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ShareThis founder offers advice for entrepreneurs

Tim Schigel is the chairman and founder of ShareThis, a sharing and engagement platform. He served as the director of Blue Chip Venture Company and was involved with the growth of Nielsen Buzzmetrics, a leading platform for measuring blog sentiment and forums, and Third Screen Media, the first mobile advertising platform.
Schigel will be sharing his experience and tips with other entrepreneurs at the first Startup Grind event in Cincinnati, Dec. 6 at The Brandery.
What was your first startup in Cincinnati?
My first job out of college (CWRU BSEE) was with Pharos Technologies. I was employee number 11. The company grew and became Digineer. I created a pioneering product for remote computer management for the Mac at the time. I also built P&G’s world-wide network. This was all in the early 90s.
Where did you get your idea for that first startup?
I’ve always enjoyed pursuing new ideas. At Pharos, I grew and transitioned from a technical role into the VP of Sales and Marketing, and eventually left to do my own thing. I was also fascinated with venture capital and the fast-paced tech lifestyle of Silicon Valley. I come from a family of entrepreneurs, albeit mostly small business.
Why do you think startups are important to the community?
Startups are the engine of innovation. There is so much freedom to explore technology, business management and business models. This creates a great environment for unanticipated results.

Often great innovations are accidental. It takes the right environment, however, to let those accidents happen. The other factor that is a driving force for startups is time—they don’t have any. It forces the entrepreneur to adapt quickly in all respects.
Do you regularly attend Startup Grind meetings?
No, this is the first one. I’m excited, and anyone who knows me knows that I love to help startups and explore new ideas.
Where do you draw your inspiration from when coming up with new ideas?
Everywhere. I’m a big believer in the cross-pollination of ideas. The next answer to a software problem might come from biology or some other completely different domain.

We should put everything on the table and encourage people to develop a natural curiosity and well-rounded perspective. I also think innovation comes from constraints. Some of the most interesting products have emerged from very constrained environments that act as a forcing function for creativity. Open-ended creativity is actually hard and doesn’t always lead to the most interesting solution.

Finally, I like taking a contrarian point of view. If everyone thought about a problem the same way, you would lack new ideas. Sometimes the biggest disruptive ideas are viewed as out of touch, misunderstood or not even recognized until after they’ve become disruptive.

This is an interesting balancing act for an entrepreneur because you need to be a good listener and respond to feedback, but also stay true to your convictions. The more informed those convictions are, the better. Some people stick to convictions regardless of overwhelming evidence to the contrary. Ultimately, the evidence should hopefully support your thesis and when that happens, you know you’ve done something new and special.
By Caitlin Koenig
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Community classes coming to The Brandery

The Brandery is known for its 14-week program that prepares entrepreneurs for the launch of their startups. But for the next two months, they’re trying something a little different. The Brandery will be offering community classes that cross a spectrum of themes. The classes are relevant to anyone with an idea, working for a startup or with the goal of re-envisioning some of the work they do, says Chelsea Koglmeier, program coordinator at The Brandery.
The sessions will be from 5:30 to 7 pm and will include a presentation followed by a Q&A. Each class is $20 per person, per event.
Sign up for a class below:
By Caitlin Koenig
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Lisnr app connects artists, fans with exclusive extras

The initial concept for Lisnr came from Rodney Williams, but it came alive through a team of five co-founders on the Cincinnati StartUpBus en route to South by Southwest last March. “When I got on the bus, Lisnr didn’t have a name, but within two hours, we had a presentation, and within another two hours, we had more things, and by the time we got to Austin, we had a working product,” Williams says.

Lisnr creates interactivity with songs and albums by packaging exclusive content created by musicians with music files. For example, say that an artist announces her next album will be Lisnr-enabled. This means you can buy a music file from any source and listen to it anywhere. With the Lisnr app running in the background, you receive exclusive content via automatic notifications based on the Lisnr-enabled tracks.

This content, which can be anything from a tour of the artist’s house to a peek at the song’s inspiration, comes from the artist. Backstage video, unreleased tracks, lyrics or artist interviews are other possible extras.

As you listen, the Lisnr app downloads content and saves it to your device. “An average fan will unlock many pieces of content throughout the day,” explains Williams, Lisnr’s CEO.

