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Diversity Fellowship opens pathway to orchestras

According to the League of American Orchestras, classical music has a serious lack of diversity. Racial and ethnic minority players make up just 15% of orchestra musicians. In 2015, UC College-Conservatory of Music (CCM) and the Cincinnati Symphony Orchestra (CSO) established the joint Diversity Fellowship program to help level the playing field for students of diverse backgrounds. As Director of Marketing and Communications at CCM Curt Whitacre explained, “the goal is to change the face of the American orchestra.”

Musicians in the program receive full tuition scholarship thanks to The Andrew W. Mellon Foundation. allowing them to earn a two-year Master of Music (MM) or Artist Diploma (AD) through CCM, while also playing alongside the Cincinnati Symphony Orchestra throughout their regular season. “Between resources available with the orchestra and the conservatory, we are removing barriers,” said Whitacre.  

First-year student Ian Saunders, a double bassist from Norfolk, Virginia, spoke with Soapbox to share insights about his experience with the program so far.

How did you get into playing classical music?

I started playing in the public school system. We had this wonderful conductor as part of the Virginia Symphony Orchestra who made it possible to rent a violin for free, otherwise I wouldn’t have been able to...When I went to college they said we need a bass player, and I said “great, I need money” [laughs]. There are more scholarships for bass players and I haven’t looked back since.

How has your journey been different than other players?

Typically in any orchestral career you have to play summer festivals in Aspen and Tanglewood, which you have to pay for. You’d be hard pressed to not see that in someone’s background. I came from a family where I couldn’t afford not to work in the summers.

What attracted you to the CSO/CCM Diversity Fellowship program?

The big thing that makes it wonderful is that you typically have an hour lesson with your teacher, but it’s really unheard of to have a lesson and then play with that teacher in a concert. It’s an apprenticeship that’s like nothing else around here. You’re just gaining this information by being around it. I’ve learned so much more in just a few weeks than I did in a lot of years trying to imagine how it might be.

What are some of the best things about the fellowship experience so far?

They’re very supportive, and they put a lot of time and resources behind us. The other thing about it is that the fellowship pays for auditions and things, which are really expensive. They provide audition support so we can just focus on practicing.

What do you hope the future holds after the CSO/CCM Diversity Fellowship wraps up?

The dream in general is to join a major orchestra, an A-tier orchestra like Chicago or Philadelphia. I feel like I’m now in a good place to compete for those.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Cincinnati Opera teaming up with OIP to broaden audience awareness

Wrongful convictions occur far too often in our criminal justice system, so the Ohio Innocence Project is teaming up with the Cincinnati Opera and the Young Professionals Choral Collective to collaborate on a new project.

The opera Blind Injustice, named after UC Law Professor and OIP Director Mark Godsey’s book by the same name, will debut in June 2019. It will detail the stories and range of emotions experienced by six men and women — all of whom were wrongly convicted and later exonerated as a result of OIP’s dedication to the truth.

“The stories of these six exonerees are powerful tales of perseverance and forgiveness after going through an ordeal most of us can’t even imagine,” Godsey says.

The stories included are: Rickey Jackson, who spent 40 years in prison and was sentenced to death prior to being exonerated for a murder he did not commit; Clarence Elkins, who spent 7.5 years behind bars after being wrongly convicted of rape and murder; Nancy Smith, who was in prison for 15 years as a result of invalid molestation charges; and the East Cleveland 3 — Derrick Wheatt, Laurese Glover and Eugene Johnson — who each spent 20 years in prison prior to a key eyewitness’ recanting of testimony.

According to Marcus Küchle, director of artistic operations and new work development for the Opera, opera is an ideal medium to convey the exonerees’ powerful emotions. “The general public is likely not aware of the extent of this problem. And if they are aware that wrongful convictions occur with not insignificant frequency, then it may be compartmentalized as ‘cost of doing business’ or ‘unfortunate collateral damage’ in the process of keeping society safe. But there is a steep human cost to it. It comes with feelings of being terrified for one’s life, an indescribable feeling of love and longing for family and friends who are literally out of reach and unable to help.”

The OIP will also be represented in Blind Injustice through the lens of two characters — one of which represents Godsey in the early days of his career as a prosecutor and now as an innocence lawyer, and another that will represent OIP law students.

“Cincinnati Opera is looking for innovative ways to collaborate with nontraditional partner organizations in an authentic way to tell current stories of societal importance,” says Küchle. “We are keenly interested in breaking through the stereotypes of what opera is in the 21st century, and this project is a perfect example of the type of new works Cincinnati Opera will pursue in future seasons.”

Innovative grantmaking program to help transform the region's health

Today, Bethesda Inc., a major funder of health transformation and cosponsor of TriHealth, announced the launch of bi3, a dedicated grantmaking initiative meant to transform health in the region. bi3 will invest in ideas, with the potential to start and scale health innovation. This will result in better overall health for all of Greater Cincinnati's residents.

“bi3 is the evolution of Bethesda Inc.’s grantmaking work, which builds on our rich history of health-related innovations,” says Mark Holcomb, chairman of Bethesda Inc. “The bi3 initiative better positions us to invest in collaborations and partnerships that lead to breakthrough change in health and healthcare.”

The letters "bi" honor the Bethesda Inc. heritage; the number "3" recognizes that the initiative is built on three core elements — ideas, investments and innovation. It's not a foundation or a hospital, but the result of a philanthropic investor that wants to help transform the health of the region.

As a cosponsor of TriHealth, Bethesda Inc. and bi3 will be able to create and fund collaborations between TriHealth and community-based organizations. As a result, bi3 will have the ability to scale programs more rapidly, setting it apart from other health-related grants.

The initiative will build upon Bethesda Inc.'s learnings and past successes by focusing on four funding priorities, which represent the top health needs in the community: maternal and infant health; behavioral health; palliative and hospice care; and health innovation that are enabled by new technology or accelerate the integration of care.

Overall, bi3 is particularly interested in efforts that achieve health equity by addressing the social determinants of health and health disparities for underserved populations. In the coming months, bi3 will be flexible in its approach to funding in order to best respond to new opportunities and changes within the community.

As part of the launch, bi3 also announced $3.8 million in funding to TriHealth and local nonprofit organizations. Recipients and program info are below:

  • TriHealth in partnership with Hospice of Cincinnati will receive $3.35 million in grant money over three years to launch the first health system-sponsored community-based palliative care program in the region. Once established, the program will relieve physical suffering, manage symptoms, address social needs and support care choices for vulnerable and seriously ill patients and their families. The program, PalliaCare Cincinnati, is expected to provide better care for patients, better health by addressing emotional and phsyical suffering and lower costs from decreased use of acute healthcare services.
  • The Center for Addiction Treatment received a $100,000 grant to provide seed money for the start of a primary care clinic and medical resident training program, specifically designed to treat patients suffering from addiction. The clinic will also serve as a training site for TriHealth residents and others in family practices and internal medicine, so residents can learn evidence-based practices for treating addiction as a disease.
  • Thanks to a $50,000 grant, TriHealth Behavioral Health will define and deploy a Substance Use Disorder Program that will provide clinical training and patient education on comprehensive treatment options. The program will initially focus on patients facing opioid addiction, and will include links to outpatient treatment upon discharge to help prevent further admissions. This program is in the pilot stage at Good Samaritan Hospital.
  • Spry Labs received a $45,000 grant to create a benefit tracker designed for mobile apps, in collaboration with TriHealth. This will allow health system employees a quick, intuitive and convenient way to track time and activities related to delivering community benefit programs. The tracker will also better enable healthcare systems to measure community impact.
  • A $100,000 grant will allow St. Vincent DePaul-Cincinnati to complete a consult agreement with Good Samaritan Free Health Center in Price Hill in order to allow immediate patient care services like modifying current drug therapy, starting new therapy, ordering labs and/or physical assessment of patients. The agreement will have the added benefit of providing insight into this community healthcare model and will offer a breakthrough in safety-net healthcare for patients without insurance.

GCF provides grant funding to three local orgs for literacy improvement programs

Three Cincinnati organizations striving to close the literacy gap received grants from the Gladys and Ralph Lazarus Education Fund of The Greater Cincinnati Foundation to help take their work to the next level.

“These investments are certainly in alignment with GCF’s overall strategy of building a Greater Cincinnati where everyone can thrive,” says Molly Robertshaw, program officer. “GCF, alongside its generous donors, has invested in several meaningful ways in education, and more specifically, literacy, over the years.”

Cincinnati Public Schools received $248,000 to hire a kindergarten reading specialist for a pilot project at Roll Hill Academy, as well as for hiring a continuous quality improvement manager to focus on literacy.

“At this point in time, nearly all reading intervention specialists district-wide are focused on third graders,” says Robertshaw. “Many say that this is too late to catch kids and play catch up if they are struggling to read. The district’s leadership would like to explore moving reading intervention efforts into younger grades in order to get kids on the right track earlier, but the district needs flexible dollars such as this to test the idea before coming close to considering shifting resources.”

According to data provided by CPS, in kindergarten to third grade literacy, CPS students scored 60.7 percent proficiency on the state reading test, which was a significant improvement from 46.5 percent the year before. The goal for this school year is 75 percent proficiency, reaching 90 percent by 2020.

Madisonville Education and Assistance Center received a $35,000 grant to expand its Early Literacy Initiative, which provides year-round, small group and one-on-one instruction to students struggling to read.

“MEAC is a unique public/private partnership based in Madisonville’s neighborhood school, John P. Parker,” says Robertshaw. “Funds granted will be used to expand to serve additional students, as well as to document the model in hopes of potential scaling in coming years.”

The Greater Cincinnati STEM Collaborative was awarded $5,000 to launch a program developed by Stanford researcher Dr. Jo Boaler to improve student confidence and outcomes in math. The Collaborative will train math teachers in CPS and Winton Woods school districts to implement the Math Mindset system in their classrooms, providing them with support and resources.

“GCF makes investments at both the systems change and program levels to drive the broadest scale change and to test promising ideas,” Robertshaw says.

In addition to these grants, GCF has partnered with The Scripps Howard Foundation and Duke Energy Foundation to invest in regional reading literacy efforts. GCF also works closely with the Success by 6 and Strive Partnership to support systems level change. In late 2018, GCF will offer a program-focused Ensuring Educational Success RFP.

LADD strengthens community with new health and wellness initiative

Last month, Living Arrangements for the Developmentally Disabled partnered with Hamilton County Special Olympics and the Cincinnati Recreation Commission to present its first ever FitFest.

The event featured fitness instruction, group exercise classes, health screenings and presentations on health and wellness. Open to the entire community, FitFest allowed LADD to showcase and expand upon its new Health & Wellness Program that launched earlier this year.

“LADD began its Health & Wellness Program as an initiative to support our staff in lowering stress and leading healthier lifestyles, and our adults with developmental disabilities in leading fuller, more connected and more independent lives,” says Kristin Harmeyer, LADD's health and wellness coordinator.

As a result of LADD's ongoing commitment to health and wellness for its employees and clients, Fit For Life (light workouts) and High Intensity Circuits, in addition to Lunctime Yoga and Evening Yoga are offered 1-2 times each week.


Harmeyer says she’s already seeing an impact — an impact that’s both positive and exciting.

“People who, prior to our program, got minimal physical activity are now coming up to me regularly and asking, ‘When is the next class?’” she says. “I am seeing strengthened overall confidence and life skills as a result.”

For a program that’s already seeing success, the hope is that it can continue to grow. FitFest was the largest and newest initiative for LADD, and Harmeyer says it was important for the nonprofit to host an event for the entire community because it allowed for building connections and new relationships.

“Not only was it an opportunity for diverse people to come out, learn and be active together,” Harmeyer says, “but it was an opportunity for us to forge relationships with other organizations with shared visions who have expressed interest in more involvement with LADD’s health and wellness initiative.”

Jubilee Project addresses food deserts and job training in Westwood

Food deserts — or communities without easy access to fresh foods — are a growing concern nationally and in Greater Cincinnati. Among other things, the Jubilee Project is bringing fresh produce to the McHenry corridor of Westwood and East Westwood through an innovative urban farm and market program.

“We have five lots in Bracken Woods, a small area next to the market and two front yards that we farm currently,” says Thomas Hargis, pastor at Calvary Hilltop United Methodist Church. “We not only grow outdoors but we grow in basements as well. We are currently growing out tilapia and have been doing aqua and hydroponics for over a year. We grow lettuce, basil and micro greens throughout the year that provide amazing produce during the wintertime.”

The Jubilee Market, which opened in June, sells produce from Jubilee Farms as well as clothing and merchandise from local vendors. The project was part of a City of Cincinnati collaboration between Place Based Investigations of Violent Offender Territories and the Neighborhood Enhancement Program.

“The NEP coming behind PIVOT played a huge role in galvanizing the community, not only around the market but several other projects that have been completed in that area,” says Hargis. “We asked the community what they would like to have in their neighborhood and evaluated what made sense economically. We have since had over 1,000 hours of volunteer labor helping to restore the market and ready the plots for farming.”

The Jubilee Project, a pilot effort of six local Episcopal and Methodist churches, began with a construction job training and housing program.

“Any time you work in a community, you face all the issues that prevent the best parts of the community from blossoming,” says Hargis. “While construction was the first thing Jubilee started working on in Cincinnati, plans for food and other ventures were always in different stages that just needed the right opportunity and space to thrive. Traditionally, farming has not been a career path for most individuals. Urban agriculture, however, has created an opportunity for small businesses to be not only sustainable but provide a thriving wage.”

Jubilee Market also hires neighborhood residents who will learn retail skills and customer service that will hopefully lead to more permanent employment. The Market is currently only open on Saturdays, but the hope is to expand hours soon. Jubilee Farms produce can also be found at the Northside Farmers Market on Wednesday evenings and the Lettuce Eat Well Farmers' Market on Fridays.

Diverse by Design symposium to focus on inclusion and diversity initiatives in Greater Cincinnati

The Fifth Third Bank Diverse by Design™ Leadership Symposium will focus on intentional inclusion at its sixth annual event on Oct. 11.

“The Symposium is intended to be a community-focused event that creates a vehicle for us to bring together business leaders from across the region with the objective to inform through the Diverse by Design updates, engage through the business connection and inspire through the thought leadership of the keynote speaker,” says Mary McFarland, vice president and manager, Inclusion and Diversity at Fifth Third Bank.

The event originated in 2008 as an internal Fifth Third program. The collaboration with the Cincinnati USA Regional Chamber began with the 2012 release of Diverse by Design: Meeting the Talent Challenge in a Global Economy regional indicators report.

“The Symposium is an opportunity to have authentic conversations about what it would take to become an inclusive community,” says Mary Stagaman, senior inclusion advisor at the Cincinnati USA Regional Chamber.

The day will start early with a networking breakfast followed by keynote speaker Jeffery Tobias Halter. Halter, the former director of diversity strategy for The Coca-Cola Company, now leads a consulting firm that focuses on advancing gender equity.

After his presentation, Halter will switch from speaker to moderator to facilitate a panel of senior business and community leaders who will discuss his talk and provide an update on local initiatives.

Following a networking break, attendees will be able to choose from one of four breakout sessions to attend.

“We have done a lot around inclusion of people with cognitive and developmental disabilities,” says Stagaman. “This year, we are focusing on physical disabilities with panelists from EY, Ethicon, P&G and Fifth Third.”

Mary-Frances Winters, author of We Can’t Talk About That at Work will lead a workshop on constructive conversations around difficult subjects. “Winters explains how we can have those conversations productively to build bridges not walls,” Stagaman says.

“While all the sessions promise to be powerful, the session on Polarizing Topics at Work is one that is particularly important in today’s climate,” McFarland adds.

A session on supplier diversity will offer innovative ideas for big companies with existing programs as well as tools for small companies unsure of how to start.

Julie Nugent, vice president and center leader, Catalyst Research Center for Corporate Practice will share a research-based approach on gender equity.

“The Symposium is for leaders with an interest in seeing the workforce and region become more inclusive and diverse and for anyone who cares about building an equitable community,” Stagaman says.

Tickets for the event are available now, and the first 200 registrants will receive a copy of Winters book.

Cincinnati USA Regional Chamber's CINC program celebrates five years

For the past five summers, the Cincinnati USA Regional Chamber's Cincinnati Intern Network Connection program has helped connect college students to the region while they work in their respective summer intern and co-op positions.

CINC is a summer-long program that exposes interns and co-ops around the Cincinnati area to all that the region has to offer. It's free to students and participating companies, thanks to the help of many investors, including Presenting Investor: Xavier University’s Summer Intern Housing; Excellence Investors: P&G and Western & Southern Financial Group; Participating Investors: Cintas, EY, Kroger Technology, Miami University, Northern Kentucky University, Patheon Pharmaceuticals and the University of Cincinnati; and Contributing Investors: the Cincinnati Reds and the Cincinnati Zoo & Botanical Garden.

The program showcases the Cincinnati region through a series of four summer events, which are also free to all interns and co-ops that attend. According to Jules Shumate, special projects leader for the Chamber, it was a record summer for CINC.

"A record 1,050 interns and co-op students signed up for CINC this summer, representing 216 companies, 165
colleges and universities, 45 countries and 36 states,” Shumate says. “Over 500 of those interns came from outside the Cincinnati MSA. CINC significantly increases our ability to attract and retain skilled, global talent to the region’s workforce."

While many of the interns stem from local colleges and universities, some come from schools outside of the Greater Cincinnati area as well.

Heeding from the University of Florida as a Material Science and Engineering major, Ilana Krause has been participating in CINC throughout the summer as she continues her internship with P&G. She says that while she came to the area hesitant, the program and Cincinnati in general has exceeded her expectations.

"I really enjoyed the work experience itself, as the opportunities that P&G provides give interns a lot of freedom and autonomy on their projects, while also giving them the resources to enable them to really contribute to the company,” Krause says. “The work we are given is challenging and interesting, and the people within the company are so supportive and genuinely want interns to succeed and have a great experience.”

According to the Chamber, over 51 percent of the students in CINC are currently employed or have already started their careers in Cincinnati, highlighting the strength of the program in developing area connections for interns and co-ops.

“By connecting students to internship opportunities, interest groups, social scenes, community engagement and Cincy’s flavor, we will deepen their affinity for the region and what it means to have the best in life when they choose Cincinnati after graduation,” Shumate says.

And, from what Krause says, her experiences here have deepened her personal connection with the area. “Coming from Florida, I was hesitant that I would ever consider any other place like home. But after this summer with P&G, programs by the Chamber and the incredible people I met, I could see myself returning back to Cincinnati and continuing to create a network in Ohio.”

Leading up to its closing event for this year’s program, the 2017 CINC program surveys say that 93 percent of interns will consider starting their careers in Cincinnati, something locals can look forward to in the professional realm.

The Chamber is ecstatic to introduce college students and the local community to a brand-new event that will amplify Cincinnati as the #hottestcityinAmerica to over 2,000 students from 18 local member colleges and universities. The Big College Event is a large-scale event for college and university students from all over the region, which will take place form 4 to 9 p.m. Oct. 19 at the Duke Energy Convention Center. Click here for more information regarding the event.

Sibling duo brings ancient art of tea ceremonies to East Walnut Hills

Siblings Lily and Max Raphael are the founders of Hearth, a project that creates community through tea and ancient ceremony. You can most often find them at Clear Conscious Movement in East Walnut Hills, where many healers and teachers share a space for their events and classes.

Soapbox sat down for a Q&A with the Raphaels to learn more about how they strengthen and heal Cincinnati through tea.

Why did you choose your location?

Lily: Hearth exists wherever we are. At this time, most of our activities take place at Clear Conscious Movement; however, we also take Hearth to the community, stewarding tea ceremonies at yoga studios, retreats, nature hikes, festivals, art installations and most recently, the Covington Farmers Market.


Max: Doing ceremony after ceremony at Clear, we’ve witnessed not only how tea can positively impact the space it’s in, but also all the people who share it. While we hope to expand beyond just tea with Hearth, I think the stillness and connection these ceremonies offer — on so many levels — really captures the overall spirit behind our project.


What services do you offer?

Lily: Inspired by our travels in Southeast Asia and Latin America, the goods we offer capture the beauty, culture and human connection we have found in the many places we have gone. These goods root back to all things cozy, providing a sense of home and respite while on the journey. Currently, we offer a selection of teas that Max came across while practicing tea ceremony in Asia. All our teas are clean, organic and in some cases, even wild, and sourced from personal connections to farms and tea merchants in Taiwan and Southern China.


Max: Our inspiration to share tea comes from connecting with it as a plant medicine, as I first did while studying in Taiwan. So rather than approach tea as a fancy or exotic beverage, we hope to facilitate a deeper, more personal connection to it, which we’ve found for ourselves.


What would surprise people about a tea ceremony? Why would someone want to try it?

Lily: During the ceremony, what I find time and again is that people are surprised by the level of stillness and connectedness they experience through a fairly simple practice. The mere act of sitting in silence and drinking tea allows us time and space to journey inward in a very accessible way that can easily be replicated at home. So much of our time is spent interacting with others, it is hard to find a moment to look inward. Even in just under two hours, it is amazing what one can discover about him/herself while silently sipping a bowl of tea.


Max: What’s most surprising is how close everyone feels with one another by the end of the ceremony, even though we’ve never met before, and just spent about an hour or more in silence, not conversation! The ceremony is its own sort of nonverbal conversation; with yourself, with nature and even with others.


Actually, the organic flow of it all, and the beautiful responses from people right after it, often catch me by surprise, too. Each ceremony is completely different, even when the same people are gathered. In the Japanese tea ceremony, there’s a saying that captures this: ichi go ichi e, "one chance, one encounter." One meaning of this is that any ceremony (or really any kind of gathering) has its own flavor and essence that could never be duplicated again. This exact assortment of people might never gather again. So tea can help us enjoy this unique time and space together. I usually like to start the gatherings by saying “this experience would not be the same if even one of us weren’t present."


How does this ceremony enhance the culture of Cincinnati?

Max: It’s a really special way to spend time with people, whether they’re new or old friends. We have many ways to connect and gather, but so few like this, if at all. To share silence with each other, without it being awkward or rigid, is both rare and meaningful. Most of us already drink tea, and this is just one way to find an even deeper connection with it, and through it, to something beyond tea itself. And the best part is, you don’t have a to be a certain way, or believe in any particular idea. You don’t need to know anything about tea or be a meditator, anything like that. You just sit and drink tea, and without any effort you begin to relax. Your senses gently awaken, and you feel you can set aside the usual masks or armor that some of us need just to get through the day.


We’re not sharing tea or the ceremonies to push any ideas, or even to make it into something exotic. We’re just creating a space each time for you to simply be as you are, and take away whatever meaning the experience has for you. To us, this is something so rare and needed not just here in Cincinnati, but everywhere.


What rewards you about this business?

Lily: There are so many rewarding aspects to Hearth. I love that it gives everyone an excuse to sit down and connect with each other, and that we have the opportunity to share these very special pieces of our journeys with people in our hometown. I am also grateful that it has brought so much purpose and continuity to what my brother and I love doing.


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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Come hungry and enjoy the menu as follows:

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Five local artists will showcase their findings about segregation through art

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

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

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

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

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

Here’s what the artists discovered:

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

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

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

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

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

Nonprofit GreenLight Cincinnati focuses on unique philanthropy model to fight poverty

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

GreenLight Cincinnati will announce its second investment later this summer.

ArtWorks now accepting applications for 2017 Big Pitch business grant competition

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Patty Brisben Foundation teams up with area nonprofits and doctors to promote women's sexual health

The Patty Brisben Foundation for Women’s Sexual Health is working to promote the wellbeing of women in a variety of ways — namely by enhancing available resources and by increasing its focus on education-related events.

PBF recently announced its 2017 grant recipients, The Topsy Foundation and Cancer Support Community. Both nonprofits offer programming aimed at enhancing women’s sexual health.

“The Board of Directors that reviewed the 2017 applications felt these two organizations were using funds to truly make a difference in the lives of women within two focus areas that are tied to our mission — vulvovaginal pain disorders and the intimacy-related sexual dysfunction following cancer treatments,” says Amanda Dixon, PBF’s events and development specialist. “Both recipients have successful programs in place, and are using our support to enhance their offerings and increase their outreach.”

Since PBF’s inception in 2006, the nonprofit has awarded more than $2.5 million to nearly 20 organizations locally and nationally.

For Dixon, it’s important to help women “break the silence,” and outreach and education are two of the first places to start.

Most healthcare providers receive very little training when it comes to sexuality, and even less in the area of female sexual difficulties; while the fact is that nearly half of all women experience sexual difficulties at some point in their lives,” she says.

PBF is exploring new ways it can reach women — for example, an event with UC Health that highlights the ways in which yoga therapy can enhance sexual health.

And next week, PBF is partnering with Somi Javaid M.D. & Associates to host Women’s Sexual Health Night. The event is at 6:30 p.m. on June 14 at 7813 Ted Gregory Lane in Olde Montgomery. Dr. Javaid will speak about the importance of women's sexual health.

“Women’s sexual health impacts everyone,” Dixon says. “We hope that our mission encourages women to talk to their friends, family and physicians in order to find the right information they need to live a healthy and fulfilled life.”

TEDxCincinnati returns for its fifth year with a new format and location

TEDxCincinnati returns for the fifth year on June 17, but this time to a newly renovated Memorial Hall. The 2017 Main Stage Event not only features a change of venue, but also a new, innovative program format.

“We had a great turn out for our Thursday night Main Stage Events, but moving to Saturday opens up the event to an entirely new crowd,” says Jami Edelheit, director of TEDxCincinnati. “This year, we’re offering the Main Stage twice, which lets attendees make it part of a whole night out, grabbing dinner before or after the show.”

The 2017 Main Stage Event will feature a mix of local and national speakers and performers who will give their TED Talks at both shows.

“TEDxCincinnati had a big audition night in March and two of those speakers will be on the Main Stage,” says Edelheit. “We had great submissions and it was really hard to narrow them down.”

The first Main Stage Event will run from 5 to 7 p.m., and the second will be from 8:30 to 10:30 p.m. In between the two shows, attendees will be able to network with each other and meet the speakers. The complete list of speakers and performers will be revealed next week; however, all previous TEDxCincinnati Main Stage Events have been sold out prior to speakers being announced.

“TEDxCincinnati is an experience,” says Edelheit. “There are some wonderful stories and ideas, but this is not about looking at a list of speaker's names and deciding to attend based on that. TEDx spurs conversations you might not otherwise have. It creates energy, excitement and engagement.”

The theme for the 2017 Main Stage Event, “Connected,” will be addressed by speakers that range from a retired member of the Special Forces, a 13-year-old working on artificial intelligence and Hamilton County Coroner Dr. Lakshmi Sammarco.

“This is one of the best themes we’ve had,” Edelheit says. “It’s about being human and all the ways we connect in the world through personal interactions, medicine and technology. And it’s central to our mission to live consciously, be authentic and empower others. We are right there in the word: connecTED.”

This year, TEDxCincinnati is also making an effort to connect with local organizations and businesses through its new Community Partners program.

“We want to feature what others are doing by bringing the community together to share ideas,” Edelheit explains. “TEDx is a neutral platform that builds relationships and connects people. We are always looking for new partners and ideas.”

Tickets for the Main Stage Event are on sale now. A limited number of bundle tickets are available, which includes two tickets for a reduced price of $99. All tickets include admission to the between-show reception.

Aviatra Accelerators' Flight Night celebrates LAUNCH finalists

Stephanie Tieman of CoreStrong Fitness took home the big prize — $25,000 in low-interest startup loans — at Wednesday’s Aviatra Accelerators pitch event.

The event, which capped off a nine-week entrepreneurial support program, featured live pitches from Tieman and four other female-led startups representing this year’s LAUNCH class.

A crowd of around 150 attendees gathered at New Riff Distillery in Newport for the event, which kicked off with keynote messages from former LAUNCH winner Allison Chaney (who went on to found Bare Knuckle Media), and celebrity mixologist and businessperson Molly Wellmann.

“I knew I had something good that not a lot of people were doing at the time,” says Wellmann, who got her start serving signature craft cocktails at local venues.

Wellmann's Brands now includes an ever-expanding bevy of popular local watering holes. “You all are very fortunate to have a resource like Aviatra, where you can turn for advice and support to make your ideas come to life,” Wellmann told attendees.

In addition to LAUNCH winner Tieman’s female-centric fitness center, this year’s class of LAUNCH startups included:

  • Your Stylist LLC, a Cincinnati-based wardrobe consulting and personal shopping service focused on helping women look and feel their best. Principal: Jackie Neville
  • Allie's Walkabout, an off-leash dog care facility in Northern Kentucky that offers services from boarding and daycare to grooming. Principals: Allie, Audrey and Mary Clegg
  • Black Career Women's Network, a career empowerment and professional development resource for African-American women. Principal: Sherry Sims
  • The Healing Kitchen, purveyor of healthy foods free from gluten, soy and dairy sources from local farms. Principal: Tiffany Wise

Aviatra Accelerators (formerly Bad Girl Ventures) is a nonprofit organization committed to helping female entrepreneurs achieve success and positive community impact. Headquartered in Covington, the organization also maintains offices in Cincinnati and Cleveland, serving women throughout the Tristate area.

Since launching in 2010, Aviatra Accelerators has educated and assisted more than 1,100 female entrepreneurs and awarded more than $850,000 in low-interest startup loans.

Studio C helps nonprofits tackle Cincy poverty issues

With just a few weeks remaining, Studio C participants are delving deep into their projects as they work toward finding solutions that empower families to break generational cycles of poverty.

After stepping outside the walls of their respective nonprofits, teams continue to experiment with new approaches that are inspired by design thinking and intended to move communities forward.

The eight participating teams include the following: Catholic Charities Southwestern Ohio, Children Inc., Churches Active in Northside, Cincinnati Works, Cincinnati Youth Collaborative, NKCAC Head Start, Starfire Council and Women Helping Women.

For Design Impact’s Sarah Corlett, co-facilitator for Studio C, the process has been rewarding in that it’s inspired collaboration and new ideas that possess a timely relevance.

Cincinnati Works

Cincinnati Works is collaborating with Villedge — a social enterprise that “provides Cincinnati youth the opportunity to develop their mind, body and spirit within a community context.”

“Cincinnati Works does a lot with the adult population, while Villedge serves young people between the ages of 16-24,” Corlett says. “So they’re bringing youth expertise into their team. They see an opportunity to build life skills in a nontraditional way — through collaboration rather than implementing another program.”

Its goal: to teach young people how to do things Corlett says are typically taken for granted — balancing a checkbook, cooking and shopping, among other things — so that they’re better prepared to budget and set financial priorities as they move forward in life.


For MiMi Chamberlin, executive director of CAIN, Studio C has created a space to listen and learn. “It provided tools and a process to help connect as partners and co-creators of services and opportunities. We want to further develop as a neighborhood service and community engagement hub.”

CAIN’s collaborative efforts include gathering together 28 nonprofits that serve Northside — WordPlay and Northern Kentucky University’s Department of Allied Health, for example, are key players — to “start a conversation about being more intentionally unified in our efforts.”

The impetus comes from CAIN’s interviews and research, in which Chamberlin says she discovered the great work nonprofits are doing when it comes to serving Northside’s low-income population, but also the difficulty residents have when it comes to being able to access resources and information.

More specifically, when it concerns basic needs like mental health and employment.

Cincinnati Youth Collaborative

Cincinnati Youth Collaborative is exploring the following question: “How might we enhance our youth services with family-centered partnerships and principles to break generational poverty for youth?”

While the nonprofit’s focus is on youth, with what team member Kayla Ritter Rickles, CYC College & Career Success Manager, says is through an education and social-emotional learning lens, the organization recognizes it can do a better job of working comprehensively with families.

“Our focused efforts are looking at family engagement,” she says. “This includes how we define ‘family’ through the lens of our students and their families, how we engage family through our programs and services and who our partners are or should be in this endeavor.”

Catholic Charities Southwestern Ohio

Catholic Charities Southwestern Ohio is focusing its efforts on Cincinnati’s immigrant population and how to best support them.

“When I think about what is happening in our world and with the current administration — with Cincinnati just being designated as a sanctuary city,” Corlett says, “I can’t help but recognize that Catholic Charities Southwestern Ohio is a strong team. It’s a small team that’s focused on something really relevant.”

This concludes our Studio C coverage. Keep up with the individual nonprofits to see how they continue to change the landscape of Cincinnati by taking strides when it comes to tackling the problem of generational poverty.

Food exhibit at Behringer-Crawford examines immigrants' impact on local cuisine

The #StartupCincy scene includes hundreds of entrepreneurs working in incubator kitchens or developing technology around food-based businesses. A new exhibit produced by graduate students in Northern Kentucky University’s Public History Program, Culture Bites: Northern Kentucky's Food Traditions at the Behringer-Crawford Museum explores the impact of earlier food entrepreneurs, with a focus on restaurants and businesses established by immigrants.

“We wanted to talk about how immigrants have shaped our food choices and tastes,” says Dr. Brian Hackett, director of the masters in Public History Program. “What we found was that these outsiders quickly added to the Northern Kentucky mix by not only changing our palate but also our neighborhoods. We also wanted to show how outside becomes mainstream. In the past, Germans, Irish and Catholics were unwanted here, but now they are among the leading ethnicities in our community.”

The last half of the 19th century saw waves of arrivals from Europe fleeing famine and political turmoil, including Georg Finke, who moved from Germany to Covington and established Finke’s Goetta in 1876, the oldest family-run goetta producer in Northern Kentucky.

At the turn of the 20th century, political upheaval and two world wars launched a new wave of immigration to the United States, including Nicholas Sarakatsannis, who left Greece for Newport where he founded Dixie Chili.

“From my conversations with the restaurant owners, most came here because they already knew someone in the area,” says Maridith Yawl, BCM curator of collections. “They settled in Northern Kentucky with these people and opened the restaurants to serve them and others.”

Food, its production and consumption, is something all people have in common. Family recipes, conversations over dinner and cozy kitchens are memories and experiences nearly everyone shares. The exhibit offers a historical and contemporary perspective through the lens of food on a hot-button contemporary issue.

“Food and restaurants break down barriers, creating safe places for people to meet and create understanding,” says Laurie Risch, BCM's executive director.

Recent immigrants from China, Iran and Korea have also established themselves in Northern Kentucky and opened restaurants to share and celebrate the cuisine of their homelands. These restaurants include Mike Wong’s Oriental Wok, Jonathan Azami’s House of Grill and Bruce Kim’s Riverside Korean.

“They have contributed to the community, both in terms of serving food and being good stewards and helping out various local charities and events,” Yawl says. “They have each brought pieces of their homelands to the community. They love to serve friends from their own ethnic groups and also enjoy meeting people from different backgrounds and teaching them about their foods and culture.”

Adds Hackett: “We forget that we are all immigrants, and that immigrants shaped what we are now. Can you imagine Northern Kentucky without Germans or Catholics?”

The exhibit, which runs through Aug. 31, features interviews with these food entrepreneurs or their descendants, as well as artifacts from their businesses, political cartoons, vintage kitchen equipment and accessories and recipes for visitors to take home.

For more information, visit bcmuseum.org.

An inside look at the real-world problems Studio C teams are trying to solve

Studio C has been underway for the past several weeks, as teams — now narrowed down to eight nonprofits — have conducted research and interviews to learn more about problematic issues related to poverty among the populations they serve.

They’ve also engaged in private studio time, and this past Thursday, the teams began brainstorming potential solutions as they continue to engage in design thinking and creative ideas that lead to change.

The eight remaining teams are as follows: Catholic Charities Southwestern Ohio, Children Inc.Churches Active in Northside, Cincinnati WorksCincinnati Youth Collaborative, NKCAC Head Start, Starfire Council, Women Helping Women.

Starfire continues to explore ways of creating an inclusive artist collective in Lower Price Hill, complete with an Artist in Residence program at Community Matters.

The NKCAC Head Start is exploring the question of “How might we build a culture of care for early childhood teachers to retain and attract professionals?”

According to Design Impact’s Sarah Corlett, co-facilitator for Studio C: “The NKCAC Head Start interviewed teachers within its own programs and found that they’re stressed — wages are too low.”

While preschool teachers love their students and love teaching, there are changes, Corlett says, that NKCAC recognizes it could explore in order to retain these teachers who make such an impact on young children.

Children Inc. is exploring the question, “How might we provide families with knowledge of, and access to, resources that can move families out of poverty?”; Women Helping Women hopes to develop a project that will prevent homelessness as a result of domestic violence.

“I want to help facilitate relationships between housing agencies or landlords and their tenants who are survivors of domestic violence so that we can keep people off the streets and in their homes,” says Cara Caudill, a crisis intervention specialist at Women Helping Women.

According to Corlett, Women Helping Women is a strong team. “When you think about Women Helping Women, you think about domestic violence survivors. But they’re looking at it from another person’s role.”

Teams will begin testing their most viable solutions in the weeks to come.

“We’re getting them to think outside of the box,” Corlett says. “And from there, we’ll move forward with our favorite idea. With 4-5 weeks left, they’ll be moving toward a reality in a quick, rapid way.”

This week, we looked at four of the eight participating teams; we will conclude our Studio C coverage in next week's edition.

Drawnversation helps people and businesses communicate without words

MORTAR graduate Brandon Black doesn’t believe we have to communicate with words.

“Words are a useful tool but they’re not the only tool,” says Black, who last year was awarded one of two prestigious Haile Fellowships by People’s Liberty. “Drawnversation means to have conversations through images and pictures.”

Drawnversation provides graphic facilitation and graphic recording for people and businesses looking for new ways to communicate ideas. Black defined graphic facilitation as utilizing drawn imagery and words to enhance a process or communicate an idea, so that people are able to see the ideas in front of them. Graphic recording is the art of capturing communication in a visual format.

By creating the most relevant visual representation of the presented concepts, Black believes everyone can get on the same page.

“Drawnversation is a way of thinking and doing things differently and processing information and creating an equal playing field for people,” says Black. “Even when people use the same words or terms, those words can still be interpreted differently by everyone in the room.”

Using pastels, markers and a giant sheet of paper, Black records and facilitates meetings and presentations for people and organizations around the city.

Interact for Health uses Drawnversation’s unique approach to communication to visually capture their meetings. Program manager Jaime Love says Black’s graphics not only captures the content of the meetings but shows the dynamic of the conversation.

“People are just amazed at what he’s able to capture in the picture,” she says.

Love says there are a variety of different uses for Black’s drawings. Interact for Health displays Black’s drawings in their lobby as a way to encourage and continue conversations around important topics.

“The graphics stand out versus reading something on paper,” says Love. “Brandon does such an excellent job.”

Black hopes graphic recording and facilitation will become a more accepted form of communication.

“If we continue to focus on the model of printed word as the only way to gauge intelligence, we are missing out on a lot of great ideas and brilliant minds.”

Chamber's new program to help increase cultural awareness and diversity in region

The Cincinnati USA Regional Chamber launches a new program this week called Building Cultural Competence for leaders and influencers from around the region.

“When we did research on overall inclusion in our community for our Diverse by Design report, a key insight was that increasing the cultural competence of our community could be a competitive advantage,” says Mary Stagaman, senior inclusion advisor for the Chamber. “As markets and companies become more multicultural and more global, the ability to work across many identities and cultures goes from 'nice to have' to essential.”

Although some corporate and government entities offer implicit bias training or other cultural awareness classes, the Chamber was starting from scratch in building this initiative. It is unique in that it operates at a community-wide level.

“We worked with a thoughtful group of corporate and nonprofit volunteers to build a prototype program, which is what we are launching May 9,” says Stagaman. “The time seems precisely right, as the need to successfully and respectfully bridge differences in our community and our country has seldom been greater. Our long-term goal is to build a community of leaders who can effectively interact with our changing and challenging world and to have leaders who actively seek to engage and influence others to do the same.”

There is an application process and fee for the program, which will be led by nationally recognized diversity and inclusion experts and cover subjects like the neuroscience of bias, emotional intelligence, building rapport across cultures, conflict resolution and adaptive communication. Participants will also take the Intercultural Development Inventory and receive a one-on-one coaching session.

When the program ends in July, each participant will have developed an individual action plan to take back to their organization, business or community.

“The key strategy is to recruit leaders into the program,” Stagaman says. “While we have certainly attracted people in prominent positions in our region, we also have a wide range of individuals who have strong networks in unique sectors of our community. We believe that by raising their awareness around cultural competence, and giving them tools to be more effective, they will in turn influence others in their networks, creating a magnifying effect.”

The Chamber sought applicants from across the region and different sectors of the community; the inaugural class will begin at full capacity with 30 participants.

“We have a very diverse group with representatives from large corporations, large and small nonprofits, working media, law and law enforcement, secondary and higher education, the startup community, healthcare, real estate and more,” Stagaman says. “The age range of participants is from 26-70, suggesting that we can increase our cultural competence at any stage of life or career."

Upon completion of the pilot program, the Chamber will evaluate the results and determine how to move forward with future iterations of the program.

“The great thing about cultural competence is that it can be learned —it's not an innate skill that we are born with," Stagaman says. "Increased cultural competence can help us retain the talent we need to continue to attract jobs. It can ensure that people in our community, no matter what their country of origin, color, faith and so on, receive appropriate medical care. And it can help us build a workforce that reflects the changing demographics of our country as we reduce bias and increase welcoming people who represent different cultures and identities.”

Aruna Project brings ninth annual Run for Their Freedom

Worldwide statistics about human trafficking are hard to believe, but when Ryan Berg saw the reality with his own eyes during a trip to India, he couldn’t pretend it wasn’t real.

The nonprofit Aruna Project (named after the Hindi word for “bright morning sun”) was born from Berg’s desire to do something tangible to help women trapped in modern-day sex slavery.

"Aruna brings and sustains freedom to exploited women in the brothels of South Asia through employment marked by holistic care," says Berg.

The Aruna Project not only offers women freedom from slavery, but also provides resources such as traditional housing, employment, health care and counseling to the women rebuilding their lives.

In 2008, Berg planned the first Aruna Run For Their Freedom 5K race as a fundraiser for the organization's mission. This year’s race will be the ninth such event in Cincinnati, with at least 10 others scheduled around the country for this spring and summer. Over 700 people participated in last year’s Cincinnati race and Berg expects a few hundred more this year.

The run has a three-fold mission: to raise awareness about the issue of sex slavery, to raise funds used to free women from slavery and to provide employment that sustains their freedom.

Aruna 5K runners, literally “run for their freedom.” Every participant runs wearing the name of a real woman trapped in slavery and every runner receives a drawstring backpack produced by women who have been freed and are now employed in India by the Aruna Project’s partner business.

Berg says that in the past two years, through the Cincinnati Aruna 5K and others across the U.S., over 35 women have been freed, empowered and many now are now employed by Aruna.

How to participate

The 2017 Aruna Cincinnati Run For Their Freedom will take place on May 20. Registration ends May 18 and costs $30. Runners can register on the Aruna Project website and then raise extra funds through the individual fundraising page. The race will begin at the National Underground Railroad Freedom Center at 9:00 a.m.

Because the cost of the event is underwritten by sponsors, 100 percent of the funds raised directly benefits the Aruna Project.

See a video invitation for the run from Cincinnati Bengal’s linebacker Vinny Rey.

Sewendipity Lounge shines as product of SCORE Cincinnati's minority-focused business coaching

The face of Cincinnati entrepreneurship is changing, and one local group is working to support that change.

SCORE Cincinnati has long provided free business coaching and other resources for existing and new businesses, and the organization is currently tightening its focus on female and minority entrepreneurs. Its goal is to provide one-on-one mentoring and access to legal and financial resources via experienced Cincinnati leaders from those underrepresented groups.

“Recently, SCORE increased the number of both women and minority mentors in our ranks to better reflect and serve our clients,” says executive director Betsy Newman. “Currently, 58 percent of our clients are women and 39 percent are minorities, so it makes sense for us to reach out to experienced female and minority businesspeople and recruit them as expert mentors.”

In addition, SCORE facilitates a Women’s CEO Roundtable group that consists of 12 female business owners from non-competing organizations. The newly launched group meets monthly to promote discussion and confidential feedback between female CEOs and business owners.

Karen Williams relied on SCORE’s programs and services in starting her own business, Sewendipity Lounge, which offers a wide range of sewing courses and supplies.

“SCORE gave me the confidence to do something I’ve never done before,” says Williams. “In my former job, I learned every day, but it was nothing like having your own business. What really helped me the most is having the support of other women.”

Sewendipity Lounge recently celebrated one year at its downtown location, which is roughly the same amount of time that Williams has been a member of SCORE’s Women’s CEO Roundtable.

“When you see other women doing amazing things, it gives you the confidence to try new things too,” says Williams. “Many of us share similar issues, so you don’t feel alone. I call the roundtable a ‘finishing school’ for woman business owners. You get a little hand-holding and the camaraderie of other women. It’s been a wonderful experience and I highly recommend it.”

SCORE’s partnerships with the UC Entrepreneurial Center, Aviatra Accelerators (formerly Bad Girl Ventures), Cintrifuse, the Hamilton County Development Center, Morning Mentoring, Queen City Angels, MORTAR and The Hamilton Mill have resulted in making more than $500,000 in small business loans available to more than 600 female entrepreneurs since 2010.

Upcoming SCORE events include:

  • April Member Meeting, 10 a.m. to 1 p.m., April 21
  • Small Business Dream to Reality (Part 1), 9 a.m. to noon, April 22
  • How to Build a Marketing Campaign to Meet Your Growth Objectives, 9 a.m. to noon, April 29
  • Small Business Dream to Reality (Part 2), 9 a.m. to noon, April 29
  • Your Nonprofit Dream to Reality - What It Takes, 8:30 a.m. to noon, May 6
  • Score Presents: The Business of Food, 8 a.m. to 1 p.m., May 8

For more information about SCORE resources and events, or to volunteer as a mentor, call 513-684-2812 or visit greatercincinnati.score.org.

Women In Digital conference to feature Cincy's most influential female leaders

On April 6, professional association Women In Digital will host its first ever symposium, featuring some of Cincinnati’s most recognizable female marketers.

The day-long event will take place at Rhinegeist and, according to the group’s website, will feature talks and activities “meant to inspire, educate and empower women in digital media and marketing; leaving them with a powerful local network.”

Featured topics and speakers will include:

  • Welcome, Women In Digital founder Alaina Shearer, who also founded Columbus-based Cement Media
  • Building and Communicating Confidence, Kelsey Pytlik, co-founder and CEO, Gild Collective
  • Women in Leadership: You Have the Power to Make a Difference, Amy Vaughan, creative director, POSSIBLE

A panel entitled “The Future of Influence” will feature:

“Ultimately, we aim to create a network of women in digital across the country who are bound by a pledge to grant each other what we call ‘asks’ and ‘gives,’” says Shearer. “(These are) essentially favors all meant to improve each other's personal and professional lives. The power of learning to ask each other for help is transformative for our members and you can imagine the impact that has for each of them.”

Shearer says speakers and panelists for the event were selected through a combination of “good old-fashioned LinkedIn stalking” and organic outreach via WID’s extensive network. She hopes event attendees will leave feeling empowered to organize their own quarterly meetings and facilitate conversations on the critical issues facing women in marketing around the world.

WID currently extends membership exclusively to women; however, the group plans to extend a portion of tickets for programming later this year to male participants. Specifically, four percent of ticket sales will be reserved for men — a number that reflects the percentage of women nationally who occupy CEO positions with Fortune 500 companies.

Shearer adds, as a special note for Soapbox readers, that readers whose “male bosses will not purchase their tickets” to the event should contact Alaina@womenin.digital for assistance.

'Engaged' local orgs win big at Cincinnati Neighborhood Summit

Five Cincinnati grassroots organizations each received $10,000 in city grants to fund their innovative ideas at the 2017 Engage Cincy Grant Awards ceremony. The event took place last weekend at Xavier’s Cintas Center as part of the annual Cincinnati Neighborhood Summit.

The annual Neighborhood Summit is presented by Invest in Neighborhoods, in partnership with the City of Cincinnati, the Community Building Institute, LISC and the CDC Association of Greater Cincinnati. Hundreds of community leaders, volunteers, city officials and nonprofit professionals were on hand for day-long discussions focused on helping groups work more effectively to improve the quality of life across Greater Cincinnati.

More than 120 applicants submitted proposals for this year’s Engage Cincy grants. The field was then narrowed down to 10 finalists by a selection committee. City Manager Harry Black reviewed the committee’s recommendations before awarding grants of $10,000 each to the following projects:

Healthy Food for All Northsiders
Project leads: Churches Active in Northside (CAIN), Apple Street Market Cooperative Grocery Story and the Northside Farmers Market
This group’s mission is to build community through food-sharing by offering quarterly community meals and cooking demonstrations based on healthy, affordable recipes that use ingredients from community gardens and farmers’ markets.

