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Cincinnati hosts first ProductCamp conference

Cincinnati recently hosted its first ProductCamp, a business conference held internationally that focuses on business development. The conference encourages attendees to be the speakers and uses crowd-sourced topics for discussion, including topics on product development, how to market products, brand management and how to run a startup, among others.
 
"One thing that I've noticed, living in Cincinnati, is we have a really good background when it comes to product management or brand management—more traditional practices," says ProductCamp organizer Brian Craft. "And then we have this new wave of tech—and even non-tech—startups. So what I thought would be neat is if we tried to pull together that traditional and new mix into ProductCamp."
 
Much of Craft's inspiration came from similarities he saw between the traditional and startup companies.
 
"Whether you're talking about a small company or a large company, a manufacturer or a software company, a lot of the same challenges [apply]," Craft says. "How do you find the right thing to build and sell, and how do you know that people are going to buy it, and how do you reduce your risk in getting it to market?"
 
More than 100 people attended the event and 15 topics were chosen from a pool of 20 crowd-sourced ideas.
 
Craft says he plans for ProductCamp to become an annual event.
 
"I think the big win was two things," Craft says. "One: seeing how people can have very similar challenges in what they're trying to do, who likely normally don't get to interact with each other, and all got together and hung out on a Saturday afternoon. And two: seeing people trying to build new things in our community, and some of that inspiration came from our event."

Love Bite aims to improve party planning options

As one of Bad Girl Ventures' (BGV) 2014 finalists, one startup is looking to provide people with a one-stop-shop for kitchen and party supplies.
 
Morgan Hamilton and Aris Yowell created Love Bite as a platform to share their love for cooking, hosting and parties. The duo, whose collective experience includes marketing and food industry work, plans to sell a variety of products: cards and invitations, kitchen and cookwear, handmade platters, cocktail supplies and artisanal treats. 
 
"We're trying to highlight people who are making well-made party supplies," Yowell says. "People who are making something unique at affordable prices. We want to have a variety of products and price points so it's accessible." 
 
Hamilton and Yowell believe that offering products and featuring designers established through different mediums—on larger and smaller scales—will help customers find the right products more easily.   
 
"Sometimes it can be really hard to find what you're looking for," Yowell says. "We see an opportunity to do this because [less established designers] often get lost in the mix."
 
In addition to offering brand-name supplies, Love Bite plans to eventually offer proprietary products.
 
"We'll have in-house designed products to cater to our target markets," Yowell says. "When you make it yourself, you can offer it at a lower price."
 
While it's uncertain when Love Bite will begin selling products, the company plans to launch a small collection in spring 2015 through an eCommerce platform.
 
"Our kitchenware will be things you can host with," Hamilton says. "We want to offer unique kitchenware and delicious treats by American makers and designers. 
 
Hamilton and Yowell, as well as the other BGV finalists, are undergoing a nine-week business-planning course at Hamilton County Business Center before making their final pitch to the BGV investment committee.

Sister duo creates superhero-inspired children's book and toy

A local teacher and a graphic designer recently wrote a book and developed a new children's toy that functions as both an alarm clock and nightlight.
 
Annie Richardson was inspired to write the story of SleeperHero as a way to help her son stay in bed at night. Richardson's sister, Meggie Hunley, illustrated the book and created a toy inspired by the story.
 
"The storybook introduces the doll to your kid, so we thought it was a really natural way to introduce the routine," Hunley says. "And most parents are already reading their kids bedtime stories."
 
The toy's timer can be set to a sleep and wake time, and works in conjunction with the nightlight function, as it turns from red to green at wake time.
 
"A few years ago, when [Richardson's] son was trying all the tricks in the book—he wanted a drink, he was scared—she felt like she needed something," Hunley says. "There are things out there on the market, but nothing seems quite special enough."
 
The SleeperHero's timer fits inside the doll, which has a lock on the outside to prevent a child from adjusting it.
 
"We also have some resources on our website," Hunley says. "A sleep chart for your child's progress and a little certificate of courage for when your kids have slept a week, a month, or whatever you feel like is worth rewarding."
 
The duo is currently selling the SleeperHero on their website, and plan to begin selling limited supplies in stores—The Spotted Goose, The Villager, The Blue Marble, Stony's Gift and Toy Shoppe—in November. They'll also be at the City Flea on October 11.

Bad Girl Ventures announces second class of 2014 finalists

Entrepreneurial accelerator and nonprofit organization Bad Girl Ventures (BGV) announced its second group of finalists for 2014 at Mt. Adams Pavilion on Wednesday.
 
The 10 businesses, which comprise Bad Girl Ventures' tenth class in Cincinnati, have the potential to receive funding after undergoing a nine-week course of creating business plans and financial projections. 
 
43 companies applied to compete as finalists. During the selection process, BVG considers a number of factors.
 
"First, we consider the viability of the idea," says BGV executive director Corey Drushal. "We look at whether any testing of the market has been done, what the competition is like, and whether the entrepreneur has the skills or the team to make it work. Beyond this, we look to the entrepreneur herself."
 