His co-founders – Chris Ostoich, business; Chris Ridenour, tech; Nikki Pfahler, design; and Josh Glick, mobile – form Lisnr’s team, and Williams says two new hires are on the way.

Since (and during) SXSW, Lisnr garnered support from the music industry; Williams has strategic advisors from cable station MTV, publishing and management firm Primary Wave Music and the Grammy-nominated artist Nas. For these bigwigs, Lisnr represents an unprecedented connection between artists and fans. The app also tracks listener behavior, such as where, when and how often a song is listened to.

According to Williams, Lisnr plans a full-scale launch in mid-2013. The company is currently supported by Cintrifuse, a non-profit startup incubator based in Cincinnati, and seed-stage investor CincyTech.

By Robin Donovan

Technology pushes digital advances closer to daily life tasks

“Digital media is rapidly transforming,” says Jason Dailey, director of Bing evangelism for Microsoft. Dailey spoke at Cincinnati's Digital Non Conference last week about emerging digital technology.

As the director of Bing evangelism, Dailey and his team build relationships with advertisers and agencies. They also drive traffic to adCenter  and Bing, and partner with Yahoo! for the Search Alliance.

Advertising, marketing and PR have changed rapidly over the years thanks to technology. The first paid advertisement appeared in a newspaper in 1836; today, ads are everywhere, from TV and radio to the Internet. But who is driving change—technology or consumers?

Dailey says that the need to complete daily tasks quickly and efficiently is what drives the changes in digital technology. The idea of what a computer is has changed drastically since its invention, and soon, everything will have a computer in it. Although they won’t be on the market for a decade or so, computers, smartphones and tablets will eventually have the ability to communicate seamlessly with each other. Refrigerators will also have computers in them and be able to provide recipes based on the ingredients inside.

Microsoft also has the vision for facial recognition in digital devices. Today, Xbox Kinect is the closest thing on the market to facial recognition, but it requires you to stand within a certain distance of the console to play a game. One day in the near future, this won’t be needed.

Currently, there are about nine billion devices connected to the Internet, but that number will soon grow as digital technology changes and grows.

By Caitlin Koenig
Follow Caitlin on Twitter
Caitlin is an Associate Editor for Barefoot Proximity

RobustCloud helps large companies gain efficiency with cloud computing

By now, most people have heard about "cloud," or web-based computing, which has made collaboration, innovation and efficiency easier.

A Cincinnati tech entrepreneur, Larry Carvalho, is taking his expertise in cloud computing to large companies across the country through his business, RobustCloud.

"I have a mechanical engineering degree, and have helped businesses learn how to use IT to improve their business," Carvalho says. "I took my experience to large enterprises by helping tech companies in the adoption of cloud computing."

Carvalho, a native of India, lived in New York before coming to Cincinnati for work in the late 1980s. He started RobustCloud in 2009 after his job with IBM was relocated.

"For most companies, there is a dearth of knowledge about what they can do with could computing," Carvalho says. "As a result, they look for experts to advise them on what steps to take."

The main areas in which he consults are social networks, mobile computing and analytics.

"That is really what is driving the need for cloud infrastructure," he says. "The bottom line benefit to business is business agility. They are able to react to market changes faster."

Though based in Cincinnati, many of Carvalho's clients are on the East and West coasts. However, he is looking to expand his footprint in Cincinnati and will be among those presenting at the Digital Non Conference this Wednesday at 11:15 a.m. on "Data and Digital Marketing."

"I'm really eager to help local companies adopt cloud computing," Carvalho says. "I want to make a difference in Cincinnati."

By Feoshia H. Davis
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SocStock readies for relaunch, plans to make Cincinnati home

SocStock, a web-based company that lets people fund their favorite small businesses in exchange for double the amount back in products, services or experiences, is set to relaunch today.

SocStock, a graduate of the latest Brandery accelerator class, will officially be back online today. On Oct. 25, the company will hold a launch event, SocStock Community Pitch Night, at the Know Theatre in Over-the-Rhine. SocStock and Cincinnati businesses that use the platform will be there to talk about the creative financing option.

"This is a way for small businesses to raise zero-interest cash by reaching out to customers and community members for a cash advance to help their business grow," says SocStock Senior Associate Jillian Zatta.

