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The business of babies: getting new and expectant families on the right path

Parenthood is not always an easy journey for expectant families unsure where to turn for guidance on birth planning and decision-making. Luckily, navigating parents along childbirth's sometimes rocky path is the mission of a business created by Clevelander Ashley Sova.
 
CLEBaby is a full-service pregnancy, birth, and parenting agency that hosts local events, presents childbirth education classes, and, perhaps most importantly to its founder, provides postpartum doula services. 
 
Sova offers educational tools that treat parenthood as an ongoing process that begins during pregnancy and continues through a baby's first months. Classes are taught in a client's home and center on a range of topics covering pregnancy, labor and birth. Sova's clientele, mostly professional women ages 27 – 40, prefer the comfortable nature of private classes over a more sterile hospital learning environment.
 
"They can ask embarrassing questions, and find out the information that matters for their birth experience," says Sova. "People will invite their pregnant friends and make it into a group event."
 
Teaching the classes are professionally trained doulas, who act as travel guides in advising families during pregnancy, birth and the immediate postpartum period. CLEBaby's postpartum doulas are also brought on to help with infant feeding and light housework, and offer mothers critical support in whatever ways they need to recover from childbirth.
 
Sova hired a doula for her second pregnancy after a difficult birth with her first child. Having an informed, supportive resource close at hand was a revelation, she says, one that inspired her to launch CLEBaby instead of returning to her job as a cancer researcher at Case Western Reserve University.
 
"Having an experienced woman who has seen so many births and knows it inside out brings such a sense of calm," Sova says. "We've had women tell us the service has been life-changing for them."
 
CLEBaby has served 50 to 55 families over the last year, a number Sova plans to grow through new classes and events. Outings for 2017 include a mom-centric ice cream social and a "daddy bootcamp" at a local brewery where new fathers can sip a beer while learning basic baby care.
 
Raising a newborn may not be all glitz and glamour, but neither should it be overwhelming or isolating, says Sova.
 
"We're going to continue to grow our services and our team," she says. "We want to continue on the path of having the most knowledgeable doulas around."
 

NEO sons come home to help fuel CLE's tech economy

A year ago, Chad Supers was running sales for a "baby startup" out of his San Francisco apartment. Today, the Elyria native is back home to help integrate the now fast-growing company into Cleveland's emerging tech economy.
 
Growbots, a Silicon Valley sales software firm, recently opened its national sales operations office in the Tenk Machine and Tool building on the West Bank of the Flats. The company builds outbound sales platforms for nearly 500 emerging B2B companies  in the U.S., Europe and Canada, raising $4 million in annual recurring revenue.
 
Growbots has four employees stationed at its West Bank office, among them former Phenom co-founder Mike Eppich. Supers says the Cleveland firm is prepared to bring on another two dozen sales and administrative roles by the end of 2017.
 
"In Cleveland we know we can get people who are hungry, hard-working and have the right attitude," Supers says.
 
Company leaders housed in Growbots' two other locations — Warsaw, Poland, and San Francisco — chose Cleveland for a potent talent base that's far less expensive to train and hire than the employee pools on the coasts.
 
"There are engineers and other great talents here, and it won't cost you what it would in San Francisco, New York or Boston," says Eppich.
 
Cleveland's hiring pool is a bit shallow when it comes to experienced tech workers, but that challenge can be met with in-house instruction, Supers notes.
 
"Any sales person should have knowledge around our space, but most people we're hiring don't know our competitors," he says. "That's the biggest struggle, so as a leader I have to set up an infrastructure where our employees can be trained." 
 
Like many of its West Coast brethren, Growbots provides a laid-back, results-oriented work atmosphere where rounds of pool are played between work assignments. Even in such casual environs, Supers is serious about his opportunity to bring high-paying tech jobs to his hometown.
 
"To think I'd be starting a small company and bringing it to Cleveland from San Francisco is pretty crazy," he says. 

Medical competition set to put Cleveland at forefront of big data revolution

Healthcare is undergoing a big data revolution, with a decade's worth of research, clinical trials, patient records and other pertinent information being aggregated into giant databases. Organizing this tsunami of information is a massive industry challenge, one an upcoming Cleveland-based event is attempting to tackle.
 
