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Social Enterprise Week kicks off in Cincinnati

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

Museum Center hosts Cincinnati Mini Maker Faire

Power tool drag races, Ping Pong ball explosions, robots and … bellydancing? Yes, you read that right, and no, this isn’t “guess which one of these things doesn’t fit.” In fact, you can find all of these and much more at the Cincinnati Mini Maker Faire, taking place Sept. 13 and 14 at the Cincinnati Museum Center.
 
Cincinnati Mini Maker Faire is a community-organized event and is part of the national Maker Faire created by MAKE Magazine. MAKE describes the event as "the greatest show (and tell) on Earth—a family-friendly showcase of invention, creativity and resourcefulness, and a celebration of the Maker movement."
 
“It’s about the act of creating, celebrating that, and getting people excited about science and arts as spectacle, in the same way they might get excited going to a sports event,” says Jason Langdon, founder of the Cincinnati Mini Maker Faire. “We’re bringing together different groups of creative types and cross-pollinating them, and you can never really know what’s going to happen.”
 
This year’s faire will feature more than 30 makers of all ages and backgrounds showing off their inventions, as well as focused workshops and communal interactive experiences. After a somewhat rainy Maker Faire last year outside at Washington Park, this year’s location at the Cincinnati Museum Center will further emphasize the idea of craftsmanship.
 
“This year, we find ourselves in a location with tremendous historical significance for the maker movement," Langdon says. "Cincinnati Museum Center shares our mission of providing a forum for discovery, creativity and invention, so we anticipate one incredible party."
 
The event is free, but tickets are required to be reserved by visiting http://www.cincymuseum.org/events/cincinnati-mini-maker-faire.
 
 

Noble Denim awarded top prize at Artworks Big Pitch

After 10 weeks of preparation, build up and excitement, eight local small businesses capped an exhilarating process on August 27 at Artworks’ Big Pitch, held at the American Sign Museum. Each of eight business, profiled throughout the summer on Soapbox, gave a five-minute pitch in front of a panel of judges, as well as an audience of well over 400 people.
 
In the end, Chris Sutton of Noble Denim was named the grand prize winner and was awarded a $15,000 prize, and Django Kroner of The Canopy Crew won the $5,000 audience choice award. First runner up and winner of $2,500 in professional services from Dinsmore and Shohl, Clark Schaefer Hackett and LPK was Matt Madison of Madisono’s Gelato, and second runner up and winner of $,1000 of services was Brian Stuparyk of Steam Whistle Letterpress.
 
“We were all rooting for each other. There was a lot of camaraderie,” Sutton says. “It was a really uplifting environment, and I honestly think everyone nailed it, anyone could have won. So to be picked, we just feel really honored, and it’s hard to feel like it’s even real at this point. ”
 
Winning the grand prize will allow Noble not only to hire on sewers in its Tennessee factory, but also begin to distribute products in Europe and Japan.
 
“This changes our trajectory a lot,” Sutton says. “To be able to move forward on this drops our production costs by a third without having to sacrifice quality.”
 
In addition to the prize money, all of the companies received a business mentor and a US Bank mentor to help in developing and updating the business plan and fine-tuning the pitch.
 
“Artworks did an amazing job on this whole thing,” Sutton says. “You can tell that they listened to the needs of small business and actually developed a program that would be helpful for all of us, and I was super impressed by that. The check-ins with our mentors were some of the most helpful parts of this whole process; I would have felt like I gained something just from that, even without winning the prize.”
 
For more information on Artworks’ work with small business, visit http://www.artworkscincinnati.org/creative-enterprise/.

Local architect Kickstarts her way to one of the world's largest art festivals

Local artist and architect Catherine Richards has been invited to build and exhibit Valance, a site-specific installation at this year’s ArtPrize in Grand Rapids, Mich.
 
ArtPrize is an international art competition, taking place from September 24 to October 12, 2014. For 19 days, art from around the world will pop up in every inch of downtown, and it’s all free and open to the public. Two grand prizes worth $400,000 are awarded, along with eight category awards worth $160,000. More than 500,000 people are expected to attend this year’s ArtPrize.
 
Richards, who came to Cincinnati several years ago from Cleveland to attend UC’s DAAP program, was recruited to be involved with ArtPrize when participating in a separate competition.
 
