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Uplift: 'Best Buddies' opens real-life pipelines to IDD community

Everyone needs a friend, particularly people whose disabilities may leave them feeling isolated and alone. Enter Best Buddies International, a nonprofit founded to foster one-on-one friendships, employment opportunities and leadership skills for those with intellectual and developmental disabilities (IDD).
 
Headquartered in Miami, the organization has opened a new office inside the Beachwood Adult Activities Center, located at the Cuyahoga County Board of Developmental Disabilities facility on Mercantile Road.
 
Program supervisor Ryan Wirth, whose involvement with Best Buddies dates back to high school, has big plans for the Cleveland location. First, he and his still forming team will create "friendship chapters" at area high schools and colleges.
 
Two chapters are currently operating at Case Western Reserve University and Kent State University under the guidance of student leaders and advisors. These chapters will cultivate meet-ups between volunteer "peer buddies" and people with Down syndrome, autism, cerebral palsy and other undiagnosed disabilities. Ideally, meaningful friendships will form, empowering "buddies" with all-important socialization skills.
 
"Getting everyone to meet each other and talk is key," Wirth says. "As those friendships become active, you can see them grow naturally on their own."
 
Socials outings include ordinary activities like bowling, movies and dinner, but the impact on participants is enormous, says Wirth. Since its launch in 1989, the nonprofit has helped hundreds of thousands of individuals with IDD secure jobs, live independently, improve their public speaking, and, just as critically, feel valued by society.
 
"For me, it's having that 'aha' moment in seeing someone with a disability enjoy themselves and come out of their shell," says Wirth. "They become part of this large group where everyone's welcome."
 
Meanwhile, the Cleveland-based Best Buddies office continues to grow. Wirth is planning a fundraising walk and basketball challenge featuring Cavaliers point guard Kyrie Irving for September. Next is an initiative funded by the Ohio Developmental Disabilities Council that seeks to get adults with IDD into the workforce.
 
While Wirth loves the work, it helps to have a personal investment in shepherding the group's success in Northeast Ohio, he says.
 
Best Buddies has been part of Wirth's life since serving as chapter leader in high school and college. Upon graduation from Slippery Rock University in 2013, he acted as program manager for Best Buddies Maryland for two years.  In addition, his future brother-in-law, Branden, who is on the autism spectrum, has enjoyed participating in organization events.
 
“I am overjoyed to introduce the Cleveland community to Best Buddies," says Wirth. "I want to bring that same joy and sense of belonging that Branden has experienced to all of the people in Cleveland with IDD.”

Who's Hiring in CLE: Brandmuscle, MetroHealth, Cleveland Orchestra ...

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.
 
Engage! Cleveland
 
Engage! Cleveland, a nonprofit resource for area young professionals, needs a marketing and development manager to connect talent to the organizations, events, businesses and people that will help them acclimate to the city. The individual will oversee the organization's marketing, events, development and Leadership Council group and post content for marketing collateral, website and social media. Hire will also execute corporate sponsorship programs and locate meeting space for events.

Expected qualifications include bachelor’s or advanced degree, preferably in nonprofit management, marketing, business or related field. Three to five years proven success in nonprofit sector required. Email cover letter, salary expectations and resume with the subject, “Marketing, Events & Development, Manager,” to ashley@engagecleveland.com by Monday, May 1.
 
MetroHealth System
 
MetroHealth System is seeking a full-time donor relations specialist to cultivate current donors and solicit new donors in development of system foundation programs. The position will coordinate MetroHealth's annual giving campaign and update donor recognition on a regular basis. Three years experience in fundraising, marketing or project management required. Fundraising background in a healthcare environment preferred, along with project management certification or related software skills. Apply on LinkedIn.
 
Cleveland Orchestra
 
The Cleveland Orchestra has an opening for a full-time associate in its artistic operations department. The artistic planning associate is responsible for organizing the chief artistic officer's calendar and managing internal and external communications. Candidates should have a minimum of five years of senior or C-level administrative experience. Submit cover letter and resume (PDF) with salary requirements to hr@clevelandorchestra.com.
 
FIT Technologies
 
Cleveland IT firm FIT Technologies is seeking a computer field support technician to provide technical assistance to customers housed both within the company and externally. Successful applicant is expected to perform software/hardware upgrades and other day-to-day maintenance and support. Associates degree in a technical support environment desired. Position may require evening, weekend and on-call responsibilities. To apply, email resume to humanresources@fittechnologies.com.
 
Brandmuscle
 
Brandmuscle is looking for an entry-level marketing coordinator responsible for working with the media and events buying team to plan and purchase local media. Hire responsibilities include creation of status reports and distribution of event contracts. Minimum of one year media experience in an advertising agency, media agency or corporate media buying department required. Apply on the company website.

ZooKeys return to raise awareness, evoke nostalgia

Education is key to protecting the planet's endangered animals, a mindset Cleveland Metroparks Zoo is taking quite literally.
 
This month, the zoo launched its ZooKey program, which offers young visitors customized keys that unlock recorded messages specific to particular exhibits. Kids can use the elephant-shaped keys on two dozen designated boxes scattered throughout the zoo to get fascinating facts on their favorite beastie.
 
"Our mission is about connecting people with wildlife," says Kelly Manderfield, chief marketing officer for Cleveland Metroparks. "This is a hands-on opportunity to educate the next generation and encourage them to learn more about these animals."
 
ZooKeys, part of a partnership with KeyBank celebrating Cleveland Metroparks' 100-year anniversary, are available for purchase at the zoo for $3. Pint-sized patrons can keep the keys and bring them back to access additional recordings.
 
Zoo officials expect nostalgic parents to use the keys, too, considering the program made its original debut in the 1960s. Since the re-launch, adult visitors have arrived with the old "Packey the Elephant" keys they grew up with.
 
"This has stirred lots of memories for parents," says Manderfield. "People are having fun seeing their own children participate."
 
New animal keys will be introduced over the program's current five-year timeline. Manderfield hopes the venture not only connects participants with the zoo's 2,000 animals, but inspires them to get interested in wildlife conservation as well.
 
According to the International Union for Conservation of Nature (IUCN), there are now 16,306  species threatened with extinction, a figure that also includes plants. Species endangered include one in four mammals, one in eight birds, and one third of all amphibians.
 
Cleveland zoo patrons can witness efforts to stave off this trend at the Eastern black rhinoceros exhibit. This subspecies of black rhino is considered "critically endangered"  under World Wildlife Foundation guidelines due to demand for rhino horn, which has driven poaching to record levels.
 
Unlocking knowledge about rhinos and other rare creatures can be the catalyst that saves them from disappearing forever, Manderfield says.
 
"If we don't take care of these animals now, they may not be around for future generations," she says. "We're taking the idea of conservation and bringing it to the forefront."

The Cleveland Metroparks is part of Fresh Water's underwriting support network.
 

High tech tool helps people and families coping with dementia

The Benjamin Rose Institute on Aging has launched a new program that allows early-stage dementia patients to participate in their own care planning, potentially easing the burden for both the person with dementia and their concerned family members.  
 
Known as SHARE, the program outlines a care plan for loved ones to follow as the condition progresses. Based on two decades of research by Benjamin Rose, the SHARE toolkit includes an iPad app which lists tasks in a set of color-coded circular diagrams.  Under the guidance of SHARE counselors, duties can then be assigned to caregivers, whether they're family, friends or professional service providers.  
 
"It's a pictorial expression of the communication," says Benjamin Rose president and CEO Richard Browdie. "The app captures the evolution of the conversation so you're not going to back to zero the next time you meet."
 
Browdie says SHARE enables early-stage dementia patients to contribute in planning of daily activities such as finance management, food shopping and preparation, and personal hygiene. Planning these tasks is also a stress reliever for people who feel overwhelmed by a family member's diagnosis of Alzheimer's disease of other form of dementia.
 
"It builds confidence that they're doing the right thing, because they're doing all they can," says Browdie. "That can be empowering for the caregiver when guilt or self-doubt creeps in."
 
Investigation conducted by the Benjamin Rose Center for Research and Education indicates that early-stage dementia patients benefit from active participation in their care plan. Ongoing communication increases knowledge about available services, and preempts difficult questions regarding care that may be embarrassing for the recipient, such as feeding themselves or using the bathroom.
 
SHARE - an acronym for Support, Health, Activities, Resources, and Education — is currently available to professional organizations that serve families and individuals living with dementia in its earlier stages. Utilizing this technology, proponents say, can give people diagnosed with dementia the confidence that their needs will be met down the road.  
 
"People used to think Alzheimer's was a switch off/switch on kind of disease, but it's progress is gradual" says Browdie. "Communicating with a care recipient while dementia is advancing can alleviate some of those stresses." 

RALLY: Clevelanders to March for Science on April 22

Cleveland is becoming a powerhouse for scientific discovery and research thanks to its world-class universities and medical facilities as well as a growing tech industry. What better way to celebrate the innovative leaps happening here than with a parade? ask Northeast Ohio's science proponents.
 
That question will be answered during the March for Science taking place at Public Square on April 22. The collaboration among a coalition of local foundations and science-based organizations is expected to draw thousands of supporters downtown, and will act as a satellite event to the national March for Science held the same day in Washington, D.C.
 
"Cleveland is a science town and that's something we should appreciate and showcase," says Dr. Evalyn Gates, executive director and CEO of the Cleveland Museum of Natural History, one of the sponsors for the march.
 
The free event begins at 9 a.m. and includes activities and speakers that underscore the influence of science on the world. While the speaker lineup is still to be determined, attendees can choose banners displaying beer, bald eagles and other elements of our planet that are impacted by science.
 
"People can carry these banners during the march," says Gates. "There are so many ways science undergirds our lives."
 
The list of local advocates is emblematic of Cleveland's scientific strengths, adds Gates: Along with the natural history museum, Cleveland State University, Greater Cleveland Aquarium, Great Lakes Science Center, Holden Forests & Gardens, The MetroHealth System and West Creek Conservancy are just a few partner organizations on the march.

"Cleveland is a global leader in medical research and other fields," Gates says. "Then you have companies like Sherwin-Williams and General Electric employing a science-based workforce."
 
A march championing this work is especially critical in the face of proposed budget cuts to some federal science agencies, notes Gates. Among the projects at risk is the Great Lakes Restoration Initiative administered by the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency. Since its inception, the program has funded 3,400 projects targeting everything from the control of invasive Asian carp to pollution cleanup.
 
Marching in support of these endeavors sends a message to the nation's capital, and also serves as a strong message for future generations interested in the pursuit of science.
 
"We want this event to be a catalyst for people to talk to each other," says Gates. "It's a good starting point for conversation on science-related matters." 

JumpStart investment lures upscale talent to Health-Tech Corridor

Cleveland-based venture development organization JumpStart Inc. is helping build up the city's Health-Tech Corridor (HTC) with a $250,000 investment in Monarch Teaching Technologies, Inc., maker of a special education learning software.
 
The investment comes from JumpStart's $10 million Evergreen Fund, which focuses on companies that relocate to the rapidly growing 1,600-acre district that links downtown Cleveland to University Circle.
 
Monarch's move from Shaker Heights to MidTown Cleveland will make them one of more than 170 tech firms located along the corridor, says JumpStart CEO Ray Leach.
 
"It's another example of a smaller, high-growth company moving to this section of town," Leach says. "The corridor is a good place for employers to access needed talent."
 
Monarch was founded in 2005 to develop visual learning software for children and adolescents with autism. The latest iteration, called VizZle, has been adapted for use by schools, clinicians and parents of children with varying special education needs.
 
"VizZle is a truly unique and innovative product," says Rem Harris, JumpStart's senior partner in charge of investing, in a statement. "The combination of high-quality content and ease of use allows curriculum to be customized for each student, enabling them to learn on an individual basis." 
 
The invested dollars will be utilized to strengthen Monarch's product development and sales and marketing arms, adds Leach. JumpStart's Evergreen Fund invests seed capital in similar high-potential businesses across the region, with 82 portfolio companies receiving $31 million through the fund to date. The fund also sets aside a special $2 million "carve out" fund for companies ready to move into the corridor.
 
"An increased number of people in MidTown doesn't just strengthen the economic impact of the neighborhood on a one-by-one basis," says Leach. "There's momentum now."
 
Companies doing business from the corridor have access to four world-class clinical institutions and a bevy of talent-rich universities. Add a mix of flexible office and lab space and you have reason for additional businesses to join the party.
 
"We were very attracted to the overall vibe of innovation and collaboration in the HTC," Monarch CEO and President Bob Gephart adds in the statement. "There are also so many great sources of support and new talent for a company like ours."

Ohio artists respond to 100 days of Trump presidency

On Friday, May 5, from 6 – 9 p.m., SPACES will host an opening reception of The First 100+ Days, which is an exhibition of Ohio-based artists’ responses to the initial phase of Trump’s presidency — specifically regarding his immigration policy.
 
The artworks feature stories from immigrant and refugee communities while addressing the practical application of the Trump administration’s direction. The exhibition also considers how the media influences political discourse and aims to capture the radical potential of artistic activism.
 
The hard-hitting and varied responses from artists living in Ohio — a strategically positioned swing state — will be accompanied by a timeline of actions taken since President Trump's Jan. 20 inauguration that have introduced, enacted, and protested changing immigration policies during these politically turbulent times. 
 
Participating artists include Julia Christensen, Ryan Dewey, Michelangelo Lovelace, Home Affairs (Arzu Ozkal, Claudia Pederson, Nanette Yannuzzi), Tony Ingrisano, Kelley O’Brien, Darice Polo, John C. Williams, and Megan Young.
 
The First 100+ Days will be on display through June 30 and is curated by SPACES executive director, Christina Vassallo, with assistance from Karl Anderson. The gallery is located at 2900 Detroit Ave. in Hingetown.

To complement the exhibition, SPACES is offering a number of companion events to further explore U.S, immigration policy.

FamilySPACES, Saturday, June 4, 2 – 4 p.m.: Art-making activities to help families talk with children about the changing world.
 
Sanctuary City Potluck, Thursday, June 8, 6 – 8 p.m.: Dinner and panel discussion on how to be a community ally.
 
Live Jury, Saturday, June 24, 2 – 4 pm: Artists and architects are invited to submit U.S.-Canada border wall designs to the Unofficial Global Barrier-Centric Design Competition. Shortlisted entries will be judged on this day before a live jury.
 
Fact or Fiction?, June 29, 6 – 8 p.m.: An evening of alternative fact trivia and print making, presented by April Bleakney. Attendees are invited to learn about the impact of the printing press in resistance efforts throughout history and to make a print to take home.
 
Additional events may be added. Check the SPACES event calendar for updates.

 

Who's Hiring in CLE: E.W. Scripps Company, Rockwell Automation, Engage! Cleveland...

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.
 
The E.W. Scripps Company
The E.W. Scripps Company is hiring a broadcast engineer to perform preventative maintenance and emergency repairs of video, audio, IT and HD equipment at WEWS-TV Cleveland. Most work will be done on news equipment such as camcorders and monitors. Applicants must have at least a two-year electronic technical degree or equivalent, but a four-year degree is preferred. Candidates may apply on the company website.
 
Rexel
Electrical supplier Rexel is seeking a branch manager for its Cleveland-based Gexpro Services group. The hire will be responsible for branch operations, implementation of sales strategies, and training of the branch team. Four-year bachelor's degree and two-to-four years of leadership experience required. Candidates may apply on the company website.
 
Rockwell Automation
Rockwell Automation is looking for a user experience architect to design support software for its industrial automation systems. The position will engage in development of desktop, web and mobile software products from the research phase through evaluation and delivery. Bachelor’s degree in interaction/user experience design, human factors, cognitive or behavioral science, or related discipline required. Applicant must have eight or more years of experience in interaction/user experience design for interactive software products. Apply through the company's website. 
 
Cleveland
Engage! Cleveland, a nonprofit resource for local young professionals, is hiring a development manager responsible for developing and executing fundraising efforts including corporate sponsorships, individual donations, special events, memberships, and grant writing. The position will also nurture corporate and community partners for the purposes of fundraising and to elevate the profile of the organization.
 
Candidates must have a bachelor's or advanced degree in nonprofit management, sales, business or other related field. Three-to-five years of fundraising success in a development field also required. Apply by sending a cover letter, salary requirements and resume to ashley@engagecleveland.com with the subject line “Development Manager."
 
True Value Company
True Value Company is seeking a warehouse supervisor for its Cleveland regional distribution center. The supervisor will lead a team of associates to ensure proper workflow within the department. Applicant should be proficient with Microsoft Outlook, Word and Excel. Bachelor's degree is preferred, but candidates with equivalent combination of education and work experience in the logistics industry will also be considered. Apply through the company's website.

Spotlight: reality show illuminates Gordon Square, CLE's 'movers and makers'

Cleveland's maker economy constitutes a growing community of creators whose work is only limited by their imaginations — or perhaps the size of a screen. Here on the north coast, designer Susie Frazier helped bring maker dreams into locals' homes courtesy of a new reality-based television show.
 
"Movers & Makers with Susie Frazier," which launched March 25 on WKYC-Channel 3, illuminates local independent inventors and tinkerers with Frazier as the host. For the pilot, the 20-year design veteran and her team chose the Edison apartments in the Gordon Square arts district, developing furniture and art for a two-bedroom model suite.

View the trailer for last week's pilot:


 
Frazier worked with a local team of artists and designers to execute the project. Featured players in the 30-minute premiere were metal fabricator Alex Loos, wood craftsman Freddy Hill, woodworker Kurt Ballash, and artist/curator Hilary Gent of the HEDGE Gallery inside 78th Street Studios.
 
"The show is about my life as a designer and projects that come my way," says Frazier. "There's a synchronized process of working with the cluster of makers here, and that's what we're trying to highlight."
 
Although it aired last week, Frazier has posted the full pilot on her YouTube channel. The idea for the show germinated late last year after Frazier contracted the Edison gig. Her Los Angeles-based management firm pushed "Movers and Makers" as a vehicle for her work in creating home accessories, furniture and fine art using cast-off materials from the construction industry.
 
Filming took place in Frazier's 78th Street Studios space and in Gordon Square in late February and early March. Revealing the nuts-and-bolts progress of a complicated project is something unique to the reality design genre, she says.
 
"We're excited to share what we do and how we do it," says Frazier. "There are lots of 'before-and-after' design shows, but I'm excited to showcase the process."
 
"Movers & Makers" can be a beacon for a maker movement with approximately 135 million adherents across the U.S.," the budding TV host adds. 
 
"People want to be more resourceful and do something with their hands," Frazier says. "The show can be a model for people to get out there and do it. I have no formal training — I learned by doing like so many others."
 
Meanwhile, maker spaces represent a culture shift in how new startups are created. Cleveland's long history of mass production is transitioning into hyper-local manufacturing that emphasizes exciting technologies such as 3D printing.
 
Frazier is pleased to shine a spotlight on that ongoing evolution. While WKYC is not committed to carrying the program forward as a full series, Frazier's producers are set to pitch the show, which is in development as a nine-episode series, to various cable networks.
 
"There's so many directions we can go," Frazier says. "We want to have makers in every episode, and highlight other trades and crafts." 

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. 

Edgy show captivates with vintage motorcycle images

On Friday, March 17, from 5 – 9 p.m., legendary local artist Shirley Aley Campbell’s rarely exhibited collection, “The Motorcyclists of the Seventies” will be on display at 78th Street Studios in the second floor corridor and Suite 215.
 
The 13 large scale oil paintings were commissioned by local businessman Joseph Erdelac in 1973 and were completed in 1981. The resulting works are utterly captivating on their own, but they take on new dimension considering the background stories of the riders, which include "The Flying Angel" Debbie Lawler, who was a noted and prolific motorcycle jumper at a time when few women could successfully compete with the likes of Evel Knievel; America's “First Lady of Motorcycling” — pink Harley-riding Dot Robinson; and John Knoble and Bob 'Laco' Lawrence of the Hell's Angels Los Angeles Motorcycle Club.
 
Gene Wirwah, legal counsel for the American Motorcycle Association, helped Campbell choose her subjects.


 
Campbell, a 1947 Cleveland Institute of Art grad and 1986 Cleveland Arts Prize recipient, has work in the collections of the Cleveland Museum of Art, the Butler Institute of American Art and Case Western Reserve University, as well as private collections throughout the United States. Her work has been exhibited at major museums throughout the country.
 
"Motorcycles" will be on view through April 8 and will return this summer. Campbell will be on hand for tomorrow's opening to meet and chat with attendees and discuss her work.
 
For more information contact 78th Street Studios director Daniel Bush at 440-503-5506 or dan@78thstreetstudios.com.
 

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." 

Cleveland Neighborhood Progress awards $4.2M in grants with three-year initiative

Beginning in July, Cleveland Neighborhood Progress (CNP) will invest a total of $4.2 million in twelve community development corporations (CDCs) over the next three years. The Strategic Investment Initiative (SII) includes nine awards, three of which are collaborative efforts. The funding will have a direct impact on 16 Cleveland neighborhoods.

“These critical investments will help improve neighborhoods across the city," said Joel Ratner, CNP president and CEO in a statement. "We look forward to working with our grantees as they develop work plans and implement the strategies they presented to the committee."

The following grants will be administered annually through 2020:
 
Detroit Shoreway Community Development Organization and Metro West Community Development Corporation, $220,000
 
Ohio City, Inc. and Tremont West Development Corporation, $215,000
 
Famicos Foundation, $200,000
 
Burten Bell Carr Development, $200,000
 
Northeast Shores Development Corporation, $140,000
 
Slavic Village Development, $125,000
 
St. Clair Superior Development Corporation and Collinwood Nottingham Villages Development Corporation, $100,000
 
Old Brooklyn Community Development Corporation, $100,000
 
– Lee-Harvard Community Collaborative, $100,000
 
“We are also excited to invest in neighborhoods on the southeast side of Cleveland through our new capacity investment in the Lee-Harvard Community Partnership,” added Colleen Gilson, vice president of CDC Advancement for CNP. "This partnership is the result of a visioning and planning process supported by City of Cleveland Councilman Terrell Pruitt that will bring a dedicated community development entity into the neighborhood.”
 
CNP received a total of 14 proposals from a 23 CDCs for this competitive funding program. Senior staff reviewed proposals and recommended finalists to the organization’s SII Advisory Committee. Last month, that committee hosted two days of presentations during which the finalists highlighted the comprehensive community development goals and strategies they will employ during the 2017-2020 program cycle. CNP's board of directors’ final decision on funding was informed by the scoring process performed by the SII Advisory Committee.
 
“These selected CDCs will be taking on important work city-wide and we look forward to working with them as they implement community development strategies in their neighborhoods,” added Gilson of the SII recipients.
 
Over the past 10 years, CNP has committed more than $15 million to Cleveland CDCs via the SII program, funding for which is provided by the Cleveland Foundation, the George Gund Foundation, the Jack, Joseph and Morton Mandel Foundation, and Enterprise Community Partners.
 
 
Cleveland Neighborhood Progress is part of Fresh Water's underwriting support network.
 

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." 

New "Palettes" show lingers like a lover's kiss


Billed as "Palettes for the Senses: Art + Scent Demystified," HEDGE Gallery's new show may be described any number of ways, but "demystified" probably isn't among them. Instead, the visual and olfactory show evokes things profoundly mystifying.
 
A collection of 11 local and national artists presents works in various media, each of which is paired with a scent carefully curated by Ann Bouterse of Indigo Perfumery.
 
Next to each offering, a glass cloche upon a pedestal houses a vial of perfume. Visitors are invited to lift the dome and inhale deeply of its upturned interior. The scents are immersive to the point of sensuality and beyond. They also impart an unexpected new dimension to the artworks that is surprisingly effective.
 
Try Nikki Woods' Sugar Shack paired with Sulmona by Coquillete Paris, Liz Maugens' Fractured Atlas and funky neon Facts of Life accented by Molecule 02 by Escentric Molecules or Rebecca Cross's Sheild (pink spikes) and Shield (green spikes) floating upon notes of Dupont Circle by monsillage.
 
This author will not attempt the journalistic version of a "dancing about architecture" faux pas and apply awkward descriptions to these transcendent and unique perfumes. Suffice it to say when you leave the show, the quiet and personal experience stays with you like the impression of a lover's gentle lips.
 
Readers are invited to judge for themselves at the opening reception tonight from 5 to 9 p.m. A  when Bouterse of Indigo will be present to discuss the creation of custom fragrances and the complex nature of the scents she curated for the show. This event is free and open to the public.
 
The gallery's regular hours are Tuesday through Friday: 11 a.m. to 5 p.m. and every third Friday from 11 a.m. to 9 p.m. Weekends and evenings by appointment. HEDGE is on the second floor of the 78th Street Studios.
 
"Palettes for the Senses: Art + Scent Demystified" will be on view through March 3.
 

"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."
 

Fun and colorful salon caters to pint-sized clients

Any parent will tell you that taking a child for a haircut can be adventure — but of the stressful ilk. Deborah Gideon knows the drill. As owner of the kid-friendly Cuts N Curls salon, she's built a thriving enterprise around eliminating anxiety from the periodic trim.
 
Gideon's Solon-based business is a salon, toy boutique and party center all wrapped up into one colorfully energetic package. The surroundings are fun and upbeat, with brightly painted walls and a checkerboard floor. Children watch movies from the comfort of car-shaped styling chairs, while the electronic ping of video games ring out in the background.
 
"Kids love it here, and parents are de-stressed because it's so chill," says Gideon. "It's a happy vibe."
 
Now celebrating its tenth anniversary, Cuts N Curls has become a destination stop for busy families, Gideon notes. The Pepper Pike resident started the salon in August 2007 with a focus on children, but expanded her services to include adults. After moving to a larger space following her initial launch, Gideon offers cuts for kids and their parents, as well as ear piercings, color and highlights, and manicures.
 
The fun doesn't stop there, as Cuts N Curls hosts birthday parties that invite little girls for a day of glitter spray, temporary tattoos and age-appropriate dress-up. Gideon also sells a selection of organic and nontoxic hair products, accessories, nail polish and toys.
 
Put together, these elements are designed to create a relaxing atmosphere that makes a potentially scary experience enjoyable. Gideon's staff has also been trained by Autism Speaks Cleveland to accommodate special needs children.
 
"The word-of-mouth from the autistic community and mommy blogs has been unbelievable," says Gideon. "People have had terrible experiences over haircuts, and they cry with relief when they're here."
 
While the salon has nearly 6,000 clients in its database, Gideon's staff caters to the needs of individual customers; all the more to make them feel safe and comfortable, she says.
 
"We have notes on kids with food allergies or if they like Elmo or the pink car," says Gideon. "It makes them feel good, like there's something special going on here."
 
Creating an accessible environment has fostered bonds not just between stylists and their pint-sized clients, but with parents as well.
 
"People say we've made their lives easier," says Gideon. "I don't take that lightly." 

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." 

Who's Hiring in CLE: Rick Case, Hyland Software, Cleveland Foundation...

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.
 
Rick Case Automotive Group
Rick Case Automotive Group is hosting a career fair on Wednesday, Feb. 8, from 10 a.m. to 6 p.m. at Rick Case Honda, 915 E. 200th St., in Euclid. Candidates can apply for product specialist and sales consultant jobs as well as dealership service advisor positions. For more information, call 216-416-6847 or visit the dealership website.
 
Cleveland Foundation
Cleveland Foundation is seeking a media relations officer to oversee external communications and support the chief marketing officer in providing counsel to the foundation team. Responsibilities include enhancement of the nonprofit's media outreach footprint. A minimum of eight to 10 years in media relations required. To apply, send resume and cover letter indicating salary requirements to resumes@clevefdn.org by February 19. Candidates selected for interview will be contacted on or around the week of February 27.
 
Cleveland Clinic
Cleveland Clinic is searching for an administrative program coordinator to identify operational improvement opportunities and coordinate policy implementation and evaluation. The successful candidate will work from the Clinic's Beachwood campus and is expected to lead multiple complex projects, assist with scheduling, and act as a liaison with committees, employees and vendors. Bachelor's degree in business administration, finance, communications, healthcare administration, or related field required. Apply through the company's career page

CBS Radio
Broadcast media company CBS Radio needs a full-time reporter for its in-house traffic team based in Cleveland. Duties include writing, editing and voicing traffic reports for broadcast on CBS Radio stations. Knowledge of broadcast area geography and transportation systems preferred. Apply through the company's website.
 
Hyland Software
Hyland is looking for a network and security engineer to perform general maintenance  and vulnerability assessments on its systems. Qualifications include experience as an IT security administrator, proficiency with Microsoft and Linux operating systems, and experience using various security tools. Apply through the company's website.
 
Rockwell Automation
Mayfield Heights industrial automation firm Rockwell Automation is hiring a senior-level mobile software engineer to develop large scale applications. Hires will work with software engineering areas such as SPA architectures, mobile platforms and test automation. Minimum four years of software development experience and a bachelor's degree in computer science or equivalent required. Apply through the company's website

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."
 

Partner content podcast: What does Neighbor Up do?


The latest episode of "Neighbor Up Spotlight" is now available.

"Neighbor Up Spotlight: What does Neighbor Up do?" is a 15-minute kitchen table conversation between host Carol Malone and Neighbor Up member Tom O'Brien focusing on how Neighbor Up came together and what members are doing to make change in Cleveland.

Hosted by Malone, a Cleveland resident and activist, each episode of "Neighbor Up Spotlight" focuses on members of Neighbor Up, a network of approximately 2,000 Greater Cleveland residents making positive change in their neighborhoods. This resident-driven social change movement is about bringing equity to all Cleveland neighborhoods.

Listen to “Neighbor Up Spotlight" on Soundcloud or download episodes from iTunes. Or just click below to hear the latest edition right now.




Support for this series, "Grassroots Success: Awakening the Power of Families and Neighborhoods," is provided by Neighborhood Connections.

Birthing Beautiful Communities educates, advocates and supports

This series of stories, "Grassroots Success: Awakening the Power of Families and Neighborhoods," explores how meaningful impact on our communities grows from the ground up. Support for "Grassroots Success" is provided by Neighborhood Connections and NewBridge Cleveland Center for Arts & Technology.

An overwhelming number of babies are dying in Cleveland neighborhoods, and a group of strong women have come forward to prevent those deaths through education, advocacy and support.
 
According to Birthing Beautiful Communities, 22 babies in Hough die for every 1,000 born, which is a stark contrast to the national average of six. Meanwhile in Cleveland's Central neighborhood, approximately 30 babies die annually.
 
“Infant mortality is not a new problem,” Birthing Beautiful Communities founder Christin Farmer says. “We’ve always known that our babies die at a higher rate and maternal morbidity rates are high amongst African American woman too.”
 
She blames the disparity on racism. Understandably so, as infant mortality rates are three times higher for black babies than white.
 
“A lot of the supportive services we provide have to do with us having to attend appointments with the mothers because they’ve been treated unfairly," says Farmer. "They don’t want to receive care or assistance out of fear of being judged because this is their third or fourth child.

"There’s a lack of wealth within communities, and education and achievement gaps in communities," she continues. "These are all day-to-day stressors that African-Americans face. Also, when you look as mass incarceration rates within communities—the men in the community are being incarcerated at a much higher rate—and that’s leaving women to take care of the babies and the children by themselves, and that is a stressor. It boils down to institutional and structural racism.”  
 
Farmer formed Birthing Beautiful Communities in 2014 to combat these alarming realities and resulting statistics. She had previously studied to be a midwife and volunteered as a postpartum doula. Upon deciding on birthwork as her career path, she began seeking out other African American doulas in the area.

"I became acquainted with a few other woman and we began to form a little commune of birthworkers who were interested in supporting moms in our own communities where we live and decreasing the rates of infant deaths,” notes Farmer, adding that the volunteers started out by meeting weekly and garnering clients through referrals.
 
“More so than doula work, we began to connect them [our clients] to a lot of other support services that they needed,” she says. “We did a lot of navigation with them, helping them through a lot of issues pertaining to housing, social service and caseworkers. By the time we get to the labor and delivery room, it’s a little too late if we don’t provide support beforehand.

"What we found was that the women really lacked support through family, through friends, and they a lot of times lived in isolation… Women not having support around them during their pregnancy can cause stress. Stress can lead to prematurity, and prematurity is the leading cause of infant mortality.”

Birthing Beautiful Communities provides free services to local women including childbirth and parenting education with workshops and classes on breastfeeding, stress relief, bonding with baby, co-parenting and healthy eating. They also offer support for labor, delivery and postpartum health including depression. Other issues they assist with include infant loss, anxiety, panic or fear. They also advise in family, life and goal planning.
 
“Our focus is always on what is going on in this mother’s life,” Farmer says. “We make it mandatory for anyone who comes through our door to participate in our SOS circle, which is all about mental health and emotional trauma—we work with a psychologist on that. We have our birthworkers facilitate these circles. They’ve been largely successful because they really hit at the core," she adds, noting that some of the clients don't even realize they are being exposed to stressors because it’s just their norm.
 
"It’s not normal to not know where your next meal is coming from or where you’re going to sleep that night or why you have these sorts of feelings, so we have that family support structure among ourselves where we can help in such circumstances," says Farmer, adding that the group promotes healthy eating, breastfeeding, and togetherness. "It’s collectivism that has left our communities so we’re just bringing it back. We’re building communities through babies.” 
 
The organization also trains women to provide these services through an eight-week course on prenatal, birth, and postpartum support; breastfeeding; contraception; and stress, anxiety, depression and panic support. All birthworkers are required to obtain CPR credentials. The infant CPR classes are open to the public. 
 
They are currently training their second class of women. The first class had nine trainees; the current class has 10. The group is  planning to offer community birthworker training once a year that would include doula training in addition to training on the many other services they provide. Birthing Beautiful Communities aims to eventually hire those graduates. Beginning in April, the organization will also offering a course for doula-only training (labor, delivery and postpartum support).
 
“We don’t turn anyone away and we have never charged anyone anything,” Farmer says of the training, which is valued at $1,800. “Since we’re paying for the training, we expect our trainees to come back and take on one or two pro-bono cases so that we can accommodate those woman who live outside of our scope but still need the services.”
 
The Cleveland Foundation awarded the Greater University Circle Community Health Initiative (GUCCHI) $500,000 in April 2015, $125,000 of which went to Birthing Beautiful Communities to provide their services in the Hough neighborhood.
 
“Christin Farmer was the first person to inform me about the infant mortality crisis in 2014. I knew nothing of it,” GUCCHI project manager Neal Hodges says. “What Christin was doing was addressing the social determinants that play a part in the infant mortality crisis by training Glenville residents to become doulas to then help Glenville women who were pregnant and facing challenging situations to help ensure they would have a healthy, live birth."
 
He continues: "We started a marketing campaign in the communities as it became apparent that the community was unaware they were in the middle of a crisis (infant mortality) that rivals third world countries." The effort, however, does not stop with women.

“We are creating a Dude-la experiment program to address infant mortality from a two-parent approach,” says Hodges. “Most often—and rightfully so—infant mortality is geared toward the mother but not the farther. We aim to change that, and we are partnering with 100 Black Men and Cuyahoga County Fatherhood Initiative to support the concept.”
 
In addition, Ohio Medicaid funds Birthing Beautiful Communities in neighborhoods outside of Hough deemed at high risk for infant mortality including Central, Buckeye-Woodhill, Ohio City and Lee-Harvard.
 
So far, the nine-person staff, which includes seven birthworkers, has assisted close to 50 women and is currently serving 23 pregnant mothers and three postpartum mothers. They have not suffered any deaths.
 
“Because we hire the women that we train, we are a workforce development agency, and we integrate the practice of birthwork with community development,” Farmer says. “It’s where community wealth meets community health.”

YWCA's "It's Time to Talk" to be held Feb. 3

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.
 
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.

 

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.
.
"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."

Who's Hiring in CLE: Karamu House, ideastream, ACLU...

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.
 
Karamu House
Karamu House, a century-old Cleveland arts and cultural institution, is searching for a director of development to focus on fundraising through grants from major local and national foundations. The role requires identification and cultivation of individual donors for planned and major gifts. A minimum five years of successful fundraising experience is required. Submit a resume, cover letter, and salary expectations to careers@karamuhouse.org.
 
ideastream
Northeast Ohio public media organization ideastream is looking for an experienced executive assistant responsible for coordinating day-to-day administrative activities for the company's CEO and COO. The hire would also coordinate board of trustees meetings as well as special projects assigned by administrators. At least five years of executive office administrative experience supporting an executive level role is highly preferred. To apply, go to www.ideastream.org/careers and click on the job title. Applications are due by Friday, Feb. 17.
 
The American Civil Liberties Union
American Civil Liberties Union of Ohio's Cleveland-based office is seeking a major gifts officer to maintain and increase funding from a portfolio of 100-150 donors. Duties include development of fundraising and donor cultivation strategies and creation of personalized proposals in line with donor interests. A minimum of five years experience in nonprofit fundraising is required. Submit a resume and cover letter to contact@acluohio.org. Screening for the position will begin in early February.
 
Hunter International
Staffing firm Hunter International, Inc. needs a technical writer to manage its proposal generation process and review proposal requests to determine scope of work required for company-led scientific studies. Qualifications include a bachelor of science degree in biological or chemical science, along with prior knowledge of preclinical drug development. Apply through the company's LinkedIn page.
 
GIE Media
GIE Media, a publishing company serving the recycling, horticulture, public health, medical and aerospace industries, is hiring an entry level account manager to drive new business development for a suite of products including magazines, websites, digital publications, conferences and database products. Excellent written and verbal communication skills required. A four-year college degree in marketing, business or communications is preferred. Send a cover letter and resume through the company's LinkedIn application page.
 
Summer on the Cuyahoga
Cleveland internship program Summer on the Cuyahoga (SOTC) is seeking paid college interns to live and work in downtown Cleveland this summer. Interested employers can register intern opportunities for free on the SOTC website, tapping into a student base that covers eights campuses – Case Western Reserve University, Colgate University, Cornell University, Denison University, Ohio Wesleyan University, Smith University, the University of Chicago, and Yale University.
 
Cleveland employers such as KeyBank and DDR have employed SOTC interns in the past. The goal is to create a connection to the Greater Cleveland area that motivates interns to permanently relocate to the region. For more information, contact Jean Koehler at  jkoehler@summeronthecuyahoga.com.
 

