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Start Small housing concept gaining big momentum


Nearly halfway through his year-long People's Liberty Haile Fellowship, Brad Cooper’s Start Small project is starting to gain momentum.
 
Cooper was awarded the grant based on his proposal to build two 200-square-ft. single family homes on an otherwise unbuildable lot in Over-the-Rhine as a model for net-zero, affordable infill housing. He presented an update on his project, along with information for potential buyers, at a public event May 13 at the Over-the-Rhine Community Center.
 
Since starting the program, some aspects of Cooper’s design and concept have changed. The houses will now be 250 square ft. in order to accommodate the city’s zoning regulations. The two houses on Peete Street will also be attached to leverage potential energy and cost savings as well as to better fit the historic character of Over-the-Rhine.
 
Cooper's initial plans for composting toilets and water reuse will also be modified to meet building codes.
 
“The building codes need to adapt, and I think they will, but it will take time and people calling for the change,” says Cooper, who presented his project concept and suggested code changes to City Council’s Education and Entrepreneurship Committee in February.
 
The houses will be net zero, with solar panels providing all electricity. Cooper is working with Sefaria, an application that supports high-performance building design, to optimize the homes’ HVAC systems. Each house will have monitors to track the occupants’ energy usage as well as energy production from the solar panels.
 
As the popularity of the tiny house movement grows, it’s also come under criticism.
 
“This project is not for everyone,” Cooper acknowledges. “Start Small is providing choice and creating thoughtful infill development.
 
“The idea that tiny homes encourage less density is a myth. Zoning regulations that require minimum lot sizes encourage less density. Zoning regulations that prohibit two tiny homes being on the same lot encourage less density.”
 
Although not currently permitted under zoning code, “small homes could be developed as accessory dwelling units, which add density to areas,” Cooper says. “Multiple homes on one lot is permitted in neighborhoods that have adopted Form Based Code, and here I would expect the same density to be met as with a traditional project.”
 
Cooper encourages residents with concerns about density and other zoning issues to review the draft of the Land Development Code and contact the City Planning Department with any input.
 
As tiny homes become more common and zoning codes are updated to accommodate their construction, Cooper predicts ongoing evolutions of the concept to make tiny homes more appealing. “
 
I expect to see tiny homes with shared resources,” he says. “A communal kitchen, shared waste remediation, shared energy production and other communal ideas are a challenge to figure out but would make tiny living more affordable.”
 
Since January, Cooper has been working to develop financing options for potential Small Start homebuyers as traditional mortgages may be difficult to obtain.
 
“The main challenge is the unconventional nature of the project,” he says. “There is not a lot for an appraiser to compare the homes to locally, so having a lender feel comfortable with the value of the home is critical.
 
“Additionally, most mortgages are not held by the initial lending institution but bundled and sold on a secondary market dominated by government-subsidized Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac. Those entities require the home to be at least a 1-bedroom. The tiny homes will qualify not qualify as 1-bedrooms. I’m anticipating the need for a (local) bank or even an individual to step forward and provide a loan to a tiny homeowner. This institution would be willing to take the risk on something out of the box and hold onto the mortgage.”
 
Initially, Cooper projected the houses would cost $80,000, although it now seems they may list for $70,000. He hopes to have buyers in place before fall so construction can be completed before the end of the year, allowing residents to move in to the homes by early 2016. Cooper has partnered with Working in Neighborhoods to help potential buyers through the process.
 
Community engagement is a big part of the Start Small project. Cooper hosted a one-day exhibit called “Size Matters” at Assumption Gallery to invite the public to explore ideas about tiny living and affordable housing. In March, Cooper invited the neighbors to 142 and 144 Peete St. to introduce himself and his idea for the property. Keep Cincinnati Beautiful organized volunteers and residents to help clean up the lot in April.
 
Cooper has also solicited public feedback on the design and amenities of the tiny houses. He plans to hold additional presentations and information sessions in the coming months.
 
It’s looking like his Start Small project may in fact turn into something big.
 

Roadtrippers enhances its mobile experience with new Apple Watch app


After just a few weeks of work, Roadtrippers is one of the first Cincinnati startups with an app for the Apple Watch.
 
The startup's engineering wizards developed a fully functioning app to supplement their roadtrip planning tools for web, iOS and Android. The app operates independently of the mobile app and was officially released last week.
 
After unveiling their mobile app last Thanksgiving, Roadtripper's primary focus has been to expand their network of visit-worthy places. Currently, users have access to over three million points of interest, but the company has directed their resources toward gathering additional data to augment the user experience.
 
The result? Even more options for Watch wearers on the road.
 
"We have built up a crazy taxonomy of categories," says Natalie Akers, chief of staff for Roadtrippers. "We're more than just food and drink now. We want to add context to where you are."
 
The Apple Watch app features the Roadtrippers Concierge as the home screen, immediately offering a number of suggestions based on location as well as the time of day. For example, if a user opens the app on the Watch in the morning, Roadtrippers will offer the user a hand-curated list of options for breakfast or a morning walk based on existing user ratings. The app will then redirect you to your desired navigation tool (Apple Maps, Google Maps) to make sure you find your way.
 
"Roadtrippers is headed toward a presentation that is intrinsically linked to you as a person," Akers says. "The Apple Watch is bringing us closer to that."
 
Roadtrippers timed the release of the Apple Watch app to both highlight the Over-the-Rhine company's growth and development and demonstrate that Roadtrippers is keeping up with tech trends.
 
"This is also a low key way to remind our consumers that our app is awesome," Akers says.
 