SocStock allows businesses to raise funds quickly from people who truly support them. At the same time, it gives customers a buy-in through investments in a favorite local business.

"It's a very good consumer engagement tool, and it makes customers feel more connected to the small businesses they frequent," Zatta says. "It's also a way for customers to really help a business by doing more than buying from them."

For every $1 invested, the business will pay back $2 in a combination of company products, services or experiences.

SocStock also can serve as a valuable marketing tool.

"They can give customers access to a special collection, invite them to a fashion show, a personal styling session or discounts," Zatta says.

Zatta and SocStock's founder Jay Finch have finance backgrounds and relocated to Cincinnati from New York, where they worked at Goldman Sachs. They plan on making Cincinnati SocStock's home.

"We want to stay here. We want Cincinnati to be our home. There's definitely a place for us here," she says.

By Feoshia H. Davis
Follow Feoshia on Twitter

Hello New Products helps manufacturers innovate, bring products to market

In Ohio's historic manufacturing industry, savvy leaders are increasingly turning to innovation to grow their businesses.

Hello New Products, which is headquartered in Cincinnati, helps established small- and mid-sized manufacturers develop and get new products to market.

"A lot of our clients come to us just frustrated out of their minds," says Chuck Libourel, Hello New Products' director of business services. "We usually meet with a CEO or board of directors that just can't make things happen. We help them get the right tools in place and execute a plan to get new products to market."

Hello New Products works with some startups, but it generally works with established companies that already have manufacturing experience.

"One thing most of our clients have in common is they lack the business process to bring new products to market," Libourel says. "They're doing it all in marketing and engineering. We do that, plus engage all the business elements of getting a product to market." 

Often these companies have outdated products that need a refresh, have brought unsuccessful products to market or are having trouble innovating quickly.

Many manufacturing companies are running lean and mean, and today many don't have the in-house resources to quickly bring new products to market, Libourel says. That's where Hello New Products steps in.

"We advocate for American small- to mid-sized companies that don't have the resources, and have to compete with bigger companies," Libourel says.

They do this by helping companies:
• Improve their market position by introducing new products
• Increase both revenue and profitability from new products
• Reduce product development costs
• Accelerate product development timing

Hello New Products tailors its New Product Development system to individual manufacturers several ways, including sharpening product definitions, focusing on business metrics, building customer needs into products and creating clearly defined tasks and processes for development.

By Feoshia H. Davis
Follow Feoshia on Twitter.

Ample developers focus on responsive design

When Josh Fendley and four tech-savvy friends left their digital agency to launch a smaller venture, they were looking for a business name that would convey their small staff’s concentrated experience. Ample fit the bill, and is still a point of pride because one of the firm’s selling points is its size.

"Clients realize that if I’m the one selling them on doing the work, they’re going to be working with me the entire time if they choose to engage us," Fendley says. "When we left our last agency, we were all directors of this and that, but decided we wanted to get back to doing work instead of just managing it."

Fendley says the trick of being small is to carefully select experienced employees, with an eye to maintaining company culture. “We have only one relatively young employee, and we belabored on whether or not we should do that,” he says.

Recently, Ample has been pivoting away from marketing to focus on building websites and developing strategic, creative digital projects, including video and websites that easily scale down desktop applications for mobile interfaces and apps.

"All the sites we create automatically scale and reformat," Fendley says. "Not a lot of people are actually doing that."

Ample also developed its own content management system.

Along with size and experience, Ample’s culture is shaped by its brainy core. "We love being presented with something we don’t know how to get through," Fendley says. "We love to figure out how to do it."

Ample is primarily a Ruby on Rails shop, but it also offers help with strategic planning.

So, when Ample got a call from a New Jersey nonprofit that was seeking to outfit students with disabilities with human-read audio books, its developers created an iTunes-like app compatible with a variety of devices.

"A lot of our long-time clients pay us to think for them, and I think that’s where we’re most successful,” Fendley says, noting that new business largely comes from referrals, and the team is turning away prospective clients.“Clients are your best salespeople. If you do well by them, them will typically give you some good karma back."

By Robin Donovan

WooWho gives singles a dating site to cheer about

Terrible first dates come in many flavors. There are bad friend dates, bad blind dates and the ever-unpopular no-show. And then there are internet first dates, those frustrating, sometimes creepy, sometimes fun meetups that – almost impossibly – seem to lead to marriages more and more often.