Local startup unlocks the power of Amazon

Amazon.com is an unstoppable e-behemoth, ringing up nearly 40 percent of holiday web sales between Thanksgiving and the Monday after Turkey Day alone. As more consumer brands and general manufacturers harness the power of the online giant, a Cleveland startup is aiming to help them realize the powerful platform's nearly limitless potential.
 
Marketplace Strategy (MPS), housed in Tyler Village in Cleveland’s historic Tyler Elevator complex, is a five-person team of experienced digital marketers developing Amazon optimization programs for companies including Powerstep Insoles and Cyalume
 
Where other Amazon-specific agencies may focus on keywords and product page content, MPS takes what vice president of sales and marketing Jeff Walcoff calls an "end-to-end" approach. That means not only maximizing website visitors, but also creating a better user experience, increasing a business's presence on the platform, and optimizing company revenue.
 
MPS's work with Powerstep, in particular, demonstrated the Cleveland service's potential, Walcoff notes. The startup organized the shoe insert provider's sales listings while also fashioning back-end improvements. Powerstep's sales leapt significantly following the makeover.
 
"For us in digital marketing, unless you have some kind of software others don't, you have to offer something that makes you stand out," says Walcoff. "Growth with our clients has been across the board."
 
Walcoff and his colleagues developed the Amazon optimization program as part of a larger agency, but split off last year to launch MPS. 
 
"We saw potential to develop something unique; not just an SEO (search engine optimization) company," Walcoff says. "Right now we want to build a good foundation of clients. We've had conversations with local manufacturing companies big and small, and some national brands."
 
E-commerce will continue to grow, with Amazon leading the way, says the company official. According to a 2016 survey by BloomReach, 55 percent of consumers reported going directly to Amazon when searching for a product, nearly double those who cited search engines and other retailers.
 
MPS can be part of that evolution, considering that many companies—even larger ones—don't have much infrastructure around the Amazon platform.
 
"If you're selling something, Amazon is the epicenter of the internet," says Walcoff. "We love the companies in Cleveland and welcome the chance to work with them."  

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.
 
Insivia
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. 

One thousand turkeys heading to Central neighborhood

A pair of Cleveland entities are partnering to spread good cheer and nutritious food to underserved Central neighborhood families this holiday season.
 
The Society of St. Vincent de Paul, Diocese of Cleveland (SVDP) will distribute 1,000 frozen turkeys and five-pound bags of potatoes in the Boys & Girls Clubs of Cleveland parking lot, 2561 East 59th St., on Wednesday, December 14.
 
The giveaway starts at 8:30 a.m. and will continue while supplies last, says Natalie Schrimpf, marketing and development manager with the century-old human services organization. Providing the food is Fortney & Weygandt, Inc., a North Olmsted commercial construction firm now in its 10th year of supplying holiday nourishment to needy residents.
 
Volunteers from the construction company and SVDP Woodland Food Center will hand out goods to people from Central and surrounding communities. No advanced registration is required, but attendees must present a driver's license or other form of identification, notes Schrimpf.
 
According to Greater Cleveland Food Bank statistics, Central is home to 10,717 impoverished, making SVDP's food donation critical in residents' ability to serve a Christmas meal.
 
"For people who are food insecure, everything from having money to pay rent or buy clothes for their children can be a crisis," says Schrimpf. "Aid for hunger relief is magnified for low-income families, especially around the holidays."
 
Schrimpf, who has attended the last two giveaways, says the event is far from dour or downbeat. Coffee and cocoa are available for folks waiting in the cold, while volunteers greet attendees with smiles and warm words.
 
"We make it a happy occasion," Schrimpf says.
 
The Christmas food drive is one facet of SVDP's service to an economically-disadvantaged population. Last year, the organization provided $7 million in aid to more than 240,000 low-income individuals in the form of food, clothing, school supplies and assistance with utilities and rent. 
 
Similar to its work throughout the year, SVDP's holiday-themed helping hand wouldn't happen without the generosity of area donors, volunteers and organizational partners, Schrimpf says. Face-to-face assistance for those suffering from generational poverty, regardless of race, ethnicity or religious background, must be a year-round endeavor.
 
"We value our partners," says Schrimpf. "We wouldn't be able to help people in our community without them." 

Student-run nonprofit supports charities through competitive sporting events

A new nonprofit founded and run by area high-school students allows participants to break a sweat and flex their competitive muscles while raising much-needed dollars for their favorite charity.
 
Launched in January by Shaker Heights High School senior Andrew Roth, Champions for Charity has thus far raised $21,000 through soccer tournaments and other sporting events. Athletes compete directly for their personally selected cause, forging a rare and precious link to those in need.
 
"Representing the charity of their choice allows teams to feel a personal connection," says Roth, 18. "Our focus is to empower kids to make a difference."
 
Squads pay an entrance fee for the March Madness-like competitions, collecting money from losing teams as they move ahead in the bracket. In August, Champions for Charity raised $18,000 through a three-on-three soccer event created in honor of Kevin Ekeberg, a Shaker Heights alumnus who died of stomach cancer in 2015. All donations went to the No Stomach for Cancer charity.
 
Meanwhile, 30 two-person teams gathered this summer for spikeball, a combination of four square and volleyball using a hula-hoop sized net placed at ankle level. The tournament raised $700, with the winners donating prize money to the Surfrider Foundation, an environmental group dedicated to protection of the world's beaches.
 
"We've had success because students realize now it's not difficult to donate to a charity," says Roth. "We're making it fun and accessible to people who normally don't do this in their spare time."
 
Roth heads Champions for Charity with help from two friends, Wyatt Eisen and Liam Prendergast, and five other SHHS students. The organization founder is also working with an economics teacher and a community member with a nonprofit background.
 
Roth's sports-centric nonprofit was spawned from an unrelated charity soccer event he organized. The experience inspired him to incorporate future athletic happenings under an umbrella of competition, but with an expanded fundraising focus.
 
"It's cool to represent something you're passionate about," Roth says. "I'm motivated to motivate other people."
 
The young spearhead of the inventive nonprofit graduates next year, but that won't stop Champions for Charity from continuing its mission, thanks to three juniors and two sophomores Roth recently brought on to continue the operation.
 
"My generation of teenagers can make changes to the world," says Roth. "If we're not developing that drive to change now, then we may never do it." 

By empowering the people, Neighborhood Connections enables lasting grassroots change

This series of stories, "Grassroots Success: Awakening the Power of Families and Neighborhoods," explores how meaningful impact on our communities grows from the ground up. Support for "Grassroots Success" is provided by Neighborhood Connections and NewBridge Cleveland Center for Arts & Technology.
 
Increasingly, people are feeling that elected officials, leaders, and large institutions do not reflect or respect their interests, concerns, or needs. People feel polarized, left out, unseen, and not represented. At times, it can even feel like it's us verses them. One local organization, however, Neighborhood Connections and its program director Tom O’Brien, wants residents to know that we are all in this together.
 
“We don’t need to go into our corners; we need to find common ground,” says O'Brien. "This [organization] is about love and power. The love is breaking down barriers, and the power is creating change.”
 
Established in 2003, Neighborhood Connections attempts to empower Cleveland and East Cleveland citizens through grassroots programs while working with local institutions to create lasting positive change.
 
“We want to invest in human capitol,” O’Brien says. "This is neighborhood folks getting together to do good in their own neighborhoods.” He adds that the group tries to help with financial, technological, and community assets to build leadership capacity in local community members.
 
Neighborhood Connections boasts the largest small grants program in the nation, investing in resident-led projects ranging from $500 to $5,000 per grant, The organization has funded approximately 2,300 projects since 2003 totaling more than $7.5 million. Sometimes a grant is si.ply about brightening up a little corner of the world; others inspire folks to let off steam with old fashioned fun.
 
Approximately four years ago and with guidance from Trusted Space Partners’ Bill Traynor and Frankie Backburn, the group also launched Neighbor Up, which currently has more than 2,000 members. That effort encourages community members to exchange resources, support each other, and collaborate on transformative projects.
 
O’Brien says the group formed to change the environment of how people come together. It focuses on supporting individuals, providing timely information and working together to make change in the community. Residents get together to decide what they want to work on, including issues such as health and jobs. There is even an artists’ collaborative.
 
“Being involved in the public discourse can be very difficult and deflating,” notes O'Brien. “So what we’ve tried to do is change that and provide a space that is more hope-filled – and people actually get value out of it. Creating the space for people to come together to say, 'what’s the reality of what we want to create for ourselves?' instead of institutions saying 'this is what you need' – this is the plan. This is getting the people most affected together to say, 'this is what we want; this is what we need.'”
 
Organizers strive to help create an equal environment where no one dominates the meeting. There is no agenda as people sit in a circle, raise questions, and share information. Then they break off into smaller groups to discuss grassroots organizing and specifics.
 
During the initial meetings people were asking how to get jobs with large, local institutions. These discussions inspired the innovative Step Up to UH jobs pipeline project.
 
“It started as a conversation among people in this network,” O’Brien says of the effort, which identifies good candidates for jobs at University Hospital and then trains them for those positions.
 
Members also developed the Greater University Circle Community Health Initiative in hopes of lowering the infant mortality rate and abating the hazards of lead paint in Greater University Circle (Fresh Water will take a closer look at this initiative in early January).
 
During monthly Network Nights in the Greater University Circle and Buckeye neighborhoods (and in Glenville beginning in January), people make exchanges with one another, requesting and offering help and services from a ride to the doctor's office and tips on who’s hiring to assistance on painting projects, etc.
 
“We make sure there’s a level playing field in the room,” O’Brien says, “and people get value as soon as they walk [in]. It’s a place where people want to be.”
 
They also invite representatives from local institutions so community members can get to know them face to face, thus narrowing the social distance between people.

“In many ways these practices are an antidote to the rural/urban divide,” O’Brien explains. "They break down the walls between community and institutions to create something new together or get good information. There are people who are part of those institutions who can create real change. We bring people into rooms where these meetings normally wouldn’t happen.”
 
Members can also build leadership skills at Neighbor Up University, attending workshops on creating meaningful places in neighborhoods, training on community network building, and learning a variety of member-led skills on everything from marketing to running for political office.
 
O’Brien says they hope to build their network out, expanding west and even into suburbs.
 
“This approach can really make significant change,” he says. “We want to continue to crate an environment for people to come together while making bigger change. We want to make more spaces like this. We are bridging age, gender, race, orientation, social, economic differences – thousands of people from all walks of life – to make the world we want right here right now.”
 

"Dealership Debut" set for this Thursday in Shaker

The Shaker Heights Development Corporation (SHDC) and the Economic Community Development Institute (ECDI) have partnered to create The Dealership, a co-working, event and office hub that will be unveiled to the community this Thursday, Dec. 1, from 4 to 7 p.m. during the “Dealership Debut" at its location, 3558 Lee Road. The event is free and open to the public, but registration is encouraged.
 
The innovative new space will offer its members short- or long-term office space rental amid 16 offices and a co-working area for up to 50 members. They will also have access to lighting-speed fiber optic Internet and will be able to host meetings in three conference/training rooms. The facility will be available to them around the clock.
 
As for the ECDI partnership, SHDC sought out to find an organization with a proven track record to operate the co-work space and conduct programming.
 
"We talked with a handful of qualified potential partners and ECDI rose to the top of the list," says SHDC Executive Director Nick Fedor, adding that they maintain a consistent presence at The Dealership, with ECDI's marketing and communications coordinator Alexis Coffey staffing the space five days a week. The organization's relationship managers and trainers also work out of the iconic Lee Road building on a regular basis. 

Known as the largest non-profit economic development organization in the state, ECDI will provide The Dealership's members with services addressing all stages of business development. That includes training, one-on-one technical assistance, advice regarding networking events and access to capital services.
 
"To my knowledge," says Fedor, "there isn't another co-working space in the region that is operated by a small business lending and technical assistance provider such as ECDI."
 
And ECDI's track record spells success. It has provided more than $35 million in startup or expansion capital to small businesses in Ohio since its 2004 inception. With the organization’s help, more than 1,680 loans have been disbursed to innovative entrepreneurs over that time, creating or retaining 6,100 jobs in Ohio.
 
Fedor believes ECDI’s partnership will benefit future tenants and Shaker’s business community at large. He adds that the early response to the venture has been strong, with more than half of the office tenants remaining when the property transitioned earlier this year from LaunchHouse to The Dealership.
 
"Since then, two new office tenants have leased space and three new co-work members have joined," says Fedor. "There is a robust pipeline of potential office tenants and co-work members."
 
Of the transition, he adds that continuing to provide a flexible office solution and co-work space for entrepreneurs and small businesses in Shaker was important. The move has also included some freshening up in the funky space, with updates such as new furniture, interior paint colors, a new coffee bar and an entrepreneurship resource library provided by the Shaker Library.
 
The SHDC-ECDI partnership’s dedication to the area’s business community will be on full display at the Dealership Debut event. Shaker Heights businesses that met a Nov. 15 deadline will compete in a pitch contest, presented by Huntington Bank. The most convincing entrepreneur will receive a $2,500 first-place prize. Second place will receive $500.
 
The Dealership’s name plays on the building’s history as the former site of the old Zalud Oldsmobile dealership.
 
"The name came from a brainstorming session," says Fedor. "We hired the branding and design firm Little Jacket to develop the branding and they did a great job. We are very happy with their work."
 
The venture is part of the effort to revitalize Shaker’s Moreland District as an emerging neighborhood in the city and region.
 
"A vibrant co-working hub is important to SHDC's broader vision for the Chagrin-Lee commercial district," says Fedor. "The Dealership provides a jumping off point for small businesses and entrepreneurs to start – and hopefully grow – their businesses into other buildings on Lee Road and in Shaker."
 
The City of Shaker Heights and ECDI  are both members of Fresh Water's underwriting support network.
 
Erin O'Brien contributed to this article.

New corrections housing unit eases transition for Cuyahoga County veterans

While Veterans' Day comes but once a year, help for this much respected sector of the population is needed year round. And while Nov 11, 2016 is almost a week behind us, Cuyahoga County has established a special housing unit its creators say is a critical support system for jailed veterans transitioning back into society.

Via a partnership with veterans groups and community service providers - along with a nod from local leaders including county executive Armond Budish - the new Veterans Housing Unit provides programming and camaraderie to ex-military.
 
Founded in the wake of a new Veterans Treatment Court in Cuyahoga County Common Pleas Court, the unit is already paying dividends, officials say. The 26 men currently housed in the newly formed space at Cuyahoga County Corrections Center are utilizing services from the Veterans Administration and other military support networks. While additional programming is still being processed, sheriff department regional corrections director Ken Mills says participants will get financial assistance and critical job information.
 
Inmates will also receive interview training through enrollment in the Ohio Means Jobs program. Mental health and substance abuse programs, meanwhile, are set to give veterans connections that most short-term corrections facilities don't offer.
 
"We're providing links to veterans before they leave jail," says Mills. "The goal is to help get these guys back on track."
 
A corrections inmate may be incarcerated for mere weeks, or as long as a year, making their initial identification as a veteran a top priority, says county common pleas Judge Michael E. Jackson. New inmates wishing to join the veterans housing unit must finish a questionnaire classifying their service history, an option available for current inmates as well. Eligible inmates are placed together to share hardships that only other veterans may relate to.
 
"Being able to share experiences results in less recidivism and less new cases after leaving jail," Jackson says. "There's a level of trust and understanding there. It makes a big difference."
 
About 500 to 600 veterans cycle through the county corrections system annually, the judge notes. Programming inside puts war vets on a positive path to an outside world they may have difficulty navigating otherwise.
 
"They're taking active steps now instead of waiting to see what will happen to them," says Jackson. "Now they know there's places where they can access the services they require."
 
Hamilton County in southeast Ohio has a similar veterans housing program, one its northern neighbor would like to emulate.
 
“It’s our responsibility to assist those that have fought for and served our country, regardless of their circumstances," says Mills. “We hope that these services, coupled with the camaraderie of being housed with others of similar experiences, assists with making a successful transition." 

"Promise" initiative aims for transformative impact on youth, residents

Residents of Cleveland's Central neighborhood are leading the charge in sustaining their youth population's academic success through creation of a community-wide support network.
 
The Cleveland Central Promise Neighborhood works to transform educational outcomes by training adults to be leaders, or "promise ambassadors." After a ten-week course conducted by the Neighborhood Leadership Institute (NLI), citizens
act as boots on the ground, interacting directly with students as well as their parents.
 
Nine new ambassadors graduated from the program on Nov. 9, adding to the 55 residents already on the streets, says Peter Whitt, a trainer with NLI. That's nine new faces impacting Central by getting kids school-ready and supporting them so they stay engaged. Ambassadors are also encouraged to join school boards and other regional decision-making entities while connecting additional community members to the cause.
 
"Creating a culture of education is the primary goal," says Whitt, an NLI graduate himself. "The undercurrent here is empowerment and providing resources for ambassadors to have a platform in organizations."
 
Outreach efforts include Fathers Read, an initiative in which male ambassadors read at daycare centers and preschools, making men more visible to community youth. Graduating participants also educate families on kindergarten registration, address absenteeism issues for older students, and work to convert vacant lots into gardens to foster a sense of healthy community.
 
"The educational system across the nation hasn't done the best in providing resources to the urban core," says Whitt. "This program is needed to develop innovation around education and help students succeed right in their neighborhoods."
 
Central, located between East 22nd and East 55th and bordered by Euclid and Woodland Avenues, has 90 percent of its population living below the poverty level, according to city data statistics. The Cleveland Central Promise Neighborhood was founded in 2010, with partners that including nonprofits, early child care providers, schools, public housing, libraries and businesses to maximize communication.
 
The project was modeled after the Harlem Children's Zone, which provides education and other services for underserved families from birth to college and career. Whitt says a comprehensive, place-based approach to education can have a powerful impact here as well, with residents at the forefront of the change.
 
"We recognize this isn't an overnight thing; its has to be sustained and evaluated," he says. "We want this to be a model for programs across the country." 

Organization stresses unification for African-American professionals, others

Sometimes people need a little push to access business opportunities in Cleveland - and one umbrella consulting venture is providing that motivation for area African-American professional groups.

The Consortium of African-American Organizations (CAAO) serves as a referral source for entrepreneurial, professional and leadership development across eight member groups communicating with over 30,000 Cleveland black professionals.
 
Benefits include job referrals and business leads, says executive director William Holdipp. With entrepreneurial development a primary focus, CAAO (pronounced K-O) works with diversity programs at Cleveland State University, Case Western Reserve University and the Cleveland Clinic to foster relationships between high-level officials and business owners. Forging those strong links teaches entrepreneurs how to organize future business meetings with Cleveland's executive class.
 
"We educate our members to the point where they no longer need us in the middle," Holdipp says. "We want business owners to make such good connections that they're comfortable meeting top executives in the future."
 
About 20 to 30 local high-ranking officials also volunteer with CAAO. An executive from General Electric recently flew a pair of newbie entrepreneurs by private jet to two company sites, showing them the intricacies of a smoothly running enterprise.
 
"We want to take local businesses to the next level, and that includes access to these types of opportunities," says Holdipp.
 
Individuals who donate to CAAO, meanwhile, receive coaching and other perks aimed at new entrepreneurs and folks changing careers. In addition, the consortium connects with young people between the ages of 10 to 19 by teaching them the critical thinking skills needed to make the transition from high school to college.
 
CAAO's range of activities is designed to narrow an information gap exacerbated by established networks that may not be welcoming to new members, Holdipp says. Under the consortium's umbrella are local chapters of national associations as well as community development corporations. All share a mission to build the African-American community, a goal that for CAAO has evolved over the years to welcome Hispanic and Caucasian members.
 
Unification is needed now more than ever, considering the economic uncertainties of the forthcoming Trump administration, Holdipp says.
 
"Cleveland is challenged by segregation; it's a struggle we have to figure out," he says. "It doesn't just mean working with the African-American community, but working with all communities to make things happen." 
 

Arabella Proffer's "Garden Party" evokes, beautifies inner space

Consider the quiet moment when you nestle your ear against the warm hollow of your lover's belly and listen to the universe inside of her. Mysterious gurgles, bubbles and pops erupt as all those internal systems filter, pump and process.

Behold a manifestation of the human experience that is simultaneously intimate and foreign - so much so that if the sounds were isolated and removed from the fleshy contact, one might assign the orchestration to outer space.
 
Noted and uniquely qualified, local artist Arabella Proffer has visually realized that symphony, particularly amid the works in her forthcoming show Biomorphic Garden Party, which will open next Friday, Nov. 18, at the HEDGE Gallery in the 78th Street Studios with a reception from 5 to 9 p.m. The show will run through Dec. 17.
 
"Biomorphic" is a departure for Proffer, who is well known for her devastating femme fatale portraits, but it is also profoundly personal.
 
Proffer, who has battled an aggressive form of lipo sarcoma since 2010 that required removal of part of her thigh, received an Ohio Arts Council Grant through the Artists with Disabilities Access Program. The resulting work includes efforts in “Biomorphic,” a series that combines Proffer's interests in the evolution of cells, mutation, botany and microbiology; but don't expect loose translations of medical and scientific images. Those varied inspirations have moved her to create surreal hybrids of flowers, cells, and symbols evocative of otherworldly organisms
 
"Biomorphic" is born from Proffer's body and soul - a characterization that might be trite in any other circumstance, but not with these works, which conjure her cancer. Proffer once described the disease's physical invasion as "a big nasty tumor with wandering tentacles in my thigh."
 
While the portrayal is wholly earned, her artistic interpretations of that terrible and formidable muse are beautiful and complex while managing to be abstract and highly detailed. There is also an unmistakable sexuality characterizing the series that is at once sensual and medical.

"Biomorphic" earns all the adjectives: jarring, compelling, disturbing; and for those who appreciate contrast at its most subtle and sincere, Proffer's work will not disappoint.
 
For questions, contact gallery director, Hilary Gent at hilary@hedgeartgallery.com or 216.650.4201. Viewing hours are Tuesday through Friday 11 a.m. to 5 p.m., evenings and weekends by appointment.
 

Innovation and economic development are the heart of CSU, St. Vincent collaboration

St. Vincent Charity Medical Center and Cleveland State University are a long-standing pair of downtown Cleveland economic and academic anchors. Now the two entities are combining forces to cultivate new research innovations that could have further impact on the city, proponents say.
 
Announced at an October 12 St. Vincent fundraising event, the collaboration focuses on expansion of the existing Campus District medical and academic hub. While early in its lifespan, the partnership has realized 35 projects in various stages of progress, says Thom Olmstead, the medical center's director of university collaborations.
 
"With CSU down the street, there were some obvious opportunities to collaborate," says Olmstead. "A multi-disciplinary approach can drive these concepts."
 
Work over the last 11 months has included crossover between St. Vincent and faculty from the university's engineering, science, nursing and law colleges. The medical institution also currently serves as a teaching site for CSU's joint degree program with Northeast Ohio Medical University, which trains its charges to meet the unique healthcare needs of urban neighborhoods.
 
An alliance between St. Vincent’s Spine & Orthopedic Institute and CSU’s Washkewicz College of Engineering, meanwhile, has resulted in new prosthetic technology and rehabilitation techniques.
 
With more than a half-million dollars earmarked for future projects, institution leaders are planning additional partnership endeavors. Among them is St. Vincent residents using CSU's simulation lab for training in cardiac events and other medical emergencies. In addition, hospital trainees are now embedded as observers at the college's speech and hearing clinic.
 
"The model is an academic medical campus, and CSU is only a couple of hundred yards away," says Olmstead.
 
This latest collaboration reinvigorates ties between the institutions fostered six years ago by St. Vincent president and CEO David Perse. New projects will not only further bind the involved groups, but increase in scope and sophistication to have a wider influence on Cleveland's economic development future as well.
 
"This partnership isn't just marrying capabilities on either side, it's showing how we can be significant in revitalizing the neighborhood," Olmstead says. "We're happy to work with CSU. The impact they have on the community is very important to them, and aligns very well with what we're doing."
 

Next stop for entrepreneurs in search of unique housing is Shaker Heights

Shaker Heights is bringing in creative folks via refurbished homes designed with the entrepreneur in mind.
 
Nine rental units are available at two homes on Chelton Road in the city's Moreland district. As spearheaded by the Neighborhood Housing Services of Greater Cleveland (NHS), these private units are short-term living options for people willing to share common space with their fellow entrepreneurs.
 
Renters sign month-to-month leases for $394.50, which includes a private bedroom and access to common kitchen, bathroom, living room and dining room areas. All utilities are included, as are entrepreneur-friendly perks like high-speed internet from the OneCommunity fiber network. Living rooms and attic space, meanwhile, come with built-in "whiteboard" walls for sharing innovative ideas.
 
"Entrepreneurs are only responsible for their own lease and can stay for a particular time frame," says Marge Misak, land trust program director at NHS. "It's an easy in for business people."
 
The idea is to provide single start-up owners with an inexpensive option to help jumpstart their businesses. Since the program launched three years ago, tenants have been mostly app creators and other tech-related innovators. Some worked nearby at The Dealership (formerly Shaker LaunchHouse).
 
More recently, the homes - one a single-family, the other a double - have been occupied by students from the Tech Elevator coding boot camp. Program supporters including NHS expect more business owner occupants once The Dealership settles into the community.
 
Ultimately, coordinators want the homes to be part of a larger innovation hub - a plan on the books since the federal Neighborhood Stabilization Program provided grants for renovation work in 2013.  After the suburb restored the structures, ownership was turned over to NHS, which sees the Moreland district as an "innovation zone" with the potential to become a focal point of Shaker Heights - an assertion Fresh Water has previously explored.
 
"There's an excitement in the neighborhood as a place for artists and the creative class," says Misak. "When you do that, you get everyone thinking about the talents they can bring to the table."
 
Talent retention is another program facet, Misak notes. High demand for creatively reused rental units could be a springboard that attracts an economy-driving start-up demographic searching out more permanent lodging.
 
"This is very aspirational," says Misak. "We want to make connections between entrepreneurial residents and the neighborhood." 

The City of Shaker Heights is part of Fresh Water's underwriting support network.

PRISM looks to unite second cohort of racial equity leaders

This series of stories, "Grassroots Success: Awakening the Power of Families and Neighborhoods," explores how meaningful impact on our communities grows from the ground up. Support for "Grassroots Success" is provided by Neighborhood Connections.

Like light through a prism, each of us is a unique individual amid our respective neighborhoods, organizations, and jobs. But it's actually the multifaceted spectrum that makes up any group. Partners Neighborhood Connections and the Community Innovation Network at Case Western Reserve University (CWRU) examine this phenomenon in PRISM, a racial equity leadership program led by Erica Merritt, Equius Group, and Adele DiMarco Kious, Yinovate, LLC.

Launched in June 2016, PRISM was created to assist area non-profit, social service, corporate, neighborhood, and other formal and informal leaders address racial equity in a safe environment. By bringing together different experiences and racial perspectives, PRISM strives to create productive dialogue in a safe environment.
 
“Twenty participants completed the PRISM experience and have continued to stay connected to each other and [further] racial equity work in our community,” Merritt says. “In fact, in November we will be launching monthly sessions for this group as a way of continuing to support their growth. This work is challenging and difficult to sustain over time without a strong support system.”
 
The first five-session program examined racism on four levels: internalized, interpersonal, institutional and structural. Participants were provided tools to assess the state of their organizations and communities. They also had the opportunity to participate in caucus groups.
 
The program consists of interactive sessions using film, mini-lectures, experiential exercises, short videos, and articles. Designed around a cohort model, a maximum of 20 participants attend five workshops, each building on the last. Interpersonal relations are also established through the sessions.
 
“We strive for a racially diverse group of participants representing a variety of institutions, community organizations and neighborhoods,” Merritt says. “The intention is for us to collectively equip and empower each other so that we may unite to truly make a change.”
 
She says participants of the first block of sessions ranged from people representing the Cleveland Public Library, CWRU, and charter schools, as well as others who came to learn how to address issues in their own neighborhoods.
 
PRISM strives to leave participants with greater self-awareness and an individualized plan with an improved capacity to dismantle racism in their neighborhoods and organizations. Many participants have kept in touch socially or have begun to work together to implement things they have learned through the sessions.
 
“Our goal is to continue striving toward racial equity in Cleveland by building a network of leaders, formal and informal, who are working towards it in large and small ways every single day,” Merritt explains, adding she'll know they have achieved this goal when Clevelanders' racial identity no longer predict how one fares statistically.
 
In addition to the next five-session PRISM program that will run from February through April, PRISM will be launching a monthly version beginning in November called R.E.A.L. (Racial Equity and Leadership) Workshops, which will serve as an entry point for individuals who want to build personal awareness around racial equity. The REAL sessions will examine the difference between equality and equity and explore practices and policies at the structural level. Merritt says the workshops will teach people about racism that extends past individual acts of meanness. Scheduled dates include Nov. 30, Jan. 10, Feb. 15, March 15 and April 12. All programs are from 6 to 8 p.m. and will be held at Neighborhood Connections, 5000 Euclid Ave., suite 310, inside the Agora.
 
“I do this work out of a great deal of optimism that we can have a better future,” Merritt says. “It’s about not wanting to repeat the past, and knowing we can create a better country. It [systemic inequity] is something that we created, so it’s something we can dismantle.”

Old Brooklyn business competition winners aim for steady growth and progress

It's been more than a year since the Old Brooklyn Community Development Corporation (OBCDC) held a unique business plan contest that worked one-on-one with participants to determine how their ideas fit into the neighborhood.
 
The three winners of the 2015 Business Competition - Cleveland Jam, Connie’s Affogato and JAC Creative - have grown since being selected from a pool of 10 finalists. While not all developing at the same pace, these ventures are finding their entrepreneurial footing through new storefronts and other upgrades, says Rosemary Mudry, OBCDC's director of economic development.
 
"Each of these businesses has taken a different path," says Mudry. "Our role is helping them wherever they are in the process."
 
During the competition, finalists received Small Enterprise Education Development (SEED) training from the Economic & Community Development Institute (ECDI) and met with OBCDC staff to discuss possible locations for their enterprises. Mudry helped them hash out their pitches over a period of several months, an education now paying benefits as entrepreneurs settle into the community.
 
Before the contest, Cleveland Jam was displaying its jams made from locally sourced beer and wines at trade shows, online and at Great Lakes Brewing Company's gift shop. Today, the business is refurbishing a retail space attached to a greenhouse, which also has an outdoor garden where they can grow the fruits and vegetables used to concoct their tasty products.
 
Located at West 11th Street and Schaaf Road, the business's retail portion is 750 square feet. Owner Jim Conti is readying his new digs for a November 19 opening.
 
"They have a website, and still have a partnership with Great Lakes Brewing Company," Mudry says. "It's a great time for them to expand their brand while securing a space."
 
Meanwhile, JAC Creative, a design and marketing firm founded by Gabriel Johnson, Andrew Sobotka, and Mike Caparanis in 2012, used funding from the competition to lease office space and are now considering expansion, reports Mudry.
 
The business contest's third winner, Connie’s Affogato, sells a concoction of espresso and locally-made ice cream via bicycle. The mobile storefront - a mindchild of Jason Minter - is currently acquiring permitting with help from OBCDC.
 
The manner in which all three concepts have progressed is illustrative of the development corporation's core mission of creating jobs and filling vacant spaces. Mudry is already looking ahead to Old Brooklyn residents enjoying the fruits of a year's worth of hard work.
 
"The ultimate success is having these businesses open and operating," she says. "This is a place where entrepreneurs are supported, and there's a network of like-minded entrepreneurs here working to better the community." 

ECDI Cleveland is part of Fresh Water's underwriting support network.

Sixty NewBridge students graduate, look forward to professional career paths

Last Friday at Cleveland Metropolitan School District's East Professional Center, NewBridge – Cleveland's unique center for art and technology, held a graduation ceremony for five of its workforce training classes including its phlebotomy, pharmacy technician and hospital nursing assistant programs.
 
The grads included more than 60 students, each with their own story of struggle. The organization serves a mostly minority, mostly female population, with many of the students living at or below the poverty line. Many are single mothers, some of whom have been homeless. This is a story of their success against economic obstacles minorities face in Cleveland - among other challenges. NewBridge believes its program is a model for success that can be used to help revitalize the community, one person at a time.
 
The stories behind each NewBridge student will give anyone among us pause.

Whitney emigrated from Honduras and was abandoned by her family at age 14. She later became a single mother, living in homeless shelters with her seven-year-old daughter.
 
After a failed stint at Cuyahoga Community College and with few options, she heard about NewBridge and enrolled in the phlebotomy program on account of its fast track scheduling. Now with her classes complete and her hospital externships ahead, Whitney is on a solid path toward her dream of becoming a nurse. Her intention is to work during the day and take classes at Tri-C to finish her nursing degree.
 
Tasha, another of phlebotomy students, also found that Tri-C was not right for her.

A single mother with two teenage boys at home, Tasha felt she could no longer take night classes after a child was killed in her neighborhood. Since NewBridge classes are during the day, the schedule gave her more time with her sons. Tasha is also about to embark on her hospital externship, with the intention to use her phlebotomy experience as a stepping-stone to becoming a nurse.
 
"All of these are folks who were deserving of second chance – or maybe even a first chance," says NewBridge's chief development officer Stephen Langel of the latest set of graduates. "This is a culmination of all their effort and their time and sweat equity," he says, adding that some students have gotten jobs directly out of externships, while others are applying for jobs and awaiting offers. "Now they're graduating and moving on to the next stage of their life and a career path."

NewBridge’s vocational training is distinctively market-based. The center's administrators meet with local hospitals and other institutions to gauge employment needs. Then they work with those employers to develop coursework that prepares students for in-demand careers. Classes are free, but students are required to maintain a good record of attendance and behavior.
 
"It's very exciting for all of us," adds Langel of graduation day, noting that these students have overcome much and worked hard to get to this night. "They're seeing the pay-off now."

NewBridge is part of Fresh Water's underwriting support network.
 

Ugly fruits and vegetables spawn beautiful program

Getting enough fresh fruits and vegetables to eat can be a hit or miss prospect in Cleveland's “food deserts” where full service grocery stores are hard to come by. At the same time, an astounding amount of produce and other food in the United States – more than 30 million tons a year – ends up in landfills.
 
A fourth-generation fruit-and-vegetable wholesaler in Cleveland is taking on those incongruities with a program designed to assist low-income families while tackling food waste.
 
Forest City Weingart Produce Co. has begun selling, at cost, fruits and vegetables that come through its warehouse every week that are totally healthy but cosmetically flawed – an eggplant with a scar, a dimpled orange, the oddly shaped tomato. The "Perfectly Imperfect" endeavor is a unique effort by which the wholesaler is packaging imperfect produce for purchase on a small scale for individuals, says Ashley Weingart, the company’s director of communications and community outreach.
 
It’s also part of a growing push across the country to save misshapen yet completely edible food from the dump. Writer Jordan Figueiredo has a social media campaign to promote the ugly produce movement on Twitter @UglyFruitAndVeg, and on Facebook.
 
“We see an opportunity to reduce food waste and help get more fruits and vegetables to the population that can’t afford them,” says Weingart as she assembles boxes of imperfect cantaloupes, green peppers, potatoes, eggplant, zucchini, cucumbers, lemons and mangos.
 
Perfectly Imperfect sells the produce medleys every Friday. A 15-pound mixture goes for $15 or get 30 pounds for $25 at 4000 Orange Ave in Cleveland (call ahead to order at 216-881-3232). Shoppers also can sign up to have boxes delivered to their homes ($7.50 within the city, $10 elsewhere in the county and $15 for surrounding counties). The program is open to all.
 
Ashley’s husband Andy Weingart, whose great-grandfather founded the company in 1900, says the wholesaler used to throw out blemished produce that grocery stores didn’t want because they have trouble selling it to picky shoppers.
 
The company donates 100,000 pounds of imperfect produce to the Cleveland Area Food Bank every year and will continue doing so. But there is even more on hand, which led Ashley Weingart to hatch the idea for Perfectly Imperfect after joining the family business.
 
Weingart says she was struck by the contrast between the bounty of fruits and vegetables arriving every day at the Northern Ohio Food Terminal, the amount the company was discarding because of superficial flaws, and the need for nutritious food in surrounding neighborhoods - which includes some of the poorest zip codes in Ohio.

“It seems ridiculous. I can’t think of a better word at the moment,” she says. “There’s no reason why 40 million Americans should be food insecure, and that we should have 40 percent of the food in this country being wasted.”
 
Weingart and her husband practice what they preach when it comes to eating nourishing food, and are bringing up their three young children the same way.
 
“Our kids are adventurous eaters,” Weingart says. “I refuse to cut the crusts off their bread.”
 
Brimming with ideas for healthy eating at affordable prices while reducing food waste, she has initiated a number of other street level efforts including:
 
- a partnership with the city’s Healthy Cleveland program to get more fruits and vegetables to residents by offering Perfectly Imperfect produce at community centers.
 
- a supply connection with corner stores around Cleveland that want to carry healthier foods, in collaboration with the Prevention Research Center for Healthy Neighborhoods at Case Western Reserve University. “A lot of (corner stores) are going to grocery stores and buying produce and reselling it. They’re not making any money on it,” she says.
 
- outreach to University Hospitals about setting up an information table in the lobby of the main hospital, and perhaps at satellite clinics, to get out word on the ugly produce option.
 
- the "Seed to Spoon" program, in which she vists schools to educate children about the long journey their food takes to get to the table and why it’s important not to waste it.
 
- becoming a supplier of fruits and vegetables to FarmRaiser, an alternative to candy and cookies for student fund drives. City Ballet of Cleveland was the first customer.

“We want to bridge the gap between all the food waste that exists in our country and to help the community around us,” says Weingart. “We feel like we have the obligation and the opportunity to help.”
 

CMHA makes connections, bridges digital divide for residents

In terms of internet access, Cleveland is not the most well-connected city. Approximately 31 percent of residents have no online availability at home, according to statistics from the National Digital Inclusion Alliance (NDIA).
 
To better that statistic, the Cuyahoga Metropolitan Housing Authority (CMHA) is bridging the digital divide through a federal initiative providing Clevelanders with computer training and internet access. Called Cleveland Connects, the program recently graduated 22 CMHA residents from a four-week training class covering proper mouse usage, keyboarding and email skills.
 
