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

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

Engage Cincy Challenge offers $10k for innovative ideas to generate community engagement

The City of Cincinnati is rolling out the Engage Cincy Challenge to identify and fund innovative ideas to generate community engagement. Five winning applications will receive up to $10,000 each.
Cincinnati’s private sector has long encouraged innovation through numerous business accelerator programs as well as recent efforts that include supporting civic-minded individuals and organizations.
People’s Liberty launched in 2014 to provide grants, fellowships and residencies to individuals with ideas to improve Cincinnati. Earlier this year, Richard Rosenthal established Transform Cincinnati as a resource for matching individuals and organizations with big ideas for improving the quality of life in Cincinnati to large funding sources. 
Now the City of Cincinnati will fund innovative ways to generate engagement-based on proposals from members of the community.
“Cincinnati is unique in many ways,” City Manager Harry Black says. “Each of our 52 neighborhoods are well organized. I have not been in a city that has this level of structure, capacity and civic participation. Although we do a good job of community engagement with the tools we’re currently utilizing, with the mature network of neighborhoods in Cincinnati, can we take community engagement to the next level? And can the answer come from within the community?”
The Engage Cincy Challenge is open to individuals, businesses and organizations with creative ideas to help build community within a neighborhood or the city as a whole.
“We’re looking for innovative new approaches to elevate community engagement as it relates to the government connecting to its citizens, citizens communicating with the government and within the neighborhoods themselves,” Black says. “We want this to be a wide open process. Engage Cincy is an out-of-the-box thinking experience. We’re looking for innovative programs that  foster and nurture some sort of civic activity within a neighborhood that the city can support, further enable and perhaps scale up.”
Projects proposed for Engage Cincy don’t have to be completed by a designated deadline — the proposals can stipulate individual timelines.
“Once we accept and identify viable proposals, each of the grant recipients will be brought in to discuss our expectations as well as to think through their concept as it relates to measuring the impact, identifying potential outcomes and determining time lines,” Black says.
The City Manager has already received 19 applications for the Engage Cincy Challenge, which was announced Oct. 1. Submission deadline is Dec. 1.
Black says the applications will be reviewed and finalists selected by a committee made up of city employees and representatives from the business and nonprofit communities. He will choose the five winning proposals.
Winners will be announced at the Cincinnati Neighborhood Summit in March 2016, and each will receive up to $10,000 to develop, implement or complete their projects.
If the funded projects are successful in reaching their engagement goals, it’s possible they could be considered for future support to continue or to scale up and serve a larger audience.
“We are all about innovation,” Black says. “We’ve established a comprehensive and integrated performance management program that has been getting noticed on a national scale. I think all the pieces are in place in Cincinnati. The city is growing in all the right areas and the right ways. There is an air of innovation and excellence throughout the city, including our city government.”
The City Manager's Office will make a presentation and take questions about the new Engage Cincy program at the Invest in Neighborhoods meeting at 7 p.m. Oct. 22 at the Cincinnati Fire Museum downtown. Questions about the program and application can also be submitted via email.

JoeThirty offers new round of feedback events for startups

A new round of JoeThirty community feedback and networking events will begin Oct. 14. Hosted by the Greater Cincinnati Venture Association (GCVA), it’s a place where startups and entrepreneurs are able to get feedback on specific questions or problems.
The idea, created by Brad Kirn and Jake Hodesh, is that attendees and presenters have a cup of joe and 30 minutes of conversation to discuss some of the issues facing that company or organization. Each event features one startup presenting three specific challenges for feedback ahead of time.
When they started JoeThirty last year, Kirn and Hodesh wanted to create a different kind of platform for feedback.
“We wanted to not just have another event,” Kirn says. “We wanted to provide value back to our community.”
So, taking inspiration from the national series 1 Million Cups, they created a unique format. While there are lots of forums around the city for entrepreneurs to pitch to an audience, most of them have several startups making general pitches at the same time. JoeThirty is different in its focus and the space it provides for conversation.
Kirn and GCVA hope that their setup provides something useful to both the community and the presenters. They actively try to choose startups who would be helped by the format and invite community members who would provide the most relevant feedback for those entrepreneurs, although anyone is welcome to attend.
Kirn, who was a founding partner at Differential and is now with Astronomer, knows the importance of getting fresh ideas and constructive criticism for a new venture.
“People want to help,” he says. “Ever since I started talking to people in the startup community, they want to tell their story and almost everybody is open to feedback.”
The first startup to share its story in this round of JoeThirty will be Linkedu, which has designed software to help teachers share resources and ideas with each other.
“What I’m most excited about is hearing about how their pivot is going,” Kirn says.
Linkedu is looking to expand its software product beyond exclusively K-12 educators and make it available for a wider range of communities that need to share the knowledge and resources they build. This kind of pivot is common among startups trying to find the business model and niche that works best for them, but it also comes with its own set of challenges.
Linkedu will be able to use its JoeThirty session to get input from people with a variety of backgrounds and specialties.
For Kirn, providing that opportunities and being able to help fellow entrepreneurs are the best parts of organizing the events.
“What keeps me going is the conversations I have with presenters afterward,” he says. “When presenters say they have gotten something valuable out of their experience, that’s what makes the events worth it.”
The biggest change to JoeThirty events this year is that they’ll take place every other month, alternating with another GCVA morning event, the Breakfast Club. While JoeThirty focuses on a single presentation, Breakfast Club will provide time for four entrepreneurs to make pitches at each event.
“We’re creating this morning series,” Kirn says. “It’s kind of a nice change of speed instead of another monthly event.”
The Oct. 14 JoeThirty event is scheduled for 8:20-8:50 a.m., with mingling both before and after, at Rookwood Tower, 3805 Edwards Road at the Rookwood shopping centers. Admission is free but requires advance registration.

