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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:

ReelAbilities Film Festival moves headquarters from NYC to Cincinnati, plans biggest year yet

The ReelAbilities Film Festival, A weeklong festival of independent, award-winning films, aimed at stirring discussion and celebrating diversity and shared humanity, has moved its headquarters from New York City to Cincinnati. The headquarters in Cincinnati is now overseen by the local nonprofit Living Arrangements for the Developmentally Disabled (LADD).
 
ReelAbilities was founded in 2007 in New York City by the Manhattan JCC, and has grown to become the largest film festival in the country dedicated to sharing the stories, lives and art of people who experience disability. The festival now takes place in 14 U.S. cities across the country. In Cincinnati, the biennial festival will next occur February 27-March 7, 2015.
 
“Cincinnati has been so receptive to this festival, it makes perfect sense for it to be here,” says Christa Zielke, National Field Director of the festival. “From the funders to our partners and the festival goers themselves, everyone has really rallied around this.”
 
In 2013, the festival brought 24-plus events to the Cincinnati area, held at a variety of venues including the Contemporary Arts Center, National Underground Railroad Freedom Center, Cincinnati Art Museum, Esquire and Mariemont Theaters and more. More than 250 people volunteer, and the festival saw a 514 percent increase in attendance last year from the previous festival in 2011.
 
“By telling these diverse stories through film, ReelAbilities shines a light on our common human spirit,” says Jeff Harris, a board member and funder of the festival through the Saul Schottenstein Foundation B. “Last year’s festival was truly amazing in its ability to draw that connection and include the entire community.”
 
This year, LADD has partnered with several organizations to continue to raise awareness and promote discussion around these topics outside of the festival. This summer, they partnered with 3CDC and Washington Park to sponsor a screening of Finding Nemo.
 
“We’ve also partnered with the education and legal communities to engage people with these ideas, and to celebrate and acknowledge difference,” Zielke says.
 
Among ReelAbilities advocates is Danny Woodburn, a professional actor who plays the voice of Splinter in the new Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles movie.
 
“Actors with disabilities are 90 percent less likely to be seen, and many characters with disabilities aren’t actually played by actors with disabilities,” Woodburn says. “It’s important for work like this to be done, and if I have the chance to speak out and be heard because I’m recognizable from being in the public eye, then I feel it’s my responsibility to do so.”
 
“But this isn’t just about actors getting work,” Woodburn continues. “Two-thirds of people with disabilities are unemployed; we need to raise awareness of that fact. If we want that to change, we as a society have to create an environment for change.”
 
For more information about the 2015 ReelAbilities Festival, visit www.cincyra.org

Artworks Big Pitch Finalist: C. Jacqueline Wood, Golden Hour Moving Pictures

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 was the radio station or the film festival. It was going to be one of those two and for whatever reason, the film festival won out. That was 11 years ago, and since then, C. Jacqueline Wood has continued her passion for film and made it her career. Now back in her hometown of Cincinnati, she is the one-woman show behind Golden Hour Moving Pictures.
 
During her freshman year of college at the University of Michigan, Wood decided to walk into the office of the Ann Arbor Film Festival. She wound up working for the festival in a variety of capacities throughout her time at the university before moving to Chicago, where she received her master’s degree from the Art Institute of Chicago in film video/new media. From there, Wood returned to Ann Arbor, where she began teaching film and video classes to high school students through a program with Eastern Michigan Unveristy.
 
“It was great to get to teach students about experimental film and video and to expose them to some things outside of the mainstream Hollywood aesthetic,” Wood says. “But I was getting antsy and really had an urge to spend more time creating my own work. So in 2012, I decided to quit all of my jobs and move back to Cincinnati, and on the day I moved, I began the CO.STARTERS program.”
 
After graduating from the CO.STARTERS program, Wood had an LLC and a business plan for Golden Hour Moving Pictures, but the business itself was still very green. Two breakthrough moments came for her one right after another when she landed an opportunity to create a video for Nicola’s, one of Cincinnati’s most esteemed Italian restaurants, which led to her creating a video in anticipation of the opening of Boca’s downtown location, which opened just over a year ago.
 

