employment, Kristen Baker, Program Officer at LISC of Greater Cincinnati & Northern Kentucky, says that a new paradigm is needed.
 
“A few years ago, just around the time of the economic downturn, the United Way had a one-day summit around the theme of financial stability,” Baker remembers. “One of the ideas that came from it was that people felt like the organizations in their communities weren’t doing enough, that a more multifaceted approach was needed to help people move up the economic ladder.”
 
The search for such an approach led LISC to apply for, and eventually receive, a grant from the Social Innovation Fund to develop what became their Financial Opportunity Center (FOC) model.
 
“The FOC is based on best practices from the Annie E. Casey Foundation centers for working families and includes three types of training for clients: employment placement and career improvement; financial education and coaching; and public benefits access,” Baker says.

Thus far, LISC has used the grant to institute FOCs at Cincinnati Works, the Brighton Center (in Newport, Ky.), the Urban League of Greater Cincinnati (in Avondale) and Santa Maria Community Services (in Price Hill).
 
From January to September of 2013, the four Greater Cincinnati Financial Opportunity Centers helped more than 480 individuals be placed in jobs, 150 people retain employment for one year, 78 individuals improve their credit score, 130 people improve their monthly net income and 66 people improve their net worth.
 
“The sentiment used to be that if we could just get people a job, they’d be able to advance,” Baker says. “Especially after the recession, we’ve seen that there are many other issues that have snowballed together. This model is about a long-term relationship with our clients and their communities—it’s about working with people after the initial crisis of being unemployed and developing new and positive habits for the clients.” 

By Mike Sarason


Meals on Wheels provider turns unused kitchen into incubator for local women-owned food companies

Senior Services of Northern Kentucky, located on Madison Avenue in Covington, had a challenge. A switch in the way they operated their Meals on Wheels program left them with an industrial-size kitchen that was hardly being used. So they set about searching for a tenant who would not only be interested in the space, but also in making a difference in the community.
 
Enter Rachel DesRochers, the founder of Grateful Grahams, a successful food manufacturer dedicated to high-quality vegan products and to supporting fellow women food-based entrepreneurs.
 
“We went through a process of vetting each other out,” said Ken Rechtin, Interim Executive Director of Senior Services. “She liked the space and we liked her, but she couldn’t single-handedly take on the cost of the kitchen.”
 
DesRochers then had the idea to bring in multiple vendors to share the kitchen, which would not only offset cost for Senior Services, but would also help others achieve their culinary dreams.
 
Part of DesRochers’ mission is to help empower women business owners; to that end she has already attracted many to join the collective kitchen incubator including companies Love and Fluff marshmallows makers, Delish Dish caterers, vegan Zucchini bread bakers Evergreen Holistic Learning Center, and Piebird Sweet and Savory Specialties.
 
“The space is being used almost seven days a week; it’s really neat to see all of that activity down there,” Rechtin says. “It’s really a win-win-win and has opened us up to some other thoughts of how our organizations can collaborate further. We’ve talked about sending a Grateful Graham out with every Thanksgiving meal as a way to give back, and we’ve got several more ideas we’re still working out.”
 
In addition to the kitchen, the Senior Services location has additional space still available in the building. Rechtin estimates that there is somewhere around 7,000 square feet of available office space.

“We’re very happy to host the kitchen incubator in our space and would love to have more people with new ideas come in to use our facility,” Rechtin says. 

By Mike Sarason


Promising University of Cincinnati student research turns coffee waste into biodiesel

In the long running quest to find alternative fuel sources, University of Cincinnati researchers are adding to the pursuit. They're in the early stages of scaling a process that converts coffee grounds into biodiesel.

Graduate student Yang Liu and doctoral student Qingshi Tu have been working on the project for nearly two years. Their research, which involves burning the grounds for energy after a purification process, was recently presented at the American Chemical Society's 246th National Meeting & Exposition in Indianapolis.

"We have three targets. First we extract oil from the coffee grounds, then we dry the waste coffee grounds in a process to filter impurities. Then we burn what's left as a source of energy generation (similar to using biomass)," explains Liu, an environmental engineering student.

The research is in the proof of concept stage, so it's proven promising in the lab, says Tu, also an environmental engineering student.

"Now we have to see how this will work on a large scale … in the next two years," he says.

The students are working with UC professor Mingming Lu on the process, which began in 2010. The project began small, starting with a five-gallon bucket of grounds from the campus Starbucks.

The project was one of four awarded a $500 UC Invents initiative grant last year. The grant supports campus innovators.

With the magnitude of coffee drinkers in just the U.S., the researchers have plenty of material to experiment with. It's estimated that one million tons of coffee waste is generated in the U.S. alone each year. Most of that sits in landfills.

By Feoshia H. Davis
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Scott Belsky kicks off Cincinnati Mercantile Library's new lecture series October 21

Cincinnati's Mercantile Library is reaching into the past with its new 2035 Lecture Series.

The annual series, which kicks off in October, taps forward-looking business leaders to talk about the "future of business, management, design, philosophy, science, and technologies and the ways those will shape the economy of Cincinnati and its region."

"It's a nod to those guys who started up the library," says Mercantile Marketing Manager Chris Messick. "The library was founded in 1835 by young clerks and merchants who were the startup pioneers of their time."

This year's inaugural lecture features creative entrepreneur and best-selling author Scott Belsky who will speak October 21 at 6:30 p.m. downtown at the library. Tickets are $20. You can purchase them here.

Belsky co-founded Behance, a platform that allows creatives to show and share their work online. Adobe acquired the company in 2012, and Belsky is Adobe's vice president of products-community, according to his bio.

His lecture will be based on his book, "Making Ideas Happen," which walks readers through the process of making a creative idea a reality, Messick says.

"We have a lot events where authors speak, but this is something new. A lot of people in the design world use his site to display portfolios online, and we have a lot of activity around marketing and design downtown. I think this will get a lot of interest," Messick says.

The Mercantile is city's oldest library, with a mission "to make a difference through literature and ideas, advancing interest in the written word, and celebrating the best in literary achievement." A diverse group of authors including Herman Melville, Harriet Beecher Stowe, Saul Bellow and Salman Rushdie have spoken at Mercantile events.

The year 2035 marks the Mercantile's 200-year-anniversary, and this lecture series reflects the historic library's mission to remain a relevant part of the city's creative and business community. The library is supported by membership fees, with memberships starting at $55. The library's blog, Stacked, is popular in local literary circles.

Kroger, dunnhumby, and Murray Sinclaire, Jr./Ross, Sinclaire & Associates, LLC are the inaugural sponsors of the 2035 lecture.

By Feoshia H. Davis
Follow Feoshia on Twitter.


New commercial real estate firm fills gap in targeting minority-owned businesses

During his 15-year career in commercial real estate, J.R. Foster didn't see many faces like his in the industry.

As an African-American, Foster found the lack of diversity in commercial real estate particularly striking, considering the changing global marketplace. In many industry sectors, supplier and corporate diversity is considered a business advantage.

"Corporations are spending a great deal of money with minority- and women-owned businesses, but there is virtually zero spend in the corporate real estate space. There are very few minorities who go out and form their own companies after growing their knowledge base," says Foster, who's spent much of his career at Jones Lang LaSalle (formally The Staubach Company), Lehman Brothers and JP Morgan.

That's why this year Foster went out on his own and co-founded Robert Louis Group. The firm is one of the only Minority Business Enterprise (MBE) certified commercial real estate firms in the country.

Foster's background includes corporate real estate leasing assignments, sales, acquisition, financing and M&A transactions. The company has a working partnership with Colliers International to provide its clients services globally.

Foster and his co-founder David Hornberger are working with independent real estate contractors and are in the process of growing their leadership team.

Just as corporations depend on diversity in hires and suppliers to grow their businesses, Foster believes diversity in commercial real estate can help companies reach an increasingly diverse consumers base.

The firm offers brokerage, marketing, financing, property management and other services.

"We're not only focused on real estate, but the way our clients do businesses. We take into account the design of space, strategic locations and business objectives," Foster says.

By Feoshia H. Davis
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World traveler Luisa Mancera lands in Cincinnati, joins Roadtrippers

Chicago, Mexico City, London, Argentina, Spain. Despite what it may look like, this is not a bucket list of cities/countries to travel to. Rather, it is a list of all of the places that Luisa Mancera has called home before returning this past June to Cincinnati to work as the lead designer at Roadtrippers, a Cincinnati-based startup that helps users discover, plan and book the best road trips customized to their own individual preferences.
 
“For many years, I was always the one in my friend group that was leaving,” Mancera says. She lived in Mexico City for the past three years, working as a designer for a few different companies before eventually teaming up with her cousin to start their own branding and design studio there called Malaca.
 
“Life in Mexico City was very fast-paced, and I enjoyed befriending people from all over the world,” Mancera recounts. “But it was also very transient, and I think that’s what got to me. I wanted something a little more stable.”
 
Having grown up in Cincinnati from age 8 through 17, Mancera considers her roots to be here in Cincinnati. “I was back in April for a wedding, and at that point I was considering coming back to Cincinnati for the summer, working remotely and just getting the lay of the land to see how I felt here.”
 
One of the things she put on her to-do list while in town was to check out the Brandery, which she had not only read about online, but also heard good things from friends.
 
“I spoke with (Brandery office manager) Mike Bott, and he offered me a free place to work at their office because he thought I could potentially be a resource to the startups there,” Mancera says. “Soon after that ,James Fisher, who started Roadtrippers, was looking to hire a designer and went through the Brandery to look. Mike put us in touch and it just snowballed from there.”
 
Fast forward to the present, and Mancera is now living in Cincinnati for the first time since her teenage years. “Even though I was excited to come back, I was also a little bit weary,” she admits. “I thought that it might be a little boring or uninteresting, but it’s been very much the opposite. There’s a diversity of experience here that I was not expecting.”
 
“The biggest surprise is just how incredibly welcoming people are here. … And I think that’s the biggest difference between Cincinnati and anywhere else I’ve lived,” she says.
 
Mancera has jumped right into the thick of things with Roadtrippers and is happy to be part of a team that is constantly developing new ideas that challenge her along the way.

“Right now, we’re doing a lot of user interface design, which is actually new to me, but James knows a lot about it. It is really exciting work, and we’re growing very quickly. It’s neat to be a part of that. I think it will be a cool process to be a part of the transition from scruffy little startup to something that’s a little more structured, organized and grown up. I feel like that’s sort of what I’m going through as a person too,” Mancera says with a chuckle.
 
Mancera is also looking forward to witnessing the continued growth of the city and hopes that it continues to bring more young people into the fold. “I’d like to see people from other parts of the country moving to Cincinnati. I think it adds to this scene," she says. "If someone from a city like Seattle is moving to Cincinnati, it’s a big deal because it means there’s something here that’s catching the interest of people on a national level. It’s exciting to think about.”

If and when that person makes the move, you can count on Luisa to plan them the best road trip possible.

By Michael Sarason

Merx 2013 encourages local businesses to think globally

Members of the local business community convened at the METS Center in Erlanger, KY, to discuss the intricacies of conducting business overseas at the summit known as Merx 2013.

Derived from the Latin word for trade or commerce, “Merx” is hosted by the Northern Kentucky International Trade Association (NKITA). The purpose of the event is to encourage growth in local businesses’ ability to maintain their affairs outside of the US.

The event catered to two lines of thought for entrepreneurs: marketing and operations. With dual panel discussions split between two conference rooms, this approach helped professionals across the board to maximize their chances of successfully implementing their businesses in countries other than the United States.

Topics of conversation included marketing to locals, how to set up an entity abroad, getting the most from trade shows, partnerships and acquisitions, online marketing, and general security precautions to take when working in another country. Business leaders from the area’s most successful companies moderated the panels, which were open to attendees for discussion.

With Cincinnati’s startup community gaining momentum in the business world, events such as Merx 2013 help to ensure that businesses old and new have the chance to not only conduct business around the globe, but also promote Cincinnati in the process.  

Click
here for a list of all businesses involved at this year’s summit.

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

Share local history with Touritz

Are you empowered with an abundance of knowledge on a particular area—say, your old stomping grounds? Does downtown's infinite wealth of stories sway you to study up and make a cohesive tour? Then Touritz is your new outlet. By allowing you to share walking guides and videos, this format is bound to uncover little-known facts about our city (and beyond).

Created by Steve Oldfield and Sean Thomas, two local entrepreneurs with a passion for history, Touritz aims to help increase interest in local lore. They also hope it will be a resource for history buffs who want to expand their knowledge base.

Touritz enables everyone who is willing to put in some work to share their own historical observations. 

Though the service is not yet available, anyone interested can sign up for email reminders and updates on launch dates.

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

Grupo Xela offers Hispanic insight

Grupo Xela is a marketing research agency that specializes in Hispanic demographics. Founded by Jose Cuesta in 2003, the company found success in Cincinnati by communicating an authentic and carefully researched Hispanic perspective to Procter & Gamble and QFact, among other locally owned businesses.

Originally from Colombia, Cuesta earned a BA in industrial engineering at Javeriana University. He came to Cincinnati in 1998, where he earned an MBA from Xavier University. Cuesta’s mother is originally from Cincinnati, and he was prompted by his family to move to the Queen City.

“You don’t go to Cincinnati unless you have a reason,” Cuesta says. “But there’s always a reason to go.”

After earning his degree from Xavier, Cuesta began working for Cincinnati Bell as a manager for various departments.

Cuesta founded what would eventually become Grupo Xela with his brother-in-law. Their first business attempt was as coffee distributors for regional restaurants, but their work in the city helped them realize the Hispanic community’s marketing potential. Prompted by the fact that Hispanics were the most rapidly growing minority in the country, Cuesta knew he could offer a very important perspective to P&G—Cincinnati’s powerhouse corporation.

By interacting with Hispanic panelists sourced from Cincinnati, Columbus, Louisville, Indianapolis, Chicago, Atlanta and Miami, Grupo Xela’s chief concern is gathering qualitative market research.

The company has since gone international, with a United States' headquarters in Cincinnati, and a Colombian office in Bogota, with plans to expand into more cities and countries soon. 

By Sean Peters

UC's new MENtorship pilot aims to develop male nurses

As our aging population grows, they're asking more of our healthcare providers.

Nurses increasingly are being asked to fill healthcare needs and are growing their skills and knowledge through higher education. Still, an untapped resource of nursing talent remains: men.

About 94 percent of nurses are women, and that creates challenges for men who are entering the field, as well as patients who aren't always comfortable receiving treatment from a male nurse.

These are some of the reasons that local medical and educational partners, including a University of Cincinnati College of Nursing student organization, started MENtorship, a program for male student nurses.

The nursing program has partnered with Cincinnati Children's Medical Center and UC Medical Center to develop MENtorship.

The six-to-eight week program is just wrapping up, with a group of 12 undergraduate nursing students. In addition to being mentored by professional nurses, higher ranking students also mentor younger students. So students are both mentors and mentees, says UC MENtorship faculty advisor Gordon Gillespie.

"The junior and senior mentors can tell the freshmen and sophomores what the student nursing program is really like and the commitment that it takes, so the students aren't surprised," says Gillespie, who has been a nurse for 17 years. "They could be less likely to drop out."

The program was initially inspired by a 2013 American Journal of Nursing article, "Men in Nursing: Understanding the Challenges Men Face Working in this Predominantly Female Profession,” that identified professional tribulations experienced by men in the nursing field.

Students are mentored on educational challenges and expectations, but also on dealing with challenges they'll face after school, Gillespie says.

"How do you approach intimate care for a female patient?" he says. "There are higher concerns about inappropriate touching with a male nurse. There are some cultures where it is taboo. When there are violent or aggressive patients, they were automatically assigned to me because I am the man. We talk about those issues and how to deal with them."

The MENtorship program will be evaluated this year, and there are plans to offer it again based on feedback from this semester's participants. If given board approval, it will be offered for a full year starting with the 2013-2014 academic year.

By Feoshia H. Davis
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Blink makeup studio offers hand-mixed body care, makeup in Northside

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

By Feoshia H. Davis
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Novak Consulting Group moves to HCBC

Novak Consulting Group was started on a dare.

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

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

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

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

By Sean Peters

City wins 'Oscar' of community development for Village at Roll Hill project

Last week, the City of Cincinnati was awarded one of 10 annual Audrey Nelson Community Development Awards for its contributions to the renovations of the Villages at Roll Hill, formerly called Fay Apartments. The development was in need of renovations because it had fallen into disrepair, and was known as a police hotspot.
 
“It’s a very prestigious award within the community development profession,” says Cincinnati’s Department of Community Development Director Michael Cervay. “We consider it the ‘Oscar’ of community development.”
 
The development is the largest LEED-certified renovation of affordable housing in the country. Though there are other affordable housing developments in need of renovation, construction work hasn’t begun and the U.S. Green Building Council hasn’t certified these projects as meeting LEED standards, Cervay says.
 
The City contributed $3.19 million in HOME loan money to the project; additional financing included $31 million from a HUD-insured first mortgage and $1 million in equity from the developer, Wallick Hendy. The project totaled out at about $35 million.
 
The Audrey Nelson Community Development Achievement Award is a national community development award that is presented by the National Community Development Association. The award recognizes exemplary uses of the Community Development Block Grant program and the partnerships between local government and nonprofits to assist low- and moderate-income households.
 
Construction began on the Roll Hill development in Oct. 2010. It’s considered the largest green renovation of an affordable housing development in the country, Cervay says.
 
Renovations included reducing the total number of units from 893 to 703, demolishing 17 buildings, adding new landscaping, planting trees and installing new playgrounds. On top of that, police personnel from District 3 added recommendations to the plans that increased the cost of the project by about $800,000, Cervay says.
 
These recommendations included perimeter fencing, extra security lighting, surveillance cameras, first-floor window bars, rear doors that open out and additional security personnel. In addition, the Villages at Roll Hill purchased a license plate reader that will notify police in real time if a stolen car or a car registered to someone with an outstanding warrant enters the premises.
 
Audrey Nelson was the first Deputy Executive Secretary of NCDA. She grew up in a neighborhood in inner city Chicago that was a target area for the local Model Cities Program. The award stands for Nelson’s commitment to her neighborhood, local program efforts and service to low-income households. She died of cancer at the age of 29.
 
By Caitlin Koenig
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Vegan Roots translates Cincinnati’s culinary faves

The hardest thing about being vegan, according to Caitlin Bertsch, isn’t figuring out where and what to eat; it’s other people’s reactions. “They’re worried I’m judging them, or think they don’t eat correctly.”

Bertsch, the founder of Vegan Roots, launched her business with the creation of a vegan goetta that has garnered a lot of incredulous responses, but, Bertsch says, is loved by vegans and omnivores alike.

“What I’m trying to do with Vegan Roots is to address that and say, 'Hey, there’s a lot of good stuff out there that can be made vegan.' Just because it’s vegan doesn’t mean it’s not tasty.”

Bertsch is a Xavier University grad who studied math and sociology before earning her master’s degree in anthropology. A travel addict, she’s studied abroad and worked in international development overseas and in Washington, DC. When she moved back to Cincinnati and settled down in East Walnut Hills, she set out to find a job locally.

“It’s hard to find international-related work in Cincinnati, so I needed to find another creative outlet,” Bertsch says. She enrolled in ArtWorksSpringboard program, which helped her settle on goetta as her first product. She’d developed the recipe by gathering pork-based recipes, raiding her spice cabinet for just the right combinations and testing, testing, testing. When she brought her final creation in for Springboard classmates to taste, the vote was nearly unanimous: this could be the foundation of her business.

Bertsch hopes to expand her footprint, and is anxiously searching for rentable, commercial kitchen space that would allow her to crank out larger batches. She currently supplies vegan goetta to the Brew House in Walnut Hills, which offers it as a salad topping, and Bella Vino in West Chester, which plans to add mini vegan goetta sandwiches to its menu.

By Robin Donovan

Sweaty Bands kick knockoffs to the curb in Linwood

Donna Browning was a fitness teacher with an annoying problem: hair in her face and headbands that would not stay put. Today, she’s selling her solution to that problem, dubbed “Sweaty Bands,” to women who’ve embraced her company’s tagline: “OMG…they don’t slip!”

An endorphin addict—she’s taught everything from Pilates and yoga to sculpting classes and cardio sessions—Browning loved to exercise, but hated hair accessories that didn’t work with the microphone she wore to teach.

Sure she could solve the problem, she borrowed a sewing machine from a friend, grabbed supplies from a craft store and churned out headband after headband until she found an adjustable, elastic band that stayed in place.

Soon, she was toting a bag full of the headbands in her gym bag and selling them to friends at the gym. After driving up to Cleveland for some training from Ladies Who Launch, an organization that helps women become entrepreneurs, she launched Sweaty Bands.

“I didn’t want it to be a preppy ribbon-in-the-hair thing," Browning says. "I wanted it to be a kick your butt, sporty accessory." With a range of styles, including custom options, she says the company’s product has become so popular that now they’re noticing knockoffs popping up.

Still, Browning says, few competitors rival her team of in-house designers: “We’re constantly meeting, looking at magazines, going to the mall, and checking out upcoming trends so that what we have, nobody else will have.” These days, she’s focusing on custom orders for clients as large as John Freida, Pantene and Skinny Girl—or as small as a single headband.

By Robin Donovan

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

Red Brick builds foundation for best college fit

“Helicopter parents are very apparent—no pun intended,” says Jessica Donovan, founder of Red Brick College Consulting. “A lot of parents tend to be that way, but there are some on the other end of the spectrum as well. I get both.”

According to Donovan, anxious parents often relax once they see a plan and a timeline for their child's college planning. Once everyone is comfortable, she turns her attention to each student’s strengths and weaknesses, and helps suss out which college might truly be the best fit.

“A big part of consulting is getting the parents and the students to talk to each other,” she says. “Mom and Dad have an expectation and Sally or Joe has a different expectation.” In these cases, Donovan says she’ll help students identify their strengths and goals, then give them data to discuss with parents.

A former assistant dean at the University of Cincinnati, Donovan launched Red Brick last October to advise students and parents during their college search. Donovan, who is “part student advocate, part counselor, part admissions guru,” meets first with students and their parents to identify broad goals and gather ideas. After that, she keeps in touch with students in person or via Skype— and both parties leave each meeting with homework.

For Donovan, having an academic background sets her apart from her peers, many of whom have guidance counseling or psychology backgrounds. Her services range from evaluating academic records and course schedules to recommending co-curriculars and test-prep services. She offers services bundled as a package deal, a la carte or hourly, including timelines, preparation for college visits, essay critiques and even detailed lists of scholarships by institution.

Still, when it comes to completing applications, Donovan says she expects students to take the lead. “I don’t write the essays, fill out the FAFSA or fill out the application. The student owns that process.”

Donovan says students as young as middle school age can start taking the steps toward finding the right college for them. Although she says a student’s sophomore year is an ideal starting point for her services, she’ll work with students, including transfer students, at any point in the process.

Donovan is currently accepting students for her fall caseload and advises families to begin their work with her during the summer months.

By Robin Donovan

Univision Marketing VP: If you want to grow your business, target Latino consumers

With the explosive growth of the United States' Latino population, marketers can no longer think of Latinos as a niche market. If businesses want to grow, Latino customers must be integrated into all stages of marketing, not added as an afterthought.

That's the message Chiqui Cartagena, VP of corporate marketing at Univision, brought to the January luncheon of the Cincinnati Chapter of the American Advertising Federation. The luncheon was held at the Covington Radisson.

She brought a few stats to back her up:
  • Latinos saw 56 percent population growth since the last census
  • 1 in 4 births today is to a Latina mother
  • 100 percent of population growth of adults 18-49 in the next 10 years will come from Hispanics
"There are 1.5 million new Hispanics joining the marketplace every year," Cartagena says. "Hispanics are now 17 percent of the population and soon will be 30 percent. The general market is the Hispanic market."

Univision, with major operations in New York and Florida, has the largest Spanish-speaking television audience in the world. The growing station often rivals the country's major television networks and is available by cable and satellite.

Cartagena is the author of "Latino Boom! Everything You Need to Know to Grow Your Business in the U.S. Hispanic Market." The 25-year marketing and media veteran has developed, launched and lead some of America's successful Spanish-language consumer magazines, including People en Espanol.

Instead of reaching out to Latinos at the end of the marketing process, successful marketing really integrates Latino consumers into all parts of marketing, including product development and messaging, says Cartagena. This is a major shift from the past.

Major brands, including Walmart, have dramatically shifted their marketing mindset, she says. Recently, the company said it expected 100 percent of its growth will come from multicultural markets, with plans to double its advertising spending in that area.

It takes much more effort than translating an ad or packaging into Spanish to create loyalty in the Hispanic market, Cartagena says. Among her recommendations were to:
  • Examine if your products and services are culturally relevant
  • Create culturally relevant themes in the marketing
  • Support your efforts with sufficient and consistent funding
  • Define and track success

"Embrace the similarities and the differences between the Hispanic and general market," she says. "It's really about growing your business. You need to present (products or services) that are culturally relevant to Latinos, then invite them in."

By Feoshia H. Davis
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Private-session Pilates in Mt. Washington appeals to all ages

Nancy Trapp has very few excuses for not getting in regular workouts. The Pilates instructor and owner of Studio NT works from her home, which is equipped with mats, machines and plenty of space to stretch.

Trapp grew interested in Pilates after lower back and hamstring tension left her seeking a fix. Yoga didn’t work, but she found relief with classical Pilates. After six weeks, she says, “I was standing up taller. My husband didn’t have to remind me not to slouch anymore.”

Trapp’s typical session lasts 55 minutes and she recommends clients come twice a week. She offers group mat classes to supplement individual sessions. She earned her certification from the Pilates Method Alliance after completing a 600-hour training program in May 2012.

Pilates (and especially classical Pilates) is different from yoga in that it focuses not just on mat exercises, but also involves a range of equipment that facilitates exercises promoting core strength, balance and stability. Some modern Pilates instructors offer mat-based classes for practical reasons, but Trapp, who often works with clients one-on-one, prefers the mental work of figuring out which exercises best fit each individual.

“I have a client who is 75 and has never exercised in her life who comes two days a week," says Trapp. "Now, she says, ‘I can’t miss a day because I feel great.' "

And the senior client is not alone. “I’m loving my older clientele, my 60s, 70s and older. I’m getting some more referrals for people that age. I like to teach everybody, but they can feel the difference quicker than somebody who might be doing all different types of [exercise].”

For Cincinnatians looking to stretch themselves in a new way, Studio NT may be just the place to start.

By Robin Donovan

Inna's Harmony assuages mid-life health woes

Although Inna Aracri describes herself as “a regular person” in her health coaching work—she is not a nutritionist or a dietician—her approach to coaching incorporates techniques that might puzzle a mainstream medical practitioner.
 
Ukraine-born Aracri is the proprietor of Inna’s Harmony LLC, a health consultancy that takes a holistic approach to improving people’s overall wellbeing. The bulk of Inna’s Harmony clients are looking for help with common problems such as losing weight or improving energy levels, but what sets Aracri apart is her approach, which mixes nutrition, general health counseling and spirituality.
 
So, while Aracri might spend the bulk of her time teaching people how to eat healthy and prepare nutritional meals, she also offers crystal healing and reiki along with raw food training, recipe tips and cooking demonstrations.
 
"If people are open to the alternative modalities, I always offer energy healing as a part of the package,” says Aracri, who offers package deals to encourage clients to try her other services. “People are more familiar with health coaches or food counselors versus energy healing. But by learning how to deal with their body—there’s more to it than muscles and tissues and bones—they open new doors to learn how they can help themselves through spiritual development.”
 
For Aracri, advising her clients means not only talking about healthy eating habits, but also teasing out the reasons they’re not thriving. For some, she advises more time outdoors; for others, she discusses the importance of healthy relationships.
 
And while she’ll work with people of almost any age, Aracri says she sees lots of people in their 40s. “They have family, career, finances, but they’re not happy because they don’t feel good,” she says. “They neglect their bodies because they feel fine when they’re younger, but when people reach their 40s, they may start not feeling good. The body can only serve so long without breaking down on the wrong fuel that you put into it.”
 
By Robin Donovan

No-show Keysocks keep feet happy in heels

Shelby McKee had had it with the bulky shoes and socks that cold Cincinnati winters require. Heading to a Bengals game one crisp evening, she reached into her husband’s sock drawer and nabbed a pair of dress socks. With a pair of cute flats in mind, she cut oblong holes in the tops of the socks that revealed just the tops of her feet when she slipped on her shoes.

Mike Crotty, a family friend who has been in the textile business for years, was able to source out Keysocks in China, and help McKee find the right factory. “We probably had 45 prototypes made in all, and all the factories were puzzled, wondering, ‘What do you mean? A sock with a hole in it?’” McKee says with a laugh.

Several years later, with her multi-talented family and friends helping out with everything from IT to PR to sourcing a manufacturer, McKee’s Keysocks—a name coined by her friends at the Bengals game—are hitting retail shelves.

The business earned an early, fortuitous bump in sales when the product was featured in Real Simple, a consumer magazine that offers hip ways to make life easier. Today, the product is in about a dozen retail stores, mostly small boutiques. “The reason why we didn’t go straight to retail like Target or department stores yet is because no one has ever seen this product before, and if it sat on a shelf, nobody would know what it is,” McKee says. “We started with the Internet and getting it out on social media.”

Although the socks were designed not to show, their open-foot design has spread in popularity from women, like McKee’s friends, to girls, who started asking for fun colors and patterns. Currently, Keysocks are available in black and nude hues. Brown is on its way, along with turquoise-and-gray stripes. Girls' socks in turquoise and a navy/raspberry stripe are also in the works.

Like some small businesses, McKee doesn’t take returns, but she doesn’t do it to save money. In fact, McKee says she encourages any unhappy users to pass along the product, figuring it will easily find a happy home. “I just want everybody to be comfortable.”

By Robin Donovan
 

Etsy success spurs event planning business

Rachel Murphy grew a fan base by launching an Etsy store for her jewelry and décor, such as personalized wire letters, hair accessories and wedding favors while she worked full-time at a consuming nonprofit position. When she launched Rachel Lynn Studio, an event planning business, she decided to try to join the two customer bases.

“I don’t do catering, entertainment or photography, and I don’t rent out facilities,” she says, but it takes her a minute to come up with that list because there are so many services she does provide.

Unlike a typical event or wedding planner, Murphy will not only meet with individuals or groups to choose a theme, set colors, coordinate vendors and be there on the big day, she also makes many of the props and decorative elements these events require. Murphy offers her services a la carte—think bouquets or centerpieces—or at a flat rate for corporate events, weddings and other happenings.

Murphy says she enjoys working with couples who don’t want a cookie-cutter event. “I wish people knew that anything is possible,” she says of wedding planning in particular. “People get so nervous they’re not going to fit a certain mold of what they expect to see at traditional weddings.”

One tip Murphy says she offers for weddings and corporate events alike is to create a schedule that keeps moving and isn’t expected. Getting married at 6 p.m.? Offer a cocktail hour before the ceremony, or even some live music and dancing. “Make sure there’s not time when people are just standing around waiting,” she says.

To keep a wedding’s timeline flowing, Murphy advises couples to take pictures before the wedding, which she says limits the pre-dinner lull. “It can also take away some of the nerves to see each other beforehand,” she says.

And while she can craft invitations, bouquets and centerpieces, Murphy doesn’t shy away from special requests. For example, when a lesbian couple wanted a wedding with only vendors open to their relationship, Murphy vetted each one. Whether she’s designing earrings for the bride, running the show or tracking down vendors, there are few tasks this planner won’t tackle.