Just Hire Me
Project lead: Lawrence Jones
This staffing platform offers a website and mobile app that works to connect neighborhood teens with businesses that are looking for employees. Participating teens age 14-18 can take part in a four-week job-readiness “boot camp” that helps them effectively interview, establish their own bank account and secure employment in the community.

Project lead: Marty Boyer
Physi’s state-of-the-art activity platform uses artificial intelligence to promote active lifestyles by connecting like-minded residents based on activities, interests, physical proximity and availability. Physi is available via mobile app and online.

Project lead: Dani Isaacsohn
Bridgeable organizers collect community data and feedback and alert leaders to the conversations going on in their communities, thereby enabling conversations that lead to healthier relationships, better decisions and stronger communities.

Faces of Homelessness
Project leads: ArtWorks and Strategies to End Homelessness
This public art, public education and community engagement program was designed to encourage empathy and understanding by engaging local agencies and shelters with the populations they serve. The program pairs paid youth apprentices with professional artists on a variety of art and community-building projects that will include a permanent public art mural on Vine Street, in partnership with the Over-the-Rhine Community Housing’s Recovery Hotel.

“Every year it seems that the submissions become more creative in the ways they want to go about making our neighborhoods more engaging places to live,” says City Manager Black, who received unanimous support from the Mayor and City Council for the awards program. “We want that trend to continue for years to come.”

For photos from the event and more information about the Neighborhood Summit, check out the event’s Facebook page.

AIGA supports future female leaders with March 31 gallery event

Cincinnati AIGA, the local chapter of a national group that supports female leaders, will extend its message to school-age girls with a Spicefire gallery event later this month.

For the second year, AIGA Cincinnati will honor Women’s History Month by presenting a “Words of Wisdom” gallery show in collaboration with the organization’s 18-month-old WomanUp initiative, which was created to address the challenges women face in obtaining creative leadership positions both locally and nationwide.

“Nationally, women only make up 11 percent of creative director jobs, despite the fact that the majority of designers, marketers and advertisers are female professionals,” says AIGA Cincinnati president and WomanUp co-founder Autumn Heisler. “We’re still having trouble getting women into that highest leadership level.”

“Words of Wisdom” will take place from 6 to 8:30 p.m. on March 31 at Spicefire art gallery in Over-the-Rhine. The exhibit will feature work from established local artists and designers, as well as work by young women from area schools. That portion of the artwork will be presented by Girls with Pearls Cincinnati, a local chapter of the national nonprofit that focuses on empowering underserved girls who are facing challenging situations.

Girls with Pearls was founded locally by Tamie Sullivan. It started at Rockdale Academy in 2016, providing elementary and junior high school girls with a safe space to talk about and work through issues like self-esteem, their bodies and body image, sexuality and healthy relationships. 

"I could not be more excited about this new partnership with WomanUp ‘Words of Wisdom’ and the opportunity to expose girls in our program to professional women in creative fields,” Sullivan says. “These African-American girls are often forced to grow up faster than their counterparts in more affluent communities. They face more difficult life circumstances and increased responsibilities, so allowing them to just be girls and dream about their futures is what it’s all about." 

Sullivan says that she and other GWP organizers are extremely invested in the success of young women in the program. “One of the girls told me she had just been elected class president,” Sullivan says. “I was so proud and excited for her, almost like she were my own daughter.”

The free AIGA “Words of Wisdom” event is open to the public, but make sure to register ahead of time. Artists and designers interested in submitting work for the show should click here for more info.

Thrive Impact Sourcing's disruptive methods impact local employment rates

Since Thrive Impact Sourcing started in January 2016, the company has connected 35 unemployed and underemployed local residents with high-quality IT careers.
Kelly Dolan and Michael Kroeger started the company to address three realities in our region:
  1. Greater Cincinnati has a shortage of IT professionals; there are 3,000 unfilled positions at any given time. Many organizations have looked to offshore IT services or bring offshore resources onshore to fill this IT talent gap. 
  2. This creates a number of challenges in itself, and the challenges are likely to grow exponentially with policies being discussed under the new presidential administration.
  3. Cincinnati has an alarming poverty rate, with one in four residents living in poverty due to unemployment or underemployment.  
Dolan explains that when you look at these three factors combined: “Creating a business to be used as a force for good in being part of the solution is a no-brainer.”
Last year, Soapbox explained the disruptive “urban impact sourcing” model that Thrive uses to create high-quality opportunities in low-employment, urban areas. Thrive partners with nonprofit IT trainers Per Scholas — which has 20 years of experience — to give individuals free training they couldn’t receive anywhere else, as well as ongoing mentorship from senior IT professionals.
Using this model, Thrive brings a competitive and competent pool of IT talent to the marketplace.
“Thrive is fortunate to have mission-aligned, client partners who were early adopters of this disruptive business model,” says Dolan. “Our services also met a real need for their growing organizations.” CareSource and Crossroads are two area employers that have partnered with Thrive in its first year of business.
Dolan points to personal stories from Per Scholas graduates as evidence that the program, one of only two of its kind in the nation, is working to transform lives.
“I was living my dream as a stay-at-home mom when I found myself widowed at 31 with five young children to raise,” says Thrive software QA analyst and Per Scholas graduate Kelly K. “I had a few part-time jobs paying around $10 per hour and was getting increasingly distressed because I didn’t have any marketable skills to find a job that pays a sustainable wage. The Per Scholas software testing course was my ‘hail Mary,’ and now that I’m working at Thrive, I have a bright future and my family’s lives are changed.”

2017 Neighborhood Summit will feature how-to workshops that prompt big ideas

Greater Cincinnati's distinctive neighborhoods are growing at a remarkable pace, and it's thanks in part to events like the upcoming Neighborhood Summit.

The 15th annual Neighborhood Summit, which will take place March 11 at Xavier's Cintas Center, is presented by Invest in Neighborhoods, in partnership with the City of Cincinnati, the Community Building Institute, LISC and the CDC Association of Greater Cincinnati.

The event attracts hundreds of community leaders and volunteers, city officials and nonprofit professionals for a day of discussions focused on helping groups work more effectively to improve the quality of life across Greater Cincinnati. The summit also features grants and awards for community members whose projects and efforts are making a difference or bringing a neighborhood together in a new way.
Last year’s Neighborhood Summit drew more than 600 attendees, with the theme of “Making Your Place” that highlighted community gardens, arts festivals, neighborhood beautification projects and other placemaking initiatives.
According to Summit chair Elizabeth Bartley, event planners send out a community survey each year in late summer to gauge what is topically important. A steering committee made up of various Cincinnati leaders then compiles that feedback into guideposts for selecting speakers and sessions.
“Like everything else, the Summit evolves and changes to fit what’s going on in our city,” Bartley says. “When it was first started, many neighborhoods simply did not know how the city worked and what was available to them.”
Bartley says the Summit has evolved to feature a series of how-to workshops where participants can learn about everything from grantwriting and applying for city services to getting insurance. Breakout sessions are subdivided into seven key areas: health, housing, economy, transportation, education, infrastructure and safety. Click here for more information on this year’s workshops.
“Anyone can join in at any time to any topic, roll up their sleeves and work in small groups toward brainstorming ideas and identifying actions that can be taken, whether large or small,” Bartley says.
Bartley thinks that level of knowledge sharing among leaders is what makes the Summit impactful. “I have heard many exclamations of, ‘I didn’t know you were doing that! What a great idea!’ and that’s the spark that builds collaboration,” she says.

The Summit is free to attend, however registration is encouraged. Click here to RSVP. Anyone wishing to attend the kickoff dinner Friday, March 10 can purchase tickets here
Vendor tables are available to non-profits, city departments, and community organizations for $135.

Nonprofits to pitch goals and strategies to the public at SVP's Fast Pitch

On March 1, 10 area nonprofits will compete for $30,000 in award money at Social Venture Partners’ fourth annual Fast Pitch competition. Much like startup pitch nights and Demo Days, the event will pit the organizations against each other in three-minute presentations.

You can read about last year's winners here.
SVP is part of an international network of 3,500 partners that invest their time, talent and grant money in innovative ways to help strengthen local nonprofits. The organization’s goal is to enable its investees to make the region a stronger and more vibrant community.
The event helps the public learn about different nonprofits and what the innovative work they’re doing in the community. The Fast Pitch program begins with 25 local nonprofits, which were chosen from a total of 45 applicants. After three and a half weeks of practicing their pitches, the nonprofits competed in the semi-finals, and 10 nonprofits were left standing.
Those 10 groups have been working on their pitches with D. Lynn Meyers, the Cincinnati Ensemble Theatre’s producing artistic director, and Jay Shatz, an Emmy-award winning report.
The nonprofits that will present at the Fast Pitch finals at Duke Energy Convention Center are:
Adopt-a-Class, Price Hill: A group mentoring experience that connects businesses and civic groups with students, inspiring a corporate culture of teamwork and philanthropy while giving hope and a vision of what is possible for the youth of the future
Cincinnati Shakespeare Company, Over-the-Rhine: Each year, its education program sees 50,000 students from 200 schools in three states.
Cincinnati Union Cooperative, OTR: Partners with individuals and organizations to create worker-owned businesses that sustain families and communities.
Circle Tail, Pleasant Plain, Ohio: Provides service and hearing dogs for people with disabilities, at no cost.
Crayons to Computers, Norwood: Serves the educational and imaginative needs of kids in Greater Cincinnati by providing donated items from businesses and the community to teachers for use in their classrooms.
Drug Free Clubs of America, Glendale: A voluntary program where high school students, with parental permission, submit to voluntary drug testing.
Faith Community Pharmacy, Florence: Provides necessary medications and pharmaceutical care to those who are unable to pay for it.
Per Scholas, OTR: Opens doors to technology careers for people from often-overlooked communities.
Women’s Crisis Center Green Dot, Northern Kentucky: Focused on preventing power-based personal violence.
Wordplay Cincinnati, Northside: A community of experts, artists, volunteers and donors who strive to equip K-12th graders with learning programs that focus on reading, writing and communicating.
Since its inception, the Fast Pitch finals has grown from 100 attendees to 550 last year; this year, they expect about 750 people to come. With that growth, there will be something new at this year’s event: the audience will get to vote for an Audience Choice Award.  
Tickets are $45-60 and can be purchased online; doors open at 5:30 p.m., and the event starts at 6:30 p.m. There will be a cash bar, small bites and an after-party for everyone who attends.

Sustainability advocate Rob Richardson joins Cincinnati mayoral race

Amidst a period of unprecedented growth for downtown, Over-the-Rhine and Cincinnati as a whole, sustainability advocate Rob Richardson, Jr. recently announced that he will join the 2017 mayoral race. His "One Cincinnati" platform emphasizes innovation, inclusion and a personal belief in the city motto of “Juncta Juvant” (Strength in Unity).
“Rob’s ultimate goal,” says campaign manager Daniel O’Connor, “is to leverage the expansive variety of talent and resources our city offers to provide and expand opportunities to all people that live here, regardless of race, gender or neighborhood.”
As chairman of the Board of Trustees for UC — the second-largest university in the state and the city’s largest employer — Richardson has forged relationships with leading sectors that include business, education, local startups, technology, community activism and more. It's an integrative approach that has allowed him to move outside the political realm, and one that he feels will enable him to leverage Cincinnati’s ever-growing pool of talent.
A teacher once told a 13-year-old Richardson that he was not intelligent enough to go to college. In response, his mother instilled in him the belief that limited expectations don't matter, reminding him at every turn that, “You define yourself, for yourself, by yourself.”

How does Richardson define himself? As an innovator and a person who actively pushes back against the status quo to find unique and effective solutions to any problem.
Richardson reinforced that conviction at the press conference where he announced his decision to run. He said that the election is not about the streetcar, west side vs. east side or a battle between political parties, genders or races. Instead, Richardson said, the election is about the type of city that we want Cincinnati to be, now and in the future.
To learn more about Richardson — the person and the candidate — visit www.robforcincinnati.com or his campaign’s Facebook page.

Creative App Project and Future Leaders of OTR partner to create app and community

The new “Treasures of OTR” Android app that leads users on a scavenger hunt to find Over-the-Rhine community landmarks comes with a surprise backstory: It was created by 12 young people in the Future Leaders of Over-the-Rhine program with the assistance of the Creative App Project.

For the students, the experience turned out to be about much more than the technical side of building a smartphone app.
Creative App Project, the People’s Liberty-funded endeavor of Mark Mussman, has been around for over a year now and had some success with its adult class, where individuals created apps ranging from biking calendars to historic preservation platforms to selfie tools.
The class as a group also created Upz in collaboration with the Safe and Supported program to help connect LGBTQ youth experiencing homelessness or at risk of homelessness with resources and services. The app was presented at the True Colors Summit in Houston last year, an iOS version is currently in development and more than 100 people have downloaded it to their devices, which pleases Mussman.
“The idea is that as many people have it on their phones as possible so that then if you or someone you know is in a crisis, you have that information readily available,” he says.
The success of Upz and the first class pushed the Creative App Project to expand in new directions, including moving into teen education this summer. Although Mussman originally envisioned CAP as primarily adult education, two 17-year-olds participated in his 2015 class, which opened his eyes to the need for technology skills education for youth.
Mussman points out that just because young “digital natives” grow up using technology doesn’t mean they have the skills to build it.
“Not all kids have technology skills,” he says. “The fact of the matter is they’re going to be consumers rather than producers.”
Mussman saw an opportunity for collaboration between CAP and OTR Future Leaders, the nonprofit program for young people ages 13-17 who either live or go to school in Over-the-Rhine. The program focuses on social and personal development, community engagement and being guided by the interests of the youth participants.
Mussman and CAP facilitator Key Beck took these goals to heart when working with the Future Leaders. The class met just four times but packed a lot into those few sessions, using the process of creating an app as a lens for exploring themselves and their community.
“We asked them ‘What is the make up of their community? What are they grateful for? What are the stories of their community?’” Mussman says. “They responded with ‘We love our neighborhood, we want to show it off in some way.’ In one of the early brainstorms, one of them said ‘What if we did a scavenger hunt?’”
The students were divided into teams based on their strengths and interests to work on different elements of the app: art and design, storytelling and programming.
“Future Leaders are always so excited and enthusiastic about doing stuff, we have to say ‘You can’t do everything,’” Mussman says.
They came up with the concept of using fragments of pictures combined with clues to direct app users to each stop on the scavenger hunt. Once the user gets there, he/she must check in using the GPS on their phone. (Mussman points out that the app was developed before Pokemon Go was released.)
As the students selected the stops that would be featured, more questions about the nature of their community emerged.
“We talked about places in their community and they would say, ‘I’ve never been in there,’” Future Leaders Youth Program Director Renáe Banks says. “When we talk about being inclusive, there are kids who have lived in their community all 12 or 14 years of their life and these new businesses are popping up and they’ve never been inside.”
Once the stops were chosen and the prototype created, the Future Leaders class got the first opportunity to test their own app.
“It was neat to see them play the game and get excited about it, seeing the little circle and saying, ‘I know where that is!’” Mussman says.
Banks agrees, saying, “They had a blast!”
For the students, it was an opportunity to see their ideas come to life.
“I can’t believe it was so easy to put our ideas to real life,” Leonate Moore says.
“The process was easy, all we had to do is put our ideas together to make it for people to download,” Dionne Parker says in agreement.
Banks encourages the public to download “Treasures of OTR,” both to experience Future Leaders’ vision of their community and as inspiration for more technology. She wants to see more apps designed by and for local communities.
“Downloading the app gives them tangible evidence that people care about what they do, that they have an impact on the community,” Banks says. “We need more apps like this! I want people not only to say, ‘Look what the youth did,’ but to see it as a foundation they can build upon.”
“One of the things we saw come out of the first class was that lots of the ideas had something to do with Cincinnati,” says Mussman, who plans to continue building CAP classes. “It’s something we really need in our community. We need to have more technology education accessible to everyone.”

Learning to treat nonprofits as more than charity cases

The U.S. nonprofit sector has been set up to fail, Dan Pallotta says. A centuries-old Puritanical approach casts all nonprofits as charities in Americans’ eyes, making it difficult or impossible for organizations to reinvest money in themselves and thus create stronger and more effective operations.

Nonprofits are usually forced to forego the kinds of basic business tools that for-profit businesses invest in every day — from new computers and basic building repairs to employee training and marketing — to ensure that “overhead” remains low. The organizations might save themselves from the “temptation” of overspending, but at what cost?
“Why have our breast cancer charities not come close to finding a cure for breast cancer or our homeless charities not come close to ending homelessness in any major city,” author and advocate Pallotta asks in a 2013 TED Talk. “Why has poverty remain stuck at 12 percent of the U.S. population for 40 years? The things we’ve been taught to think about giving and about charity and about the nonprofit sector are actually undermining the causes we love and our profound yearning to change the world.”

Pallotta’s books Uncharitable: How Restraints on Nonprofits Undermine Their Potential and Charity Case: How the Nonprofit Community Can Stand Up For Itself and Really Change the World lay out the basic framework for his latest endeavor, the Charity Defense Council. Tom Callinan, former Cincinnati Enquirer editor, serves on its advisory board.

After retiring from journalism, Callinan threw himself into working with local nonprofits like Charitable Words, which he founded and still directs, and Social Venture Partners. Those efforts have connected him with dozens of other local and national nonprofits.

“I never knew how hard it would be,” Callinan says. “Especially raising money.”
Since Pallotta began aggressively agitating on behalf of the nonprofit sector, Callinan says he’s begun to see a slow shift on how nonprofits and their funders approach their work and giving.

“You hear more and more discussion about impact now, not overhead,” he says. “The whole industry is starting to get that now, and Dan has certainly been a catalyst for that.”
Pallotta points out that nonprofits often lose their effectiveness when they don’t invest in basic business tools, making it nearly impossible for them to actually accomplish the lofty goals they seek. The misguided “overhead myth” creates insurmountable obstacles to moving the needle on causes we hold most dear — poverty, homelessness, curing cancer, treating AIDS and so on.
“These social problems are massive in scale, and our organizations are tiny up against them,” Pallotta says in his TED Talk. “And we have a belief system that keeps them tiny. (But) which makes more sense: Go out and find the most innovative researcher in the world and give her $350,000 for research, or give her a fundraising department and use the $350,000 to multiply it into $194 million for her breast cancer research?”

Pallotta says the current “overhead myth” view of nonprofits stems from a concept created 400 years ago when the Puritans ventured to the New World to escape persecution and make their fortunes. They considered the very practice of making money to be sinful, requiring penance, which they turned into charitable giving. Their 5 percent tithe to charitable causes (in those days more direct contribution to poor individuals than to social service organizations) created the moralistic framework that still guides our thinking about giving to this day.
Pallotta experienced the “overhead myth” firsthand through his own nonprofit, Pallotta TeamWorks, which he founded in 1994 to raise money via multi-day biking and walking events. He raised funds to benefit AIDS and breast cancer charities, and the hugely successful events netted $305 million (after all expenses) in nine years.
Suddenly, in 2002, major sponsors began to abandon TeamWorks. There had been a lot of negative press around his organization, specifically regarding its overhead expenses — in his case, a full 40 percent of all revenue was being used to provide better customer service and create magic experiences at the events while investing heavily in marketing and fundraising.
In short order, press attacks shuttered the TeamWorks doors, 400 jobs evaporated overnight and AIDS and breast cancer charities lost some of their biggest annual fundraising events. Assuming that Pallotta’s success would have continued otherwise, those same causes have cumulatively lost hundreds of millions dollars in the years since.
Callinan recalls the first time he heard Pallotta speak while in California for a conference.

“He talked about the media and how the public does not understand these ideas (of the overhead myth),” Callinan says. “I walked up to him afterwards and said, 'You have just changed the way I think about this issue after 35 years in the media business.’”
He says he then began to wonder, “How much damage have I done by not understanding these ideas? How many times (while at The Enquirer) did I order a little graphic showing 'overhead’ to print alongside a story about a nonprofit?”
Callinan points out that local organizations such as People’s Liberty and ArtsWave have funding models that look more at impact than at how every dollar is spent. They recognize that training, buildings and computers are important tools and that, without them, nonprofits might be less effective.
Pallotta established the Charity Defense Council to combat our counterproductive approach to and perceptions about charitable giving. It’s currently collecting feedback on an initiative called Rethinking Charity, which asks people to watch Pallotta’s TED Talk and take a short survey to collect their impressions. Watch the talk here and take the five-minute survey via a link on the page.

Director of Mobilization Jason Lynch says that survey results so far have already helped to create a stronger framework for the Council’s mission and recruit interested individuals to the cause, and he’s hoping that the data will eventually help make the case for additional funding for the Council.

Skube founder benefits from local entrepreneurial programs, gives back to other startups

For local entrepreneur Monica Kohler, a simple idea has become a growing business thanks in part to Cincinnati’s startup ecosystem and range of support programs for entrepreneurs.
Like many businesses, Skube began with a need that led to an idea.
Kohler and many of her female friends and family members were fitting exercise into busy schedules and didn’t always have time to change out of leggings or athletic clothing after a workout and before going out to eat or to pick up a child from school. Kohler wanted an article of clothing that covered from the waist to the knees and transformed workout clothes into fun and expressive casual attire. She had some sewing skills, so after years of talking about the idea with friends she created a skirt in the form of a tube — the first skube.
The prototype Kohler created and wore got so much interest from her own circles that she began to wonder if she might actually be onto something. After nearly a year of wearing her skubes and making them for friends and family, she enrolled in ArtWorks’ Co-Starters program to explore turning the idea into a business.
That exploration proved to be the first step on a new path for Kohler.
“I had no idea Cincinnati had such a deep, rich pool of entrepreneurs and programs to help someone move into that space,” she says. “I wasn’t aware there were so many people willing to share their wisdom.”
With a background as a nurse practitioner and years of experience in healthcare management, making and selling skubes was a completely different direction for Kohler, but after developing her business idea through Co-Starters she took the leap. She started working more on designs, creating simple reversible tube skirts with a variety of bright, expressive colors and patterns and selling them at street fairs and festivals.
The response she got from consumers inspired her to continue building the business.
“I was encouraged to take the next step, which for me was Bad Girl Ventures,” Kohler says.
She is now a graduate of BGV’s first “Launch” class, designed to help newly established women entrepreneurs take their businesses to the next level. For Kohler, this intense, focused class was helpful for answering the question, “I have a product that seems to be in demand, now what do I do?”
The class, along with mentorship from Jim Cunningham of Queen City Angels, helped Kohler lay out the next steps for Skube.
Then, just before graduating Launch, Kohler went to a Small Business Association mixer at Rhinegeist and met John Spencer of First Batch. Skube is the kind of product First Batch looks for — a manufactured product that’s been tested by the market and is ready to scale up production.
Skube was accepted into the current 20-week First Batch accelerator program, where Kohler will find ways to produce more skubes and begin selling them online through a newly re-designed website (currently under construction).
“I’m a believer in hard work and being where you need to be, but I’m also sort of a believer in serendipity,” Kohler says. “It was always in my mind how much help I received, and I wanted to not lose that.”
Kohler feels she’s received the help of Cincinnati’s innovation ecosystem at every step in her journey, and along the way she’s committed to giving back as well.
“Strong women can help young girls become strong women,” she says.
Kohler helps by giving back and sponsoring programs when she can for organizations like Girls on the Run and Mortar, making possible for others the same support and mentorship that have helped her grow her passion into a business.

People's Liberty hosts Globe Grant info session, accepting applications for 2017

People’s Liberty hosted “Globe in the Dark” June 24 to introduce Julia Fischer’s Play Library, the second of three winners of its 2016 Globe Grants that award exhibition projects $15,000 and six weeks in its Globe Gallery storefront across from Findlay Market.
Fischer’s Play Library is exactly what it sounds like, a “library” that loans toys and games instead of books. Through donations, memberships and the help of volunteers, the project aims to make a variety of toys and games accessible to people of all ages to encourage the benefits of creative play.
For visitors who might be inspired by Play Library’s opening to ask themselves what they’d do with the gallery space, Globe in the Dark came at a perfect time — the 2017 Globe Grant application process is now open.
“We are extremely excited about the next round of Globe Grants,” says Jake Hodesh, People’s Liberty Vice President of Operations. “We have high hopes for 2017, and we think the applications will be as strong as ever.”
For applicants who want to learn more about Globe Grants, People’s Liberty is hosting an information session at 6 p.m. June 28 at its Over-the-Rhine headquarters. Like all People’s Liberty grants, winning projects should be fun and engaging but also have a lasting impact on the community.
“The best applications to date have given the public a reason to come back to the Globe storefront again and again,” Hodesh says. “We’re looking for individuals in the Greater Cincinnati area who have exciting ideas to transform the storefront. This isn’t just an opportunity to hang artwork — this is a chance for someone or a small group of folks to create a one-of-a-kind unique experience.”
People’s Liberty staff members are available for one-on-one informational meetings with potential applicants July 5-19. The final deadline to apply for a 2017 Globe Grant is July 20.

SE Cincy launches Elevator program to accelerate social enterprises

Flywheel Social Enterprise Hub and its Social Enterprise Cincy program continue to make big strides and take local social entrepreneurs with them. Now the organizations have added another tool for supporting and growing nonprofits and businesses with a “double bottom line” that aim to do good and earn revenue at the same time.
Flywheel moved into Cintrifuse’s Union Hall building on Vine Street several months ago, linking the organization even closer to the #StartupCincy community.
Flywheel Executive Director Bill Tucker and staff have been able to see first-hand how programs like The Brandery, Ocean and UpTech make a substantial impact on local startups. These accelerator and incubator programs inspired SE Cincy to start a similar resource and support program for social enterprises dubbed Elevator.
“Our move to Union Hall in March really helped accelerate that because we were immersed in the community and those organizations are interested in what we’re doing,” Tucker says.
According to Tucker, many social enterprises face similar challenges as new for-profit startups, and it made sense that they could benefit from a similar program.
With collaborators and inspiration from Design Impact, United Way and elsewhere, SE Cincy is currently taking applications for its new program, dubbed an “elevator” to set it apart from accelerators and incubators. Like an accelerator or incubator, the program will provide social enterprises with classes, resources and mentorship to help them get their footing and raise capital.
“Unlike the other accelerators, we don’t have a financial reward at the end,” Tucker says. “Our focus is on getting people in front of impact investors and ready to be investable.”
Using this “teach a man to fish” model, SE Cincy Elevator will use curriculum and mentorship to position participants in front of funders who see their return on investment as both financial and having social value.
SE Cincy Elevator will differ from other accelerators and incubators in a few other ways as well. To tailor the program to social entrepreneurs, SE Cincy has formatted it to fit the schedules of individuals working full time — meaning much of the 20-hour-per-week, eight-week-long commitment will take place on evenings, with options for online curriculum.
Applications are open until July 4 for the program’s first round, and only five social enterprises will be chosen for this pilot run. SE Cincy is looking for enterprises that are market-tested (either through market research or taking the solution to market), can have a substantial impact on the Cincinnati region and are viable, scalable and ready to grow. Incorporating technology would be helpful but isn’t a requirement.
Tucker says that the most important requirement of any applicant is a team of dedicated, passionate people willing to work hard for eight weeks in preparation for Demo Day at the Social Enterprise Cincinnati Summit on Oct. 3.

Bad Girl Ventures graduates first "Launch" class of women entrepreneurs

Bad Girl Ventures will hold a graduation event for its first “Launch” class at New Riff Distilling on Wednesday, June 15. The eight graduating businesses have just completed the “Launch” segment of BGV’s revamped “Explore, Launch, Grow” program, meaning they’re women entrepreneurs already somewhat established in their businesses and ready to take them to the next level.
BGV Executive Director Nancy Aichholz explains that the new format of Launch classes provide participants with a smaller, more intimate and more focused experience than they would have gotten in BGV’s previous class formats.
“We saw extreme growth from the day they started in Launch,” Aichholz says. “We were so impressed. This group was very supportive of each other, but they were all business. There was no messing around — these women were serious.”
The graduation event will give attendees a chance to learn about the companies, both through conversational networking and short 30-second pitches given by each business. The event will also feature tours of New Riff Distillery in Bellevue, refreshments and the presentation of a $25,000 investment loan award to the winning participant’s company.
Although BGV doesn’t directly fund all the participants of its classes, it does set them up to fundraise for capital on their own. The organization is also trying a new peer-to-peer fundraising platform on its Facebook page to encourage individuals to fundraise and become funders.
In addition to the pitches and awards, the event’s keynote speaker will be Kenton County Judge Executive Kris Knochelmann, speaking about the innovation and entrepreneurship boom in Northern Kentucky. The choice of speaker is particularly appropriate as BGV is preparing to move into its new permanent facility in downtown Covington in about a month.
“We really want it to be a resource center for all female entrepreneurs,” Aichholz says of the new Pike Street space. “I think it’s going to be very exciting.”
Aichholz says the space will allow BGV to continue to expand, including fully kick-starting its “Grow” workshops in the fall. Those workshops, the final puzzle piece of the “Explore, Launch, Grow” system, will offer la carte classes and discussions of issues of interest to women entrepreneurs but, unlike most of BGV programming, will also be open to men.

TEDx Cincinnati Main Stage event aims to open minds and share ideas

TEDx Cincinnati’s seventh annual Main Stage event will take place June 16 at the Cincinnati Masonic Center downtown. The theme is “LEAP,” inspired by the fact that 2016 is a leap year.
“It’s really about what are the big leaps in the future,” says organizer Jami Edelheit. “How do we advance? How do we grow? As a community, as a people, as technologies?”
These themes are evident in the signature element of any TED or TEDx (independently organized) event — the series of short talks given by people passionate about a wide variety of ideas. This year’s speakers include a mixture of local names and national personalities, and the topics they’ll cover range from virtual reality to stem cell medical technologies to music and acrobatic movement, just to name a few.
But Edelheit emphasizes that the Main Stage event is about more than the individual speakers. It’s an entire experience created by combining speakers and the earlier Innovation Alley happy hour prior and the conversations sparked by both.
“We try to have a bunch of different themes that are kind of like a puzzle when you’re putting it together,” she says. “These are all short talks, and it’s all woven together into a production. I just find it fascinating.”
The production begins with the interactive Innovation Alley at 5 p.m. (registration begins at 4:30), curated with the help of Xavier University’s Center for Innovation, where attendees will be able to see and learn about a variety of innovations and ideas. The happy hour event will include food and drink and serve as the venue for the Greater Cincinnati Venture Association to present its GCVA Recognizes awards.
Following Innovation Alley, 15 speakers will present in the theater. For Edelheit, though, this doesn’t mean stopping the evening’s participation, only changing it. She hope the talks will spark new ideas in Cincinnati makers, doers and thinkers and encourages audience members to be present, engage with the ideas and talk with each other.
“The main thing is to be open, just be open,” she says. “You’re not coming to get lectured at. Have fun and meet new people who are thinkers and doers.”
Tickets to the Main Stage event are available here.

Arts Atlas data tool to help local arts organizations target programming to underserved communities

ArtsWave has created a first-in-the-nation model with the new Arts Atlas online tool that integrates data on arts organizations and their programming with community demographic data.
Arts Atlas offers a searchable aggregation of community data — such as income, age, households and ethnicity — and arts data including organization locations, services and partnerships. Users can search around a specific Zip code, address or by a host of other criteria.
“As ArtsWave shifted our funding approach, we started to think about data around community impact: how to collect it, how to analyze it, what that would look like,” ArtsWave Chief Impact Strategy Officer Tara Townsend says. “Arts Atlas evolved from the need for a place to collect and analyze data while also understanding the gap in access to the arts around the region.”
In order to keep the data current, ArtsWave is working with PolicyMap, a national data gathering organization. PolicyMap collects, organizes and maps the public data while ArtsWave manages the arts- and culture-related data that’s specific to Greater Cincinnati.
ArtsWave anticipates that Arts Atlas will eventually be used by a range of audiences, from parents and educators to funders and Realtors, but the initial focus in rolling out the program is arts organizations.
“We view Arts Atlas as strategic tool to help justify where ArtsWave is making investments and for arts organizations deciding where they invest their time and energy in terms of their programming,” Townsend says. “We are also currently using the Arts Atlas to provide information about which schools have art and music teachers and which don’t for the Cincinnati Public Schools’ subcommittee on arts and culture as they advocate for how CPS’s new equity policy should relate to arts education.”
Arts Atlas will also be a helpful tool for CPS Resource Coordinators in neighborhood Community Learning Centers.
“Resource Coordinators need to be able to connect the dots between the services offered at the school and those offered by other organizations,” ArtsWave Impact Specialist Alison Taylor says. “With the Arts Atlas they’ll be able to look for arts and cultural organizations to partner with to provide programming for the students in their school.”
The ability to drill down into the arts and cultural resources in a particular geographic area could be a useful tool for many audiences: parents seeking classes for their children, Realtors talking up the assets of a neighborhood or businesses recruiting new talent to Cincinnati.
ArtsWave staff are currently offering free general Arts Atlas demonstrations on the third Thursday of each month that are open to anyone with advance registration; register for the June 16 event here. They’re also providing targeted introductions to specific groups.
In addition to its practical application, ArtsWave also hopes that Arts Atlas will help regional arts organizations leverage new funding.
“We scoured through PolicyMap’s available data to find data sets that would support a better understanding of the community within this region,” Townsend says. “It is extremely valuable to have in one place all of the data that you would need to make a case for why a particular program should happen in a particular community, school or school district. Arts Atlas does that.”
Although Arts Atlas just launched at the end of May, it’s already garnered national attention.
“The original funding came from the National Endowment for the Arts and the John A. Schroth Family Charitable Trust at PNC Bank, so the NEA has been watching the development very closely and they’re very excited about what we ultimately created,” Townsend says. “Americans for the Arts approached us and are very interested in talking about it. The ArtPlace blog of the National Creative Placemaking Funding Initiative will also be writing about it.”
Once again, the innovation in Cincinnati’s arts community is putting the region on the map.

Per Scholas software testing class shows promise thanks to unique partnership

Cincinnati’s technology and innovation sector is often described as an ecosystem, with companies and organizations working together and relying on each other in order to create economic impact.
Recently, three different organizations – Per Scholas, Ingage Partners and Thrive Urban Impact Sourcing – came together to make sure the information technology sector is providing opportunities for those most in need. The partnership’s result is an eight-week intensive course in quality assurance software testing for Cincinnatians unemployed or below the poverty line and a promise by Thrive to hire at least half of the graduating class.
Per Scholas is a nonprofit organization founded nearly 20 years ago in New York City to provide free intensive IT training and job placement to individuals living in poverty. It now operates in several cities around the country and started its IT training program in Cincinnati about three and half years ago.
Per Scholas is able to expand its offerings to this software testing course with the help of Ingage Partners, a management and technology consulting company that strives for a “business for good” model, and its new organization, Thrive, which practices Urban Impact Sourcing.
The idea of impact sourcing is to make a dent in poverty by connecting well-paying jobs and opportunities for advancement with the underutilized talent pool of people living in poverty. According to Ingage/Thrive Co-Founder Michael Kroeger, it’s often been practiced in rural areas in countries like India, and Thrive is pioneering the model in an urban environment.
Impact sourcing more or less aims to reverse outsourcing by bringing often-outsourced technology jobs back into places like Cincinnati and making sure there’s a trained talent pool to fill those jobs. That means the model fits perfectly for software testing positions.
While most software testing has been outsourced for the past few decades, language and time zone barriers and rising overseas labor costs mean the market is ripe to bring those jobs back to the local market, says Per Scholas Managing Director Paul Cashen, adding that Per Scholas aims for its training programs to be market-driven.
“Software testing is in especially high demand and is a skill that can be trained in a reasonable amount of time,” Kroeger says. “We saw this as a way to quickly make strides to end poverty in our region while meeting market demands.”
“We were very excited about the fact that we drew interest from both alumni and new students,” Cashen says.
Cashen describes the collaboration of Per Scholas, Ingage and Thrive as a win-win-win situation: Per Scholas provides the curriculum and technical training the organization specializes in, Thrive and Ingage support the program and the job opportunities for graduates and the software testing students receive training and opportunities that can transform their lives and help end the cycle of poverty.
“For our students, the impact is not only from a career and competence standpoint but also about confidence,” Cashen says. “It has an emotional and mental impact, not just on their pocketbooks.”
Kroeger also emphasizes this impact on students’ confidence.
“They come out of this course with the confidence that they have the acquired technical knowledge needed for a career in software testing along with life skills that will help them maintain a successful career,” he says. “Thrive has committed to hire at least half of every class, including benefits and a competitive salary.”
For this class however, Thrive has far exceeded that promise.
“We're excited that 21 students are set to graduate next week and Thrive has already made offers to 15 of them,” Kroeger says.
The software testing course and partnership is so successful that Per Scholas is already taking applications for the next course, set to begin July 18. Classes are held at CityLink Center in the West End.

GCVA launches new kind of awards program for startups at TEDx Cincinnati

Always looking for new ways to support area entrepreneurs, the Greater Cincinnati Venture Association (GCVA) is launching a new program, “GCVA Recognizes,” to honor young people and fresh ideas in Cincinnati’s startup ecosystem.
Like many things in the startup world, GCVA Recognizes has grown quickly from an idea to a reality. The organization’s leadership team came up with the concept only two months ago, then solidified it a couple weeks later during conversations with TEDx Cincinnati organizers.
“We really didn’t have anything yet, it just seemed like the right idea and we were interested in figuring out what it might become,” GCVA President Kevin Mackey says.
When talking with TEDx folks about how the two groups could collaborate, GVCA learned about the upcoming TEDx Innovation Alley happy hour event and something clicked.
“We thought it would be really cool if we had this awards thing as their happy hour,” Mackey says.
GCVA wants its “Recognizes” program to not be just another awards show, pointing out that several already exist in the city’s startup and business communities.
Mackey emphasizes that since the recognition will be community-driven, so will the choices about who and what to recognize. Awards could be presented to everything from a blog post to a community dinner.

GCVA collected open nominations in categories like “Most Inspiring CEO” and “Best Pivot,” and the community now gets to vote through June 10 to choose the winners, who will be honored at TEDx Cincinnati’s Innovation Alley happy hour on June 16.
“I’m really enjoying seeing the number of names identified by multiple people,” Mackey says. “It really indicates that we’ve got some strong people and strong companies here.”
Those people and companies deserve recognition, which GCVA is excited to provide. The awards aim to honor the full breadth of the local startup ecosystem, from entrepreneurs to mentors to angel investors — the kind of recognition that can be really helpful to early startups and young entrepreneurs.
“This is about helping each other out,” Mackey says. “At the end of the day, this stuff comes back to community feedback. We’ll see where it goes!”

Inventor's Council awards prizes to members trying to bring their inventions to life

The Inventor’s Council of Cincinnati recently held its third annual First Filament Awards, a competition for members to be judged by experts and to receive cash prizes to fund development costs of their inventions.
The awards are just one way that ICC provides support for its member inventors. The Council also invites experts as monthly speakers and provides networking opportunities, offers classes in patents and trademarking and hosts one-on-one mentoring with board members.
For co-founder Jackie Diaz, one of the most important resources ICC provides is the community and support from other inventors. She’s been active in local inventors’ groups for nearly 25 years, since launching her first invention, the Culinique Surprise Inside baking pan, in 1991.
“As I started to look at commercialization, I got to thinking, ‘Maybe there’s help locally,’” Diaz says.
That led her first to the Cincinnati Inventor’s Club and, when that group disbanded, to a Cincinnati spinoff of the Inventor’s Council of Dayton founded by George Pierce.
“Unfortunately, in 2004 George found the management of the ICC, as well as several other satellite organizations in surrounding cities, to be taking too much of his time and had to call a halt,” Diaz says. “As the only board member interested in moving forward at the time, I recruited a President and she and I co-founded the current 501c3 organization.”
Diaz also helped found the First Filament Awards three years ago.
“I wanted to create a program that would help get our members out of the garage and onto the freeway, not only for their own benefit but for the sake of the community at large,” she says.
The awards ($1,000, $750 and $500 for the three finalists) are designed to make it possible for the winners to commercialize their ideas. This year’s winners were Joseph Collins for a child safety product for door jambs, Geoff Saylors for a construction tool that makes finding studs easier when on a ladder and Tom Hortel and Mike Mullens for a new and improved way of cleaning stains from rugs and carpets.
First Filament competition participants must be members of the Inventor’s Council of Cincinnati. Diaz stresses that the group is always looking to expand its membership and provide training and a support forum to more area inventors.

Startup Weekend focuses on social entrepreneurship via United Way partnership

Startup Weekend Cincinnati returns May 20-22 with a special edition focusing on social entrepreneurship in partnership with the United Way of Greater Cincinnati.
“The United Way came to us in December and proposed working with Startup Weekend to engage the community in coming up with creative solutions to problems affecting the region,” says Julia Chick, content partnership manager at Ahalogy and a member of the Startup Weekend Cincinnati organizing team.
United Way launched its Bold Goals initiative in 2011, directing resources toward making significant improvements in education, income and health for area residents by 2020.
“In 2014, we took a step back to see how we were doing in making progress against those goals,” says Mike Baker, United Way’s director of community impact. “Although we were making progress, it was incremental. So we looked at what we could do to accelerate the pace of change in the community and encourage innovation in the social sector.
“One of the things we could do was expand the circle of people focused on the issues we care most about, particularly by connecting with the corporate sectors and startup community. Startup Weekend is a really great opportunity to get to know the people in the startup community and to attract their minds and resources to issues around education, income and health.”
Startup Weekend: Social Edition will work much like other startup weekends and hackathons, with a key difference — the event’s focus is creating a business or product that solves a social problem. On the Startup Weekend website, the organizers have included an explanation of social entrepreneurship as well as some “idea starters” related to the Bold Goals issues.
“The weekend itself is open to any ideas or creative solutions that attendees bring,” Chick says. “We worked with the United Way to come up with some thought starters to give examples of the problems facing the region. The idea is not to limit participants but to jump-start them.”
Mentors and coaches from the social enterprise sector will be around throughout the weekend to make sure the ideas that teams pursue really will address a particular issue. Their guidance will be reinforced by Saturday morning speakers Keri Dooley Stephens and Keith Romer from The Garage Group, who will talk about consumer validation.
Anyone can participate in Startup Weekend: Social Edition as long as they register before the program starts at 6 p.m. on Friday. The event is being hosted at the 84.51° headquarters downtown.
“There is great energy around a startup weekend,” Baker says. “It’s a really awesome way to get involved in the community, meet other people who care about the same issues you do and potentially solve big hairy issues. We’re looking for people who are willing to bring their creativity and ask the ‘why not’ questions: Why not try this? Why not move forward?”
Startup Weekend will provide food and beverages for the participants throughout the weekend to ensure teams can focus on developing their ideas. Everyone is encouraged to bring his or her own laptop and iPad and any other materials they’ll need in their work process.
“There are a lot of passionate people out there who may have some creative solutions to the problems United Way is addressing,” Chick says. “By bringing people together, we can collaborate to make Cincinnati an even greater place.”
Those unable to participate in the entire weekend can register for the free Demo Day event at 5 p.m. Sunday, when teams will pitch their ideas to the judges. The winning team will receive pro-bono consulting services from FlyWheel Cincinnati to help develop and implement their idea.
“I think Startup Weekend will be a great opportunity for people to experience the hustle and fast-paced creativity, problem solving and adjusting on the fly that goes into a startup, while connecting with and making improvements against the important issues so many of us care about in the community,” Baker says. “It will be both meaningful and fun for everyone participating.”

UC School of IT awarded exclusive national designation for cybersecurity program

The University of Cincinnati’s Information Technology School was recently designated by the National Security Administration and Department for Homeland Security as a Center for Academic Excellence in Cyber Defense Education (CAE-CDE), a title awarded to just nine U.S. universities so far. The designation will last until 2021, and in addition to prestige it gives UC’s IT program access to special funding and grants open only to schools with CAE-CDE designation.
The exclusive designation is impressive, especially considering that cybersecurity is still a new program at UC’s School of IT.
“The Cybersecurity specialty (track) accepted its first class of 40 students in the fall of 2014,” School Head and Associate Professor Hazem Said says. “A year later, more than 100 students are selecting cybersecurity as their technical track.”
Said explains that several factors set the UC program apart from many other cybersecurity courses of study. Grounded in the university’s school of Education, Criminal Justice and Human Services, the program supplements the technical skills necessary for cybersecurity expertise with contextual knowledge of business and other disciplines.
The program provides a variety of opportunities for personalization and project-based learning and requires co-ops for on-the-job experience. The program also aims to develop interpersonal skills, most notably communication, with three writing classes required of cybersecurity students and oral presentations wound throughout the curriculum. The goal is for students to be able to communicate the value and concepts of cybersecurity work to a variety of audiences, both with and without technical expertise.
“For the students, this designation significantly increases the value of their degree,” Said says. “The CAE-CDE designation opens experiential experiences in highly advanced and critical functions of the government and the private sector.”
While the term “cybersecurity” might bring up images of the NSA and hacking nuclear programs, UC’s graduates have many more opportunities than just government or military jobs. Said and his colleague ChengCheng Li, Assistant Professor in the School of IT, explain that thanks to the proliferation of digital data cybersecurity impacts all of us every day.
“The data we care about are being digitized,” Said says. “The more we put it on the digital network, the more it becomes not only important but also political. The ’90s were all about efficiency. There’s a lot of work now coming after the fact but also to set up the future.”
Since data is something we all use, more and more companies, from the startup level to Fortune 500, will be interested in hiring cybersecurity analysts in the near future to make sure their data networks are secure, defend them from attacks and gather the data necessary to prosecute attackers if necessary.
“Cybersecurity is becoming more and more important, cybersecurity nationally and cybersecurity locally,” Li says. “We will need more of a cybersecurity workforce in the next decade.”

New wave of Cincinnati entrepreneurs introduced at three events last week

Cincinnati startup accelerators are churning out entrepreneur graduates left and right, and last week was a testament to the depth and diversity of the local startup community. In this single week, three very different programs showcased the innovators they support with three very different events.
Mortar Pitch Night

Mortar started the week off by hosting Pitch Night at the Drinkery OTR April 26. The accelerator focuses on supporting minority entrepreneurs in Over-the-Rhine and Walnut Hills, neighborhoods going through rapid growth. This pitch night gave Mortar’s fourth class a chance to share with the public the business plans they’d developed over the course of the nine-week program in OTR and compete with each other for cash prizes to help their initiatives along.
“There was a lot of community support and love at our fourth installment of ‘Life’s a Pitch,’” Mortar co-founder Allen Woods says. “After calculating all of the votes from the audience, the top three students will go on to a final tournament-style pitch competition at the end of the 2016.”
Those top three pitches were an ice cream stand in Walnut Hills called Green Man Twist; iCleanology, a commercial cleaning service for bars and restaurants in Over-the-Rhine; and Just Hire Me, a platform for neighbors to employ teenagers in their own community. The three companies demonstrate the range of the 60 entrepreneurs who have been through Mortar’s program so far.
Mortar continues to grow and change as the program mentors these businesses. Gearing up for its fifth class, Woods announced a partnership with Indigo Hippo, a “creative reuse” art supplies thrift store and visual art gallery, to host an even more specialized program in Walnut Hills focusing on creative and artistic enterprises. It will also be Mortar’s first class exclusively for women entrepreneurs.
“We’re excited to reach more creatives and to integrate creative ways of learning into the curriculum,” Indigo Hippo founder Alisha Budkie says. “We’re also looking forward to addressing the entrepreneur as a whole. As the business world recognizes and shares the importance of emotional and social skills, we wanted to add these elements to the coursework.”
“Honestly, our progress has been beyond our wildest dreams,” Woods says. “We never expected to be able to accomplish so much so soon.”
Mortar will celebrate its two-year anniversary May 12 with a Bacchanalian Society wine tasting fundraiser at Cincinnati Museum Center.
Ocean Demo Day

Ocean is unique in its use of faith as a lens in the accelerator concept, developing not only participants’ business ideas but also their individual character and spiritual well-being.
“We’re developing the next generation of godly men and women who will have an impact on society,” co-founder Tim Brunk said in a video introduction at the April 28 Demo Day event at Crossroads in Oakley. “Ocean is seeing the hope we have for the next generation of business leaders.”
This philosophy included a Demo Day keynote speaker — Don Lothrop, former Managing Partner at Delphi Ventures — on the intersection of business and faith, creating a different approach to business as “God’s workmanship.”
Ocean is only in its second year but managed to attract participants in this class from all over the country and the globe, including two from London.
The ideas pitched by Ocean participants ranged from We Love Work, which uses psychometric testing to match companies with job candidates based on values, to Spatial, using data from social media platforms to describe the feel of a place on maps, to Feasty, which connects restaurants with customers via real-time deals on food.
The pitches were heard not only by community members and family but networks and angel investors brought in by the Ocean team to support the participants.
People’s Liberty Signing Day

The week culminated April 29 with the Signing Day event held at People’s Liberty in Over-the-Rhine, where the program announced its third round of project grants. Grantees got a chance to meet one another and the People’s Liberty staff for the first time as they signed their grant contracts.
The Haile/U.S. Bank/Johnson Foundation-funded program unveiled another diverse class of project grantees for its next round of $10,000 projects. They include ideas like “Who They Is,” a program designed by Jasmine C. Humphries to engage Avondale students by designing a park in their community, and pop-up sound installation events dreamed up by Ladyfest Cincinnati organizer Rachelle Caplan that will combine high-tech sound platforms with rare global instruments for peer-to-peer musical sharing.
The signing event also included opportunities for new grantees and experienced People’s Liberty alumni to network and support each other.
After the public signing day event, grantees were brought downstairs for a more intimate orientation into the People’s Liberty “family.” Sitting around a yellow table inspired by the one Carol Ann and Ralph Haile had in their kitchen, the newest grantees heard the story of those philanthropists and of People’s Liberty — both the bank founded by the Hailes and the “philanthropic lab” that would eventually bear its name — as told by CEO Eric Avner.
This sense of community was present in all of these programs, working together to build and diversify a true startup ecosystem and community in Greater Cincinnati.