Museum Center's LEGO exhibition encourages all of us to become plastic brick artists

When The Art of the Brick opens at the Cincinnati Museum Center on Oct. 23, it presents LEGO bricks not as a construction material but as an artistic medium.
The exhibit is the world’s largest collection of LEGO artwork ever displayed,” says Cody Hefner, manager of media relations at Cincinnati Museum Center. “There are over 100 pieces of art in the exhibit; about half are original works by Nathan Sawaya, the other half are reproductions of classic works like ‘Mona Lisa,’ ‘Girl with a Pearl Earing’ and ‘American Gothic.’ The exhibit takes a toy that most of us have played with at some point in our lives and transforms it into works of art.”
Although Sawaya’s work focuses on artistic subjects, the engineering and math elements usually associated with LEGO are still a factor. The free-standing pieces he creates must be self-supporting and made entirely of LEGO bricks. The exhibit includes several life size human sculptures, each made up of 15,000-25,000 LEGO pieces.
“The exhibit really does show that science, technology, engineering and math all have applications outside of the laboratory and can be art,” Hefner says.
As part of the programming around the exhibit, the Museum Center is holding monthly Design and Build Challenges, starting with a Superhero Challenge.
“We’re asking people to color outside the lines and to use their imagination to drive their design,” Hefner says. “If they want to create a LEGO Batman or the Hall of Justice out of LEGO, they’re more than welcome to use only their imagination as a guide, not instructions that come with a kit. Each of the themes is tied into other exhibits, programs and events around the Museum Center, so there will be more resources for people seeking inspiration or ideas.”
A panel of judges, which may include local arts leaders, other local celebrities and even Sawaya himself, will select a winner in each of four age categories: 5-9 years old, 10-14, 15-18 and 19 and older.
The winning entries will be displayed in Brickopolis, a companion gallery conceived and designed by the Museum Center’s exhibit team. In addition to displaying the Design and Build Challenge winners, Brickopolis will offer space for visitors to play and build, including the opportunity to build your own portrait out of LEGO bricks.
“The exhibit shows how much can be done with this simple plastic brick if you just unleash your imagination and explore your creativity,” Hefner says. “We wanted a space for people to be inspired to make their own LEGO artwork. In the Brickopolis gallery, there are no guidelines or regulations or instructions and no expected outcomes.”
All Design and Build Challenge participants, including the winners, are encouraged to participate each month.
“We want this to be an ongoing challenge,” Hefner says. “We hope people who participate feel a sense of ‘Look what I built! Now what else can I do?’ Some people don’t realize they’re artists, but when they take a pile of bricks and make something, we hope that they learn something about themselves and what they’re capable of. We want people to continue to push the envelope and explore what they’re really able to do.”
Submissions for the Design and Build Superhero Challenge are due Oct. 12. Design and submission guidelines are available online.
The monthly Design and Build Challenge themes will be announced one month before the due date on the Museum Center’s website and Facebook page.

