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Biz accelerator looks beyond Ohio for promising companies

Bizdom Cleveland has invested in 16 young companies since it set up shop in January 2012, and the organization is targeting 18 more companies this year. While many are local startups, Bizdom also scours the country in search of promising businesses to recruit to Cleveland.

So far Bizdom has brought four companies to Ohio: Queryly from New York, MascotSecret from San Francisco, Firmly Planted from Los Angeles and CourseBuffet from Seattle.
“The bottom line is we’re looking for the best and the brightest wherever we can find them,” says Paul Allen, leader of Bizdom Cleveland. “We find them, and then we do our best to sell them on the benefits of doing business in Cleveland.”
It’s not difficult to recruit companies to the area, given Cleveland’s support of small startups. “There’s a very large and organized infrastructure here,” Allen explains. “Cleveland has a bunch of organizations that provide support, expertise, resources, investment, equity and debt funding. The continuum of organizations that support small business is unlike other parts of the country.”
And the assistance is accessible. “Cleveland has a tight-knit startup community that doesn’t take long to identify the key players,” Allen says. “They exist here and you can access them.” Allen points out that the Dan Gilbert and Quicken Loans name also attracts businesses.
One of Bizdom’s requirements is that its portfolio businesses locate in Cleveland. All four relocated companies have chosen downtown for their headquarters.
Bizdom companies have created 36 full-time and 10 part-time jobs. Allen hopes more out-of-town companies will come to Cleveland for Bizdom’s fall accelerator program in August. “We have lots of applicants from out of state for August,” says Allen.

Source: Paul Allen
Writer: Karin Connelly

Greener Portions Aquaponics now open for business in Cincy

Greener Portions Aquaponics, Cincinnati’s newest source of locally grown produce using aquaponics, is now open for business in Covedale.

Aquaponics is a growing method that utilizes, in Greener Portions’ case, channel catfish to produce nutrient-rich byproducts that are circulated through the plant’s root systems to be filtered out and pumped back into the fishtank. The circular cycle has been used longer than any of us have been around.

Started by Mary Ann Brinkmeyer and her fiancé Casey Miller,  Greener Portions not only has the capability to provide fresh, locally grown produce on a regular basis, but will occasionally have fish on the menu once they need to change the ranks, so to speak.

Produce will be available for purchase on both individual and wholesale scales.

At this time, Greener Portions has a 2,000-square-foot growing operation, where they are currently growing heirloom tomatoes, coastal star romaine lettuce, bell peppers, wheat grass, cilantro, Genovese basil, parsley and more. Future plans are to harvest strawberries, cucumbers, kale and heirloom orange tomatoes.

The business started as a hobby for the couple, but they quickly realized it  had potential far beyond feeding themselves. With a grand opening  now under their  belts, Greener Portions is confident business will grow as steadily as their produce.

Find out more about Greener Portions Aquaponics here.

Cincy's Chill Shaved Ice expands

Alia Ali’s business venture, Chill Shaved Ice Bar, began in June 2011 at Findlay Market. Her shaved ice stands out among the rest because the syrups are all natural.
“I’ve always been in business,” says Ali. “I flipped cars in undergrad and imported jewelry after I graduated. I’m interested in health and wellness, and decided to marry business and healthy with Chill.”
In order to expand her business, Ali looked at local organizations that offer business support to entrepreneurs. She was one of 10 finalists in Bad Girl Ventures last fall. And in November, she participated in business classes at Xavier, and then applied to Xavier X-Lab, which pairs businesses with MBA students. That session just wrapped up, but Ali plans to participate in the summer session as well. Last month, Chill expanded its location options with a Smart car that scoots to area venues such as Kenwood Towne Center and Krohn Conservatory.

“I hope Chill continues to show people that natural and delicious can be in the same sentence,” says Ali.

