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Bad Girl Ventures launches new 3-prong curriculum to support female entrepreneuers

It’s been a big year for Bad Girl Ventures (BGV). Its new executive director, Nancy Aichholz, joined in April, and a new curriculum structure launched this month.
“We had a one-size-fits-all class open to any woman who had a business in any stage of the business cycle,” Aichholz says. “And that worked, but it didn’t work for everyone. We needed a program that offers different kinds of help at each stage of a businesses development.”
The revamped BGV program takes a tiered approach — Explore, Launch, Grow — to support women-owned businesses.
“Explore is for the person who is literally exploring the feasibility of their idea,” Aichholz says. “They may have a concept and might actually be in business, but they aren’t very far along and they definitely don’t have a fully functional business plan. We’re helping them vet their ideas and walk them through the process of starting a business correctly.”
The first Explore class started mid-September with 36 participants. Weekly classes will address legal issues, human resources, marketing and finance as well as coaching and how to pitch their business to investors. By the end of November, each Explore participant will have a basic working business plan.
The second phase of the new curriculum, Launch, will begin in the spring.
“Launch will target women who are much farther along in the business cycle,” Aichholz says. “We’re looking at participants who have been in business for a couple of years with revenue and customers. Launch participants will develop a business plan to take to funders.”
The 25 participants in the Launch program will be selected through an application process that will evaluate their experience and potential for capital investment. The nine-week program will include weekly classes and work with SCORE mentors. At the end of the program, participants will present their business plan and pitch their idea in competition for up to $25,000 in business loans.
“In the past, there has been primarily one $25,000 loan,” Aichholz says of the original BGV concept. “Although that has been fine so far, to really meet the needs of our female entrepreneurs we need to loan them the amount of money they need, not a fixed amount.”
The final phase of the new BGV curriculum, the a la carte workshop series Grow, will begin next summer.
“We have BGV businesses that are five years old, and they’re facing completely different issues than those just starting a business,” Aichholz says. “They’re thinking about partnering, franchising, selling to national organizations, things that are at a more experienced level than the women just getting started. Instead of a series of classes, with Grow you can come to the workshop that’s right for you.”
None of the new curriculum tracks require participation in previous Bad Girl Ventures classes. The classes are even open to men, although they aren’t eligible to compete for the business loans.
Bad Girl Ventures offers programs in Greater Cincinnati and the Cleveland area, with more than 650 alumni, including owners of The Yoga Bar, Sweet Petit Desserts and Pet Wants.
“BGV businesses are much more likely to stay in town, to get their venture capital in town, and then those jobs are staying in the region,” Aichholz says. “We have had BGV businesses that have scaled dramatically, but they’ve kept their primary base here.
“A big differentiating factor with BGV is that once a Bad Girl always a Bad Girl. Our alumni constantly interact with and support each other. This alumni network is a unique asset for BGV that we can offer as a support system both to incoming Bad Girls and to any female entrepreneurs we’ve launched into their own businesses.”
Entrepreneurs interested in participating in the Launch and Grow programs can sign up online to be notified when applications for the spring class and summer workshops are available.

Cincinnati Design Week offers peek inside local creative scene

There is a mess of creative people in our city.

With design schools and branding companies in high supply, Cincinnati becomes a larger and more active haven for creative talent every year. And beginning on Monday, Sept. 28, these folks will emerge from their laptops and drafting tables to show off their ideas, their strategies and, of course, their designs.
Cincinnati Design Week is a yearly program sponsored by AIGA Cincinnati, a nonprofit organization that promotes design as a professional art form. By focusing on everything from ethics to education, AIGA strives to be a valuable resource to designers throughout Greater Cincinnati and beyond.
Next week's program promises a slew of events for designers and design-voyeurs alike. All events range from $5 to $40 per person, with a few free ones thrown in for good measure. Below is a quick preview of what attendees can expect from the week. For a more detailed rundown, visit the Cincinnati Design Week website.

Monday, Sept. 28
The Craft Brewment: The Branding Behind the Beer

Local beer brand designers will gather at Longworth Hall to sip, socialize and drop some knowledge about the art wrapped around your favorite craft brew.

Tuesday, Sept. 29
It’s Not About You: Who Should Be at the Center of Your Design

Learn how to make an impact with your designs, no matter how trivial, with guests from Epipheo, Kapture and We Have Become Vikings.
Iterative Development in Corporate Environments
This sold-out panel will discuss bringing startup approaches to the corporate world.
Distort the Panel
This free event features an art installation presented by creative agencies The Pharmacy Co and Such + Such.

Wednesday, Sept. 30
XGD: Experiential Graphic Design Presented by SEGD

Architects, industrial designers and branding experts will converge at the Art Academy of Cincinnati to break down their disciplines.

Cincinnati Design Awards 2×4
Attendees should stop by this free event to see Cincinnati's most recent cutting-edge design work. Awards will be presented in four categories: architecture, interior design, experiential graphic design and landscape design.


This inspirational talk at the Aronoff Center will bring together speakers from Mucho, Lo Siento and Moment Factory, among others.

Thursday, Oct. 1
Tech Leaders: Presented by WomanUp + Girl Develop It

This free panel discussion gathers artistic leaders in web design, social media and more. These five women will share their journeys to success in their respective creative fields.
A Different(ial) Startup Story
The web and mobile app experts at Differential will share their hard-earned wisdom with eager attendees.
QCMerge Drinkup: Drink & Draw Edition
The name says it all, as willing participants drink up and take 30 minutes to draw according to a prompt. The resulting art pieces will then face a (semi-sober?) judges panel.
Oen Hammonds: People + Practice + Places = Outcomes
Designer, mentor and lead facilitator at IBM (and Northern Kentucky University alum) will present on the importance of building a human-centered experience.