LawnLife founder pays forward the values of hard work and a well-kept yard

Tim Arnold has given real work experience to nearly 600 at-risk youth over the past seven years, and he’s getting local and even national recognition for his efforts.
Founder of the nonprofit LawnLife, Arnold employs young people ages 16-24 who face multiple hardships in their life and gives them an opportunity to earn a paycheck working in lawn care, landscaping and construction. The work gives them a chance to feel valuable, learn new skills and advance in a trade while earning money, empowering them through economic opportunity, education and accountability.
After winning Social Venture Partners’ Fast Pitch in February, LawnLife recently went to the Philanthropitch International competition in Austin, Tex., where the company was honored as one of the 10 “brightest social innovators” from across the U.S. and Canada.
Perhaps Arnold’s model is working so well because of the founder’s connection to the youth he employs.
“I’m very passionate about these kids because I was these kids,” he says. “I did whatever I could to survive, so I understand what these kids have been through.”
In his own youth, Arnold says, he had trouble with the law many times while trying to survive. What finally enabled him to turn his own life around was his first legitimate job opportunity in construction.
“I applied myself to that job,” Arnold explains. “I started working work.”
He says he began to appreciate the importance of work life, staying late and learning trades from supervisors, and eventually saw the rewards of that work.
That first job started an upward spiral for Arnold. In a few years, he was able to get a real estate license and started rehabbing houses on the side. It was on those rehab jobs that Arnold started hiring young people off the street, trying to give them the same opportunities and instill the value of hard work that had made such a difference for him.
The effort quickly grew into a comprehensive, multi-tiered program. As Arnold hired more youth who wanted to keep working, he started taking them out to mow lawns and do yard work in the community. It soon grew into a nonprofit organization that works with many other area services to reach young people to employ.
“They don’t understand we’re trying to help them,” Arnold says, adding that his young employees take the program seriously as a job rather than a service provided to them.
But LawnLife does help the youth they employ as well as the communities in which they work. Although the employees do lawn care and construction for clients who can pay market rate, Arnold also finds ways to “pay it forward” and clean up community spaces or offer lawn mowing to residents who might not be able to afford to pay for a lawn mower or what a professional company might charge.
Even though LawnLife is getting calls from all over the country and the model might take off elsewhere, Arnold is focused on Cincinnati and making an even bigger impact on the city’s landscape.
“If I can keep one less kid off the nightly news, I’m doing a good job,” he says. “There’s more bad yards than bad kids, I guarantee you.”

Bad Girl Ventures launches new 3-prong curriculum to support female entrepreneuers

It’s been a big year for Bad Girl Ventures (BGV). Its new executive director, Nancy Aichholz, joined in April, and a new curriculum structure launched this month.
“We had a one-size-fits-all class open to any woman who had a business in any stage of the business cycle,” Aichholz says. “And that worked, but it didn’t work for everyone. We needed a program that offers different kinds of help at each stage of a businesses development.”
The revamped BGV program takes a tiered approach — Explore, Launch, Grow — to support women-owned businesses.
“Explore is for the person who is literally exploring the feasibility of their idea,” Aichholz says. “They may have a concept and might actually be in business, but they aren’t very far along and they definitely don’t have a fully functional business plan. We’re helping them vet their ideas and walk them through the process of starting a business correctly.”
The first Explore class started mid-September with 36 participants. Weekly classes will address legal issues, human resources, marketing and finance as well as coaching and how to pitch their business to investors. By the end of November, each Explore participant will have a basic working business plan.
The second phase of the new curriculum, Launch, will begin in the spring.
“Launch will target women who are much farther along in the business cycle,” Aichholz says. “We’re looking at participants who have been in business for a couple of years with revenue and customers. Launch participants will develop a business plan to take to funders.”
The 25 participants in the Launch program will be selected through an application process that will evaluate their experience and potential for capital investment. The nine-week program will include weekly classes and work with SCORE mentors. At the end of the program, participants will present their business plan and pitch their idea in competition for up to $25,000 in business loans.
“In the past, there has been primarily one $25,000 loan,” Aichholz says of the original BGV concept. “Although that has been fine so far, to really meet the needs of our female entrepreneurs we need to loan them the amount of money they need, not a fixed amount.”
The final phase of the new BGV curriculum, the a la carte workshop series Grow, will begin next summer.
“We have BGV businesses that are five years old, and they’re facing completely different issues than those just starting a business,” Aichholz says. “They’re thinking about partnering, franchising, selling to national organizations, things that are at a more experienced level than the women just getting started. Instead of a series of classes, with Grow you can come to the workshop that’s right for you.”
None of the new curriculum tracks require participation in previous Bad Girl Ventures classes. The classes are even open to men, although they aren’t eligible to compete for the business loans.
Bad Girl Ventures offers programs in Greater Cincinnati and the Cleveland area, with more than 650 alumni, including owners of The Yoga Bar, Sweet Petit Desserts and Pet Wants.
“BGV businesses are much more likely to stay in town, to get their venture capital in town, and then those jobs are staying in the region,” Aichholz says. “We have had BGV businesses that have scaled dramatically, but they’ve kept their primary base here.
“A big differentiating factor with BGV is that once a Bad Girl always a Bad Girl. Our alumni constantly interact with and support each other. This alumni network is a unique asset for BGV that we can offer as a support system both to incoming Bad Girls and to any female entrepreneurs we’ve launched into their own businesses.”
Entrepreneurs interested in participating in the Launch and Grow programs can sign up online to be notified when applications for the spring class and summer workshops are available.

Fix It Cincy app connects to city services, uses data for continual improvement

The City of Cincinnati recently rolled out a major update to its city services app.
“Fix It Cincy” replaces “City Hall,” published two years ago, and includes changes like a streamlined user interface, easier-to-use categories and map-based GPS location. The new app is a part of a larger city effort to stay up-to-date with constantly changing technology and continually improve the efficiency of city services and processes.
“It is really a re-launch (because) technology is moving so quickly and smartphones are changing the way we conduct our daily lives,” says Rocky Merz, the city’s director of communications. “If we’re not making sure we’re staying current with those trends, we’re being delinquent in serving the public.”
Those kinds of changes in providing services aren’t new. Citizen reports of graffiti or broken street lights that used to come through traditional mail or telephone eventually migrated to the city website. Apps are only the most recent addition, providing a platform for those and many other service requests right from your smartphone.