But what if you could take the creepy factor out of online dating? What if there were no detailed online profiles, no website-based inboxes, no carefully arranged you-might-be-an-axe-murderer first dates?

The founders of WooWho – Andy Zhang, George Lin and Sean Wen -- say they’re offering just that. A trio of bilingual kids who met in the '90s, they combined backgrounds in C++, JavaScript, server-side work, Python and Ruby on Rails with some graphic design thrown in to launch the online dating site, starting with individually approved participants.

WooWho, a new graduate of The Brandery, started a private alpha two months ago and launched a private beta a month or so ago. With feedback from a few early users, the trio is currently refining the final site. Users who accept an invitation (available upon request) submit a biographical blurb and small photo, then submit an age range, gender preference, location and scheduling availability.

People are matched based on basic preferences, not availability. Like Amazon’s recommendation engine, WooWho suggests matches based on the preferences of users who have similar interests. This technique, loosely deemed “clustering,” is different from basic categorization.

“If you ask people what they like [in a potential match], they don’t tell you very accurately," says co-founder Andy Zhang. "What we’ve learned from observing other sites is that categorization is exceptionally difficult for these types of things…clustering tends to be more reliable in real life; it’s also something that machines are really good at."

So, rather than creating a complex profile and emailing a potential fit, users simply select a friendly looking local and request a date. If the person accepts, WooWho automatically sets up a time and local business based on scheduling preferences.

The site is free to join, and there is no cost for the first three dates, with a $5 charge per set-up after that. The idea is not to have folks linger on the site, Zhang says. “We want to get people off their computers and out meeting people. We think a great way to do it is to discover and enjoy the other local small businesses out here.”

By Robin Donovan

Brandery's Demo Day hits one out of the park

At the Brandery's third Demo Day Oct. 3, a packed house at Great American Ball Park looked forward to a home run, but not from the field below. 

The stadium's Champions Club had been transformed into a space where founders of 11 startups paced, shook hands and smiled as they prepared to offer their practiced pitches that they knew could net them millions in investment dollars.

This year, there were more than twice as many applicants for the seed-stage startup accelerator in Over-the-Rhine as both of its earlier years, combined, according to Brandery General Manager Mike Bott. 

Only 10 percent of those applicants were local, Bott says. The companies selected for the intensive four-month session in Cincinnati hailed from Seattle and Brooklyn, from Cleveland and San Francisco. One local business, REPP, made the final cut.

As its name implies, The Brandery focuses mostly on consumer products and services. Its strength is in its location and its expertise: the branding giants of Cincinnati help make The Brandery attractive to entrepreneurs from around the world. The latest startup session included plenty of mobile and social applications. 

An example? The first startup to present on Demo Day: CrowdHall.

Crowdhall, a free social platform, collects questions and ideas from a single crowd and helps the members of an audience organize and prioritize them democratically. Matthew Dooley, founder and CEO of Cincinnati's dooley media, made a bold prediction about this startup, which has already created "crowd halls" with NYU prof and Earth Institute leader Jeffrey Sachs, Dhani Jones and PG Sittenfeld. 

Dooley's tweet: "Impressed with @crowdhall pitch at #brandery2012 #demoday. Will be bought out by Twitter within a year. #boldprediction @brandery @jbkropp."

You've read about this Brandery class in Soapbox for months now, from Sostock, which planted roots and intends to remain in Cincinnati, to REPP, the latest big idea from Cincinnatians Michael Bergman, his wife BreeAnna and David Volker, formerly of LPK (where Bergman also formerly worked).

Find a full list of startups here. And more coverage of The Brandery on Nibletz, "the voice of startups everywhere else."

By Elissa Yancey
Follow Elissa on Twitter.

(3E) Summit touts, teaches benefits of green business

"Going Green" isn't just a feel-good initiative for businesses. It can have real economic benefits. Those benefits -- lower utility bills, less waste, among others -- are there to take advantage of regardless of whether the business considers itself green.

That's the message organizers of this year's Energy, Economy and Environment (3E) Summit want businesses to grasp. The 4th annual 3E Summit is Oct. 5, 8 a.m. to 4 p.m. at Xavier University's Cintas Center. Tickets are $50 each, with discounts for Green Umbrella Members and students.

