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Artworks Big Pitch Finalist: Chris Sutton, Noble Denim

Throughout the summer, Soapbox will profile each of the eight finalists in the Artworks Big Pitch competition, which offers artists, makers, designers and creative entrepreneurs a chance to claim up to $20,000 in cash prizes, as well as pro-bono professional services. The competition concludes August 27 at the American Sign Museum with the eight finalists each giving five-minute presentations to a panel of judges. You can read Soapbox’s article on the Big Pitch here.
 
Chris Sutton wants to put Midwestern factory workers back to work. He wants reteach our community how to grow our own goods. And he wants to make sure workers are getting paid a living wage. As much as this might sound like a political platform, Chris Sutton is not running for office. He’s making jeans.
 
As founder of the Noble Denim clothing company, Sutton cares about doing things in the most ethical way possible, so customers know that each time they purchase a Noble product, they can be sure that their money is going toward a healthier environment and fair pay for workers.
 
“Hopefully, that means local, and hopefully, that means American made, but we don’t want to say American made just for sentimental reasons,” Sutton says. “Right now our sweatshirts are being made in Canada because we haven’t been able to find a place in American that pays its employees a living wage.”
 
Sutton started Noble Denim about a year and a half ago, originally setting up in Camp Washington before settling in a workshop in Over-the-Rhine (check out our 2013 profile of Noble here). Originally ,he hoped to hire several people locally to continue expanding production in Cincinnati. Eventually Sutton found that there was much more manufacturing talent already trained in making clothes in the neighboring areas of Kentucky and Tennessee and formed a partnership with a factory that had only four employees remaining there.
 
“What we found is that Kentucky and Tennessee used to be a huge haven for soft goods: clothing, bags, etc., and to my knowledge, there were 50 factories that employed tens of thousands of people until the early '90s,” Sutton says. “But that’s all been outsourced, and now the coasts are where anything made in the United States is from. So to have our production based in Tennessee is actually very local in the grand scheme of the industry.”
 
Now, Noble’s Cincinnati office functions as the design studio and center for experimentation on small batch items like shorts and bags, while the factory in Tennessee handles the bulk of production.
 
“What makes our jeans different is how they are made,” Sutton says. “Most made in America jeans are still made in a highly automated factory of 1,000 employees making several thousand garments a week. We make 20-50 a week, so just based on scale, you can do things at a much more hands-on, intentional level. And at that scale, you tend to get better quality because you can be more hands-on and materials can be picked for small scale. We can get really high-quality fabrics that other companies can’t get. We can focus on those little details and make small tweaks, and that just makes a better product.”
 
Sutton also prides himself on the fact that he personally knows everyone involved in the production of Noble Denim and hopes to keep it that way. In the immediate future, Noble has a few small batches coming out, as well as a collaboration with Cleveland-based Drifter Bags.
 
For Noble, winning the big pitch would allow the company to take on one more employee here in the Cincinnati studio, as well as potentially accelerate production in Tennessee, which in turn would allow them to bring more workers back to the factory there.
 
“We’d love to become a nationally recognized brand and fill out our product lines,” Sutton says. “We’re still very early on in the process, but the cool thing is that Cincinnati is a creative place that is innovative, and I’m excited about using that skill set here to make those changes that will affect manufacturing towns in Kentucky, Tennessee and Ohio.”

Check out these other Artworks Big Pitch finalists:

Artworks Big Pitch Finalist: Django Kroner, The Canopy Crew

Throughout the summer, Soapbox will profile each of the eight finalists in the Artworks Big Pitch competition, which offers artists, makers, designers and creative entrepreneurs a chance to claim up to $20,000 in cash prizes, as well as pro-bono professional services. The competition concludes August 27 at the American Sign Museum with the eight finalists each giving five-minute presentations to a panel of judges. You can read Soapbox’s article on the Big Pitch here.
 
Magic exists. We just have to choose to let it into our lives. You can be fairly certain of that after meeting Django Kroner, founder and owner of the Canopy Crew.
 
Launched in November 2013, The Canopy Crew is a custom tree house building and tree care company. As a business owner, Kroner is quite green, but when it comes to tree care, construction, rigging and woodwork, he has several years under his belt already.
 