Fix It Cincy is available for free on the App Store and Google Play. Users of the old City Hall app will have to download the new one and delete the previous version.
Fix It Cincy opens on a screen with three options: You can request a service, view service dates in a specific area (like trash and recycling collection) or check on the status of requests you’ve already made. When you make a request or view dates, you’re directed to a map of Cincinnati to find your location by GPS, selecting a location on the map or searching by address. (This stage takes a while to load without a high-speed wifi connection.) The map also shows the location of pending service requests others have submitted.
Once a location is selected, users can request a wide variety of city services or report problems — from housing maintenance and food operations issues to missed garbage collection, litter, potholes or broken traffic lights.
A new feature re-design is that you can submit a photograph of the issue in addition to a written description. The visual communication will help the city know exactly how to fix the problem. As Merz explains, the city uses a different method to treat a 2-inch pothole than a 12-inch pothole, so a picture of the pothole uploaded through the app makes it much easier for the city to fix properly.
“The more information we can get on the front end, the more efficient we can be,” he says.
Efficiency is one of the main goals of the new app, and that applies to all sides of it.
“We also seized this as an opportunity to make the back of the house easier to use as well,” Merz says.
Fix It Cincy includes updates that make it easier for city departments getting requests through the app to communicate with each other. That allows to city to respond quicker and creates a similar experience for users no matter what department they’re dealing with.
The city will soon be adding a survey tool to collect feedback from the public and continue improving the experience even further. It’s part of the city’s larger effort to use data to continually improve its tech services.
“Apps are relatively new, and people are trying to figure out the best way to make them work,” Merz says.
Like many organizations, the city originally envisioned an app that would do everything its website did. As city workers gained more experience and the world of apps has evolved, that thinking changed — the city is now making apps that are more focused and try to do one thing well instead of trying to do everything at once.
So “Fix It Cincy” is for requesting city services, while “Passport Parking” allows you to pay for your parking space via smartphone. Merz says the city is also looking at dedicated apps for other city departments, like Cincinnati Police, and other technological improvements like overhauling the city’s main website.
The new app has been available for just a couple weeks, so there isn’t yet much data on use, but the city is already looking at improvements.
“This is not static,” Merz. “We’ll be constantly looking at this. There will be a lot of tweaking.”
Until then, he encourages Cincinnatians to download and use the app to improve the city and how its departments provide services. The rationale is that the more people use the app and the more feedback the city can collect, the more its leaders can improve it.

Cincinnati Design Week offers peek inside local creative scene

There is a mess of creative people in our city.

With design schools and branding companies in high supply, Cincinnati becomes a larger and more active haven for creative talent every year. And beginning on Monday, Sept. 28, these folks will emerge from their laptops and drafting tables to show off their ideas, their strategies and, of course, their designs.
Cincinnati Design Week is a yearly program sponsored by AIGA Cincinnati, a nonprofit organization that promotes design as a professional art form. By focusing on everything from ethics to education, AIGA strives to be a valuable resource to designers throughout Greater Cincinnati and beyond.
Next week's program promises a slew of events for designers and design-voyeurs alike. All events range from $5 to $40 per person, with a few free ones thrown in for good measure. Below is a quick preview of what attendees can expect from the week. For a more detailed rundown, visit the Cincinnati Design Week website.

Monday, Sept. 28
The Craft Brewment: The Branding Behind the Beer

Local beer brand designers will gather at Longworth Hall to sip, socialize and drop some knowledge about the art wrapped around your favorite craft brew.

Tuesday, Sept. 29
It’s Not About You: Who Should Be at the Center of Your Design

Learn how to make an impact with your designs, no matter how trivial, with guests from Epipheo, Kapture and We Have Become Vikings.
Iterative Development in Corporate Environments
This sold-out panel will discuss bringing startup approaches to the corporate world.
Distort the Panel
This free event features an art installation presented by creative agencies The Pharmacy Co and Such + Such.

Wednesday, Sept. 30
XGD: Experiential Graphic Design Presented by SEGD

Architects, industrial designers and branding experts will converge at the Art Academy of Cincinnati to break down their disciplines.

Cincinnati Design Awards 2×4
Attendees should stop by this free event to see Cincinnati's most recent cutting-edge design work. Awards will be presented in four categories: architecture, interior design, experiential graphic design and landscape design.


This inspirational talk at the Aronoff Center will bring together speakers from Mucho, Lo Siento and Moment Factory, among others.

Thursday, Oct. 1
Tech Leaders: Presented by WomanUp + Girl Develop It

This free panel discussion gathers artistic leaders in web design, social media and more. These five women will share their journeys to success in their respective creative fields.
A Different(ial) Startup Story
The web and mobile app experts at Differential will share their hard-earned wisdom with eager attendees.
QCMerge Drinkup: Drink & Draw Edition
The name says it all, as willing participants drink up and take 30 minutes to draw according to a prompt. The resulting art pieces will then face a (semi-sober?) judges panel.
Oen Hammonds: People + Practice + Places = Outcomes
Designer, mentor and lead facilitator at IBM (and Northern Kentucky University alum) will present on the importance of building a human-centered experience.

