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Manufacturing accelerator First Batch announces 2014 class

First Batch, a Cincinnati-based accelerator aimed at taking entrepreneurs from prototype to production, has announced its 2014 class of companies.
 
The companies, which represent a wide spectrum of business ideas, also display First Batch’s aim to not only accelerate participating companies but to promote a unique set of resources that position Cincinnati as a great place to start a physical product company. The companies are:
 
3D Kitbash, founded by Quincy Robinson and Natalie Mathis, offers professionally sculpted digital models online for the 3D printing market.
 
Ampersand, founded by Tim Karoleff and Greg Lutz, utilizes awareness and empathy to design unique furniture, home goods, and artworks, delighting users with unexpected cleverness and practical pleasure.
 
Switcher, founded by Ken Addison, is made to help provide professional-level video studio control for the growing internet video studio or consumers. The switches are able to control multiple cameras in a software environment and provide lighting indicators (called “tally”) to direct the on-screen talent.
 
Ohio Valley Beard Supply, founded by Patrick Brown and Scott Ponder, is a line of beard care products and beard elixirs that come in five natural scents.
 
“This year we wanted to bring in a mix of companies that was both a good fit for our manufacturing and production strengths as a city, but also offered diversity and the ability to learn a lot from each other,” says Matt Anthony, program coordinator for First Batch. “We have companies that have been running successfully for a few years and are using First Batch as an opportunity to launch a new product (Ampersand, 3DKitbash), a completely new concept that is just now forming as a company through our UC law partnership (Switcher), and a company that launched a few short months to early success and has found a fast need for scaling up (Ohio Valley Beard Supply).”
 
Cincinnati has a well-documented history of industrial production, which First Batch hopes to tap in to.
 
“We think the resources here are perfect and feel like we've picked a broad range of companies that should showcase what is possible here,” Anthony says. “We want to start building momentum and a movement behind both First Batch and Cincinnati Made and are hoping to bring along anyone who wants to grow or contribute.

Artworks Big Pitch Finalist: Matt Madison, Madisono's Gelato & Sorbet

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.
 
Matt Madison knows that a skilled artist cannot truly create a great work of art based on his mind alone. He needs the proper materials, the right canvas and genuine inspiration to make something creative. For this reason, Madison founded Madisono’s Gelato & Sorbet in 2006. To understand Madison’s mission, we have to go even further back to a distant era called the “mid-90s”.
 
“In the mid-90s, a trend emerged of chefs looking out beyond traditional food sourcing companies for higher quality ingredients and more interesting, specific types of flavors,” Madison says.
 
So Madison and his father, who owns and operates Madison’s at Findlay Market, ran a unique farm in West Union, Ohio that would source these specific ingredients like custom heirloom tomatoes, heirloom cantaloupes and more to chefs around the Cincinnati area.
 
“I recognized that for a chef to do really creative, awesome things, it starts with the materials,” Madison says.
 
After living on the farm for five years, Madison moved back to the city and discovered that his knack for making gelatos and sorbets would allow him to provide that same inspiration and pleasure to chefs and consumers alike.
 
“This was in 2005, and at that time, we really didn’t have anyone making artisan, handcrafted ice creams and sorbets in Cincinnati,” Madison says. “You’d hear about it in places like Atlanta, New York and Seattle, but nothing here.”
 
So Madison started Madisono’s in 2006 and went back to the same restaurant contacts he’d had from his days on the farm to ask what chefs would want from an artisan gelato maker.
 
“They said they wanted something authentic, with great ingredients, and I knew I could do that,” Madison says. “The business is based on our passion for creativity; we’re always trying to create something different and delicious—that’s the focus.”
 
To keep it authentic, Madisono’s makes the base for its gelatos from scratch every day. Many other companies will order a premade base that includes many extra artificial ingredients; Madisono’s makes its recipes as simple and natural as possible.
 
Madisono’s can now be found in nearly 40 restaurants in the Greater Cincinnati area, including Taste of Belgium, Via Vite, Arnold’s, Anchor OTR and Essencha Tea House. Madison estimates that this accounts for about 40 percent of the business, while the other 60 percent is geared toward selling pints in retail stores like Whole Foods, Findlay Market, Clifton Natural Foods and more.
 