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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Ignite connects philanthropists, benefactors

Susan Ingmire is frank about the type of philanthropists she works with. “The vast majority would not be a good fit.” As president of Ignite Philanthropy Advisors, a “niche player,” Ingmire works with individuals and organizations who need help giving money away.

Some have inherited money and want to do a good job giving it away charitably. Others want help identifying their priorities, then mapping out a strategy that allows them to give according to certain goals, such as promoting education or supporting the arts. “It’s sometimes hard for people to say no when asked to give. If you have a strategy, then you can say we give in the areas of arts, education or health care. It’s how people learn to say no, or we say it for them,” Ingmire says. She teaches these investors to decide what to give and to whom, and even how to research organizations that pique their interest.

The firm mainly works on a retainer basis with Cincinnati-area clients giving away at least $25,000-$50,000 a year and up, with her smallest foundation gifting about $100,000 annually. Most business comes through referrals, especially from local attorneys and accountants. They provide advice, demystify the giving process and even offer administrative support, such as preparing agendas for foundation board meetings, writing checks and processing mail.

Ingmire started in the field as a serial volunteer, working as a foundation volunteer, mentor and with arts and housing programs. She also spent a decade with Fifth Third Bank’s trust department. And her idea of doing “less than I used to” means staying involved with the YWCA, Social Venture Partners Cincinnati, United Way and her church. And after spending so much time in the trenches, she embraces the joy in helping others support nonprofits. “When we can call up somebody and say, you’re getting $30,000 and here’s why, it’s a real joy.”

By Robin Donovan

Moving for Love fuels those who move for passion, not profession

Moving for Love harnesses a trend that arose from the recession’s rising unemployment and job dissatisfaction: people moving to follow their passions, rather than their professions. Owner Robin Sheakley, a third-generation member of the Sibcy family (her dad is Rob Sibcy, president of Sibcy Cline Realtors), created the company. She built on her own 15-year career in real estate and relocation, offering relocation assistance to people moving to follow a partner, a passion or favorite place.

“When you deal with a family business, it’s fun to try to put your mark on it,” Sheakley says, citing the growth of super-specialized online dating sites (think dating websites for farmers, for example). “I started thinking there are all these people dating online who may say, ‘You know what, I haven’t found anyone here, but I’ve always wanted to live in Chicago or Miami.’ But what happens if they find someone?”

She created Moving for Love to answer that question. The web-based service connects people ready to move with Personal Move Assistant and provides a secure online portal where both parties can upload documents and information from service providers, such as a moving company. The company’s services range from short-term rental assistance and realtor recommendations to moving estimates, cost-of-living comparisons and even personalized reminders, such as suggesting that it’s time to find a local physician to manage a medical condition in the new location.

The company is separate from its parent, Sibcy Cline, but shares some resources. However, the marketing budget has been scant since the website launched last July, Sheakley says. “I always like to walk before I run, so we have done no paid advertising. We are strictly organically getting our message out there. It’s been a slow start that we’re going to kick in from the beginning of the [2013].”

Moving for Love charges a flat fee, then provides services for up to 12 months, giving passion-prompted movers a chance to compare several potential locations before making their transitions.

By Robin Donovan

UC, local industry partner for game-changer in solar-powered refrigerator

A virtual trade mission taken by University of Cincinnati MBA students and local industries has turned into a very real product that could put a dent in food shortages across India.

Next year, new solar-powered refrigerator products will be tested on an aloe farm in the developing country early next year. If successful, the SolerCool could be a reality for Indian farmers, just in time for summer.

The product is a self-contained cooling unit that relies on the sun for power. It's a box that measures 10' x 7' x 11', and is topped by solar panels. SolerCool was developed through a collaboration between former and current UC students and local industries, including SimpliCool Technologies International LLC in Waynesville.

The idea for the technology came after the MBA students and SimpliCool attended a "virtual trade mission" to India in July 2011. The mission was part of a Business Law for Managers class taught by Ilse Hawkins, an attorney and adjunct professor of accounting at UC. The mission virtually brought Cincinnati and Indian businesses together to find ways of partnering to better preserve Indian produce.

Today, 30 to 40 percent of produce in India is lost to spoilage because of lack of refrigeration options, Hawkins says. India, with 1.2 million people, faces chronic food shortages.

"While we were doing the mission, we had this tiny, insulated structure that kept audio visual materials at proper temperature," Hawkins says. "We thought, 'Why couldn't we create a structure powered with solar panels like that that could be put anywhere on a farm?'"

Shortly after that meeting, Hawkins took a group to India where the idea was further flushed out. Eventually, a collaborative effort led to the creation of the SolerCool unit.

MBA students worked on a business plan, helped with the initial feasibility calculations and networked with Indian businesses who might contribute to the product.

Mohsen Rezayat, chief solutions architect at Siemens UGS PLM Software and adjunct professor in UC’s College of Engineering and Applied Science, primarily worked on the engineering of the solar panels in the SimpliCool-manufactured cooling cube.

UC does not own the product, and therefore won't be profiting from its sales, Hawkins says. However, SimpliCool has vowed to contribute to UC's College of Business to fund further travel to India if the idea is successful, she says.

By Feoshia H. Davis
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Cincinnati entrepreneur's BoojiBEE offers casual clothing for young women

When it comes to fashion for young girls and women, sometimes what's cool and what's appropriate aren't a match.

Natasha Andrews, a native Cincinnatian with a passion for fashion, decided to build a new business dedicated to cute clothes for ladies.

"I decided to do something in fashion because in this day, young women are so fascinated by new and different fashion styles," Andrews says. "So instead of the half shirts, the booty shorts and short mini skirts, I decided to focus on looking good, feeling comfortable and making a positive statement."

That's the philosophy behind BoojiBEE, a casual clothing brand that carries Andrews' signature high-fashion bee logo. She created a rough sketch of the logo, which was polished by her uncle. He's a Cincinnati-based graphic designer and co-owner of Rare Earth Graphics, LLC.

Andrews started the online boutique in 2011, selling T-shirts, totes and a myriad of custom jewelry. She attended the University of Cincinnati as a criminal justice student, but was inexperienced in running a business. She credits her aunt and uncle, as well as the Greater Cincinnati Microenterprise Initiative, with helping turn her idea into a viable startup.

"When I first started out as a new entrepreneur, I didn't have a focus or a target market," Andrews says. "It took me a while to figure out 'what is BoojiBEE?' I started out blind with graphic tees. I thought I had the bomb site, but had no clue what a website should consist of. I changed it at least four times; it was a mess."

She pared down the business this year, streamlined her site and now is exclusively focusing on her brand, the bee.

"I'm no longer doing handmade custom jewelry," Andrews says. "I love it to death, but it's too time consuming and it moves really slow. And on top of that, I didn't feel it had anything to do with BoojiBEE and the message I was trying to get across."

So who is a BoojiBEE?

"BoojiBEE is a definition of a true hard worker. A girl who loves life, [is] inspired by great things and is pretty inside and out. The BoojiBEE has a positive image that is reflected in her style, her character and how she lives her life."

The site features tops, hoodies, leggings, tote bags and yoga pants. She buys the clothing wholesale, presses her logo and works with a local business to add branded tags.

Andrews has just relaunched her site, and is offering a $5 credit for new customers through the holidays. Her plans are to grow the brand and eventually open her own brick-and-mortar shop.

"I'm getting my name out there, and pushing the business," she says. "My plan is to grow into multifaceted fashion company."

By Feoshia H. Davis
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Business growth through diversity topic of local leadership symposium

Job growth is looking up in Cincinnati, and the region is ripe for even more.

"In the last year, we created 29,000 new jobs, ahead of the growth in most of our peer markets," says Chris Kemper, PR director at the Cincinnati USA Regional Chamber.

A host of variables have spurred our region's growth, including a talented workforce, a vibrant entrepreneurial ecosystem, a reasonable cost of living and an innovative culture that permeates large institutions to small startups.

But there's one area that's proven to boost the bottom line that more Cincinnati companies can tap into: diversity and inclusion.

Companies that encourage diversity—in hiring, in suppliers, in board appointments and in investment—are among the world's fastest growing. In fact, a 2011 Forbes study found that 85 percent of 321 large companies (with at least a half-billion dollars in annual revenue) believed diversity played a vital role in fostering innovation.

Cincinnati businesses will get a chance to learn more about the perks and importance of inclusion. The real dollars and sense of growth through diversity is the topic of The Diversity Leadership Symposium 2012. The morning event is co-hosted by Vision 2015 and Agenda 360, the region's strategic planning organizations.

"Our overall goal is to discuss diversity and inclusion as a way to drive business growth," says Kemper.

It's a timely topic as our country—and therefore consumers—becomes more diverse and our economy is increasingly global, with buyers and sellers connecting across countries.

The conference's featured speaker is Andres Tapia, international thought leader on diversity and inclusion, president and CEO of Diversity Best Practices and author of The Inclusion Paradox.

The symposium is Dec. 12 at the Duke Energy Convention Center downtown, registration starts at 7:30 a.m, and the symposium ends at noon. The cost is $110 per person, or $150 for a cocktail reception on Dec. 11 featuring Tapia. You can register on the Cincinnati Chamber website.

Diverse by Design: Meeting the Talent Challenge in a Global Economy, a report commissioned by Agenda 360 and Vision 2015, will also be unveiled at the event.

The symposium wraps up with simultaneous sessions. Attendees can pick one of the following:
  • Workplace: Attracting and Retaining Diverse Talent
    Panelists will share best practices in creating and maintaining employee resource groups to engage and retain a diverse talent base.
  • Marketplace: Minority Business Investment as a Strategy for Increasing Inclusion
    Learn how diversity spending can advance a company’s diversity and inclusion efforts while also having a ripple effect in the community.
  • Marketplace: Creating a More Inclusive Community
    Panelists will share strategies for cultivating a welcoming community outside of the workplace to increase diverse talent retention for the region.
By Feoshia Davis

Community classes coming to The Brandery

The Brandery is known for its 14-week program that prepares entrepreneurs for the launch of their startups. But for the next two months, they’re trying something a little different. The Brandery will be offering community classes that cross a spectrum of themes. The classes are relevant to anyone with an idea, working for a startup or with the goal of re-envisioning some of the work they do, says Chelsea Koglmeier, program coordinator at The Brandery.
 
The sessions will be from 5:30 to 7 pm and will include a presentation followed by a Q&A. Each class is $20 per person, per event.
 
Sign up for a class below:
By Caitlin Koenig
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Instagram-inspired Booth FX launches in O'Bryonville

“A digital spin on the traditional photo booth” is Kelley Andersen’s super-short explanation of Booth FX Photo Booth Company, which she launched with her partner, Allison Gates, last month. The pair built the idea for their company on a love of photo booths, two creative personalities and their vision for a photo booth that was more than a traditional, space-limited box.

“We first looked at the booths you can buy, and they were nice, but not what we were looking for," Andersen says. "We wanted something that was more digital. I love Instagram, and was trying to figure out how we could do that as a photo booth."

The booth they custom-built--“with a lot of time and a lot of mistakes,” Andersen adds--measures 1.5 feet by 1.5 feet, is 5.5 feet tall and incorporates software that allows photos to be viewed, edited and shared.

Rather than expecting participants to hop inside, the booth houses the photography equipment. Participants gather in the space around the booth to snap a photo in front of customized backdrops the women create for each event with input from hosts.

Features of the booth include a wireless remote and a touchscreen for viewing images on the back of the booth. This allows attendees to view photos, use filter effects (much in the same way as one would with Instagram) and upload images to social media immediately. The co-founders provide wireless internet with a mobile hotspot.

Booth FX launched last month, and both founders still have full-time day jobs--Gates as a designer and Andersen as an insurance analyst. So far, they’ve been commissioned for fundraising events and they plan to reach out to local brides- and grooms-to-be to expand their business into weddings.

By Robin Donovan

Cormier Creative crafts logos for budding businesses

Some people work four 10-hour days for perks like saving on gas and three-day weekends. Others, like Sara Cormier, cram in a second job on the side.

Until last April, Cormier was juggling a design gig with Cincinnati Magazine and healthy freelance traffic. When her daughter, Carmen, entered preschool, she decided it was time for a change. “I was kind of going crazy,” she says, noting that she doesn’t regret those hyper-scheduled days: “At least for me, I couldn’t quit my job without having built [my business] up. I wasn’t financially in a place to do that.”

Cormier, who graduated from the University of Cincinnati’s College of Design, Architecture, Art and Planning in 2002, launched Cormier Creative in April, and specializes in helping small businesses with branding, logos and promotions. Her services can help young companies, or those without a budget for an in-house designer, she says.

“I’ve always really liked working with a business that’s just getting off the ground and starting from scratch," she says. "Once they invest in that initially, then they’re really excited about how their stuff looks." She encourages businesses not to wait to start branding themselves. “You need a logo right off the bat. It doesn’t take long to get one, and I think the sooner, the better.”

Because she’s worked with so many newly launched businesses, Cormier has curated a few tips for proprietors, too.

Along with advising that any business that is doing business needs a logo immediately, she advises businesspeople to find a designer they trust and then relinquish control. “You’re not hiring a professional designer to recreate your sketch so much as to help you with the entire identity.”

Cormier offers custom design services for all sizes of businesses as well as custom stationary – she calls herself “a paper snob” – that’s popular among local brides. Her design aesthetic favors clean lines and clever graphics.

"I love all my brides, they’re really really fun," Cormier says. "We try to come up with something really custom."

By Robin Donovan

UC part of education collaboration with Iraqi universities

A group of University of Cincinnati faculty and students will go to Iraq in November as part of a collaboration between U.S. and Iraq university to strengthen educational and economic opportunities in the Middle East county.

Starting Nov. 2, representative from UC's College of Education, Criminal Justice and Human Services (CECH) and the UC Career Development Center (CDC) will go to Salahaddin University-Hawler in Erbil, Iraq.

It's the latest in a series of trips between the two universities, which are in the third year of a U.S. State Department-sponsored linkages program geared toward undergraduate Iraqi students. Originally scheduled to end this year, the collaboration was given a six-month extension, says Laura Dell, academic director of distance learning for the UC School of Education.

"I'm going to be teaching a two-week long seminar on education research. We'll also be observing teaching in classrooms and providing peer feedback," Dell says.

The universities will also plan a joint spring conference.

UC faculty will lead career development workshops, providing feedback on research courses, discussing literature and exploring future opportunities for post-doctoral students.

Theresa Aberle, adjunct instructor and program coordinator for the UC Career Development Center, will help lead a conference on creating career centers.

"I'll be there with four Iraqi universities and four U.S. universities. We'll be sharing information on how to set up career centers, how to do presentations and marketing, and all the different pieces of what a takes to get a career center working," Aberle says.

As Iraq is transitioning into a more democratic government form, privates businesses are moving in and looking for a workforce. It's a cultural shift for the country that encompasses many important topics, including career development.

"They've never had to have a career center before; it's a whole new venture for them," Aberle says.

UC is among only five U.S. institutions picked to partner with five Iraqi universities. The partnership fits in with UC's 2019 strategic plan to expand international partnerships and overseas research collaborations.

"It's part of the mission to help wherever we can," Dells says.

Salahaddin University-Hawler is in the Kurdish region of Iraq, where many natives speak English as a second language, Dell says. That's made it much easier for each side to communicate and work together. Located in the Northern part of Iraq, it's also not as subject to ongoing violence. This is Dell's second trip there.

"What we see of Iraq on the news is violence, and upheaval. It's been really nice to see the other side of the Middle East. People are excited to talk to Americans and very nice," she says.

By Feoshia H. Davis
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Sprout Insight hones in on multi-ethnic consumers

“People always say, ‘Be careful working with your best friend,’ but we’ve never had those negative experiences. Our relationship and the way we know each other has been such a strength,” says Lisa Mills, a psychologist, and co-founder of research consultancy Sprout Insight, of her 22-year friendship with co-founder Kathy Burklow.

Mills and Burklow became friends as graduate students in psychology, working together first at the Cincinnati Children’s Hospital Medical Center. In 2006, frustrated by the disconnect between scientific advancement and community engagement, they left Children’s to launch Harmony Garden, a nonprofit community research center focused on improving the health of Cincinnati girls.

Building on the idea of helping community members be heard and understood, the duo pivoted last February, launching Sprout Insight, a market research and insight consultancy. These days, the leverage decades of clinical and research experience while work closely with companies, hospitals, nonprofits and branding firms that target African American, Latino and Asian shoppers.

“Unless [companies] get better at collecting information about racial and ethnic minorities, they’re going to continue to miss opportunities in their industries,” Mills says. “There are a lot of consumer insight and market research companies, but very few are looking at consulting with businesses and corporations about gathering insights from racially and ethnically diverse populations.”

Accordingly, the women help organizations identify what types of data they need and how to gather it, both quantitatively through customized surveys and qualitatively, often through focus groups that allow the pair to gain deeper insight into consumers.

In practice, that might look like tweaking an existing survey to avoid leading questions or to gather more specific data. It could also mean setting up focus groups at a church or recreation center (rather than the typical observation room) to allow meaningful feedback and insight to flow. “Taking [people] out of their community, you may get answers, but they may not be relevant answers,” Mills says.

And so Mills and Burklow keep bringing new voices to the conversation between companies and consumers, hoping for the same goal sparked their friendship decades ago. “Kathy and I are really about the bridging of the gaps,” Mills explains.

“For our society to work together, everybody needs to be knowledgeable on some level so that they can sit at the table, and communicate.”
 
 By Robin Donovan

SocStock readies for relaunch, plans to make Cincinnati home

SocStock, a web-based company that lets people fund their favorite small businesses in exchange for double the amount back in products, services or experiences, is set to relaunch today.

SocStock, a graduate of the latest Brandery accelerator class, will officially be back online today. On Oct. 25, the company will hold a launch event, SocStock Community Pitch Night, at the Know Theatre in Over-the-Rhine. SocStock and Cincinnati businesses that use the platform will be there to talk about the creative financing option.

"This is a way for small businesses to raise zero-interest cash by reaching out to customers and community members for a cash advance to help their business grow," says SocStock Senior Associate Jillian Zatta.

SocStock allows businesses to raise funds quickly from people who truly support them. At the same time, it gives customers a buy-in through investments in a favorite local business.

"It's a very good consumer engagement tool, and it makes customers feel more connected to the small businesses they frequent," Zatta says. "It's also a way for customers to really help a business by doing more than buying from them."

For every $1 invested, the business will pay back $2 in a combination of company products, services or experiences.

SocStock also can serve as a valuable marketing tool.

"They can give customers access to a special collection, invite them to a fashion show, a personal styling session or discounts," Zatta says.

Zatta and SocStock's founder Jay Finch have finance backgrounds and relocated to Cincinnati from New York, where they worked at Goldman Sachs. They plan on making Cincinnati SocStock's home.

"We want to stay here. We want Cincinnati to be our home. There's definitely a place for us here," she says.

By Feoshia H. Davis
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Sugar cookies from Mt Lookout Sweets match any occasion

Imagine the work that goes into a batch of cookies: mixing, rolling, baking, decorating and washing. Now imagine baking 1,000 cookies per month. That’s how many Debbie DeGeer typically creates at Mt Lookout Sweets, a bakery she runs from her Mt. Lookout home – complete with a commercial kitchen in the basement – each month.

That’s 12,000 cookies a year, but DeGeer isn’t counting. Baking helps keep her hands busy and her creative mind active while she cares for her aging mother, who helping instill in DeGeer a love of floury hands and blustery ovens. DeGeer’s mother lives with Alzheimer’s, and the duo spends their share of quiet nights at home. 

Baking started as “a kind of therapy,” and DeGeer often arrived at Comey Shepherd, the real estate agency where she works, laden with cookies. Her creations with the company logo on them were particularly popular for the company’s open houses, and from there, the requests grew.

DeGeer specializes in hand-decorated sugar cookies that are part art and part dessert, and she has a design for everyone. When Keidel, a Cincinnati-based plumbing, cabinetry, appliance and lighting contractor, celebrated its 100th anniversary, DeGeer created confections in the shape of bathtubs, light bulbs and even toilets.

“I never thought in my life I would make a cute toilet, but I did,” DeGeer says.

Active with other cookie pros, dubbed “cookiers,” on Facebook, DeGeer has about 1,200 Facebook fans for her business, and says it’s a top source of referrals, along with word-of-mouth.

Mt Lookout Sweets averages three to four orders per week, with DeGreer's capacity filling up quickly around the holidays and in late spring or early summer as couples plan their weddings. DeGeer typically requests a week’s notice for each order and more during busy seasons.

By Robin Donovan

Network of Executive Women brings inspiration to Villa Madonna

The Network of Executive Women, or NEW, reached out to Cincinnati area students with a real-life story of leadership by bringing a history-making general to Villa Madonna Academy.

U.S. Army Gen. Becky Halstead (retired), spoke to 7th through 12th graders this month at the Northern Kentucky school, sharing her experiences as a military leader in Iraq, highlighting discipline, service and higher education.

Gen. Halstead, who retired in from the Army 2008 after 27 years, was the first women in U.S. history to command in combat at the strategic level. As the senior commanding general for logistics in Iraq, she lead more than 200 multi-disciplined units across 55 bases, providing supply, maintenance, transportation and distribution support to more than 250,000 personnel serving in Iraq.

She also coordinated directly with high-level organizations such as the Office of the Secretary of Defense, Joint Chiefs of Staff, Department of State, U.S. Congress, U.S. ambassadors and equivalent foreign military and civilian organizations.
The crucial message she wanted to get across to the students is that self-discipline is a must for strong leadership.

"They must lead themselves first before they can lead others, and they only way they can truly accomplish that is if they discipline themselves," she says.

Halstead is a West Point grad, and credited her academy experience with developing her early leadership abilities, based on personal discipline.

The Greater Cincinnati Chapter of Network of Executive Women, a consumer products and retail industry professional organization, says Halstead's perspective on leadership meshes with its core mission to educate and develop future industry leaders.

"We want to plant those seeds about leadership, and to make that connection about going to college," says Amy Armstrong Smith, NEW chair and national account manager at Brown-Forman.

The Villa Hills event is just one of others planned to reach out to students at area high schools and universities, Smith adds.

Gen. Halstead is a nationally known motivational and leadership speaker who's worked with organizations including Procter & Gamble, Lead America and Columbia University.

Though she has been in command of thousands during her career, she says it's important to serve first to become a great leader.

"That's what trains you to be obedient, and also really indicates that you care about others. If you don't care about others, if you're not willing to serve other people, then how can you expect them to follow you?" she says.

By Feoshia H. Davis
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FENNOfashion founder tackles many roles

Megan Fenno doesn’t just have a radio spot, a jewelry business and a writing gig with CincySavers. She also has a few tips for women looking to stay on trend this fall.

“Anything that’s glitzy and has a shine to it, that’s really popular right now,” she says, noting that sparkly rhinestones are trendy. Color blocking with deep hues such as navy or burgundy set against brighter accents (think bright yellow), she says, are also popular this fall.

A Cincinnati native, Fenno moved to Tallahassee, Fla., as a teen, then attended the Savannah College of Art and Design. She moved to Austin, Texas, after graduation, where she launched FENNOfashion, which features vintage-inspired necklaces, bracelets and jewelry. “I loved Texas, but nowhere is home like Cincinnati,” she says.

Her collection this season highlights a few of her own favorite design elements, especially a vintage “found” look and antiqued gold. Fenno says that sites like Pinterest have led to a surge in popularity of stacked bracelets, sometimes called “arm candy,” that she’s having trouble keeping them in stock.

As much as Fenno is an accessories designer, she’s also something of a free spirit, and encourages others with creative startups to resist the urge to plan each step or to stick rigidly to a business plan.

“Five years ago, I had no idea that I’d be back in Cincy working on my favorite radio station, but that all derived from starting my own business," she says. "It’s OK. Opportunities present themselves throughout your business career that you can’t predict.”

By Robin Donovan

Brandery's Demo Day hits one out of the park

At the Brandery's third Demo Day Oct. 3, a packed house at Great American Ball Park looked forward to a home run, but not from the field below. 

The stadium's Champions Club had been transformed into a space where founders of 11 startups paced, shook hands and smiled as they prepared to offer their practiced pitches that they knew could net them millions in investment dollars.

This year, there were more than twice as many applicants for the seed-stage startup accelerator in Over-the-Rhine as both of its earlier years, combined, according to Brandery General Manager Mike Bott. 

Only 10 percent of those applicants were local, Bott says. The companies selected for the intensive four-month session in Cincinnati hailed from Seattle and Brooklyn, from Cleveland and San Francisco. One local business, REPP, made the final cut.

As its name implies, The Brandery focuses mostly on consumer products and services. Its strength is in its location and its expertise: the branding giants of Cincinnati help make The Brandery attractive to entrepreneurs from around the world. The latest startup session included plenty of mobile and social applications. 

An example? The first startup to present on Demo Day: CrowdHall.

Crowdhall, a free social platform, collects questions and ideas from a single crowd and helps the members of an audience organize and prioritize them democratically. Matthew Dooley, founder and CEO of Cincinnati's dooley media, made a bold prediction about this startup, which has already created "crowd halls" with NYU prof and Earth Institute leader Jeffrey Sachs, Dhani Jones and PG Sittenfeld. 

Dooley's tweet: "Impressed with @crowdhall pitch at #brandery2012 #demoday. Will be bought out by Twitter within a year. #boldprediction @brandery @jbkropp."

You've read about this Brandery class in Soapbox for months now, from Sostock, which planted roots and intends to remain in Cincinnati, to REPP, the latest big idea from Cincinnatians Michael Bergman, his wife BreeAnna and David Volker, formerly of LPK (where Bergman also formerly worked).

Find a full list of startups here. And more coverage of The Brandery on Nibletz, "the voice of startups everywhere else."

By Elissa Yancey
Follow Elissa on Twitter.







Environmental forum assesses 'state of the city'

Green Cincinnati. It’s ubiquitous these days, with our civic progress appearing both in national headlines and at eye-level, in the bike-shares and local markets that seem to spring up almost daily.

If you’re struggling to keep up with all this change—in a good way, of course!—or if you just have two cents to share, head to Northside Tavern at 6 p.m., Oct. 10 for the free, public “State of the City” environmental forum.

The forum, organized by Cincinnati Green Group, hopes to recreate the success of last year’s event, which saw over a dozen city council candidates fielding questions—on everything from curbside recycling to fracking—from more than 150 attendees.

This year will feature WVXU’s Ann Thomson as facilitator, with speakers Mark Fisher from the Cincinnati Zoo and Neil Seldman from the DC-based Institute for Local Self-Reliance.

Cincinnati council members will be on hand once again for Q&A.

Larry Falkin, director of Cincinnati’s Office of Environmental Quality, will deliver the State of the City address. Falkin plans to highlight recent strides in the areas of energy, green building and waste management, as well as a number of transportation solutions—such as the forthcoming Zip Car auto-share program—making Cincinnati debuts in 2012.

Falkin points to the Green Cincinnati Plan, an 80-point sustainability blueprint officially adopted by the city in 2007.

“We wanted to use less energy, more renewable energy, and we had a series of strategies for how to get there,” he says. “In five years, city government has done energy efficiency retrofits on 70 city buildings and installed solar energy systems on 20 city buildings. We’ve created a nonprofit organization and gotten funding for them to do work in the private sector, and that organization, the Greater Cincinnati Energy Alliance, has completed energy retrofits on more than 1,000 homes.”

As a city, Falkin says Cincinnati reduced its greenhouse gas emissions by 8.2 percent, surpassing the goal outlined in the 2007 plan.

Falkin also plans to discuss Cincinnati’s energy aggregation program, which now provides 100 percent renewable energy for 60,000 residents and small businesses.

Despite recent progress, there is still room for improvement, particularly in recycling and adoption of zero-waste strategies that other cities use.

“There are communities around the nation and around the world that have made zero-waste pledges,” says Melissa English, Development Director for Ohio Citizen Action, an 80,000-member coalition that canvasses the state promoting environmental consciousness. “[These cities] pledge to send as little as possible of their waste streams to landfills or incinerators, and instead recover those materials—which is essentially money, it’s resources that we’re choosing to bury in the ground—and put that back to work in our economies.”

The environmental group leader points to the Rumpke landfill as an example of how much waste the region still discards ineffectively.

“We have the nation’s sixth-largest landfill in our county, in Colerain Township, and it’s not just the city of Cincinnati that’s filling it up,” English says. “Any sort of zero-waste strategy will be much more effective and farther-reaching if it is [adopted as] a regional strategy.”

Find out more:

Post questions in advance of the event.

RSVP for the State of the City environmental forum.

Download the city’s sustainability plan.

By Hannah Purnell



Family historians help preserve memories of a lifetime

Kristi Woodworth and Jennifer Sauers tell stories for a living, but they’re not performance artists or members of the media. In fact, they’re licensed oral historians. The business they launched together, Beyond the Trees, offers design and printing services for small runs of books, many of them celebrating milestone accomplishments or memories of a lifetime.

“You get really close to people,” Woodworth says, describing how she becomes enmeshed in family stories while working with groups of people to compile photos and written memories.

“It’s sort of a privilege for us to be that close to the lives of these people, because what they’re doing with these books is creating a gift of love to honor the people in their life, and it’s a thrill to help them do that.”

Moving to the Norwood-based Hamilton County Business Center in 2009 helped grow the budding business, says Woodworth. “We could kick ideas around more easily,” she says. The duo also received business coaching in speed sessions during morning mentoring sessions at the HCBC.

The women are currently working on products that will allow people to complete their own projects, such as legacy letters to one’s descendants, or other projects. The company offers Cincinnati-based workshops, for example, and skills taught in these classes are now being leveraged into products that anyone can use, regardless of their location.

Services provided by Beyond the Trees include tribute books that can be purchased as gifts for milestone occasions, such as graduations, birthdays or anniversaries.

The company issues invitations by email or standard post to friends and family of the honoree, then compile the resultant memories and photos into a bound book. Beyond the Trees also provides self-publishing services for authors who want to print and sell books of prose, poetry or other creative work.

Woodworth says the trend she sees now is how much easier it is to self publish. When the company began, it was something of a novelty, and Woodworth’s partner, Jennifer Sauers, took materials to Staples to have them printed, then downtown to be hand-bound. Still, the family cookbooks she produced were a smash hit, and, soon, other people were asking about having books made.

“What we’re adding to it is the value of the service. We are adding the advice and the guidance through it and the design of the product,” says Woodworth. 

By Robin Donovan

Cybervise fixes web development impasses

Small businesses looking to maximize their marketing often invest in professional web development. But what happens when the developer steps away and the business takes over?

All too often, it’s complete inaction, says Carmen Krupar, web developer and founder of Cybervise. (She advises revisiting your website content at least quarterly, by the way.)

Before the launch, Krupar was working with a company that rolled out website after website, shrugging off client requests for ongoing maintenance and updates. Krupar began doing the work herself, first during the evenings after work and, later, out of her Hamilton County Business Center office, where she says she already networks enough each month to cover the rent -- and then some.

Cybervise fills the gap between the creation of a website and the ongoing maintenance needed to keep it ranking well on search engines and up-to-date for clients and customers. Sometimes, this means creating new pages or reorganizing a site, but it might also mean simply fixing glitches left behind by other web developers. It can even involve some interpersonal work.

“Folks that call us have an existing website, but their web developer has let them down,” Krupar explains. “Usually, the project’s taking too long to finish; they’re at an impasse where nobody can compromise – everyone’s stuck on their own idea of what the website should be, or they’ve lost touch with developer. We’re doing things like updating information, fixing broken functionality and creating graphics (like buttons added to the site), as well as code cleanups for search engine optimization.”

