| Follow Us: Facebook Twitter Vimeo RSS Feed

Cincinnati : Innovation + Job News

554 Cincinnati Articles | Page: | Show All

Son of legendary Cincinnati barber opens upscale men's grooming shop

For over 60 years, the Salzano family has cornered the men’s grooming market in downtown Cincinnati. After emigrating to the U.S. from the Abruzzi region in Italy, Nicolino Salzano built a strong following at his Fourth Street barber shop, Salzano’s. Sons Guido, Angelo and Domenico have all been in the business since they were kids.
 
This week, in the recently-vacant space next to the barber shop in Atrium 1 of the Omnicare Center at Fourth and Main streets, one of the Salzano boys is taking a swing at cornering another market: men’s grooming products.
 
Industry-savvy Guido Salzano is set to open G. Salzano’s, a men’s grooming product retail store where his father’s customers can find the high-quality products the Salzanos use for their hot lather shaves and hair cuts.
 
With the help of his father, Nicolino, and his two brothers, Angelo and Domenico, Guido hopes to provide a hip, swanky space for men to find everything they need to look sharp. Hoping to give the place an “old world feel,” Guido’s retail space will feature a chandelier, comfy leather chairs and an old antique barber chair as a centerpiece.

The products on the shelves will include skincare and hair care products from Baxter, a California company, as well as German-made brushes, razors, after-shave and shaving cream from MÜHLE. The store will also feature products from Taylor of Old Bond Street out of London, the only retailer in Cincinnati to do so.
 
Eventually, Guido plans on releasing his own line of men’s care products to sell on the shelves. For now, it’s about creating an experience for his customers that goes far beyond that of Art of Shaving or any other retailer in the category.
 
“I want this place to be for every guy,” Guido says. “Athletes, CEOs, teenage hipsters, common folk like myself. Everybody.”
 
The shops hopes to attract customers of all ages who want more from their grooming experience. In addition to selling men’s hygiene products, G. Salzano’s will also feature items like pocket squares and cufflinks. It’s a shaving store, but with a twist.
 
In addition to drawing in shaving enthusiasts, barber shop customers and Christmas shoppers, Guido also sees his shop as the perfect venue for a groomsmen’s party.
 
“We’ll feed them, drink them, give them a great razor shave and have them check out the store,” Guido says. “I mean, a real badger hair shaving brush? That’s a great groomsmen’s gift.”
 
More than anything else, Guido sees his store as a product of the decades of hard work the Salzano family has put into their business. Though he's opening the store in his name, his brothers, father and uncle all played an important part in making his vision a reality.
 

Local tech company enosiX raises $4.25 million to simplify mobile app development

Another Cincinnati company is taking full advantage of the tech development market, working to fix a key mobile app downfall.
 
enosiX, a Cincinnati-based software company known for their developer-friendly "Framework" for mobile app creation, has a $4.25 million price tag on their first round of funding. Just last week, the company announced its success at the Gartner Application Architecture, Development and Integration Summit in Las Vegas. The company was formed in August at the Chiquita Building, 250 E. Fifth St., downtown.
 
enosiX's software solves the primary problem many modern mobile application developers face: integrating SAP (systems, applications, products). Many Fortune 500 companies use SAP for data inventory and inventory management, among other things, but many modern social applications for your smartphone and other devices don't connect to SAP. If a company wants to access their SAP data system, they can't do so on a mobile app — enosiX is trying to fix that problem.
 
By creating this Framework solution, enoisX is allowing big companies to connect their apps to SAP, therefore eliminating the need to train SAP specialists or pay to hire a SAP-knowledgeable employee. In essence, it's a heaven-sent solution for the development community.
 
The $4.25 million investment came from a variety of sources, including Allos Ventures and Mutual Capital Partners Funds. With the money, the company hopes to increase its staff (now at 15) and expand globally. The solution already has clients in Europe, and founders Gerald Schlechter and Philippe Jardin are currently talking with potential clients in the U.S.
 
Schlechter is a native of Austria who moved here in 2005 to work for Swarovski Crystal. He met his wife, a Cincinnatian, in 2006 and continues living here today. With a background in SAP and experience that crosses international borders, Schlechter decided to start building enosiX's framework after running CNBS, his own consulting company, for a few years.
 