The inaugural Medical Capital Innovation Competition — orchestrated by The Global Center for Health Innovation (GCHI), Cuyahoga County, BioEnterprise, and the Healthcare Information and Management Systems Society (HIMSS) — invites professional and collegiate teams to offer up their best big-data ideas for a chance at $100,000 in prizes along with critical feedback from Cleveland's world-renowned healthcare sector. The two-day event will be held April 25 and 26 at GCHI's Innovation Center.
 
"From a startup perspective, it's a great opportunity for companies to come up with unique solutions," says BioEnterprise president and CEO Aram Nerpouni. "We're getting applications from around the country and all over the world."
 
Big data is becoming an increasingly big deal both domestically and internationally. According to a 2016 BioEnterprise report, the healthcare IT industry outpaced biotech and medical devices for the first time since the organization began compiling the study 12 years ago. In Cleveland, Explorys, Hyland Software and CoverMyMeds have made headlines with their attempts to take on the data overload from an industry generating huge amounts of new information every day.
 
"Every community in the country has the same challenge," says Nerpouni. "We are looking for some solutions and doing it in a way that plays to a regional strength."
 
Application deadline for the competition is March 31. Ideas will focus on the management, analysis and optimization of health data and be judged upon their commercial viability.
 
Nerpouni says the competition will be attractive for startups searching for a medical innovation hub. Trends like the Internet of Things (IoT) and Bring-Your-Own-Device (BYOD) foretell a future where even more data will need to be collected and translated in order to improve access to patient care.
 
“Cleveland continues to build upon the strengths of its health IT, biotech and medical device assets,” says Nerpouni. "The competition is a celebration of the growth of that critical mass while letting the rest of the country know what's going on here." 

Who's Hiring in CLE: Cleveland Zoological Society, MAGNET, American Greetings...

Welcome to the latest edition of Fresh Water Cleveland's “who’s hiring” 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.
 
 
Cleveland Zoological Society
The Cleveland Zoological Society is seeking candidates for two full-time positions: The campaign coordinator will play a primary role in organizing and coordinating a multi-year, multi-project fundraising campaign. The hire will monitor all campaign progress and work closely with the director of development and campaign co-chairs. Requirements include a bachelor's degree, two years of related experience and prior work on the Raiser's Edge database. Submit electronic cover letter and resume by March 17.
 
The major gifts officer will solicit philanthropic gifts through a portfolio of donors and prospects to support the zoo society and its nonprofit partner, Cleveland Metroparks Zoo. Reporting to the director of development, the successful candidate will work with both the society and zoo colleagues. A bachelor's degree and five years of development experience required. Submit electronic cover letter and resume by March 17.
 
Care Alliance Health Center
Care Alliance is looking for a family nurse practitioner for one of its patient-centered medical home teams. The position is responsible for delivering comprehensive and preventative healthcare services to Care Alliance patients who are homeless, living in public housing, or generally underserved. Candidates must be a registered nurse in Ohio and a graduate of an accredited nurse practitioner program. A master's of science in nursing and two years of formal practice as an FNP is preferred. Apply by email at careers@carealliance.org or by fax at 216-298-5020.
 
MAGNET
Manufacturing advocacy group MAGNET is seeking a full-time administrative assistant to run daily operations of its workforce and talent development office. Reporting to the vice president of workforce and talent development, the hire will also support the work of management and other staff. One to three years experience providing administrative support in a professional environment is required. Candidates are also expected to have working knowledge of Microsoft Office products including Outlook, Word, Excel and PowerPoint. Bachelor's degree preferred. Candidates may apply by submitting a resume to hr@magnetwork.org. 
 
FrontLine Service
FrontLine Service, a Cleveland organization that works with in-crisis Northeast Ohio adults and children, is hiring a program manager for its child mobile crisis team. Candidates are expected to develop, implement and monitor a team of professionals and support staff. Applicants should have a master's degree in social work or counseling and at least two years of supervisory experience. Candidates can email their resume to careers@frontlineservice.org.
 