Microsoft Word and Excel program basics were also part of the course package for adults and seniors from three CMHA properties - Scranton Castle, Crestview Apartments and Manhattan Tower. Classes were taught at the Connect Your Community Center on Pearl Road, a satellite location of the Ashbury Senior Computer Community Center (ASC3).
 
"For a lot of people, technology is intimidating," says housing authority chief executive officer Jeffery Patterson. "This program focuses on digital literacy."
 
Cleveland Connects is the locally branded version of the ConnectHome pilot venture utilized in 28 communities nationwide. Residents who attended a minimum of six classes received a free desktop computer during a October 19 certification ceremony. Students can use their new skills to apply for employment, pay bills or tackle any number of other issues one faces in a technology-based society.

"Having a computer at home means they can compete on a level playing field," says  Patterson. "Just having email is going to put them in a position for jobs or school."
 
CMHA officials are working with the city of Cleveland on getting newly connected learners free or low-cost broadband access. When not coaching up the adult population on computer use, Cleveland Connects makes available mobile WiFi devices to K-12 Cleveland Metropolitan School District (CMSD) students.
 
Cleveland's housing group owns more than 4,600 family units, with over 50 percent of those units having at least one child. A personal computer serves as a writing tool for young people and a communication device for their parents.
 
"People with kids can communicate with teachers over email, or be able to read a syllabus," Patterson says. "Having access to the internet opens so many doors."
 
Less than half of the country's poorest families have a wired Internet subscription at home, and more than 60 million Americans lack basic digital literacy, according to the Federal Communications Commission. ConnectHome aims to offer affordable online access to more low-income Cleveland families, bringing them technological awareness and increased opportunity in our online world. 

All City Candy celebrates three happy years of sweet treats, community events

"Nice matters" at All City Candy, whether simply greeting customers at the door or creating treat-filled gift baskets for corporate events, owner Elisabeth Sapell says.
 
Kindness as a core value has served the Richmond Heights candy store well over the past three years, during which it's offered up 4,000 tasty items from 100 manufacturers and distributors. All City Candy has grown 25 percent annually since October 2013, when Sapell first opened her colorful, candy-scented 6,000-square-foot space at 746 Richmond Road.
 
Sapell points to the store's atmosphere of joy and nostalgia that keeps sweet-toothed consumers coming back. Wide aisles provide bulging bins of hard-shelled chocolates and jelly beans customers can mix and match themselves, while nearby racks overflow with familiar brands and an assortment of retro taste treats.
 
"We're trying to inspire fun and happiness," says Sapell. "It's like a little wonderland here."
 
All City Candy expanded its line to include the Pretzelicious brand of gourmet chocolate pretzels, which are packaged with chocolate-dipped Oreos and other goodies for corporate getaways. Over the last 12 months, the has store sent upwards of 1,000 treat baskets to its business clients. Weddings, bar and bat mitzvahs and birthday parties get bulk orders, too, resulting in steady growth for the megastore.
 
An October 23 third anniversary celebration reflected the fun-loving attitude that's brought All City Candy such success, its owner says. About a thousand visitors enjoyed games and giveaways throughout the day, along with a Halloween-themed candy buffet and chocolate pretzel dipping display. 
 
Community and charity events are another piece of Sapell's business model. In recent months, the store hosted a party pairing wines with different candies. All City Candy also supplied sweet snacks to young patients at University Hospitals during the holiday season.
 
"Our mission is to inspire people to be creative, kind and giving," says Sapell. "What did we do today to make someone happy?"
 
Sapell is glad to bring fun to the retail experience, a state of beings she recalls from working in the family grocery store, Sapell's Bi-Rite in Lakewood. Happiness spreads from customers via social media, or a visitor gleefully calling a friend while walking the aisles and seeing the deliciousness on display.
 
"We looked at our core values, and it's more than just selling candy," says Sapell. "It's about creating a place where people can have a good time and get away from what's stressing them out." 

Maker Faire to showcase innovation via Fluxmonkey, pumpkin toss and more

Northeast Ohio's rich maker culture stretches back to a strong manufacturing and engineering foundation, one bolstered in recent years by innovative efforts in the biomedical, design and even the food space.
 
All are invited to celebrate the region's maker culture on November 5 when Cleveland Public Library (CPL) hosts its fourth annual Cleveland Mini Maker Faire (CMMF). Supported by Ingenuity Cleveland, the day-long event is designed as a family-friendly showcase of imagination celebrating the maker movement.
 
"It encourages people to be creative, to understand that making can be a hobby, not just a job," says Aaron Mason, head of programming at CPL.
 
Highlighted by 70 free workshops and tech-based exhibitions, this year's program includes glitch art sessions where participants create media around defects in digital technology. Electro-acoustic musician Fluxmonkey will teach attendees how to make their own electronic audio devices, while CPL's on-site TechCentral MakerSpace leads classes on 3D papercraft, paracord crafts and robotics. Meanwhile, Rockwell Avenue will be closed for a trebuchet pumpkin toss.
 
CPL is ready to welcome 3,500 guests for additional activities like Drone Zone, where amateur techies control library-supplied flying vehicles in a netted off indoor space. NASA Glenn Research Center and the The Children's Museum of Cleveland will also present various installations and demonstrations.
 
CPL officials expect Clevelanders of all ages to come out and support their hometown's most exciting innovators.
 
"We get city residents and people from the suburbs, as well as all races and cultures," says Mason. "This is the most diverse event we have."
 
Maker Faire has an opportunity to reignite a spirit of innovation that harkens to Cleveland's long manufacturing history, Mason adds. Children can be an especially active baton-carrier leading Northeast Ohio into the next generation of design.
 
"Technology is a closed system and can be a mystery for kids," says Mason. "Our exhibitors are sharing what they've learned and showing the secrets behind their creations."
 
Ultimately, Maker Faire is a collaborative effort using the CPL's glittering main downtown branch as a natural convening space for makers, companies and people who are simply interested in new and interesting knowledge.
 
"People are getting to view technology and art while also being a part of it," says Mason. "They're learning about new technologies that could be applicable later in life."
 

EDWINS, Food Bank amid five nonprofits vying for funding at annual 'Nurture an Idea' event

Cleveland has rebounded in numerous ways, but there are still communities being left behind amid the city's renaissance, notes Mark McDermott, vice president and Ohio market leader for Enterprise Community Partners, Inc.
 
The locally based national nonprofit is attempting to fill that gap via its third annual Nurture an Idea Award, which supports change-making community development initiatives in Cuyahoga County. Five finalists will have their projects voted on by a live audience and a panel of judges during a public event at the Hilton Cleveland Downtown on October 24. Event partners are Ohio Savings Banka division of New York Community Bank, and the JP Morgan Chase Foundation.
 
Each idea from area nonprofit organizations addresses inequalities and creates opportunities for Cleveland's underserved population, says Kathy Matthews, program director at Enterprise. Finalists will present their plans at the free event from 4 to 7 p.m. Two winners will receive $10,000 each.
 
"We're looking to promote ideas that make a positive impact in the areas of available housing and community resources," says Matthews. "These ideas haven't been implemented, but require visibility and financial resources."
 
This year's finalists include:
 
- Cosmic Bobbins Foundation's "Cleveland Sews," a workforce development and wealth-building sewing collaborative that stitches together Cuyahoga County's social fabric
 
- EDWINS Leadership & Restaurant Institute, which seeks to add to its culinary institute with a butcher shop located in the Buckeye/Shaker neighborhood
 
- ESOP Realty, Inc.'s home ownership program
 
- Greater Cleveland Food Bank's "Food as Medicine Initiative," which aims to provide healthy meals to low-income residents diagnosed with diabetes and other food-related illnesses
 
- Tremont West Development Corporation and Famicos Foundation for a joint real estate investment cooperative that would acquire and redevelop affordable workforce housing in Cleveland neighborhoods
 
CrowdRise campaign is raising money for implementation of the finalists' ideas and will conclude on October 24 to coincide with the public event.
 
"There's five different approaches to creating opportunity here," says McDermott. "That's what makes this program special."
 
Involving the public is key to both raising awareness and making proposals a reality, adds Matthews.
 
"Having people attend will expose them to ideas and get some creative thinking to take place," she says. "Hopefully this will give these projects an even stronger chance to get implemented."

Women's conference gathers a cross-section of empowered Cleveland professionals

A grassroots leadership event designed for women from an array of professional backgrounds is returning to Cleveland later this month.
 
The Women’s Leadership Conference of Northeast Ohio, founded by Hinckley resident Robin Doerschuk, takes place October 27 at the Intercontinental Hotel. Doerschuk expects 400 to 500 attendees representing a multitude of industries and titles.
 
Diversity is what sets the conference apart from other professional women's events tied to awards or upper-level management, notes Doerschuk, who is by day the director of learning and development at Alliance Solutions Group in Independence.
 
The proof is in the conference's speaker list: Doerschuk invited a dozen influential female speakers from industries including STEM, marketing, government, finance and education.
 
"If you have a STEM background, I have somebody from Lubrizol speaking," Doerschuk says. "Or if you're from a nonprofit, I have a doctor focused on women's healthcare. Entrepreneurs will be on hand, too."
 
Gathering a cross-section of women from entry-level to c-suite aims to "empower, educate and inspire" all involved. Keynote speakers and breakout sessions will cover women's health, entrepreneurial leadership, marketing and other topics relevant to the modern businesswoman.
 
Doerschuk has seen the event's impact herself, pointing to an audience member at last year's inaugural event who formed a business relationship with a speaker. Then there were the two former classmates who reconnected at a breakout session and are now working together.
 
"For me, this is an opportunity to get hundreds of women linked up and networking," says Doerschuk. "It's a deeper dive of support that results in a relationship after the conference."
 
Last year's meeting drew 350 women to Landerhaven, having enough of an influence that Doerschuk switched venues this year with assistance from a team of volunteers.
 
"We created the conference to retain top female talent and create networks for women," says Doerschuk. "To see it grow means what we're doing has value."
 
The conference founder recognized a need for a built-in support system of women upon joining the professional ranks a decade ago. Her brainchild's networking and education focus could extend next to college students readying themselves for a competitive employment market.
 
"If this conference existed when I was 24, I'd be further along in my career than I am now," says Doerschuk. "I've had women approach me and say this is something they've needed for a long time."
 

Naked Trump sculpture heads to auction block next week

A six-foot-tall nude sculpture of Republican presidential hopeful Donald Trump has generated its share of controversy and commentary since its short-lived (ahem) erection in Cleveland Heights, along with four other replicates that popped up in American cities this summer. The statue's newest purpose is bringing more public art to Cleveland Heights, thanks to an upcoming auction at Gray's Auctioneers.

Entitled The Emperor Has No Balls, the piece by Cleveland-born artist Joshua “Ginger” Monroe will be lot No. 1 in Gray's October 26 auction. A private preview is available for bidders on October 19, 20, 21, 22 & 24, 25, with Gray's displaying a life-size photograph of the sculpture throughout the week.
 
Available for auction live and online, the salmon-colored Trump effigy is estimated to garner $10,000 to $20,000. Proceeds will benefit public art funding in the Coventry Village Special Improvement District, along with public projects developed by community arts nonprofit Heights Arts. Artist Monroe will also get a piece of the Trump pie once the sale is complete.
 
Coventry Village is where the sculpture was initially placed by activist collective INDECLINE, says Angie Hetrick, executive director of the Coventry SID. Cleveland Heights police confiscated the piece 24 minutes after it was set up near the corner of Coventry Road and Euclid Heights Boulevard.
 
Monroe liberated his work in mid-September for a $110 impound fee. Of the five statues created by the Garfield Heights native, the Cleveland piece is the only one he reclaimed. The others were destroyed (New York), still in police custody (San Francisco) or picked up by a private business (Seattle). A Los Angeles sculpture going up for auction October 22 was not claimed by either Monroe or the INDECLINE group.
 
"It's a really unique piece for an interesting political season," says Hetrick. "We're honored that our neighborhood, of all the cool neighborhoods in Cleveland, was chosen for the statute."
 
Coventry and Heights Arts leaders are excited to put the auction proceeds to good use. Hetrick points to possible new public art projects similar to the arch at Coventry P.E.A.C.E. park.
 
"This is a wonderful thing that will bring long-lasting public pieces that beautify the neighborhood," Hetrick says. "What's beautiful about is that street art becomes more street art."
 
The arts-focused effort is a perfect remedy for a contentious election cycle, adds the Coventry official.
 
"(The auction) is a chance at a piece of history," says Hetrick. "Love or hate Trump, nobody can disagree this is going to a great cause."

Starting at approximately 10:30 a.m. on Oct. 26, Fresh Water's editor, Erin O'Brien, will cover the auction live from Gray's on her twitter feed, @erin__obrien.

Off the gridiron, Browns foundation supports education, youth development

Northeast Ohio education and youth development is the centerpiece of $275,000 in grants recently awarded by the Cleveland Browns Foundation.
 
The four grants announced in late September support nonprofits and education-based organizations. Dollars were garnered through the foundation's annual radiothon event, which raised $137,000 from listeners of ESPN 850 WKNR. Team owner Jimmy Haslam and his wife, Dee, matched the amount to give students throughout the region access to learning opportunities, says Renee Harvey, foundation vice president.
 
The radio event, which occurred September 15-16 and included more than 50 interviews with Browns personnel, is one of three major fundraising programs orchestrated by the foundation. A spring golf tournament and 50/50 raffle at Browns home games round out the organization's charitable ventures.
 
"The focus is on a solutions-based, holistic approach that ensures Northeast Ohio youth have educational support," says Harvey. "We believe all kids regardless of ethnicity, race or where they live deserve a high-quality education."
 
Grant beneficiaries are the Cleveland Metropolitan School District (CMSD), Shoes and Clothes for Kids (SC4K), Ginn Academy and The Centers for Families and Children. A planned $65,000-plus gift to CMSD will be used for  the "Get to School, You Can Make It" campaign promoting attendance within the district. Ginn Academy received $65,000 in support of its Life Coach program, which provides students at the all-male public high school with a 24/7 mentor.

The Centers will utilize a $65,000 foundation grant to implement its 2,000 Days Pledge initiative, designed to engage parents, teachers and communities in a child's first 2,000 days of life, a period during which 90 percent of brain development occurs. Shoes and Clothes for Kids, meanwhile, will distribute school supplies and uniforms to disadvantaged CMSD learners via a $100,000 grant. 
 
"The majority of what we support is on the educational side, from birth through college," Harvey says. "Parents need to understand the role they play as their child's first teacher, and how they choose a high-quality learning environment. These choices can set a child on the right path." 
 
Harvey says critical collaborations with community partners make these improved educational outcomes possible.
 
"Along with the Haslams' leadership and support of kids from Northeast Ohio, we have the ability to partner with amazing nonprofits," she says. "We're diving deep into issues and finding ways we can move the needle. There are so many entities here focused on strengthening the community, and we're proud to be part of the mix." 

Burton D. Morgan Foundation celebrates 50th with Aviation hackathon, other grants

A high-flying hackathon is among the programs to benefit from Burton D. Morgan Foundation's latest round of grants.
 
At their September meeting, the Hudson-based organization approved nearly $700,000 in grants to organizations that promote regional entrepreneurship, including a grant of $65,000 to Kent State University Foundation for an aviation-focused hackathon event set for next year.
 
Called "Sky Hack - Innovation Takes Flight," the hackathon will celebrate the 50th anniversaries of both the foundation and KSU's flight technology program. Students from across the region are welcome to develop solutions to issues related to the aviation industry. The event, which organizers say is the first of its kind in the country, is scheduled for Oct. 13-15, 2017.
 
Foundation president and CEO Deborah Hoover says the unique competition will not only recognize a pair of shared milestones, it will also highlight nonprofit namesake Burton Morgan's passion for flight, which included building and designing aircraft during his student days at Purdue University.
 
"We were looking to celebrate our anniversary next year with a special project that hasn't been done before," says Hoover. "There's a strong flight training program at KSU, so that gave us the idea to do the hackathon."
 
Other grants are slated to benefit groups supporting innovation and entrepreneurship at the youth, collegiate and adult levels. For example, Cleveland Water Alliance was awarded $50,000 to bolster programming and services to participants of "AquaHacking 2017," a hackathon designed to advance Northeast Ohio's growing water innovation cluster.
 
"Lake Erie is a great asset and we hope to grow water-related industries in the region," Hoover says. "We're focused on fresh water innovation, technology and stewardship."

Additional foundation grants include:
 
- $50,000 to Hebrew Free Loan Association to create a loan fund for small business owners and entrepreneurs
 
- $32,500 to Entrepreneurial Engagement Ohio for a series of science and technology forums
 
- $25,000 to the Hispanic Business Center in support of bilingual Hispanic and Latino entrepreneurs
 
Since May, the foundation has approved a number of smaller grants that align with its business-building mission. Among the recipients were 87.9 WKSU, which received $8,500 for sponsorship of its Exploradio program. Girl Scouts of North East Ohio ($10,000), Launch League ($20,000) and Hathaway Brown School ($15,000) garnered funding for programming and operational support. 

Basic Health program offers multiple services to Cleveland's underserved

The nonprofit May Dugan Center has been addressing the basic needs of low income West Side residents for 70 years. New times create new necessities, to which the center has continued to answer the call, proponents say.
 
May Dugan's Basic Health program is a multi-faceted effort offering screenings and medical guidance for Cleveland's underserved and uninsured. These benefits are intertwined with ongoing food and clothing distribution and support services the nonprofit is already providing.
 
Each month during its food and clothing program, the center, in collaboration with St. Vincent Charity Hospital, gives check-ups on blood pressure, glucose and cholesterol levels to visiting clientele. Nurses on hand answer questions about medication interactions and other health topics, while podiatry residents consult with visitors about proper foot care.
 
In 2015, May Dugan performed 802 screenings on 200-250 returning individuals, says May Dugan deputy director Andy Trares.
 
"Forming relationships with a primary care physician is important to stay on top of your health," says Trares. "For many of our folks that come in, the screenings are the strongest relationship they have with a healthcare provider."
 
Some clients use the free service as a supplement to care from their general practitioner.
 
"We had a woman with high blood pressure who realized there was something wrong with her medication," Trares says. "We called her doctor and made the change right there."
 
Assistance with insurance applications is another program perk. As Healthcare Insurance Marketplace season approaches, certified application counselors will guide participants through what is often a confusing process. Meanwhile, insurance workshops will be led at May Dugan's facility at 4115 Bridge Ave. by a health and wellness coordinator.
 
The newest program under the Basic Health umbrella, meanwhile, invites senior citizens to drop into the center twice weekly for art and music therapy sessions, nutrition classes and free meals. Launched last year, the venture has brought 1,400 hours of socialization to 35 attendees.
 
Trares expects Basic Health's robust programming to continue into 2017, with help from foundational partners such as the Thatcher Family Fund as well as The Music Settlement, the Benjamin Rose Institute on Aging and other organizations giving their time for a much-needed service.
 
"We have clients picking up food and getting their health screenings on the same day," says Trares. "(Basic Health) looks at people holistically through issues that are tied together like food security, health and housing." 

This story is one of a Fresh Water series supported in part by the May Dugan Center.

Get out: Wheedle app connects consumers, venues and promotions

Clevelanders like to go out, and local establishments want nothing more than to bring those folks in the door. A new app aims to make that connection happen.

Called Wheedle, the free mobile app allows consumers to view promotions from 60 area restaurants, bars and clubs, then request and book reservations directly with their favorite eatery or entertainment venue.

Want to know which bars are offering drink or appetizer specials? Wheedle's got the 411 right now.

Establishments using the app, meanwhile, can utilize Wheedle's ticketing platform to market and sell tickets, or customize promotions depending on time of day and other factors.
 
Launched last month by founders John Weston and Brian Stein, the app has 1,900 users on board. Wheedle's creators, housed at the Flashstarts technology and software business accelerator downtown, want to meld venue discovery, booking and ticketing into a single platform.
 
"The app can be used to find a place that serves lunch, or if you need a romantic table," says Stein. "Whatever your specific request, you can send it out and get back multiple, competitive offers."
 
Services like Open Table and Groupon only provide variables on what Wheedle collects in one place, its founders maintain. Stein and Weston, whose respective backgrounds include mobile app development and hospitality marketing, say they recognized a need from both consumers and venues that was not being fulfilled.
 
"I was a marketing consultant for clubs and bars in the area," Weston says. "We were always looking for a tool like this, but it didn't exist."
 
The business partners began working together in April 2014 after meeting at LaunchHouse. Obtaining funding and sending the app through a beta period took up the years before Wheedle hit the market.
 
Early reaction has been overwhelmingly positive, Stein notes. Wheedle recently won the FUND Conference in Chicago and was awarded $125,000 from North Coast Opportunities Technology Fund. The entrepreneurs have raised $725,000 in early funding, and next year look to garner between $3-$7 million once their brainchild is established.
 
Life for the innovators has been busy since Fire owner Doug Katz booked the very first Wheedle at another app customer's restaurant. Future plans include an expansion into Chicago, with New York, San Francisco, Los Angeles, Philadelphia and Orlando also in the offing.
 
"We've been at this for two-and-a-half years, and momentum has built up until we're ready to shoot out like a bullet from a gun," says Stein. "We're excited for the ride." 

Fresh and fun: recessCLE

This series of stories, "Grassroots Success: Awakening the Power of Families and Neighborhoods," explores how meaningful impact on our communities grows from the ground up. Support for "Grassroots Success" is provided by Neighborhood Connections.
 
Alex Robertson is smart, ambitious, and successful. And after leaving Glenville to attend Ivy League Columbia University in New York City, he returned home to share what he has gleaned and improve his neighborhood by making it more fun.
 
Robertson threw a birthday party for his entire community when he first formed the pop-up game and event organization Recess Cleveland (recessCLE). Its first event was held on his 31st birthday, August 9, 2015.
 
“Birthdays are always a good time to get people out to an event,” says Robertson. “I told my friend, for my birthday I want to throw dodge balls at you.”
 
Approximately 50 people showed up. They divided the group into age 21 and under and age 22 and older.

”The highlight of the day was a 65-year-old grandma pitching to five-year-old kids,” Robertson says. “When she was kicking, she kicked a line-drive to the outfield. So all the kids were like, ‘Granny’s got legs!’ We did get her a designated runner, though.”
 
The organization throws pop-up recess events at community functions, block parties, etc. It also hosts a monthly Glenville Community Freecess and potluck where everyone donates food or a toy or game.
 
“We bring the meat, volunteers bring sides, and residents bring chips and sodas,” Robertson says. “We go all out; it’s a lot of fun. I tell people, ‘Send us your kids. They’ll leave tired and full.’”
 
RecessCLE began by throwing last minute events with no more than a 48-hour notice, although Robertson is trying to give people more time now. The events are a free-for-all for the first hour as people show up, then they decide which sports or games to play. It may include dodge ball, kickball, and soccer with tug-o-war, hula-hooping, and jumping rope contests between. The whole event lasts more than four hours.

”It ends when the lights go out, or when the mosquitoes get to us,” he says, adding that people typically bring their entire families, with ages ranging from five to 60.
 
“I pull the double-dutch jump ropes out, and the parents’ faces light up. The kids may get two jumps in before the ropes hit the ground, and the parents have to show them how it’s done. I try to get everyone involved by taking old school games and bringing them to new school teenagers.”
 
The inspiration to form the community organization, which includes Robertson and three volunteers, was rooted deep in his childhood. He attended Glenville's St. Aloysius School through fifth grade, then University School in Shaker Heights before moving to New York and earning his degree from Columbia University. The full-time web designer and digital marketing consultant moved back to Glenville and began working with non-profits.
 
He remembered the contrast between finding things to do in the parking lot during recess at the inner-city St. Aloysius and the structured recess games organized for large groups at the suburban University School.
 
“I met kids who had never played dodge ball,” he says. “I wanted to give them something that I felt was important to me when I was a kid.”
 
Neighborhood Connections awarded Robertson a $3,000 grant in February, which he used to replace old equipment and items that were stolen. He also purchased 12 body zorb balls, which he says are the most popular item with children.
 
”The kids just have a blast with those.”
 
In addition, he's launched a crowd-funding campaign to cover the costs of food and moving and replacing equipment. Currently, the organization supplies food for 40 to 50 people at their Freecess events, but 50 to 70 people typically show up.

Robertson branched out further by offering his recessCLE to schools. For $350, he brings his equipment and hosts who ensure all kids are included. They typically offer a free-style environment on one side of the gym and an organized activity on the other. The move was sparked after he volunteered at Patrick Henry School, where he discovered kids sitting on the bleachers doing nothing during what should have been recess due to a lack of adults to monitor them outside.

Robertson is also in the planning stages of launching Recess for a Cause. He hopes to partner with local non-profits to help them raise money and attention for their causes through his recess events.

In the meantime, the group has grown their contact base and is also attempting to branch out into more areas. They held their first Detroit Shoreway area event recently.
 
“We’re trying to bridge communities together,” Robertson says. “When we throw an event, we don’t want just members of their community to attend. Our goal is changing strangers into friends.”

 

Pitch contest gives teenagers real-world business experience

 
A pitch contest for Cleveland teenagers aims to prove you're never too young to gain real-world business experiences.
 
Teen Pitch Tank, a program of the Young Entrepreneur Institute (YEI) at University School, invites high school students to produce an elevator pitch on the business, service, nonprofit or product of their choice, with winners receiving a four-year college scholarship and other prizes. The deadline date for entries is Oct. 16.

YEI will narrow the field to 20 finalists, while a panel of judges and a public vote is tasked with cutting that figure to five. Each winner gets a tablet device, $150 in cash, a year's supply of Coca-Cola beverages, and a scholarship to Cleveland State University's Ahuja School of Business.
 
Any grade nine - 12 student residing in 21 northeast Ohio counties is contest eligible, notes YEI director Greg Malkin.
 
Now in its second year, Teen Pitch Tank does not require a business plan or prototype. Merely creating a business pitch teaches critical thinking and public speaking proficiencies students can use for a future job or college interview.
 
"Persuasively presenting an idea in 60 seconds is a life skill," says Malkin. "We provide workshops and curriculum for schools that will help kids put together their elevator pitches."
 
In general, enthusiasm and a polished presentation make for the best pitches, adds the program director.
 
"The purpose is to make people curious and then be quiet," Malkin says. "You want people engaging with your idea."
 
While proposals are only limited to the imagination, an idea must have a realistic application, meaning time machines and other fantastical notions are not accepted.
 
"The ideation process is a big part of it," says Malkin. "One student is really into cheeseburgers, so he came up with an idea for a cheeseburger restaurant. We want students to realize they can make a career out of their passion."
 
In addition to prizes, winners will present their pitches at Enspire 2016, a November conference for entrepreneur educators and program directors. Though not part of the YEI contest, the event is another means to expose students to a competitive business ecosystem. Ultimately, the competition prepares contestants for all manner of employment-related situations, proponents say.
 
"You never know when you have an opportunity to make a pitch, like at a party and someone asks you about your job," says Malkin. "The contest is readying students for many different situations." 

Made in Cleveland: boobs & belly

In 2008, Courtney Micatrotto was teaching Cleveland moms pre- and post-natal fitness when she noticed a problem - her pregnant participants were frustrated with the lack of truly comfortable maternity wear options. When the issue started to affect attendance, Micatrotto knew it was time to take action, and a new business was born.
 
Well, not right away: Seven years after generating the idea, Micatrotto is now launching boobs & belly, a Cleveland-based activewear company designed to keep its child-bearing clientele both active and comfortable throughout pregnancy. 
 
Boobs & belly offers a line of tank tops, pants and bandeaus that Micatrotto says blend high-end fashion and functionality. Made to fit moms through pregnancy and into motherhood, each locally manufactured piece boasts moisture wicking and shape retention capabilities.
 
For example, the "ultimate tank" has expandable side panels and adjustable straps, while a capri waist band sewn into the pant allows for higher-impact activities as well as support for a growing belly. With maternity activewear being such a niche market, creating a line that combines functionality, versatility and style gives the startup a unique flair, its founder says.
 
"I want moms to be motivated to work out and feel good about how they look," says Micatrotto, a licensed trainer and Pilates instructor. "Pregnant women do Crossfit and run marathons, so you can't limit what your line's going to be."
 
As a mother of three, Micatrotto bills boobs & belly as a venture made for moms, by a mom. Navigating the textile industry as a novice was no simple task, however. The Aurora resident's search for a manufacturing partner took her to New York, Florida and Michigan. She eventually found both a pattern maker and manufacturer in Cleveland, a pair of discoveries that fill her with hometown pride.
 
"To work with my pattern maker and manufacturer face to face has been incredible," says Micatrotto, who also received much-needed branding and business advice from her siblings, Candace Moore and Bobby Kingsbury. "Having labels that say 'manufactured in Cleveland' is a pretty cool thing."
 
Micatrotto's inventory of 35 tanks, 50 pants and 60 bandeaus is currently available on her website. The newbie entrepreneur has been hosting trunk shows on her Facebook page, and recently had a showing at the Womb Wellness Center in Solon. Plans for a winter pregnancy self-care event, meanwhile, include a showcase of boobs & belly clothing.
 
Initial product runs will be smaller, but Micatrotto expects those to pick up as word of the business spreads. Among her fans is Meghan King Edmonds, otherwise known as a "Real Housewife of The OC."
 
For now, Micatrotto is excited to sell Cleveland-made maternity clothes that "make women feel beautiful at every stage."
 
"Everyone who's put on the outfit has been extremely happy," Micatrotto says. "As long as I do my job spreading the word and getting moms interested, the company can do really well." 
 

Purveyor of hemp denim touts sustainability, eyes pop up locations

For some, the word "hemp" conjures up images of burning joints or bongs filled with white smoke.
 
Brian Kupiec is looking to change that perception with a new denim jeans brand that harnesses what he believes are the endless opportunities of hemp fiber. Called Magu Studios, Kupiec and his partners Val Garkov and Garrett Durica started the company in Cleveland two years ago.

After months of preparation, the trio is readying its first run of Japanese Raw Hemp Denim Jeans. The name delivers what it promises, interweaving industrial hemp with cotton for extra durability and bacteria resistance. Hemp carries environmentally-friendly properties as well, needing half as much land for growth as cotton. The leafy plant requires little to no pesticides and needs less water per growing season than "the fabric of our lives."
 
"We're highlighting sustainability and want to use our brand as inspiration for others to utilize hemp in their clothing," Kupiec says. "Industry trends are leaning toward more sustainable fabrics and ethical consumerism."
 
Magu Studios' hemp is cultivated in China, then shipped to Okyama, Japan, a city known in fashion circles as a source for high-quality denim. Kupiec, 22, a Kent State University double major in fashion and business marketing, says he and his partners saw a hemp-sized hole in the market and decided to fill it. His company name derives from the Goddess Magu, also known as the Hemp Maiden.
 
Kupiec and other supporters of the oft-misunderstood fiber point to the plant's myriad industrial applications, from medicine to building materials. Though hemp can't be used as a narcotic, the startup owner has fielded numerous queries about his company's relation to cannabis.
 
"People automatically ask us if our jeans are made of marijuana," says Kupiec. "Hemp gets grouped in with weed, but they should be viewed as two separate things."
 
Despite the stigma, Kupiec has gotten mostly positive responses to the business model, a trend he expects to continue in the next month when Magu Studios opens a pop-up shop in either Gordon Square or Ohio City.
 
Wherever it lands, the shop will carry the company's first 100 pairs of slim jeans in standard deep indigo. Different colors and fades will be available next year. By that time, Kupiec would like to be a budding voice for fashionable, sustainable garments.
 
"Creativity and innovation are what drives us as a business," he says. "We want others to have that same innovation and not be afraid to offer sustainability along with quality."  

CAC grant panel reviews region's newest art projects

Arts experts from around the country are converging on Cleveland this week to evaluate grant submissions from 193 nonprofit groups seeking dollars for their culture-related activities.
 
Cuyahoga Arts & Culture (CAC) is hosting its annual panel review meetings at Playhouse Square's Idea Center for the second straight day following the event's September 26 kickoff. CAC's Project Support grant program promotes cultural efforts of all sizes, with applications reviewed this week set to impact the community in 2017.
 
Panelists are weighing 77 grant submissions of up to $35,000 during CAC's first round of evaluations, with the drama unfolding in front of a live audience comprised of applicants, media and interested citizens. An online panel is assessing the remaining 116 applications for entries capping out at $5,000 each.
 
CAC executive director and Karen Gahl-Mills says the transparent process allows residents to see exactly how CAC grantmaking backs projects that benefit the region.
 
"Whenever you're dealing with public dollars, it's important the public has an ownership of the investment," says Gahl-Mills. "We take that very seriously."
 
Eligibility rides in part on how much a group is already spending on arts programming, as well as the amount of the grant they can match. Fresh, interesting projects that connect with the community can run the gamut from music therapy to science experiments carrying a creative twist. For example, last weekend's Ingenuity Fest is eligible for funding due to its experimental fusion of art and science.
 
"Show us your budget and how this is a good investment," Gahl-Mills says. "Prove to us that you can carry out your plans."
 
Final grants for 2017 will be announced at a public meeting of CAC's board of trustees on November 14 at the Mandel Jewish Community Center. Since 2006, the organization has invested more than $140 million in 300-plus groups, paid for by a penny-and-a-half county cigarette tax. So far this year, CAC has bolstered 152 organizations with $1,651,624 in project support, to go along with ongoing general operating support for area cultural institutions.
 
CAC will continue to get citizens involved in its decisions, thanks to an online survey that asks respondents about their favorite area arts experiences. While the questionnaire won't impact the 2017 panel review, it will help shape how CAC uses future funding.
 
"We work hard to answer how we can support the region's cultural life," says Gahl-Mills. "The survey draws a picture of what people are doing, and that can relate to grantmaking." 

Bakery with Latin flair set to open in Brooklyn Centre

"If you don't try anything, you never know what will happen."
 
Such is the mindset of Lyz Otero, owner of Half Moon Bakery, a soon-to-be-opened seller of traditional Latin pastries and empanadas. Otero took the leap with a little help from the Economic and Community Development Institute (ECDI), an organization that in August announced more than $530,000 in loans to 21 Cleveland-area businesses.
 
Nineteen of those loans were to new minority- or women-owned ventures, with Puerto Rico native Otero receiving $50,000 for equipment and improvements to her 1,200 square-foot space at 3800 Pearl Rd. Otero and husband Gerson Velasquez are using the funding to pay contractors and architects, as well as buy stove hoods and other gear. ECDI also provided the couple with financial management and computer classes.
 
Otero is aiming for an early November launch for a bakery offering a dozen types of empanadas. The new entrepreneur looks forward to stuffing the half-moon shaped pastry turnovers with endless combinations of meat, vegetables and fruit.
 
"It will almost be like a pizzeria, but with empanadas," says Otero. "Everything you put on a pizza can go on an empanada."
 
Vegan and gluten-free empanadas will be on the menu, joining Latin cuisine like rice and tamales. Fresh bread, cupcakes and other delectable confections round out the selection. Otero will create the bakery's pastry products, with her husband serving as chef. During the next month, she expects to hire on two cashiers and an additional cook.
 
While the smaller space will focus on take-out orders, patrons can eat inside on stools along the window. Outdoor seating, meanwhile, is a possibility for warm-weather months.
 
Opening the business has been both exciting and nerve-wracking. Though no stranger to the restaurant industry - past employers include Zack Bruell and Michael Symon - there's nothing for Otero like working for herself. Friend Wendy Thompson, owner of A Cookie and a Cupcake, encouraged her to start a bakery with a unique Latin flair.
 
"We're focusing on gourmet empanadas, which nobody else around here is doing," says Otero. "You never see a place like this where there's so many different kinds of empanadas."
 
Ultimately, Otero wants to leave a delicious, profitable legacy for her three children, ages 4, 6 and 7.
 
"I've always dreamed to do this," she says. "I had to step up and follow my dreams, because nobody was going to do it for me." 

ECDI Cleveland is part of Fresh Water's underwriting support network.

Help shape the future with CAC

This weekend, Northeast Ohioans will flock to IngenuityFest for their annual dose of funky fun. The effort is just one popular area project supported in part by Cuyahoga Arts & Culture (CAC). In 2016 alone, the tax-payer funded organization bolstered 152 organizations with $1,651,624 in project support. That's in addition to an array of grant programs and ongoing general operating support for the area's cultural institutions and groups.

To help inform future decisions, CAC is reaching out to regular janes and joes to get their input via a brief online survey. The Help Shape Our Future survey takes just a few minutes and asks about what sorts of things you enjoy and find enriching. The move will help decide how funding will be allocated over the next ten years. The survey closes on Oct. 1.

Other efforts supported in part by CAC include the Historic Gateway Neighborhood Corporation's 2016 Take a Hike Tours, May Dugan Center's Music Therapy for Senior Citizens and the Slavic Village Development's 2016 Rooms To Let exhibition.

Take the online survey before Oct.1.


 

JumpStart marketing director champions the 'She' of 'CLE'

JumpStart Inc. partner and marketing director Amy Martin is at the forefront of a venture development organization that in the past decade has injected $35 million into more than 80 tech companies. JumpStart revamped its website last December as part of a new mission statement ensuring entrepreneurs of all racial and social backgrounds have access to capital.
 
This work, along with Martin's "side hustle" as co-founder of lifestyle blog She In The CLE, has kept the Westlake resident busy during what she views as an upturn for Northeast Ohio's economic development future. Martin recently shared her Cleveland-centric excitement with Fresh Water.
 
In what ways has JumpStart expanded its reach into the entrepreneurial community?
 
Investing in high-tech companies with the potential to transform communities and create jobs has always been at the core of what we do. However, over the last two years we've taken a strong leadership role on diversity. Earlier this year, we launched the $10 million Focus Fund, a pre-seeded fund that invests in minority and female tech entrepreneurs.
 
JumpStart has always invested in diversity - about 30 percent of our portfolio is made up of minority- or women-owned companies - but we thought we could do better.
 
What is JumpStart's new marketing strategy all about?
 
We have so much knowledge within Northeast Ohio's entrepreneurial economy, and venture capitalists used to investing on the coasts are seeing Cleveland as a hub for innovation. So we're taking a proactive approach around content marketing, pushing four to five pieces of new content every week.
 