First Batch seeks next batch of manufacturing entrepreneurs for accelerator class

Local business accelerator First Batch is recruiting the next group of entrepreneurs for its 20-week manufacturing-focused mentorship and acceleration program. This is First Batch’s fourth year offering the program, which will help as many as eight startups ready to scale up product production.
First Batch is unique in Cincinnati because it’s the only accelerator in the area — and the country — to focus on new companies that manufacture physical products rather than tech, app development, food, retail or creativity startups.
According to founder and program director Matt Anthony, First Batch is accepting applications from businesses with creative ideas they’ve been able to transform into a prototype or small batch production and are ready to increase production through Cincinnati’s local manufacturing resources. Application deadline for the next class is May 6.
“We’re looking for people with innovative product ideas,” Anthony says. “They also need to have a solid market reason as to why this has to be produced at scale.”
Each accepted business will receive up to $10,000 in funding, space in the Losantiville Design Collective, guidance from the First Batch team, mentorship from industry experts and two months of free legal services from UC’s College of Law.
“At the end of our program, the goal is that an organizations will not only be producing product but selling it in some capacity,” First Batch board member John Spencer says.
In addition to the hands-on assistance bringing their products or prototypes into scaled production, this year’s companies will also participate in weekly classes on business management — not a completely new addition to the program but one that’s taking a new form. First Batch will expand the Co.Starters curriculum it’s used in the past to address the unique needs of companies manufacturing physical products.
“There’s always been a business class component,” Anthony says, “but we wanted to structure it specifically toward physical products.”
“Physical products are very different from other products and services,” Spencer adds, “so they require a specific set of skills and expertise.”
The expanded business program is one way First Batch is incorporating new ideas with feedback from alumni to hone its specialized acceleration program. As in previous years, 2016 will see First Batch working with companies at various stages in their development and helping them reach their goals.
These companies may look like Ohio Valley Beard Supply, a First Batch alum that’s gone from selling beard care products at local vendors and craft fairs to being sold in over 70 Fresh Thyme Markets nationally. Or they may look like Mortal Skis, which entered First Batch with a prototype for skis designed for non-ideal Midwestern snow conditions and has now sold nearly 75 pairs of its first production line, well beyond its goal of 50 pairs.
Or the new cohort of companies might look completely different. It all depends on the creative entrepreneurs who apply to First Batch’s program by the extended May 6 deadline and are chosen for the June-October class.

CincyTech Fund IV raises over $30 million to spark growth in Cincinnati's startup economy

CincyTech, which invests in local technology and science startups, just closed its fourth and largest fund at $30.75 million, more than its three previous funds combined.
Investors in the fund span Cincinnati’s science, philanthropy and business communities and are buttressed by a $10 million two-to-one matching loan from Ohio Third Frontier, the state initiative investing in startups to stimulate growth in Ohio’s economy. CincyTech, which aims to spark development and growth in the local economy by investing in high-potential startups, was a natural fit for the program.
CincyTech will use Fund IV to invest in approximately 25 companies over the next three years. Going by CincyTech’s track record, however, the fund’s benefits likely will exceed $30.75 million by attracting other funds and investors to promising Cincinnati companies, which in turn will generate economic growth and new high-paying jobs across the city.
“We invest in companies that we believe will become attractive to sustainable investment,” CincyTech President and CEO Bob Coy says. “Most of the companies we invest in at first may employ two to four people. They’re starting from scratch.”
With the help of CincyTech investment, many of those companies are able to expand and employ more people, often in the annual salary range of $75,000 to $80,000. CincyTech has created more than 800 jobs by investing in success stories like Ahalogy, Roadtrippers, LISNR and Assurex Health, and Coy points to this track record as one of the reasons the organization was able to raise such a large sum for its fourth fund.
“The first three funds have been performing well, and I think the investors in Fund IV based their decisions on that performance,” he says.
CincyTech is looking to continue that trend with the new companies it supports over the next three years. Most will likely come from the software/technology and bioscience sectors, which Coy says have a great deal of potential and innovation right now.

Cincy Next helps young professionals under 30 connect with each other and the region

Cincinnati USA Regional Chamber announced 43 members of its third Cincy Next class earlier this month.

Based around a personal and professional development curriculum, the eight-month program targets early career young professionals working at for-profit companies and nonprofit organizations as well as entrepreneurs. Class members live and work across the Cincinnati region, and nearly half are transplants to the area.
“When you come to Cincinnati, there is access to the things you want to do and the people you want to meet that is absent in larger cities,” says Julie Bernzott, senior manager of the Chamber’s Harnessing Young Professional Energy (HYPE) programs. “You can start a business, get really involved in the community and really make a difference here. And for our size we have great amenities and great cost of living.
“Toward the end of the program we explore how class members can get more involved with the community. We usually have ArtsWave and United Way come to talk about their board training programs. And we encourage the class to think about how they can apply the skills they’ve been working on both inside and outside of work.”
Cincinnati was recently included in Forbes’ ranking of the top 20 U.S. cities for young professionals, making programs like Cincy Next and C-Change (for those ages 30-40 with 10 or more years of experience) important to attract and retain “creative class” professionals.
“As we considered developing a new young professional program, we held focus groups with employers to find out what was needed,” Bernzott says. “The feedback we received was that employers could teach the skills for a position but needed resources to help their employees with soft skills, like emotional intelligence, handling difficult conversations, public speaking and etiquette. Cincy Next focuses on developing the skills that we hope will help them accelerate at a faster rate in their career.”
Cincy Next targets professionals under age 30 with eight or fewer years of experience in the hopes of helping them not only further their careers but also build a network of contacts and a connection to the region that will convince them to make Cincinnati their long-term home.
“There are young professional leadership programs in many markets,” Bernzott says. “But I’m not aware of any market that’s doing two leadership programs in the way that we are. We took a wide demographic, post-college to age 40, and developed two programs that target different sets of needs. Cincinnati has robust offerings for young professionals, not just the Chamber programs but the YWCA Rising Stars, the Urban League leadership program and others. We’re fortunate to have a wealth of resources in that area.”
As Cincy Next continues to develop, the Chamber hopes to reach further into the entrepreneurial community to broaden the range of program participants and to provide networking and awareness-building that’s invaluable when starting a business or career.
“Cincy Next and C-Change require a significant time commitment,” Bernzott says. “It’s been difficult to get entrepreneurs involved, not because they’re not interested but because they’re so focused on growing their business.”
The costs associated with the program can also be challenging for entrepreneurs and nonprofit employees. The Chamber does offer partial grants for candidates with financial need.
Applications for the fourth class of Cincy Next will open in November and for the 12th class of C-Change in July.

Xavier conference takes deep dive into local & national co-op movement

Xavier University hosts a conference April 21-22 on “The Cooperative Economy: Building a Sustainable Future” to bring together national experts and local practitioners in the cooperative movement.
Xavier has become increasingly interested in the co-op movement in Cincinnati over the past year or so. Much of this interest has been sparked by involvement with Community Blend Coffee, a two-year-old employee-owned co-op just down Montgomery Road from the university in Evanston.
That involvement led Xavier to the idea of a three-part exploration of co-ops with the help of local players in the co-op movement like Interfaith Business Builders, which helped Community Blend get started, and Cincinnati Union Cooperative Institute. This week’s conference is the second part of that series.
“This is largely in response to what we see as a growing movement of co-ops around Cincinnati,” says organizer Gabe Gottlieb, professor of philosophy and Director of the Ethics/Religion and Society program at Xavier. “Because of the nature of co-ops, they tend to have values, like a concern for workers and the environment, that are in line with what we do at Xavier, so it was a natural fit for us to develop an educational program around co-ops.”
The conference will bring together academics and practitioners, including two keynote speakers. The first keynote will be given by Jessica Gordon Nembhard, a professor at John Jay College who’s written a book on the history of African-American co-op movements. Nembhard will also present a workshop on economic justice, co-ops and criminal justice.
The second keynote will be given by Melissa Hoover, a national expert in the co-op movement who has worked with organizations like the U.S. Federation of Worker Co-ops and the Democracy at Work Institute. Her address will focus on the state of the co-op movement nationally.
The rest of the conference’s workshops and panels will explore topics ranging from the basic “What is a co-op?” and “How do I start a co-op?” to more complicated topics like funding models and fiscal sustainability. The conference is geared to the Xavier University community but also free and open to the public, and Gottlieb says it will be perfect for those already involved in the co-op movement as well as for someone who might have thought of starting a co-op but wants to learn more first.
“What I think is really interesting about co-ops is that they offer not a supplement to businesses or even nonprofits that you already see,” Gottlieb says, “but offer alternatives to those models that are often underexplored and can meet the needs of a community in a different way.”
Gottlieb feels the conference has the potential to really push the co-op movement in Cincinnati forward by allowing individuals to learn more about co-ops and by helping co-ops find more opportunities to work together. The title “Co-operative Economies” reflects a theme of co-ops working together, creating economic impact from their shared reach and success.
Registration for the conference remains open until Thursday’s session begin.

St. X grads design unique language-learning platform, launch Kickstarter campaign

A team of four college students launched a Kickstarter campaign this week for a personalized language-learning platform, Lingohop, that combines cutting-edge technology with the newest discoveries in linguistic research. The new app is the brainchild of three first-year college students from Cincinnati and a PhD candidate in linguistics and promises to allow users to begin conversing in their new language “on day one.”
Three of the co-founders graduated from St. Xavier High School only last year: President and CEO Michael Ashley, Vice President Tsavo Knott and Chief Product Officer DJ Hammett. They first got the idea for an app while in high school together.
Ashley and Hammett were self-proclaimed “language nerds” who committed to learning languages together. They’d practice by learning words and phrases that applied to their lives so they could speak to each other in Spanish, for example, in the hallways. Their friend Knott also had an affinity for language stemming from his dual Dutch citizenship, and he also brought tech expertise into the group.
Using their method, Ashley and Hammett have tested “fluent” in four and five languages, respectively. But it wasn’t until they enrolled in college — Ashley at Ohio State University, Knott at Miami University and Hammett at Washington University — that they learned the technique they stumbled upon in high school aligned with the latest research in linguistics.

Ashley met Ohio State PhD candidate Ramón Padilla-Reyes, who has spent seven years researching how people learn languages. So Padilla-Reyes joined the team and the four started working together on Lingohop, an app and platform that uses those newest research-informed linguistic techniques to teach language with a focus on conversation and personalization.
“You don’t have to spend years studying language,” Ashley says. “We’re deceived that learning a language is this big scary monster. When you come on (Lingohop), we actually ask you what your needs are and we mold everything you experience to be immediately applicable to your needs.”
The app is organized into four-minute lessons organized around questions learners might encounter based on their expressed needs. For example, someone learning for basic tourism might explore “Where is the museum?” while someone who will be traveling for business might learn professional introductions.
In addition to this “language for a specific purpose” methodology, the app integrates visual cues and text to provide an immersive experience that addresses different styles of learning.
The design team has combined the linguistic techniques with software development and startup principles like agile development and lean startup methodology to design a new experience. They’re also using smart technology to help users understand how they learn best, sort of like the way Fitbit tracks activity, goals and successes. The platform will have an embedded intelligence system to give users suggestions for when to take lessons based on their efficiency.
“It’s not as far-fetched as it sounds,” Knott says. “With the technology today, it’s readily available.”
The team is beginning to make the app available now via the Kickstarter campaign, allowing contributors to pre-order it for discounted rates. Lingohop will have a different model than a free app or an expensive CD/DVD set — even its pricing is personalized depending on a user’s needs. Different options will be available for month-long, year-long and lifetime access to the platform.
Kickstarter contributors will have an option to help with the app’s beta testing. The campaign is attempting to raise $25,000 through May 29, and if it’s successful the team will use this summer to refine the platform build-out to anticipate a full launch date in the fall.

Travel Notes startup acquired by Silicon Valley firm, stays rooted in Cincinnati

Any good business provides a solution to a problem, and that’s exactly what Hudson Chilton wanted to do when he co-founded Travel Notes.
“One of the problems to improve the travel experience for cardholders is making sure their credit cards aren’t declined when traveling, both domestically and internationally,” Chilton says.
He’d learned of this industry-wide problem while working for Fifth Third Bank. He eventually quit his job there in Fall 2013 to work full-time on solving the problem.
He enrolled in UpTech’s third accelerator class to launch a startup business around his solution, which he called Travel Notes. That’s when the idea really began to take flight.
“I give a ton of credit to UpTech for putting together an amazing program,” Chilton says. “If your company needs a connection with someone, someone in the network of UpTech was always willing to make that connection, which really accelerated the growth of Travel Notes.”
Those connections helped take the business to the next level.
In particular, about a year ago, Chilton started collaborating with Germany- and Silicon Valley-based company Refund.me, which helps travelers secure compensation for cancelled flights to and from the European Union. That partnership recently turned into an opportunity for Chilton to become part of the Refund.me team, and the company acquired Travel Notes.
“This acquisition really doesn’t mark the end of Travel Notes,” Chilton says. “It marks the opportunity to accelerate.”
Although the acquisition by a large international company is exciting, Chilton won’t be hopping on a plane to move to Silicon Valley any time soon. He’ll continue to work out of Cincinnati.
“I’m equally likely to be successful in Cincinnati as in Silicon Valley, if not more successful,” he says. “I can put in as much work and get as many connections here as anywhere else in the world. It didn’t make sense to uproot and start over.”

Cincinnati Association for the Blind and Visually Impaired launches re-brand of social enterprise

What do binder clips and services for blind and low-vision individuals have in common? You can find out on April 14 at the re-branding launch event for VIE Ability.
Formerly CincySight, VIE Ability is the social enterprise venture of the Cincinnati Association for the Blind and Visually Impaired (CABVI). It’s an office supplies company that employs blind and severely low-vision individuals and brings in revenue to help fund the rest of CABVI’s services.
Like any company, VIE Ability aims to be the best in its field, focusing on providing excellent customer service like including free shipping and making the company competitive for customers. At the same time, it looks to make a small dent in the 65 percent unemployment rate for blind and low-vision individuals.
Amy Scrivner, Director of Development and Community Relations for CABVI, points out that most of VIE Ability’s five employees lost their vision in adulthood, when they were already well into careers. For many, that event also means losing their jobs.
“While five employees may not seem like a lot, it’s really huge for those individuals,” Scrivner says. “This is a way for us to chip away at that appalling statistic and give people really meaningful work.”
VIE Ability provides an example for other businesses of how easy and effective it can be to employ blind and low-vision people. Scrivner says that accommodations to help people work are often simpler and cheaper than employers realize.
CABVI debuted its social enterprise in 2013 and has been working ever since to grow the business. The organization started providing supplies to a handful of nonprofits and now enjoys more than 100 business customers.
“As we looked at that next stage of growth opportunity, we decided it was time to re-brand,” Scrivner says. “We feel like we’ve achieved that next stage of growth, that we’re ready to make that big splash.”
The new name and look were designed by marketing experts from Brandwright and Brandimage Cincinnati with close ties to CABVI. The new name plays on the idea of offering viable office supplies solutions for customers and the ability of the low-vision employees to provide excellent services.
The rebranding also marks a new phase of development for the social enterprise. VIE Ability plans to continue expanding its customer base in order to increase the number of employees, with hopes of adding paid job training to the permanent employment program.
The 5-8 p.m. event on April 14 at Braxton Brewing in Covington will be a casual, enjoyable way to meet CABVI staff and VIE Ability employees. The event is open to the public with some food provided and a portion of drink sales going to CABVI.

Hamilton Mill workshop offers free tools to help build customer-focused businesses

Hamilton Mill hosts a free two-day workshop, Building Better Business Models, led by UK-based entrepreneur Tom Strodtbeck on April 14-15. The program will offer tools to help new businesses to start out with a strong footing while providing existing organizations methods to identify services and products most valuable to their customers.
Strodtbeck, who grew up in Hamilton and attended Ohio University, worked with the National Business Incubation Association on business development and training before relocating to Liverpool in 2009. Using his experience working with entrepreneurs and startups, Strodtbeck developed a customer-centric business model, synthesizing the work of Steve Blank, Alexander Osterwalder and Eric Reis into a responsive and nimble business tool.
“The basic idea is that products and services, whether you’re a new company or an established one, should be led by customer information and data rather than your own knowledge base and passions,” Strodtbeck says. “The customers, if you approach them correctly, will tell you everything you need to know for your product or service.”
Developing a business, service or product takes a significant allocation of money and time, yet the traditional business plan focuses on assumptions made by the business about customer preferences and desires. Strodtbeck shifts the emphasis to uncovering what the potential customer actually wants.
“These ideas have been out there since Blank’s 2002 book Four Steps to the Epiphany,” Strodtbeck says. “The framework made sense, but what entrepreneurs struggled with was the approach — what questions to ask customers, how to ask them, what to expect and how to get over the fear that people aren’t going to like your idea.”
During the workshops, participants will learn how to use the Business Model Canvas developed by Osterwalder, an agile and useful planning tool that maps out the ways businesses try to create value for their customers.
“The Business Model Canvas is the tool to get the guesses about your product or service on the table,” Strodtbeck says. “Then you can start going to customers and find out if your guesses are actually true.”
Involving the customer earlier in the development of a product or service limits the amount of risk taken on by a business or organization. The idea of pre-testing concepts directly with the consumer is central to the Lean Startup movement championed by Reis. A customer-led development cycle allows organizations to reduce their exposure to failure while focusing on creating viable products.
“With Lean Startup methods, you build just enough of a product to let people use it and tell you what they like, don’t like and what they want to do with it,” Strodtbeck says. “Then you build features into the product that reflect customer feedback. So you build, measure feedback, learn and then start the process over again until you get to the product that you want.”
Strodtbeck emphasizes that the Building Better Business Models workshop will be interactive and hands on, providing resources to any company or organization looking to create new value, including nonprofits.
Hamilton Mill’s free workshop is scheduled for 8:45 a.m.-4 p.m. April 14-15 at the Fitton Center in Hamilton. Space is limited and pre-registration is required.

This weekend's Tidal hackathon could be the start of a beautiful tech/arts relationship

Cincinnati’s tech innovation ecosystem collides this weekend with its robust arts community to devise new solutions for some of the region’s largest arts organizations.
Tidal: Art x Tech Challenge is a problem-solving hackathon that brings together different sectors of the community to innovate with others and come up with solutions to improve how arts organizations connect with their audiences.
The April 8-10 event is organized by ArtsWave, Cintrifuse and Fifth Third Bank with the help of Cincinnati’s startup community.
“This is a great collaboration, the whole thing,” says Hillary Copsey, Director of Communications and Marketing at ArtsWave. “Tidal is a synthesis and a showcase of all the exciting things happening in Greater Cincinnati right now. All the stuff that is good right now in our region, Tidal is connected to it in some way.”
Even the origins of the event come from the crossover between the innovation and arts communities. One of the main organizers, Chris Ostoich, has been active in the Cincinnati startup community as an entrepreneur himself — his company Lisnr in fact was born in a hackathon — and serves on ArtsWave’s Board of Directors.
For Ostoich, Tidal is not only a way to bring together these two worlds but a venue for the tech community to give back to and get involved in arts in Cincinnati. The hackathon allows innovators to participate in a different way from monetary donations, meaning it can engage on a deeper level than simple philanthropy and it can involve individuals who can’t always contribute fiscally.
“It was a question of ‘where do my skills fit in?’” says Ostoich of his time on the ArtsWave board. “I felt like nobody in my circle was hearing about ArtsWave or these arts organizations. I’m of the mindset that if you want to engage people in Generation X and following, you have to give them opportunities to contribute. They want to feel like they had a hand in building something.”
So Tidal does just that by giving technologists, product developers, marketers, designers and anyone with a problem-solving skillset a chance to contribute to building solutions to real challenges Cincinnati arts organizations face.
Hackathon agenda
Beginning Friday night, teams of innovators will come together to solve eight challenges identified by local arts organizations. The challenges include creating digital interactive lobby experiences, connecting theatregoers with each other, allowing people to follow Cincinnati artists around the world and much more.
Tidal is still taking RSVPs for participants. More than 200 individuals have signed up so far, with event capacity set at 300. Once the challenges are presented Friday evening, participants will be able to self-select into teams based on the challenges they want to work on. Teams will work in Cintrifuse’s Union Hall space in Over-the-Rhine on Saturday and Sunday.
On Sunday afternoon, each team will present its solution and one team will be named the winner. Tidal will provide prizes to the winning teams as well as arts performances for participants like the band Multimagic on Friday night.
The teams will also have the help and guidance of volunteers and coaches from Fifth Third Bank throughout the weekend. According to Sid Deloatch, Senior Vice President and Chief Information Officer, the company sees Tidal as a new way to express its longstanding support of the arts and make use of its tech expertise as the bank transitions to a primarily technology-based company.
“This is a unique gathering of interests,” Deloatch says. “We thought we could help, we wanted to help and we felt we could give back to this community.”
Organizers are excited to see what new ideas and solutions come out of this weekend’s work. They hope the hackathon is the debut of an annual event.
“I love being first,” Ostoich says. “I would love if, five years from now, we can say, ‘This is the community where arts and tech collide with one another.’ Nobody else owns that. We absolutely have a right to do that based on our history and our momentum in this space.
“I’m thinking, five years from now, can we expand on the work that’s happened? What I love about these sort of events is that you never know what’s going to come out the other end.”

Xavier University's student-run TEDx to explore unexpected sides of deception

TEDxXavierUniversity will hold its fifth annual TEDx event April 14 on Xavier’s campus.
The event is a TED-licensed, independently organized TEDx event very much like TEDx Cincinnati. The biggest difference is that this event is completely organized and run by Xavier students.
The top challenge for this year’s TEDx group was coming up with its intriguing theme: Decoding Deception.
“We spent about four months working on coming up with the theme,” says member Margaret Rodriguez. “We really wanted to find a theme that would be interesting not only to Xavier students but to the greater Cincinnati community.”
They chose an exploration of how deception might have positive or necessary uses in daily life and then took applications to come up with a diverse, dynamic group of speakers.
“We encouraged the speakers to we chose this year to look at deception from their own perspective,” Rodriguez says.
The speakers will be emceed by Mary Curan-Hackett of Xavier’s Center for Innovation. According to Rodriguez, Curan-Hackett was open-minded about the theme and helped speakers think about deception in positive and unexpected ways.
Speakers include Amber Hunt, Cincinnati Enquirer investigative reporter, who will explore how people can be deceiving without meaning to be and how as a journalist she tries to find objectivity in that subjective or unintentional deception. Other speakers are from Xavier University and the wider Cincinnati community, with diverse backgrounds in corporate, nonprofit and other worlds.
And that’s exactly the point. The event is meant not only to stand alone but to spark dialogue and conversation among audience members.
The TEDx student group has focused on building a large and diverse audience with Xavier students, working to advertise on campus and make the event as accessible and appealing as possible to the student body. Tickets are available online.
“It’s worth coming just to experience the atmosphere,” Rodriguez says. “It’s exciting to watch something like this. Decoding Deception is only two words, but it’s really taken on a life of its own.”

Cintrifuse names new Director of Syndicate Fund, looks to increase investment in local startups

Cintrifuse has named long-time team member Sarah Anderson as Director of its Syndicate Fund, the “fund of funds” designed to generate venture capital and resources for the Cincinnati startup ecosystem.
The for-profit fund is one of three major branches of nonprofit Cintrifuse’s work to support the startup and innovation ecosystem in Cincinnati in unique ways. The other two are services provided to entrepreneurs and the Union Hall building that houses Cintrifuse, The Brandery, CincyTech, multiple co-working startups and other related organizations like Flywheel Cincinnati.
The $57-million Syndicate Fund was founded by the Cincinnati Business Committee in 2012 to invest in other funds instead of investing directly in startup ventures and made its first investment in 2013. Cintrifuse searches out funds around the country that believe in Cincinnati’s innovation ecosystem and are likely to invest in it, with the hope that when those funds do invest in local startups they’ll attract other investors into the mix.
This “syndication effect” is where the fund gets its name, Anderson says.
“We’re really looking for that ‘needle in a haystack’ fund that can provide strong returns in the region,” she says. “We are looking at funds that can really be building companies.”
In addition to the financial performance any investor expects, Cintrifuse uses its Syndicate Fund to build regional engagement of funds and a “return on innovation” for its backing limited partners — large local companies like Kroger and Procter & Gamble — that can also benefit from all the innovation coming from small startups and entrepreneurs.
To foster this kind of innovation and growth here, the Syndicate Fund adds a few twists.
Anderson says the best and most effective funds want “no strings attached” to their investments, so the Syndicate Fund chose not to require funds to re-invest in Cincinnati. Instead, she actively works with funds to develop relationships and make sure investors share Cintrifuse’s commitment to innovation across Greater Cincinnati.
Anderson also takes a hands-on approach to fostering and connecting with funds that fit Cintrifuse’s mission. Although the Syndicate Fund has invested in just 13 funds nationally, it has a network of 250 partners with which it actively engages. Cintrifuse has been able to bring a 7:1 return on its investments back to Cincinnati so far, and Anderson is looking to make sure that ratio gets even better going forward.
The Syndicate Fund will be finishing up Fund I around the end of this year and is already looking toward its next second round, Fund II. Anderson says that there will be tweaks and improvements based on what she and her staff learned in the first round, just as the Cincinnati entrepreneurship ecosystem is always learning and growing.
“There’s really not another model that we’ve been able to find like Cintrifuse,” she says.

Flywheel social enterprise hub moves to "startup central" at Union Hall

The region’s social enterprise hub will soon be found in the heart of #StartUpCincy headquarters, Union Hall, when Flywheel Cincinnati completes its long-planned move to Vine Street in Over-the-Rhine.
Although Flywheel focuses on connecting nonprofit, for-profit and faith-based social enterprises to resources and each other, Executive Director Bill Tucker sees an important point of overlap between the city’s social enterprise economy and its startup ecosystem.
“A couple of years ago,” he says, “I started to realize that in order to have a real impact in this community it’s really about job creation.”
Flywheel works to provide the social enterprise community with momentum toward the greatest social impact possible, ranging from the economic development of job creation to the sustainability, scalability and funding opportunities of local social enterprises.
Moving into Cincinnati’s urban core from Covington will allow Flywheel to expand its network in the civic, venture funding and business communities, although Tucker emphasizes that the organization will maintain deep connections in its Northern Kentucky home as well.
“It’s remarkable how being shoulder to shoulder with other individuals in this space has created opportunities for connections that I never could have predicted,” Tucker says.
In addition to the networking connections, the move to Union Hall allows Flywheel to expand its services to social enterprises by providing co-working space. Tucker has wanted to start this program for a long time, but the move makes it possible without Flywheel having to develop its own brick-and-mortar building.
Tucker points out that work spaces new nonprofits are often able to afford come nowhere close to the environment provided by Union Hall.
“For a nonprofit or social enterprise to be able to step into a space like this that has the latest technology, it enables a totally different kind of connection than anything else can,” he says.
To Tucker, the presence of social enterprise at Union Hall provides a crucial link between startups and social enterprise. Flywheel can provide visibility and resources to tech-focused companies that may want to do social good, while the startup ecosystem provides sustainability (and sometimes even “fast failure”) models for organizations focused on social good.
For Flywheel, being an integrated part of the local startup environment highlights the economic legitimacy of social enterprise in Cincinnati. To demonstrate the impact of the “real work, real jobs and real people” involved in Greater Cincinnati social enterprise, Tucker tells the story of Flywheel’s 2016 Social Enterprise Award MASTER Provisions, which finished second in the recent SVP Fast Pitch competition.
This organization began by providing food, clothing and orphan care in Northern Kentucky and grew enough that it was able to purchase refrigerated trucks for food deliveries. When staff members weren’t using the trucks for food deliveries, MASTER began renting them out to partners for expedited food delivery, earning revenue to support the rest of its work. MASTER then added another dimension to this social enterprise — using the trucks for a job training program for drivers, allowing individuals with barriers to employment to learn and grow into full-time employment.
For Tucker, it’s a perfect example of the benefits and sustainable reinvestment social enterprises can achieve.
“This is all about moving a larger community around social enterprise,” he says.
That community will surely grow with Flywheel’s move to Union Hall in addition to the recent expansion of its board and look forward to 2016’s Social Enterprise Cincy week in October.

Kitchen Convos series shines light on local food industry entrepreneurs

Entrepreneurship is typically associated with the tech industry. But Northern Kentucky Incubator Kitchen (NKIK) hopes to expand that perception by highlighting “foodpreneurs” in its Kitchen Convos series.
“There is a need for food people to come together,” says Rachel DesRochers, founder of Grateful Grahams, NKIK and The Hatchery. “I was going to all these entrepreneurial programs and always felt like I can’t really relate to any of that.
“One of the things our incubator kitchens do so well is work together, not in competition — no one is better than anybody else and there is a willingness to help each other. So hopefully Kitchen Convos are creating a space for people to meet and connect.”
Kitchen Convos will be available in two formats: a live monthly discussion held at NKIK in Covington and a weekly podcast.
The live discussions will bring together people from across the regional food industry, including branding, packaging, growers, famers, brewers, manufacturers, writers and chefs.
“I put it out on Facebook that I was looking for people who want to share their stories in and around the food industry,” DesRochers says. “Within three days I had three speakers a month booked through September, each month bringing together like-minded people.”
The live Kitchen Convos begin with panelists introducing themselves and talking about their experience in the food industry, followed by a conversation moderated by DesRochers and audience questions.
“At the February and March programs we had people who just love food, as well as manufacturers,” DesRochers says. “For people who are in the small food business industry who want to come and learn or make connections, it’s a great space to connect into this community. But it’s also for people who just love food and want to hear the stories of why people do what they do.
“Everyone loves to eat, but who are the people producing our food and what are we consciously making a choice to support with our dollars? We’re doing cool stuff, we just need to share our stories and tell people that we’re here in your back yard working really hard together as a community of foodies to help each other.”
Unravel Productions is recording the live discussions and editing them into one-hour podcasts. They’re also working with DesRochers on mini Kitchen Convos, a weekly podcast featuring one-on-one interviews with regional food industry professionals. The first mini Convo will be released on March 23.
Live Kitchen Convos are scheduled for the second Wednesday of each month, although the April program will be held on Monday, April 11. They’re held at the Northern Kentucky Incubator Kitchen, 1032 Madison Ave., Covington. Doors open at 6 p.m., and the program begins at 6:30; admission is $5.
The April Kitchen Convo panel features Alice Chalmers, founder of Ohio Valley Food Connection; Kate Cook, Garden Manager of Carriage House Farms; and Amy Paul, Advertising Director of Edible Ohio Valley.
“These people are creating their dreams through food,” DesRochers says. “I want people to listen to it and really be inspired.”

Digital Dialogue conference focuses on consumer conversations in the digital world

What do banking, paper, healthcare and coffee have in common? They’re consumer marketing fields represented by various keynote speakers at this year’s Digital Dialogue conference March 29-30.
The event, begun eight years ago as the “Digital Non-Conference,” is an opportunity to learn about new and emerging trends in digital marketing. This year’s theme, says conference co-chair Nicole Ball, is “How to market in a world where everybody can participate.”
“Digital is so wide that it really opens it up to conversation,” Ball says. “We’re here, and we need to talk to each other.”
The keynote speakers represent a variety of industries, including Deep Focus, Leo Burnett Chicago (gave Fifth Third Bank its “curious bank” brand), MediaVest, Eric Mower & Associates (managed the digital campaign #PaperBecause for the very non-digital paper business) and Death Wish Coffee.
The conference will focus heavily on how to prioritize and engage the consumers that marketers want to reach in a digital environment where they have more and more opportunities for engagement.
That’s where one of the keynote speakers, Mike Brown of Death Wish Coffee, comes in. The small business that produces “the world’s strongest coffee” won Intuit Quickbooks’ Small Business Big Game Competition and had a fully produced commercial air during the 2016 Super Bowl. Death Wish Coffee got the most votes in the competition by effectively leveraging social media and engaging its fan base to vote, even after entering the competition a month late.
“We’ve broadended our horizons because consumer centricity is everywhere,” Ball says. “You might ask ‘why Death Wish Coffee?’ but when you hear his story you start realizing how consumer-focused it was and yet it was all on digital.”
Ball says that she and other Digital Dialogue organizers think these new stories of consumer engagement will be a major draw for the conference. Just because everyone can participate in the digital world doesn’t mean they are yet.
Digital Dialogue will be held at the Hyatt Regency Hotel downtown March 29-30. Registration is available here.

MusicNOW festival keeps experimenting and exploring in 11th year

The annual MusicNOW festival continues to bring musical experimentation and dialogue to Cincinnati, and its 11th version this weekend will once again partner with the Cincinnati Symphony Orchestra. MusicNOW founder and Cincinnati native Bryce Dessner (The National) and CSO Musical Director Louis Langree have planned three nights of new music and classics like you’ve never heard them before.
“It’s truly a unique CSO experience,” says Meghan Berneking, the Symphony’s Director of Communications. “From the flip side, these composers now have at their disposal 90 orchestra musicians excited to play their music.”
For the CSO, the three-day festival — two nights of which center around the CSO and Music Hall — is a chance to live up to one of its core values of being a place for musical experimentation. For Dessner, MusicNOW is an annual return to his home town and an opportunity to compose and play music in a totally different way.
“This is music that people don’t get to hear every day,” Berneking says. “Bryce talks a lot about how Cincinnati is really the only place MusicNOW could happen.”
The experimentation of the festival will begin Friday, March 18, with a night filled with contemporary music by composers who are still writing. The night focuses on the world-renowned Kronos Quartet in conversation with the full orchestra, the music inspired by themes ranging from historical immigration to 9/11. Joining Kronos, CSO and Dessner will be MacArthur Genius Fellow and new host of Prairie Home Companion Chris Thile, performing his own works for mandolin.
The collaborations and conversations continue into the second night of music Saturday, March 19, opening with a piece by 20th-century Polish composer Witold Lutoslawski followed by Dessner's response to it. Adding to the conversation is a piece by composer Terry Riley inspired by the first Gulf War. The night will end on a more uplifting note with Magnus Lindberg’s Feria, or “Festival.”
MusicNOW will continue with the Punch Brothers (one of Thile’s side projects) at Cincinnati Masonic Center downtown on Sunday night, March 20.
Berneking encourages MusicNOW audiences for any of the nights of the festival to come with an open mind, pointing out that even Beethoven’s 5th Symphony was once new to listeners. She also says there might be more surprises in the works for the festival.
“We didn’t even announce what’s on the program until about two months ago,” she says. “That’s how new it is.”

UC team prepares for finals of Space X Hyperloop Pod competition

A team of University of Cincinnati students that’s part of a global effort to build a new Hyperloop transportation system will present its design at the Official Space X Hyperloop Pod competition in June.
Hyperloop is intended to provide high-speed, solar-powered, zero-carbon transportation between cities less than 900 miles apart. Passengers seated in a pod would be propelled through tubes on an air cushion, similar to how air hockey pucks move. Getting from Cincinnati to Chicago currently takes roughly four hours by car; the trip via Hyperloop would be a mere 30 minutes.
Elon Musk, founder of electric car company Tesla and private space craft technology manufacturer Space X, is Hyperloop’s highest-profile backer and advocate. Last year, Space X committed to constructing a test track at its facility in Hawthorne, Calif. and announced an international competition to generate models to test there.
More than 1,000 university, high school and corporate teams from around the world entered the initial competition. Last fall’s first round required a preliminary design briefing to outline a complete Hyperloop transportation system. The field was narrowed to 300 teams, including Hyperloop UC, a team of 60 undergraduate and graduate students representing an array of University of Cincinnati departments and disciplines.
“At first, a few of my friends in engineering made up a core team of five or six people,” says Dhaval Shiyani, Team Captain and Chief Engineer of Hyperloop UC. “Once we came up with a rough plan of what we wanted to do, we launched a recruitment drive to complete the team, interviewing candidates to find people motivated enough to work on something that will very surely change transportation.”
A diverse team was important, as the competition requires not only detailed engineering but also a manufacturing plan to construct and scale the project as well as business plan with funding models.
“We have people not just with an engineering background but also people from business, design and DAAP,” says Shishir Shetty, Hyperloop UC Director of Finance.
Team members traveled to Texas A&M University in January to present their final design, which included not only the passenger pod but also station renderings and a complete system engineering scheme. The event drew an impressive gathering of Hyperloop supporters, including Hyperloop Technologies CEO Rob Loyd and Chairman Shervin Pishevar, U.S. Secretary of Transportation Anthony Foxx and Musk himself.
Hyperloop UC was selected as one of the final 30 teams to advance to the prototype competition in June. The UC team is now constructing a 14-by-3-foot pod prototype to ship to California for the trials on the track being built on the Space X campus. Although this remains a competition, Space X has encouraged participants to discuss the project with potential community partners so that the winning design will actually be scalable and buildable.
Hyperloop UC team members have been doing that, as well as reaching out to community organizations and schools to build excitement and interest about its project.
“In addition to our full-scale prototype, we are building a small-scale model to take to schools to raise awareness and excite young students to join an effort that will make a better future,” Shiyani says. “We want to ignite their passion not just for engineering but for technology in general.”
Hyperloop UC continues to raise funds and in-kind support for its project, including seeking assistance from local companies on manufacturing and technical issues, with help from their UC advisors and colleagues. Online donations are being accepted by the UC Foundation here (select Hyperloop UC on the Area of Focus pulldown menu).
“We owe a lot to (UC) President Santa Ono,” Shetty says. “He got on board as soon as we made the pitch to him and has been great about spreading the word around town. The UC faculty across campus in engineering, business and DAAP have been making calls, setting up meetings and helping with fundraising — without them this wouldn’t be possible.”

Casamatic plans expansion after receiving $1.1 million in seed funding

Local startup Casamatic has had a whirlwind first year. After starting with just an idea in late 2014, co-founders Alex Bowman and Chris Ridenour have grown their concept into a website and app operating in three cities and currently planning expansion to five more.
Bowman credits much of the organization’s explosive growth to the help they’ve received though the Cincinnati startup ecosystem, including going through accelerator programs at Ocean and The Brandery and serving as a Startup in Residence at 84.51°.
“When we started the Ocean program, we knew we were tackling buying a home,” Bowman says. “We had the name and had a Twitter handle, and that was about it.”
They came out of Ocean with their now signature quiz for matching buyers with homes, and by the time they graduated from The Brandery they had users/customers and were beginning operations in Chicago.
Casamatic currently operates in Cincinnati, Chicago and Dayton and recently added its fourth team member, but those numbers won’t stay the same for long. In January, the company closed its first seed round of investments, garnering $1.1 million to fund further expansion.
The company’s growth matches its audience growth. Everything about Casamatic is designed with Millennials in mind, the fastest growing segment of home-buyers, particularly first-time home-buyers. The company is choosing markets for expansion based on that audience.
“The goal now is really to find where the other cities are where Millennials are buying homes,” Bowman says.
Casamatic is planning expansion to Phoenix, Raleigh, Columbus, Charlotte and Nashville. Bowman says that, once they launch in those markets, they’ll begin to look for the next 10-15 cities to target.
“We want to be in every city in the U.S.,” he says, “but more importantly, we want to be to de facto way for Millennials to buy homes.”
If growth continues at this rate, that goal doesn’t seem too far off.

HCDC to host its first startup Business Showcase and Innovation Village

Business incubator and economic development corporation HCDC is hosting its first Business Showcase and Innovation Village March 15 at Xavier University’s Cintas Center.
The event will be an opportunity for residents in HCDC’s Business Center startup incubator to display and tell their story to an audience of over 300 people representing sectors of the community ranging from the business world to local universities.
Business Center Director Pat Longo explains that the Showcase is an opportunity for the companies to tell their story and make connections in the community as well as for the public to learn more about the work HCDC does. He says the idea came about after bringing on two new business mentors who subsequently told him how much they’d learned about the organization’s work in such a short time.
“They said, ‘We thought we knew what the Business Center was about, but we need to give these companies an opportunity for Greater Cincinnati to know what they’re doing,’” he says.
Only a few of the HCDC Business Center residents will be able to show off their work at this event, however. The organization had an internal competition to select 10 companies to give full pitches at the showcase, while an additional 30 startups will man display tables in the “Innovation Village.”
The exclusivity is a matter of space and practicality — with 72 startup companies currently in its program, HCDC is the region’s largest incubator.

Norwood-based HCDC also operates slightly differently than most other accelerators and incubators in the area, which is partly why it’s never hosted a showcase before.
While The Brandery, UpTech, Ocean, First Batch and Mortar take in several startups together as a class and “graduate” them together with a culminating pitch or demo event, HCDC both accepts and graduates startups on a rolling basis. The organization is able to meet the needs of a variety of types of new businesses, then — while entrepreneurs launching an app might only need a year or two to get off the ground, a biotech company commercializing a tangible product might stay in the incubator for four years or more.
Longo is proud of this diversity of businesses in HCDC’s portfolio, which he says will be visible at the Showcase among the startups giving pitches as well as those in the Innovation Village.
“The idea of technology commercialization is alive and well at HCDC,” Longo says. “Seeing these nascent ideas percolate, I hope that people will see what’s going on and say, ‘I can’t believe that’s happening here!’”

OTR Chamber's Star Awards mixing it up March 16

The Over-the-Rhine Chamber of Commerce hosts its annual Star Awards March 16 at The Transept. The event features a change in venue, timing and format, shifting from a presentation-packed luncheon to a shorter program with more networking time.
“We have had a really successful luncheon in a room packed with 400 people, where the program goes to the last second and then everyone has to race back to their offices,” Chamber President Emilie Johnson says. “This year, we tried to embrace a format that would allow this group of people who are committed and passionate about the neighborhood to have more time to enjoy each other’s company.”
The brief program for the 2016 Star Awards will feature keynote speaker Harvey Lewis, a marathon runner and educator.
“He is an amazing individual,” Johnson says. “Harvey is an educator at the School for Creative and Performing Arts and has been in the neighborhood a number of years. He’s also an athlete with a really compelling and inspirational story.”
Lewis won the Bad Water ultramarthaton, a 135-mile race in California’s Death Valley. He teaches social studies and economics at SCPA, running to and from work every day.
The program is scheduled for 4-6:30 p.m. Following Lewis’ talk, Star Awards will be presented to these 2016 winners:
Mortar, Chairperson’s Award
Woodward Theater, Norma Petersen Arts and Culture Award
Chatfield College, Property Development of the Year
Sundry + Vice, New Business of the Year
The Transept, Business of the Year
Red Door Project, Individual Contribution of the Year
OTR Community Housing, Nonprofit of the Year
Cydney Rabe, Off the Vine and Core Movement Studio, Entrepreneur of the Year
Taft’s Ale House, Restaurant of the Year
Future Leaders OTR, Community Impact of the Year
The Star Awards Review Committee chooses winners for the Chairperson’s Award and the Norma Petersen Arts and Culture Award, while the remainder of the awards are selected by the committee based on nominations from the community.
“What’s really cool about this process is that anyone can submit a nomination for the Star Awards,” Johnson says. “This year we had the most nominations we’ve ever received. These nominations celebrate Over-the-Rhine and all the great things that are happening here. We’re glad to have such a diverse pool of recipients who are uniquely contributing to OTR.”
The Chamber is also gearing up for the 10-year anniversary of the OTR 5k on May 21, with runner registration open now. Organizers are looking for volunteers to help with the race and the Summer Celebration in Washington Park immediately after.
“The 5k highlights the neighborhood and all that’s happening here,” Johnson says. “City Flea will kick off its season with us again. Art on Vine is also back on board, bringing their festival to the bandstand area. And the OTR 5k is still one of the few races that’s stroller- and dog-friendly.”

After pause to rework Haile Fellowship goals, People's Liberty names 2 winners

People’s Liberty announced last week that Chris Glass and Brandon Black are its 2016 Haile Fellowship winners and will each receive $100,000 grants, office space and mentoring over the next 12 months.

Glass will celebrate local communities by photographing every Greater Cincinnati neighborhood while engaging residents and local organizations throughout the process. Black will explore traditional apprenticeship in the age of technology by connecting Baby Boomers and Millennials through home repair projects that bring out the best in both generations.

After a successful first year of the Haile Fellowship program in 2015, People’s Liberty originally planned to have this year’s Haile Fellows start work in January but called a timeout in late Fall. Staffers were actually nearing the end of the 2016 application process when they decided it needed to change.
CEO Eric Avner explained that the catalyst for the change was a forum the organization hosted of funders from all over the country who provide grants to individuals, where it was suggested the People’s Liberty team stop the application process to rethink the questions it was asking applicants. The goal changed to focus less on the proposed projects and more on the applying individuals in order to grow strong local leaders and create lasting impact beyond the fellowship year via “a civic-based sabbatical.”

People’s Liberty says Glass’ project will be “transformative for him and will bring together the collection of creative pursuits he has built over the years.” Black, meanwhile, “hopes to reimagine the role of elders, beautify neighborhoods and increase home values (and) to develop a model that could incorporate other disciplines with intergenerational apprenticeship.”

This week, People’s Liberty is opening the application process for its next round of Project Grants, which provides eight winners with $10,000, a launch event and access to office space and mentorship. Applications will be accepted through March 23, with winners announced by April 22.

An information session will be hosted at 6 p.m. March 2 at People’s Liberty HQ in the Globe Building, 1805 Elm St., Over-the-Rhine. Get more information here.

Cincinnati TEDx chapter hopes to use talks to build community

TEDx Cincinnati will host a “Salon” happy hour event March 9 featuring speakers giving short, 2 1/2-minute talks on a subject of their choice. The audience will vote for an audience choice award, and several of the speakers may be invited to give a longer presentation at the TEDx Main Stage event in June.
The Salon and Main Stage events will be very different, says TEDx Cincinnati Director Jami Edelheit, describing the Salon happy hour as a more relaxed focus on networking. Speakers were invited after filling out applications, but unlike Main Stage speakers they haven’t been coached by event organizers.
“We don’t really know exactly what they will say,” Edelheit says, explaining that’s part of the beauty of an event that brings people together to listen to each other’s ideas. “The Salon events are really fun and are a chance for people to meet others who you may not usually get a chance to meet.”
One thing both the Main Stage and Salon events have in common is that they bring together larger and larger numbers of people. The Salon has received so much interest that it’s moving to a larger venue this year, The Redmoor in Mt. Lookout, with a proper stage for speakers.
Edelheit is also looking to expand in another way by recruiting new members to the TEDx Cincinnati board, which organizes and promotes the local events. She hopes new blood will help continue growing TEDx Cincinnati into the kind of top-notch organization seen in other cities around the country.
“We are building a community, not just an event,” Edelheit says. “The idea that I think is really important for our city is that TEDx is a platform for people to share ideas in Cincinnati, to get things out of Cincinnati and to bring things into Cincinnati.”
Applications are still being accepted for the June 16 Main Stage event. Tickets are available for both the Salon and Main Stage events here.

