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Cincy's Short Vine is long on opportunity

Cincinnati business owners in the Corryville neighborhood are eyeing big opportunities on Short Vine.

Bogart’s, the street's music venue, has already renovated its bathrooms and dressing rooms, and added a smoking patio with a fire pit behind the building. There are plans to add another bar, renovate the upstairs bar for VIPs and hire a mixologist. Bogart’s was also recently acquired by Live Nation, which has made ticketing easier for concertgoers.  
“We’re getting more artists than ever before. They’re thrilled by the changes made to the building and can’t wait to come back,” says Karen Foley, Bogart’s general manager.

In 2013, 14 buildings on Short Vine, including Bogart’s, will receive money from the Cincinnati Neighborhood Business District Association for façade improvements. And by the end of 2015, the street will be completely transformed, with new businesses (including Taste of Belgium, Caribe Carryout, Mio's Pizzeria and The 86 Club), a new Kroger Marketplace, new developments and finished streetscapes.

In the next three years, Uptown Rental Properties will add about 1,000 new residential bedrooms on Short Vine, says Dan Schimberg of Uptown Rental. And on Sept. 24, its newest property, Views on Vine, a five-story apartment complex complete with clock tower, will open.
“It’s been fun to see what has already happened, but we’re only in the beginning stages of what will be created,” says Schimberg.
Beginning in December, Short Vine will see new streetscapes, bringing a bit of nostalgia to the area. Short Vine will look like it did in the 1800s—think cobblestone streets, rolling curbs and antique streetlamps. Changes will be made to parking as well, including efforts to preserve on-street parking, and additional parking for the public and residents. Sidewalks will also be widened for outdoor dining.
“It’s great to see the enthusiasm of the business owners over the progress on Short Vine,” says Foley. “The best thing is that Short Vine will now be part of the college experience at UC.”
Short Vine will be hosting several events during the next few months, including a Welcome Back Weekend for students on Aug. 30 and a block party on Oct. 12, which will include shutting down the whole street for outdoor music, street vending and a rock wall. Corryville held its first farmers market this summer, and it will continue to operate every third Sunday through October.

By Caitlin Koenig

LOC Enterprises to launch universal loyalty card

Today, it seems that every retailer has a loyalty card leading to wallets stuffed with plastic and the potential for confusion. Cincinnati startup LOC Enterprises hopes to replace all those cards with the launch of its LOC Card.
The LOC Card is the first truly universal loyalty card that will not only allow consumers to stop carrying around handfuls of cards, but it will also allow them to manage all of their loyalty programs on one website.
While holiday shopping for his now 12-year-old son in 2011, LOC’s CEO and founder Jack Kennamer realized the problems of loyalty cards.
“I was standing in line at a sporting goods store, and I heard the cashier ask customer after customer if they had the store’s loyalty card,” Kennamer says. “Most people didn’t want one, but one lady decided to sign up for it, and I could see the guy behind her huffing and puffing while she filled out the registration form. And when the guy in front of me was asked if he had the store’s card, he held up his keychain and said ‘No room for you.’ I figured there had to be a better way.”
After that experience, Kennamer spent hours researching loyalty cards and programs, and found that there wasn’t a “universal” loyalty card.
“Consumers love to feel special and get free stuff and discounts, but it’s getting to the point where they have to work so hard to participate in loyalty programs,” he says.
Kennamer’s company developed a 100-percent consumer-centric card that allows consumers to tailor how they want to engage with each retailer. For example, a consumer may want to interact with Kroger one way and Best Buy another, so they can pick and choose which retailers with which to share their email address.
When a consumer signs up for the LOC Card, they’ll set up an account online, and anytime they go to a retailer that accepts the card, they swipe it once and they’re enrolled in that loyalty program. LOC’s website manages all of the loyalty programs for the consumer, so there’s only one email address and password instead of 100.
LOC is working with the companies that handle the analytic side of loyalty programs to better service consumers. The company is also building relationships with individual merchants and getting great feedback about the LOC Card.
The LOC Card isn’t just tailored to large businesses, though. “The problem small businesses have is they don’t stand a chance because they’re so far down the totem pole when it comes to loyalty,” says Kennamer. “With the LOC Card, you swipe your card at the retailer once and you’re signed up for their loyalty program. After that, it’s up to the consumer to come back, and the retailer can reach out and give the consumer personalized offers to start repeat behaviors.”
The LOC Card isn’t available to consumers yet, but you can pre-register on LOC’s website.