11-year-old entrepreneur on the "write" path with invention


One of Cincinnati's youngest entrepreneurs has launched a Kickstarter campaign to fund manufacturing of his product, Grip Wizard.
 
Eleven-year-old Matthew Meyer invented Grip Wizard (originally named Right-Writer) two years ago while struggling with his handwriting. Grip Wizard is a fabric strap holding the pinky and ring fingers to the palm, allowing students to master the tripod grip necessary for holding a pen or pencil. When Matthew and his mother Elizabeth realized how many other children were struggling with the same fine motor coordination, they decided to pursue making the Grip Wizard available to a wider audience.

Matthew's invention won the Fourth Grade First Prize and Chairman's Choice awards at the 2013 Cincinnati Invention Convention and Grand Prize in the Secret Millionaires Club Grow Your Own Business Challenge, where he met billionaire and investment guru Warren Buffet.
 
“Meeting Warren Buffett was amazing,” Matthew says. “He encouraged me to continue on with my idea and said that ‘the best investment is an investment in myself.’ That means doing well in school, learning from your mistakes, believing in yourself and never giving up.”
 
Over the past two years, mother and son, have worked on refining Matthew's invention with input from occupational therapists, educators and designers.
 
“The main flaw in the original design was the elastic strap,” Elizabeth says. “The pinky and ring fingers could pop out too easily. But the fabric had to be very stretchy and very soft, as a lot of children with fine motor struggles have sensory challenges as well, which led us to a spandex/athletic mesh glove.”
 
Elizabeth and Matthew worked closely with Lisa Grey at Industrial Sew-Tech in Forest Park to modify Matthew's invention for mass production, going through 50 prototypes.
 
“We learned about pattern design and the sewing manufacturing process,” Elizabeth says. “Lisa understood how important finding the right materials and design were for our product. She says, ‘You can find a way to make anything once. Finding a way to make it a million times is my job.’
 
“We are so proud to be partnering with Industrial Sew-Tech so that we can be closely involved in the process and our business can benefit theirs.”
 
The Grip Wizard team also includes Cincinnati artists Erin Barker and Kevin Necessary, who created and animated the logo and brand mascots, Max and Maggy.
 
Matthew and Elizabeth are excited to be part of the startup scene in Cincinnati. Matthew recently attended his first Chamber of Commerce event to network with other business professionals.
 
“When I first start talking, I am a little nervous,” Matthew says. “I worry that they won't like my idea or I'll burp while I'm talking. After I get going though, I’m on fire! It’s exciting to be able to share my invention with people. I think my pitch is good but could use a little work.”
 
Meanwhile, Elizabeth has been helped by Michelle Spelman, a marketing consultant at Live Wire!
 
“She reached out to us after the Grow Your Own Business Challenge and has been a huge supporter of Matthew's invention,” Elizabeth says. “She’s mentoring us in the small business branding and development process. As a mother and business owner herself, Michelle inspires me to continue learning and growing, professionally and personally. We’re really excited about how far Grip Wizard has come, and we still have a lot to learn.”
 
The marketing focus for Grip Wizard is currently students, although the product will be available in adult sizes as well. Recent studies demonstrating a correlation between handwriting development to communication, memory, math and literacy skills are generating renewed interest in reintroducing cursive writing to the curriculum.
 
“Most adults were taught cursive and write in a print/cursive hybrid that suits their style and reflects their personality,” Elizabeth says. “Our children should have the same ability to create their own ‘font’ by learning both styles. Handwriting is the most personal form of communication we have.”
 
Matthew's invention also has potential for other occupational therapy audiences, something the team at Grip Wizard will pursue after getting their Kickstarter campaign funded and production up and running.
 
The Kickstarter campaign to help Grip Wizard “create fine motor magic” ends May 27 with a goal of $20,000. If fully funded, Grip Wizard gloves will be available beginning in September.
 

Northern Kentucky Business Pitch Competition focuses on early-stage startup ideas


Northern Kentucky is providing residents yet another opportunity to enter the fast-growing Greater Cincinnati startup ecosystem.
 
The Kentucky Innovation Network at Northern Kentucky ezone, in partnership with Northern Kentucky Tri-Ed, will host the Northern Kentucky Business Pitch Competition later this month. Open to applicants in 11 counties throughout the state, the competition is free to enter and offers up to $1,500 in prize money. Startup teams and entrepreneurs have until Sunday, May 17 to apply and will be notified by May 19 if they've been selected as finalists.
 
Designed for early-stage companies that have yet to secure any major funding, the competition hopes to attract Kentucky-based startups in need of mentorship. At no cost to the company, the Kentucky Innovation Network will provide individual one-on-one mentors to the top five applicants.
 
The five finalists will pitch their ideas at UpTech in Covington at 5-8 p.m. May 27. They will have 10 minutes to present their ideas to a panel of three judges, all of whom happen to be investors in Kentucky companies.
 
“We are looking for the best entrepreneurs in our 11-county region,” says Casey Barach, director of the Kentucky Innovation Network and founder of UpTech. “We have a thriving entrepreneurial ecosystem with our partners ... and we want to build on that foundation and attract entrepreneurs from the broader region.”
 
Students from the region are encouraged to apply. In fact, this kind of competition may be ideal for budding entrepreneurs as the rules exclude companies with more than $25,000 in revenue and those that have raised over $100,000 in equity capital. It's a true first step for Kentucky residents with a grander vision for their business idea.
 
The winner of this year's pitch competition will have the opportunity to present his or her idea at the third annual Kentucky Angel Summit in Frankfort later this year.
 
Those interested in applying should visit NKY Startups for further details.
 

