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Local firm puts a new spin on human relations, finds a welcoming niche

As a small-business owner, Mark D’Agostino knows firsthand the difficulties of staffing a human resources department. All too often, HR employees are overworked, undertrained and unsupported by company leadership, he says.
To address these issues, D’Agostino launched ConnectedHR, a professional services firm that provides its 30 clients with experienced HR consultants. ConnectedHR personnel work on-site at companies—albeit off their payroll and benefits programs—diving into the complex realm of workers' compensation claims, employee engagement and other duties beholden to an in-house HR operation.
"We go out to organizations and become their HR entity on a part-time basis," says D’Agostino, who started his Independence-based business in 2014. "We have one young woman who works at five different organizations each day of the week."
Company "technicians" are spread out to diverse industries such as biotech, childcare and law. Cleveland law firm The Rathbone Group and drug discovery company BioMotiv are among the entities currently hosting a ConnectedHR staff member. Client business models may differ, but human resources basics are similar across industries, D’Agostino notes.
"Our technicians have an agenda and structure they follow very closely," he says. "It's streamlined enough that they know what aspects to focus on."
Businesses that enlist D’Agostino's services generally don't have an HR strategy in place. The company founder and president understands how that goes, as he didn't have a human resources staff at the business supply distribution company he ran prior to launching ConnectedHR. Visiting other offices at the time revealed HR's dispersal throughout harried personnel groups. From there, a vision for a new employee engagement approach came into being.
Since its inception, ConnectedHR has steadily grown its client base and topped $1 million in annual revenue. D’Agostino enjoys working with an established clientele that have reached a stage of growth where a level of HR professionalism is needed.
"I'm also excited about my team," D’Agostino says. "There's such an energy and vibrancy with them. They're a very educated, experienced group."
Ensuring worker well-being is especially satisfying in a region where small business is an economic driver.
"I'm passionate about supporting these organizations, because I'm a small business owner, too," says D’Agostino. "My clients want to be a good employer for their employees." 

From garage startup to multi-million dollar maker, Beachwood company is a 3D success

Desktop 3D printing is new enough that there's still room for exciting yet practical uses of the technology, says Rick Pollack, founder of MakerGear, a Beachwood designer and manufacturer of affordable desktop 3D printers.
The innovation is currently used to print human teeth and organs for study, while businesses are making prototype tools and other parts. Pollack has tapped into the nascent industry's energy to develop the company, which he started in his garage, into an award-winning, multi-million dollar enterprise with 25 employees.
MakerGear engineers and builds machines by hand from its Beachwood headquarters, with components manufactured at the company's 6,000-square-foot facility in Newbury. Growth has been in the double digits over the last few years, while revenue is steadily in the millions.
"We're self-funded with no outside help or sales and marketing department," says Pollack. "Our growth has been organic and done completely through word-of-mouth or positive press."
Local businesses, entrepreneurs and educators use MakerGear printers to innovate in their respective fields, Pollack notes. Clients range from companies producing multiple iterations of a part to makers and hobbyists interested in what the machines can do. Printers come in two configurations: the MakerGearM2 ($1,825) and a kit version ($1,500) that allows consumers to build the device themselves.
Pollack entered the 3D printing industry in 2009 wanting to manufacture goods on a desktop. While product creation requires sometimes exorbitant expenditure of time and money, the former software developer learned that 3D printing allows for low-volume, low-cost production without any special tooling.
With this knowledge in mind, Pollack bought a desktop lathe for $250 and started making printer parts for hobbyists out of his garage. Today, he produces thousands of parts that are shipped all over the world.  
"Starting this, I had no commercial experience, and had to learn to how to be a manufacturer post-recession," says Pollack. "I treated this industry like I'm a customer, in that I'm making a quality product at a reasonable price and with great customer support."
MakerGear has received its share of accolades since launch. In November, the MakerGear M2 was ranked No. 1 worldwide by 3D Hubs, an independent 3D printer review site. Pollack is proud of the distinction as well as contributing to the rapid expansion of high-tech manufacturing in the Cleveland area.
"This technology has lowered the barrier of entry for manufacturing," he says. "We stand out because we're focused on making a great product for our customers that's manufactured in the U.S." 