By Caitlin Koenig
Follow Caitlin on Twitter

This North Coast incubator welcomes entrepreneurs of the foodie sort

The Cleveland Culinary Launch and Kitchen and the Economic and Community Development Institute (ECDI) will be hosting a business incubator for food and beverage entrepreneurs this summer. The nine-week program will focus on the specifics of opening a food-related business -- from food safety and nutrition to marketing and product development.

“We’ll really touch on everything to get a business off the ground,” says Emily Sullivan, ECDI Cleveland operations coordinator. “We’re creating a food incubator program. This is a hands-on look at getting a food business started.” Participants also will develop business plans and have opportunities to meet with ECDI managers about securing a loan.
This will be a hands-on program, says Carolyn Priemer, general manager of the Culinary Launch. “It’s not going to be a classroom setting,” she explains. “We’re going to be out in the community and in restaurants.”
Incubator participants do not need to be Culinary Launch tenants to enroll in the program. However, there is a $200 fee once applicants are accepted. Scholarships will be available. Ten companies will be accepted. Applications will be taken through mid-June, with the program beginning in July.
Open for six weeks now, the Culinary Launch has six tenants, ranging from an ice cream maker to caterers to a custard frosting maker. The Launch is a partnership between ECDI, Carolyn and Gordon Priemer of J&M Real Estate, and Tim and Bill Skaryd of Hospitality Marketing and Sales.

Sources: Emily Sullivan and Carolyn Priemer
Writer: Karin Connelly

Blue Ash's BCM Ink turns waste product into award-winning packaging ink

Two companies on opposite sides of the Ohio River collaborated to create an award-winning ink product that's made from recycled materials.

BCM Inks of Blue Ash and Close the Loop of Hebron, Kentucky, created a process that turns leftover ink from consumer printer cartridges into an ink that can be printed on cardboard packaging—in industry terms, corrugated printing. The ink is called Post Consumer Recycled Black, and was introduced to the market last fall.

The new product won a gold award at the 25th DuPont Awards for Packaging Innovation in the Innovation and Sustainability category. Other gold-winning brands in the same category were Campbell’s Soup Company, Heinz, Pepperidge Farm, Unilever and Gillette. The prestigious international award recognizes industry innovation and collaboration.

BCM Inks is a 25-year-old company that provides inks, services and products to the corrugated printing industry. Close the Loop USA recycles toner and ink jet cartridges. The Hebron facility opened in 2007.

"When people bring their ink cartridges to be recycled, up to 13 percent of the ink is still in the cartridge," says BCM Inks' Vice President Rob Callif. "Close the Loop was recycling the cartridge but extracting and collecting the ink. They didn't know what to do with it. So we took the leftover ink and developed a way to turn it into a water-based black ink that can be used in corrugated printing."

PCR Black saves over 200,000 ink jet cartridges from the landfill for every 450-pound drum of ink made, Callif says.

The entry was reviewed, judged and selected by a 10-member panel of independent packaging industry experts. The award was announced May 16 at the DuPont Awards Banquet in Wilmington, Delaware.

By Feoshia H. Davis
Follow Feoshia on Twitter

OSU staff members develop lightning fast pitches at Startup Snapshot event

Ten Ohio State University faculty members got their speed-dating chops on earlier this spring, but not the sort that should worry their significant others.