Cincinnati Public Schools students create apps to "gameify" STEM concepts


Sixth grade math teacher Stephanie Bisher wants to open her students’ eyes to the business world.
 
Each spring, her sixth graders engage in the kind of learning experience most only hope to encounter after reaching adulthood. In 2014, in partnership with locally-owned Madisono’s Gelato, her students at Kilgour Elementary in Mt. Lookout were tasked with designing a mobile application that “gameifies” the ins and outs of the gelato business. The resulting app was launched just last month.
 
Kilgour was one of two Cincinnati Public Schools recipients of a $1.1 million “Straight A” inaugural grant last school year. The grant is intended to provide an incentive to deploy case-based Socratic learning techniques in the grade school classroom.

State-funded tablets in hand, students at Kilgour and Hyde Park School were able to apply skills gained in their STEM-related classes to real world business decisions. The apps that resulted were due to a collaborative effort between Cincinnati Public Schools, Northern Kentucky University's College of Informatics and nonprofit Partnership for Innovation in Education (PIE).
 
Cincinnati-based PIE is dedicated to developing transformational STEM K-12 educational tools that actively prepare students for the workplace. PIE provided mentors for the Cincinnati Public Schools app projects.
 
“It has been our pleasure to participate in this first-ever program, offering a curriculum found currently only in STEM graduate and undergraduate science, medical, engineering, mathematics, law and business programs,” PIE CEO Mary Schlueter said in a letter to Kilgour parents. 
 
The gelato project is now an important and much anticipated part of each Kilgour sixth grader's experience. The task facing Kilgour students each year is that of choosing a new gelato flavor for Madisono’s. From research/development and data collection to cost analysis and marketing, students take the process from start to finish.
 
“The math (the students) are doing is pretty complex, but not a single student complains,” Bisher says. “They use Excel spreadsheets, learn how to input formulas, all the kinds of things adults do in their daily jobs.”
 
The process culminated with a successful marketing campaign for Madisono’s at the Kilgour Carnival.
 
“There is no abstract concept here,” Bisher says. “The students can truly see the value of what they’re doing and self-evaluate as they go.”

The winning flavor last year was Triple Chocolate Dare. This year students will present their new flavor — vanilla with brownies, chocolate chips and a caramel swirl — at the Kilgour Carnival on May 16.

After the winning flavors are chosen, students proceed to the app development stage. With help from NKU informatics experts, last year's students came up with a fun, fanciful app called Gelato Hero. This app and the one created at Hyde Park School, Sweet Revenge, seem to be the first-ever examples of global apps created by elementary school students.
 
Due to the fact that the project placed heavy emphasis on the intersection of math and business as opposed to more advanced tech, Kilgour students had very little to do with the actual coding involved in the app creation. That said, Bisher believes that coding is the next step for tech education at the grade school level.
 
“Kids can absolutely handle it,” she says. “App development can and should be in elementary schools. It’s still in its beginning phases, but it’s definitely on the radar.”
 
Though the Common Core curriculum model allows little room for tech-based training, both Schlueter and Bisher believe a shift in mentality is coming.
 
“PIE is always looking for educators who love technology,” Schlueter says. “This is a relatively new opportunity in the last 5-6 years. We’re just now starting to encourage educators.”
 
Gelato Hero and Sweet Revenge are now available for iOS and Android for $.99 each. A portion of each app's proceeds will return to the school responsible for its creation.
 

Grippable keyboard "stands up" for healthcare industry at HIMSS15


When Mark Parker and his team created the TREWGrip Mobile Dock, a mobile keyboard featuring a "rear typing" design, his goal was come to the aid of the large number of professionals, specifically those in the healthcare field, who spend the workday on their feet.  He was unaware that many of those same healthcare professionals would recommend his product to their patients.
 
"Most of (TREWGrip's) early traction has come from the assistive technology industry and occupational health and safety professionals," Parker says. "Quite honestly, we didn’t think about the health benefits when designing TREWGrip, but there’s something called the 'functional position,' which is the ideal position of the hands/wrists. TREWGrip’s design allows for this ideal hand/wrist position when typing."
 
TREWGrip LLC is a spin-off of Parker's umbrella company, Outlier Technologies, headquartered in the Blue Ash area. The Mobile Dock's rear typing-enabled design requires the user to hold the device much like an accordion, allowing someone to type with both hands without using a surface (or your other hand) for support.
 
The product's multi-faceted health benefits brought TREWGrip to the Health Information and Management Systems Society (HIMSS) conference last month in Chicago. Parker's experience at the conference proved that the healthcare market is ripe for change.
 
"A lot of the interfaces being used right now are pretty outdated," he says. "Companies have certain systems in place because there aren't other hardware platforms out there — they have very little incentive to upgrade."
 
According to Parker, doctors and hospitals have yet to embrace new technologies like the tablet over the laptop due to the fact that they don't truly transform their working experience. TREWGrip, on the other hand, does what tablets and laptops can't — it eliminates the need for a stationary workplace.
 
"Approximately 1.3 billion people around the world are considered 'mobile workers' and often find themselves sitting on the floor to get their work done," Parker says. "So if you want to understand what inspired TREWGrip, stand up in your office and try typing this story while holding your laptop or your desktop keyboard."
 
The unique tool still has its limitations. Users need at least half an hour to get used to the new keyboard and at least 8-10 hours of total use to reach their normal level of typing proficiency. The learning curve doesn't worry Parker.
 
"We are targeting the next generation of healthcare workers, emergency medical professionals and medical scribes," he says.
 
In the long term, Parker hopes to see his product evolve from a grippable keyboard to a grippable computer, complete with a screen and microprocessor.
 