“I was in a competition at the 21c Museum Hotel as one of five finalists,” Richards says. “I’d used rapid prototyping at DAAP to create these patterned mirrors, and at the competition I met a curator who asked me to use this idea for ArtPrize.”
 
 Richards committed to building the project, called Valance, but after pricing it out, she realized she would need some extra funds.
 
“I realized it’s going to be an expensive project; I’m working with industrial designers, a structural engineer and a mechanical designer on this,” she says.
 
So earlier this summer, Richards launched a Kickstarter campaign to raise funds for the Valance. In just three weeks, she raised more than $8,000 for the project.
 
“Valance will engage architectural theory, the problems of public space and the private experience of art,” Richards says. “The treatment of a mirror as textile is something I haven’t seen before, and this is going to be installed on Grand Rapids’ Blue Bridge, so there will be lots of pedestrian interaction with the piece.”
 
Richards will drive up to Grand Rapids on September 20 to install the piece. In the meantime, she continues to be dedicated to the Cincinnati community, teaching at DAAP, working on a project called Popup Cincy and Modern Makers

Bad Girl Ventures expands to Covington, opens next door to UpTech

Earlier this month, The Covington City commission unanimously approved a deal that allows Bad Girl Ventures (BGV) to expand its reach to Covington, Ky., where it will move into a space on Pike Street next door to the tech accelerator Uptech. The space will be used as office headquarters for BGV and as a hub of entrepreneurial support and advocacy for female entrepreneurs by offering co-working space to Bad Girls, access to mentorship, and workshop and networking events.
 
“We’ve been trying to find the right space for about a year,” says Corey Drushal, BGV Executive Director. “We noticed that 30 percent of our entrepreneurs were from Northern Kentucky; we even had some driving up from Louisville and Lexington. Covington is where we want to be.”
 
The BGV and UpTech co-working spaces will connect, allowing the entrepreneurs from both programs to collaborate in new ways and learn with entrepreneurs from different industries.
 
“BGV is excited to become part of another strong community where entrepreneurs of all kinds are being nurtured. With BGV, UpTech and BioLogic on the same block, entrepreneurs have every resource at their fingertips. BGV will better help female-owned companies find a stronghold in the community by expanding our presence to Northern Kentucky,” Drushal says.
 
Currently, BGV is active in Cincinnati, Columbus and Cleveland, and has trained 521 female entrepreneurs. In Cincinnati, they are going into their 10th class and have given out $510,000 in loans in the state of Ohio thus far.
 
“Now that we have our new space, for this next year we’re going to focus less on physical expansion of the program and more on expansion of our services, redeveloping curricula and providing more resources for our Bad Girls,” Durshal says.
 
 
 

Grand City Experiment aims to make inclusivity viral in Cincinnati

By now, anyone with a Facebook account and/or Internet access is familiar with the ALS ice bucket challenge. Now imagine a similar charitable idea but one that is instead focused on your specific city, community and neighbors. In just over a month, we’ll see such an idea come to fruition when the Grand City Experiment begins.
 
The Grand City Experiment (GCE) is an initiative started by 15 members of the Cincinnati USA Regional Chamber’s young professional leadership development program C-Change. Their challenge is to make Cincinnati a more welcoming city; they aim to do so by engaging Cincinnatians with daily activities that can have a large cumulative effect on the city.
 
“Each year we provide a guiding principle to our C-Change class,” says Julie Bernzott, manager of C-Change at the Chamber. “The idea of making our community more welcoming had been on the top of our mind for several months. We’d all read an article in the Enquirer about a woman who lived in Cincinnati for two years and didn’t feel like she made one close friend. That story got an unprecedented response from others who felt the same way about our city, and we knew we wanted to do something about it.”
 
The Grand City Experiment is one of several answers the C-Change class has come up with to tackle this issue. Right now, they are collecting email addresses at www.thegrandcityexperiment.com, and starting October 1, every person signed up will receive a daily challenge via email to take some action that can brighten someone’s day, build community, encourage diversity and strengthen the city.
 
“One challenge might simply be to ask some personal questions to a person in the service industry the next time you’re in a cab or a restaurant,” says Aftab Pureval, an attorney at P&G and a member of the C-Change class working on GCE. “Or simply to offer to buy coffee for the person behind you in line. We also have a some challenges that will deal with themes of culture, health issues and more, but the idea is to find small ways to have a large impact on someone’s day.”
 