Krupar, who is available on retainer, says the best way to avoid needing her services is to build your initial site with room for expansion, and to avoid free, quick-fix tools. Her favorite content management system is WordPress, though her team can handle nearly any system, she says, noting that most people with computer skills can learn to use it, and it’s search-engine friendly.

“Ranking for search engine optimization is hard enough -- don’t make a site that search engines aren’t going to move through easily,” she says.

By Robin Donovan

NKY Community Action Commission 'Rekindles' micro-enterprise development

By its very definition, entrepreneurship involves personal and financial risk. But it doesn't take millions to make every entrepreneurs' self-employment dreams come true.

An emerging program of the Northern Kentucky Community Action Commission (NKCAC) aims to support entrepreneurship and small business ownership: the Rekindle Micro-Enterprise Development Program.

NKCAC supports micro-enterprise -- generally a business with five or fewer employees -- by offering technical, financial, marketing and other resources to Northern Kentuckians who want to create their own economic opportunities.

"We started the program about a year ago, with a focus on low-income people," says Robert Yoder, NKYAC Micro-Enterprise/Small Business Development project director. "This is a place where they can test their ideas, understand what it means to run a business and see the challenges they could face ahead of time."

The program is free for those who meet income eligibility requirements, with a $35 material fee for others. After an assessment, applicants go through a six-week business development course that includes training in entrepreneurship skills, obtaining financing, learning about accounting and tax issues, financial literacy and marketing and writing a business plan.

Program graduates can apply for $5,000 in low-interest loans to start or expand their businesses. Potentially, grads can access up to $500,000 in financing though Rekindle financing partners.

The program has worked with new and existing businesses, Yoder says. He mentions the success story of barber Devin Pinkelton, who came through the program after first cutting hair in his home, then moving to a 10-foot by 12-foot space that held a single barber chair.

"We worked with Devin to update his business plan, develop cash flow projections and provided advice on site selection for his new location that had excellent visibility and parking. Once everything was in place, Devin applied for $5,000 from the Rekindle Micro-Enterprise Revolving Loan Fund to remodel and purchase fixtures for the barber shop," Yoder says.

In June, Pinkelton opened a three-chair shop in Florence.

"His new location has much better visibility and his business is really growing," Yoder says.

New Covington eatery WhackBurger, fast becoming a local favorite, is also a Rekindle graduate, Yoder adds.

The next class starts Aug. 16. Find out more at the Rekindle website.

By Feoshia H. Davis
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SoMoLend, CircleUp investment sites team to extend reach

Two innovative online investment startups, one in Ohio and one in California, are teaming to expand each other's reach.
Cincinnati-founded SoMoLend (short for Social Mobile Lending) and CircleUp, based in San Francisco, are among the newest places where smaller investors and company owners can meet to do business. They both offer alternative financing and investment opportunities outside of traditional banking and investment arenas.

Through SoMoLend, a peer-to-peer lending site, entrepreneurs can borrow up to $35,000 through the secure, patent-pending platform. Borrowers create a profile and loan application through the SoMoLend site. SoMoLend is the brainchild of Cincinnati attorney Candace Klein, also founder of Bad Girl Ventures, a micro-financing organization geared toward women-owned businesses.

CircleUp is a similar platform, but for businesses willing to also offer equity in their companies. Co-founders Ryan Caldbeck and Rory Eakin, who have backgrounds in finance and business consulting, launched CircleUp in April. CircleUp focuses on retail and consumer businesses.

"We work with companies that have tangible products on the shelf, and are looking to scale their businesses," Eakin says.

The companies' founders met through their mutual work in supporting the recently approved federal JOBS Act. Among other things, the law allows non-accredited investors to invest or spend small amounts of money to businesses with some restrictions. The legislation was vital to the growth of sites like SoMoLend and CircleUp.

"CircleUp is one of the first players in this space," Klein says. "We found ourselves in the same places; we were approached by some of the same investors. When 30 people tell you tell you should be talking to someone, you start to listen." 

Initially the partnership will be more informal and consist of both companies referring potential investors and companies to one another, depending on which funding mechanism works best.

"We have complementary services, and want to work with SoMoLend because we were looking to partner with a great company with similar technology and services," Eakin says.

Eventually, the companies plan to serve investors and business owners through a single site, sharing resources on the back end.

"We have a strategic alliance, with an eye toward aligning as many products and services as possible," Klein says.

By Feoshia H. Davis
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Fashion design project includes medical innovation

When you think “compression garments,” you normally think “grandma hose,” not “high fashion.”

But a team of fashion designers at UC have joined with medical professionals that treat a genetic disease that affects connective tissue to change not only those perceptions, but the lives of those suffering from the condition. 

Ehlers-Danlos Syndrome (EDS) affects hundreds of thousands of Americans, limiting their mobility and endurance. The multi-system disease creates joint instability, dizziness and unrelenting severe pain. Even pulling on jeans can cause someone with EDS to dislocate a shoulder.

When physical therapists approached Margaret Voelker-Ferrier, of UC’s College of Design, Architecture, Art and Planning, with the problems that people with EDS experience when simply putting on clothes, she knew she could put her 30 years of bodywear design experience to good use. 

"I started as bra designer," says Voelker-Ferrier. "That has always been a passion for me, engineering things to solve a problem. Making things that are both beautiful and functional."

She gave the project to fashion design students in her bodywear class, explaining the challenges of EDS sufferers as well as the basics of clothing design. "The students loved the project and I think they did a marvelous job," she says.

Voelker-Ferrier worked with Brooke Brandewie on design solutions, which have been highlighted as part of the Cincinnati Innovates competition.

The clothes they designed – from dresses and pants to an evening gown -- support and stabilize body joints and ligaments. Made from high-tech materials, they provide comfort and style simultaneously. One shirt, for example, has adjustable straps that help hold shoulders in place. 

“The fact that they are designing clothing that is functional and therapeutic and beautiful and doesn’t look like a medical device is exciting,” says Candace Ireton, MD, who suffers from EDS. She saw the clothes during the Ehlers-Danlos National Foundation Learning Conference, which was held in Cincinnati this month. 

Both Brandewie and Voelker-Ferrier attended the conference to gather measurements of EDS patients and collect data as they continue to develop their designs. While designed for EDS, the same fashions could be adapted for use by people with autism, MS and arthritis. 

"It was really wonderful to be able to meet people and talk with them about this," Voelker-Ferrier says. "It’s kind of amazing." 

For now, she's working on collecting more data, finding some popular sizes to work with and eventually leading an interdisciplinary studio at UC to design prototypes. Eventually, the design maven hopes to turn her problem-solving fashion sense into a small business that will target the needs of people with chronic medical conditions as well as Baby Boomers. 

Fashion, after all, can provide a mental, as well as physical, boost, says EDSer Ireton. “Some of the clothing is sexy,” she says. “You can feel better, keep your ribs in place and look cute, too.”
 
For more information about the design project, visit their Cincinnati Innovates submission.

By Elissa Yancey


Camp Washington artist salvages, creates stained glass

Whether you realize it or not, Cincinnati is full of stained glass. It's part of our German heritage, says Gillian Thompson, the proprietor of Gillian Thompson Glass.

She meets with property owners throughout the Cincinnati area, restoring old glass designs, repairing age-damaged leading and designing new stained glass projects.

Stained glass can encompass either colored or clear designs and projects can be artistically complex or as simple as a clear patterned glass that provides privacy.

Repairs to stained glass are typically needed to salvage old pieces or repair cracks. After decades, window bowing, called deflection, can occur as the soft light between glass disintegrates as it is exposed to moisture. Thompson says this deflection can be mistaken for an artistic style; actually, it's just damage.

Thompson began her career as an apprentice for Architecture Art Glass in Pleasant Ridge (now located in Milford) and worked her way up, eventually launching her own studio a little more than four years ago, when a Camp Washington studio space opened up. She says the neighborhood's old factory buildings offer her the perfect combination of natural light and space.

"My style is all over the place," she says. "I really love traditional styles, but also have fun with contemporary work."

Although Thompson took advantage of a SCORE mentor, she raves most about the entrepreneurial support she gained through the SpringBoard program.

"Springboard focused me," she says of the ArtWorks-sponsored business development program. "(What) I really got from them, was learning to turn on the knowledge base in my community, just looking around at the people I know. Through friends, I've just got a web developer.”

Her next stop, she says, is using that website to grow her client base.

By Robin Donovan

MamaDoc designs products to ease pregnancy discomforts

A friendship between two Cincinnati mamas led to new doctor-designed garments and products designed to help other mamas more comfortably get through their pregnancies.

MamaDoc, founded in 2009, is the effort of Dr. Somi Javaid, an ob/gyn at the University of Cincinnati School of Medicine and Kim Howell, a certified yoga instructor with a sales and marketing background. The company was born out of Dr. Javaid's everyday interactions with women suffering from various pregnancy-related discomforts like lower back pain, swollen feet and ankles and breastfeeding issues.

"Day in and day out, she was hearing the same complaints," says her business partner Howell. "She knew what was on the market to address (those problems), and their shortcomings."

The catalyst for their first product, the Nox compression bra, was a conversation between the two friends, who'd met through their daughters. Howell was having problems weaning her son. In particular, she found the conventional chest compression process to suppresses lactation very uncomfortable.

Dr. Javaid told Howell about her idea for a full-coverage compression bra with adjustable straps ($59.99). The bra has pockets to hold speciality ice packs and is made out of moisture-wicking bamboo. Howell encouraged her to make the product a reality.

Howell says this product, like their others, have been designed with a women's curvature and anatomy in mind. For instance, the compression bra is designed to support the often sore suspensory ligament of the breast under the armpit.

"There's nothing like it on the market. It's a very user-friendly garment," Howell says.

Among their other products is the BellyUpIt, a maternity support band aimed a relieving back pain. The adjustable band ($49.95) wraps around the belly and lower back, giving women compressed support. It's also made of bamboo.

MamaDoc also sells speciality ice and heat packs, pregnancy socks, a gown that can be worn through pregnancy and delivery and Organic Bamboo Fleece diapers.

MamaDoc was the most recent Bad Girl Ventures (BGV) microloan recipient. BGV awards loans and provides business support to women-owned companies across Ohio in a competitive process that includes a nine-week business course.

MamaDoc sells to some individuals, but most of their buyers are wholesalers. MamaDoc is working to expand that network and get their products on more shelves.

Howell says the loan will allow the company to revamp its website, stock more product for fast delivery and improve its marketing.

By Feoshia H. Davis
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Social Cincinnati: By the numbers

Mashable, the go-to site for techy trends, in 2011 named Cincinnati the most social city in the world in honor of Social Media Day.

It seems the city's social butterflies are working to keep that coveted, if unscientific, designation. Local Social Media training company Social Media Bootcamp has compiled some facts and figures about the Queen City's online connections.

The figures, which you can see in graphic form on the Boot Camp Digital blog, give a snapshot of Cincinnati's Social Media landscape. For instance:

• There are 807,360 people in the Greater Cincinnati area on Facebook (within a 25 mile radius of Cincinnati)

• There are more than 88,000 Cincinnatians on LinkedIn

• 475,000 Twitter accounts mention Cincinnati in their titles

In the business realm, figures show:

• 81 percent of Cincinnati brands participate in social media

• P&G, a leading global marketer headquartered in Cincinnati, aims to be “the most digitally enabled company in the world”.

• 63 percent of Cincinnati businesses are prepared to respond to social media inquiries within hours.

• 77 percent of businesses handle social media internally, yet only 30 percent have training
,"
"We were pretty surprised by some of the statistics that we found," says Krista Neher of Boot Camp Digital. "The infographic especially shows that Cincinnati businesses are highly active on social media (81 percent) yet also, surprisingly, they don't have a lot of social media training, and most businesses don't have a policy,"

Additionally, social media pros are abundant in Cincinnati.

• There are more than 13,000 people in Cincinnati with social media in their Twitter profiles

• There are more than 1,000 groups on LinkedIn for Cincinnati.

• 50 percent of business professionals in Cincinnati are using social media in a professional capacity.

• 74 percent of Cincinnatians have access to social media at work (although only 43 percent have a social media policy)

By Feoshia Henderson Davis
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Bunbury gets Techbury twist this weekend

As world choirs make their exits and the inaugural Bunbury Music Festival launches July 13-15, visitors can supplement their music fix with new technologies and a celebration of entrepreneurial talent – from app developers to DJs – during Techbury, which takes place in a large air-conditioned tent just west of the L&N Bridge.

Like other music festivals that combine music with technology (SXSW, Coachella), Bunbury launches with a tech partnership that features the combined talents of seed-stage funder CincyTechUSA and R&D from digital marketing brand-makers at Possible Worldwide.

The Techbury tent will house interactive games, cool consumer products to demo and stage programming that includes local technology startup pitches, local band interviews and local DJ competitions. And did we mention air conditioning? And beer. Yes, beer.

“Possible Worldwide was very eager to get involved with the festival because our agency is all about celebrating the relationship between creativity and technology,” says Meghann Craig, associate communications manager at Possible. “That's our sweet spot.”

“For CincyTech, participating in the Techbury portion of Bunbury is about showcasing the startup innovation happening in our region with the tens of thousands of people who attend,” says Carolyn Pione Micheli, CincyTech communications director.

With programming both on and off-stage in the tent, Techbury offers a cool place to experience the festival in a more hands-on way. “Techbury allows you to engage with the Festival in a more intimate setting and provides an experience that is unique and different from traditional music festivals,” says Craig.

Techbury highlights include:

• Possible Labs’ “interactions gallery” with Human Pong and other Microsoft Kinect-based games.

• Friday’s Startup Pitch Wars, a battle of 16 local startups that deliver “rocket pitches,” with the winner determined by crowd vote and prizes offered by The Greater Cincinnati Venture Association and Bunbury.

• Saturday’s All Night Party Local Band Showcase, featuring interviews with local bands moderated by Chelsea VandeDrink of WVXU and aired on the station.

• Sunday’s Bunbury Battle of the Cincinnati DJs, which pits four local DJs against each other.

By Elissa Yancey
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NKY Chamber pairs American business mentors, African leaders in Innovation Summit

The Northern Kentucky Chamber of Commerce will be part of a nationwide Innovation Summit and Mentoring Partnership that pairs African leaders with American business mentors.

An Innovation Summit started June 14 in Washington, D.C. and featured sessions with business leaders and entrepreneurs. The program is part of the Obama Administration's President's Young African Leaders Initiative, which identifies and fosters relationships with young African leaders. It's aim is to "promote business innovation, investment and social responsibility activities in Africa."

Starting this week, the African youth with fan out across the country learning about American culture and the workplace. In addition to Northern Kentucky, they'll travel to Seattle, Charlotte, Philadelphia, Pittsburgh, Miami, Huntsville, Denver and Chicago.

The Chamber, in conjunction with the Greater Cincinnati World Affairs Council, will sponsor 21-year-old Mwaka Mukwasa, spokeswoman for the Young African Leaders Initiative or YALI. Her organization's mission is to "engage, support and empower Zambian youth and young leaders to enhance civic engagement through promotion of education, good governance, principled leadership and business skills."

Starting June 25, Mwaka Mukwasa will be spending a few days with the Chamber and a couple of days with Junior Achievement of Cincinnati, which develops youth workplace, entrepreneurship and financial literacy skills.

"She'll be here learning about engaging young women and girls," says Amanda Dixon, manger of workforce talent solutions at the Chamber. "She wants to better connect them with career information and sources of education. She'll be looking at what we do at the Chamber, the resources we provide, and will have a set of best practices to take back home,"

By Feoshia Henderson
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SE Indiana entrepreneur's station feeds abandoned kittens, puppies

Matt Hess is a dog breeder whose new product – a feeding station for motherless puppies and kittens – solved his own puppy feeding challenge.

"I had nine English Mastiff puppies who lost their mother due to mastitis (an infection)," says Hess, who lives in Southeastern Indiana. "I was feeding them one by one. By the time I finished with the last one, it was time to feed the first one again. I thought, 'There has got to be a easier way to do this.' "

The result is Hess' Pet Nursing Station, which can feed three puppies or kittens at a time. The station securely holds baby bottles, attached to the back of a cradle where the animals lie, stomach down, to drink. The cradle is slightly angled and the puppies look up to suck their bottles.

"Once I created this system, it took me a half hour to feed the puppies," Hess says.

The Pet Nursing Station is for small- to large-breed puppies as well as kittens. It's designed for newborns to use up to four weeks old, or until they're weaned.

"It's designed to care for orphaned puppies or kittens if the mother has passed away, or, if for whatever reason, the mother doesn't produce enough milk. The Pet Nursing Station comes in as a temporary or full-time mother," Hess says.

Hess first used the station at home, then sent it to friends and acquaintances to further test. He received good feedback, and decided to start selling the stations in 2011. He, his mother and father make the metal stations in Hess' garage. He's working on a plastic mold for them, which will make the station lighter and more affordable.

"When I made the Pet Nursing Station, I didn't think it would go anywhere. After I shared it with friends, who said it was good idea, it kind of took off," he says.

He's sold the station to animal rescues, breeders and individual pet owners. He's talking to pet stores and catalog sellers to find a wider distribution for the product.

"We have one company who is interested but wants to see the product go further before they sell it," he says.

The Pet Nursing Station is one of the entries in the ongoing Cincinnati Innovates invention and business competition. You can see more ideas, or enter your own here.

By Feoshia Henderson
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UC collaboration leads to biodiesel research

Fueled by a US EPA grant, University of Cincinnati faculty and students are leading an effort to transform cooking grease into biodiesel on a regional scale.

This project is a collaboration among UC, the Cincinnati Metropolitan Sewer District (MSD) and Bluegrass Biodiesel of Falmouth, Ky. The partners will test three methods to extract oil from the grease, including one the University is planning to patent.

Longer term plans are that this oil could be used in a biodiesel mixture to power diesel equipment and vehicles.

Grease hauling is an industry vital to restaurants, which pay haulers to dispose of used cooking grease. But the grease has to disposed of, usually in landfills.

"MSD receives grease from haulers," says project leader Mingming Lu, UC associate professor of Environmental Engineering. "The grease -- a mix of solid and liquid -- are from restaurant grease traps. MSD also has grease from the waste water it receives. The two kinds of grease are mixed, skimmed and condensed. This is called trap grease. It's stored in a pond and then sent to a landfill."

The EPA awarded the biodiesel effort an $87,000 grant during the the 8th Annual National Sustainable Design Expo on the National Mall in Washington, D.C. in May. The project was chosen from among 300 presented by college and university innovators across the country.

Up to seven UC students will be involved in the effort, Lu says. It's set to start in September and should last two years. It will include pilot demonstrations and a 100-gallon pilot treatment facility in collaboration with MSD.

"This is technology verification. We will try several technologies and see which one is the most effective for MSD," Lu says.

By Feoshia Henderson
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UC Forward grants $140K for collaborative classes

What co-op was to the 20th century, UC Forward is to the 21st. So goes the theory, and practice, behind the latest iteration of experiential learning at the University of Cincinnati, birthplace of cooperative education.

UC Forward, an initiative of UC’s Innovation Collaborative, describes a wide array of new and existing courses that combine students, and faculty, from multiple disciplines, across colleges and campuses, to work together to solve real-world problems.

Some of these classes have existed for years.

For example, the Niehoff Urban Studio has been tackling community problems, like increasing neighborhood green spaces and improving communities, with design-thinking since 2002.

The Livewell Collaborative has been putting students on the frontline of product development for Baby Boomers—because of strict confidentiality agreements with potential manufacturers, the joke around campus is that participants can tell you all about the new ideas and products they have developed, but then they have to kill you.

The Medical Device Innovation and Entrepreneurship Program has been creating partnerships between budding industrial designers and biomedical engineers and University doctors in need of new devices to address pressing needs in the emergency room and beyond.

And those are just a few of the existing programs that now fall under the UC Forward umbrella.

This school year, the office of the provost issued a call for proposals for new multi-disciplinary courses that include students and faculty from diverse disciplines, use collaborative teaching and learning methods and expand the educational model by focusing on real-life solutions—deliverables that not only help students learn and grow, but that can help them land jobs.

Fourteen courses received first-year funding for a total of $140,000 in new funding, a significant investment in a new way of teaching, learning and preparing students for the future. It’s a move that fits with the Research 1 University’s new academic master plan, and aims at helping shift the higher education narrative to meet the needs of a new century.

Look for stories about individual UC Forward initiatives, as well as new programs and certificates developed to foster creative problem-solving, in future issues of Soapbox.

By Elissa Yancey
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Cincinnati's CrowdSpark makes online contest creation easy, affordable

Online contests allow businesses and brands to find new customers, increase awareness and engage with followers through social media.

"This is a really a fast-growing space used to create media exposure to engagement," says Cincinnati entrepreneur Elizabeth Edwards, founder of the Cincinnati Innovates business competition.

But paying someone to create a custom contest can get pricey, and there's not much guarantee you'll get the results you want. So Edwards launched a new web product, CrowdSpark, designed to make contest creation more effective and accessible for businesses on tight budgets.

"A custom-designed platform and a management platform could cost $15,000 to create," she says. "Instead of paying a web developer to create a contest, for as little as $250 you could create your own."

Developers can also use CrowdSpark so that they can spend less time on code, and more time on creating a great contest, Edwards adds.

"We make it easy and economical to create and run those contests," she says.

Edwards is using CrowdSpark, now in Beta, to run the ongoing Cincinnati Innovates Contest, which wraps up July 15.

"I've learned a lot in the last four years of running Cincinnati Innovates, which has become of the most successful regional online contests in the world," she says. "But one of the things I learned not to do is spend a lot of money to get the results you want."

CrowdSpark offers social media plug-ins, analytics, contest entry forms, custom legal rules, tech support and options to create a custom domain and accept paid entries. There will also be a best practices guide focusing on creating and managing contests.

It costs between $250 and $2,000 to start using CrowdSpark, depending on the options it includes. Hosting fees range from $100 to $200 each month the contest runs.

By Feoshia Henderson
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New loan funding helps property owners increase energy efficiency

A $3 million boost from a national foundation may soon help make local church pews and nonprofit offices a lot more comfortable, and a lot more energy-efficient.

The innovative new approach to making energy-efficient upgrades profitable for both loan recipients and lenders combines the efforts of the Greater Cincinnati Energy Alliance, the Cincinnati Development Fund, and the Calvert Foundation, which typically invests in real-estate secured loans and has never before invested in Cincinnati.

The new fund, the Better Buildings Performance Loan Fund, leverages federal and foundation money for loans at competitive interest rates that can help institutions renovate buildings and increase their energy efficiency at the same time, says Al Gaspari, GCEA finance director.

While GCEA's focus has been on helping homeowners with energy-efficient upgrades, this new initiative expands its role in the region.

"We're initially targeting nonprofit organizations and multi-family dwellings," Gaspari says. Churches, arts organizations and schools rank high on the list of prospective loan applicants. For example, an inner-city church with a 60-year-old furnace could apply for a loan, invest in a new energy-efficient furnace and save 20 percent on energy costs. Plus, the new system could make existing spaces accessible year-round--even during hot summer and cold winter months--thus allowing for expanded programs and services.

"From our perspective, our grant is not dollar-in, dollar-out," Gaspari says. "The goal of our grant is to get people involved and lower their initial risks."

For lenders flirting with the idea of investing in energy-efficiency, the new fund provides a potential sustainable model. "Our overall goal is to show that there is a market for these loans and show that they do perform," Gaspari says.

While the new fund is not yet up and running, he says the GCEA expects to underwrite loans, which will be offered through the Cincinnati Development Fund, before the end of 2012.

As part of the fund, the GCEA will track the energy savings that improvements allow. For investors at the Calvert Foundation, the forward-focused program offers a chance to invest in a program that ultimately conserves energy, reduces pollutants and saves money.

By Elissa Yancey
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Define My Style recruiting 500 fashionistas

Define My Style, a Cincinnati startup and an online community of next-generation designers and fashionistas, is seeking 500 Design Assistants from across the country to discover and share their sense of style and design, create and publish fashion-oriented content, interact with other members of the community and bring their designs to life.

The program is looking for young women ages 14-22 who are passionate about style, want to become a part of fashion and have a drive to help others. ??Young women can participate from home and the program is accepting nominees on a rolling basis.

?Design Assistants should be highly motivated and eager to share their opinion. They will:

•    Lead and influence more than 50,000 DefineMyStyle.com members;
•    Connect with fashion-industry professionals, including stylists, designers, models and bloggers;
•    Be granted first access to trends, tools and brand partnerships;
•    Develop a personal brand;
•    Write blog posts, snap design-inspiring photos, submit videos and contribute to social media;
•    Build their resume for college.

In return, Design Assistants can earn points, badges (credits), swag and free bags from DefineMyStyle.com.??"I'm so excited to be one of the first Design Assistants,” says Kate Richey, a Cincinnati high school sophomore and a DMS Design Assistant. “We're getting to learn about fashion and design, and then we are given projects around what we've just learned. It allows us each to be creative and have fun. It's great to know that what we say and do makes an impact on the entire community.” ??

Define My Style Design assistants each will receive an elevated page on the DMS website where their accomplishments and profile will be housed.

The idea for Define My Style came to founder and CEO Kristine Sturgeon in 2007, when her oldest daughter was getting ready to head back to school. Unable to decide on a school bag that gave her the functions she needed and was a design she loved, Sturgeon’s daughter was at a standstill. She knew exactly what she wanted out of a product – as most consumers do – but brands sold commercially weren’t interested in listening to her desires. Sturgeon saw a business opportunity.

The website has now grown into a robust community of more than 50,000 members that allows teens to bring their ideas to life as they determine the role they want to engage in social commerce: including buyer, designer, marketer, critic and influencer of products. ??“The Design Assistant program offers a unique ability to play a role in fashion and influence the DMS community,” says Sturgeon. “At Define My Style, our goal is to provide right tools and connections to this creative next generation of leaders and influencers in the world of fashion. We are excited about all we have in store in the coming months.”

??If you know a teen you think would be perfect for the program, you can nominate them for the program.

Or, young women who want to directly apply to be a Design Assistant can submit their applications through the Define My Style Web site.  

By Sarah Blazak for CincyTech

TEDxCincy explores the intersection of technology, artisianship

The First TedxCincy, in October of 2010, presented inspiring speakers from varied career paths talking about their passions. On May 10, the second TedXCincy event explores the theme: "Plugged and Unplugged: The Crossroads of Technology and Artisanship."
 
"It's always nice to have a topic that has some kind of friction or tension," says David Volker, TedxCincy organizer. "We wanted to come up with something that shows the entire spectrum of Cincinnati." 
 
The search for speakers starts with the organizing team's personal networks and then grows from there. The team consists of Volker, Emily Venter and Michael Bergman, all from LPK, and Mary Riffe of Procter & Gamble. 
 
"We try to search through our networks and find people who are off the beaten path," Volker says. "A lot of times, conferences focus on the cool, new, tech-based things, but we want to also explore what people are creating with their hands." 
 
Volker and the rest of the team are bringing in artists like Jesse Mooney-Bullock, a puppet maker from Northside, Renee Koerner, a local caviar producer, Queen City Project, a  group of photographers and designers showing Cincinnati through a different lens. Also on the schedule are Christopher Erb, vice president of brand marketing for EA Sports, and Steve Fulton of GE Aviation. Soapbox Managing Editor Elissa Yancey will kick off the afternoon of talks.
 
"We work really hard to uncover some of the gems in the city that may be otherwise passed over," Volker says. 
 
While there will be videos, swag and other activities for attendees, Volker says that the speakers make the event what it is. 
 
"We work really hard to make it a diverse line up of speakers," Volker says. "There will be over 500 attendees and we want to have at least one speaker that connects with each person that attends." 
 
By Evan Wallis

Nonprofit Symposium gives national perspective on best social media practices

Social media is all the rage, but for time- and resource-strapped nonprofit organizations, maintaining a social media presence on Facebook, Twitter or Pinterest seems like just another hassle in a long list of more urgent priorities.

But a local social media expert says effective, strategic social media usage actually can help a nonprofit's bottom line. It can help build an engaged network and drive donations in less time that you might think.

"More people check Facebook every day than read newspapers or listen to radio, and if nonprofits want to remain relevant, they need to be more involved in social media," says BootCamp Digital Founder Krista Neher. "When done correctly, social media becomes an efficiency booster."

Neher, along with Dayton author Randall Moss, have organized their first Nonprofit Symposium to help organizations better use social media tools.

Moss and David J. Neff, authors of The Future of Nonprofits: Innovate and Thrive in the Digital Age, will be among more than 15 events speakers. Other speakers include Ehren Foss from HelpAttack!, a social media fundraising site, and Danielle Brigida, social media outreach coordinator for the National Wildlife Federation.

"We'll be showing other nonprofits have used social media successfully. Our goal is education and inspiration. We'll overview what technology and tools out there, talk about soliciting donations online and how to use social and digital to achieve goals," Neher says.

The Nonprofit Symposium is May 17, from 8 a.m. to 5 p.m, at the Red Cross building on Dana Avene. A networking event follows. The cost is $97 and includes lunch and the networking Happy Hour.

By Feoshia Henderson
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Global 2 Local blends translation and technology

A Cincinnati-based interpreting company has been providing translations and interpreting service to companies worldwide, and recently won a contract from the City of Cincinnati to provide interpreter services for all of the Health Department locations in the city. 
 
Global 2 Local Language Solutions was founded by Grace Bosworth back in 2009, but she didn't really start working on her company full-time until November of 2010. G2L specializes in technical document translation, which is possible through their database of over 300-400 interpreters and translators. 
 
After helping another woman start a language service business out of a house, and eventually broke off of the company to travel for a year, and upon returning to Cincinnati, she founded G2L. With previous experience starting a similar type of business, Bosworth was able to hit the ground running. 
 
G2L provides service including everything from website localizations, meaning the website is designed and programed in several different languages to technical document translations to in-person interpreting. 
 
"Translators and interpreters are special people," Bostworth says. "They have to have a complete grasp of both languages they area working with as well as a background in the specific matter they are translating." 
 
Besides the translation and interpreting services, G2L also provides web design, graphics and database administration. This blend of technology and translation is a departure from what many language service businesses offer.  One major hurdle G2L faces is finding new clients. Bosworth started 2012 with the goal of gaining 25 new contracts, a large number for a company with only four full time employees. 
 
"Finding new clients is one of our biggest challenges," Bosworth says. "Gaining contracts like this one with Cincinnati is a great way for us to bridge the gap to bigger contracts. You can't get experience until someone let's you have it." 
 
With the momentum of winning the contract from the City of Cincinnati, G2L is now in the running to win a larger contract to provide interpreter services for all of the hospitals in Dayton. 
 
Business will continue to grow for G2L as they obtain more clients and Bosworth believes more people will see the need for providing their services to a non-English speaking customer base. The Ohio Department of Development has a grant right now that gives companies money towards developing their website and marketing materials into other languages in an effort to increase exports from Ohio.
 
"Sometimes people don't think about it, but if you want to get your product out to other languages you need to make marketing materials in other languages as well as get your website available in other languages," Bosworth says. "We are able to do all of that for companies." 
 
By Evan Wallis
 

Public Allies grows local leaders

Mildred Fallen is something of a Cincinnati historian. A local journalist, you can often see the product of her verbal explorations of Cincinnati's hip-hop scene in the pages of CityBeat and other publications. Her pieces often reflect something that's been lost to time or merely overlooked. And it's with this perspective that Fallen approaches her other, newer calling: social work.
 
