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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.
 
 

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."
 

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

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."

Better for buyers: Shelfie and Popad give consumers control

The folks over at Popad hate advertising.
 
"It disrupts your experience," says John McClelland, co-founder of the company. "What if people in your community could make the ads you see … your friends, your family?"
 
McClelland and his Brandery-trained team are self-proclaimed data geeks. Their chief technology officer, Luke Libraro, has an RFID (radio frequency identification) card in his hand that allows him to enter the Brandery building with a simple wave.  Their "boy wonder" engineer, Skylar Roebuck, was head of product at a company called Mobiquity by the time he was 25. And Rachel Bires, their Instagram connoisseur, is actually a licensed attorney who is unbeatable at darts.
 
Together, they have created an interactive app where users can submit a photo of themselves using or displaying a particular product. That photo, after a series of votes by other Popad users, then becomes available to Popad clients for purchase. In return for their submission, the creator of the image will receive royalties if their "ad" is purchased. Right now, all submissions come through Instagram.
 
The idea behind Popad emerged when McClelland's wife posted an Instragram photo of his (presumably very cool) shoes. When friends saw the photo and subsequently bought the shoes, a lightbulb turned on. By allowing regular Joes to submit photos of themselves actually using or enjoying a product, Popad hopes to create a stronger, more authentic personal connection with the consumer. This, they believe, is much more effective than advertising in the abstract.
 
"There's more of a dialogue now—there's been a fundamental shift in how people are operating," McClelland says.
 
Consumer communication is a key part of another Brandery graduate's business plan. Shelfie was founded by Edward Betancourt, a quinoa-obsessed runner with mad programming skills, and C.J. Acosta, a Reddit loyalist with a knack for marketing and pink hoodies. Together, they've put together a data-generating application that has already seen stellar success in in-store audits.
 
The app itself gives shoppers the power to do something about an absent product on the shelf. If they notice a product is missing, they simply snap a "shelfie" of the empty shelf, send it through the app, and are rewarded for their participation with points that they can redeem later.
 
"Think of it as an easy, one pic review of the in-store experience," Acosta says.
 
By generating real-time data, Shelfie could potentially create solutions ranging from contacting sales representatives at the site to arranging to have the missing product shipped to a customer's home.
 
For now, Shelfie is looking for investors. By staying in marketing-friendly Cincinnati, or "the little city that could," Acosta and Betancourt have made incredible connections and are building on the consumer-first approach that was born during their time at the Brandery.
 
"The concept of tackling the problem, from the consumer's side, proved to be the radical and most disruptive thing we could do," Acosta says.

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. 

RevolutionUC's hackathon brings young tech talent to Cincinnati

These days, the internet is littered with lists of life "hacks" that take everyday frustrations and make them mind-blowingly simple. This weekend, from November 14-16, students from across the tri-state area will spend two sleep-free days programming to create real solutions to real problems at the second annual hackathon, RevolutionUC, at the University of Cincinnati.
 
Local engineering and business data group Zipscene joins the list of sponsors for the event's second run. The hackathon provides a space for hundreds of talented students to hash out ideas for some sort of product or service that provides a solution to a common problem (a hack). During the two-day event, participants create a basic business plan that is detailed enough to implement into the University system. Last year's winner was a campus safety smartphone tool that sends a discrete call for help and uses GPS to track an individual's location when they may be in danger. UC is currently considering the tool's integration into its campus safety system.
 
Attendees can expect rows and rows of computers, laptops and charger cords with students congregating on the floor, in the corners, and on lounge chairs at the 800 Baldwin location, a part of the UC College of Engineering and Applied Science. Not many hackathon participants sleep; those that want to are encouraged to bring a blanket and a pillow. All meals are provided, from breakfast from Panera to lunch from Jimmy Johns and Currito to dinner from Adriaticos and Alabama-Q. Insomnia cookies will be providing sweet treats as well.
 
RevolutionUC is largely student run, and this year's event expects a turnout of more than 300 hundred young, creative minds from UC, Ohio State, Perdue, Kent State, Wright State and the University of Dayton. As a sponsor, Zipscene is there all weekend to support and mentor the students in attendance. That, and scope out a little talent for themselves. Last year, Zipscene hired two students they encountered at the hackathon.
 
Some hackathon participants continue working on their hacks long after the competition comes to a close. The exposure and connections gained at this weekend's event give them a leg-up in the industry.
 
Contestants will be judged based on the utility of their products, the creativity and technical difficulty involved, and overall polish. All experience levels are welcome, and high school and graduate students are equally encouraged to sign up.

Meet UpTech's new entrepreneur-in-residence

UpTech, Northern Kentucky's informatics accelerator, has recently announced the addition of a new member to its team. As the accelerator's first Entrepreneur-in-Residence (EiR), JB Woodruff is evidence that UpTech is growing and changing for the better. Now, with a business coach on hand, UpTech's third class of startups will likely have a leg up when they graduate next spring.
 