Bikes O.R.O. launches bicycle-focused social enterprise with Indiegogo, Rhinegeist party

Chelsea Koglmeier made a New Year’s Resolution about a year ago “to try to come to terms with the risk of failure,” and she’s been working to put that into practice ever since.
The native Cincinnatian was no novice in taking risks. She’d already cut her teeth in the innovation and entrepreneurship world as a fellow at The Brandery and a staffer at local startup Roadtrippers to help it scale up.
In the past year, though, Koglmeier has taken on a different kind of risk, combining her experience in entrepreneurship and her passion for social good to venture into the world of tangible products with Bikes of Reckless Optimism.
Bikes O.R.O. is a social enterprise inspired by companies like TOMs Shoes that operate with a “double bottom line” of both profit and social good. Koglmeier’s goal is to sell quality everyday bikes in the U.S. and, for every unit sold, make it possible for someone in need to access a bike.
“Nonprofits absolutely have such an important role in the world,” she says, “but if businesses could do something good and have a double bottom line, what a wonderful place we would live in.”
The idea has been Koglmeier’s dream for a long time. She studied abroad in Uganda seven years ago and witnessed the power of bicycles to transform lives in places with little established transportation infrastructure. She remembers seeing children who were able to go to school more frequently if they had a bike to get them there faster and more safely each day.
Since returning to the U.S., Koglmeier has gotten even more involved in bike culture and sees the benefits of biking for the States as well.
“At the core level I wanted to get more access to people who need bikes,” she says, noting both the need for bikes around the world and the need for a different, less technically-focused kind of messaging around bikes in the U.S. “I think there needs to be a company that speaks to consumers in a different way.”
And so Koglmeier started Bikes O.R.O. in January 2015, spending the past year researching bicycle-making, manufacturing prototypes and identifying partners. Bikes O.R.O. will start its social aspect by working with World Bicycle Relief, and Koglmeier hopes to add other partners as the company grows.
Now she’s at the moment of truth. Bikes O.R.O. launched an Indiegogo campaign this week to fund the first batch of bicycle manufacture and launch the company in earnest. Koglmeier raised about 10 percent of her $45,000 goal in the first five hours.
“The process has been crazy, it’s been a really interesting roller coaster,” she says. “This is our proof of concept. Does this idea resonate enough to translate into a large scale purchase and potentially lifestyle decisions about whether you’re going to ride a bike?”
To go along with the Indiegogo launch, Bikes O.R.O. is hosting five launch parties around the country, including one right here in Koglmeier’s home town. Anyone interested in Bikes O.R.O. can meet Koglmeier and her team at 5-9 p.m. Thursday, March 3 at Rhinegeist and even ride one of their unique bicycles.
Koglmeier hopes that the Indiegogo is just the beginning.

“I want to work on building a world of reckless optimism,” she says. “I want to build the company into something that can make the biggest impact on the world while building quality products.
“But I never want to lose the product of the bike.”

4th Floor Creative shoots and scores in first year

Tom Gelehrter had more than a decade of experience in sports broadcasting when, just over a year ago, he decided to take his career in a different direction.
“I was really ready for a different challenge,” he says. “I was talking to a friend of mine on a drive home from work at 10:30 at night and ended up having an hour and half long conversation.”
Out of that late-night conversation in January 2015 came the concept of 4th Floor Creative, a company that creates graphic, digital and video products for clients. Although the creatives work for a variety of businesses, they’ve found a special niche for themselves with videos and other products for the world of professional and college sports.
This specialty speaks directly to Gelehrter’s background as a sportscaster at the University of Cincinnati for nine years before starting 4th Floor Creative. He was heavily involved in bringing UC’s sports broadcasting department into the digital age by building the new media department and implementing new broadcasting techniques like live-streaming audio and then streaming video.
“We used to joke, ‘Why aren’t we in my basement doing this?’” Gelehrter says, recounting time spent with his staff creating and editing video and new media products for UC. About a year ago, they finally made that leap.
Gelehrter and longtime collaborators Shane Harrison and Marc Graham have been able to make use of their sports media experience in their new endeavor. 4th Floor Creative is barely a year old, but the company is already building a reputation by creating digital solutions for sports.
Part of the growth could be attributed to a close partnership with folks who are making big waves in local sports news. 4th Floor Creative has become the primary video and media producer for FC Cincinnati as it gears up and gathers fans.
“We’re able to provide everything they need to launch a new franchise,” says Gelehrter of the partnership.
The company has expanded into other high-profile sports clients, like producing high-quality facility tours for the University of Tennessee, and into non-sports clients such as Kroger and Rising Star Casino.
Luckily, the company isn’t actually producing all of its videos in Gelehrter’s basement but instead has received both mentoring and affordable office space from Norwood-based HCDC. That partnership is fitting even in unexpected ways — while the company’s name actually comes from the fourth floor of UC’s Richard Lindner Center, where Gelehrter worked for seven years, their office space in HCDC is also on the fourth floor.
“We’ve been very lucky in the first year to have a lot of support,” Gelehrter says. “It’s not something I really imagined happening until about a year ago. It’s different every day, and it’s exciting. I’m not going to say every day is great, but a lot of them are.”

Conference focuses on applying the predictive analytics of sports to business

The University of Cincinnati’s Center for Business Analytics hosts “Predictive Analytics Day” Feb. 29 featuring panels of experts who are applying predictive analytics to business and, more frequently, to sports.
The day-long mini conference is one of the public events presented by the Center of Business Analytics, which changes topics each year. This year, as Executive Director Glenn Wegryn explains, the chosen topic was predictive analytics.
“Predictive analytics is being able to anticipate better through understanding data with statistical and mathematical methods,” Wegryn says, explaining that the methods can be used to help anticipate everything from what your next click on a website might be to when a piece of industrial equipment will need to be replaced to overall business forecasting.
Wegryn says that as the Predictive Analytics Day was planned, a sports theme emerged organically through speaker recruitment. Those speakers include the Decision Science Technical Manager for Walt Disney Co., Louie Kuznia, whose background is with Disney-owned ESPN; a specialist in sports analytics, which uses predictive analytics to anticipate factors like how well a scouted player might perform or how many tickets will be sold for a particular game; and a technical speaker who has used predictive analytics to study athletes’ training videos.
Once the theme emerged, the Center decided to complement it by calling on some of their own members from the Cincinnati Reds, the Cincinnati Bengals and the UC Bearcats to put together a lunchtime panel about how predictive analytics works in those organizations.
Even though the day’s program has ended up focusing on sports, Wegryn points out that the topics will still be applicable to a much wider audience.
“The problem is the same whether you’re trying to sell your next baseball ticket or your next piece of clothing,” he says. “Coming to an event like this, you get to think outside the box a little bit about your own organizations.”
The Center expects more than 200 people at the event, breaking previous records for its public programming. Most attendees are coming from the Greater Cincinnati business world and use analytics or predictive analytics in their company work.
“It’s an explosive field right now,” Wegryn says. “Data is exploding, and everyone is figuring out how to leverage it effectively.”
Predictive Analytics Day will be held at UC’s Tangeman University Center at 7:30 a.m.-4:30 p.m. Feb. 29. Registration is $125 and is available here.

Bad Girl Ventures welcomes first Launch class of eight startups

Bad Girl Ventures (BGV) welcomed its first Launch class last week, part of the business accelerator organization’s revamped three-tier Explore, Launch and Grow programming.
“We had over 50 applicants for the class,” BGV Executive Director Nancy Aichholz says. “Our volunteer selection committee chose the class based on stringent criteria. The eight companies represent completely different industries. They’re energetic and engaged, and we’re excited about them.”
The 18-week program began last week. Since all of the participants are also running their companies, classes are offered alternating weeks with the off week providing time to do homework and meet with mentors.
“BGV’s job is to cultivate these companies and help them be as successful as possible,” Aichholz says. “They are competing to receive a $25,000 loan from us, but just as importantly they will learn how to access capital elsewhere to meet the needs of their business.”
Members of the first BGV Launch class are:
Meaghan Dunklee, Wedding Bags: creating custom gift bags for weddings
Debbie Immesoete, Route Fifty Campers: offering vintage camper rentals
Melyssa, Michele and Christine Kirn, Grainwell: making wood-centric home décor
Monica Kohler, Skube.Me: sewing modern tube skirts with American sourced fabrics
Lynn Love, LL Spirits: an adult lemonade stand at Findlay Market
Cullen Meehan, Wish Pretty: a line of accessory bags
Sara Swinehart, SRO Prints: a social enterprise screen printing business
Kimberly Turnbow, Hair Gem Elite Salon: restoring hair damaged by chemotherapy and chemical treatments
“We have all the right ingredients for our first Launch class,” Aichholz says. “The right staff, the right volunteers, the right sponsors and absolutely the right women. We’re very excited and hopeful for the quality and potential in this class.”
The first week of class included presentations on corporate culture by Steve Martin, Vice President of Organizational Development at Hubert Company; pitch practice with actress and coach Elle Zimmerman; meeting their mentors; and connecting with peer counselors from Northern Kentucky University and University of Cincinnati law schools as well as BGV’s legal counsel partner, Cors & Bassett.
Aichholz credits the quality and diversity of the Launch class with BGV’s efforts to recruit applicants for the class.
“We were more focused and intentional in our marketing,” she says. “Instead of just letting people come to us, we were more proactive in going out, meeting and getting to know women who were starting and running really neat businesses. We engaged them with BGV and got them interested in the program.”
Two Launch participants are graduates of BGV’s first Explore class held last fall, Debbie Immesoete and Meaghan Dunklee.
“Megan was using Etsy to sell her bags,” Aichholz says. “During Explore, she created her own website and she’s since hired her first employee. Debbie wants to raise capital to buy additional campers because her current inventory is booked all the time.”
BGV is accepting participants for the second Explore class through March 8; the nine-week class will begin April 7.
“The Explore class is meant for anyone, including men, who is thinking about going into business for themselves,” Aichholz says. “Our hope is that people who go through Explore will have a basic business plan at the end of the class, go and grow their business for a year or so, then come back and Launch with us.”
The third phase of the BGV program, Grow, which offers stand-alone workshops for established business owners, will begin in the spring. That’s also when BGV hopes to be located in its new permanent office space in Covington.
“BGV is different from other programs,” Aichholz says. “When women begin our program, they aren’t just taking an accelerator class, they’re joining an organization. This isn’t a ‘quick go in, get a business plan and find funding’ program.
“We want to see these women be successful. Five years from now they can call us and ask for help. We want to promote these business once they’re launched. And we hope they want to stay connected to BGV when they’re successful. It’s a unique value proposition BGV offers our members.”

Queen City Mobile Summit brings national recognition to local app developers

On Wednesday, Feb. 17, Cincinnati will play host to the Queen City Mobile Summit, a collaboration among national and local players to spark discussion about the state of mobile app technology and where it’s headed.
This will be the fourth such mobile summit organized by ACT: The App Association, a national organization representing the app industry through education and advocacy. Previous summits were held in Salt Lake City; Eugene, Ore.; and Cedar Rapids, Iowa, to bring attention to the great app development going on where it might not be typically expected.
“It’s really about highlighting and getting to know the community outside Silicon Valley,” says Courtney Bernard, Communications Manager for ACT. “Contrary to popular belief, most of the highest grossing apps are not from Silicon Valley.”
A few of those have even come from Cincinnati, a market that seemed like a natural fit for the association’s next summit. The event will be co-organized by Possible, the global digital media and marketing agency with its second largest office in Cincinnati, and The Brandery.
For Possible, a major international player in the digital media and app technology world, the summit will be an opportunity to connect with the local technology and app ecosystem.
For The Brandery, the connections to the national app economy will come with a significant recognition: The startup accelerator will be the second ever recipient of ACT’s App Economy Spotlight Award. The award recognizes companies and organizations that foster a culture and community of entrepreneurship in the app technology economy. It will be presented at the Wednesday event by U.S. Sen. Rob Portman.
Bernard says that ACT chose The Brandery for the honor because of the exceptional level of support it provides to startups in their accelerator program, which includes successful apps like Roadtrippers and ChoreMonster, and the way it’s fostered a supportive culture of innovation in Cincinnati.
It’s that culture of entrepreneurship and encouragement in the Cincinnati ecosystem that both ACT and Possible want to highlight in Wednesday’s event.
“One of my hopes is that this event helps people recognize what a strong mobile app economy we have in Cincinnati,” says Brian Le Count, Executive Vice President for Strategy and Insights at Possible Cincinnati. “This is not only a great place where advertising happens but where mobile tech happens.”
“Cincinnati is a model for how cities can really have a community that fosters entrepreneurs and innovation,” says Bernard, who is a Cincinnati native herself and made sure there would be some local touches (like Skyline for lunch) at the summit.
The Queen City Mobile Summit will take place at The Brandery’s Union Hall in Over-the-Rhine at 10 a.m.-2 p.m. Feb. 17, with a press event and award ceremony at 9:30 a.m. Registration is free; you can sign up online here.

New grant program pushes to expand "good food" options across Greater Cincinnati

Food security has been a hot topic in the news with food-borne illness outbreaks at national chains and studies on the impact of urban food deserts.
Locally, the Greater Cincinnati Regional Food Policy Council (GCRFPC), an initiative of Green Umbrella, is working to create a healthy, equitable and sustainable food system across the tristate. The council recently announced that it will award multiple grants of up to $10,000 each for innovative projects that promote more “Good Food” in the region.
The Cincy Good Food Fund Award is supported by a grant from the Funders’ Network for Smart Growth and Livable Communities and the Carol Ann & Ralph V. Haile, Jr./U.S. Bank Foundation.
“Addressing the need for a healthy, equitable and sustainable regional food system is right up there with the goal of world peace,” GCRFPC Director Angie Carl says. “The link between food and health, sustainability and the local economy is undeniable. Ideally it would be easy for all to make healthy eating choices. Yet we know many people in our region go hungry, many don’t have access to healthy food and many do not make healthy eating choices.
“Further, there are many practices, regulations and obstacles in our food system that present challenges for local food production and distribution. Some say our food system is broken. Whether or not that’s true, it is definitely true that our region's farms are decreasing and we desperately need to support and encourage more agriculture in both urban and rural areas.”
GCRFPC itself is a relatively new organization, coming together in October 2014 with a grant from Interact for Health to reactivate the Cincinnati Food Policy Council, which had disbanded in 2011. Today, 40 representatives from organizations operating in the 10-county region are addressing issues facing the regional food system through four working groups: Healthy Food Access and Consumption; Distribution and Procurement; Food Production and Land Use; and Community Assessment, Planning and Zoning.
Each work group identified priorities for its focus area, established a work plan and are conducting research on best practices that will provide information for case studies, position papers and policy recommendations.
The Good Food Fund Award seeks to engage the wider community in achieving GCRFPC goals. The award is modeled on similar programs in cities like Cleveland, Indianapolis and Hartford, Conn.
“There is no ‘Department of Food,’ so we are determined to help our region put a higher priority on a healthy food system,” Carl says. “GCRFPC will provide some financial assistance for innovative, impactful and viable food-related projects to help promote our mission.”
The program will award up to $40,000 in grants in 2016. Applications are welcome from nonprofits as well as commercial businesses and are due March 3.

Successful entries will address at least one of the following GCRFPC priorities:
• Healthy food access for Greater Cincinnati residents,
• Production of local foods and value-added food products,
• Community development to support local foods and coalitions,
• Food security for Greater Cincinnati residents,
• Educational programs that promote healthy eating habits and
• Beneficial reuse or minimization of food waste.
“We hope the Cincy Good Food Fund will help raise awareness in our region of some of the good work that is going on to improve our food system,” Carl says.

Let's Dance uses ballroom dancing to teach discipline and teamwork to Avondale students

It was dance that first connected Greg Norman and Kathye Lewis two and a half years ago, and dance has been their passion ever since. As the two began dating, they talked about ways they could share and pass on their passion.
Norman previously taught ballroom dance classes in Los Angeles, where they’d grown to include the children of his adult students. The couple was captivated by the idea of dance classes for young people in Cincinnati’s inner city, similar to those held in New York City and many other places and featured in the documentary film Mad Hot Ballroom.
So, at the recommendation of Lewis’ friend, the two applied for a People’s Liberty project grant and were awarded $10,000 to start “Let’s Dance,” a 10-week ballroom dance class for fifth and sixth graders at South Avondale Elementary School.
“We wanted to be able to have an impact in the community,” Lewis says.
The first 10-week class had its graduation ceremony on Feb. 10, when students got to perform two ballroom dances they’d learned — the Waltz and the Cha-Cha-Cha — for their parents and families.
“They loved everything that they learned, and they showed off at graduation,” Lewis says. “It was just wonderful.”
Lewis and Norman say they’ve already been able to see dancing’s impact on the students. Because learning ballroom dance requires discipline and teamwork, the teachers say they’ve even been able to see improvement in the children’s behavior. The experience speaks to the importance of arts education, they believe.
“I think that this program should be in all the schools because the arts have been taken out,” Norman says. “What we have learned is that the arts really do help children. It shows how you can take students that might not feel like they can contribute and expose them to the arts and they discover they may have other unique talents.”
Norman and Lewis started with that mindset of “life lessons through ballroom dance” as well as with the goal of exposing students to different kinds of music and artistic expression as they dance to artists like Nat King Cole and Cuban Pete. They also see themselves as passing on a legacy of black ballroom dance in Cincinnati, particularly in Avondale, recalling how important that artistic exposure has been in both their lives.
“This is an experience they will carry with them for the rest of their lives,” Norman says.
The students from the first class certainly won’t be leaving the experience behind soon — many will return for the second 10-week session to act as mentors for new students. Norman and Lewis are also dedicated to making the program available in more ways and on a long-term basis across the city.
“That’s the good thing about People’s Liberty,” Lewis says. “It gives people the opportunity to try out concepts and build things around them.”

Flywheel Cincinnati to host new round of social enterprise workshops

Social enterprise hub Flywheel will soon start a new round of workshops for Cincinnatians interested in starting social enterprises.
The workshops are one of the ways Flywheel provides training to potential social entrepreneurs, along with educating the public about social enterprise and nurturing a social entrepreneur community.
The workshops, which have been offered since 2011, were recently re-branded from a “Social Enterprise 101” concept to “Exploring Social Entrepreneurship” and “Becoming a Social Entrepreneur.” According to Flywheel Executive Director Bill Tucker, the rebranding was influenced by Flywheel’s Social Enterprise Cincy arm, an effort to bring together the best of different types of social enterprise.
“It goes right back to when we launched the Social Enterprise Cincy brand,” Tucker says. “It was with the idea of bringing best practices from for-profit spaces into the nonprofit space.”
Tucker explains that various sectors of social enterprise do different things exceptionally well. While nonprofit social enterprises are often especially good at delivering services, for-profit social enterprises tend to be better at branding and marketing.
The upcoming workshop series will bring the strengths of both those sectors together for people considering social entrepreneurship as a way to make their ideas a reality. The three workshops build on each other to create a detailed how-to guide for social entrepreneurs.
Exploring Social Enterprise (8:30 a.m.-12 p.m. Feb. 22) will serve as an introduction to the concept of social enterprise, exploring how individuals might be situated to start a business for social good or a business where society profits.
“This is for the beginners,” Tucker says. “Maybe someone who has an idea and wants to see if they’re going down the right path.”
If they are, they could follow up on March 22 by attending Becoming a Social Entrepreneur (8:30 a.m.-12 p.m.). That workshop will get into the details of determining if a social enterprise is a feasible idea, giving attendees the tools “to evaluate their business so they can fail quickly and fail cheaply,” Tucker says. He explains that about one third of people who take Flywheel training actually decide not to start businesses, “and we consider that a successful outcome.”
For those who do decide to start a venture, the third workshop in the series is Business Plans That Stand Out (8:30 a.m.-4:30 p.m. April 22), providing a longer, more in-depth exploration of the best ways to create a plan for their enterprises. That event is sponsored by Interact for Health — which hosts the meetings at its Roodwood Tower offices in Norwood — and is the only workshop with a fee.
Tucker encourages potential social entrepreneurs considering the workshops to think outside the box, because social enterprise doesn’t have to mean just traditional nonprofits.
“We’ve trained a ton of people in the community around starting businesses that have a social purpose,” he says.
It’s likely that, with the continuation of these classes, they’ll train a ton more.
Register for one, two or all three workshops here.

Greater Cincinnati Venture Association starts 2016 with Breakfast Club at Braxton Brewery

Greater Cincinnati Venture Association kicks off its 2016 educational programming this week with the year’s first Breakfast Club. They’re held every other month to alternate with GCVA’s Joe Thirty gatherings to create a year-long schedule of educational and promotional programming for local tech startups and entrepreneurs.
Each Breakfast Club event features four speakers: three early-stage tech startups, who each give an eight-minute pitch about their venture, plus a “keynote” speaker talking about his/her entrepreneurship experience. They’re typically attended by between 100 and 150 entrepreneurs, investors and fans of the Greater Cincinnati startup ecosystem. The year’s first event is at 7:30 a.m. on Wednesday, Feb. 10 at Braxton Brewery in Covington.
Entrepreneurs presenting at the event will include Atumsoft, a pair of chemists who launched a business to commercialize their technology allowing lab equipment to transfer data directly to the cloud. Their technology has the potential to be a major disruptor in product manufacturing and distribution.
Also presenting is SowOrganic, “the Turbo Tax for organic certification,” says Kevin Mackey, President of GCVA since December. The company designed software to streamline the process for growers and farmers to be certified as “organic” and for agricultural inspectors becoming certified as organic inspectors.
The third pitch will be given by Fanbloom, which targets social media “influencers” in specific geographic locations. The technology helps marketers effectively reach targeted audiences while still feeling very organic to audiences.
“We always try to curate companies who are prepared to pitch,” Mackey says. “So we ended up with all three of those because we wanted a good mix of tech startups.”
After the three pitches, the keynote will be given by Braxton Brewery founder Jake Rouse. His talk is designed as the morning’s educational section, a chance for early-stage startups to hear from someone else’s experiences.
“His story combines entrepreneurship with a specific focus on the trials and tribulations of being an entrepreneur,” Mackey says.
Rouse is himself a former tech entrepreneur and hasn’t entirely left that world behind in his brewing venture, since Braxton provides resources like open co-working space in its taproom to local startup entrepreneurs.
“One thing we’re going to be doing this year is trying some mixed-up locations,” Mackey says. “We want to highlight some more spaces that are a little more native to tech startups.”
Elaborating on Braxton’s involvement with and support of the tech startup scene, he adds, “People won’t usually associate a brewery with a place you might want to go in the morning, but startups work out of there every day.”
Despite the location, there will be no beer at the Breakfast Club event. Instead, coffee and light breakfast will be provided for those who register here.

The Brandery opens applications for its seventh accelerator class

The Brandery has begun taking applications for its seventh annual startup accelerator class focusing on branding, design and marketing. Each of the selected 10-12 teams will receive $50,000 in seed funding and a year of free office space and mentorship in exchange for a 6 percent equity stake in their company.
The application deadline is April 15.
The Brandery is looking for the best and brightest startups inside Greater Cincinnati as well as from across the country and the world, says Program Manager Justin Rumao.
“We talk about how we have a marketing and branding bend,” he says, “but we encourage anyone with an idea to apply.”
In other words, applicants don’t have to have a completely fleshed out business plan to be considered for a slot in the four-month class. In fact, Rumao states that having a strong team is often just as important, if not more so, than the idea itself — ideas often transform in the startup world, but a strong team can carry a company through that type of transition.
For prospective applicants who aren’t quite sure yet or want to learn more, The Brandery has scheduled four sessions of “Open Office Hours” before applications are due as a chance for startups to meet its staff.
“The goal is not only to share their idea through the application but to bounce it off other people and really start building that network,” Rumao says, emphasizing that those networks are crucial to the Brandery program.
The class isn’t just about accelerating startup ideas through branding and design, it also helps entrepreneurial teams leverage the resources of Cincinnati’s startup ecosystem — access to big companies like Procter & Gamble and Kroger and a spirit of collaboration found throughout the region’s innovation scene. In fact, Rumao jests that the city’s environment is almost an “unfair advantage.”
“We’ve got something special brewing here,” he says. “There is no reason The Brandery can’t become a top-5 accelerator in the country.”
The program doesn’t want to just use the city’s and region’s resources, Rumao says — The Brandery wants to build them up as well, encouraging the entrepreneurs who go through their accelerator to stay here and invest in the area. They even provide opportunities for out-of-town startups to live in Branderyhaus three blocks from the accelerator’s Over-the-Rhine offices, helping newcomers get to know the local community while in the accelerator program.
“We want to make sure that as many people as possible who come through here stay here,” Rumao says.
Considering the stories of graduates like Natasia Malaihollo, founder and CEO of Wyzerr, it seems like The Brandery is succeeding on that front. Malaihollo recently told Soapbox that, after relocating from New York and California for a Brandery class last year, she’s hoping her startup can become the Google of Covington and help improve her new Northern Kentucky community.
If the past six years are any indication, The Brandery’s 2016 class will add plenty of valuable assets to Startup Cincinnati.

The Women's Fund rallies allies to promote economic empowerment for women

The Women’s Fund of the Greater Cincinnati Foundation has been working to ensure women’s economic self-sufficiency for more than 20 years, supporting programs and conducting research around economic empowerment of women.
The fund looks at how gender affects a variety of issues in the community, and that gendered lens often helps reveal solutions to those issues. Women’s Fund Executive Director Meghan Cummings uses the example of child poverty to illustrate the approach.
Cincinnati has the second highest rate of child poverty in the country, and the majority of those children in poverty are living in single-parent, female-headed households. Cummings points out that when those facts are combined with Women’s Fund research like the PULSE: 2020 Jobs and Gender Outlook study conducted in 2014, it helps to illuminate the problem’s roots.
That study found vast differences in women’s and men’s economic opportunity as different job markets grow at different rates. Even though many job fields in Cincinnati are predicted to grow in the next five years, Cummings and the Women’s Fund looks more critically at those numbers.
“When we take a closer look at what kind of jobs are growing and who traditionally holds those jobs, it’s a much bleaker picture,” she says.
According to research, some of the biggest growth might happen in some of the lowest-paying sectors and subfields, like medical assistance and home health aides — jobs held overwhelmingly by women.
The Fund takes a comprehensive approach to addressing the economic well-being of women and girls along with issues like the high childhood poverty rate. It helps facilitate and connect the dots across the community from groups like the mayor’s Poverty Task Force to initiatives like Preschool Promise.
“These issues of women’s self-sufficiency, we think they affect our entire community,” Cummings says. “Our issues aren’t red or blue, they’re purple. These aren’t partisan issues, they’re community issues.”
Cummings explains that because the issues she looks at affect the entire community, the Women’s Fund tries to include as many community stakeholders and partner organizations as possible to help solve them. The inclusivity is reflected in the Fund’s events as well as in its board room — the Cincinnati Women’s Fund is one of the few women’s funds around the country with men in leadership positions.
Aftab Pureval, one of the first three men to join the Fund’s board roughly three years ago, is passionate about the work the fund does.
“If we’re going to address the issues and challenges we face, it’s going to be through the leadership of women,” Pureval says.
The Fund even hosts a yearly “Guys Who Get It” happy hour event to raise money and engage men in the community in these issues.
“Who knew if it would be successful or not,” Cummings says, remembering the first event three years ago. “We took a risk, and it was really successful. It was an unusual angle that, being a Women’s Fund, we were engaging men’s voices.”
“No matter your gender, age or experience, we need you at the table,” Pureval adds.
You can expect that the tables will be full at the next Women’s Fund event, its fifth annual “A Conversation With” gathering April 5 at Xavier University’s Cintas Center. National political commentator Cokie Roberts will be the keynote speaker.

GCF grant helps Hamilton Mill hire industrialist-in-residence and expand student support

Just a short drive north of Cincinnati, Hamilton Mill offers a distinctive experience within the Startup Cincinnati ecosystem.
“We focus on technology that helps Southwest Ohio manufacturers have small and lean shops,” says Director of Operations Antony Seppi.
Hamilton Mill also emphasizes clean and green technologies through a special collaboration with the City of Hamilton. The city utilities department currently produces nearly 90 percent of its energy from renewable resources and shares that expertise with participants in Hamilton Mill’s programs.
Unlike the familiar short-term accelerator program, Hamilton Mill is an incubator that accepts applications on a rolling basis and tailors the length of the program to the participant, whether that’s nine months or three years.
“Some companies need a prolonged maturation process,” Seppi says. “We have startups at many stages in their development.”
Startups participating in the Hamilton Mill program receive marketing resources and assistance, technology resources, networking opportunities, and mentors to help the startups hit their milestones. Hamilton Mill is also building an innovation fund that will be available to qualified startups graduating from their program.
“We have a unique niche in the greater Cincinnati startup ecosystem,” Seppi says. “We are really trying to engage with the Cincinnati community, and we work closely with Cintrifuse and CincyTech.”
A recent grant of $50,000 from the Greater Cincinnati Foundation (GCF) will help Hamilton Mill expand two of its signature programs.
Hamilton Mill is hiring an industrialist-in-residence to begin in a few weeks. It will be a rotating position featuring an expert in advance manufacturing who will consult regularly with the startups at Hamilton Mill.
“It offers added value to our participants, provides alternative perspectives, and helps formalize our program in advanced manufacturing technologies,” Seppi says.
The GCF grant will also support the development of a student entrepreneurship program, NextGen.
Hamilton Mill has been working with a couple of student startups, including one that has partnered with UC Health West Chester on a software project. However, there has is interest and opportunity to expand and further develop that program.
“NextGen lays a groundwork for high school and college students throughout Butler County to build and develop ideas,” Seppi says. “This is an expansive program that will include coding, app development, and technology.”
NextGen will incorporate students who have been participating in Butler Tech’s organization Students for the Advancement of Global Entrepreneurship (SAGE). Hamilton Mill expects to work closely with Butler Tech and SAGE to develop the NextGen program and hopes the program will be up and running before the end of this academic year.
For bricks and mortar businesses looking to start or get assistance in Hamilton, the Hamilton Mill is also home to the Small Business Development Center supported by the State of Ohio. They have two consultants who offer workshops, information and training and have recently brought a grocery store and bakery to Hamilton.
In the spring Hamilton Mill will get new bragging rights as the only Southwest Ohio startup program with an on-site brewery. Municipal Brew Works is building out a brewery and tap room in the former fire department space in the Hamilton Mill complex.

ArtWorks launches alumni network to connect 20 years of "doers"

ArtWorks has been around for nearly 20 years, touching the lives of thousands of local youths and adults through public art and creative enterprise programming. The noprofit launches an alumni network Feb. 4 to connect those people as a community of “doers.”
“Essentially we realized that over the past 20 years we’ve engaged almost 4,000 individuals,” says Colleen O’Connor, ArtWorks’ Talent Manager. “It’s time to re-engage them.”
The alumni network will provide ways for ArtWorks to support the careers of alumni through networking, mentorship opportunities, professional development workshops and meaningful engagement. The network is designed to bring together participants from all of the organization’s various programs.
The Feb. 4 event will feature food by provided by three different graduates of the Creative Enterprise division’s Co.Starters classes. More than 200 alumni of that program will soon be joined by a few more entrepreneurs — a new Co.Starters class started last Wednesday night and will graduate in nine weeks with lessons and connections to help them put their business ideas into action.
Another ArtWorks Creative Enterprise program is Big Pitch, sponsored by U.S. Bank, which has awarded $50,000 in funding prizes to creative small businesses and provided invaluable opportunities for them to receive mentoring and share their stories with funders and the public. Planning is underway for the third annual Big Pitch event later this year.
Of course, most ArtWorks alumni were participants in a summer apprenticeship program, particularly the organization’s famous public murals (for which ArtWorks is currently recruiting apprentices and teachers). The alumni network gives these apprentices a chance to connect, sometimes for the first time.
“I think one of the great things about our apprentices is there are almost 3,000 of them,” says ArtWorks Communications Director Destinee Thomas. “The teams work really closely together for six to eight weeks and become very close. We’re really excited to about bringing them back together.”
Thomas and O’Connor encourage all ArtWorks alumni to come to the event in February or register to be part of the alumni network.
“I think really just from walking around, I’m really blown away by the footprint ArtWorks has,” O’Connor says, citing a recent walk in Over-theRhine when she passed or visited Big Pitch alumni like Brush Factory and Original Thought Required while seeing mural after mural along the way. As the nonprofit enters its 20th year, that footprint is sure to keep growing.

Miami students get a taste of Cincinnati startup ecosystem via year-round internship program

Miami University students are getting more opportunities to intern at Cincinnati startup companies thanks to its expanded Cincinnati Digital Innovation Program. The collaboration between the school’s Armstrong Interactive Media Studies and Institute for Entrepreneurship allows students to do full- and part-time semester-long internships in summer, fall or spring.
Based on an established program Miami hosts in Silicon Valley, the opportunity is more than just an internship — it’s an introduction to the world of entrepreneurship and innovation. Students spend four days a week working with startup or tech companies in Cincinnati and once a week get to visit other tech companies, startups, chambers of commerce, development companies and other components of the local startup ecosystem.
“The goal was to see as many different angles of Cincinnati and the tech and startup scene as possible,” says sophomore Interactive Media Studies major Sam Huber, who participated in the program this fall. “Being able to see my home town in a new light was exiting for me.”
Huber interned at Cerkl, where he was able to put his design skills to use as well as learn more web development working alongside the team developing the company’s app. He says the experience was incredibly valuable, as was the chance to see Cerkl co-founders Tarek Kamil and Sara Jackson run the company.
“It was great just to have the real-world experience,” Huber says. “As good as Miami is in teaching in my program, there’s no comparison to seeing it actually happen.”
According to Mark Lacker, Miami’s John W. Altman Clinical Professor of Entrepreneurship, that firsthand experience is exactly why the program matters.
“We’re training the startup workforce,” he says. “What kind of skills do you need to be a valuable, valued member of a growing startup company?”
Lacker says that Huber is just one of over 100 students to do internships in Miami’s program, which has been arranging summer internships since 2010 and recently expanded to offer opportunities year-round. He says that interest from startups matches that from the students, with more than 90 percent of host companies wanting to work with Miami students again. Some even offer further opportunities to the same students.
Although his internship is over, Huber says he’s still doing contract work for Cerkl and looks forward to continuing the relationship.

Ocean's new startup class "reaching people well beyond Cincinnati"

Greater Cincinnati’s faith-backed accelerator program, Ocean, welcomed its second class of startup participants last week. The nine companies include two from the United Kingdom and three from outside Cincinnati.
“We are thrilled that the concept of Ocean as an accelerator has an appeal that has grown to the point where we’re reaching people well beyond Cincinnati,” says Ocean CEO Scott Weiss. “It is a diverse and exciting group of companies.”
The new class includes companies at very different stages in their business development.
“Companies including Homefield, Riser and Devoo are just at the beginning of their journey,” Weiss says. “They have great insights, great founders and are beginning to pull together their product and the business plan to take that product forward. At the other end of the spectrum, we have companies like Liquid which are established and generating revenue and are ready to use Ocean to get to the next stage.”
Ocean also recruited a range of business types for the new class, including consumer applications, business to consumer and business to business.
The nine members of the 2016 Ocean class are:

Devoo: helps friends connect with activities and discounts

Feasty: matches hungry diners with nearby restaurant specials

Homefield: engages fans with each other and the game

Liquid: provides data collection, management and collaborative resources for scientific research

RISR: offers personal coaching for student athletes

Spatial: uses social media to analyze sentiment patterns and define the vibe of a neighborhood

Spirit Labs: developed Lepton to connect donors with causes, ministries and charities

We Help Others: works with churches and nonprofits to generate revenue with underutilized resources

We Love Work: matches job candidates to companies by evaluating the compatibility of the candidates’ values with the company culture to improve the success of recruiting and hiring
The Ocean participants will work with other founders, entrepreneurs, mentors and subject area experts over the course of their five-month residency at the organization’s work space adjacent to Crossroads Church in Oakley.
“We have a rich pool of mentors,” Weiss says. “As part of their commitment, they give active service to our companies. So a mentor with a financial background could help a company set up their initial charter of accounts; someone with a marketing background could be helping a company validate an insight. We are fortunate to have great partners.”
Coffee chats with other startup founders and entrepreneurs, including Ocean’s 2015 graduates, provides an opportunity for the current class to share experiences and ask questions. Teaching sessions are offered at least twice a week to address specialized business topics as well as the faith-based subjects that differentiate Ocean from other accelerator programs.
“Ocean is beginning to prove that it’s a very effective business accelerator,” Weiss says. “But it is uniquely an accelerator that builds into the founder by taking a spiritual journey that’s integrated into the business journey. So the founder, the person, comes out of our program with more insight, self-awareness and maturity, and that is what helps them succeed as an entrepreneur.”
The 2016 Ocean class will have its demo day on April 28, but the program continues through May to help the class handle the negotiating, media coverage and other opportunities that arise after their demo day presentations.
“The date of demo day is carefully planned with Cintrifuse and our other partners in the city,” Weiss says. “All these people are working hard to continue to grow the vibrant startup economy we’re seeing in the region. We want Ocean to be an additive experience to the startup ecosystem so the region continues to shine.”
Other Cincinnati startup news

Bad Girl Ventures will announce the first class of its new LAUNCH program at a Feb. 3 event at Rhinegeist. Cintrifuse CEO Wendy Lea will give the keynote address at the free event.
The next day, Covington-based UpTech holds its fourth demo day at 84.51 downtown. Reservations are required for both events.

People's Liberty launching reimagined Haile Fellowship application as "civic sabbatical"

If you visited the People’s Liberty website in December, you might have encountered a message that began “Dear Cincinnati: It’s not you, it’s us.” The philanthropic lab was in the process of reworking its application for the Haile Fellowship.
The fellowship is People’s Liberty’s “marquee grant” and worth its headliner status, with two grants per year worth $100,000 each given to an individual along with the challenge to “research, plan, implement and present the results of a big idea that could change our community’s future” during the grant period.
After a successful first year of the fellowship program, People’s Liberty was actually partway through the application process for the second year when the staff decided it needed to change.
“As a philanthropic lab, we are constantly learning, tweaking things, and everything we do is changing all the time,” explains CEO Eric Avner. “This one was pretty prominent because we were in the middle of the application process.”
Avner explains that the catalyst for the change was a forum the organization hosted of funders from all over the country who provide grants to individuals. During the day and a half of conversations, People’s Liberty heard from other grantmakers that what was really important wasn’t necessarily the work grantees accomplished during their fellowship window but the longer-term results over the following three to five years.
“What we quickly realized was that we were treating the Haile Foundation Grant like a $100,000 project grant,” Avner says.
So the People’s Liberty team stopped the process to rethink the questions they were asking applicants. The goal changed to focus not just on the nuts and bolts of the proposed project but on the individual applying. This way, People’s Liberty hopes to grow strong local leaders and create an impact that lasts beyond the fellowship year.
The redesigned application opens Jan. 13 at 9 a.m., followed by an information session at the People’s Liberty office in Over-the-Rhine at 6 p.m. Interested applicants can arrange 20-minute meetings with the People’s Liberty staff over the next few weeks. Applications close Jan. 29, with the two 2016 winners announced in late February.
Avner is happy with the new version of the application.
“This is a unique opportunity (for grantees) to take a civic-based sabbatical,” he says. “I encourage people to take on this opportunity to change the city and change themselves in the process.”

Travel startup helps clients plan dream trips three years and more in the future

With the ubiquity of online travel booking services, launching a travel business these days might seem like a risky premise. Yet Kim Zielinski thinks the services offered by her new company, Intellego Travel, will fill a unique niche.
Many people have an extensive list of places to visit and sites to see, but doing the research to accomplish those travel goals can be daunting. That’s where Intellego Travel comes in, with Zielinski operating as an independent contractor affiliated with larger travel consortiums and tour operators. She’s launching a new long-term travel planning service in 2016.
“I meet clients somewhere that is convenient to them and on their schedule,” Zielinski says. “We talk about their travel style, things that they like, things they don’t like, how much they want to spend every year on travel, how often they want to travel and discuss the destinations they want to visit over time as well as any specific timing for those trips, like an anniversary or graduation gift.”
Zielinski uses that information to put together a proposal plotting a three- year or longer travel schedule, balancing big budget trips with smaller itineraries. That document gives Zielinski a blueprint for timing advantageous booking, and the client has a framework for allocating savings and valuable vacation time.
“Multi-year travel planning helps remove a lot of the barriers to travel,” Zielinski says. “Clients often don’t have the time and effort to do all the planning, so I take care of that. And although they might have an idea, they don’t really know how much it will cost or they don’t have enough lead time to put that money aside. The plan we create helps them feel confident that over time they have a strategy and can check these destinations off their list.”
Planning travel years in advance may make some people nervous: What if things change or something comes up? Zielinski has the answer.
“There are a million things that can happen, it’s life,” she says. “So if there are advance deposits or a significant money outlay, I highly recommend a travel insurance policy. In general I always encourage coverage, but especially for big trips.”
As a mother and avid traveler, Zielinski appreciates the benefits of family travel and understands the challenges in making that family vacation a reality.
“Travel is so important because it gets you out of your little bubble,” she says. “There are so many things to see and do and experience, especially if you have kids. It’s amazing to give them an opportunity to see the world and how that opens their eyes and makes them curious. When you travel together, that shared experience is something that people remember forever and is so much more valuable than any material gift.”
Zielinksi works with a range of clients from independent travelers to group tour participants, retirees and working families.
“I think one of the big advantages of operating as an independent contractor is that I have access to all of these different tour operators, vendors, companies and products but I’m not tied to any of them,” she says. “I can recommend the things resonate with you, whether that’s volun-tourism, biking trips, adventure travel or something you wouldn’t necessarily think of.
“There are so many different and cool travel opportunities out there. At the end of the day, clients value the expertise and sounding board that I can provide as they accomplish their travel wish list.”

Mortar's newest startup grads are already making strides

Entrepreneurship accelerator Mortar Cincinnati celebrated the graduation of its third class with a pitch night Dec. 15, when more than 250 people gathered in its Walnut Hills pop-up space Brick 939.
Mortar has been on fire lately, and two of the three founders were recently named in Forbes’ 30 under 30 for Social Enterprise. Yet the “Life’s a Pitch” event — sponsored by Walnut Hills Redevelopment Foundation, LISC, African-American Chamber of Commerce and Value City Furniture, host for Brick 939 — wasn’t about the founders, but about their students and community.
Although the night may have been the end of a nine-week business incubator class, it was just the beginning for the new entrepreneurs. Many had already come a long way in a very short time.
“We started out as a concept in our backyard hosting cookouts,” explains Kristen Bailey of Sweets and Meats BBQ, which also provided food for the pitch night event.
Bailey earned recognition as one of the top three pitches Dec. 15 and will compete in June against top pitches from previous Mortar classes. Bailey held her first official Sweets and Meats event just a little more than a year ago, with her only marketing consisting of fliers passed out to neighbors with Halloween candy.
Taking home pitch night’s top honor was Anton Canady, founder of PUSH, or “Pray Until Something Happens.”
Canady started putting his motto on T-shirts to sell after his release from prison last summer. He uses money raised from shirt sales to help support children whose parents are incarcerated, knowing from his own experience how difficult it was to provide for his own children.
“I started after doing seven and a half years of incarceration, and my kids had suffered at the time,” Canady says. “I had to call and borrow money for back-to-school shoes, holidays, birthdays. I couldn’t be there physically, but I wanted to be there materially.”
So PUSH is much more than the clothing line — it’s Canady’s way of paying his experience forward.
Although their projects are vastly different, the two Mortar graduates have a lot in common. They were both immediately drawn to the Mortar program and were tenacious in their efforts to connect with it.
Canady found Mortar’s Over-the-Rhine building while job hunting near his halfway house after incarceration. He knocked on the window until co-founder Derrick Braziel, who was inside preparing for a class, noticed and came out to speak to him.
Bailey had already been taking workshops about small business and entrepreneurship through various local organizations, but when she saw Mortar co-founder Allen Woods give a presentation at Crossroads Church, where she is a member, she went home and applied to Mortar that night. She remained on the waiting list until being admitted into the October class.
While Canady and Bailey both knew Mortar would be important for their ventures, they might not have been able to predict the personal impact the founders and community would have on them.
“It’s more of a psychological thing,” Canady says. “I’ve been going through stuff my whole life, and I haven’t had many proud moments. …When I graduated from Mortar and won pitch night, it made me want to go even harder.”
Bailey has similar sentiments about the Mortar founders as well as her SCORE mentor from the class.
“Their commitment is second to none,” she says. “I’ve never had anybody build into me and believe in me as much as they did.”
Now, thanks to the empowerment experienced in the program, these Mortar grads are taking even bigger “leaps of faith,” as Bailey puts it.
Sweets and Meats has ordered a custom food truck to move up from catering and setting up at events into Cincinnati’s food truck scene. Bailey is fundraising for the truck via an active Indiegogo campaign (currently at 39 percent of goal), and the purchase would be a big step up for the company.
“We were going to these food truck rallies with a tent,” Bailey says, explaining that their previous setup was no longer cutting it. “We actually lost business by not having a truck.”
While Bailey is hoping to debut her truck in March for food truck season, Sweets and Meats is hard at work catering. The company just started a contract with Aramark food services — a weekly commitment that provides some stable ground to build on.
PUSH is also looking to build and expand. Although the nonprofit is only six months old, the shirt line is available in several stores around town. Canady says he’ll soon begin merchandising beyond T-shirts to other types of apparel and goods, allowing him to then expand his community support, including long-term mentorship for two children.
“I know it’s kind of cliche, but if we can only help one or two, in the long run we’ll be doing our part,” Canady says. “There is not a shortage of people to help.”
To expand its capacity, PUSH is also raising funds to move into its first office space.

Kickstarter campaigns helped many (but not all) local startups in 2015

Last year several Cincinnati startup companies used Kickstarter to launch or expand product offerings with varying degrees of success, including several Greater Cincinnati food companies that exceeded their fundraising goals.

For urban mushroom farmer Alan Susarret, Kickstarter offered a way to increase production at Probasco Farms while supporting a community building project, Cincinnati Food Not Bombs. Susarret reached his Kickstarter goal in just over a week, raising more than double his target with 47 backers pledging $1,896.
A larger gourmet Kickstarter project involved Newport’s Carabello Coffee, looking to fund the remodeling and expansion of their facility. They exceeded their goal with 269 backers pledging $42,155.

Local foodie favorite Skinny Pig Kombucha leveraged Kickstarter to expand its brewing and bottling capacity. The campaign was selected as a Staff Pick by Kickstarter, and 139 backers pledged $10,800 to surpass the project goal.

“Kickstarter was a great way to build excitement about our product and help educate people on what we're trying to do,” says owner Algis Aukstuolis. “We ended up building a new brewing facility in South Fairmount in the former Lunkenheimer valve factory. This unforeseen change gave us a lot of delays, but we were finally able to start production in November. To help us grow, we’re working with Stagnaro distributors locally and will try to get into some more large retailers.”
Two Cincinnati-based clothing manufacturers also did well with Kickstarter campaigns to launch new production facilities and product lines.
Drew Oxley’s social enterprise company The Parative Project produces bags, T-shirts and flags with messages that raise awareness of human trafficking. Its successful summer Kickstarter campaign has allowed Oxley to partner with Freeset and The Aruna Project to move its production to India, where Parative will employ women rescued from human trafficking. The Parative Kickstarter campaign exceeded its goal with 305 backers pledging $23,022.

“We're currently working on a new website that will sell the goods made by the women of India,” Oxley says. “We have several new shirts and flags we’re excited to release. The site will also host a blog sharing practical ways for others to take action against social injustices.”
Another Kickstarter Staff Pick was the campaign to launch Victor Athletics, a new clothing line by Noble Denim to be made in Tennessee from organic materials. Their ambitious $100,000 goal was exceeded by $23,002 and supported by 1,166 backers, allowing Noble Denim and Victor Athletics to open a brick-and-mortar store in Over-the-Rhine. While working to ensure the store is a success, Victor Athletics has plans to expand in 2016.

“Based on the feedback from Kickstarter and our first season of sales for Victor, we'll hone in our fits and add a few new styles for Spring,” says co-founder Abby Sutton. “We want to aggressively grow our online sales in 2016 to continue to hire more sewers back and slowly tip the scales toward U.S. manufacturing.”
Unfortunately, not all of the local Kickstarter product launches were successful in 2015. Nutty Jar, a treat dispenser created by Cincinnati-based dog toy company Zigoo, cancelled its spring Kickstarter campaign. Education and hand-writing tool Grip Wizard fell short of its Kickstarter goal to launch large-scale manufacturing in Forest Park.
For those considering using Kickstarter in 2016, some of the 2015 campaign alumni have advice to offer.
“My wife and I were in Kickstarter mode 24/7, constantly showing our campaign to bloggers, networking with local groups and pushing on social media,” Oxley says. In hindsight, “I might have done more pop-up events as there was definitely more traction when people came across the campaign in person.”
“Kickstarter Campaigns are such a vulnerable experience because success is rarely measured so publicly,” Sutton says.
As their campaign launched, Noble Denim/Victor Athletics also faced technology issues with the Kickstarter platform that presented challenges for fulfillment and communication with campaign supporters. Although they were able to solve the problem through a third-party platform, Sutton and husband Chris took special care to acknowledge the campaign backers.
“We recognize that Kickstarter backers have a very unique relationship with the company because they get a different experience than a normal customer,” Sutton says. “To honor this, we gave our backers a discount code for life as a ‘thank you’ for their unique role in launching Victor. They deserve a price break forever for their faith in us, their patience and their ongoing support of the ethic of the company.”