Jardin hails from South Africa and was put in contact with Schlechter when the idea of the enosiX Framework was in its infancy.
 
"Philippe knew the right people, he knew how to start this kind of business," Schlechter says.
 
The company is constantly hiring, Schlechter says, particularly those knowledgeable in SAP and .NET developers. They hope to reach 40 employees over the next year.
 

Cincy Startup Store brings local online retailers to Over-the-Rhine


The Cincinnati startup community is riding to the rescue this Saturday to save last-minute shoppers from their holiday woes.
 
Seven companies will post up on 13th Street in Over-the-Rhine that day, their tangible products in hand and ready to sell. The event, called the Cincy Startup Store, is the first of its kind in the area and takes place at Simple Space, an all-purpose, revolving use venue designed to be the "Airbnb for retail space." The 600-square foot venue was recently remodeled by Levi Blethune to accommodate these types of collaborations and make them affordable to just about anyone who hopes to use them. The Cincy Startup Store is one of the first few events to put the space to use.
 
Kapture, Cincinnati's audio-wristband startup, will be hosting the shopping event. The company has recently gained attention for its appearance on The Price Is Right for its new wearable technology. Kapture's product helps consumers record audio after-the-fact by constantly recording audio data on a 60-second loop wherever the wearer goes. The Kapture wristband, in its many different colors, will be just one of the items on sale at the Startup Store.
 
Other companies expected to appear are Artfully Disheveled, a local tie, bowtie and pocket square designer and retailer; PlusBlue, who will be selling custom engraved mobile battery packs; Frameri, an online eyewear retailer that came out of The Brandery; Petbrosia, a custom pet food company who recently opened an office in Over-the-Rhine; Beluga Shave Co., the one-man company responsible for an easy-to-use single blade razor; and GoSun, makers of portable solar stoves that have already gained international attention.
 
This year marks the fifth anniversary of Small Business Saturday in Cincinnati, but it's the first time startups have been included in the equation.
 
"We're hoping there will be many more like it," says Stephanie Johnson, marketing and business development manager at Kapture.
 
Cincy Startup Store will be open 10 a.m.-10 p.m. Saturday at 16 E. 13th St., Over-the-Rhine. The event is sponsored by several well-known Cincinnati startup supporters, including Cintrifuse, CincyTech, Hamilton County Development Co. and The Brandery. 
 

Makers Megaphone graduates from CO.STARTERS to help other small businesses


When the words "marketing" and "branding" hit a Cincinnatian's ears, a plethora of big names come to mind. As a small business owner, the overwhelming size and high price tag that accompany services from larger marketing firms can prove intimidating. As a craftsman-turned-business owner, that intimidation factor can be even more significant.
 
Enter Ashley Berger. A Pratt Institute graduate and participant in the current fall ArtWorks' CO.STARTERS program, she moved to Cincinnati after 11 years in Brooklyn. Her background is in art, but she's worked and specialized in marketing, advertising and branding as the years have gone by.
 
Berger moved to the area to pursue a job opportunity with Dynamic Catholic in Hebron, and it wasn't long before she noticed the tremendous amount of creative energy in the Cincinnati area. After a year, she decided to quit her job and pursue a goal she had in mind: to help these creative individuals get the word out about what they can do.
 
"Many of these creative small business owners are really good at making things but not at letting people know about them," Berger says.
 
Berger intends to offer small-scale business coaching, website development services and other marketing tools to the kinds of craftspeople who surround her at ArtWorks. Her company name, Makers Megaphone, reflects the idea of providing a metaphorical megaphone through which these "makers" can promote their craft.
 
Berger has found guidance and support through the business-building process at CO.STARTERS. Unlike many of the participants in the program, however, Berger is actually building her business as the class goes along. The questions she asks during the seminars are not hypothetical; the answers are quickly applied to her business in real time.
 
"The week they talked about LLCs and trademarks, I did that," Berger says.
 