American Greetings
American Greetings is searching for an assistant product development manager tasked with conducting product analysis and supporting the company's product development strategy. The position will coordinate development teams and interact with clients to obtain and share product knowledge. Three to five years of retail/consumer product analysis, marketing, communications, or other creative experience a necessity. Apply through the company's website.
 

Young entrepreneur's healthy, eco-friendly snacks fuel customers and her growing biz

Emily Yoder believes healthy eating can create positive change in the world,

The young entrepreneur is nurturing that concept via Earth Energy Sustainable Treats, a new startup that creates all-natural "power snacks" for an on-the-go customer base.  
 
Yoder, 20, makes vegan and gluten-free snacks using locally sourced ingredients that are packaged in eco-friendly materials. Her energy bites, for example, are handmade with peanut butter, chocolate, oats, and flax seed, with a hint of organic maple syrup collected from Goodell Family Farm in Mantua. She also sells a protein-rich "power bar" and a hearty cookie treat.
 
"There's no point in being an entrepreneur unless you're trying to change something for the better," says Yoder, a Kent State University senior.
 
Yoder, of Canton, launched her "traveling bakery" last summer at various Cleveland farmer's markets. She's now gained enough of a following that she's expanding her product line this year to include a trail mix and an apple-cinnamon version of the power bar.
 
"I have lots of awesome fans in Cleveland," Yoder says. "There's a market for this because it's satisfying something people haven't seen before."
 
She started her business to fill what she recognized as a gap in the healthy snack market. Even ostensibly nourishing treats like Clif bars have high calorie and sugar content, while soy free and vegan options are limited.

Yoder's business model has not just impressed her customers. In January, she won the Global Student Entrepreneurs Awards (GSEA) pitch competition, which held its regional round on KSU's campus. Yoder takes her healthful ideas to Kansas City this week for nationals, competing against 25 fellow students  for a spot at the GSEA Global Finals in Frankfurt, Germany. 
 
Meanwhile, she continues to grow her one-woman business, although she's not alone in the undertaking. Adam Fleischer, owner of The Wine Spot, mentored her during the pitch competition, while her parents have supported her throughout the process.
 
Looking ahead, Yoder is excited for the upcoming summer market season. She also aims to hire her first employees and procure space at Cleveland Culinary Launch & Kitchen (CCLK) in 2017. Whatever transpires, Yoder will continue to concoct nutritious treats that promote a healthy lifestyle.  
 
"The true nature of entrepreneurship is to innovate and make things better," she says.  

For local firm, virtual reality imparts new dimension to design

Cleveland architecture and design firm Vocon is employing virtual reality software to give its clients a sense of depth and space on their projects before a single brick has been laid.
 
Utilizing the HTC Vive headset, Vocon creates "walkable" renderings precisely to scale with a client's plans. Users get a full visual representation of their work, allowing them  to identify potential design issues ahead of time.
 
"We're giving clients a tool to understand their plans earlier in the process than we've ever been able to do," says project architect Michael Christoff.
 
Vocon integrated 3D software late last year, with a half dozen clients using the technology so far. Real-time views of a space let users study, for example, the visual difference two feet can make in the height of a ceiling. One company changed the placement of maintenance equipment after getting a virtual viewing of how it would appear in reality. Layouts are even changed on the fly — to the point where renderings can be studied in different types of sunlight.
 
"When people put on a pair of goggles, they have a better understand of the decisions they're making," says Christoff. "It helps them walk through the space and look at every nook and cranny."
 
Before VR, Vocon made 360 degree panoramic renderings that were static and fell short of delivering real immersion.
 
"Now clients can walk from one room to another, or sit in a space and look around," Christoff says. "Walking around a space gives them peace of mind about a design. It's not a mystery anymore."
 
As part of its marketing process, Vocon sends a headset and digital files to out-of-town companies. Vocon technology guru Brandon Dorsey schools clients on how to use the Vive software, which can be mapped to an XBox One controller.
 
"It takes about 15 to 20 minutes teach someone," says Dorsey. "It's an intuitive technology that anyone can use."
 