Friday, Oct. 2
BLDG: Behind the Antlers

Learn more about the quirky Covington design shop/gallery at this free event.
Designing the Future: Ignite What’s Possible
Brand innovation agency Spicefire will outline its mission to challenge convention in Cincinnati's branding scene at this already-sold-out event.

Brian Singer: How to Get Rich in Design
As the week's featured presenter, the Pinterest design manager will share how he made it big (really big) in the creative biz.
Meet & Greet with Brian Singer
Cincinnati Design Week culminates with a meet-and-greet with Brian Singer at Barrio Tequilera. Drinks and appetizers will be provided, and presenters from throughout the week will likely be in attendance.

African Professionals Network continues to grow influence, spread connections

The African Professionals Network (APNET) is working to become Cincinnati’s go-to organization for anything related to continental Africa, according to its vice president for strategic initiatives, Clara Matonhodze. The organization will host its fourth annual symposium Oct. 10 with a keynote address given by Trey Grayson, president and CEO of the Northern Kentucky Chamber of Commerce.
“This event will provide a platform to network, share ideas and create long-term business relationships between some of the most successful Africans in the Tristate and American businesses,” Matonhodze says.
Business, networking and community engagement are APNET’s three pillars. The group was formed in October 2010 to help provide a support network for African people living in greater Cincinnati and to create a welcoming environment for African immigrants coming to the region.
“(It was) a result of long ongoing conversations by African Northern Kentucky University alums about how best to assist individuals of African descent in the area become part of their new community, tap into the local networking scene, graduate from college and find careers in their desired fields,” Matonhodze says.
In the five years since its founding, APNET has not only provided regular opportunities for members to network with each other and other business organizations but also organized events for members to volunteer and give back to their new community. They’ve partnered with Cincinnati Youth Collaborative to provide one-on-one mentoring to students from elementary school through college and worked with Little Brothers Friends of the Elderly to put on a yearly Easter Brunch for elderly Cincinnatians with few family or resources.
For Matonhodze, the opportunity to be involved in the Cincinnati community while creating community with other Africans was what drew her to APNET. She was born in Zimbabwe, where she worked in television media before coming to the U.S. at 23 to attend NKU. She got involved with APNET in 2012.
“I was looking for a dynamic organization that shared my passion to assist African immigrants by helping them integrate into American society, a pretty daunting task, and showcase our great city to new African immigrants by providing a support system if you will,” she says. “I also needed the organization to be open to genuinely working with people across cultures.”
Matonhodze stresses that anyone interested in Africa and related issues is welcome at APNET events, including the upcoming symposium. The organization has made an effort to form relationships with a variety of businesses and professional groups in the area, working to show off Cincinnati to recent immigrants as well as educate the city about the African continent.
“Africa has problems, we acknowledge that,” Matonhodze says, “but the image we want to promote and put forth is one of a progressive Africa — an Africa that most of our members and leadership agree is not shown enough.”
Their goals seem to be popular. APNET has held more than 20 programs and events this year and expects around 200 people at the October symposium, which will also celebrate its fifth anniversary. In addition to its success in Cincinnati, APNET is taking its model to other cities by forming chapters in Chicago and Indiana.
“We want the APNET brand to be global, having APNET locations/branches in different countries and leading big initiatives here and abroad,” Matonhodze says.
Tickets to the Oct. 10 symposium at the Anderson Center in Anderson Township are $35, with discounts available for groups and students. Register online here.

