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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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.”

Flywheel's second cohort to present at Demo Day on Feb. 7

The second cohort of Flywheel’s Elevator social enterprise accelerator program will pitch their companies at a demo day on Feb. 7.

The event, which is open to the public, will feature alumni from the first Elevator program; Tamaya Dennard, who was on the leadership team; and former cohort member Katie Nzekwu of Village, as well as a conversation with Joe DeLoss, the social entrepreneur behind Columbus-based Hot Chicken Takeover.

“If you’ve never attended a demo day, it will be an opportunity for a ‘Shark Tank’ look at four companies,” says Bill Tucker, Flywheel's executive director. “If you’ve attended a demo day for another accelerator, it’s an opportunity to learn about the social enterprise space.”

The four members of Elevator’s second cohort are:

  • Dental Access for All works with under-served communities to provide access to dental care
  • Journey to Hope offers affordable coaching and support groups to individuals
  • urbanHive connects employers with potential hires through a skills-based online platform
  • Workforce Connections provides in-house training, coaching and counseling for entry-level employees

Tucker hopes Elevator Demo Day will attract a diverse audience to learn about these companies and get involved with the program.

“Demo Day is for the business leader who wants to improve both her company’s financial ROI and her care for her employees by becoming a customer of one of our companies; the marketing professional at a bigco that can leverage their marketing talent for the benefit of the companies; the high net-worth individual who is reframing his philanthropy as an investment; and individuals who are interested in making our community stronger, ensuring a thriving economy and sustainability for our families,” Tucker says.

The second Elevator cohort experienced a revamped program that included consumer marketing, business development and branding.

“We really ramped up the curriculum, expanded the length of the program from eight weeks to 12 weeks and increased the ‘bench strength’ of mentors,” says Tucker. “We set higher standards for the participating companies, one of the reasons why the cohort is smaller this year. These are not just business ideas, they are businesses with revenue or pilots in place.”

Unlike other accelerator programs, there won’t be a pitch competition or prizes.

“The ‘winner’ is the company that is still standing years from now,” says Tucker. “We’re proud of the fact that five of the seven companies in our first accelerator are still standing."

Although Demo Day is free, registration is required for the event.

A collaborative film project to showcase what makes Walnut Hills unique, special

Communities around Cincinnati are experiencing a renaissance — new businesses are recognizing the beautiful bones of our neighborhoods and growing into these interesting spaces.

Walnut Hills is one of those neighborhoods. Its proximity to downtown, historic Art Deco architecture and greenspaces have made it a highly-coveted community for businesses looking to establish themselves.

Yet some residents are concerned about losing the spirit of their neighborhood to the so-called renaissance.

That’s why a new artistic collaboration called “Here. Now. This.” seeks to preserve the character of the neighborhood and make the argument to keep Walnut Hills a little "weird."

“Here. Now. This” is a documentary film that includes footage and still shots by photographer Michael Wilson that capture the eclectic beauty of Walnut Hills. The film is the result of a collaboration between Wilson, musician Ric Hordinksi and the Walnut Hills Redevelopment Foundation, along with funding from ArtsWave.

“I hope ‘Here. Now. This.’ preserves the beauty of what Walnut Hills is now," says Betty Waite, CFO for the WHRF. “The beauty is going to change. It’s like the high school graduation picture, preserving the beauty before the big makeover.”

The documentary is scored by Hordinksi, who has been a resident of Walnut Hills since 1992. He says that the stories and sights of his community inspire him every day.

“I’m constantly running into interesting characters. I really love the physicality of the neighborhood; the architecture of the neighborhood.”

Hordinski says he hopes the project can unify redevelopment efforts with the diverse population of Walnut Hills. “When a neighborhood starts to have a renaissance, the things that make the neighborhood unique tend to get washed out,” he says. “I’ve been here for 25 years and we’ve worked hard to preserve the parts of the neighborhood that are amazing and unique.”

“Here. Now. This.” is still being developed with an eye toward completion in early 2018. The collaborators plan to host screenings in Walnut Hills, while also making the film available online.

“It’s important because I want to do my part to give back,” says Hordinksi. “I’ve been enriched by the neighborhood and my neighbors. I just want to share that with other people.”