Christoff wants to roll out VR to more Vocon customers this year. The technology, he adds, is not limited to office spaces. For instance, city planners can harness the software for citizens interested in studying a virtual master plan design. And while high-end headsets are expensive, budget-conscious residents can purchase a Google Cardboard headset for $15.
 
Whatever the case, Vocon officials are satisfied with their leap into the virtual world.
 
"I'm seeing us make better design decisions earlier in the process," says Christoff. "Any tool that allows us to make a better looking project is an important tool for us to have."

Trending: Cleveland healthcare sector attracts nearly $200M

Cleveland healthcare companies attracted almost $200 million in new equity investments in 2016, continuing a strong local trend of ideas translating into investment dollars, say authors of an annual industry study covering the Midwest.  
 
Forty-six Northeast Ohio companies raised $198 million last year, according to the BioEnterprise Midwest Healthcare Growth Capital Report. The figure put Cleveland fourth in regional venture investment, just behind Minneapolis ($422 million), Chicago ($323 million) and St. Louis ($241 million). Ohio also ranked third among Midwestern states in drawing $291 million in healthcare investment funding, trailing only Minnesota ($424 million) and Illinois ($327 million).
 
“We are encouraged that Cleveland, again, ranks near the top of Midwest regions in number of companies and investment attracted,” says BioEnterprise president and CEO Aram Nerpouni, whose local nonprofit is tasked with assisting biomedical startups.
 
Medical device companies led the charge with $89 million raised, followed by $58 million garnered by local biotech and pharmaceutical firms. Matching a national trend, funding in Cleveland's health IT and services sector more than doubled, from $20 million to $50 million.
 
Drug development company BioMotiv raised $37.5 million in 2016, representing the region's largest deal. OnShift, a developer of software for post-acute care and senior living, had the next largest deal at $18 million. ViewRay, makers of a clinical MRI-guided radiation therapy system, raised $13.75 million.
 
Since 2012, Northeast Ohio's healthcare sector has acquired an average of $200 million in private investment capital, a trend that Nerpouni says is emblematic of the area's strides in the industry.
 
"A decade ago we were getting $30 million a year," says Nerpouni. "The consistency we're seeing now is exciting."
 
The region has also had more than 60 exits since 2002, meaning global entities are consistently grabbing up area companies, although many of these businesses are staying in the region after being acquired. Nerpouni cites Explorys, a healthcare data analytics company and division of IBM Corp. now building its headquarters near Cleveland Clinic.
 
Nerpouni expects local healthcare funding to break $200 million in 2017 as Cleveland's biomedical industry continues to find its legs.

"Look at the talent we have moving into Northeast Ohio," says Nerpouni. "The rest of the country is catching up to the fact that if you're a biomedical company, this one of the places to grow." 
 

New strategic alliance aims to build on CLE's immigrant culture in high-tech world

Startup accelerator Flashstarts has partnered with Global Cleveland in an effort to add international flair to Cleveland's entrepreneurial scene.
 
The new strategic alliance combines Flashstarts' expertise in startup and innovation with Global Cleveland's talent attraction endeavors. Officials backing the new venture also expect to deliver solutions for international entrepreneurs struggling with their immigration status.
 
"Global Cleveland is spreading the word about the city, while we're recruiting the best entrepreneurs we can find," says Charles Stack, CEO of Flashstarts, a technology/software accelerator and venture fund. "This program will allow us to draw talent from anywhere in the world”
 
The partnership also acts as a stepping stone for formation of a Flashstarts Global Entrepreneur-In-Residence (GEIR) program with Northeast Ohio universities, says Stack. Immigrant founders who apply to the program through Flashstarts will be chosen through a competitive selection process. Successful applicants then link up with a partner university in exchange for a cap-exempt H-1B visa, splitting work between the school and their startup.
 
"We'll offer them a spot in our accelerator program and give them $50,000 in exchange for equity," Stack says. "At a university they could be supporting an entrepreneur program, or recruiting students to the school from their home country."
 
Uncertainly over the Trump administration's immigration policy makes the partnership with Flashstarts a necessity, notes Jessica Whale, Global Cleveland's director of global talent and development.
 
"Getting proper visa status can be challenging," Whale said in a press release. "This program aligns perfectly with our vision of transforming Cleveland into an international hub of innovation.”
 