Boca from Golden Hour Moving Pictures on Vimeo.

“For the Boca video, I traveled all around and got footage of farmers, painters, woodworkers, engravers and more,” Wood says. “That video got a lot of attention for Boca and ended up being show on the jumbotron on Fountain Square. It also opened a lot of doors for me, and it’s just been project after project since then.”
 
Since then, Golden Hour’s clients have included organizations like the Contemporary Arts Center, The Center for Great Neighborhoods of Covington, Random Snacks of Kindness and more. Wood does all of her editing and production work in her studio at the Essex building.
 
“Even though I’m from here and I’m moving back here, it’s just a whole new place,” Wood says. “It’s not the same Artworks I remember 12 years ago when I was in high school. It’s just an amazing organization. In any other big city, there’s no other way I would be at this point in my business. Artworks has truly helped make my business what it is every step of the way.”
 
Through the Big Pitch competition, Wood is hoping to secure the funding that would allow her to expand her staff and catch up on the demand for her work. She sees lots of room to grow here and also has her sights set on some bigger dreams further down the line.
 
“In the long term I want to open a micro cinema, a small movie theater that has a focus on experimental film and video,” she says. “That’s a huge part of the culture right now, and it’s not represented here in Cincinnati. I’d love to see the cinema as a place that focuses on exhibition and education, where people can take film-making classes for all ages.”
 
In the meantime, Wood has plenty of video production work to keep her busy for a long time.
 
“I’ve done virtually no PR, so the fact that people have seen my work and notice it, I can’t describe what that means to me,” she says. “I can’t imagine that happening this quickly or in this capacity in any other city.

Check out these other Artworks Big Pitch finalists:

Roadtrippers employees launch Side Project Cincinnati, start urban garden

Roadtrippers, the Cincinnati travel-based startup, can’t seem to stay out of the news. The app-based company was recently named one of Time Magazine’s 50 best websites of 2014 for its easy-to-use interface that allows users to plan trips and includes curated descriptions of hidden gems along the way. It also recently raised $2.8 million in venture funding and is now up to 47 total employees, making it one of the largest companies to graduate from the local accelerator the Brandery.
 
Now, two Roadtrippers employees, Chelsea Koglmeier and Matt Fulton, have partnered together to create Side Project Cincinnati, a meetup group for the rapidly expanding tech and entrepreneur community in Cincinnati.
 
“We decided that we want Roadtrippers to be more of a focal point for innovation discussion happening in Cincinnati right now,” Koglmeier says. “We want to open up our space and create an environment, not just for Roadtrippers employees, where people can share and explore creative ideas.”
 
Koglmeier is not looking to create another avenue for businesses to pitch ideas, but rather wants hackers, tinkerers and creative thinkers to come share their side projects and ideas.
 
“We’re doing these meetings about every quarter,” Koglmeier says. “We give each presenter five minutes to talk about their project and then 10 minutes to answer questions. We want to help foster that creative community and maybe even help people find collaborators for their projects.”
 
After doing very little advertising, the group has already grown to more than 150 online members, and meetings have drawn 40 to 60 people. The next meeting for Side Project Cincinnati is Tuesday, August 12 at 6:30 p.m. at the Roadtrippers headquarters.
 
As if this weren’t enough, the actual building Roadtrippers occupies, on McMicken in the Brewery District of Over-the-Rhine, has recently gotten a bit of an upgrade. First, Artworks has just finished a brand new mural on the building. Second, Koglmeier, with the help of friends and family, has planted a garden right next to the mural.
 
“We were going to just pave over the lot, and I asked our CEO, James, to give me until the winter to try to turn it into a garden,” Koglmeier says. “Thankfully, he said yes. So I raised money to build it out and had a lot of help setting it up. Now, every few days I harvest kale, chard, hot and sweet peppers, rosemary and more and just leave them on the counter for our employees to take home.” Even neighborhood kids have pitched in to help tend the garden.
 
Koglmeier created a group to chart the progress of the garden; you can follow it here.