Career fair matches area bioscience companies with high-tech talent

BioOhio is looking for a few good employers to attend an upcoming tech-centric job fair in Cleveland.
The Ohio Bioscience Career Fair, scheduled for February 22 at Cuyahoga Community College's Corporate College East campus, matches job seekers with the region's growing bioscience sector. Ten companies representing the biotech, manufacturing,pharmaceutical, R&D, and medical device industries are expected to attend an event that organizers say is an affordable and targeted means of connecting with skillful would-be employees.
"Finding a workforce has been a challenge for companies," says Jen Goldsberry, manager of member services and events at BioOhio, a nonprofit membership organization that supports the Buckeye State's bioscience community through networking, advocacy and events. "We can bridge that gap."
Now in its 11th year, the program attracts about 200 candidates annually, from recent and soon-to-be graduates to experienced individuals exploring new career paths. Attendees meet HR managers and recruiters over the course of the afternoon (2 – 5 p.m.), and have the option of submitting their resumes for review prior to the event, giving them an ostensible jumpstart on future employment.
BioOhio is currently reaching out to potential exhibitors via an employer application form. Exhibitor rates are $525 for BioOhio members and $750 for non-members. Exhibiting companies will also be featured on the organization's online career fair page. Among the firms already signed up are Neurotechnology Innovations Translator and Charles River Laboratories. Meanwhile, regional partners like BioEnterprise and MAGNET are aiding in the company recruitment process.
"These are partners trying to grow jobs in their backyards," says BioOhio project and content manager Drew Cook. "They're critical supporters in what we do."
BioOhio holds yearly career fairs in northeast, central and southwest Ohio in an attempt to fill the coffers of the state's approximately 2,300 bioscience companies. With 10,179 students graduating in industry-related majors in 2015—according to the Ohio Bioscience Growth Report—a conscientious effort must be made to keep these talented young people at home.
"Companies want to find homegrown talent over bringing someone in from outside," says Cook.
Group officials say the career fair is the best solution for employers searching for new hires who need minimal onboarding before becoming a vital company asset.
"If you post on CareerBuilder, you don't know what you're going to find," says Goldsberry. "Here you're going to have access to some awesome talent."

$8 million fund aims to build inclusion, community wealth with small biz loans

Access to funding is often a barrier blocking the development of minority-owned businesses – but now a collaboration of regional organizations is attempting to tear down that obstacle.
With a focus on bringing capital to African-American and other underserved business owners, the National Urban League’s Urban Empowerment Fund (NUL-UEF), Morgan Stanley, National Development Council (NDC) Urban League of Greater Cleveland (ULGC), and Cuyahoga County have teamed up to offer the Capital Access Fund of Greater Cleveland (CAF).
The $8 million fund was created with a long-term goal of sustaining minority-run small businesses that provide jobs for residents, says Marsha Mockabee, president and CEO of the Cleveland Urban League.
A three-year program, CAF offers entrepreneurs low-interest loans from $10,000 to $2 million. Funds are tabbed for the acquisition of equipment, space or inventory. Borrowers are charged no higher than 5 percent interest, but must participate in pre- and post-loan counseling that provides them with support throughout the growth process.
"We're not just loaning people money and saying, 'good luck,' we're staying with them as a finance partner," says Mockabee.
Launched in December with the target of creating 300 jobs over its lifespan, CAF has already completed eight loans totaling $1.4 million. Among the recipients are a child-care business, a staffing firm and a pop-up shop that makes greeting cards and political-themed jewelry.
CAF assets derive from two sources - the Community Impact Loan Fund and the county-supported Grow Cuyahoga Fund. Dollars are given to existing businesses with a track record of sales, and officials hope to distribute 50 loans before the program concludes.
"Our goal is to run out of money before the three years are up," Mockabee says. "It's a very aggressive plan."
CAF is also an attractive option for minority entrepreneurs still searching for financial stability in a post-recession environment, she says. As small business creation is a priority of Cuyahoga County leadership, the loan program gives companies a boost both through capital and the support services necessary to build community wealth.
"Raising the profile and success level of minority businesses can fuel the pipeline of economic development in these communities," says Mockabee. "We're proud of all of our partners willing to invest in this program."  