New restaurant pop-up program to activate downtown space, provide opportunities for biz owners

During a time of great business and economic growth downtown, Downtown Cincinnati Inc. has created a new pop-up program for chefs and potential restaurant owners who want to try their hand at opening a restaurant, rent-free. Bringing together entrepreneurs, artists, makers, small businesses and local property owners to fill vacant spaces and activate downtown will benefit residents, existing businesses and visitors alike.

The City of Cincinnati’s Department of Community and Economic Development, in partnership with DCI, released a Retail Action Plan in 2016 for the Central Business District. The Pop Shop Program is a vital part of implementing the plan. It will help create opportunities for future business owners who have had trouble finding accessible, affordable and flexible spaces, and in turn allow them to create, expand and nurture their small business with relatively low risk.

The term “pop-up” typically refers to a retail, restaurant, event or other business that opens for a short period of time in a vacant space. In downtown Cincinnati, DCI wants to provide business owners an affordable way to test their concepts in a brick-and-mortar location, as well as generate brand awareness and create a new stream of revenue.

The Pop Shop Program was created with the goal of creating a more vibrant street-level environment. According to retail recruiter for DCI, Andrew Naab, the desire is to make downtown an "experience" that can't be replicated in a mall, and is a place for everyone.

“For our restaurant pop shop, done in partnership with Towne Properties, we are looking for those individuals or teams that have experience in the food industry (food trucks, caterers, those that work out of incubation spaces like the Findlay Kitchen) and are interested in taking their concept to the next level,” Naab says.

As for what this will bring to Cincinnati? Naab believes this will give entrepreneurs the drive to continue their business ventures.

“Starting a business is hard, and expensive," he says. "DCI and the City of Cincinnati want to make it as easy as possible to get started, as our small business community provides character, sense of place and quality of life to all in the area.”

The space, 700 Elm St., has almost everything a vendor would need, down to the cookware, plates and utensils. It is over 3,000 square feet, and could be operated collaboratively with two food vendors. Those chosen for the Pop Shop restaurant will receive free rent, but will be responsible for utilities in the space.

The goal is to have each tenant in the space for about a month, starting in January.

Applications are currently being accepted for the program, and people are encouraged to visit DCI's website or contact Naab directly at andrew@downtowncincinnati.com for more information.

People's Liberty announces its first round of project grantees for the new year

People’s Liberty, a philanthropic lab that brings together civic-minded talent to address challenges and uncover opportunities to accelerate the positive transformation of Cincinnati, has announced its grant recipients for the first part of 2018.

Launched in August 2014, PL has constructed a philanthropic experiment that will come to a close in 2019. Since its inception, it has awarded grants to 55 people.

Eight grantees are announced per cycle, and there are two cycles per year. Project grantees are awarded $10,000, a six-month series of launch events and access to mentorship and workspace provided by PL. The first round of 2018 winners will implement ideas ranging from artistic basketball courts and care packages to weaving together the community and improving nutrition for local individuals.

Cycle 6 winners and their projects can be found below:

- April Culbreath: Operation Comfy Chair will teach veterans how to reupholster and refinish furniture, which will then be donated to various organizations that help veterans and the homeless.

- Clayton Brizendine: Courts of Art will turn dilapidated, outdoor basketball courts into works of art where people of all ethnicities, religions and racial backgrounds can gather and play.

- Eric Gruenstein: BioChar will teach children and their families how to use charcoal as soil to produce healthy vegetables and to remove greenhouse gases and carbon dioxide from the atmosphere. His hope is to mitigate the dangers of climate change and to improve nutrition through awareness.

- Jay Kalagayan: MeSseD is an underground installation in a real service tunnel that will create a social “moment” using his comic MeSesD, which features a sewer worker named Lilliput. He hopes his project will create an appreciation for MSD employees who treat, process and provide life-sustaining water to the city.

- Simone Cocks-Charles: Campus Closet is a mobile recourse for college students from low-income households that will provide care packages and other upcycled necessities, making the transition into college life easier.

- Jeffrey Miller: Lunchbox is a lunchtime pop-up destination that will provide a diverse range of meal options using ingredients rescued from local grocery stores and farms. His hope is to educate the community about food waste and “ugly food.”

- Geralyn Sparough: Shelter from the Storm will be a large weaving shelter in a public space in Cincinnati. She hopes this structure will help illustrate and strengthen our ties to each other as a community.