In fall of 2011, Fallen joined Public Allies, a non-profit organization under the umbrella of AmeriCorps and a program of the local nonprofit Bridges for a Just Community. Allies' goal is to turn socially driven, passionate people into the next generation of leaders. Allies partner with other non-profits in Cincinnati to help with programming, training and community building.
 
"I had never heard of the program," says Fallen, who joined in 2011. But she was swept up in the movement. "They believe in enticing young people to approach leadership in their own way. It's not a cookie cutter or corporate way."
 
Fallen was placed with two non-profits after joining Public Allies — The National Underground Railroad Freedom Center and Bridges. She splits her time between the two groups, focusing her energies on engaging the broader community. She manages social media, like the organizations' Facebook and Twitter accounts, blogs for both organizations and circulates information to demographics that could benefit from the organizations' resources.
 
Fallen also is a natural master of the "teachable moment." After the shooting of Trayvon Martin, the unarmed Florida teenager killed in February 2012, she helped organize a race forum at Woodward High School called "What's Race Got to Do With It?" that allowed residents to have a broad discussion about race and class in America. Fallen says that by engaging the region, you develop a more just community.
 
"People talked about how violence affects people like Trayvon, but also other people in Cincinnati as well," Fallen says.
 
During her tenure at the Freedom Center, she also has helped organize a capacity event with activist and author Angela Davis that attracted nearly 800 people — 600 in person and another 200 tuned in on UStream. She also pioneered a blog within the Freedom Center called "Queen City Conductor" that explores the little-known accomplishments of Cincinnatians of color.
 
Fallen says she wouldn't have been able to accomplish what she has in the last year without Public Allies. "The biggest component that people don't know about Public Allies is the training we receive," she says. "This is the first time I've really had a lot of peer support. I'm looking at myself professionally. I've been able to do a lot in a short amount of
time."
 
Fallen also is part of a community service project in partnership with the Strive Partnership. For the last two years, Cincinnati has won the America's Promise Alliance award, which means that the city in considered one of the 100 Best Communities for Young People. Together with her team, she is hosting community conversations to find out the public's opinion about Cincinnati's accountability in areas where we were noted as being excellent.
 
Fallen's term of service with Public Allies ends June 30, and her experience has given her a lot for look forward to when she moves on. She says her experience leading up to and throughout Public Allies has made her want to be a social historian of the city while maintaining service projects and engaging the larger community.
 
"I can actually say things like I have time management skills," Fallen says. "I'm successful at completing these projects. I'm confident that once I leave Public Allies, these are strengths I can really be excited about sharing."

By Ryan McLendon

RAW: Cincinnati showcases emerging artists

If you’re a natural born artist, RAW: Cincinnati is looking for you.
 
Coming to Cincinnati in May, RAW natural born artists makes its debut as a showcase for emerging indie artists, including visual arts, film, fashion, music, performing art, hair and makeup artistry and photography. RAW: natural born artists is an independent arts organization that began in Southern California and operates in 32 cities across the United States. Its mission – to provide independent artists with the resources and exposure to expand their careers on both a local and national level (and have a fabulous time in the process).
 
It works like this. Artists can visit RAW: Cincinnati online to submit creative work for consideration. Once accepted, the artists’ work is featured in online profiles on the RAW website, and becomes part of a monthly showcase that combines work from artists across all disciplines in one event, on one night. The events are held at venues where creatives can be loud, expressive and social as they introduce their work to patrons both new and familiar. Clearly not the average gallery show, the Cincinnati version of RAW begins May 18 at Luxe Cincinnati and continues on the third Friday of each month.
 
“Expect RAW: Cincinnati to showcase visual art, live music, designer hair and makeup, and a fashion show,” says Melissa Sideris, director. About 20 to 25 artists will be featured each month in events from May through November, which means there is ample opportunity for indie artists to introduce themselves to wider audiences.
 
“RAW helps emerging artists by providing a platform to showcase their work that they might not otherwise have,” says Sideris. In addition to the public exposure that RAW events provide, on-site photographers and videographers capture each artist’s story in a three to five-minute video that the artists keep to use for creative or promotional purposes.
 
Not only does RAW provide a local platform, artists have the opportunity for exposure on the national level. The November showcase features the top artists of the year, which are entered into a national competition culminating with a year-end awards ceremony held in Southern California.
 
“One of the most exciting things about RAW is that it allows a fun platform where many art forms come to life in one night,” says Sideris. “We are currently looking for artists for our June showcase."

For more information, go online.

New Innov8 For Health accelerator taking health IT startup applications

A new health IT startup accelerator is taking applications for a 12-week business development program that includes $20,000 in startup funds.

The Innov8 For Health Startup accelerator is an outgrowth of Cincinnati's Innov8 For Health initiative aimed at creating jobs, attracting and retaining talent and improving health outcomes through innovation.

"This goes back to the Innov8 for health theme. We want to identify people who have ideas and support and incentivize them down the path of innovation," says initiative founder Sunnie Southern, also founder of ViableSynergy.

The accelerator will take applications until April 30. It's open to any early-stage startups grounded in health IT. Companies outside of Cincinnati must move to the city during the program. It starts June 11 with eight companies.

"The focus is on providing better health care at a lower cost. The range of solutions can be everything from making it easier to select high-quality healthcare providers to making doctor and patient interaction more efficient," Southern says.

Each company selected will receive $20,000; in return, the accelerator will own six percent of the company. Startups will also work with mentors and tackle business development aspects including sales and marketing, branding, technology and operations and navigating government regulations.

Innov8 For Health partners include GE Aviation, C-Cap, Queen City Angels and the Health Foundation of Greater Cincinnati.

The Greater Cincinnati area is particularly suited for healthcare IT innovation, because many health providers here are further along in adopting paperless records and sharing secure, electronic patient information, Southern says.

"We have one of the most mature health information exchanges in the country, Health Bridge. It's really a cornerstone of what makes Cincinnati different; we have this deep expertise in sharing and exchanging data," she says.

By Feoshia Henderson
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Linkage Ventures, CincyTech invest in aging-related startups

Linkage Ventures and CincyTech have formed a unique strategic partnership to create and co-invest in startup companies whose technologies can help people as they age.

Cincinnati-based CincyTech is a public-private seed-stage investor that has invested since 2007 in 35 startup companies in IT and bioscience. Linkage Ventures is a newly created venture arm of Linkage, a Mason-based nonprofit organization whose members are senior living providers throughout the US. Linkage has hired investment banker and former technology company executive John Hopper as managing director of Linkage Ventures.

CincyTech and Linkage are partnering in order to identify, evaluate and invest in early-stage technologies that startups can take to market to benefit the aging population either directly or through care-giving organizations.

“This partnership is about promoting whole-person wellness and providing solutions that help people age successfully wherever they chose to do it,” says Scott Collins, president and CEO of Linkage Ventures.

The deal is unique in that it closely aligns the sources of “deal flow” – entrepreneurs with aging-related technology – with sources of capital that can help them grow and go to market. Linkage has 600 member communities in 39 states who are frequently approached about concepts and products that can help their 134,000 residents and 16,000 employees. With that deal flow and funds available through Linkage Ventures and CincyTech, the path for great solutions becomes easier to navigate.

Linkage also provides a rare opportunity to identify the needs of people as they age. “Our communities have built and earned a trust with this population that allows us to talk directly to them about their needs and desires,” Collins says.

This reach and relationship-building provides the ability to conduct truly transparent market research, says Mike Venerable, CincyTech’s managing director of digital, software and health tech.

“We can quickly validate the economics of a product or idea through their population,” he says.

Adds Collins: “It’s not just the investment. We’ve got the domain expertise internally, and we can do quick beta testing that marries well with the CincyTech network and expertise.”

By Sarah Blazak for CincyTech

Whirlybird launches line of local granola

Research the history of granola and a couple different accounts surface. Who thought of it first—a health spa owner or John Harvey Kellogg? From healthy snack to diet staple, granola’s popularity gives it staying power beyond its early “hippie food” advocates.

For Mariemont’s Christy White, 27, the love of granola reaches beyond yogurt topping and trail mix. She’s taken her passion for local ingredients and entrepreneurial spirit and launched Whirly Bird Granola in April 2011. After seeing granola for sale at local flea markets, she spend six months testing and perfecting her recipes for three signature varieties: original, chocolate and vanilla berry.

One of White’s main focuses while testing recipes was finding a local, high-quality maple syrup. The name of her company evolved directly from the sugar maple tree’s seed, which many people refer to as “whirlybirds” or “helicopters.” She settled on Ohio’s Snake Hill Farm. “They produce organic maple syrup and it was delicious,” White says. “It is family-run and the people were amazing. We wanted to support such a great family with a great product.”

WhirlyBird is all-natural, and 40 percent of its ingredients are organic. White uses dried cranberries, dried blueberries, flax seeds, sunflower seeds and more. “I’m trying to get as many organic and local ingredients into my recipes,” White says. “Sometimes it can be hard because of cost.”

Currently, White, has only sold her granola at the City Flea. She’s in the process of finding a certified kitchen so she can expand beyond her Mariemont home and make larger quantities.

White also takes orders by email and even delivers them to customers around the city.

“I’m trying to meet what every customer needs,” she says. For now, that includes a special gingerbread-flavored granola for the holiday season.

By Evan Wallis

Permaganic meets Kickstarter goal, pedal-powered cart a go

Dozens of donors have spoken, contributing more than $4,000 to a Cincinnati urban gardening program for a custom, pedal-powered produce cart that will move food from the garden to the market.

The nonprofit Permaganic Eco Garden has just exceeded its $4,000 goal through the Kickstarter fundraiser website. The organization's Eco Garden Youth Internship Program pays youth in Cincinnati's urban core to grow, harvest and market produce in the city. The program aims to help youth develop job skills like punctuality, self-motivation, focus and accountability.

The program takes on about 20 student interns each year, who take ownership of the garden, from planning and planting to maintenance and marketing. The harvest is sold Saturdays from 8 am to 2:30 pm in the Findlay Market Local Farm Shed, and Wednesdays from 4 to 7 pm at the Northside Farmers' Market.

Husband and wife Angela and Luke Ebner, DAAP grads, operate the program. The idea of a tricycle-powered cart has been about two years in the making, and is finally becoming a reality. The cart is being designed and built by Robert Grossman, a freelance designer and governing member of MoBo Bicycle Cooperative.

"We wanted to find a way to reduce the carbon footprint of our organization, and we spend a lot of money on many trips getting produce from here to Findlay Market," Angela Ebner says. "My husband really wanted a fossil-fuel-free alternative, and he wanted to work through MoBo, so that's how we got linked up."

The heavy-duty, tricked-out tricycle holds a insulated box that can handle about 200 pounds of produce. It will also have a collapsible display stand, retractable awning, drawers and a signage display, creating a space where the produce can be sold once it gets to market.

The Kickstarter fundraiser had 67 donors from Cincinnati and as far away as Guadalajara, Mexico. Donations came from individuals and groups including Fuel Cincinnati, which donated $1,000 to the project. Many of the donations were in the $25 to $50 range.

The organization hopes the design will serve as a template for others who want to use this type of transportation, and the cart should be out on the streets by May, Abner says.

By Feoshia Henderson
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Cincinnati State, AK Steel team for advanced manufacturing training

Cincinnati State’s Workforce Development Center in Evendale has teamed with AK Steel to provide a new advanced manufacturing training program for the company's workers.

The 400-hour Electronic Repairman Training program is one of the latest the Workforce Development Center has developed in response to local employer demand. The center has developed programs for Procter & Gamble and GE, among other major Cincinnati area employers.

AK Steel is headquartered in West Chester with major operations in Middletown, Mansfield, Coshocton and Zanesville. The company is a worldwide manufacturer of steel products for the automotive, infrastructure, manufacturing, construction and electrical power markets.

This is the Workforce Development Center's first partnership with AK Steel. The training program is about three weeks in, will last 15 months and train approximately 16 workers, says Larry Cherveny, the center's Industrial Maintenance and Green Technologies business manager.

Steeped in math, controls and electricity, the program is designed to train workers in modern manufacturing. Course titles include: motor controls, industrial electronics, industrial controls and instrumentation, motion control and AC & DC drives.

The Workforce Development Center offers a variety of certifications and programs for working students as well as modifies and creates programs for employers, Cherveny says.

"Companies come and ask us to develop these very specific programs, and we're able to customize them to fit what the need is. We see it sort of as a challenge. For instance, we weren't doing the DC drives training before, and through some donations, we were about to get about $7,000 worth of training equipment," Cherveny says.

The center works to meet company and worker demand in a fast-changing economic atmosphere. Courses are held at the Evendale Center as well as on company campuses. The center has even taken training programs across the country and to Mexico, Cherveny says.

"We are flexible and change quickly," he says. "As they come to us with new needs, that tells us the direction that we need to look into."

By Feoshia Henderson
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Workshop gives companies tips on government grants

The Environmental Protection Agency, CincyTech and Dayton Development Coalition are teaming up to host a workshop to inform small businesses how to apply and obtain Small Business Innovation Research grants. 
 
The SBIR is a government-wide organization, coordinated by the Small Business Administration, that has more than $2 billion in funds to assist small business to stimulate innovation and increase small businesses in federal research and development through the SBIR grants. 
 
The SBIR grants come in two phases. The first phase is the Proof of Concept, which gives companies $80,000 to prove the feasibility of their approach or concept over a six-month period. Successful phase one companies can then apply for phase two grants, which are grants of up to $300,000 for up to two years. Phase two looks to continue research and development and ultimately, commercialization of the environmental technology. 
 
The workshop will be held March 26 and is geared toward businesses that are creating environmental technologies that address high-priority EPA needs. Those needs range from water to green building, to waste monitoring. A new area being added this year is a Sensor App for air pollution control, which could come in the form of an app that can monitor air quality and send data back to be studied. 
 
The workshop gives companies the opportunity to discuss their proposals and improve their chances of obtaining SBIR grants. Companies will also learn from the review process and past vendor experiences. Last year, the EPA's SBIR gave out 25 grants to a pool of more than 400 applications -- three were to companies in Greater Cincinnati, all of which attended the workshop. 
 
"This is a huge opportunity for small businesses," says April Richards, program manager of the EPA's SBIR program. "It's a fairly complicated application process, and this workshop can help people not make silly mistakes." 
 
Applications for grants open after March 15 and typically close around two months after. The applications are normally accepted once each year. 

More information on the workshop can be found here.
 
By Evan Wallis

Local startup bridges gaps between tech, business

Beth Robeson and Sharon Hall have been working on a business that drives innovation in Cincinnati since last year. In January, they launched Bridge2Tec.

Pairing their experience in both IT and consulting, Robeson and Hall plan on helping businesses use the technology they already have while finding technology to give them the highest return on investments.

“We run into situations where companies aren’t taking full advantage of the technologies they have,” Robeson says. “Business can be harmed, in terms of opportunities and wasted resources, because the pace of technology is changing so rapidly.”

Bridge2Tec is designed to help businesses by first finding out what kinds of challenges they face when adapting to new technologies. The company plans on establishing a resource portal to help create and support collaborations, while also hosting inspirational and educational events. The TecTuneUp on April 17 will bring together local tech companies such as Boot Camp Digital and Mindbox Studios, as well as global companies like IBM and Microsoft, so businesses can hear about the most up to date technological trends and ideas.

“What we are most passionate about is helping businesses to adopt more agile business models,” Hall says. “The only way to stay on top of those trends is to have the technology community involved in the conversation.”

Bridge2Tec will also serve as a conduit between the businesses and the tech world to help tech companies understand what businesses need. A perfect example is a recent conversation Hall had with a data center company that helps startup incubators and their companies have a place to store and transfer data. Hall asked the data center if they take the time to inform the startups they work with exactly why and how the data center is beneficial to their companies. The idea never occurred to them.

“That’s exactly what we want to do for both communities,” Hall says. “We have to help find gaps that can be filled and benefit both the technology industry in the region and give businesses a chance to find technologies that suit their needs at the lowest possible cost.”

By Evan Wallis

Mobile coupon innovator Samplesaint gains traction, creates jobs

Just six months after moving from Chicago to Cincinnati, mobile coupon innovator Samplesaint continues to catch major consumer brand and retailer attention. The startup's evolving technology is fueling its growth from eight to 25 employees since coming to the Queen City.

“We've had tremendous growth in product development. In terms of hiring, we've brought on a lot of IT and marketing folks. We have 25 employees, but we're not done yet,” says company founder and CEO Lawrence Griffith, a Cincinnati native.

Samplesaint was built on its mobile phone couponing technology that allows coupons to be easily scanned. It bypasses the more cumbersome process of printing digital coupons or requiring retailers to manually enter coupon codes from a phone.

Samplesaint is more than couponing. It offers a range of mobile marketing, consumer insight, research and experience services. Samplesaint's technology also includes access to a database that ties to retailers' point-of-service, allowing then to immediately identify and determine the redemption and expiration dates of coupons.

The company has already worked with major consumer brands, including Lipton, Breyers, Dove, Hellann's and Ragu, Griffith says.

“The integration of three pieces are what companies are most excited about: our ability to acquire content, geotargeting and data collection,” Griffith says. “And we can work within their existing systems.”

Samplesaint, which still has an office in Chicago, moved to Cincinnati after a $250,000 investment from CincyTech. It was one of the first companies that CincyTech investment attracted from out of state, as well as the first African-American owned company in which CincyTech has invested.

Rahul Bawa, director of digital/IT for CincyTech, says the venture development firm recruited Samplesaint from Chicago because of its unique approach to mobile marketing.

“Samplesaint has pioneered innovative mobile technologies,” says Bawa. “The company offers new ways of delivering content for consumer-focused companies and their brands. There’s a growing need in the marketplace for mobile-based marketing, and Samplesaint continues to explore ways to serve it. And with our emphasis on consumer marketing in this region, a company like Samplesaint belongs here.”

By Feoshia Henderson
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Eileen Weisenbach Keller directs NKU Entrepreneurship Institute

Northern Kentucky University professor Eileen Weisenbach Keller brings years of on-the-ground experience in the business world to her new role as director of the NKU Fifth Third Bank Entrepreneurship Institute.

She takes the helm of the growing, nationally recognized institute after coming to NKU in 2006 as an assistant marketing professor teaching marketing principles and marketing strategy. She has her business bona fides as well. Before coming to the university, Weisenbach Keller spent nearly 15 years in the private sector working in the pharmaceutical, manufacturing and consumer goods industries, including two years as senior product manager for Mr. Coffee.

Weisenbach Keller earned a bachelor’s degree in marketing from Indiana University, a master’s in business administration with concentrations in finance and marketing from the University of Chicago and a doctorate from Kent State University. She continues to serve as a consultant for small and Fortune 500 companies.

She honed some impressive skills during that her time in the private sector that will no doubt serve her well in this new role, including new product development, marketing and supply chain and budget management.

"Just this week I met with two companies and had quick rapport with their leaders due to our common experiences in the areas of profitabiltiy, product development and management, promotion and marketing communication," she says. "These relationships will allow us to quickly incorporate local entrepreneurs and business people into the Entrepreneurship Insitute for mutual gain. The companies will help us incorporate realistic application of the fundamental principles students must learn and we will help the companies by creating more capable students for internships, and graduates for jobs or new ventures."

The NKU Institute has been recognized by both Princeton Review and Entrepreneur magazine for its undergraduate and graduate entrepreneurship programs and outreach. There are plans for expansion of programs including a new entrepreneurship course next fall that will be open to students from any major at the university.

"For 10 years the Institute has created value in our region by combining the efforts of the university faculty, administration and staff wtih those of the very generous and innovative local business community," Weisenbach Keller says. "One goal is to continue and enhance that cooperation for one primary purpose: to strengthen the knowledge and skill set of our student graduates so that they are an ever-increasing positive force in the economy. Enhancements such as more internships and increased mentor relationships will play a very important part."

By Feoshia Henderson
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Choremonster's apps combine learning, rewards

Two Cincinnati natives have developed Choremonster, a Web-based service and mobile app that lets parents and children interact to complete and actually enjoy housework by combining digital gaming trends with the traditional concept of an allowance.

Choremonster co-founders Chris Bergman and Paul Armstrong are capitalizing on the fact that in 2010, 51 percent of children between 4 and 12 years old owned digital devices. Many children receive their parents’ early-generation iPhones, iTouches, Androids and laptops when their parents upgrade.  

“Technology is a huge part of family life these days and can give parents an advantage that my parents didn’t have when trying to get me to do chores,” says Bergman, CEO of Choremonster.

The two, who also were partners in running Over-the-Rhine-based Wiseacre Digital, are creating two separate applications: one for parents and one for children. The parents create a chore list for their children and assign real-life rewards that can be obtained by trading in Choremonster points.

The children use the application to mark their chores completed, gain points for real-life rewards and collect monsters. The randomized collection of monsters then interact with users, play games and teach children lessons on responsibility and completing tasks.

The company also will look at the market potential of the product as a mix of both online (software and virtual) and physical goods, similar to how Rovio is now marketing Angry Birds with t-shirts and plush toys.

Choremonster and its co-founders are graduates of the 2011 Brandery accelerator class, which graduated eight companies from all over the nation in October. Choremonster is the first of those companies to receive seed funding.

CincyTech led Choremonster’s seed-stage funding round with a $200,000 investment. The $350,000 round was completed by private angel investors.

The investments will go toward product development and growing the application’s user base.

“Bergman and Armstrong are a strong team that has executed multiple major digital and design projects for everyone from Maker’s Mark to Facebook,” says CincyTech Managing Director Mike Venerable. “We have a lot of confidence in their abilities, their passion and their product.”

By Sarah Blazak for CincyTech

UC students create trash compactor for environmental competition

As part of a global environmental concern about trash, a University of Cincinnati team proposed the “Renew Trash Compactor,” a new product and service that reduces trash, increases recycling, improves sanitation and generates income for the Padli Gujar village in India.
 
Mark Schutte, Carmen Ostermann, Morgen Schroeder and Autumn Utley, all University of Cincinnati students, headed to Minnesota to present their compactor in the next round of the Acara Challenge.
 
The competition is organized by the Acara Institute and administered by the University of Minnesota’s Institute on the Environment, with the mission to mold students into a new generation of leaders by providing them with insight into global issues and how to influence change.
 
The environmental challenge given to students came through “Take The Challenge for Sustainable Design and Development,” a multidisciplinary course offered as part of the University Honors Program at UC. The course is taught by Rajan Kamath, associate professor of management, and Ratee Apana, associate professor-educator of management/international business.
 
“The course encourages students to think boldly and break with convention and rules,” Apana says.
 
First-round winners from all competing universities are fine-tuning business plans in the second-round of the competition, where four winning teams will be awarded a $5,000 scholarship and the opportunity to attend the University of Minnesota Acara Summer Institute in Bangalore, India.
 
The UC team, one of six in the country from colleges such as Duke University, Cornell University, Arizona State University, is paired with industry mentors to create business plans for their ideas.
 
“The compactor was designed to be simple and affordable,” Utley says.“The waste collection service, which accompanies the compactor, will generate 29 well-paying jobs for the community and additional household income.”
 
If the team makes it to the summer institute in India, members will meet with top entrepreneurs and capitalists to further develop their idea and help secure funding.
 
By Evan Wallis

Infintech, The Cure Starts Now team up for electronic payment program

Infintech, a Cincinnati-based electronic payment company, has teamed up with the nonprofit  The Cure Starts Now Foundation to launch a new service that can save companies money and contribute to cancer research.

Infintech, in Sharonville, announced its new SeCURE Payments program that it says could save companies more than 40 percent on their payment processing. In addition, Infintech will donate 25 percent of the net processing revenue from this new program to The Cure Starts Now.

“We believe in the cause, and we want to do what we can to benefit this nonprofit,” says Infintech President Ryan Rybolt.

The Cure Starts Now is located in Cincinnati and was founded in 2007 by Keith and Brooke Desserich, whose daughter Elena died of a rare brain cancer at age six. They created the foundation in her memory and to support pediatric brain cancer research.

“Every nine minutes a child is diagnosed with brain cancer,” says Keith Desserich. “Brain cancer is the deadliest of all childhood cancers, yet the most underfunded. We’re thrilled to partner with Infintech to create an easy way for businesses to fund groundbreaking research and innovative treatments for these children.”

Rybolt says SeCURE payments is part of Infintech's business mission to be part of the community and support area nonprofits. As a founder of Give Back Cincinnati, Rybolt says it was the innovative and service-oriented nature of that nonprofit that stoked his own entrepreneurial drive.

Any company that accepts credits cards can sign up for SeCURE payments. Infintech promises to at least match a participating company's current processing fees. Before signing up, Infintech will provide companies with a free, no-obligation cost analysis of their current processing fees.

Among companies that have already signed up for the service are the COIT Cincinnati/Dayton franchise, Abstract Displays and RestorAid.

Infintech continues to grow as well as give. The company, which has 25 employees, is planning to expand its space and hire 20 new employees, starting this month.

By Feoshia Henderson
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SpringBoard diary: an entrepreneurial journey

Editor’s note and full disclosure: This is the first in a series of posts from Megan McAuley, a participant in the current SpringBoard session at ArtWorks. Megan is also a former UC journalism student of Soapbox Managing Editor Elissa Yancey, who is one of those nagging, I mean, encouraging, voices in the customer line at Coffee Emporium.

I am a 24-year-old political science graduate from the University of Cincinnati. I live in Over-the-Rhine and work down the street at a coffee shop called Coffee Emporium. I, like many other 20-something’s with a liberal arts degree, am barely getting by as I ponder my next big move. In college, I wanted to leave the country and save the world, but somewhere between there and here, I fell in love with OTR and decided it needed some saving, too.

My job at Coffee Emporium was supposed to be temporary. An enjoyable one to two-year stint as I mapped out my future. A future that entailed things like law school, working for a non-profit in foreign country or moving to some progressive city like Seattle or Boulder. Nothing about my future involved opening up a rock climbing gym in Cincinnati or creating an outdoor educational program for inner-city youth.

My path to budding entrepreneurship has been oddly comparable to my first time driving around the Arc de Triomphe in Paris. It has been, at times, overwhelming, intimidating, and directionless, yet navigable, exciting and pleasantly challenging. A series of unforeseen events culminated in my participation in the SpringBoard business planning and development program. On the first night of class, when asked how why we had pursued the program, I responded, “Because ArtWorks put up so many flyers in my café.”

My idea was like a seed, tossed into the air, half-jokingly, where it landed in an environment unexpectedly conducive to its growth. Since day one, Coffee Emporium has been a wealth of information, encouragement, networking and motivation for me. In OTR, I have found a community of people who truly believe in the potential our neighborhood has to grow and flourish. I have made genuine friendships with my customers and co-workers who have continually poked and prodded me to pursue an idea I once considered laughable.

In Tony and Eileen, my bosses, I have found the inspiration to create a workplace where customers and employees flock because there are still people on this planet who value doing things the right way. And in SpringBoard, I have found a group of facilitators and co-entrepreneurs who are providing me with the tools to make my idea a reality.

I am immeasurably excited to see what happens over the course of the next 8 weeks as I glean every bit of information I can from the SpringBoard course to pursue my business idea. Please join me for the ride.

Cincinnati sports blogger ups his game with The Sportsfan Journal

Cincinnati sports enthusiast and blogger Eddie Maisonet has upped his game with The Sportsfan Journal, a website devoted to all sports news.

The publication launched about two months ago, and expands on Edthesportsfan.com, Maisonet’s edgy, fast-paced personal sports blog. He maintained (the now dimmed) blog with help of two writing partners. Those partners, Kenny Masenda, of Dallas, and Phil Barnett, of Bakersfield, Calif., have joined Maisonet in this new endeavor, which is updated more frequently and now has a cache of a half-dozen writers.

“We are a full online sports and culture publication. The site is updated multiple times a day; it’s more interactive and keeps pace with the changes in the sports news world,” says Maisonet, also a regular contributor to SLAM basketball magazine.

The Sportsfan Journal features a mix of news, columns and video revolving around sports as varied as football, basketball, hockey and wrestling. It also features Maisonet’s ongoing, one-hour Unsportsmanlike Conduct show on Blog Talk Radio Wednesdays at 9 p.m. EST.

Like Edthesportsfan.com, Maisonet’s describes The Sportsfan Journal as a place where sport is the star, not gossip about athletes' private lives or the latest off-the-field antics.

“It’s not salacious like you might see in a lot of other well-read sites. We don’t want to go that route. That might lose us some readers, but that’s not what we’re about,” says Maisonet, whose site had 25,000 unique page views last month.

While the site is expanding, it’s also increasingly hitting a little closer to home. Maisonet is planning to write more about Cincinnati’s sports culture and stars. He is also working toward bringing is Blog Talk Show to the Cincinnati airways, as well as pitching the site to potential advertisers.

“There are some good sports writers here, but I think there is room for more voices than are currently reflected in the city of Cincinnati,” he says.

By Feoshia Henderson
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Future Shock brings classical music with modern rock edge to CAC

If you’re wondering where you can find some of New York’s brightest contemporary classical musicians, look no further than Cincinnati’s Contemporary Arts Center. Jan. 21, the CAC presents Future Shock, an evening of electro-acoustic chamber music featuring artists William Brittelle, Clarice Jensen and Nadia Sirota.  
 
Composed by William Brittelle for ACME, the American Contemporary Music Ensemble, Future Shock promises to enchant the ears and provoke the intellect of concertgoers. The music combines elements from conventional classical music with contemporary drum programming and synthesizers to create a futuristic sound for a new millennium.
 
“Future Shock is really a survey of the type of music that is being created and performed in Brooklyn right now,” says Brittelle. “The show features music you can think about and feel. It’s amazing to open the world to this type of music in a very exciting way.”

Set to make its New York premiere in spring 2012, Cincinnatians can take advantage of a special opportunity to see Future Shock in the backdrop of the Contemporary Arts Center.
 
\William Brittelle is a composer of “electro-acoustic art music” whose work on the albums Television Landscape and Mohair Time Warp has been the subject of critical acclaim in The New York Times, the Los Angeles Times, NPR’s All Things Considered and more. Brittelle has performed all across the United States and is the co-director of New Amsterdam Records and New Amsterdam Presents, a recording label and presenting organization based in Brooklyn, NY.
 
Cellist Clarice Jensen holds both a bachelor’s and master’s degree from The Juilliard School and is currently the artistic director for ACME. She has performed with an impressive list of artists, including the New Juilliard Ensemble, the International Music Ensemble, the Avian Orchestra and Columbia Composers, in addition to pop and rock musicians such as The National, Grizzly Bear and Silversun Pickups. She has recorded with the likes of Arcade Fire, Ratatat and Hole among many others.
 
Violist Nadia Sirota also holds bachelor’s and master’s degrees from The Juilliard School. She is a founding member of ACME, yMusic, and Wordless Music Orchestra, and has commissioned and premiered works by composers Marcos Balter, Caleb Burhans and Nico Muhly. Her impressive and extensive credits include performances with Max Richter, Johann Johannsson and Stars of the Lid among others. In addition to her classical performances, Nadia’s work can be heard on albums by The National, Grizzly Bear and Arcade Fire’s The Suburbs.
 
Future Shock features no vocal performances. The audience can expect to hear modern works by Nico Muhly, Missy Mazzoli, and Judd Greenstein, as well as a world premiere by William Brittelle.
 
Tickets are $10 general admission, or $8 for CAC members. To purchase tickets, visit www.contemporaryartscenter.org.
 