Proponents believe the collaboration can grow the region's job base and build wealth. Stack says the newly minted affiliation is especially unique due to Global Cleveland's robust links to immigrant brainpower.
 
"They have ties to countries and marketing opportunities all over the world," he says. "That's going to make what we're doing stand out."
 
Pending strong outcomes, the partners aim to expand their effort to universities throughout the region. Even one successful startup can create hundreds of jobs, a numbers game that heavily relies on the attraction of new talent.
 
"If we want to grow our employment base as a region, the way to do it is with startups," says Stack.

"Cleveland has always been a great city for immigrants. We want to continue that trend." 

"Year of Awareness" sessions examine impact of racism on low income neighborhoods

Race is at the forefront of national debate once more following a contentious presidential election. Through a forthcoming series of workshops, Cleveland Neighborhood Progress (CNP) will determine the impact the complex and controversial topic is having on Cleveland's poorest neighborhoods.
 
CNP, a nonprofit community development group, is convening a cross-section of civic leaders and stakeholders to discuss the effects of persistent racial inequality on marginalized populations. The work began in 2016 after CNP partnered with the Racial Equity Institute on "Year of Awareness" training sessions touching on racism in all its forms. Efforts with the North Carolina-based organization re-launched in January with history-based training aimed at any resident willing to attend. Scheduled every month through the rest of the year, half-day sessions are $75, while two-day training events are $250.

"We want to get this out to as many people as possible," says Evelyn Burnett, vice president of economic opportunity at CNP. "We're trying to cast a wide net." The next half-day event is Monday, March 6. The next two-day event is the following Tuesday and Wednesday, March 7 and 8.

Per CNP fund development manager Mordecai Cargill, "Year of Awareness" sessions will be led by the institute's alliance of trainers and community organizers. Law enforcement professionals and social justice activists teach the sessions, imparting historical events that highlight America's institutional disparities. Earlier this month, organizers screened "13th," a documentary centered on a U.S. mass-incarceration system that disproportionately imprisons African-American men.

Other talks will highlight the problems encountered in high-poverty, racially segregated regions; among them diminished resources, underperforming schools, deteriorating physical environments, and the constant threat of violence. Session planners expect to reach 1,000-1,500 participants before year's end.
 
Cleveland has its share of long-standing inequities, CNP officials note. Even thriving neighborhoods like Ohio City, Detroit Shoreway and Tremont won't reach their full potential until the ongoing renaissance becomes more inclusive. 
 
"It's good this development is happening, but there are people in those places not participating in the same way, and that often falls along racial lines," says Burnett. "We have to address these issues to do our work."
 
Uplifting the underserved means having uncomfortable conversations about the systemic reasons American society is divided between the "haves" and "have-nots," Cargill says.
 
"We've got to become familiar with some of the barriers people face," he says. "Creating solutions tailored to the needs of residents requires this kind of understanding." 
 

Guild builds community amid professional women of color

An organization serving as a voice for young professional women of color in Cleveland is getting a rebrand.
 
The Women's Leadership Guild (TWLG), formerly The Cleveland Young Professional Minority Women's Group, changed its name and logo earlier this month. While its handle is a little shorter, the organization is still long on enhancing the careers of members through networking, mentorship, community engagement and leadership development.
 
Now with 150 paid members — along with 5,000 to 6,000 social media contacts — the guild provides a supportive space for minority women. Members are typically age 21-32, and derive from a diverse range of industries including the nonprofit sector and real estate. While the organization is geared toward women of color, it welcomes all women into the fold.
 
"What's great is that everyone's aspirations are so different," says Lauren Welch, a marketing manager at Cleveland History Center who founded the leadership venture in 2014 with Jazmin Long. "You get women in the community together, and there's a thread of camaraderie and wanting to learn from one another."
 
"Women in Action" is a typical professional development event held by TWLG, offering its young members an opportunity to connect with mid-level female executives. In the last couple of years, the group has hosted Kristen Baird Adams, chief operating officer with PNC, and Cleveland Clinic gynecologist Dr. Linda Bradley. This year, the organization will welcome WKYC-TV director of advocacy Margaret Bernstein and a host of other top-level professionals.
 
