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Former Cincinnati Bengal gains attention from startup community with $1.88M in seed funding


ActionStreamer, a wearable technology platform that can livestream point-of-view video off of athletes in action, has secured $1.88M in seed financing from CincyTech and its network of investors.

ActionStreamer pairs patented software and networking technology with ultra-lightweight hardware to deliver an engaging new source of content to live sports coverage: POV video from inside-the-game. The wireless system streams high-definition video from a miniature camera and other custom components embedded into a wearable outfit, such as a player’s helmet or a referee’s hat, in congested, bandwidth-constrained environments like crowded stadiums.

As another example of the incredible startup culture in Greater Cincinnati, ActionStreamer has strong roots here. Former Cincinnati Bengal Dhani Jones partnered with Ilesfay co-founder and technologist Chris McLennan (a Cincinnati native) and business development leader Max Eisenberg, who returned to Cincinnati in May after three years in San Francisco.

Each member of the trio has contributed something unique to the business. While Jones’ relationships and network helped relay what professionals in the industry were looking for, McLennan used his technical knowledge from a career spent solving data transfer-type issues for clients and Eisenberg drew from his business development experience and passion for sports and entrepreneurship.

The real movement behind ActionStreamer?

Connecting players and fans on a deeper level. “Dhani’s drive to further connect players and fans in meaningful ways, a passion that resonated strongly with me as a lifelong sports fan, led to ActionStreamer’s founding in 2015,” says Eisenberg, CEO. “Our mission is to bring fans closer to the action than ever before. We’re facilitating a path to premium content and an unprecedented fan engagement model that's revolutionizing sports broadcast and coverage.”

As for how the Average Joe can experience this innovative technology, live, in-game field-level perspectives are available in the Arena Football League this season and are expected to come online in other leagues and sports this fall.

“Imagine being able to see what an MLB curveball looks like from the batter, catcher or umpire's perspective; what a bunker shot at Augusta National looks like from a PGA Tour golfer’s or caddy’s perspective; or what a leaping touchdown catch looks like from an NFL player’s or referee’s perspective,” says Greg Roberts, head of strategic partnerships & development at ActionStreamer. “Not just what they look like, but also being able to live the moments with the athletes, to experience it through their lenses.”

ActionStreamer strives to enable teams, leagues, networks and media companies to showcase these moments for their fans and viewers — and not just on television, as many fans now turn to social media and other mobile platforms for their entertainment. The founders consider ActionStreamer very fortunate to be opening doors at this exciting time in media.

“Everyone wants more content, more access, more engagement, and they want it now,” Jones says. "ActionStreamer is the advancement necessary to facilitate the transfer of real-time data from the field to the fans. We’re the train tracks or pipes from the field, if you will, that make it all happen.”

“We do source our own cameras, procure custom-made chipsets, design, 3D print and manufacture form-factors or product enclosures, which all makes ActionStreamer even more valuable to the teams, leagues, networks and media companies we’re working with,” McLennan adds. “But what truly sets us apart is our use of patented approaches to wirelessly transmit data from wearables and other miniature gadgets and to deal with networking and bandwidth challenges.”

Of course, with the ever-changing and rapidly advancing nature of technology, it is often times hard to maintain pace, as any business may find.

“Technology startups are always hard-pressed to make improvements rapidly,” says Eisenberg. “Chris built the first set of prototypes himself, then set out to garner help from experts in a variety of fields, en route to drastically improving all aspects of the ActionStreamer technology stack and obtaining three patents on it. We're proud of what we've built, but we strive to make it better every day in order to continue delivering the most value possible.”

ActionStreamer is proud to be a CincyTech portfolio company and to have received follow-on funding from some of Cincinnati’s most prominent angel investors. For more information on the latest advancements and integrations from ActionStreamer, click here.
 


Four UC entrepreneurial law students are using their knowledge to help other entrepreneurs

 

Four University of Cincinnati entrepreneurial law students are gaining experience and valuable mentorship as they work to provide eight startup clients with free legal assistance through HCDC. The startups applied for assistance in the spring; all eight businesses are HCDC entrepreneurs.

The students’ work consists of everything from preparing service contracts to website terms and conditions — legal work that is often difficult for small startups to afford.

“Everyone really benefits from this,” says Thomas Cuni, supervising attorney and mentor to the four students placed at HCDC this summer. “The attractiveness is that students get to deal with clients. This isn’t mock trial — not that there’s anything wrong with mock trial — but they gain practice learning how to interview, which is most important.”

This is the fourth summer that students have collaborated with HCDC, which is touted as one of the top business incubators in Ohio. However, the program has been around since 2011, when UC’s College of Law opened the doors to its Entrepreneurship and Community Development Clinic under the directorship of Prof. Lewis Goldfarb.

While the program occurs on a year-round basis, summer sessions are more intensive, as students work full-time for their clients.