Finalists include Linda Aivalotis with Aiva Decor & Remodeling; Barbara and David Gunn with All Care Navigators; Sarah Dworak with Babushka Pierogies; Mary Fennell with Chaddeze; Julie Ball with Get Creative Photo Booths; Aris Yowell and Morgan Hamilton with Love Bite; Erica Norton with Norton Flooring; Lindsay Lescoe with One Fine Day; Kimberly Barach with Poppy; and Davina Eccard and Ryan Sullivan with Tactical Intelligence Group.
 
"We are looking for a more intangible quality in the entrepreneur that shows she is coachable, has the personality to sell her company and has the tenacity it requires to start your own company," Drushal says. "We do not look for someone that knows it all and can answer all the questions from our investment committee correctly. We look for someone that has a good idea and is the right person to make that idea happen."
 
BGV is partnering with NKU's Chase College of Law and UC's College of Law to provide each finalist with legal services during the course.
 
After the nine-week course at Hamilton County Business Center, the finalists will make their final pitch to the investment committee.

Design company chosen as West Elm grant contest finalist

In addition to creating its first line of furniture, design company Such + Such was announced a finalist for the West Elm's "We Love Local Small Businesses Grant" contest.
 
The company began in 2005 during Zach Darmanian-Harris' and Alex Aeschbury's tenure at UC's College of DAAP. The duo was randomly paired as roommates during their freshman year, and continued living together while in school, studying industrial design. For their senior thesis, they decided to pursue an entrepreneurial project, which became known as Such + Such in 2011.
 
"[Such + Such] is based on the idea of using small batch manufacturing and designing toward those processes," Darmanian-Harris says. "After [graduating] we took about a year to plan and get some money together and got our first CNC machine and set up shop in Losantiville."
 
Such + Such's selected pieces include clocks, a low and high stool, shelving unit, coffee tables and wooden record crates. 
 
"It's this nice point on the spectrum from really traditional to really outlandish designs; we're kind of just on the path of a modern contemporary vibe," Aeschbury says.
 
Now located in Cincinnati's West End, Such + Such designs and makes all of its products in Cincinnati and sources all of its materials locally.
 
"We've never really had an opportunity to aggressively market our work and really get it out," Aeschbury says. "And something we're really interested in is max customization, where you have a product line and you produce it in a limited run—10 to 20 pieces—and then you're making small changes every time."
 
One grand-prize winner will receive a $25,000 grant and mentorship from West Elm, and three runner-ups' products will be featured in West Elm during the holiday season.
 
Local PR and design firm PB&J is hosting a voting party Tuesday, October 7, from 5:30-7:30 p.m. Contest winners will be announced November 19.

Xavier University renovates classroom with interactive technology

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

Four-year old inspires story-based app

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

Cincinnati musicians collaborate on location-inspired project

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

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

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

VFA fellows create new cured meat snack

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

Zipscene announces new hires, renovation plans

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

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

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

AAF Cincinnati prepares for Digital Marketing Conference

Next Monday and Tuesday AAF Cincinnati will host its seventh annual Digital Dialogue (D²) Conference at Horseshoe Casino. The event, which originated in 2008 as the Digital Non-Conference, explores and celebrates digital marketing by allowing industry leaders to convene for open dialogue.
 
This will be the second year the event is hosted at Horseshoe Casino, as organizers aim to bring the conference to a more centralized location.
 
"We kind of wanted to rebrand to focus more on the customer side of marketing," says Sean Grace, D² chair and organizer. "In other words, 'How do we reach the customer through these digital channels, and how do we deliver a unique and invaluable experience to them that they couldn't get elsewhere?'"
 
Some key discussion topics will include how digital data is acquired and used (especially through social media) and how to create personalized experiences, how retailers are moving toward eCommerce, and how startups and marketers can collaborate to create better services.
 
"There's a lot of learning that you can get from this," Grace says. "We definitely open it up because we know that it's not just the presenters that are really well versed in digital marketing strategies. We try to make sure that there's plenty of give and take between the speakers and audience members, and there's a lot of time to network between as well."
 
Keynote speakers will include Matt Thompson of The Kroger Co.; Adam Symson of EW Scripps; Dave Knox of Rockfish and the Brandery; Rachel Hadaway of dunnhumbyUSA; and JB Brokaw of Sociomantic Labs.
 
Anyone can purchase tickets, but the event will be most beneficial to those involved with the marketing and advertising industries, Grace says.
 
General admission passes are $525 ($175 for full-time college students) and can be purchased at the D² website.
 

Local design firm adds new dimension to MPMF

With MidPoint Music Festival only a couple weeks away, local design firm FRCH looks to add a new dimension to the upcoming festival experience with a dynamic, interactive project at The Frameshop in OTR.
 
The project, Framed at Midpoint, is intended to connect festival attendees by capturing specific moments throughout the weekend, as well as raise money for the Music Resource Center (MRC), a nonprofit that helps provide youth with musical resources.
 