AIA Cincinnati program to address "missing 32 percent" of women in architecture

Gender disparity in the workplace has been big news this year, particularly in the tech industry and in coverage of the ongoing gender wage gap. The field of architecture has taken a proactive approach to addressing gender equity within that profession.
“Recent discussions and initiatives regarding gender parity in various fields have helped to push this topic to the forefront in our industry,” says Heather Wehby, Project Architect at emersion DESIGN and Co-Chair of AIA Cincinnati’s Equity in Architecture committee.
In 2011, the American Institute of Architects (AIA) San Francisco launched The Missing 32% Project, an initiative to start a conversation about gender representation. Several successful symposiums and events led them to pursue a national study, “Equity in Architecture,” in 2014.
AIA Cincinnati is bringing Saskia Dennis-van Dijl, Principal Consultant at Cameron MacAllister Group, to present the findings of that study at the Mercantile Library at 5:30 p.m. Sept. 22. The free program, supported by an AIA Ohio Opportunity Grant, is open to the public and requires advance registration.
“This program is especially relevant to all those in the design, engineering and construction industry who are passionate about creating a more inclusive community and workplace,” says Jeffrey A. Sackenheim, Vice President at SHP Leading Design. “For us at AIA Cincinnati, this is the next big step in delivering content rooted in critical conversations affecting architectural practice now and 20 years in the future.”
“We are hoping that all members of Cincinnati's architectural community — including students, interns, professionals and firm leaders — attend to help position architecture as a 21st Century profession that more closely reflects the people and communities that it serves,” adds Kathryn Fallat, Co-Chair of the local Equity in Architecture committee. “We also encourage people who don’t have a direct connection or involvement with architecture to attend, as we’ll be discussing unconscious bias and how it affects everyone in any and every workplace.”
Earlier this year, AIA Cincinnati formed its own Equity in Architecture committee to address workplace disparities attributed to gender, race and socioeconomic status.
“Ms. Dennis-van Dijl’s presentation is the first of many that will not only help spark dialogue on what is typically considered to be a challenging subject matter but will also inform and shape it,” Fallat says. “Our goal is for a lively yet positive discussion to develop, focusing on steps that both employees and firms can take to improve workplace policy and culture.”
The “Equity in Architecture” survey assessed the current career status of architects as well as challenges to success and efforts made by employers to recruit, retain and support professionals. The study report examines the “pinch points” where architects choose to leave the field.
On the national level, women represent nearly half of graduates from architecture programs but make up only 20 percent of practitioners and 17 percent of partners or principals in architecture firms. Thus the “missing 32 percent” are the women who graduate from architecture programs but aren’t currently working as architects.
The slippage is even worse locally. According to the Ohio Architects Board, only 13 percent of active, registered architects in Ohio in 2014 were women, significantly less than the national average.
“We have done some investigation into local numbers, but more study needs to be done,” Wehby says. “No matter which statistics you look at, a significant and undeniable gap lies between the number of women graduating from architectural programs and the number of women who are registered architects.”
The “Equity in Architecture” study and the Sept. 22 Dennis-van Dijl program focus specifically on gender, yet other disparities also exist within the field. AIA Cincinnati plans to work with the National Organization of Minority Architects on future Equity in Architecture programs.
“In order for architects to successfully design for and engage with a diverse and changing society, our profession must be comprised of members that reflect and represent it,” Fallat says. “If architecture is to remain a relevant and influential profession throughout the 21st Century, then it needs to recruit, retain and promote talented individuals of all genders, races and socioeconomic levels.”

New Biomedical Informatics Certificate Program at UC announces first bonafide graduate

The future of medicine lies at the intersection of data analysis and medical science.

That's the general consensus at the University of Cincinnati, at least. Biomedical informatics, an interdisciplinary field that enables better understanding of health and biomedical information, has found a home at UC.
The new UC program, which combines expertise from the College of Medicine and the College of Engineering and Applied Science, announced its first graduate in May, Dr. Benjamin Landis. An MD, Landis completed his Certificate in Biomedical Informatics while finishing up a three-year pediatric cardiology fellowship at Cincinnati Children's Hospital.
Landis' clinical work involved a great deal of research, so the opportunity for expansion of knowledge in informatics arrived at the perfect time.
"The practice of medicine is becoming a data analysis problem," Landis says. "Understanding what tools and techniques are available is essential."
His primary focus is in pediatric cardiology, specifically thoracic aortic aneurysms. When this type of aneurism occurs in children and young adults, there is normally a genetic reason for it. Landis' work uses genome sequencing data to analyze the impact of genetic modifiers on those who are afflicted with the disease.
"There is a real push for understanding the genetics of disease and incorporating genetics conditions in new ways," he says.
Most medical students and residents won't fully understand the technology behind genetic sequencing by the time they graduate. The informatics portion of Landis' education gives him a unique opportunity to fully understand and interpret the data he compiles.
Though UC's program is brand new, the informatics faculty is well-versed in the field. Landis' exposure to experts in this subspecialty was considerable, and the connections he made helped to jumpstart his career in the field.
Landis is now a part of the cardiology faculty at Riley Hospital for Children in Indianapolis. A secondary appointment at Riley's Center for Computational Biology and Bioinformatics will allow him to continue his research on thoracic aortic aneurysm and congenital heart malfunction.
"The ability to have an affiliation with a bioinformatics group is invaluable," Landis says. "It's the ticket to understanding biology and medicine going forward."
As for the future of UC's program, though the first year offered just a certificate, this semester promises the addition of a Biomedical Informatics PhD Program. In the coming years, students may also obtain a Master's degree in the subject.

Cincinnati Symphony opens new season thriving on experimentation

The Cincinnati Symphony Orchestra opens its new season Sept. 25-27 with a weekend of events centered around Hector Berlioz’s edgy, dreamlike Symphonie Fantastique. It’s a fitting accompaniment to the organization’s high-profile efforts to experiment on new ways to connect with the community.
The weekend offers a variety of events for different audiences, including a Friday morning performance of the Berlioz Symphonie along with the Beethoven’s Overture to Fidelio and Bartok’s Piano Concerto No. 2. The CSO performs all three works again Saturday evening after its annual Opening Night Gala, culminating with one of the largest after-parties it’s thrown in years.
“This will be a chance for people to let their hair down a little bit,” CSO Director of Communications Meghan Berneking says. “Symphonie Fantastique has this lore around it that the composer was on opium when he wrote it, so they’re capitalizing on that for the (party) theme.”
The “5th Movement” after-party will feature psychedelic decorations, dancing and a specially-brewed beer from Taft’s Ale House. The event will likely appeal to the Young Professionals crowd the Symphony tries to cultivate early in their careers with a variety of CSO Encore events, although Berneking emphasizes that all of the weekend’s events are open to anyone.
Opening weekend wraps up Sunday evening with the first installment of CSO’s new “Stories in Concert” series. The orchestra will again perform Symphonie Fantastique, this time without the other pieces but with accompanying explanations to tell the story of the music in greater depth.
“If you’re intimidated by classical music, this performance is for you,” Berneking says, adding that the goal of “Stories in Concert” performances is to help audiences better understand and engage with classical music.
The series is just one of many innovative projects CSO is working on to help connect with the community at large.
“The Orchestra prides itself on being a place of experimentation,” Berneking says. “That comes with us not being afraid to try new things.”
Over the past few years, the CSO has been involved in events and collaborations that might seem surprising from a symphony orchestra dedicated to classical music.
The organization has collaborated with Cincinnati native Bryce Dessner and The National rock band at the annual MusicNOW festival, which promotes artists experimenting with new music at Memorial Hall, Music Hall and other local venues. The Cincinnati Pops Orchestra just released American Originals, a live album honoring the works of Stephen Foster that features collaborations with such artists as Rosanne Cash, Over the Rhine and Comet Bluegrass Allstars. The CSO has also been engaging the city with its One City, One Symphony series, which will continue this year with a tribute to Maya Angelou focused on the theme of “freedom.”
Of course, the experiment that’s garnered the most attention is Lumenocity, which had its third annual run in early August. The CSO charged for tickets for the first time this year in order to help fund the $1.4 million event, and the concerts set to light projections drew more than 30,000 people over four nights in Washington Park. It was a smaller turnout than the first two years because of the restricted ticket sales, but the event has quickly become one of Cincinnati’s most popular summer traditions.