Producing content raises our visibility, with an end goal of getting the national media's attention. We've been in USA Today, Forbes, Fast Company and were mentioned on CNBC. What we're doing is storytelling that's newsworthy, like investing in a Cincinnati company called Lisnr that has funding from Intel Capital.
 
Is JumpStart going to be involved with more out-of-region investments?
 
Traditionally, JumpStart has only invested in Northeast Ohio. We launched The NEXT Fund (a $20 million for-profit venture fund directed at early-stage technology startups throughout the state) and the Focus Fund to invest in high-tech entrepreneurs across the state. We also want to strengthen relationships with groups like CincyTech and Rev1 Ventures, which have very similar missions to ours.
 
We started working with them saying we needed to help each other. Additional capital beyond an initial investment is so positive for a company. If we have strong relationships with organizations in Columbus and Cincinnati, that's going to help startups garner additional investments. What's good for the state is good for all of us. We're not going to be the next Silicon Valley, but we can continue to strengthen the region as place for investors to take note of.
 
Your "She In the Cle" blog recently celebrated its first anniversary. What has creating a resource by and for women meant to you?
 
This started as something of a passion project. My co-founders (Shibani Faehnle and Christina Klenotic) saw that women didn't have the platform they needed to tell their stories and be leaders who can inspire other women. We had to remind people of what immense women leadership we had here. When we started the blog a year ago, we saw how much women had to say. We recently had (Armond Budish's chief of staff) Sharon Sobol Jordan write a post about her daughter that got 60,000 views.
 
I've written posts about being a stepmom, and the emails and calls I've received in response showed me the power of this platform. Looking back on the year, "She In The Cle" is at the top of my list of things I'm most proud of. My career and family are important, but this has been such an emotionally rewarding project.
 
Has the blog's success been a surprise?
 
It's definitely gotten more of a groundswell than we thought it would. I got an email from someone in San Francisco who wanted to move back to the Midwest, and asked if moving to Northeast Ohio would be a step back for her. I told her to come here, because Cleveland is a place for strong women. 

CPL celebrates unique kid-friendly biographies with award and events

Cleveland Public Library (CPL) bills itself as a place for Clevelanders of all ages to dream, create and grow. To that end, a unique award championing youth-friendly biographies is encouraging children to discover more about the wonderful world around them.
 
The Norman A. Sugarman Children’s Biography Award, a biennial prize created by CPL in 1998, goes to writers and/or illustrators of biographical works for kids grades K-8. It also stands as the nation's only award of its kind, selecting U.S.-published winners based on original research and documentation, says Annisha Jeffries, youth services manager at CPL.
 
A Sept. 21-22 event at the main library recognizes this year winner, Anita Silvey, for her book, Untamed: The Wild Life of Jane Goodall, a colorful exploration of the famous scientist's early years leading to her tireless work with chimpanzees.
 
On Sept. 22, Cleveland Museum of Natural History curator Yohannes Haile-Selassie leads a workshop featuring interactive primate education followed by a reading from Silvey. Meanwhile, 2016 honorees Duncan Tonatiuh (Funny Bones) and Jacqueline Woodson (Brown Girl Dreaming) will be on hand for additional workshops and discussions. All three authors will relay their process in choosing to pen a biography during a Sept. 22 panel moderated by children's writer Tricia Springstubb.
 
Highlighting actual people or events through biographies allows Cleveland youth to learn subjects they may only be privy to in classrooms, Jeffries says.
 
"Normally, non-fiction books are set aside for school research," she says. "The great thing about a biography is that the person is real and someone kids can look up to. It's a chance to learn about someone on a level students may not have before."
 
The Sugarman Award was established by CPL supporter Joan Sugarman in memory of her husband, Norman, a Cleveland tax attorney. Presented in alternate years in celebration of National Library Week, the award's past winners including Buzz Aldrin and Wynton Marsalis. A nine-member, library-appointed committee led by Jeffries evaluated 50 to 80 nominees for 2016.
 
The hard work is worth it when placing biographies at the forefront of children's literature alongside well-thumbed novels about boy wizards and teenager-hating dystopias.
 
"The award supports literacy and kids in a really unique way," says Jeffries. "We're honored to do this every two years." 

Cleveland medical entrepreneur climbs to save lives

Sanfilippo syndrome is a genetic disorder that effects young children, resulting in mental disabilities, blindness, nerve damage and seizures. Those afflicted may live into their teens, while others with severe forms of the disease die at an earlier age. There is no specific treatment for Sanfilippo syndrome, but a Cleveland-area startup owner literally climbed a mountain to help find one.
 
Tim Miller, CEO of Abeona Therapeutics,  joined a team of climbers representing the Team Sanfilippo Foundation to scale Mount Rainier in Washington. The 14,411-foot ascension represented the latest in a series of fundraisers designed to fight the deadly disease through research. Thus far, the effort has raised nearly $22,000.
 
Abeona, a company developing gene- and plasma-based therapies for rare genetic disorders, recently entered its first trial on replacing a Sanfilippo sufferer's malfunctioning DNA with a correct copy. The therapy produces an enzyme needed to dispose of sugar molecules that are otherwise stored in cells. This storage causes progressive damage in the patient.  
 
"We're the only ones in the world using this particular approach," says Miller. "Our next step is to enroll more patients."
 
Miller battled freezing temperatures, high altitudes and steep rock faces during the 36-hour climb to Rainier's crest. The early-September jaunt burned 16,000 calories and left him physically and emotionally exhausted. Disappointment Cleaver, a 70- to 80-degree rock incline located at 12,500 feet, was perhaps Miller's most harrowing challenge.
 
"You're scaling 1,000 feet of rock in the middle of the night with a short rope," he says. "You just have to keep moving."
 
Miller and his teammates - among them a father of two boys diagnosed with lethal Sanfilippo syndrome type A  - reached the summit at sunrise, a sight that washed away all previous trials.
 
"There was this great sense of joy when we reached the top," says Miller. "We got to see the entire world unmapped before us."
 
Tackling Mount Rainier was difficult, but nothing compared to what those dealing with Sanfilippo syndrome must endure, adds the medical entrepreneur.
 
"I had to live through mental, physical and emotional hardships (on Mount Rainier)," Miller says. "But parents whose children have (Sanfilippo syndrome) must live with the disease for years. That's courage." 

RNC communications upgrades power up Cleveland permanently

The 2016 Republican National Convention was a massive event for Cleveland from both a national attention and media relations standpoint. RNC excitement also resulted in huge output for mobile device use, a test that provider AT&T met through a series of system upgrades made prior to convention week.
 
Work began in 2015, with AT&T circling Cleveland in 70,000 feet of new fiber cable to strengthen the city's data network. These improvements coincided with 165 cell site upgrades providing faster download and upload speeds.
 
Convention hub Quicken Loans Arena saw installation of an antenna system allowing for better call coverage and capacity along with improved texting and video streaming, a necessity considering the 2.8 terabytes of traffic  - equal to about 8 million selfies - that flowed through The Q over four busy days.
 
Additional antenna nodes were placed between the arena and Progressive Field, as well as outdoors on Public Square and East Fourth Street and inside JACK Cleveland Casino and the Cleveland Convention Center. Hotels including Marriot at Key Center and The Ritz-Carlton underwent their own antenna enhancements. AT&T Ohio president Adam Grzybicki says these installations will permanently boost city-wide broadband activity and download speeds.
 
"Streaming from fans even at a game is exponential," says Grzybicki. "So we needed to do something permanent for the RNC."
 
During the convention, AT&T deployed temporary Cell on Wheels cell tower trucks to upgrade coverage and capacity at key downtown locations. Teams of engineers tracked data usage in real-time, coordinating with the company's New Jersey-based global communications center. Across all major venues supporting the RNC - from The Q to nearby hotels - visitors and delegates gobbled up 9.4 terabytes of data, or 26.8 million selfies.
 
"It was an exhausting undertaking, but also a great challenge," says Grzybicki. "You don't get an experience like this in your home state very often."
 
A major political convention stretches a city's telecommunications capabilities unlike any event, adds the AT&T official. While the Super Bowl is an enormous one-time affair, Cleveland's RNC outstripped the average NFL title game data usage tenfold.
 
The convention may be long over, but Grzybicki says Cleveland will benefit from AT&T's infrastructure build-outs for years to come.
 
"Economically, it's an opportunity for the city to pull people back into the downtown core," he says. "You need a technological core to create an atmosphere where you're attracting and retaining businesses." 

Inca Tea is 'Hot' in Cleveland for second consecutive year

For the second year straight, the people of Cleveland have spoken about their favorite local tea establishment. 
 
Inca Tea, located in Cleveland Hopkins International Airport, was named the area's "Best Tea House" on the 2016 Cleveland Hot List. This marks the second consecutive year owner Ryan Florio's café  has been selected as a favorite spot to savor a cup of tea or coffee.
 
"It means first and foremost that customers really enjoy what we're doing," says Florio, a Parma-based entrepreneur who founded Inca Tea in 2014. "We're always trying to produce something that will impact people positively."
 
The Cleveland Hot List, which features more than 6,400 businesses competing for the region's love, garnered 59,000 overall votes this year. Inca Tea's standing is emblematic of a fast-growing venture carrying what its owner says is a unique product.
 
The startup's all-natural concoctions are made from anti-oxidant and nutrient-rich purple corn, a recipe Florio discovered on a hiking trip in Peru. Florio's teas are GMO-free, with bio-degradable packaging.
 
Inca Tea also has an all-Cleveland inclination that flows well with its all-natural focus, selling products from area companies like Mitchell's Ice CreamChagrin Falls PopcornBreadsmith and Anna in the Raw. Florio, who is looking to open a production facility in Cleveland, says being a city proponent means keeping the nuts and bolts of his business local.
 
"I believe in the town's revitalization, and like the direction it's going in," he says. "I want to grow my business here and provide jobs. It's a changing landscape that I want to be a part of."
 
Inca Tea distributes its products at 500 stores nationwide, while enjoying a 67 percent revenue increase since 2015. Florio is planning a 350-square-foot full-service storefront at Hopkins's Concourse C, which would offer breakfast and lunch items sourced from local restaurants. Additional plans include franchising the café model and distributing his teas in 5,000 groceries.
 
For now, the busy CEO - or should we say TeaEO? - is happy to be recognized as one of Cleveland's top-tier beverage purveyors.
 
"We'll continue to keep a positive vibe in our products and services," says Florio. "People in Cleveland like to see other Clevelanders succeed. That gives us a buzz and the drive to go forward." 

A Global Kitchen opens in the Museum of Natural History

The Cleveland Museum of Natural History (CMNH) may be most popular among families and field-trippers, but foodies take note: You won’t want to miss Our Global Kitchen: Food, Nature, Culture, a traveling presentation of the American Museum of Natural History, New York, on display in the venerable University Circle institution through January 8, 2017.
 
Dr. Nikki Burt, curator of human health and evolutionary medicine at CMNH promises the exhibit will change the way you relate to food – a tall order, but one visitors will eagerly affirm.
 
Tracing back the history of food to the beginning of civilization, the presentation reveals how human habits and technology have influenced the yield, shape, size, and taste of everything we eat, along with the inevitable “trade offs” that create negative impacts on crops, farm animals and fish.
 
Through interactive displays that follow the roots of cultivation, culture, science and trade, it’s apparent that our everyday culinary choices are more complex and meaningful than mere cravings. Rather, opportunities often afforded by those less fortunate and actions with far-reaching consequences, impact people continents away and for generations to come.
 
As a former expat and lightweight locavore who frequents farmer’s markets, I considered myself fairly worldly and connected to my food sources before embarking on the tour. Nearing the end, while sandwiched between two towering walls - one displaying a collection of the world’s most influential cookbooks and the other festooned with utensils used around the globe - I felt both puny and powerful, humbly educated and hungry to learn even more.
 
The grand finale of the exhibit can be found as you round the final corridor and step inside a life-like gallery of famous people’s food. The simple concept proved fascinating, allowing visitors to imagine bellying up to Michael Phelp’s breakfast table and see how Jane Austen ate on her estate while penning her bestselling books.
 
Although there’s a tiny area for toddlers at the end of the line, older kids and adults will get the most enjoyment from this exhibit, which is best savored as you would a smorgasbord – slowly and with gusto. Be prepared to be grabbed by all of your senses at every turn.
 
Speaking of eating…Our Global Kitchen will undoubtedly kindle cravings and conversation, so come prepared with a plan for your post-museum meal. Zack Bruell’s cafeteria-style eatery Exploration is located onsite but closes before 4 p.m. If that's too early, other opportunities to enjoy international fare at independent restaurants abound. France is as far-flung as EDWINS on Shaker Square, Brazil is as close as Batuqui in Larchmere, and a little taste of Italy is literally around the corner.

Want to extend the day or make a date of it? Download the Cleveland Historical and Circle Walk apps to guide you on an afternoon stroll through University Circle and the Cleveland Cultural Gardens in Rockefeller Park.

No matter how you chose to sup before your visit, Our Global Kitchen may not change the way you twirl your pasta or dress a salad, but you’ll never look at food the same way again.

The voters have spoken: in Duck they trust

In a contentious election cycle, one Northeast Ohio company is doing its best to make the vote just "ducky."
 
Duck Brand, manufacturer of the ubiquitous Duck Tape brand duct tape, spent Republican National Convention week polling voters for a special patriotic print of the versatile adhesive. In mid-August, the Avon company announced the winning design - an image of its sash-wearing mascot Trust E. Duck on the moon.
 
The moonstruck image of the flag-bearing water fowl took over 60 percent of 2,500 total votes, handily beating a stars-and-stripes-themed print. Duck Brand's REAL Vote Campaign also connected participants to a business that has been producing its popular Duck Brand Duct Tape product in the Cleveland area since 1984. Fans of the colorful sticky stuff have used it to make everything from evening gowns to science fiction sculptures.
 
"Our company has really grown up here, so we wanted to support the activity (during the RNC) along with people visiting the city for the first time," says  Melanie Canning, director of marketing for Duck Brand parent company ShurTech Brands.
 
The event initially launched in June during the company's annual Duck Tape Festival in Avon. Over RNC week, employees with iPads took votes at four locations - West 6th Street and St. Clair Avenue, Flats East Bank, the Cleveland Metroparks Zoo and Crocker Park. Each voting area was decorated with larger-than-life symbols of Americana, including a giant bald eagle and a "Mount Duckmore" sculpture carved with Trust E. Duck's face. Ballots were also cast online.
 
"The displays helped us stand out and capture peoples' attention," Canning says. "Voters got an 'I Voted' sticker and a mini-roll of tape."
 
While Duck Brand offers 250 versions of its product, only two bear the likeness of Trust E.
 
"We noticed over the years how consumers liked to give us feedback on the newest prints, so we came up with a couple of designs we thought were fun and different," says Canning. "What better way to make the selection than to have a real voting campaign?"
 
The winning print will be available online and on-site at various company-sponsored events in 2017. For now, company officials are pleased to have brought their product, along with a few smiles, to the presidential debate.
 
"When things felt like they were getting heated elsewhere, it was nice for people to check out something with a fun spin to it," says Canning. 

Area students connect with seniors via Aeronauts project

The U.S. has 78 million baby boomers either entering or approaching retirement, a trend presenting an enormous challenge for the nation's healthcare system. Area young people are learning about this demographic shift through a program that, if successful, will teach them to develop high-tech tools enabling seniors to age in place.
 
Students from Shaker Heights High School, North Olmsted High School, Cuyahoga Community College and the University of California, Irvine, are part of the Aeronauts 2000 Intergenerational Project, which engages science-based learning to understand the aging process and identify technological solutions that foster independent living.
 
Led by the Center for Intellectual Property, Technology and Telecommunications, Inc. (CIPTT), the program draws a correlation between aging and the physiological effects of outer space travel. Student-led field work resulted in a board game where players young and old acquire the resources needed to survive on Mars through questions on aging and the effects of space exploration.
 
This summer, young contributors also began drafting a multi-purpose vehicle, deep space habitat and diagnostic tools for a video game on long-term spaceflight's relation to the aging process. Student-produced 3D design images will be presented this fall at senior community events as well as a Tri-C conference, notes program director Andrea Johnson.

Johnson, director at CIPTT, says research has made her students sensitive to challenges faced by older generations. As space flight can accelerate health and cognitive issues for astronauts, seniors as they age experience sensory impairment, diminished mental performance and brittle bones. Project participants witnessed these impacts first-hand via bonding exercises with seniors at Eliza Bryant Village, Cuyahoga Metropolitan Housing Authority (CMHA) and the Tri-C-sponsored Encore Program.
 
"Many seniors feel invisible, disrespected or like they don't have a role in society," says Johnson. "We asked ourselves how kids would respond to a group they would usually dismiss."
 
Ultimately, the project is preparing "Aernoauts" for technology and healthcare employment, Johnson says. With increased nationwide interest in gerontechnology -  the interdisciplinary academic and professional field combing gerontology and technology - students are ready to create innovations that increase quality of life for an aging demographic. Program members are currently designing a cane with a built-in heart rate monitor, representing only one way tomorrow's technology leaders can improve the lives of older adults today.
 
"Students have creativity that can be harnessed to come up with solutions," says Johnson. "It's a matter of engaging them to get them to focus on an aging population. That kind of innovation is going to position them for future jobs."  

$100,000 up for grabs in MAGNET's online pitch contest

If you're a product-focused startup or small manufacturer, MAGNET (Manufacturing Advocacy & Growth Network) has launched an online business pitch competition designed to amp up your brainstorm.
 
Called [M]SPIRE, the contest is for any local entrepreneur, maker or tinkerer with a unique product and working business plan. Matthew Fieldman, vice president for external affairs at MAGNET, says entrants can be newbie entrepreneurs or mid-size manufacturers ready to pitch job-generating ideas.
 
Submissions for [M]SPIRE are open and will be accepted through September 30. Participants are asked to fill out an online form asking questions about their target audience and what niche their invention fills.
 
"This is a non-traditional way of doing a pitch competition," says Fieldman. "Usually people pitch in a room and decisions are made on the spot, often based on charisma. Our contest is more democratic and accessible. It's based on merit, not the quality of the presentation."
 
Five to 10 winners will receive a portion of $100,000 in prize money to buoy their ventures. Fieldman expects more than 100 entrants. Among the ideas already submitted are a new process for creating rubber tires and a hair dryer developed specifically for African-American hair.
 
Those not selected get individualized feedback on whether their innovation is viable, based on information from a MAGNET research team.
 
"We'll do a report on every idea that comes in," Fieldman says. "Many of them will be about intellectual property, so entrants are going to know if they have a market for their product. Everyone's going to get what we're calling 'concierge service.'"
 
Beyond providing info, MAGNET will also point contestants to the area's plethora of economic organizations and incubators. For example, the state's Small Business Development network has eight regional centers, a potential business-building resource unknown to some would-be entrepreneurs.
 
"We're going to connect people to an economic development ecosystem that supports small businesses," says Fieldman. "A helping hand can make a tangible difference."
 
Ultimately, the pitch competition is about jobs, adds the MAGNET VP. Fieldman dreams ahead to someone conjuring up the next Cleveland Whiskey, which began as an idea on a scrap of paper and evolved into a thriving enterprise with eight employees.
 
"We know who's in the (economic development) network, and we know their specialties," says Fieldman. "We'll guide entrepreneurs to the right place."  
  

MOOS teens to shake up IngenuityFest

Ten-foot-tall swings, climbing walls and a sculpture bristling with lights. This is not a description for some fantastical playground, but a project a group of Cleveland-area youth are bringing to this year's IngenuityFest.
 
Eleven students from Shaker Heights' Moreland district, all members of the Making Our Own Space (MOOS) placemaking initiative, are currently conceptualizing plans for the popular arts and technology festival, which is now in its 12th year. MOOS co-founder David Jurca expects his young participants' creative skills to successfully transfer from neighborhood public spaces to the festival's larger stage.
 
"The project's driving goal is to build confidence in this generation regarding their ability to transform their environment," says Jurca of an effort led by Kent State University’s Cleveland Urban Design Collaborative (CUDC). "At Ingenuity, students are going to step up as workshop leaders because they're more knowledgeable about using tools to build and give direction to others."
 
MOOS's workshops create physical and social infrastructure in collaboration with the surrounding community. Parks and vacant spaces in Moreland as well as Britt Oval in Cleveland's Buckeye neighborhood have been host to swings, snow forts, benches, observation towers and other high-visibility projects. Hildana Park in Shaker Heights has a student-built performance stage along with "trash hoops," where garbage cans are fitted with mini-basketball rims in the name of fun litter control.
 
Seventh through 11th graders involved with Ingenuity are designing mobile playscape elements like a light sculpture and a combined giant swing/climbing wall, which will be built at The Dealership business accelerator space, then transported to the event site. The creative method includes brainstorming a concept like swinging, then building out from that idea.
 
"The climbing wall suggestion came from a community member," Jurca says. "We went to the library to get images, and looked at playscape equipment from all over the world."
 
The 2016 IngenuityFest takes place in the former Osborne Industrial Complex, 5401 Hamilton Ave., Sept. 23-25. MOOS's efforts during the weekend will include on-site build opportunities for attendees.
 
"Students are going to take on the role of design leaders," says Jurca. "People coming for the event will be learning from our students."
 
Helping guide the process will be Alex Gilliam, Philadelphia-based founder of Public Workshop, a national program for placemaking projects aimed at youth. Gilliam will be in town the week ahead of Ingenuity to gently push ideas to fruition while identifying group members eager to grab leadership roles.
 
"These are people who want to do more and do better - and want to be connected with others with similar aspirations," says Gilliam.
 
Ingenuity itself can be a beacon for empowerment due to the crowds it attracts, adds the project supporter.
 
"Give a 15-year-old girl a circular saw and the chance to build something wonderful that meets a community need, and do it in a public way," Gilliam poses. "The effect can be dramatic. Young people will realize their self-efficacy in a manner that would typically take years in a school setting."
 
Ingenuity's highly visible backdrop is also valuable for a society that doesn't always recognize the contributions of teenagers and their place in the community at large.
 
"There's an important opening here for Cleveland," says Gilliam. "Having this (initiative) go on outside of a community building aspect is creating more space for this work in schools and other places." 
 
MOOS co-founder Jurca adds that the Ingenuity experience will not only prepare African-American and Latino youth for a range of hands-on design careers, it will also teach them how to define improvements in ongoing projects, where "failure" is deemed a lesson rather than a stopping point.
 
"It's about celebrating success and jumping into things we can do to make a project better," says Jurca. "That kind of confidence can be carried into the classroom." 

The City of Shaker Heights is part of Fresh Water's underwriting support network.

Program to offer men with cancer unique roadmap

Cancer is a life-altering experience that impacts careers, relationships and bank accounts, while also giving the diagnosed an unwanted glimpse of their own mortality. Male survivors face a set of unique challenges, among them a clear direction on how to take back the power in their lives.
 
If cancer survivorship is a journey, Berea resident Dan Dean believes he has the roadmap. Dean, 36, is the founder of M Powerment, an organization providing resources geared specifically toward men affected by cancer. A series of free workshops, including a two-day event, Sept. 24 and 25, at Market Garden Brewery and Nano Brew Cleveland next month, promise action-oriented, practical skills that allow participants 21 and over to face the disease head-on.
 
"Men don't have great coping mechanisms to deal with illness," says Dean, a 12-year survivor of stage IV non-Hodgkin’s lymphoma. "In layman's terms, guys don't talk about stuff."
 
M Powerment teaches participants to master their internal narrative and better communicate challenges with a spouse, partner or other support person. Program framework is based on mythologist Joseph Campbell's Hero's Journey, which prompts listeners to "follow their bliss," as well as the tenets of narrative medicine, an approach that harnesses people's stories to promote healing.
 
"By doing the work, you'll shift your energy into a more empowered place than you would be if you were victimized by the experience," says Dean, an avid backpacker and hiker. "It's about focusing on things that help you grow."
 
M Powerment workshops are research-based and use strategies approved by oncology social workers. Dean's road to an "m-powered" existence began upon diagnosis at age 23. Later years found him sharing first-person interviews with cancer survivors via a personal blog. Dean's mother, Caren, died of brain cancer in 2014, giving him further perspective on living a full life five, ten or 20 years after the disease is first discovered.  

Dean launched the group in May 2015, upon receiving seed money from the Char and Chuck Fowler Family Foundation. He hopes to garner additional funding from cancer organizations and for-profit businesses as the enterprise expands. After the Cleveland event, Dean is looking ahead to events in Chicago, Los Angeles, Denver and Boston.
 
Ultimately, the program founder aims to form a wide-ranging network of cancer warriors. The program also has a sense of humor. Per the website, "This isn’t a trust circle and you aren’t going to hug someone in a sweater vest. You’re going to flex your cancer kicking muscles and come out m-powered men."
 
"The mission isn't to be in a group circle and talk about what happened, but to give survivors tools to successfully move forward," adds Dean. "It's almost like a 'cancer fraternity,' meaning anyone that comes in with a shared experience is going to bond over the cause." 

BOUND zine and art fair to rock MOCA this weekend

This weekend, area zinesters, art aficionados and anyone fond of old school print is invited to browse more than 50 exhibitors from near and far at BOUND, the Museum of Contemporary Art (MOCA) Cleveland's second annual art book and zine fair.
 
Free and open to the public, BOUND will take place in Gund Commons on the museum's first floor on Friday, Aug. 26, from 5 to 10 p.m. and on Saturday, Aug. 27, from 11 a.m. to 5 p.m. Attendees will have a chance to meet and interact with booksellers, artists, photographers, poets and independent publishers from Northeast Ohio as well as from points across the country. All of them will be offering limited edition art books and zines at affordable prices. In addition, a reduced $5 admission includes access to the MOCA galleries as well as all the programming and talks associated with BOUND. There will also be live music on Friday and DJs spinning tunes on Saturday.
 
"It's going to be a very high energy event with a lot to offer people who are either artists and creators or fans of comics, zines, photography, and art books," says Deidre McPherson, MOCA's curator of public programs. "There will be publishers, comic book creators, zinesters, printers, poets, and photographers here." They'll be exhibiting work that tackles pop culture, activism, feminism, gender identity, madness and sexuality – just to tag a few topics.


 
Contemporary artist TR Ericsson, whose pieces are part of several permanent museum collections, curated the event as he did last year's inaugural effort. His work, notes McPherson, imparts "voice to the voiceless," which is also at the heart of BOUND – but don't ask either to tap picks from the upcoming line up.
 
"The most compelling aspect of the book fair is the diverse selection of artists and book makers," says Ericsson, adding that "this makes it impossible to list favorites simply because each offering is so exceptionally unique."
 
"You'll find artists who went to art school and have a very extensive background in creating work at a high level," adds McPherson, "but also self trained artists who are incredibly talented and have done some outstanding work in their careers."
 
Fair enough, but in lieu of favorites, here's a sampling of BOUND exhibitors. Locals include John G of Shiner Comics, co-creator of the local horror comic Lake Erie Monster; the venerable Mac's Backs-Books on Coventry; Caitie Moore, who will be exhibiting her indie photobooks from her Nomadic Bookshelf project; artist Jerry Birchfield and the Gordon Arts Square institution Guide to Kulchur along with proprietor RA Washington, who is a tireless advocate for marginalized voices in print medium.
 
Out-of-towners include Brooklyn artist Paul Weston of Instigator and his interactive ANY1 mural project; Philadelphia's Nathan Pierce, Claire Cushing of Same Coin Press; and from New Orleans, former Clevelander JS Makkos of NOLA Digital Newspaper Archive, who will conduct printing demos on mimeographs, the predecessors of the copy machine.
 
A host of emerging local voices such as photographer and internet sensation Alison Scarpulla and Cleveland Institute of Art grads Matthew Rowe (BL^NT), Ash Fiasco and Evan Fusco will round out the roster.
 
A soundtrack will accompany the entire event, with Friday night's live music performances staged on MOCA's loading dock and doubling as part of the museum's creative sound music series, LOADED. Bands include Form A Log, Hiram-Maxim and Fake Species. DJs from WCSB Radio will aptly score the action in Gund Commons throughout the day Saturday.
 
Saturday's programming will feature presentations, discussions and a workshop on zines and how to make them from Cleveland-based artists Jacob Koestler of My Idea of Fun and Anna Tararova, proprietor of Meowville. A panel discussion on the use of zines as a platform for emerging and marginalized narratives will include RA Washington; Akron-based writer Angel Cezanne, founder of Eleanor: A Zine, which aims to empower women and non-binary people by promoting their art; and Jimmy Lewis of Columbus, Ohio, founder of Fag Enabler, a zine for queer, feminist, and nonconformist creativity. The panel discussion will be moderated by poet, author, and change catalyst M. Carmen Lane. An after-party at the Grog Shop will cap off the two-day event.
 
McPherson hopes to build on the momentum of last year's Mimeo Revolution: Art Book + Zine Fair, which was inspired by MOCA's 2015 exhibit How To Remain Human and Ericcson, who coincidentally approached MOCA staff with the idea of modeling an event after the MoMa PS1 Art Book Fair, a popular underground fair in New York and Los Angeles. The resulting three-day event attracted some 1,000 attendees.
 
"Attendance was amazing. It was great to see," says McPherson, adding that she expects similar numbers this weekend – or even more attendees mingling with exhibitors, which numbered about 30 last year. "It was gratifying to see how many artists were given a space at MOCA to share and talk about their work."
 
Lastly, BOUND is a fitting dovetail with MOCA's current exhibit, Mark Mothersbaugh: Myopia. From the 30,000 original post cards he's created over the years to the 1977 self-published 300-page My Struggle, Booji Boy, which are currently on display at the Akron Museum of Art and MOCA, respectively, Mothersbaugh's work embodies an alternative legacy of underground and DIY culture.


 
"Mark Mothersbaugh – when he was a student at Kent State University – created zines and was self publishing and using art books and zines and his own drawings as a way of expressing himself," says McPherson. "Mark was definitely inspired by the mimeo revolution that was occurring in the 1960s and continued through the 70s," she adds.
 
Furthermore, Friday night's live concert, which was curated by Dandelion Moon's Andrew Auten, Lisa Miralia of Mysterious Black Box and artist-musician David Russell Stempowski of Polar Envy, will be an energetic fusion of experimental sound, avant rock and punk.
 
"These three bands were hand picked and selected with Mark Mothersbaugh in mind," says McPherson.
 
Myopia will be in its final weekend during the fair. Hence the reduced $5 admission is an affordable last-chance to see the dazzling collection along with the extended BOUND presentations.
 
"It's a great capstone," says McPherson of the interactive farewell to Myopia.
 

CAC report tells story of how county residents connect to arts and culture

Cuyahoga County's population utilizes arts and culture in a variety of ways, from museums and theaters to smaller community festivals and neighborhood events. Recently released findings from Cuyahoga Arts & Culture (CAC) show just how connected residents are to the region's arts offerings.
 
CAC's 2015 Report from the Community shares stories of county residents impacted by the 210 organizations CAC funded in 2015. Self-reported data from these groups revealed more than $383 million arts-related expenditures county-wide, including upwards of $158 million in salaries to 10,000 employees.
 
Other key statistics from the report include:
 
* 50 percent of CAC-supported programs had free admission in 2015
 
* Nearly 6.9 million people were served by arts programming last year, including 1.5 million children
 
"The report provides good evidence of the story we're telling," says Karen Gahl-Mills, CEO and executive director of CAC. "Arts and culture is having a huge impact on Cuyahoga County."
 
Nor are culture lovers only visiting conventional venues like the ballet or a gallery, notes Gahl-Mills. Nature and science organizations, community gardens and other non-traditional entities are attracting crowds through their own arts-infused efforts.
 
"It's not just big institutions; we're shining a light on smaller organizations," Gahl-Mills says. "There's extraordinary variety."
 
This year's report also relates the experiences of community members impacted by arts and culture. One featured resident is Patty Edmonson, an employee at the Cleveland History Center, who returned to the region to curate the center's 13,000 dresses and 40,000 textile objects.
 
"Residents are the ones who benefit from the dollars we invest," says Gahl-Mills. "We use tax dollars to support the arts, so we need dialogue with the public to understand what work we can do."
 
This summer, CAC has been visiting festivals and events to get further feedback from the community. The undertaking includes "street teams" going out to barbershops and farmer's markets and asking folks what inspires them about the arts. Gahl-Mills says public funding for the arts is a key facet in making Cuyahoga County a vibrant, attractive place to live.
 
"People care about the arts and we need to hear from them," she says. "The more we know, the better grantmaker we can be." 

INDUSTRY event to champion 'disruptive' innovation

Disruptive innovation describes a product or service that changes an existing market while serving as a guiding star for innovation-driven growth.
 
This powerful way of doing business will be the focus of INDUSTRY, a conference aimed at the innovators who build and launch products. This fast-rising community of pacesetters is set to meet September 15-16 at Music Box Supper Club in the Flats to discuss the "disruptive" creation techniques that help larger corporations behave like startups.
 
Spearheaded by Paul McAvinchey and Mike Belsito, founders of the Product Collective media group,  the event brings together leaders from industries such as software, consumer packaged goods and healthcare. Speakers will include Google Ventures' Ken Norton and ESPN’s Ryan Spoon. Meanwhile, working sessions are expected to explore engaging ways to deliver digital and physical goods in the same nimble way as a new company.
 
"Larger companies are looking at smaller businesses for new methods to ship products," says McAvinchey, founder of the TechPint networking event and director of North American client services for DXY, which designs corporate mobile solutions. "They're driving products forward based on what they hear from customers."
 
Product managers are leading these efforts, driving goods forward based on customer feedback. Food manufacturer General Mills is one example of a multinational company bringing products to market more quickly via interviews with consumers about various cereals on the market.

McAvinchey also points to local firms like OnShift and CoverMyMeds that employ managers to guide new offerings through development. McAvinchey adds that several large Cleveland-area consumer product businesses actively disrupt their own m.o. by employing internal teams to unearth new market opportunities.
 
"These companies are fast-moving and startup-focused," he says. "That's who (this event) is going to appeal to. A product formed by one leader and a large team is more likely to be fine-tuned and usable."
 
McAvinchey expects 350 attendees at this year's INDUSTRY get-together, with over 90 percent of them hailing from outside Northeast Ohio. Cleveland's gradual emergence as an innovation hub is a draw for industry officials who view disruption as a positive.
 
"In the startup world there's a term called 'get out of the building,' where a team is ready to release a (product)  and literally gets out of the building to talk to customers,"McAvinchey says. "It's a hands-on approach that lets companies understand how customers want to interact with those products."
 

Mentoring program readies CMSD eighth graders for high school and beyond

Selecting the right high school is not a choice to take lightly, observers say, as it has potentially far-reaching influence on future educational opportunities and even long-term employment. A Cleveland-based program is giving area eighth graders some much-needed direction on that critical decision.
 
True2U is a mentoring and career awareness effort that prepares junior high students for high school via goal-setting injected with a dose of career and college readiness. Last year, the program connected 807 Cleveland Metropolitan School District (CMSD) youth with 150 mentors, a figure expected to double for the 2016-17 academic season. The goal is to serve all 68 CMSD schools by next year.
 
"Every eighth-grade student in a True2U school is part of the program," says Molly Nackley Feghali, project manager for the joint venture, partners for which include CMSD, The Cleveland Foundation, MyCom, Greater Cleveland Partnership, Neighborhood Leadership Institute, and the Greater Cleveland Faith Based Collaborative. "It's helping young people see their future and what they want to do in high school."
 
Eighth grade is a developmental crossroads for students as they explore identity issues and find their unique interests, including what they want to study beyond high school, Nackley Feghali says. Mentors selected from Cleveland's corporate and nonprofit sectors meet groups of attendees for three hours each month, following a structured curriculum that combines personal development with career exploration.

Among others, curriculum components include Naviance, a comprehensive, career and college readiness software package and Teens Can Make It Happen: Nine Steps to Success, a goal-setting and personal responsibility curriculum developed by entrepreneur and author Stedman Graham, who is also an associate of media magnate Oprah Winfrey.
 
"Students are being exposed to different career paths," says Nackley Feghali. "The more diversity we can bring to the program, the better."
 
Launched in 2015, True2U is already making an impression, its director maintains.
 
"CMSD has its high school choice fair in January," Nackley Feghali says. "Based on our programming and relationships they've built with mentors, students say they feel more prepared to make their decision."
 
The program can also curtail high student drop-out rates that occur between eighth and tenth grade. Ultimately, mobilizing an extensive network of school and community resources makes the road to higher education a littler smoother.
 
"Even as adults we struggle with what we want to do, so asking an eighth grader to make decisions that will impact their careers can be daunting," says Nackley Feghali. "We're focused on helping students know more about who they are and what their interests are so that they'll make good decisions for their futures and continue to stay engaged in school."

True2U is recruiting mentors for the 2016-17 academic year. E-mail true2u@neighborhoodleadership.org for more information

Event aims to invigorate African-American-owned businesses, communities

LaRese Purnell believes the best way to improve a city's financial stability is by increasing the revenue of the businesses within it. As founder of a nonprofit bringing exposure to African-American-owned enterprises in Cleveland, Purnell has dedicated a weekend later this month to breathe life into that concept.
 
Awareness, education and economic impact are the themes of The Real Black Friday (RBF) event to be held August 12-14 at three separate locations in Cleveland. The initiative, now in its third year, will promote local black entrepreneurs, many of whom are already listed in a directory on the organization's website.
 
Restaurants, barbers, architectural firms and a credit union will be among the ventures on hand, garnering the kind of attention a lack of advertising dollars often prevents.

"These are small, self-started businesses with not much capital," says Purnell, an author and speaker who also serves as chief financial officer at The Word Church. "They've never had a billboard or radio ad. They're fighting to keep their doors open, so marketing is at the bottom of the totem pole."  
 
During the RBF, owners will meet potential customers as well as fellow proprietors who face the same challenges. Purnell wants African-American entrepreneurs to form a support network to help buoy national black buying potential, which is expected to reach $1.4 trillion by 2020, according to the University of Georgia’s Selig Center for Economic Growth.  
 
"The idea is to create longevity for these businesses," says Purnell. "We're educating owners about scaling up and dealing with increased traffic."
 