HCDC business support is going strong one year after name change

As HCDC, Inc. prepares for its annual meeting and awards ceremony on Jan. 15, leaders at the former Hamilton County Development Company reflect on the year since announcing a name change to project a single identity for the three major services they offer. They’ve had a strong 2015 in all three sectors.
Norwood-based HCDC assists businesses opening or working in Cincinnati’s core and suburbs, but its efforts extend beyond Hamilton County across Southwest Ohio, Southeast Indiana and Northern Kentucky. It’s one of the oldest and largest engines in the tristate area for SBA lending, small business incubation and economic development.
Talking about these three major programs, HCDC President David Main chuckles.
“It’s like having three more children,” he says. “I’m asked which is my favorite, and I have to say, ‘It depends.’”
Small business lending
HCDC administers Small Business Association 504 and Ohio 166 loans. While the lending program took a hit several years ago because of the 2008 recession, it’s now back in full swing. This year the organization loaned approximately $26 million to area projects.
The organization is among the biggest SBA lenders in Southwest Ohio. Main estimates that they’re also probably one of the largest commercial real estate lenders in Over-the-Rhine, with borrowers like the Woodward Theatre, MOTR Pub and Gray & Pape Cultural Resource Consultants.
Business incubation
HCDC has been a small business incubator since “before it was cool,” Main says. In the 1980s, when manufacturing jobs were leaving the area, HCDC responded with assistance.
“We thought a business incubator would be a rational response to make the core of Hamilton County a business hub,” he says.
Their incubation program includes rentable office space, access to capital, workshops, mentoring and networking with other entrepreneurs. HCDC also rents CoWorks office space to entrepreneurs and individuals in the very early stages of their businesses. The workspace itself has proven inspiring as entrepreneurs support each other in a startup-friendly atmosphere.
“We are an environment that’s conducive to risk-taking and entrepreneurial thinking,” Main says. “Being in an incubator, they’re with other entrepreneurs who have faced, wrestled with and solved similar problems.”
HCDC’s incubation space is currently over 80 percent full, housing more than 40 startup businesses. Main is happy about his full office and parking lot, but he’s even happier about the tenants he loses — several businesses “graduate” from the incubation program each year and expand into their own offices.
According to Main, five companies graduated in fiscal year 2013, 10 in 2014 and 11 in 2015. Two more such graduations will happen by the end of January.
The idea is that incubation graduates stay in the Greater Cincinnati area and bring jobs and funds to the region as they grow.
Economic development
Small businesses and startups aren’t the only way HCDC works to add jobs in the region. Its economic development arm works to retain businesses of all sizes and to attract new ones.
The team saw success in that endeavor this year too, as the organization partnered with Jobs Ohio and REDI to bring Illinois-based CDK Global to Norwood and add approximately 1,000 jobs to that city and to Hamilton County. On a smaller scale, HCDC has continued its work in suburban communities, not only reaching out to new businesses but providing mentoring and assistance to those already doing business here.
As HCDC gears up for a new year and its annual meeting, Main wants to encourage small businesses, both new and existing, to take advantage of the services HCDC offers.
“We have plenty of money to lend,” he says. “We have room in the inn, and we’ll probably have more room in the inn after the first of the year when more tenants graduate into new spaces.”

Cincinnati Film Commission celebrates "Carol" premiere as well as new jobs and attention

The Greater Cincinnati & Northern Kentucky Film Commission will host a red carpet gala Dec. 12 to celebrate the local premiere of Carol, filmed entirely on location in Greater Cincinnati. The romantic drama stars Cate Blanchett and Rooney Mara and is already garnering critical acclaim and awards from Cannes and the New York Film Critics Circle, among others.
The benefit gala will celebrate a crowning achievement for the Film Commission, which has played a key role in the increase of major motion pictures shooting in the area over the past couple of years.
The nonprofit works to attract, promote and cultivate various kinds of film production in order to bring the jobs and economic stimulus associated with the industry here. The organization courts production companies and helps facilitate the process of filming in the area to provide filmmakers with a positive experience, hoping those same companies build Cincinnati’s reputation as a good place to do business.
That work has been paying off in the past two years, with Blanchett even giving interviews stating it was “phenomenal” to work in Cincinnati. But Film Commission Executive Director Kristen Erwin Schlotman also gives some credit to the state of Ohio.
Schlotman explains that Cincinnati had film production business in the 1990s but lost much of it when many film shoots left the U.S. for cheaper international destinations. To lure some of that business back into the country, many states began adopting incentives for production companies to film there.
Ohio was one of the later states to adopt such incentives, which Schlotman sees positively.
“We’ve learned a lot from states that have been too aggressive with the programs,” she says. “We don’t want to be a state that is turning away business.”
The incentives must be in place strategically, but with a $1.75 return on every dollar currently spent on them and six major motion pictures having filmed in Cincinnati this year, the strategy seems to be working.
With the Film Commission helping to coordinate all the moving parts that go into film shoots, more movies made here means more work for a host of people involved: actors, crew, technicians and the entire support staff involved in the film industry.
Schlotman is now starting to hear stories of Cincinnatians who are able to work full time in that industry, including young actors who never thought it could be a reality in Cincinnati and those able to change careers because more film-related work is available. These stories will only multiply as film shooting becomes steadier and requires a fully fleshed out support network.
“We don’t just want to have a piece of this business,” Schlotman says, “we want to see the entire film ecosystem here and become a global destination.”
Schlotman sees Cincinnati eventually supporting multiple film projects at one time and in succession, with all aspects of the film industry represented locally, from education to production.
“I just want people to know that while it seems like this is the peak of our efforts, it’s only the beginning,” she says. “This office is changing people’s lives. And I think it’s changing the city, too.”

The Carol gala is 7 p.m. Saturday, Dec. 12 at the Cincinnati Club downtown, with proceeds benefiting the Greater Cincinnati & Northern Kentucky Film Commission. Tickets are $150. The movie screening is sold out.

Design community rallies around "Ink Bleeds" rock poster art exhibit and party

The Cincinnati chapter of the American Institute of Graphic Artists (AIGA) hosts the opening of its biennial “Ink Bleeds” exhibit of rock poster art Dec. 4 at the Art Academy of Cincinnati. The opening night event will feature sales by the artists showing work, live music, beer, food and a talk by Art Chantry, “the Godfather of modern rock poster design” who, according to event organizer and past president of AIGA, Mark Thomas, “really gave grunge rock its look” and visual identity in the 1990s.
This will be AIGA and the Art Academy’s fifth Ink Bleeds show. They’ve been holding the exhibit every two years since 2007 to highlight rock poster art culture in Cincinnati.
“I personally had been noticing around town such an amazing culture of rock poster artists,” says Thomas, who collaborated with artists such as Keith Neltner, Rob Warnick and Tommy Sheehan, and the event has grown to steadily attract an audience of about 600 each year. “This one looks like the biggest and best yet.”
This fifth show also promises to be the most Cincinnati-centric. Subtitled “Local Blood,” everything from the artists showing work in the exhibit to the bands playing to the beer selections chosen by HalfCut will be from Greater Cincinnati. Even the design work for marketing the show features four different designs of that iconic animal so linked with the city: the pig.
Those Ink Bleeds pig designs will be available for purchase on beer glasses Friday night as well as to be screen-printed for $5 “bring your own shirt” style. Besides the poster art sold by artists featured in the exhibit, pig merchandise will also be available as part of “bundles” along with tickets to Chantry’s talk.
All proceeds earned by AIGA will go to fund scholarships for art and design students associated with its mentorship program, which involves monthly networking meetings between students and professional AIGA members October-April. In the spring, the program culminates in a senior day, when students bring in portfolios to be reviewed by the professionals. Based on those reviews, three or four students each year receive $1,500 scholarships to assist them with education costs.
AIGA is a national organization for visual artists, with chapters all over the county. Cincinnati’s chapter has approximately 500 members who plan and participate in programs such as “Liquid Courage” networking events and “Design for Good” campaigns like a Match.com-style event matching designers with nonprofits that need design work.
For the past few years, the group has hosted Cincinnati Design Week, which has grown exponentially to become “like Midpoint for visual artists,” Thomas says. For an event of that scale, AIGA partners with a wide variety of other arts and creative organizations around town. Thomas emphasizes the incredible community of such organizations to choose from and the rich, deep creative culture in the region.
According to Thomas, “The creative community embraces alternative forms of music.” That creative community will be well represented at Friday night’s event, which features live music from Temple, The Recreational and The Tillers.
“Ink Bleeds” runs 6-11 p.m. at the Art Academy of Cincinnati, 1212 Jackson St. in Over-the-Rhine. Advance tickets are $20 for AIGA members and $25 for nonmembers and include admission to Art Chantry’s talk at 7 p.m. (limited to 125 seats). Get advance tickets here.
Admission to just the opening night exhibit is a donation at the door.

CraftForce startup plans national expansion for its job search platform

Christmas came early for CraftForce, the local job search platform targeting skilled trades. On Nov. 17 the company was featured on Innovations with Ed Begley Jr., and at the viewing party CraftForce announced plans for a national expansion.
“We have been getting good responses since Innovation aired on the Discovery Channel,” says Dustin Grutza, founder and CEO of CraftForce. “That exposure provides some validation and credibility for us, which is a good thing for employers to see and helps with our national launch.”
CraftForce has been building its sales team and database to prepare for this expansion. The company has also been building relationships with technical schools and potential employers.
“We’ve had great feedback from employers, many of whom are in high need of our application,” Grutza says. “With baby boomers starting to retire, finding highly skilled labor has been a challenge.”
Grutza had been working in the industrial sector running a staffing company when he realized the hiring model for skilled trades needed to change.
“There was no platform for the skilled trade workers to post their resumes and demonstrate their abilities,” he says. “I wanted to create an easy way for them to post the work that they’re doing, to showcase themselves and their skills and be found for jobs. They would be driving two hours to work when there was a job just up the street that they didn’t even know about.”
CraftForce launched a mobile-responsive website in February that allowed workers to create a resume from their phone, search job postings and receive email or text notifications when they’re matched with a position.
“Our goal is that they don’t have to be out searching for jobs all the time,” Grutza says. “They can stick with a job until the project ends and be lining up their next job as the notifications arrive.”
The website was significantly updated in October, and major changes are in the works for the first quarter of 2016. CraftForce is also creating a new app to launch in conjunction with the 2016 update.
“We’re building a strong foundation with our website and application,” Grutza says. “As we’re working with our clients, we see what other features employers and workers need and we’re able to make those adjustments. I’m really excited about what we’ll be able to offer in the future.”
CraftForce currently doesn’t charge job candidates for resume and job search services, but employers pay a fee to post positions and access the resume bank.
CraftForce was founded in Maysville, Ky. and maintains an office there as well as a second office based out of Cintrifuse in Over-the-Rhine.
“Cintrifuse helped us find a lot of the resources we need to expand and build our web and mobile applications,” Grutza says. “There are so many different pieces to that puzzle, and they supply some great resources. I think Cincinnati is a great place for a company to start out and grow.”

Holiday shopping events feature work from lots of local artisans and entrepreneurs

The weekend after Thanksgiving will provide Cincinnati shoppers with many opportunities to focus on local goods and regional crafts in lieu of big-box Black Friday shopping.
Crafty Supermarket, held Nov. 28 at the Music Hall Ballroom, will feature crafters and makers from all over the eastern U.S. The event, started six years ago by Grace Dobush and Chris Salley Davis, is a curated show that values the quality of the vendors over quantity available. It has a competitive process to be selected as a vendor — the show had more than 200 applications for this year’s 90 vendor slots.
“We’re expecting a blowout,” says Dobush, explaining that last year saw 5,000 shoppers visit their Music Hall holiday show, with the year before attracting around 4,000.
The next day, City Flea Small Mall will have a smaller scale but just as strict a focus on vendor quality. The Small Mall is City Flea’s way to bring 30 of Cincinnati’s local brick-and-mortar stores together at one time for a unique holiday shopping kickoff at 21c Museum Hotel downtown.
“Our normal markets are open to vendors ranging in anything from vintage to found objects to artisan style food products,” says founder and organizer Lindsay Dewald. “We wanted to create a holiday event that highlighted the plethora of actual stores in and around our city.”
Both Crafty Supermarket and the Small Mall provide shoppers an opportunity to purchase unique, handcrafted goods from small businesses or directly from the artisans who created them.
“Buying directly from a maker in person is the best way to support them,” says Dobush, who also authored The Crafty Superstar: Ultimate Craft Business Guide. “They get all the money you give them. Artists are working really hard for their money, and any time you can eliminate the middle man (like third-party website fees), that’s a huge help.”
These one-day shopping experiences support some of the smallest entrepreneurs and newest startups in Cincinnati and across the region.
Of Crafty Supermarket’s 90 vendors from 12 states, between 15 and 20 are local crafters who have been through ArtWorks’ Creative Enterprise programs. Dobush says she met a couple at a Columbus craft fair who commuted every week to Cincinnati to participate in ArtWorks’ nine-week Co.Starters class.
Pop-up and craft shows like Crafty Supermarket, the Small Mall and Mortar’s Brick 939 pop-up shop create additional opportunities for entrepreneurs to connect with consumers.
“(I’m) most excited about seeing some of the stores that have opened up within this past year to be participating,” Dewald says of the Small Mall. “It’s exciting that new stores continue to pop up on a pretty regular basis.”
Participating in each of these holiday events can be part of a day on the town in either Over-the-Rhine (for the Crafty Supermarket) or downtown (for the Small Mall). Throw in Brick 939, which opens on Black Friday in Walnut Hills, and there will be a wide variety of shopping sites and experiences in the urban core throughout the weekend.
Besides “making a day of it,” Dobush has one last tip for shoppers: “If you love crafts but hate crowds, come after 4 p.m.” in order to support Crafty Supermarket entrepreneurs in a more leisurely environment.

Crafty Supermarket
11 a.m.-6 p.m. Saturday, Nov. 28
Music Hall Ballroom, 1241 Elm St., Over-the-Rhine

City Flea Small Mall
12-6 p.m. Sunday, Nov. 29
21c Museum Hotel, 609 Walnut St., Downtown

Brick 939
10 a.m.-6 p.m. Friday, Nov. 27
939 E. McMillan St., Walnut Hills
[Open Fridays-Sundays through Jan. 3]

Global Entrepreneurship Week helps startups collaborate, thrive, avoid pitfalls

Global Entrepreneurship Week kicks off on Monday, Nov. 16 in Greater Cincinnati as well as in 160 countries worldwide. Local events include happy hours, competitions and the return of Startup Weekend.

Nationally, an effort is underway to have the third Tuesday in November declared National Entrepreneur Day by Congress. Nov. 19 has already been declared Women’s Entrepreneurship Day by the United Nations.
As The Brandery, InnovateHER, Northern Kentucky Chamber of Commerce, Skyward, Northern Kentucky University and others join to celebrate Entrepreneurship Week, the local office of Vorys, Sater, Seymour and Pease has launched an effort to help startups and entrepreneurs avoid legal pitfalls.
“We have talked to many young companies that avoid legal counsel because they don’t think the fees are reasonable or necessary,” says Kimberly Schaefer, Partner at Vorys’ Cincinnati office who specializes in corporate law. “Unfortunately, our litigation group often encounters these same companies again after they’ve been sued or are in legal trouble.”

MyCounsel offers new and growing businesses a customized legal plan for a fixed fee that is spread out over a full year.
“The fee is all encompassing in the areas we identify so that the client is able to pick up the phone and call us without being concerned about the fees they are incurring every minute,” Schaefer says. “We get to know the company, they get to know us, and we show them what we can do and the value that we can provide.”
Vorys attorneys focus each MyCounsel package around the client’s needs.
“We will set up a meeting, usually one to two hours, to find out more about the company and its needs, and then determine if it’s a fit for MyCounsel,” Schaefer says. “If it is, we create a customized proposal for the company to become a part of the program.”
Services provided by Vorys may address labor, employment, contract review or intellectual property issues, with the idea of diffusing any potential legal situations before they arise.
“We often see companies fail to consider what happens if one or more of the shareholders or partners leave,” Schaefer says. “It is critical to consider Buy/Sell Agreements to cover these scenarios on the front end.
“Another common problem we see is that companies all too frequently forget to protect their intellectual property, which is created long before there is a tangible product in place. If you wait to protect your IP too long, someone may beat you to the punch.”
Eventually, Vorys hopes to offer quarterly workshops for MyCounsel participants and trainings geared to growing businesses.
As the entrepreneurial ecosystem in Cincinnati expands, the professional resources available to these startups and their founders also continue to grow. During Global Entrepreneurship Week, Skyward will launch a new online tool to direct entrepreneurs to resources that address startup needs.
“A thriving entrepreneurial ecosystem is important for our entire region’s growth,” says Trey Grayson, President of the Northern Kentucky Chamber of Commerce. “Our goal with Global Entrepreneurship Week is really to shine a light on the wide variety of opportunities we have in our region for entrepreneurs of all levels to connect, grow and develop all types of companies.”
Most of the local Global Entrepreneurship Week events are open to the public, but registration for some programs is required. The week concludes with Startup Weekend Nov. 20-22, a “frenzy” of business model creation, coding, designing and market validation hosted at 84.51 downtown.
A full events schedule is available on the NKYStartups website.

Mortar is opening Brick 939 pop-up holiday shop in Walnut Hills

Local entrepreneurship accelerator Mortar wants you to do your holiday shopping as locally as possible in order to support Cincinnati startups and entrepreneurs. In fact, the organization will help by providing a formidable pop-up space in Walnut Hills where you’ll be able to shop a variety of local vendors, entrepreneurs and even artists.
The pop-up space, Brick 939 (named for its location at 939 E. McMillan St.), will open on Black Friday, exactly one year after Mortar debuted its original pop-up space, Brick OTR, in Over-the-Rhine. But the new Brick will be on a new scale.
“Brick 939 is the Incredible Hulk-sized version of our pop-up shop in OTR,” says Mortar co-founder Allen Woods, referencing the fact that while the original Brick OTR is approximately 400 square feet of space, Brick 939 will be 10,000 square feet. The additional space will provide plenty of room for a variety of Cincinnati artisans and entrepreneurs to show their wares to holiday shoppers as well as house an art gallery for both visual arts and media in a screening room.
For Woods and Mortar, the extension into an art gallery makes perfect sense.
“Artists are entrepreneurs,” he says, pointing out that artists, just like all the other entrepreneurs Mortar works with, are trying to express themselves and realize their ideas in order to make a living. Since the purpose of Mortar’s pop-up shop is to provide an accessible way for businesses to do real-life trial runs very early in their startup process, providing space for artists was a natural next step.
939 McMillan seemed like the perfect space for all of those opportunities, but it took a lot of work to get the space ready. Over the past 14 weeks, Mortar has removed more than seven dumpsters’ worth of old merchandise and debris from the former Dollar City store in the process of preparing the building.
“It was a task to have the vision to see what it could become,” Woods says. “When we walked into this space, it completely pulled me in. … Now it has become exactly what we wanted it to be.”
Woods sees the transformation of the Brick 939 space as an apt metaphor for the changes that Mortar leads entrepreneurs through in its nine-week accelerator class, taking their idea from a rough vision to a fully fleshed-out concept and often a realized business. Mortar is now well into its third such class, which is its first one taking place in Walnut Hills.
The accelerator, which got its start in Over-the-Rhine a year ago, expanded into Walnut Hills this summer and will now alternate class sessions between the two neighborhoods. More than half the members of the current class are Walnut Hills residents or entrepreneurs looking to be active in the neighborhood.
“For me, we’ve always wanted to be as engaged in the community as possible,” Woods says. “We want to make sure we’re in all the places people need us.”
For Mortar’s Walnut Hills expansion, this means focusing on its mission of helping “the residents who aren’t typically included” in the process of redeveloping neighborhoods. The founders have worked closely with Walnut Hills Redevelopment Foundation on their expansion into the neighborhood, including hosting community forums to solicit input on their programs.
“We were able to ask, ‘What would you like to see, what is missing in your neighborhood?’” Woods says. “They might have a genius idea none of us have thought of.”
In addition to gathering ideas, Woods says those kind of conversations help give longtime residents a sense of pride and ownership over the changes in the area. When Walnut Hills was a flourishing business district several decades ago, it was also a primarily African-American neighborhood. As it goes through this period of rebirth, Woods says, “We want to get entrepreneurs to be at the forefront of that flourishing.”
Entrepreneurs and artists who want to flourish at Brick 939 this holiday season can apply at Brick939.com. There are a limited number of pop-up concepts that will be accepted in the space.

Two meetups to offer "speed dating" mentorship connections for social enterprise concepts

Cincinnati’s entrepreneurial community fosters many opportunities for networking and mentorship. A new effort is targeting social entrepreneurs with two meetups on Nov. 19.
Social Enterprise CINCY, produced by Flywheel Social Enterprise Hub, will host the events to bring together mentors and social entrepreneurs for a speed-dating type program.
“There are lots of definitions of what social enterprise is,” says Bill Tucker, executive director of Flywheel. “We look at it pretty broadly and consider social enterprise to be a business that is built around the notion of serving some common good. That can range from an organization like the Freestore Foodbank’s Cincinnati Cooks to a company like Nehemiah Manufacturing.”
Flywheel was created specifically to work with nonprofits that wanted to explore the idea of social enterprise in order to provide mission-related funding which would reduce their dependence on grants and philanthropy. Social Enterprise CINCY was established to broaden that ecosystem.
“Social entrepreneurs tend to exist within silos: for-profit, nonprofit, faith-based,” Tucker says. “We believe there is value in creating connections between all three types of social entrepreneurs and bringing them into relationships with other community leaders.”
The two meetup events, one at 8:30-10:30 a.m. at Community Blend Coffee in Evanston (featured in a recent Soapbox story about co-ops) and the other at 5-7 p.m. at Japp’s in Over-the-Rhine, are open to anyone interested in starting or scaling a social enterprise business. Mentors are also being sought for the event, specifically individuals with experience in accounting, marketing, finance, operations or a general business background.
Participants will complete a quick questionnaire, either before the event or at the door, to assess the skills they need or the skills they can share. The event itself will run like a speed-dating program, with entrepreneurs meeting a number of potential mentors trying to find a good fit. The meetup part of the program will be followed by a general networking session for all attendees.
“We want to start bringing people together,” Tucker says. “Our hope is that we can put the attendees in a relationship with someone who can make a difference in their lives, either as a mentor or social entrepreneur, and that we can bring more mentors to the social enterprise sector.”
These meetups grew out of the Social Enterprise Week and Summit hosted by Social Enterprise CINCY in September.
“We consider Social Enterprise CINCY to be an ecosystem builder similar to Cintrifuse,” Tucker says. “Cintrifuse supports an ecosystem around entrepreneurship with a technology focus and profit motivation; they’re the backbone of venture capital and the startup community in Cincinnati. Social Enterprise CINCY wants to promote the same type of energy, connection and sense of community among social entrepreneurs.”
Tucker hopes some of the meet up attendees will have ideas that could eventually land them in business accelerator programs like Bad Girl Ventures, ArtWorks’ Co-Starters or Mortar.
“Cincinnati is a really unique place with so much energy around businesses that are designed to support the common good,” Tucker says. “We want to bring together for-profit, nonprofit and faith-based social entrepreneurs to elevate the impact of their work with business, civic, and government leaders in order to build sustainable business ventures and enrich the fabric of our community.”
Although the Nov. 19 meetup events are free, advance registration is required.

Cincinnati Design Awards to celebrate architecture, interior design, graphic design

Five local design organizations join together to celebrate the year's best architecture, interior design, graphic design and landscape architecture projects on Friday, Nov. 13 at the Cincinnati Design Awards. The 19th annual event will be hosted at the Woodward Theater in Over-the-Rhine, where awards in 11 categories will be presented.

CDA19 is organized by the Cincinnati Chapter of the American Institute of Architects (AIA Cincinnati), the International Interior Design Association (IIDA) Cincinnati/Dayton City Center, the American Society of Interior Designers (ASID) Cincinnati/Dayton, the Society of Experiential Graphic Design (SEGD) Cincinnati Chapter and the Miami Section of the American Society of Landscape Architects (ASLA). Award categories include built work, unbuilt work (studies/reseach/analysis), small projects and open design recognition for Design Excellence and Design Advancement.

Entries are reviewed in a blind jury format by a diverse panel of design professionals from around the country who are recognized leaders within their organizations. Jurors include Eddie Jones, Principal of Jones Studio in Phoenix, Ariz.; Natalie Engels, Design Director of Gensler in Silicon Valley, Calif.; Cybelle Jones, Principal and Studio Director of Gallagher & Associates in Washington, D.C.; Meg Storrow, Principal of storrow/kinsella in Indianapolis; and Mike Tittel, Executive Creative Director of gyro in Cincinnati.

The event begins at 6 p.m. with a reception and dinner, with the awards presentation following at 8 p.m. and then dessert and coffee. Tickets are $75 for individuals and $600 for a discounted group of eight, with student tickets available for $25. Reservations are required and can be made here.

UC steps up role in encouraging startups on and off campus

The University of Cincinnati is co-hosting “University Start-Ups: Getting Beyond Challenges, Making It Happen” Nov. 9-10 in Louisville, a conference serving as a “mini boot-camp” on the various stages of creating a startup, from evaluating the idea to working with professional partners.
The event is organized by OVALS, formerly the Ohio Valley Association of Life Sciences, although its scope now extends beyond life sciences; the group of universities regularly holds conferences on startups and commercialization topics. UC was a founding member of OVALS 14 years ago.
“Our focus has always been commercialization, bringing scientific discoveries to the market,” explains Dorothy Air, UC’s Associate Vice President for Entrepreneurial Affairs and Technology Commercialization. “We’ve always focused on startups. Just this year we’re focusing it in a slightly different way with the mini boot-camp. I like the fact that we are very focused on practical things: Here are the critical aspects of starting a business, here’s how you work with partners, here’s what you need to be thinking about.”
Air says the model of this year’s conference makes it particularly appealing for not just universities looking to support commercialization of technology but anyone interested in starting a tech company or getting his or her idea off the ground.
“We’re trying to attract the ecosystem of everyone who is participating,” she says. “It will be useful for any startup.”
The conference will feature sessions on deciding whether a certain technology is right for a startup, how to make a company a reality, how to move forward and partner with industry, and how to look for and secure funding sources. It will also include a showcase of early-stage technologies coming out of participating universities and a keynote speaker, Nan Mallory MD, who successfully launched a startup companyt based on technology from university research.
For Air, the conference fits well into UC’s new model for supporting innovation. A few years ago, the university didn’t do much beyond helping inventors secure patents and intellectual property rights for their innovations. Recently, though, UC has “flipped the model,” Air says, focusing on a comprehensive approach to supporting startups and the full commercialization of new technologies to come out of university research.
The Louisville conference is part of that comprehensive model, as is the research accelerator UC is building at its former Campus Services building on Reading Road. UC is also hosting entrepreneurs in residence to help serve as a resource for faculty and students.
The university has even changed the way it tracks progress and success of commercialization, going from tracking the number of patents awarded to looking at the stages along the pathway of a startup from idea to available product. UC leaders are focusing heavily on supporting the difficult early stages of development and on partnering with the public and industry to inform university-supported processes.
“The OVALS conference fits into our overall strategy because we want to develop external visibility,” Air says. “We’re really kind of early on in this, and I think we’re starting to see more traction.”
The “University Start-Ups” conference will take place Nov. 9-10 at the Seelbach Hilton Hotel, 500 S. Fourth St. in downtown Louisville. Besides UC and CincyTech USA, host institutions include Indiana University, Ohio State University, Ohio University, Purdue University, University of Dayton, University of Kentucky and University of Louisville. Get more information and register here.

Cincy Sundaes wraps up sweet year of grassroots micro-funding

Cincy Sundaes has wrapped up its second year of providing grassroots micro-funding for innovative projects. The program is organized by Erika Fiola, Strategic Initiatives Manager at Agenda 360, and Kristine Frech, Vice President at Skyward NKY.
They came up with the Cincy Sundaes concept on a City Swap trip to Detroit, where they heard about a program called Soup that hosts monthly dinners to raise funds for creative community projects. But instead of serving soup, Fiola and Frech decided to feature a make-your-own sundae bar.
“For us this is fun,” Fiola says. “We’re lucky enough to have jobs in the community that we love, so this is just the icing on the cake. We love seeing people come together to support good ideas that make our community a better place. Cincy Sundaes is a really family-friendly event, and we like to think we’re helping kids see that giving back can be fun.”
Fiola says that Dojo Gelato was quick to step up and support them by donating gelato for each event. The first Cincy Sundaes event was in April 2014 at Rhinegeist, when more than 175 people attended.
Here’s how it works. Cincy Sundaes accepts applications until a week before each event. Applicants can be for-profit or nonprofit, they just have to pitch their idea in one page.
“Erika and I review the proposals with a set of questions including: Will Cincy Sundaes funding be enough to bring this project to life? Will this benefit the region, a specific neighborhood or community? Is this unique?” Frech says. “We also take into consideration region. We want presenters from a variety of neighborhoods in both Ohio and Kentucky.”

Four applicants are chosen to present at each Cincy Sundaes event, where they have four minutes and four audience questions to sway the crowd. Anyone with $5 can attend Cincy Sundaes, grab a gelato sundae and vote on the idea they like best. The winning idea gets all the money raised at the door.
Cincy Sundaes started in 2014 and funded five projects that year, including ArtWalks.
“Pam Kravetz and I had a blast pitching the Art on the Streets idea for ArtWalks at the very first Cincy Sundaes event,” Margy Waller says. “Several families brought their kids to help us illustrate how much fun our community-designed creative crosswalk painting would be. We had butcher paper and paint and colored pencils for everyone to suggest painting ideas.
“We were surprised and pleased to learn that the donations from Cincy Sundae eaters would be matched by the Greater Cincinnati Foundation. We painted six crosswalks with hundreds of citizen painters, bringing a fun surprise to thousands of people in our region and enhancing safety for walkers at the same time. None of this would have been possible without Cincy Sundaes’ support.”
Funds raised by Cincy Sundaes in the 2015 season were matched by People’s Liberty. The final event of 2015 was held in October with Sweet Cheeks Diaper Bank winning the vote.
“All of the Cincy Sundaes projects have been awesomely executed,” Frech says. “We ask winners to come back to a future event to talk about what they’ve done with their dollars. In some cases, like ArtWalks, you can visit the finished product. In other cases, like Changing Gears, you hear a powerful story about how providing access to a vehicle allowed a man to find sustainable employment. Either way, we have been very impressed with the impact our winners have had on our community.”
“We’ll be back next year,” Fiola says. “We hope to do some new innovative and fun things, so keep your eyes peeled! We plan to have details up on CincySundaes.com in early 2016.”

Regional Workforce Network looking for input on Workforce Innovation and Opportunity Act

The Employers First Regional Workforce Network hosts a forum Oct. 30 on the Workforce Innovation and Opportunity Act (WIOA), which aims to streamline and improve workforce development systems so potential employees can develop needed skills and talents.
The workforce network is a coalition of four Workforce Investment Boards from Southwest Ohio, Southeast Indiana and Northern Kentucky that work to connect businesses with potential employees. The boards formed the coalition 14 years ago after recognizing that their efforts needed to reach across the tristate region.
“The realization that began the conversation was that employers weren’t concerned about which state their potential employees came from, they just wanted qualified employees,” says Barbara Stewart, Associate Director of Workforce Development at the Northern Kentucky Workforce Investment Board. “So we would ‘circle our wagons’ to align and coordinate workforce services for the employers.”
Since then, those Workforce Investment Boards have worked together to help businesses connect to talent in the region. According to Stewart, it’s a great model.
“I was delighted to get involved with the workforce network because it made so much sense,” she says. “In the workforce development arena, success is closely tied to the relationships that support linking job seekers to employment opportunities.”
The Employers First Regional Workforce Network allows the four workforce boards to strengthen those relationships by pooling resources and combining their networks. In addition, the WIOA legislation emphasizes regional efforts.
“It realizes that workforce development does not stop at county borders,” Stewart says. “In our area, efforts don’t stop at state borders either.”
Consequently, the workforce network has developed a proposal for a regional workforce development strategic plan in reaction to the WIOA legislation but is looking for public input on the plan. Stewart encourages people to come to the Oct. 30 forum to help provide that input.
“We very much want to collect comments and insights from employers and community stakeholders that will help with our regional approach,” she says. “This will ensure our Employers First region becomes a more effective workforce development partnership.”
The Employers First Regional Workforce Network has held several similar forums in the past on topics ranging from skill shortages during high unemployment to the future of manufacturing. Stewart sees this week’s forum as an important step in the future strategies of Workforce Development Boards in the tristate.
“This one is bringing us into the next phase of the workforce development scene,” she says. “It will strengthen our direction, making sure we’re addressing the current and future needs of employers and the job seekers they’ll hire.”
The forum will be held 9-11 a.m. Oct. 30 at the Fifth Third Convening Center at United Way, 2400 Reading Road, Walnut Hills. RSVP to Nori Muro by phone (513-762-7234) or by email at nori.muro@uwgc.org.

Transit's role in regional econcomic development to be discussed at Nov. 10 event

A new study using data from the Regional Indicators Report to examine how Tristate transit systems compare to 11 peer cities will be released Nov. 10 at “The Connected Region: Transit’s Role in Economic Development” at the Cincinnati USA Regional Chamber.
The study goes beyond traditional mass transportation modes like bus, rail, walking and biking to include innovative multi-modal systems such as Uber, Lyft, Zipcar and bike share programs — whatever makes it easier for people to get around without using a single occupancy vehicle. More than 21,000 people in Greater Cincinnati use transit to commute to work on a daily basis.
The study and the event are hosted by the Cincinnati Chamber, Agenda 360, Skyward in Northern Kentucky and the Urban Land Institute's Cincinnati chapter.
The Regional Indicators Report began in 2010 as a partnership between Skyward (then Vision 2015) and Agenda 360 in order to gather unbiased data on 15 key indicators that would allow for direct comparison of Greater Cincinnati with 11 peer markets: Austin, Charlotte, Cleveland, Columbus, Denver, Indianapolis, Louisville, Minneapolis, Pittsburgh, Raleigh and St. Louis. Those cities were selected based on their similarities in geography, population size or demographics to the 15-county Cincinnati Metropolitan Statistical Area (three in Southeast Indiana, five in Southwest Ohio and seven in Northern Kentucky).
“We've done a couple of deep dives like this,” says Erika Fiola, Manager of Strategic Initiatives for Agenda 360 at the Cincinnati Chamber. “Diverse by Design looks at female-owned business, minority educational attainment and regional ethnic diversity. 2020 Jobs Outlook considered what fields will have job growth and where the jobs will be in five years. This is our first deep dive on transit data.”
Fiola will present an overview of the transit indicators report findings Nov. 10. A panel discussion reacting to the report will follow, featuring such regional representatives as Hamilton County Commissioner Todd Portune; Boone County Judge-Executive Gary Moore; Darin C. Hall, Vice President of Real Estate Development at the Port of Greater Cincinnati Development Authority; and Dan Tobergte, President & CEO of Northern Kentucky Tri-ED.
In addition to their county governance roles, Portune and Moore also serve on transit-specific committees — Portune heads the Hamilton County Transportation Improvement District and Moore is chair of the Transit Subcommittee for the Transportation Steering Committee at the National Association of Counties as well as chair of the Local Streets and Roads Committee for Kentuckians for Better Transportation.
“There is a lack of knowledge that across the country there are no transit systems that make money, that they’re all subsidized in some form, some more than others,” Fiola says. “But without robust regional transit systems people can’t get to jobs. There is a huge economic impact associated with our local transit systems, and we want to help people understand that.
“We want to have as great of a transit system here as we possibly can. Releasing this report is one step along the way. We need to continue this conversation about regional transit to make sure we are continually getting better.”
After the panel discussion, Dearborn (Ind.) County Commissioner Kevin Lynch will introduce the keynote speaker, Gabe Klein, former Regional Vice President of Zipcar and head of the transportation departments in Washington, D.C. and Chicago. Klein is currently with Fontinalis Partners, focusing on transportation technology startups.
Klein’s keynote address will share ideas from his new book, Start-Up City, about bridging the public-private divide to provide better transit solutions.
“Gabe Klein is going to be an incredibly interesting and motivating speaker for us,” Fiola says. “He's done some great things in Chicago and D.C., including cutting through some of the red tape associated with transit projects and making things happen. Also, his work with transportation technology startups should be really relevant to the great startup and entrepreneurial community here.”
The Nov. 10 event is scheduled for 7:30-9:30 a.m. at the Chamber's office at 3 E. Fourth St., downtown; pre-registration is required, and tickets are $35, or $25 for Chamber and Urban Land Institute members. Breakfast will be provided, and all attendees will receive copies of the Regional Indicators Report on transit and Klein’s book, Start-Up City.

Torrice's "Trees in Trouble" film has local roots, national relevance

Three years ago, local filmmaker Andrea Torrice was jogging through Burnet Woods and noticed swaths of dead trees with an “X” spray-painted on them.
“Then my neighbor said, ‘Do you know, we’re going to loose them all. There’s an invasive species from China that’s killing them all,’” Torrice recounts.
As the filmmaker learned more about the Emerald Ash Borer, she began to realize the scale of the issue of tree loss nationally as well as in Cincinnati. She became passionate about the value of trees to human economies, social life, health and well-being, which inspired her to make the documentary film Trees in Trouble.
The film explores the national issue of tree loss, specifically the loss of Ash trees to the Emerald Ash Borer, an invasive insect native to China that arrived in the packing material of goods being shipped to the U.S. Trees in Trouble focuses on Cincinnati’s reaction to the arrival of the pest and how the city is responding. Since the Ash Borer arrived here a few years ago, more than 12,000 dead Ash trees have been cut down just on land owned by the city.
“I wanted to use Cincinnati as a case study for other communities,” Torrice says. “My film explores the rich history of urban forestry in the region.”
That history, going back over 100 years, is one of the reasons Torrice focused on Cincinnati. She sees a current need for urban forestry and stewardship of our green spaces as a continuation of this tradition.
Trees in Trouble is more than a stand-alone documentary — it’s also part of a larger social movement to value and preserve trees. Torrice hopes that the film will “make us perhaps pause and re-evaluate what we think about trees” because increased international trade makes trees ever more vulnerable to invasive pests like the Emerald Ash Borer.
The film will be used to spread the word about what’s happening to trees and to raise a little money for associated causes. Its first public showing will be a sneak preview Nov. 5 at the 20th Century Theater in Oakley. The event will benefit the Cincinnati Park Board and Taking Root Reforestation, a campaign to plant 2 million trees in the region by 2020.
Just as the film starts in Cincinnati to tell a national story, screenings start in Cincinnati and move to the national arena. After the local sneak preview, the film will be shown at the Continental Dialogue on Invasive Insects and Diseases Nov. 17 and the Partners in Community Forestry Conference Nov. 19, both in Denver. The broadcast premieres will follow the same pattern, with the initial premiere on CET Channel 48 at 4:30 p.m. Nov. 22 and showings on PBS channels nationally on Arbor Day in April 2016.
“I’m hoping that people will change their views on the importance of trees,” Torrice says. “We need people, politicians and policy-makers to re-think what trees mean in our communities.”
From her viewpoint, understanding the value of trees is the only thing that will save them.

People's Liberty announces second round of Project Grant winners

People’s Liberty moves its experiment with a new model of philanthropy into a second full year of grantmaking, announcing its second round of Project Grant winners on Oct. 16.
The first round of project grants, awarded in April, included ideas as diverse and dynamic as a way to teach Cincinnatians how to build their own Andriod apps, a high-quality print magazine on historic architecture and renovation, a huge interactive retro video game to activate space and a curated online platform for local makers to sell their wares, among others.
As those projects are now seeing the fruits of their labor in the Cincinnati area, the next eight grantees are just beginning their journeys to turn their own visions into reality. They’ll be developing projects ranging from exhibitions focused on both art and science to tools for real estate development to solutions for the sharing economy.
As with all People’s Liberty grants, these projects will be undertaken by individuals, not organizations. Each project is awarded $10,000 and 10 months to complete its work as well as mentorship and resources from People’s Liberty.
The Project Grants are the first of People’s Liberty three major grant programs — also Globe Grants ($15,000 for a three-month installation in the organization’s Globe Building in Over-the-Rhine) and Haile Fellowships ($100,000 and one year to complete a project) — to announce a second round of winners. The first round of Globe Grant awardees were announced in August and the second round of Haile Fellows is scheduled to be unveiled Nov. 4.
The new Project Grant winners are:
1 Degree of Separation by Kailah Ware: An interactive mobile installation using audio and visual components to both ask and answer the question, “What do you love about Cincinnati?”
N.O.M. by Kevin Wright and Joe Nickol: A step-by-step guide to public space activation in pioneering locations and emerging markets to empower community stakeholders to create demand for additional and ongoing real estate development.
The Solar System by Josiah Wolf, Elisabeth Wolf and Matt Kotlarcyzk: The project will create and install a scaled model of our solar system for permanent display in a public setting.
Let's Dance by Gregory Norman and Kathye Lewis: Cincinnati’s long history of ballroom dancing will be reinvigorated through fifth and sixth grade students in South Avondale to instill a sense of pride and confidence.
Plop! by Amy Scarpello and Abby Cornelius: The creative project will add engagement and fun in Cincinnati Parks through the deployment of giant 15-foot bean bags.
State by Nate May: A series of performances featuring MUSE, MyCincinnati, singer Kate Wakefield and other local musicians centering around the premiere of an oratorio about Appalachian migration to Cincinnati.
POPP=D'ART by Janet Creekmore, Ben Neal and Melissa Mitchell: A 1963 Rainbow caravan travel trailer will be converted into a tiny mobile art gallery to introduce affordable art in unexpected places while also elevating exposure and recognition for up-and-coming local artists.
A Sharing Solution by Adam Gelter and Andrea Kern: The project will leverage the power of the “sharing economy” to connect Over-the-Rhine businesses, institutions and public spaces with those who live, work and play there in a way never before attempted.

SCORE provides free business mentoring, names Clients of the Year

The Cincinnati chapter of SCORE recently named Pianimals, The Yoga Bar, Spicy Olive and Spun Bicycles as Clients of the Year. They were just a few of the over 700 local small businesses and entrepreneurs aided in the last year by free mentorship and counseling from Greater Cincinnati SCORE, the volunteer branch of the Small Business Association, and its 90-plus volunteers.
The volunteers are working or retired executives and professional managers who choose to spend time helping and advising startups and small businesses in business operations, marketing and finance. Those mentors are the ones who nominate their advisees as Clients of the Year.
For one of those clients, the mentorship had a special extra dimension. Judi LoPresti of Spun Bicycles is the daughter of longtime SCORE member and mentor Ed Rothenberg.
When her father passed away in 2012 and left her some money, she and her husband decided to follow their passion and use the inheritance to open a bicycle shop in Northside. Judi and Dominic LoPresti went straight to SCORE for advice and mentorship.
If her father were still around, LoPresti might go to him for advice, but since he’s not she has her SCORE mentor, Carlin Stamm, instead. That relationship has served the LoPrestis well.
“They’ve been profitable every year since they opened (in 2013),” SCORE Executive Director Betsy Newman says of Spun Bicycles. “I think the key for them, and it goes for all clients, is that they’re very passionate.”
That also goes for one of the other Clients of the Year, Rachel Roberts of The Yoga Bar, who traveled the world studying yoga before coming back in her home town of Cincinnati to open a studio. Roberts has a team of three SCORE mentors — Hugh Dayton, Mike Crossen and Stamm — that helped her guide her business through a move from her original downtown location to studios in Over-the-Rhine and Newport, with possible expansion still to come.
Newman says that SCORE mentorship allows clients to be more comfortable with the nuts and blots of running their business and focus more on the parts they do best. Of course, one of the huge advantages of SCORE services is that almost all of them — from individual mentorship to group counseling to online resources — are offered free of charge.
“Our goal is to help them start up or grow their business,” Newman says. “We want to make sure no one is unable to compete because they can’t afford mentorship. When you’re starting a business, the last thing you want to do is spend money you don’t have to.”
SCORE volunteers know that well. Most are veteran or retired executives with years or decades of experience in business, marketing, accounting and related fields. Newman, who has worked as a career development consultant, explains that volunteering their time and wisdom with SCORE allows mentors to remain connected to what’s going on in their fields and communities.
“No one ever really retires,” she says. “You just find a new avenue for your skills.”
The avenue of SCORE mentorship certainly puts those skills to use.
“I’ve never heard of one Client of the Year that hasn’t given all the credit to the SCORE mentor,” Newman says. “Some of these mentorships have lasted over 10 years. The business is well launched, but the relationship continues.”

"Fuel the Fire" lets projects pitch to audience for funding

Fuel Cincinnati, the grant-making arm of Give Back Cincinnati, will host its fourth annual “Fuel the Fire” event Oct. 19, when startups and projects pitch to the audience and attendees choose which one receives the evening’s proceeds.
As a branch of Give Back, a service organization for Greater Cincinnati young professionals, Fuel focuses on funding ideas by young professionals ages 18-40 and projects that will impact that demographic in the areas of education, community building, environment and diversity.
Their micro-grants range between $500 and $2,000 to help individuals and nonprofits get projects started. Awarded on a monthly basis, the grants have totaled more than $40,000 over the past five years.
Fuel focuses on making the process as easy as possible for projects just starting out.
“We try to break down the barriers that prevent motivated individual from getting off the ground,” Fuel Chair Alexis Morrisroe says, adding that since applications are reviewed by a committee of Give Back Cincinnati members the grant makers are peers of the grantees.
Once a year, a few applicants to Fuel are given the opportunity to present their ideas to a much wider audience at the Fuel the Fire event. Morrisroe points out that even for the presenters who don’t win, the opportunity to talk about their projects is a valuable way to raise awareness and support from around the city.
Some of the past Fuel the Fire winners have made a huge impact in the city already. The winners of last year’s event in May 2014, Derrick Braziel and William Thomas, were awarded $2,500 for a project they called OTR Urban Entrepreneurs. That project has since been renamed Mortar and recently graduated a second group of startups from its business and entrepreneurship class. Mortar is now expanding the classes into Walnut Hills from their home base in Over-the-Rhine.
This year’s Fuel the Fire presenters will doubtless be hoping for the same kind of success. They include initiatives like ReSource, which repurposes office supplies and other materials for area nonprofits; The Grand City Experiment, which hopes to bring young people together to create a more well-connected and welcoming community; and Never the Less, which wants to help develop girls’ self-confidence and sense of purpose.
“Never the Less is excited to be a presenter at Fuel the Fire because that’s exactly what we’re trying to do for the girls — ignite a fire of possibility, hope, change and faith,” says Doris Thomas of Never the Less.
Morrisroe points out that some of the projects impact more than current 30-somethings by working to empower the next generation of creative, entrepreneurial young professionals. To that end, Fuel the Fire will include a student ticket price for the first time.
“We really want to reach those at different universities,” she says. “Xavier and University of Cincinnati have both started entrepreneurship programs, so we want those students to think of Fuel as a resource for them.”
The other new feature of this year’s event is an additional “People’s Choice” award of $500. Anyone can currently vote online for their favorite project, even if they’re not able to attend the event. So two awards available for the five pitch presenters.
Fuel the Fire 2015 will be held at MadTree Brewing Tap Room at 6:30 p.m. Oct. 19. Tickets are currently on sale for $20 ($15 for students) and will be $30 at the door; tickets include a drink and appetizers from Delish Dish.