By Deidra Wiley Necco

Deaconess Medical Monitoring helps seniors age in place

Deaconess Medical Monitoring is marketing a suite of products designed to allow senior citizens to be more independent as they age.

These products, developed in partnership with Guardian Medical Monitoring, come as Deaconess continues to evolve from a hospital to a senior services and product provider.

Products currently available include the Personal Emergency Response System (PERS), which alerts a personal emergency responder if a person falls or faces a home security breach. Subscribers wear a necklace or wristband that they can activate in an emergency.

There's also the Medication Management System, an electronic medication dispenser that helps people manage multiple prescriptions or complex medication schedules. Users can load a month's worth of medication at a time, then be alerted when it's time to take correct doses. After they take their medicines, users hit a blue button on the device to signal they've taken the medications. If they don't hit the button after a certain time, the device withdraws the medicine and notifies a person identified as a first responder.

The goal of the new products is as simple as it is necessary. "We are trying to help people age in place and stay independent in their own homes as long as possible," says Deaconess Medical Monitoring Coordinator Holly Williamson.

Other products like internet video monitoring and GPS-powered personal location devices help seniors and caretakers transition from a hospital to home. Lack of a successful transition often means repeat trips to hospitals, which translates into seniors more likely to lose their independence while racking up higher healthcare costs.

Deaconess Medical Monitoring products are being marketed to individuals, hospitals and senior living facilities, and there are more products being developed, Williamson says.

Deaconess Medical Monitoring is an affiliate of Deaconess Associations Foundation. Deaconess Associations, Inc., the parent company for all Deaconess affiliates, owns and operates Deaconess Long Term Care facilities in Ohio, Kansas and Missiouri.
 
Deaconess Hospital closed in 2010, and has evolved into a  health care campus with health-oriented products, services and resources. The hospital building is leased to University of Cincinnati Psychiatric Services; Regency Rehabilitation Hospital ( a long term rehabilitation hospital); and other other private offices and research facilities.


By Feoshia Henderson
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DIY competition inspires guerilla projects for public good

NOTE: Comment on Facebook in the space below to tell us what site-specific guerilla art project you'd like to see in the city! Soapboxes on Fountain Square? Train car seats surrounding Union Terminal? Get creative and you'll have a chance to be featured in an upcoming Soapbox story.

We’ve seen shipping containers used as temporary art installations and pigs decorated in city hotspots. We’ve enjoyed pianos in public and colorful yarn bombs en plein air as well.

Now you’re invited to propose your own do-it-yourself urban art project as part of a first-of-its-kind competition sponsored by the Architectural Foundation of Cincinnati and the University of Cincinnati Niehoff Urban Studio. The DIY Urbanism in Cincinnati Competition grew out of a fall forum focused on grassroots, collaborative and innovative “guerilla projects” that can change the way we view and use the urban spaces around us.

In his presentation last November, Niehoff Studio Director and UC professor Frank Russell quoted David Harvey, author of “Right to the City,” as an inspiration for discussion about how to create opportunities for artists, architects, planners and members of the local design community, including students, to reinvision the city. “The Freedom to make and remake our cities and ourselves is, I want to argue, one of the most precious yet most neglected of our human rights,” according to Harvey.
 
Submit your ideas for a temporary exhibition for the public good and you will be eligible for cash prizes and to have your work exhibited at the Architectural Foundation of Cincinnati. Entering costs just $10 and the top prize is $500. Find complete competition guidelines by visiting the Niehoff Studio online.  

By Elissa Yancey
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Crowdfunding, consignment help business at Smartfish

Alisha Budkie is on a mission to ensure that Cincinnati’s thriving artist community is well served by providing access to hard to source supplies and materials. Smartfish Studio & Sustainable Supply, located at 1301 Main Street in the heart of Over-the-Rhine is at once a supply store, workshop and display space easily accessible to the University of Cincinnati’s DAAP program, the Art Academy and the School for Creative and Performing Arts.

Budkie opened her store in August, and for the past four months has seen her business evolve and change according to the needs of the community. Word of mouth has played a big role. “I am fortunate to be a part of the independent design community, and I was also a student here,” says Budkie. A graduate of UC’s DAAP program in industrial design, Budkie knows both the community and what it’s like to search for the right materials. “I understand the needs of students and can help track down supplies and materials that can’t be found locally,” she says.

To better accommodate artists’ needs, Budkie has made use of some innovative and non-traditional business practices that put artists in touch with the things they need to create. At Smartfish, tools can be rented as dictated by a particular project, keeping costs low. In addition, students can bring in used supplies that are no longer needed for store credit, or consignment.

Budkie made use of crowdfunding to help finance her startup, which utilizes independent monetary contributions from community members and supporters. If you visit her shop, be sure to check out the wall dedicated to individuals who contributed to the Smartfish startup through crowdfunding. In addition, she has become a unique part of OTR, participating in community events such as Final Friday, where she uses her storefront window space to showcase student artwork.

Not only is Smartfish Studio a place for artists, it also serves as vibrant workshop for Budkie herself and her line of made-to-order handcrafted shoes, Smartfish Footwear. Made by hand on site, styles include ballet flats, boat shoes and loafers. Clients can choose their materials and colors, as well as purchase gift certificates for shoes to give as holiday gifts. Smartfish also features both pre-packaged and custom gift bundles featuring items that you just can’t find anywhere else.

Look for Smartfish Studio to incorporate a series of workshops in 2012 including one on the art of shoemaking in mid-January, as well as one on fiber reactive dyes. “I’m interested in learning what people want to see in a workshop,” says Budkie.

To learn more, visit Smartfish Studio & Sustainable Supply online at smarterthanagoldfish.com, or connect with them on Facebook. Inquiries may be directed to hello@smarterthanagoldfish.com or call 513.910.8845.

By Deidra Wiley Necco


connXus.com's seed funding boost to supplier diversity

A Cincinnati-based web service that helps corporations connect to small, minority-owned businesses has secured seed funding from a group of private angel investors.

ConnXus.com launched in December 2010 by Entrepreneur Rod Robinson, founder of Accel Advisors, a procurement and supplier diversity consultant firm and Chris Downey, founder of the popular weight loss site Sparkpeople.

ConnXus.com works as a matchmaker between corporations looking to up their supplier diversity and woman- and minority-owned service and product providers. Investors include including John E. Pepper, Jr., former CEO and chairman of the board for P&G, who is also on the connXus board of advisors. The company declined to disclose the amount of seed funding it secured.

 “This early round of funding allows us to continue to improve the site and extend our marketing,” Robinson says. “Every week, we see our membership grow as small, minority- and woman-owned businesses discover the millions of dollars in access to real business opportunities connXus membership provides.

Since its launch, corporate buyer members have posted more than $75 million in contracts. There are nearly 1,000 registered suppliers. Recent posted job opportunities include construction, advertising and media planning, social media and marketing services, IT services, business card printing and bus charter services. Companies and organizations that have posted jobs on the site include Macy's, Kent State, IGC Commerce in Philidelphia, Virginia Polytechnic Institute and State University, and Jones Lang LaSalle.

The site is designed to offer a wide variety of opportunities for small, medium and large service and product suppliers. With a basic membership, companies, which join the site as buyer members, and minority-owned and women-owned businesses can join for free. There are more than 100 service and product categories available from legal, accounting and other professional services to transportation and manufacturing.

To help assure supplier quality, customers can add performance ratings to a supplier's profile through the site's propriety rating system. The better the supplier's rating, the higher it will rank in a corporate buyer's search. ConnXus earlier this year was awarded a $40,000 CincyTech Imagining Grant to help it develop the technology.

By Feoshia Henderson

Innov8 for Health Challenge spurs innovation, jobs

It's a tall order to create jobs, improve health and retain talent through a healthcare innovation challenge, but the new Innov8 for Health Challenge aims to do just that.

Designed as an annual occurrence, Innov8 for Health will hold three community-wide events promoting healthcare innovation to solve a specific problem. The initiative involves developing a solution, building a business plan around it, and a shot at receiving startup funding to make the idea a reality. The challenge is already underway, and Innov8 is currently accepting ideas that address "transitions in care" this December.

"We already have incubators and accelerators here in Cincinnati, and there is a lot of healthcare innovation going on. But we want to build on what is already here, and specifically help spur the healthcare innovation infrastructure," says one of the event's organizers Sunnie Southern, founder of ViableSynergy.

Criag F. Osterhues, health care manager for GE Aviation, is also helping organize the event. Other planners include reps from C-Cap, and Queen City Angels, Biostart, Taft law firm and the Health Foundation of Greater Cincinnati.

Innov8 hopes to uncover tech-based solutions to problems that arise when a person moves from one care setting to the next -- from a hospital to nursing home, from the hospital to home, from high school to college. They can include difficulties with cooking, medications or even personal safety. Lack of a successful transition often means repeat trips to hospitals, which translates into higher healthcare costs.

"It's a very big issue for the country,” Southern says. “A study in 2004 in the New England Journal of Medicine showed it cost Medicare $17.4 billion."

The Innov8 for Health Challenge is accepting ideas to solve transition to care problems through Nov. 28 at its website. Open to students and entrepreneurs, the best ideas will be part of a public Innov8 Idea Expo and contest Dec. 2. Winners will be selected to participate in a Business Concept Expo next spring. Finally, the top concepts will be pitched to a panel and potential investors during the Launch Pad event in summer 2012.

By Feoshia Henderson

Teens discover social innovation at UCREW

Small groups of teens huddled together, talking about companies they admire. Apple, Google, Facebook top the lists. They spend the rest of the evening listing what makes good companies great, and what makes non-profits successful. The 60 youth come from high schools throughout the region. Together, they represent the latest class of UCREW: Cincinnati.

Formed as a school-year based student advisory board, UCREW is an outgrowth of the non-profit UGIVE.org, which gives students and young people opportunities to learn and grow through volunteering. Now in its fourth year, UCREW will create an awareness building event called AMPLIFY and, for the first time ever, launch a social business.

A the second group session of the six-month program, UCREW teens brainstormed about business ideas and causes they would love to support. From healthy living to employment training, their wide-ranging social concerns give a hint as to their awareness of the needs around them. Business ventures ranged from online services to a series of fitness classes for teens that could raise funds to support similar classes for inner-city youth.

"I'd never heard of social entrepreneurship before," says Grace Kennedy, 17, a senior at Lakota East High School. "(UCREW) really made me interested in business, which I have never been before."

In addition to planning a social business, UCREW teens take part in volunteer efforts as a group. They participate in planning and mentoring sessions, all geared to prepare them to become long-term philanthropists as well as well-rounded citizens. An added benefit? Since teens come from a wide range of high schools, UCREW offers like-minded peers opportunities to build not only a business, but also cross-town friendships.

By Elissa Yancey
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Photo of Grace Kennedy, Joe Hansbauer and Mimi Shiba by Elissa Yancey

Clifton's Cliqq and Sip connects communities

After 10 years of working in corporate America, Toyia Montgomery decided to follow her dream of being an entrepreneur and open up her own coffee shop.

Montgomery’s café, located at 261 W. McMillan in Clifton, Cliqq and Sip, was not only created to serve coffee and pastries. It also serves as a place where the community can come together.

With free Wi-Fi, laptop rentals and meeting space, C&S was designed so that people of all backgrounds to have a place to meet, create and learn.

“The idea was to put people’s talents and strengths on a pedestal,” Montgomery says. “So many of us get caught up in doing something we don’t like or want to do just to pay the bills.”

Montgomery sees her shop as a place where people who don’t have Internet access can go to access the world as well as a community-oriented resource. For example, she hosted meet-and-greets with new Cincinnati police chief, James Craig, judges and City Council members.

C&S also hosts a group, called Connext, which meets each week to discuss how to start and run non-profits. Group members hold each other accountable for the goals they set and push each other to pursue their ideas.

Montgomery’s civic-mindedness caught the attention of the YWCA. As a woman-owned coffee shop, Cliqq and Sip seemed an ideal location for a reception for a YWCA’s event October 27,which highlights the U.S. Department of Labor’s new organization, Women in Apprenticeships and NonTraditional Occupations (WANTO). WANTO aims to recruit, train and retain women in nontraditional careers, such as electricians, plumbers and carpenters. The goal is to get 100 women in Cincinnati entered into registered apprenticeship programs.

By Evan Wallis


EcoContainer adds sustainability to Factory Square

This weekend in Northside, there will be giant sculptures by internationally acclaimed artists, cool exhibits inside shipping containers and giant toys. But the inaugural Factory Square Fine Arts Festival also plans a sustainability showcase in the Eco Container, a space designed and sponsored by the Greater Cincinnati Energy Alliance, The Sustainability Partnership of Cincinnati and the Green Umbrella.

“ParProjects wanted to make their site and their festival as environmentally conscious as possible,” says Sustainability Partnership member and realtor Libby Hunter. “They want to be good stewards of the site they are leasing.”

The EcoContainer, which like other containers is eight-foot by eight-foot by 20-foot, will feature a demo of a green roof and rain barrels, supplied by Green-Streets LLC. Inside, festival-goers will find materials about a wide range of sustainability initiatives, from geothermal to solar power to LEED-certified real estate.

Outside the container, People Working Cooperatively will install its EcoHouse, an eight by 10 foot portable house that features a solar panel and other environmentally friendly elements. In addition, EcoEnvironments will have a truck with a working geothermal unit on-site during the festival.

Hunter says ParProjects’ objectives for the festival, and their plans for a community arts center, excited members of the sustainability partnership, a consortium of businesses that focus on initiatives from law to building materials and stormwater management to real estate. “Everybody wanted to be a part of it,” she says. “We’re looking to more permanent and substantial installations for their big opening in the spring of 2012.”

By Elissa Yancey    


CincyTechUSA sponsors grant-writing training

Entrepreneurs, mark your calendars. A two-day intensive workshop, sponsored by CincyTechUSA, is scheduled for Oct. 26-27 at the Ft. Mitchell Country Club. It will cover all aspects of preparing a competitive SBIR/STTR proposal from strategic planning to proposal writing, submission and post-submission follow-up.

When it comes to strategic planning, doing your homework in advance makes a major difference. The workshop guides you to learn how to research SBIR/STTR program details and Technological Innovation and Commercial Merit, develop strategies to help your proposal meet agency requirements and do intelligence work before you write your proposal.

In addition, you’ll learn how to craft a fundable proposal, including gathering the right tools, understanding the review process and following step-by-step instructions. You’ll even get a glimpse into common errors and pitfalls so that you can avoid them.

The workshop also features chances to learn about how to submit government grants, from the NIH to the DoE and DoEd.

For more information or to register: Call or email Dorothy H. Air, PhD, 558-7339, or dorothy.air@uc.edu.

By Elissa Yancey

Red Cross takes gold and opens Green Umbrella

At the latest gathering of 140 local sustainability advocates, members of the newly forming group known as the Green Umbrella shared best practices, brainstormed ideas for the future and experienced fellowship in the first Gold LEED certified Red Cross headquarters in the country.

Located in Keystone Park in Evanston, and clearly visible from I-71, the Red Cross headquarters has a rooftop garden that, along with a bioswale, helps the nonprofit reuse 90 percent of the water that falls on the property. “They also add beauty to our building,” says Sara Peller, CEO of the Cincinnati Area Chapter of the American Red Cross.

The building, which came in $1 million under budget, was a joint project between the Red Cross, Neyer Properties and emersion DESIGN. “It’s functioning extremely well for us,” says Peller, who notes that 120 volunteers helped with the building design process.

In addition to energy-efficiency elements and minimizing construction waste, the building allowed for the Red Cross to incorporate a Disaster Operations Center, a long-time community need that could not be met at the old headquarters downtown. Now the Cincinnati area Red Cross, which services 36 counties, can serve as the information hub in case of emergency or disaster. “Many ills have been cured by this building,” Peller says.

As for the Green Umbrella, the ongoing initiative to create a comprehensive network of sustainability initiatives around Greater Cincinnati and Northern Kentucky continues to gain steam and support. Working groups focus on areas as diverse as urban agriculture and corporate sustainability. The ultimate goal, to create a single resource from which all sustainability-minded residents can learn, moves ever closer to reality with website development and continued cooperation between local businesses, nonprofits and educational institutions.

By Elissa Yancey

Tech job incubator nurtures talent, growth

Silicon Valley. Boston. Austin. When it comes to technology jobs, those familiar locations top the list.

Unless you consider a report issued in February by Dice.com, a career site with more than 8,000 customers who advertise or post their tech jobs nationwide. Based on the number of job postings that month, three Ohio cities -- Cincinnati, Cleveland and Columbus -- ranked second, third and fourth, respectively, in the percentage increase in job opportunities over the previous year.

Silicon Valley ranked 10th.

While those Ohio cities dropped out of the Dice.com top 10 this summer, similar reports by those like Monster.com and BusinessWeek indicate that one or all are consistently in the mix for new IT job opportunities. And with average salaries ranging from $66,000 in Cleveland to $74,000 in Columbus -- at least among employers posting on Dice.com -- those opportunities are significant, say those who follow Ohio's economy.

Alice Hill, Dice.com's managing director, says part of the surge is related to a recovery that has not yet come to many other economic sectors.

"A lot of jobs were on hold due to the recession," she says. "Hiring managers are now more confident. We saw that start in California, spread to New York and then we started to see the recovery happening in technology segments in smaller cities."

The Northeast Ohio Software Association (NEOSA) notes in its 2010 IT report that both 2008 and 2009 were difficult for tech firms in the region because of the economy. That turned around last year, when nearly 60 percent of firms surveyed said they planned to increase staff. And NEOSA's report for the second quarter of 2011 found that 66 percent of IT firms surveyed plan to hire in the next 12 months.

"The fact that we're seeing growth in IT jobs is really not surprising at all because there's this pent-up demand for the new equipment, new software," says Bill LaFayette, a former economic analyst for the Columbus Chamber who recently launched his own economic consultancy, Regionomics, LLC. "But in terms of why Ohio, the important thing to understand is that IT jobs are not simply in IT companies, they are pervasive. "

By Gene Monteith

Cincinnati Innovates winners tackle chores, more

Twelve new local innovators  will collectively save stroke victims from brain damage and death, save travelers from missed flights, keep firefighters safe in the line of duty, help parents get kids to chores and help fantasy sports fans draft better teams thanks to support from the Cincinnati Innovates Awards Celebration.

More than 250 people turned out to see the third annual Cincinnati Innovates Awards Celebration at Northern Kentucky University, where winners received $115,000 in grant awards.

In the past three years more than 1,000 entrepreneurs have participated in the Cincinnati Innovates competition. Since the competition's inception, 100,000 votes have been cast and the world is paying attention. Online, Cincinnati Innovates has received almost 1 million page views from more than 50 countries. A total of $250,000 in grants have been awarded to local entrepreneurs in the past three years through the generous support of 23 sponsors.

Past winners have gone on to raise over $3.5 million in follow-on capital, have been featured in national media and are changing the world with their ideas.

The 2011 Winners include:

CincyTech Commercialization Awards:
$25,000 ChoreMonster
$25,000 Acceptd
$10,000 DraftOpt

Taft Legal/Patent Awards:  
$10,000 Ischiban
$5,000 Plan B Flights

LPK Design & Branding Award:
$10,000 SmartyTags

Round Pixel Web Development Award:
$10,000 Simple Golf Outings

Northern Kentucky Vision 2015 Award:
$5,000 Ischiban

7/79 Video Award:
$5,000 FoxFire

Northern Kentucky ezone Award:
$2,500 All Decked Out

Cooney, Faulkner & Stevens Get Started Award:  
$2,500 SavingsMatic

HYPE Community Choice Award:
$2,000 WantBug

GCVA Partner Participation Award:  
$1,000 UC DAAP Industrial Design Program

Cincinnati Innovates is made possible through the generous support of The Carol Ann and Ralph V. Haile, Jr./U.S. Bank Foundation, The Health Foundation, Cincinnati Children's Hospital, Fort Washington Capital Partners, CincyTech, Taft, Soapbox Media, LPK, 7/79 Video Production, Northern Kentucky Tri-Ed, Round Pixel Studio, Bare Knuckle Marketing, Vision 2015, the Greater Cincinnati Venture Association, HYPE, the Northern Kentucky eZone, Cooney, Faulkner & Stevens, and the Cincinnati Inventor's Council.

By Elizabeth Edwards

ToolBank adds power to community efforts

Community building takes time, energy, and, sometimes, power tools.

“Having the right tools is the biggest barrier for non-profits and schools to do community-building work,” says Joe Hansbauer, a veteran of Give Back Cincinnati and now UGive executive director.

He has participated and led many clean-up/fix-up efforts and knew of stores of tools warehoused by Give Back Cincinnati, the Cincinnati Parks and other local groups.

“At Give Back Cincinnati, we wash every paint brush,” says Hansbauer, a fan of conserving funds and resources at the same time. “Tools have great longevity.”

He wondered how the equipment, out of commission for most days of the year, could be available to schools, non-profits, neighborhood business associations and even neighbors who wanted to host a street-clean up.

A chance mention at the end of a business meeting led him to contact ToolBank, an Atlanta-based non-profit designed to meet the same community needs. ToolBank inventories tools and allows volunteers minimal-cost access to a wide range of them, from cordless drills and ladders to rakes, shovels and circular saws.

Hansbauer’s timing was perfect. As he gathered local business and financial support, ToolBank started adding affiliate programs – one in Charlotte, one in Baltimore, and, starting next year, one in Cincinnati.  ToolBank offers the infrastructure to manage tool storage and distribution, as well as non-profit status.

Preliminary financial support from UPS, the Carol Ann and Ralph V. Haile, Jr./U.S. Bank Foundation, Ethicon and Toyota already amounts to more than $100,000. Once the local ToolBank board of directors, including Hansbauer, raises $125,000,  they can begin a search for an executive director.

By Elissa Yancey

Bad Girl Ventures graduates third class

Cincinnati-based micro-lending organization Bad Girl Ventures graduates its third class of entrepreneurs this week. On Aug. 31 at the Cincinnati Art Museum, it will send 10 women into the field with lots of start-up know-how, including business plans, marketing and financing.

The classes include one-on-one consultations with accountants, lawyers and business experts and teach student business owners how to craft marking plans and financial projections among other business strategies.

To date, 18 women-owned businesses have made use of the organization’s lending efforts, resulting in approximately 45 jobs created in Greater Cincinnati and a 100 percent repayment rate on loans, says BGV founder Candace Klein.

“We’re very proud of what we and the women have accomplished,” she says.

The graduates of Bad Girl Ventures third cycle of Cincinnati classes’ run the gamut from the food industry and farming to retail and construction.

“This class has a good range of businesses that have yet to launch to businesses working for several years,” says Corey Drushal, strategic initiatives coordinator for Bad Girl Ventures.

Business skills were not the only thing the classes taught, however, says Brinda Chatterjee, class member and founder of the retail cosmetics website MakeupHaulic.com.

“For me it was two-fold, both the actual business skills imparted in the classes as well as the connections to real-world business people who are willing to give their time to help you,” Chatterjee says. “Literally, three months ago I had no idea any of these resources were available.”

Chatterjee praises Klein for her work in starting Bad Girl Ventures and its contribution to local entrepreneurs.

“Candace has done an amazing job of pulling all these things together to create a launching pad for business and innovation in Cincinnati … and now beyond,” Chatterjee says.

Lu Anne Van Kleunen, founder and owner of Premium Sealcoat, an asphalt sealing and maintenance business, says she was drawn to the classes offered by Bad Girl Ventures through a television appearance by Klein.

Van Kleunen and her husband decided to start their business in 2009 after both lost their jobs of 30-plus years.

“Candace described what her vision was for BGV – helping women business owners with the challenging issues that prevent them or impeded them from being successful,” Van Kleunen says. “Specifically, Candace talked about women who used personal funds or credit cards to fund their business. That is me.”

What Van Kleunen has learned through the classes will only strengthen her business, she says, and she plans on using the micro-loans to purchase a truck, tank and other required equipment to support Premium Sealcoat's growth.

“Candace and BGV helped make my business acumen stronger, resulting in more opportunities for me and Premium Sealcoat,” Van Kleunen says.

The classes helped illustrate to Toni Winston, founder and president of Tiburon Energy/Tiburon Construction – a construction company focusing on energy-efficiency, water usage and sustainability efforts – how important financial practices and marketing was to her company’s efforts.

“Since the BGV classroom instruction, I review my projections and financial templates weekly,” Winston says. “I didn’t realize how important a web presence and participation was to growing a business. I now spend time on social media and am working on refining my message and my branding.”

Winston also feels that the focus shouldn’t only be on the 10 finalists graduating from Bad Girl Ventures, but on everyone who took part.

“I think there should be some recognition for the other 40-plus women-owned businesses that showed up weekly to take advantage of the classes and the mentoring,” she says. “We are all Bad Girls!”

By James Sprague

GiveCamp aids nonprofits' tech needs

Organizers of the second annual Southwest Ohio GiveCamp plan a slight expansion over last year's event where more than 100 volunteers met for a weekend to tackle area non-profit tech needs.

"We hope to have more people involved this year," says co-organizer Ryan Cromwell, a Dayton area software developer. "We also extended our nonprofit registration until the end of the month, and we are hoping to get 11 or 12 nonprofits involved. We had 10 last year."

The Southwest Ohio Give camp is part of GiveCamp.org, a national volunteer initiative of technology professionals founded in 2007. Since its beginnings, GiveCamp has donated more than $1 million in services to more than 150 charities and other nonprofits nationwide.

Volunteers last year created websites from scratch, rebranded organizations, set up email networks and created an online auction site.

"We did just about anything you can think of," Cromwell says.

Last year's nonprofits and volunteers came from Northern Kentucky, Greater Cincinnati, Dayton and Oxford. Participating nonprofits included Civic Garden Center, Diabetes Dayton, Hamilton Living Water Ministry and Seton Family Center.

Southwest Ohio GiveCamp is in the process of selecting this year's nonprofits, which have until Aug. 30 to submit proposals for consideration. The GiveCamp is looking for projects that can be completed within a weekend. Nonprofits and volunteers can register here.

This year's GiveCamp will be Oct. 21-23 at the Miami University Voice of America Learning Center in West Chester.

By Feoshia Henderson

You can follow Feoshia on Twitter @feoshiawrites

Local social media entrepreneur picked for national marketing boot camp

Jeremy K. Smith, founder of social media marketing company Authentic New Media, is getting hands-on national marketing experience as part of The Marcus Graham Project's 3rd annual iCR8 Summer Boot Camp.

Smith is one of 11 young professionals picked from across the country to participate in the program, aimed at encouraging minorities to consider marketing, PR and advertising careers. The Dallas-based network of marketing professionals identifies, mentors and trains people from ages 16 to 34, exposing them to a wide range of marketing opportunities.

Smith has been in Dallas since the end of May for the 10-week intensive boot camp, working on with its signature program: a real-world marketing communications firm. The firm, Bippitus, is working on campaigns for well-known national brands, including AT&T, lifestyle website  Neo Soul Cafe and Grammy-winning singer John Legend's The Show Me Campaign, an anti-poverty initiative.

Smith is the agency's brand manager and digital strategist, promoting Bippitus and clients in the digital sphere.

"This is real experience with agencies and clients you've always dreams of working with," Smith says. "There is no way I would have been able to work with John Legend to further his nonprofit otherwise. I'm getting exposure to big brands that I can take back to my own company."

The iCr8 Summer Boot Camp is sponsored by 4A's, Deutsch Inc., The Omnicom Group Inc., Butler, Shine, Stern & Partners, RAPP, TPN, Wieden+Kennedy and Y&R.

To share the experience, the boot campers are documenting the 10-week experience, and sharing it via a live Ustream show called The Drum and YouTube web series called The Us. The Drum is broadcast live at 2 p.m. every Friday. It's interactive, and viewers can call and live tweet questions during the show.

By Feoshia Henderson

You can follow Feoshia on Twitter @feoshiawrites



Healthy Kids Fast! mixes tech, marketing and health

Beth Robeson's new venture, Heathy Kids Fast!, has been a long time coming. As a principal with Robeson Marketing and Design, she has spent much of the past decade focusing on communication, marketing and PR campaigns.

But in her spare time, she's been nurturing another mission: helping families become healthier.

"It goes back to my passion," she says of Healthy Kids Fast! "If I didn't have the business, I would do this anyway."

Robeson has been conducting seminars on nutrition and healthy cooking with parents and children for a number of years. Along with learning how best to cook with toddlers ("which can be insanity," she says), Robeson began collecting tips, suggestions and practices that could help parents address common problems: picky eaters, children who won't touch vegetables or the chaos and expense that can surround a family outing to a restaurant.

She's combined these lessons into Healthy Kids Fast!, a 30-day interactive program of short, daily lessons designed to help both parents and children make better choices when it comes to healthy eating. She's developing the program to have strong interactive components, both in the form of workbook/cookbooks for families to complete together and in the use of podcasts and an online magazine to build a community of health-conscious parents.

"I want this to be interactive, with parents and kids learning to talk with each other," she says.

The project has garnered attention: Robeson was picked as one of the finalists in micro-lending organization Bad Girl Ventures' third class of women-owned startups. After completing a series of business-skills classes, Robeson will compete with her fellow finalists for a $25,000 startup loan.

Robeson says she's excited about the potential for Healthy Kids Fast! Not only does it leverage her many years of work on the subject, but she says it appears to be in line with parents' growing awareness of the implications of healthy lifestyles on their families.

"I think there's a wealth of information out there," Robeson says, adding that she's also excited to use a career's worth of marketing skills to make the program a reality.

"I've been marketing for other people for 11 years," she says. "It's been great, but to be able to do exactly what I think is the right thing to do, it's going to be exciting to see how that plays out."

By Matt Cunningham

Follow Matt on Twitter @cunningcontent



New startups reflect The Brandery's growth, reputation

Cincinnati startup accelerator The Brandery, named a Top 10 startup accelerator in the nation and a member of the TechStars Network, reported a 40 percent increase in applications for its second class of hopeful startups, versus its inaugural class in 2010. This year's applications came from 22 states and seven countries, including India, Germany, China, Italy, Croatia, Canada and Spain.

The 2011 program begins Aug. 1. Over the course of 12 weeks, it will cover a range of startup-related topics such as Why Design Matters for Startups, Social Media Boot Camp and 10 Legal Mistakes that Startups Make. And the nine startups selected to participate in this year's class -- Bitcasa, ChoreMonster, Keepio, Meruni, Receept, RentShare, Roadtrippers and Wellthy -- benefit from not only the programming, but the location of the Cincinnati-based program.

"Cincinnati is not only home to 10 Fortune 500 headquarters, but it's a hotbed for marketing, branding, design and advertising service companies," says The Brandery co-founder J.B. Kropp. "I can't think of a better place for creative, ambitious, young professionals to launch their ideas."

CincyTech is The Brandery's investment partner, providing $20,000 grants for each of the companies going through the program. CincyTech President Bob Coy says The Brandery is helping CincyTech meet its goal of growing jobs in the region.

"The Brandery has demonstrated its ability to attract talented entrepreneurs from around the country and the world to Cincinnati to capitalize on the region's consumer marketing strengths," says Coy. "Our hope is that they will become embedded in the community and enrich the region's entrepreneurial talent base. And of course that means they will help to invigorate our economy by creating jobs and wealth and bringing new perspectives from other regions of the U.S. and the world."

By Sarah Blazak for CincyTech

Growing Edthesportsfan.com caters to the thinking sports fan

Are you one of those sports fans who'd rather see your favorite player on reality TV than on the field? Do you devour the latest tawdry gossip on your favorite baller's private life?

