Coming Clean: 5 questions with Elias Leisring

We at Soapbox recently found ourselves in an editorial conundrum: In our honest efforts to bring readers stories that connect us personally with local progress, much of that personality was getting lost in the big partnerships and projects we cover.
Quite frankly, we don't want that. Because at the end of the day, it’s the bright thinkers, hard workers and everyday heroes who make our city’s unique story ring true.
It’s with that in mind we introduce Coming Clean, a series of snapshots that will highlight our region’s most dedicated individuals — be they restauranteurs, politicians, activists, athletes, charitable givers or simply all-around badasses. We want to bring you their tales in hopes of a chain reaction of contagious enthusiasm and change.
We’re kicking things off with Elias Leisring, proprietor of the now nationally recognized Eli’s BBQ. In 2014, Leisring flipped the script on Cincy’s casual dining scene, and has since gone on to build a barbecue empire that stretches all the way to Louisville, with permanent storefronts in Cincinnati on Riverside Drive and at Findlay Market, and regular appearances at the Flying Pig Marathon, Fountain Square and beyond.
We should note that Eli himself helped shaped the direction of this series by reminding us that tried-and-true Cincy entrepreneurialism hardly exists in a vacuum. In fact, he believes that anyone experiencing success in this town — whether they're peddling tasty barbecue, doing exciting brand work or bringing forth cutting-edge tech — can attribute their win to at least three like-minded individuals.

That’s why our final question gives respondents a soapbox, if you will, to shout out to three more people who are doing our city proud. We offer these stories as proof that when we commit to the cause of community building, everyone wins.
1. Eli, What's your next big move?
We are currently working with BLOC Ministries and another group to help bring a bouldering gym to downtown Cincinnati.

2. What's been your biggest setback?
Partnering (on a previous project) with someone I had not properly vetted. It resulted in a terrible situation for lots of people — loss of a fantastic idea and financial consequences as well.

3. What's been your luckiest break?
Every day that we stay in business and make one more payroll. Joking…but not really. It takes a village.

4. Why is Cincy the right city?
I was born in Cincinnati and grew up here. Besides that, Cincinnati is in the midst of a great food and beverage renaissance. Cincinnati has a fiercely loyal population. Win their respect, and you’ll make customers for life. Every day we try and give as much as we can.

5. Give a shout out to three people doing good work.
-Former Bengals strong safety Chinedum Ndukwe
-Louis Ginocchio III, O Pie O
-Michael Kou and Tessa Xuan, Greater Cincinnati Chinese Chamber of Commerce

(Eli gave us more than we asked for, and in lieu of descriptions, he thinks you should Google them and find out about the cool things these four Cincinnatians are doing.)
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Read more articles by Hannah Purnell.

Hannah Purnell is a lifelong Northern Kentuckian who writes extensively about regional issues related to arts and culture, politics and economic development.