"We can't get there in one big step, so we're taking a few smaller steps," he says. "Our first hurdle is getting users to appreciate the benefits of rear typing."
 
Unlike many growing businesses in Cincinnati, TREWGrip's focus on healthcare doesn't place it in the center of the city's startup ecosystem. On the contrary, most of their success has come from outside of Cincinnati.
 
"We are involved and have taken advantage of a lot of the opportunities offered by the 'innovation ecosystem,'" Parker says. "At this point, I think we know most of the players and most of the players know us, but I think TREWGrip is just too far outside their comfort zones to get directly involved."
 
That said, many of TREWGrip's investors are located in Cincinnati. Parker has also established his personal life in the city and doesn't intend to take his technology elsewhere any time soon.
 
"I live in Cincinnati because it’s a great place to raise a family, and that’s more important to me than anything else," he says.
 

PulsePoint app exposes NKU students to real life-and-death outcomes

 
PulsePoint, the CPR app developed by Northern Kentucky University students, has been credited with saving another life.
 
When Sunnyvale, Calif. resident Farid Rashti experienced sudden cardiac arrest in March while playing soccer in a public park, his teammates called 911. Their call triggered a PulsePoint alert that notified CPR-trained Walter Huber, who lives near the park, of the need for life saving intervention. Huber performed CPR until an officer arrived with an Automated External Defibrillator (AED), reviving Rashti.
 
The PulsePoint app was created as part of a unique partnership between the San Ramon (Calif.) Valley Fire Protection District and NKU’s Center for Applied Informatics.
 
In 2009, the fire district had an idea for software that would connect CPR-trained individuals with people experiencing sudden cardiac arrest.
 
“They contacted several organizations with no luck in the Bay Area,” says Tim Ferguson, Executive Director for the Center for Applied Informatics. “They then approached Apple, and an Apple executive referred them to the College of Informatics. Apple has continually referred organizations wanting innovative and high tech solutions to us.”
 
Improvements in technology hardware and software led to an updated version of PulsePoint in 2011, which provided geographically targeted notifications through the app. San Ramon officials and NKU understood the potential for a wider application for the software.
 
“As our partnership grew, all of us realized that there was a greater need/mission that could be met with our work,” Ferguson says.
 
The PulsePoint Foundation was created in order to make the software more widely accessible.
 
In addition to connecting CPR-trained citizens with cardiac arrest victims, PulsePoint also tracks publicly accessible AED devices through a crowd-sourced registry. The registry is accessible through the app as well as by 911 call centers in order to direct callers on the scene of a cardiac emergency to the location of the nearest device.
 
In the past four years, cities subscribing to PulsePoint have grown from 600 to over 1,100 municipalities in 16 states, including three in the Cincinnati region in Crescent Springs, Erlanger and Elsmere, Ky.
 
NKU’s involvement with PulsePoint has generated new opportunities and visibility for the Center for Applied Informatics.
 
“The innovation of PulsePoint at NKU allowed us to work on projects relating to emergency services in Switzerland, which has been great exposure for our students,” Ferguson says. “In addition, we were invited to speak at a mobile conference in England where we presented PulsePoint. As a result of that presentation, we have been speaking to key government leaders in England about innovation there.”
 
Bruce Alan Pfaff, director of communications for NKU’s College of Informatics, added that former NKU students continue to be involved with the app’s development through the PulsePoint Foundation and Workday.
 
This year, the PulsePoint app was nominated by the International Academy of Digital Arts and Sciences for Webby awards in the categories of “Best Use of GPS or Location Technology” and “Social: Health & Fitness.” Although PulsePoint didn’t go home with a prize, every successful cardiac intervention is a win for the app’s makers and users.
 

Manufacturing accelerator First Batch accepting applications for next class through May 11

 
Cincinnati’s only manufacturing business accelerator, First Batch, is seeking applications for its 2015 class through May 11.
 
In its third year of growth, First Batch will accept six candidates this year, up from two in 2013 and four in 2014. Entrepreneurs participating in the program will receive up to $8,000 in financial support as well as business development services that include strategic planning, branding and marketing.
 
First Batch focuses on physical product development and is open to candidates who have existing prototypes of innovative product ideas. The 2015 class will work out of the Losantiville Design Collective in Over-the-Rhine, where they will have access to 3D prototyping tools and a collaborative work space.
 
“I think the biggest basis for us starting the program (in Cincinnati) was that there was this known expertise in consumer products and branding and a big push for entrepreneurship and tech,” says Matt Anthony, First Batch program manager and director of the Cincinnati Made nonprofit group. “We saw a need to tie that excitement into the often overlooked but robust manufacturing ecosystem here.
 
“With the great things happening in OTR and the urban core and the proximity of a lot of available light industrial space, you can afford to be an entrepreneur and still live somewhere exciting with great food where you can walk to bars and your production space. Cincinnati makes things. We’ve got all the wrap-around services to support it and an accessible urban lifestyle that entrepreneurs want and can actually afford here.”
 
First Batch works closely with the University of Cincinnati Department of Design, Architecture, Art, and Planning (DAAP). Faculty serve as advisors and graduates are potential candidates.
 
“Every year I go to DAAP and personally encourage students to apply,” Anthony says. “In previous years I was disheartened to hear students say, ‘I really want to pursue my idea and passion but don’t know how to turn it into a real company.’ I’m happy that we’re offering an avenue to get design-based product companies started and keep them here.”
 
Participants in the 2013 and 2014 classes have manufactured an eclectic array of products, including musical instruments, textiles, men’s grooming, toys, furniture and home goods.
 