Scripps launches in-house startup to connect parents with youth sports organizations

As the entrepreneurial scene grows not only in Cincinnati, but nationwide, different sectors of the business community are getting involved in all sorts of ways. The E.W. Scripps Company, a national media group headquartered in Cincinnati, has begun incubating startup companies and ideas within the structure of the company.
 
Launched in April by Scripps, Youthletic is an online tool for parents in Southwest Ohio and Northern Kentucky to help them find the best sports organizations for their kids. Youthletic allows parents to search through options based on location, age, cost and reviews.
 
“Within Cincinnati alone, there are over 1,500 organizations,” says Bo Schuerman, director of digital solutions and new business development Scripps and Founder and CEO of Youthletic. “If you are just Googling sports organizations in your area, the results are pretty overwhelming. The parents want to have confidence in their decision-making; what we want to do is build that confidence in the selection process and help them figure out what’s right for their family.”
 
Youthletic promises that it has done extensive research on these organizations so that parents don’t have to worry vetting them themselves. Though launched in the spring, the team spent six to eight months not only on developing the product, but also on building a comprehensive list that so far includes more than 1,200 organizations in the region. The platform allows registered users to set up reminders and alerts as well as rate organizations and send messages.  
 
“We’ve also brought in local experts to provide guidance and expertise to parents,” Schuerman says. “The site has all sorts of helpful content on youth athletics, including the benefits for childhood development such as leadership, character, sportsmanship and time management. We chose to include this type of content after talking with many parents about what they need.”
 
The Youthletic team is still small, with four or five employees working on it at the moment, so it still functions like a small startup. The main difference is that has access to Scripps' vast array of resources and doesn’t have to scramble for funding. Schuerman says it’s like having a “built-in” venture capital firm.
 
“This division launched about a year and a half ago,” Schuerman says. “It’s really the best of both worlds.”

Cincinnati startup Lagoon aims to change how we view water usage

A good idea can come at any time, as long as you’re ready to listen to it. There may be no group in town that knows this better than the founders of Lagoon, the Cincinnati startup that seeks to help homeowners understand and reduce their water usage.
 
Late in the fall of 2013, good friends, entrepreneurs and tech enthusiasts Eric Elias and Nathan Heidt wanted to work on a side project together. The two got together, along with Heidt’s lifelong friend Will Wiebe, and began working on ideas to submit to the University of Dayton’s Business Plan Competition.
 
“An hour before the application was due, we really weren’t passionate about anything,” says Elias, now CEO of Lagoon. “We wanted a market that wasn’t already over-saturated and, ultimately, an idea that we cared about.”
 
Heidt, now CTO, had just finished a cross-country bicycle trip. Along the way, he saw the impact a drought was having in regions of Texas and California on its farmers and citizens and became inspired to learn more about water usage. The group started thinking about a product that could educate and inspire others around the issue of water usage.
 
“I just asked Nathan and Will if it would be possible to measure water usage from the outside of a pipe,” Elias says. “They said it could work, and we all knew immediately that we were on to something.”
 
Fast forward to the present and Lagoon has made major strides forward, and is no longer a side project being worked on out of a barn. The team ended up winning third prize at the UD Business Plan competition and receiving $10,000. The startup has also since been accepted into the 2014 class of the Brandery, the top 10 nationally ranked accelerator located in Over-the-Rhine.
 
The technology for Lagoon is similar to that of the Nest model in that it reinvents home automation for the digital age. A Lagoon sensor is placed around the outside of a home’s main water line and a Lagoon base station is placed in the home. Using the home’s wi-fi network, the two devices communicate with each other to monitor and track water usage and then send information to the user’s smartphone.  
 
“As a homeowner, I never really understood my water bill,” Elias says. “It’s like receiving your credit card bill with a single line item—it’s very unclear. Plus, right now, you get a water bill 30 days later. That’s a long feedback loop. We want to bring it closer, to the week, to the hour, to the minute, so you can understand your water usage even for your morning shower you just took.”
 
Already, Lagoon has entered into a partnership with the Hamilton Mill and the city of Hamilton, Ohio, to pilot its technology with the city’s residents.
 