At the age of 19, Kroner moved to Red River Gorge, Ky., to pursue his passion for rock climbing. While there, he began working at a cabin rental company building timber frame cabins and living in a tent. Eventually, he decided that he wanted to build a tree house to get off of the forest floor. He spent three years living in the treehouse.
 
“Living there brought an amazing sense of contentment. No matter what the day held, as soon as I’d go up in the tree house, it’d be a good night,” Kroner says. “Having friends over and seeing how it inspired them made me want to share the magic of tree houses with more people.”
 
So he decided to leave Red River Gorge, though he still returns frequently, and head to Cincinnati to learn about tree health here to complement the building and rigging skills he learned while in Kentucky.
 
Now with the Canopy Crew, Kroner is able to build tree houses that not only are safe and sustainable, but also interact with the trees in the healthiest manner possible. He has projects that span the Southwest Ohio/Northern Kentucky region, from Yellow Springs to Eastgate to, of course, Red River Gorge.
 
“I’m working on developing several tree houses, potentially a tree house village, down at the gorge,” Kroner says. “That way people from around the area can come and experience the amazing perspective that comes with life in a tree house.”
 
Django became involved with the Big Pitch competition through participating in Artworks’ CO.STARTERS program.
 
“Artworks has been a huge help for me and my business,” Kroner says. “Through CO.STARTERS and now the Big Pitch, they’ve provided me with some great expertise that relates to me. Starting a business on my own means that I have a thousand questions, and to have something besides Google is huge. If I win the competition, I think that will help me get somewhere that would otherwise have taken three to four years to get to. And if I don’t, it’s still opened up this mentality for me that I can just get after it and start making things happen now.”

Check out these other Artworks Big Pitch finalists:

Cintrifuse invests in major New York City venture capital fund

Cintrifuse, the downtown-based company that develops and supports entrepreneurialism in Cincinnati, has announced that its newest investment is New York City-based Lerer Hippeau Ventures IV (LHV), a top tier venture capital fund, to increase seed and early stage venture leadership in Cincinnati.
 
With more than $130 million under management, Lerer Hippeau invests in the earliest stages of a startup’s life—a complementary strategy for the growing startup ecysystem in Cincinnati and a piece of the puzzle that Cintrifuse saw as a crucial addition.
 
“Seed stage investment is very important here in Cincinnati,” says Tim Schigel, Cintrifuse fund manager. “CincyTech and Queen City Angels are doing a great job, but we need more. Lerer is a great firm and very compatible with our region.”
 
LHV is widely viewed as one of the top firms in NYC with investments in such companies as Buzzfeed, Birchbox, Thrillist Media Group and nearly 200 others. With this specialization in digital media and publishing, particularly in the tech world, Cintrifuse is betting that this will continue to bring attention and, more important, investment to the Cincinnati region.
 
“Since our founding four years ago, we’ve been focused primarily on fueling the New York and West Coast tech scenes,” says Eric Hippeau, managaing director at LHV and former CEO of the Huffington Post. “With our fourth fund, we’re looking forward to selectively seeking investment opportunities outside these regions. Cincinnati is particularly interesting with a great deal of startup growth potential, and we are extremely excited to be partnering with Cintrifuse, which sits at the center of innovation in the city.”
 
Schigel is excited for what this means for the city, and while it is not yet certain how this specific relationship will play out, he is optimistic for the future.
 
“It’s a marathon, not a sprint,” Schigel sats. “We could go for two years without anything happening, but the good thing is that it is already happening. There are already investments imminent. The question is, how does it continue and at what kind of pace. We’re building relationships and multiple touch points for those venture firms within the community and will continue to build resources and connections for our entrepreneurs.”
 

Adopt a Class and Sales Genesis team up to stoke young entrepreneurs

Increasingly, when we think of startups and the entrepreneurs behind them, we tend to think of tech-savvy people in their twenties sitting behind a screen working with datasets and codes. In Cincinnati, the Adopt A Class Foundation is proving that entrepreneurs can come in many forms—and ages.
 
Adopt A Class, a mentoring program that connects pre-K through 8th grade students with local businesses, teamed with local marketing company Sales Genesis to work with the 4th grade class at St. Peter Claver Latin School for Boys. By the end of the school year, the boys had their own small business, the Refreshing Lemon lemonade stand, complete with a business plan, business model, logo and marketing materials.
 