Those interested in applying for a CAF grant may contact Angela Butler, senior vice president, National Development Corporation, 216-303-7173, AButler@ndconline.org.

Local craftsman welds discarded objects with art

Jereme Westfall, owner and artist of Work of Arc Welding, prides himself on breathing new life into discarded objects.
A damaged cello Westfall purchased from a music store, for example, is now a lighted sculpture complete with ribbed metal wings. The instrument can no longer play a beautiful concerto, but it's still lovely to behold, says its owner.
From his workshop at Steelyard Commons, Westfall also welds a unique identity onto working lamps, clocks, shelving, fountains and wall hangings. Primarily focused on metals, the arts-centric entrepreneur "upcycles" junk into works he sells at gallery shows or on his Etsy site.
"I take garbage and instead of recycling it to its original form, I'm turning it into something that still has a use," says Westfall, 39. "I've got a basement filled with valves, springs and other stuff that inspires me."
Hard work comes at cost for customers, although some pieces can be had at lower prices than others. Westfall's cello sculpture, a product of 100 man hours and $500 in materials, sells for $3,100, while his lamps run from $320-$355. More affordable offerings include business card holders built from transmission gears, which are $35 each.  
Westfall opened his studio a year ago after receiving certification from the Lincoln Electric Welding School. Creating functional art full time wasn't his first thought upon entering the industry, however.
"I worked as a welder for awhile, then decided I wanted to make my own rules," Westfall says. "I started making my own stuff, went to some art shows, and things took off from there."
Westfall's steampunk/industrial style lends itself to rustic spaces or the average man cave, he notes. The Medina native tries to add something quirky to each piece, like a valve that acts as a dimmer for a lamp.
Going into 2017, Work of Arc has several months of back orders to fill, among them a conference table repurposed for an area diamond broker. The business is also busy showing its regional pride through Cavaliers and Ohio State metal wall art pieces.

As long as folks keep buying, Westfall is happy to continue making something out of nothing.

"The biggest thing for me is to be flexible," says Westfall. "I like doing a wide range of pieces rather than just one thing over and over again. There's such a wide variety, I never get bored."

YWCA's "It's Time to Talk" forum to feature Mayor Campbell, excerpt of Tamir Rice play

On Friday, February 3, from 8:30 a.m. to 1:30 p.m., YWCA Greater Cleveland will host, It’s Time to Talk: Forums on Race – Foundations for Change. This is the third such event for the organization.

This year, the forum is part of "Stokes: Honoring the Past, Inspiring the Future," which is a yearlong, community-wide commemoration of the 50th anniversary of Carl Stokes' election as mayor of Cleveland. YWCA Greater Cleveland is a partner in the initiative.
The 2017 "It's Time to Talk" forum will be held at the Cuyahoga Community College's Eastern Campus, 4250 Richmond Road, in the Jack, Joseph and Morton Mandel Humanities Center and will feature a public discussion led by Jane Campbell, the first woman mayor of Cleveland, and her mother Rev. Joan Brown Campbell, an activist and local leader who helped organize volunteers for the election of Carl B. Stokes. The duo has much to say about being a “first woman,” intersectionality, civil rights, and the Stokes legacy.
"It’s Time to Talk" will also feature an excerpt from Playwrights Local’s performance of Objectively/Reasonable, a play about the 2014 shooting of Tamir Rice. Two actors will perform portions of the play, and a member of Playwrights Local will discuss the creation of the work, which originally ran from August 18 through September 4, 2016, at the Creative Space at Waterloo Arts. Directed by Terrence Spivey, the play was praised by Broadway World as “a must-see experience for anyone interested in the real world around them.” Cleveland Jewish News said of the work, “These slice-of-life monologues come in varying shades of anger and disillusionment that do not shy away from ardent social commentary…they pulsate with purpose and artistic integrity.”
David Todd conceived Objectively/Reasonable, which was written by an ensemble of playwrights including Mike Geither, Tom Hayes, Lisa Langford, Michael Oatman, and Todd.
Winners of the "It's Time to Talk" art contest, submissions for which are being accepted through Jan. 25, will also be on display at the event. More information on the contest is available here.
After two successful years hosting the "It’s Time to Talk" forum, YWCA Greater Cleveland has engaged more than a thousand individuals in conversations about race, discrimination, unconscious bias, and cultural competency. YWCA has trained more than 65 Racial Justice Facilitators who are now able to lead this dialogue in organizations and the community.