Purnell says enduring success means harnessing black spending power and influence for more than a weekend. "Flip this Biz," taking place on August 13, will highlight renovations done to Annie B’s and Earl’s Place, located at 4017 St. Clair Ave. The restaurant will not only get a facelift, but also a crash course on revenue growth from JumpStart and the RBF team.
 
"Flip this Biz" is the kind of outreach that drives consumer spending habits over the long term, Purnell says. Increased social media presence, meanwhile, can draw customers from outside African-American neighborhoods.
 
"We need to support our own, but would like the entire community to come out," says Purnell. "We want these businesses to be around for generations."

Other events include the MiIlion Dollar Movement at the Faith Community Credit Union, 3550 E. 93rd St., from 12 to 6 p.m. on Friday. And on Sunday, the Word Church, 18909 S. Miles Rd., will host a Solution Session TownHall, the Black Business Expo and a Taste of Black Cleveland. Doors open at 5:30 p.m. Admission is free.
 
The RBF concept originated in 2014 when Purnell launched his book, "Financial Foundations." He recalls meeting small business owners who were paying rent directly out of their cash registers. Ultimately, he believes, championing African-American-run shops can uplift the neighborhoods surrounding them.
 
"It's a hard fight," says Purnell. "The more dollars we drive to small businesses, the more impactful it can be to our communities." 

Making organic dough 'feels good' to Cleveland food entrepreneur

Pizza, calzones, empanadas and pot pies are all delicious, there's no debate to be had on that. However, thanks to the efforts of a Cleveland-area food entrepreneur, those flavorful goodies are now healthier, too.
 
Terry Thomsen, founder of Frickaccio’s Pizza Market in Fairview Park and the West Side Market - where their pizza bagels have been a staple for more than 30 years - launched Feel Good Dough in January. Thomsen's new venture is a line of USDA-certified organic frozen dough balls, which their proprietor says are vegan-friendly and GMO-free. The all-purpose dough, made in a 3,000-square-foot production and retail space in Fairview, can be used for both dinner and dessert recipes.
 
"It's good for pizza, dinner rolls, or anything else that's 100 percent clean without GMOs or pesticides," says Thomsen.
 
Though Thomsen previously trucked in organic artisan breads and dough balls, her latest enterprise is a good option for people with food allergies or difficulty digesting gluten. Feel Good Dough recently partnered with Milwaukee-based Red Star Yeast to utilize the company's 100 percent organic yeast, a move Thomsen says will keep her treats pure.
 
"I insisted on 100 percent organic including the yeast," she says. "This is not a common practice for many manufacturers, which are just 'made with' (organic ingredients) or 90 percent clean. We chose not to be like the rest."
 
Thomsen, a Lakewood resident, exhibited her homemade dough last month at the Fancy Food Show in New York. Upcoming is Expo East in Baltimore, where she will display Feel Good Dough for potential distributors.
 
Consumers can find the frozen dough balls today in 12 states. Locally, Heinen's, Whole Foods, Mustard Seed and other local markets carry the product, with Kroger's and Giant Eagle serving as future potential landing spots.
 
Thomsen initially test-marketed the dough out of her West Side Market location. After getting picked up by Heinen's, she tweaked the recipe to withstand additional heat for grilling and baking. Clean ingredients aren't cheap - Feel Good  Dough's suggested retail price is $5.99 - but healthy eating is worth the price, the business owner says.
 
"It's about being a grandmother and making something for families," Thomsen says. "Knowing people are eating it without stomach issues makes me feel good."

Weapons of Mass Creation draws talent from across the globe to Playhouse Square this weekend

Upon its launch in 2010, the Weapons of Mass Creation (WMC) art and design conference was envisioned as a small meet-and-greet for area artists. Fifty people attended the event's first iteration, starting a tradition that in recent years has reached beyond regional and even national boundaries.
 
Now in its seventh year, WMC is expected to draw more than 1,000 professional and aspiring artists, designers, small business owners and other makers of all innovative stripes. The three-day happening, hosted August 5-7 at the Ohio, Kennedy and State Theatres in Playhouse Square, features TEDx-style talks with a diverse panel of speakers, interactive workshop sessions and live podcasts.
 
Among this year's speakers are Grammy award-winning designer Stefan Sagmeister and Cleveland kidnapping survivor Michelle Knight, who will discuss the healing power of art and art therapy. Cleveland designer Aaron Sechrist will host a creative celebration that includes live art battles and podcasts.
 
Founded by Cleveland-based design studio Go Media, the annual arts conference has grown in popularity due to a unique mix of guests, programming and educational offerings, says event director Heather Sakai. Attendees will learn how to create everything from a captivating comic book storyline to a profitable design business. New this year is a free "desk yoga" class that teaches simple poses busy artists can do while working. 
 
"The general feel is inspiring and authentic," says Sakai. "There's a good sense of community here. We offer a little bit of everything."
 
Positive word-of-mouth has broadened WMC's audience, as web developers and videographers now mingle with artists from traditional media.
 
"Cleveland is huge for design, arts and culture," Sakai says. "When people come to town, we try to expose them to all the city has to offer."
 
WMC moved downtown from the Gordon Square Arts District to give the metro area better exposure. About 60 percent of program patrons reside outside Ohio, coming from arts enclaves within cities such as Los Angeles and Austin. International visitors from Australia, India and the United Kingdom round out the packed event venues.
 
Sakai says broadening the guest list to include non-artistic residents can put a focus on both Cleveland and its emergent creative hub.

"Fundraising is one of the biggest challenges WMC faces," she says. "People love the idea of the arts in Cleveland, but it's hard for them to follow through with raising funds. Hosting a premier design conference is a great way to make art accessible to any Clevelander."


CSA grad keeps the 216 in his heart, offers kids hope through dance

It's a fair June evening and Nehemiah Spencer sways stageside at Wade Oval Wednesday, clad in black-on-black Converse and a crew neck festooned with the familiar red curves of the Coca-Cola logo. Today’s theme is “Reggae Night,” and the assembled families are chatty and sporting Bob Marley T-shirts. Spencer has picked up a loose branch in each hand and moves his arms in easy rhythms, improvising a deft twirl of one wrist in time with the band. A few huddled couples smile at him from their blankets, unsure if he’s part of the show.
 
Spencer, a graduate of the Cleveland School of the Arts (CSA) and Juilliard, is now a company dancer with the Complexions Contemporary Ballet in New York City. The Glenville native is preparing for a new show with the company in Israel. So what’s he doing in Cleveland on a Wednesday night?
 
Spencer comes home every summer. In 2012, he founded the Nehemiah Project, a dance-intensive effort that provides affordable instruction to inner-city youth. Beyond typical lessons in technique, however, the program holds classes geared toward social justice, covering topics on everything from bullying prevention to race relations workshops.
 
“For example, I know that bullying is not just physical, but most of the time, there’s an aggression that needs to be let out, in some cases physically,” says Spencer. “I wanted people to realize that there are different ways you can use your body to allow yourself to feel liberated. That’s what dance basically does.”
 
Every year, the program tackles a new community initiative. One summer, the students created a showcase for nursing home patients, choosing the venue and choreographing the piece themselves. Last year, the group held an anti-bullying flash mob in Tower City, dancing to “Pure Imagination” from Willy Wonka and the Chocolate Factory. The Cleveland-based MadWerkz Studios filmed it, and created a documentary short that was shown at three film festivals, winning the “Audience Choice Award” at the ICE Film Festival in Dayton. For several summers, students have participated in diversity and community relations seminars hosted by the Shaker Heights High School Group on Race Relations and the Cleveland Police Department.
 
“We had our first student alumni of the The Nehemiah Project graduate from college just recently and that's huge,” says Obadiah Baker, founder of Tender Hearts Crusades, the nonprofit that acts as the Project’s primary fiscal sponsor. “That's the whole point – to give them the emotional tools they need to cope with the reality of life. We're trying to build resiliency in at-risk youth, especially those that are in disadvantaged, underserved areas in America. We want to equip them with the tools they need to endure in any type of environment, especially because of their social position within American society.”
 
This year, the program has attracted more sponsors than ever before, including the Cleveland Cavaliers, the Ohio Arts Council, Neighborhood Connections, and yes, Coca-Cola.
 
But on this summer night, the kids are at Wade Oval as part of a collaboration with Fresh Camp, an urban gardening and hip-hop recording program for Cleveland youth. They’ve created a modern dance piece to a song the Fresh Campers wrote and produced. The performance starts quietly, with four dancers stretching their arms into acute angles to a folk-inflected melody. Soon, the bass rises, and the Fresh Camp MCs enter, rapping “Everything is better when we work together!” while the dancers spin. By the end of the set, they’ve invited half of Wade Oval to join them onstage.
 
It’s more than Spencer ever hoped for. He started the program as a one-off after a conversation with his mother, Callie, lamenting the lack of affordable dance courses in Cleveland. Through CSA, he traveled to dance conferences across the country, but knew many of his peers didn’t have that opportunity. In the Nehemiah Project’s first year, he taught the classes himself and created a Kickstarter to pay for costumes. Soon, he’d raised $1,500. Five years, a number of Juilliard Summer Arts Grants and a fateful meeting with Baker later, and the Nehemiah Project is a rising force in Cleveland arts education.
 
For Spencer, the program is a tribute to his mother, who serves as a mentor and for many young dancers. When he founded the Nehemiah Project, he also established a scholarship fund for graduating CSA seniors and named it after her – the Callie E. Taylor Award.
 
“Programs like this are important, because they give students an alternative viewpoint on the reality that we live in, because we can live in a really scary place. But it doesn’t have to be, if people find something that they’re passionate about or something that scares them, and do it anyway.”

For more information about the Nehemiah Project, visit www.facebook.com/holisticdance or email Obadiah Baker at Obadiah.baker@tenderheartscrusades.com.
 






DADApunk Cabaret Party to close out RNC week with rebellion, absurdity

In 1916, the laws of art were dissolved behind the doors of Swiss nightclub Cabaret Voltaire when Hugo Ball delivered the Dada Manifesto. With nonsense and surrealism, the anti-movement of Dadaism challenged the conventions of art, World War I-era politics and culture.
 
100 years later, Dadaism’s experimental and rebellious nature, often steeped in off-kilter performance art, continues to inspire creators today to embrace absurdity. Among those artists is Mark Mothersbaugh, the focus of the Museum of Contemporary Art (MOCA) Cleveland’s current exhibit, Myopia.
 
To celebrate that ideological coupling, on Friday, July 22, at 8 p.m., the museum will transform into the Dadapunk Cabaret Party extravaganza. Performances by neo-vaudevillian variety show WizBang will be followed by a dance party with Justin Long, a Chicago DJ and host of the aptly named Hugo Ball dance night. Dada and punk costumes are encouraged, though not required – and the more peculiar, the better.
 
The anything-goes soiree pays tribute to Mothersbaugh and his Dada influences.
 
“He seduces you with humor and color and form; it’s whimsical and disarming,” says MOCA deputy director Megan Lykins Reich. “And a Dadaist event is meant to bring your view of the world right now and gather others to share that [view] in a way that’s non-judgmental," she adds, noting that it's a healthy way to have discussions about more serious things. "It’s a way to break the ice.”


 
Dada’s boundary-bending nature became a driving force in the emerging DIY punk scene that bred Mothersbaugh’s Devo. The name of the new wave pioneers’ band itself comes from the word “devolution,” a rejection of structure true to Dadaism’s form. Even as their popularity began to grow, they rejected the stylishness that permeated the rock ‘n’ roll scene in favor of offbeat costumes like hazmat suits, garbage bags and construction overalls that radiated Dadaism.
 
“Dadaism was a movement that was anarchic, celebrating disorder and chaos through art,” says Lykins Reich. “In Devo, the band would start very rigidly with music that was very ordered, and as the concerts would go on, it would start to unravel and become loose and open and free and unbound.”
 
And what better time to indulge in the spirit of chaos than as the Republican National Convention comes to a close?
 
WizBang plans to bring the same eccentricity of Dadaism that defines their usual performances, which are filled with mischief and misfits.
 
“It’s giving us this new breath of inspiration to try to infuse some of Mothersbaugh’s mayhem with our own mayhem,” says WizBang co-founder Jason Tilk.
 
Satori Circus, who has roots in the Detroit punk scene, will bring his bag of avant-garde carnival tricks as well. Champion juggler and bearded wonder Will Oltman, who goes by the stage name “Will Juggle,” will perform his gravity-defying balancing acts. And, of course, Tilk and his wife Danielle – better known as Pinch and Squeal – will engage in their ragtag routine of magic, music, gags and other oddities.
 
“WizBang has always been this no-holds-barred, let’s grab onto this, twist it around and present it to an audience in a way that really surprises them kind of thing,” says Tilk.
 
Expect to also hear their take on sound poetry – the performance-based orations that eschew any structure or familiarity that were made popular by Hugo Ball. 
 
“It’s all phonetically put together to sound beautiful like a poem, but really it’s gibberish,” says Tilk. “I see a close relationship with Mark’s music, which has this repetition and then it breaks down and then it layers up again. It almost turns into these poems.”


 
For a perfect example within the Myopia exhibit – which, along with the entire museum, will be open throughout the Cabaret – look to the Mothersbaugh’s display of handmade oddball instruments, “Orchestrations.”
 
“These very organized instruments play restructured compositions, but they have very open, free, projecting parts to them,” notes Lykins Reich of the quirky sculptures.
 
Mothersbaugh himself has always tiptoed between personal, unorthodox art and applied art. Just as Dadaism has transcended a century, Mothersbaugh’s world has spanned generations, from creating music for PeeWee’s Playhouse to Wes Anderson films.
 
And just like he blurs the lines between intimate creations and commercial soundtracks, such as his collection of 30,000 postcards in the Akron Art Museum counterpart Myopia exhibit, WizBang’s performances will blur the lines between entertainer and consumer. Not only can revelers expect to be pulled on stage, costumed performers will roam through the party long after the curtain is drawn.
 
The immersive experience is part of the museum’s inclusive programming that draws Northeast Ohioans of all ages into Mothersbaugh’s wonderful world. From the kid-friendly Myopiawesome Art Studio programs each Thursday through August 25 to the upcoming Bound Art Book and Zine Fair on August 26 and 27. That event will explore the DIY, alternative scene of self-publishing, which Mothersbaugh was part of with his own My Struggle, Booji Boy, a 300-page, illustrated art book that was equal parts zine and Dadaist-surrealist memoir.
 
“It’s all very accessible, whether you’re a practicing visual artist or not,” says MOCA’s curator of public programs Deidre McPherson of Myopia. “Mark has experimented with so many different things, and he has connection with so many parts of our culture.”
 
From the delivery of the Dada Manifesto in 1916 to the political statements of Devo, Dadapunk partygoers will kick off the movement's next 100 years with abandon.
 
“At its core, the idea of freedom of expression and an alternative approach to creativity is something that will probably never go away,” says Lykins Reich. “In moments of political tension, artists are always the ones that show us how to essentially break out of that mentality and appreciate diversity and what that brings to a culture.”

MOCA is part of Fresh Water's underwriting network.

Hiram student's invention promotes water-fight fun without guns

Hiram College student Nathaniel Eaton is aiming to make a big splash in the summertime toy market with an invention that enhances the old-fashioned water fight.
 
Eaton's "Water Dodger" is a simple plastic shield embossed with the slogan, "Can you stay dry?" In back is a net pouch that carries a half dozen or more water balloons. The idea is to offer an alternative to suggestively violent squirt guns while creating an active, competitive environment limited only by a user's imagination.
 
"It's like Laser Tag or paintball, but in the form of water," says Eaton, 24. "Plus it gets kids moving around outside."
 
Eaton, graduating from Hiram this fall with a bachelor's degree in business management and a minor in entrepreneurship, began with a drawing that evolved into a cardboard cutout and then a foam shield. He built the original foam model in his dorm room, and is now preparing to send to market a final plastic version of his product.
 
Using $1,500 in prize money from Hiram's 2016 Ideabuild competition, Eaton applied for a provisional patent and trademark. The South Euclid resident also devised four games to play using his water-centric brainchild: Solo Madness, Team Fusion, Captain Protection and Intruders.
 
“It's like a water balloon fight in reverse, whether it’s between two players or 20-plus," says Eaton. "The driest person or team wins."
 
Launching his invention is the next step for the company founder and CEO. To that end, Eaton partnered with a Case Western Reserve University industrial design student, who will help the budding entrepreneur build 10 plastic Water Dodger prototypes. He also connected with nonprofit startup accelerator JumpStart for assistance with funding and formulating a business plan.
 
"I'm starting off targeting independent toy stores with a good customer base," says Eaton. "This is my full-time job. I go everywhere with the Water Dodger in hand. When something's new, you have to inform people about it."
 
Eaton has been conceptualizing inventions and business ideas in a sketchbook since his freshman year of college. The Water Dodger was originally a wristwatch water squirter, which Eaton transformed into an entirely new product that sends a message of hot-weather fun without water guns.
 
"This is something you can promote to summer camps, because it's not a gun," says Eaton. "I show kids the shield with water balloons in a pouch, and they get excited."

High-tech rebranding initiative markets Cleveland as a 'medical capital'

Cleveland is home to more than 700 bioscience companies, a powerful ecosystem that draws strength from a clinical, research and educational foundation dedicated to growth and medical innovation. A new rebranding initiative led by a host of area institutions is ready to send this message out into the world.

Called "The Medical Capital," the campaign's centerpiece is a website where visitors can access information regarding biomedical investments and start-up activity in the region. Organizers are also offering a video showcasing the region's burgeoning tech-based assets, complete with testimonials from investors and CEOs. Social media is another facet of the effort.

BioEnterprise president and CEO Aram Nerpouni, whose not-for-profit business accelerator is helping to administer the project, says the website will aggregate locally generated biomedical industry news to share Cleveland's rebranding story all in one place.

"Cleveland and Northeast Ohio have an incredibly rich history in healthcare innovation," says Nerpouni. "Over the last 10 years, (biomedical) has become an important part of the economy where you're seeing investors commit capital to the region."

According to BioEnterprise, Northeast Ohio has attracted more than $2 billion in biomedical start-up equity funding since 2002. About $1 billion has been raised by 160 biomedical companies in the last four years alone, which proponents view as a sign of an increasingly robust innovation economy bolstered by research and commercialization.

Organizations collaborating on the new initiative include BioEnterprise, Case Western Reserve University, Cleveland Clinic and Cleveland State University. Though Cleveland is not the first city to promote its high-tech attributes online, the venture is unique in its collaboration of multiple nationally ranked and independent institutions, all striving to promote a unified biomedical environment.

"There's a breadth of participation through industries and philanthropic and civic support,"  says Nerpouni. "Everyone in the region should know that healthcare and biomedical are key to our economic growth."

The Medical Capital campaign will also push Cleveland's story outside of Northeast Ohio, adds the BioEnterprise official. Long term, a sustained influx of funding and talent will further nurture the area's biomedical network.

"It's about creating a critical mass that's self-sustaining and thriving," Nerpouni says.

"It's a remarkable time for Cleveland. We want biomedical to continue to be part of the city's renaissance." 

New music studio rocks Boys & Girls Clubs of Cleveland

Since May, members of the Boys & Girls Clubs of Cleveland (BGCC) have been rapping, mixing and riffing at the nonprofit's Broadway Avenue location thanks to a partnership with a national organization that builds, equips and staffs after-school recording studios.
 
Notes for Notes, now with 12 studios at Boys & Girls Clubs and other sites throughout the U.S., chose Cleveland for its storied rock history and the local BGCC's impact on area at-risk teens. Built with funds secured by Turner Construction Company and the Hot Topic Foundation, the 800-square-foot studio at 6114 Broadway Ave. offers a variety of instruments and DJ gear, along with podcasting stations and a mixing room.
 
"Kids see these kind of things on YouTube, but don't get an everyday chance to use them," says Notes for Notes regional director Ryan Easter. "Now they can get hands-on with these products."
 
Open to BGCC members from 15 regional clubs, the space is not just for the musically inclined, says art director Matt Bott. Over the past five years, more than 200 club youth nationwide - many of whom had never previously touched an instrument - have been exposed to private and group instruction or mixed their own music in the studios.
 
"Equipment is cost-prohibitive for students, so this (programming) is good for them," says Bott.
 
The curriculum includes an introduction to MoTown, complete with a meet-and-greet with R&B singer-songwriter Smokey Robinson. Participants are also working on musical concepts for a faux-commercial on football helmets protected by anti-concussion materials. And while some students may try a guitar or drum set, many are excited by the audio production aspect, using synthesizers and sound-editing equipment to produce original tunes.
 
Easter, who has an 18-year career in studio production, says podcasting is another avenue for club members to learn about the music or entertainment industry. A video challenge planned for later this month will test students' podcasting interview skills.
 
"Kids will pick three topics they want to talk about," says Easter. "They'll have to do research in taking topics from the news. This can build their confidence outside the building and change how they feel about speaking in public."
 
Future projects could include song collaborations with a Notes for Notes studio in Los Angeles or New Orleans. For now, having a big-time recording space in Cleveland can be an outlet for healthy self-expression, project leaders say.
 
"I'll push the envelope by making a contest between me versus the kids," says Easter. "It could be a battle rap about Steph Curry's jump shot or Iman Shumpert's hair," he adds.

"We're creating something, and they want to be better than an adult." 

Cleveland Codes graduates its first class from intensive tech program

Nonprofit coding camp Cleveland Codes celebrated its first graduating class on June 30, a milestone that founder and social entrepreneur Matt Fieldman says is only the first of many for the tech-based certificate program.
 
Eleven of the coding school's initial 14-member cohort will move onto paid internships at companies including Medical Mutual, Third Federal Savings & Loan and Hose Master. As the venture seeks to place its last three graduates -  which, like their compatriots, are low-income adults from Cleveland -  Fieldman is confident area businesses will want coders with the skills his former students possess.
 
Over the 16-week class that began in March, participants learned coding languages in an intense, demanding environment, says Fieldman. Students were also taught critical soft skills such as resume writing and interviewing.

A high-pressure atmosphere creating a potential labor source has already been proven by Edwins Restaurant and Leadership Institute, an upscale restaurant co-founded by Fieldman that trains and employs the formerly incarcerated.
 
"If you give people the right training and support, they're going to rise to the challenge," he says.
 
About 120 applicants were pared down to 15 for the coding camp's first year. Though one student dropped the course, the remainder stayed on to harness free schooling, transportation and meals, paid for through grants from the Tri-C Foundation and the state's OhioMeansJobs program. Forty percent of participants were women, while 40 percent of the entire cohort represented minorities.
 
Newly-minted grads showcased the fruits of their hard work June 29 during an event at the Advanced Training & Technology Center (ATTC) on Cuyahoga Community College's metro campus.
 
As part of a class capstone project, students built an app based on NEO+natal, a proposal that took second place at the Cleveland Medical Hackathon last year and is designed to combat the region's high infant mortality rates. The project features a unique risk profile for mothers based on publicly available demographic and geographic data. With this information in hand, the Cleveland Codes app creators drew up a short questionnaire that could be used by a community health worker to assess a mother's risk level.

Efforts such as NEO+natal, says Fieldman, are emblematic of a talent pool ready for full-time technical work that can earn them upwards of $50,000 at the entry level.
 
"When you learn a skill that will propel your career for the next 50 years, that's really exciting," he adds. "It's great to see people who work with their hands have a bright future."
 
Cleveland Codes' second cohort starts in August, with two more planned for the fall. Fieldman envisions bigger classes that, upon graduation, move on as a whole to companies such as Hyland Software.
 
"We want to see this model grow and serve more communities," he says. "Companies complain about the lack of coding talent. This is an alternative where we want them to say, 'Yes, we want to work with you.'"

Chess program a checkmate for Northeast Ohio students, says founder

Chess is a game that crosses racial, language and socioeconomic barriers, say its players and proponents. South Euclid resident Mike Joelson is doing his part to teach the millennia-old tradition to thousands of Northeast Ohio students.
 
Joelson is founder of Progress With Chess (PWC), an organization that offers after-school programs and camp-based instruction to 50 regional K-12 schools, reaching about 2,500 students annually. In harnessing a mission to improve the lives of area children and teenagers, PWC works with private schools as well as students from Cleveland's inner-ring suburbs and inner-city.
 
"We serve the entire spectrum of the community," says Joelson, a card-carrying national chess master who founded PWC as a nonprofit in 2000.
 
After-school sessions are held one hour per week. Though hourly instruction costs $9 per class, PWC also offers free programming to the Cleveland Metropolitan School District (CMSD), paid through foundational and corporate grants.
 
"We have more demand than we can fill," says Joelson. "We're always looking for additional funding to help us serve more schools."
 
Chess skill level doesn't matter, as PWC takes on everyone from newbies to more seasoned players. 

"Students are divided into groups based on their age and skills," Joelson says. "We start off showing what the pieces do and how to play a legal game. More advanced students are taught advanced strategies and checkmate patterns."
 
Young chess charges are taught by two dozen independent contractors, some of them tournament veterans themselves. PWC instructors will be out in force this summer at chess camps in Beachwood, Parma, Westlake, CMSD's Patrick Henry School and elsewhere.
 
Joelson, who continues to play chess competitively on a local, state and national level, says the grand game embraces higher-level thinking abilities like pattern recognition and strategic planning, along with the critical life lessons of sportsmanship and perseverance.
 
"Every move you make has consequences, similar to life," says Joelson. "If you lose you're cool early, you'll keep that habit for the rest of the game."
 
Chess - and by extension PWC - is also a wonderful vehicle for exposing young people to those of different backgrounds.
 
"Multicultural and multiracial players are sitting in the same tournament and having a dialogue," says Joelson. "It's a win for everyone." 

StartMart entrepreneur hub to welcome community during open house

StartMart, Flashstarts’ 35,000-square-foot coworking space in the Terminal Tower, is opening its doors next month to welcome the community to explore the budding entrepreneurial hub.
 
StartMart's open house, scheduled for July 12 from 4:30 to 7:30 p.m., will show off a startup atmosphere that pools Cleveland's business incubators and accelerators into one continuously buzzing space, says community manager Anna Buchholz.
 
Hub officials hope to draw 300 guests for the event, guiding them through a collaborative environment designed to propel participants to success. Early returns have been positive, at least in terms of filling StartMart to capacity since its founding last September by serial entrepreneur Charles Stack.
 
About 140 individual tenants representing 30 different companies - among them We Can Code IT, Wheedle, Handelabra Games and <remesh - are utilizing StartMart's prime downtown space, which is also bolstered by meetups, startup training and hackathon events.
 
"We want to show how much we've grown," says Buchholz. "Back in September we didn't even have furniture in half the space."
 
Although you can sign up for a waiting list, every one of StartMart's 250-square-foot private offices, called "startpods," is occupied by new companies including a full-service design agency and a variety of tech-related enterprises. Desk space is also available to entrepreneurs via a fee-based per-person monthly membership upon which StartMart has built its model.
 
"It's not just tech," says Buchholz. "We have a CPA, an attorney and other types of businesses here."
 
Since its launch, the hub has added a 3D printer and bike racks to its second-floor location at Terminal Tower. In addition, six to 10 companies that started out at a desk have since moved into private offices, a strong measure of success for a business-building effort only eight months old, says Buchholz, adding that she is confident the venture's popularity will continue to rise as members spread the word to other entrepreneurs searching for a home.

StartMart has even created enough momentum for organizers to consider expanding the hub to an additional floor
 
"We could add another 25,000 square feet," she says. "Everything took off so fast; we could accommodate so many more businesses with that extra space."

Local teen heads to high seas for research, experience

Crista Kieley, a senior from the Beaumont School in Cleveland Heights has been selected as a 2016 Honors Research Program student by the Ocean Exploration Trust (OET) to sail aboard exploration vessel (E/V) Nautilus during one of the ship's 2016 Exploration Program expeditions, which offer participants hands-on experience in ocean exploration, research, and communications.
 
"It's going to be a challenging opportunity," says Kieley. "There's going to be a lot of work involved, but I'm excited because I know we're going to learn a lot."
 
She leaves for Rhode Island on July 9, where she'll be one of eight high school seniors from across the country at the University of Rhode Island (URI) Graduate School of Oceanography (GSO) engaging in a four-week academic summer program followed by one week aboard the 211-foot Nautilus. Students will live at URI and will work with scientists, engineers, and science communicators in a program that highlights the interdisciplinary nature of ocean science and exploration.
 
"In Rhode Island, we're going to be doing some workshops and work with ocean drifters, which are used to measure currents," says Kieley, "and on the vessel, we'll be doing data logging."
 
Upon completing the dockside portion of the program, the students will become members of the Corps of Exploration on the Nautilus. The 2016 cohort includes 22 students and 17 educators from around the world that were selected by the OET from a competitive pool of applicants hailing from educational and non-profit organizations in twenty states across America and Australia. Their participation in the program is part of OET's mission to explore the ocean by seeking out new discoveries in the fields of geology, biology, maritime history, archaeology, physics, and chemistry while pushing the boundaries of STEM education and technological innovation. Kieley's Nautilus adventure is one of several expeditions from May through September in the Eastern Pacific Ocean.
 
The group will explore the California Margin, a broad area off the coast of California in that is crisscrossed by seismically active faults. Kieley and her peers will stand watch alongside scientists and engineers. They'll also participate in live interactions with shore-based audiences via Nautilus Live, a 24-hour web portal by which landlubbers can keep track of the action. The group will also communicate via social media including Twitter, Facebook, Instagram and YouTube.
 
This is not the University Heights native's first multi-day mission amid the waves. She has twice participated in the Rotary Club of Cleveland's Youth Empowered to Succeed though Sailing program – Project YESS. As a "novice" in a 2014 and "ambassador" in 2015, she sailed the Great Lakes aboard the tall ship S/V Dennis Sullivan.
 
"It was not only sail training," says Kieley of her time on the Sullivan. "We did a lot of water quality testing while we were out there."
 
Even with that experience under her belt, she admits she's harboring a little trepidation regarding the forthcoming trip on the massive state-of-the-art Nautilus research vessel.
 
"I'm just nervous because it's doing something I've never done before," she says, adding nonetheless that she is excited to have such an immersive opportunity to learn about the field of oceanography.
 
"I'm really looking forward to the week at sea."
 

Expanded Startup Scaleup returns to Gordon Square on June 28

Last year, JumpStart Inc. showcased Northeast Ohio's entrepreneurial ecosystem with a half-day, festival-style event held in Cleveland's Gordon Square Arts District. Startup Scaleup returns this summer with a full day of sessions, pitch competitions, workshops and networking events.
 
The expanded format follows a 2015 venture that drew 1,200 guests interested in harnessing the region's array of small business-friendly resources. Organizers have added 13 program sessions from last summer's 28, with presenters including PNC Bank, Flashstarts and the Manufacturing Advocacy & Growth Network (MAGNET). Marketing agency Hello LLC, meanwhile, will teach attendees how to bring life to their brands through popular social media platforms such as Instagram and Snapchat.
 
"We want to make sure entrepreneurs understand all the resources they have at their fingertips, whether it's funding, getting a mentor or building a business plan," says Amy Martin, JumpStart's head of marketing.
 
The June 28 event will be easier to navigate thanks to separate track programming options focusing on either start-ups or development of existing companies. The 34 agenda items include sessions such as "The War for Tech Talent," "Ice Cream Social: Small Business Finance," and "The 5 Most Efficient Ways To Connect, Communicate And Celebrate With Your Ideal Clients." JumpStart officials are expecting the day's 1,500 attendees to chart their own unique path through sessions and post-event entertainment held at 15 Gordon Square theaters, eateries and creative spaces.
 
The marketing piece is another new addition, as is the program's outreach to student entrepreneurs. Returning from 2015 is the "Sidewalk to Stage" pitch competition, where 100 new dream-chasers will present their ideas on Capitol Theater's main stage for a share of $15,000 in prize money.
 
Full-day tickets for Startup Scaleup 2016 are $20 and include a $10 lunch voucher, as well as two $5 snack vouchers redeemable at vendors throughout the arts district. Half-day tickets are also available for $10, and include two $5 snack vouchers.
 
Giving participants more freedom is the goal of the scaleup event's super-sized format, says Martin. Program organizers expect nascent business owners to move around and mingle with the investors who can help their companies reach the next stage of growth.
 
"Our job is to create an economic impact that keeps the region on par with the rest of the country," Martin says. "We're bringing all these resources to one location for one day so people can see them in action."

Summer program for collegians to foster area 'brain gain'

Over the next nine weeks, 70 college students from eight campuses will intern at 46 Cleveland-area companies as part of Summer on the Cuyahoga (SOTC) program. Should all go well, a percentage of those students will return to town one day on a more permanent basis, organizers say.
 
SOTC, an economic development initiative designed to connect talented young professionals to Northeast Ohio, kicked off its summer program last week with a reception at Pura Vida in Public Square.  Students from this year's group hail from eight SOTC partner schools: Case Western Reserve University, Colgate, Cornell, Denison, Ohio Wesleyan, Smith, University of Chicago and Yale. They come to Cleveland from 24 states and five foreign countries.
 
SOTC is the only college internship program where participants fully immerse themselves in a downtown environment, says executive director Jean Koehler.  By day, students will work full-time at companies and organizations such as KeyBank and the Cleveland Museum of Art. Nights and weekends will be spent exploring the city's cultural, civic and recreational amenities before settling in at the Fenn Tower dorms on the Cleveland State University campus.
 
"These students are living as young professionals; it's real-life living," says Koehler.
 
Program officials will take their charges on behind-the-scenes tours of the Cleveland Museum of Natural History and the Cleveland Metroparks Zoo. Students will also engage in discussions on community development, and meet other YPs who chose to launch their careers in Cleveland.
 
SOTC's long-range goal is to have interns build networks and relocate to Greater Cleveland. To that end, the program matches new recruits with area alumni from their respective schools, some of whom are also graduates of the internship venture.
 
"Our interns always have a great experience," she says. "One hundred percent of last year's group had an affinity toward Cleveland and would recommend the program to their friends."
 
The return to the North Coast of 21 interns from last year's cohort - including 12 college graduates who accepted full-time positions here - reflects the strength of a talent-gathering effort now in its 14th year, says Koehler.
 
"We want to keep Cleveland on the radar of people who wouldn't come here (without the program)," she says. "If we can keep interns engaged enough to move here or even do business, our impact is going to be that much greater."
 
Cleveland's smaller size makes it an attractive option for a generation keen on making a difference in their community, Koehler says. SOTC leaders make sure to introduce interns to local changemakers, yet another way to ensure the program's influence lasts well beyond the summer.
 
"You can be a big fish in a small town here," says Koehler. "If you want to make that kind of impact, it's easier to do it in Cleveland than in New York or Boston."

The sweetest startup - with frosting

Susan Manfredonia and her mother, Rita, ran a licensed in-home bakery for 22 years, whipping up a custard frosting that had been in their family for generations. With help from local entrepreneurial resources, Manfredonia now seeks to sell her delectable homemade frosting to a wider audience.
 
As owner of Squeeze n' Easy, Manfredonia runs her food-focused startup out of the Cleveland Culinary Launch and Kitchen (CCLK), a pay-as-you-go commercial space and program of nonprofit micro-lender the Economic and Community Development Institute (ECDI).
 
Manfredonia has worked out of the space for three years, producing an egg- and nut-free custard concoction packaged in a simple-to-use, freezable pastry bag. Aided by two part-time employees and business consultant Frank Cullen, Cleveland's unofficial custard queen also pedals cannolis filled with her homespun artisan goodness.
 
"Our product is so good I want the whole world to try it," says Manfredonia.
 
Squeeze n' Easy frosting, currently available at five Northeast Ohio stores in chocolate, vanilla and almond, can be applied to most any cake, pastry or cookie. According to Manfredonia, her family's recipe surpasses canned or boxed product as well as any sugar-laded buttercream frosting you can shake a fondant rose at.
 
"I changed the recipe to make it all-natural," says Manfredonia. "It's gluten-free, too."
 
The entrepreneur returned to the frosting fold four years ago after taking time off to raise her three children. A Bad Girl Ventures finalist in 2012, Manfredonia joined CCLK a year later, harnessing the food-business incubator's mentorship support along with advice on marketing, product development and regulatory processes. 
 
"The kitchen was a very good place to start because of everyone's input and knowledge," Manfredonia says.
 
The proprietor is currently searching for a manufacturing space with cold-storage capabilities for her cannoli product. Manfredonia also aims to hire a few people to demonstrate her wares at local grocery stores.
 
"Part of our marketing is in-store demos and reaching out to ask the consumer questions," says Cullen, a company investor and friend of Manfredonia's. "We found out that the most important things for our customers are taste, convenience and affordability."
 
Delivering old-fashioned luxury frosting at a fair price is Manfredonia's joy, a feeling she looks forward to bringing to a new generation of gourmands.
 
"I'm so excited about this I want to jump out of my skin," she says. "I've done this for so many years, I just want to share it with everybody." 

To help S&R Bakers stomp out bad frosting, they invite frosting activists to sign their "I want my store to carry Squeeze n’ Easy" petition.

ECDI Cleveland is part of Fresh Water's underwriting support network.

 

Heights' own 'breakfast Cheers bar' celebrates 35 years

On July 27, 1981, the Inn on Coventry opened amid the chaos of the Coventry Village Street Fair, offering a simple menu of eggs, breakfast meats and $1 pancakes. After 35 years on the corner of Coventry Road and Euclid Heights Boulevard in Cleveland Heights, diner owners Debbie Duirk and Mary Haley are still serving "comfort food at comfortable prices," and have no plans on stopping anytime soon.
 
To celebrate, the dine-amic duo will be dishing up tasty grub at 1981 prices during a July 27 "Throwback Wednesday" anniversary event. Hungry attendees can arrive for the free coffee and $1 buttermilk pancakes, and stay for raffle prizes including diner gift certificates and an authentic Coca-Cola bike.
 
"This (anniversary) shows our success and how many great people we've met along the way," says Duirk.
 
The three-generation, family-friendly neighborhood restaurant was initially founded as the "in place to be" by Duirk and her business partner. Haley's mother, Amy, served as the establishment's first chef, helping cement the Inn's iconic status with her banana orange waffles and other scrumptious goodies until she passed away in 1997.
 
While the banana orange waffles are no longer available, the Inn's vast menu has nine different versions of Eggs Benedict as well as a variety of spicy selections including huevos rancheros
 
"We say we're still doing home-style cooking after all these years," Duirk says.
 