“We first met the boys in December 2013,” says Sales Genesis founder and CEO David Mentzel. “It was very interesting: We talked about what they were passionate about, and they all were very into the NBA, but instead of wanting to be basketball players, they dreamed of owning a team.”
 
After getting to know the students and their interests a little better, Mentzel and his team decided that the best thing to do would be to introduce them to the entrepreneurial process and just what it takes to own a business.
 
“We narrowed it down to a lemonade stand so that it was more feasible to start with,” he says. “Then we talked to them about company structure, showed them what a business plan looks like, and they voted each other into different roles and really adapted to them.”
 
The group went about setting a budget, determining costs and designing marketing materials. The project culminated when the Refreshing Lemon stand was put up for one afternoon in May on the corner of Main and Thirteenth Streets in Over-the-Rhine. In just an hour and a half, the stand earned more than $100. The earnings were then split up among the boys, who decided to donate a sizable percentage to their neighbors at the Mary Magdalen House on Main Street.
 
“We also talked to them about the importance of putting some away for yourself and saving for the future,” says Katie Burroughs, executive director of Adopt A Class. “We want them to feel that they have the skill set and knowledge to run their own business one day.”
 
Adopt A Class works with several schools and businesses around the city, but will continue the partnership between St. Peter Claver and Sales Genesis next year. 

ArtWorks announces Big Pitch Competition finalists

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

Google enables Street View virtual tour of Cincinnati Museum Center

Google Cultural Institute, a Google initiative that allows users to discover exhibits and collections from around the world online, has teamed with the Cincinnati Museum Center to give people around the world a chance to tour the museum via Google Street View.
 
Using the Street View feature, online visitors can drop themselves into various points in the Cincinnati Museum Center, getting a 360-degree view of that space, from the massive Rotunda of Union Terminal to the Museum of Natural History & Science and Cincinnati History Museum or the Duke Energy Children's Museum.
 
Street View has also mapped features of the Museum Center that many guests rarely see in person, including the cork walls and floors of the historic Union Terminal President's Office and historic dining rooms. Additionally, some items from Museum Center's fine art collection are available to view through the Google Art Project.
 
“This technology gives a whole new range of people the chance to experience the stories, history and scientific research we have here,” says Cody Hefner of the Cincinnati Museum Center. “We hope that this actually gets new people excited about coming down to the museum and experiencing these things in person.”
 
The relationship with Google began when the Museum Center approached the company about the Google Art Project.
 
“We are happy to have an ongoing relationship with the team at Google, and from here we’re hoping to continue refining and expanding the online tour to make it even better for online visitors,” Hefner says. “The reason we exist is not for profit—it’s to educate and inspire people. It’s selfish for us to say that you have to come here to see all that. This gives us an opportunity to expand our reach, and we’re happy to have Google as a partner in that.”
 
In addition to the virtual tour, more than 65 works of art are included in the Art Project, including one that was photographed in extraordinary detail using super high-resolution "gigapixel" photo capturing technology.

Progress Acquires Modulus, big win for the Cincinnati startup community

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

Cincinnati Chamber's Minority Business Accelerator grows portfolio with three new firms

The Cincinnati USA Regional Chamber’s Minority Business Accelerator (MBA) has had a busy year. This month, the MBA has announced the addition of three local corporations to the organization’s current portfolio of 34 companies, ensuring those minority-owned enterprises the MBA’s assistance with working with larger companies of substance. 
 
Additionally, two new MBA Corporate Goal Setters were unveiled today, joining the ranks of 37 regional organizations that have pledged a significant commitment to using a diverse group of suppliers.
 
Joining the MBA as Portfolio Companies are K-COR, LLC, a specialty subcontractor specializing in reinforced steel led by former Cincinnati Bengals linebacker Kevin Walker; PAK/TEEM Acquisition Company, Inc., a dust control technology leader; and Business Technical Services, LLC, an infrastructure company specializing in pipeline integrity management.
 
“The Cincinnati region is made up of somewhere around 20 percent minorities. We want to make sure that they, as individuals and companies, are given every opportunity to grow to their fullest potential,” says Crystal German, vice president of the MBA and economic inclusion at the Cincinnati USA Regional Chamber. “These three portfolio additions are not only examples of the measured growth of our MBA, but represent strong minority advancement in manufacturing, one of our region’s most significant industry sectors.”
 