Friday, Oct. 2
BLDG: Behind the Antlers

Learn more about the quirky Covington design shop/gallery at this free event.
Designing the Future: Ignite What’s Possible
Brand innovation agency Spicefire will outline its mission to challenge convention in Cincinnati's branding scene at this already-sold-out event.

Brian Singer: How to Get Rich in Design
As the week's featured presenter, the Pinterest design manager will share how he made it big (really big) in the creative biz.
Meet & Greet with Brian Singer
Cincinnati Design Week culminates with a meet-and-greet with Brian Singer at Barrio Tequilera. Drinks and appetizers will be provided, and presenters from throughout the week will likely be in attendance.

African Professionals Network continues to grow influence, spread connections

The African Professionals Network (APNET) is working to become Cincinnati’s go-to organization for anything related to continental Africa, according to its vice president for strategic initiatives, Clara Matonhodze. The organization will host its fourth annual symposium Oct. 10 with a keynote address given by Trey Grayson, president and CEO of the Northern Kentucky Chamber of Commerce.
“This event will provide a platform to network, share ideas and create long-term business relationships between some of the most successful Africans in the Tristate and American businesses,” Matonhodze says.
Business, networking and community engagement are APNET’s three pillars. The group was formed in October 2010 to help provide a support network for African people living in greater Cincinnati and to create a welcoming environment for African immigrants coming to the region.
“(It was) a result of long ongoing conversations by African Northern Kentucky University alums about how best to assist individuals of African descent in the area become part of their new community, tap into the local networking scene, graduate from college and find careers in their desired fields,” Matonhodze says.
In the five years since its founding, APNET has not only provided regular opportunities for members to network with each other and other business organizations but also organized events for members to volunteer and give back to their new community. They’ve partnered with Cincinnati Youth Collaborative to provide one-on-one mentoring to students from elementary school through college and worked with Little Brothers Friends of the Elderly to put on a yearly Easter Brunch for elderly Cincinnatians with few family or resources.
For Matonhodze, the opportunity to be involved in the Cincinnati community while creating community with other Africans was what drew her to APNET. She was born in Zimbabwe, where she worked in television media before coming to the U.S. at 23 to attend NKU. She got involved with APNET in 2012.
“I was looking for a dynamic organization that shared my passion to assist African immigrants by helping them integrate into American society, a pretty daunting task, and showcase our great city to new African immigrants by providing a support system if you will,” she says. “I also needed the organization to be open to genuinely working with people across cultures.”
Matonhodze stresses that anyone interested in Africa and related issues is welcome at APNET events, including the upcoming symposium. The organization has made an effort to form relationships with a variety of businesses and professional groups in the area, working to show off Cincinnati to recent immigrants as well as educate the city about the African continent.
“Africa has problems, we acknowledge that,” Matonhodze says, “but the image we want to promote and put forth is one of a progressive Africa — an Africa that most of our members and leadership agree is not shown enough.”
Their goals seem to be popular. APNET has held more than 20 programs and events this year and expects around 200 people at the October symposium, which will also celebrate its fifth anniversary. In addition to its success in Cincinnati, APNET is taking its model to other cities by forming chapters in Chicago and Indiana.
“We want the APNET brand to be global, having APNET locations/branches in different countries and leading big initiatives here and abroad,” Matonhodze says.
Tickets to the Oct. 10 symposium at the Anderson Center in Anderson Township are $35, with discounts available for groups and students. Register online here.