As of now, Berger hopes to be open for business by the beginning of 2015. Her website is in its final stages and her business plan is almost complete. Since each step of her company's establishment aligns with the CO.STARTERS curriculum, her final session on Wednesday evening will likely coincide with her business plan's finishing touches.
 
As for clientele, Berger hopes that her creative pricing structure and hands-on experience with other craftspeople through ArtWorks and otherwise will likely attract business owners who could benefit from her expertise.
 

Two Brandery graduates take advantage of the changing world of music

In response to the constantly-evolving world of music, two Brandery graduates, MusicPlay Analytics and Wax Music, are taking full advantage of holes left in the market.
 
Made up of a former platinum-selling musician, a software engineer with a Stanford PhD and a lead developer who's a veteran in the tech+music game, MusicPlay Analytics is poised to contribute significantly to the industry. As a company, its initial goal was to make sure that artists are paid every time their songs are broadcasted or performed in a business setting. Since their time at The Brandery, the team has evolved their idea to include an element that monitors consumer behavior.
 
"We’re now able to solve a problem for the Performing Rights Organizations and help songwriters earn their fair share," MusicPlay CEO Eron Bucciarelli-Tieger says. "But now we'll (also) be able to eventually allow record labels and songwriters to target tour and release promotions in the real world ... as well as bring 'Big Data' insights to small businesses."
 
Bucciarelli-Tieger and his team find themselves surrounded by support here in Cincinnati. With Dayton roots and an "in" at The Brandery, setting up shop here was a no-brainer.
 
"Cincinnati punches above its weight in terms of its culture and startup scene," Bucciarelli-Tieger says.
 
The Brandery's other music-centric graduate, Wax Music, has seen tremendous success in the last few months, causing CEO Jonathan Lane to be a busy guy.
 
Wax Music has created a mobile app that truly understands each user's music tastes. With the data it gathers, it gets to know the user so well it can recommend music that a simple algorithm never could. Instead of focusing on streaming the same songs to your laptop over and over again, Wax jumps off of the Pandora model to introduce its user to new artists and then alert them when those new artists are performing nearby.
 
With the concert industry booming, Wax has decided to avoid the licensing requirements that arise with sites like Pandora and simply provide a platform where music lovers can find more music to love.
 
Since the app was released, it's been promoted in 34 countries as Apple's Best New App. Both TechCrunch and VentureBeat have featured the app, and it was the winner of Microsoft's Push the Web Forward Contest.
 
 

Bad Girl Ventures to announce $25,000 winner Wednesday night


UPDATE ON 12/11/2014: Winners announced here.

One lucky Bad Girl is going to receive an early Christmas present Wednesday evening in Covington.
 
For nine weeks, 43 entrepreneurs at Bad Girl Ventures have been hunkering down over the details of business development, poring over material on marketing, finances, legal concerns and everything in between. Refreshed by cocktails and small apps, all members of the Fall class will receive graduation certificates and recognition for their talents Wednesday, and one will be recognized for their hard work with a $25,000 investment from BGV itself.
 
The holiday graduation ceremony, which is open to the public for $25 per ticket, will take place at The Madison Event Center in Covington. With 250-300 people expecting to attend, this season's group of Bad Girls will have numerous opportunities to network with the kinds of people who can help them get their businesses off the ground.
 
The event will also feature booths for each of the businesses. Attendees can stop by and meet each of the business owners from the current BGV class as well as past graduates from the program.
 
"We call it 'holiday shopping with the Bad Girls,' " BGV Executive Director Corey Drushal says.
 
Since Bad Girl Ventures isn't industry-specific, the group of female-owned companies is extremely diverse. The 10 finalists in the running for the $25,000 prize are listed below:
 
Poppy (Kimberley Barach)
A premium rental service company for baby products that eliminates the need for buying expensive products at every stage of a child's growth.
 
All Care Navigators (Barbara Gunn and David Gunn)
Provides experience and guidance to those seeking senior care services.
 
Babushka Pierogies (Sarah Dworak)
Handmade pierogies to be sold wholesale.
 
Chaddeze LLC (Mary Fennel)
A boy's underwear company known for its use of a front flap.
 
Tactical Intelligence Group LLC (Davina Eccard and Ryan Sullivan)
Offers self-defense courses, both armed and unarmed.
 