Through social media and word of mouth, GCE’s initial push has garnered them more than 1,000 participants via email; their goal is to have 30,000 signups by the end of the month of October.
 
“I want people to challenge themselves to learn something new about another person or community,” Pureval says.
 
To find out more information about other C-Change projects and application materials, you can visit http://blogs.cincinnati.com/cchange/ or attend the C-Change information event on August 28 at Mt Adams Pavilion.

Artworks Big Pitch Profile: Misfit Genius

Throughout the summer, Soapbox is profiling each of the eight finalists in the Artworks Big Pitch competition, presented by U.S. Bank, which offers artists, makers, designers and creative entrepreneurs a chance to claim up to $20,000 in cash prizes, as well as pro-bono professional services. The competition concludes August 27 at the American Sign Museum with the eight finalists each giving five-minute presentations to a panel of judges. You can read Soapbox’s article on the Big Pitch here.

It’s not often that you find a business that wasn’t founded to create specific products or services, but instead simply to inspire. Many businesses have core values, but to make your core values into a business is something different. But then again, Cordario “Monty” Collier and Jason Matheny, founders of Misfit Genius, have never been too concerned with what everyone else is doing.
 
Misfit Genius can be summed up as a lifestyle brand, but the two founders are quick to point out that they mean something slightly different by that phrase than most other companies.
 
“Most companies that say that, it’s just based around clothing,” Collier says. “Yes, we sell clothes as well, but we’re more about community-building. The clothes are there to remind us of these values we live by.”
 
Collier and Matheny met in 2008 as students at Thomas More College, where Collier approached Matheny and asked him about a sweater he was wearing. This opened up the initial conversation about fashion, a common interest they both shared.
 
As a business, Misfit Genius was started in 2010. It has remained a very fluid process as Collier and Matheny have been working to find the best way to share their message.
 
“The last four years has really been like going to college for entrepreneurs,” Collier says. “We’ve been through a lot of failure and seen some success, too; the moments of success are what carry you through.”
 
After initial dreams of opening a retail store and creating their own fashion lines, the two men went back to the drawing board several times to find what would really work for them.
 
“We learned that it was more about the idea and the message,” Matheny sas. “The more we focused on that idea of challenging people to pursue their passions, we kept getting signs that that was where we should go.”
 
Now, Misfit Genius describes the clothes they offer as the “back end” of their services. The core of their business is based around five values: Passion, Loyalty, Intelligence, Confidence and Humility. Collier and Matheny have started giving motivational speeches around the area in schools and universities based on these values.
 
“The premise of Misfit Genius is that it’s the misfit in you that makes you who you are—you have to embrace that,” Collier says. “The five values we identified are what you use in order to take that difference and become the genius.”
 
Ultimately, Matheny and Collier want Misfit Genius to become a creative hub in Cincinnati, where ideas and inspiration are bred and real connections are fostered.
 
“At first we were thinking of our brand in a more competitive mode,” Collier says. “Now we’d rather work with other businesses and see how we can help each other to get further. We’re building community one person at a time.” 

Check out these other Artworks Big Pitch finalists:

ReelAbilities Film Festival moves headquarters from NYC to Cincinnati, plans biggest year yet

The ReelAbilities Film Festival, A weeklong festival of independent, award-winning films, aimed at stirring discussion and celebrating diversity and shared humanity, has moved its headquarters from New York City to Cincinnati. The headquarters in Cincinnati is now overseen by the local nonprofit Living Arrangements for the Developmentally Disabled (LADD).
 
ReelAbilities was founded in 2007 in New York City by the Manhattan JCC, and has grown to become the largest film festival in the country dedicated to sharing the stories, lives and art of people who experience disability. The festival now takes place in 14 U.S. cities across the country. In Cincinnati, the biennial festival will next occur February 27-March 7, 2015.
 
“Cincinnati has been so receptive to this festival, it makes perfect sense for it to be here,” says Christa Zielke, National Field Director of the festival. “From the funders to our partners and the festival goers themselves, everyone has really rallied around this.”
 