Madison hopes to build the company and brand to the point that Madisono’s is recognized all over the region and thought of as a must-have experience when you’re in Cincinnati. If Madison wins the Artworks Big Pitch contest, he would be able to upgrade equipment, bring in more employees and expand production.
 
“Just being a part of the process of being a finalist, I feel like I’ve won already,” Madison says. “Of course, I’d love to win the competition, but even if I don’t, getting the mentorship has been so valuable in helping me develop my business plan. Sometimes, in the midst of running a business, it’s hard to focus on that when there are so many other possibilities and opportunities to think about. But to get this kind of disciplined approach, I feel like I’ve prepared myself to grow the business, whether or not I win the $15,000.”

Check out these other Artworks Big Pitch finalists:

Biztech incubator rebrands and shifts focus

Biztech, the 11-year-old business incubator based in Hamilton, Ohio, announced earlier this month its new name and rebranding initiative aimed at attracting early-stage entrepreneurs and companies. Moving forward, Biztech will be known as The Hamilton Mill with the goal to serve as a resource for the entrepreneurial community, particularly in the areas of advanced manufacturing, clean technology (renewable energy, natural gas, water) and digital technology.
 
“This announcement marks the culmination of many months of effort to redirect and refine the mission, scope and utility of The Hamilton Mill,” says Rahul Bawa, The Hamilton Mill’s Chairman of the Board and Chief Operating Officer of the Blue Chip Venture Company. “As the only incubator in Butler County, it is incumbent on The Hamilton Mill to find new ways of attracting and growing the businesses of the future. The Hamilton Mill is uniquely positioned to bring together entrepreneurs who can build the clean, digital and advanced technologies that will impact all of our lives for the better.”
 
The city of Hamilton actually owns its utilities department and has been very progressive about providing clean and renewable energy to residents. Anthony Seppi, Operations Director for the Hamilton Mill, is hoping that clients will tap into what the city is doing.
 
“We’re touting this as a ‘city as a lab’ kind of concept,” he says. “Companies with that fit into this industry can come here, work on prototypes of their product, and have immediate access to resources and customers willing to try them out and give valuable feedback.”
 
Although the incubator has existed since 2003, it’s only now, with the rebranding and renewed focus, that The Hamilton Mill has made itself known as a regional presence and formed key partnerships with organizations in the entrepreneurial ecosystems of Cincinnati, Dayton and other cities.
 
“We have a seat on the board of Cintrifuse, we’ve been working with Confluence and with the manufacturing program at Miami University,” Seppi says. “With our new regional partners, we’re going to be making some noise and growing some high-quality businesses.”

MyActions raises $100K on Indiegogo to empower children to create change

MyActions, the Cincinnati-based startup that encourages users to engage and share their meaningful, healthy and caring actions, has launched an Indiegogo campaign. The funds will be used to expand the company's technology so that students in schools across the country can access it and and share their actions. Thus far, the campaign has raised just over its target mark of $100,000 with 10 days remaining.
 
MyActions, co-founded in 2010 by Michael Young and his father/CEO Craig Young, provides an online platform for users, mostly youth from college age down to middle school students, to celebrate moments and actions people take every day, amplifying the compassionate things people do to make the world a better place.
 
The company began as a high school project Michael thought up to help engage more of his classmates in volunteering. Craig, who has been working in technology for more than 20 years and has developed products for Apple, helped Michael and his classmates develop a website and app that would communicate their message.
 
“People share things from composting in the cafeteria, volunteering or even just being outside with their friends,” Michael says. “Each action is rewarded with a donation to a chosen cause and inspires others to take more action themselves.”
 
In its first year including colleges and universities, MyActions was used on more than 75 college campuses; more than 6,000 students documented 100,000-plus actions. Now with the Indiegogo campaign, MyActions is creating a way for middle school and high school students to participate, by rolling out tablets and RFID bracelets to give to schools.
 