Norton Flooring (Erica Norton)
One of the few female-driven flooring companies, with decades of expertise.
 
One Fine Day (Lindsey Lescoe)
A specialty rental boutique for wedding planners.
 
Get Creative Photo Booths (Julie Ball)
An experienced photographer offers fun custom photo booths for weddings and other events.
 
Love Bite (Aris Yowell and Morgan Hamilton)
Brings together everything you need to throw a killer dinner party.
 
For the finalists who don't receive the $25,000 prize, BGV provides seemingly endless support in helping find a source of funding. As an official endorser for Kiva Zip, a domestic crowdfunding site that offers up to $10,000 in zero-interest loans, BGV has the power to connect their companies to favorable investment sources. BGV also boasts connections with US Bank, Park National Bank and Emery Federal Credit Union.
 

Local startup Strap attracts $1.25 million in investments for wearable tech


It looks like nice guys can finish first. That's certainly true when it comes to Strap, the Brandery grad and Soapbox-profiled company that's created the first software and analytics platform for wearables.
 
Charlie Key, cofounder of Cincinnati's Modulus and angel investor for Strap, describes the company as having "all the pieces." He describes founding partners Steve Caldwell, Patrick Henshaw and Joey Brennan as "extremely likeable, intelligent people."
 
Maybe that's why the company announced a $1.25 million round of seed funding last week. The round secured investments from CincyTech, Mercury Fund, Vine Street Ventures, Danmar Capital, Hyde Park Venture Partners, New Coast Ventures and a number of angel investors, including Wendy S. Lea, CEO of Cintrifuse.
 
The founders' sparkling personalities aside, Strap also seems to have been in exactly the right place at exactly the right time. With the popularity of wearable technology slowly gaining ground, Strap's "toolkit" for developers entered the market while the market was hot. Their team, made up of startup veterans and truly brilliant technical talent, was also more than prepared to dive in.
 
"Well-timed, right team, right tech team — all investors look for that," says Caldwell, who serves as CEO.
 
Strap's technology, called StrapMetrics, is already compatible with wearables such as Pebble, Android Wear and Google Glass. The tool's ability to optimize sensory data from wearables is a key element in the growth of the industry.
 
Though nothing was set in stone, Caldwell and his team knew to expect an increase in capital as far back as early November. They've been fundraising since June and July, but it was The Brandery's Demo Day that truly ignited investor interest. In the past couple of months, Caldwell, Henshaw and Brannen have moved their families from Mississippi and truly settled into Cincinnati. They've since posted five job listings (four developers and one VP of engineering), reflecting their anticipation of a change in workload. They also recently already hired a marketing specialist, Sophie Turcotte.
 
For now, Strap will remain at The Brandery on Vine Street. By February, however, they expect their staff to have increased to 12 people, a number too large to fit into the accelerator's workspace. At that point, they'll start looking for another location in Cincinnati to call home.
 
"The goal is to grow the company significantly," Caldwell says. "This is a billion dollar industry, and we believe we can be a billion dollar company."
 

Petbrosia receives $1.5 million loan, moves into Over-the-Rhine office space

Yet another innovative Cincinnati company is moving to Over-the-Rhine. A converted livery, complete with old horse stables in the basement, will serve as the expanded office space for Petbrosia, a tech-enabled consumer product company specializing in custom pet food.
 
"We combine tech with something you can touch," CEO Keith Johnson says.
 
Petbrosia allows customers to enter specific information about their pet into an online system that then creates a custom blend best-suited to the pet's development and well-being. The company ships the food to customers across the continental U.S. in as little as one day. The company targets customers who are both e-commerce savvy and very passionate about their dogs and cats.
 
Johnson, a Procter & Gamble veteran who started Petbrosia in 2013, sees their new downtown office as a primary example of the kind of innovation their company hopes to represent. He and his 12-person team hope to bring jobs to the neighborhood and develop the area as a technological hub. By taking over the space at 1415 Central Parkway, they also hope to contribute to the constantly-developing culture for which OTR is so well-known.
 