Berneking says all of this summer’s Lumenocity performance sold out, proving that patrons valued the event enough to pay for it and boding well for future years.
“When you’re experimenting, there’s always the risk that it won’t work, but even if it flops we see it as our duty to try new things anyway,” she says.
Those risks are paying off in a big way for the CSO. As orchestras around the country struggle and occasionally fail, Cincinnati’s has seen an uptick in attendance over the last few years. Leadership plans to continue experimenting, commissioning new works and finding new ways to share musical stories with the community.
“If Cincinnatians are engaged, we’re happy,” Berneking says.

Chatfield College's new OTR home maintains community ties, provides room to grow

The paint might still be drying and floors still being laid, but Chatfield College’s new Over-the-Rhine facility on Central Parkway is already bustling with students and staff for the fall semester.
Chatfield is a unique institution in Cincinnati: a private, not-for-profit, faith-based Associate’s Degree program that emphasizes the liberal arts. The college, founded in the Ursuline tradition of Sister Julia Chatfield, has campuses in both Cincinnati and St. Martin, Ohio, to focus on critical thinking and preparing students to continue at four-year bachelor’s degree programs while remaining accessible to students who face significant barriers to education.
“We’re all about taking down barriers,” says Chatfield President John Tafaro, explaining the school’s student-focused programs from financial aid to daycare.
Tafaro explains that the new Over-the-Rhine building is within walking distance of 15 bus stops, saying it will make the college’s services available to even more students while providing an upgraded space for classes and resources.
“This is a first-class learning environment,” Tafaro says, “because our students deserve the best.”
The new environment is the result of a 14-month, $3.4-million renovation of a building on Central Parkway near Liberty Street. The building was formerly used by the Cincinnati Association for the Blind (now Cincinnati Association for the Blind and Visually Impaired) as a broom factory employing its clients.
The socially conscious renovation made use of historic tax credits by maintaining the historic character of the early-20th Century building and created an energy-efficient green facility.
“We met our goal of using 30 percent minority-owned and women-owned businesses and 70 percent union labor for our subcontractors,” Tafaro says.
The space includes versatile classrooms for small classes and larger events, science labs, work space, a computer lab, a non-denominational chapel to be completed in early 2016 and a large music and dance studio space with wide windows overlooking Central Parkway and the Cincinnati Ballet headquarters right across the street.
Tafaro is especially excited about the natural light and open feel after moving from the space Chatfield rented nearby since 2006. That space had been just one third the size of the new Central Parkway building, with no outward-facing windows. The new space provides the college much more opportunity to grow — the campus currently serves just over 200 students, but Tafaro can imagine a day when it might host many more.
He says that Chatfield is deeply committed to the Over-the-Rhine community and excited to take advantage of the resources near their new location and build on collaborations with its neighbors. Several tours of the new campus are coming up, including one on Thursday, Sept. 17 in collaboration with the OTR Chamber of Commerce and Taft’s Ale House.

Neltner Small Batch focuses on "true stories" behind branding work

Consumer and brand marketing is pretty big in Cincinnati, where big firms work with big clients to reach a big audience. Neltner Small Batch, as the name says, is doing things a little differently.
Keith Neltner established his design firm in 2012 on his family’s farm in Camp Springs, Ky. with a small staff and key collaborators such as photographer and cinematographer Brian Steege and editor and colorist Tate Webb. Their most recent project, a promotional film for Braxton Brewing called Born in a Garage, exemplifies what makes this team unique.
“We started working with Braxton in January of last year,” Neltner says. “Way back in the beginning, we established the whole garage sensibility, because they already had that story: They started as father and son brewing in a garage and turned it into a really cool brewery. When they started to actually build out the space, we recognized that there were going to be some unscripted moments that we wanted to capture.”
Neltner had worked with Steege on music videos and documentaries and realized they both loved telling stories. As the Braxton space was developed in Covington, featuring a mural designed by Neltner, Steege documented the process and turned the raw footage over to Webb, who put the story together.
“People talk about authentic stories and they’re really talking about a style of storytelling,” Webb says. “I think what Keith does, and the reason that he connected with Brian and me, is that we have strong feelings about telling true stories and showing true things.”
The team behind Born in the Garage takes a hands-on approach to its work, focusing on the story behind each brand.
“This is not design for design’s sake,” Neltner says. “We’re always digging for that story that’s going to mean something to people. Our writer, Jeff Chambers, connects with people on a fundamental level in the conversational way he writes copy.
“Hopefully we’re creating artifacts that will live on. Ten years from now someone might pick up a vinyl record that we had the opportunity to work on and it’s an artifact, it’s not disposable. That said, we’re not artisans with little lamps in workshops toiling away on woodcarvings. We have that sensibility when we tell a story, but we’re connected and definitely use technology to our advantage.”
Neltner, Stegge and Webb are each running their own businesses in addition to collaborating on projects. Their informal style and honest admiration for each other clearly feeds the success of their partnership.
“Everything Keith has ever designed has been influenced by growing up out in a farming community and coming to a sense of design and art by the life that he lived,” Webb says. “His work truly is as authentic as you can get. Keith is not trying to conjure an image or a look that is popular because of the back to the roots movement — it’s an outpouring of what is natural to him. I think that is what makes his work resonate with people, because in the end authenticity just means truth.”
Webb says the collaborations border on a “mystical experience” when the three start working together on a project.
“The three of us all have separate worlds that don’t cross over at all,” he says, “but occasionally a special project comes along and we know we have to work together.”