The space will include a photo booth, postcard gallery, sculptures made of instruments and a missed-connections space titled You've Been Framed.
 
"This whole space is serving the function of giving back to our community," says Cristina Ferrari, senior brand strategist for FRCH. "The sculpture is paying homage to [MRC's] mission, which is all about creating opportunities for our youth—teaching life skills through music, providing them with access to instruments, to lessons and actually recording music."
 
FRCH plans to use pictures uploaded to Instagram with the hashtag "#FramedAtMidpoint" to create postcards that can be purchased for $1 at The Frameshop.
 
"Anyone could really go and capture a great picture of Midpoint of any part of the experience and we could choose to print that on a postcard and hang it in our gallery," Ferrari says. "It's supposed to be a representation of the whole MidPoint experience."
 
Festival attendees can create postcard content two ways: either through the photobooth or uploading hashtagged photos.  All proceeds will go to MRC.
 
You've Been Framed allows attendees to leave visual messages for friends—anonymously or not—who will receive a notification to visit The Frameshop via text message. The personalized messages will be displayed in the gallery.
 
"We want it to be this perpetual 'Tag, you're it'," Ferrari says.  "A lot of our inspiration is taking these digital experiences that we've all kind of fallen in love with and [asking], 'How do we take a step back and create a more tactile experience?'"
 
The team, composed of 15 people, was led by FRCH senior interior designer Elizabeth Price.
 

Art & Cuisine Series to launch in October

Uptown Consortium is preparing to launch an art and cuisine series in October, which will last through March, as they recently received a $10,000 grant from The Carol Ann and Ralph V. Haile, Jr./U.S. Bank Foundation. 
 
The series, called POP UP Cincy, aims to bring creative talent together to collaborate on new projects, and will feature installations around the city—including Avondale, Ludlow Avenue, Calhoun Street and Burnet Avenue.
 
The first installation, titled Concept Camp, focuses on the local technology and art and design sectors. Participants will begin work Oct. 24, and the event will be open to the public Oct. 25.
 
"There aren't many events where those two sectors overlap," says POP UP Cincy organizer Catherine Richards. "The idea is that all these different people can come in and get feedback, leverage resources, and then at the end of the day the community, all of Cincinnati, is invited to come into the space and we'll transform the storefront together."
 
The Ludlow Avenue event, POP UP Fairytales, will involve creating boxed vignettes inspired by traditional fairytales, as well as a light-up parade. It will take place in conjunction with Holidays on Ludlow.
 
"We're really working on designing what the parade is going to be like," Richards says. "I'd love for residents to get involved and parade around the street."
 
The final event, which will take place in March, involves creating a digitally embroidered quilt inspired by the coral reef.
 
"To me, the coral reef symbolizes the potential of a city to be full of diversity where all these different people bring different strengths, different ideas to make something stronger," Richards says. "It will accumulate into a public exhibition of artwork in which many people will work on."
 
All event details are not yet complete, but updates will be made to POP UP Cincy's facebook page.  Those interested in participating in the series should contact Richards.

Social Enterprise Week kicks off in Cincinnati

This week marks the first ever Social Enterprise Week in Cincinnati. The week features two prominent events on September 10 and September 13 with the goal of raising awareness about the idea of social enterprises and rallying support around them.
 
“Nonprofits are the cornerstone of providing social services in our communities,” says Bill Tucker, executive director of Flywheel Social Enterprise Hub. “But there’s been less and less funding available to nonprofits recently, so they need new ways to generate revenue. That’s where social enterprises come in.”
 
Social enterprises help fill the funding gap by increasing the capacity of nonprofits to fulfill their charitable purpose while generating revenue in support of their mission. The first event of the week will be the Social Enterprise Showcase on Fountain Square on Wednesday, September 10 on Fountain Square from 11:30 a.m. to 1:30 pm.
 
“We want to capture the attention of the business community and rally their support around this idea,” Tucker says. “The event will showcase 24 social enterprises, and the causes that these enterprises support.”
 
Tucker and others involved with the organization of Social Enterprise Week talk about the “triple bottom line” as what really makes these businesses special.
 
“A social enterprise may have a double bottom line, which would be to generate revenue both for the business itself and for the nonprofit it funds,” Tucker says. “But a triple bottom line will also include a larger purpose, for example the Freestore Foodbank’s Cincinnati Cooks Catering. It helps with workforce development and community building as well. Those type of businesses are really our sweet spot.”
 
On Saturday, September 13, the city will celebrate “Buy Social Saturday” where social enterprises around the city will have different types of special offerings in an effort to encourage consumers to support these organizations and thereby improve the community around them.
 
“Cincinnati is starting to do a great job of supporting its entrepreneurs here, and we see these social enterprises as capturing that same entrepreneurial spirit and grit,” says Lisa Striker, event chair for Social Enterprise Week. “As that entire culture grows here, we need to keep supporting these entities as well.”
 
 
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