In preparation for the anniversary festivities, the Inn will close from July 11 to July 23, using that time to add new carpeting and a fresh coat of paint. When reopened, the diner will look much the same as it did on that July day over three decades ago, Duirk promises.
 
The years in between have seen the Heights' very own "breakfast Cheers bar" fill bellies at a fair price. Not all those days have been easy ones, either. Duirk recalls a fire in the district that closed the Inn for several months in the mid-80s. Then there were the street remodelings in the 90s that made it difficult to attract customers. And of course, the loss of Haley's mother a week before her 97th birthday was a blow to the owners and patrons alike.
 
Despite it all, the Inn has persevered as a Cleveland Heights institution that Duirk looks forward to shepherding along for another 35 years. The diner's success can be ascribed to a few simple yet critically important reasons, its co-owner says. 
 
"Quality, consistency, cleanliness and a hospitable staff that makes you feel like you're home," says Duirk. "That's what people look for when they go out to eat." 

This summer: artistic commentary from acerbic on RNC, Opportunity Corridor

For a city with a 53 percent African-American population, Cleveland doesn't have near enough black voices in the arts community, says Ali McClain, co-founder of acerbic, an artist collective aimed at creatives of color.
 
McClain, a poet and artist who launched acerbic in 2014 with partners Donald Black Jr. and Gabriel Gonzalez, says she's often the only woman of color at various exhibitions and openings. She is similarly disheartened when international artists, most of whom are white, are called in for programs that could easily be helmed by locals.
 
"The art world is white, so it's hard to fit in or be part of that," says McClain. "There's always a feeling like we're the last called, or not called at all."
 
Instead of grousing about these issues, McClain and her friends formed acerbic, billed as an art producing collective, consultation group and education program. Housed on the fourth floor of St. Luke's Foundation, the collective is a direct response to the stifling environment encountered by Cleveland-area artists of color.
 
Acerbic, which in its founders' eyes is defined as "sharp and forthright," offers mentorship, education and guidance for emerging dream-makers. Student volunteers help their young peers in scouting arts opportunities or writing college entrance essays.
 
The collective sponsors its own programs, too, McClain notes. This summer, the group will be creating politically charged artwork in response to the Republican National Convention in Cleveland. Acerbic will also be working with LAND Studio on a writing effort related to the Opportunity Corridor transportation project.
 
Acerbic's founders view these programs as a way to turn frustration with the area's arts scene into a vibrant opportunity.
 
"You can't keep crying about things if you're not going to do anything about it," says McClain. "We needed to make a space for other people who feel like us or who just need support or relief."
 
Acerbic received assistance on its strategic plan from the Community Partnership for Arts and Culture (CPAC), and is getting additional support from Cleveland Neighborhood Progress. As for the future, group leaders envision forming a thriving collection of artists of color able to contribute to Cleveland's creative ecosystem.
 
"We're providing resources to give (young artists) a chance to feel good about where they come from," says McClain. "They know they have a place to go that's going to support them." 

New app puts key to green spaces in your pocket

A new learning app designed by three local nature-loving entities is offering a deeper perspective on Northeast Ohio's robust parks systems.
 
ParkApps, developed via a partnership among Cleveland Metroparks, Cuyahoga Valley National Park (CVNP) and Kent State University, aims to educate visitors as they explore the region's parks. Similar to other apps created for national and state parks, the new software, currently available for free on iTunes, places points of interest on a digital map where users learn about the history and ecology of our precious green space, says Patrick Lorch, manager of field research for Cleveland Metroparks.
 
The map currently has 200 points covering topics like wildflowers, geology and marsh habitats. Through a feature called "Adventure Tracks," a user's mobile device pings them to stop and engage with pre-determined points along a trail or path. Completed trails earn visitors digital badges as a reward.
 
"The map is the basis for everything," says Lorch. "Points on the map are the equivalent of a sign at the side of a trail."
 
Another feature called "My ParkApps" lets users create their own maps, giving them free access to an accompanying website that records their hikes in the park. "Citizen Science," meanwhile, asks participants to share photos of the same park features over time, allowing officials to study stream bank erosion and other changes in habitat.
 
The app project, funded by a three-year, $800,000 grant from the National Science Foundation’s Advancing Informal STEM Learning initiative, will test the feasibility of app technology in parks while studying the impact of mobile devices on informal science learning. Along with the educational piece, combining technology and nature is a new way to explain park management activities such as the culling of invasive species or protecting particular natural resources, Lorch says.
 
"People ask us why we're pulling plants they find attractive," he says. "We want to help people understand the ecological reason for these things, because that's often not clear."
 
Future versions of the tool will include availability on Android devices and an identification option where visitors can get help identifying plants, trees and animals.
 
"I can imagine a fishermen recording their favorite fishing spots and tagging them with a photo," says Lorch. "How people use the app could point to a general direction for us."

The Cleveland Metroparks is part of Fresh Water's underwriting network.

Forward Cities gathering will focus on area entrepreneurs, social innovation

More than 200 community, business, policy, and foundation leaders from four of the nation’s comeback cities are joining forces in Cleveland this month to foster entrepreneurship and social innovation in minority communities. This effort is part of Forward Cities, a national learning collaborative project in which leaders and donors from cities undergoing profound transformation can identify and share best practices. Participating cities include Cleveland, Detroit, New Orleans and Durham.
 
“As the global economy becomes increasingly competitive and the war for talent spans worldwide boundaries, we can no longer leave behind huge swaths of our potential innovation talent pool – namely traditionally disenfranchised women and minority populations,” said Christopher Gergen, CEO of Forward Impact and co-founder of Forward Cities. “Cities that fail to heed this call and don’t take intentional action to create a new economy that is purposefully equitable will do so at their own peril. Inclusive innovation isn’t just the right thing to do – it is the smart thing to do.”
 
Forward Cities leaders will meet in Cleveland June 14-17 to explore how to drive inclusive innovation. Out of town participants will meet with Cleveland entrepreneurs, business incubators, social innovators, and neighborhood and government leaders. They will also tour target communities including the Opportunity Corridor, the West 25th Street Corridor, the East 55th Street Food Corridor, and the East 105th Street Corridor. The Cleveland Forward Cities Council, which acts as the project's local advisory board, selected those locations. The council includes entities such as Cleveland Neighborhood Progress, Towards Employment, the City of Cleveland, RPM International the Burton D. Morgan Foundation, The Cleveland Foundation, J.P. Morgan Chase & Co., The Business of Good Foundation, the George Gund Foundation and several other civic-minded organizations. National and local donors are funding the effort.
 
In addition, panels of experts from across the participating cities will explore topics ranging from the use of globalization and immigration as a strategy for urban renewal, to the role of anchor institutions in economic development, and how individual entrepreneurs affect a city’s comeback. The Cleveland convening is the final gathering for Forward Cities, which met in New Orleans in December 2014, Detroit in June 2015 and Durham in December 2015.
 
While the Cleveland event is still days away, the area has already felt the impact of being included in the Forward Cities endeavor. The collaboration has led to stronger coordination of local programs to support entrepreneurs, enabled council members to adopt and apply successful programs from the partner cities and has generated new, honest discussions regarding issues that affect inclusive innovation, such as race. Three examples of Forward Cities achievements in Cleveland include:
 
- Compiling a comprehensive list of more than 1,200 minority businesses in the city that connects business owners to public and private projects, conventions and events that are seeking minority business partners
 
- Securing a $16,000 planning grant from the Business of Good Foundation for the Hispanic Marketplace, La Placita, in the West 25th Street neighborhood.
 
- Developing a small business seminar and tour for businesses in the Opportunity Corridor tour that helped the 25 business owners build familiarity and overcome hurdles they may have felt in approaching local technical assistance providers.
 
“Horizons are expanded, problems are viewed from unusual angles, ideas are blended, friendships are forged and challenges unstuck,” said Deborah Hoover, Cleveland Forward Cities Co-Chair and president and CEO of Burton D. Morgan Foundation of the previous gatherings and collective Forward Cities efforts.
 
“This magic occurs because so many people from different cities, backgrounds and types of organizations come together to listen, share, and most of all, understand and work together," said Hoover.
 
Follow the Forward Cities project on Facebook, or stay up to date on Twitter at @forwardcities. Use the hashtags #forwardcities and #roadtogrowth.

Fresh Water's parent company, Issue Media Group, is a national partner in the Forward Cities initiative.


Source: Forward Cities

Text compiled by Erin O'Brien

Public language immersion school set for August opening

A bilingual dream five years in the making is about to become reality for Global Ambassadors Language Academy (GALA) founding director Meran Rogers.
 
Rogers's new foreign language immersion school will open its doors on August 3, welcoming approximately 100 kindergarten and first-grade students to the former St. Vincent de Paul parish at 13400 Lorain Avenue. For its first iteration, the school will occupy only the ground and first floors of the 30,000-square-foot facility. Administrators expect classes to expand to the building's second floor in coming years as GALA adds additional grade levels, up to eighth grade.
 
Fresh Water first reported on plans for the tuition-free, public charter school in October 2014. The effort has come a long way since then: The school has been hosting monthly open houses since February to show off its new digs and champion an educational model based around Spanish and Mandarin programming. This month's open house events are scheduled for Thursday, June 9 at 5 p.m., and Saturday, June 11, at 10 a.m.
 
"We'll have a tour of the school and a Q & A afterwards," says Rogers. "Tours are usually a big hit. It's a matter of getting the word out and getting families to come."

Meanwhile, professional development sessions for GALA's dozen teachers begins in July.
 
As a public charter school, GALA will adhere to learning standards set forth by the Ohio Department of Education. Seventy percent of instruction each day will be provided in Mandarin or Spanish; the remaining 30 percent will be taught in English, notes Rogers. In addition, GALA will offer an International Baccalaureate (IB) program that allows participants to plan out their own projects.
 
On its first day, GALA will stand as Northeast Ohio's first foreign language immersion school as well as the only Mandarin immersion school in state. Most schools with similar teaching models are private or serve higher-income communities, says Rogers. GALA is open to all, no matter their socioeconomic background.
 
Rogers, who previously taught at a Taiwanese immersion school and is former director of community affairs for Global Cleveland, says her experience growing up with multilingual parents in a low-income household inspired GALA's creation.
 
"I was labeled as a special education student, and didn't learn how to read or write until the second grade," says Rogers. "I could have been bilingual but never had the environment to maintain that."
 
Rogers is thrilled to bring an absorbing educational experience to other children, an effort involving supportive teachers, parents and board members. Then there are donors which include the Albert B. and Audrey G. Ratner Family Foundation, Bernie Moreno CompaniesEaton CorporationRPM International Inc. and Margaret Wong & Associates.
 
Though Rogers doesn't expect to be dancing in the halls come August, she is excited about the new school's intricately planned journey.
 
"People are saying how great this, and asking me how I feel," Rogers says. "I just feel good. There is a lot more work to get done and I can't celebrate just yet."

Motorcycle garage owner gets real with upcoming TV show for Esquire Network

Motorcycle aficionado Brian Schaffran has been running his Cleveland-based hotrodding fix-it clubhouse Skidmark Garage for over a year. While bringing in new riders has been a slower process than Schaffran would like, a forthcoming motorcycle competition television series he recently finished filming could rev up that all-important customer base.
 
Schaffran will serve as co-host of "Wrench Against the Machine," an unscripted motor-cycle centric show pitting teams of enthusiasts against one another to construct badass bikes of all styles and builds. A panel of judges will evaluate contestants' creations following each build challenge.
 
Filming began in Los Angeles at the end of April and wrapped last week. As host, Schaffran was on call during day-long taping sessions - sometimes lasting until 10 p.m. - where he would he would recite scripted lines for one or two scenes. Downtime was spent on a laptop working his day job as a customer support rep for a software company.
 
"The whole thing felt a little surreal," says Schaffran, whose 2,800-square foot community garage in the Hildebrandt Building rents out tools, lifts and storage bays to riders. "I never thought I'd be on TV. Everything is hitting me all at once."
 
Schaffran's workaday world turned when a production company that makes reality shows contacted him following a March 2015 Fresh Water article about his shop. 
 
"They thought the community garage idea was original, and said somewhere inside the garage was a show," Schaffran says. "They finally came up with this build competition idea."
 
Though excited at first, Schaffran was put off by other motorcycle build shows where drama is heightened to extreme levels.
 
"I've seen these shows and how people are portrayed," he says. "I didn't want to be part of some soap opera bullshit like every other reality show."
 
Schaffran's concerns were allayed after additional conversations with production company officials. When not filming or helping folks trouble-shoot their computers, he visited area community garages to scope their physical layout and how they marketed themselves.
 
"It was enlightening to see how clean their shops were," says Schaffran. "They're leveraging social media more than I am, too."
 
"Wrench Against the Machine" will premiere this fall on the Esquire Network. Ideally, the program will give Skidmark Garage a membership and branding boost, says its owner.
 
"Everyone is pretty excited for me," says Schaffran. "So many people's comments are like, 'Holy shit, dude, you're living the dream.' Everyone's been really supportive." 

University Circle to showcase transportation with new shuttle, walkability, public transit

With newcomers such as MOCA and the utterly transformed Uptown District, University Circle (UC) has exploded with new activity that has easily blended in amid funky Hessler Street, the towering puppets of Parade the Circle and the venerable cultural institutions lining Wade Oval.
 
If you build it, they will come. So goes the saying and so it is for UC, a development that University Circle Inc. (UCI) and its partners have noted and then some.
 
"I really think transportation is on a lot of people's minds lately. It's certainly on our minds here in University Circle and the surrounding area," says Laura Kleinman, UCI's vice president of services. "Such substantial growth means a greater volume of people in the area," she adds, noting that the influx increases pressure on the environment, the infrastructure and most importantly, the people.
 
To ease it all, UCI, along with some 20 area partners, has developed the expansive Moving Greater University Circle's Transportation and Mobility Plan. At more than 140 pages, the document is daunting, but it's implementation and intent are already evidenced in the UC area in the friendliest of ways, starting most notably with a familiar link that's just expanded and aims to make navigating the area easier than ever.
 
The free CircleLink shuttle has historically catered to the area's education and medical industries. A new yearlong pilot program, however, will expand coverage to the Little Italy neighborhood, complete with a new vehicle.
 
"We added a smaller bus so it could navigate Little Italy more easily," says Kleinman, noting that the tiny enclave isn't conducive to maneuvering large vehicles.


 
The new BlueLink, which launched today, will operate from 10 a.m. to 6 p.m. Monday through Friday and noon to 6 p.m. on Saturday and Sunday. The free shuttle will circulate every 20 or 30 minutes and will stop at the new Little Italy – University Circle RTA Station; points along Mayfield, Murray Hill and Cornell Roads; and the cultural attractions lining Wade Oval and Magnolia Drive. The addition increases the small but mighty CircleLink fleet from two to three shuttles.
 
The newly named GreenLink will follow a route similar to that of the former shuttle service, with stops along Adelbert, Juniper and Bellflower Roads, as well as East 115 Street.
 
Both routes will help promote the "park-once" concept, by which UC advocates encourage visitors to park in one spot and visit the Circle's amenities throughout the day without moving their car. It will also encourage visitors to enjoy the new CircleWalk program, with it's 40 inviting 'Story Poles' that now pepper the area and draw attention to points of interest such as Rockefeller Park and the Commodore Hotel.
 
Others who initially travel to the area via RTA's Healthline or the recently improved Cedar – University Rapid or the Little Italy stations may opt for two wheels and partake in the forthcoming bike share program. Initially announced last year, University Hospitals was tapped as title sponsor of the citywide UHBikes program last month. The program will be rolling out over the coming weeks. The University Circle area is slated for 10 stations that will house approximately 50 bikes to let.
 
"We're encouraging people to use public transportation get to the Circle and either walk or hop on CircleLink to take them anywhere else in Circle," says Kleinman. "We're working closely with RTA to promote that."
 
To that end, Joe Calabrese, RTA's CEO and general manager, will deliver the keynote at the 2016 Uptown Business Association Showcase in the Circle on Thursday, June 16 from 8 to 10 a.m. at the Cleveland Museum of Natural History.
 
With all this talk of how people can get around the Circle, Kleinman sees Calabrese as a perfect fit for the event.


 
"I think Joe is a super champion of public transit in the region and even around the country," she says. "I know he's excited about the investments that they have made recently in University Circle, particularly with the two Rapid stations. He's just a great supporter and believer in public transportation and the benefits it can have on infrastructure, on our communities, on our health and on the economics in the region."
 
Calabrese will talk about the Moving Greater University Circle Plan, its components and how RTA has been involved in it all. He'll also discuss RTA's Transit Benefits Fare Program, by which employers can save up to 7.65 percent on average in payroll tax and employees can save up to 40 percent on commuting costs.
 
"People need to be able to get to their jobs easily and cost effectively," says Kleinman, adding that she believes attendees – employees and employers alike – will appreciate hearing about the program.
 
The June 16 event will also include announcements of a number of awards:
 
The Best Nonprofit/Local Business Relationship Award honors a business relationship between a University Circle nonprofit and a neighborhood business. Last year's winners: DeeJay Doc FRESH Camp and Bon Appétit
 
The Best Start Up Business Award honors a neighborhood business that has been in existence less than three years. Last year's winner: Cleveland Yoga Uptown
 
The Best Multi-Generational or Family-Owned Business Award honors a neighborhood business that has been passed on from one generation to the next, or in which two or more family members are employed, share ownership, or are primary decision makers. Last year's winner: The Barking Spider Tavern
 
The Uptown Business Association (UBA) Champion Award honors the UBA member that champions the organization’s mission to promote and support businesses in the Uptown neighborhoods to increase profitability and enhance the quality of life for the community.  Last year's winners: Mark Balogh, The Coffee House at University Circle and Ben Williams Jr., Ben’s Auto Body Specialists
 
Also last year, the Stephanie Tubbs Jones Neighborhood Leadership Award, which honors the late Congresswoman Stephanie Tubbs Jones and her legacy of service to the University Circle community, was given to Sara Mierke, Hawken School, and Sally and Bob Gries, The Gries Center.
 
"The [UBA] seeks to engage not only business owners from the Circle, but from the surrounding neighborhoods to help them network with one another and raise awareness of the local business community," says Kleinman, adding that this is the fourth year the Showcase event will include awards.
 
"We'll be celebrating local businesses," she says of the forthcoming event. "We'll also be connecting with a really important topic: public transportation."
 
 
Citizens Bank is the presenting sponsor for the 2016 Uptown Business Association Showcase in the Circle event, with additional promotional support from the Council of Small Enterprise (COSE). The George Gund Foundation and the Northeast Ohio Areawide Coordinating Agency's (NOACA) Transportation for Livable Communities Initiative funded the Moving Greater University Circle Plan. University Hospitals and Case Western Reserve University are funding the pilot BlueLink shuttle program.

This article was made possible by a partnership with University Circle Inc.

 
 

Bloom Bakery raising 'dough' to help others

"Creating jobs is our secret ingredient."
 
Such is the slogan of Bloom Bakery, a downtown entity that offers premium pastries and breads as well as opportunities for Clevelanders facing employment barriers. Now the social venture is asking for a little extra "dough" to continue its mission.
 
Last week, Bloom Bakery launched a $25,000 Indiegogo crowdfunding campaign to provide capital for its Campus District location at 1938 Euclid Ave. (The bakery has another shop at 200 Public Square.) Funding will go to hiring additional staff, says Logan Fahey, Bloom Bakery co-founder and general manager.
 
"Our reason for doing (crowdfunding) was to get the community involved," says Fahey. "We rely on the consumer to find us and appreciate the mission."
 
Supporters can pre-purchase coffee, lunch, corporate catering, and exclusive baking lessons before the campaign ends June 10. Bloom Bakery is a benefit corporation - essentially a hybrid of a standard corporation and a nonprofit - owned by Towards Employment, a Cleveland nonprofit that offers job training and placement as well as removal of employment barriers for people previously involved in the criminal justice system.
 
All revenue from Bloom Bakery goes to Towards Employment's job readiness programs. Meanwhile, the bakery educates, trains and employs low-income and disadvantaged adults for work as bakers, baristas and other positions. Entry-level jobs pay $8 to $10 hourly, with opportunities available for upward mobility within the company.
 
"Our sole purpose is to give a second chance to individuals who otherwise wouldn't get one," Fahey says. "These jobs can be resume builders or allow people to move onto supervisory positions here."
 
Bloom Bakery currently has 15 staff members, ranging in age from their 20s to early 60s. New employees are vetted through Towards Employment programming, then undergo another month of training at the bakery.
 
As of this writing, the social venture's crowdfunding effort has reached 10 percent of its goal. Fahey and his fellow staff members will spend the next couple of weeks pushing the campaign via social media and word-of-mouth. The ultimate goal is to become the state's best bakery while continuing to operate as a "business with a heart."
 
"There's a large segment of the population in need of an opportunity," says Fahey. "If we become the best bakery, then we can create as many jobs as we want." 

The ECDI Cleveland is part of Fresh Water's underwriting support community.

Tribe 'hackathon' puts area tech talent into the game

If Northeast Ohio is to be a leading Midwest technology hub, it will need top-tier software developers to kickstart the growth process, observers say. Organizers of a baseball-centric programming competition know that finding tech talent is critical to the region's future, but that doesn't mean some creative fun can't be had while the search takes place.
 
The Tribe Hackathon, representing a partnership among the Cleveland Indians, Progressive Insurance and coding boot camp Tech Elevator, brought together 14 software-savvy teams last weekend to build apps, prototypes and visuals meant to improve the fan experience.
 
Participants showcased their innovations at Progressive Field's Terrace Club. Winning submissions were chosen based on categories including "most creative" and "best user interface."
 
A collection of college-aged friends from Stow aimed to add a new twist to the classic sport with FanVision. Harnessing the Google Carboard head mount, the FanVision mobile app would allow fans to place a smartphone into Google's cardboard viewer, creating an immersive heads-up display (HUD) that shows enhanced game data in a virtual reality space.
 
Cameron Sinko, whose team won in the "most creative" category, says the fully functional app would put viewers directly on the field.
 
"They would have a connection to their own personal sandbox," Sinko says.
 
Meanwhile, a group from Medical Mutual took home second place for Shake, a web-based app for a multiplayer version of Progressive Field's Hot Dog Derby race. Users would take control of animated versions of the combating condiments (ketchup, mustard and onion) on the stadium scoreboard, literally shaking their phones to help their character win the race.
 
"It's something easy for fans to interact with," says app co-creator Matthew Russo. "It's in the spirit of getting the crowd involved."
 
While the baseball club has no plans to use participant-created apps and virtual reality games, simply hosting the tech initiative highlights the region's skilled brainpower, says Indians' senior vice president and chief information officer Neil Weiss.
 
"It's inspirational to watch people do something they love, " Weiss says. "They're building networks with each other."
 
Anthony Hughes, founder and CEO of Tech Elevator, takes a global perspective when considering the hackathon event he helped produce.
 
"Cleveland has this image as a manufacturing town with its glory days behind it," says Hughes. "This city can be a tech town with its glory days still ahead." 

Birchwood students head to Maryland for history competition

Next month, an eclectic group of students from Birchwood School will attempt to make history at an event that celebrates the same diversity the West Park private independent school embodies.
 
The National History Day contest, set for June 12-16 at the University of Maryland campus, invites 3,000 middle- and high-school students from the United States, Guam and American Samoa, as well as international schools in China, Korea, South Asia and Central America. Birchwood will happily add itself to the mix, considering 60 percent of school enrollment is comprised of children of immigrants hailing from Europe, Asia, Africa and points beyond.
 
Birchwood's young competitors will present the same projects that pushed them through local and regional contests. Ten seventh- and eight-graders - Jocelyn Chin, Steven Sun, Jake Wei, Sophia Vlastaris, Alia Baig, Nadia Ibrahim, Channin McNaughton, Jane Nilson, Isabella Issa, and Aasma Cozart - advanced to the nationals following a state competition held at Ohio Wesleyan University on April 30.
 
At the national event, students will present research based on the theme of "Exploration, Encounter and Exchange in History" in the form of a documentary, exhibit, paper, performance, or website.
 
Jane Nilson took first place at the state program for a paper on Cleveland's Hough riots. The highlight of Jane's research on this contentious event, which was characterized by vandalism, looting and arson, was a two-hour interview with a National Guardsman on the scene during the violence. As excited as Jane is to show her work to an international audience, it's the info-gathering that truly turns her dials.
 
"I didn't know much about Cleveland history before writing the paper," she says. "I'm a highly competitive person, but it's really about the research."
 
Alia Baig and Jocelyn Chin designed a website that explores the 1906 San Francisco earthquake and fire, a process that taught the duo just how unprepared the U.S. was for such a large-scale disaster.
 
Honing one's stage presence is also part of the proceedings, students say. Channin McNaughton and Aasma Cozart learned this during several performances on labor organizer Mary Harris "Mother" Jones. Though Channin was initially nervous about "yelling" at audience members as part of the presentation, sheer repetition diminished any jitters she may have had.
 
"We have to put our all into this project," Channin says. "If you do that you deserve a chance to win."
 
Isabella Issa, Sophia Vlastaris and Nadia Ibrahim acted out the story behind Title IX, a statute prohibiting gender discrimination at publicly funded educational institutions. Isabella is looking forward to the larger stage, particularly after the hundreds of hours she and her partners have put into their presentation.
 
"You can pull an all-nighter preparing, so when your name and state is called, that's what makes the long nights worth it," she says.
 
Nadia's purpose, meanwhile, is informed by Birchwood's stated mantra of personal fulfillment going hand-in-hand with hard work and social participation.
 
"It helps to know you've worked this hard and made it this far," she says.
 
Steven Sun, who with Jake Wei put together a documentary on neurosurgeon Harvey Cushing, didn't exactly relish the project's heavy-duty research portion. However, he appreciates how the long stretch of work over the year has prepared him for the next level of his education.
 
"There are high-schoolers not doing what we're doing," Steven says.
 
Social studies teacher Connie Miller, a staff organizer for the contest, encouraged students to choose events and people that had major impacts on the world around them.
 
"This (program) ticks off boxes of what we're doing at Birchwood," says Miller. "Students are not just reporting history, but analyzing events that changed history."
 
Being a normal group of teenagers, the collective Birchwood crew is thrilled to take a trip that includes a tour of nearby Washington, D.C. They also expect to join the long-standing National History Day tradition of exchanging state-centric buttons with their fellow competitors.
 
Ultimately, school officials want their charges to have fun while taking part in a globally recognized contest that will build both their studying and social skills.
 
"We're very proud of our students," Miller says. "They've proven they can keep up with writing and revising over and over. That says a lot about Birchwood." 

Further reading: Diversity, curriculum set West Park's Birchwood School apart

This story was made possible by a partnership with the Birchwood School.

Cleveland Clinic presents 'health challenge' to residents

The Cleveland Clinic has issued a challenge to foster healthy lifestyles in three Greater Cleveland communities. It's now up to citizens in these neighborhoods to take up the gauntlet, program creators say.
 
The Clinic's summer health challenge launches on June 4 in Cleveland's Fairfax, Glenville and Hough neighborhoods. Over six weeks, neighborhood team members are encouraged to undergo health screenings and attend various health, wellness and exercise sessions at partner institutions, with participants earning points for individual activities.
 
Everyone who completes the challenge will receive certificates and prizes, say program managers and Clinic staff members Chantel Wilcox and Marsha Thornton. Teams with the most overall points after six weeks will be the winner of a special neighborhood trophy. The idea is to offer a bit of fun and sportsmanship around a serious issue, say event creators.
 
"You can't just put a health center somewhere and provide programming," says Wilcox. "You have to give an opportunity for people to be engaged in changing their lifestyle."
 
The challenge kickoff will be held at the hospital system's Langston Hughes Health and Education Center, 2390 East 79th Street on June 4 at 11 a.m.

Mammography and blood pressure screenings, HIV support and diabetes education will be among the available services for participants age 18 and up. Community partners including Fairfax Renaissance Development CenterGlenville Recreation Center and Thurgood Marshall Recreation Center, meanwhile, will offer health-minded competitors free exercise classes and work-out equipment.
 
Programming is targeted toward people with chronic physical issues as well as their caregivers.
 
"Often it's going to be caregivers who are motivating those with chronic diseases," says Wilcox. 
 
Next month's program will mark the health challenge's third iteration since 2015. Last winter's version drew 200 participants, a figure organizers hope to double this time around.
 
A lack of efficiency in how traditional care is delivered compelled Clinic officials to create the challenge. As lack of health education is a major reason for wellness disparities among economic groups, access to health services can effectively alter lifestyles and even lead to unforeseen outcomes.
 
"We've had three participants who've stopped smoking," Wilcox says. "The program engages and encourage people to go further (than six weeks) and keep this going."
 

Cleveland Institute of Art delivers first group of grads from Uptown campus

Each year, the Cleveland Institute of Art (CIA) seeks to build on an internationally recognized heritage of innovation that dates back to 1882. The independent arts school sent its latest iteration of hopeful creatives into the world last weekend during its 2016 commencement event.
 
Bagpipes and cheers heralded the entrance of 117 CIA graduates for the ceremony held May 14 at Cleveland Museum of Art's Gartner Auditorium. Students arrived in home-decorated mortarboards for a two-hour celebration of inventive boundary-pushing that school officials believe will serve them well in whatever career they choose.
 
"We've built a community of peers here at CIA, creating works that make people comfortable with being uncomfortable," said Grafton Nunes, CIA president and CEO.
 
The 2016 graduating class leaves CIA with a visual arts and design education in 15 majors:
 

* Painting
* Biomedical art 
* Drawing
* Ceramics
* Glass
* Printmaking
* Industrial design
* Graphic design
* Interior architecture
* Jewelry + Metals
* Illustration
* Animation
* Game design
* Photography + Video
* Sculpture + Expanded Media  

 
This year's graduates also hand down a legacy marked by significant milestones and exciting projects, administrators said. For example, the 2016 class was the first to graduate from CIA's unified campus in Uptown. CIA had been operating as a split campus since 1976. The addition last fall of the 80,000-square-foot George Gund Building on Euclid Avenue helped centralize operations for the 2016 academic session.
 
CIA's newest grads also had their work appear on a high-definition video mesh above the Gund facility's entrance. Among the projects represented were animated shorts created for the Cleveland Museum of Natural History's planetarium dome and an architectural redesign of Cleveland Metroparks Zoo's primate, cat and aquatics building.
 
In past years, CIA's body of 550 students has gone on to design products or display artwork worldwide, while the school has long served as a resource of public arts programming through gallery exhibitions, visiting artist lectures and showings at the Cinematheque repertory theater.
 
Oscar-nominated actor Willem Dafoe, who gave this year's commencement address, said any type of artistic endeavor, be it a big-budget tent-pole movie franchise seen by millions or an abstract chamber piece viewed by two-dozen, is nurtured by hard work.
 
"It's all making, problem solving and doing," said Dafoe. "My mantra for you is, the work itself is what will sustain you."

The Cleveland Institute of Art is part of Fresh Water's underwriting support community.
 

Cleveland's growing 'maker movement' the focus of TV host's visit

In recent years, Cleveland has demonstrated itself as an early adopter of the "maker movement," an umbrella term for the convergence of independent inventors and designers who relish the creation of new high-tech devices as well as tinkering with existing ones.
 
An April 27 visit by movement advocate and former Mythbusters host Adam Savage put a national spotlight on the North Coast's growing DIY fervor, with Savage meeting area stakeholders and community leaders to help foster support for the next generation of innovators. The day-long event was designed as a lead-up to the 2016 National Week of Making (June 17-23), announced earlier this year by the White House.
 
“This visit was intended to highlight the growing ecosystem of making and fabricating in Cleveland," says Lisa Camp, associate dean for strategic initiatives at the Case Western Reserve University school of engineering, who prepared the day's activates along with Sonya Pryor-Jones, chief implementation officer for the MIT Fab Foundation. "There's lots of excitement from people who want to work together because of the potential of these spaces."
 
Savage's first stop was Case's think[box], tabbed by the school as an open-access center for innovation and entrepreneurship. The 50,000-square-foot space in the Richey Mixon Building invites would-be creators to realize their ideas through digital prototyping or traditional fabricating. A $35 million renovation of the seven-story building began in 2014. The upper three floors are scheduled for completion this fall.
 
Each floor represents the order of the product design process, with new entrepreneurs receiving the necessary technology and guidance as they work their way up.
 
"The concept is to begin with a product idea, then come out with a company," says Camp.

Other stops on Savage's Cleveland makers tour included Design Lab High School, Cleveland Public Library's TechCentral maker space, the MC2 STEM high school at Great Lakes Science Center, and several fabrication locals in Cleveland's Slavic Village and Central neighborhoods.
 
"It was a robust visit," says Pryor-Jones. "From our perspective, the best opportunities for education, entrepreneurship and  development exist when we figure out how to engage all communities."
 
During an outing to the City Club of Cleveland, regional higher-education students showcased potential products they fabricated themselves with 3D printers and laser cutters. This kind of collaborative ingenuity will be needed to drive Cleveland's economic engine, spinning out companies that build everything from heart-rate monitors to fuel-cell powered bicycles.
 
"Keeping up that collaboration is the challenge," says Camp. "Cleveland is a manufacturing city and working together can bring innovation to that space." 

Circlepass to offer discounted admission to four University Circle venues

 
Last Thursday during their spring meeting, University Circle Inc. (UCI) representatives announced a forthcoming Circlepass, which will bring a popular tourist concept to the city's cultural focal point.
 
CirclePass will be one combined ticket for the Museum of Contemporary Art Cleveland (MOCA), the Cleveland Botanical Garden, the Cleveland Museum of Natural History and the Western Reserve Historical Society's Cleveland History Center. Circlepass will be discounted by 25 percent off regular admissions.
 
Each pass will remain valid for ten days and is valid for one entry at each museum. Hence users may visit all the venues on one day or over several days. Circlepass will be available for purchase online and users will receive it via text or email. Those who prefer a paper experience will be able to print out their pass. Smart phone users will be able to display the pass therein. UCI expects to officially launch the much-anticipated program by the end of the month.
 
Lisa Sands, UCI's director of marketing and communications noted that similar types of event passes are available at cities such as Toronto and Seattle among others, but University Circle's unique layout sets Circlepass apart.
 
"What makes Circlepass unique and especially appealing is the proximity of each participating institution," said Sands at the meeting. "Unlike most passes in Boston and Chicago, the Circlepass experience is entirely walkable."
 
Sands said she hopes Circlepass attracts visitors of all walks, be they conventioneers, groups or those who might make a one-tank trip from Pittsburgh, Columbus or Erie. She mentioned the PNC Bank's support of the program several times.
 
While still in the pilot stage, Sands said UCI hopes to eventually add other area venues, hotels and restaurants, but the organization felt launching ahead of the RNC was critical.
 
"The time is right to launch it this year with all the excitement and visitorship destined for our city," said Sands, noting the affordability and convenience of the pass concept. "They're very popular with tourists."

NASA offers cutting-edge tech to entrepreneurs

A commercial startup licensing program from NASA's Glenn Research Center is putting the organization's cutting-edge technology into the hands of private startups, including a portable device for use in the fitness market serving as the venture's first spin-off.
 
Startup NASA, offered by the space agency's technology transfer program, allows new companies to choose from a portfolio of 1,200 NASA-patented inventions in aeronautics, instrumentation, robotics and more. Startups are encouraged to apply the technology to products and services in the commercial marketplace.
 
In early April, Startup NASA signed a licensing agreement with AirFlare LLC of Nashville, Tenn., to produce Glenn-patented metabolic-analysis sensors originally designed for astronauts exercising during long missions. The mask-like device's earth-based applications include monitoring metabolic and cardiovascular data, which can then be transferred to a fitness enthusiast's exercise or diet regiment.
 
The agreement makes AirFlare the main source for the public to access NASA's tech in the fitness market, says Kim Dalgleish-Miller, chief of the agency's Technology Transfer Office. AirFlare owes no upfront fees, nor will the growing business have to give NASA minimum payments over the product's first three years. Once the company starts selling its product, NASA will collect a standard royalty fee.
 
"Startups can take that small amount of capital and plug it into the technology itself," says Dalgleish-Miller. "They can use that money to get their business going."
 
The NASA initiative is meant to help burgeoning companies address two major challenges; raising funding and securing intellectual property rights, Dalgleish-Miller says. Program patents are protected by the U.S. government and pre-vetted for viability, giving startups a boost without as many complications.
 
"Companies are getting their feet wet with a startup license," says Dalgleish-Miller. "They can work on the technology for a couple of years, and when they're ready for full-up commercialization, they can go and do that."
 
NASA has signed eight startup licenses since the program launched last October. Interested entrepreneurs can scope potential patents on the program website and download a sample licensing agreement. Ideally, more startups will transform NASA technology into robust economic and business opportunities, Dalgleish-Miller says.
 
"We have lots of smart people working here, so creativity and innovation is ongoing," she says. "Anything we can do to tap into that technology and improve the economy is very exciting." 

Walkabout Tremont to showcase neighborhood's eclectic nature

Last December, the Tremont ArtWalk ended a 23-year run as an artist-sponsored event that brought together galleries and bars for a neighborhood celebration. The good times are far from over, thanks to a new tradition planners say will take in everything Tremont has to offer, art included.
 
Like its predecessor, Walkabout Tremont will occur the second Friday of every month. However, the now weekend-long event will expand the scope of the original ArtWalk by showcasing area food, fashion and music along with the local art scene, says Michelle Davis, assistant director of the Tremont West Development Corporation.
 
"There's going to be a different presence on the street than what we had with the ArtWalk," says Davis. "We want people to come and explore the neighborhood."
 
Walkabout Tremont launches Friday, May 13 from 6 to 9 p.m. with extended shop and gallery hours, outdoor entertainment and pop-up tents highlighting Cleveland artists. The Friday night kickoff will also feature live music, tango lessons and stage shows. Visitors are encouraged to visit businesses both established and brand new, from women's boutique Banyan Tree to Ake'demik, a jewelry and gift shop that launched in early May.
 
Event-goers wanting to make a weekend of it can stay at an area bed & breakfast or Airbnb location, note walkabout organizers. Family-friendly activities include enjoying a treat at Tremont Scoops or A Cookie and a Cupcake, a neighborhood audio tour on Saturday and a local church service on Sunday.
 
