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AAF Cincinnati prepares for Digital Marketing Conference

Next Monday and Tuesday AAF Cincinnati will host its seventh annual Digital Dialogue (D²) Conference at Horseshoe Casino. The event, which originated in 2008 as the Digital Non-Conference, explores and celebrates digital marketing by allowing industry leaders to convene for open dialogue.
 
This will be the second year the event is hosted at Horseshoe Casino, as organizers aim to bring the conference to a more centralized location.
 
"We kind of wanted to rebrand to focus more on the customer side of marketing," says Sean Grace, D² chair and organizer. "In other words, 'How do we reach the customer through these digital channels, and how do we deliver a unique and invaluable experience to them that they couldn't get elsewhere?'"
 
Some key discussion topics will include how digital data is acquired and used (especially through social media) and how to create personalized experiences, how retailers are moving toward eCommerce, and how startups and marketers can collaborate to create better services.
 
"There's a lot of learning that you can get from this," Grace says. "We definitely open it up because we know that it's not just the presenters that are really well versed in digital marketing strategies. We try to make sure that there's plenty of give and take between the speakers and audience members, and there's a lot of time to network between as well."
 
Keynote speakers will include Matt Thompson of The Kroger Co.; Adam Symson of EW Scripps; Dave Knox of Rockfish and the Brandery; Rachel Hadaway of dunnhumbyUSA; and JB Brokaw of Sociomantic Labs.
 
Anyone can purchase tickets, but the event will be most beneficial to those involved with the marketing and advertising industries, Grace says.
 
General admission passes are $525 ($175 for full-time college students) and can be purchased at the D² website.
 

Local design firm adds new dimension to MPMF

With MidPoint Music Festival only a couple weeks away, local design firm FRCH looks to add a new dimension to the upcoming festival experience with a dynamic, interactive project at The Frameshop in OTR.
 
The project, Framed at Midpoint, is intended to connect festival attendees by capturing specific moments throughout the weekend, as well as raise money for the Music Resource Center (MRC), a nonprofit that helps provide youth with musical resources.
 
The space will include a photo booth, postcard gallery, sculptures made of instruments and a missed-connections space titled You've Been Framed.
 
"This whole space is serving the function of giving back to our community," says Cristina Ferrari, senior brand strategist for FRCH. "The sculpture is paying homage to [MRC's] mission, which is all about creating opportunities for our youth—teaching life skills through music, providing them with access to instruments, to lessons and actually recording music."
 
FRCH plans to use pictures uploaded to Instagram with the hashtag "#FramedAtMidpoint" to create postcards that can be purchased for $1 at The Frameshop.
 
"Anyone could really go and capture a great picture of Midpoint of any part of the experience and we could choose to print that on a postcard and hang it in our gallery," Ferrari says. "It's supposed to be a representation of the whole MidPoint experience."
 
Festival attendees can create postcard content two ways: either through the photobooth or uploading hashtagged photos.  All proceeds will go to MRC.
 
You've Been Framed allows attendees to leave visual messages for friends—anonymously or not—who will receive a notification to visit The Frameshop via text message. The personalized messages will be displayed in the gallery.
 
"We want it to be this perpetual 'Tag, you're it'," Ferrari says.  "A lot of our inspiration is taking these digital experiences that we've all kind of fallen in love with and [asking], 'How do we take a step back and create a more tactile experience?'"
 
The team, composed of 15 people, was led by FRCH senior interior designer Elizabeth Price.
 

Art & Cuisine Series to launch in October

Uptown Consortium is preparing to launch an art and cuisine series in October, which will last through March, as they recently received a $10,000 grant from The Carol Ann and Ralph V. Haile, Jr./U.S. Bank Foundation. 
 
The series, called POP UP Cincy, aims to bring creative talent together to collaborate on new projects, and will feature installations around the city—including Avondale, Ludlow Avenue, Calhoun Street and Burnet Avenue.
 
The first installation, titled Concept Camp, focuses on the local technology and art and design sectors. Participants will begin work Oct. 24, and the event will be open to the public Oct. 25.
 
"There aren't many events where those two sectors overlap," Richards says. "The idea is that all these different people can come in and get feedback, leverage resources, and then at the end of the day the community, all of Cincinnati, is invited to come into the space and we'll transform the storefront together."
 
The Ludlow Avenue event, POP UP Fairytales, will involve creating boxed vignettes inspired by traditional fairytales, as well as a light-up parade. It will take place in conjunction with Holidays on Ludlow.
 
"We're really working on designing what the parade is going to be like," Richards says. "I'd love for residents to get involved and parade around the street."
 
