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Collectors site adds new features, graduates from startup accelerator

A web developer launched a new iteration of his website to help collectors keep track of and discover collectables.
 
The website, CompleteSet, allows collectors to track their progress of collections and encourages members to contribute to the site's database—much like a wiki. The company graduated from Velocity, a startup accelerator in Jeffersonville, Ind., on Monday.
 
"It's about contributing to the collecting community," says CompleteSet co-founder and CEO Gary Darna. "It's often times very close-knit because there are message boards and stuff surrounding the subject matter."
 
Launched in May 2013 on an invite-only platform, CompleteSet has expanded its membership from 4,000 to 7,000—including users from 31 countries—since the beginning of August.
 
"If you're a collector, for instance, of Star Wars, you can go on there and see everything that's been released—not yet, of course, because not everything has been added, but that's the goal," Darna says. "Our users contribute collectables that they have in their collection and then the curator, who's typically one of our members, will review that and approve it."
 
The newest version of the site utilizes a search engine to help users track collectables, as well as a new interface.
 
"You can use that information, collectors [can] catalog what they have and want, and it allows us to figure out where those things are for sale, like on eBay, Amazon or any other marketplace online," Darna says.
 
CompleteSet is developing an iPhone app, and plans to launch it by the end of the year. The company has recently expanded from the two creators—Darna and Jaime Rump—to five employees and an intern.
 

Grateful Grahams owner organizes Covington festival

A new festival featuring music, food, art and other activities is taking place in October.
 
Grateful Grahams owner Rachael DesRochers created the Good People Festival in an effort to create an all-ages, family experience.  DesRochers came up with the idea with her friend, Ian Mathieu, when the two were at a music festival.
 
"I look at this event as a signature event to Grateful Grahams," DesRochers says. "Something that we can do every year that has our name behind it, that represents our company, our mission and values, and brings the community together."
 
The group partnered with Whole Foods Market and Green BEAN Delivery, who will also host kids activities throughout the day.
 
"We have an entire corner that's dedicated to kids activities," DesRochers says. "So the parents can even just say, 'Hey, let's go do a craft,' and they can take a break."
 
The event will feature more than 20 vendors, including Happy Chicks Bakery, the Delish Dish, Wearable Prayers, Maggie's Farm, Arnold's Bar & Grill and MadTree Brewery, among others.
 
"We've been able to pull from other parts of the city, not just Cincinnati or Northern Kentucky," DesRochers says. "Families can come out the day of the event, they can have lunch there, they can grab a beer, listen to one of seven bands that are going to be playing."
 
Americana/folk band Buffalo Wabs and the Price Hill Hustle is headlining the event. The festival will also feature a "gratitude wall," on which people can write what they're grateful for.
 
The Good People Festival takes place October 12, at Baker Hunt Art and Cultural Center in Covington from 12-6 p.m., and is free to the public.

Xavier University renovates classroom with interactive technology

Xavier University renovated a Williams College of Business room into a interactive "Learning Lab." The effort aims to support multiple teaching and learning styles.
 
The 32-seat room incorporates Eno Boards, touch-screen smart boards that allow online connectivity, and Huddleboards—small, lightweight dry-erase boards—to refocus students from the front of a classroom to groups of different sizes. 
 
"The Eno board has been mostly used to display content from the instructors’ computers to all three boards simultaneously," says Judy Molnar, executive director of infrastructure and technology support at Xavier. "They have also been used for students to display content from their computers when working in small groups by directly connecting to one of the boards."
 
Students are using the boards in other ways, as well.
 
"Dry-erase markers have been used directly on the boards as well as a stylus pen that can make notations, highlights and act as a navigation tool that interacts with the instructor’s computer," Molnar says.
 
Xavier's Center for Teaching Excellence and information technology department held workshops to prepare faculty before classes began fall semester.
 
"The workshops included both methods of teaching that could be used in the room as well as how to utilize the various technology installed," Molnar says. "Further workshops will be held to review the room’s capabilities."
 
The university plans to use student surveys that will be sent in late October for feedback and to assist in final planning for Alter Hall, a refurbished room scheduled to re-open in late summer 2015. 
 