First came the warm-up: each gave three-minute presentations on their start-up ideas to more than 60 Columbus-area CEOs and entrepreneurs from a range of fields. The occasion was the first Startup Snapshot event, sponsored by the university’s Technology Commercialization and Knowledge Transfer Office (TCO).
“The purpose of the event was to showcase our potential startups to CEOs and entrepreneurs, with the intention of procuring business leads and CEOs for them,” explains Brian Cummings, TCO vice president. In addition to the faculty members, one senior economics student also pitched his idea.
“We selected a diverse set of technologies at various stages of development to convey the extensive breadth of research, innovation and technology we have,” Cummings says. “Many people are surprised to find that we’re doing work in a specific area. This enabled them to really get a feel for all of the exciting things we have happening right now.”
Ten-minute round-robin “speed dating” sessions followed the lightning-fast pitches.
“Presenting at Startup Snapshot forced me to distill my idea down into its basic elements, yet allowed for in-depth conversation, too,” says faculty member Jane Wright, curriculum manager for Ohio State Extension. “It was the whole elevator approach but with the added luxury of immediate follow up.” Wright pitched her idea for Total Animal, a technology platform and interactive learning system that teaches and tests users on knowledge of livestock and companion animals in a fun and engaging software application.
According to Cummings, the event was a great success. “The engagement from our researchers and the community was more than we could have hoped for,” he notes. “The event resulted in the scheduling of 25 follow-up meetings, 15 new mentors agreed to become a part of TCO’s expanding mentor network and multiple companies are projected to launch.”
Another Startup Snapshot event is slated for this fall.
Source:  Brian Cummings, OSU
Writer:  Lynne Meyer

Dublin-based Acceptd partners with the National YoungArts Foundation

Acceptd has developed a new strategic partnership with the Miami, Florida-based National YoungArts Foundation to better streamline the nationally renowned arts organization’s application process.
“YoungArts Foundation is a great organization,” says Don Hunter, co-founder of the Dublin-based company that assists students around the world with applications to performing arts schools. Representatives from the two organizations met last year at a National Dance Education Organization conference in Los Angeles. Hunter says YoungArts was already familiar with their work and eager to find ways to collaborate.
Discussing YoungArts’ HBO2-televised MasterClass program where applicants have the opportunity to work with experts in their respective field for scholarship opportunities, Hunter says getting Acceptd involved was the proverbial no-brainer. “They get about 10,000 applicants,” he says. “So it seemed like a natural fit to work with them on the application process.”
Ultimately, it’s about creating new opportunities for students. “If we can create opportunities for young artists to pursue their passion and get opportunities they might not otherwise had, I think we’ve fulfilled our mission,” Hunter explains. “If we can create a better market and awareness for these guys, all the better.”
To date, YoungArts has awarded 17,000 artists with more than $6 million in monetary awards. Moving forward, Acceptd will play a key role in evaluating the digital applications and portfolios for YoungArts. And Hunter says he’ll be sure to look out for his home crowd.
“It’s a great opportunity for artistic students in Ohio,” says Hunter. “We have great relationships with faculty around the state, so we’ll be sure to market this opportunity to them.” Acceptd participated in OSU's 10Xelerator program in 2011 and has since recieved grants from TechColumbus and NCT Ventures.

The YoungArts application will open on Acceptd this week.
Source: Don Hunter
Writer: Joe Baur

Benjamin Rose set to open 6,000 s/f training center in Cleveland

The Benjamin Rose Institute on Aging, a nationally-recognized research organization, service provider and policy advocate that works with older adults and caregivers, is set to open a new 6,000-square-foot administrative headquarters and training center.

"What's new about the facility is that we intend to broaden the scope of our training to a couple of new audiences," says CEO Richard Browdie of the building near downtown Cleveland. "There are many professions that interface with older people and their families on a routine basis but may or may not have any training available to them."

The building also provides Benjamin Rose with the first permanent home for its training programs. Traditionally, such programs had been conducted at off-site locations. Browdie finds it poetic that the organization is building its home in the Shaker-Buckeye neighborhood of Cleveland where they've been for many years.

"The board just really came back to the conclusion that, no matter what they did, they wanted to remain here in the city," he says. "We have replications of our evidence-based practices all over the country, but our home is in Cleveland."

The building cost about $7.5 million and the project cost $11.4 million. Funds came from the sale of another facility to Kindred Hospital, New Markets Tax Credits and other sources. Browdie says the facility will also be available for rent for retreats and other events hosted by nonprofits organizations with compatible missions. The hilltop location offers sweeping views of downtown Cleveland.