Click here to register for "It's Time to Talk," purchase tickets, see schedule information and to find out how to become a Racial Justice Facilitator. Tickets are $60 for adults and $25 for students, non-profit workers, teachers, and seniors.
In March 2016 the American Jewish Committee of Cleveland recognized YWCA Greater Cleveland for its work with It’s "Time to Talk" with the Isaiah Award for Human Relations. This award acknowledged YWCA Greater Cleveland for empowering the community to begin conversations around race and racism in Cleveland.
Fresh Water Cleveland is a media partner on this event.

Cleveland healthcare IT firm creates hot idea for cold hospital storage

Tens of thousands of vaccines, pharmaceutical lab tests and food items spoil each year due to faulty hospital refrigerators, costing medical systems money while posing a danger to patients.
Healthcare IT developer Emanate Wireless has a solution to this problem, and recently corralled a good chunk of money to implement it. In December, the Cleveland-based startup raised $1.5 million in angel funding for its wireless PowerPath Temp device, which monitors both the internal temperature and power draw of medical refrigerators.
The monitor alerts staff of compressor issues, defrost failures and ajar refrigerator doors before temperatures lower to the point where spoilage can occur. Early detection results in preventative maintenance that protects patients and hospital assets, says company CEO Neil Diener.
Emanate's wireless system, resembling a laptop's power brick, efficiently sends information to a cloud-based server, eliminating the need for staff members to check cold storage themselves and log the results by hand.
The startup co-founder notes that, unlike the competition, Emanate's tech tracks whether a fridge's defrost cycle is active, or if its compressor has been running too long.
"Any change in behavior will be noticed," says Diener. "It gives an early warning that maintenance is needed. There's a number of competitive solutions that do what we do, but when you get an alert telling you temperature is out of spec, it may be too late, and result in hundreds of thousands of dollars in pharmaceuticals getting tossed out."
Emanate, which received coaching and fundraising assistance from the BioEnterprise business group, currently sells the monitor along with an annual subscription for operational software. The company also designed an iPhone app that lets hospital employees check the monitor remotely.
Recently acquired capital will help Emanate scale up its current offerings and continue to broaden its portfolio. Two Cleveland Clinic facilities, Avon Hospital and Marymount Hospital, are among the local entities using the high-tech solution. The company, with help from business partner, Accruent Healthcare Solutions, brought on a Pennsylvania hospital network as well.
2017 could see expansion to additional hospitals from a home base that Diener believes to be a great place to build a healthcare IT startup.
"There's lots of positive momentum in Cleveland with a great hospital system," he says. "Anything you can do to make their lives easier has a positive effect on what they're able to do for patient outcomes." 

Bowie show celebrates life and career of a genre-bending persona

Thomas Mulready has spent a lifetime collecting material on David Bowie's chameleonic career, from his early musical development to the symbol-heavy albums that preceded the enigmatic rocker's death one year ago.
Mulready, founder of online newsletter Cool Cleveland, will share his trove of Bowie goodness during a two-part performance called An Evening With(out) David Bowie, set for January 13-14 at the Bop Stop, 2920 Detroit Ave.
The multi-media show includes rare video, recently unearthed music, trivia contests and archival photos, all meticulously researched and organized around Bowie's versatile creative output.
"This is a vein that artists are still tapped into," says Mulready. "Bowie has been such an influence on so many different people."
Part one of the performance, slated for 7:30 each evening, covers the English musician's early struggles up to the Ziggy Stardust persona that blasted his career into the stratosphere. Part two is a retrospective of Bowie's worldwide stardom, a journey that led him through drug addiction and recovery, as well as fascinating musical experimentations and a successful run as an actor. Bowie's final studio album, Blackstar, was released on his 69th birthday, just two days before liver cancer ended his life.
Via music and video, Mulready aims to capture the entirety of his favorite artist's strange and wonderful livelihood. In putting together the show, he found touchpoints celebrating Bowie's dizzying creativity, a portfolio including fashion, film, music, design, theater and politics.
Bowie also changed the meaning of sexuality and gender, telling the world he was gay in a 1972 issue of English pop magazine, "Melody Maker."
"He was ahead of his time on sexuality," says Mulready. "He told young people that no matter how weird or freaky they were, they could live their lives exactly how they wanted. Bowie never worried about what people thought, and that's very instructive."
As a lifelong fan of the influential Starman, Mulready combed through personally collected archives of books, DVDs, compact discs and digital files. Among the clips is footage of a concert at Cleveland's Public Auditorium in 1972, marking Bowie's U.S. debut. Mulready found so much good material, both famous and rare, he split the show into two parts.
"It's going to be a long evening," says Mulready, whose glam-rock band, Vanity Crash, will take the stage for a selection of Bowie tunes and original tracks.
Ultimately, the performance stands as a celebratory showcase of a genre-bending persona who paved the way for generations of musicians.
"This is my way of grieving," Mulready says. "It's something everyone can share."