In addition to this, the MBA announced last week at its 2014 Annual Stakeholder meeting that the Goal Setters companies spent $1.04 billion with local minority-owned companies in 2013, the highest level in the MBA’s 11-year history. Goal Setters are local corporations and nonprofit organizations that commit to an annual spend goal. Also announced at the meeting, average revenues for the MBA’s 34 Portfolio Firms reached $32 million in 2013, a 10 percent increase from 2012, and a 100 percent increase from 2009.
 
“Thirteen years ago, there was major racial tension here, and one of the biggest issues was a lack of opportunities for minorities, specifically in business,” says Lance Barry, public relations manager at the Cincinnati USA Regional Chamber. “To be able to say that now we have one of the leading minority business accelerators in the entire country is incredible.”
 
Indeed, since the MBA’s formation 11 years ago, the cities of Dayton, Ohio, Lexington, Ky., Greensville, S.C., and Charlotte, N.C., have all begun similar programs in their respective cities and have modeled them on Cincinnati’s MBA program

Xavier Partners with American Dreamers radio show to support entrepreneurs

X-Link, a Xavier University Williams College of Business initiative to support locally-owned business creation in Greater Cincinnati, is collaborating with the local radio show American Dreamers to profile local entrepreneurs.
 
American Dreamers airs every Sunday at 9 p.m. on 55KRC, 550AM and his hosted by Sun Ho Donovan and Tom Tasset. The hosts will feature a profile on a different member of the Cincinnati Independent Business Alliance (CiNBA) each week as a benefit membership of CiNBA.
 
“When I found out about CiNBA, I immediately became a supporter of their mission to aid small businesses,” Donovan says. “It’s absolutely the same thing we’re doing with the show, so it made sense for us to work together and support each other.”
 
The profiles will include on-air interviews with the featured entrepreneurs or discussion spots focused on their local businesses, as well as the impact of independent businesses on a community level.
 
“Our partnership with American Dreamers creates some unique benefits for CiNBA members,” says Owen Raisch, founder of the X-Link program and of CINBA. “Of course, radio airtime allows us to share our member stories, but we'll also be offering CiNBA members and supporters exclusive content online in the form of extended interviews that Tom and Sun Ho hold with different experts on the show. Soon, we expect the partnership to bring game-changing ways for local business owners to learn from each other online.”
 
Both CiNBA and American Dreamers agree on the fact that small business growth and entrepreneurship are the way to strengthening individuals, communities and cities.
 
“I was born in South Korea, and my parents have the classic immigrant turned entrepreneur story,” Donovan says. “Seeing their path has really strengthened my belief in the idea that business ownership and supporting small business is the way to change neighborhoods.”
 
In addition to this partnership, CiNBA continues to actively seek out new partnerships in an effort to grow entrepreneurship in the region.
 
“As we strengthen ties throughout more than 20 neighborhood business districts in the region, we're looking to develop strong partnerships with local financiers—ones committed to creating vibrant communities by funding local small businesses,“ Raisch says.
 
To learn more visit www.gcinba.org

River Cities Capital closes largest fund to date, celebrates 20th anniversary

River Cities Capital Funds (RCCF), a growth equity firm investing in high-potential health care and IT companies, announced today the final closing of its fifth fund. The RCCF Fund V capped at $200 million, surpassing its $150 million goal, with the continued support from many longtime limited partners as well as new participation from several large national and international institutions. The firm, based in Cincinnati and Raleigh, N.C., has raised more than $500 million to date.
 
“With Fund V, we’ll continue to build market-segment leaders that combine disruptive technologies, innovative business practices and disciplined sales and marketing expansion to become frontrunners in their target markets,” says Dan Fleming, managing director of RCCF.
 
The Fund V portfolio includes three companies to date: Trax Technologies, a Saas provider of logistics-spend management solutions; TissueTech, a pioneer in regenerative tissue-based products; and StepLeader, a business-to-business provider of mobile technology platform and data-driven mobile ad networks for local media outlets. With robust deal flow and fundraising completed, new investment activity is expected to accelerate over the coming year.
 
“We see thousands of companies each year and, as always, our mission is to provide our investors with premium returns, while building strong communities that make a positive impact in the market and create job opportunities in the areas of the country that are often underserved by larger VC and PE firms,” Fleming says.
 