- Tina Dyehouse: She wants to create an ombudsman for the Cincinnati area using social media and a blogging platform called Urban Ombuds. An ombudsman, or ombuds, will investigate, negotiate and resolve problems for individuals with a government or public agency.

On Nov. 16, PL kicked off a celebration for the halfway point in its five-year venture with Intermission. The multi-week celebration includes reflection on past grantees and projects accomplished through PL, as well as conversations about future projects to come, including the opening of a new storefront in Camp Washington next spring.

Intermission will also include an extended program called PL20, which will focus on 20 days of grantee- and resident-led special events and programs. These programs will take place through Dec. 14, and will range from hour-long to day-long projects. More information about PL20 can be found here.

PL is currently accepting residential applications for its Residency Program, including positions in design, digital, writing and more. For more information about PL, its stories and to apply for the residency program, click here.

UC's 1819 Innovation Hub will be where local talent and industry "collide"

Renovations are currently underway at 2900 Reading Rd. — once the Uptown home of Sears & Roebuck — where leaders at UC will soon unveil a 133,000-square-foot innovation lab for students and faculty across all departments to mingle with top business leaders, researchers, economic developers and nonprofit professionals.

Named for the year UC was founded, the 1819 Innovation Hub will be fully open and accessible by next summer. The hub is a result of a “mutually beneficial” relationship between UC and Procter & Gamble — whose Live Well Collaborative will be the hub’s anchor tenant — according to UC’s first-ever chief innovation officer David Adams.

“Let this be the place where magic occurs,” says Adams, whose team reports to UC president Neville Pinto and is tasked with maintaining the strategic vision for the 1819 Innovation Hub as an effective interface between local industry and talent. The plan is for local businesses to liaise (via Adams) with UC students from all disciplines — a format that sets this program apart from those offered by other higher education institutions.

“The vision is for this hub to be school-agnostic,” says Adams. “Engineering students, art students, nursing students and business students can work together to bring their ideas to fruition faster, in one building, and with support and mentorship from key industry stakeholders.”

The facility’s location is also strategic: It’s less than one mile from UC’s main campus, the distance research shows as ideal for student access, says Adams.

According to published plans, the hub’s first floor will house a 12,000-square-foot makerspace furnished with hand tools, 3D printers, laser cutters and CNC machines. The second floor will primarily consist of multi-purpose learning, event and meeting spaces. A third-floor café, coffee and food area will neighbor gallery space where student artwork and other exhibits will be displayed.

The fourth-floor simulation center will presumably be where the real talent-pipeline magic happens, with students working on real-life projects for P&G. Adams says a goal of the 1819 Innovation Hub is to begin partnering with area high schools and middle schools to reach students earlier in the education lifecycle.

Experience is another factor that shows promise for the 1819 Innovation Hub. Adams arrived at UC last July via the University of Louisville, where he oversaw the $1.2 billion financial and operational aspects of the university and pioneered an academic-industry talent funnel there.

Click here for more info, and to view 1819 Innovation Hub photos and renderings.

Eight must-follow Instagram accounts that rule the Queen City

As you read this, phones are hovering over heads at a concert and poached eggs are dripping with hollandaise; people are posing in front of bathroom mirrors and sweeping the vista for that perfect panorama of Eden Park. Instagram unites our city shot-by-shot, uncovering the particulars through the eyes of those who live here. As you discover #cincinnati on Instagram, these accounts might help illuminate your community in unexpected ways.

Cincinnatians have known for a long time that our zoo is one of our city’s best attractions. However, Fiona's saga has caused the @cincinnatizoo's social media to explode. The world can’t seem to get enough of the littlest hippo that made it despite all the odds.

With creative perspectives and subjects, professional photographer David Schmidt looks at the Queen City in a fresh, exciting way. With regular features like #RoeblingWednesday, @cincygram captures iconic structures as well as the lesser-known details that make our city beautiful. Alarmingly technicolor sunsets and moody shots of a mausoleum tell the story of a dynamic, if complicated, city.

Instagram exists, in part, as a place for people to put pictures of the delicious food they're eating. If you need inspiration on which meal to snap next, @cincinnatifoodie is an excellent place to start. Focusing on artfully arranged plates, the meal portraits include restaurants from a range of price points, styles and locations.