Call for contest submissions: art on race

Fresh Water Cleveland is partnering with YWCA Greater Cleveland as they host the third annual It's Time to Talk: Forum on Race on Feb. 3. As part of this partnership, the organization is hosting an art contest.
Submissions depicting art about race, discrimination or race relations in our community are being accepted through Wednesday, Jan. 25 at midnight. The art might reflect the present state of racism, challenges, aspirations, symbols of hope or a problem our community has faced. Any type of visual art form is welcome, but may not exceed 48 by 96 inches. Submit digital photos or files to news@ywcaofcleveland.org with "It’s Time to Talk Art Contest" in the subject line.
Up to three winners will be chosen. Their art will be published in Fresh Water and displayed as part of the 2017 It’s Time to Talk: Forum on Race - Foundations for Change in order to evoke conversation. YWCA Greater Cleveland encourages high school and college students as well as community members to enter.
Each winner will receive a ticket to the Feb. 3 event, which will include a gallery walk of conversation-starting imagery, a discussion with Jane Campbell and Rev. Dr. Joan Brown Campbell and a performance about Tamir Rice from Playwrights Local.

Attendees will also participate in circle conversations about race and commit to individual and community action. Tickets are $60, or $25 for students, non-profits, teachers, and seniors. The event will be held from 8:30 a.m. to 1:30 p.m. at Cuyahoga Community College Eastern Campus in the Jack, Joseph and Morton Mandel Humanities Center. Register online here.

Disclaimer: Winners must live and/or work in Northeast Ohio. Winners must be able to attend It’s Time to Talk on February 3, 2017 or have a friend or family member who can attend instead. The prize(s) that may be awarded to the eligible winner(s) are not redeemable for cash or exchangeable for any other prize. No art will be given preference over any other art on the basis of an applicant’s name, school, age, employment status, gender, race, ethnicity, sexual orientation, nationality, or any legally-protected status. One entry per person allowed. Winners will be chosen by YWCA Greater Cleveland and Fresh Water Cleveland (contest hosts). Contest hosts reserve the right to expand, limit, or reduce the number of winners at any time.

By participating in the contest, each participant and winner waives any and all claims of liability against the contest hosts, their employees and agents, the sponsors of It’s Time to Talk and their respective employees and agents, for any personal injury or loss which may occur from the conduct of, or participation in, the contest, or from the use of the prize. Entries cannot be acknowledged. Contest hosts gain unrestricted access to the artwork and photos of the work until March 31, 2017. Participants agree to allow contest hosts to use their names, photographs, and art for promotional and publicity purposes. Winning work cannot be published or sold without written permission from YWCA Greater Cleveland until after March 31, 2017. By entering, participants agree to be bound by these rules and the decisions of contest hosts. Contest hosts may cancel the contest without notice at any time. The contest is void where prohibited, taxed, or restricted by law.