“Our early technology could only be used on a cell phone or a mobile computer, which meant that there was a significant barrier of access,” says Kristine Sturgeon, president of MyActions. “This new technology flattens that barrier so every child can do more, and as they do more and see that their actions count, their confidence grows.”
 
With the success of the Indiegogo campaign, MyActions will look to roll out the technology in schools this fall and aims to be used on more than 150 college campuses this year. To learn more or contribute to the campaign, click here.

Artworks Big Pitch Finalist: Shalini Latour, Chocolats Latour

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.
 
For some people, chocolate is an indulgence. For others, it’s a comfort. For plenty of us, it is a craving. For Shalini Latour, owner of Chocolats Latour, chocolate is a meditation.
 
“I’ve been a pastry chef for over 20 years, been in the wedding cake business, worked in New York and in Cincinnati, until around four years ago I started playing with chocolates,” Latour says. “Compared to baking, the room needs to be really cool with chocolate, the whole process is in some ways quieter, requires a lot of precision and it’s very meditative, which I really like.”
 
Latour has had quite the journey to arrive at this particular meditation. Her mother is Belgian, and Latour spent time growing up in Brussels, Montreal and Paris before moving to the Catskills in New York. 15 years ago, she moved to Cincinnati and has remained here ever since.
 
Since founding Chocolats Latour four years ago, she has utilized many of the resources Cincinnati offers small businesses, and learned quite a bit along the way. Three years ago, she was a Bad Girl Ventures finalist, receiving a small business loan that allowed her to purchase equipment. This past summer, she took part in Artworks’ CO.STARTERS program (formerly Springboard) and now is taking part in the Big Pitch.
 
“Going through the process with our mentors for the Big Pitch has already been so helpful,” Latour says. “Sometimes, when running a business, you get so caught up doing the work that you don’t have a chance to step back and look at where you are going. My mentors have been great at helping me think about that and how I want to get there.”
 
Latour’s chocolates have been making waves around Cincinnati and showing up at more and more locations. When she first started, Latour would sell chocolate exclusively at Findlay Market on Saturdays. Now, she still sells at Findlay, but you can also find her goods at Coffee Emporium, Jungle Jim’s and Whole Foods, to name a few. She’s also partnered with the Cincinnati Symphony to offer special chocolates for Lumenocity at Washington Park.
 
“Chocolats Latour has done so well that I don’t really do cakes at all anymore,” Latour says. “I use all fairly traded chocolate; it’s important to me that the people who pick the cocoa beans all the way down the line are treated fairly, and I think people have responded to that. I also work with unusual flavors, and I think that’s something I’ve become known for.”

Her chocolates including everything from lavender, lemon and sea salt to turmeric, curry, mango, raisins and even tomatoes. Some of her most popular options are slightly less adventurous bars like sea salt and almond, but common among all of them is the use of simple, natural and local ingredients.
 
Despite being sold at a handful of locations in Cincinnati, Latour is still legally limited to sell her products only in Ohio because she works from her home in Northside. One of the goals for her if she wins the Big Pitch is to move into a commercial kitchen.
 
“My hope is to move some of my production to a commercial kitchen, probably just my chocolate bars at first, so that I can sell those in a wider area,” Latour says.
 
Latour is grateful for all of the help Artworks has provided her along the way.
 
“I love that they have programs that really help creative people into the business side of things,” she says. “For a lot of us creative types, the business side isn’t our strong point. Artworks does a great job at understanding that what I do is the creative part but also helping to make it sustainable. But I also don’t feel like I have to let go of my creativity in any way, and I get to enjoy just making the chocolates, creating the designs and enjoying the work that I do, whichever way I choose to grow my company. They understand that and want to support me in that, and it’s great that Cincinnati has programs like these.”

Check out these other Artworks Big Pitch finalists:

NKU attracts diverse group of student entrepreneurs for Jumpstart Camp

Last month, the Northern Kentucky University Center for Entrepreneurship hosted entrepreneurially minded high school students from 15 schools across northern Kentucky/Greater Cincinnati. This inaugural program, titled NKU Jump Start, focused on giving students hands-on experience in ideation, team building, opportunity validation and pitching.
 