Since Instagram is so food-oriented, it’s easy to get caught up in pictures of…food. @cincinnatifoodtours is an actual tour company that features plenty of plates from the spots their customers visit, but there’s also a healthy dose of Cincy food trivia and little observations about our city. Those who like to experience food will find many local opportunities as they scroll.

As Cincinnati reclaims its glorious brewing heritage, @the_gnarly_gnome has made it his mission to capture the boom of the microbrewery. @the_gnarly_gnome documents brewery openings, new brew releases and even explores some of the wineries in the area. The account proves that the ambiance of the tap room and the bottle are as important as the beer itself.

@cincinnatidoors is a reminder to stop and remember the impeccably designed details of our favorite city. By focusing on the doors around town, this account not only encapsulates our community’s diverse aesthetic, but also the history literally built into our walls.

@dogsofcincy celebrates our canine citizenry with whimsical, often hilarious portraits and brief stories of the featured pet. The account “finds the coolest dogs in Cincy,” and so far, it's been massively successful. Followers can even lobby to have their furry friend featured by using #dogsofcincy in their own Instagram post.

@outandoutfit’s Katie loves this city and the style it inspires. Often featuring her latest grabs from local boutiques, this mom also reviews nights out on the town at Cincy bars and eateries. Though her account definitely leans feminine, she posts fashion ideas for men, too.


Hamilton Mill wins grant to fund four strategic programs

The Hamilton Mill received a $500,000 grant from the Economic Development Administration’s Regional Innovative Strategies program, the first award to an applicant from southwest Ohio.

“We are ecstatic about the grant,” says Antony Seppi, director of operations for Hamilton Mill. “The EDA saw our collaborative approach, partnerships and our co-applicant, the University of Cincinnati’s Office of Research, as a good investment.”

During the three-year grant period, Hamilton Mill will apply the funds to four projects. The first two are water-focus: the Pipeline H2O water tech accelerator program and a new web portal for water-space issues. The other two programs of focus are Industrialist in Residence, which pairs Hamilton Mill members with mentors in manufacturing; and the ongoing City as Lab partnership with the City of Hamilton.

“One of our first milestones will be the Industrialist xChange Portal to identify and catalog the challenges regional businesses are facing in the water space,” says Seppi. “This platform will allow water startups to search the problems and see if their technology could offer a solution.”

UC will be working closely with Hamilton Mill on the programs supported by the Regional Innovation Strategies grant, bringing their water center and technology commercialization arm to the table.

“Our water center is an informal group of over 30 faculty members working in the water space,” says Phil Taylor, assistant vice president for Research Strategic Implementation. “They are researching water treatment, reuse, distribution, conservation and aquifer structure, and represent many disciplines, including engineering, biology, geography, planning, physics and design.”

The subject-matter experts at UC will work primarily with the Pipeline H2O participants, offering mentorship, research and applied research.

“This collaboration provides faculty with first-hand experience of what is involved in being an entrepreneur and lets them learn what it’s like to work with industry,” Taylor says.

In addition to faculty assistance, UC’s technology commercialization experts will provide entrepreneurial support to Hamilton Mill members and Pipeline startups.

“It’s important to work together on these issues,” says Taylor. “The collaboration between UC, Pipeline and the EPA is just starting and will evolve as we partner more effectively. This regional initiative could have global impact.”

The Hamilton Mill is coordinating with the EDA regional office in Chicago on the grant implementation and will be tracking startups coming into their programs and graduating, and the number of jobs created from those outcomes.

“We have come a long way in three years,” says Seppi. “This grant will transform us moving forward. It is a huge opportunity to take Hamilton Mill to the next level.”

Powderkeg's impending launch highlights Cincy's startup culture

New to Cincinnati this year, Powderkeg is a community-driven organization that hosts bimonthly pitch nights for scaling technology founders. The community helps members move up in their companies through education, media exposure, resources and technologies.

The events are formatted for three scale-ups to pitch their companies to a panel of investors for feedback. After the event, Powderkeg creates a custom piece of content about the scale-ups and their pitch, and then gets them featured in a national publication.

Through events in eight different cities across the country, Powderkeg boasts over 10,000 members; since the program's inception, $576 million in capital has been raised from 421 pitches. Pitches have been featured in national publications like Forbes, VentureBeat and Huffington Post.

Erika Kotterer, events lead for Powderkeg, believes that featuring the startups in a national media outlet helps to get the word out there about startup companies and their growth in the last decade. “We are currently in Kansas City, Nashville, Raleigh-Durham and Indianapolis. We are trying to expose what's going on in these cities to the nation.”