While the decision to move into the new OTR space was made quite some time ago, Petbrosia's most recent news involves a $1.5 million loan from Ohio Third Frontier, a main source of funds for growing companies in the area. With the pet category of consumer products growing at a rapid pace, Petbrosia arrived on the scene just in time. Johnson believes they were granted the loan due to the fact that their revenues have remained consistent.
 
The loan money will be primarily used for marketing, he says, which includes hiring new staff, creating infrastructure and launching a new product line.
 
As for the new office space, the large building will provide ample room for a growing staff, and then some. With the recent launch of a vet partnership program, the Petbrosia offices will provide an ideal meeting space for seminars. Petbrosia also plans to share the space with Petwave, a pet-related content website that emerged in 2007. With plenty of room left over, the space may also be rented out to non-pet-related companies who want to be part of the OTR business scene.
 
Though the custom pet food idea has been picked up by larger pet food companies like Purina, Johnson is confident that Petbrosia's small size and personal commitment to each pet/pet owner will ensure the stability of their business. They also have a process and method patent currently pending to protect their concept.
 
"I think bigger companies have a harder time innovating," Johnson says. "With a smaller staff, the shift is much easier."

Cincinnati native creates one-of-a-kind razor, raises nearly $200,000 on Kickstarter

As Cincinnati native Zac Wertz was studying for the bar exam, his mind was wandering elsewhere.
 
For his entire adult life, shaving had always been an issue. Any razor he tried seemed to cause the same irritation. Though he dabbled in the electric shaver game, he was overwhelmed by how expensive and unreliable each option remained.
 
Wertz found salvation in the single-edge razor, the extremely cheap option that's become popular among shaving enthusiasts. The problem with using these blades, however, is the incredible amount of precision required to avoid hurting oneself.
 
With an MBA and a law degree from the University of Cincinnati under his belt, Wertz's mind began to wander. He had one goal in mind: make a single-edge razor that's easy to use. Within a year he surpassed his Kickstarter goal of $100,000, and that number only continues to grow.
 
Wertz began prototyping at home and tested his design on himself. Pleasantly surprised by the favorable results, he took his project a step further and started working with the Columbus-based industrial design firm, Trident.
 
"Explaining the concept was confusing to most people, but Trident understood it," Wertz says.
 
The company's first official prototype blew him away. Compared with other razors, his nicks were limited and the shave quality was unique — even better than what you get with other single-edge options.
 
"It gives you an aggressive but mild shave, all with one razor," Wertz says.
 
With a solid product in hand, Wertz launched Beluga Shave Company. Beluga's razor allows users to choose whichever blade fits into their budget. The wooden handle and 316L stainless steel pivoting head allows users to place the blade of their choice into the head, screw it closed and then begin using it as easily as they would any run-of-the-mill safety razor. Though the razor has a higher up-front cost, ranging from $125 to $150, Beluga offers a 25-year warranty to buyers based on the high-quality nature of the materials.

To Wertz, this is the kind of razor you pass down to your grandchildren.
 
"It can be a chore to shave," Wertz says. "This turns it into this luxurious experience."
 
The Beluga razor company is still primarily a one-man operation. Wertz contracts with manufacturers, expert designers and mechanical engineers from all over the country, but he is the company's only full-time employee. Even so, the product's design is close to being finalized. Customers can preorder the product on the website now and shipments are expected to begin in July.

Though a female-friendly version of the razor has yet to be developed, Wertz anticipates that a similar future model will prove marketable to women as well.

Eight startup myths ... busted

Whether they're actually involved with one or not, people love talking about startups. And amongst all the chatter, several stereotypes have emerged. Here to set the record straight are a few of Cincinnati/Northern Kentucky's startup connoisseurs.
 
Special thanks to Eric Weissmann of Cintrifuse for the pitch.
 
 
MYTH: Startups are full of young people in hoodies.
 
"Startup life isn't for everyone. I came from the corporate world where I was used to dressing up more times than not. Now I find myself participating in no-shave November and wearing hoodies, athletic attire. I have even been caught wearing socks and sandals..." – Alex Burkhart, Tixers
 
"Entrepreneurship spans all ages. Out of the 60-plus companies inside HCDC's business incubator at the Business Center, the average age of entrepreneurs is 42 years old." – Bridget Doherty, Hamilton County Development Co. Business Center
 

MYTH: Venture capitalists (VCs) sit on bags of money and live a glamorous life.
 