Source: Richard Browdie
Writer: Lee Chilcote

Explorys lands Trinity Health, expects to up Cleveland staff by 20 percent

Last month Trinity Health, the fourth largest Catholic healthcare system in the country, hired Explorys to manage its healthcare data analytics in its hospitals, outpatient facilities and other facilities. Trinity will implement Explorys’ suite of cloud-based big data analytics solutions to manage the company’s clinical data.

The deal puts industry leader Explorys on top in the clinical data market. Explorys has been rapidly growing since its inception nearly four years ago, and continues to grow. “We’re excited about Trinity,” says Charlie Lougheed, Explorys president and chief strategy officer. “We’ve seen a lot of growth in the past year alone, as well as the last three and a half years. The whole healthcare industry is in the midst of this transformation and big data is in the middle of that.”
Explorys’ big data solutions allow hospitals to better manage their data and therefore improve patient care. Trinity is the latest addition to more than a dozen healthcare companies that use Explorys’ solutions. “Trinity recognized they needed to select a platform that is going to expand into the future rather than solve a problem right now,” explains Lougheed. “They were looking for a platform that would grow and develop within their network, and Explorys met that need for them.”
Explorys continues to grow in its Cleveland offices. The company has close to 100 employees right now and has new-employee orientations every other month. “We plan to continue to hire people over time,” says Lougheed. “By the end of the year I expect, conservatively, to be at 120 people.”

Source: Charlie Lougheed
Writer: Karin Connelly

Cleveland-based non-profit announces plans for world's first passive-built theater

Near West Theatre's new home will be nothing if not active when it opens next year. It will be filled with youth and adults rehearsing for its signature brand of community theatre -- large ensemble productions that bring the arts to Cleveland residents of all ages.

And when its shows are running, it will draw up to 275 patrons per show into a new, state-of-the-art theatre that caps off a string of investments in the Gordon Square Arts District on the city's near-west side.

The building not only will be active -- it will be "passive" when it comes to energy consumption. It will boast a super-insulated, passive design common in Europe but still relatively new in the U.S. The 24,000-square-foot ultra-energy-efficient theatre will be the first of its kind in the U.S., featuring super-thick walls, an energy-efficient heat recovery ventilation system, and a 75,000-watt array of solar panels.

"It will be unlike other buildings in the neighborhood," says Hans Holznagel of the new Near West Theatre. "We hope people will see the sign and say, 'Wow, that metal building looks pretty cool. What's going on in there?'"

Local philanthropists Chuck and Char Fowler earmarked a special gift for the building's passive design, which is expected to save more than 35 percent in energy costs, or about $1.2 million over 50 years. That kind of savings appeals to long-term users.

"In a typical commercial building, 30 to 35 percent of the heat going into the building is just to offset air leakage," says Adam Cohen, a Virginia-based architect and passive house consultant who worked on the project. "There's more interest in passive design now, especially from end users who are going to own the buildings."

The project was far from simple. Most passive commercial buildings have fairly static loads, unlike a theatre whose use varies widely. On any given day there could be people working in offices or large casts rehearsing. Cohen helped NWT to develop a high-efficiency mechanical system that can handle such fluctuation.

Holznagel says the theatre will finally realize its dream of moving into a new home (with air conditioning, he says with glee) that offers the right amount of rehearsal, dressing room and backstage space, not to mention modern administrative offices.

"We'll feel very much at home in this energy-efficient building," he says.

Source: Hans Holznagel, Adam Cohen
Writer: Lee Chilcote

Cincy high school students earn college credit with video distance learning

Students at 10 Cincinnati area high schools are earning college credit through a new dual enrollment program at the University of Cincinnati's College of Engineering and Applied Science (CEAS).

It's the first step in a wider plan that will allow incoming UC engineering majors to complete their freshmen year of college before high school graduation.

The dual credit program grew out of a longer collaboration between CEAS and area schools that started in 2007. That's when CEAS began offering an introduction to engineering course to high school seniors. The course is offered through an educational video platform called Mediasite, which is designed specifically for educational use.