After-work social activities are another important component of guild membership, notes Welch. Yoga classes, brunch get-togethers and sexual wellness talks foster a much-needed sense of community, she says.
 
Welch and Long initially launched the networking group to meet what they saw as an unmet need in the Cleveland networking community
 
"When we first started there wasn't an organization giving women of color a voice in this city," Welch says. "We created a space where they can talk about their office experiences."
 
In many cases, women of color are one of only a few minority women in their workplace. This sense of "otherness" finds them encountering unique challenges as compared to their co-workers.
 
"They're asking themselves how they should wear their hair, or what they should dress like," says Welch. "We want them to make the best of their time here while living authentically."
 
TWLG strives to position minority females as assets within the community, with new recruits engaged through the group’s website, social media marketing and networking. Organizational partners like Engage! Cleveland and the Society of Urban Professionals refer additional potential members to the guild. As the only Cleveland organization with a database of women of color, TWLG will move boldly forward in adding names to that list, its founders say.
 
"Cleveland is a place of opportunity," says Long. "We want more women rising in the ranks."
 

Central-Kinsman resident advocates for 'Nature's Best Choices,' healthy community

Quiana Singleton believes you're never too old to learn a healthy way of eating, a fruitful lesson the Central-Kinsman resident was happy to impart upon a group of interested Cuyahoga Metropolitan Housing Authority (CMHA) seniors during a program of her own creation.
 
Called Nature's Best Choices, the February 1 event invited 16 seniors from CMHA's Outhwaite and King Kennedy communities to Asia Plaza, 2999 Payne Ave., for a day-long session on Asian culture and delicious new food possibilities. Fruits and vegetables were the focus of the trip, allowing participants to get their taste buds turned on to delicacies like star fruit, a juicy tropical fruit popular throughout Southeast Asia, the South Pacific and parts of East Asia.
 
"I wanted to open people up to another culture," says Singleton, a Cleveland community leader on tree-planting activities, gardening and healthy eating. "We picked out fruits and vegetables they've never tasted, seen or touched before."
 
Following the shopping excursion, the group visited CornUCopia Place, 7201 Kinsman Road, a community facility that provides nutritional education and cooking classes. There Chef Eric Wells prepared a fettuccini dish using ingredients from the seniors' healthy haul.
 
"Chef Wells mixed in another vegetable like a cabbage with the fettuccini," Singleton says. "It was an educational experience, because even though Asian fruits and vegetables look different from what we're used to, looks can be deceiving."
 
Elderly attendees also learned a new way to prepare their meals, notes Singleton.
 
"Older people use the same seasonings all the time," she says. "Asian stuff is organic, and they saw they could use olive oil instead of butter in their cooking."
 
Singleton secured a grant from nonprofit neighborhood development organization Burten, Bell, Carr (BBC) to fund the day out. The Cleveland native is continuously coming up with innovative ways to create a healthier community for her neighbors. Among her duties is serving as a neighborhood "climate ambassador," representing a group of concerned citizens aiming to combat the adverse effects of climate variability.
 
Nature's Best Choices is another means of teaching residents the value of a healthy lifestyle, Singleton says.
 
"I plant those seeds in people and water them, then let them teach others," she says. "If I can change one person's life, then I've done my job." 

Women Who Code launches new tech network in Cleveland

An international nonprofit that empowers women to pursue and succeed in high-tech industries has chosen Cleveland for its newest chapter.
 
Women Who Code, with 60 locations in 20 countries, is an 80,000-member strong organization supporting an underrepresented demographic in technology-based fields. Upon joining Cincinnati as Ohio's second WWCode network, the Cleveland group kicked off at a JumpStart-hosted launch event on January 31, complete with programming activities and a brainstorming session to determine the group's future outreach.
 
The local chapter, which already consists of over 100 members, is led by Nicole McGuire, a technical architect at IBM's global consulting company Bluewolf. McGuire is tasked with guiding the group through regularly scheduled events, promotions and relationships with venues and sponsors.
 
