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

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