That collaboration started with four schools—Harrison, Mother of Mercy, Mt. Notre Dame and Princeton high schools—and now more than 13 participate (however, not all offer the dual credit option). The 2012-2013 school year was the first that students could take courses for credit at UC, says College of Engineering Academic Director Eugene Rutz.

Not all students take the class for dual credit, but out of the 500 who did, about 140 of them earned credit, Rutz says.

UC faculty and the high school teachers work together to deliver the course. UC provides lessons via videos, which students can watch from home. In the classroom, high school teachers assign projects that require students to find solutions to questions by creating an engineering-based solution that builds on what they learn in the videos.

"They build a prototype for the solution, test it, report it and defend," says Rutz. "There's a verbal presentation of it as well."

During the school year, students complete several projects—some could take a week, some could take a month. The focus is on applied learning.

"This is a course that helps students see and appreciate why they learn math and science," Rutz says. "They are also learning critical thinking, and that there are multiple ways to solve problems."

CEAS plans to add more high schools to the program next year, and add an additional engineering course, says Rutz.

By Feoshia H. Davis
Follow Feoshia on Twitter

NEW mentorships promote female leadership

Amy Armstrong Smith, national account manager at Brown-Forman, says she knows what it’s like to be the only woman in the room. 

“I’m in an industry that’s male-dominated,” Armstrong Smith says. “I’m the only woman nine times out of 10.”

When Armstrong Smith first attended an event for the Cincinnati chapter of the Network of Executive Women nearly three years ago, that all changed. 

“Never had I been in a room with that many professional women,” Armstrong Smith says. “It reinvigorated me.” 

Since Armstrong Smith became involved with NEW—whose mission, she says, “is to attract, retain and develop women for the field of consumer products from a manufacturer and retail perspective”—she’s engaged in a variety of outreach activities for high school and college students. She's also served as a mentor, both for women interested in pursuing a career in the field, and for those already immersed in it. 

“I’m mentoring a woman at NEW who just told me she got the promotion that we’ve been talking about and working on with how to position it,” Armstrong Smith says. “And it was so great because when she told me—her success is my success.” 

According to Armstrong Smith, the mentorships work both ways because the college students she assists reenergize her. 

“They look at the world in a whole different perspective,” she says. “And they’re giving me a new perspective too—a new way to look at the business—a new way to approach it through technology.” 

Armstrong Smith says she’s appreciative of the networking opportunities NEW offers because when she graduated from college in the ‘80s, you had to do it on your own.

“I’m with other professional women," Armstrong Smith says. "I’m stimulated—we’re talking about the industry. But the number one reason I do this is because I have a daughter, and I want her to be able to walk into a room when she starts her first career in 20 years as Rosie Smith, just like Tom Smith would walk in the room.” 

That’s what Armstrong Smith says drives her. 

“I’m so appreciative of the women who went before me, and if I don’t turn around and help Rosie and the generations behind me, women are never going to move the needle,” she says. “We won’t get to our full potential that we know we all can get to.” 

Writer: Brittany York

STEM scholars receive $4.5 million in awards at 65th annual state science day

Nearly 1,300 Ohio science, technology, engineering, and mathematics (STEM) students grades 5 through 12 received awards totaling $4.5 million at the 65th annual State Science Day, an event likened to a state championship game in athletics for education.
Launched in 1949, the Ohio State University-based State Science Day offers students across the Buckeye state the opportunity to showcase their talents to a panel of 1,000 judges for a variety of awards. This year’s largest donor was Ohio Wesleyan University, offering scholarships between $15,000 and $20,000.
Describing the event as a “blur,” Dr. Lynn Elfner, CEO at the Ohio Academy of Science, paints a picture of intense student interaction with judges. “You don’t have time to breathe,” says Elfner. “It goes really fast.”
Elfner touts the event’s diversity. “There were 1,300 students from 71 different counties,” he says. “It’s one of those equal opportunities for students all over the state. If they do good work, they have the opportunity regardless of their economic background to attend State Science Day.”
Perhaps more exciting for students is the opportunity to join an elite alumni class. Discussing some standouts of previous State Science Days, Elfner notes the inventor of the Fuzzbuster, Dale Smith, attended the annual event “many, many years ago.”
“The one who is most prominent is Dave Roberts,” says Elfner. “Dave had a project about 25 years ago concerning the design of ship hulls.” Today, Commanding Officer Roberts is teaching cadets how to drive submarines at the Naval Submarine School.
Source: Dr. Lynn E. Elfner
Writer: Joe Baur