"There's a lot of small and medium businesses out there, the people making widgets, who don't always have time to think about how to green their business," says Cincinnati's Sustainability Coordinator Steve Johns.

The Summit hopes to remedy that, giving these businesses concrete ways to become more energy efficient, as well as insight into how that affects the bottom line.

There will be two panel discussions on Green Business. One is a CEO Roundtable featuring local companies that decided to incorporate green concepts into their businesses. The panel will feature Mac's Pizzaemersion DESIGNCompost Cincy and Burke, Inc.

"Most of these companies aren't producing green products, but thought it was important to take care of energy and waste needs more effectively," Johns says.

A second panel discussion will feature reps from UC Health and Procter & Gamble highlighting their efforts to green their supply chain by seeking out sustainable suppliers.

"You can really have a competitive advantage by having a green business," Johns explains.

The Summit also will feature a "Speed Greening" session, where experts will be on hand to answer specific questions about greening businesses. Those experts can answer questions related to electric and natural gas, waste disposal, transportation and water.

In addition to the City of Cincinnati, the 3E Summit is hosted by Green Umbrella, Xavier University's Brueggeman Center for Dialog, the Greater Cincinnati Green Business Council, and USGBC Cincinnati Chapter.

Register and find more information at the 3E Summit website.

By Feoshia H. Davis
Follow Feoshia on Twitter.

Environmental forum assesses 'state of the city'

Green Cincinnati. It’s ubiquitous these days, with our civic progress appearing both in national headlines and at eye-level, in the bike-shares and local markets that seem to spring up almost daily.

If you’re struggling to keep up with all this change—in a good way, of course!—or if you just have two cents to share, head to Northside Tavern at 6 p.m., Oct. 10 for the free, public “State of the City” environmental forum.

The forum, organized by Cincinnati Green Group, hopes to recreate the success of last year’s event, which saw over a dozen city council candidates fielding questions—on everything from curbside recycling to fracking—from more than 150 attendees.

This year will feature WVXU’s Ann Thomson as facilitator, with speakers Mark Fisher from the Cincinnati Zoo and Neil Seldman from the DC-based Institute for Local Self-Reliance.

Cincinnati council members will be on hand once again for Q&A.

Larry Falkin, director of Cincinnati’s Office of Environmental Quality, will deliver the State of the City address. Falkin plans to highlight recent strides in the areas of energy, green building and waste management, as well as a number of transportation solutions—such as the forthcoming Zip Car auto-share program—making Cincinnati debuts in 2012.

Falkin points to the Green Cincinnati Plan, an 80-point sustainability blueprint officially adopted by the city in 2007.

“We wanted to use less energy, more renewable energy, and we had a series of strategies for how to get there,” he says. “In five years, city government has done energy efficiency retrofits on 70 city buildings and installed solar energy systems on 20 city buildings. We’ve created a nonprofit organization and gotten funding for them to do work in the private sector, and that organization, the Greater Cincinnati Energy Alliance, has completed energy retrofits on more than 1,000 homes.”

As a city, Falkin says Cincinnati reduced its greenhouse gas emissions by 8.2 percent, surpassing the goal outlined in the 2007 plan.

Falkin also plans to discuss Cincinnati’s energy aggregation program, which now provides 100 percent renewable energy for 60,000 residents and small businesses.

Despite recent progress, there is still room for improvement, particularly in recycling and adoption of zero-waste strategies that other cities use.

“There are communities around the nation and around the world that have made zero-waste pledges,” says Melissa English, Development Director for Ohio Citizen Action, an 80,000-member coalition that canvasses the state promoting environmental consciousness. “[These cities] pledge to send as little as possible of their waste streams to landfills or incinerators, and instead recover those materials—which is essentially money, it’s resources that we’re choosing to bury in the ground—and put that back to work in our economies.”

The environmental group leader points to the Rumpke landfill as an example of how much waste the region still discards ineffectively.

“We have the nation’s sixth-largest landfill in our county, in Colerain Township, and it’s not just the city of Cincinnati that’s filling it up,” English says. “Any sort of zero-waste strategy will be much more effective and farther-reaching if it is [adopted as] a regional strategy.”

Find out more:

Post questions in advance of the event.