New round of People's Liberty grants available as first year starts to wind down

The next few months will be busy at People’s Liberty, with new grantees announced, current grantees premiering project results and two grant application deadlines.
Last week, the organization announced the three winners of their Globe Grants for 2016, an opportunity that gives projects $15,000 and three months to create some kind of innovative installation or programming in the People’s Liberty Globe Gallery space on Elm Street across from Findlay Market. The 2016 group of grantees features a photography exhibit of African-American men as Kings, a “toy library” for both children and adults and a chain-reaction space-filling machine art installation reminiscent of Rube Goldberg. Winners Nina Wells, Julia Fischer and Michael DeMaria should provide some captivating experiences in the space in its second year of installations.
The first year has one exhibit left: Deep Space, a nontraditional installation by Amy Lynch, Joel Masters and J.D. Loughead that provides an environment for creativity rather than presenting its finished products. It aims to be an “indeterminate space, a nebulous nurturing envelopment where creativity can thrive unencumbered.”
Deep Space will open with an event during Over-the-Rhine’s Final Friday on Oct. 30, finishing out the first full cycle of one of the three main People’s Liberty grants. The first two Globe Gallery projects were Jason Snell’s Good Eggs (March-June) and C. Jacqueline Wood’s Mini Microcinema (July-Sept. 3).
People’s Liberty launched a little over a year ago to provide opportunities for “new philanthropy” in Cincinnati. Founded by Eric Avner and Amy Goodwin via the U.S. Bank/Haile Foundation and Johnson Foundation, the philanthropic lab invests in individuals and human talent rather than the traditional model of foundations making grants to nonprofit organizations.

“I think this model gives us the opportunity to advance someone’s career,” says Aurore Fournier, a program director at People’s Liberty. “Sometimes we can even help them figure out what they want to do next.”
She expects People’s Liberty to continue expanding its marketing to reach an even wider pool of potential grantees.
“We want to strive toward even more great applicants,” Fournier says. “We want people to come from all over the I-275 beltway area.”
Fournier encourages everyone with an idea to apply for two upcoming grant opportunities. The first, due Wednesday, Sept. 9, is the Project Grant, which gives each winner $10,000 to complete a short-term project in Cincinnati.

The previous round of projects ranged from a cultural dance event to real-time arrival signs at Metro stops. Several of that group of grantees have their own milestones coming up this fall.

Alyssa McClanahan and John Blatchford just published the first issue of their Kunst: Built Art magazine with a series of events in Over-the-Rhine. Mark Mussman’s first class of Creative App Project students will premiere their finished Android apps at the Globe Building on Sept. 14. Giacomo Ciminello’s Spaced Invaders had a successful first test in Walnut Hills recently.
The Project Grantees aren’t the only ones making progress.

The first two recipients of the full-year $100,000 Haile Fellowship are also coming to the culminating stages of their projects. Brad Schnittger will soon launch the MusicLi platform to help connect local artists to music licensing opportunities, while Brad Cooper’s Start Small tiny homes project is due to break ground in October.
The application for next year’s Haile Fellowship will be open until Oct. 1, with a variety of opportunities for applicants to consult with People’s Liberty staff about their ideas.
Fournier sees the Haile Fellowship and Project Grants as a way for individuals not only to realize their ideas but to learn and grow in the process.
“This is not just a learning experience for us,” she says, “but also a learning opportunity for the people we fund.”
People’s Liberty staff members are proud of the work they’ve done and the people and projects in which they’ve invested so far. The five-year project will continue until 2020, when the team and funders will take some time to reflect on their work, its impact and what might be next.
“We’re extremely happy with the results,” Fournier says. “The opportunities are endless, and I think only time will tell with People’s Liberty.”