Writer: Caitlin Koenig
Follow Caitlin on Twitter

Jifiti app designed for easier and faster gift giving

Despite the popularity of the Internet, Shaul Weisband is a big believer that the retail store gift-giving experience is alive and well. “People still enjoy walking through local stores and going to the mall,” says the founder of Jifiti, a new gifting app. 
“But there are still those two basic anxieties when it comes to gift giving – what to give and how to find the time to get it to the recipient.” According to Weisband, Jifiti eliminates both concerns.
“Jifiti lets retail shoppers select an item, scan and purchase it, and instantly send it as a digital gift card to a friend’s phone for them to redeem at any of that store’s locations in the U.S.,” he explains. “The recipient has the flexibility to select the right size, color and style. Or, if they see something else at the store they prefer, they can use the gift card for that item instead.”
Jifiti is currently available at 30 national retailers, including Barnes & Noble, Old Navy, Crate & Barrel, Toys R Us and Brookstone.
Jifiti was established in Israel last year, and the company moved its headquarters to Columbus a few months ago. “The Midwest in general and Columbus in particular are big retail hubs, and that’s who we work with,” Weisband explains. “Jifiti requires a lot of leg work in terms of meeting with retailers and creating strategic partnerships.”
Weisband appreciates the quality of life in Columbus. Looking to contribute to that quality of life, he recently introduced Jifiti to The Ronald McDonald House of Central Ohio to start a new charitable program for the organization. The information is posted on the Jifiti website. “Their supporters are always looking for new and easy ways to help out,” Weisband says. “Now they can see on our website what the organization needs and donate those items within minutes.”
Jifiti was recently named a finalist among 500 companies in the 2013 SXSW Interactive Awards in the mobile apps category. “It’s a tremendous vote of confidence from the industry,” he notes.
Source:  Shaul Weisband, Jifiti
Writer:  Lynne Meyer

Ringside shopper app helps customers download instant coupons

Akron-based Insight Market Data (IMD) has partnered with a family-run grocery store in Lorain County to create a more convenient, efficient and sustainable method of distributing coupons through a new smartphone app, Ringside Shopper.
Jim Wilson, formerly the B2B technical architect of Avon Lake-based PolyOne and senior application developer for Schwab and Key Corp., says the idea was borne out of his wife’s frustration with not being able to find diaper coupons on the internet following the birth of their daughter. The frustration led to serendipity.
“All of my varied programming experiences allowed me to see the whole system in a moment of inspiration,” Wilson says, recalling the moment from 1999 when pagers were common and smartphones weren’t on the radar yet. “Having played with early handheld computers, it was obvious to me what was coming and how it would make this system possible.” The long-brewing idea became a patent a decade later and is now a reality.
“The Ringside Shopper app itself is incredibly simple,” Wilson explains, adding user information is protected. “While in the store aisle, a shopper just scans the UPC barcode of a product they’re interested in, and the app will display a discount coupon for that product and a few others from competing brands.” The entire process takes no more than a few seconds, allowing the shopper to continue as normal until checkout. “Then at the checkout register, the shopper simply scans the ‘Point of Sale ID’ barcode stuck to the register [Ringside’s logo is on it], and like magic, their coupons will be applied and deducted from their bill as the items are scanned in,” says Wilson. A demo of the process is available at their website.
Wilson is proud to note that development has been an “all-Ohio” effort. “In addition to friends and family, the Lorain County Community Innovation Fund supported IMD early on with grant money and helped conduct a successful trial of the prototype system on the Lorain County Community College campus,” he says. Now Wilson is looking for more partners and investors as he continues developing relationships with Kent State UniversityLean Dog in Cleveland, and LaGrange IGA to complete a variety of company tasks, including data mining, analytics support and programming.
Meantime, curious shoppers are invited by Wilson to download the free app and try it themselves at the LaGrange IGA. “With a little luck, the money saving system you see there will soon be coming to every store near you.”
Source: Jim Wilson
Writer: Joe Baur