"(VCs) are hard workers hard workers, very smart, travel a ton and don’t make very many investments in a year. They’re patient and deliberate with their funds (see Dov Rosenburg at Allos Ventures)." – Eric Wiessmann, Cintrifuse
 
"VC's are very much like entrepreneurs. They are out raising money themselves. They are constantly fundraising and tied to performance. They definitely don't just sit back and kick it, that's for sure." – Alex Burkhart, Tixers
 

MYTH: Every startup has to be a tech startup, and every employee is tech-savvy.
 
"We work with over 100 entrepreneurs each year, and of those 10 percent fall into the tech category." (See PetWants, Creative Invites and Events, Project Blue Collar, Functional Formularies.) – Corey Drushal, Bad Girl Ventures
 

MYTH: Startups have to go to West Coast or East Coast to find investors.
 
"(Some entrepreneurs) don't consider the advantages of things like an increased runway because of cost-of-living if you build a company in the Midwest." – Patrick Henshaw, Strap
 

MYTH: There are no women in startups, no women in tech and no system in place to support them.
 
"The Greater Cincinnati/NKY startup eco-system has a friendly and inviting environment for female founders. The latest Uptech class has five female founders, including myself and Amanda Kranias of Seesaw, a family social network. ... We also have a fantastic female founder, Brooke Griffin, at the CincyTech-funded company." – Candice Peters, Seesaw
 

MYTH: If you start your own business, you will have fewer people telling you what to do.
 
"Some people want to start their own businesses to get away from long hours ... or the horrible bosses of the world. However, starting your own business requires a substantial time commitment and possibly more people telling you what to do." – Bridget Doherty, HCDC Business Center
 

MYTH: In the startup world, no one gets paid until you have a big exit.
 
"Many startups have attractive pay and competitive benefits (see InfoTrust)." – Eric Weissmann, Cintrifuse
 

MYTH: Startup owners just eat Ramen noodles and drink beer from their office fridge all day.
 
"Not just Ramen — if you add hotdogs, it makes it that much classier and better tasting." – Patrick Henshaw, Strap
 
"There is never a problem finding beer. No keg per say, but always a case of Miller Lite or craft beers in the fridge." – Alex Burkhart, Tixers

Roadtrippers launches new app to ease holiday travel


Forty-eight hours before its users were hitting the road for Thanksgiving last week, Cincinnati-based startup Roadtrippers released their new iPhone app. A redesign that's been in the making for three months, version 3.0 arrived just in time to make traveling easier for the millions of Roadtrippers users across the country.
 
In the hopes of encouraging holiday travelers to "ditch long airport lines and expensive ticket fares for the open road," CEO James Fisher wants this version of the app to take advantage of the 41.3 million Americans projected to travel over the holidays (AAA). The timing of its release was entirely on purpose.
 
Known for highlighting off-the-beaten path destinations for road-trip enthusiasts, Roadtrippers' new app combines every element of planning a trip into one place. The newer features include weather forecasting and a GPS-enabled function that locates nearby gas stations, hotels, restaurants and other noteworthy stops as you drive. The interface is cleaner than the company's last iPhone app, and the maps are clearer and more detailed.
 
The app also features a virtual "concierge," which offers suggestions when users are not quite sure of where they want to end up. The concierge greets the user upon opening the app, helping the planner to do exactly what they want to do at that moment.

"It helps you plan but also act on the fly," says Roadtrippers business development manager Chelsea Koglmeier. "Unlike the usual map app, which shows you nearby places within a certain radius, our app keeps you on your route."

Users can also browse categories of destinations by using the "Discovery" feature. Place cards offer visual and descriptive information on each of your stops as you drive, and particularly appealing places can be saved under a kind of "favorites" list.
 
Though Roadtrippers gained popularity through its online planning tool, this updated app will likely inflate the company's already-booming success. It encourages travelers to change up their initial plan if something interesting comes along while still staying informed and on track.
 