“I don’t know that I would have expected the mix we’ve seen so far,” Anthony says. “I always like to see variety, and in some ways it always reflects both our historic industry but also the future of what’s possible here. I’ve seen a few applicants already for 2015 that might really push the capabilities of what’s possible here in a good way.”
 
Although past participants were all local, First Batch is reaching out to national and international candidates by getting involved in events in places like Buffalo, Philadelphia, Oakland and Detroit. First Batch was also recently featured in Dwell magazine, which helps raise its national profile.
 
First Batch is also seeking sponsors, partners and mentors to help with the 2015 program.
 
“Sponsorship is mostly set up to help cover the costs of the production budget,” Anthony says. “Manufacturing sponsors aren’t necessarily locked in to taking an applicant if the pool doesn’t have a good fit, so ideally we would have a list of potential sponsors that also become judges in the process to decide on projects they’d like to support.
 
“Sponsorship can also come in the form of service donation. Donated services would allow us to select a few applicants that might need additional development support like engineering or industrial design, where we usually have to err on the side of picking entrepreneurs who already have the idea developed far enough and are capable of their own development.”
 
Mentors are a critical part of the accelerator experience. First Batch, with its focus on developing physical products, targets mentors from the manufacturing sector but is also seeking advisers with experience in marketing, technical writing, design and legal.
 
“Our goal is to make a small mentor team around each finalist and have a pairing session within the first week of the program to find the right balance of skill-sets and personalities to help keep each entrepreneur on track with their project road maps,” Anthony says.
 
First Batch will accept applications through May 11 and announce its 2015 class around June 1.
 

Calling all creatives: ArtWorks Big Pitch applications are due May 11


In a startup scene dominated by tech, Cincinnati area business owners outside of the category are often left out of the funding game. Enter Artworks Big Pitch.
 
Among its numerous community contributions, Artworks' business mentorship program Co.Starters is tasked with boosting the business know-how for creative and artisanal businesses in the area. Artworks Big Pitch allows Co.Starters graduates — and plenty of other local businesses — to showcase their idea for the chance at up to $20,000 in business grants.
 
In its second year of operation, Artworks Big Pitch is a 10-week mentorship program and pitch competition for creative entrepreneurs looking to get their businesses off the ground. Companies from across a slew of categories are encouraged to apply, with the exception of nonprofits, restaurant/bars, tech and software and application-based companies. The focus here is on businesses that offer creative services or artisanal goods; Big Pitch is the only local program of its kind to maintain that emphasis.
 
Artworks will be accepting applications through May 11, at which time eight finalists will be selected for the program.

Much like an accelerator program, Artworks Big Pitch pairs the finalists with a business mentor as well as a small business specialist from U.S. Bank to guide them through the development process across the 10-week span. Then, much like a Demo Day, the eight companies are offered the opportunity to pitch their business idea in front of a large live audience and expert panel of judges.
 
The actual pitches will occur in August, when judges will decide who receives the $15,000 Grand Prize as well as the $5,000 People's Choice award.
 
Last year, Noble Denim took home the Grand Prize for its sustainable approach to clothing design and manufacturing. Earlier this month the company raised over $120,000 to launch a new athletic wear line, Victor Athletics. The 2014 People's Choice Award went to Canopy Crew, a company designing custom treehouses that are kind to both the tree and the canopy-lover.
 
Those interested in applying to the program must be for-profit businesses established for at least two years. The contenders must also plan on investing any award money in the company long-term growth.

The application fee is $25 prior to May 6 and $30 afterwards, while Co.Starters graduates pay a discounted fee of $20. To apply for Artworks Big Pitch 2015, click here
 

UpTech Class of 2015: Dr. Scribbles brings entertainment to the exam table


With patient-centric healthcare on the rise, it's about time someone made waiting at the doctor a little less maddening.
 
UpTech graduate Dr. Scribbles is giving it a try by transforming an extremely mundane item — exam table paper — into an interactive patient experience.
 
"The national average wait time (at the doctor) is 21 minutes," says Angela Malone, founder of Dr. Scribbles. "Dr. Scribbles is solving the problem by providing the patient, especially pediatric (patients), fun, educational activities to make their office visit more enjoyable as well as more efficient."
 
The unique Dr. Scribbles paper is printed with puzzles, activities and coded interactive features. When a patient scans the paper with Dr. Scribbles' ScribbleVision mobile app, the paper serves numerous purposes, unlocking advertising content, patient satisfaction surveys and more.
 
Dr. Scribbles is the brainchild of Malone and Sheila Stidham, both parents who are more than familiar with the doctor's office waiting game.
 
"I was in the pediatricians office with my two daughters," Malone says. "We were bored, I was playing charades, the doctor came in, and needless to say I was embarrassed. The light bulb went off right there."
 
Malone started her entrepreneurship career in the early 1990s with a line of designer cat and dog collars. In 2011 she started Creategivity, an umbrella company for socially-supportive businesses with a focus on family. Dr. Scribbles is Creategivity's first startup. Stidham is also a small business veteran.
 
Dr. Scribbles found its way to UpTech's informatics accelerator due to Malone and Stidham's desire to build a product with unique technological features and mobile app integration abilities. Their exam paper has features like augmented reality, geofencing and quick response code scanning. The company needed an accelerator to ease their entry into the increasingly technical healthcare industry as well as the world of successful mobile applications.
 
Dr. Scribbles graduated with the third UpTech class in March and has kept the momentum going.
 
"We are seeing repeat sales from local pediatric offices, distributorships and a large hospital system on the West Coast," Malone says. "We have little ones requesting Dr. Scribbles rooms upon a second visit."
 