The final event, which will take place in March, involves creating a digitally embroidered quilt inspired by the coral reef.
 
"To me, the coral reef symbolizes the potential of a city to be full of diversity where all these different people bring different strengths, different ideas to make something stronger," Richards says. "It will accumulate into a public exhibition of artwork in which many people will work on."
 
All event details are not yet complete, but updates will be made to POP UP Cincy's facebook page.  Those interested in participating in the series should contact Richards.

Local entrepreneur looks to redefine online newsletters

A local entrepreneur is attempting to redefine the way people receive and engage email newsletters. His concept, Cerkl, aims to correct issues with email communication by allowing users to have more direct contact with the organizations they care about.
 
"What I was seeing was a couple of problems. We as a community—people who care about an organization—don't really know what's going on in the organization," says Cerkl creator and former WhatIfSports founder Tarek Kamil. "If you think about what you receive in a newsletter from any organization that you support, it's very high level, it has to appeal to the masses, it's certainly not potentially meaningful to you."
 
To correct these engagement issues, Cerkl users can create personalized profiles to define what is meaningful and select what organizations can see their information, allowing organizations to hone in on what people are interested in reading.
 
"Our open rate in August was 79 percent across all Cerkl organizations, which is four times higher than the national average," Kamil says.
 
To address the issue of businesses only reaching out to people for money, Cerkl offers a separate platform for the business community.
 
"These local, regional, national businesses, they all want to reach this audience," Kamil says. "The business community can log on and they can basically sponsor all of this email communication that is going on."
 
Cerkl attempts to eliminate unwanted inbox content by personalizing each newsletter that reaches recipients.
 
"People's inboxes are fuller than ever. There's more websites, more apps, there's just more of everything. When that is the case, everything becomes noise unless it has meaning to you," Kamil says. "It's all about cutting through the noise. We want things that are meaningful to reach you."
 

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.
 
 
 

UpTech announces seven new startups for its third class

UpTech, the Covington-based business accelerator focused on supporting informatics startups, has announced the seven startups that will form its third class. The startups will each receive up to $50,000 in equity funding, office space in UpTech’s Covington headquarters, a team of support partners, and a mentor and access to applied research from Northern Kentucky University.
 
“We look for companies that have big, disruptive ideas in the tech industry, are scalable and can provide great returns,” says Amanda Greenwell, UpTech Program Director. “We could not be more excited to welcome entrepreneurs whose game-changing commercial ideas show promise to transform many industries—from education to real estate and more.”
 
UpTech is unique among accelerators in that the portfolio companies go through a six-month program (many other accelerators run three-four months), with its demo day at the conclusion of the six months, this year set to begin on September 8.
 
“Now in our third year, we’re really focused on building a culture here, the UpTech family,” Greenwell says. “This is the first year that we’ve had a space that has included both current and alumni companies. Every year we’re enhancing it for the companies; for our new startups to interact with our alumni is going to be great.”
 
The seven new portfolio companies are:
  • Dr. Scribbles, which makes medical exam room bench paper that has fun facts, health tips and games like tic-tac-toe and word search, as well as interactive features that can be accessed on a smartphone.
  • Hapzing, whose publishing platform helps users find and track their favorite events while helping businesses build brand loyalty and grow customers.
  • Linkedü, a social network for K-12 teachers that helps them share content and plan lessons.
  • Nekst, a real estate web application that helps simplify the closing process.
  • Seesaw, which gives parents a way to plan playdates, parties and other special events.
  • Travel Notes, an app that communicates users’ travel plans to financial institutions to prevent credit cards from being denied while traveling.
  • Wayger, which allows friends to earn rewards while betting on the outcomes of sporting events.

Education-based startup Scenario Learning expands business, opens new headquarters

Scenario Learning LLC, the Cincinnati-based developer of safety and compliance solutions for schools and workplaces, announced its relocation to Keystone Parke in Norwood. The move accommodates the need for more space on account of staff growth resulting from record-setting sales and expansion into international markets.
 
Brian Taylor and Greg Estep founded Scenario Learning in 2004 as a two-person, self-funded startup in the Hamilton County Business Center incubator. As parents and entrepreneurs, Taylor and Estep shared a passion for making schools safer. The pair started with one product, the SafeSchools Online Staff Training System, for K-12 schools. 
 
“The core business has been going like gangbusters,” Taylor says. “We’ve been at about 43 percent year over year growth so we needed a new home that could accommodate all the current and projected growth. We also wanted to be closer in to the city.”
 