Unpolished Conference aims to be source of inspiration for entrepreneurs

Unpolished, a grassroots collective of startup leaders based at Crossroads Church, will host a national conference Sept. 17-18 focusing on the intersection of faith and entrepreneurship.
“There is an incredible lineup of speakers and teachers,” says Matt Welty, executive producer at Crossroads. “I think everyone who attends will walk away inspired, encouraged and motivated to jump into their work. People will hear surprising things about how faith and entrepreneurship overlap in very meaningful ways.”
“Unpolished came about when a few entrepreneurs who were attending Crossroads were gathered together by senior pastor Brian Tome,” says Unpolished co-founder Tim Brink. “He had seen us working out of the atrium. He was curious what we were doing, why we were there and if there was anything Crossroads could do to support us.”
Weekly meetings led to creating “place where we can talk about the things that are hard about being an entrepreneur: co-founder issues, health and space,” Brink says. “You spend so much of your time pitching — investors, employees, customers — you’re constantly trying to sell and put your best foot forward. Unpolished provided space for the other stuff.”
As word of the informal group spread, attendance grew, culminating in an event last January that drew 3,500 attendees.
“When that happened, something clicked,” Brink says, “This isn’t just a localized interest, there is a real DNA level thing going on here and our hunch was that it was broader than Cincinnati. That planted the seed for this conference.”
Unpolished aims to engage a wide range of entrepreneurs.
“Entrepreneurship very easily gets defined as tech,” Brink says. “But that is such a small piece of it. Most of the people we have speak at our Unpolished events are not tech — they’re just great creators of products, businesses and services.”
Andrew Salzbrun, managing partner at Agar, describes Unpolished as suited for everyone: “The tech startup who has big ideas they’re dreaming about bringing to life; a small business owner who needs to be encouraged and filled with great content; corporate innovators who are expected to lead the way and push boundaries; and students of entrepreneurship from regional colleges.”
The two-day conference features mainstage speakers as well as break out sessions and networking opportunities. Conference keynotes include Kirk Perry, President-Brand Solutions of Google; television producer Mark Burnett; and Wendy Lea, CEO of Cintrifuse. Other presenters include photographer Jeremy Cowart, Choremonster founder Chris Bergman, attorney Calev Myers and Chris Sutton of Noble Denim. The event will be hosted at Crossroads’ main campus in Oakley; tickets are available here.
“We have two days of highly interactive and engaging content that explores and discusses different facets of faith and entrepreneurship,” Salzbrun says. “Unpolished is based on the idea that entrepreneurship is one of the loneliest jobs on the face of the planet. Some of today’s best leaders will provide context on how to do work that is meaningful and with purpose.”
In addition to formal presentations, attendees can visit Startup Village “featuring startups and small businesses representing technology as well as people who are makers,” Welty says. “It is going to be a really cool opportunity to show off the Cincinnati entrepreneurial ecosystem.”
Participants can also apply to the second class at Ocean, also hosted at Crossroads, or take part in a contest where attendees can record a brief video pitching an idea to the conference. The other participants will be able to vote on which ideas are the best; winners will receive $2,500-$5,000.
The event is working with entrepreneurs and leadership from regional accelerators, including The Brandery, UpTech, Ocean, Mortar and Cintrifuse.
“A big desire of mine is to find ways for the Cincinnati startup ecosystem to gel and come together,” Brink says. “There is often a sort of competitive, parochial view of the world, but we're competing with San Francisco and New York, not each other. There is a chance to have something really special here.”
“Crossroads is really passionate about being a source of inspiration,” Welty adds. “To create a place where entrepreneurs can gather and be who they really are while being encouraged in their faith and in their businesses. Our hope is that through the ongoing Unpolished group that meets here in Cincinnati, we can begin to develop an even bigger community of people who are connected to each other beyond just one conference.”

Spaced Invaders uses play, retro video games to re-energize blighted spaces

Designer Giacomo Ciminello uses play to help spark ideas. In his People’s Liberty grant project, Spaced Invaders, he wants to use it to re-invigorate blighted spaces.
Ciminello’s concept uses the aesthetic of vintage video games like Space Invaders to create large-scale interactive games in blighted spaces in Cincinnati in order to help people interact with and have fun in those spaces.

Ciminello has a long history of using play in creative ways. A Cincinnati transplant from Philadelphia, he graduated with a bachelors and then a Design for Social Change masters from the University of the Arts in Philly. While working in advertising and with corporate clients, he helped found PlayPhilly, an organization that aims to energize concrete “grayspaces” through creativity and play.
He has helped start a similar organization, PlayCincy, since moving here but has also noticed big differences between the two cities.
“On the East Coast we were working with concrete alleys and sort of spaces between buildings,” Ciminello says, “whereas out here there are entire abandoned blocks.”
Those large blighted spaces are part of what inspired Spaced Invaders. The project is Ciminello’s first large-scale, tech-heavy enterprise in Cincinnati. Previous projects, like PlayCincy’s Lite Brute and Maxx Chalkers, use simple materials that reminded players of childhood toys and games.
Spaced Invaders also gives participants and spectators a sense of nostalgia for games but uses a much more sophisticated setup and set of technology resources.
The game features a huge light projection into the space and software that tracks players’ movements, allowing them to become a part of the game. The setup hearkens to the wildly popular Lumenocity light show, but with an interactive element.
It’s also part of the growing popularity of vintage video and arcade games from the 1980s seen in institutions like 16-Bit Bar+Arcade, which opened their Cincinnati location in Over-the-Rhine a few months ago. But this version of the nostalgia will require participants to actively play.
“You can’t do this standing still,” Ciminello says. “You have to do 20-yard sprints.”
According to Play Theory, that kind of activity changes the way you think and gives individuals a totally different experience in the blighted spaces Ciminello wants to re-energize.
“It's a workout!” exclaimed the first player to try the game in the project’s first public test Aug. 27 at Brew House in Walnut Hills.
Some logistics of the setup have yet to be finessed. Last week’s test, for instance, was delayed slightly to allow for de-bugging the software and setting up the technology.
But once the program was up and running, it inspired wonder and curiosity in everyone present. As volunteer players raced around the Brew House parking lot in reflective vests, defending from pixelated alien invaders, the small crowd egged them on, rejoicing their accomplishments and commiserating with their losses.
Ciminello hopes to continue building from this test, recognizing that People’s Liberty has been supportive in pushing the project to be bigger and better. Next steps for Spaced Invaders will involve more events in other spaces and developing other games, even site-specific games that use the landscape features in particular areas.
He also hopes that Spaced Invaders will not be the lone project to make use of these concepts.
“It's all going to be open source,” he says of the software. “We’re not going to lock it away.”
The idea is that the Spaced Invaders base and available software will inspire other local designers and DAAP students to build upon the concept and develop new ways to use play theory to transform spaces.
“This should be something that helps people stretch their imaginations,” Ciminello says.
If you want to stretch your own imagination, sign up at fighttheblight.org and follow #fighttheblight to learn more.