"People are going to see a vibrant community when they're walking from place to place," Davis says.
 
Founded in 1993 by a handful of artists and activists including long-time resident Jean Brandt, the original ArtWalk blossomed into an institution emulated throughout the city. Brandt stepped down in late 2015, citing the event's widespread influence as well as its ongoing food focus as reasons for departing.
 
Walkabout planning is led by a volunteer group of Tremont residents, business owners and artists, among them development corporation board chair Lynn Murray. The ArtWalk facelift they've brainstormed more closely reflects the creative, if still arts-infused, community Tremont has become, says Davis.
 
"It's about enjoying the neighborhood as it is," she says.  

MomsFirst lends a much needed hand to pregnant area teens

It is a sobering statistic: African-American infants in Ohio die at more than twice the rate of white babies, according to 2014 data from the Ohio Department of Health. To battle that troubling number, the Cleveland nonprofit MomsFirst program offers critical support services and education to the area's pregnant and parenting population in an effort to reduce these potentially lethal outcomes.
 
In Cleveland, younger parents often need the most aid, says Lisa Matthews, program director for an organization recognizing its 25th anniversary. Last year, one-third of 1,823 mothers reached by MomsFirst were teenagers, some as young as 13.
 
Narrowing the disparity in infant mortality rates is the group's overall goal. Program participants, many of whom are students at the Cleveland Municipal School District (CMSD), receive individual service plans that screen them for postnatal depression and educate them on prenatal care, breastfeeding and safe sleep practices.
 
Community health workers visit new or expecting moms at home at least once a month, providing them with a much needed support system.
 
"It's like having the big sister or mother they never had," says Matthews.
 
Families stay enrolled in the program until their child is two years old. Finding underserved mothers quickly is vital considering the three leading causes of infant mortality - prematurity/pre-term births, sleep-related deaths and birth defects - usually take place before a child reaches its first year, Matthews says.
 
Infant death rates in African-American communities may derive from poverty and other environmental or social stressors. MomsFirst, on site at the nonprofit May Dugan Center in Ohio City, considers these factors in its implementation of fatherhood support services and educational programming.
 
In addition to its support of teenage mothers, MomsFirst sponsors teen-led summits and peer advisory sessions at eight CMSD schools. Boys and non-pregnant or parenting students are welcome at the sessions, which cover topics like family planning, child development and STD prevention.
 
For girls still in high school, pregnancy can curtail, if not outright eliminate, continuing education. To that end, MomsFirst helps its charges navigate day care, transportation, literacy issues and other barriers.
 
"Pregnancy doesn't have to mean the end of an educational career," says Matthews.
 
Juvenile detention centers are the nonprofit's newest venture. Pregnant offenders are given case plans, while those with and without children are provided with  educational support. In combination, the services provided by MomsFirst can lift up a population in dire need of help, organization officials say.
 
"We still have a disparity that's unacceptable," Matthews says. "There is a long way to go."
 
This story is one of a Fresh Water series supported in part by the May Dugan Center.

Socially minded landscaping firm gives struggling Clevelanders a second chance

Rich Alvarez is a firm believer in second chances, an outlook shaped by 15 years in the police force and a firearms accident that nearly killed him.
 
Alvarez's experiences led him to create New Life Landscaping, a Northeast Ohio social enterprise that hires Greater Cleveland residents facing barriers to employment. New Life services include weekly landscaping maintenance, weed removal and installation of patios and decks. The ultimate goal is to train employees for franchise ownership, with newly minted entrepreneurs eventually hiring others in similarly challenged situations.
 
"When people are given a second chance, they really appreciate the opportunity," says Alvarez, a North Olmstead resident.
 
New Life currently has two employees and is seeking seasonal help for the summer. While some new hires may come from Craig's List, Alvarez is hoping to find workers through local ministries as well as nonprofits like Oriana House, a Cleveland area chemical dependency treatment center and community corrections agency.
 
Every New Life employee has a background that would likely make them unemployable elsewhere, Alvarez says. Ex-offenders, military veterans and destitute individuals are all job candidates at the landscaping company.
 
Alvarez, 46, met his share of underserved offenders during a long police career in Lakewood and with the Greater Cleveland Regional Transit Authority (RTA).   
 
"I noticed the same people coming back over and over," he says. "They'd say they couldn't find a job. It was easier to for them to spend time in jail where they'd get fed and have a roof over their heads."
 
A near-death experience involving an accidentally discharged firearm further pushed the ex-policeman into social entrepreneurship. Alvarez, who ran his own landscaping business while with the force, and his partner came up with the idea in 2014 when both were volunteering for a prison ministry. 
 
Now that New Life is off the ground, the next step is finding a qualified franchisee. New Life will front $30,000 to launch a prospective business, with the franchisee paying back the initial investment over time. New Life's model is based on ventures like Columbus-based Clean Turn, which trains the formerly incarcerated in an array of supportive services.
 
Alvarez aims to create employment opportunities for those who will eventually populate a growing and skilled workforce. It's a goal he think fits well in Cleveland.
 
"There's lots of parallels between the city of Cleveland and people here who are facing barriers," says Alvarez. "This is a Rust Belt town on the rebound that's reinventing itself. We're giving people left behind by society a chance to rebuild themselves as well." 

2016 Vibrant City Award winners announced

Earlier this week Cleveland Neighborhood Progress (CNP) honored the 2016 Vibrant City Award winners amid 600 guests gathered at the Cleveland Masonic Auditorium. The winners were chosen from a field of 21 finalists.
 
CNP president Joel Ratner honored Cleveland Metroparks with the first-ever Vibrant City Impact Award. The community partner was recognized for its role in managing the city’s lakefront parks, rejuvenating Rivergate Park and bringing back a water taxi service.
 
Ratner also bestowed the Morton L. Mandel Leadership in Community Development Award upon Joe Cimperman.
 
"Joe is a true champion of the city of Cleveland and Cleveland’s neighborhoods," said Ratner. "He truly is a visionary for making Cleveland a fair and equitable place to call home for all city residents."
 
Cimperman recently left Cleveland City Council after 19 years and is now the President of Global Cleveland.
 
The seven other Vibrant City Award winners include:
 
CDC Community Collaboration Award: Stockyards, Clark Fulton, Brooklyn Centre Community Development Office
 
La Placita – A Hispanic-themed open-air market providing business development opportunities to entrepreneurs and access to local goods and fresh foods for residents.
 
CDC Placemaking Award: University Circle Inc.
 
Wade Oval improvements - the main greenspace in the University Circle neighborhood received a musical themed amenity boost and became an even more attractive and comforting destination for residents and visitors.
 
CDC Economic Opportunity Award: Famicos Foundation
 
Earned Income Tax Credit (EITC) program management – This organization has excelled in focusing on the financial well being of its residents and had a record-breaking year with its EITC work. 
 
CDC Neighborhood Branding & Marketing Award: St. Clair Superior Development Corp. & Campus District, Inc.
 
Night Market Cleveland  -  the two CDCs partnered and capitalized on past successes and momentum in the AsiaTown and Superior Arts District neighborhoods to create a new destination event that brought exposure to the neighborhood and appreciation for the diverse cultures that surround the area.
 
Corporate Partner Award: Dave’s Supermarkets
 
The local grocery chain stayed committed to Cleveland and provides a much-needed amenity to city residents, providing access to fresh food and produce and on-going constant community support.
 
Urban Developer Award: Case Development, Mike DeCesare 
 
A residential developer that has successfully completed development projects in the Detroit Shoreway neighborhood and is actively pursuing new developments in other city neighborhoods
 
Civic Champion Award: Joseph Black, Central neighborhood
 
The Neighborhood Engagement Manager for the Sisters of Charity Foundation of Cleveland that possesses a passion to serve at-risk communities and has aided and mentored Cleveland’s children and families for years.

Recap: Space App Challenge at NASA Glenn

On an average day, Brian Gesler works as a computer programmer at a Cleveland insurance company. But for one weekend last month, he was busy creating jet packs that could one day be used by astronauts on Mars.
 
He crowded around tables in a conference room at NASA’s John H. Glenn Research Center campus with a team he’d just met. Some sketched prototypes across sheets hung on the walls, others pecked away frantically on laptops. They called themselves Moon Tang Clan.
 
Gesler and his team were one of 17 groups in Cleveland that took part in the 2016 International Space Apps Challenge. Since 2012, the hackathon has brought together coders, artists, and general tinkerers to use open data provided by NASA to spark solutions to many of the aeronautics and space agency’s most pressing hurdles. The event now spreads across 161 locations around the globe.
 
“Other hackathons are hyper-local, but with this, you’re part of a global effort,” says Gesler.
 
The program is part of openNASA, an initiative to share NASA’s own data, code and APIs with the public in effort to foster transparency and collaboration. The idea is: NASA provides the knowledge of their experts, their data and their resources (3D printers and virtual reality systems, to name a few) and the more than 15,300 participants around the world endeavor to help the organization see things from a different perspective – if only for one weekend.
 
In the past, participants have produced mobile apps, software, hardware and data visualizations, among other creations. Some of the works have gone on to be implemented by NASA or garnered venture capital to get off the ground.
 
In 2013, former NASA Glenn chief information officer Sasi Pillay approached Brad Nellis, who was the executive director of OHTec at the time, about organizing Space Apps in Cleveland. Nellis added the program to Tech Week and from 2013 to 2014, the program was held at Cuyahoga Community College’s Advanced Technology Training Center. Last year, NASA officially brought the program home, making NASA Glenn the only host of a Space Apps Challenge among the organization's 10 facilities across the United States.
 
“This event offers a great opportunity for local tech folks to unleash their creativity and ingenuity for a great cause,” said Nellis. “Being here at NASA Glenn adds a unique and exciting dimension to the hackathon, fellow space geeks love it here.”
 
Herbert Schilling, a NASA computer scientist who works on the scientific applications and visualization team and is now a Space Apps organizer, remembers coming to NASA in high school as part of an outreach program. Now that he’s an employee, he says it’s his turn to give back.
 
“I run into NASA fans all the time and I like offering them an opportunity to cultivate that love even more,” Schilling says. “I love learning from them. I’m inspired by the things they come up with.”
Organizer Sarah Dutkiewicz, President of Cleveland Tech Consulting, was instrumental in bringing new participants on board. Dutkiewicz utilized different social media channels to connect with an array of user groups in the region and also reached out to the growing number of coding boot camps in Cleveland, many of which are designed to bring more women and minorities into the field.
 
“I’m a space geek; Sally Ride was always one of my idols,” she says enthusiastically. “To be here seeing all different walks of life working with NASA, I’m beyond thrilled.”
 
Mission Control
 
As the sounds of the NASA Glenn band, an employee brass ensemble, filled the auditorium on Friday night, participants passed through security and filed into the building. This year was the first that youth were able to take part in the hackathon, and plenty circled the room with school backpacks.
 
Sean Gallagher, current Chief Information Officer of NASA Glenn Research Center and David L. Stringer, Director of the Plum Brook Management Office offered opening remarks.
 
“Once a year, we get a chance to step back, open up the treasure trove of NASA data you’ll get to access over the weekend, and ask you to solve some of our bigger problems,” said Gallagher.
 
Stringer spoke on understanding each team member’s strengths and weaknesses.
 
“Know your job, work together and have no surprises,” he said. “Degrees don’t measure the human being – smarts, persistence and the willingness to co-operate does. Be curious, learn as much as you can and talk to as many people as possible.”
 
Teams were introduced to this year’s challenges, which included space fashion and design, aeronautics, biomimicry, missions to Mars and even ideas to improve the planet. The challenge concepts were collected by NASA and then handed over to organizers like Stacey Brooks, NASA’s Open Government Datanaut Community Manager, who gathered data from their own archives and the web to give participants enough information to get started.
 
“We get volumes and volumes of data from all the space craft we have,” says Brooks. “But I will look at that data in one way and you might look at it in another way. And if everyone has an opportunity to view it through their own lens, we’ll get a lot more research out of it. The more we all collaborate together, the more interesting our solutions will be.”
 
Of course, often times that information is only a stepping stone. The hackathon also brings in subject matter experts that teams can consult. Jay Horowitz, who retired four years ago from the graphics and visualization department, has been helping teams who come to him with questions on topics such as virtual reality.
 
When they ask about using the VR technology for a mission to Mars or to control a rover, he fills them in on ways NASA has already used it in the past. For example, the Elon Muskateers team created a camera with light field photography capabilities that could be attached to rovers to create more 3D images.
 
His best advice? Think beyond today’s tools.
 
“I’ve been encouraging them to not think of today’s cameras,” he says. “Cameras ten years from now are going to be radically different. A large part of that was just encouraging them to think outside of the box. Any time NASA tries to design something, we have to be prepared for everything to change a few years from now.”
 
To Infinity and Beyond
 
On Sunday afternoon, Gesler and the rest of Moon Tang Clan took the stage to present a battery-powered exoskeleton with jet turbine generators. Imagine a wearable machine that could reduce strain on astronauts as they traverse Mars, help them lift heavy objects and enhance their stride to cover more ground. On the screen, they played a first-person simulation of the red terrain, which was created in Unity 3D using a topographical map of Mars freely available online.
 
The Moon Tang Clan took home first place.
 
Team Star-whals took second by developing a real mission to retrieve a near Earth asteroid for future mining.
 
“We didn’t just build the sensor package or the impactor,” says participant Brian Stofiel, who is also CEO of Stofiel Aerospace. “This was a mission. We went from the very beginning to retrieving. We really wanted to address the whole topic.”
 
People’s Choice winning team Dragonfly also focused on asteroids. The exploratory satellites they proposed, called “Dragonflies,” can be released in a cluster formation. In the middle of each is a javelin that opens like an umbrella six to 12 feet deep inside the asteroid. Each would contain sensors that could allow them to create effects, like 3D images.
 
The javelin’s inception was rooted in biomimicry, the practice of using nature as a model for design. Its inspiration? A porcupine’s quill, the prickly, arrow-shaped spines that easily penetrate predators but are difficult to remove once lodged. In this case, the javelin is the quill; the asteroid is the predator.
 
Another team, the hackathon’s local winner, created a prototype of a motor for an electric aircraft that could be made out of 80 percent 3D printed parts. The motor is flatter than usual, which would create higher power density and efficiency.
 
As much as many Space Apps teams focused on the possibilities of exploring the great unknown, other groups shared how NASA’s data can have an immediate effect on understanding our own planet. One created an app to self-diagnose allergies by finding correlations between pollution and NASA data. Another offers better communication between residents of pastoral areas by using NASA maps and weather data.
 
It’s a subtle reminder on the year of NASA Glenn’s 75th anniversary that the discoveries of space exploration continue to impact our everyday lives – from the solar panels we’re building on our homes for sustainable energy to the firefighter who pulls a breathing mask over his face before rushing into a fire to the enriched formula a parent trusts when feeding their newborn.
 
For one weekend a year, 15,310 extra hands help us see that the future isn’t really so far off.
 
As part of NASA Glenn’s 75th anniversary, it will host a free public open house at its Lewis Field main campus, 21000 Brookpark Rd. on May 21 and 22 from 10 a.m. to 6 p.m.
 

Metroparks a-buzz over cicada emergence

Parts of eastern Ohio will be abuzz for the next couple of months with the emergence of the 17-year periodical cicadas. Cleveland Metroparks is using this rare opportunity to educate the public about a mysterious, yet harmless insect.
 
"We want our neighbors to join us and understand how this organism survives and thrives," says Mark Warman, an education specialist at the West Creek Reservation.  

April's warm temperatures will hasten cicada activity by mid-May, says Warman. The park system's cicada-related programming begins May 10 at West Creek with a primer about the creatures' life cycle. Additional events scheduled through the end of June include nature walks and a birding/cicada expedition on Hinckley Lake.
 
Naturalists view the cicada invasion as a cause for celebration rather than concern. While the insects can be noisy in large numbers, they don't sting or bite. Nor are they bent on destroying crops or gardens in some biblical plant Armageddon. Cicadas can cause branches to fall off through egg-laying, but this is not harmful to mature trees, says Warman.
 
Periodical cicadas are expected to emerge in parts of Ohio, Pennsylvania, Virginia, West Virginia, Maryland and Long Island, NY. Unlike their greenish-black cousins that appear each summer with a "ch-ch-ch" sound, the 17-year cicada is black and orange and makes a continuous buzzing noise.
 
This year's crop started life as eggs in 1999. After hatching, the rice-sized nymphs spent the past 17 years underground sucking nutrient-rich fluids from tree roots. The winged adults emerge for three to five weeks to mate and feed on plant juices. Females will then lay hundreds of eggs in tree branches, beginning the cycle anew.
 
While it's unknown where heavier pockets of Northeast Ohio cicada activity will be, the public can help by sending tweets and Instagram posts regarding larger swarms. Metroparks is asking would-be citizen scientists to report sightings with the hashtags #cicadas2016 and #broodV, the latter of which designates the number of cicada swarms recorded since 1948.
 
Ultimately, the phenomenon is a chance for people to learn about a misunderstood insect that means humanity no harm, Warman says.
 
"It's a reminder that the earth was wild at one time," he says. "It's going to be a neat thing for people to experience."

The Cleveland Metroparks is part of Fresh Water's underwriting network.
 

Facebook taps local comic book shop for small business council

Two years ago, Facebook announced plans to turn 25 million small businesses into advertisers that would help the ubiquitous social media network with strategy and development.
 
John Dudas, owner and co-founder of Carol & John’s Comic Book Shop, became part of that plan earlier this month when he was invited to join Facebook's 2016 Small Business Council (SMB). Dudas spent two whirlwind days at the mega-company's Menlo Park headquarters in California, representing one of 13 businesses selected for the group.
 
Prior to the announcement, Dudas went through an extensive interview process that weighed how his Kamms Plaza shop engages customers through its social platforms. Facebook reps were impressed with C&J's family-friendly online presence, illuminated by a Facebook page that cheerily welcomes everyone.
 
"Comics are a male-dominated industry, so we use social media to show how important it is for women to feel comfortable in the store," says Dudas, who runs the shop with his mother Carol Cazzarin.
 
The SMB council is modeled after a 12-member client committee Facebook launched in 2011, which includes agency leaders as well as representatives from the company's largest advertisers. The small council advises the company on development of its tools. In return, Facebook provides ongoing support through a password-protected page.

"We'll test beta programs and ideas, and (participating council members) will communicate with each other with any issues we have," Dudas says. "Once you're on the council, you're on for life."
 
Joining the store owner at Facebook's sprawling, city-like headquarters was a diverse range of businesses, from a retro pinball arcade to a 24-hour diner. The fast-paced two days were spent exchanging ideas and engaging in a kind of social media walkabout, where participants shared hashtags to show online followers where they were on Facebook's campus.
 
The trip had its share of surreal strangeness as well. Seeing his shop's logo on the Jumbotron at 1 Hacker Way was particularly overwhelming, Dudas says. He also met Facebook COO Sheryl Sandberg, who popped in to thank group members for their hard work.
 
Now that he's back in Cleveland, Dudas is mulling his own social media strategies for upcoming C&J events including its annual Free Comic Book Day on May 7. One possibility is targeting cell phone carriers located within a 25-mile radius of the shop.

"Like we can do a 'Captain America for President' campaign during the RNC, and people will get it on their phones," poses Dudas.
 
Whatever comes next, the comics' proprietor is excited to share love for the medium through his digital channels.
 
"We care about our product and get to engage with the community," says Dudas. "We're glad we can make that kind of impact." 

Not just a hobby: Cleveland company brings gaming to a classroom setting

Video games have long been derided as brain-melting time wasters, a label Chris Hatala has spent a good portion of his career refuting.
 
Hatala  is founder of GDL Entertainment, Ltd. (Games Done Legit), an event-planning company that integrates video games into wedding receptions, corporate teambuilding programs and other non-traditional spaces. Educational programming is GDL's latest stereotype-busting venture, particularly in reaching children through gaming and coding.
 
Over the last year, a GDL program at Horizon Education Centers has school-age kids harnessing games as both a learning tool and character builder. Children attending the center are divided into groups, then work together to solve problems relayed through math or shape recognition games. A puzzle game called DragonBox, for example, teaches kids simple concepts related to algebraic equations.
 
"They're doing algebra by the end of the session," says Hatala. "This is hard education."
 
Students are also learning social skills during gaming sessions, notes the life-long gamer. A team-based exercise has students playing a four-player version of Pac-Man where one kid controls the iconic yellow character. Three other participants play as the ghost enemies trying to stop Pac-Man from clearing the stage.
 
"Some of these kids face a steeper climb up the educational ladder," says Hatala. "We're getting them to interact positively with each other and follow directions. That's a big victory."
 
The gaming enrichment program will be expanded this summer to camps in Beachwood and Orange. Hatala has additional plans to bring educational gaming to libraries in Lakewood, Westlake and Nordonia.
 
For the older crowd, GDL is in early talks to merge its soft skill/ team-work initiatives with the higher-level curriculum of  We Can Code (IT), a coding boot camp targeted at getting women and minorities careers in IT fields. Hatala also envisions a future where virtual reality devices are used in classrooms to give digital tours of museums or places of historical significance. 
 
While the possibilities are limitless, Hatala is happy for now to reach young people in creative ways.
 
"It's a fantastic feeling to see kids go from 'I can't do this' to solving video game puzzles in minutes," he says. "I can't wait to see what the next few years bring." 

TechPint awards bring energy to Cleveland's startup scene

Almost 300 entrepreneurs, inventors and their supporters attended this year's TechPint Startup Awards, displaying an energy TechPint founder Paul McAvinchey says is significant for a community that must continue to build on its successes.
 
The awards event, held April 19 at the Beachland Ballroom, recognized Northeast Ohio companies in the categories of Most Innovative Startup, Most Beautiful Startup (best design), Best Emerging Startup and Best Growth Startup. This year's winners were Design Flux Technologies (Most Innovative), Harness Cycle (Most Beautiful), Complion (Best Growth) and Tech Elevator (Best Emerging).
 
The awards are community-driven, meaning peers voted on the nominees. This year's grand prize, awarded to the startup with the most overall votes in their category, was given to Complion, a Cleveland-based provider of clinical research software.
 
"We're giving kudos to people doing great work but not getting pats on the back," says McAvinchey. "It tells outsiders there's some really cool stuff happening here, and tells insiders to appreciate the hard work (these businesses) are doing."
 
Last week's event also featured a pair of speakers: Muhga Eltigani, founder and CEO of NaturAll Club, a made-to-order organic hair care line headquartered downtown; and entrepreneur Sam Gerace, founding CEO of a handful of successful area startups.
 
McAvinchey, a Cleveland transplant born in Ireland, stared TechPint in 2013 as a way for entrepreneurs to talk business in an informal setting. Since then, a total of 11 TechPint gatherings have been held at local drinking establishments. These events range from pop-up happenings to larger summits that offer a full day of networking, speakers and responsibly imbibed refreshments.
 
"From the start we knew this model could be successful," says McAvinchey. "It's for those who are serious about startups and want to meet like-minded people."
 
Among all the kibitzing and fun is an educational component, notes the TechPint founder.

"There's not an appreciation of how difficult it is to build a new company," McAvinchey says. "It's easy to start a company, and easier it for it to end."
 
Would-be innovators must build a team around an issue, rather than running with a flashy idea they believe will help them build a startup, says McAvinchey. In other words, creating a photo-sharing app is not likely to gain as much venture capital traction as would building software solutions for healthcare or manufacturing.
 
"There are so many opportunities out there in less sexy industries," says McAvinchey. "That's when it becomes about rallying around teams instead of ideas."
 
McAvinchey isn't trying to be a downer. In fact, by bringing together company founders, investors and technology pacesetters, TechPint events can illuminate the challenges and rewards of entrepreneurship, he says.
 
"We can take a look at the way we're doing things, and question how we might do those things better," McAvinchey says. "Innovation can come out of those questions." 

New CSU engineering building to emphasize high-tech teamwork

Enrollment at Cleveland State University's engineering school has doubled over the last five years, making the program's planned $46.2 million new building a necessity. The facility, which is scheduled to open in 2017, will offer spacious, high-tech work areas to accommodate the recent influx of students, school officials say.
 
Though the proposed 100,000 square-foot facility is about 10,000 square feet smaller than the engineering college's current location at Fenn Hall, its open floor plan will better meet the demands of an academic environment where collaboration is key, says Anette Karlsson, dean of the Washkewicz College of Engineering at CSU.
 
Fenn Hall will remain, while the new building will be erected nearby along Chester Avenue just west of East 24th Street. Architects for the project include Harley Ellis Devereaux and Cleveland firm CBLH Design Cleveland-based Knight & Stolar is on board as the venture's civil engineer. 
 
Unlike the closed-off, column-filled classrooms at Fenn, the facility will have a 6,000-square-foot "makerspace" boasting a variety of machine-shop gear as well as 3D printers, laser cutters and other tools.
 
"It's one big area that will be divided into compartments," says Karlsson. "We're very excited about getting students a space that will give them the hands-on experience they need."
 
New engineering majors, meanwhile, will interact and create in a specially designated design area for freshman.
 
"It's more of a prototyping room where they can build light materials like plastics and paper," says Karlsson. "The idea is to teach the concept of design."
 
Other building plans include a hydraulics lab and classrooms. The larger design spaces will be separated by glass walls, which will let in natural light and further emphasize a sense of DIY ambiance. The new facility's interactive trappings were inspired by, among other projects, the Sears think[box] innovation center at Case Western Reserve University.
 
"We want the space to be open because were doing all these fun things," Karlsson says. "We want to show off what we're doing."
 
Ideally, students from all majors will use the facility to collaborate and build whatever their imaginations conjure.
 
"The first thing an employer asks about is a graduate's interpersonal and communication skills," says Karlsson. "Those (skills) are what students can learn by working in groups." 

Cleveland motorcycle entrepreneur rides into CIA to inspire, guide students

Though it's been a decade since Cleveland CycleWerks owner Scott Colosimo graduated from Cleveland Institute of Art (CIA), he has stayed connected to the school as both a teacher and professor.
 
This spring, Colosimo has returned to his formative digs once more as sponsor of CIA's transportation design class, which "exposes students to the basic knowledge, skills and qualities that are important for a career in transportation design." The semester-long role is part-time, as the Parma native spends most days running his small-volume motorcycle manufacturing facility in the Detroit Shoreway neighborhood, where he builds custom bikes and restorations of British, Japanese and Italian motorcycles.
 
At CIA, Colosimo serves as a motivator and critic in helping students solve real-world transportation design questions. The role is more instructional than professorial, and is meant to reflect a designer/client relationship in the professional world.  
 
"My work is to push students further than they would be by the traditional OEM (original equipment manufacturer)," says Colosimo, who graduated from CIA in 2004. "Companies tend to pull students back in to make concepts more contemporary. I'm pushing them out and making sure they're looking well off into the future."
 
That conceptual outlook includes designing vehicles for racing along the surface of distant planetary bodies. Colosimo, who wrote the class curriculum with Professor Haishan Deng, oversees teams tackling the challenge of building vehicles for transportation on Mars.
 
"The vehicles take on a more unique design, proportion and function than cars of today," says Colosimo, 35. "This kind of problem-solving is key to developing a young designer's ability to step beyond the surface and become a competent, well-rounded designer."
 
Colosimo's partnership with CIA emerged as part of a long-standing CIA tradition of bringing in automotive officials to offer students professional-level feedback. The self-proclaimed "motorcycle geek" is proud to present his particular brand of two-wheeled insight to a creative, energetic classroom.
 
"These students are already thinking and sketching on a professional level, so I like to think of them as professionals," Colosimo says. "I'm there at a design director level to push them in the right direction when they get off track."
 
Though the entrepreneur has been in the motorcycle-building game since 2009, returning to school has illuminated new innovations unburdened by the limits of running a bottom-line manufacturing business.
 
"Students are working on unique propulsion, suspension and wheel solutions that I never would have thought of," says Colosimo. "They're so quick to adapt and think of ways to use that technology. It's amazing how natural it comes to them."

The Cleveland Institute of Art is part of Fresh Water's underwriting support community.
 

RTA on track for new East 34th Street rapid station, say officials

The Greater Cleveland Regional Transit Authority (RTA) is making progress on a new rapid station set for the site of the current station at 2830 E. 34th St. A community meeting to discuss the proposed improvements will take place tonight at 6 p.m. at Cuyahoga Community College's Metro Campus Student Center.
 
The preliminary design for the $7.5 million project was shown to RTA's board of trustees on March 1, while an updated station design proposal was completed earlier this month. The new station, which like its current iteration on East 34th Street, will serve all three rapid lines, and be upgraded with better lighting and ADA-compliant features.
 
Attendees of tonight's get-together will see the same design concept presented to board members, says Mike Schipper, RTA assistant general manager of engineering.

"Our next step is to get feedback from the public," says Schipper.
 
The plan's design phase will wrap by December, when RTA also expects to begin the construction bidding process. Work is scheduled to start next spring and will take a year to complete, officials say.  
 
Plans for the new station include relocating the main entrance to the intersection of East 34th Street and Broadway Avenue, a space which will also offer a covered waiting area for riders, says Schipper. New LED lighting and a disabled-accessible ramp are among the project's other highlights. 

Though close to Tri-C's metro campus, the East 34th Street station currently does not get much use, Schipper says. However, thanks in part to the advocacy of Campus District stakeholders, RTA agreed to design and build a new facility instead of closing it altogether. 
 
The district's community development group has committed to work with RTA after the new station is finished to promote increased ridership. Proximity to Tri-C as well as special rates for students could give those figures an additional boost.
 
"We hope as we rebuild the station Tri-C will engage surrounding businesses and the Campus District as a whole," says Schipper, adding that a built-out rapid facility can also compliment a community that's undergone heavy development in recent years.
 
"This is our investment in the area," says Schipper. "We look forward to growing with the neighborhood."

Employers big and small seek IT talent at job fair

Developing Cleveland's workforce means finding and nurturing home-grown brainpower and fostering relationships. To that end, an upcoming tech-centric job fair will give local IT talent a chance to meet and impress Northeast Ohio employers seeking out new talent and staff.
 
The name of the free event, Linking IT Talent to Opportunity, says it all. Scheduled for April 20 from 1 to 4:30 p.m. at the Independence Civic Center, 6363 Selig Blvd., the job fair is set to connect over 200 IT professionals, college students and recent graduates with two dozen companies needing software engineers, technical consultants, web developers and other technology-related employees. The job event is presented by Greater Cleveland Partnership (GCP) and the Northeast Ohio Council on Higher Education (NOCHE) as part of TechWeek 2016OHTec’s annual initiative to promote and support the regional IT industry.
 
"This is our attempt to connect talent with opportunities, and make sure that talent stays here," says Vince Adamus, GCP's vice president of real estate and business development.

Though most participating businesses delve directly in software and network solutions, Sherwin-Williams and Medical Mutual will also be on hand, illuminating the regional need for tech talent across various industries, Adamus says.
 
About 67 percent of software jobs nationwide are with non-tech businesses, according to a 2011 Georgetown University workforce report on science, engineering, technology and math (STEM) employment in the U.S.
 
"Larger companies have an IT component they're hiring for," says Adamus.
 
GCP's networking effort, now in its fifth year, will offer attendees a range of entry- to mid-level positions. Job hunters are expected to dress professionally and bring their resumes for short meet-and-greets with hiring managers.
 
"Companies are not just gauging interest levels here; they're actually looking to hire," Adamus says.
 
As businesses expand in conjunction with a falling unemployment rate, would-be IT workers can fill a widening tech vacuum projected by the Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) to have 1.4 million unfilled positions by 2020. The local numbers tell their own story. In 2014 alone, Cuyahoga County employers advertised more than 6,000 open software development jobs.
 
Ultimately, career fair proponents want to keep jobseekers in town, whether they're fresh from school or seasoned professionals seeking a new and exciting occupation.
 
"The IT segment is growing quickly," says Adamus. "We want to assist and facilitate that growth." 

Cavs paint the town in wine and gold to fuel excitement for NBA playoffs

The Cavs once again made it to the NBA Playoffs and this morning the schedule was announced for the first round against the Detroit Pistons.

To celebrate the accomplishment and to rally the city, the Cavaliers today began decorating the Cleveland landmarks – starting with Quicken Loans Arena – with banners and signs with boasting “#ALLIN216,” referring to the motto “All In to 16,” the number of wins needed to win the championship.
 
A full window wrap is being installed on the north and west sides of the building, including the front window. Banners are being placed on each arena bridge one on the bridge that connects The Q to Gateway east garage and one on the north bridge that connects to JACK Casino Cleveland’s Collection Auto Group Centre parking lot. Additional banners on the east and west side of the arena are also being flown.
 
After the signage is in place at the Q banners will then be hoisted all over town, many local businesses are also hanging banners with the motto.
 
“There’s so much signage going up in the next week or so,” says Tracy Mare, Cavs chief marketing officer. “Definitely fans will see it throughout the city.”
 
Cavs team representatives urge other businesses and individuals alike to also show their support. Last year, Marek says many residents painted their front lawns or put up their own signs to show support for the Cavs.
 
“We encourage all of Cleveland to recognize this as one more moment to show just how great Cleveland is, and to showcase our community,” Marek says. “Our playoff run provides an opportunity to look at the city with a different lens.”
 
Even if you don’t have a ticket to the home games or when the Cavs are on the road, there are plenty of ways to get in on the excitement. Marek says they will host watch parties and pre-game entertainment outside the Q, complete with food trucks, beer, live music and the Cav entertainment team for several hours before the games.
 
“There are so many more ways for people to get involved,” she says. “Even if you don’t have a ticket to the game, come on down. It’s an outdoor fun fest. Downtown Cleveland’s a great place to be.”
 
For a full Cavs playoff schedule and a rundown of activities, visit the Cavs Fan Guide

High-energy cycling studio rides into Beachwood

Joe Purton had almost two decades in the nonprofit realm when he decided to accelerate into a career as the owner of CycleBar in Beachwood.

Purton, the former vice president of Sisters of Charity Health System, recently opened the high-energy cycling studio in a 3,400-square-foot space at 3355 Richmond Road. Early returns are positive, with CycleBar classes drawing big numbers for what the new entrepreneur calls an intoxicating fusion of mind, body and music.

"It's a kind of multisensory journey," Purton says of an indoor cycling experience that melds thumping electronic music with videos and colorful lighting. "If gives you a feeling like you're in a club."

CycleBar's tiered theater holds 55 custom bikes along with two 80-inch televisions. Rides focus on upper body work and drills of varying speed, while personal data monitors allow participants to go at their own pace or compete with other riders. Instructors, called "CycleStars," lead the classes, which number about 30 a week, a figure Purton expects to increase in the coming months.

Though classes can be rigorous, the up-tempo affair is not meant to be intimidating for newcomers, says Purton, 48.

"That's the beauty of cycling," he says. "You can control  how much resistance you have on the flywheel and make it as difficult or easy as you want."

The Beachwood CycleBar, part of a company with 200 studios nationwide, represents Northeast Ohio's first indoor cycling franchise. Purton opened his studio in mid-March, fulfilling an entrepreneurial spirit for fitness that had been gestating for years.

Purton had been working at Sisters of Charity since 1994, organizing budgeting mechanisms and cost report filings across the faith-based healthcare system. The University Heights resident is also a former cycling instructor who taught classes in the late 1990's. While nonprofit work was lucrative, Purton recognized an opportunity at CycleBar he couldn't pass up.

"CycleBar allowed me to combine my passion for cycling with my accounting and finance background as well as a desire to run a business," he says.

Purton is currently working more hours per week than he ever has; a small price to pay for delivering something far beyond a standard cardio-fitness workout. Within the next two years, the burgeoning business owner hopes to open a studio downtown and another on the West Side.

"Everything I've been putting into this I'm going to benefit from," says Purton. "That (hard work) is what makes it more fun and rewarding."

Online yoga service brings mindfulness to the classroom

Zenworks Yoga has been delivering yoga and mindfulness classes to Cleveland schools for five years. The service has gotten so popular that founder Sonya Patel recently started a company to stream yoga activities into classrooms through short, web-based video exercises.

The new effort, called amaZEN U, launched in February as an online startup. Instead of sending instructors to classrooms, the subscription-based service offers minutes-long videos that guide students through various chair and standing yoga poses as well as mind-expanding breathing exercises.

The site is designed for ease of use, says Patel: Teachers can harness any combination of 88 activities to keep their class calm, focused, balanced and energized.

"Schools don't want a 30-minute class where kids have to take off their shoes," says Patel, a Solon resident. "Students just need a minute to breathe or move, so teachers can put this on in their classroom and the kids follow along."

Since the launch, the site has gained over 50 users including the Cleveland Municipal School District and Southeast Euclid-Lyndhurst Schools. The service includes videos suitable for preschoolers through high school students, with age appropriate poses and activities.

"For high school students, it's intended to get the energy moving," says Joie Scott, a Zenworks instructor and amaZEN U co-founder. "They're not doing handstands, but poses that will shift the energy in their bodies."

Though Patel has yet to witness a video-based class in action, she's getting positive feedback from teachers who say their charges are enjoying the "brain breaks" the movements provide.

"The language is not 'kiddish,' so it's going to be relevant for older students," Patel says. "We keep our videos on specific grade and maturity levels."

Users receive a free one-month trial upon registration. Cost is then $5 per month, or $50 per year. There is also a special discount for school subscriptions.

A portion of amaZEN U profits benefit Zenworks and the shared mission of bringing yoga to Cleveland's schools, says Patel. The limited availability of instructors makes the video service a necessity. The added bonus is that the activities are accessible anywhere at any time.

Patel expects to expand her offerings shortly, with new content including a user interface that lets young yogis and yoginis earn badges by meeting certain participation criteria. Ultimately, she wants to give students a fun, relaxing break from the daily grind.

 "We're reaching kids who normally wouldn't participate in these types of activities," Patel says. 

Transgender job fair aims to open office doors for an underserved population

Finding employment is a nerve-wracking, demoralizing process for most everyone, but getting a job is especially difficult for transgender people, who experience unemployment at twice the rate of the general population.
 
Those transitioning their gender may be rejected by companies because of fear, bias or lack of education about transgender issues. An upcoming employment event hosted by The MetroHealth System and LGBT chamber group Plexus is designed to shed light on such concerns.
 