Cleveland was selected as a chapter due to what WWCode global leadership director Joey Rosenberg calls the city's "vibrant tech spirit"
 
"We saw Cleveland having this movement around technology and entrepreneurship," says Rosenberg. "There's a buzz here we thought would support Women Who Code. Under the steady guidance of Nicole, this network has a chance to have an incredible impact on the city of Cleveland."
 
Hackathons, technology study groups and fireside chats with female tech leaders are currently being planned for WWCode's first year here. McGuire says bringing the group to Cleveland will galvanize the area's tech sector and create an immediate, and much-needed, system of resources.
 
"Women need to believe they belong in what is a heavily male-dominated field," says McGuire, a 16-year industry veteran. "We'll introduce them to role models that will let them say, 'Hey, I can become a vice president or CEO (in tech) and here's some women who've already done that.'"
 
College-aged women and those already pursuing tech careers are WWCode's target audience. Encouraging more female participation is critical in diversifying a field where only 17.6% of computer science graduates are women, organization officials maintain.
 
McGuire has always loved coding, dating back to 1983 when her parents bought her a Commodore 64 for Christmas. She looks forward to spreading that love to Cleveland-area women hoping to excel in technology careers.
 
"We want to find as many women as we can get to help drive the organization,"  McGuire says. "There's a chance here to mentor women, and produce more mentors to help junior coders or people already in the industry."
 

Women, Wine & Web Design aims to boost digital literacy

Tech Elevator founder and CEO Anthony Hughes believes digital literacy drives the modern economy. In order to put more women behind the wheel, he's created a Cleveland coding boot camp geared specifically toward them.
 
Women, Wine & Web Design is a free beginner's workshop that teaches the fundamentals of front-end web development. Hosted by JumpStart, the February 7 program will familiarize women of all ages and skill sets with HTML/CSS, directing them toward building a basic webpage.
 
Hughes, whose organization is sponsoring the event alongside e-commerce firm OEC, says the three-hour workshop is a casual, if intensive, introduction to coding principles. Tech Elevator alumni will guide attendees through the class led by software designer Nicole Capuana.
 
Program registration closed quickly, says Hughes, who points to a waiting list of would-be coders as further evidence of an increasingly in-demand skill set.
 
"There's a huge demand from women who are interested in exploring this path," says Hughes. "This program is a good vehicle for them to try programming and have fun at the same time."
 
Tech Elevator's objective with its web-related venture is to bring more women into a male-dominated field.
 
"Giving folks a sense of creating something is a great way to plant a seed and get them more involved," Hughes says. "Technology can be intimidating, but we're creating an event that's accessible."
 
Ideally, women leaving the class will pursue further coding knowledge via free online sources or more formal educational pathways. Program officials want to foster an uptick in the percentage of women graduating with computer science bachelor's degrees. Currently, the numbers are pretty dismal. Per ComputerScience.org, "as of 2010-2011, women made up just 17.6% of computer science students."
 
"Diverse companies have diverse thought processes," says Hughes. "Finding ways to bring more women into the field is only going to be better for all of us."
 
Cleveland is a first-time host for Women, Wine & Web Design, but Tech Elevator hosted a successful iteration of the program last fall in Columbus that drew 70 people.

Though the Buckeye State ranks below average in nationwide digital literacy, Hughes says additional introductory programming classes will only drive that ranking higher. To that end, Tech Elevator already has another women-friendly web event in preparation for later this year. 
 
"This could be a quarterly program," says Hughes. "If it helps women explore career paths more deeply, we'll keep doing it." 

In brightest day or deepest night, Clevelander's invention keeps outdoor athletes in sight

For John Kulbis, inventor of Safety Skin reflective skin spread, the light bulb went off in 2010 when he leaned against a wall while painting a home interior. A dash of white paint from the wet surface striped Kulbis's arm, leading to a creation meant to make joggers, cyclists and pedestrians easier to see on the road.
 
Today, Safety Skin is the first product of Road Wise, Kulbis's Cleveland-based startup. The reflective spread is applied directly to the skin before or during activity, with the aim of bouncing headlights back to drivers in a variety of weather or nighttime conditions.
 