In true Shark Tank fashion, Powderkeg Cincinnati's launch event on Wednesday will feature three rising-star startups — FarmFlx, Cloverleaf and Spatial, all of which are allowed five minutes on stage to pitch their business to advisors (Dave Knox, a brand marketer; Wendy Lea, CEO of Cintrifuse; and Derrick Braziel, co-founder of MORTAR).

FarmFlx is a financial engineering software firm focused on farmland rental contracts. Cloverleaf builds great teams using assessment and other employee data to provide insight into the right people in the right roles for increased team productivity. Spatial is a location data company that uses conversations from social networks to understand how humans move and experience the world around them using AI.

Pitch nights run far and wide, and the Powderkeg staff believes that this model of startup culture will be more sustainable over time.

“Powderkeg has been hosting pitch nights for the last eight years,” Kotterer says. “A lot of pitch and tech nights attract early stage founders, whereas Powderkeg is for scaling tech founders. Powderkeg is also entertaining and fun.”

The Powderkeg launch event will be held this Wednesday, Nov. 8, from 5:30 to 8:30 p.m. at the Woodward Theater. Early bird tickets are sold out, but general admission tickets can still be purchased here for $15. Tickets are limited to the first 150 buyers.

WordCamp returns for second year, aims to provide training and networking for Wordpress users

For the second year in a row, volunteers have come together to make WordCamp a reality. WordCamp is a volunteer-run, grassroots business seminar that focuses on website development in WordPress.

According to Marce Epstein, part of the award-winning marketing strategy team for WordCamp, WordPress is responsible for hosting about 29 percent of websites on the internet, which is why it makes sense to learn about the free and open platform.

At WordCamp, attendees are able to choose different tracks to learn more about WordPress and website development. This year’s schedule includes topics like WordPress 101, search engine optimization, code review and more.

WordCamp takes a different approach than most business seminars. Epstein says one of the main differences is its affordability. “Whereas you might pay $400 for a multiple day conference, WordCamp is intentionally financially accessible to the masses."

A $40 entrance fee grants attendees access to the weekend's events, including lunch and a T-shirt.

Financial accessibility means a diverse population of people are able to attend WordCamp. Entrepreneurs, bloggers, website development teams and anyone curious about Wordpress are encouraged to attend.

Epstein says the conference is a great place for those who often work within their own silos of expertise to "geek out" with one another.

“The benefit of WordCamp and business conferences like this is the gargantuan benefit of networking. The face-to-face time is invaluable, and I find it’s a great catalyst for sparking ideas and facilitating relationships.”

Susan Rodgers, an independent website developer, agrees. “It’s a little like going to Comic-Con. WordCamp has done a really good job of getting users together to make a community. It’s unusual to have users together to share insights and advice.”

Fellow 2016 WordCamp attendees Guarav Srivastava and his sister Shweta DuMont were inspired by the energy surrounding the WordCamp community.

“It was more like a family,” says Srivastava, who runs the blog unvrslminds.com. “I could approach speakers and ask questions. Everyone was excited to be there and were very friendly."

DuMont says she hopes to be a writer someday, and WordCamp has helped her learn the tools to create and sustain her own blog. “I wanted to get into blogging but was pretty intimidated by the idea of creating your own website. It seemed pretty complicated."

This year’s WordCamp will be held Nov. 11 and 12 at the University of Cincinnati. Click here to buy tickets.

CincyTech's Big Breakfast not about food but startup showcases

On Nov. 8, CincyTech’s Big Breakfast + Startup Showcase will return to the Duke Energy Convention Center.

“We offer something that you won't find at any other event on the Cincinnati startup ecosystem calendar: It puts all of our portfolio companies, as well as other startups connected to our ecosystem partners, including HCDC, Cintrifuse and The Brandery, in one room tradeshow-style,” says Peg Rusconi, CincyTech's director of communications. “You can get a great sense of the regional startup landscape and meet the entrepreneurs who are building promising digital and life science companies. In some cases, you feel like you're seeing the future.”

The Big Breakfast has expanded from a hallway of displays into one of the large ballrooms, representing not only the growth of Cincinnati’s startup sector but the number of people interested and invested in it.