Then Edthesportsfan.com is not for you.

"Some of the popular sports blogs rely on salacious news, rumors and conjecture, and those things just aren't important to me," said the blogzine's founder Eddie Maisonet, of Walnut Hills. "I don't care who's dating who, or who's doing something on reality television. I care about the sport. I love sports; it's the ultimate reality TV. It's got comedy, horror, sci-fi, history. It's got it all."

Maisonet's passion for all things sport is evident in his writing and on Twitter, where you can catch him Tweeting about a live college football, NFL or NBA game, draft picks, the latest sports news or links to his latest thought-provoking post. The articles are written in a brief, readable essay 2.0 style, often accompanied by videos or photos.

The 'zine has a Cincinnati flair, with articles about University of Cincinnati, Xavier, the Bengals and the Reds, but the site is national in scope with a little good humor thrown in. Some of the most popular headlines are "Five tips to help women survive football season," "Forgotten powerhouses of college football series," "The Prototype: The baddest women covering sports," and "The real ten best NFL running backs of all-time."

"Sometimes it's philosophical, or we talk about the lifestyle, or the culture of being a fan. We don't try to be experts. We're just fans; that's the only perspective we know," Maisonet said.

Along with Maisonet, there are two other contributors Kenny Masenda, of Dallas, and Phil Barnett, of Bakersfield, Calif. Together they reach 1,500 readers a day. Going multimedia, the trio also hosts the Unsportsmanlike Conduct show on Blog Talk Radio Wednesdays at 9 p.m. EST.

Maisonet started the site three years ago when he was in between jobs. He's now working in consumer market research for The Nielson Company, but Ed The Sports Fan is thriving. It was named the 2008 and 2099 Best Sports Blog by the Black Weblog Awards Association and the Best Black Blog by Best of Black Cincinnati.

Maisonet has contributed to several sports websites and magazines including one of his favorites SLAM Magazine, which he's read since he was a kid.

Soon the Ed The Sports Fan team will further contribute to the sports wring world with the launch of a sports fan journal, which is set for a June debut. It will feature sports writers from across the country, guest commentary and more. While Edthesports.com has one update a day, the sports journal will have up to a dozen daily articles that will tackle not just sports, but music, culture and fashion.

Writer: Feoshia Henderson
Source: Eddie Maisonet, founder Edthesportsfan.com

You can follow Feoshia on Twitter @feoshiawrites

CincyChic goes digital with new online show in OTR

Four years into breaking new ground with a local, online women's lifestyle publication, Cincy Chic founder Amy Scalia is taking the publication multi-media with the Cincy Chic show.

The weekly program will be broadcast online each Monday as part of the content offered in the weekly Cincy Chic publication. Along with different guests, it will feature Scalia, producer Ilene Ross, and bar owner and bartender Molly Wellmann, who serves up a signature cocktail each show.

"We've been a publication for the past four years, and when you have a multi-media component, it really helps the stories come alive," said Scalia.

The chat show will feature local business and products, fashion tips, and food and drink ideas. Recipes for drinks that Wellmann mixes during the show are posted online in the show's credits.

The program is shot in Over-the-Rhine in a loft in the Gateway Quarter.

"I love the feel of these urban lofts. When we looking for space, it gave us the feel that we were looking for. They have a lot of natural light, and just offer a great space," Scalia said.

The program marshals local resources to bring it all together with the help of businesses that provide food, flowers, makeup and wardrobe. Production company Barking Fish Entertainment shoots the 20-30 minute show, which is currently seeking out sponsors, Scalia said.

The show is another way for readers to get to know the people who make up Cincy Chic, and to promote local events and business owners, Scalia said.

"This is a way to get to know us as people. Some people think Cincy Chic might be a franchise, and just one of many publications. But we want them to know this is by local women, for local women. And we want them to be a part of the show," she said.

You can watch the show by subscribing to the free Cincy Chic newsletter, or online.

Writer: Feoshia Henderson
Source: Amy Scalia, founder Cincy Chic

You can follow Feoshia on Twitter @feoshiawrites

Cincinnati Boomerang Effect organizer wants more African-American voices in marketing

On March 12 a nearly 40-person strong Hip Hoppin' flash mob emerged at Newport-on- the-Levee. The unexpected and quickly choreographed three-minute dance routine garnered attention, cheers and applause, but it was just a small part of a nationwide social media experiment.

The dance gave a glimpse intp Cincinnati's part of The Boomerang Effect II. It's a partnership of volunteer initiative SERVE 60™ and The Marcus Graham Project, which develops diverse talent in the advertising, media and marketing industry. The two national organizations came together for The Boomerang Effect II, a 60-hour mashup of networking, social media and community service.

The Boomerang Effect takes its name from the early '90s movie Boomerang, where Eddie Murphy played an advertising executive. In that vein, among the aims of the weekend was to open the world of advertising and marketing to African-American and other minority professionals and students.

This was the first year Cincinnati joined The Boomerang Effect; it was organized by local social media marketing entrepreneur Jeremy K. Smith. He quickly pulled the weekend together with help from a number of local resources. Eleven other cities participated, including Detroit, New York, L.A., Miami and Milwaukee.

Smith was formerly and sales and recruiting and has used social media for several years as part of his work. He recently started his own social media marketing company Authentic New Media. He believed the event was a good way to showcase a diverse crowd interested in social media and marketing. He estimates over 200 people participated over the weekend.

"I think it was fantastic. Coming into it, some people didn't think there would be support for something like it. That mainstream professionals wouldn't show up. But I was very pleased at how it played out. Everyone who decided to participate had fun," Smith said.

It kicked off Friday night with a networking event at The Bowtie Café, opened by Bengals' player Dhani Jones. The mixer also featured P&G Global Brand Manager Hamilton Brown and LebronJames.com Digital Media Manager Jay Bobo. Saturday was the flash mob event, with music provided by DJ Band Camp. Sunday the video was part of a Tweetathon, where the video with the most Tweets, views and likes was awarded $1,500 to support a nonprofit. Cincinnati didn't win, but the video has received more than 600 views.

Writer: Feoshia Henderson
Source: Jeremy K Smith, president and CEO Authentic New Media

You can follow Feoshia on Twitter @feoshiawrites



E'lon Cosmetics targets global, emerging women of color market

Yolanda Webb's idea for a line of makeup products designed for women of color came after years of frustration over finding the right shades for herself as a young model.

"Twenty five years ago, I started in the modeling industry. Back then there wasn't makeup for black women," said Webb, a Detroit native who moved to Cincinnati and raised a family.

Not much had changed over the years, she found, when her daughter was looking for just the right shades for herself.

"When my daughter was in the 12th grade, she had this same problem," she said. "We're talking about 10 years ago."

Webb decided to take matters into her own hands, she developed and began selling her own line of high quality makeup E'lon Couture Cosmetics. The line, founded in 2002 and sold exclusively on the web, includes powder, cream and liquid foundation, bronzer, blush, eye shadow, lipstick, liners and more. The line also includes a skincare line for all skin types.

The line is sold internationally to women of color in dozens of countries, a growing group of women who increasingly want to spend money on beauty products, Webb said.

A look at the web site gives a peak into the international reach of E'lon Cosmetics. The site can be translated into just over a dozen languages including Afrikaans, Arabic, Chinese, Italian, Spanish, French and Swahili.

"You have a larger contingent of black women than ever who have disposable income and want to do something with it including purchasing makeup products," Webb said.

E'lon Cosmetics tagline, "Celebrating The Beauty And Inner Strength Of Today's Black Woman," carries over into the company's E'Lon Couture. The magazine covers global beauty and fashion, of course, but digs into deeper cultural issues. Recent headlines include "The State of Being Black in America" and "Little Girls Lost" on the costs of fame at any price.

The magazine, which began as a blog in 2009, has an international view like the cosmetics line. It caters to women who have traditionally been left out of business, fashion and culture, and want to be heard, Webb said.

"We felt like it was time do this magazine, you have to know about other cultures and people. If you want to do business here in Cincinnati, you have to know who these people are who live outside the US," Webb said.

Writer: Feoshia Henderson
Source: Yolanda Webb, founder E'lon Couture Cosmetics, E'lon Couture Publishing

You can follow Feoshia on Twitter @feoshiawrites

Greater Cincinnati World Affairs Council website offers one-stop shop for international orgs

Like any successful metro area, Greater Cincinnati has a strong and growing international community making a mark on local culture, business and education.

Now the Greater Cincinnati World Affairs Council has launched a website to link those organizations, and their work. The site, "Global Cincinnati: Gateway to the World" aims to offer a one-stop shop for the region's international and interethnic organizations, as well as to give them wider exposure throughout the community.

"Globalcincinnati.org is a way for any citizen in Cincinnati to get in touch with global resources and engage in global forums to improve their business, coursework, or career," said GCWAC Executive Director Erika Dockery. "Greater Cincinnati World Affairs Council is the center of excellence for international education and citizen diplomacy in the Tri-state."

The site includes links to foreign chambers of commerce, businesses and trade associations as well as non-profit and educational organizations.

There's also a section listing local experts with knowledge of specific fields, like history or language, along with their contact information. They can be reached for media interviews or speaking engagements.

Perhaps the most dynamic portion of the site is the events calendar which will be constantly updated with a wide variety of international educational, cultural and business events across Greater Cincinnati and Northern Kentucky.

The Greater Cincinnati World Affairs Council is a longstanding, non-partisan organization founded in 1923 to build "global understanding and promotes international awareness through education, information and exchange of people and ideas."

The site is just part of the council's web outreach. You can also follow the organization on Facebook, Twitter and LinkedIn.

Writer: Feoshia Henderson
Source: Greater Cincinnati World Affairs Council

You can follow Feoshia on Twitter @feoshiawrites

Local couple brings taste of urban shopping to Cincinnati with The City Flea

Nick and Lindsay Dewald are Cincinnati natives who've lived in the urban centers of Chicago, L.A., and New York City. They loved living in bigger cities, but always had a place in their hearts for the Queen City.

Last summer they returned to Cincinnati when Lindsay left a teaching job in New York. After being away for several years, they found a more vibrant downtown than the one they'd left behind.

"We were pleasantly surprised to see what was going on. There were a lot of new small businesses and restaurants," said, Nick, a  DAAP architecture grad who lives with his wife in Prospect Hill.

Their surprise has turned into action, and the couple is working to create a place where talented entrepreneurs can come together once a month to sell and create in a fun, outdoor environment. They're calling the endeavor The City Flea, inspired by a giant weekly market in New York called the Brooklyn Flea that started in 2008.

"Coming from the Midwest experience, flea markets were far different from what Brooklyn flea is about," Nick said.

The Brooklyn Flea has more than a hundred vendors who sell vintage and handmade jewelry, vintage T's, ethnic fabrics and cuisine, bicycles, fine chocolates, ceramics, specialty coffee drinks and more. There are also local musical acts on hand to set the mood for the day.

Cincinnati is ready for its own version, Nick believes.

"There is a whole community that is slowly building downtown and in Over-the-Rhine. We are trying to create a hub for those residents, entrepreneurs and one and two-person organizations who are making jewelry or making waffles," he said.

They also see it as a way to draw in people who don't spend a lot of time in the city on the weekends.

Nick and Lindsay are working to secure an outdoor spot for The City Flea, but are hoping it will be somewhere along Central Parkway, near downtown and Over-The-Rhine. There are four markets scheduled, June 4, July 9, Aug. 6 and Sept. 3. They have contacted some possible vendors and are seeking out sponsors. They envision the market hosting food trucks and vendors, vintage goods, clothing, antiques, and arts and crafts.

If The City Flea goes well, the couple will soon hunt for an indoor spot for a winter market.

If you're interested in being a sponsor or a vendor you can contact Nick or Lindsay through The City Flea website. You can also connect with them on Facebook.

Writer: Feoshia Henderson
Sources: Nick and Lindsay Dewald, founders The City Flea

You can follow Feoshia on twitter @feoshiawrites

ConnXus.com aims to boost supplier diversity through the web

Increasing supplier diversity is something businesses often want to do, but sometimes find difficult to achieve.

Entrepreneur Rod Robinson found that out during his time as chief procurement officer for Cincinnati Bell. He also worked to solve that same problem working with large corporations, when he founded Accel Advisors, a procurement and supplier diversity consultant firm, in 2005.

Today, Robinson, along with diet fitness website founder Chris Downie, has now turned to the web to more efficiently link professional minority and women-owned suppliers to the companies looking for their services and products.

Robinson and Downie, founder of the popular Sparkpeople, have recently launched connXus.com, which aims to link corporate buyers and diverse suppliers quickly and affordably.

"The reason connXus exists is because there really isn't anything out there like this. Rod spent years cultivating strategic resources and procurement programs for Fortune 500 companies, and many records out there are incomplete and fragmented. It's really hard to find good resources," said Sandi Straetker, a spokeswoman for the company.

ConnXus is working to bridge that gap. The site, which launched in December, has posted more than $10 million in bid opportunities. The company estimates they'll post 100 to 150 supplier opportunities, worth $40 to $60 million, by year's end.

The site is designed to offer a wide variety of opportunities for small, medium and large service and product suppliers, Straetker said. Companies join the site as buyer members, and pay a $19.95 a month membership fee. ConnXus is currently offering a 60 day fee-free trial offer for new members.

Minority-owned and women-owned businesses can create a free profile. There are more than 100 service and product categories available from legal, accounting and other professional services to transportation and manufacturing.

To help assure supplier quality, customers can add performance ratings to a supplier's profile through the site's propriety rating system. The better the supplier's rating, the higher it will rank in a corporate buyer's search. ConnXus recently was awarded a $40,000 CincyTech Imagining Grant to help it develop the technology.

"With connXus.com, companies can easily integrate supplier diversity into their normal sourcing process, reduce costs and increase quality," Robinson said in a release announcing the site.

Writer: Feoshia Henderson
Source: Sandi Straetker, PRiority Public Relations LLC

You can follow Feoshia on twitter @feoshiawrites

Growing European Chamber's 2011 plans include increasing exports, attracting international YPs

Since 2007, when Cincinnati's French Chamber transformed into the European-American Chamber, the organization has focused on a central mission: forging ties between Cincinnati and European companies.

"We are not a traditional chamber. We stay 100-percent focused on programs and resources that help develop business connections and open up markets in Europe," said Anne Cappel, EACC Executive Director. Cappel, originally from France, moved here after studying at the University of Cincinnati where she met her husband. Cappel has lived in Cincinnati for 23 years.

That focus appears to be paying off. The Chamber has a record number of corporate memberships, now standing at 115, representing 850 active members. Since its beginning, the Chamber's total member programs have jumped from 17 to 52. Attendance at those events has increased by more than 30 percent.

"We started in the middle of an economic crisis, and every year have broken our own records. We’ve increased our engagement with the community and program development," she said.

Those programs include social networking events, partnerships with the city's other ethnic chambers, sessions on doing business in specific European countries and meeting with international trade officials.

Coming into the New Year, the Chamber is planning to build on that momentum, with a major focus on increasing exports to Europe in line with the Obama administration's plan to double American exports in the next five years. The Chamber was recognized with the Governor’s Excellence in Exporting Award in 2010.

"(Exports) do drive economic development for the state of Ohio," she said.

According to the International Trade Administration, more than one-quarter (25.9%) of all manufacturing workers in Ohio depend on exports for their jobs.

The European-American Chamber is also awaiting approval to launch a J-1 visa program. This program will allow Greater Cincinnati employers to host college students and YPs from European partners.

"The J-1 visa program is a huge deal for us," Cappel said. "We will be able to secure the documentation for students or young professionals to bring them to work at local companies. The companies will get the benefits of accessing some talented students and young professionals. And it will expose them to a different work culture, and how business is done in the United States."

Writer: Feoshia Henderson
Source: Anne Cappel, EACC Executive Director

You can follow Feoshia on twitter @feoshiawrites

Mashup Cincinnati encourages diverse YP networking to bridge corporate divide

A new after-hours networking event aims to take Cincinnati YPs out of their comfort zone, introducing them to people who may think and look a little different from themselves.

MashUp Cincinnati is a joint effort of Blackbook EMG and HYPE (Harnessing Young Professional Energy), an initiative of the http://www.cincinnatichamber.com/cham.aspx Cincinnati USA Regional Chamber.

MashUp (a word referring to bringing divergent songs, technology or applications together to form something new), is working to bring together YPs from different business and ethnic backgrounds in a fun and fresh way.

"There are a lot of networking events in this city, but MashUp is about celebrating diversity across the corporate and cultural divides," said Stephen Samuels, Blackbook vice president of client experience."There is a need for that. Some of our clients, for instance, have a number of groups within their corporate organizations that don't even reach out and collaborate with each other."

Blackbook is a growing startup tech company whose Compass technology matches employee performance with local events, venues and businesses. Among its clients are Macy's, Procter & Gamble, Ethicon, TriHealth and LPK.

Rodney Williams, an assistant brand manager at P&G, is one of MashUp's hosts. He moved to Cincinnati from the Washington, D.C. area about two years ago, and was on one of the original proponents of the MashUp concept.

"I came to Cincinnati and quickly saw the need to collectively gather Cincinnati's diverse young professionals as they were the segment most vulnerable to isolation. There were a number of Young Professional groups but they all lacked diversity and remained somewhat in their segmented ethnic groups," Williams said.

MashUp started with its first event its first networking event in October. A second one is planned for Dec. 15, 7 p.m. to 9 p.m. at the new Lunar nightclub on Fifth and Elm downtown. Register here for tickets.

The first event was held at Below Zero Lounge in Over-the-Rhine , and more than 200 people showed up. There was a DJ who played a wide variety of tunes. There was also food and a salsa and hip hop dance group. Blackbook also introduced the Poken ™, an e-business card technology popular in Europe, to the group.

"MashUp is a unique and fun way to bring together people from a lot of different backgrounds," Samuels said. "Really, at any time, anything could happen."

Writer: Feoshia Henderson
Source: Blackbook vice president of client experience Stephen Samuels

You can follow Feoshia on twitter @feoshiawrites


Cincinnati Chinese Chamber celebrates five years, looks to expand into Midwest

The Greater Cincinnati Chinese Chamber of Commerce is looking to bring more Chinese investment to the Queen City.

For nearly five years the Greater Cincinnati Chinese Chamber of Commerce has set itself apart as the only Chamber of its type in the Tri-State area. It's often the go-to place for small- and medium-sized business that want to do business with Asia, which now boasts the second-largest economy in the world (following the U.S.)

This fall the Chamber is marking its unique past, and looking into the future as part of an anniversary celebration set for Nov. 8. The Chinese Chamber's Five-Year Anniversary Gala starts at 4:30 p.m. with a networking event, followed at 5:30 p.m. by keynote speaker Jim Rogers, president and CEO of Duke Energy. Rogers will speak on "Energy and the Environment: Challenges and Opportunities for US - China Cooperation." The gala will also feature members of the Liuzhou, China, General Chamber of Commerce Business Delegation. The event will be downtown at the Duke Energy Convention Center.

The event is not just celebrating the Chamber's five-years of connecting Cincinnati and Chinese companies, but is also serving as a coming out of sorts for the 115-member organization said, board chairman Ben Zhang said.

"We want to let Greater Cincinnati know we are growing, and where we are going," he said.

"We have been making some steady progress in the last three years, but we are ready to do something new to take our organization to the next level," he added. "We want to significantly raise the service level for our members."

Zhang joined the Chamber nearly three years ago, and is a vice president at Duke. The Chamber, which has historically relied on volunteers, has hired its first full-time director and is working to recruit larger corporate companies as members.

"Right now most of our members are small- or medium-sized companies, Zhang said. "We would really like to recruit more high-profile companies to be members."

The Chamber currently sponsors trade missions to China, has support from the Chinese Embassy and Chinese Consulate General, and has developed strong relationships with several growing Chinese provinces.  It offers a host of services to members including translation, business referral, development and promotions.

The Chamber has several big goals for 2011 and beyond, including upping its professionalism, strengthening ties with the Chinese business community and forging deeper relationships between larger Cincinnati and Chinese companies.

The Chamber is also working to expand its influence throughout the Midwest, working with business leaders in Columbus, Indianapolis and other Midwestern cities.

"We want to work with companies outside the Cincinnati area. Some places have organizations similar to ours, but they do not have the structure and organization of the Chamber," he said, adding, "We want to help bring investment from China to the Midwest."

To find out more about the Greater Cincinnati Chinese Chamber or to register for its 5th Anniversary Gala, go here.

Writer: Feoshia Henderson
Source: Greater Cincinnati Chinese Chamber Board Chairman Ben Zhang

You can follow Feoshia on twitter @feoshiawrites

UC's Center for Jewish Cultures and Ideas receives $1 million gift

The University of Cincinnati's McMicken College of Arts and Sciences is $1 million closer to its $15 million goal for the Center for Jewish Culture and Ideas.

The Center recently received a $1 million gift from Cincinnati's Kim and Gary Heiman Family Foundation. Ms. Heiman is an executive committee member of Rockwern Academy and Yad Vashem, and has served as president of the Jewish Federation of Cincinnati and campaign chair for Israel Bonds of Cincinnati. It's the Center's first donation.

Mr. Heiman lived in Israel for 17 years, serving in the Israeli special forces during and after the "Yom Kippur War." He's the president and CEO of Standard Textile Co., Inc., and the Jewish Foundation of Cincinnati. He has been a member of UC's Board of Trustees since 2004.

"My professional success has been driven by my first-hand knowledge of diverse cultures, my ability to speak several foreign languages, my striving to unite people of diverse historical, cultural, and religious backgrounds to work toward our common goals, and my ability to forge meaningful and cordial relationships with leaders all over the world," Mr. Heiman said. "Our strong support of UC's Judaic Studies Department is formal recognition of a shared goal to educate all students about the power of international partnership and exchange."

Though their are plans eventually for a physical center, for now it will be housed in the Department of Judaic Studies as network of interconnected projects that allows students, faculty and the community at-large to explore various aspects of the Jewish culture through local and international partnerships. The center's aim is to "serve as a unique hub for enhancing the Judaic Studies program at UC, forging valuable community-wide partnerships and extending the university's international reach."

The gift will help the Judaic Studies program expand its reach by offering several new learning experiences, including hosting visiting scholars from countries like Israel, increasing study aboard opportunities and helping fund Endowed departmental chairs, including Jewish Law, Jewish Christian Relations, Israel and the Jewish People and Jews in American Popular Culture.

"In the world of higher education, and especially through the eyes of Judaic Studies, learning has a transformative power," said Department Head for Judaic Studies Dr. Gila Safran Naveh. "By equipping our students with the knowledge they need to better understand their own culture and embrace other cultures, we are investing in a brighter future for people across the globe.

Writer: Feoshia Henderson
Source: Laura Kaster, University of Cincinnati

You can follow Feoshia on twitter @feoshiasoapbox

Cincinnati Chamber's Minority Business Accelerator adds first two Hispanic-owned portfolio companies

The Cincinnati USA Regional Chamber has added the first two Hispanic-owned portfolio companies to its Minority Business Accelerator (MBA).

The MBA, the Chamber's flagship economic inclusion initiative, was founded in 2003 as a way to grow minority businesses and increase demand for the services and goods of minority-owned firms. Originally, the MBA was opened only to black-owned businesses but was recently opened to Hispanic-owned as well based on a Chamber-commissioned study that showed there was a large disparity in the number of Hispanic-owned firms in the region. The Minority Business Accelerator now has 34 portfolio companies, with a goal of 50.

The first new portfolio company, Best Upon Request, is an onsite concierge service provider. The company is led by CEO and president Tillie Hidalgo Lima and was founded in 1989 as BurCorp. It's a privately-held, certified minority- and women-owned firm that serves the business and healthcare industries. The company has grown 500 percent since 2003, making it one of the region's fastest growing companies. The company ranked 47th on Hispanic Business magazine's annual list of the nation's 100 fastest-growing Hispanic companies.

Best Upon Request was a Cincinnati BBB Torch Award finalist in 2006, 2007 and 2008. In 2008, the company was chosen and the officially endorsed concierge service provider by AHA Solutions, Inc. a subsidiary of the American Hospital Association. The company works with more than 10,000 vendors nationally and takes request by email, fax, voicemail, web or phone.

The second new portfolio company, Vivian Llambi and Associates, Inc. (VLA), specializes in environmental design, landscape architecture, urban design and civil engineering. Founded in 1984, the company's clients include corporations, universities, municipalities, health care providers, parks and recreation departments and government agencies.

Vivian Llambi, founder and CEO, was named one of the Career Women of Achievement by the Cincinnati YWCA in 2002, and is a 1999 Ohio Hispanic Chamber of Commerce Businesswoman of the Year.

"Our mission is to accelerate the growth of sizable minority businesses and expand the minority entrepreneurial community. Both firms have displayed the characteristics we look for in our portfolio firms and an ongoing quest to improve and grow. And through their entrepreneurial spirit, they help drive our goal of creating overall wealth for the regional economy," said Crystal German, vice president of economic inclusion at the Cincinnati USA Regional Chamber.

In 2009, the MBA secured commitments by 24 local corporations to spend $405 million in goods and services with local MBEs. The MBA's annual spend goal has been met or exceeded every year since its inception in 2004.

Writer: Feoshia Henderson
Source: Cincinnati USA Regional Chamber

You can follow Feoshia on twitter @feoshiawrites

Revived black MBA cincy chapter to host Mideast Regional Leadership Conference this fall

When opportunity knocks, there are two vital keys that can unlock the proverbial door, and the Cincinnati Chapter of the Black MBA Association is committed to providing its members with both.

With a shared commitment to education and business- the tools they deem essential to the economic development of the Black community- this local organization has set their sights on opening doors in Cincinnati that will provide greater opportunities for its members and for the benefit of the community as a whole.    

Established in 1989, the local chapter of this national non-profit organization had become dormant until current President Michele Heath arrived on the scene two years ago. Having participated in chapters in Cleveland, Columbus, and Dallas before moving to Cincinnati in 2005, Heath was well aware of the professional, educational, and community benefits of the organization and began taking steps to bring the Cincinnati chapter back to life. 

"When we began revitalization efforts two years ago, we had zero corporate sponsorship," says Heath, a Senior Program Leader for Humana's RightSource Division. Much has changed since then, thanks to the determination and tireless efforts of a committed core group of advocates led by Heath. 

Today their dynamic membership includes "over 100 MBA professionals representing a diverse range of industries," and fund-raising efforts have produced over $40,000 in local corporate sponsorships.

These membership and funding numbers are critical for the Cincinnati chapter to reach its outreach goals. In addition to sponsoring local scholarships for two candidates pursuing their MBA degrees and two graduating high school seniors, they also sponsor 5 to 10 students each year to partake in the local chapter's "Leaders of Tomorrow", the organization’s annual program designed to provide eligible high school students with "the tools necessary to be successful in their collegiate endeavors."   

The Cincinnati Black MBA Association is also working to raise additional funds to assist them in hosting this year's Mideast Regional Leadership Conference and Diversity Career Fair, to be held November 11-13 at the Westin Hotel. The conference will welcome more than 500 graduate students and professionals from over five states and one Canadian province to participate in leadership development and entrepreneurial workshops, networking opportunities, and a career fair destined to provide local corporations with a pool of top talent. 

Though attracting "top professional talent" to Cincinnati is one of the many goals set by the dynamic chapter, Heath expressed the importance of developing and retaining that talent. "Our primary focus is to provide members with opportunities to get involved in the community, to network socially and to develop and strengthen their professional skills through leadership programs."

Membership is open to professionals with a graduate degree and those without a graduate degree but with extensive experience or entrepreneurial success, as well students enrolled in a graduate degree program. Executive Board meetings are held on the second Monday of every month from 6:30 p.m. - 8 p.m. at the National College on Paddock Road. 

Writer: Alyce Vilines
Source: Michele Heath, President of Cincinnati Black MBA Association


New nonprofit seeks to move more Midwest minority students through the graduation line

A nonprofit launched earlier this month by two experienced education and community advocates is working to make sure more Midwestern minority students graduate from high school and college.

DevonshireSmith Diversity & Education Solutions is a consulting and advocacy firm co-founded by Blanche Pringle Smith and Michael Griffin. Both have worked for numerous higher education and community-based organizations and are experienced in youth development. They met as former colleagues at Northern Kentucky University's Office of African American Student Affairs.

They started the firm to help shift the educational conversation about "minoritized" students - a term the foundation uses in describing its focus.

"We were very deliberate about using that term. The word minority is put on people primarily for economic or political purposes. That term can carry social baggage many times, and how that plays out in schools system can have some negative effects," said Griffin, who lives in Clifton and has a master's from UC's School of Social Work.

A primary goal of the nonprofit is to partner in developing programs that will raise retention and graduation rates for minority students in high school and college.

"You often see (pronouncements) like 'This is the largest class of African-American students, or Latino students' in an institution, but you never really hear about how many how many of those students graduated. That's what we want to focus on," Griffin said.

DevonshireSmith will center that effort initially in the Midwest, but has plans to expand and grow. The organization is still in its early stages but is beginning to work with some local school districts, college and youth development agencies, Griffin said.

DevonshireSmith had its first board meeting July 17. The Board includes Jason Riviero, President of the League of United Latin American Citizens-Ohio, Coby C. Williams of ProgressOhio in Columbus, Robert Clay, Chairperson, Director of Multicultural Affairs Xavier University, and Marissa Woodly Vice Chairperson, Development Director at Cincinnati Habitat for Humanity.

Writer: Feoshia Henderson
Source: Michael Griffin, co founder DevonshireSmith Diversity & Education Solutions

You can follow Feoshia on twitter @feoshiasoapbox

Freedom Center's Textural Rhythms event melds jazz, art, and networking

While checking out the Freedom Center's latest exhibit, Textural Rhythms: Constructing the Jazz Tradition, attendees can enjoy hors d'oeurves, guest speakers, and the jazz stylings of Premium Blend. The event is sponsored by the National Underground Railroad Freedom Center and Alpha Phi Alpha Fraternity, Inc.  

The event is June 24th in the Freedom Center's Grand Hall, 7 p.m. to 10 p.m.

Jeremy K. Smith, a member Mayor Mallory's Young Professional’s Kitchen Cabinet, collaborated with Freedom Center staffers Charles Davis and Jackie Wallace to plan the evening. Networking is key to Smith's vision for Textural Rhythms.

"I wanted to bring together some organizations that don't typically work together," said Smith. Co-sponsors include Mayor Mallory's YPKC, the League of United Latin American Citizens-Cincinnati, 100 Black Men of Greater Cincinnati, and the National Black MBA Association, Cincinnati Chapter.

Smith notes that many quilters find pattern inspiration by listening to jazz as they work. Attendees will find similar inspiration in the sounds of Dayton-based Premium Blend, a popular regional performing group that combines jazz with R&B and rock.

WCPO's Jennifer Moore will emcee. Guest speaker Dr. Tammy L. Kernodle, Associate Professor of Musicology at Miami University, specializes in music of Africa and the African diaspora; her presentation will highlight the connections between quilting and jazz music, and the significance of each in the African-American community.

Admission is $20; please visit here to purchase tickets. Textural Rhythms: Quilting the Jazz Tradition runs June 15-August 14 at the Freedom Center.

For more information go here.

Writer: Elena Stevenson
Source: Jeremy K. Smith, Mayor Mallory’s Young People’s Kitchen Cabinet

Website will gather ideas for Washington Park's future

A new website, mywashingtonpark.org, will ask Cincinnatians what kind of events or programs they would like to see in Washington Park once the estimated $46 million renovation there is complete.