For Maximilian DeLeon, working at HCDC has been his favorite experience as a law student.

"Some highlights I’ve had this summer include forming a Delaware C Corporation, drafting a convertible note for an investor and drafting a service agreement that will be used across the whole country," he says.

Alex Valdes, another student placed at HCDC, shares similar sentiments."I have noticed my own personal growth this summer, but the most rewarding aspect of working at the HCDC has been the relationships forged with my clients who are incredibly passionate small business owners who would not be able to afford legal work if it were not for the services of the clinic. I am proud to play my small, humble role in the growth of Cincinnati."

Check out this story from earlier this year that explains more about the partnership between UC and MORTAR.
 


NKU's Inkubator invests in people rather than their ideas


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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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


Environmentally conscious store occupying PL storefront until July 23


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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Learn more about The Green Store Cincy here.

 


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.
 


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


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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Click here to see the other Ohio Valley Region finalists.

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


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


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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

ArtWorks now accepting applications for 2017 Big Pitch business grant competition


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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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


Calling all entrepreneurs: Apply now for UpTech's sixth cohort


The Covington-based UpTech entrepreneurial accelerator is now accepting applications for its sixth class of data-driven startups ready to take their ideas to market.

As Greater Cincinnati’s premier tech accelerator, UpTech offers a six-month program that prepares burgeoning tech companies to scale by providing one-on-one weekly advising, free co-working space, dedicated legal and accounting services and valuable early-stage feedback through its extensive investor network.

"We are now entering our sixth year of UpTech and we’re never satisfied with the status quo; we are a startup among startups,” says program director JB Woodruff.

UpTech leadership is implementing two major changes this year: a focus on health tech via a partnership with St. Elizabeth and an overhaul of its investable startup curriculum.

“We believe UpTech is an important part of our community, and St. Elizabeth appreciates collaborations with partners who also want to make our community better,” says St. Elizabeth spokesperson Matt Hollenkamp. “We’re excited to see where this leads. Innovation, entrepreneurship and technology advancements are all keys to the future of healthcare."

Each of the 10 companies that are selected will receive $50,000 in seed funding, as well as access to staff resources for graphic design, entrepreneurial speaker series, mentorship, student intern grant funding and gigabit internet.

UpTech strives to invest in data-driven, tech-enabled startups offering scalable B2B/B2G solutions in large markets. For more information on what UpTech looks for in a team and company, click here.

Entrepreneurs interested in applying to the UpTech program should schedule a one-on-one appointment. Visit uptechideas.org to learn more about UpTech, or click here for scheduling info.
 


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.
 


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.
 


NKY Innovation Network to host writers' networking event May 11


Calling all visionaries, creatives and “writerpreneurs:” got a great idea? Come share it (and discover a few more) at NKY Innovation Network’s IdeaFestival on May 11.

The event will take place from 4 to 8 p.m. at KY Innovation Network’s headquarters in downtown Covington. Keynote speakers include Roebling Point Books & Coffee founder Richard Hunt and Jack Heffron, award-winning magazine columnist and author of The Writer’s Idea Book.

Participants will be able to join breakout sessions that address five areas of writing: regional, fiction, memoir, poetry and travel/diversity. The event will provide an opportunity for one-of-a-kind networking with members of the local literary community, as well as developers and lenders committed to supporting tomorrow’s creative entrepreneurs.

Attendance is free, but registration is required. The event is sponsored by the U.S. Bank Foundation, with Renaissance Covington and Roebling Point Books & Coffee serving as partners.

Covington’s chapter is part of the 12-office KY Innovation Network. NKY Tri-County Economic Development Corporation (Tri-ED) oversees the group’s mission of building a healthy and robust entrepreneurial ecosystem in Northern Kentucky.

NKY Innovation is located in the one-block area adjacent to Mother of God Church that is known as Covington’s “Innovation Alley” — the cradle of a burgeoning innovation corridor that is home to Aviatra Accelerators (formerly Bad Girl Ventures), UpTech, bioLOGIC, Braxton Brewing and TiER1 Performance Solutions.

“We have a local network that is teeming with creativity and connectivity,” says NKY Innovation Network director Casey Barach. “We are beyond excited to host local writerpreneurs in our space in Innovation Alley for a night of discussion, debate and discovery.”

IdeaFestival was founded in 2000 with the goal of bringing together visionaries and innovators in the Louisville area. Since then, the group has expanded to host IdeaFestival events throughout Kentucky.

To learn more or to register for IdeaFestival on May 11, click here or call 859-292-7780.
 


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.”
 


Standard Textile startup PONS launches pop-up shop in OTR


PONS is a newly launched division of Standard Textile. Headed by Cincinnati native Ar-iaya Haile, PONS is poised to introduce a new wave of technologically enhanced home furniture by combining data-driven primary research with an understanding of the needs of the common millennial.