Students spent the weekend in NKU dorms working with current NKU college students participating in the INKUBATOR. Together they came up with dozens of ideas before being asked to carefully boil down the number to four and then present to a panel of judges.
 
“Over the weekend, these high school students, who didn’t know each other beforehand, created apps, videos, logos and more,” says Rodney D’Souza, assistant professor of Entrepreneurship at NKU and founder of the INKUBATOR. “The judges, which included some of Cincinnati’s best known serial entrepreneurs, were blown away by these students.”
 
"I've judged a number of startup events, and these high school students were as prepared and as professional as the adults,” says Taerk Kamil, one of the judges at Jump Start and a local entrepreneur. “Their passion for entrepreneurship was evident. I only wish this type of event existed when I was in high school!"
 
First place at the event went to an idea called Medimaze, a medical system that changes any consumable medication into flavorless, scentless vapor. Using an innovative cartridge system, Medimaze is able to record when and how much medication the patient receives and automatically links it to the doctor. The winning team was made up of students Jake Franzen, Jane Petrie, Riley Meyerratken and Tori Bischoff.
 
The students were grateful for the experience and said they wished the camp could have lasted longer. Based on the feedback they received, D’Souza and his team at NKU are looking at expanding the camp to four days to show the students more of the campus and have more time to work together.
 
 “Both the students and the judges gave us some much good feedback; I think everyone was really impressed by the outcome of the camp,” D’Souza says. “It’s great for us as a university to attract young talent, and it’s also great for our region to be able to continue to grow and expand entrepreneurship on the whole.”

Artworks Big Pitch Finalist: Chris Sutton, Noble Denim

Throughout the summer, Soapbox will profile each of the eight finalists in the Artworks Big Pitch competition, 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.
 
Chris Sutton wants to put Midwestern factory workers back to work. He wants reteach our community how to grow our own goods. And he wants to make sure workers are getting paid a living wage. As much as this might sound like a political platform, Chris Sutton is not running for office. He’s making jeans.
 
As founder of the Noble Denim clothing company, Sutton cares about doing things in the most ethical way possible, so customers know that each time they purchase a Noble product, they can be sure that their money is going toward a healthier environment and fair pay for workers.
 
“Hopefully, that means local, and hopefully, that means American made, but we don’t want to say American made just for sentimental reasons,” Sutton says. “Right now our sweatshirts are being made in Canada because we haven’t been able to find a place in American that pays its employees a living wage.”
 
Sutton started Noble Denim about a year and a half ago, originally setting up in Camp Washington before settling in a workshop in Over-the-Rhine (check out our 2013 profile of Noble here). Originally ,he hoped to hire several people locally to continue expanding production in Cincinnati. Eventually Sutton found that there was much more manufacturing talent already trained in making clothes in the neighboring areas of Kentucky and Tennessee and formed a partnership with a factory that had only four employees remaining there.
 
“What we found is that Kentucky and Tennessee used to be a huge haven for soft goods: clothing, bags, etc., and to my knowledge, there were 50 factories that employed tens of thousands of people until the early '90s,” Sutton says. “But that’s all been outsourced, and now the coasts are where anything made in the United States is from. So to have our production based in Tennessee is actually very local in the grand scheme of the industry.”
 
Now, Noble’s Cincinnati office functions as the design studio and center for experimentation on small batch items like shorts and bags, while the factory in Tennessee handles the bulk of production.
 
“What makes our jeans different is how they are made,” Sutton says. “Most made in America jeans are still made in a highly automated factory of 1,000 employees making several thousand garments a week. We make 20-50 a week, so just based on scale, you can do things at a much more hands-on, intentional level. And at that scale, you tend to get better quality because you can be more hands-on and materials can be picked for small scale. We can get really high-quality fabrics that other companies can’t get. We can focus on those little details and make small tweaks, and that just makes a better product.”
 