The Emanuel Community Center partnered with The Creative Department, an Over-the-Rhine based advertising firm, that donated its services to create the website. Residents can go to the site and post their ideas or vote on existing ones. As the information is gathered, it will be sent to major stakeholders like the Cincinnati Center City Development Corporation (3CDC) or the Cincinnati Symphony Orchestra to help guide future programming or infrastructure in and around the park, Emanuel's executive director Karyl Cunningham said.

"We want to leverage all the investments of brick and mortar that have been done in Over-the-Rhine," Cunningham said. "Because at the end of the day community is really about people, and engaging those people once an investment is made." 

As Over-the-Rhine has changed over the last 100 years, the Emanuel Community Center has changed with it, Cunningham said. Begun as a German boarding house in 1871, the center now provides programming that ranges from yoga and photography classes to early childhood education. And as a new socioeconomic group moves into the neighborhood, the ECC wants to promote programming that engages both the new and old residents to build a cohesive, diverse community.

"We are really not doing anything too different than what the organization did 100 years ago, and that is to create opportunities to bring people together despite their socioeconomic background," Cunningham said.

By gathering ideas from both those demographics, as well as other Cincinnati residents, Cunningham hopes that the site can help the park be a successful anchor for the community.

Some of the ideas already posted there include a dog park meet and greet, a sustainable organic community garden, a series of jazz concerts and a "Taste of OTR" festival featuring food from Over-the-Rhine.

She hopes that events in the park will not only engage neighborhood residents, but also draw people down from the suburbs. Whether its with jazz concerts, picnics, or art shows, she said she wants the website to be an evolving reservoir of ideas that can help guide future decisions in and around the beautiful park.

Writer: Henry Sweets

National Latino business advocate, author to speak at local National Society of Hispanic MBAs event

Nationally known author, entrepreneur and Latino business advocate Charles Garcia says government and nonprofit volunteer service is key to becoming a successful entrepreneur and leader.

"(Business success) is not all about making money for yourself, it's about giving back to your community. If you have an attitude of serving others, you should dedicate your time to bettering society around you and employing your entrepreneurial skills to do so," said Garcia, a former White House Fellow who served in the prestigious, but little known, leadership training program near the end of the Reagan administration.

Garcia, who lives in south Florida, chronicles the life and professional experiences of more than 200 former fellows - including Gen. Colin Powell - in his book "Leadership Lessons of the White House Fellows." He'll be talking about his book and the 20 leadership lessons it explores at the Cincinnati Chapter of the National Society of Hispanic MBA's professional development event. The event is June 9th from 6 p.m. to 9 pm at Xavier University’s Cintas Center. It is free to NSHMBA members and general public attendees who will be given a copy of Garcia's book. Priority seating will be given to NSHMBA members and registered attendees.

Government and nonprofit service on a local, state or national level can offer experiences in fostering community, creativity, and leadership among a group of dynamic people, Garcia said. Often, it offers opportunities to meet potential mentors and influential people who can help you later in your career, he added.

Garcia speaks from experience. He developed and grew an international financial services company geared toward funding Hispanic owned businesses. He sold that company in 2006. It started with a handful of employees and grew into a multinational company with 60 offices in seven countries. In addition Garcia sits on the board of directors of Winn Dixie stores, and in 2001 Florida Gov. Jeb Bush appointed him to the state's Board of Education.

Throughout his years of service he's work alongside a former CEO of Goldman Sachs, a VP of General Motors and a former L.A. Times publisher. It's those relationships and others that he believes have given him insight into running a successful, multinational business.

Writer: Feoshia Henderson
Source: Charles Garcia, entrepreneur and author of Leadership Lessons of the White House Fellows

You can follow Feoshia on twitter @feoshiasoapbox

ballet tech cincinnati changes name to reflect expanded vision

Ballet tech cincinnati, the nonprofit that's expanded Cincinnati's dance vocabulary, has expanded its own vocabulary beyond dance. Its new name, arts innovation movement Cincinnati, (or aim) reflects the diversity of programs it hosts and its big goals for expanding the city's arts outlook.

Marvel Gentry Davis, aim cincinnati's Producing Artistic Director and President of the Board of Directors, has overseen the organization's development from its humble roots. In 1997, ballet tech was a nonprofit designed to provide dance performances for one small dance school in Maineville, OH.

"What we found," said Gentry Davis, "was that this organization was being controlled by a handful of people - but a nonprofit had to belong to the community."

The organization recently moved to its Kennedy Heights facility, which has allowed it to further the diversity of Cincinnatians served by its programs. Located in the District A arts Corridor, the building now welcomes the Q City Players Comedy Improv Troupe, Jazz Jams music improv sessions, dance classes, and a summer performance camp.

Gentry Davis became President of the Board in 2001, and guided board members in deciding what ballet tech could bring to Greater Cincinnati. They wanted to create dance performances that catered to non-traditional audiences, such as parents of small children. They also hoped that their brand of dance would be a catalyst for diversity and tolerance in the wake of 2001's civil unrest in Over-the-Rhine.

According to Gentry Davis, the resulting Leaping for Literacy dance shows are "designed for a two-and-a-half-year-old, but can also be enjoyed by that child's parents and grandparents."  

Last February's Talking Eggs production was based on a Caldecott Award-winning children's book of the same name; next April's Leap is Lord of the Jungle, a Tarzan story. Leaping for Literacy won ballet tech the 2008 Scripps-Corbett Award, given to arts ventures that impact society. ballet tech/aim cincinnati was also the only arts organization finalist for the regional ONE Award, recognizing excellence in nonprofit operations.

Nine years of Aronoff Center performances will culminate in a 10th anniversary celebration - August 14's Gala of International Dance Stars. The only event of its kind in the Midwest, the Gala will feature 17 dancers from world-renown companies and five world premieres.

You can keep up on aim's programs through its Facebook page.
 
Writer: Elena Stevenson
Source: Marvel Gentry Davis, Producing Artistic Director and President of Board, aim cincinnati

Northern Kentuckian to bring non-profit urban gardening to Cincinnati core

Cincinnati stands apart from many of the country's urban areas with Findlay Market, a place where people who live in the core can easily walk to get fresh food, including an abundance of fruit and vegetables.

But Cincinnati is not alone in the dearth of spots available for permanent urban agriculture, but a Fort Thomas husband and wife are working to change that by creating a non-profit that will amongst other things set aside inner city land for food production.

The idea builds on the current work of Memorial Inc., which operates the Over-The-Rhine  Eco-Garden in partnership with the Civic Garden Center. Memorial Inc. also a non-profit pays local youth a stipend to tend the garden, and sell the produce at Findlay Market. Proceeds go back into the garden and to the youth.  The Civic Garden Center leases the land, which recently has been threatened by development.

That's among reasons that Luke Ebner, who works for Memorial Inc., along with his wife Angela, are working to create Permaganic, Co. a non-profit that will raise funds to provide a permanent location for the Eco- Garden and other potential Urban Farmers.

"What's happens in an urban farming program is sometimes a piece of property is on a-one year lease, the property gets fixed up and then the owner is able to attract investors and sell it," Ebner said.

Under Ebner's plan the land would be owned by Permaganic, Co. and offer educational and entrepreneurial opportunities to youth, he said. 

"What Permaganic, Co. is trying to do is provide an on-going opportunity for people who want to get into growing and producing food," he said. "We will show them how we grow and let them experience it for themselves."

Ebner is still in the early stages of forming Permaganic, Co. it is registered in Ohio and is awaiting its federal 501(c)3.

Long-term Permaganic, Co. could serve as a place that could hold land in trust strictly for farming and food foresting, Ebner said.

He would like to see Cincinnati as home to a program similar to The Intervale Center in Burlington VT. Intervale is a non-profit that has managed and preserved more than 350 acres of land for over 30 years.  They support viable farms and increase access to local fresh food and agricultural education.

Writer: Feoshia Henderson
Source: Luke Ebner, livegreenplanet.com

The Voice of Your Customer blazes a new trail in niche market research

For Crystal Kendrick, market research means a lot more than making a buck. Her firm, The Voice of Your Customer, uses a variety of strategies to pinpoint the needs and buying habits of niche markets. By giving a voice to the less-heard consumer groups, Kendrick is making a difference she's proud of.

"It's the voice of the unheard," says Kendrick. "And it's not always racial minorities or poverty groups. We also deal with the wealthiest, most exclusive customer. They're just a population not involved in traditional markets." The Voice of Your Customer finds the needs and desires of specific demographic groups through secret shopping, surveys, and focus groups. The firm also empowers organizations to reach these markets through training seminars and media campaigns.

Government contracts are a vital business base for The Voice of Your Customer. A series of projects for the State of Ohio promoted healthy lifestyles among rural populations in Appalachian counties. VOYC also teamed with a federal consumer protection agency to bust a calling card scam. They hired residents of seven foreign countries to test calling cards, proving they didn't include the number of minutes advertised. The findings from this study were used in court proceedings against the fraudulent card sellers.

Kendrick was born in Cincinnati, but grew up in suburban Philadelphia. She moved back here in 1993 for grad school at NKU. In 2005, Kendrick began secret shopping and handling media work for nonprofits while working days in the corporate world. In 2007, the business reached a tipping point of growth, and Kendrick made a "leap of faith" by making The Voice of Your Customer a full-time endeavor.

The Voice of Your Customer's Walnut Hills office is in a federally-qualified HUB Zone. Kendrick has secured a variety of certifications for VOYC, including Minority Business Enterprise, Women's Business Enterprise, and EDGE (Encouraging Diversity, Growth, and Equity).

"Being a member of an underserved community gives me perspective on how to reach those communities," says Kendrick. VOYC's volunteer involvement includes work with the Cincinnati Herald, The Links, Delta Sigma Theta, and St. Andrew's Episcopal Church.

In a strategic location like Greater Cincinnati, Kendrick sees the circle of her influence expanding. Adding two more employees to her staff of five is a key goal for 2010.

"Cincinnati is so affordable, and with so many companies headquartered here, there are so many opportunities in the business-to-business environment,"  she says.

Writer: Elena Stevenson
Source: Crystal L. Kendrick, President, The Voice of Your Customer


Local business leaders launch Indian American Chamber of Commerce

The Indian community is becoming a growing part of Cincinnati, and of the local business community. As the Southeast Asian country continues to increase in wealth and influence, more Americans are looking to do business with Indian companies.

Those are just a couple of reasons a group of local professionals are launching the Indian American Chamber of Commerce of Greater Cincinnati and Northern Kentucky. The organization will host a membership kickoff event May 5, from 5:30 p.m. to 7:30 p.m. at  Elements Conference Centre, 11974 Lebanon Road in Sharonville.

Currently there are 2,500 Indian families living in Greater Cincinnati, according to Indian Chamber board members. That's a small, but growing and influential group, said president Rayan Coutinho, an attorney at Wood and Lamping who is originally from Bombay.

"Nationally, more than 60 percent of Indians have a bachelors degree, and more than 40 percent have a master's or doctorate degree," said Coutinho.  In addition Indian workers and entrepreneurs in America have a significant presence in the medical, hotel/hospitality and high tech fields, he added.

The Chamber 's aim is to bring together Indian-born and ethnic Indian Americans, as well as any Americans in Cincinnati who'd like to network and create business opportunities with the Indian community, Coutinho said.

"We're not limiting the membership; of course it is focused on Indian business. But we think what is good for Cincinnati is good for the local Indian business community. The Hispanic Chamber does a fantastic job of that and we hope to emulate that," Coutinho said.

The new Chamber also aims to be the starting point for Indian companies that want to do business with Cincinnati or vice versa.

"We're trying to provide a one-stop shop for information. For instance, there is an Indian company that wants to set up a software company in Cincinnati, we would give them the information to get started," he said.

The Indian Chamber has a seven-member board representing various business sectors and regions of India. It will be housed at  D.A.G. Construction in Winton Place, where Chamber Board member Lindsay Wilhelm works as Marketing Director.

The Chamber plans to launch its web page sometime this week.

Writer: Feoshia Henderson
Sources: Indian Chamber of Commerce board members Rayan Coutinho and Lindsay Wilhelm

You can follow Feoshia on twitter here.


Hispanic 100 Initiative helps Latino professionals branch out

The Hispanic Chamber Cincinnati USA is looking for a few good men and women - one hundred, in fact. HCCUSA's Hispanics for Community Engagement, also known as the Hispanic 100 Initiative, will identify, guide, and mentor a hundred Hispanic businesspeople, positioning them for leadership in greater Cincinnati organizations.

Alfonso Cornejo, president of the Hispanic Chamber, described his vision for the Hispanic 100. "We want to enroll fifty women, and fifty men - half from Fortune 500 companies, and half from small businesses."

He plans to divide this mix into affinity groups based on common interests, such as sports or the arts. When organizations from around Cincinnati call the Hispanic Chamber in need of volunteers, Cornejo and his staff will have teams ready to go. If an organization is looking for Hispanic representation on their board, the Chamber can easily recommend a talented leader. The Hispanic 100 will also sponsor group outings to build community and increase visibility of Latinos at local events.

Observing that many Spanish-speaking countries lack a strong system of nonprofits, Cornejo hopes to build up volunteer work as a new tradition for Hispanic Americans. After emigrating from Mexico, he came to Cincinnati through employment at P&G. He's spent the last nine years operating his own consulting firm, specializing in human resources and Latin American business.

The Hispanic Chamber Cincinnati USA was founded fourteen years ago; its mission is to promote the creation and growth of Hispanic companies. It's the largest Hispanic chamber in Ohio, Indiana, and Kentucky.

Cornejo has served as Board President for the last seven years; his enthusiasm for the growth of the Hispanic Chamber is contagious. "We're making Cincinnati a more welcoming city for immigrants," said Cornejo. "We can show the world how beautiful this city is."

Writer: Elena Stevenson
Source: Alfonso Cornejo, Board President, Hispanic Chamber Cincinnati USA

Innovation's the word at South Ohio Society of Women Engineers Conference

Innovation, and how to cultivate and creatively use it, will be the topic of conversation at the South Ohio Society of Women Engineers Spring conference.

"The world is changing fast. Consumers want more from companies, but want to spend less. It's through innovation that we can provide superior products to consumers," explained Margaret Adriatico, South Ohio SWE social chair.  "Innovation is about changing and improving lives by bringing new and better things to consumers."

The third annual spring conference is quickly becoming SWE's signature event. Last year it attracted 100 attendees from Greater Cincinnati and Dayton. This year's goal is to bring in 150.

This year's keynote speaker is Brett Bonner, Kroger's resident chief of R&D. He'll speak on why innovation is imperative to a successful business. Doug Brownstone, of Eureka Ranch, and Jim Sinclair and Tom Hortel of Zenovate will also present.

"We'll be talking about the difference between breakthrough innovations and step change innovations. We can go along step by step in innovation, but what most companies are looking for is breakthrough. So we'll talk about what kind of culture you need, and the kind of people that it takes to cultivate those breakthrough innovation," Adriatico said.

The conference is eligible for continuing education credits, and will include a course outline and certificate of completion. It starts at 8 a.m. at Cincinnati Marriott North, 6189 Muhlhauser Rd, in West Chester. The cost is $75 for SWE members, $100 for non-members and $55 for students. It's open to both men and women and to non-engineers.You can register here for the conference before April 1. Afterward, registrations will incur a $20 surcharge.

Writer: Feoshia Henderson
Source: Margaret Adriatico, South Ohio SWE social chair

Want to read more stories about innovation in Ohio?  Check out hiVelocity here.

Minority Business Development Organization streamlines, focuses on minority business growth

A year after Ohio launched two pilot programs aimed at minority business growth and job creation, the Minority Business Development Organization in Cincinnati is aimed at guiding small business owners determined make their businesses grow.

"We've identified who can really get the most out of the program, and they are growth-oriented firms willing and able to work on their business, and not just day-to-day aspects of doing a job," said Leslie Young, Program Manager at the African-American Chamber of Commerce of Cincinnati and Northern Kentucky.

The state picked Cincinnati and Akron to launch the pilot program, aimed and growing jobs and creating economic wealth through each city's minority entrepreneurial communities.

The MBDO takes full advantage of the resources Cincinnati already offers businesses, but streamlines the business growth process for owners, offering an assessment of where each business is, where they want to be and what training or certifications they need to get there.

"Each collaborative partner has a role in this arrangement and it minimizes the duplication of efforts. We have our designated roles, and have figured out a lot of how the processes best work since we started," Young said.

The program is currently free, but a small fee could be charged in the near future, Young said. The program is open to any small business that is at least 51 percent minority-owned and located in Ohio. So far, the MBDO has served 120 firms from Cincinnati to Columbus. Most are Business-to- Business or Business-to-Government focused.

As the program enters its second year this February, the initiative is pushing forward to create new networking opportunities.

"We have firms working on their plans and we want to connect them to real business opportunities. We want them doing business with people they haven't been doing it with before," Young said.

Writer: Feoshia Henderson
Source: Leslie Young, MBDO Program Manager
Follow Feoshia on Twitter @feoshiasoapbox.com


Women's Idea Network Plans Big Expansion in 2010

Three years ago, Debbie Christy McCurry founded Women’s Idea Network with one simple question in mind: “How do you find the courage to start your own business?” The answer started McCurry on her own journey to entrepreneurship. WIN’s networking luncheons have taken off in West Chester, and are attended by female business owners from every field. In 2010, McCurry plans to expand WIN to eleven additional Tri-State communities.

As a commercial real estate manager, McCurry saw a need to bring together the women who rented business space in her buildings. When she organized a luncheon to share ideas, several women asked if they could bring a friend. To her surprise, 29 women showed up for the first meeting and Women’s Idea Network was off and running.

The format for a WIN meeting is simple. During two networking rounds, groups of ten trade business cards, seek solutions to problems and get to know each other. “It’s a soft structure - no pressure,” says McCurry.

McCurry builds WIN around the needs of her clients. “I’m not going to sell you a blue dress if you don’t need one,” she quips. Early meetings featured speakers, but McCurry found that her attendees preferred talking about their own businesses. McCurry’s vision for the future of WIN includes a magazine and a large annual meeting for all chapters.

WIN’s charter West Chester meeting takes place at the Beckett Ridge Country Club, 11:30 A.M. - 1:00 P.M., the third Wednesday of each month. One hundred fifty local women are members; average attendance at a WIN luncheon ranges from eighty to one hundred fifty. Women pay $15 to attend a luncheon, and can attend their first with no obligation to join the organization. Reservations are due the Friday before the event.

Right now, McCurry is laying the groundwork for a simultaneous launch of the 11 additional WIN locations; partners are helping her scout locations, secure staff, and market the meetings. Another company has approached McCurry about launching WIN-style events in Indianapolis and Columbus, but McCurry has these plans on hold until the Cincinnati events are well underway.

Amid the scope of her business plan, McCurry keeps the needs of individual business owners first on her list. She describes WIN as “a business sisterhood…as much about the personal side of our lives as about the businesses. Sometimes, you just need someone to come alongside you and say, ‘Hey, you can do it.’”

Written by: Elena Stevenson

Source: Debbie Christy McCurry, Founder and President, Women’s Idea Network

Online boutique combines style, social awareness

Several years ago Walnut Hill's resident, Emily Hill, took a college trip to Thailand where she witnessed first-hand what self-sufficiency and steady work could do for women and children at risk for becoming prostituted as part of the global slave trade.

Many of these destitute women and girls, some as young as 8, could have become prostitutes but for the help of a local organization that taught their mothers how to make purses, jewelry and other items, allowing them to make money and care for their families.

"I looked at these happy and vibrant girls and realized how the situation could have been otherwise, and I knew I had to do something about this too," said Hill, who works in marketing and had previously operated a small apparel company.

The result was stoptraffickfashion.com, an online boutique that Hill runs from her home. She buys women's accessories from several overseas organizations that exist to help women escape or stay out of the sex trade, then resells them. According to statistics, more than 27 million men, women and children are held as slaves in hard labor work, the sex industry, or as soldiers.

The boutique is for-profit, but a portion of any profit goes back to these organizations. In addition, the web site works to educate shoppers about the cause their purchase supports

"Most are made by women who want a sustainable income for themselves and their families, so they can feel confident and become part of society. It prevents them from being lured into trafficking," Hill said.

The bags and jewelry range in price from $20 to $80, and Hill looks for styles that will appeal to mainstream buyers.

"I want to use this to reach women who may not know about the slave trade, (as well as) reach socially conscious women," she said.

In addition to the online boutique, which launched over the summer, Hill also sells the accessories at local events and hosts private home parties. Find out more here.

Writer: Feoshia Henderson
Source: Emily Hill Founder & Managing Director, stoptraffickfashion.com

Local Habitat for Humanity YP group blazing national trail

Less than five years after Habitat for Humanity’s Young Professional’s effort launched in Cincinnati, a few dozen similar groups have popped up across the nation.


The Habitat YP effort has grown so much nationally, that on Oct. 16 members will be heading to Austin, Texas for a Habitat Young Professionals Conference.


“We’ll be sharing information, benchmarking and getting everyone in one place. We hope to establish a more formalized manner for starting these groups, so other (Habitat chapters) can access the resources to get this started,” said Habitat Development Director Marissa Woodly.


The Cincinnati group was founded in 2005 by Advisory Board Chairman Ryan Derrow, client strategist at Empower Media, and other local YPs. Now, other Habitat chapters are catching on to what Cincinnati already knows: YPs have the energy, skills and dollars to keep this low-income home building organization strong.


“A lot of larger companies are bringing YPs into Cincinnati. You’ve got people looking for things to get engaged in and ways to meet new people. So, why not tap into resources and engage the younger generation?” Woodly said.


The Cincinnati group numbers 500 plus, including an advisory board, and is all-volunteer. Their efforts run the gamut, from organizing wine-tasting fundraisers and 5Ks to volunteering on builds. The Cincinnati group hit a milestone recently: in 2008 members sponsored the first YP home build in the country, in East Price Hill.


And the organization can use that YP energy. With a 10-person staff, the organization will build 10 houses this year and 14 over the next year. Interested? Find out more on the Habitat YP web site.


Writer: Feoshia Henderson
Source: Cincinnati Habitat for Humanity Development Director Marissa Woodly


Local filmmaker sets crime drama in OTR

Lee Zellars, a local filmmaker who often turns his lens on Cincinnati and its people, will soon debut a gritty, creative crime drama set in the Over-the-Rhine neighborhood.

Zellars, who also directed four-edisode The Spot, which airs on cable access and focuses on friends who frequent a local bar, says “O.T.R: Over-the-Rhine” is along the lines of shows like Law and Order. Shot in black and white, O.T.R features a sister and brother on different sides of the law.

“The sister is a serious-minded detective and the brother is on other side of the law as a notorious drug dealer. The sister knows he’s doing illegal activity, but doesn’t know what he’s doing or exactly how he’s doing it. They are as close and brother and sister should be, but she would not let family stand in the way if she could catch him doing what he’s doing,” said Zellars, also a photographer who lives in Avondale. He directed, produced and edited the episodic series.

Zellars worked as a photographer at The Taft Museum, YMCA Black Achievers Program, Executive Studio and The Cincinnati Herald. His photos have been in Jet Magazine, The Final Call and Applause Magazine. This isn’t Zellars first attempt at filmmaking: his movie 'Nattyville' was his first feature film in 2004, followed by 'Justifiable Romance' which won 2nd place for best action drama at The Indie Gathering Film Festival in 2006. His third movie 'Dick' won 2nd place for best crime drama in 2007 at The Indie Gathering.

OTR features local actors, including three who starred in The Spot. The 30-minute show could be reformatted to a more typical one-hour drama, Zellars said. Writers Kole Black and Brent Bridges developed the script. So far, eight 30-minute episodes have been shot.  Zellars is working to get a local broadcast of the show, possibly on My64 WSTR-TV.

The series was shot in different parts of the city, including Over-the-Rhine , Avondale and Corryville. Catch the first three episodes Nov. 5 at 7 p.m. at The Showcase Cinema in Springdale. For more information, including upcoming info on ordering tickets to RozMary Basement TV.

Writer: Feoshia Henderson
Source: Lee Zellars director, producer, editor of O.T.R.

Building Value gets Cincinnati working, and homeowners thinking Green

Building Value builds up the confidence and construction skills of some hard-working Cincinnatians, while tearing down old, but reusable home and office spaces in an environmentally conscious way.


Building Value is a non-profit that salvages building materials. In the past the organization specialized in taking apart small rooms, like kitchens and bathrooms, for homeowners remodeling their spaces. But this summer Building Value undertook the region’s first full-house “unbuild,” where workers deconstructed a vacant multi-story house in Wyoming, salvaging more than 6,400 sq. ft. of building materials, and creating green space in the small city.

More than 10 people worked on the project for about a week. The unique, salvageable materials were then sold to the public at a reasonable price.


“Deconstruction provides an alternative to demolition, and this is all about trying to keep things out of landfills,” said Jerry Janszen, director of Building Value.


The non-profit was founded in 2004 by Easter Seals Work Resource Center as a way to further its mission: “empowering people with disabilities and disadvantages to increase their independence through work.” The ultimate goal for Building Value workers is to get trained for jobs with Cincinnati employers.

In addition to its deconstruction work, Building Value houses a retail center on Gilbert Avenue, a wood working area and warehouse space. Since its beginnings, Building Value has kept more than 5,000 tons of building materials out of the city’s landfills.


The construction workers, who all go through training, are honing their skills to facilitate these large “unbuilds.” And earlier in the year, the Building Value crew took apart its first big structure, a barn in Indian Hill.  To accommodate its growth into deconstructing large structures, Building Value is moving into a bigger space in Northside in October.


"We’re trying some new techniques and moving in this new direction,” Janszen said.


Writer: Feoshia Henderson
Sources: Lisa Doxsee Communications Manager and Jerry Janszen Director Building Value LLC


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


Ignite Cincinnati looking for a few good YP ideas

Have you ever sat around with friends, or caught a story on the news, and come up with a great idea to solve a local problem?

If you can explain how your idea would work and how it could energize the city’s young professionals, you could get some dollars and some support to make that idea a reality.

A new initiative, Ignite Cincinnati, gives thinkers an outlet for their ideas. Ignite is a spinoff of Give Back Cincinnati, a service-oriented volunteer group that has dedicated more than 40,000 hours of community service to the Cincinnati community.

Ignite Cincinnati will award $500 to $5,000 to community organizations, coalitions, individuals and non-profits. There are some broad parameters to the initiative, but the idea should be in its initial concept stage, have an impact on young professionals (aged 18-40) and be previously unsupported. The organization isn’t looking to fund for-profit or business ideas, and the concepts should be geared toward community building, education, diversity or the environment.

“We don’t want an event that’s been happening for a decade, and we want it to either be run by young professionals or for young professionals,” said Jay W. Hummel, former Board President of Give Back Cincinnati and part of the Ignite Cincinnati team.

Ignite Cincinnati will take applications year round, and each month will review submitted ideas. Have one? You can fill out an application here. According to Hummel, the idea doesn’t have to be intricately detailed but should give a solid explanation of what it is, and how it benefits the YP community. If an idea seems doable, applicants will have a face-to-face meeting with the Ignite team before a final determination is made on funding it.

Along with the financing, Ignite Cincinnati will offer a mentor who’ll help get the projects off the ground and running. Ignite Cincinnati is a way for any person to tap into the connections and experience that Give Back Cincinnati offers.

“We have a young professional board that has great experience in running successful events, and we can help other people run successful events,” Hummel said.

Ignite Cincinnati is co-sponsored by Give Back Cincinnati, Haile/US Bank Foundation, and Mayerson Foundation.

Writer: Feoshia Henderson
Source: Jay W. Hummel, Former Board President of Give Back Cincinnati

CincyChic, Eisen Marketing aiming for national reach

CincyChic, Cincinnati’s sole online-only publication for women, has enlisted the help of Eisen Marketing Group, Cincinnati’s largest public-relations firm. In addition to helping CincyChic publicize its work in the city, EMG president Rodger Roeser hopes to bring national attention to the business and its creator, Amy Storer-Scalia.

“Roeser felt that the story elements—my being 25 when starting CincyChic, one of the youngest CEOs in the city—would be appreciated on a more national scale. Since Oprah seeks to highlight positive stories with women, an appearance on her show would be the ultimate goal,” said Storer-Scalia. Recently, EMG assisted with highlighting CincyChic in a national magazine for PR professionals. “Because our publication is a niche market, we have to go about publicity in a different way.”

CincyChic plans a variety of local events that work synergistically with the articles and social networking applications on the website. Cooking classes, lunch-and-learns, charity events, and more allow professional women to connect and engage with the community. Storer-Scalia is particularly excited about Bras with Flair on the Square, coming up on September 30. The second annual event draws attention to breast health by inviting women to decorate bras and make donations to the American Cancer Society. Bras will be displayed on Fountain Square, in keeping with CincyChic’s downtown focus.

Storer-Scalia welcomes EMG’s expertise. "I have a publication to run, which is involved in so many things. Roeser and his team are able to provide to Cincy Chic a focus and a firepower that honestly just makes my day a little easier. The EMG team is creative, resourceful and most importantly, extraordinarily efficient and hard working,” said Storer-Scalia.

EMG’s president shares Storer-Scalia’s enthusiasm for the partnership. "If you have ever met Amy, you know that her enthusiasm and her drive are contagious,” said Roeser. "She is an amazing story, and proof positive that drive and determination can produce powerful results. It is truly an honor to have been selected to assist Amy in the goals she has set forth for herself, her publication and her clientele."

Storer-Scalia hopes that increasing CincyChic’s visibility will position the publication for future syndication. A new issue of CincyChic is published each week; 16,000 subscribers receive a weekly e-newsletter. By providing lifestyle know-how with social awareness and flair, CincyChic is poised for growth, bringing greater visibility to our city.


Writer: Elena Stevenson

Source: Amy Storer-Scalia, CincyChic Editor-in-Chief and Publisher; PRNewswire; www.prleap.com


Jewish Foundation wins state award for innovative Hebrew language program

The Ohio Foreign Language Association awarded 2009’s “Non-Educator Friend of Foreign Languages Award” to the Jewish Foundation of Cincinnati in recognition of the Foundation’s grant money and planning efforts related to a innovative Hebrew language learning program.

Raymond Walters College, Sycamore High School, and the Jewish Foundation have forged a unique program that allows high school students to take college-level Hebrew courses. Beginning and intermediate Hebrew is offered through theUniversity of Cincinnati.

Students earn high school credit and college credit simultaneously, fulfilling UC’s foreign language requirement or earning credit that will transfer to any university. June marked the end of the two-year pilot; the program will continue under Ohio’s Post Secondary Enrollment Options Program (PSEOP). 

“We’re so happy that the Jewish Foundation has been honored in this way,” said Debbie Page, chair of Raymond Walters’ Foreign Language Department. The program is a direct result of the Foundation’s interest and dedication.” In their description of the award, OFLA stated that a similar partnership could aid in the teaching of other less-frequently studied languages.


The program benefits everyone involved. Students expand their foreign-language options. The local Jewish community sees their heritage preserved among the next generation. And professional relationships have been forged among Foundation members, local educators, and parents of high schoolers.


The Hebrew program is free of charge to all greater Cincinnati high school students. To find out more about PSEOP through UC, go here.


Writer: Elena Stevenson

Source: University of Cincinnati


Cincinnati Chamber Minority Business Accelerator companies’ revenue grows 50 percent in 3 years

Total revenues for the 28 portfolio companies in the Cincinnati Regional Chamber’s Minority Business Accelerator  have grown 50 percent from $348 million in 2006 to more than $520 million in 2008, according to the MBA 2007-2008 report.