Babies need boxes? Local nonprofit delivers

Cleveland has averaged about 13 infant deaths per 1,000 live births over the past five years, which is more than twice the national average. Curtailing that deadly trend is the goal of a recently founded local chapter of a national infant safety program.
Babies Need Boxes Ohio launched two months ago to provide Finnish baby boxes, supplies and educational resources to Cleveland moms with babies up to six months of age. Baby boxes, first made available by Finnish officials to combat the country's infant mortality rate among low-income mothers in the 1930's, provide a safe, economical sleeping environment for babies living in impoverished conditions. The program became so popular it was quickly expanded. Now for more than seven decades, a baby box has been offered to all expectant Finnish moms.
Locally, the nonprofit's Cleveland chapter has partnered with University Hospitals MacDonald Women's Hospital, the Cleveland Clinic and Neighborhood Family Practice to donate 200 boxes at the beginning of the new year. Elizabeth Dreyfuss, executive director of Babies Need Boxes Ohio, says the cardboard sleep spaces are perfectly sized for newborns.
"Transient families can bring the boxes with them and know their child will be safe as opposed to using a couch, or an abundance of blankets and pillows," says Dreyfuss.
The baby box giveaway is one facet of a larger mission to provide pre- and post-natal education to a disadvantaged populace. African-American babies in Ohio, for example, are three times as likely to die before the age one than white babies, according to the Ohio Department of Health.
Babies Need Boxes was founded in the U.S. last year by Danielle Selassie of Fridley, Minnesota, and now counts Head Start and United Way among its organizational partners. Cleveland's chapter was started by five Shaker Heights moms including Dreyfuss, who saw the city's high infant mortality rate and wanted to do something about it.
"We wanted to support mothering, which needs more care than what we're able to offer alone,"  says Dreyfuss. "We're now looking for women in poverty, or on Medicaid. We also want to help immigrant and refugee families."
The group hopes to give out 600 boxes total by the end of 2017, while growing a volunteer base eager to aid new mothers. Ultimately, organization founders want to stop a dreadful epidemic that's taking newborns away all too soon.
"The goal is to get a box to every mom in Ohio," Dreyfuss says. "We're offering education and the ability for babies to have a safe sleep spot." 

Cleveland contingent wins gold, spreads awareness at inaugural Cybathalon

A Cleveland-based group of researchers and athletes recently harnessed an innovative technology - along with a nearly superhuman will to win - to take home gold at the world's first "cyborg games."
The gold medal team journeyed to Zurich, Switzerland, in October to compete in the first ever Cybathlon, an international "cyborg Olympics" open to disabled people who use electronic prosthetics to compete daily tasks. Sent by the Louis Stokes Cleveland VA Medical Center, the contingent won a gold medal in the Functional Electrical Stimulation (FES) bike race, which modified recumbent bikes for competitors with spinal cord injuries.
Team Cleveland "pilot" Mark Muhn, a California native paralyzed from the armpits down after a skiing accident, finished 1:10 ahead of his nearest competitor, thanks to training and a locally-born experimental research program that implanted a pulse generator under his skin.
Designed by the Cleveland VA's Advanced Platform Technology (APT) Center, the device was connected to an external control box that Muhn and his fellow riders activated with a button press. The implant sent electrical stimulation to Muhn's paralyzed muscles, allowing him to create a pedaling movement in sync with the bike around a 750-meter track.
"The pulse generator is like a pacemaker that delivers current to the back, hips and legs," says Dr. Ron Triolo, team leader on the project. "That small amount of current fires the nerve, resulting in muscle contraction."
Cleveland's 10-person Cybathlon crew consisted of a biomedical engineer, a neuroscientist/certified bike mechanic and a world-class competitive cyclist. Triolo traveled to Zurich with Team Cleveland athletes bolstered by two months of training in the implant technology.
Winning the gold was exciting, but the Cybathlon's competitive aspect came in second to showing off an innovation that helps individuals with devastating spinal injuries regain some form of movement, Triolo says.
"We were using technology that's not commercially available and showing the potential difference these interventions can make in someone's life," he says. "We're raising awareness that hopefully sparks investment."
Combining sports and medical research was instructive for Triolo's team as well.
"Biking was new for us," he says. "It's a powerful exercise tool that made our volunteers stronger. They feel like they're part of society again."