“Hamilton is a city that is focused on being eco-friendly and sustainable. Having a smart home water system within their homes fits that,” Elias says.
 
Lagoon is poised to make even bigger moves as the year progresses. The team urges residents to check out its site and explore how having a Lagoon in their home can help them save money and save the planet.  

New co-working space merges work and play

Cincinnati’s newest co-working office, MOVE, is opening early next month and hopes to stimulate its clients both mentally and physically. The workspace is attached the Foundation Fitness gym and promises to be full of energy, motivation and “people taking breaks to climb ropes, sneak in a few squats or flip the tires a few times.”
 
Located at the intersection of the Brighton, Over-the-Rhine and West End neighborhoods in Cincinnati’s Historic Brewery District, MOVE sits less than half a mile from Findlay Market. Co-founders Patrick Hitches and Ryan Meo say they opened MOVE because they saw a need for collaborative workspace in the city.
 
“I was looking around town and was honestly shocked at how few co-working spaces there were, especially in and around downtown,” Hitches says. “At MOVE, we’re looking to cultivate the local entrepreneur/soloprenuer scene, and the idea is that being active and healthy helps to spark creativity, productivity and innovation. We merge work and play to help our members reach their own personal potential in both body and career.”
 
But the founders emphasize that MOVE is not just for the physically fit. “I have been running an online company for seven years now, and it did no favors at all to my body and health,” Meo says. “I sat all the time, worked long hours and inadvertently ended up in terrible shape; I needed a change without sacrificing my growing business. MOVE was the change I needed and why Patrick and I came together to offer this opportunity to those in the same position I was.”
 
MOVE will feature a variety of amenities including Commercial Broadband Wifi, 24/7 access, showers, lounge area, indoor hanging bike racks and more. Move will have its soft opening on August 6 before launching fully at the beginning of September. 

Frameri wins $100K from AOL founder Steve Case, moves into OTR office

To say that the Frameri has been busy would be an understatement.
 
Since entering the Brandery a year ago, the versatile eyewear startup company has grown from a team of two co-founders to five full-time employees and four part-time employees—with a few more new hires in the pipeline. In May, after having split his team between Chicago and Cincinnati, CEO Konrad Billetz decided to move the entire team back to Cincinnati and just last week signed a lease on a new office in Over-the-Rhine that will put his entire team under one roof.
 
In June, Billetz, along with seven other entrepreneurs, pitched in front of a packed crowd at the Know Theatre that included AOL founder Steve Case. The pitch event was part of Case’s Rise of the Rest Tour in which local startups competed for funding (highlights from Case’s Cincinnati stop can be found here). After a brief deliberation, Billetz was named the winner and took home a $100,000 investment from Case’s venture capital firm Revolution.
 
“It was really great to get selected as the winner and receive the investment, but for us that was more about validation than anything else,” Billetz says. “It helps to get more people to know what were doing; now we just need to get out there, work our assess off and prove that they were right to pick us.”
 
If the past year is any indication, Billetz and his team are ready to put their collective noses to the proverbial grindstone. This week marks the official launch of the Frameri’s first line of product, which is based around creating quality, crafted frames with interchangeable lenses to bring style into the industry and waste out of it.
 
“We’ve had three goals since we started,” Billetz says. “First, to shake the eyewear industry up, which we see as really boring. Second, to make people smile by delivering really awesome product that genuinely deserves to exist. Third, to add lots of jobs and create a really cool culture. We want to be one of those jobs that people really want to work at—not just in Cincinnati, but nationwide.”
 
To that end, Frameri is currently on the lookout for designers, digital marketers and web developers. 

Artworks Big Pitch Finalist: Brian Stuparyk, Steam Whistle Letterpress

Throughout the summer, Soapbox will profile 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 may seem hard to believe, but some people still like to make things with their hands. Brian Stuparyk, founder of Steam Whistle Letterpress, is one of those people.
 
Stuparyk studied photography initially, but by the time he graduated college, photography was already making the digital shift, something that didn’t interest him as much.
 