Akron-based marketing firm keeps customers' digital info confidential

Life events, such as getting married, having a baby, buying a house or retiring, can impact the financial decisions individuals make. 
Akron-based Segmint offers software that confidentially analyzes and interprets consumer spending information. Using this information, financial institutions can build digital relationships with their clients, offering them specific products and services customized to meet their needs. These opportunities can lead to a competitive advantage.
“Instead of overwhelming customers with a constant stream of advertising messages, this enables financial institutions to satisfy consumer demand for personalized service and simplicity through highly-targeted offers exactly at the time their customers are ready to act,” explains Rob Heiser, Segmint President and CEO. “Financial institutions can optimize their marketing budget by delivering individualized online advertising campaigns to their customers quickly and efficiently.”
Segmint uses its patented marketing technologies to precisely target bank customers and assign Key Lifestyle Indicators ™ (KLIs) to them, he states. “These identifiers, coupled with our auto analytics platform, campaign management tool and ad delivery capabilities, enable financial institutions to effectively reach customers with timely and relevant offers on the bank’s website or online.”
What about maintaining customer confidentiality? “We respect the anonymity of personal information and rigorously adhere to privacy and security regulations,” Heiser notes. “All personally identifiable information remains secure with the financial institution through anonymous numeric codes assigned to each customer.”
Segmint’s current client base includes more than 60 credit unions, financial institutions and financial tech companies throughout the U.S.  Established in 2008, Segmint has 28 employees and has received Ohio Third Frontier funding.

Writer: Lynne Meyer

'Big Idea Challenge' in Cincy offers rewards for innovative solutions

Part crowd-sourcing, part-buzz-generating and all focused on civic progress and innovation, the Greater Cincinnati's Foundation's freshly launched "The Big Idea Challenge" guarantees funding for big ideas with community support and the potential for high impact.

Envisioned as a way to engage the broader community in problem-solving and program development, the Challenge offers a public platform for anyone with an idea that could make the city a more vibrant and healthy place. Online submissions answering the question, "What's your Big Idea for a more prosperous Greater Cincinnati?" will be accepted from June 3 through July 29. In August, the field will be narrowed to 21 finalists; in September, public voting will determine the winners in each of seven categories.

"This is a groundbreaking way for one of the largest funders in our region to connect with the entire community," says Elizabeth Edwards, CEO of Metro Innovation and founder of Cincinnati Innovates. Her web platform, CrowdSpark, will host the Challenge. She's also part of the Big Idea Brain Trust, local thought-leaders who helped shape and refine the project with Greater Cincinnati Foundation leaders.

GCF is looking for ideas that will impact Cincinnati in one or more of seven categories:
• Strong Communities
• Cultural Vibrancy
• Job Creation
• Environmental Stewardship
• Educational Success
• Health & Wellness
• Economic Opportunity

The application process is streamlined — applicants, aged 18 and up, need only submit their contact information, a title, a 140-character description (great for Twitter) and a 2,000-character detailed description. Applicants whose ideas are chosen as winners will receive cash prizes; then, GCF will award $5,000 grants to area non-profits with the capacity to implement the winning "Big Ideas." One overall "Big Idea" will add a $50,000 grant to a complementary non-profit's coffers to "kickstart" the implementation of the idea.

By Elissa Yancey
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