Hello Home project tries new way to welcome residents into civic participation

Nancy Sunnenberg wants to create a broad, proactive way of welcoming people when they move to a new neighborhood. She’s been thinking about the questions of “How do we attract and retain people who are residents?” and “How do people become more active citizens?” for a long time.
After moving to Roselawn in the early 2000s, Sunnenberg joined the Community Council to become more involved in her new neighborhood. She became a trustee and officer, and her work with the group got her thinking about how to get more people involved in that kind of community work.
Like many organizations, Sunnenberg says, “we were looking for (people with) the energy and physical wherewithal to do things.” So in 2006 she started researching how a proactive welcoming of people to a neighborhood might cultivate them to be active participants in civic life, hoping to find ways to engage more people.
Now Sunnenberg is exploring the same question through her People’s Liberty grant project, Hello Home.
It felt like a perfect funding opportunity, she says, for a project that didn’t fit neatly into an existing nonprofit’s mission. The People’s Liberty grant allows her more flexibility than a traditional organizational grant.
The goal of Hello Home is to create a united “welcome packet” for Walnut Hills, East Walnut Hills and Madisonville, which Sunnenberg chose because they connect along one of the city’s major transportation corridors in the city, Madison Road. The packets will contain offers from and information about ArtsWave, Cincinnati Museum Center, Cincinnati Symphony Orchestra, Metro, Cincy Red Bike, local businesses and much more.
The crux of the project, however, is not the packet itself but how new residents will receive it. Sunnenberg is training Neighborhood Ambassadors to actively meet and greet recipients; community councils and organizations and signature neighborhood businesses have helped her connect to volunteers in the three target areas.
The process starts with a note left on a new resident’s door, allowing that person to contact the Neighborhood Ambassador. They then meet for conversation at a local coffee shop or similar neighborhood hub. The Ambassador acts as a host, welcoming the newcomer to the neighborhood, and the packet is delivered through that active process of welcoming.
“The process is part of the package,” Sunnenberg says, adding that the real idea is human contact and personal engagement will help inspire and empower people to get involved in their new neighborhood communities.
“People do not recognize how much resource they carry within themselves,” Sunnenberg says.
Neighborhood Ambassadors were trained last week at People’s Liberty HQ in Over-the-Rhine. Once the packets have been launched for a few months, Sunnenberg, the Ambassadors and participating organizations will come together to evaluate how the process is going and identify opportunities for growth and change.
“There are a lot of opportunities to expand the project based on ‘how do we help people connect?’” Sunnenberg says. “I hope that what will come out of it will be the conversation that expands the idea. I am even more of a fan of the creative process than I was coming into this.”

Unleash your inner child at 2015 Mini Maker Faire

Next weekend, the Cincinnati Museum Center wants to remind everyone what it's like to be a kid again. A 21st Century kid, that is.

That means live demonstrations from YouTube celebrities, high tech robots, 3D-printed phenomena and interactive activities like laser painting. They'll on be on display at the third annual Cincinnati Mini Maker Faire Aug. 29-30.
Inspired the national Maker Faire movement born out of San Mateo, Calif., and sponsored by Make magazine, Cincinnati's event is hosted by one of dozens of chapters across the country. Referred to as The Greatest Show (and Tell) on Earth, its goal is and always has been to showcase invention, creativity and resourcefulness while entertaining to the fullest.
Cincinnati's Mini Maker Faire is one of 120 independently-organized events modeled on the larger-scale Maker Faires. This year, Cincinnati brings together over 30 makers and inventors to showcase their gadgets and discoveries.
While the event is about as kid-friendly as it can get, the team behind the Mini Maker Faire hopes to draw in adult crowds as well. The Museum Center will be presenting a wealth of information on the history of innovation in Cincinnati along with promises of drag-racing power tools, 3D-printed prosthetic hands and a racecar custom made by University of Cincinnati students — just about every age group will find something worth exploring.
For the little ones, the Duke Energy Children's Museum will offer projects like painting with lasers, playing with puppets and building cities out of paper.
The event will also include a celebrity appearance. Eepybird, the famous duo responsible for the Coke-and-Mentos YouTube video that sparked appearances on Letterman, Ellen and Blue Man Group performances, will conduct one of their Coke-and-Mentos experiments to kick off the Mini Maker Faire.
The Cincinnati Mini Maker Faire will also host area artisans and crafters to sell their handmade items in the Rotunda throughout the weekend.
The event is scheduled for 10 a.m.-5 p.m. Saturday and 11 a.m.-6 p.m. Sunday. Admission is free to Cincinnati Museum Center members and holders of their All Museums Pass ($14.50 for adults, $10.50 for children). Tickets can be purchased online or at the museum.