Engage Cincy Challenge offers $10k for innovative ideas to generate community engagement

The City of Cincinnati is rolling out the Engage Cincy Challenge to identify and fund innovative ideas to generate community engagement. Five winning applications will receive up to $10,000 each.
Cincinnati’s private sector has long encouraged innovation through numerous business accelerator programs as well as recent efforts that include supporting civic-minded individuals and organizations.
People’s Liberty launched in 2014 to provide grants, fellowships and residencies to individuals with ideas to improve Cincinnati. Earlier this year, Richard Rosenthal established Transform Cincinnati as a resource for matching individuals and organizations with big ideas for improving the quality of life in Cincinnati to large funding sources. 
Now the City of Cincinnati will fund innovative ways to generate engagement-based on proposals from members of the community.
“Cincinnati is unique in many ways,” City Manager Harry Black says. “Each of our 52 neighborhoods are well organized. I have not been in a city that has this level of structure, capacity and civic participation. Although we do a good job of community engagement with the tools we’re currently utilizing, with the mature network of neighborhoods in Cincinnati, can we take community engagement to the next level? And can the answer come from within the community?”
The Engage Cincy Challenge is open to individuals, businesses and organizations with creative ideas to help build community within a neighborhood or the city as a whole.
“We’re looking for innovative new approaches to elevate community engagement as it relates to the government connecting to its citizens, citizens communicating with the government and within the neighborhoods themselves,” Black says. “We want this to be a wide open process. Engage Cincy is an out-of-the-box thinking experience. We’re looking for innovative programs that  foster and nurture some sort of civic activity within a neighborhood that the city can support, further enable and perhaps scale up.”
Projects proposed for Engage Cincy don’t have to be completed by a designated deadline — the proposals can stipulate individual timelines.
“Once we accept and identify viable proposals, each of the grant recipients will be brought in to discuss our expectations as well as to think through their concept as it relates to measuring the impact, identifying potential outcomes and determining time lines,” Black says.
The City Manager has already received 19 applications for the Engage Cincy Challenge, which was announced Oct. 1. Submission deadline is Dec. 1.
Black says the applications will be reviewed and finalists selected by a committee made up of city employees and representatives from the business and nonprofit communities. He will choose the five winning proposals.
Winners will be announced at the Cincinnati Neighborhood Summit in March 2016, and each will receive up to $10,000 to develop, implement or complete their projects.
If the funded projects are successful in reaching their engagement goals, it’s possible they could be considered for future support to continue or to scale up and serve a larger audience.
“We are all about innovation,” Black says. “We’ve established a comprehensive and integrated performance management program that has been getting noticed on a national scale. I think all the pieces are in place in Cincinnati. The city is growing in all the right areas and the right ways. There is an air of innovation and excellence throughout the city, including our city government.”
The City Manager's Office will make a presentation and take questions about the new Engage Cincy program at the Invest in Neighborhoods meeting at 7 p.m. Oct. 22 at the Cincinnati Fire Museum downtown. Questions about the program and application can also be submitted via email.

JoeThirty offers new round of feedback events for startups

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

LawnLife founder pays forward the values of hard work and a well-kept yard

Tim Arnold has given real work experience to nearly 600 at-risk youth over the past seven years, and he’s getting local and even national recognition for his efforts.
Founder of the nonprofit LawnLife, Arnold employs young people ages 16-24 who face multiple hardships in their life and gives them an opportunity to earn a paycheck working in lawn care, landscaping and construction. The work gives them a chance to feel valuable, learn new skills and advance in a trade while earning money, empowering them through economic opportunity, education and accountability.
After winning Social Venture Partners’ Fast Pitch in February, LawnLife recently went to the Philanthropitch International competition in Austin, Tex., where the company was honored as one of the 10 “brightest social innovators” from across the U.S. and Canada.
Perhaps Arnold’s model is working so well because of the founder’s connection to the youth he employs.
“I’m very passionate about these kids because I was these kids,” he says. “I did whatever I could to survive, so I understand what these kids have been through.”
In his own youth, Arnold says, he had trouble with the law many times while trying to survive. What finally enabled him to turn his own life around was his first legitimate job opportunity in construction.
“I applied myself to that job,” Arnold explains. “I started working work.”
He says he began to appreciate the importance of work life, staying late and learning trades from supervisors, and eventually saw the rewards of that work.
That first job started an upward spiral for Arnold. In a few years, he was able to get a real estate license and started rehabbing houses on the side. It was on those rehab jobs that Arnold started hiring young people off the street, trying to give them the same opportunities and instill the value of hard work that had made such a difference for him.
The effort quickly grew into a comprehensive, multi-tiered program. As Arnold hired more youth who wanted to keep working, he started taking them out to mow lawns and do yard work in the community. It soon grew into a nonprofit organization that works with many other area services to reach young people to employ.
“They don’t understand we’re trying to help them,” Arnold says, adding that his young employees take the program seriously as a job rather than a service provided to them.
But LawnLife does help the youth they employ as well as the communities in which they work. Although the employees do lawn care and construction for clients who can pay market rate, Arnold also finds ways to “pay it forward” and clean up community spaces or offer lawn mowing to residents who might not be able to afford to pay for a lawn mower or what a professional company might charge.
Even though LawnLife is getting calls from all over the country and the model might take off elsewhere, Arnold is focused on Cincinnati and making an even bigger impact on the city’s landscape.
“If I can keep one less kid off the nightly news, I’m doing a good job,” he says. “There’s more bad yards than bad kids, I guarantee you.”

Bad Girl Ventures launches new 3-prong curriculum to support female entrepreneuers

It’s been a big year for Bad Girl Ventures (BGV). Its new executive director, Nancy Aichholz, joined in April, and a new curriculum structure launched this month.
“We had a one-size-fits-all class open to any woman who had a business in any stage of the business cycle,” Aichholz says. “And that worked, but it didn’t work for everyone. We needed a program that offers different kinds of help at each stage of a businesses development.”
The revamped BGV program takes a tiered approach — Explore, Launch, Grow — to support women-owned businesses.
“Explore is for the person who is literally exploring the feasibility of their idea,” Aichholz says. “They may have a concept and might actually be in business, but they aren’t very far along and they definitely don’t have a fully functional business plan. We’re helping them vet their ideas and walk them through the process of starting a business correctly.”
The first Explore class started mid-September with 36 participants. Weekly classes will address legal issues, human resources, marketing and finance as well as coaching and how to pitch their business to investors. By the end of November, each Explore participant will have a basic working business plan.
The second phase of the new curriculum, Launch, will begin in the spring.
“Launch will target women who are much farther along in the business cycle,” Aichholz says. “We’re looking at participants who have been in business for a couple of years with revenue and customers. Launch participants will develop a business plan to take to funders.”
The 25 participants in the Launch program will be selected through an application process that will evaluate their experience and potential for capital investment. The nine-week program will include weekly classes and work with SCORE mentors. At the end of the program, participants will present their business plan and pitch their idea in competition for up to $25,000 in business loans.
“In the past, there has been primarily one $25,000 loan,” Aichholz says of the original BGV concept. “Although that has been fine so far, to really meet the needs of our female entrepreneurs we need to loan them the amount of money they need, not a fixed amount.”
The final phase of the new BGV curriculum, the a la carte workshop series Grow, will begin next summer.
“We have BGV businesses that are five years old, and they’re facing completely different issues than those just starting a business,” Aichholz says. “They’re thinking about partnering, franchising, selling to national organizations, things that are at a more experienced level than the women just getting started. Instead of a series of classes, with Grow you can come to the workshop that’s right for you.”
None of the new curriculum tracks require participation in previous Bad Girl Ventures classes. The classes are even open to men, although they aren’t eligible to compete for the business loans.
Bad Girl Ventures offers programs in Greater Cincinnati and the Cleveland area, with more than 650 alumni, including owners of The Yoga Bar, Sweet Petit Desserts and Pet Wants.
“BGV businesses are much more likely to stay in town, to get their venture capital in town, and then those jobs are staying in the region,” Aichholz says. “We have had BGV businesses that have scaled dramatically, but they’ve kept their primary base here.
“A big differentiating factor with BGV is that once a Bad Girl always a Bad Girl. Our alumni constantly interact with and support each other. This alumni network is a unique asset for BGV that we can offer as a support system both to incoming Bad Girls and to any female entrepreneurs we’ve launched into their own businesses.”
Entrepreneurs interested in participating in the Launch and Grow programs can sign up online to be notified when applications for the spring class and summer workshops are available.

African Professionals Network continues to grow influence, spread connections

The African Professionals Network (APNET) is working to become Cincinnati’s go-to organization for anything related to continental Africa, according to its vice president for strategic initiatives, Clara Matonhodze. The organization will host its fourth annual symposium Oct. 10 with a keynote address given by Trey Grayson, president and CEO of the Northern Kentucky Chamber of Commerce.
“This event will provide a platform to network, share ideas and create long-term business relationships between some of the most successful Africans in the Tristate and American businesses,” Matonhodze says.
Business, networking and community engagement are APNET’s three pillars. The group was formed in October 2010 to help provide a support network for African people living in greater Cincinnati and to create a welcoming environment for African immigrants coming to the region.
“(It was) a result of long ongoing conversations by African Northern Kentucky University alums about how best to assist individuals of African descent in the area become part of their new community, tap into the local networking scene, graduate from college and find careers in their desired fields,” Matonhodze says.
In the five years since its founding, APNET has not only provided regular opportunities for members to network with each other and other business organizations but also organized events for members to volunteer and give back to their new community. They’ve partnered with Cincinnati Youth Collaborative to provide one-on-one mentoring to students from elementary school through college and worked with Little Brothers Friends of the Elderly to put on a yearly Easter Brunch for elderly Cincinnatians with few family or resources.
For Matonhodze, the opportunity to be involved in the Cincinnati community while creating community with other Africans was what drew her to APNET. She was born in Zimbabwe, where she worked in television media before coming to the U.S. at 23 to attend NKU. She got involved with APNET in 2012.
“I was looking for a dynamic organization that shared my passion to assist African immigrants by helping them integrate into American society, a pretty daunting task, and showcase our great city to new African immigrants by providing a support system if you will,” she says. “I also needed the organization to be open to genuinely working with people across cultures.”
Matonhodze stresses that anyone interested in Africa and related issues is welcome at APNET events, including the upcoming symposium. The organization has made an effort to form relationships with a variety of businesses and professional groups in the area, working to show off Cincinnati to recent immigrants as well as educate the city about the African continent.
“Africa has problems, we acknowledge that,” Matonhodze says, “but the image we want to promote and put forth is one of a progressive Africa — an Africa that most of our members and leadership agree is not shown enough.”
Their goals seem to be popular. APNET has held more than 20 programs and events this year and expects around 200 people at the October symposium, which will also celebrate its fifth anniversary. In addition to its success in Cincinnati, APNET is taking its model to other cities by forming chapters in Chicago and Indiana.
“We want the APNET brand to be global, having APNET locations/branches in different countries and leading big initiatives here and abroad,” Matonhodze says.
Tickets to the Oct. 10 symposium at the Anderson Center in Anderson Township are $35, with discounts available for groups and students. Register online here.

AIA Cincinnati program to address "missing 32 percent" of women in architecture

Gender disparity in the workplace has been big news this year, particularly in the tech industry and in coverage of the ongoing gender wage gap. The field of architecture has taken a proactive approach to addressing gender equity within that profession.
“Recent discussions and initiatives regarding gender parity in various fields have helped to push this topic to the forefront in our industry,” says Heather Wehby, Project Architect at emersion DESIGN and Co-Chair of AIA Cincinnati’s Equity in Architecture committee.
In 2011, the American Institute of Architects (AIA) San Francisco launched The Missing 32% Project, an initiative to start a conversation about gender representation. Several successful symposiums and events led them to pursue a national study, “Equity in Architecture,” in 2014.
AIA Cincinnati is bringing Saskia Dennis-van Dijl, Principal Consultant at Cameron MacAllister Group, to present the findings of that study at the Mercantile Library at 5:30 p.m. Sept. 22. The free program, supported by an AIA Ohio Opportunity Grant, is open to the public and requires advance registration.
“This program is especially relevant to all those in the design, engineering and construction industry who are passionate about creating a more inclusive community and workplace,” says Jeffrey A. Sackenheim, Vice President at SHP Leading Design. “For us at AIA Cincinnati, this is the next big step in delivering content rooted in critical conversations affecting architectural practice now and 20 years in the future.”
“We are hoping that all members of Cincinnati's architectural community — including students, interns, professionals and firm leaders — attend to help position architecture as a 21st Century profession that more closely reflects the people and communities that it serves,” adds Kathryn Fallat, Co-Chair of the local Equity in Architecture committee. “We also encourage people who don’t have a direct connection or involvement with architecture to attend, as we’ll be discussing unconscious bias and how it affects everyone in any and every workplace.”
Earlier this year, AIA Cincinnati formed its own Equity in Architecture committee to address workplace disparities attributed to gender, race and socioeconomic status.
“Ms. Dennis-van Dijl’s presentation is the first of many that will not only help spark dialogue on what is typically considered to be a challenging subject matter but will also inform and shape it,” Fallat says. “Our goal is for a lively yet positive discussion to develop, focusing on steps that both employees and firms can take to improve workplace policy and culture.”
The “Equity in Architecture” survey assessed the current career status of architects as well as challenges to success and efforts made by employers to recruit, retain and support professionals. The study report examines the “pinch points” where architects choose to leave the field.
On the national level, women represent nearly half of graduates from architecture programs but make up only 20 percent of practitioners and 17 percent of partners or principals in architecture firms. Thus the “missing 32 percent” are the women who graduate from architecture programs but aren’t currently working as architects.
The slippage is even worse locally. According to the Ohio Architects Board, only 13 percent of active, registered architects in Ohio in 2014 were women, significantly less than the national average.
“We have done some investigation into local numbers, but more study needs to be done,” Wehby says. “No matter which statistics you look at, a significant and undeniable gap lies between the number of women graduating from architectural programs and the number of women who are registered architects.”
The “Equity in Architecture” study and the Sept. 22 Dennis-van Dijl program focus specifically on gender, yet other disparities also exist within the field. AIA Cincinnati plans to work with the National Organization of Minority Architects on future Equity in Architecture programs.
“In order for architects to successfully design for and engage with a diverse and changing society, our profession must be comprised of members that reflect and represent it,” Fallat says. “If architecture is to remain a relevant and influential profession throughout the 21st Century, then it needs to recruit, retain and promote talented individuals of all genders, races and socioeconomic levels.”

Cincinnati Symphony opens new season thriving on experimentation

The Cincinnati Symphony Orchestra opens its new season Sept. 25-27 with a weekend of events centered around Hector Berlioz’s edgy, dreamlike Symphonie Fantastique. It’s a fitting accompaniment to the organization’s high-profile efforts to experiment on new ways to connect with the community.
The weekend offers a variety of events for different audiences, including a Friday morning performance of the Berlioz Symphonie along with the Beethoven’s Overture to Fidelio and Bartok’s Piano Concerto No. 2. The CSO performs all three works again Saturday evening after its annual Opening Night Gala, culminating with one of the largest after-parties it’s thrown in years.
“This will be a chance for people to let their hair down a little bit,” CSO Director of Communications Meghan Berneking says. “Symphonie Fantastique has this lore around it that the composer was on opium when he wrote it, so they’re capitalizing on that for the (party) theme.”
The “5th Movement” after-party will feature psychedelic decorations, dancing and a specially-brewed beer from Taft’s Ale House. The event will likely appeal to the Young Professionals crowd the Symphony tries to cultivate early in their careers with a variety of CSO Encore events, although Berneking emphasizes that all of the weekend’s events are open to anyone.
Opening weekend wraps up Sunday evening with the first installment of CSO’s new “Stories in Concert” series. The orchestra will again perform Symphonie Fantastique, this time without the other pieces but with accompanying explanations to tell the story of the music in greater depth.
“If you’re intimidated by classical music, this performance is for you,” Berneking says, adding that the goal of “Stories in Concert” performances is to help audiences better understand and engage with classical music.
The series is just one of many innovative projects CSO is working on to help connect with the community at large.
“The Orchestra prides itself on being a place of experimentation,” Berneking says. “That comes with us not being afraid to try new things.”
Over the past few years, the CSO has been involved in events and collaborations that might seem surprising from a symphony orchestra dedicated to classical music.
The organization has collaborated with Cincinnati native Bryce Dessner and The National rock band at the annual MusicNOW festival, which promotes artists experimenting with new music at Memorial Hall, Music Hall and other local venues. The Cincinnati Pops Orchestra just released American Originals, a live album honoring the works of Stephen Foster that features collaborations with such artists as Rosanne Cash, Over the Rhine and Comet Bluegrass Allstars. The CSO has also been engaging the city with its One City, One Symphony series, which will continue this year with a tribute to Maya Angelou focused on the theme of “freedom.”
Of course, the experiment that’s garnered the most attention is Lumenocity, which had its third annual run in early August. The CSO charged for tickets for the first time this year in order to help fund the $1.4 million event, and the concerts set to light projections drew more than 30,000 people over four nights in Washington Park. It was a smaller turnout than the first two years because of the restricted ticket sales, but the event has quickly become one of Cincinnati’s most popular summer traditions.

Berneking says all of this summer’s Lumenocity performance sold out, proving that patrons valued the event enough to pay for it and boding well for future years.
“When you’re experimenting, there’s always the risk that it won’t work, but even if it flops we see it as our duty to try new things anyway,” she says.
Those risks are paying off in a big way for the CSO. As orchestras around the country struggle and occasionally fail, Cincinnati’s has seen an uptick in attendance over the last few years. Leadership plans to continue experimenting, commissioning new works and finding new ways to share musical stories with the community.
“If Cincinnatians are engaged, we’re happy,” Berneking says.

Chatfield College's new OTR home maintains community ties, provides room to grow

The paint might still be drying and floors still being laid, but Chatfield College’s new Over-the-Rhine facility on Central Parkway is already bustling with students and staff for the fall semester.
Chatfield is a unique institution in Cincinnati: a private, not-for-profit, faith-based Associate’s Degree program that emphasizes the liberal arts. The college, founded in the Ursuline tradition of Sister Julia Chatfield, has campuses in both Cincinnati and St. Martin, Ohio, to focus on critical thinking and preparing students to continue at four-year bachelor’s degree programs while remaining accessible to students who face significant barriers to education.
“We’re all about taking down barriers,” says Chatfield President John Tafaro, explaining the school’s student-focused programs from financial aid to daycare.
Tafaro explains that the new Over-the-Rhine building is within walking distance of 15 bus stops, saying it will make the college’s services available to even more students while providing an upgraded space for classes and resources.
“This is a first-class learning environment,” Tafaro says, “because our students deserve the best.”
The new environment is the result of a 14-month, $3.4-million renovation of a building on Central Parkway near Liberty Street. The building was formerly used by the Cincinnati Association for the Blind (now Cincinnati Association for the Blind and Visually Impaired) as a broom factory employing its clients.
The socially conscious renovation made use of historic tax credits by maintaining the historic character of the early-20th Century building and created an energy-efficient green facility.
“We met our goal of using 30 percent minority-owned and women-owned businesses and 70 percent union labor for our subcontractors,” Tafaro says.
The space includes versatile classrooms for small classes and larger events, science labs, work space, a computer lab, a non-denominational chapel to be completed in early 2016 and a large music and dance studio space with wide windows overlooking Central Parkway and the Cincinnati Ballet headquarters right across the street.
Tafaro is especially excited about the natural light and open feel after moving from the space Chatfield rented nearby since 2006. That space had been just one third the size of the new Central Parkway building, with no outward-facing windows. The new space provides the college much more opportunity to grow — the campus currently serves just over 200 students, but Tafaro can imagine a day when it might host many more.
He says that Chatfield is deeply committed to the Over-the-Rhine community and excited to take advantage of the resources near their new location and build on collaborations with its neighbors. Several tours of the new campus are coming up, including one on Thursday, Sept. 17 in collaboration with the OTR Chamber of Commerce and Taft’s Ale House.

New round of People's Liberty grants available as first year starts to wind down

The next few months will be busy at People’s Liberty, with new grantees announced, current grantees premiering project results and two grant application deadlines.
Last week, the organization announced the three winners of their Globe Grants for 2016, an opportunity that gives projects $15,000 and three months to create some kind of innovative installation or programming in the People’s Liberty Globe Gallery space on Elm Street across from Findlay Market. The 2016 group of grantees features a photography exhibit of African-American men as Kings, a “toy library” for both children and adults and a chain-reaction space-filling machine art installation reminiscent of Rube Goldberg. Winners Nina Wells, Julia Fischer and Michael DeMaria should provide some captivating experiences in the space in its second year of installations.
The first year has one exhibit left: Deep Space, a nontraditional installation by Amy Lynch, Joel Masters and J.D. Loughead that provides an environment for creativity rather than presenting its finished products. It aims to be an “indeterminate space, a nebulous nurturing envelopment where creativity can thrive unencumbered.”
Deep Space will open with an event during Over-the-Rhine’s Final Friday on Oct. 30, finishing out the first full cycle of one of the three main People’s Liberty grants. The first two Globe Gallery projects were Jason Snell’s Good Eggs (March-June) and C. Jacqueline Wood’s Mini Microcinema (July-Sept. 3).
People’s Liberty launched a little over a year ago to provide opportunities for “new philanthropy” in Cincinnati. Founded by Eric Avner and Amy Goodwin via the U.S. Bank/Haile Foundation and Johnson Foundation, the philanthropic lab invests in individuals and human talent rather than the traditional model of foundations making grants to nonprofit organizations.

“I think this model gives us the opportunity to advance someone’s career,” says Aurore Fournier, a program director at People’s Liberty. “Sometimes we can even help them figure out what they want to do next.”
She expects People’s Liberty to continue expanding its marketing to reach an even wider pool of potential grantees.
“We want to strive toward even more great applicants,” Fournier says. “We want people to come from all over the I-275 beltway area.”
Fournier encourages everyone with an idea to apply for two upcoming grant opportunities. The first, due Wednesday, Sept. 9, is the Project Grant, which gives each winner $10,000 to complete a short-term project in Cincinnati.

The previous round of projects ranged from a cultural dance event to real-time arrival signs at Metro stops. Several of that group of grantees have their own milestones coming up this fall.

Alyssa McClanahan and John Blatchford just published the first issue of their Kunst: Built Art magazine with a series of events in Over-the-Rhine. Mark Mussman’s first class of Creative App Project students will premiere their finished Android apps at the Globe Building on Sept. 14. Giacomo Ciminello’s Spaced Invaders had a successful first test in Walnut Hills recently.
The Project Grantees aren’t the only ones making progress.

The first two recipients of the full-year $100,000 Haile Fellowship are also coming to the culminating stages of their projects. Brad Schnittger will soon launch the MusicLi platform to help connect local artists to music licensing opportunities, while Brad Cooper’s Start Small tiny homes project is due to break ground in October.
The application for next year’s Haile Fellowship will be open until Oct. 1, with a variety of opportunities for applicants to consult with People’s Liberty staff about their ideas.
Fournier sees the Haile Fellowship and Project Grants as a way for individuals not only to realize their ideas but to learn and grow in the process.
“This is not just a learning experience for us,” she says, “but also a learning opportunity for the people we fund.”
People’s Liberty staff members are proud of the work they’ve done and the people and projects in which they’ve invested so far. The five-year project will continue until 2020, when the team and funders will take some time to reflect on their work, its impact and what might be next.
“We’re extremely happy with the results,” Fournier says. “The opportunities are endless, and I think only time will tell with People’s Liberty.”

Unpolished Conference aims to be source of inspiration for entrepreneurs

Unpolished, a grassroots collective of startup leaders based at Crossroads Church, will host a national conference Sept. 17-18 focusing on the intersection of faith and entrepreneurship.
“There is an incredible lineup of speakers and teachers,” says Matt Welty, executive producer at Crossroads. “I think everyone who attends will walk away inspired, encouraged and motivated to jump into their work. People will hear surprising things about how faith and entrepreneurship overlap in very meaningful ways.”
“Unpolished came about when a few entrepreneurs who were attending Crossroads were gathered together by senior pastor Brian Tome,” says Unpolished co-founder Tim Brink. “He had seen us working out of the atrium. He was curious what we were doing, why we were there and if there was anything Crossroads could do to support us.”
Weekly meetings led to creating “place where we can talk about the things that are hard about being an entrepreneur: co-founder issues, health and space,” Brink says. “You spend so much of your time pitching — investors, employees, customers — you’re constantly trying to sell and put your best foot forward. Unpolished provided space for the other stuff.”
As word of the informal group spread, attendance grew, culminating in an event last January that drew 3,500 attendees.
“When that happened, something clicked,” Brink says, “This isn’t just a localized interest, there is a real DNA level thing going on here and our hunch was that it was broader than Cincinnati. That planted the seed for this conference.”
Unpolished aims to engage a wide range of entrepreneurs.
“Entrepreneurship very easily gets defined as tech,” Brink says. “But that is such a small piece of it. Most of the people we have speak at our Unpolished events are not tech — they’re just great creators of products, businesses and services.”
Andrew Salzbrun, managing partner at Agar, describes Unpolished as suited for everyone: “The tech startup who has big ideas they’re dreaming about bringing to life; a small business owner who needs to be encouraged and filled with great content; corporate innovators who are expected to lead the way and push boundaries; and students of entrepreneurship from regional colleges.”
The two-day conference features mainstage speakers as well as break out sessions and networking opportunities. Conference keynotes include Kirk Perry, President-Brand Solutions of Google; television producer Mark Burnett; and Wendy Lea, CEO of Cintrifuse. Other presenters include photographer Jeremy Cowart, Choremonster founder Chris Bergman, attorney Calev Myers and Chris Sutton of Noble Denim. The event will be hosted at Crossroads’ main campus in Oakley; tickets are available here.
“We have two days of highly interactive and engaging content that explores and discusses different facets of faith and entrepreneurship,” Salzbrun says. “Unpolished is based on the idea that entrepreneurship is one of the loneliest jobs on the face of the planet. Some of today’s best leaders will provide context on how to do work that is meaningful and with purpose.”
In addition to formal presentations, attendees can visit Startup Village “featuring startups and small businesses representing technology as well as people who are makers,” Welty says. “It is going to be a really cool opportunity to show off the Cincinnati entrepreneurial ecosystem.”
Participants can also apply to the second class at Ocean, also hosted at Crossroads, or take part in a contest where attendees can record a brief video pitching an idea to the conference. The other participants will be able to vote on which ideas are the best; winners will receive $2,500-$5,000.
The event is working with entrepreneurs and leadership from regional accelerators, including The Brandery, UpTech, Ocean, Mortar and Cintrifuse.
“A big desire of mine is to find ways for the Cincinnati startup ecosystem to gel and come together,” Brink says. “There is often a sort of competitive, parochial view of the world, but we're competing with San Francisco and New York, not each other. There is a chance to have something really special here.”
“Crossroads is really passionate about being a source of inspiration,” Welty adds. “To create a place where entrepreneurs can gather and be who they really are while being encouraged in their faith and in their businesses. Our hope is that through the ongoing Unpolished group that meets here in Cincinnati, we can begin to develop an even bigger community of people who are connected to each other beyond just one conference.”

Spaced Invaders uses play, retro video games to re-energize blighted spaces

Designer Giacomo Ciminello uses play to help spark ideas. In his People’s Liberty grant project, Spaced Invaders, he wants to use it to re-invigorate blighted spaces.
Ciminello’s concept uses the aesthetic of vintage video games like Space Invaders to create large-scale interactive games in blighted spaces in Cincinnati in order to help people interact with and have fun in those spaces.

Ciminello has a long history of using play in creative ways. A Cincinnati transplant from Philadelphia, he graduated with a bachelors and then a Design for Social Change masters from the University of the Arts in Philly. While working in advertising and with corporate clients, he helped found PlayPhilly, an organization that aims to energize concrete “grayspaces” through creativity and play.
He has helped start a similar organization, PlayCincy, since moving here but has also noticed big differences between the two cities.
“On the East Coast we were working with concrete alleys and sort of spaces between buildings,” Ciminello says, “whereas out here there are entire abandoned blocks.”
Those large blighted spaces are part of what inspired Spaced Invaders. The project is Ciminello’s first large-scale, tech-heavy enterprise in Cincinnati. Previous projects, like PlayCincy’s Lite Brute and Maxx Chalkers, use simple materials that reminded players of childhood toys and games.
Spaced Invaders also gives participants and spectators a sense of nostalgia for games but uses a much more sophisticated setup and set of technology resources.
The game features a huge light projection into the space and software that tracks players’ movements, allowing them to become a part of the game. The setup hearkens to the wildly popular Lumenocity light show, but with an interactive element.
It’s also part of the growing popularity of vintage video and arcade games from the 1980s seen in institutions like 16-Bit Bar+Arcade, which opened their Cincinnati location in Over-the-Rhine a few months ago. But this version of the nostalgia will require participants to actively play.
“You can’t do this standing still,” Ciminello says. “You have to do 20-yard sprints.”
According to Play Theory, that kind of activity changes the way you think and gives individuals a totally different experience in the blighted spaces Ciminello wants to re-energize.
“It's a workout!” exclaimed the first player to try the game in the project’s first public test Aug. 27 at Brew House in Walnut Hills.
Some logistics of the setup have yet to be finessed. Last week’s test, for instance, was delayed slightly to allow for de-bugging the software and setting up the technology.
But once the program was up and running, it inspired wonder and curiosity in everyone present. As volunteer players raced around the Brew House parking lot in reflective vests, defending from pixelated alien invaders, the small crowd egged them on, rejoicing their accomplishments and commiserating with their losses.
Ciminello hopes to continue building from this test, recognizing that People’s Liberty has been supportive in pushing the project to be bigger and better. Next steps for Spaced Invaders will involve more events in other spaces and developing other games, even site-specific games that use the landscape features in particular areas.
He also hopes that Spaced Invaders will not be the lone project to make use of these concepts.
“It's all going to be open source,” he says of the software. “We’re not going to lock it away.”
The idea is that the Spaced Invaders base and available software will inspire other local designers and DAAP students to build upon the concept and develop new ways to use play theory to transform spaces.
“This should be something that helps people stretch their imaginations,” Ciminello says.
If you want to stretch your own imagination, sign up at fighttheblight.org and follow #fighttheblight to learn more.

Children's study finds higher rates of childhood illness in poor neighborhoods across Hamilton Co.

New research from Cincinnati Children’s Hospital Medical Center reaffirms the connection between neighborhood resources and health issues.
Dr. Andrew F. Beck, assistant professor in UC’s Department of Pediatrics and attending physician with the Department of Pediatrics at Children’s Hospital, studied bronchiolitis and pneumonia cases in children across Hamilton County and mapped out hospitalization stays over the course of the study period. He calculated hospitalization rates by census tract, which in essence parallel neighborhood boundaries.
“Bronchiolitis is a very common lower respiratory tract infection among children age 0 to 2 and pneumonia is one of the most common infectious conditions across childhood,” Beck says. “We found some of the same disparities across our community as we have seen in our research on asthma and life expectancy study published by the Health Department. There is a lot of data suggesting that there are disparities in chronic conditions, and now we’re seeing these disparities in acute infections as well.”
The study indicates that hospitalizations for bronchiolitis and pneumonia infections vary widely across Hamilton County, and those differences appear related to neighborhood socio-economic conditions. The study reported hot spots with higher hospitalization rates in high-poverty areas of the inner city, with equivalent cold spots in the more affluent northeastern suburbs.
“The depiction of these disparities is a call to action on multiple fronts,” Beck says. “There is a strong desire here to understand difference and disparities within our neighborhood settings across a wide breadth of diagnoses. The related desire is to begin to understand the characteristics of those communities: what are the risks within those communities and what are the assets, resources and potential partners within those communities that we could then leverage moving forward.”
Beck and his Children’s colleagues have a strong track record of pursuing research and intervention in tandem.
Over the past few years, Children’s has worked closely with Freestore Foodbank to address food insecurity in families with infants, providing not only medical intervention but also educational opportunities and resources to improve quality of life. Children’s also partnered with the Legal Aid Society of Greater Cincinnati to launch the Cincinnati Child Health-Law Partnership, providing legal council and assistance to families struggling with legal issues related to housing and income or health benefits.
“I like to consider myself an expert in child health,” Beck says. “But I am not an expert in housing or hunger or air pollution or those factors that may be exacerbating the well-being of the kids I’m treating. So it behooves me to think through who are those key community partners that might actually drive more health improvement than I might as the pediatrician. That’s why we really value collaborations with community agencies that are those experts.”
The recent research by Beck and his colleagues on hospitalization rates for bronchiolitis, pneumonia and asthma shows there is a relationship but not a causality between these illnesses and poverty. Beck anticipates additional research will be done to examine the possible sources of the disparities.
“We need to do a better job understanding why some of our kids are doing worse than others and then think through what the best next steps are and how this data can spawn action,” he says. “(It’s important) both as a hospital trying to provide the best care we can to every kid within our community and in every neighborhood within our community and also to help start conversations with some of these community experts and agencies that may play an even larger role than we could.”
Health statistics are often provided on a macro level, with rankings of the most and least healthy regions, states or counties. Beck and his colleagues are examining the data at more micro level.
“Even if there are big disparities between County X and County Y, you need to look at a smaller, more granular place,” Beck says. “Because within County X, there may be disparities that need to be narrowed. So we’re trying to understand how we can help our kids do well across communities, not just as an aggregated community.”
Beck and the Department of Pediatrics at Children’s are open to new collaborations to build on the success of their relationships with Legal Aid and Freestore Foodbank.
“The list goes on and on for potential partners who are truly the experts in the social determinants that are perhaps driving the disparities that we see across all these conditions,” Beck says. “We need to think through our complimentary strengths, our complimentary needs and how can we collaboratively provide a better service than we could in isolation.”

Hello Home project tries new way to welcome residents into civic participation

Nancy Sunnenberg wants to create a broad, proactive way of welcoming people when they move to a new neighborhood. She’s been thinking about the questions of “How do we attract and retain people who are residents?” and “How do people become more active citizens?” for a long time.
After moving to Roselawn in the early 2000s, Sunnenberg joined the Community Council to become more involved in her new neighborhood. She became a trustee and officer, and her work with the group got her thinking about how to get more people involved in that kind of community work.
Like many organizations, Sunnenberg says, “we were looking for (people with) the energy and physical wherewithal to do things.” So in 2006 she started researching how a proactive welcoming of people to a neighborhood might cultivate them to be active participants in civic life, hoping to find ways to engage more people.
Now Sunnenberg is exploring the same question through her People’s Liberty grant project, Hello Home.
It felt like a perfect funding opportunity, she says, for a project that didn’t fit neatly into an existing nonprofit’s mission. The People’s Liberty grant allows her more flexibility than a traditional organizational grant.
The goal of Hello Home is to create a united “welcome packet” for Walnut Hills, East Walnut Hills and Madisonville, which Sunnenberg chose because they connect along one of the city’s major transportation corridors in the city, Madison Road. The packets will contain offers from and information about ArtsWave, Cincinnati Museum Center, Cincinnati Symphony Orchestra, Metro, Cincy Red Bike, local businesses and much more.
The crux of the project, however, is not the packet itself but how new residents will receive it. Sunnenberg is training Neighborhood Ambassadors to actively meet and greet recipients; community councils and organizations and signature neighborhood businesses have helped her connect to volunteers in the three target areas.
The process starts with a note left on a new resident’s door, allowing that person to contact the Neighborhood Ambassador. They then meet for conversation at a local coffee shop or similar neighborhood hub. The Ambassador acts as a host, welcoming the newcomer to the neighborhood, and the packet is delivered through that active process of welcoming.
“The process is part of the package,” Sunnenberg says, adding that the real idea is human contact and personal engagement will help inspire and empower people to get involved in their new neighborhood communities.
“People do not recognize how much resource they carry within themselves,” Sunnenberg says.
Neighborhood Ambassadors were trained last week at People’s Liberty HQ in Over-the-Rhine. Once the packets have been launched for a few months, Sunnenberg, the Ambassadors and participating organizations will come together to evaluate how the process is going and identify opportunities for growth and change.
“There are a lot of opportunities to expand the project based on ‘how do we help people connect?’” Sunnenberg says. “I hope that what will come out of it will be the conversation that expands the idea. I am even more of a fan of the creative process than I was coming into this.”

Toms Shoes executive to discuss corporate responsibility at second annual Social Enterprise Week

Social enterprises, businesses that exist to accomplish a social good, are rapidly gaining popularity in the U.S. Companies like Toms Shoes and Warby Parker are known for their outstanding social impact — as well as their enviable profit margins — and their influence is evident in the growing number of businesses directing profits toward the greater good.

Last year, FlyWheel Cincinnati introduced the first-ever Social Enterprise Week as a response to that trend. The main focus of last year’s event was a showcase of local businesses with a social element to their business plan.

This year, the team behind the event has created a Social Enterprise Week with a broader national scope.

The week kicks Sept. 1 off with a Social Enterprise Summit at the Cincinnati Museum Center, where keynote speaker Sebastian Fries, Chief Giving Officer at Toms Shoes, will be joined by several local movers and shakers in the social enterprise realm. Fries will discuss his efforts to scale Toms’ giving practices to over 130 NGOs in 70 countries.

In addition to his input, the panel discussion welcomes Dan Meyer of Nehemiah Manufacturing, Dr. Jason Singh of OneSight, Joe Hansbauer of Findlay Market, Allen Woods of Mortar and Brett Smith of Miami University's Institute for Entrepreneurship, who will touch on everything from job creation for disadvantaged workers and community involvement to entrepreneurship and sustainability.

The Social Enterprise Showcase will be held Sept. 2 on Fountain Square, a lunchtime learning session highlighting more than 30 local businesses that support a variety of causes across the region.

Another new element to this year’s event is a networking event called Cincy Celebrates Social, which takes place Sept. 3. The event will open with a tour of La Terza coffee roasterie and a series of inspirational speeches from local entrepreneurs, followed by an hour of networking for those interested in becoming more involved in the social enterprise realm.

The week wraps up with Buy Social Saturday on Sept. 5. Several local companies will be offering special promotions on their products and services; the full list of the participating companies can be found here.

Though many of the week’s events are free and open to the pubic, those who wish to attend the Social Enterprise Summit must purchase a ticket — they're available online at $35 for general admission, $20 for students and $65 for VIP.

Big Pitch finalists ready to rumble, excite and blow minds on Aug. 27

Eight local small businesses will take the stage at ArtWorks’ Big Pitch next week, with $20,000 in funding and services at stake. But the Big Pitch isn’t just about prizes.
“The finalists put themselves in the position of opening themselves up to feedback because they want to grow,” says Rachel Rothstein, creative enterprise marketing coordinator at ArtWorks. “From the start, they’re working with their bankers and mentors to refine and develop their business plan. The prize money is awesome, but it’s just the icing on the cake.”
The 2015 Big Pitch finalists are a motley bunch, as evidenced in interviews with Soapbox published throughout the summer. Click on each company to read its Soapbox profile:
Brush Factory
Butcher Betties
Cityscape Tiles
Cut and Sewn
Grateful Grahams
Original Thought Required
Roebling Point Books & Coffee
We Have Become Vikings
“We had a really high quality group of applicants this year,” Rothstein says. “They were aware of who the finalists were last year, so they knew what they were getting into. The 2015 applicants knew what to expect and what they wanted to achieve, so it will be really exciting to see their pitches. The finalists are great representatives of the diverse ecosystem of entrepreneurs in greater Cincinnati.”
The Big Pitch finale is Aug. 27 at downtown’s Cincinnati Masonic Center, where the businesses will compete for two cash awards.
The top $15,000 prize will be decided by a panel of judges who will review the finalists’ business plans and evaluate their live pitches. Judges are Corey Asay, attorney with Dinsmore and Shohl; Roger David, president and CEO of Gold Star Chili; Maggie Paulus, strategy director at LPK; Rachel Roberts, owner of The Yoga Bar, Bija Yoga Schools and RAKE Strategy; and Max Sullivan, CPA with Clark Schaefer Hackett.
Judges will consider the potential impact, value and sustainability of the eight businesses as well as the founder’s/founders’ energy, passion and conviction.
Another $5,000 prize will be awarded by Big Pitch audience members. After the finalists complete their five-minute pitches, which may include a visual presentation and one “wild-card” prop, attendees will vote for their favorite finalist. Those ballots will be collected and tallied by Clark Schaefer Hackett.
The winner of both prizes will be announced at the event. It’s possible the same business could win both prizes, although last year saw two different winners.
At the event, ArtWorks will also provide a “where are they now” update on its 2014 finalists, including a video from Noble Denim’s Chris Sutton, last year’s $15,000 winner.
The Creative Enterprise division of ArtWorks is further celebrating Cincinnati’s entrepreneurial community with three videos produced by six summer apprentices. Led by 2014 Big Pitch finalist C. Jacqueline Wood, the apprentices interviewed, shot and edited the short films highlighting the supportive resources for people starting a creative sector business in Cincinnati.
Going into the Aug. 27 Big Pitch final, “there is no clear winner,” says Caroline Creaghead, ArtWorks director of creative enterprise. “We are very excited to see the pitches and how the voting goes.”
Tickets are still available for the event, which will be emceed by Mark Perzel of WGUC-FM and WVXU-FM. ArtWorks moved the event this year to Cincinnati Masonic Center in anticipation of 400-600 attendees. In addition to the pitches, attendees will have an opportunity to network with the finalists and each other both before and after the presentations.

Evanston Community Council, Xavier and ArtWorks partnership produces more than a mural

Public art is used in Evanston as an innovative tool to bring people together and build community, as evidenced by this summer’s ArtWorks mural project on Duck Creek Road. It’s the fourth public art collaboration between the Evanston Community Council (ECC) and Xavier University’s Eigel Center for Community-Engaged Learning.
“Through partnerships and collaboration, the murals have really focused on energizing our community,” ECC President Anzora Adkins says. “They help spread our mission, that we are dedicated the well-being of all residents and to the development of the community through education, business and spirituality. We are really pleased with our efforts and the partnership with ArtWorks and Xavier.”
Eigel Center Director Sean Rhiney says when he first met with the community council in 2011 to discuss possible collaborations, they agreed to focus on art.
“Access to art in the community is a powerful tool for engagement and is multi-generational,” Rhiney says, “so it works great when you have folks of all backgrounds and ages getting together.”
One of the first partnerships between ECC and the Eigel Center took place when Evanston participated in the Contemporary Arts Center’s 2011 Inside Out project. As one of the neighborhood sites, Adkins and Rhiney brought community members together with Xavier faculty and students.
The success of that project resulted in a collaboration between Evanston Academy, Walnut Hills High School and Xavier to design a pig for the 2012 Big Pig Gig. Each partnership built trust and relationships within the community, leading to an even larger project in 2013.
“Mrs. Adkins and I reached out to Keep Cincinnati Beautiful to talk about the redevelopment of the Flat Iron building in Five Points and the opportunity to create a mural there,” Rhiney says. “With funding from Safe Routes to Schools, we created a mural about education.”
“What is so beautiful about this partnership is that we engage the college students and involve people from our community,” Adkins says. “Evanston is the ‘educating community,’ where one can obtain an education from pre-K to a PhD. Public art has a teaching value, and the mural helps us tell the history of our community.”
Adkins and Rhiney began talking to ArtWorks last year about replacing an existing mural on Duck Creek Road at the Dana/Montgomery exit from I-71 north. The original mural, designed by local artist Jymi Bolden, was completed in 1992 and was showing its age. Adkins wanted a new mural that “paints a picture of what is actually going on in our community.”
As part of the design process, Rhiney says, “we did programs with some of the kids form Evanston Academy as well as community-based charettes with residents.”
Out of those sessions, Adkins says, came the themes for artist Jimi Jones to include in the mural: “Emphasis on the importance of family, education, spirituality and recreational activities.”
The location of the mural is a bit symbolic. The construction of I-71 in the 1970s resulted in the demolition of many Evanston homes and businesses and effectively divided the neighborhood in half.
“We focus on the positives,” Adkins says. “We’re looking toward the future and revitalizing our community. I hope the mural will draw some attention and that drivers will take that exit and really look at the mural.”
“We knew this was a very visible site,” Rhiney says. “We want the mural to be a piece that people could really engage in. There is a lot of detail that can only be appreciated when you get up close.”
As the mural nears completion, Evanston is still working to raise funds to support the project through an ArtWorks matching grant on the Power2Give website. The goal is to raise $5,000 by the end of the month, when the matching grant could bring the total to $10,000.
“The website helps us reach out to individual donors,” Rhiney says. “It helps us engage the community and give them ownership of the project.”
“We plan to have an official dedication of the mural,” Adkins says. “We hope that the artist and the ArtWorks apprentices who worked on the mural will be able to be there and really explain the process.”
Power2Give donors will also receive invitations to the event.
“It takes collaboration, partnership and of course money to do all these things that we would really like to see happen in our community,” Adkins says. “We encourage everyone that resides in the community who is able to do so, to get involved. Working together is very important. We have had our challenges, but we’re working toward making change.”

11th annual Bold Fusion event encourages Cincinnati YPs to get up and move forward

Hundreds of young professionals from across the Tristate will gather for Cincinnati HYPE's 11th annual Bold Fusion event at Horseshoe Casino on Thursday, Aug. 13. The team behind the event is bringing together a group of speakers who truly encapsulate the theme of moving forward, both as individual professionals and as a city.
The lineup includes a keynote address from Robert DeMartini, CEO of New Balance athletic shoes/apparel. His message promises to encourage attendees to not only "move" and stay active but also have the courage to "move and shake" within their communities by getting involved.
The event's ambassador speakers are all local indivuduals who plan to further highlight DeMartini's message.

Mark Jeffries, founder of GoVibrant, will talk about his company's message of getting out and moving within your community. Dr. Chalonda Handy of Children's Hospital Medical Center will also speak at the event along with Chris Moore, creator of the transit app Bus Detective.
Bold Fusion is and always has been half networking opportunity, half professional enrichment seminar. Over the last decade, however, the event has evolved along with the city itself. The dozens of young professional happy hours and network events we see every week were few and far between in 2004, when Bold Fusion announced its first event.
Julie Bernzott has been involved in the program since the beginning. At that time, Bold Fusion was the result of a brainstorm by the Cincinnati USA Regional Chamber and focused primarily on drawing young professionals into local leadership roles.
"So much has happened in Cincinnati in 10 years," says Bernzott, senior manager of HYPE (Harnessing Young Professional Energy) programs for the Chamber. "Today, young professionals have a much stronger voice in the community."
Unlike 2004, Bernzott and her team don't have to find a speaker who offers young Cincinnatians a voice. In 2015, they already have one.
"We look for speakers that have a powerful message about career opportunities, community involvement," she says. "As a part of the HYPE initiative, we want to put on a great event for people to meet other people and connect."
The Chamber's HYPE program focuses on retaining young professionals in the city. With the many positive changes happening across Cincinnati's urban core, it's becoming easier and easier to convince talent to stay in the area.
"My job was a lot harder in 2006," Bernzott says. "Being excited about being here was a lot harder of a message."
Bernzott sees this year's event as sign of Cincinnati's rapid progression over the past several years, specifically since 2008. The speaker selections also mark a shift in focus from previous years.

"For the past couple of years, we've had authors as speakers," she says. "It's a totally different feel this year — (DeMartini) will actually share how he manages a company."
With Cincinnati's entrepreneurial spirit in full swing, his message will likely be well received.
Get more information about or register for the Aug. 13 Bold Fusion event here.

Mortar accelerator teaching its second class, planning expansion

At their weekly meeting Aug. 3, members of Mortar’s current startup class christened themselves “Second to None.”
The 17 entrepreneurs are the second group to go through Mortar’s nine-week course of classes and mentorship. They’re now five weeks into the program, modeled after a similar effort from partner Launch Chattanooga, and many are already benefitting from the guidance and education.
Started in 2014 by Derrick Braziel, William Thomas II and Allen Woods, Mortar is not your average business accelerator. The Over-the-Rhine based organization focuses on non-traditional, minority and low-income entrepreneurs, seeking to provide resources to individuals often left out of “renaissances” like OTR’s.
“A year in, we’re starting to see that it is possible,” says co-founder William Thomas.
Along with its course, Mortar supplies entrepreneurs with mentorship from organizations like SCORE and legal guidance through a partnership with University of Cincinnati’s School of Law. It also has a pop-up storefront, Brick, next to its Vine Street offices, which gives new businesses a chance to experiment in a real-world context. Even after graduation, Mortar stays in touch with participants to serve as a resource, a networking tool and an inspiration.
Dana “Nyah” Higgins, founder of JameriSol, which makes vegan and vegetarian Jamaican/Soul food, graduated from Mortar’s first class in April after learning about the program through CityLink. Through the Mortar program, Higgins went from creating dishes out of her home for family and friends to conversations with Findlay Market and a national food chain.
“Initially when I started the class, JameriSol was only an idea that I had had for way too long,” Higgins says. “The men at Mortar — Allen, Derrick and William — gave someone like me, with little experience, the foundation and skills needed to take JameriSol from dream to reality.”
Lindsey Metz is a participant in the new Mortar class. Much like Higgins, she came to the course with an idea: Fryed, a french fry walk-up window in OTR. Although she has food service experience, Metz appreciates the support and the visionary mentality of Mortar’s founders as much as the nuts-and-bolts business advice in the classes.
“I never would have dreamed I could actually do this, but the Mortar founders themselves and the resources they’ve connected me with have shown me I can,” Metz says. “They are extremely knowledgeable guys, but beyond that they are ridiculously supportive.”
The class also includes businesses that are already established but wish to grow. Mike Brown wants to take his business, Brown Lawn Care, from part-time to full-time, adding more clients and employees.
“I’ve really been cultivating all the creative aspects I touched on before, now I’m getting to know them much deeper,” Brown says. “My relationship with clients is really taking off.”
Mortar itself is also taking off. For the second class, the organization received 50 applications, a significant increase over the first class.
“This time it feels real,” Thomas says.
But the Mortar founders aren’t content with the success of the class and Brick in OTR and are thinking of expanding and replicating their model in other neighborhoods. Whatever they do next, it will be visionary.
The “Second to None” class will present its business plans to the public in early October. You can follow Mortar on Facebook, Twitter and Instagram for details and updates.