Sutton also prides himself on the fact that he personally knows everyone involved in the production of Noble Denim and hopes to keep it that way. In the immediate future, Noble has a few small batches coming out, as well as a collaboration with Cleveland-based Drifter Bags.
 
For Noble, winning the big pitch would allow the company to take on one more employee here in the Cincinnati studio, as well as potentially accelerate production in Tennessee, which in turn would allow them to bring more workers back to the factory there.
 
“We’d love to become a nationally recognized brand and fill out our product lines,” Sutton says. “We’re still very early on in the process, but the cool thing is that Cincinnati is a creative place that is innovative, and I’m excited about using that skill set here to make those changes that will affect manufacturing towns in Kentucky, Tennessee and Ohio.”

Check out these other Artworks Big Pitch finalists:

Gateway College summer camps teach students that 'making stuff is cool'

Gateway Community and Technical College is in the midst of hosting three manufacturing camps this summer for middle school students and high school girls. Students at the camps are exposed to the advanced manufacturing industry, including the topics of robotics and energy, and are given hands-on activities to learn from.
 
“The camps are part of our ongoing efforts to increase the number of people pursuing careers in advanced manufacturing,” says Carissa Schutzman, Gateway dean of Workforce Solutions. “The camps demonstrate to students that making stuff is cool and that the words ‘American made’ convey not only a sense of pride, but an opportunity for a rewarding career in a clean, mentally challenging environment.”

The two middle school “Career Craze” camps are funded by Lieutenant Gov. Jerry Abramson’s office and the Kentucky Community and Technical College System. The manufacturing day camp takes places at Gateway’s Center for Advanced Manufacturing on the Boone Campus. The middle school camps attract students from the Erlanger Indepenent School System as well as Boon and Kenton county schools.

The camp for high school girls is funded by Procter & Gamble through the Greater Cincinnati STEM Collaborative. It is scheduled for July 28-31 from 9 a.m. to 1 p.m. at the Boone Campus.
 
“We and our partners are very invested in the ‘workforce of tomorrow,’ and we recognize the need to broaden our students' horizons in terms of career path options,” Schutzman says. “With the camp for high school girls, we know that women specifically are a minority in this pathway. and this is just one way we can address that.”
 
One of the activities at the camps includes constructing a robotic arm. Schutzman has noticed that this activity consistently engages students in ways that are new and exciting for them.
 
“I think that when kids come in and work with their hands on something like that, they see not only how fun and exciting it is, but also how challenging and interesting it gets,” Schutzman says. “That’s very indicative of the industry in real life.”

ArtWorks announces Big Pitch Competition finalists

ArtWorks has announced the finalists for its new ArtWorks Big Pitch competition. Eight creative entrepreneurs were chosen from more than 50 applicants to compete for $20,000 in business grants.
 
ArtWorks Big Pitch is a new business pitch competition where Greater Cincinnati and Northern Kentucky artists, makers, designers and creative entrepreneurs compete for $20,000 in business grants and pro-bono professional services. The winners will use the capital to support their next stage of growth, whether that involves hiring additional staff, purchasing equipment, retrofitting a storefront space or creating new marketing materials.
 
The finalists, who will compete at the ArtWorks Big Pitch event on August 27th at the American Sign Museum, include: Soapbox will profile a different finalist each week leading up to the event, as they prepare their pitches. During that time, they will be paired with local mentors who will coach them on refining their pitches and business strategies. In addition, each finalist will partner with a financial specialist from U.S. Bank to receive personalized financial guidance for strengthening their business plans.
 
At the event, each competitor will have five minutes to deliver their pitch to a live audience and a panel of local professionals. The contestant with the best pitch will be awarded a grand prize of $15,000. The finalists also will have the opportunity to be awarded an additional $5,000 by a popular vote of the 300-plus audience members. Two runners-up will be awarded professional services such as legal, accounting and branding support. 
 
“The Big Pitch finalists represent our city’s vibrant and creative entrepreneurial talent,” U.S. Bank Small Business Banking sales manager Bill Brosenne says. “Our partnership with ArtWorks will allow U.S. Bank to help equip the individual finalists with financial training and tools, through workshops and individual coaching sessions that may support their continued success as creative entrepreneurs—both within and beyond ArtWorks Big Pitch.”
 