AIA Cincinnati program to address "missing 32 percent" of women in architecture

Gender disparity in the workplace has been big news this year, particularly in the tech industry and in coverage of the ongoing gender wage gap. The field of architecture has taken a proactive approach to addressing gender equity within that profession.
“Recent discussions and initiatives regarding gender parity in various fields have helped to push this topic to the forefront in our industry,” says Heather Wehby, Project Architect at emersion DESIGN and Co-Chair of AIA Cincinnati’s Equity in Architecture committee.
In 2011, the American Institute of Architects (AIA) San Francisco launched The Missing 32% Project, an initiative to start a conversation about gender representation. Several successful symposiums and events led them to pursue a national study, “Equity in Architecture,” in 2014.
AIA Cincinnati is bringing Saskia Dennis-van Dijl, Principal Consultant at Cameron MacAllister Group, to present the findings of that study at the Mercantile Library at 5:30 p.m. Sept. 22. The free program, supported by an AIA Ohio Opportunity Grant, is open to the public and requires advance registration.
“This program is especially relevant to all those in the design, engineering and construction industry who are passionate about creating a more inclusive community and workplace,” says Jeffrey A. Sackenheim, Vice President at SHP Leading Design. “For us at AIA Cincinnati, this is the next big step in delivering content rooted in critical conversations affecting architectural practice now and 20 years in the future.”
“We are hoping that all members of Cincinnati's architectural community — including students, interns, professionals and firm leaders — attend to help position architecture as a 21st Century profession that more closely reflects the people and communities that it serves,” adds Kathryn Fallat, Co-Chair of the local Equity in Architecture committee. “We also encourage people who don’t have a direct connection or involvement with architecture to attend, as we’ll be discussing unconscious bias and how it affects everyone in any and every workplace.”
Earlier this year, AIA Cincinnati formed its own Equity in Architecture committee to address workplace disparities attributed to gender, race and socioeconomic status.
“Ms. Dennis-van Dijl’s presentation is the first of many that will not only help spark dialogue on what is typically considered to be a challenging subject matter but will also inform and shape it,” Fallat says. “Our goal is for a lively yet positive discussion to develop, focusing on steps that both employees and firms can take to improve workplace policy and culture.”
The “Equity in Architecture” survey assessed the current career status of architects as well as challenges to success and efforts made by employers to recruit, retain and support professionals. The study report examines the “pinch points” where architects choose to leave the field.
On the national level, women represent nearly half of graduates from architecture programs but make up only 20 percent of practitioners and 17 percent of partners or principals in architecture firms. Thus the “missing 32 percent” are the women who graduate from architecture programs but aren’t currently working as architects.
The slippage is even worse locally. According to the Ohio Architects Board, only 13 percent of active, registered architects in Ohio in 2014 were women, significantly less than the national average.
“We have done some investigation into local numbers, but more study needs to be done,” Wehby says. “No matter which statistics you look at, a significant and undeniable gap lies between the number of women graduating from architectural programs and the number of women who are registered architects.”
The “Equity in Architecture” study and the Sept. 22 Dennis-van Dijl program focus specifically on gender, yet other disparities also exist within the field. AIA Cincinnati plans to work with the National Organization of Minority Architects on future Equity in Architecture programs.
“In order for architects to successfully design for and engage with a diverse and changing society, our profession must be comprised of members that reflect and represent it,” Fallat says. “If architecture is to remain a relevant and influential profession throughout the 21st Century, then it needs to recruit, retain and promote talented individuals of all genders, races and socioeconomic levels.”

New Biomedical Informatics Certificate Program at UC announces first bonafide graduate

The future of medicine lies at the intersection of data analysis and medical science.

That's the general consensus at the University of Cincinnati, at least. Biomedical informatics, an interdisciplinary field that enables better understanding of health and biomedical information, has found a home at UC.
The new UC program, which combines expertise from the College of Medicine and the College of Engineering and Applied Science, announced its first graduate in May, Dr. Benjamin Landis. An MD, Landis completed his Certificate in Biomedical Informatics while finishing up a three-year pediatric cardiology fellowship at Cincinnati Children's Hospital.
Landis' clinical work involved a great deal of research, so the opportunity for expansion of knowledge in informatics arrived at the perfect time.
"The practice of medicine is becoming a data analysis problem," Landis says. "Understanding what tools and techniques are available is essential."
His primary focus is in pediatric cardiology, specifically thoracic aortic aneurysms. When this type of aneurism occurs in children and young adults, there is normally a genetic reason for it. Landis' work uses genome sequencing data to analyze the impact of genetic modifiers on those who are afflicted with the disease.
"There is a real push for understanding the genetics of disease and incorporating genetics conditions in new ways," he says.
Most medical students and residents won't fully understand the technology behind genetic sequencing by the time they graduate. The informatics portion of Landis' education gives him a unique opportunity to fully understand and interpret the data he compiles.
Though UC's program is brand new, the informatics faculty is well-versed in the field. Landis' exposure to experts in this subspecialty was considerable, and the connections he made helped to jumpstart his career in the field.
Landis is now a part of the cardiology faculty at Riley Hospital for Children in Indianapolis. A secondary appointment at Riley's Center for Computational Biology and Bioinformatics will allow him to continue his research on thoracic aortic aneurysm and congenital heart malfunction.
"The ability to have an affiliation with a bioinformatics group is invaluable," Landis says. "It's the ticket to understanding biology and medicine going forward."
As for the future of UC's program, though the first year offered just a certificate, this semester promises the addition of a Biomedical Informatics PhD Program. In the coming years, students may also obtain a Master's degree in the subject.

