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Rockfish seeks applicants for corporate giving program

Digital business accelerator Rockfish is seeking applicants for its 2015 corporate giving program. Two chosen applicants will receive $50,000 of agency time from Rockfish, focusing on topics within the realm of digital communication, such as social media and website development.
 
Aside from being a nonprofit organization, applicants must demonstrate financial need and be headquartered within 50 miles of one of the following cities in which Rockfish operates: Dallas, Cincinnati, Atlanta or Rogers, Ark.
 
"We ask for things like, 'What kind of service are you going to provide to the community and how many people are you reaching?'" says Rockfish associate director Kari Wethington. "But the main part is, 'What will we be helping you with by working with you? Of the $50,000 of agency time that we'll be providing, what can we help you tackle?"
 
Rockfish's selection committee, spread throughout multiple offices nationally, will select the two organizations in January.
 
"By the end of January, companies will know their status," Wethington says. "And we do contact people whether they're chosen or not, so every organization that submits an application will hear from us one way or another."
 
While last year's program attracted about 100 applicants, Wethington expects the number to double for 2015.
 
"The hard thing about this process is that we get such amazing applicants, and very rarely are any of them totally disqualified for some reason," Wethington says. "It really comes down to the details when we're reviewing applicants. You get larger nonprofits, you get some smaller that are newer—it's across the board in terms of the kind of work they're doing."
 
Interested nonprofits must submit their applications by Nov. 17.

First POP-UP Cincy installation set for weekend

The first installment of Uptown Consortium's art and cuisine series, POP-UP Cincy, will take place Friday and Saturday, Oct. 24-25 in Avondale. Concept Camp, the first of the series, will focus on the local technology and design sectors.
 
The event aims to provide artists of a variety of backgrounds with a space to work and receive feedback from other people within Cincinnati's creative community, as well as encourage others to articulate and share ideas.
 
"It's kind of about the struggle for a lot of the creative people in the city, that work in different disciplines, to know and have time to share what they do and get feedback from other creative individuals," says POP-UP Cincy organizer Catherine Richards. "There are all these different people working in the city doing amazing things, but they're often times working so hard in their own sphere that they often don't have time to overlap with other spheres of creativity."
 
A group of participating artists plan to make a screen of folded modular paper units that come together, and then install the piece in the storefront window, in which the larger community will collaborate. The event will occupy two storefronts.
 
"At first it was going to be just one space, but we were able to secure another space right across the street, which is where a bunch of artists are going to be working and doing installations," Richards says. "Some people are going to be doing on-site drawings on the wall. We're really taking over these two storefronts with a variety of things."
 
The event will be open to the public Saturday evening, from 5-7 p.m., in Avondale at the corner of Burnet and Rockdale avenues.  

Local entrepreneur invents new iPad case that doubles as battery, hotspot

A local entrepreneur recently revealed a new iPad case that expands wireless networking capabilities. The case, called FiiV, functions as a battery backup and enables users to insert a prepaid data SIM card to establish a WiFi hotspot. 
 
"I came up with this concept back in 2010 after getting an iPod touch for a Christmas gift," says FiiV founder Nathan Ellis. "And much like an iPad, it doesn't really work [to its full functionality] outside of a data connection or wireless network."
 
Ellis wanted to create a solution to purchasing multiple iPad accessories while maintaining the extra benefits, and also give customers the option to switch between wireless data carriers.
 
"The real value is the all-in-one solution. Customers are virtually spending around the same amount, if not less, than they would normally," Ellis says. Most folks don't actually get the choice once they get to a point where they don't like those data rates or terms. "
 
Other devices can also use FiiV's WiFi hotspots.
 
"[The WiFi network] is not just for the iPad connected to the actual case," Ellis says. "It also accommodates other devices as well: cell phones, laptops, other tablets that may be around. It also functions as battery backup."
 
Local design firm The Launch Werks designed the case, which will be released by the brand Viaggi. Ellis plans to launch an indiegogo campaign November 2. 
 
"The goal is to raise enough funds to go ahead and do an initial manufacturing run," Ellis says. 
 
If all goes as planned, Viaggi will launch the first line of FiiV cases by May 2015. Currently, the retail price is set at $149, and the product will come in red, white and black, and also navy blue and brown during the campaign. 

ArtWorks and Cincinnati Metro transform bus shelters into photo exhibit

ArtWorks and Cincinnati Metro recently collaborated on a venture to transform Cincinnati's bus shelters into a photo exhibit. As part of FotoFocus 2014, the project features the work of acclaimed photographer Richard Renaldi, as well as four ArtWorks youth apprentices and two local professional photographers.
 
The idea behind Renaldi's project, titled "Touching Strangers Cincinnati," is to capture interactions between strangers using the public transportation system—in which he encourages the subjects to pose together—and examine the diversity within the community. 
 
Renaldi visited Cincinnati in June to complete the project, and Cincinnati Metro hopes it will encourage people to use public transit.
 
"One of the reasons we agreed to host this display of public art in our shelters is because we wanted to show on public transportation, people can become friends," says Cincinnati Metro public affairs manager Jill Dunne. "We think it's really cool to show that if you put two people together, anything can happen."
 
Cincinnati Metro is hosting a celebration Oct. 16, in front of the Chiquita Center, between 5th and 6th streets. 
 
"It's meant to dedicate and really show off the shelters to the public," Dunne says. "We have some photos that are inside the bus, as well as a wrapped bus with one of the images on it."
 
ArtWorks has provided a map showing where "Touching Strangers Cincinnati" will be displayed. In addition, ArtWorks is hosting a lecture and presentation, featuring Renaldi, at the 21C Hotel at 6 p.m.

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.
 
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