The competition is sponsored by U.S. Bank and ArtWorks Creative Enterprise division, which trains and promotes creative entrepreneurs through education, access to capital and community connections.
 
“I am blown away by the entrepreneurial talent that applied to be a part of this event,” says Katie Garber, director of ArtWorks Creative Enterprise. “The wide diversity of businesses reviewed attests to the fact that Cincinnati is home to an ever-increasing number of independent makers, artisans and creative professionals. It is our hope that ArtWorks Big Pitch gives a healthy leg up to the winners while highlighting this important sector of our regional economy. This is the type of entrepreneurial talent we want to retain and support in Cincinnati.”
 

Progress Acquires Modulus, big win for the Cincinnati startup community

Progress, a global software company, announced last week the acquisition of the Cincinnati-based startup Modulus, which provides a platform-as-a-service (PaaS) for easily hosting, deploying, scaling and monitoring data-intensive, real-time applications using powerful, rapidly growing Node.js and MongoDB technologies.
 
Founded in 2012, Modulus, a graduate of the Brandery, uses the Node.js and MongoDB technologies to simplify and speed development of the new generation of scalable, always connected business and consumer apps that are constantly monitored and optimized for the best experience. Modulus was first in touch with Progress in February 2014.
 
“We were in the process of raising another round of venture funding,” says Modulus CEO Charlie Key. “We started a conversation, and it just steamrolled from there. We began understanding synergies between us—it all happened pretty quickly.”
 
Progress has spent the last 30 years in the software business and, now including Modulus, offers a deep line of products including its Open Edge technology, which accelerates application development and is currently used by more than 47,000 business in more than 175 different countries.
 
“By adding Modulus into what they already have, it allows them to give companies and developers more control over what they are building and how it’s running,” Key says. “For us, we’ve got access to a whole new set of potential customers and partners. We have to think about how our technology continues to get better based on what’s available, and all these new resources we have.”
 
Key is proud that Modulus, though now owned by an international company, will remain in Cincinnati to build its team.
 
“We’re staying in Over-the-Rhine, and all of our key players will staying in their current positions,” Key says. “I think this shows that you can build a very high-tech company here and be successful.”
 
Moving forward, Key and his team intend to stay very involved in the Cincinnati entrepreneurial ecosystem as mentors, guides and more. Key will be speaking in the Startup Grind series at the Brandery this Wednesday, June 18 at 5 p.m.

UC grad's senior design project wins first prize at housewares competition

Amanada Bolton, a recent graduate of the University of Cincinnati’s nationally No. 1 ranked industrial design program, tied for first place in a student design contest put on by the International Housewares Association (IHA). Bolton was awarded first place for her B-PAC Kitchenware, which was designed to aid the visually impaired.
 
The impetus for the design came from an evening when her grandmother, Barbara, who had lost her eyesight, went to brush her teeth and accidentally used Bengay instead of toothpaste.
 
“That was an aha moment,” says Bolton, who now works at Design Central in Columbus, Ohio. “Most of the visually impaired community doesn’t read braille. So I started thinking about the idea of inclusivity in industrial design.”
 
After that, Bolton began doing research and empathy training with the Cincinnati Association for the Blind and Visually Impaired, including a three day period spent blindfolded during her final term at the University of Cincinnati College of Design, Architecture, Art, and Planning.
 
“I realized there were a ton of issues,” Bolton says. “Precise measuring was difficult; safety was a big issue.”
 
In response, she created three products for her B-PAC line. A silicone collar or pot guard snaps onto a standard pot to prevent the blind from experiencing burns when checking on cooking food. When flipped down, the collar protects hands from hot surfaces. She also created a measuring cup that pops out buttons to indicate quantity as it is filled, food-storage container lids that feature embossed shapes indicating contents and date of storage.
 
“I learned from this project that it’s easy to impact people as a designer if your methodology is all about simplicity and tactile and intuitive cues,” Bolton says.
 