"Without light the spread has a subtle gray hint to it," says Kulbis, a Cleveland native and Euclid resident. "When light hits the product, it reflects back to the light source."
 
Safety Skin is made of natural ingredients and can be placed anywhere on the body. Kulbis tells outdoor athletes to run the deodorant-like applicator down their legs or along their arms and sides, especially in warm weather where less reflective garments are used. Kulbis's product stands up to perspiration, but can be removed easily enough using a wet wipe or soap and water.
 
A former competitive cyclist and runner, Kulbis has been perfecting his invention for the last two-and-a-half years. Safety Skin is now available at area athletic apparel and bike shops.
 
"Safety" is in the name for a reason. In 2014 alone, 4,884 pedestrians and 726 bicyclists were killed in crashes with motor vehicles, according to the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA). That said, Kulbis wants to keep his product message positive and upbeat.
 
"I'm not selling this on scare tactics or fatalities on the road," he says. "I wanted to create something that people are actually going to love to use."
 
Looking ahead, Kulbis envisions Safety Spread having fashion and art applications. A hot pink or bright orange product could be used to make a mural, or be placed on a model for a colorful photo shoot. 
 
For now, the athletic entrepreneur is increasing brand awareness through expos and other events. Empowering runners, cyclists and late-night walkers to take control of their visibility is all the motivation Kulbis needs.
 
"Right now, it's about getting people to believe in the product," he says. "All the stages of this have been really exciting."
 

Locally made Backattack Snacks pack a protein punch, spell success for founders

Snacking is fun, as long as you don't read the ingredients on the back of the package, says Brian Back, owner of Backattack Snacks, a Westlake-based seller of naturally made beefy jerky and almonds.
 
An average pack of "gas station jerky," for example, is loaded with preservatives and strange chemicals that begin with "poly." Backattack's Ohio-raised Angus beef jerky, made by the proprietor on site at Cleveland Culinary Launch & Kitchen (CCLK), has only nine ingredients, all of which can be pronounced by his nine-year-old daughter, Graci. Back's email signature says, "You should never need a PhD in chemistry to understand what you are eating," a thought he reiterated during a recent interview with Fresh Water Cleveland.
 
"Our jerky is made of meat and spices," says Back. "That's it."
 
Back and wife Lauren also sell five varieties of roasted almonds in flavors including wasabi ginger and pumpkin spice. The couple's Chocolate Firecracker brand continues the business's all-natural trend, containing cayenne pepper, Himalaya sea salt, organic raw cacao, and honey sourced from area apiaries.
 
Back's jerky isn't in stores but can be purchased online, at local farmer's markets or at the Merchant's Mrkt collaborative retail storefront in Legacy Village. His almonds can be found at Heinen's, Mustard Seed Market and various mom-and-pop shops throughout the region. Since launching Backattack Snacks in 2015, the owners have expanded their reach into six states outside Ohio.
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"The goal for this year is to get our almonds into bigger stores," says Back. "We also want to be a vendor at Progressive Field."
 
The story behind the snacks started when the Backs' passion for cooking and fitness led them to experiment with healthy nibbles for athletes. They made beef jerky for family and friends, then used their jerky marinade to roast almonds.
 
In kicking off their snack business, the first-time owners enlisted the aid of fellow Cleveland food entrepreneurs, who mentored them in the ways of pricing, labor and product placement. Local food service veterans Tim Skaryd and his father, William, gave the Backs invaluable advice on packaging and other manufacturing minutiae.
 
"You always have to keep learning," Back says.
 
Handmade snacking goodness does not come cheap. A quarter-pound of jerky goes for $13, while a half-pound of Chocolate Firecracker costs $9, but the price tags have a conscious. A portion of sales helps fund the Johns Hopkins Heart and Vascular Institute's research of arrhythmogenic right ventricular dysplaysia (ARVD), a rare heart condition that is a leading cause of sudden death in young athletes.
 
Meanwhile, the young entrepreneurs will keep providing high-quality almonds and chewy beef to health-conscious consumers.
 
"We're meeting some big players in the space and seeing them enjoying our product as much as everyone else is," says Back. "The coolest thing is seeing our work come to where it has."
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