"Our Learning Lab is utilized almost 100 percent this fall semester," Molnar says. "Sixteen faculty are teaching 25 courses in the room."
 
Fifth Third Bank funded the project with a $50,000 donation.
 

Four-year old inspires story-based app

A Madeira family recently created an app, inspired by their 7-year old daughter (who was 4 when the app was conceived), that Apple featured on its App Store homepage.
 
The Alexanders were inspired to create the interactive story, "Kalley's Machine Plus Cats," during a job switch, in which Jon, the father, shifted from working as a freelance designer—which allowed him to stay at home much of his work time—to a full-time position that required him to be gone during the day. 
 
Jon and his wife Carrie explained to the then-four-year-old Kalley that the new job would help the family make money to buy food and other necessities. Kalley responded by drawing a picture of a machine that made food so Jon "wouldn't have to go away to work anymore."
 
"We're really impacted by the power of story, so we want to tell a story we need to hear," Jon says. "We want to really care about the things we care about, instead of all the things we seem to spend a lot of time on."
 
Jon and Carrie thought designing the app would be a great outlet for creativity as a family.
 
"[Kalley's Machine is] a story about togetherness, about priorities," Jon says. "It's very subtly about togetherness and priorities, because it's mostly a story about machines and cats, because we thought that's what the kids would like."
 
The family released "Kalley's Machine Plus Cats" through their new app development platform, RocketWagon, which they intend to continue using for future app ideas. 
 
"When you have kids and you start watching all the movies with them that they're watching, you start thinking about what those movies are saying," Jon says. "It makes you think as a parent, 'Well, what kind of stories do I want my kids to hear?'"
 
"Kalley's Machine" is available on iPhone and iPad.
 

Cincinnati musicians collaborate on location-inspired project

A group of local musicians and other artists recently collaborated on a project involving finding inspiration from specific locations around the city and interpreting them into musical performances.

Locations included Spring Grove Avenue near Meeker, Union Terminal's South Side, Central Parkway near Liberty Street and West Mehring Way under Brent Spence Bridge, among others.
 
"I picked sounds that I thought were unique to Cincinnati, such as the peculiar melodiousness of the train yards echoing through the valley or the whirring of the Christian Moerlein Brewery late at night," says Isaac Hand, who organized the project.  "I had noticed these sounds when biking around the city over the years. I also aimed to capture a broad geographic spread, though most of the sounds ended up being concentrated in the Mill Creek Valley, where much of the city's industry—and therefore drones—can be found."
 
Artists who composed music on the album include Jarrod Welling-Cann, Chris Reeves, James Y., ADM, Zijnzijn Zijnzijn, Nick Denlinger, Mount Storm Park, Nebulagirl, Molly Sullivan, umin, Hmmmm and Saeed Piracha.  
 
The album was mixed and mastered by producer Ian Gullett.

"Every aspect of this project surprised me," Hand says. "When I initially spoke with friends about this project, I had anticipated an album of textured hums; somewhat monolithic, with minimalist ambient improvisation over top of them. Instead, I found the sounds of Cincinnati to be so incredibly rich and complex, that we ended up deciding to release a CD of just the drones in addition to the Cincinnati Dronescape project."
 
Cincinnati Dronescape can be listened to or purchased on bandcamp, and will be available at Rock Paper Scissors, Shake-It, Everybody's and Torn Light.

VFA fellows create new cured meat snack

Two 2013 Venture for America fellows are currently developing a new meat-based snack.
 
Chris Hikel, who works for the Business Backer, and Oliver Li, a Roadtrippers employee, began making Cowsciutto as a side project after Hikel returned from South Africa in 2011. 
 
"We thought, 'What if we could reinvent the meat snack?'" Hikel says. "So what if, instead of having a chewy, cooked kind of thing, we could kind of bring cured meat back?"
 
While living in South Africa for five months, Hikel became inspired by the various cured meats—especially biltong, a common snack in the region.
 
"Just as I was getting ready to leave South Africa in November 2011, I thought to myself how sad I would be that I would not be able to get easy access to good cured meat," Hikel says. "I was going to have to go back to jerky."
 