As a result of winning the IHA competition, Bolton was invited to present her designs and her findings to industry professionals in Chicago at the International Home + Housewares Show. She’s been able to secure patents on all three of her products and is in talks with manufacturers about developing a fully functional prototype, while still focusing on her career at Design Central.
 
“With B-PAC, the ultimate goal is to get it into the hands of people that can use it,” Bolton says. “However, even if the products don’t come on the open market, I’m getting interest from a lot of health groups that want to share these methods and open up a conversation about inclusive design. I’d love for my project to be the innovation spark for this idea.”

Xavier creates framework for student-run businesses

Xavier University’s Williams College of Business will launch a new Student Run Business Program in spring 2015. An informal idea session was held May 1, during which students formed groups and began brainstorming and presenting ideas, including a professional apparel store tailored to students, a food pick-up/ delivery service and a shuttle service.
 
A team of advisors will work closely with the students to help them craft a viable business plan and provide general coaching/mentoring. The advisors will select the best developed ideas this fall for program funding, and by the end of spring, Xavier’s program will include two to three businesses created entirely by student ideas, teamwork, planning and execution.
 
“Our focus at the college of business is on experiential learning,” says Brian Till, dean of the Williams College of Business. “I’ve studied similar programs at universities around that country, and in every case I’ve looked into, the students say that it is the single most valuable experience they had while at university.”
 
Currently, Student Run Business programs are in place at universities like Georgetown, Harvard, the University of Dayton and Loyola University. Besides supporting unique hands-on learning for students, these programs generate revenue that is often directed toward starting additional new businesses (seed capital) or toward student scholarships. After five years, the program is expected to include four to five student-run businesses generating a total of $100,000-300,000 in revenue each year.
 
“From our standpoint, the increase in entrepreneurial activity and better prepared students will benefit the region,” Till says. “The Cincinnati region has become very interested in supporting entrepreneurship, as well as attracting and retaining talent. This program not only addresses that, but it gives our students a leg up in the field.”
 
Several members of the entrepreneurial ecosystem in Cincinnati have signed on to help develop the Student Run Business Program as advisors and mentors, including Xavier graduate and founder of Tixers Alex Burkhart and Mike Bott of the Brandery.  
 

Uptech announces third round program, opens application process

UpTech, Northern Kentucky’s business accelerator program specializing in supporting informatics startups, announced last week that it is now accepting applications for its third funding round—UpTech III. The program begins in September 2014 and applications are currently open through June 9, 2014.
 
The third round program will offer up to $50,000 of investment capital to each company selected for the program—$20,000 up front and an additional $30,000 as agreed-upon milestones are hit. Uptech will also pair each startup with a business mentor and team of professionals, including accounting, banking, legal and sales/marketing partners. UpTech will host the companies in its Covington offices where they will be provided with six months of free office space.
 
“As more and more accelerators are popping up across the country, we feel our program is unique because we’ve really morphed into a customized model to meet individual needs,” says Amanda Greenwell, program manager at Uptech. “We don’t want to adhere to a single template and ask our companies to fit into that. Instead, we work with them on a one-on-one basis and connect them with the resources that are right for them.”
 
Northern Kentucky Tri-ED, the Northern Kentucky ezone, Vision 2015 and Northern Kentucky University (NKU) will continue their support of UpTech throughout the third class.
 
“We’re happy to be able to offer our company direct access to the talent and resources at NKU,” Greenwell says. “Especially for informatics companies, we can offer very specific and unique capabilities.”
 
Uptech’s partnership with NKU allows the Uptech companies to hire NKU students trained in informatics areas like coding, app building and website development and pay for them with a grant provided by Uptech. In some cases, these become the companies’ first hired employees.
 
During the application period, UpTech will host information sessions at its Covington office, as well as webinars, to explain the program and application particulars in greater depth.
 
“We are opening our doors and want to invite the local entrepreneurial ecosystem to see our new space in Covington and learn about what we’re doing,” Greenwell says. “We hope to uncover some new talent for our third round.”
 