With $3.25 million in brand funding on the books, it's likely that the app will only continue to develop and evolve as its popularity increases.
 

Breaking Brad: People's Liberty names 2015 fellowship winners

People’s Liberty announced today that its inaugural Haile Fellowship grants are going to Brad Cooper and Brad Schnittger, who will each receive $100,000 as well as co-working space with additional design and communications support at the new People’s Liberty office in Over-the-Rhine. The fellowship officially begins on Jan. 12 and will run throughout the 2015 calendar year.

Cooper’s project is Start Small, which plans to build two 200-sq.-ft. zero-net-waste houses. When finished, they'll stand on concrete foundations and be fueled by solar panels, making them self-sustaining and long-term investments in the community.

Schnittger's project is MusicLi, a music publishing platform to afford local musicians the opportunity to properly document, register and publish their musical compositions to an online library, allowing advertising agencies to license and purchase more Cincinnati music. Schnittger is co-founder of local music and design agency The All Night Party and a member of the popular rock band The Sundresses.

"I can't begin to express how rewarding it was to call both of the grantees, to let them know they'd be taking on their dream projects next year," Jake Hodesh, People's Liberty's vice president of operations, said in this morning's announcement. "Both indicated how their lives would never be the same. Knowing that our work has the potential to change people's lives, that makes my job worthwhile. January can't get here soon enough."

Why 'Get Noticed Get Found' is the best place to work in Cincinnati

In the corner of the Get Noticed Get Found office, the gold star-embellished "Best Place to Work" award sits proudly on a shelf. The company, which provides marketing strategies and generates web content for law firms of all sizes, was presented with the award at the beginning of November. Chris Casseday, the company's very first employee and current account manager, has been working for the business since its humble beginnings at HCDC's Business Center incubator. To him, Get Noticed Get Found's newly-recognized status is a no-brainer.
 
"Work hard, play hard is embodied here," he says. "There aren't many places where your CEO will come up to your desk and ask you to drop everything and come play Ping-Pong or something."
 
The Ping-Pong table/beer-on-Fridays concept is hardly revolutionary when it comes to young companies in Cincinnati. More and more businesses have been emphasizing the balance between work and play, and their offices embody that. The thing that makes Get Noticed Get Found different from the others is its unique, detailed hiring process.
 
If you want to work for GNGF, you first have to put together a video presentation of yourself. These video-applications leave tremendous room for creativity, and the staff at GNGF uses them to see if the applicant would be a good cultural fit for the company. The process also weeds out those who are only marginally interested in the position.
 
"Experience is not exactly our goal," Casseday says. "We can teach them what they need to know. It's better that [the applicants] come out fresh with a drive to learn."
 
GNGF recruits young individuals right out of college. They encourage students to apply while they are in their final year or semester so that they can jump right in at graduation. If hired as an intern, they truly become a part of the company. They even play a role in choosing the next member of the GNGF family.
 
"When a person interviews, they interview with everyone who works here," Casseday continues. "Our biggest thing is personality and how you fit with our culture. One bad apple could totally throw the mood off."
 
Over the last few years, GNGF has grown exponentially. With more than a million dollars in revenue last year and a solid client base, they moved from a tiny room in HCDC's incubator to a large, open space across the street.
 

The customer is always funnier: The story behind Barefoot Proximity's new CIO

The existence of Chief Innovation Officers (CIOs) at growing creative companies is nothing new. It is, however, a role that is becoming more and more necessary as newer businesses emerge and already-existing companies fight to stay relevant. Barefoot Proximity, a Cincinnati-based advertising and communications agency, recently hired its new CIO both in response to this trend and to make sure that any opportunity to disrupt convention—or "innovate"—is seized will full force.
 
The man filling this role, Troy Hitch, is a character. His creative background in theatre and musical production is immediately apparent upon meeting him; he is animated, sarcastic and quick on his feet. After graduating from Northern Kentucky University, Hitch dabbled in everything from medical text illustration to creating interactive installations for the Cincinnati Zoo. As a creative individual, Hitch always knew that the Internet was a powerful tool. In 2004, he and a partner started their own content-generating studio, Big Fat Brain.
 