Toms Shoes executive to discuss corporate responsibility at second annual Social Enterprise Week

Social enterprises, businesses that exist to accomplish a social good, are rapidly gaining popularity in the U.S. Companies like Toms Shoes and Warby Parker are known for their outstanding social impact — as well as their enviable profit margins — and their influence is evident in the growing number of businesses directing profits toward the greater good.

Last year, FlyWheel Cincinnati introduced the first-ever Social Enterprise Week as a response to that trend. The main focus of last year’s event was a showcase of local businesses with a social element to their business plan.

This year, the team behind the event has created a Social Enterprise Week with a broader national scope.

The week kicks Sept. 1 off with a Social Enterprise Summit at the Cincinnati Museum Center, where keynote speaker Sebastian Fries, Chief Giving Officer at Toms Shoes, will be joined by several local movers and shakers in the social enterprise realm. Fries will discuss his efforts to scale Toms’ giving practices to over 130 NGOs in 70 countries.

In addition to his input, the panel discussion welcomes Dan Meyer of Nehemiah Manufacturing, Dr. Jason Singh of OneSight, Joe Hansbauer of Findlay Market, Allen Woods of Mortar and Brett Smith of Miami University's Institute for Entrepreneurship, who will touch on everything from job creation for disadvantaged workers and community involvement to entrepreneurship and sustainability.

The Social Enterprise Showcase will be held Sept. 2 on Fountain Square, a lunchtime learning session highlighting more than 30 local businesses that support a variety of causes across the region.

Another new element to this year’s event is a networking event called Cincy Celebrates Social, which takes place Sept. 3. The event will open with a tour of La Terza coffee roasterie and a series of inspirational speeches from local entrepreneurs, followed by an hour of networking for those interested in becoming more involved in the social enterprise realm.

The week wraps up with Buy Social Saturday on Sept. 5. Several local companies will be offering special promotions on their products and services; the full list of the participating companies can be found here.

Though many of the week’s events are free and open to the pubic, those who wish to attend the Social Enterprise Summit must purchase a ticket — they're available online at $35 for general admission, $20 for students and $65 for VIP.

Big Pitch finalists ready to rumble, excite and blow minds on Aug. 27

Eight local small businesses will take the stage at ArtWorks’ Big Pitch next week, with $20,000 in funding and services at stake. But the Big Pitch isn’t just about prizes.
“The finalists put themselves in the position of opening themselves up to feedback because they want to grow,” says Rachel Rothstein, creative enterprise marketing coordinator at ArtWorks. “From the start, they’re working with their bankers and mentors to refine and develop their business plan. The prize money is awesome, but it’s just the icing on the cake.”
The 2015 Big Pitch finalists are a motley bunch, as evidenced in interviews with Soapbox published throughout the summer. Click on each company to read its Soapbox profile:
Brush Factory
Butcher Betties
Cityscape Tiles
Cut and Sewn
Grateful Grahams
Original Thought Required
Roebling Point Books & Coffee
We Have Become Vikings
“We had a really high quality group of applicants this year,” Rothstein says. “They were aware of who the finalists were last year, so they knew what they were getting into. The 2015 applicants knew what to expect and what they wanted to achieve, so it will be really exciting to see their pitches. The finalists are great representatives of the diverse ecosystem of entrepreneurs in greater Cincinnati.”
The Big Pitch finale is Aug. 27 at downtown’s Cincinnati Masonic Center, where the businesses will compete for two cash awards.
The top $15,000 prize will be decided by a panel of judges who will review the finalists’ business plans and evaluate their live pitches. Judges are Corey Asay, attorney with Dinsmore and Shohl; Roger David, president and CEO of Gold Star Chili; Maggie Paulus, strategy director at LPK; Rachel Roberts, owner of The Yoga Bar, Bija Yoga Schools and RAKE Strategy; and Max Sullivan, CPA with Clark Schaefer Hackett.
Judges will consider the potential impact, value and sustainability of the eight businesses as well as the founder’s/founders’ energy, passion and conviction.
Another $5,000 prize will be awarded by Big Pitch audience members. After the finalists complete their five-minute pitches, which may include a visual presentation and one “wild-card” prop, attendees will vote for their favorite finalist. Those ballots will be collected and tallied by Clark Schaefer Hackett.
The winner of both prizes will be announced at the event. It’s possible the same business could win both prizes, although last year saw two different winners.
At the event, ArtWorks will also provide a “where are they now” update on its 2014 finalists, including a video from Noble Denim’s Chris Sutton, last year’s $15,000 winner.
The Creative Enterprise division of ArtWorks is further celebrating Cincinnati’s entrepreneurial community with three videos produced by six summer apprentices. Led by 2014 Big Pitch finalist C. Jacqueline Wood, the apprentices interviewed, shot and edited the short films highlighting the supportive resources for people starting a creative sector business in Cincinnati.
Going into the Aug. 27 Big Pitch final, “there is no clear winner,” says Caroline Creaghead, ArtWorks director of creative enterprise. “We are very excited to see the pitches and how the voting goes.”
Tickets are still available for the event, which will be emceed by Mark Perzel of WGUC-FM and WVXU-FM. ArtWorks moved the event this year to Cincinnati Masonic Center in anticipation of 400-600 attendees. In addition to the pitches, attendees will have an opportunity to network with the finalists and each other both before and after the presentations.
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