To find out more about the information sessions or about Uptech’s third round, visit www.uptechideas.org

SIMEngage to bring national experts in social media and marketing to Memorial Hall

Boot Camp Digital, a local social media and Internet marketing company, has teamed with InfoTrust and BrandHub to put on SIMEngage, a full day event featuring some of the nation’s leading experts in the field. The event will take place May 15 at Memorial Hall in Over-the-Rhine.
 
The event is expected to attract more than 300 of the Cincinnati area’s marketing professionals, including those from big brands, advertising agencies and small businesses, and will provide attendees with information on social media and internet marketing, as well as an opportunity to network.
 
“For marketers, this is a fabulous opportunity to learn about the most relevant and important topics in social media marketing,” says Boot Camp Digital CEO Krista Neher. “This event will cover the most important topics and trends impacting social media marketing today.”
 
The event will feature speakers from companies such as Google, Hubspot, CafePress and more, who will be focusing on five key themes: Creating and Leveraging Killer Content; The Intersection of Search + Social; Generating Publicity through Social Media; Analytics and Future Trends; and Connecting Paid, Earned and Owned.
 
“I speak over 100 times a year, and the reason that I created this event was because I wanted to connect the best, brightest and most interesting speakers in the field with our local community,” Neher says. “I invited the speakers that most inspire me to speak at this event, all of whom are experts in their field, and most of them are bestselling authors. Every time I hear these people I learn something new.”
 
Neher also notes that, compared to previous marketing conferences like D2, SIMEngage is more narrowly focused on social media and internet marketing.
 
“These are the areas that impact marketers most,” Neher says. “Our speakers aren’t the big name executives at big companies who set strategies—they are the actual doers. They are actually implementing online marketing every day. That is what makes this event unique.”
 
Neher hopes that by bringing an event of this caliber to Cincinnati, it will not only engage the community to stay ahead of the curve, but also demonstrate to the speakers from out of town that Cincinnati is indeed a world-class hub of innovation, branding and marketing.
 

OTRimprov announces Cincinnati's first national improv festival

OTRimprov, the improvisational comedy troupe based out of Over-the-Rhine’s Know Theatre, announced last week that in the fall it will put on Cincinnati’s first national improve festival, IF Cincy, September 12-13, 2014.
 
The festival will take place at the Know Theatre and, in addition to shining a light on the improvisational talent here in Cincinnati, it will bring in some of the best talent nationwide from cities like Chicago, New York, Detroit and Louisville, with more acts still to be announced.
 
"We're excited to share the national acts OTRimprov is bringing in," says Tara Pettit, a cast member of OTRimprov and IF Cincy executive producer. "Between those groups, the local troupes doing great work, and Cincinnati natives who have been performing in other cities who are returning for the festival, it will be two nights of really amazing improv.”
 
The IF Cincy festival will take place around the four-year anniversary of the OTRimprov troupe, who joined together as a group of likeminded performers looking for more opportunities to create a scene around improv performance, similar to the culture that has been created by institutions like IO (formerly ImprovOlympic ) and Second City.
 
“We’ve been able to build up a regular schedule of shows, do some private performances and even some company training sessions,” says Kat Smith, OTRimprov co-director. “But what we really want to do is build an audience and a community that are excited about improv in Cincinnati. We want to make improv more visible in this city and do everything we can to support other troupes locally.”
 
Currently, the festival is pushing its Indiegogo campaign, where supporters can donate to help make the festival happen and receive exclusive benefits and rewards in return. Additionally, OTRimprov has been leveraging existing partnerships to create IF Cincy.
 
OTRimprov brought on local actor Kevin Crowley, who studied and performed improv in Chicago for years, often with Second City. After returning to Cincinnati, Crowley has continued teaching and performing improv. He recently opened a training and innovation company, Inspiration Corporation, that teaches the methods of improv to corporations and individuals.
 
The other key partner is the Jackson Street Market, a resource-sharing program run by the Know Theatre.
 
"The Jackson Street Market and Know Theatre have been there since the beginning,” Smith says. “Their impact on our troupe overall has been immeasurable. We wouldn't be planning the festival, or performing as a troupe, without their support."
 
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