Unlike a mentor, of which UpTech has many, Woodruff will not be offering industry-specific advice to the startups at the accelerator. Instead, he will offer strategic advice and coach the young companies on the general direction of their business. With a plethora of industry experience under his belt, Woodruff will act not only as a peer to whom the company founders can relate, but also as the person who oversees their development. He meets with each startup for one hour each week to discuss their progress and make sure things are moving forward.
 
Amanda Greenwell, Uptech's program director, sees Woodruff's arrival as a sign of UpTech's growth as an accelerator. With an EiR added to the roster, there is now someone at UpTech who is responsible for making sure these companies are actually accelerating.
 
"He totally fits in with our culture, he's a super nice guy, and you don't want to let him down," Greenwell says. "You want to please him, you want to make sure you're doing what you say you're going to do."
 
Woodruff, a Cincinnati native, has worked with 20-30 startups in the past and has traveled all over the world, including South Africa, Nairobi, Kenya, to work with accelerators. He also helped jumpstart two local companies, Araytha and CampFinder.co, and has worked with UpTech in the past as an instructor for one of its lean startup method courses.
 
Woodruff sees his new role at UpTech as that of a motivator—someone who is there on a regular basis and is not only a peer, but also a tremendous resource for everything from graphic design, branding, marketing, web development and business strategy. His goal as the new EiR is to also make sure UpTech's decision to accept these companies into their program was a smart one.
 
"They made an investment," he says. "I'm here to help assure that they get a return on that investment."
 
Woodruff decided to work with UpTech because he was impressed with the UpTech vibe. When he returned from Cape Town, South Africa, last year, he was anxious to get involved in the thriving startup scene. He met dozens of people in the industry, but when he met the folks at UpTech, something clicked.
 
"They were by far the most open and engaged," he says. "They were not hesitant to say, 'We want you to work with us.'"
 
Woodruff is the official EiR for UpTech's third class of startups, UpTech III, which will graduate from the program in February 2015. Though Woodruff and his wife have lived in several different places over the years, they will be staying in Northern Kentucky for the foreseeable future.

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."

UC grad designs fall fashion collection

A graduate from UC's College of Design, Architecture, Art, and Planning (DAAP) released a fall fashion collection that includes clothing, bags and accessories.
 
Mallory Muddiman, who opened Shop Mallory a month after graduating from DAAP, designed the line with her mother, who joined shortly after Muddiman began. They handcraft all of their work in their Newport studio.
 
"As a designer, I fall in love with each collection we create a little bit more than the one before," Muddiman says. "The goal is to create something different and more exciting each season."
 
During the design process, Muddiman begins with one or two pieces, using it as inspiration to base the rest of the line.
 
"This fall season I started with lipstick as this beginning inspiration," Muddiman says. "From there my mom and I begin sketching out ideas for motifs and garments. We sketch over and over again until we like it as a whole. Simultaneously we source materials and notions to make sure we have everything we need to make the pieces we want to make."  
 
After conceptualization, they shift their focus to a collection's more tangible elements.
 
"After that we create flat patterns, make mock-ups, do fittings, make prototypes and then finally start production," Muddiman says. "Things are very fluid and flexible in this process. We do our best to keep open minds the whole time."
 
Muddiman plans to use the fall collection as a means to increase future production and eventually offer her designs through other retailers.
 
"Our goal [is] to sell enough of this collection to be able to have our spring '15 collection made in an American factory," Muddiman says. "This is our next big step."
 

First POP-UP Cincy installation set for weekend

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

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

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

Online photography platform Kandid.ly expands outreach

Since its public launch in August, local photography platform Kandid.ly has been expanding its outreach to cities outside of Cincinnati, recently adding Austin, Denver, Columbus and Detroit.
 
The company, which received the award for best up and coming web tech company at Cincinnati Innovates in late August, aims to streamline the process of connecting photographers with customers.
 
"We actually see an opportunity to change the way moments are meant to be captured," says Kandid.ly founder Sam Ulu. "Folks are going to start realizing that they have a large quantity of photos, but no quality—like selfies, all the grainy photos you take at events where you wish you would have been in it."
 
In an effort to maintain a variety of pricing, quality and availability options, Kandid.ly categorizes photographers into three groups: weekenders, part-timers and full-timers. Users can search for photographers by zip code, which provides portfolios and other details.
 
"We've made it easier for you to actually compare multiple photographers, their work and their pricing all in one place," Ulu says. "Today, it's very challenging to find photographers and then compare their work. You have to open multiple tabs and websites, and even with those multiple websites, it'd be challenging to figure out what each package has and compare them."
 
To make money, Kandid.ly takes commissions, depending on the photographer's skill level.
 
"That commission can go from anywhere between 5-15 percent," Ulu says. "It's kind of like tiers."
 
More established photographers provide Kandid.ly with lower commissions. In addition, for security, Kandid.ly requires photographers to undergo background checks through local startup myrepp.
 
Ulu hopes that Kandid.ly will bring new people interested in photography to use the platform.
 
"We're providing services that might bring folks who love photography, but never really considered doing it as business because of the amount of work it takes."
 
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