Bad Girl Ventures 'launches' new crop of grads, marks five years

Bad Girl Ventures' Cleveland location is celebrating its fifth anniversary by doing what it does best - giving area women business owners a financial boost for their entrepreneurial endeavors.
Last month, BGV awarded two $15,000 loans to a pair of graduates from its fall 2016 LAUNCH group. The loan recipients, Liza Rifkin of Liza Michelle Jewelry and Angelina Rodriguez Pata of Blackbird Fly Boutique, were part of an eight-member class that underwent nine weeks of training at Baldwin Wallace University's Center for Innovation & Growth.
Liza Michelle Jewelry offers custom-made, eco-friendly pieces, while Blackbird Fly Boutique brings customers contemporary apparel, footwear, accessories and locally made gifts. Both Ohio City store owners displayed the business-minded strength and acumen BGV seeks when choosing its awardees, says Northeast Ohio marketing manager Reka Barabas.
"These two are dedicated to growth and getting new revenue streams into their businesses," Barabas says. "We had a strong cohort of participants this fall, but there's only so much we can do with our funding."
The loans, awarded in  partnership with the Economic Community Development Institute (ECDI), will be used by the respective businesses to purchase inventory or expand a marketing campaign.
This is the first cohort to graduate under the new LAUNCH curriculum in Northeast Ohio, which is designed for established, majority women-owned enterprises that have been making sales for at least a year, says Barabas. Most program participants aim to tighten operations, discover new growth opportunities and learn about funding options.
"The loan can be a motivator, but it's often the icing on the cake," Barabas says. "Many people come to us because they realize the power of a structured program. They love being part of a supportive community of female entrepreneurs."
BGV Cleveland has graduated 18 classes since its establishment in 2011. Founded in Cincinnati and expanded since to markets throughout Ohio and Kentucky, the program overall has lent $220,000 to business owners. BGV Cleveland program grads, meanwhile, have attracted an additional $800,000 follow-on funding from non-BGV sources.
"We've grown up in these last five years," says Barabas. "Raising the profile of female entrepreneurship very much touches on our mission."
The nonprofit is already looking ahead to next year's iteration. Women business owners from any industry can apply online for the 2017 LAUNCH program by February 28. Barabas is excited to welcome a new class into BGV's hard-working fold.
"We're excited to be part of this ecosystem in Northeast Ohio," she says. "We want entrepreneurs to thrive in the community." 

Who's Hiring in CLE: a 'fresh' start

Welcome to the re-launch of Fresh Water Cleveland's “Who’s Hiring in CLE” series, where we feature growing companies with open positions, what they’re looking for and how to apply. Please send your freshest job tips and postings to innovationnews@freshwatercleveland.com.
FlashStarts Inc.
FlashStarts, a Cleveland-based accelerator and micro-venture capital firm, is searching for a marketing assistant to manage general marketing campaigns and orchestrate both internal and external promotional efforts. Responsibilities include management of the company blog, newsletter and social media platforms and working with businesses on search engine marketing strategies. For more information, contact Alayna Klco at alayna.klco@flashstarts.com.
Digital consulting firm Insivia needs an experienced operations manager to plan and implement a wide variety of projects. The hire would work with teams on innovating new systems and track internal metrics including resource utilization and profitability. Resumes are accepted by e-mail only, hr@insivia.com
Quality Electrodynamics (QED)
Quality Electrodynamics, a supplier of advanced medical equipment based in Mayfield Heights, is looking for an electronics technician to test electronic or mechanical assemblies using hand tools and a variety of test equipment. An associate's degree in electronics technology or equivalent industry experience is required. Submit resume to human.resources@qualedyn.com.
JumpStart Inc.
Talent attraction organization JumpStart is hiring a business development associate to build its "scaleup" line of business. The position entails developing a pipeline of clients as well as managing individual client projects. Applicants must register with JumpStart's jobs page before applying.
Hyland Software
Hyland, creator of OnBase, is seeking a salesforce administrator for its Westlake location. The entry-level position focuses on delivering solutions to stakeholders using the company's Salesforce.com platform. Bachelor's degree and general customer relationship management (CRM) software experience required. Applicants can apply directly to Hyland's website.
Cleveland State University
Cleveland State University is hiring a classroom technology specialist to provide technology, multimedia, hardware, software application, and basic network support to users of library and campus classroom technology. The position also requires applicants to train faculty and staff on the use of this technology. Preferred qualifications include a bachelor's degree and previous experience supporting videoconferencing and multimedia equipment. Applications are due online by Monday, Jan, 2.  