“We've drawn about 700 people in each of the last couple of years,” says Rusconi. “It's really a celebration of our startup community. It's great energy and it's a great way to plug into the startup scene in one location.”

The Big Breakfast is not a sit-down, keynote speaker event. Although there will be plenty of coffee and portable breakfast food, attendees spend their time in the Startup Showcase.

“We encourage people to walk around, learn about our portfolio companies, their technology and the people behind them, and also network with others, whether they're investors, business leaders or interested members of the community,” Rusconi says.

There will be a brief presentation at 8:30 a.m. to reveal CincyTech’s annual video, highlight event sponsors and hear from an entrepreneur. Mike Venerable, president of CincyTech, will share the organization's recent accomplishments and upcoming plans.

“CincyTech was created to help entrepreneurs get access to capital, to build their businesses here and to grow the regional tech economy,” says Rusconi. “We'll share our metrics and highlights from the past year, but as an organization, we are always looking ahead. As a seed stage investor, we always have an eye on the future.”

The event will be held from 7:30 to 9 a.m., and is free and open to the public; pre-registration is strongly encouraged.

“This is a fun, high-energy mingle-fest,” says Rusconi. “It’s a great opportunity to see how much promise there is in these startups, and that our region is home to companies working on real problems and developing solutions that will improve our world.”

Local chef introduces variety, one cookbook at a time

One local chef is bringing adults of all ages together for a travel-themed potluck dinner once a month in Over-the-Rhine.

Chef and owner of the Tablespoon Cooking Co., Jordan Hamons, came up with the idea for a cookbook club from articles she read on Serious Eats and Food 52. She based her business model on other successful platforms she's read about.

Those that join, as well as the chefs, make dishes from a different cookbook each month and bring their dishes to Revel OTR Urban Winery and share with others.

“I wanted a space that was welcoming and friendly and promoted conversation,” Hamons says.

In September, the theme was French cooking. Everyone made a dish from the cookbook My Paris Kitchen by David Lebovitz. It was about more than just the food — it was about the conversations that took place.

People started to talk about the book, the recipes they made and their travels to France or their hopes to travel to France. “You meet new people and it really encourages that type of conversation,” Hamons says.

Last month's 33-member group included adults of all ages with little to very advanced cooking backgrounds. Hamons encourages people of all kinds to cook food from the cookbooks that they would not normally cook from.

“It's like a no-risk way to try a lot from the book and find some new foods that maybe you would not have expected to like,” she says.

Hamons and some of the other chefs involved provide a few of the main dishes and pair them with tasteful wines. Anyone can sign up on Tablespoon's website and pick a dish to cook, which range from easy to very advanced. The cookbook potlucks are $30, and cover the cost of the main dishes, the rented space at Revel and three glasses of wine. The cookbooks have to be purchased separately.

The cookbook club will meet again on Nov. 7 for a Lebanese themed potluck. This time, the cookbook is Orange Blossoms and Rose Water by Maureen Abood.

“She's a friend of mine and it's an amazing book,” Hamons says. “The food is so good."

The last day to meet for this year will be the potluck on Nov. 7, but after the New Year, the potluck will return once every month. Next year, Hamons will be working on the cookbook club as well as more cooking classes and a series of tasting events with Tablespoon.

To check out what she has in the works, click here.

Fifth Third adds innovation center to break down walls within the workplace

A buzzer echoes from a circular gallery space near the entrance of ONE67, Fifth Third Bank’s new innovation center. A group of men and women — the top 100 leaders in the company — aren’t sitting around a board table muttering over “the numbers."

Instead, they’re playing a game.

Incorporating a sense of freedom and fun into the workplace is the idea behind the avant-garde workspace in Fifth Third’s downtown skyscraper. Michael Crawford is the product manager for Momentum, a free app from Fifth Third aimed at millennials to help pay down student loans. Crawford works in ONE67 every day and says the space is meant to stimulate creativity and build community.

Before its opening at the end of August, Crawford describes the space as very 1970s. “You would’ve seen a lot of offices that democratized all of the window space,” he says. “Your position in the company could’ve been determined by how close you were or how much window space you had.”

Partnering Nelson Architects with Fifth Third’s Enterprise Work Services team, the newly designed 15,000-square-foot space redefines what it means to work in an office.

“We wanted to open the space to make it feel welcoming to all, and make it an area where you can always find your own corner based upon your day, your mood, your job and who you’re working with,” Crawford says.