“I really liked being in the darkroom. I liked working with the equipment and creating things, and I liked the science of it all,” Stuparyk says.
 
He discovered printmaking while doing production for a newspaper. For Stuparyk, it combined the mechanical processes that he liked about analog photography with art and creativity.
 
“The other obvious part about printmaking is that someone is still going to hire your services,” Stuparyk says. “Very few people will hire a photographer using film when they can get digital. But with letterpress, you can’t achieve this kind of quality any other way.”
 
Stuparyk’s production is split between a Main Street storefront in Over-the-Rhine and a space in the Essex Studios. Both are filled with machines anywhere from 40 to 100 years old. Despite the fact that newer machines may be cheaper and quicker at turning out product, Steam Whistle prefers older machines because, according to Stuparyk, they produce a higher quality product.
 
“If you do something really, really well, people will gravitate to that,” Stuparyk says. “With Steam Whistle, the quality was the first thing I really had to conquer. We’ve done that, and I’d put our printing up against any other shop in the country.”
 
Since incorporating as a business in November 2011, Steam Whistle products can now be found in more than 20 U.S. states, as well as in Canada. The requests for custom work have begun piling in, and the company has begun working with a sales rep in New York, substantially increasing the brand's visibility. At this point, Stuparyk’s biggest issue is how to deal with the growth.
 
“Currently, I’m working 80 to 85 hours a week, and I’m finding that there aren’t enough hours in the day to keep up with the work that’s coming in. I’d like to consolidate all my equipment into one shop and hire another employee, but I need to get the financing right to make it work.”
 
For this reason, Stuparyk entered into the Artworks Big Pitch competition.
 
“If I do win the competition, I know I’ll be able to put the money to work right away,” Stuparyk says. “What’s been great is getting that reassurance from the mentors that Artworks has connected me with."
 
Stuparyk would like to sell Steam Whistle products in all 50 states, begin working with more Cincinnati businesses and be recognized as a leading brand in the letterpress industry. He already partners with stores like OTR’s Rock Paper Scissors and Noble Denim, a fellow Big Pitch finalist.
 
“I want to keep growing the business and keep doing it here in Over-the-Rhine,” Stuparyk says. “The more I grow, I know it will benefit my partners and the community as well, so I’m hoping to keep growing and keep funneling that growth back into the city and community."

Check out these other Artworks Big Pitch finalists:

GoSun ships first solar cookers, launches online community

GoSun, the Cincinnati startup that developed a portable, high-efficiency and fuel-free solar cooker of the same name, has just begun shipping their first line of products around the world.
 
The cookers come in two variations, called the GoSun Sport, which can cook up to 3 lbs of food and weigh only 5 lbs itself, and the GoSun Mini, which weighs about 1.5 lbs and can cook 9.5 oz of food. Soapbox profiled GoSun in the fall of 2013, when they were in the midst of a Kickstarter campaign. The campaign ended with GoSun raising over $200,000, making it the most successful Kickstarter campaign ever in Cincinnati. Since that time, things have been happening fast for the GoSun team.
 
“We’ve already sent out over 1,000 products to 22 countries around the world, making these the first batch of American made high efficiency solar cookers,” says Patrick Sherwin, Founder and President of GoSun.
 
Additionally, GoSun has launched an online community via Facebook called the GoSun Community Kitchen, where early adopters of the technology can post and view pictures and recipes using the solar cooker.
 
“We love that people are so excited about the GoSun and are constantly thinking up new ways to use it,” says Social Designer Matt Gillespie.
 
With the rapid expansion of the company, GoSun has hired six fulltime employees since the fall and that number will likely grow through the end of 2014. At the beginning of the year, they were even offered a spot on the coveted entrepreneurial-themed TV show, Shark Tank.
 
“They actually approached us and suggested we apply for the show,” says Sherwin. “We seriously considered it for a long time, but in the end, we decided that we’d rather grow our company based on the steady input of users we’ve built up over time, as opposed to hoping for an overnight success.”
 
To read about the decision in greater detail, you can find the blog post on GoSun’s site here. Whichever way they choose to go, GoSun’s future looks undoubtedly bright. 
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