After 20 years in business, RCCF has seen the industry change quite a bit.
 
“When we started, the whole investment ecosystem was starting from scratch,” Fleming says. “Now, CincyTech, the Brandery, Queen City Angels, Uptech and Cintrifuse, our region has a tremendous amount of resources focused on new company formation. We currently have two portfolio companies in Cincinnati, and we’ve helped build more than 20 companies in Ohio over the years. We’d of course love the opportunity to put more money to work locally, and we make a concerted effort to track early companies to be ready if they need growth capital.”

UC teams with AMP Electric Vehicles to create unmanned aerial vehicle for safely delivering goods

The University of Cincinnati has partnered with AMP Electric Vehicles, makers of the WorkHorse all-electric delivery truck, on the HorseFly "octocopter" through an innovative partnership made possible by the University of Cincinnati Research Institute (UCRI).
 
The newly designed, autonomous unmanned aerial vehicle (UAV) was developed to work in tandem with AMP's delivery trucks, the goal being to create a safe, fast and innovative method of delivering goods.
 
“UAVs really are the way of the future,” says AMP CEO Steve Burns. “When we started seriously looking into them and how to integrate them into our business, we knew we could handle the battery motor components, but we needed someone to actually design the model for us, so we asked UC.”
 
At UC, Kelly Cohen, an associate professor of aerospace engineering and engineering mechanics, put together a team led by Ph.D. student Wei Wei with support from fellow students Bryan Brown, Nicholas Schwartz, Vince DeChellis and Nathaniel Richards to design and construct the UAV.
 
“What we’ve created with the HorseFly is a safer concept of flying,” Cohen says. “The UAV has eight rotors, and we’ve been able to demonstrate that even if one or two shut off, we can still be safe and continue the mission.”
 
The idea for the HorseFly is that it would be positioned atop a delivery truck, awaiting a package from the driver. When loaded, the HorseFly will scan the barcode on the package, determine the path to the delivery address via GPS and fly away—completely self-guided—to the appropriate destination. Meanwhile, the delivery truck will continue on its rounds. After successful delivery, the HorseFly will zoom back to the truck for its next delivery run, where it can also recharge its battery wirelessly.
 
“In addition to the added safety, this method is also much more efficient,” Burns says. “Delivery via truck costs around 60 cents per mile, whereas it might be around two cents a mile to deliver from a HorseFly. We want to keep down the cost of delivery for the public.”
 
In addition to the work on the HorseFly technology, Cohen and his team are also using the UAV technology to study fires and look at how to more effectively predict the behavior of fires based on real-time aerial views and imbedded algorithms. 

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

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

Food truck festival on Fountain Square grows, benefits local charity

Local nonprofit Josh Cares, an organization within Cincinnati Children’s Hospital designed to benefit hospitalized children who are alone or in need of support, will take over Fountain Square on June 18 for Food Truckin’ for Josh Cares: Presented by General Mills and Kroger.
 
The lunchtime event is set for 11 a.m. to 2 p.m. and will feature more than 10 diverse food trucks from around Cincinnati including Eli’s BBQ, Dojo Gelato, C’est Cheese, Red Sesame, Street Pops, Blue Ash Chili and more. Frank Marzulo of Fox 19 will emcee the event, which culminates with a “Golden Spatula Awards” contest, with best entree and best sweet treat chosen by a celebrity panel that includes Elizabeth Mariner, co-publisher and creative director for "Express Cincinnati;" Ilene Ross, chef and editor of 513Eats.com; and Jeremy Lieb, executive chef at Boca. Judging will be headed up by Warm 98 hosts Bob Goen and Marianne Curan, who will be broadcasting live from the event.
 
“If you look at just how many people have come together to build this event and make it successful, it’s truly a testament to our city as a whole,” says Tom Howard, member of the Josh Cares Young Professional Council. “We also couldn’t have made this happen without the support of Rockfish, who selected us to be the recipient of $50,000 of pro-bono digital marketing and branding services.”
 
The Josh Cares program began as a grassroots initiative within Cincinnati Children’s Hospital in 2005. Today, there are six Josh Cares Child Life Specialists at the hospital to ensure that no critically ill child endures a lengthy hospitalization alone, feeling afraid and abandoned. Food Truckin’ for Josh Cares has become the organization’s biggest public event and awareness builder.
 