Cincinnati Symphony opens new season thriving on experimentation

The Cincinnati Symphony Orchestra opens its new season Sept. 25-27 with a weekend of events centered around Hector Berlioz’s edgy, dreamlike Symphonie Fantastique. It’s a fitting accompaniment to the organization’s high-profile efforts to experiment on new ways to connect with the community.
The weekend offers a variety of events for different audiences, including a Friday morning performance of the Berlioz Symphonie along with the Beethoven’s Overture to Fidelio and Bartok’s Piano Concerto No. 2. The CSO performs all three works again Saturday evening after its annual Opening Night Gala, culminating with one of the largest after-parties it’s thrown in years.
“This will be a chance for people to let their hair down a little bit,” CSO Director of Communications Meghan Berneking says. “Symphonie Fantastique has this lore around it that the composer was on opium when he wrote it, so they’re capitalizing on that for the (party) theme.”
The “5th Movement” after-party will feature psychedelic decorations, dancing and a specially-brewed beer from Taft’s Ale House. The event will likely appeal to the Young Professionals crowd the Symphony tries to cultivate early in their careers with a variety of CSO Encore events, although Berneking emphasizes that all of the weekend’s events are open to anyone.
Opening weekend wraps up Sunday evening with the first installment of CSO’s new “Stories in Concert” series. The orchestra will again perform Symphonie Fantastique, this time without the other pieces but with accompanying explanations to tell the story of the music in greater depth.
“If you’re intimidated by classical music, this performance is for you,” Berneking says, adding that the goal of “Stories in Concert” performances is to help audiences better understand and engage with classical music.
The series is just one of many innovative projects CSO is working on to help connect with the community at large.
“The Orchestra prides itself on being a place of experimentation,” Berneking says. “That comes with us not being afraid to try new things.”
Over the past few years, the CSO has been involved in events and collaborations that might seem surprising from a symphony orchestra dedicated to classical music.
The organization has collaborated with Cincinnati native Bryce Dessner and The National rock band at the annual MusicNOW festival, which promotes artists experimenting with new music at Memorial Hall, Music Hall and other local venues. The Cincinnati Pops Orchestra just released American Originals, a live album honoring the works of Stephen Foster that features collaborations with such artists as Rosanne Cash, Over the Rhine and Comet Bluegrass Allstars. The CSO has also been engaging the city with its One City, One Symphony series, which will continue this year with a tribute to Maya Angelou focused on the theme of “freedom.”
Of course, the experiment that’s garnered the most attention is Lumenocity, which had its third annual run in early August. The CSO charged for tickets for the first time this year in order to help fund the $1.4 million event, and the concerts set to light projections drew more than 30,000 people over four nights in Washington Park. It was a smaller turnout than the first two years because of the restricted ticket sales, but the event has quickly become one of Cincinnati’s most popular summer traditions.

Berneking says all of this summer’s Lumenocity performance sold out, proving that patrons valued the event enough to pay for it and boding well for future years.
“When you’re experimenting, there’s always the risk that it won’t work, but even if it flops we see it as our duty to try new things anyway,” she says.
Those risks are paying off in a big way for the CSO. As orchestras around the country struggle and occasionally fail, Cincinnati’s has seen an uptick in attendance over the last few years. Leadership plans to continue experimenting, commissioning new works and finding new ways to share musical stories with the community.
“If Cincinnatians are engaged, we’re happy,” Berneking says.

Chatfield College's new OTR home maintains community ties, provides room to grow

The paint might still be drying and floors still being laid, but Chatfield College’s new Over-the-Rhine facility on Central Parkway is already bustling with students and staff for the fall semester.
Chatfield is a unique institution in Cincinnati: a private, not-for-profit, faith-based Associate’s Degree program that emphasizes the liberal arts. The college, founded in the Ursuline tradition of Sister Julia Chatfield, has campuses in both Cincinnati and St. Martin, Ohio, to focus on critical thinking and preparing students to continue at four-year bachelor’s degree programs while remaining accessible to students who face significant barriers to education.
“We’re all about taking down barriers,” says Chatfield President John Tafaro, explaining the school’s student-focused programs from financial aid to daycare.
Tafaro explains that the new Over-the-Rhine building is within walking distance of 15 bus stops, saying it will make the college’s services available to even more students while providing an upgraded space for classes and resources.
“This is a first-class learning environment,” Tafaro says, “because our students deserve the best.”
The new environment is the result of a 14-month, $3.4-million renovation of a building on Central Parkway near Liberty Street. The building was formerly used by the Cincinnati Association for the Blind (now Cincinnati Association for the Blind and Visually Impaired) as a broom factory employing its clients.
The socially conscious renovation made use of historic tax credits by maintaining the historic character of the early-20th Century building and created an energy-efficient green facility.
“We met our goal of using 30 percent minority-owned and women-owned businesses and 70 percent union labor for our subcontractors,” Tafaro says.
The space includes versatile classrooms for small classes and larger events, science labs, work space, a computer lab, a non-denominational chapel to be completed in early 2016 and a large music and dance studio space with wide windows overlooking Central Parkway and the Cincinnati Ballet headquarters right across the street.
Tafaro is especially excited about the natural light and open feel after moving from the space Chatfield rented nearby since 2006. That space had been just one third the size of the new Central Parkway building, with no outward-facing windows. The new space provides the college much more opportunity to grow — the campus currently serves just over 200 students, but Tafaro can imagine a day when it might host many more.
He says that Chatfield is deeply committed to the Over-the-Rhine community and excited to take advantage of the resources near their new location and build on collaborations with its neighbors. Several tours of the new campus are coming up, including one on Thursday, Sept. 17 in collaboration with the OTR Chamber of Commerce and Taft’s Ale House.