reclaimed cleveland turns salvaged wood into sought-after goods

When Deej Lincoln bought Interior Products Company two years ago, he thought he would build upon the commercial millwork company’s reputation for creating beautiful libraries. While the company continues to do library work, a new business built on sustainability, recycling and a bit of nostalgia has evolved.

Reclaimed Cleveland harvests wood from Cleveland properties slated for demolition and turns what they find into functional works of art. “We wanted to build the business in a new direction, and we got into wood reclamation,” explains Lincoln. “The idea resonated with our Interior Products Company customers.”
From benches and console tables to bottle openers and iPhone skins, every Reclaimed Cleveland product is stamped with the address of the property from which it came. Much of the focus is on old homes, which have a lot of old-growth wood, and churches.
“Obviously, there’s a sustainability component to it,” says Lincoln. “But there’s an aesthetic component that comes from a talented designer.”
The inspiration to create products from reclaimed wood came almost out of necessity. “About a year ago, we were sitting on all this wood and we had no furniture designed or built,” says Lincoln. “I said we have to have some holiday gift items at a low price point.”
From there, Reclaimed Cleveland made a bottle opener and marketed it through flash sales. “We immediately sold out of them,” says Lincoln. “We were impressed and pleased with the fact it took off as well as it did. I regret as a company, we didn’t do it sooner.” The products have even found a following outside of Cleveland.
Aaron Gogolin, who co-founded A Piece of Cleveland (APOC), joined the company in 2011 He helped produce the original products for Reclaimed Cleveland and helps maintain assembly and design standards. David Meyers joined in 2011 and is key in new product designs and branding of Reclaimed Cleveland. The company employs a total of 12 people.

Source: Deej Lincoln
Writer: Karin Connelly

bidswan launches online marketplace that supports buy local movement

The buy-local movement has transitioned from being merely a trend to a mainstream business model, benefitting local companies and communities.

Many local businesses use daily-deal websites to generate or enhance sales. Yet when Joshua Kibbey of Columbus talked to local merchants in his area, he kept hearing that such sites weren’t bringing long-term value to their businesses. 
“These types of sites are simply marketing for small businesses, like mailing coupons or putting them in the newspaper,” he explains. “It’s one way to market, but the business model only works if you have high volume, low-margin deals. Those types of deals aren’t conducive to growing a quality customer base.”
Believing there was a better way, Kibbey created BidSwan in 2011. The online marketplace allows companies to cost-effectively market their offerings to local consumers without having to offer drastic discounts or deal with the one-time crush of customers that often occurs with daily-deal site offerings.

BidSwan originally started with a name-your-price format. “We came to the conclusion, however, that it was too restrictive and consumers didn’t embrace it as we had hoped,” Kibbey recalls. To re-tool, he and his partners created an alliance with Small Business Beanstalk (SBB), a shop-local organization with 500 merchant members, and then re-launched BidSwan in September 2012.

“We now offer a large variety of deals at any given time,” he explains.  “We count on good selection and variety – not deep discounts -- to keep customers coming back. We also don’t have a set schedule of deals. Businesses are free to choose the volume, price point and timing of their deal to maximize the benefit to them.”
Users can go to Bidswan’s website, obtain a free SBB Community Card, purchase  vouchers for about 20 to 30 percent off the face value of items and then use the vouchers at participating local businesses. There’s no cost for merchants to join SBB. “Businesses pay us a fee to cover credit card costs, and we get a percentage of each sale,” he explains.
BidSwan has more than 60 businesses signed up, and Kibbey anticipates working with other community outreach organizations to expand