Much like many UpTech companies, Dr. Scribbles is firmly established in Northern Kentucky and plans to stay there. With the healthcare industry in a state of constant flux these days, Malone and Stidham see incredible potential.
 
"Due to the ever-changing effort to increase patient satisfaction and with that trend growing, Dr. Scribbles is the right product at the right time for the right reason," Malone says.
 

People's Liberty announces first 8 Project Grants, final grant program to launch


People’s Liberty continues to redefine the mission and tools of philanthropy, announcing its first Project Grants April 24 at its new Globe Building headquarters in Over-the-Rhine. Like all of its grant programs, the Project Grants were awarded to individual area residents with innovative ideas to positively impact their communities and, in the organization’s hopes, disrupt the status quo.

Eight winners were presented by People's Liberty co-founders Eric Avner (Haile Foundation) and Amy Goodwin (Johnson Foundation) and asked to sign their contracts, which stipulate that each would receive up to $10,000 to complete their projects within the next 10 months. A second round of Project Grants will be awarded in the fall.

The winning projects represent a wide array of community engagement, from site-specific events to arts and culture to online community building to public transportation. They were selected by an external panel made up of local civic, creative and business leaders.

People’s Liberty has now launched all three of its intended grant programs: $100,000 Haile Fellowships, awarded in December to Brad Cooper and Brad Schnittger; $15,000 Globe Grants to activate the Globe Building's ground-floor gallery space, with the first exhibition, Good Eggs, on display through June 12; and these $10,000 Project Grants.

The Project Grant recipients are:

Giacomo Ciminello: Space Invaders
An interactive outdoor installation with a projection-mapped video game designed to activate Cincinnati’s abandoned spaces.

Anne Delano-Steinert: Look Here!
A site-specific public history exhibition to take place on the streets of Over-the-Rhine.

Quiera Levy-Smith: Black Dance Is Beautiful
A cultural event designed to showcase diversity in Cincinnati dance and encourage youth to pursue their passions and break down barriers.

Alyssa McClanahan w/ John Blatchford: Kunst: Built Art
A quarterly printed magazine featuring redevelopment projects of historic Cincinnati buildings.

Mark Mussman: Creative App Project (CAP)
A project to certify up to 20 local residents from a broad range of backgrounds during a three-month Android App Developers educational series.

Daniel Schleith w/ Nate Wessel and Brad Thomas: Metro*Now
A set of low-cost, real-time arrival signs for the Metro bus system to be installed in storefronts at or near bus stops.

Nancy Sunnenburg: Welcome to Cincinnati
A new tool is designed to effectively welcome newcomers to a community by connecting them with local organizations, businesses and civic opportunities.

Maija Zummo w/ Colleen Sullivan: Made in Cincinnati
A curated online marketplace to encourage shopping local by showcasing products created by Cincinnati’s best makers and artisans.

The eight grantees will have access to workspace, mentoring and design and communications support at People's Liberty starting May 30. Look for Soapbox profiles of each of these eight projects as they ramp up over the next few months.

Applications for the next round of Project Grants are due by Sept. 14.
 

Jewish Federation event asks nonprofit entrepreneurs to explain what "sparked" their life changes

 
Entrepreneurship and storytelling are popular topics in Cincinnati these days. “The Spark Behind the Change” takes a different approach to both April 29 at Japp's OTR, focusing on social innovation and exploring the inspiration that resulted in new organizations and programs.
 
The event, organized by the Jewish Federation of Cincinnati, focuses on individuals who created innovative entrepreneurial projects that are registered nonprofits or not focused on making a profit, says Sammy Kanter, Mentoring Coordinator for the Jewish Federation of Cincinnati's Esther and Maurice Becker Networking and Mentoring Center.
 
“What is really exciting about the Spark presenters is that what they are doing is affecting our Cincinnati community directly,” Kanter says. “For the most part, their projects are based here and are for the people of Cincinnati.”
 
Several of the presenters come from the arts community, a sector not typically referred to as entrepreneurial — although that perspective is beginning to change.
 
“At ArtWorks we see a lot of our work within creative enterprise, especially Co.Starters and the ArtWorks Big Pitch, as a support and even an anchor for creative entrepreneurs,” says Tamara Harkavy, CEO and founder of ArtWorks. “One of our core values is we nurture emerging talent, artists and creative entrepreneurs, connecting them to corporations and the public at large in order to empower them to transform the region. Nothing comes from nothing — we take something great and make it better.”
 
In the nonprofit world, innovation often includes a call for social justice and personal discovery.
 
“We believe that art creates powerful change and often works toward social change,” says Kim Popa, Executive Director of Pones Inc., the local dance company and serendipitous art creator. “We hope to create awareness of issues that the community may not know about such as human trafficking in Cincinnati, homelessness and trans populations. Pones Inc. performers use their bodies to speak their minds.”
 
Other Spark panelists include:

• Barbara Hauser, founder The Red Door Project, a pop-up community art gallery showcasing the work of professional and hobbyist artists;

• Jordan Edelheit, who started the first TEDx at Ohio State and went on to organize the first prison-based TEDx series;

• Derrick Braziel, William Thomas II and Allen Woods, founders of MORTAR, an accelerator focusing on non-traditional entrepreneurs in underserved communities; and

• Rabbi Laura Baum, creator of the Our Jewish Community website that uses social media, YouTube and other technologies to meet the changing needs of the Jewish community on a national level.
 
The host and moderator of the event is Jake Hodesh, Vice President of People’s Liberty, the Over-the-Rhine-based philanthropy providing grants to individuals and organizations working to make positive changes in Cincinnati.
 