Neltner Small Batch focuses on "true stories" behind branding work

Consumer and brand marketing is pretty big in Cincinnati, where big firms work with big clients to reach a big audience. Neltner Small Batch, as the name says, is doing things a little differently.
Keith Neltner established his design firm in 2012 on his family’s farm in Camp Springs, Ky. with a small staff and key collaborators such as photographer and cinematographer Brian Steege and editor and colorist Tate Webb. Their most recent project, a promotional film for Braxton Brewing called Born in a Garage, exemplifies what makes this team unique.
“We started working with Braxton in January of last year,” Neltner says. “Way back in the beginning, we established the whole garage sensibility, because they already had that story: They started as father and son brewing in a garage and turned it into a really cool brewery. When they started to actually build out the space, we recognized that there were going to be some unscripted moments that we wanted to capture.”
Neltner had worked with Steege on music videos and documentaries and realized they both loved telling stories. As the Braxton space was developed in Covington, featuring a mural designed by Neltner, Steege documented the process and turned the raw footage over to Webb, who put the story together.
“People talk about authentic stories and they’re really talking about a style of storytelling,” Webb says. “I think what Keith does, and the reason that he connected with Brian and me, is that we have strong feelings about telling true stories and showing true things.”
The team behind Born in the Garage takes a hands-on approach to its work, focusing on the story behind each brand.
“This is not design for design’s sake,” Neltner says. “We’re always digging for that story that’s going to mean something to people. Our writer, Jeff Chambers, connects with people on a fundamental level in the conversational way he writes copy.
“Hopefully we’re creating artifacts that will live on. Ten years from now someone might pick up a vinyl record that we had the opportunity to work on and it’s an artifact, it’s not disposable. That said, we’re not artisans with little lamps in workshops toiling away on woodcarvings. We have that sensibility when we tell a story, but we’re connected and definitely use technology to our advantage.”
Neltner, Stegge and Webb are each running their own businesses in addition to collaborating on projects. Their informal style and honest admiration for each other clearly feeds the success of their partnership.
“Everything Keith has ever designed has been influenced by growing up out in a farming community and coming to a sense of design and art by the life that he lived,” Webb says. “His work truly is as authentic as you can get. Keith is not trying to conjure an image or a look that is popular because of the back to the roots movement — it’s an outpouring of what is natural to him. I think that is what makes his work resonate with people, because in the end authenticity just means truth.”
Webb says the collaborations border on a “mystical experience” when the three start working together on a project.
“The three of us all have separate worlds that don’t cross over at all,” he says, “but occasionally a special project comes along and we know we have to work together.”

Strap welcomes Mondelez International to Cincinnati to begin working with two of its brands

In cities like Cincinnati where marketing is king, “you are what you buy” is a familiar phrase. But the minds behind Strap, the Brandery-born human data intelligence startup, believe that “you are what you buy” and “you are what you tweet” are hardly relevant in today’s marketplace.
“We say you are what you do,” says Patrick Henshaw, COO at Strap, “whether it’s an activity, the food you eat, body metrics, sleep metrics. With that data, we can paint a more precise picture (for our clients).”
Strap’s approach to human data recently earned it a visit from Mondelez International, the global snack food leader. In June, Strap applied to be a part of Mondelez’s Shopper Futures Program, an initiative that brings together entrepreneurs and leading retailers to improve the customer experience. Last week, Strap announced that it’s been accepted into the program.
Strap will be using its human data intelligence platform to pitch a branding/marketing strategy for Trident, one of Mondelez's major brands.
Mondelez officials will visit Cincinnati this week as a part of an immersion tour. The Strap team will then have 90 days to come up with a pilot campaign for Trident. Convenience store Kum & Go will be Strap's acting retail partner for the project.
Strap’s technology integrates with smart phones and wearables to passively collect data ranging from a person’s physical activity to their sleeping habits. Strap can then offer data science to the brand to help them support their mission.
“And the data is not tainted by your social habits,” Henshaw says.
Strap has been an active part of the #StartupCincy movement for a couple of years now. Since graduating from The Brandery, the startup has moved into 84.51° in downtown Cincinnati as one of their Entrepreneurs-in-Residence, joining fellow Cincy startups Hello Parent, Casamatic and HireWheel. Strap also has a presence in San Francisco to better service existing clients.
“We’re wherever our customer is,” Henshaw says.
Though Strap is growing rapidly and this work with Trident will only propel them further, the company is still rooted in Cincinnati.
“You don’t have to head out to San Francisco to find innovation,” Henshaw says. “We love being a part of the movement that is proving that there is innovation outside of Silicon Valley.”
In Cincinnati, Henshaw and his Strap colleagues also act as mentors for The Brandery, UpTech and Ocean. Henshaw sees these mentorship programs as a great way to help budding companies avoid the pitfalls of the startup journey.

“A 30-minute conversation could have saved me two months when we started,” Henshaw says.
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