Big Fat Brain was based in Covington and dubbed a "new media studio" by its founders. Hitch and his partner made webisodes and short-form video content for companies looking to vamp up their websites.
 
"It was lo-fi production value, high content value stuff," Hitch says.
 
Big Fat Brain's national success led to a connection with the former president of CBS radio who had just started MyDamnChannel, an entertainment studio and distributor of web and TV content. Big Fat Brain's work with the company, which involved producing numerous creative webisodes, is what ultimately led Hitch and his partner to realize the power of consumer input.
 
"We could actually engineer a connection [to the user]," he says.
 
This realization came to a head with the success of Hitch's trans-media web video series, "You Suck at Photoshop," in 2008. The episodes, which have reached 100 million views to date, centered around a pissed-off guy, whom the viewer never sees, begrudgingly providing a YouTube tutorial.
 
When an overwhelming amount of fans insisted the "You Suck at Photoshop" guy was comedian Dane Cook, Hitch and his partner realized they could use that user connection to their advantage. They brought Dane Cook onto the show, and the Internet exploded.
 
Today, as the CIO at Barefoot, Hitch hopes to find more opportunities to truly involve the customer/consumer/audience when considering strategies for his clients. By integrating their inclinations and preferences in every way possible, Hitch hopes to expand on the opportunities presented to the company. As the person in charge of hiring Barefoot's creative department, he also plans to draw in talent that knows how to deal with that kind of data.
 
"This is not about me anymore," he says of his work. "The consumer is fickle—there are a million different options these days. We need a value exchange. My job is to engineer [the material] so that other people can create and think and inspire."
 
According to Hitch, the power of the media is that people want to participate. CIOs, he says, are necessary because the consumer expects something different than what the old agency formulas can deliver. That said, if it were up to him, the word "innovation" would be cut right out of the title.
 
"Innovation is an overused and abused word," Hitch says. "I like to describe my role as embracing complexity and delivering simplicity."
 
Every company's CIO may see their role differently. Still, when individuals like Hitch are hired to force companies to think way beyond the box, "innovation" in inevitable. 

DAAP students design contest-winning cars for Volkswagen

When Simon Wells arrived at the University of Cincinnati almost 5 years ago, he had been drawing for years. He had also dabbled in 3D modeling and computer graphics during high school in Texas. Though he had always had skill, his first day at UC's College of Design Architecture, Art and Planning brought him to an important realization.
 
"I wasn't any good," he says, laughing.
 
Five years later, Wells has more than developed his skills as a designer. Two weeks ago, Wells and his classmate Cameron Bresn were both named winners of the 2014 Volkswagen Design Contest.
 
The contest called for contestants across the country to design a car that might appear in a video game. But the typical racing game was not on Wells' radar. He wanted to go in a more sci-fi direction to truly excite the folks at Volkwagen.
 
"I wanted to show them something they wouldn't see at work," Wells says.
 
Wells' and Bresn's professor decided to integrate the contest into the semester-long design class. Since the goal of the class is to offer students the experience to land an internship, the Volkswagen Design Contest's promise of an internship in Germany was the perfect motivator.
 
Wells' winning design, entitled "The Quantum Ambassador," was chosen out of hundreds of applicants. The car he created would allow scientists to travel through space and eventually through a black hole—a true "journey into the unknown." The vehicle would be a large-scale "faraday cage," a tool police officers use to prevent electronic signals from reaching objects like cell phones. This feature would block the radiation from the black hole. The design itself even incorporated the "cage" theme.
 
Volkswagon was impressed, to say the least. As winners of their annual contest, Wells and Bresn will travel to Germany for an internship with the company next year.
 
Until then, Wells is already working with Volkswagon in California as an intern. His job is to imagine what the car of the future will look like it and to put his imagination to paper. Since Wells hopes to be doing this kind of work after graduation, this internship is a perfect opportunity. It's also the well-deserved product of five years of long hours and hard work. Wells' contest-winning entry will be a key part of his final portfolio at the end of the school year. 
 
"I used to get chest pains from the stress," Wells says. "But the work is enjoyable; at the end of the day, we're just drawing."
554 Cincinnati Articles | Page: | Show All
Signup for Email Alerts