While Hikel and Li helm the project, a number of other VFA fellows have contributed to different facets—including Jack Farrell, Chelsea Amsley, Anh-Ton Tran and Matt Fulton.
 
"We've found that the OTR startup community has been extremely supportive," Hikel says.
 
Cowsciutto is cured during a three-week period, and is currently produced in three flavors: bourbon barrel smoked pepper, chili medio and roasted coriander. All spices come from Colonel De's Gourmet Herbs and Spices at Findlay Market
 
"It would be awesome for people on paleo diets, because it's pretty much pure protein," Hikel says.
 
Cowsciutto will soon be sold online, and the duo plans to build an audience via eCommerce and food blogs, but Hikel and Li hope to eventually see their product on retail shelves.

Zipscene announces new hires, renovation plans

Data analytics company Zipscene recently announced six new hires to its leadership team, in addition to its current office renovation plan downtown, which adds more than 10,000 square feet to its current space. Zipscene, which relocated from Short Vine in February, will soon occupy the entire ninth floor of the Gwynne Building on Main Street.
 
The Cincinnati-based company, which began in 2011, delivers data to restaurants nationally, focusing on restaurant specific data, as well as how and why people decide where they go out to eat.
 
"We have been doubling our headcount and revenue for the last three years, and it's been primarily driven by our client growth," says Tony Blankemeyer, Zipscene's director of strategic marketing. "A lot of that growth is on the technology side, as we build our development team."
 
With its recent success, Zipscene is now looking to expand its clientele and serve the growing number of restaurants looking to partner.
 
"The more clients we bring on board, the larger the demand there is, the more we want to be able to service that demand with strategic partnership from our account team, and then also from technology development to build the next best product," Blankemeyer says.
 
The company's new hires come from technology, restaurant and account backgrounds, including additions from dunnhumby, Boston Market, PF Changs, NTN Buzztime and PointRoll-Gannet, among others.
 
"We're bringing people with a proven track record in both restaurants and also consumer knowledge," Blankemeyer says. "I think by having a data background as well as a restaurant background, that's a winning combination for Zipscene and the reason we've identified those people."
 
The new hires include Lane Cardwell, Rick Lamy, Jenny Sanning, Brandon Hull, Brandy Sanger and Sanjiv Karani.

ArtWorks invites MidPoint attendees to 'Ink Your Love' for Cincinnati

In conjunction with this year's MidPoint Music Festival, ArtWorks organized an extra art and activities component that includes poetry, tattoos and skating. The project, CincyInk, will be held at the MidPoint Midway, on 12th Street, between Vine and Walnut.
 
Attendees will have the opportunity to submit reflections about Cincinnati in the form of poetry, visual art and postcards.
 
"Everyone is encouraged to respond to one or more prompts," says Cori Wolff, ArtWorks' director of public art. "Responses do not have to be in the form of poetry (letters, phrases and drawings are allowed), though they may be."
 
Chase Public and nipnip are curating the poetry ventures. Short-Order Poetry, Chase Public's project, invites attendees to answer various prompts and questions to allow the group to co-create poems—about personal connections with Cincinnati— which can then be taken or contributed to CincyInk as part of a larger, crowd-sourced poem.
 
The crowd-sourced poem will be divided and permanently tattooed on more than 200 participants, as part of 2015's Cincinnati Tattoo Project.
 
"Inked participants will be photographed, filmed and invited to a giant party, at which they will meet one another, share personal Cincy stories and view a video that features their photographed tattoos corresponding to a reading of the poem," Wolff says.  "There is also potential for a book and mural to be created as a part of this project."
 
Erasure, nipnip's project, encourages participants to create poetry by erasing words from existing prose or verse to create a new written and visual piece, and then frame the result.
 
Attendees can also design Cincinnati-inspired tattoos that will be inked on mannequins throughout MidPoint, as part of "Write It On Your Heart That Cincinnati Loves You Back," and participate in the "Ink Our Icons" project, which encourages people to design postcards in relation Union Terminal and Music Hall.
 
The MidPoint Midway will be open Sept. 25-27, from 5 p.m. to midnight.
 

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/.
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