Spark organizers and participants hope this night of storytelling will generate ideas and inspiration in others.
 
Kanter would like “to see more people creating innovative projects that are locally based nonprofits, that are created with the goal of generating change and making the city a better place to live for all populations.”
 
“I think that the title of the event is my wish for an outcome,” Popa says. “I am most interested in opportunities where people leave inspired or questioning or moved to continue the conversation.”
 
“The Spark Behind the Change: An Evening of Storytelling and Networking with Cincinnati’s Biggest Social Innovators” is free and open to the public. Get more information or RSVP here.
 

1,500 local students learn architecture, construction basics through Design LAB program


Over the past four months, 1,500 students in 78 Cincinnati and Northern Kentucky schools have studied the basics of architecture and construction while designing a model dwelling. Their work is part of the 2015 Design LAB (Learn and Build), a program of the Architectural Foundation of Cincinnati (AFC) in collaboration with the American Institute of Architects of Cincinnati (AIA), and is on display at the Main Public Library downtown through May 2.
 
“Design LAB encourages innovation by fully engaging students in the design process, broadening their perspective and asking questions that enable them to actively participate in the built environment,” says AFC Education Director Catrina Kolshorn. “With a focus on real world solutions, students develop and create unique approaches to a design challenge utilizing research, critical thinking, problem solving, creative expression and visual/verbal communication.
 
“As students create and model their projects, they build an awareness, knowledge and sense of community through sharing their ideas, gaining an appreciation of the built environment and understanding the interactive role they can play in shaping it.”
 
The Design LAB program is intended to adapt to many subject areas and grade levels. Participants this year include all grade levels in K-12 classes on architecture, art, biology, ecology, engineering, geometry, language arts, science and social studies.
 
The 2015 theme of “Dwelling” gave students the option of a rural or urban site to design a home for their chosen client. Each teacher shaped the project and client selection to fit with their class curriculum. Students have chosen Greek clients based on their study of The Odyssey as well as Maya Angelou, Picasso and Dr. Seuss, among many others.
 
Students typically work in teams to create a model and a tri-fold panel display that illustrates their design process. AFC expects at least 175 submissions for the Design Fair, where entries will be judged on both the model and the display.
 
Four awards will be given in each grade category: Build-Ability for the projects most able to be constructed in the real world; Sustain-a-Builder to the projects using the best green building technologies; Solution Builder to projects showing the most innovation and creativity in meeting the client's needs; and a Juror’s Choice award. The 30 jurors, as well as the 65 classroom mentors, are all volunteers.
 
Design LAB is a revamped version of Architecture by Children (ABC).
 
“The new name reflects the emphasis on design as well as the learning and building of the hands-on, project-based program,” says AFC Executive Director Kit Anderson.
 
ABC was managed by AIA Cincinnati volunteers for nearly 20 years.
 
“Over the last few years AFC has become increasingly involved as a collaborator and partner in the program and has been the primary financial sponsor of ABC for some time,” Anderson says. “As the program continued, it became clear that in order for it to grow and strengthen it required much more time and attention than a volunteer group could give it. We all agreed that AFC would manage, fund and implement the program in association with AIA Cincinnati.”
 
As a 501(c)3 nonprofit entity, the foundation was able to seek regional and national grants that ABC was previously ineligible for, increasing opportunities for professionalization and future growth. These changes are already generating results, with a grant from the Stillson Foundation supporting the 2015 program. Design LAB is also funded by contributions from the built environment community and AFC’s annual Apple Award Gala.
 
Those donations also provided the resources for AFC to hire Kolshorn to manage the program, recruit new participants and coordinate the many volunteers who work in-classroom with the students and as judges for the Design Fair.
 
The 2015 Design LAB Design Fair will be displayed in the first floor atrium at the Main Public Library all week, ending with a public reception recognizing program participants 9 a.m.-1 p.m. Saturday, May 2.
 

Ocean's first startup class sets sail at April 29 Demo Day


Ocean, the nation's first faith-based business accelerator, presents Demo Day April 29 at Crossroads Church in Oakley to showcase its inaugural class of 10 startup companies. Over the course of the six-month program, each Ocean startup received a seed investment of $20,000 as well as co-working space, intensive training, mentorship and legal and accounting services.
 
“Demo Day is a day,” Ocean Executive Director Genine Fallon says. “It's a wonderful day, it's a glorious day, but it's a day. We've been preparing since the moment our class stepped in here, and they've been preparing for it since the moment they conceptualized what they wanted to build.”

Fallon says that having Demo Day in the Crossroads auditorium commands attention and is the right place for the 10 startups to showcase themselves. She emphasizes that event is about community and is open to the public.

“As the first faith-based accelerator, we want investors, key leadership and city officials to attend, but we are also extremely pleased to be able to present in a space that is welcoming to everyone,” she says. “If I'm hoping for anything, past the normal things that an accelerator hopes for — positive feedback all around for our companies and success tenfold — it is also for that person who has felt that entrepreneurial charge to be sparked to say, 'Yes, I can do it! I'm in the right city. This is the right time. Startup Cincy is the right space for me to be.'

“Demo Day is deep and wide. The depth of what's going to be talked about is moving and is deeply profound, and it's wide because it will bring a wide variety of people who will come and join us.”
 
Participants in Ocean's inaugural class represent an array of content areas and experience.
 
Cerkl, one of the more established Ocean startups, provides organizations with personalized newsletter content.

“Demo Day is going to be a hallmark event to really showcase the Cincy startup movement and to celebrate,” says Sara Jackson, known as Cerkl's Distributor of Pixie Dust. “It will demonstrate that this is one of the best places in the nation to build your business.”