Everything is designed to be mobile. Movable walls run along ceiling tracks in the gallery and can conform the space to fit the needs of employees.

A large barn door closes off the gallery from the "garage space" where employees are free to work, explore, create and even play.

“From here back, all of our walls are white board walls,” Crawford says, stepping through the door. “The team is all about being raw and not about being afraid to make mistakes, which is the whole notion of a white board wall.”

ONE67 has a variety of workspaces, including private nooks with expansive views of downtown, smaller breakout rooms for 2-4 people and “scrum rooms” for larger meetings.

In addition to the unique workspaces, there are approximately 45 traditional standing and sitting desks.

“To be innovative, you have to be edgier,” says Crawford. “On this floor, we’re purposely buying more furniture so people can put their feet up. It’s all designed to conform around you rather than you around the space.”

ONE67 features various “stimuli” throughout the office like mini corn-hole, a sandbox and a foosball table. The stimuli encourage play, teamwork and creativity throughout the day.

“You don’t see people playing for hours on end, but you do see people play foosball for 20 minutes,” Crawford says.

“We’re the only part of the building experimenting with no assigned seating,” Crawford says. While employees don’t have their own desks, everyone has a locker to store personal belongings.

“Having communal places like this where teams can come together and break bread is really important,” Crawford says.

“We’re also using this space to pilot new technology,” says Crawford. “We’re working with some startups in Cincinnati, as well as some large tech firms to say, ‘What will the office of the future be like?’”

ONE67’s library is a dimly lit, quiet area with a more down-tempo atmosphere than the rest of the space. “People can come here to think,” says Crawford. “It has a lot less stimuli and is more devoid of color so it’s supposed to be calmer.”

Though ONE67 is limited to Fifth Third employees for now, Crawford says the company hopes to expand its use in the future. “The vision is to be a space for our partners to come in and co-create with us.”

Photos by Allison Smith Cohen; others provided by Fifth Third.

RSCI to host first Smart Regions Conference to showcase smart cities technology

The first Smart Regions Conference, organized by Cincinnati’s Regional Smart Cities Initiative, will take place Oct. 25 at BB&T Arena at Northern Kentucky University. The conference is open to both stakeholders and the public who are interested in exploring new technologies.

“This is a great opportunity for people unfamiliar with smart cities to learn about the foundations, hear from who is involved now and find out how to get involved,” says Zack Huhn, director of RSCI. “We’ll have an Internet of Things playground with autonomous vehicles, Hyperloop UC’s capsule and drone races. People will be able to experience things they may have only read about.”

Vendor demonstrations will also take place at the IoT Showcase, and cities from around the country will share their smart city projects. To encourage the general public to attend and experience smart city technologies, a $10 general admission ticket is available for the day (all-access tickets are $50).

“We want to show the public what we are already doing and what we could be doing,” says Huhn. “Smart city initiatives will improve social mobility, drive economic growth and make the region a more desirable place to live and work.”

A full conference ticket includes focused workshops targeted toward startups, community leaders, academics and others working in the smart cities arena. Industry insiders are also the audience for RSCI’s event during Techstars Startup Week Cincinnati (the five-day conference is free).

“Smart Cities Day really focuses on the startups working on smart cities solutions and for people interested in working with those companies or developing new solutions,” Huhn says.

The foundational areas of smart city initiatives — connectivity, mobility, security and sustainability — are already being addressed on a small scale by the private sector. RSCI hopes that by increasing public interest in smart city technologies, new investments will be directed to the Tristate, accelerating the pace of implementation.

“The Greater Cincinnati region is unique in that stakeholders in all three states are collaborating to create interoperable solutions that will work across state lines,” says Huhn. “This will set the precedent for policies related to smart region infrastructure and attract resources here.”

Smart cities solutions not only offer businesses, utilities and municipalities technology to optimize infrastructure and reduce costs, but have applications for the public as well.

“We can create better neighborhoods and communities by having regional conversations and implementing solutions that will improve the experience of residents and visitors,” says Huhn. “It could be something simple like reserving a parking space downtown or address complex issues like the heroin epidemic. The Smart Regions Conference will be a catalyst for regional collaboration.”

You can register for the Oct. 25 Smart Regions Conference and for Smart Cities Day on Oct. 12 now.

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