Local entrepreneur captures family memories between the covers of a book

Sarah Kappus Peck is her family's personal historian, fulfilling a need to record her older loved one's stories before they're lost forever. She's transformed her love for protecting memories into a business, one designed to preserve the histories of families for generations to come.
Called Yourstory Catcher, Peck's boutique personal history publishing service captures the lifelong journeys of its clients the old fashioned way - in a book. She offers them in a variety of styles and sizes, with pages full of photographs and other significant memorabilia.
"I'll go through family photos, artwork and recipes, then scan those in and write a caption," says Peck, a University Heights resident and mother of three. "I tell people you can own a book like anything you'd see in a book store or library."
Yourstory Catcher's offerings are priced out to reflect, among other factors, time spent interviewing subjects and their family members. For example, high-end book packages cost $20,000 and include 25 hours of interviews and preparation of up to 100 photos.
Peck, a former social worker with experience in geriatric care management, says it usually takes a few sessions to find a storytelling rhythm with her mostly elderly "narrators."
"I build up a rapport and trust each time out to elicit the  memories and stories most important to them," Peck says. "As we get comfortable, the stories just sort of unfold."
Not every tale is pleasant, as interviewees share regrets or past decisions they wished they had handled differently. However, most stories Peck documents are uplifting. Her favorite is about man who came to America at age 14 from the former Czechoslovakia. He used a dictionary to teach himself English, put himself through pharmaceutical school, and eventually started his own business.
"It was the perfect American dream story," says Peck.
A first-time entrepreneur, Peck researches, transcribes and edits each interview. The books are created by a professional designer, or by Peck herself using an online publication platform.
Peck launched Yourstory Catcher in 2011, spurred by reminiscences she heard during her social work daysOver the last five years, she has printed about a dozen volumes, finishing smaller books in two or three months, and working upwards of a year on more detailed projects.
Though the cost may not fit everyone budget, Peck believes encapsulating a well-lived life between two covers can be a cherished keepsake for all involved.
"People are surprised when the journey is therapeutic," says Peck. "This (book) can be an important thing for people to do for themselves." 

Affordable Internet coming to low-income Clevelanders

AT&T wants to connect low-income Clevelanders to the possibilities of the internet. And a new affordable online option provided by the communications giant is a big step towards closing the city's digital gap, company officials say.
AT&T, in concert with the U.S. HUD's ConnectHome initiative, is offering inexpensive internet service to qualifying area households at just $5 to $10 monthly. Rates depend on connection speed, notes Nicolette Jaworski, external affairs director for Cleveland and Toledo.
Families using the U.S. Department of Agriculture's Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP) are able to choose from three speed tiers - 10Mbps, 5Mbps or 3Mbps. Installation and equipment are free of charge for participating households.
"This is not a one-time deal," says Jaworski of the program available in 21 states where AT&T offers home internet service. "We're invested in the community and have just started to phase in the program." 
On November 15, AT&T and the Cuyahoga Metropolitan Housing Authority (CMHA) held a program information session at CMHA's Lorain Square Apartments. While AT&T doesn't have a target number as to how many Clevelanders will use the service, officials expect a healthy turnout considering the benefits the internet brings to an increasingly connected planet.
"The world has changed in that we know how critical a home computer can be to academic success," says Jaworksi. "The internet is a resource for kids to learn at home."
Young people are not the only potential beneficiaries of the program. Digital literacy is a boon for senior citizens in terms of bill paying, scheduling doctor's appointments or staying in touch with loved ones. Much of workforce and development training is online-based, adding another layer of capability to the program.
Cleveland school districts and community organizations may become future partners in the high-tech endeavor, Jaworksi notes. AT&T would like to see robust internet as part of city policy, considering fast online speed is a key facet of competitive business. Providing such technology to the area's low-income population can serve as the foundation for a strong, well-connected region.
"We want to give families here the tools they need to succeed," Jaworski says. 
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