Jackson and Cerkl founder Tarek Kamil have been impressed with their accelerator experience.

“Ocean is itself is a startup,” Kamil says. “To watch the Ocean model has been really good for us. Here, there is no failure — there is success and there is learning. Ocean may be the new kid on the block, but they're right up there with other accelerators.”
 
Alex Bowman and Chris Ridenour started Casamatic in late 2014 to match buyers to homes they'd be interested in buying, manage their schedule of showings and allow them make an offer from its website, with the prospect of receiving a rebate check after the sale closed.

“We both bought homes last year, and the process was terrible,” Bowman says. “We were surprised how every other industry has innovated since 2008 but real estate has not. We had an original idea to completely change the way you buy a home. But over the first months of the accelerator we iterated and iterated and figured out through customer evaluation and meeting with people in the industry that the initial idea we set out to accomplish was crushingly impossible and not what the market wanted at the time. So we decided to refocus.”

Casamatic's focus is now on matching buyers with their “perfect home,” altering them when new homes hit the market and instantly arranging showings.
 
Chris Hendrixson of Blue Seat Media has been working on his baseball app company with partner Jeffrey Wyckoff for several years. Since starting at Ocean, they've hired two developers and plan to launch their product in July.

“Doubling our team has changed everything, and we did not expect to be able to do that so fast,” Hendrixson says. “Up until Ocean it felt like we were on an island and had to encourage each other. Coming into Ocean and the sense of community just ready and willing to help us has been amazing. The classes and mentoring have been great, but knowing there are so many people who have your back is really special.”
 
Lyfeboat recently launched a roadside assistance app for the iPhone, with an Android version to be available over the summer. Co-founders Michael Reha and Phat Le says they're “big into learning and personal growth” and felt Ocean's faith-based program “was a right choice to build a strong foundation as a team” and a great fit for the Good Samaritan attitude central to their company.
 
The rest of Ocean's Class of 2015 includes:

Arena19, a web platform for sponsorship and branding opportunities

benobe, a career exploration app for teenagers

Quality Renters, which helps landlords find tenants

RINGR, offering studio-quality sound recording over mobile devices

Searen, producing affordable water treatment technology for aquaculture and desalination

StreamSpot, which enables live and on-demand streaming for faith-based organizations

Seafaring metaphors abound at Ocean, where participants talk about setting sail on a journey and riding waves, while meeting rooms are named after ports on the Sea of Galilee — apt comparisons for new businesses setting a course for adventure and success.

So come aboard Wednesday, April 29, they're expecting you at Demo Day. Doors open at 12:30 p.m., and the program begins at 1:00 at Crossroads Church in Oakley. Entrepreneurs Elias Roman, co-founder of Songza, and Colleen Arnold, senior vice president at IBM, will also discuss their experiences launching and growing successful companies.

Admission is free, and tickets can be reserved here.
 

Noble Denim looks to Kickstarter campaign to help launch second clothing line


Over-the-Rhine-based Noble Denim plans to launch a new clothing line, Victor Athletics, if its Kickstarter campaign succeeds. The second line will feature vintage-style athletic wear for men and women made from organic materials.
 
Co-founder Abby Sutton says the new brand is the result of two concurrent trends: customer feedback asking for lower-priced clothing and Noble’s factory asking for more work.

“Noble Denim has worked with the same partner factory in Tennessee for the last two years, and our relationship with them is very important to us,” she says. “We are always focused on giving our factory as much work as possible, but we’ve been hesitant to expand Noble’s production too much because we wanted to keep our focus on limited-edition items.

“We stepped back and saw a gap. There are people telling us they are ready to buy U.S.-made clothing at a more accessible price and factories desperate for the opportunity to grow. That’s why we created Victor.”
 
Noble Denim and Victor Athletics will operate in tandem but with different products, styles and distribution plans.

Victor Athletics will be sold online and release new styles on the seasonal fashion industry schedule. Online distribution eliminates mark-ups and keeps consumer costs lower, Sutton explains. Noble Denim will continue its small-batch production and retail distribution, which she says will be expanding into new markets.
 
Victor Athletics is wrapping up an ambitious $100,000 Kickstarter campaign, the company’s first, and Sutton says they pursued it to allow early Noble Denim backers to have a sense of ownership in the company.

“We see the sad state of American clothing today as an issue that belongs to all of us, and we want Victor to be a brand where the customer is deeply engaged in helping us making the change,” she says. “It’s a vulnerable thing to be on Kickstarter, and it’s uncomfortable to be able to measure our success in a very public way. But we want our backers to feel that we are relying on them to make this happen, because we are.

“At the end of the day, no matter how amazing our products are, the statistics won’t shift until people see this story as important and as a story that belongs to them, too. It’s the people’s commitment to our factories that will give them work. Kickstarter creates an all-or-nothing environment where that kind of ownership becomes possible.”
 
With just a few days left to reach their goal, Sutton says the company’s most effective pitch is to point out that 80 percent of the clothes Americans wore in 1980 were made in the U.S. but that number is down to 2 percent today — causing small-town American factories to close as a result and harming thousands of workers and families.

“By choosing to employ rural American factories again, Victor prioritizes how the clothes are sewn,” she says. “In fact, we’re going even farther by giving 5 percent of our after-tax profit back to the factory to continue to invest in their workers and combat the impact of outsourcing.
 
“If you wear clothes and you live in America, our story is for you. Our values are important to us, but we also don’t think people should buy Made in America on sentiment alone. At the end of the day, we’re making really awesome clothes.”

The Victor Athletics Kickstarter campaign ends on April 15.
 
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