In 2013, the festival brought 24-plus events to the Cincinnati area, held at a variety of venues including the Contemporary Arts Center, National Underground Railroad Freedom Center, Cincinnati Art Museum, Esquire and Mariemont Theaters and more. More than 250 people volunteer, and the festival saw a 514 percent increase in attendance last year from the previous festival in 2011.
 
“By telling these diverse stories through film, ReelAbilities shines a light on our common human spirit,” says Jeff Harris, a board member and funder of the festival through the Saul Schottenstein Foundation B. “Last year’s festival was truly amazing in its ability to draw that connection and include the entire community.”
 
This year, LADD has partnered with several organizations to continue to raise awareness and promote discussion around these topics outside of the festival. This summer, they partnered with 3CDC and Washington Park to sponsor a screening of Finding Nemo.
 
“We’ve also partnered with the education and legal communities to engage people with these ideas, and to celebrate and acknowledge difference,” Zielke says.
 
Among ReelAbilities advocates is Danny Woodburn, a professional actor who plays the voice of Splinter in the new Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles movie.
 
“Actors with disabilities are 90 percent less likely to be seen, and many characters with disabilities aren’t actually played by actors with disabilities,” Woodburn says. “It’s important for work like this to be done, and if I have the chance to speak out and be heard because I’m recognizable from being in the public eye, then I feel it’s my responsibility to do so.”
 
“But this isn’t just about actors getting work,” Woodburn continues. “Two-thirds of people with disabilities are unemployed; we need to raise awareness of that fact. If we want that to change, we as a society have to create an environment for change.”
 
For more information about the 2015 ReelAbilities Festival, visit www.cincyra.org

New co-working space merges work and play

Cincinnati’s newest co-working office, MOVE, is opening early next month and hopes to stimulate its clients both mentally and physically. The workspace is attached the Foundation Fitness gym and promises to be full of energy, motivation and “people taking breaks to climb ropes, sneak in a few squats or flip the tires a few times.”
 
Located at the intersection of the Brighton, Over-the-Rhine and West End neighborhoods in Cincinnati’s Historic Brewery District, MOVE sits less than half a mile from Findlay Market. Co-founders Patrick Hitches and Ryan Meo say they opened MOVE because they saw a need for collaborative workspace in the city.
 
“I was looking around town and was honestly shocked at how few co-working spaces there were, especially in and around downtown,” Hitches says. “At MOVE, we’re looking to cultivate the local entrepreneur/soloprenuer scene, and the idea is that being active and healthy helps to spark creativity, productivity and innovation. We merge work and play to help our members reach their own personal potential in both body and career.”
 
But the founders emphasize that MOVE is not just for the physically fit. “I have been running an online company for seven years now, and it did no favors at all to my body and health,” Meo says. “I sat all the time, worked long hours and inadvertently ended up in terrible shape; I needed a change without sacrificing my growing business. MOVE was the change I needed and why Patrick and I came together to offer this opportunity to those in the same position I was.”
 
MOVE will feature a variety of amenities including Commercial Broadband Wifi, 24/7 access, showers, lounge area, indoor hanging bike racks and more. Move will have its soft opening on August 6 before launching fully at the beginning of September. 

Artworks Big Pitch Finalist: Heather Britt, Heather Britt Dance Collective

Throughout the summer, Soapbox will profile each of the eight finalists in the Artworks Big Pitch competition, presented by U.S. Bank, which offers artists, makers, designers and creative entrepreneurs a chance to claim up to $20,000 in cash prizes, as well as pro-bono professional services. The competition concludes August 27 at the American Sign Museum with the eight finalists each giving five-minute presentations to a panel of judges. You can read Soapbox’s article on the Big Pitch here.
 
Heather Britt is not a movement. She is movement. She is also one of those people you meet every now and again who, once you know who they are and what they do, it’s impossible to imagine them doing anything else in life.
 
Britt is a dancer and what she’s created here in Cincinnati, in addition to an impressive career, is an outlet for expression, creativity, energy and emotion through dance. She is the founder and operator of the Heather Britt Dance Collective (HBDC), which acts as the umbrella organization for her various projects including her dance class, DANCEFIX, choreography for the Cincinnati Ballet, flash mobs and more.  
 