Source:   Joshua Kibbey
Writer:  Lynne Meyer

friends launch munchit, a cle-based wholesome snack biz

Munchit co-founders Tim Holmes and Jon Dinardo were living worlds apart -- Holmes in London and Dinardo in Los Angeles -- but they had one thing in common: the desire to find a better way to snack.
“I was based in London and lived inside the city and ended up eating a lot of junk,” says Holmes, a native Brit. Meanwhile, Dinardo was living a fast-paced lifestyle on the west coast. The two, along with Holmes’ wife (and Dinardo’s sister) Nicole, were craving something better.
So the three moved back to Dinardo's Ohio hometown to start Munchit, an all-natural snack company. Munchit sells snack boxes, either on a weekly or monthly subscription basis, in which the buyer chooses from 25 wholesome snacks. Snacks feature things like dark chocolate espresso beans, nuts, cranberries, rolled dates and seed mixes. Each box features four different snacks.
“You log in and go through all our snacks,” explains Dinardo. “If you love 18 out of the 25 items we mix it up each time.”
Holmes and Dinardo source their products from small, local companies as well as national family-owned suppliers. “All of our food is 100-percent natural, with no preservatives or artificial colors,” says Dinardo. “The snacks are portion sized and are 180 calories.” They focus on environmental issues, keeping packaging to a minimum.
They decided to start the company in Cleveland to not only be close to family, but also for economical reasons. “Cleveland is a good area logistically because it’s very close to the hub of business,” says Holmes. “The cost of suppliers is right.”
Munchit currently is trying to raise $50,000 by Oct. 25 on Kickstarter. “Our goal right now is to launch and stay afloat in the short term,” says Holmes. “We want to make it past the first year. After that, the opportunities in the market are open to us to grow and expand.”
While right now it is a family affair, Holmes and Dinardo predict they will hire people to help with packaging and fulfillment as they grow. Eventually they plan to hire people to help with finance and bookkeeping.

Source: Jon Dinardo and Tim Holmes
Writer: Karin Connelly

babies travel too takes top award at bad girl ventures graduation

More than 100 people turned out May 16 at the Ohio City Firehouse to celebrate the newest graduates of Bad Girl Ventures’ business plan competition. Babies Travel Too was the recipient of a $25,000 loan from KeyBank.

Babies Travel Too was created by Alison Musser, who based the company on her own experiences as a parent. The company provides nightly and weekly rentals of full-size cribs, car seats, strollers and other essential baby gear to people traveling to the Cleveland metropolitan area. The equipment is JPMA-certified and sanitized before every rental.

“Musser not only had a good idea; she was the right person to run the business,” says Rachel Czernin, director of marketing and developments for BGV. “She is smart, dedicated, and has personal experience in this area. She uniquely understands the predicament traveling mothers have and has the business sense to develop her concept and turn this regional business into a national business.”

Three additional companies received $5,000 loans from The Giving Back Gang. Those companies were: Anne Hartnett, creator of Harness Fitness, Inc., Cleveland's first sustainably run group cycling studio and fitness clothing retailer; Karen Malone Wright, creator of TheNotMom.com, a blog for women who are childless; and Kelley Hynds creator of Hyndsight Media, an online video journalism platform that provides short-form video web spots on current social and civic topics.
The event was sponsored by Huntington Bank, Additional support came from The Cleveland Foundation and The Business of Good Foundation. “Catering was provided by past finalist and loan recipient Hungry Bee Catering.

Source: Rachel Czernin
Writer: Karin Connelly

venueseen allows restaurant owners to capture, analyze social media reviews

Getting real-time feedback from customers via social media might be very valuable for restaurant owners. Thanks to VenueSeen, which launched on April 17, that information is now easily available to them.

VenueSeen shows restaurant owners who is saying what about their business on FourSquare, Instagram, Foodspotting and other social media websites. The software also aggregates any photos that are taken at the restaurant.