Some of that growth was due to three new firms coming on board in 2008, but existing firm growth still sat at an impressive 43 percent.


The MBA, the chamber’s flagship economic inclusion initiative, was founded in 2003 as a way to grow minority businesses and increase demand for the services and goods of minority-owned firms.


According to its report, that’s all happening. Among the biennial report’s other success include the growth of MBA portfolio companies, from 20 to 28, since its founding through 2008. And, on average, the portfolio company firms’ average annual revenues have grown from $6.7 million to $21 million during that time.


“There is significant value minority-owned businesses bring to our local economy,” said Jack Cassidy, CEO of Cincinnati Bell and chairman of the MBA Leadership Council. “Diversity not only creates culturally-rich, vibrant communities in which to live, it also cultivates a healthy sense of competition and an expansive supply for the corporate community to find realized profit.”


The firms have contracts with 50 corporations across Greater Cincinnati and the nation. The MBA companies represent 2,500 jobs, according to the Chamber, and women and minorities comprise 38 percent of those jobs.


More than 20 local firms committed to spending a total of $400 million with local minority owned business last year, but exceeded that commitment by spending $450 million. The MBA is setting a goal of $500 million in 2010.


To read the entire report go Here.  


New Ohio Ambassador program launches in Cincinnati

Turns out Ohio produces some of the best sales people for the state, many of whom don't even know they're bringing talent to our cities. Officials are banking on a new program that will hopefully expand this home-grown sales force of up to 50,000 marketing the state's assets.

"Research tells us that when people have an association with Ohio, they generally have a positive view of the state," says Ed Burghard, Executive Director of the Ohio Business Development Coalition. "Conversely, when they have no experience with the state, that's when all the negative cliché's come to bear."

In short, the state needs to be experienced to be understood and appreciated. If an experience can't be had, the next best thing is a convincing conversation from someone already in the know – specifically, one of Ohio's own. This insight provides rich possibilities for state leaders.

People looking to relocate their business or family tend to put a lot of faith into peer conversations about an area. With many Ohioans living across the country as well as abroad, what if a portion of them were equipped to talk about the advantages of an Ohio relocation?

"Ohioans live all over the world," says Burghard. "There are Ohio clubs as far away as Tokyo."

Thus was the impetus for the Ohio Ambassadors program which will launch here in Cincinnati at the end of June. The program essentially connects enthusiastic Ohioans to each other while equipping them with hard data that could help persuade new talent to stake a claim in the Buckeye State.

In its first year, the program hopes to reach 50,000 participants both in and out of Ohio. Ambassadorships will benefit not only the state, but local municipalities as well. After all, you can't talk about the great things happening in Ohio without mentioning what's going on in your own backyard.

The hope is that ambassadors will prove to be positive influencers as well as a watch dog of sorts to negative perceptions of Ohio. "By providing guidance and facts, we hope to take people's enthusiasm about Ohio and turn it to our advantage," says Burghard. "The next time someone sees a disparaging comment on a blog, they'll have information to back up their retort."

The program will be administered by the Association of Ohio Commodores, a support organization dedicated to economic growth and development of the State of Ohio.

And who are they targeting? "We're looking for anyone with a positive attitude and who loves Ohio," says Burghard.

The kick off to the program will be held at the Westin Hotel here in Cincinnati on June 29, from 9:30 - 11:00am. For more information click here.


Writer: Jeff Syroney
Source: Ed Burghard, Ohio Business Development Coalition

Park + Vine celebrates 2 year anniversary with added jobs

Park + Vine, the little green store that could, is celebrating its two year anniversary as the region's premiere location for all things friendly to the planet.

The Over-the-Rhine, ecological general store is the brainchild of the enigmatic and indefatigable, Dan Korman. "As far as the store is concerned, I feel like a proud papa," says the charismatic proprietor as he takes a break from rearranging the layout of his Vine Street shop with a coconut-based smoothie. "There's a pretty good love-fest happening within these four walls."

And one can see why only a few minutes after entering the celebrated Gateway Quarter anchor. Filled with every eco-friendly product imaginable, as well as some you may have never considered (where else are you going to find your Lullwater Soap Nuts), the shop boasts an impressive client base with over 5,000 registered visitors over the past year alone.

That steady growth has resulted in an overall increase of jobs to OTR including a bookkeeper, two part-time employees and the company's first full-time employee who came online just last week.

The store is a magnet to both the hard-core patchouli wearers as well as the eco-curious.

"We have a healthy balance between those that are already sold on the idea of cloth diapers – which can be a pretty big commitment, to those that are just beginning to swear off plastic bottles," says Korman. "There's a full spectrum of those that are going green in little chunks and those that are living the lifestyle."

And that's why the success of this green patch of curiosity suddenly becomes so understandable. No matter where you are on that green spectrum, Park + Vine feels like a natural (no pun intended) fit. Even the coldest global warmer can find something useful, new or intriguing at P+V.

The store got its start thanks to a generous supply of sweat and personal equity from Korman as well as the help of the Over-the-Rhine Chamber of Commerce and their Business First Grant.

The store, through the efforts of Korman, has done a remarkable job of connecting to the surrounding community.  Success doesn't occur in a vacuum and Korman understands this concept better than most.
 
"We have a love fest with our neighbors – from the other retailers to the residents to the theatres, we all depend on one another," says Korman. "It's especially great when Ensemble Theatre has a show. We get really busy when they have a show and we love it. It brings in newer faces."

A special anniversary party is planned for Park + Vine's supporters and fans the last weekend in May and will feature live music by Brandon Dawson, Fanatics and Traitors, and Ethan Philbrick and Isaac Hand.

Do yourself, and the planet, a favor and check out this one-of-a-kind Cincinnati success story.

Writer: Jeff Syroney
Source: Dan Korman, Park + Vine


Fine Arts Fund finishes $12.1 million campaign and remains largest arts fund in the country

It was a hard road to hoe this year but the Fine Arts Fund Campaign, led by Macy's, Inc. Chief Financial Officer and Fine Arts Fund Campaign General Chair, Karen Hoguet, finished its 2009 campaign with a combined total of $11 million from community donations as well as $1.1 million in special initiative funding from the Ann and Ralph V. Haile, Jr./U.S. Bank Foundation.

The money raised secures Cincinnati's Fine Arts Fund as the nation's largest, and oldest, combined community campaign for the arts.

The campaign's goal of $12 million was ambitious given the state of the current economy, but as President and CEO for the Fine Arts Fund, Mary McCullough-Hudson remarked at the finale ceremony, "We owe it to our arts institutions to set the bar high."
 
Community contributions to the annual Fine Arts Fund campaign, which provides funds for day-to-day expenses of arts organizations, totaled 92 percent of the $12 million campaign goal established earlier this year. "This is a significant accomplishment," noted Mark Serrianne, Chair of the Fine Arts Fund Board of Trustees. "We could have lowered our sights in this economy, but we didn't want to do that knowing how this community feels about the arts and how important these funds are to our community."

The additional $1.1 million raised during the campaign came from the Carol Ann and Ralph V. Haile, Jr./U.S. Bank Foundation and will provide funding for new initiatives in arts education, regional and neighborhood art centers, and diverse arts offerings through the Arts & Culture Partnership of the Fine Arts Fund. "The Haile Foundation contribution means that we can also focus on efforts designed to ensure a strong future for this region through arts and culture," said Mr. Serrianne.
Despite the uncertainty of the economy, the region's support of its arts institutions sends a powerful message about perceived value of the arts and the role they play in our community. Support for the campaign came from a wide range of individuals, companies, and foundations with 80 percent of gifts totaling less than $150. "No other community in America can match our record for such broad-based support for the arts," says Hoguet.

The money raised by the campaign will go towards day-to-day expenses of arts organizations throughout the region which rely on contributed income to survive.

The end of the campaign marks another journey in the organization's new priorities adopted by the Fine Arts Fund board as shared objectives of the Fund and its Arts & Culture Partnership. This new role for the organization includes:
  • engaging the community and building public will,
  • achieving educational excellence in schools through the arts,
  • sustaining and strengthening a healthy arts and culture sector, and
  • serving as a champion and catalyst for the sector.
Writer: Jeff Syroney
Source: Fine Arts Fund

Cincinnati arts organizations keeping pace in digital age

The digital revolution has forever altered the way in which we communicate. For thousands of years we relied on our culture's story-tellers to pass down the important lessons and narratives that make us who we are. For much of our history, these stories have taken the form of theatre, music, dance, opera, cinema and the visual arts. Today, our artists continue to pass down the details and nuances of our collective culture, but, as we all must adapt, so too do Cincinnati's venerated arts organizations.
Critics and hand-wringers worry that our fine arts are dying as entertainment and information blur lines and become more and more immediate. Others look to our ever-diminishing support of the arts and humanities in our early education and secondary school systems and worry we are propagating an entire generation of youth with zero exposure to art forms that carry little weight on achievement tests.

The Cincinnati arts community, however, is keeping pace with many of our small, medium, and large arts organizations readily embracing new technology as a way to expand and develop audiences. Social networking is regularly employed to spread the news on upcoming events as well as connecting arts patrons to each other. Viral videos on YouTube have already been adopted by Cincinnati Ballet, Cincinnati Opera and Know Theatre of Cincinnati as a way to provide insight and information for their patrons even before they set foot inside their spaces.

"It used to be about money, but now I think it's about time," says Jason Bruffy, Artistic Director of Know Theatre of Cincinnati talking about barriers to going to the theatre as he prepares for the Cincinnati Fringe Festival. "It takes a lot to convince someone to leave what's familiar – to turn off the TV or the computer -  and take a chance on something new. You can either complain how the digital revolution is stealing your audience, or you can use it to steal it back."

Audience development will be the topic taking center stage on May 6, as the Graduate Program in Arts Administration at the University of Cincinnati College-Conservatory of Music (CCM) and the Arts & Culture Partnership of the Fine Arts Fund (FAF) will host a community conversation with Diane Ragsdale of The Andrew W. Mellon Foundation. Ragsdale will share her thoughts about building strong community through the arts by "surviving culture change," followed by a panel discussion by area arts and technology experts.

"Audience development is about brokering a relationship between people and art, and between people and people," she says. "And in order to do that job well, arts organizations need to be open to the ways that art and artists are changing, and the ways that society is changing, and be willing to change accordingly."

While many people assume that the goal for an arts organization's survival is ticket sales, Ragsdale notes that's not the whole picture.

Complementing Ragsdale's talk, two local leaders will provide additional perspectives on the topic and engage in a dialogue with the audience. Panelists are Evans Mirageas, artistic director of Cincinnati Opera, and Pete Blackshaw, local digital entrepreneur and executive vice president of Nielsen Online, with the Fine Arts Fund's Margy Waller moderating the discussion.

Admission is free and open to the public, though seating is limited and reservations are necessary. Please click here to make your reservation.


Writer: Jeff Syroney
Source: University of Cincinnati, College Conservatory of Music

Mayor Mallory and ODNR director announce new $2 million state youth job program

Youth are ideally suited to maintaining parks and trails around town during summer.


Hence the birth of the Recovery Conservation Corps (RCC), a statewide effort  with heavy local involvement, which Cincinnati Mayor Mark Mallory introduced at the 4th Annual Youth Job Fair. 

 

This program, aimed at youth aged 16 - 24, is the result of a collaboration between the Ohio Department of Natural Resources (ODNR) and Ohio Department of Job and Family Services (ODJFS).

 

"The new state program will not only help youth in Hamilton County gain skills, knowledge and work experience, but it will also teach them the importance of conservation, ensuring a greener and healthier future for us all," Mayor Mallory says.

 

Alongside Mayor Mallory, ODNR Director Sean Logan also discussed the details of this new youth job engine. 


"These workers will gain critical experience and on-the-job training as they improve the state’s parks, wetlands, forests and other natural areas," Logan says.

 

Those employed by the RCC will be assigned to various maintenance, repair and improvement projects in Cincinnati's parks, such as Hueston Woods State Park, Caesar Creek State Park and Little Miami Scenic Park.


Specifically, the RCC will improve recreation lands, build boardwalks, observation areas and trails and restrain the reach of invasive species.


With all of the work to be done, the ODNR estimates that hundreds may be employed by the program.  Ultimately, this is encouraging news during these economically challenging times.

 

“These projects fulfill the spirit of the rapid economic response needed now by the people of Ohio and called for in the stimulus plan,” said Logan. “The program puts young people to work and does it quickly.”


Funding for this program is coming from President Obama's American Recovery and Reinvestment Act, through which $2 million will go to the RCC program.


Similar programs are already in place in New York, Indiana, Tennessee and California.

 

Writer:  Jonathan DeHart
Source: Jason Barron, City of Cincinnati


Cincy's Know Theatre tours the nation with Calculus and makes math fun for over 10,000 students

The Cincinnati-based Know Theatre has swept the nation with a production called Calculus: The Musical! that has managed to make math fun for more than 10,000 students.

The tour has gone so well that Know Theatre is already booking performances for their 2009 – 2010 tour.

"In just one season, Calculus: The Musical! has become a flagship for Know Theatre," says managing director Eric Vosmeier. 

The special ingredient making this play so unique is its recipe for making math and science entertaining.

"Math and science based programming is a rarity to start with," Vosmeier says.  "But it’s not often that you hear the kinds of amazing stories we get to hear nearly every time we perform this show. This show helps teachers to teach and students to learn all while making them laugh. It’s amazing."

By the time the tour ends next month, the tour will have visited almost 60 cities and 19 states, from Dallas, Texas to Bedford, Massachusetts.

Calculus: The Musical! is the creation of Sadie Bowman, Know Theatre's Education Coordinator, and high school math teacher, Marc Gutman.  Under the company name, Matheatre, Bowman and Gutman wrote and performed the play at Fringe Festivals, schools and conferences around the country between 2006 and 2008. 

With such a successful showing so far, Know Theatre has planned multiple national tours over the next several years. 

"It is a unique and moving experience to see the show evolve to this next phase, especially after working on the show for several years," Bowman says.  "I’m pleased to know that the tour is going strong and that so many students are benefiting from the culmination of educational based and theatrical programming."

Educational sponsors for Calculus: The Musical! include the Louis and Melba Schott Foundation, Andrew Jergens Foundation, Toyota Foundation, Duke Energy Foundation, Summerfair Foundation and the Ohio Arts Council.


Writer:  Jonathan DeHart
Source:  Megan Venzin, Know Theatre of Cincinnati


Cincy Association for the Blind wins $500,000 award for employment efforts

Diversity is a priority for Cincinnati companies.

Reflecting this, the Cincinnati Association for the Blind and Visually Impaired (CABVI) has just received the National Industries for the Blind (NIB) Retention/Growth/Upward Mobility Award, worth $500,000.

The CABVI won this award for its efforts to employ over 60 blind or visually impaired people in its Industries Program, the largest supplier of heavy duty pressure sensitive tapes for the US Military.

That's not all.  In a larger effort, the CABVI's Base Supply Center Office Runway at Wright Patterson Air Force Base over 800 products are manufactured and sold by the joint efforts of more than 70 blindness agencies.

"This Award is really a reflection of the great employees we have working for us," says the director of CABVI's Industries Program Fred Newman.  "They are a skilled and dedicated team." 

CABVI is providing a very valuable service for the blind, a group in which 7 out of 10 remain unemployed.

CABVI and other NIB associated agencies employ over 5,900 blind and visually impaired people across the nation through the AbilityOne Program.

"At NIB, we are pleased to reward our agencies for their efforts to retain and grow employment and create upward mobility options for people who are blind," says President and CEO of NIB Kevin Lynch. "These awards are evidence of their hard work to enable more people who are blind to achieve socioeconomic independence and equality. That is a shared mission that is vitally important to us all."

The CABVI provides counseling, rehabilitation, information and employment services to the blind in the greater Cincinnati region.

To learn more about its services, visit here.


Writer:  Jonathan DeHart
Source:  Lisa Desatnik, Cincinnati Association for the Blind and Visually Impaired


Minority Business Accelerator adds KANU Investments and Focus Solutions to portfolio

The Minority Business Accelerator (MBA) has just included two more companies in its portfolio: KANU Investments, Inc. and Focus Solutions, Inc. 

This brings the total roster of minority owned companies in the MBA portfolio up to 30.

As the premier minority-owned business initiative of the Cincinnati USA Regional Chamber, the MBA has made great progress since its inception in 2002.

"The MBA has done a phenomenal job," says MBA vice president Crystal German.

The combined revenues of the firms in the MBA portfolio started at $95 million in 2003 and exploded to $375 million in 2007. 

The companies in the portfolio have burgeoned too.  Since the MBA's start in 2002, the average firm has grown from $4.8 million to $8.2 million.  And employment has increased by 36 percent.

Its goal is simple: to help well established minority-owned businesses grow and bring new players into the field.  This results in minority businesses playing a larger role in the economy, thus increasing employment and economic growth in the region.

German explains that, essentially, this is done on both the demand and supply sides to ensure that the minority businesses involved are fully plugged into all aspects of the economy.

To gain entry, a business must be minority-owned and generate a minimum revenue of $1 million; something both KANU Investments and Focus Solutions have no problem doing.

KANU Investments, a certified Minority Business Enterprise (MBE) under the name L.A. Scott Trucking, plies its trade as a DOT-registered truckload contract carrier, led by president and CEO I. Enyi Kanu. 

Focus Solutions, also an MBE as well as a Women's Business Enterprise (WBE), performs three main functions: process management, property management and temporary staffing.  President and CEO Zola Stewart holds the reins at Focus.

KANU and Focus are in good hands with the MBA.

In 2008 the MBA convinced local businesses to spend $400 million in goods and services with local area MBEs – a 30 percent increase in spending.

With this track record, the MBA is poised to play an important part in bolstering Cincinnati's economy in the economic climate of 2009.

"This is an important thing for Cincinnati to have because there are so many residual benefits," says Chamber PR director, Chris Kemper.  "It's a national leader for what we do.  It's [something] Cincinnati should be proud of because it's been so successful."

To learn more about the MBA, visit here.

Writer:  Jonathan DeHart
Source:  Cincinnati USA Regional Chamber, Chris Kemper, Crystal German

Xavier launches innovative summer business program in Israel

In the push to offer relevant, innovative study options to area college students, Xavier
University
is offering two new business-oriented study abroad programs in Israel, beginning this summer.

This new series of programs adds to Xavier's offerings in China, Jordan, Egypt, Korea, and Japan.

The program provides students a peek into the business, political and social landscape of Israel.  Special emphasis will be given to social entrepreneurship and the influences of culture on business.

The inter-religious culture of contemporary Israel will also be explored through the Study of Western Religions, rounding out the last three credit hours of the program.

“I anticipate a very positive experience for the travelers,” says George Gordon, instructor in Xavier's MBA program at the Williams College of Business and leader of the undergraduate trip.  “It is not only a chance to earn 6 credit hours, but it’s an opportunity to look at history and tradition in order to understand today’s business values as well as Israel and the Middle East’s role in today’s flat world. Is there any better place to study comparative religion than in Jerusalem?”

But undergrads are not the only ones to benefit from this program launch.  Israel, a land known for its prevalence of social entrepreneurship and strength in all things high-tech, offers an excellent case study for examining global economic forces.

Thus, MBA students and alumni can participate in the three credit hour course, Doing Business in Israel, which promises to explore global market forces affecting Israel, foster an understanding of Israel's importance as a global economic power and compare and contrast Israeli and American business culture.

Taking education beyond classroom walls, students in both programs will observe business operations Cincinnati-side then observe the same companies as they do business in Israel.

Guest instructors will include government and business leaders, entrepreneurs and Israeli business students.

“According to the U.S. Department of Commerce, Israel has more companies on the NASDAQ than any other country, except the U.S. and Canada,” says Art Shriberg, Professor of Management and Entrepreneurship and leader of the graduate trip.

Participating students will also have opportunity to visit various sites of cultural and religious significance throughout the program.

For those interested, the application deadline for both programs is March 15, 2009.  The cost of both programs is the tuition fee, plus $3,200, which covers all travel and hotels, most meals and other miscellaneous expenses.  

Writer:  Jonathan DeHart
Source:  Laurel Bauer, Xavier University

Tata Consultancy to host Selling to India conference on March 6

On March 6, Cincinnati's Tata Consultancy North American Delivery Headquarters will host the US Department of Commerce in a presentation entitled: Selling to India:  Opportunities Await.

As home to the world's second largest population and a rapidly growing middle class, opportunities for business in India are seemingly infinite.  Cincinnati corporations stand to benefit from this growth.

"There are great opportunities, but it is important for Cincininati firms to do the research to find out if selling to India fits their strategy," says Kara Sweeney, international trade specialist, U.S. Commercial Service – Cincinnati.   

Indian social customs – particularly within their caste system – as well as cultural differences with regard to business protocols and a slow decision making style are a few of the numerous considerations that should be understood before shipping products across the globe.

This is where Selling to India serves as an invaluable tool to local businesses.

The program features an impressive line-up of business leaders and India experts speaking to the financial, legal and cultural considerations necessary to understand  within the Indian market.

Presenters include Consul General of India-New York, Prabhu Dayal; Dr. Abdul Quader Shaikh, Senior International Economist, US Commercial Service, US Department of Commerce; and Abid Ali Z. Neemuchwala, Vice President of Tata Consultancy Services.

"By attending our March 6th event, local businesses can find export resources to help them determine if India is the right market for their company and provide the tools to assist them in positioning themselves for success," Sweeney says.

For more information or to register, visit here.

Writer:  Jonathan DeHart
Source:  Tata Consultancy Services, Kara Sweeney, US Commercial Service


Greater Cincy Chinese Chamber to hold 2nd annual Lunar New Year Party on Feb 6

It's the Year of the Ox, and it's time to party.

For an introduction to China and its place in Cincinnati, on February 6, the Greater Cincinnati Chinese Chamber of Commerce (GCCCC) will throw a bash that promises to dazzle:  the 2009 Lunar New Year Party.

"This is turning out to be a great program," says GCCCC President, Xiaojie Zavon.

And reservations for this gala, the second of its kind, are filling up fast.  Over 110 guests of the 150-200 expected have already registered.

The Lunar New Year Party will be held downtown in the ornate Hilton Netherland Plaza's Hall of Mirrors.

Given the increase in Chinese business traffic to and from Cincinnati, due in part to the efforts of the GCCCC (link to my article), the guest list includes several officials, both local and from other regions of the US.  The Commercial Counselor and two vice Counsels from China's Consulate General in New York are among them.

"The city of Cincinnati has committed to a corporate table to show support," Zavon says.

To highlight the economic potential inherent in doing business in China, Chris Hassall, PhD, Procter and Gamble's (P&G) Vice President of Corporate Communications and North American External Relations, will share his perspectives gained from a four year stint in China for P&G.

But it's not all business.  There will also be a silent auction, performances and a gourmet food spread – Chinese-inspired of course.

"Our Lunar New Year is the perfect combination of business and culture," Zavon says.

For more information or to register for the Lunar New Year Party, visit here

Writer:  Jonathan DeHart
Source:  Greater Cincinnati Chinese Chamber of Commerce, Xiaojie Zavon

Mayor Mallory leads charge for accurate 2010 census that could save Cincinnati up to $104 million

Cincinnati Mayor Mark Mallory knows the value of an accurate Census count. 

Given his strong track record of combing the city for overlooked residents, Mayor Mallory has been appointed chair of the 2010 Census Task Force for the US Conference of Mayors (USCM), which met for the first time during the USCM Winter Meeting in Washington DC last week.

“Every city in the country needs to be preparing for Census right now,” Mayor Mallory says. 

Mayor Mallory kicked off the meeting by making the case for the importance of getting the numbers right, stressing that cities can literally save millions of dollars by doing so.

In fact, at the rate of losing an estimated $2,263 per uncounted person, Cincinnati could lose as much as $104 million if the figures aren't complete.

"If a city’s population is undercounted, it will cost the city millions of dollars over the next ten years," Mayor Mallory says.

With so much money at stake, the House of Representatives introduced an Economic Stimulus Package of $1 billion to be used for nailing down accurate numbers in 2010; $150 million of which will be put toward communicating and reaching out to minority populations.

Alongside Mayor Mallory's wake-up call to the nation's mayors, other presentations were made by Darryl Piggee of the Congressional Subcommittee on the Census; Tom Mesenbourg, Deputy Director and Chief Operation Officer of the US Census Bureau; and Jamie Alderslade of Social Compact, who collaborated with Mayor Mallory on the Shop 52 DrillDown Study in 2007, which revealed Cincinnati's true population of 378,000.

Thorough preparation for the Census was the main topic of discussion; with good reason.

There are more than 170 federal programs, doling out $300 billion annually, based on Census count and population estimates.  Further, $260 billion will be invested in commercial development over the next four years – again, based on Census counts.

“The Census sets a city’s destiny for the next decade.  In Cincinnati, we have been planning for over a year and have assembled a Census committee of over 100 local leaders to ensure that everyone is counted.”


Writer:  Jonathan DeHart
Source:  City of Cincinnati


UC and Shanghai Jiao Tong University bridge the gap with '2+3' mechanical engineering program

The University of Cincinnati (UC) has a new friend in China.


Starting this fall, UC and Shanghai Jiao Tong University (SJTU) launched a program that allows second-year English-track, mechanical engineering students at SJTU to matriculate at UC for the last three years of UC’s undergraduate mechanical engineering program.


Admitted students will complete the last three years of UC’s mechanical engineering undergraduate program, including one year of real world work experience, through UC’s acclaimed co-op program, and a capstone design clinic project in the fifth and last year of study.


Graduates will receive B.S. degrees in mechanical engineering from both UC and SJTU, making them highly marketable in both the US and China.


Earlier this year a group of UC professors visited SJTU, where Professor Teik C. Lim, head of UC’s Mechanical Engineering Department, gave a presentation to more than 100 SJTU first and second-year students.  Other professors in this delegation included Frank Gerner, associate dean for Undergraduate and Administrative Affairs in the College of Engineering; and Professor Jay Lee, Ohio Eminent Scholar and L.W. Scott Alter Chair Professor in Mechanical Engineering.


During their visit Lee says they visited some companies, such as Caterpillar, National Instruments and GE. 


“We found out that this program has value for [the students’] future,” Lee says.  He adds that the companies they spoke with “are excited about this type of student.”  


Professor Lee co-created the program with Professors Guang Meng, dean of SJTU’s mechanical engineering department, and Lifeng Xi, the department’s associate dean.


Already, five SJTU students are enrolled in the program, and companies in both the US and China have shown interest in having these students do their co-op programs with them. 


These students are scheduled to graduate from UC after summer quarter 2011, after which they will return to SJTU to complete a final project for the SJTU portion of the program.


SJTU is considered one of the top engineering schools in China, and already has academic relationships with the University of Michigan, MIT, Georgia Tech and Purdue University. 


“Our strategy is to develop strong ties with top universities, and to then create pathways for the best students into a broad range of UC disciplines,” says Vice Provost of UC International, Mitch Leventhal, PhD.


More information on UC International can be found here.

Writer: Jonathan DeHart
Source: University of Cincinnati


Japanese community remembers 2008, toasts to 2009 at Japan America Society's annual bonenkai

The Japan America Society of Greater Cincinnati (JASGC) knows how to throw a good party.

On December 8, at the Cincinnati Art Museum, Cincinnati’s Japanese and American business communities remembered the good of 2008, forgot the bad, and looked forward to 2009 at JASGC’s annual bonenkai.

A bonenkai – literally “a party to forget the year’s troubles” in Japanese – is de rigueur for organizations in Japan. 

JASGC first introduced this yearly cultural rite of passage to Cincinnati 20 years ago, and it’s still enjoyed today.

Building on the successes of 2008, in 2009 JASGC hopes “to reach a broader group of people in the community,” says Carrie Bogner, JASGC (position).

This year’s bonenkai hosted over 140 guests, featured entertainment by award-winning, local violinist Kaori Matsui, who has been on NPR’s podcast From the Top over 100 times; and the Sakura Ladies Chorus, who have performed at the Cincinnati Art Museum’s Asian Cultural Festival and the Cincinnati Fine Arts Fund’s Art Sampler Weekend. 

JASGC’s 2008 bonenkai was sponsored by All Nippon Airways, Cincinnati USA Regional Chamber, Cincinnati Symphony, Fifth Third Bank and Pioneer Automotive Technologies, among others.

More information on JASGC and its exciting cross-cultural and business opportunities can be found here.

Writer: Jonathan DeHart
Source: The Japan America Society of Greater Cincinnati 

 


The European-American Chamber of Commerce hosts seminar on global branding

When Kentucky Fried Chicken planted its first stores in China, their slogan “finger lickin’ good” translated to horrified Chinese patrons, “eat your fingers off.”

Not good.

To prevent similar marketing debacles abroad, the European-American Chamber of Commerce Cincinnati Chapter (EACC) hosted a seminar on December 2, titled Global Branding and Global Coding.

Ralf Weber, President of M/E Brand Communications of Dusseldorf, Germany, gave the main presentation, which was followed by a lively panel discussion moderated by Nick Vehr, President of Vehr Communications. 

Representatives from Jarden and Perfetti Van Melle sat on the panel.

“A one size fits all approach to marketing is very dangerous in the global context,” Vehr says.  “There are images, colors or words that might be interpreted one way in one culture that could be interpreted another way in another culture.”

An example Vehr gives: in Germany, the Jeep Wrangler is a symbol of an occupying force; in France, a liberating force.

“Unless you’re aware of that, you could do damage to your corporate or brand reputation,” Vehr says.

Numerous local business leaders attended and participated in the EACC event, which gave valuable insights to Cincinnati’s significant number of companies involved overseas.

Sponsors for this event included Frost Todd Brown, LLC, the Cincinnati USA Regional Chamber and the US Commercial Service of the United States Department of Commerce.


Writer:  Jonathan DeHart
Source:  Nick Vehr


Macy's earns perfect score on Corporate Equality Index

Macy’s Inc. earned a perfect score on the the Human Rights Campaign's annual Corporate Equality Index. The index scores companies based on their policies for gay, lesbian, bisexual and transgendered employees, using surveys from the firms, among other sources. Special weight is given to companies that offer benefits to non-married partners, and have inclusion policies for transgendered individuals. Cincinnati-based Macy’s received the perfect rating for the second year in a row. Other Cincinnati-area employers that made the list include Deloitte LLP, Ford Motor Co., Johnson & Johnson, KeyCorp, Toyota, and U.S. Bancorp. The Human Rights Campaign, based in Washington, D.C., is a civil rights organization focused on gay, lesbian, bisexual and transgendered persons.


Writer: David Holthaus
Source: Human Rights Campaign


Abstract Displays and Carla Eng win expert assistance from WE Link

Carla Eng, president of Abstract Displays, a Cincinnati-based provider of trade show displays, will get help in growing the business after being named the recipient of the WE Link/ATHENA PowerLink® Program for 2008. The program connects selected women-business owners with an advisory panel that consults to improve networking, access to capital, operations and strategy.
This is the second year the Cincinnati USA Regional Chamber and ATHENA PowerLink have made the program available in Greater Cincinnati. Her advisory panel will include experts from the Hamilton County Development Co., Intrinzic Marketing + Design, Employers Resource Association, Change Guides, and the Clermont Chamber Small Business Development Center. "This program will most definitely help our company get to the next level of growth," Eng says.


Writer: David Holthaus
Source: Chris Kemper, Cincinnati USA Regional Chamber

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