“I’ve been dancing since I was 3. I went to the School for Creative and Performing Arts (SCPA) in Cincinnati and have been dancing, teaching and choreographing ever since,” Britt says. “I’ve lived in San Francisco and Colorado, as well, but have been back here since 2000, and this year decided that I wanted to bring all the work I do together under the HBDC name.”
 
While in San Francisco, Britt became involved with a dance fitness class called Rhythm and Motion that changed her life.
 
“In San Francisco, I saw people of different, diverse backgrounds, who were not professional, but were passionate nonetheless, and I thought that that was it for me,” Britt says. “Dance has always been therapeutic for me. It’s also a great way to stay in shape, but I do it because I have no choice—I have to do it. When I saw other people like that, I came back to Cincinnati and I thought, ‘Cincinnati needs this.’”
 
So Britt brought the Rhythm and Motion concept back to Cincinnati, only she found that the community was different and the structure needed some changing to meet the needs of the people here. As a result, she adapted the program and changed the name to DANCEFIX.
 
“It’s all about making connection through dance and getting in shape in the process,” Britt says. “It’s all choreographed by myself and teachers I’ve trained; all different styles are represented in the class, and it’s been really successful so far.”
 
Currently, Britt has 10 teachers and 16 classes, both downtown at the ballet and in Kenwood at Yoga Alive. Britt hopes to continue growing into the surrounding areas including Northern Kentucky, the suburbs and eventually, perhaps, to neighboring cities. She hopes to use the cash prize from Artworks Big Pitch to help her with this growth.
 
“Everything so far has been word of mouth, but my hope is to be able to have someone to help out with marketing, social media and just general online presence,” Britt says.
 
When asked to compare her class to other dance classes in the area, Britt is quick to note the difference: “Zumba, for example, uses dance as a way to get fit and get in shape, which is great, but that’s not what I’m about,” she says. “DANCEFIX is more about dancing for the love of dance and creativity, and it just also happens to be an awesome workout. The class is open to anyone at any level. You don’t have to already be a dancer; we’ve become really good at meeting everyone at their own level.”
 
Britt is excited to continue working on her business throughout the weeks leading up to the Big Pitch and is appreciative of the opportunities afforded to small business in Cincinnati.

Check out these other Artworks Big Pitch finalists:

NKU attracts diverse group of student entrepreneurs for Jumpstart Camp

Last month, the Northern Kentucky University Center for Entrepreneurship hosted entrepreneurially minded high school students from 15 schools across northern Kentucky/Greater Cincinnati. This inaugural program, titled NKU Jump Start, focused on giving students hands-on experience in ideation, team building, opportunity validation and pitching.
 
Students spent the weekend in NKU dorms working with current NKU college students participating in the INKUBATOR. Together they came up with dozens of ideas before being asked to carefully boil down the number to four and then present to a panel of judges.
 
“Over the weekend, these high school students, who didn’t know each other beforehand, created apps, videos, logos and more,” says Rodney D’Souza, assistant professor of Entrepreneurship at NKU and founder of the INKUBATOR. “The judges, which included some of Cincinnati’s best known serial entrepreneurs, were blown away by these students.”
 
"I've judged a number of startup events, and these high school students were as prepared and as professional as the adults,” says Taerk Kamil, one of the judges at Jump Start and a local entrepreneur. “Their passion for entrepreneurship was evident. I only wish this type of event existed when I was in high school!"
 
First place at the event went to an idea called Medimaze, a medical system that changes any consumable medication into flavorless, scentless vapor. Using an innovative cartridge system, Medimaze is able to record when and how much medication the patient receives and automatically links it to the doctor. The winning team was made up of students Jake Franzen, Jane Petrie, Riley Meyerratken and Tori Bischoff.
 
The students were grateful for the experience and said they wished the camp could have lasted longer. Based on the feedback they received, D’Souza and his team at NKU are looking at expanding the camp to four days to show the students more of the campus and have more time to work together.
 
 “Both the students and the judges gave us some much good feedback; I think everyone was really impressed by the outcome of the camp,” D’Souza says. “It’s great for us as a university to attract young talent, and it’s also great for our region to be able to continue to grow and expand entrepreneurship on the whole.”

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

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

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

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

Xavier Partners with American Dreamers radio show to support entrepreneurs

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

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

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