RSVP for the State of the City environmental forum.

Download the city’s sustainability plan.

By Hannah Purnell

Tongue-in-cheek T-shirts delight Cincy sports fans

After moving to Dayton, Ohio, with his family in 1992, Doug Aldrich experienced the first tug of community – and the Cincinnati sports scene – traveling south for Bengals and Reds games, and soon became a loyal fan.

The problem? A graphic designer by training and a marketer by trade, he grew tired of commercialized fan gear. Instead, he wanted a shirt that would be a nod to local sports, without over-the-top branding. Soon he had drawn up pages of his own designs, and had a couple printed for himself.

“I like the experience of the game and experiencing the community of Cincinnati, but I didn’t want to wear a big brand logo on my chest,” he explains.

When friends saw him wearing the whimsical T’s, they wanted shirts of their own, and after having a handful printed, Aldrich designed a logo and website, and Cincy Clothing was born.

Despite Aldrich’s insistence that his lovingly drawn designs are “pretty simple,” they feature custom, hand-drawn fonts and graphics and tongue-in-cheek text (one reads “Keep Rolen,” another “One Dey”) that makes a statement.

“I wanted to create something that’s on the fringe of the brand, basically,” Aldrich says. “For instance, Mr. Redface is really an homage to the Andre the Giant graffiti -- it’s sort of a take on that. I wanted more of a fan’s perspective in the graphics.”

Aldrich launched Cincy Clothing less than a month ago and has a small, but steadily growing fan base of his own, with four hand-drawn designs available. They’re currently available at Prep Clothing in Dayton and online; Aldrich hopes to win a street vendor’s license soon.
By Robin Donovan

Cincinnati Photo Tours take aspiring artists through OTR

“It’s a two-hour tour, so it’s a long walk,” says Scott McHenry of his company’s photo tours in Over-the-Rhine. “Every time, something different pops up.”

The founder of Cincinnati Photo Tours found himself inside a church he’d been curious about during his last tour; one of the brothers happened to be on the sidewalk as his group approached. Another time, he found a group of kids playing volleyball on Race Street, and photographers snapped shots of the children leaping through the sand.

McHenry says interest in his tours is growing thanks to his Facebook presence, which he uses to drive traffic to the main website of his eponymous photography business. McHenry first grabbed a camera to escape fellow soccer parents at his son’s games (he coached for years), and ended up selling shots of high school athletes to the Community Press.

During the next nine years, he expanded his skills, joining the Professional Photographers of America and widening his scope to include portraiture as well as weddings. He also has a flair for fine art; you may have seen his works on display at downtown’s Coffee Emporium during two recent stints as an artist in residence there. 

These days, McHenry is leading groups of 5 to 12 people through Over-the-Rhine, Cincinnati’s burgeoning historic district.
He’s also planning a new tour that will transport his students among the various hilltops in the city. “With all the hills surrounding Cincinnati, there are a lot of great photographic viewpoints.”

McHenry says a photo tour he researched while traveling to New York City sparked the idea of offering a similar tour here: “There’s so much interest in Over-the-Rhine with the revitalization of Washington Park.”

By Robin Donovan

Flywheel's training series focuses on social entrepreneurship

Flywheel, Cincinnati's social enterprise hub, has launched a new series of training sessions designed to develop marketing, planning, research and business skills in the nonprofit sector.

Meetings run this month through November, beginning with a session on Market Research, Wednesday, Sept. 19. The session will help nonprofit's better use market research to test the feasibility of new programs or to improve existing ones. (The session runs from 2 to 4 pm at The Health Foundation of Greater Cincinnati. You can register at Eventbrite.)

This training series fits with Flywheel's mission to help non-profits in generating money through social enterprise, or products or services that have social value. 

The organization was formed early this year by the Leadership Council for Human Services Executives, the Executive Service Corps of Cincinnati, the Center for Social Entrepreneurship at Miami University, and Centric Consulting.

Flywheel has scheduled two other workshops. Click on the links to register for the them.
Social Enterprise 201
October 9, 1 - 4 pm
Business Planning Training
(in partnership with The Health Foundation)
November 2, 9 am - 5 pm
By Feoshia H. Davis
Follow Feoshia on Twitter.
405 Downtown Articles | Page: | Show All
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