Butcher Betties gets to the meat of why local startups need mentoring and funding

Most people wouldn't think pin-up girls, rockabilly and butchery go together, but that trio is a winning combination for Butcher Betties.
When Allison Hines lost her job as a corporate chef, she decided to pursue her interest in butchery.
“I wanted to learn butchery but there was no school to go to,” she says. “They don't teach whole animal butchery in culinary school any more.”
After getting a scholarship through Grrls Meat Camp and attending their workshop in Northern Kentucky, Hines approached Avril Bleh & Sons Meat Market on Court Street about becoming an apprentice.
“I walked in and offered to work for free so I could learn the craft of butchery, and they took me in like their family,” Hines says. “I want to be able to create a scholarship or a paid internship so someone can come to my shop or I can send them to the first ever butchery school opening in September in Chicago. I think it’s important to give back and pay it forward.”
That idea led Hines to apply to ArtWorks’ Big Pitch mentorship program. She was selected as one of eight finalists and will compete Aug. 27 for $20,000 in cash and services.
Hines had planned on an 18-month apprenticeship with Avril Bleh, but when presented with the opportunity to open her own shop at the Friendly Market in Florence she grabbed the chance. Combining her pin-up girl style with her new trade, she created Butcher Betties.
“Women in my family, going back to World War II, have served in the Navy, including myself,” Hines says. “We've embodied strength and femininity. I want other women to know that they can be strong and still be feminine and attractive, and that's what a pin-up girl represents. When you come in to Butcher Betties, you will see me carrying out half a hog and I could be wearing a skirt.”
In addition to a unique brand, Hines also differentiates Butcher Betties from a typical meat counter in her methods and service.
“One of the things that sets us apart is that we’re working with our farmers and producers on finishing off beef with non-GMO grain,” she says. “No one else in town is doing that.”
As much as possible, Hines locally sources all her products, buying whole animals and processing them on-site.
“We make everything in house,” she says. “Salads, goetta, bourbon bacon, bacon burger (bacon ground in with the hamburger meat) and a lot of seasoned burgers like KY Wildcat and Black & Blue burgers.”
Hines is also passionate about educating her customers.
“I use my chef’s background to assist customers with how to cook things and how to use the whole animal,” she says. “I want to teach people that they don’t need to be squeamish. I bring customers back behind the counter to explain the parts of the animal so they can be comfortable with it and learn to cook from the whole animal, to use things like the trotters because they’re beautiful, wonderful pieces that people are just not familiar with.
“If you want good clean food, you have to do it honor and justice by using the whole animal, not just getting steaks and chops. Only one tenderloin comes out of the whole cow.”
Butcher Betties has big plans over the next couple of months, including an expansion into Ohio; raising two hogs for Cincinnati Food + Wine Classic with friend and collaborator Tricia Houston, The Farm Girl Chef; and completing the ArtWorks Big Pitch program.
“I have a team of mentors helping me,” Hines says. “I meet with them weekly and they’re helping me keep things focused and moving toward the future while helping me prioritize. Our product line is part of the focus for the Big Pitch. We want to be able to brand some of the things we do — the rubs, sauces, the Bombshell Bacon Marmalade — and it’s been a great journey so far.”
In case you need additional incentive to attend the Aug. 27 ArtWorks pitch night, Hines offers this enticement: “The Big Pitch will be large and spectacular and exciting because that’s me and that’s what I do. I don’t do anything small or quietly.”

Soapbox is profiling each of the eight finalists in the 2015 ArtWorks Big Pitch, a 10-week mentorship program that offers artists, makers, designers and creative entrepreneurs a chance to claim up to $20,000 in cash prizes and professional services. The program concludes Aug. 27 with the finalists giving five-minute presentations to a panel of judges and an audience; tickets are on sale now.

UpTech's new interim director raises the bar

UpTech announced the end of an era last month, when longtime Program Director Amanda Greenwell stepped down from her multi-functional role at the Covington-based accelerator.
Greenwell saw 22 companies pass through the program since its founding in 2013, with nearly $1.5 million in startup investment. The program produced several companies that have already seen significant success, including Tixers, Citilogics and Hello Parent.
Replacing Greenwell is JB Woodruff, commercialization director at ezone and UpTech's first Entrepreneur-in-Residence. Before stepping in as interim director, Woodruff met with each of the UpTech startups for one hour per week to act as a mentor and guide through the business development process. As a resource for everything from graphic design, branding and marketing to web development and business strategy, he was chief motivator for these growing companies.
His new title, however, allows the Cincinnati native to do much more than motivate.
"We're looking for a bigger push to solidify the informatics element (of UpTech) and create a niche for ourselves," Woodruff says.
To do so, he hopes to re-establish a standing relationship with NKU's College of Applied Informatics and plans to provide mentors for the new class of startups by creating partnerships with area corporations. He'd also like to expand the accelerator's reach beyond Northern Kentucky.
"We want to have roots in Kentucky, but we also recognize that you have to become a national player to be a successful accelerator," Woodruff says.
To meet that goal, UpTech is currently recruiting its fourth class from across the country and the world. The accelerator received 77 applications from all over the U.S. as well as Chile, Thailand, Spain and Italy. They've narrowed down the pool to 16 or 17 startups with the goal of keeping 10 or fewer.
"We're looking for investable companies, ones that have the right team in place," Woodruff says. "We're also striving for a full house to really get the vibe going."
Woodruff hopes to use his new position to address two primary shortcomings he saw in past UpTech classes: time commitment and skill sets.
"In order to make a startup work, a 100 percent time commitment has to be made," he says. "In the past, a lot of our founders were working other jobs and the commitment was not really there. We want folks basically living at UpTech so that they can do everything in their power to drive success in their business."
The key to finding that drive is necessity, Woodruff says. When choosing UpTech's fourth class over the next month, the selection team will look for a full-time commitment from at least one team member.
Woodruff is also concerned with a lack of technical skills. In the past, UpTech didn't require that a startup have a team member with tech skills, instead depending on help from NKU's Applied Informatics students. Woodruff is now pushing to make tech skills a hard requirement for admission into the UpTech program.
"We want to help build the students' skills, not depend on them," he says.
Once selected, this year's class of startups will have access to multiple mentorship opportunities. Investors like Brad Zapp of Connetic Ventures already have weekly appointments with UpTech startups. UpTech alumni who still use the Pike Street workspace will also be available to offer their unfiltered advice.
Update: The members of UpTech's fourth class were announced on Aug. 18, with their six-month program scheduled to begin in early September. 

Original Thought Required encourages young talent, creates community

Over-the-Rhine business owner James Marable sees his limited edition retail shop, Original Thought Required (OTR), as much more than a store.
Marable has had an enterprising spirit since he was a child, but with a background in marketing, advertising and graphic design he’s a creator as much as an entrepreneur. In fact, Original Thought Required grew out of Marable’s own T-shirt line, aTYPICAL sOLE, influenced by the originality of sneaker culture.
“The ethos behind that T-shirt line was really about being yourself,” Marable says, “about being unique and having that sneaker or piece of clothing that really speaks to you, that’s not what people are typically used to seeing.”
The store, which opened in 2010, continues that emphasis on new ideas by highlighting young, up-and-coming designers, both local and national.
“We’re always trying to find that next talent and figuring out how we can get that to work out,” Marable says. “We’re at the point now where we’ve seen quite a few different designers who come through the store and become bigger outside of us. We’ve been able to be a springboard to help people check it out or take it to the next level if that’s what they want to do, just to give people that option.”
Now he’s hoping his business will be the next talent that ArtWorks Big Pitch Competition invests in. Marable appreciates the mentorship provided by ArtWorks as well as the community of small business owners who have made it to the final stage along with him.
“I wanted an opportunity to learn from people who have been doing it longer than me, to think about it differently and learn more steps we can take to really grow the business,” he says. “Even connecting with other contestants and creating a community that helps us all grow.”
Winning any of the up to $20,000 in business grants OTR is competing for will also help the shop grow both by taking on more new artists and by moving to a larger location.
“We have limited edition products, but we also want to reach a wider audience,” Marable says. “Each brand we bring in speaks to different individuals.”
Marable wants to see Original Thought Required expand to more than a retail outlet. He’s seen the business become a cultural center. By working with new designers and maintaining close partnerships with the local hip hop music scene, OTR has become a place people can come for conversation, to meet others with similar interests and be inspired.
“That’s something I never really considered before opening, and that’s what’s kept us going, being a centerpiece for the neighborhood and the city,” Marable explains.
Original Thought Required is trying to take that influence as wide as possible. As the store expands as a business, Marable hopes to also expand its community work, including the informal meeting place in the store and the opportunities provided to youth and artists. OTR frequently partners with Elementz and highlights young artists in its Final Friday shows.
Marable wants to provide even more programming.
“We want to give youth that opportunity, that exposure, positive reinforcement,” he says. “It’s really about connecting with that individual and seeing that talent and seeing how we can work with that and keep them from giving up.”

Soapbox is profiling each of the eight finalists in the 2015 ArtWorks Big Pitch, a 10-week mentorship program that offers artists, makers, designers and creative entrepreneurs a chance to claim up to $20,000 in cash prizes and professional services. The program concludes Aug. 27 with the finalists giving five-minute presentations to a panel of judges and an audience; tickets are on sale now.

Communications startup Cerkl flips the traditional model of email newletters

Tarek Kamil and Sara Jackson, co-founders of Cerkl, want their “smart newsletter” technology to help organizations transform their communication strategy into an engagement strategy.
“Cerkl flips the traditional model of communication — of sending one message and guessing what everybody wants to hear — on its head,” Jackson says. “We ask the audience what they want to hear, what they like and what are their skills in order to empower organizations to personalize their communications.”
Jackson says Cerkl is targeting universities looking to engage alumni, students and parents; churches seeking better communication with their congregations; nonprofit organizations building better relationships with their audiences and donors; and corporations wanting to improve internal communication with their employees.
Organizations who use Cerkl upload their email lists and create topics customized to their mission and work. Each person on the list gets a welcome email asking them to select the topics that most interest them and to create a profile. Individuals can also choose to receive newsletters from other Cerkl organizations.
The Cerkl software encourages individual customization though smart tags and prompts.
“We understand that people’s needs and interests evolve and change over time, so we watch that on behalf of the organization,” Jackson says. “Unlike other newsletter platforms, where all you have is a name and an email address, with Cerkl you know who is on your list and what their interests are. So an organization can search for specific interests and reach out to people based on that.”
The depth of information and customization has prompted some organizations using Cerkl to request integration with donor management software. That feature is currently in development, and Jackson anticipates it will be available in a few months.
Cerkl also allows organizations to earn money with their newsletters.
“With open rates three to four times higher than the national average, our organizations can demonstrate they’re reaching and engaging their audience,” Jackson says. “When that happens, businesses want to get in front of those audiences and organizations can choose to monetize their newsletter. So instead of newsletters costing you, they're generating revenue for you. Our goal is that organizations wouldn't have to pay for Cerkl, that their newsletter would earn them money.”
In June, Cerkl graduated as part of the Ocean accelerator’s first class. Jackson and Kamil each have experience with other accelerator programs but say Ocean is the “Disneyland of accelerators.”
“We were in full sales mode and sprinting hard when Ocean began,” Jackson says. “The program confirmed a lot of best practices, connected us to an abundant network to help get us to the next place we need to be faster, helped us put processes in place and prepared us to be able to scale. In addition, the exposure, that Ocean/Crossroads connection, helped us build our profile.”
Ocean also appealed to Cerkl because of its faith-based focus.
“The faith voyage, which happens simultaneously to business voyage, is not necessarily a religious thing,” Jackson says. “It is about unearthing the values, passion and purpose-driven work behind your business. From a marketing perspective, it’s important to keep those qualities top of mind — people are more compelled to lean into products with values.”
The Cerkl co-founders are big supporters of Cincinnati’s growing entrepreneurial ecosystem.
“We believe this is the best place to build a business,” Jackson says. “You don’t have to leave Cincinnati to go to Silicon Valley to build something great, you can do it right here, and organizations like Ocean, who support those efforts, are the reason for that.

TEDx and NewCo host outstanding conferences dedicated to Cincinnati's innovation activity

Cincinnati innovators took the spotlight at two major events earlier this month, starting with TEDxCincinnati, which packed downtown’s Cincinnati Masonic Center July 9 with 1,000 attendees.
“We definitely had a mix of participants, from first timers to repeat attendees,” TEDxCincinnati Director/Organizer Jami Edelheit says. “We sold out in three weeks even with a larger venue, and our waiting list was close to 200 people. We already have some exciting things in the works for the next main stage event.”
The five-hour event, emceed by Local 12’s Bob Herzog and Atlanta-based actress Allison Wonders, featured 23 presentations, including TED talks and performances. A mix of local and national speakers covered subjects ranging from hope and perseverance to new technologies and human trafficking.
TEDx talks were presented in two two-hour blocks, separated by a dinner break and the opportunity to explore Innovation Alley, where participants could get a Thai Yoga Massage, touch a snake from the Cincinnati Zoo, get a taste of the Maker Space at the Public Library of Cincinnati and Hamilton County, write a love note to Cincinnati, experience virtual reality with the University of Cincinnati and take part in activities presented by event sponsor United Way of Greater Cincinnati.
Among the highlights of the evening:
• Social justice advocate Jordan Edelheit’s live webcast with Dan from the Marion Correctional Facility to talk about poetry and TEDx events at the prison;
• A cheetah visit from the Cincinnati Zoo & Botanical Garden;
• Four Chords & a Guy, who performed decades of popular songs in a few minutes accompanied by simple music and a great sense of humor; and
• Aidan Thomas Hornaday, a 14-year-old philanthropist who speaks eloquently about the need to give and plays a mean blues harmonica.
Edelheit is thrilled with the response to TEDxCincinnati.
“It was awesome having Alex Faaborg come from Google Virtual Reality,” she says. “We had a line out the door for registration, and the first 100 people received a Google CardBoard Virtual Reality Glasses. Ed Smart and his Operation Underground Railroad met with Cincinnati Players before the event to discuss modern-day slavery. They’re now talking about collaborating on a program later this year.
“We loved including the some of the children from Cincinnati Children’s Hospital and The Aubrey Rose Foundation in the finale with Eliot Sloan from Blessed Union Souls singing his hit song, ‘I Believe.’ As a result of that performance, Toby Christenson, Chris Lambert and Chris Lah are collaborating with Eliot to do a fundraising CD for Cincinnati Children’s Charitable Care Fund. They plan on involving community kids and Children’s Hospital patients. How exciting for this to be one of the many positive outcomes from TEDxCincinnati.”
Videos of all the TEDxCincinnati talks and performances will be available online in August.
On July 23, NewCo Cincinnati offered the field-trip version of a TED-type program, with 85 companies across the region hosting nearly 900 participants. From Northern Kentucky to Blue Ash, NewCo hosts brought attendees into their offices, breweries and factories for a unique and personal experience with Cincinnati innovators.
NewCo hosts were primarily startups but also included agencies, nonprofit organizations, higher education institutions and a couple of large corporations. Attendees could build their own schedule by geography, field of interest or subject.
A VIP reception to kick off NewCo Cincinnati was held July 22 with over 200 attendees.
The next day’s main NewCo event was divided into six one-hour sessions, with 30 minutes of travel time allotted between each session. Attendees trying to get from West Chester to OTR may have scrambled, but many sessions were located in the urban core and plenty of NewCo participants took advantage of Red Bike to move from session to session.
NewCo sessions varied greatly in content and style.
At the OTR Chamber of Commerce session, held in the Crown Building adjacent to Findlay Market, short presentations from the Chamber, Findlay Market and Red Door Project were followed by audience questions and discussion.
SpiceFire took participants on a tour of its stunning offices in SangerHalle on Race Street, gave a brief presentation, then broke up the group for a hands-on activity that provided a taste of its client experience.
Rockfish gave a short presentation, then let attendees try out Google Glass and Oculus Rift or just enjoy the view of downtown from their Mt. Adams perch.
A panel discussion by Cerkl, Activate Cincinnati, Starfire, Girl Develop It and Bad Girl Ventures looked at the local startup ecosystem from a female perspective.
At the end of the day, NewCo hosted a wrapup party at the Christian Moerlein Taproom for all attendees and hosts to do some networking while sharing their experiences of the day.
Both TEDxCincinnati and NewCo Cincinnati did an outstanding job of highlighting innovative activities taking over the region, not just in the startup community but in nonprofits and the arts as well. Yet, as the organizers of both events have said repeatedly, the 2015 hosts and presenters were by no means an exhaustive representation of Greater Cincinnati’s exciting entrepreneurial growth.
The depth and breadth of creativity in the region will ensure that the 2016 versions are just as compelling to attend. As word gets out about these events, expect those tickets to sell out even faster next year.

Cut and Sewn founder/designer living her childhood dream

Jenifer Sult has wanted to sew for a living since she was a child. When she was 10, she bought a vintage sewing machine from a yard sale with her allowance and used it for many years after that.
To make her dream into a reality as an adult, she studied fashion design at the University of Cincinnati, where she now teaches. She eventually became a designer, pattern maker, seamstress and entrepreneur.
“There was the fear of sacrificing a regular paycheck for something unknown and potentially erratic,” she says, “but my need for creative freedom compelled me to pursue my childhood ambition.”
Sult has built her passion for sewing and design into a successful business, Cut and Sewn, over the course of more than 15 years of creating for clients. She began by taking on work in her own home, designing and sewing products for small businesses and garments for individuals. As the business grew, though, Sult realized she would need a new workspace.
“I had reached the point where my client base and manufacturing jobs were taking over not only my home studio but my living room, dining room and even my kitchen,” she says. “I had to either upscale my business or scale it way down, and you can guess which one I picked.”
So in June Sult moved her studio and business into a storefront on Hamilton Avenue in Northside.
“I have employees now!” she exclaims.
In the Northside space, Sult and her team are able to provide design, pattern-making and production services to more small business and corporate clients in Greater Cincinnati.
”We provide ethical and sustainable manufacturing and designing while helping a new generation of trades people and business owners,” Sult says. “We provide a low-barrier to enter into the designed soft goods market in Cincinnati through working individually with our clients.”
Cut and Sewn focuses on small batch and unique manufacturing to make local businesses’ ideas into tangible, beautiful products.
But Sult is nowhere near done growing her business. In fact, she’s a finalist in ArtWorks’ Big Pitch contest for small business grants.
“ArtWorks itself is such a proponent of small, local businesses,” Sult says, “it wasn’t hard for the Big Pitch to catch my eye as a glittering opportunity for Cut and Sewn.”
If awarded a grant, Sult will use it to continue to grow her business in its new iteration as well as try a few new things.
“I really want to use my pattern-making skills to create a new line of commercial sewing patterns that are artisanal, well designed and beautifully curated,” she says.
Sult sees the current culture of do-it-yourself creativity as the perfect opportunity to publish this kind of product. She hopes her quality sewing patterns would enable others to participate in this wave of “maker” culture.
Even if she doesn’t receive a grant in the Big Pitch competition, Sult appreciates the opportunity to receive business mentorship and advice about maintaining and growing her business.
“(My mentors) Mike Zorn and Lindsay Kessler have been super supportive and responsive to my business goals as well as my personal ones,” Sult says. “They are great listeners, and I feel that with their notes and criticism I can go far.”
Considering how far she has already come, Sult will likely continue growing and trying new things for her business, fueled by her love of design and sewing.

Soapbox is profiling each of the eight finalists in the 2015 ArtWorks Big Pitch, a 10-week mentorship program that offers artists, makers, designers and creative entrepreneurs a chance to claim up to $20,000 in cash prizes and professional services. The program concludes Aug. 27 with the finalists giving five-minute presentations to a panel of judges and an audience.

Grateful Grahams founder displays gratitude along with desire to grow business

Rachel DesRochers takes the name of her business, Grateful Grahams, very seriously.
“For my family and I, something that we talk about every day is this idea of gratitude,” she says. “Just taking a second every day to think, ‘Whoa, look at all this amazing stuff in my life.’ That’s just how I live my life.”
DesRochers wanted to share this value with the world and decided to do it through cookies. She came up with the idea while a stay-at-home mom for her two children at the time.
“I was doing some baking and had an awesome recipe and we had an awesome message, so I combined them both and they worked,” she says. “I called my husband at work and I said, ‘I think I’m going to start this graham business called Grateful Grahams.’ And he said, ‘Of course you are, honey.’”
In the eventful five years since that day, DesRochers has held onto her core values and her vision of creating food with integrity. She still makes her grahams in small batches and uses no dairy, eggs, soy, GMO ingredients, high fructose corn syrup or dyes in the cookies. The vegan recipe is a nod to her father, a cancer survivor who went vegan during treatment.
With every bag sold, she hopes to spread her family’s message of gratitude. When Grateful Grahams sells their wares, they ask customers to write about what they’re grateful for on paper tablecloths. Their website has an entire page devoted to “Sharing Your Gratitude,” and on Facebook they often encourage followers to tag friends and family to express their appreciation for one another.
DesRochers wants that message — and the grahams — to travel far and wide.
“I started it with a huge vision,” she says. “I started it with the mission that I want to be across the country selling my product.”
Now that Grateful Grahams is a finalist in ArtWorks' Big Pitch competition, the Covington-based company might get a big boost toward that distribution goal. The cookies are currently available at about 45 stores across the country and sold online, but winning part of the Big Pitch’s $20,000 in grant money would allow DesRochers to go to food shows to increase her wholesale business.
“I really appreciate that ArtWorks is willing to look at food producers,” DesRochers says, “because food is slow money and it takes a long time to really build big companies. There are lots of different resources and programs for tech businesses in Cincinnati, but being in the food industry is a different niche.”
DesRochers knows how slow and difficult it can be to start and grow a food company. Now she wants to pass on what she’s learned from the process to other entrepreneurs. In 2013, she started the NKY Incubator Kitchen, renting workspace in her commercial kitchen space to other food companies and sharing experiences, tips and advice along the way. NKYIK is one of 80 local companies presenting at the first NewCo Cincinnati July 23, and it’s helped launch Skinny Piggy Kombucha, The Delish Dish and other startups.
NKYIK is only one of many community projects DesRochers is involved in. She has also helped co-found the Good People Festival and is working on an event called Grateful Plate to celebrate women farmers, food producers and chefs in Northern Kentucky.
For her, all the giving back comes from gratitude.
“I love my life,” she says. “I wake up every day and I’m so absolutely grateful that I get to create really cool things. There’s always gratitude for the fact that this is my life and I’m really happy to have these choices to make every day and to teach my kids that you can do whatever you want with your life!”
Soapbox is profiling each of the eight finalists in the 2015 ArtWorks Big Pitch, a 10-week mentorship program that offers artists, makers, designers and creative entrepreneurs a chance to claim up to $20,000 in cash prizes and professional services. The program concludes Aug. 27 with the finalists giving five-minute presentations to a panel of judges and an audience.

Improved DCI app helps visitors navigate downtown

Just in time for the All Star Game, Downtown Cincinnati Inc. (DCI) is launching a new version of its Downtown Cincinnati app.
The original app, released in 2011, had started to become ineffective for users.
“The app was out of date, and we’re really excited to add more functionality to it,” DCI Director of Marketing Tricia Suit says. “Two things have changed since the first app was released. First, the technology of apps has improved significantly, which has increased people’s expectations about what an app can do. Second, we have more and better information in our data center. So people will be able to sort information in different ways, which makes it more useful.”
DCI worked with US Digital Partners to redesign the app, based on user feedback and USDP’s digital expertise.
“Everyone who has seen the beta version of the new app has been really excited about its usability of,” Suit says. “Our testing has been really positive.”
The app features four primary content areas — eat, shop, stay and play — to match the functionality of DCI’s website.
The original app “had categories like ‘full fare,’ ‘daytimers’ and these words that described a restaurant but didn't match how people searched for a place to go eat,” Suit says. “In the new version, you can search by type of cuisine, brunch, happy hour — much more about what the user would be looking for in a search.
“Also, the listings will show all open hours for a business with the current day in bold. There’s nothing worse than when you’re looking at a place and it just shows their hours for today when you’re planning to be there tomorrow.”
Other new features for the revamped app include links to tours and major events from the start page.
“When you first open the app, the screen lists the big events that are happening — right now it’s the All Star Game — as well as three or four other seasonal features,” Suit says. “Each of those listings gives you the option to see a complete list of events that is updated weekly.”
The front screen also features a “tours” button to connect content from the DCI website tours page, including a public art map and itineraries. There are links to Queen City History Tours, Segway Tours and other tour options for experiencing the city.
The app covers the entire urban basin area from The Banks to Findlay Market, including Downtown, Over-the-Rhine and the West End.
“There are defined Central Business District boundaries,” Suit says. “But when people come downtown, they come downtown. They go to a Reds game and eat at Fountain Square and grab a drink at The Lackman. They don’t think about whether they’re at The Banks or in OTR or the CBD — they’re just downtown. So we include everything that’s downtown.”
DCI developed the app with visitors and residents in mind.
“The app is usable if you’re standing in the middle of Fountain Square trying to decide what to do,” she says. “But if you live in Cincinnati and don’t come downtown often, it will give you walking directions from where you park to the restaurant or store you look up.”
DCI is working closely with the hospitality community to ensure the 200,000 visitors coming for the All Star Game know the app is available, as well as promoting it on an ongoing basis to conventions, meetings and visitors.
“If you know you’re going to be visiting Cincinnati, you can download the app and make some plans, see what’s going to be open on the day you’re going to be here,” Suit says. “See what tours are available and actually use it for trip-planning as well as the ‘day of’ tool.”
In addition to helping promote downtown businesses, the app may also help DCI with its annual perceptions survey.
DCI typically uses its e-newsletter and website to encourage residents and visitors to complete the survey. According to Suit, “there is certainly an opportunity for us to reach out to app users to take the downtown perception survey this year in a way that was not possible with the previous version.”
Survey results are used by DCI to inform its annual work plan and performance measures while tracking data that can be used to evaluate business development.
The new Downtown Cincinnati app is available for both Android and Apple products.

Look Here to reveal layers of Over-the-Rhine's past

Historic preservationist Anne Delano Steinert wants people to discover the layers of Over-the-Rhine’s past. Her place-based public history project, Look Here, will mount historic photographs around the neighborhood as close as possible to the vantage point from which they were originally taken, comparing historic views to the view of that location today.
“There are layers of the past around us in the built environment all the time,” Steinert says, “and it’s really important to me to give people the skills to read the clues to those layers. This is my way of giving the people in Over-the-Rhine a way to connect to the past.”
Steinert’s fascination with the layers of the past actually began in the Over-the-Rhine neighborhood. As a teenager in the 1980s, she would take the bus downtown from her home in Clifton.
“OTR was definitely low-income then and there was a lot of urban decay, but it was also still really rich,” Steinert explains. “There were a lot more (historic) buildings standing in 1982 than there are today. So it’s where I really got a sense of the power of the past to speak through the built environment.”
Now she wants to help a wide range of residents and visitors in the neighborhood hear those voices, too. Recipient of a People’s Liberty Project Grant, Steinert is using her own background and several other projects as inspiration to make Look Here into an experience that can reach viewers from all economic classes.
A simple design of presenting photographs on street signs with minimal explanatory text will allow people to create their own meaning from the similarities and differences between the historic present landscapes. Brightly colored borders will grab people’s attention and hopefully pull them into the images and into parts of the neighborhood they may not have explored before.
The signs are meant to create a “serendipitous, sudden, unexpected experience of connection to space,” Steinert says, by giving people a glimpse of the past from their exact location. She also hopes they’ll help add a dimension of history to the cultural vibrancy already existing in the neighborhood.
As Over-the-Rhine goes through a period of intense transition, Steinert observes, “something gets lost in the remaking, so these signs are really an attempt to remind people some of what’s being lost, that we have to be mindful of what came before.”
Look Here’s historic photographs will provide people a chance to meditate on what came before and decide for themselves what it means. The People’s Liberty project grant will allow Steinert to make tools providing deeper meaning and engagement.
Before receiving the grant, she’d identified more than 320 possible photographs (although only 40-70 will be in the final exhibit) and knew she wanted to display them on aluminum signs similar to “No Parking” signs. The People’s Liberty funding allows her to create programming around the signs — a launch event, resource packet for teachers, curator-led tour of some of the photograph sites and a website with a map of all images and more information about each one. The website will also provide viewers a way to have a dialogue with the curator.
“We’re encouraging people to send me their experiences,” Steinert says, “take photos of themselves looking at Look Here and share the stories of how they’re interacting with the signs.”
Steinert hopes the interactive elements may even inspire other neighborhoods to set up similar exhibitions. She also hopes that positive feedback on the project might make it easier for those neighborhoods to complete such undertakings.
“This project involves coordinating an unfathomable number of small details and particularly small logistical details,” Steinert says, “and many of those are contingent on the city’s policies.”
Since Steinert will be using city-owned poles to mount the photographs, she is in the process of obtaining installation permits. Once she does, Look Here will be the first exhibit to obtain permits of this kind in Cincinnati.
If these layers of the past prove meaningful, it may make it easier to reveal more layers all around us.

Blue Seat Media says "Play ball!" with new Gameball app

Cincinnatians are passionate about baseball, especially Blue Seat Media co-founders Chris Hendrixson and Jeffrey Wyckoff. The long-time friends and business partners are such Reds fans that the name of their company is a tribute to Riverfront Stadium, where the blue seats were closest to the field in the multi-hued stands.
In 2012, Hendrixon made a simple app just for fun that showed the Reds lineup a couple of hours before each game. The Cincy Lineup app was released around Opening Day and let users know via push notification when each lineup was available.
“The push notifications are fun and different because they feel like they’re written by a Reds fan,” Hendrixon says. “They’re not your standard Major League Baseball push notification.”
The positive response to Cincy Lineup, particularly to the on-point push notifications, made Hendrixon aware of an opportunity, he says, “to make a baseball game interactive and fun while creating a deeper engagement with the game.”
“In August of 2014 we decided to go all in,” Hendrixon says. “We had both been in and out of full-time jobs and had bootstrapped everything with no outside investment. We realized we had to go full-time and had to find investors.”
Blue Seat Media ended up in the first class at Ocean, the faith-based accelerator program at Crossroads Church.
“Ocean really changed everything for us,” Hendrixon says. “We came in, just Jeffery and me, and within a week hired an iOS developer, Nathan Sjoquist, and a few weeks later hired Brandon Kraeling, a web developer who also runs the Red Reporter blog.”

During their time with Ocean, Blue Seat Media developed — and is now beta testing — an expanded and improved version of Cincy Lineup called Gameball. The new app is a modern version of the sports tradition of giving a game ball to the player who contributed the most to his team’s win.
Gameball users will choose their favorite team and receive their team’s starting lineup before each game. Users vote for which player will get the game ball that game. Making a prediction before the game starts is worth 1,000 points. Users can vote after the game begins or change their prediction, but, just as in pub trivia contests, points decrease with each minute of play.
Blue Seat Media uses an algorithm of Gameball user votes to determine which player will be awarded the game ball. Users who predicted the winner are awarded points for voting correctly, and the points are used to create an average for each user, similar to how a baseball batting average works, allowing them to compete with each other for rankings. As in baseball, Gameball users can miss a few games and remain on the leader board.
Eventually Blue Seat Media will allow users to select friends and family groups that will work like traditional fantasy leagues. Blue Seat Media currently is focusing on the beta testing of Gameball, with plans to release the full version prior to Opening Day 2016.
The Blue Seat Media team has a couple of hurdles to overcome as they work toward the app’s official launch.
“One of our biggest challenges is scaling Gameball to all 30 MLB teams,” Hendrixon says. “The technology is hard, but we know what to do. The push notification content will be a challenge. Our hope is that we can find true fans in each market to write notifications.”
They’re also hoping to build a relationship with Major League Baseball around Gameball.
“Baseball is at an interesting place right now,” Hendrixon says. “A lot of people feel it has been fading and losing younger fans. We’re really trying to make baseball fun again for young people and to move past the steroids era.
“Baseball is a great game with a rich tradition that’s woven into the history of our country. What we’re trying to do is help people appreciate the game and its complexities as well as bring optimism and positivity to the game. But it can be a challenge to write positive push notifications when the Reds have lost six in a row.”
The Blue Seat Media team has big plans for the still-young company.
“We’re really trying to build the next great baseball technology company,” Hendrixon says. “Our focus right now is building Gameball, but the vision is to have a company and product studio building high-quality design-focused products for every level of baseball.”
Although their start-up budget doesn’t include tickets to the July 14 All-Star Game, the staff and supporters of Blue Seat Media are planning to watch it together on television and celebrate the progress they’ve made this year.

First Batch welcomes new class of manufacturing companies

Cincinnati's only manufacturing accelerator program has selected its 2015 class of companies, and they’re already hard at work.
“Our goal with the program is to say that First Batch is your first step, and probably not the final step, for the companies or their manufacturing partners,” says First Batch founder Matt Anthony.
After reviewing applications from across the country as well as from Germany and Estonia, four regional candidates were selected:
• Laura Koven’s company AVA will be producing a device geared to help hot yoga practitioners with grip as well as reduce the amount of equipment needed for a class.
Beluga Razor, created by Zac Wertz, is a high-end straight-blade razor with a linen-impregnated handle providing extra grip when wet. Wertz recently completed a $200,000 Kickstarter campaign and has 2,000 pre-orders.
• Ron Gerdes started Mortal Skis to manufacture skis that fit the icy, man-made, often less-than-ideal snow conditions typically found on Midwest slopes. Mortal Skis will also be looking at ski supplies, like wax, that could also be better adapted to Midwestern conditions.
Paper Acorn, a six-year-old company run by Jessica Wolf, has been selling folded paper objects through Etsy and Crafty Supermarket and is expanding into producing DIY kits.
Each First Batch company is facing a different challenge. Fortunately, First Batch staff and advisers are well networked in the Cincinnati manufacturing and business communities and ready to help their new class.
Paper Acorn, the most established company, is looking at diversifying and expanding their product line.
“Manufacturing won’t be that difficult,” Anthony says. “The question will be how to transform the business to fit a new model.”
Although Beluga Shave Co. has funding and customers lined up, Wertz has struggled with navigating the manufacturing process. Anthony is confident First Batch can help.
“There is a lot of metal industry in Cincinnati, especially in machining,” he says. “I don’t think we’ll have an issue finding someone here to do this.”
Mortal Skis might have the most daunting challenge — finding a local company to manufacture skis. But after working with Ohio Valley Beard Supply in 2014, First Batch does have connections to companies who could help produce a Midwest-friendly ski wax.
First Batch had initially hoped to have six members for its 2015 class and is considering modifying its business model for the two remaining spaces.
“Usually we have to pick someone far enough along on the prototype and capable of doing their own production work, where it’s ready to go to manufacturing,” Anthony says. “We’ve had people apply where the idea isn’t far enough along, it still needs a lot of work or more steps than the First Batch timeline can support. We also have people who are too far along for First Batch.
“We’re exploring how we can support everyone in this region by supporting start ups that don’t fit our current profile. Are there other ways that we can provide ongoing support, provide connections, create spots that are more of a long-term support?”
This year, First Batch and its parent organization Cincinnati Made will conducting more outreach during the accelerator program.
“So many times I talk to people about the program and hear, ‘I didn’t know anyone still made anything in Cincinnati’ and it just drives me crazy,” Anthony says. “People drive down Spring Grove Avenue but assume the factories are all abandoned. It’s a big goal for our program to talk about our relationship with the manufacturers.”
Cincinnati Made started offering manufacturing tours this spring to showcase local manufacturers, including National Flag Company, New Riff Distilling and Steam Whistle Letterpress. Members of the 2015 First Batch class can take part in the tours. Their program will also include topical presentations as well as speakers who are able to provide one-on-one advice to each company.
First Batch participants had orientation last week and are now being matched with mentors. Each company will have two or three mentors to provide advice and guidance throughout the program. Mentors will also help make sure the companies are on track with the manufacturing plan they establish with First Batch staff.
At the end of their five-month program, the class of 2015 will have a final Launch Day, “which is not quite the same as a demo day,” Anthony says. “We hope the final production run is done, but in practice that often isn’t how it ends up happening. I hope we have lots of things to show, at least the production-ready prototype. The companies will talk about what they have done through the First Batch process, what they will produce in their first batch and where they want to go after that.”
First Batch is supported by Cincinnati Made as well as The Carol Ann and Ralph V. Haile Jr./U.S. Bank Foundation and TSS. It was highlighted by Dwell magazine in May as one of the country’s hottest design incubators.

TEDxCincinnati sells out July 9 event, looking to expand in 2016

Even before the speakers for the sixth annual TEDxCincinnati were announced, the July 9 event, themed “Accelerate,” has sold out. (UPDATE: speakers/performers are now listed here.)
“One of the things that’s interesting about TEDxCincinnati is that it’s not one speaker that makes a great event, it’s this combination of all different types of speakers and performers,” says TEDxCincinnati Director/Organizer Jami Edelheit. “It’s not like a demo day. It isn’t a company getting up and promoting what they’re doing. It’s not like a typical conference where there is a keynote speaker, then everybody else.
“It’s an event where every single story has some sort of impact or message. And it is the combination of speakers that makes it so fun and compelling.”
TEDxCincinnati speakers, still unannounced, will come from an array of disciplines, including technology, education, health, arts and social justice. This interdisciplinary approach encourages people to explore subjects and ideas that may be unfamiliar.
“TEDxCincinnati is about storytelling, sharing ideas, innovation, looking at things from a different perspective and opening your mind,” Edelheit says. “I am always amazed at the end of our shows when we ask people, ‘What was your favorite?’ If I ask 10 different people, I get 10 different answers because people are touched by different things. If you come to this and you aren’t touched by something, I would be shocked.”
This is the third consecutive sell-out year for TEDxCincinnati in increasingly larger venues. The July 9 event is being hosted at the Cincinnati Masonic Center downtown, next to the Taft Theater, with a capacity of 1,000 attendees. Given the interest, organizers might add seats to the hall and advise those without tickets to join the waiting list.
The conference is an off-shoot of the popular TED Conferences, though individual TEDx events are self-organized. Both Xavier University and the University of Cincinnati host student-run chapters.
Choosing the speakers and performers is an ongoing part of Edelheit’s work. TEDxCincinnati accepts speaker applications and nominations through its website and hold auditions at a special happy hour.
“Last year the (happy hour) event completely filled up,” she says. “We pick some applicants to audition in front of a panel of judges and an audience with a prepared 2.5-minute presentation. It’s not an open mike, it’s like a mini show.”
In addition to local applicants and auditions, TEDxCincinnati also brings in outside presenters and performers.
“I work with a lot of people in Silicon Valley and around the country,” Edelheit says. “I’m always looking for people we can bring in to share their stories with Cincinnati. We also have advisers in different sectors throughout the community who will refer people. That combination gives us a pretty great pool of presenters and performers.”
A new addition this year is TEDxCincinnati Youth, a group of 100 high school students from the region who will help with the program. A few will even present.
“We realized that many teachers are using TED Talks in the classroom,” Edelheit says. “The idea is to build a community of thinkers and doers among high school students and expose our youth to TEDxCincinnati, giving them the opportunity to talk with young professionals and other people. For them to see what the future holds — after all, it’s their future.”
As part of its 100th anniversary, United Way of Greater Cincinnati is the presenting sponsor of the 2015 TEDxCincinnati.
“They were in the audience last year and thought the different ideas and perspectives were amazing and that it would be really fun to expose their audience to TEDx,” Edelheit says.
For those lucky July 9 ticket holders, Edelheit recommends arriving by 3 p.m. for check-in. The event will start promptly at 4 p.m. To prevent disruption of the presentations, latecomers will have to wait to be seated.
The program starts with 90 minutes of speakers and performances, followed by a break for participants to explore Innovation Alley, where they can purchase food and drinks, network and explore.
“The idea is for people to have a bit of interaction,” Edelheit says. “Last year there was virtual reality, Google Glass, some robotics, things like that.”
This year’s Innovation Alley will include a Foundation Way to showcase the work of local organizations.
“The reality is that the people off the stage are just as important as the people on the stage,” Edelheit says. “There’s a wide range of participants in the audience, from students to CEOs. Innovation Alley is a time when you can just turn and start up a conversation with someone you would never have met before and time to reflect on some of the things you heard on the first half.”
The second half of the program will start promptly at 7:15 p.m. and wraps up at 9:30.
The entire July 9 event will be recorded and uploaded to the TEDx website in August. Edelheit encourages people to watch and share the videos, as each view raises the profile of Cincinnati speakers and performers and could draw the attention of the larger TED organization.
As the event continues to grow — from 300 to 1,000 attendees in three years — Edelheit is already considering options for the future.
“We need a full day like other cities have,” she says. “The question is, is Cincinnati ready if we did a full-day event?”

Startup to connect online shoppers with "made in Cincinnati" products and creators

Cincinnatians who want to buy quality locally-made products from the comfort of their own home at any time of day will soon be in luck. Colleen Sullivan and Maija Zummo, with the help of a People’s Liberty Project Grant, will launch Made in Cincinnati this fall as an e-commerce site connecting consumers to local products and the makers’ stories.

Featuring “products as unique as the people who make them,” the concept came from Zummo’s experience as a journalist trying to find local vendors and products to write about in CityBeat and other publications.
“One of the main issues was finding locally-made products to feature,” she says, “and the other part was finding where to buy it.”
Made in Cincinnati aims to solve that problem for shoppers. Zummo wants to put her storytelling background to work to connect consumers to the stories behind the products they’re buying. Sullivan’s background in marketing and digital media will help makers showcase their products and gain more exposure.
The platform builds on two different trends in consumer habits. One is the increase in e-commerce, and the other is the movement toward local, ethical products and the resulting rise of maker culture.
“Increasingly people want locally-made products,” Zummo says. “People want to know that it’s ethically sourced, responsibly sourced, there are no sweatshops — just being conscious consumers.”
“There’s a lot of enthusiasm around maker culture right now,” Sullivan adds, “and we really want to be able to harness that and put it in the online space to give people another way to reach out.”
Made in Cincinnati will combine the convenience of purchasing through a digital device with the social responsibility of knowing the contents of your “shopping cart” were made in your own backyard. Zummo and Sullivan see Made in Cincinnati as the logical next step for both practices.

There are a variety of short-term venues for Greater Cincinnati makers to sell their wares in person, like City Flea and Crafty Supermarket, in addition to getting picked up by a brick-and-mortar store. There are also national and international e-commerce options like Etsy. A platform focusing on local makers will be one of the first of its kind.
Zummo and Sullivan say they’ve been re-energized by the passion of People’s Liberty staff and their fellow project grantees. The connections and support provided by the program has also made an impact, with design assistance and the People’s Liberty launch weekend helping flesh out the idea of what the site will look like.
Zummo and Sullivan hope to use their own skills in digital marketing and storytelling to help make connections between consumers and makers. They want Made in Cincinnati to streamline the process for makers who might want to sell online but don’t have the time or skill set to create and manage their own web page. They also want to make it easier for buyers to find makers who may otherwise be difficult to track down at specialty brick-and-mortar stores.
“There are certain hurdles that consumers have to be willing to jump over to find some of these vendors,” Sullivan says, “and we want to bring it to a very centralized 24/7 location online where they can find whatever they need.”
To keep users’ interactions with Made in Cincinnati easy and enjoyable, Zummo and Sullivan are creating a curated online experience featuring vendors who are experts in their fields and restricting the number of makers selling on the site at any time. They don’t want the marketplace to be too overwhelming for shoppers.
“If you get to the site and there's 800 ceramics vendors,” Sullivan says, “it’s going to be hard to find exactly what you want.”
By creating a platform with quality products and a pleasant user experience, the founders feel they are creating a lasting outlet in the local maker market.
“I think this is how people are going to shop from now on,” Zummo says. “The internet’s not going anywhere, people making stuff is not going anywhere, so you can say it’s a trend but it’s more just moving toward a way of life.”
Made in Cincinnati plans to officially launch at a physical pop-up event in Over-the-Rhine on Small Business Saturday in November. Until then the founders are available at info@shopmadeincincinnati.com.

ArtWorks summer murals to feature Ezzard Charles, James Brown, breweries, high-profile restoration

ArtWorks has lots of exciting projects planned for this summer's mural program.

Work is already underway to restore the Homage to Cincinnatus mural on the Kroger headquarters at Vine Street and Central Parkway. ArtWorks is coordinating the restoration with the mural's original artist, Richard Haas, and the Thomas Melvin Studio.

Because of the swing-scaffolding that will be used on the seven-story mural, professional local artists have been hired to complete the project. ArtWorks apprentices, who usually paint the summer murals, will instead work with local filmmaker Lauren Pray on a documentary about the restoration project.

In the 30 years since Homage to Cincinnatus was completed, the mural-making process has remained largely the same in terms of execution, according to Christine Carli, director of communications at ArtWorks.

“The paint we use is a specific kind, NovaColor, which is a very durable paint for outdoor use,” she says. “After the mural is painted, we put on several clear coats to protect it from sun and rain damage. We expect the murals to last for at least 20 years.”

Preparation work is also underway for the Ezzard Charles mural at Republic and West Liberty streets in Over-the-Rhine. Once the wall is ready to go, ArtWorks apprentices will work with artist Jason Snell to transform the wall into an homage to the “Cincinnati Cobra,” as Charles was known to boxing fans.

This mural is part of the Cincinnati Legends series, which includes Snell's design of the Henry Holtgrewe mural on Vine between 13th and 14th streets. The Charles mural will be “more figurative and less illustrative” than the Holtgrewe design, Carli says.

“ArtWorks is really excited about the Ezzard Charles mural,” she says. “It will officially be our 100th mural, and we will be doing a lot of programming about that, including a celebration at the end of the project when we dedicate the mural.”

Charles was chosen for the 100th mural subject because of his “rich history in sports and Cincinnati and because he has so many ties to so many famous Cincinnatians, including Theodore Berry, who was his mentor,” Carli says. “We are excited to celebrate Ezzard Charles with this really beautiful image.”

A mural at Main and East Liberty streets will honor Cincinnati's musical heritage and the individuals who shaped the “Cincinnati Sound.”

“The image will be a really cool graphic portrayal of James Brown,” Carli says. “This is a part of Liberty where not a lot of people walk but where a lot of people drive by, so we wanted to choose one really stunning image.”

Cincinnati's brewing heritage will be showcased in two murals. The Over-the-Rhine Brewery District Community Redevelopment Corporation is sponsoring its second mural, this one located on the north side of the new Christian Moerlein brewery housed in the historic Kauffman malt house. The second mural will be located on the historic Schoenling brewery at Liberty Street and Central Parkway, now home to the Samuel Adams brewery.

“In the next three to five years there will be a nice cluster of public art in the Northern Liberties,” Carli says of the area north of Liberty Street.

In the fall, ArtWorks will add another mural to the Cincinnati Masters Series, the first female depicted is the series. A painting of artist Elizabeth Nourse will be done in collaboration with the Mercantile Library.

As ArtWorks completes its 100th mural this summer, are they struggling to find subjects? Carli says no.

“We never run out of ideas because a lot of them come out of the community and Cincinnati history,” she says. “Our work with communities and neighborhoods keeps everything fresh and evolving.”

The public and communities are able to get directly involved with ArtWorks mural projects by helping support a $25,000 matching grant given by The George and Margaret McLane Foundation. Five ArtWorks projects — including the Ezzard Charles, Cincinnati Sound and the Brewery District murals as well as a community mural in Evanston — are featured on Power2Give. Donors can choose which of the five projects they want to support with a donation.

“Depending on where you live or work or the type of art you're interested in, you can pick your favorite mural to support,” Carli says. “This matching gift and Power2Give gives us a conduit to empower communities to raise funds for the projects they're supporting. The matching grant gives people an immediate way to click and donate.”

ArtWorks and its community partners will be promoting the grant and matching opportunity through community council meetings, newsletters and social media.

People are also encouraged to engage with ArtWorks apprentices through social media and the ArtWorks walking tours.

“Last year we started using #ArtWorksHere for apprentices to document their experiences on the worksite,” Carli says. “We encouraged apprentices to share positive experiences, friends they've made, progress on the mural, something new they learned that day and to say thank you.”

Carli advises those interested in following the 2015 and hashtag that many of the apprentices use Instagram rather than Twitter or Facebook.

Apprentices also conduct two Saturday walking tours each weekend showcasing ArtWorks murals in Downtown (Cincinnati Genius Tour) and Over-the-Rhine (Spirit of OTR Tour). The ArtWorks apprentice program is “not just learning how to paint,” Carli says. “We provide training for public speaking, and by the end of the experience they grow up and become more poised and confident.”