The startup currently offers is a state-of-the-art mattress and bed frame that can be assembled without tools in about three minutes. Like other modern furniture purveyors such as Burrow, the units have built-in USB ports.

“We want to be the high-end IKEA and switch home furniture and textiles to an e-commerce model where we can offer a higher quality product at a lower price, much like the Dollar Shave Club business model,” Haile says.

A pop-up shop is open at 1315 Main St. in Over-the-Rhine to showcase the new beds, acting as a temporary retail location intended to serve as a final decision-making factor for online shoppers. At the time of publication, the company had sold about 100 units.

“People love soft sheets but they hate sleeping hot, so we did a lot of focus grouping in the beginning and we found sleeping cool is one of the top priorities,” Haile says. “I want to understand sleep and what makes someone sleep better. There’s data. Our mission is listening to the world and using technology and engineering to answer that.”

Using a cooling gel incorporated with “proprietary hyper-cooling PONSfoam” the common woes of memory foam — heat retention and stiffness — are eradicated.

Haile graduated from Walnut Hills High School in 2005 and went on to study at the University of Pennsylvania. After that, he worked at Bain & Company in Chicago, where he consulted for two years. After that, Haile went to Beam Global for a year and did corporate strategy work.

He then went to Standard Textile, where he eventually was able to get the company to fund a new division; one of his own. Standard Textile is one of the largest companies in its class, commanding 20 percent of the hospitality market and 50 percent of the nation’s health care market.

“Right now, we’re operating technically as a division, but our external look is as an independent company,” Haile says. “The thought is, as it goes along, we’re going to split when it makes sense. That’s not 100 percent defined, but we want to basically have Standard Textiles as this parent with know-how, as a strategic investor shooting off different e-commerce businesses.”

Haile came back to his hometown of Cincinnati to launch PONS as a pop-up shop, and test out the startup ecosystem here.

To learn more about PONS, visit its shop at 1315 Main St.
 


Dayton Startup Week brings startup ecosystem north of Cincinnati


Cincinnati has become a hub for startup activity, and is home to a number of business accelerators and incubators. But that energy is starting to spread beyond Greater Cincinnati.

Dayton is home to its own startup ecosystem, and the second annual Dayton Startup Week will be held June 12-16. The five-day event will offer about 100 sessions, all for free.

“Startup Week grew out of a give-first mentality,” says co-organizer Tiffany Ferrell. “It’s community driven and run entirely by volunteers. Over 100 people helped out last year. Fortunately, we have sponsors to help pay the bills and keep the event free and accessible.”

Dayton Startup Week, organized by the Dayton Tech Guide and sponsored by the Wright State Research Institute, The Entrepreneurs Center and the City of Fairborn, will feature regional CEOs, CTOs, CIOs and others who will present their successes and challenges at workshops, panel presentations and keynote talks.

With so many sessions running from 9 a.m. to 6 p.m. daily — and covering subjects like The Lean Startup Workshop: How to launch on a shoestring budget and Social Media Masters: How to create a social media game plan — the schedule could become overwhelming.

But the online registration organizes the sessions by tracks, such as funding, marketing and technology, and the app will provide a customized calendar accessible on attendees' smartphones.

“We’re trying to ensure the event is as user-friendly as possible,” says Ferrell. “Dayton Startup Week will have sessions for everyone, it’s not just for startups or technology. Anyone in business in any industry or stage of business development will find a session that fits their needs."

Attendees will be able to choose from five specific tracks: Starting Up your Startup, Funding & Finance, Marketing & Branding, Talent & Culture and the Daily Grind. 

“Last year exit surveys showed 60 percent of attendees were already in business," she continues. "They came to make new connections, to plug into the startup scene, be part of a community and attend sessions that addressed particular issues or problems they were facing.”

Dayton Startup Week is part of a global program run by TechStars, which is based out of Boulder, Colo. The inaugural event, held in September 2016, included 50 sessions and drew over 500 attendees from the Dayton area and beyond. This year's event is twice the size, and promises to draw larger crowds.

“We were looking for a high energy event to bring the startup ecosystem in Dayton together,” Ferrell says. “The TechStars model was exactly what we needed.”

Participants can register for as many or as few sessions as they’d like. In addition to the educational sessions, Dayton Startup Week will kick off each day with yoga, and will offer coworking opportunities throughout the day. Each day will wrap up with special happy hour events, including one at a Dayton Dragons baseball game.

Although the focus of the event is the Dayton startup community, several featured speakers will be from Cincinnati and Columbus, and the organizers anticipate attendees will come from a much wider area, drawn to the program by their familiarity with TechStars Startup Week brand.

“Dayton Tech Guide is working hard to create a collaborative relationship with nearby startup ecosystems,” says Ferrell. “There is great opportunity to share resources and leverage each other’s strengths.”

Registration for Dayton Startup Week opens on May 1.
 

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