Family or friends dining out might take a photo and make a positive comment or give the venue a big thumbs down. What diners post may present a marketing opportunity or the need to remedy an unpleasant dining experience.

“Photos and comments form a brand’s social identity,” explains Brian Zuercher, ceo of FlyMuch, the parent company of VenueSeen. “What we’re offering is original content and photos to restaurant owners. It’s good to be aware of what’s being said about your business, and photos add visual content.”
According to Zuercher, VenueSeen gathers what’s posted about a restaurant on those three social platforms so that the owners can see, track, analyze, connect and compare the information in a meaningful way. “Owners can use this content to help them have a consistent message communicated across the board,” he notes. “The information can also help them collect feedback, show appreciation, respond to suggestions and interact with their customers online.”

FlyMuch began in the consumer travel industry. Based on feedback gleaned from its experiences in that field, the company launched VenueSeen for restaurants.  VenueSeen's clients currently include some independent restaurants, the Macaroni Grill restaurant chain and a food store in London.

FlyMuch has three full-time and two contract employees and plans to hire five more full-time employees by the end of 2012. The company has received funding from the Ohio TechAngels Fund.

Source:  Brian Zuercher
Writer:  Lynne Meyer

ohio growth summit helps entrepreneurs to start businesses

Last year, one of the attendees at the annual Ohio Growth Summit in Columbus "quit his job the day before the summit, came to the summit and started his business the next day," says Mike Bowers, District Director of the Ohio Small Business Development Center at Columbus State Community College.

That summit attendee is Timothy Wolf Starr, who founded the Small Business Beanstalk, a "local-first" company that connects small retailers to a base of active consumers in the Columbus area. A Small Business Beanstalk card allows shoppers to obtain discounts at independent retailers. The company is now booming, and Starr says, “I send a lot of my clients to the Summit each year.” 

That's why Bowers and Starr encourage all Ohio small business entrepreneurs or hopefuls to attend this year’s summit, which will be held on May 24th at CSCC.

This year’s summit, Bowers says, “is focused on those small business owners who are either starting or growing their businesses. An individual coming to the event can customize their day -- whether it's an owner getting tools and techniques to use immediately, someone having only an idea and not knowing anything about business, or the person who’s been in business for years and is looking to grow."

Summit reakout sessions will address such diverse issues as financing, online social media, marketing and later-stage change. The Ohio Growth Summit is made possible due to a grant from the Small Business Administration.

Source: Mike Bowers
Writer: Catherine Podojil

hobby turns into full-blown vintage-printed notecard biz promoting cleveland

As local artists with a common love of vintage art tools, friends Jamye Jamison, Elizabeth Emery and Wendy Partridge decided there was a need for some uniquely Cleveland promotional goods. So they formed CLE Collectiv, which produces a line of handmade note cards that celebrate all things Cleveland.
The trio creates the cards at Zygote Press using handset, vintage metal and wood type printing materials on 1950s-era Vandercook proofing presses. The cards are two-color and they can print up to 350 cards in one print run. All the paper is sourced from off-cuts that would otherwise be thrown away. Cards are folded and assembled by hand.
“We kind of started it as a little bit of a hobby,” says Jamison. “Just because we felt there was a void of interesting letterpress cards about Cleveland."
Current designs include “CLE - the place to be,” “CLE - full city, half price,” “I (heart) Cleveland” and “Cleveland - gentrify this!” Due out in June are “West Side Market - makin' bacon since 1912”
and “Cleveland - it grows on you.”
“We’ve been trying to come up with funny, quirky sayings about Cleveland, whether positive or poking sly fun at the city,” says Jamison.
The different cards feature vintage images found at Zygote, such as the Terminal Tower from around the time it was built, or a Tremont steel mill.
The cards are $5 each, three for $14 or 5 for $20. They are available at CLE Clothing Co., duoHOME, Heights Arts, Room Service, and Zygote Press. They can also be found on the CLE Collectiv Etsy page.

Source: Jamye Jamison
Writer: Karin Connelly
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