As ArtWorks apprentices are busy with murals and media projects, the staff will be planning for next summer, their 20th year bringing art to Cincinnati neighborhoods.

Vora Ventures connects to local technology ecosystem with first Demo Day

Blue Ash-based private equity group Vora Ventures held its first Demo Day May 28 to showcase companies at various stages of growth and maturity receiving its research and development dollars.
“Vora Demo Day was different than a typical accelerator program,” says John Hutchinson, head of corporate development for Vora Ventures. “We presented exciting companies that are well-established and have a record of growth and innovation as well as some of our cutting-edge newer technologies. Our goal for this event was to connect with the local technology community and share the interesting work that we are doing at Vora. ... We have been focused on building our companies and are increasing our focus (now) on contributing to the great Cincinnati technology ecosystem.”
Vora Ventures was founded in 2006 by serial entrepreneur Mahendra Vora to acquire and support innovative technology companies. Vora himself is no stranger to the high-tech industry as the co-founder of Intelliseek (now merged with Nielsen Buzzmetrics), SecureIT (now part of VeriSign) and Pioneer Systems (now part of Unisys).
Vora came to Cincinnati in 1988 to join Intercomputer Communication Corporation, a firm established by his University of Michigan classmate Kevin O’Connor. After the sale of that firm, Vora launched his own effort to encourage technology innovation in the Greater Cincinnati area.
In 2005, Vora and attorney Tim Matthews transformed the 366,000-square-foot Champion Paper plant in Hamilton, Ohio into one of the most advanced technology parks in the country. Vora Ventures was established the following year with 10 employees.
As Vora Ventures grew, the company acquired the U.S. Financial Life Center in Blue Ash and developed the 43,000-square-foot facility into the Vora Innovation Center, providing a home to five of its own companies.
Vora Ventures now employes 2,000 people with offices in Cincinnati, Dayton and Hamilton, Ohio; New York; California; and Bangalore and Ahmadabad, India. The company was named “2015 Tech Company of the Year” at the Cincinnati Business Courier’s Innovation and Technology Awards.
“We are unique within the Cincinnati (entrepreneurial) ecosystem in that we have technology infrastructure, software and services companies and as a group we are equal parts innovator, investor and high-growth technology company,” Hutchinson says. “Cincinnati is a fantastic place to live and work, with a very manageable cost of living. We have many Fortune 500 companies (here), and there is a much richer pool of talent than people recognize. This allows us to attract and retain talent at a cost advantage to some of the more traditional startup communities.”
He points out that, despite the national perception that Cincinnati companies can’t compete in the broader technology market, several Vora companies are doing quite well. Vinimaya, for instance, facilitates procurement across 80 countries and boasts a blue-chip customer list featuring GE, Alcoa, Siemens, Visa and the U.S. Department of Energy. AssureCare has contracts to provide managed healthcare software for tens of millions of patients.
Vora Ventures currently has a portfolio of 12 companies providing software, services and infrastructure solutions. Six of the companies offered presentations and demonstrations of their products May 28 Demo Day, including:
Ascendum, a provider of global IT business solutions that recently acquired FMS, a subsidiary of Turner Construction Co. offering construction and facility management software
AssureCare, working with the medical community to help healthcare plans and providers coordinate data and patient care using its MedCompass software
CenterGrid, offering businesses IT solutions such as data storage and private cloud-based services
Vinimaya, a business-to-business cloud-based procurement system
Zakta, a platform promoting social intelligence and collaborative solutions
Zingo, an app and in-store experience that allows retailers to customize offers and interaction with their customers. When it opens, Clifton Market will be the first store in the country to use the full Zingo system
Other companies held by Vora Ventures include Blue Spring, cFIRST Be Sure, Koncert, Open Commerce and Talent Now.
“The response during and after the (Demo Day) was tremendous,” Hutchinson says. “The attendance far exceeded our goals, and the energy and excitement amongst the crowd was inspirational to our team. Many of those who attended were surprised to learn the breadth of technologies currently in the Vora Ventures portfolio as well as the growth and depth of some of our leading companies.”
Hutchinson credits community and business leaders for their efforts to promote Cincinnati’s startup, entrepreneurial and technology resources to national and international audiences.
“There are so many exciting things happening in the Cincinnati technology community,” he says. “We are enthusiastic about getting more involved and know that we can contribute, lead and benefit from an even stronger connection to the local community. We expect to produce several great technology companies here in Cincinnati in which the entire community can take pride.”

ArtWorks chooses Big Pitch finalists to enter mentoring program

ArtWorks has chosen eight local companies to compete for up to $20,000 in grants in August. The Big Pitch finalists are now a part of ArtWorks' 10-week mentorship program and will receive help from a business mentor and a U.S. Bank small business specialist to get their companies off the ground.
The eight finalists include two food-related companies, Grateful Grahams and Butcher Betties Meats and Sweets. Grateful Grahams is a nationally-recognized bakery specializing in handmade vegan treats. The founder, Rachel DesRochers, has already sold her products to Whole Foods locations nationwide as well as smaller specialty stores in Cincinnati and elsewhere. Butcher Betties Meats and Sweets is a female veteran-owned butcher shop providing local, grass-fed meats. The owner, Allison Hines, can be found serving up fine meats behind the counter at her Florence location.
Three finalists focus on design. Brush Factory, owned by Hayes Shanesy and Rosie Kovacs, uses regionally sourced hardwood to craft custom furniture. Jason Snell of We Have Become Vikings offers creative strategy and design help to small companies and community voices. Cut and Sewn, the brainchild of Jenifer Sult, hopes to help fellow entrepreneurs with their design, sewing and pattern-making needs.
The 2015 Big Pitch competition will also feature Hazel Brown Photography, offering photography and product development services. Founded by Jess Sheldon, it will also sell functional fine art pieces as retail.
Finally, two finalists have brick-and-mortar locations already established. Original Thought Required, a streetwear and fashion boutique opened by James Marable, features limited edition apparel from independent designers on Main Street in Over-the-Rhine. Roebling Point Books and Coffee, located on Greenup Street in Covington, seeks to bring the neighborhood together under owner Richard Hunt's support of local authors and artists.
“This is an amazing group,” says Caroline Creaghead, ArtWorks' director of creative enterprise, “and the diversity of businesses that applied attests to Cincinnati’s growing need for small business support for working creatives. This is the type of creative talent that we want to retain and support.” 
Each of the eight finalists will present a five-minute pitch on Aug. 27 in the hopes of receiving the $15,000 grand prize and/or $5,000 “audience choice” prize. Previous grant-winners Noble Denim and Madisono's Gelato have used the money and the mentorship opportunities to expand their businesses dramatically over the last year.

The August Big Pitch event will be open to the public.

UP Cincinnati's next Startup Weekend to focus on female entrepreneurs

The Greater Cincinnati startup community is focusing on female entrepreneurs with Startup Weekend Women’s Edition May 29-31.
Organized by the all-volunteer UP Cincinnati team, the 54-hour marathon event brings together designers, developers, entrepreneurs and experts to develop and pitch a startup idea, with a focus on connecting and showcasing the talents of female entrepreneurs and aspiring entrepreneurs.
UP Cincinnati is part of the UP Global network, promoting entrepreneurship, grassroots leadership and community development in cities around the world. Programs include Startup Weekend, Startup Digest and Education Entrepreneurs.
“Startup Weekend is encouraging ‘edition’ events, specialized events for women, healthcare, education and many other areas depending on the unique traits and needs of a particular city,” says Startup Weekend organizer and Casamatic co-founder Alex Bowman. “We identified (female entrepreneurs as) an opportunity to potentially grow diversity in the Cincinnati entrepreneurial ecosystem.”
The tech industry has come under scrutiny recently for the lack of inclusion in the workplace. Encouraging women entrepreneurs with female-focused startup weekends is a relatively new development for UP Global.
“I think the industry as a whole is challenged,” Bowman says. “We’ve made great strides in Cincinnati already with amazing, established groups like Girl Develop It and Bad Girl Ventures. We hope that Startup Weekend Women’s Edition encourages more of this.”
Although the startup community often focuses on technology, Startup Weekend welcomes ideas for products and services as well, according to Bowman.
“Any and all ideas are encouraged,” he says. “And even if you don't have an idea, that's OK — come and listen to the pitches on Friday night and decide which idea you want to work on over the course of the weekend with a team. Remember, it’s about the experience building the startup, not the idea itself.”
The schedule for the weekend is intense, starting on Friday with idea pitches, team selection and role assignments. On Saturday the teams will continue their work, meeting with coaches and mentors throughout the day. The event culminates Sunday with final presentations and judging. Supplies and meals will be provided to registrants.
“We just ask that participants come ready for a challenging but exciting weekend,” Bowman says. “It can be exhausting, but it’s a ton of fun!”
Bowman and colleagues have recruited what he calls a “dream team” of coaches and judges from the Cincinnati startup community.
“Our coaches will be spending time with all of the teams on Saturday, helping them by drawing on their own personal experiences at their startup,” Bowman says. “Our coaches include the likes of Candice Peters and Amanda Kranias from Hello Parent, Becky Blank and Amanda Grossmann from Girl Develop It, Emily Cooper from The Brandery and many more. We are fortunate to have for our judges Wendy Lea (CEO of Cintrifuse), Johnna Reeder (CEO of REDI Cincinnati), Joan Lewis (former SVP of Procter & Gamble) and several others. We’re so excited to have all of them participating and helping out.”
In order to participate in the weekend — hosted at UpTech in Covington with lead sponsorship by Kentucky Innovation Network and ezoneregistration is required and spaces are limited. Student discounts are available. Men are welcome to attend, according to the event website, “if they find a female participant to bring them along.”

See a video trailer for Startup Weekend here.
For startup enthusiasts who aren’t able to commit to the entire weekend, a special ticket for the Sunday presentations and judging is also available.
This will be the eighth Startup Weekend presented by UP Cincinnati and its second special “edition” event, the first being the 2014 Open Data Cincy weekend. Past events have drawn hundreds of participants, and Startup Weekend alumnus Tixers went on to join UpTech and was recently acquired by Florida-based OneUp Sports.
Startup Weekend’s “regular” edition will return in November.

Start Small housing concept gaining big momentum

Nearly halfway through his year-long People's Liberty Haile Fellowship, Brad Cooper’s Start Small project is starting to gain momentum.
Cooper was awarded the grant based on his proposal to build two 200-square-ft. single family homes on an otherwise unbuildable lot in Over-the-Rhine as a model for net-zero, affordable infill housing. He presented an update on his project, along with information for potential buyers, at a public event May 13 at the Over-the-Rhine Community Center.
Since starting the program, some aspects of Cooper’s design and concept have changed. The houses will now be 250 square ft. in order to accommodate the city’s zoning regulations. The two houses on Peete Street will also be attached to leverage potential energy and cost savings as well as to better fit the historic character of Over-the-Rhine.
Cooper's initial plans for composting toilets and water reuse will also be modified to meet building codes.
“The building codes need to adapt, and I think they will, but it will take time and people calling for the change,” says Cooper, who presented his project concept and suggested code changes to City Council’s Education and Entrepreneurship Committee in February.
The houses will be net zero, with solar panels providing all electricity. Cooper is working with Sefaria, an application that supports high-performance building design, to optimize the homes’ HVAC systems. Each house will have monitors to track the occupants’ energy usage as well as energy production from the solar panels.
As the popularity of the tiny house movement grows, it’s also come under criticism.
“This project is not for everyone,” Cooper acknowledges. “Start Small is providing choice and creating thoughtful infill development.
“The idea that tiny homes encourage less density is a myth. Zoning regulations that require minimum lot sizes encourage less density. Zoning regulations that prohibit two tiny homes being on the same lot encourage less density.”
Although not currently permitted under zoning code, “small homes could be developed as accessory dwelling units, which add density to areas,” Cooper says. “Multiple homes on one lot is permitted in neighborhoods that have adopted Form Based Code, and here I would expect the same density to be met as with a traditional project.”
Cooper encourages residents with concerns about density and other zoning issues to review the draft of the Land Development Code and contact the City Planning Department with any input.
As tiny homes become more common and zoning codes are updated to accommodate their construction, Cooper predicts ongoing evolutions of the concept to make tiny homes more appealing. “
I expect to see tiny homes with shared resources,” he says. “A communal kitchen, shared waste remediation, shared energy production and other communal ideas are a challenge to figure out but would make tiny living more affordable.”
Since January, Cooper has been working to develop financing options for potential Small Start homebuyers as traditional mortgages may be difficult to obtain.
“The main challenge is the unconventional nature of the project,” he says. “There is not a lot for an appraiser to compare the homes to locally, so having a lender feel comfortable with the value of the home is critical.
“Additionally, most mortgages are not held by the initial lending institution but bundled and sold on a secondary market dominated by government-subsidized Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac. Those entities require the home to be at least a 1-bedroom. The tiny homes will qualify not qualify as 1-bedrooms. I’m anticipating the need for a (local) bank or even an individual to step forward and provide a loan to a tiny homeowner. This institution would be willing to take the risk on something out of the box and hold onto the mortgage.”
Initially, Cooper projected the houses would cost $80,000, although it now seems they may list for $70,000. He hopes to have buyers in place before fall so construction can be completed before the end of the year, allowing residents to move in to the homes by early 2016. Cooper has partnered with Working in Neighborhoods to help potential buyers through the process.
Community engagement is a big part of the Start Small project. Cooper hosted a one-day exhibit called “Size Matters” at Assumption Gallery to invite the public to explore ideas about tiny living and affordable housing. In March, Cooper invited the neighbors to 142 and 144 Peete St. to introduce himself and his idea for the property. Keep Cincinnati Beautiful organized volunteers and residents to help clean up the lot in April.
Cooper has also solicited public feedback on the design and amenities of the tiny houses. He plans to hold additional presentations and information sessions in the coming months.
It’s looking like his Start Small project may in fact turn into something big.

OTR Chamber sets the pace with 5K & Summer Celebration, two grant programs

The Over-the-Rhine Chamber of Commerce continues its community- and business-building efforts with three upcoming programs.
First up this weekend, the ninth annual OTR 5K takes place on May 16 with a new route this year.
“For the first time we’re crossing over Liberty Street,” says OTR Chamber President Emilie Johnson. “The new route allows for us to make way for the streetcar, but it also goes along with the mission of why the race was founded: to invite people to Over-the-Rhine to see the old, the new and what's coming up. It’s very appropriate that as the neighborhood continues to grow the 5K continues to grow, too.”
Runners and walkers are encouraged to register online before 5 p.m. Wednesday in order to guarantee receiving a race shirt. This is one of the few races in the area that welcomes dogs and child-occupied strollers. The fastest runners with a dog or stroller will be recognized at the award ceremony alongside running and walking finishers with the best overall times and the best times by age category.
Dogs and kids get special treatment during the race and at the post-race Summer Celebration in Washington Park. Canine runners can quench their thirst from dog dishes provided at the mid-point water station and the finish line. The League of Animal Welfare will be walking the race with some of their adoptable dogs and will have a tent in the park following the race.
After cheering on the 5K participants, children ages 3-5 will be invited to run their own race, starting just after noon on the Washington Park lawn. Child-friendly activities hosted by Necco will be offered at the Summer Celebration from 11 a.m. until 3 p.m.
City Flea and Art on Vine will showcase a diverse array of fine art and craft vendors in conjunction with the Summer Celebration, which will also feature two stages of live music from local bands throughout the day as well as food and drink from local vendors.
Volunteers are still needed for the 5K and Summer Celebration, and Johnson says “a fun way people can get involved this year is to make signs and support the runners at the cheering posts located at every critical turn along the route.” The cheer stations are a new addition this year to help runners navigate the new route and encourage more community participation.
In addition to the community-building 5K and summer party, the Chamber has two business building initiatives now underway.
Applications for the second round of Innovation Challenge grants for existing OTR businesses closed last week. Eighteen businesses are competing for the $1,000 grants, which required applicants to demonstrate creative ways to grow their business.
The Chamber awarded two Innovation Challenge grants last year.

Steam Whistle Letterpress and Design implemented its project immediately, buying display racks specialized for their cards and provided them to other OTR and downtown businesses that sell Steam Whistle products.

We Have Become Vikings had plans for a larger scale project it’s close to implementing, according to Johnson. The design firm is developing a street-level video game to showcase its business capabilities while providing an interactive activity for pedestrians.
The Innovation Challenge winners will be announced in the next couple of weeks. The program is supported by a grant the OTR Chamber received from Fifth Third Bank.
The OTR Chamber's other grant program, the Business First Grant (BFG), is accepting applicants through June 15. This larger grant program provides up to $20,000 in matching funds to a new business looking to locate in Over-the-Rhine.
The BFG “helps support sustainable businesses, but is really helping to animate the streets and sidewalks,” Johnson says. “The focus is on transformational businesses, which could mean locating on a block of OTR that needs an anchor business or opening on a critical cross street to better connect the OTR business districts or that the business offers a type of product or clientele that's not currently in the neighborhood.”
Previous BFGs were awarded to the businesses that helped establish Vine and Main streets as shopping and dining destinations: MiCA 12/v, Little Mahatma, Park + Vine and Senate on Vine and Iris Book Cafe and Original Thought Required on Main. Before Findlay Market was fully leased, the BFG program helped fund Dojo Gelato, Fresh Table and Pho Lang Thang there.
More recent recipients were The Yoga Bar on 14th Street, Picnic and Pantry on Republic Street and Hen of the Woods, which will open a storefront at the northern end of Main Street later this year.

People's Liberty announces first 8 Project Grants, final grant program to launch

People’s Liberty continues to redefine the mission and tools of philanthropy, announcing its first Project Grants April 24 at its new Globe Building headquarters in Over-the-Rhine. Like all of its grant programs, the Project Grants were awarded to individual area residents with innovative ideas to positively impact their communities and, in the organization’s hopes, disrupt the status quo.

Eight winners were presented by People's Liberty co-founders Eric Avner (Haile Foundation) and Amy Goodwin (Johnson Foundation) and asked to sign their contracts, which stipulate that each would receive up to $10,000 to complete their projects within the next 10 months. A second round of Project Grants will be awarded in the fall.

The winning projects represent a wide array of community engagement, from site-specific events to arts and culture to online community building to public transportation. They were selected by an external panel made up of local civic, creative and business leaders.

People’s Liberty has now launched all three of its intended grant programs: $100,000 Haile Fellowships, awarded in December to Brad Cooper and Brad Schnittger; $15,000 Globe Grants to activate the Globe Building's ground-floor gallery space, with the first exhibition, Good Eggs, on display through June 12; and these $10,000 Project Grants.

The Project Grant recipients are:

Giacomo Ciminello: Space Invaders
An interactive outdoor installation with a projection-mapped video game designed to activate Cincinnati’s abandoned spaces.

Anne Delano-Steinert: Look Here!
A site-specific public history exhibition to take place on the streets of Over-the-Rhine.

Quiera Levy-Smith: Black Dance Is Beautiful
A cultural event designed to showcase diversity in Cincinnati dance and encourage youth to pursue their passions and break down barriers.

Alyssa McClanahan w/ John Blatchford: Kunst: Built Art
A quarterly printed magazine featuring redevelopment projects of historic Cincinnati buildings.

Mark Mussman: Creative App Project (CAP)
A project to certify up to 20 local residents from a broad range of backgrounds during a three-month Android App Developers educational series.

Daniel Schleith w/ Nate Wessel and Brad Thomas: Metro*Now
A set of low-cost, real-time arrival signs for the Metro bus system to be installed in storefronts at or near bus stops.

Nancy Sunnenburg: Welcome to Cincinnati
A new tool is designed to effectively welcome newcomers to a community by connecting them with local organizations, businesses and civic opportunities.

Maija Zummo w/ Colleen Sullivan: Made in Cincinnati
A curated online marketplace to encourage shopping local by showcasing products created by Cincinnati’s best makers and artisans.

The eight grantees will have access to workspace, mentoring and design and communications support at People's Liberty starting May 30. Look for Soapbox profiles of each of these eight projects as they ramp up over the next few months.

Applications for the next round of Project Grants are due by Sept. 14.

Jewish Federation event asks nonprofit entrepreneurs to explain what "sparked" their life changes

Entrepreneurship and storytelling are popular topics in Cincinnati these days. “The Spark Behind the Change” takes a different approach to both April 29 at Japp's OTR, focusing on social innovation and exploring the inspiration that resulted in new organizations and programs.
The event, organized by the Jewish Federation of Cincinnati, focuses on individuals who created innovative entrepreneurial projects that are registered nonprofits or not focused on making a profit, says Sammy Kanter, Mentoring Coordinator for the Jewish Federation of Cincinnati's Esther and Maurice Becker Networking and Mentoring Center.
“What is really exciting about the Spark presenters is that what they are doing is affecting our Cincinnati community directly,” Kanter says. “For the most part, their projects are based here and are for the people of Cincinnati.”
Several of the presenters come from the arts community, a sector not typically referred to as entrepreneurial — although that perspective is beginning to change.
“At ArtWorks we see a lot of our work within creative enterprise, especially Co.Starters and the ArtWorks Big Pitch, as a support and even an anchor for creative entrepreneurs,” says Tamara Harkavy, CEO and founder of ArtWorks. “One of our core values is we nurture emerging talent, artists and creative entrepreneurs, connecting them to corporations and the public at large in order to empower them to transform the region. Nothing comes from nothing — we take something great and make it better.”
In the nonprofit world, innovation often includes a call for social justice and personal discovery.
“We believe that art creates powerful change and often works toward social change,” says Kim Popa, Executive Director of Pones Inc., the local dance company and serendipitous art creator. “We hope to create awareness of issues that the community may not know about such as human trafficking in Cincinnati, homelessness and trans populations. Pones Inc. performers use their bodies to speak their minds.”
Other Spark panelists include:

• Barbara Hauser, founder The Red Door Project, a pop-up community art gallery showcasing the work of professional and hobbyist artists;

• Jordan Edelheit, who started the first TEDx at Ohio State and went on to organize the first prison-based TEDx series;

• Derrick Braziel, William Thomas II and Allen Woods, founders of MORTAR, an accelerator focusing on non-traditional entrepreneurs in underserved communities; and

• Rabbi Laura Baum, creator of the Our Jewish Community website that uses social media, YouTube and other technologies to meet the changing needs of the Jewish community on a national level.
The host and moderator of the event is Jake Hodesh, Vice President of People’s Liberty, the Over-the-Rhine-based philanthropy providing grants to individuals and organizations working to make positive changes in Cincinnati.
Spark organizers and participants hope this night of storytelling will generate ideas and inspiration in others.
Kanter would like “to see more people creating innovative projects that are locally based nonprofits, that are created with the goal of generating change and making the city a better place to live for all populations.”
“I think that the title of the event is my wish for an outcome,” Popa says. “I am most interested in opportunities where people leave inspired or questioning or moved to continue the conversation.”
“The Spark Behind the Change: An Evening of Storytelling and Networking with Cincinnati’s Biggest Social Innovators” is free and open to the public. Get more information or RSVP here.

1,500 local students learn architecture, construction basics through Design LAB program

Over the past four months, 1,500 students in 78 Cincinnati and Northern Kentucky schools have studied the basics of architecture and construction while designing a model dwelling. Their work is part of the 2015 Design LAB (Learn and Build), a program of the Architectural Foundation of Cincinnati (AFC) in collaboration with the American Institute of Architects of Cincinnati (AIA), and is on display at the Main Public Library downtown through May 2.
“Design LAB encourages innovation by fully engaging students in the design process, broadening their perspective and asking questions that enable them to actively participate in the built environment,” says AFC Education Director Catrina Kolshorn. “With a focus on real world solutions, students develop and create unique approaches to a design challenge utilizing research, critical thinking, problem solving, creative expression and visual/verbal communication.
“As students create and model their projects, they build an awareness, knowledge and sense of community through sharing their ideas, gaining an appreciation of the built environment and understanding the interactive role they can play in shaping it.”
The Design LAB program is intended to adapt to many subject areas and grade levels. Participants this year include all grade levels in K-12 classes on architecture, art, biology, ecology, engineering, geometry, language arts, science and social studies.
The 2015 theme of “Dwelling” gave students the option of a rural or urban site to design a home for their chosen client. Each teacher shaped the project and client selection to fit with their class curriculum. Students have chosen Greek clients based on their study of The Odyssey as well as Maya Angelou, Picasso and Dr. Seuss, among many others.
Students typically work in teams to create a model and a tri-fold panel display that illustrates their design process. AFC expects at least 175 submissions for the Design Fair, where entries will be judged on both the model and the display.
Four awards will be given in each grade category: Build-Ability for the projects most able to be constructed in the real world; Sustain-a-Builder to the projects using the best green building technologies; Solution Builder to projects showing the most innovation and creativity in meeting the client's needs; and a Juror’s Choice award. The 30 jurors, as well as the 65 classroom mentors, are all volunteers.
Design LAB is a revamped version of Architecture by Children (ABC).
“The new name reflects the emphasis on design as well as the learning and building of the hands-on, project-based program,” says AFC Executive Director Kit Anderson.
ABC was managed by AIA Cincinnati volunteers for nearly 20 years.
“Over the last few years AFC has become increasingly involved as a collaborator and partner in the program and has been the primary financial sponsor of ABC for some time,” Anderson says. “As the program continued, it became clear that in order for it to grow and strengthen it required much more time and attention than a volunteer group could give it. We all agreed that AFC would manage, fund and implement the program in association with AIA Cincinnati.”
As a 501(c)3 nonprofit entity, the foundation was able to seek regional and national grants that ABC was previously ineligible for, increasing opportunities for professionalization and future growth. These changes are already generating results, with a grant from the Stillson Foundation supporting the 2015 program. Design LAB is also funded by contributions from the built environment community and AFC’s annual Apple Award Gala.
Those donations also provided the resources for AFC to hire Kolshorn to manage the program, recruit new participants and coordinate the many volunteers who work in-classroom with the students and as judges for the Design Fair.
The 2015 Design LAB Design Fair will be displayed in the first floor atrium at the Main Public Library all week, ending with a public reception recognizing program participants 9 a.m.-1 p.m. Saturday, May 2.

Ocean's first startup class sets sail at April 29 Demo Day

Ocean, the nation's first faith-based business accelerator, presents Demo Day April 29 at Crossroads Church in Oakley to showcase its inaugural class of 10 startup companies. Over the course of the six-month program, each Ocean startup received a seed investment of $20,000 as well as co-working space, intensive training, mentorship and legal and accounting services.
“Demo Day is a day,” Ocean Executive Director Genine Fallon says. “It's a wonderful day, it's a glorious day, but it's a day. We've been preparing since the moment our class stepped in here, and they've been preparing for it since the moment they conceptualized what they wanted to build.”

Fallon says that having Demo Day in the Crossroads auditorium commands attention and is the right place for the 10 startups to showcase themselves. She emphasizes that event is about community and is open to the public.

“As the first faith-based accelerator, we want investors, key leadership and city officials to attend, but we are also extremely pleased to be able to present in a space that is welcoming to everyone,” she says. “If I'm hoping for anything, past the normal things that an accelerator hopes for — positive feedback all around for our companies and success tenfold — it is also for that person who has felt that entrepreneurial charge to be sparked to say, 'Yes, I can do it! I'm in the right city. This is the right time. Startup Cincy is the right space for me to be.'

“Demo Day is deep and wide. The depth of what's going to be talked about is moving and is deeply profound, and it's wide because it will bring a wide variety of people who will come and join us.”
Participants in Ocean's inaugural class represent an array of content areas and experience.
Cerkl, one of the more established Ocean startups, provides organizations with personalized newsletter content.

“Demo Day is going to be a hallmark event to really showcase the Cincy startup movement and to celebrate,” says Sara Jackson, known as Cerkl's Distributor of Pixie Dust. “It will demonstrate that this is one of the best places in the nation to build your business.”

Jackson and Cerkl founder Tarek Kamil have been impressed with their accelerator experience.

“Ocean is itself is a startup,” Kamil says. “To watch the Ocean model has been really good for us. Here, there is no failure — there is success and there is learning. Ocean may be the new kid on the block, but they're right up there with other accelerators.”
Alex Bowman and Chris Ridenour started Casamatic in late 2014 to match buyers to homes they'd be interested in buying, manage their schedule of showings and allow them make an offer from its website, with the prospect of receiving a rebate check after the sale closed.

“We both bought homes last year, and the process was terrible,” Bowman says. “We were surprised how every other industry has innovated since 2008 but real estate has not. We had an original idea to completely change the way you buy a home. But over the first months of the accelerator we iterated and iterated and figured out through customer evaluation and meeting with people in the industry that the initial idea we set out to accomplish was crushingly impossible and not what the market wanted at the time. So we decided to refocus.”

Casamatic's focus is now on matching buyers with their “perfect home,” altering them when new homes hit the market and instantly arranging showings.
Chris Hendrixson of Blue Seat Media has been working on his baseball app company with partner Jeffrey Wyckoff for several years. Since starting at Ocean, they've hired two developers and plan to launch their product in July.

“Doubling our team has changed everything, and we did not expect to be able to do that so fast,” Hendrixson says. “Up until Ocean it felt like we were on an island and had to encourage each other. Coming into Ocean and the sense of community just ready and willing to help us has been amazing. The classes and mentoring have been great, but knowing there are so many people who have your back is really special.”
Lyfeboat recently launched a roadside assistance app for the iPhone, with an Android version to be available over the summer. Co-founders Michael Reha and Phat Le says they're “big into learning and personal growth” and felt Ocean's faith-based program “was a right choice to build a strong foundation as a team” and a great fit for the Good Samaritan attitude central to their company.
The rest of Ocean's Class of 2015 includes:

Arena19, a web platform for sponsorship and branding opportunities

benobe, a career exploration app for teenagers

Quality Renters, which helps landlords find tenants

RINGR, offering studio-quality sound recording over mobile devices

Searen, producing affordable water treatment technology for aquaculture and desalination

StreamSpot, which enables live and on-demand streaming for faith-based organizations

Seafaring metaphors abound at Ocean, where participants talk about setting sail on a journey and riding waves, while meeting rooms are named after ports on the Sea of Galilee — apt comparisons for new businesses setting a course for adventure and success.

So come aboard Wednesday, April 29, they're expecting you at Demo Day. Doors open at 12:30 p.m., and the program begins at 1:00 at Crossroads Church in Oakley. Entrepreneurs Elias Roman, co-founder of Songza, and Colleen Arnold, senior vice president at IBM, will also discuss their experiences launching and growing successful companies.

Admission is free, and tickets can be reserved here.

STEM Bicycle Club rolls hands-on learning into eight schools

Students at eight area schools will learn hands-on STEM skills while reverse-engineering a bike during a 10-week bicycle building workshop this spring.
The Greater Cincinnati STEM Bicycle Club is a demonstration project of the Greater Cincinnati STEM Collaborative (GCSC). Kathie Maynard, GCSC convener as well as director of community partnership at UC’s College of Education, Criminal Justice and Human Services, describes the collaborative as a “STEM education accelerator. It is really about innovating the types of education that we should be having: connected to the real world and to careers. We really want the programs we develop to have a partnership between the K-12 schools, business and industry and community partners.”
GCSC launched the Greater Cincinnati STEM Bicycle Club in 2014 as a partnership among Woodward Career Technical High School, General Electric and Time Warner Cable. Students worked with mentors in a weekly after-school workshop learning science and math skills, developing their mechanical abilities and writing about their experiences.
Results for the 2014 program were so positive that GCSC is expanding the STEM Bicycle Club to seven other schools in six local school districts: Aiken High School (Cincinnati Public), Amelia Middle School (West Clermont Local School District), Campbell County Middle School, Clermont Northeastern Middle School, Holmes Middle School (Covington Independent School District), Ockerman Middle School (Boone County Schools) and R. A. Jones Middle School (Boone County Schools). Woodward (Cincinnati Public) will continue its participation.
Maynard says the selection of participating schools reflects GCSC’s efforts “to be inclusive and representative of the region. We most certainly have a heavy emphasis on high-needs schools and at-risk students, but at the same time we really think STEM education (science, technology, engineering, math) is a larger problem than any single school or any single district.”
The expanded program also illustrates GCSC’s community-based approach. Walmart is providing funding and materials for the 2015 Greater Cincinnati STEM Bicycle Club and connecting seven of their stores with schools in the community. Maynard says that the hope is to “create the deep partnerships so that one day every kid every year has multiple and extended exposure with these types of authentic STEM experiences (science, technology, engineering and math).”
Time Warner and GE have each expressed a commitment to continue their involvement with Woodward and begin new relationships with two other schools, “a sign of success that we are creating lasting partnerships and places where business and industry can really hook into a school and provide help,” according to Maynard.
The 10-week program concludes with a May 30 celebration at UC for all eight schools along with business and community partners. Maynard anticipates several big announcements will be made at the event, including that all eight schools will participate in the 2016 program. GCSC hopes to expand the 2016 program exponentially — to 40 area schools — if funding and partners can be secured.
GCSC will also be announcing the details two other demonstration projects — one operating on the same model as the Bicycle Club but focused on 3D printing, the other a STEAM collaboration.
“Even though we don't always say STEAM (adding arts) we most certainly think that the arts are critical for the development of the whole child … bringing what the arts have to offer in the making, in the dialogue and in the design thinking,” Maynard says. “Those creativity anchors are critical to becoming a STEM innovator.”
Demonstration programs are one aspect of GCSC’s work.
“Our larger role is to get partners together and look for alignment,” Maynard says. “Convening a group and really starting to have those hard conversations around some of the larger problems, like lack of girls in STEM education, then dream about what the solutions are and create projects that address those answers.”
For the 113 kids participating in the STEM Bicycle Club this spring, their dreams of getting their own bike are about to come true — with some assembly required.

OTR Chamber hosts Star Awards April 7

The Over-the-Rhine Chamber of Commerce holds its 2015 Annual Meeting and Star Awards luncheon April 7 to celebrate the individuals and organizations who are leading efforts to improve the neighborhood. 
The awards recognize individuals and businesses in 10 categories, including New Business, Nonprofit, Entrepreneur and Community Impact of the year. Nominations were solicited at the start of the year from the public through Facebook, Twitter and outreach to Chamber members, stakeholders and the media.
“We are really fortunate to have a neighborhood full of stakeholders who are truly passionate about Over-the-Rhine and excited about the momentum,” says Chamber President Emilie Johnson, “as well as the opportunity to nominate and potentially be awarded a Star Award.”
In addition to the Star Awards, the luncheon will feature Cincinnati Reds CEO Bob Castellini as keynote speaker.

“We always try to find someone who can share some unique insight and experience with the neighborhood for the keynote,” Johnson says. “This year Bob Castellini will give the big picture of things going in the neighborhood.”
Johnson will highlight the Chamber's accomplishments in the past year, including an update on the Business Innovation Challenge, a new Chamber program launched in 2014. The Chamber received 17 applications last year and awarded $1,000 grants to Steam Whistle Letterpress and We Have Become Vikings.

At the luncheon, Johnson will announce the opening of nominations for a second round of the Business Innovation Challenge.

“We have received some fantastic support, including from Fifth Third Bank, who will be a presenting sponsor for the program,” she says.
This as been a busy spring for the OTR Chamber, which recently moved its office from 13th and Clay to 14th and Walnut. The new office is located within one block of Vine, Main and Liberty streets.
The move was prompted, in part, by the Clay location becoming a “great connector corner,” according to Johnson.
“In any kind of urban planning or development the more active uses you can get on your corner, the more consumer-facing businesses, the better,” she says. “We were sitting on an important corner.”

The Chamber has moved offices several times over the years, responding to development needs in the neighborhood. Although a central location is ideal, the space the Chamber occupies within a building is even more important.

“We love to be on the street level,” Johnson says. “It's the nature of our work, and the stakeholders we support are also very much at street level.”
Members and neighbors will have an opportunity to check out the new Chamber office space at an open house later this summer.

The April 7 Annual Meeting and Star Awards luncheon begins at 12 noon at Music Hall, with doors opening at 11:30. Tickets are still available, with reservations required by March 31.

InnovateHER Cincinnati to recognize leaders in female empowerment March 9

Anyone who watched the Oscars last week undoubtedly remembers Patricia Arquette’s call to action in the name of female equality. Programs and competitions across the country have been held year after year to help bridge the gender gap that currently exists in the workplace.
Next week, Cincinnati is playing its part.
InnovateHER is a competition conjured up by the Small Business Association's Office of Women's Business Ownership to call attention to business owners who, through their products or services, show a commitment to female empowerment. On March 9 at The Brandery, a panel of judges will select up to 10 startups to represent Cincinnati at the national level. The Brandery and UpTech are hosting the event.
“The Challenge is looking for entrepreneurs to create a product or service that has a measurable impact on the lives of women and families, has the potential for commercialization and fills a need in the market place,” says UpTech’s Amanda Greenwell.
InnovateHER is accepting applications from startups through March 5. Startups will be asked to pitch their idea, much like they would on an accelerator’s Demo Day, and in doing so attract the attention of judges from The Brandery, UpTech, HCDC, Bad Girl Ventures and Viable Synergy.
The 10 lucky startups to reach the national competition will have the opportunity to pitch their idea in Washington, D.C. on May 8. The prize money totals $30,000.
To Greenwell, the success of InnovateHER rests on female business owners’ willingness to share their innovative ideas with the rest of us.
“These programs are only successful if founders take the chance to put themselves out there and apply to participate in these competitions,” Greenwell says. “If you know someone who has a great idea that can impact and empower the lives of women and families, tell them about our competition.  Lift them up, encourage them and urge them to apply for the opportunity to get valuable exposure and feedback on their idea.”
The winners of this year’s InnovateHER competition will be announced during the March 9 ceremony at The Brandery from 7 to 8:30 p.m. Tickets are free, but registration is requested. Those who wish to pitch for the event should fill out the application online.

Hamilton County Development Center changes name, honors champion of minority entrepreneurs

The Hamilton County Development Company has rebranded once again. The Norwood center, which encompasses an incubator (the HCDC Business Center) as well as economic development and lending service providers, will now be known as HCDC, Inc.
"We are branding as a single entity instead of having three names for our three different economic development programs," says Bridget Doherty, marketing and communications director.
On the same day they announced the rebranding, Jan. 16, HCDC, Inc. honored Mel Gravely, longtime supporter of minority entrepreneurs, with the Larry Albice Entrepreneurship Award. The award is given yearly to successful entrepreneurs who have given back to the community and is named after former HCDC chairman and board member Larry Albice, who played a considerable role in the expansion of the Business Center and received the award in 1998.
Gravely, who is responsible for starting the Minority Business Accelerator, is a published author on the topic of race in business. His passion for supporting women and minorities in their business ventures has characterized his work for decades. He's currently the majority shareholder, president and CEO of TriVersity Construction Company, which specializes in construction management, contracting and design. He also founded the Institute for Entrepreneurial Thinking, a think tank for minority business initiatives. And he's the immediate past chair of the Cincinnati USA Regional Chamber of Commerce. The list goes on.
"Mel is the type of leader who puts others in the limelight," says David Main, president of HCDC, Inc. "We thought we would shed some light on him and his outstanding contributions to entrepreneurship. He has dedicated his life to helping others innovate and achieve."
Gravely's recognition came at HCDC's annual meeting, where the organization presented its annual business awards, including awards for lending, economic development and HCDC resident company of the year. Startup Get Noticed Get Found received the resident of the year award, with lending awards going to Fifth Third, Huntington and Listermann Brewing Co.

ArtWorks and Cincinnati Metro transform bus shelters into photo exhibit

ArtWorks and Cincinnati Metro recently collaborated on a venture to transform Cincinnati's bus shelters into a photo exhibit. As part of FotoFocus 2014, the project features the work of acclaimed photographer Richard Renaldi, as well as four ArtWorks youth apprentices and two local professional photographers.
The idea behind Renaldi's project, titled "Touching Strangers Cincinnati," is to capture interactions between strangers using the public transportation system—in which he encourages the subjects to pose together—and examine the diversity within the community. 
Renaldi visited Cincinnati in June to complete the project, and Cincinnati Metro hopes it will encourage people to use public transit.
"One of the reasons we agreed to host this display of public art in our shelters is because we wanted to show on public transportation, people can become friends," says Cincinnati Metro public affairs manager Jill Dunne. "We think it's really cool to show that if you put two people together, anything can happen."
Cincinnati Metro is hosting a celebration Oct. 16, in front of the Chiquita Center, between 5th and 6th streets. 
"It's meant to dedicate and really show off the shelters to the public," Dunne says. "We have some photos that are inside the bus, as well as a wrapped bus with one of the images on it."
ArtWorks has provided a map showing where "Touching Strangers Cincinnati" will be displayed. In addition, ArtWorks is hosting a lecture and presentation, featuring Renaldi, at the 21C Hotel at 6 p.m.

Two Covington artists plan international collaborative project

Two local artists are preparing to leave for a collaborative art venture that will lead them throughout multiple countries.
Hilary Nauman and Michael Boyd of the Shrewdness of Apes Gallery + Boutique—which was recently selected as a CoSign Covington winner—plan to use their upcoming experience as a chance to connect to people around the world.
The idea for "You and Me Across the Sea" began when Nauman lost a family member, and because the duo was planning the trip, they saw it as a way to include people who aren't there or can't be there, Nauman says.
"Everything we plan to do, we're bringing some piece of us, a piece of our friends or people who know us, or people from our hometown across the ocean with us, or taking a little bit and sending it back."
For one of the duo's indiegogo perks, "Somebody's Watching Me," Nauman and Boyd will bring back a physical object from their trip to give to the donator.
"We're going to look around and find stuff, and we're going to take a photograph of where we found it, and mail it from that country back home," Nauman says. "It became one of those things like, 'How many people can we get involved with?"
Nauman and Boyd leave October 13, and plan to travel to Norway, England, Whales, Ireland and Scotland, among other places.  They will host their exhibition at Shrewdness of the Apes in Covington on November 22.
"I've never come back from a trip where I didn't find a new artist or new place or something that ends up inspiring you, and that's what I'm looking forward to," Nauman says.

Social Enterprise Week kicks off in Cincinnati

This week marks the first ever Social Enterprise Week in Cincinnati. The week features two prominent events on September 10 and September 13 with the goal of raising awareness about the idea of social enterprises and rallying support around them.
“Nonprofits are the cornerstone of providing social services in our communities,” says Bill Tucker, executive director of Flywheel Social Enterprise Hub. “But there’s been less and less funding available to nonprofits recently, so they need new ways to generate revenue. That’s where social enterprises come in.”
Social enterprises help fill the funding gap by increasing the capacity of nonprofits to fulfill their charitable purpose while generating revenue in support of their mission. The first event of the week will be the Social Enterprise Showcase on Fountain Square on Wednesday, September 10 on Fountain Square from 11:30 a.m. to 1:30 pm.
“We want to capture the attention of the business community and rally their support around this idea,” Tucker says. “The event will showcase 24 social enterprises, and the causes that these enterprises support.”
Tucker and others involved with the organization of Social Enterprise Week talk about the “triple bottom line” as what really makes these businesses special.
“A social enterprise may have a double bottom line, which would be to generate revenue both for the business itself and for the nonprofit it funds,” Tucker says. “But a triple bottom line will also include a larger purpose, for example the Freestore Foodbank’s Cincinnati Cooks Catering. It helps with workforce development and community building as well. Those type of businesses are really our sweet spot.”
On Saturday, September 13, the city will celebrate “Buy Social Saturday” where social enterprises around the city will have different types of special offerings in an effort to encourage consumers to support these organizations and thereby improve the community around them.
“Cincinnati is starting to do a great job of supporting its entrepreneurs here, and we see these social enterprises as capturing that same entrepreneurial spirit and grit,” says Lisa Striker, event chair for Social Enterprise Week. “As that entire culture grows here, we need to keep supporting these entities as well.”

Museum Center hosts Cincinnati Mini Maker Faire

Power tool drag races, Ping Pong ball explosions, robots and … bellydancing? Yes, you read that right, and no, this isn’t “guess which one of these things doesn’t fit.” In fact, you can find all of these and much more at the Cincinnati Mini Maker Faire, taking place Sept. 13 and 14 at the Cincinnati Museum Center.
Cincinnati Mini Maker Faire is a community-organized event and is part of the national Maker Faire created by MAKE Magazine. MAKE describes the event as "the greatest show (and tell) on Earth—a family-friendly showcase of invention, creativity and resourcefulness, and a celebration of the Maker movement."
“It’s about the act of creating, celebrating that, and getting people excited about science and arts as spectacle, in the same way they might get excited going to a sports event,” says Jason Langdon, founder of the Cincinnati Mini Maker Faire. “We’re bringing together different groups of creative types and cross-pollinating them, and you can never really know what’s going to happen.”
This year’s faire will feature more than 30 makers of all ages and backgrounds showing off their inventions, as well as focused workshops and communal interactive experiences. After a somewhat rainy Maker Faire last year outside at Washington Park, this year’s location at the Cincinnati Museum Center will further emphasize the idea of craftsmanship.
“This year, we find ourselves in a location with tremendous historical significance for the maker movement," Langdon says. "Cincinnati Museum Center shares our mission of providing a forum for discovery, creativity and invention, so we anticipate one incredible party."
The event is free, but tickets are required to be reserved by visiting http://www.cincymuseum.org/events/cincinnati-mini-maker-faire.

Noble Denim awarded top prize at Artworks Big Pitch

After 10 weeks of preparation, build up and excitement, eight local small businesses capped an exhilarating process on August 27 at Artworks’ Big Pitch, held at the American Sign Museum. Each of eight business, profiled throughout the summer on Soapbox, gave a five-minute pitch in front of a panel of judges, as well as an audience of well over 400 people.
In the end, Chris Sutton of Noble Denim was named the grand prize winner and was awarded a $15,000 prize, and Django Kroner of The Canopy Crew won the $5,000 audience choice award. First runner up and winner of $2,500 in professional services from Dinsmore and Shohl, Clark Schaefer Hackett and LPK was Matt Madison of Madisono’s Gelato, and second runner up and winner of $,1000 of services was Brian Stuparyk of Steam Whistle Letterpress.
“We were all rooting for each other. There was a lot of camaraderie,” Sutton says. “It was a really uplifting environment, and I honestly think everyone nailed it, anyone could have won. So to be picked, we just feel really honored, and it’s hard to feel like it’s even real at this point. ”
Winning the grand prize will allow Noble not only to hire on sewers in its Tennessee factory, but also begin to distribute products in Europe and Japan.
“This changes our trajectory a lot,” Sutton says. “To be able to move forward on this drops our production costs by a third without having to sacrifice quality.”
In addition to the prize money, all of the companies received a business mentor and a US Bank mentor to help in developing and updating the business plan and fine-tuning the pitch.
“Artworks did an amazing job on this whole thing,” Sutton says. “You can tell that they listened to the needs of small business and actually developed a program that would be helpful for all of us, and I was super impressed by that. The check-ins with our mentors were some of the most helpful parts of this whole process; I would have felt like I gained something just from that, even without winning the prize.”
For more information on Artworks’ work with small business, visit http://www.artworkscincinnati.org/creative-enterprise/.

Local architect Kickstarts her way to one of the world's largest art festivals

Local artist and architect Catherine Richards has been invited to build and exhibit Valance, a site-specific installation at this year’s ArtPrize in Grand Rapids, Mich.
ArtPrize is an international art competition, taking place from September 24 to October 12, 2014. For 19 days, art from around the world will pop up in every inch of downtown, and it’s all free and open to the public. Two grand prizes worth $400,000 are awarded, along with eight category awards worth $160,000. More than 500,000 people are expected to attend this year’s ArtPrize.
Richards, who came to Cincinnati several years ago from Cleveland to attend UC’s DAAP program, was recruited to be involved with ArtPrize when participating in a separate competition.
“I was in a competition at the 21c Museum Hotel as one of five finalists,” Richards says. “I’d used rapid prototyping at DAAP to create these patterned mirrors, and at the competition I met a curator who asked me to use this idea for ArtPrize.”
 Richards committed to building the project, called Valance, but after pricing it out, she realized she would need some extra funds.
“I realized it’s going to be an expensive project; I’m working with industrial designers, a structural engineer and a mechanical designer on this,” she says.
So earlier this summer, Richards launched a Kickstarter campaign to raise funds for the Valance. In just three weeks, she raised more than $8,000 for the project.
“Valance will engage architectural theory, the problems of public space and the private experience of art,” Richards says. “The treatment of a mirror as textile is something I haven’t seen before, and this is going to be installed on Grand Rapids’ Blue Bridge, so there will be lots of pedestrian interaction with the piece.”
Richards will drive up to Grand Rapids on September 20 to install the piece. In the meantime, she continues to be dedicated to the Cincinnati community, teaching at DAAP, working on a project called Popup Cincy and Modern Makers

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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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.  

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

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

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 bus