“Last year, we raised $17,000; this year our goal is to more than double that,” says Joy Blang, executive director of Josh Cares. “The bottom line is that ,while it will be a great day celebrating the great food truck scene here, it’s really all about making these children a little happier.”

Want to learn more about Cincinnati street food? Check out "30 Must-Try Cincinnati Food Trucks."

Joe Thirty provides new format, opportunity for entrepreneurs to connect

In May, a new series of morning networking events called Joe Thirty kicked off on the 20th floor of the Cincinnati Enquirer building downtown. The series holds events every second Wednesday of the month at 8 a.m., and offers individual entrepreneurs/companies a chance to present to a group of their peers, make connections and receive feedback.
 
At each event, only one local entrepreneur is selected to speak. They are given six minutes to present and talk about any issues they are dealing with or help they may need. The remaining 24 minutes are reserved for community feedback (totaling 30 minutes for the entire event). The main organizers of the event are the Greater Cincinnati Venture Association (GCVA) and local startup and entrepreneurial partner Differential.
 
“GCVA and Differential have been getting together to think about how we could create a program that gathers together the startup community and gives one company at a time the chance to make a pitch to them, not for money, but for resources,” says GCVA volunteer Jake Hodesh. “Our goal is that hopefully by the end of that 30 minute event, that startup leaves with at least one, if not multiple, connections, whether they be to mentors, developers, beta testers or anything else.”
 
The next event will be held on Wednesday, June 11 and will feature Sue Reynolds of ArtifactTree. ArtifactTree is a tool that lets users log and track family heirlooms and other rare items in their possession. This tool is aimed to make it easy for families to share who has what, add notes, and even tap a network of specialists within ArtifactTree to have your possessions rated, commented on and appraised. 
 
“There’s still a very real need for startups to access mentors and connections in a general sense,” Hodesh says. “We held the first event, and we had a really good crowd, so it was pretty obvious that there are people who are still hungry to participate and to help.”
 
Since the first event, GCVA and Differential have received a flurry of inquires from various startups about presenting at Joe Thirty. Hodesh says they plan to roll out an application process to evaluate each company and determine whether or not Joe Thirty will be able to connect them with the resources they need.
 
“Cincinnati is a resource-rich environment for entrepreneurs right now,” Hodesh says. “The greatest opportunity is that there are so many opportunities. We’re just doing our part to connect people with them.” 

Xavier offers LaunchCincy entrepreneurship workshops in Spanish

Xavier University’s X-link program, a Williams College of Business initiative to support locally owned business creation in greater Cincinnati, has expanded its LaunchCincy entrepreneurship workshops to include a workshop for Spanish speakers called LaunchCincy Juntos.
 
Currently, LaunchCincy hosts free workshops in six neighborhoods including Madisonville and Price Hill in an effort to give new entrepreneurs the resources, guidance and network they need to start a business.
 
“The objective at a theoretical level is to help people active in the informal economy transition into the formal economy,” says Owen Raisch, founder of the X-link initiative at Xavier. “At a practical level, it’s about getting people with entrepreneurial interest to realize it and get started.”
 
The workshops take place in a four-part series, as they help participants take their businesses from idea to revenue. Partnering with the Hispanic Chamber of Commerce and Transformations CDC, the new workshop is developing skills and ideas with 10 Spanish-speaking immigrants in Price Hill. To create the course, Xavier undergraduate students Gali Zummar, Laura Forero and Ronald Vieira translated the outline of the English workshop into Spanish.
 
“As a Jesuit university, it matches up with our mission to be reaching out to help communities that might not otherwise get the attention,” Raisch says. “The Hispanic population has disproportionately high rates of enterprise, and to create this program and have a chance for our students to be involved is really key.”
 
X-Link plans to expand its Spanish-speaking program into Carthage this fall, in partnership with the Catholic Charities of Southwestern Ohio and Su Casa Hispanic Ministries. They also plan to build the LaunchCincy curriculum into the university curriculum so that students will get course credit for designing and implementing the workshops through Xavier’s entrepreneurship program.
 

The next LaunchCincy workshop is Saturday, June 14, at Speckled Bird Cooperative in Norwood. Learn more and sign up for free. 

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