In the past year, Scenario Learning has added over a dozen new employees, bringing its grand total up to 48. Taylor expects that number to increase by about 10 in 2015 with the expansion of their business internationally. With the move from their previous Silverton office space, they wanted to create a space that they and their employees would be happy to work out of.
 
“We really have to compete for technical talent in this city,” Taylor says. “Having an office that is modern and visually stimulating is paying dividends for us.”
 
The company moved into the new space in Keystone Parke in June. The building has eco-friendly features, which were important to Estep and Taylor in their decision to relocate. It is a Leadership in Energy & Environmental Design (LEED) registered development, a green building certification program that recognizes best-in-class building strategies and practices.
 

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.

Organic feeding tube meal developer closes $1.6M investment for Functional Formularies

Functional Formularies, makers of Liquid Hope, the first and only whole food, all-organic feeding tube meal, announced a $1.6 million investment raise, secured only two days after opening the funding round. In the past year, CEO and founder Robin Gentry McGee has seen production double, warehouse space triple and her employees grow from one to six. To trace the rapid success of her company means to go back almost a decade.
 
In 2005, after a career as a chef and restaurant owner, Gentry McGee was searching for something new when her father suffered a traumatic brain injury. He was left in a coma for a several weeks and started to develop infections while in the hospital. Gentry McGee had been studying the concept of food as medicine for some time and noticed that the nutrition her father was getting via his feeding tube was severely lacking in important nutrients.
 
“I was appalled,” Gentry McGee says. “It had a lot of corn syrup solids, some other sugars, whey, a lot of chemical, synthetic vitamins. I realized that he wasn’t getting adequate nutrition, and I started looking around for a healthier formula; I looked all over the world and couldn’t find one.”
 
This led to the initial creation of what has come to be called “Liquid Hope” in 2006, her own recipe of whole foods combined together to serve as a nutritionally dense meal replacement feeding tube formula. Since then, she has spent years working with a dietician on a version of the formula that could be produced on a commercial level and still retain its profile as an all-organic recipe.
 
“We had to find a very specific blend,” Gentry McGee says. “It took us almost eight years to perfect.”
 
In 2011, she entered Functional Formularies into the second class of Cincinnati’s Bad Girl Ventures (BGV), an educational and micro-financing organization for female entrepreneurs.
 
“I would never have been able to take the business this far without help from BGV,” she says. “I’m like an artist—numbers are not what I’m compelled to understand. But when I walked out of there, I had a business plan in hand and a $25,000 loan to keep everything moving.”
 
The recipe was completed around the end of 2012, and the first test shipments of the product were sent in the first quarter of 2013. Both of the first two full production runs sold out before any of the product actually made it to the warehouse.
 
“Since then, we just recently ran the numbers and our sales are up 459 percent since this time last year,” Gentry McGee says. “We’re on track to do about $1 million with no marketing. People have found us through word of mouth. Our customers have been using our product consistently and they’re doing very well, and the doctors are starting to pay attention, we’re getting referrals and dieticians.”
 
Now, Functional Formularies is in the process of creating another version of the product for children who are on feeding tubes. In the end, Gentry McGee hopes not only to grow her company, but more important, to continue to educate the public and the medical world as well on the concept of food as medicine and the importance of knowing what we choose to put in our bodies.

UC Blue Ash student's paper earns rare placement in top radiologic technology journal

UC Blue Ash student Abbey Christman is not your average college junior. She’s also a radiologic technologist working at Tri-Health Bethesda North and just had an article published in Radiologic Technology, the official journal of the American Society of Radiologic Technologists. It was the first paper Christman wrote as a student in the Radiologic Technology program.
 
Christman wrote such an effective and comprehensive paper about communicating with elderly patients that her professors thought it was worthy of a submission to the journal. They were all a bit surprised when it was selected for publication in the May/June issue.
 
“Although the Radiologic Technology editor welcomes manuscripts from students, very few students take the time to follow through with the rigor of editing their manuscript and converting it to the American Medical Association format—it’s a lot of work,” says Julie Gill, associate professor and chair of the Allied Health Department at UC Blue Ash. “This is only the second year we’ve ever had one of our students get published.”
 
The article deals with preserving patient dignity, understanding communication disabilities and creating a positive environment for communication.
 
“I’ve spent a lot of time in hospitals around the elderly, and you often hear hospital workers speaking to them as if they are babies,” Christman says. “I was pulling information also from a previous psychology course I took on adulthood aging; I wanted to present an alternative method.”
 
Now that Christman has one publication under her belt, she and Gill hope to collaborate on additional articles.
 
“She’s got the writing bug, and as a professional educator, I want to push her to focus on that and encourage her to expand on it," Gill says.
 
To view the article, click here.

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:
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