The Northeast Ohio Transgender Job Fair invites transgender jobseekers to meet  potential employers including Progressive Insurance, Cleveland State University and General Electric. Attendees will also engage in workshops on resume writing and hear talks about workplace rights.
 
"Unemployment and underemployment hit this population in such a significant way," says Ted Rosati, chairperson of MetroHealth's Gay-Straight Alliance, an employee resource group. "We want the community to understand this critical issue."
 
During the April 23 event, Northeast Ohio employers will meet with an expected 75 candidates over the course of a day-long program. The itinerary includes advice on bolstering interview skills and what to wear for interviews and on the job. A keynote address will be delivered by Diane Dierker, a senior IT applications programmer at Progressive.
 
Participating companies already have policies in place to support the transgender community. However, the job fair can demonstrate to the wider region problems faced by a historically underserved population, notes Rosati.
 
According to the Gay & Lesbian Alliance Against Defamation (GLAAD), transgender people are four times more likely to live in poverty. In addition, 90 percent of transgender workers report experiencing harassment or mistreatment at the workplace.
 
"Even when they get work, it's difficult for them to find a friendly, supportive environment," says Rosati.
 
Getting in the office door presents challenges not faced by other applicants. For example, a simple background check will reveal the gender with which an interviewee was born, presenting a situation to which few hiring managers are accustomed.
 
"If people don't have experience interacting with the transgender community, there may be a built-in prejudice on what that person is like," Rosati says.
 
Restroom access can be another major hurdle to employment, says Lourdes Negrón-McDaniel, director of inclusion and diversity at MetroHealth.
 
"There's a thought from (managers) that if you let a transgender person in the bathroom, that will cause issues with other employees," Negrón-McDaniel says.
 
Employers are only hurting themselves by not dipping into this talented pool of people who are eager to work, job fair officials say. For now, MetroHealth and its partners are pleased to give Cleveland's transgender community a fighter's chance to secure employment.
 
"This is a population that deals with the same issues every day," says Marian Lowes, MetroHealth's manager of employee communications. "That's what we're trying to stop." 

Tri-C instructor wins award for drawing students into unheralded profession

 
Stenographic court reporters must have quick fingers, exceptional listening abilities and a microscopic attention to detail. Over the last 10 years, Kelly Moranz has been creating the programs and curriculum that teach these skills to potential stenographers attending Cuyahoga Community College (Tri-C).
 
Moranz's decade of service was recognized  last month with an award from the the Journal of Court Reporting (JCR), a publication of The National Court Reporters Association (NCRA). The award highlighted the longtime program manager and Tri-C faculty member's work in leading students to lucrative jobs as court reporters, legal videographers and voice captioners.  
 
Moranz is also in charge of recruiting trainees for a profession that is not exactly at the top of a job seeker's most-wanted list. "People don't roll out of bed and say they'll be a court reporter," says the Old Brooklyn resident. "We have to get out there and make it known."
 
The JCR award is student-driven, making the honor especially meaningful. "I can't put into words what it means to be nominated by a student," Moranz  says. "Giving them the drive to succeed is just my job."

In court reporting, professionals use a stenotype machine or voice-writing technology to instantaneously capture words spoken at a legal proceeding or other event. Tri-C offers training on steno and specialized voice-capturing software that allows individuals to transfer speech into shorthand at a minimum of 225 words-per-minute. Students spend two to three hours daily sharpening both their speed and accuracy to keep pace with an average rate of speech that clocks in at 160 to 180 words-per-minute.
 
"It's a rare skill that's in demand," says Moranz of a vocation projected to have 5,500 new openings nationwide by 2018. "You've got to listen and write everything being said in a language we teach you. I like to say that court reporters are the original texters."
 
Moranz spearheads mentoring efforts as well as a 45-member captioning and court reporting club. She's also presented information about court reporting to Tri-C's Women in Transition program, which addresses women changing occupations or pursuing second careers.
 
With outreach being a key aspect of the job, Moranz has spoken at high schools to recruit those interested in the opportunity. Program grads may move into a court setting to record real-time transcriptions of a deposition or trial. Outside a courtroom, stenographers are employed by businesses, where their work is used for meetings and events. Closed-captioning for live television programs, speeches and religious services is another expanding area of the field.
 
Whatever job a graduate chooses, they should have a solid grasp of grammar, punctuation and spelling, along with high concentration levels and a willingness to spend hours polishing their skill set, says Moranz. The end result can be a career with an initial salary of $45,000 to $55,000, with top stenographers earning up to six figures.
 
For her part, Moranz will be happy if her award sheds some light on an oft-underappreciated career path.
 
"I'm proud to have the opportunity to change peoples' lives with an exciting profession," she says. 

This story was made possible by a partnership with Cuyahoga Community College.

YWCA Greater Cleveland announces 2016 Women of Achievement awards

YWCA Greater Cleveland is celebrating its 40th anniversary of honoring women in Northeast Ohio through the Women of Achievement awards, in which eight local leaders will be named Women of Achievement and 46 others will be designated as Women of Professional Excellence.
 
The awards allow companies and groups throughout Northeast Ohio to recognize the contributions of exceptional women in their organizations. Women receiving it exemplify high professional standards and career and personal growth; make significant contributions to the effective, efficient operation of their organizations; display a willingness to support and mentor others; and make a positive impact on the community. Previously known as the Merit Award, more than 1,500 women have received this honor since 1977.
 
The 2016 "Women of Achievement Award" recipients include:
  • Micki Byrnes, president and general manager, WKYC
  • Lee Friedman, CEO, College Now Greater Cleveland
  • Kathryn “Kit” Jensen, COO, ideastream
  • Kym Sellers, founder, Kym Sellers Foundation; television and radio personality
  • Robyn Minter Smyers, partner-in-charge, Thompson Hine LLP – Cleveland Office
  • Maryrose Sylvester, president and CEO, Current Powered by GE
  • Nancy Tinsley, president of Parma Medical Center, University Hospitals
  • Sue Tyler, executive vice President and chief experience officer, Medical Mutual of Ohio
The 46 designated "Women of Professional Excellence" include representatives from a diverse array of local organizations such as Cuyahoga Community College, the Northeast Ohio Sewer District, Key Bank, American Greetings and Forest City.
 
The women will be recognized at the 40th YWCA Women of Achievement Luncheon and Women’s Leadership Conference on Monday, May 2 at the Renaissance Cleveland Hotel, which will also feature a host of conference workshops. More information about the event and registration details are available online.

All eyes on the future of city's digital economy at TechniCLE Speaking summit

An upcoming tech summit hosted by Jones Day is the continuation of a critical discussion about Northeast Ohio's economic future, event creators say.
 
Returning for a second consecutive year, TechniCLE Speaking will put tech entrepreneurs, educators, government officials, private investors and nonprofit thought leaders all in one room to discuss the major issues facing a burgeoning industry.
 
"It's important to be supportive of this growing community," says Jennifer Stapleton, an associate with Jones Day, a Cleveland law firm that works with tech companies, entrepreneurs and venture-backed companies. "This (event) lets us network and understand where there are resource gaps."
 
The half-day program, scheduled for April 14, offers short talks, moderated panels and public debates on subjects such as bolstering local technology education and meeting the lifestyle demands of digitally-savvy young professionals. Featured speakers include Phenom CEO Brian Verne, whose recent op-ed piece in Venture Beat decried Cleveland's risk-averse venture capital market.
 
Though Verne moved his company to San Francisco, providing a forum for Cleveland-based start-ups is a step in empowering smart young entrepreneurs who can lift the region to global relevance, says Stapleton.
 
"There can be a lack of knowledge about what the city can do to help these companies," she says. "Nothing but good can come from putting thought leaders and county officials together to generate new ideas on how to make (entrepreneurs) more successful."
 
TechniCLE Speaking is sponsored by Cleveland City Council, with Councilman Joe Cimperman acting a member of the planning committee. Last spring's summit drew about 170 attendees, a figure program officials expect to exceed this year.
 
Panels will focus on nurturing Cleveland's start-up nucleus over the long-term. For example, a discussion on growing the local talent pool will speak to aligning curriculum standards with tech industry best practices. Meanwhile, a talk featuring Blue Bridge Networks managing director Kevin Goodman and other entrepreneurs will dissect Cleveland's vision of an innovative city full of cutting-edge talent.
 
The area's business environment is not known for flexibility or an appetite for risk, an approach that must evolve if Cleveland wants to compete worldwide, says Stapleton. For now, however, spending a day with a group of enterprising young go-getters shows the city has their back.
 
"That's the goal of this summit," Stapleton says. "To explore opportunities and continue to help ourselves." 

TechniCLE speaking is free, but registration is required. To register or for more information, please email Grace Brennan.
 

Delivery service sprouts up, offers nutritious eats for downtowners

Many time-crunched office dwellers are at a loss when it comes to choosing lunch, says Sarah Melton, founder of Young Sprouts, a new made-to-order meal service that delivers farm-fresh food to downtown workers.

Research shows that typical corporate meal breaks aren't beneficial to overall worker productivity, especially when good nutrition is not on the menu, Melton says.

“Many people want to eat healthy, but not a lot of them have the time to make the meals the way they should be made," she says. "That’s where we come in.”

Young Sprouts' bicycle-delivered meals are an organic answer to less-than-healthy lunches that can be obstacles to better business, says Melton, who launched her company last November.
 
Melton’s venture follows a trend in corporate meal delivery, where services like LunchOwl and SowFood have work-better agendas underlying their menus. A 2011 study in Population Health Management states that poor eating habits are responsible for more than 60 percent of low productivity. In 2013, Health Enhancement Research Organization (HERO) reported that a nutritious lunch could raise worker efficiency by as much as 25 percent.
 
Melton and her chef prepare “nutrient-dense,” box-ready meals. Try chicken sandwiches, nori rolls, chilis and soups, all freshly prepared at the Cleveland Culinary Launch and Kitchen. The menu ranges from $4 yogurt parfaits to $9 penne pasta dishes. A summer menu will focus more on cooler, salad-leaning items.

A counselor-turned-foodie, Melton initially conceived the idea of Young Sprouts while working with ex-cons, impoverished families and other at-risk individuals. She's since hired on some of the people she counseled as delivery riders.

Melton aimed to make Young Sprouts happen mostly to “prove that there could be a viable business like this," she says, "keeping food sourced mostly local, avoiding the big box stores - that it’s all possible.”

The “healthy” theme runs throughout the operation from the uniforms worn by delivery people to the compost-friendly boxes housing the meals. Melton aims to align Young Sprouts with strict environmental standards set by the nonprofit B Lab. In addition, the company donates a portion of sales to 1% for the Planet, which directs the funds to a sustainability-oriented nonprofit of Melton's choosing.
 
The food entrepreneur's overall goal is to get all of her goods sourced from Ohio farms within a 100-mile radius. Melton made a connection with Cleveland-based Green City Growers for that very purpose.
 
The all-green image is paying off, says Melton. Young Sprouts customers are smitten with the concept and its meals, especially the chili brisket.

“Instead of having some carb-laced lunch that gets catered to your meeting, they bring these really whole, actually good-for-you meals,” says Carl Baldesare, an avid Young Spouts user and head of Keep It Local, a community organization that promotes small businesses. “It’s amazing.” 

As marketing execs and financial reps continue to rave about the nascent company's meals and mission statement, Melton remains cognizant of the reason behind the good feedback.

“I don’t think it’s well-known how connected our physical health is to our mental health,” she says. “I want to use to this business to bring this to people’s attention. And, of course, to make healthy eating easy.”

Cleveland Neighborhood Progress announces finalists for Vibrant City Awards

Cleveland Neighborhood Progress (CNP) has announced 21 finalists for its 2016 Vibrant City Awards. Winners will be revealed on May 2 at the second annual Vibrant City Awards Lunch, hosted by CNP and presented by Key Bank and Community Blight Solutions.
 
“We are proud to convene community partners and stakeholders to celebrate city neighborhoods. These leading efforts in neighborhood revitalization are what help us all create a vibrant city,” says Joel Ratner, president and CEO of CNP. “The organizations and individuals being honored have displayed tremendous passion, dedication and collaboration. We’re excited to recognize them for their successful efforts in community development.”
 
CNP received more than 70 nominations for this year's awards.
 
“The complete list of nominations tells an inspiring story of neighborhood transformation that is taking place in Cleveland," says Jeff Kipp, CNP's director of neighborhood marketing for the organization. "From community development corporations to corporate partners and everyone in between, there are amazing people performing incredible work in our neighborhoods.”
 
Additionally, CNP will present the Morton L. Mandel Leadership in Community Development Award and the first ever Vibrant City Impact Award at the May 2 luncheon. During the event, civic leaders, community development professionals, local developers, investors, realtors and passionate Clevelanders will gather to celebrate neighborhoods at the Cleveland Masonic Auditorium, 3615 Euclid Ave., an iconic structure located in Midtown on the RTA Healthline. A locally sourced meal catered by chef Chris Hodgson of Driftwood Catering will be served. This event is open to the public. More information and registration details are available online.
 
The 2016 Vibrant City Awards finalists include:
 
• CDC Community Collaboration Award
 
Ohio City Inc. – Station Hope
Held in May 2015, Station Hope, a collaboration of Ohio City, Inc., Cleveland Public Theatre, Saint John’s Episcopal Church and Councilman Joe Cimperman, was a free multi-arts event that celebrated the history of St. John’s Church, the triumphs of the Underground Railroad, and contemporary struggles for freedom and justice. Station Hope featured a diverse selection of theatre and performance ensembles, including more than 30 companies and 150 individual artists.


 
Slavic Village Development – Cleveland Orchestra at Home in Slavic Village
In spring 2015, The Cleveland Orchestra At Home in Slavic Village residency brought a world-class orchestra to the Broadway Slavic Village neighborhood. Partners included Slavic Village Development, the Cleveland Orchestra, Broadway School of Music and the Arts, the Broadway Boys and Girls Club, cultural organizations, and area churches and schools. In April, the orchestra performed a free public concert for an audience of 1,000 at Our Lady of Lourdes Church. The residency continued throughout the year with a host of events.
 
Stockyards, Clark Fulton, Brooklyn Centre Community Development Office – La Placita
In 2015, the Stockyard, Clark Fulton and Brooklyn Centre Community Development Office partnered with the Hispanic Business Center and local businesses and entrepreneurs to launch La Placita, an open air market near the intersection of Clark Avenue and West 25th Street that featured 24 local vendors and cultural offerings for five Saturday events that attracted thousands. The events also served as an effective venue to showcase “La Villa Hispana,” which is home to a growing ethnic population in the City of Cleveland.
 
• CDC Placemaking Award
 
MidTown Cleveland – East 55th Street railroad bridge mural
The railroad bridge above the intersection of Euclid Avenue and East 55th Street has been transformed into a symbol of the innovation and emerging economy embodied in the MidTown neighborhood and the Health-Tech Corridor. The mural, designed by Twist Creative, Inc., includes a graphic of DNA molecules, and logos of MidTown Cleveland, the City of Cleveland, BioEnterprise and the Cleveland Foundation.


 
Slavic Village Development – Cycle of Arches
The Cycle of Arches installation evokes allusions to nature such as trees or grasses bending in the wind, while nodding to the industrial heritage of the community by representing the neighborhood's "steel roots" with its steel tube construction. Part of the $8 million Broadway Streetscape and Road Improvement Project, the installation is located at the intersection of E.49th Street and Broadway Avenue. Jonathan Kurtz, AIA, designed Cycle of Arches. Partners included Slavic Village Development, Land Studio and the City of Cleveland.
 
University Circle Inc. – Wade Oval improvements
University Circle Inc. recently invested in several improvements to Wade Oval including a permanent musical park that offers four large-scale instruments, benches, Adirondack chairs and a chalkboard with the “This is CLE to Me…” tagline emblazoned across the top. Visitors are encouraged to creatively express themselves in this eclectic area.


 
• CDC Economic Opportunity Award
 
Famicos Foundation – Earned Income Tax Credit (EITC) program management
Famicos Foundation weaves together a diverse portfolio of economic opportunity programming to aid family financial stability in the Glenville neighborhood. In 2015, the organization helped complete 1,917 tax returns with a total refund of $2.3 million for residents. 549 of those returns were for EITC clients and those individuals received $869,000 in refunds. Also in 2015, while participating in a pilot program, Famicos referred 90 tax preparation clients interested in receiving one-on-one financial counseling to the Community Financial Centers.
 
Stockyards, Clark Fulton, Brooklyn Centre Community Development Office – La Placita
The Stockyard, Clark Fulton, Brooklyn Centre Community Development Office was instrumental in the planning and implementation of "La Placita," which served as a catalyst project encouraging collaboration between the local CDC and stakeholders in the community. This initiative served as a business incubator for new businesses with free business training and as an accelerator for established businesses. Situated in an economically challenged food dessert, "La Placita" also served as an access point for fresh, affordable produce and culturally relevant prepared foods and ingredients.
 
University Circle, Inc. – Business outreach and development efforts
In 2015, University Circle Inc's business outreach and development efforts included three key components: the Uptown Business Association (UBA), NextStep: Strategies for Business Growth and a financial literacy and QuickBooks bookkeeping program, all of which fostered networking amid business owners in the greater University Circle area. UCI consistently convenes the 17 NextStep alumni, a current class of nine business owners, 65 UBA members, and seven bookkeeping program participants at UBA meetings to network, enhance their skills and find new opportunities. 
 
• CDC Neighborhood Branding & Marketing Award
 
Northeast Shores Development Corp. – Welcome to Collinwood website
With the help of the CDC, the neighborhood has taken its brand as Cleveland's premiere artists’ neighborhood to a new level with the Welcome to Collinwood website. The homepage offers an artistic display of images and designs, and visitors are met with compelling copy that boasts the compelling opportunities available to artists in Collinwood. 
 
Slavic Village Development – Rooms to Let
St. Rooms To Let, a temporary art installation in vacant homes created by Slavic Village Development, was a successful marketing event that changed perceptions about the surrounding neighborhood. In May 2015, more than 1,000 visitors toured St. Rooms to Let, which included installations by 30 artists, live music performances and activities for children.


 
Clair Superior Development Corp. & Campus District, Inc. – Night Market Cleveland
St. Clair Superior Development Corp. and Campus District Inc. teamed up last summer to spark awareness, foster a creative economy, and bring attention to the hidden gems of AsiaTown and the Superior Arts District with Night Market Cleveland - a series of four summer events with local art vendors, Asian food and cultural entertainment. The inaugural season attracted a staggering 50,000 attendees and garnered coverage in 22 media publications.
 
• Corporate Partner Award
 
Community Blight Solutions
Community Blight Solutions focuses on understanding, solving, and eliminating blight. Prominent solutions currently include promotion of the organization's SecureView product and the Slavic Village Recovery Project, which aims to align demolition and rehabilitation to eradicate blight one block at a time and fosters corporate volunteerism amid the area's for-profit partners. The project is also focused on gaining access to a critical mass of real estate owned properties and those that are abandoned with the intention of either demolition or rehabilitation.
 
Dave’s Supermarkets
Dave’s Supermarkets' portfolio of stores sells products that match the profile of the communities they serve while their employees and customer base reflect Cleveland’s diverse population. Asian, Hispanic, African American and Caucasian residents all feel at home at Dave’s Supermarket. Dave’s has provided significant financial support in the form of food donations to community organizations, churches, and neighborhood groups. The local chain employs over 1,000 people in 14 stores, providing health care and retirement benefits to hard-working Cleveland residents.
 
PNC Bank
PNC was the lead sponsor of UCI’s summer concert series, Wade Oval Wednesdays – WOW! - a free weekly concert that draws up to 5,000 attendees. In addition, PNC supported UCI’s Clean and Safe Ambassador program expansion from seasonal to year-round with twice as many staff.  Additionally, PNC supported the creation and development of a children’s map and activity book to complement UCI’s newest education initiative, Circle Walk, a 40-point interpretive program set to launch in May 2016.
 
• Urban Developer Award:
 
Case Development – Mike DeCesare
Mike DeCesare of Case Development has been a pioneer in residential development in the Detroit Shoreway neighborhood, which he also calls home. He successfully finished the Waverly Station community in 2015 and completed the Harborview development at Herman Avenue and West 54th Street.
 
Geis Companies – Fred Geis
Fred Geis instigated the MidTown Tech Park, which boasts nearly 250,000 square feet of office and laboratory space leased to health and technology firms, and is part of the growing Health-Tech corridor. One of Geis’s most transformational projects is The 9, into which Geis moved its headquarters from Streetsboro. This spring, Geis will break ground on an Ohio City project converting the industrial Storer Meat Co. facility into 67 market-rate apartments. Fred Geis was also recently appointed to the Cleveland Planning Commission and will donate his stipend to the Dream Neighborhood refugee housing initiative.
 
Vintage Development Group – Chip Marous
Vintage Development Group provides well-built multi-family residential properties in Detroit Shoreway and Ohio City, thereby helping to support the associated commercial districts with residential opportunities and financial support. Not to be content with the footprint of his Battery Park project, Marous has executed plans for expanding it. His passion for complete, walkable urban development is made possible through established relationships in Cleveland’s urban neighborhoods.
 
• Civic Champion Award:
 
Joseph Black – Central neighborhood
Joe Black is committed to Central neighborhood youth. He is currently the Neighborhood Engagement Manager for the Sisters of Charity Foundation of Cleveland. As the leader of the engagement team, he is responsible for fostering a seamless experience for youth and families to progress through their education from cradle to career. Black’s passion was sparked by personal experiences with the inequities linked to men of color, and has since matured into a responsibility to serve “at risk” communities. He is a tireless, dedicated community volunteer, mentoring youth at his day job as well as during his free time.
 
Charles Gliha – Slavic Village neighborhood
Lifelong Slavic Village resident Charles Gliha strives to improve the neighborhood with art, civic engagement and business development. As founder of Broadway Public Art, he has championed the Warszawa Music Festival, is the founder of Street Repair Music Festival, organizes the Polish Constitution Day Parade, and volunteers at Rooms to Let. Gliha is an active member of the Slavic Village Neighborhood Summit planning committee and hosts cash mobs and live music events in area retail establishments. He also created a printed business directory and garnered $25,000 in grants for the neighborhood.


 
Alison Lukacsy – Collinwood neighborhood
A Cleveland transplant turned North Collinwood artist, advocate and promoter, Alison Lukacsy sees opportunities where others see problems. She has secured over $20,000 in grants, resulting in projects such as Storefront Activation utilizing debris from Adopt-a-Beach cleanups, Phone Gallery - Cleveland's smallest curated art gallery, a Collinwood Vibrancy Project, Yarn n’ Yoga on Euclid Beach Pier, Euclid Beach Book Box, and Bus Stop Moves RTA shelter exercises.
 

Cleveland Education Compact aims to improve relations between charter and district schools

While organizations such as the Transformation Alliance are working to make sure Cleveland’s Plan for Transforming Schools ensures every child in Cleveland receives a quality education with access to a selection of schools, the Cleveland Education Compact is doing their part by helping the Cleveland Metropolitan School District (CMSD) and the city’s 65 charter schools work together to bring excellence throughout.

The Compact is a collaboration between CMSD, the Cleveland Foundation and Breakthrough Schools, which is a network of public charter schools. The group came together last year after the associated schools received a $100,000 planning grant from the National Association of Charter School Authorizers, funded by the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation in 2014.
 
The Compact’s goal with the planning grant is to unite all those partners via a common goal that includes cooperation between the CMSD and Cleveland’s publicly funded charter schools and improve the educational options in Cleveland.
 
“Essentially, the district and Breakthrough Schools were doing some collaboration already,” explains Lindsey Blackburn, project manager for the Compact. “We applied for the $100,000 grant to get things going.” Blackburn adds that the term “compact” refers to both the group and the document they wrote.
 
Now the planning is underway and a group of 40 people from a dozen schools and organizations met in February for a brainstorming session and to form subcommittees. The executive committee meets monthly to discuss the subcommittee topics, which include record sharing; professional development; special education; facilities; funding; and policy/advocacy.
 
The Compact’s executive committee, which consists of five direct representatives and five charter representatives, meets once a month to ensure the planning phase is carried out before the grant runs out later this year.

“The last two areas have a lot of overlaps so it may make more sense to combine them,” says Blackburn. “Each subcommittee has co-chairs: one representative from the district and one representative from the charters.”
 
The group will meet again on April 5 for additional planning and outlining. “This is an exciting time because this is actual real work,” Blackburn says, adding that they will look for the areas that are easiest to tackle first, then address the more complex issues.
 
"We will look at the ones we can win first, like sharing professional development resources – if a speaker comes in, opening it up to all compact members,” she says. “There will be topics that will prove to be more complex and may not be solved in this round of collaboration.”
  
While the Cleveland Education Compact is not affiliated with the Cleveland Plan, the two groups still share common missions. “The Compact is similar [to the Cleveland Plan] in the sense that it is all about finding areas where district and charter schools can work together.,” says Piet van Lier, executive director of the Transformation Alliance, the organization charged with making sure the Cleveland Plan is executed. “But it wasn’t written into the Cleveland Plan.”
 
However, van Lier does see the two groups complementing each other. “Since the Cleveland Plan envisions a portfolio district with good schools, both district and charter, and allows the district to share levy money with partner charter schools, the two really are different sides of the same coin.”
 
Blackburn says future fundraising options will be considered to keep the Compact going once the planning grant expires. 

Transformation Alliance is a Fresh Water sponsor.

MidTown Cleveland names health-corridor head as new executive director

For almost two years, Jeff Epstein led efforts to attract health-tech and high-tech businesses to the Cleveland Health-Tech Corridor in Midtown. As the newly named executive director of the MidTown Cleveland nonprofit, Epstein expects a smooth transition in helping guide development of the entire two-mile stretch connecting downtown with University Circle

Epstein, named to the position by MidTown Cleveland's board on March 10, will coordinate marketing, business growth and real estate/amenity expansion for the area, including the tech-centric corridor which he previously spearheaded. In the Midtown position, he replaces Jim Haviland, who left the group last August and is now director of local government relations at The MetroHealth System.   

According to MidTown Cleveland, Epstein's work in the self-styled innovation hub resulted in more than 1,800 new jobs and 500,000 square feet of new or renovated office and lab space. Working in the 1,600-acre tech corridor, which contains four world-class healthcare institutions and more than 140 high-tech companies, was an experience Epstein says has prepared him for strategizing Midtown's continued makeover.

"I've built some tremendous relationships over the last 18 months," says Epstein. "There are a number of partners eager to work with us."

Though Epstein's duties with the corridor will continue, the nonprofit will hire on a project manger and additional staff to bolster its mission. For now, the new executive director is meeting local property owners on redevelopment and safety/security issues. Epstein is also looking ahead to various projects planned for 2016 and beyond, among them University Hospitals' proposed women's and children's primary-care clinic on Euclid Avenue.

MidTown Cleveland has several other projects in the pipeline, along with neighborhood-connecting events like "The Chomp," a seasonal weekly midday food truck rally on East 46th Street between Euclid Avenue and Prospect Avenue.

"As an organization we'll look at all the ways we can play an active and smart role in community development," Epstein  says.  

While Midtown is growing, there are pockets that need to be stronger, adds the nonprofit official. Gaps in retail amenities means driving five minutes to University Circle for a cup of coffee or after-work drink.

Meanwhile, areas surrounding Midtown should be included in the larger-scale revitalization effort, be it through job opportunities or projects that add value to underserved neighborhoods. Epstein points to partner group JumpStart's "core city" program, which provides investment and advice to minority and low-income businesses owners.

"There's such potential to transform this district," says Epstein. "I'm excited to be part of a team that's going to be working toward that." 

Forbes editor: Cleveland must foster rise of the "digital native"

Not long ago, young entrepreneurs were designing software or other technological advancements far away from the old-guard industries that didn't rely on high-tech innovation to succeed.

Now that technology has infiltrated most every business, these youthful "digital natives" have a professional advantage, and it's up to Cleveland and similarly sized cities to be part of this powerful sea change, says Randall Lane, editor of Forbes.

"It's not just a Silicon Valley, or Austin, or Boston phenomenon," Lane says of what he believes to be a historically unprecedented event. "It can be a Cleveland phenomenon, or Minneapolis, or any city that wants to grow and tap into this audience."

Tech-savvy millennials grew up never knowing a time without the Internet, meaning their brains are wired for the intricacies of digital entrepreneurship from the jump, Lane told Fresh Water during a March 15 interview, a day before he spoke on the topic at the Milton and Tamar Maltz Performing Arts Center on the Case Western Reserve University (CWRU) campus.

"This is a generation that no longer thinks that working for a big company is the be-all and end-all," says Lane, creator of Forbes'  popular 30 Under 30 lists as well as author of You Only Need to Be Right Once, which chronicles the rise of the young tech billionaire. "They understand there's no lifetime job anymore. The safest career move is becoming an entrepreneur and building an opportunity for yourself." 

The fact that high-tech ideas can take root virtually anywhere is a potential boon for Northeast Ohio, Lane says. Cleveland already has a critical mass of talent from CWRU and other nearby universities; it's a matter of convincing a sizeable percentage of these go-getting agents of change to stick around.  

Ultimately, Cleveland faces the same talent recruitment challenges as Pittsburgh, Columbus and other mid-sized cities that host academic institutions, Lane says.

"Regional schools here are already a national draw," he says. "The easiest thing for these smart, ambitious people to do would be to stay."

A walkable urban city has long been in Cleveland's plans. Creating that exciting culture, along with an environment that nurtures entrepreneurship, can help attract and keep the bright millennial tech heads who are transforming the business world.

"You've got to have enough for young people to say, 'I can plant a flag and grow with this place,'" Lane says. 

Online bulk ticketing platform Groupmatics hits the big leagues

The way individuals purchase tickets for sporting events has changed dramatically thanks to the Internet. However, the computer age hasn't had the same impact on group sales, which still heavily rely on telephone, in-person or conventional mail communication.

Online-based group ticketing platform Groupmatics has effectively stepped into the bulk ticketing gap, notes company founder Matt Mastrangelo. Launched in 2012, Groupmatics has grown significantly through a focus on streamlined group event management for its now 50 partners, which include professional sports franchises as well as performing arts organizations like PlayhouseSquare and Cleveland Play House.  

Billed as a "tool that makes your job as a sales rep and a group coordinator easy," the company targets clients such as Josh Burdine, director of ticket sales for the Cincinnati Cyclones, and Joe Rugo, director of group sales for the Phoenix Suns. Groupmatics aims to help them sell more group tickets, make the process easier and provide them with valuable customer data.

The company's online platform lets buyers set up a custom page with event information, seating charts and ticket-purchasing options. Groupmatics also provides sales support along with data on who bought ducats, how many seats were sold, and how much money has been collected.

"We're giving group managers the tools to market an event, which drives up ticket sales and allows teams to identify buyers within the group," says Mastrangelo, 34.

Larger sales comprise 15 to 60 percent of an organization's bottom line, says the young entrepreneur. Groupmatics makes its money through a licensing fee while also getting a piece of the ticket sale. The company's unique system has caught on, resulting in a burgeoning client base Mastrangelo expects to include 90 organizations by year's end.

"There's never been a platform out there that focused strictly on group sales in regards to sports and entertainment," Mastrangelo says. "Our team comes from the sports/sales side, so we built our platform based on what we wished we had as sales reps."

Mastrangelo's 10 years selling seats for both the Browns and Indians showed him how much unnecessary work was put into a bigger outing. The cumbersome, mostly paper-based process of collecting money and distributing tickets also led potential future ticket purchasers to slip through the cracks.

"What really pushed me was seeing these teams sitting on a pile of leads, but unable to collect buyer data from members of a group," says Mastrangelo.

Information is gold for Groupmatics' clients, says the company head. Teams and organizations can cultivate data, ostensibly uncovering the precious leads that one day may be converted into future sales. For Mastrangelo, there's satisfaction in helping his clients sell smarter.

"They're looking for ways to make their lives easier," he says. "It's inspiring to be able to bring something new and fresh to an otherwise old-school industry."

Inaugural Cleveland Humanities Festival: Remembering War

The first Cleveland Humanities Festival (CHF) will unfold beginning March 30 with an array of events exploring the impact of war on society and culture. Amid the more than 20 performances, readings, screenings and tours, participants will consider, from a humanistic perspective, our capacity for brutality and the possibility of transcending it through the power of art.

Here is a sampling of the offerings, which will play out in venues big and small across Northeast Ohio through April.

Hiding in the Spotlight: The Power of Music and the Human Spirit, will feature Russian/Ukrainian Jewish music prodigy Zhanna Arshanskaya, who performed music for Nazis during World War II to avoid execution and became a prized pianist and music professor. She will join a discussion of a documentary about her life, followed by a recital on March 30 from 7 to 9 p.m. at the Simon and Rose Mandel Theater, Cuyahoga Community College East Campus, 2900 Community College Ave.

Warrior Chorus, a major new national humanities program by New York’s Aquila Theatre Company, has trained 100 veterans in four regional centers to present scholar-led public programming based on classical literature. On Sunday, April 10 from 3 to 5 p.m. at MOCA Cleveland, 114000 Euclid Ave, the New York Warrior Chorus will perform, followed by a moderated discussion.

Men in War (1957), is a Korean War drama from acclaimed director Robert Ryan, who is best known for his psychological Westerns and films noir. It tells the story of an American platoon commander whose weary soldiers are cut off behind enemy lines. The film will screen on April 21 from 6:45 to 9 p.m. at Cleveland Cinematheque, 11610 Euclid Ave.

Other diverse events include a discussion on the art of armor at the Cleveland Museum of Art, a poetry reading at the Happy Dog at Euclid Tavern and a tour of notable veterans' resting places at Lake View Cemetery.

Most of the lectures, movies and shows are free and open to the public, although some require registration. Some include a fee, such as the Monuments Tour ($10), which includes area icons such as the Soldiers' and Sailors Monument and others that are not so well known (try: the Smoky War Dog Memorial in the Metroparks, which commemorates the “tiniest hero of WW II”). More information and a complete list of event is available here.

“The idea is simple: bring together the strength of our world-class humanities organizations around a topic that has affected all of our lives in profound ways, large and small,” said Peter Knox, director of the Baker-Nord Center for the Humanities of Case Western Reserve University, which is coordinating the event, in a release. “We hope people think about this topic in new and challenging ways, with the humanities as our gateway.”
 

Experimental theater aims to purchase iconic century building

Experimental theater company convergence-continuum (con-con) has raised 10 percent of the funds needed to buy the Liminis building, 2438 Scranton Rd., its home since 2002.

Con-con's board launched a $200,000 capital campaign in January to purchase the property in the Scranton South Historic District in Cleveland's Tremont neighborhood from Clyde Simon, the company's artistic director and a founding member. The building can be had for $130,000, the exact amount Simon needs to pay off mortgage and closing costs. The remaining $70,000 would be placed in reserve for future repair and operation costs.

Simon, 69, will not be making a profit from the sale, he notes. The theater official, along with co-founder Brian Breth, paid $160,000 for the space in 2000, spending another $100,000 for a new lighting system and other improvements. Board voice president Geoffrey Hoffman, a realtor with Howard Hanna, recently estimated the property's market value at $230,000 to $250,000.

"I'm taking a loss from my initial purchase price, plus all I've invested in upgrading the property in its conversion into a theater," says Simon.

Selling below market value is no problem for Simon, who single-handedly manages the 6,000-square-foot building while living in the theater’s backstage apartment. Not only have the duties of ownership become financially untenable, Simon says, using an extension ladder to clean the gutters isn't how he wants to spend his golden years.

"I want the company to stay right where it is," says Simon, who bought out his partner Breth's share of the 150-year-old structure in 2005. "I've been doing less of the artistic stuff to keep it going."

Simon is confidant con-con can raise the needed money before the end of 2016, when he would need to put the theater on the market. Con-con is already receiving cash donations, and will be approaching foundations for funding help in spring. In addition, $200,000 is a fairly modest amount when compared to a capital campaign arts' scene that can run into the tens of millions.

"Our board is working their connections," says Simon. "Their enthusiasm makes me optimistic."

Simon looks forward to being relived of his managerial responsibilities so he can focus his energies on directing, acting and set designing.

"I'm only directing one show this year; before that I was much more active," he says. "I want to be a bigger part of the exciting stuff rather than having to pay the mortgage and fix the roof." 

Teens turn to glitz and glam, away from cancer, during prom dress event

Selecting a prom dress is a rite of spring for millions of teenage girls. An event hosted last weekend by the local arm of a Florida-based nonprofit aimed to bring that same feeling of joy to Cleveland teens battling cancer.

About 100 young women took home 125 prom gowns during a "Dress Extravaganza" held at the Mandel Jewish Community Center. The two-day happening was organized by A Prom to Remember, a group dedicated to giving teen cancer patients a fun, anxiety-free night away from treatments and hospital beds.

Young women, accompanied by family and friends, chose their prom-going garb from more than 1,000 donated dresses, says Rosey Malkin, Cleveland co-chair of A Prom to Remember. Gowns were provided by individual donors along with area shops like Bella Bridesmaids in Rocky River. A seamstress was on hand to make any minor alterations the girls needed.

Along with dresses, participants selected a bevy of shoes, jewelry and wraps. To prepare the girls for their glamorous evening, Brown Aveda Institute was on site offering nail services and massages. The entire event was held at no cost, allowing attendees to concentrate on feeling beautiful without having to worry about the price tag, says Malkin.

"Our (organization) survives based on groups donating services," she says. "So many people had a part in this."

Thanks to the wide-ranging effort, the teens will wear their new dresses at a special prom on April 8 at The Ritz- Carlton in downtown Cleveland. Organizers expect 175 girls to arrive with dates, friends or family in tow. The teens are patients from three hospitals: Akron Children's Hospital The Cleveland Clinic and University Hospitals.

Some of the girls are newly diagnosed, while others are officially cancer-free. Chemotherapy and surgeries have resulted in hair loss or other physical changes, all of which planners have accounted for by inviting patients' nurses and physicians to the night out.

"We have kids who feel crappy from undergoing treatment," Malkin says. "We're creating the safest environment possible for them."

Despite the precautions, picking a dress and going to prom offer the girls a sense of normalcy their daily lives may be lacking.

"It's a few where hours where they don't have to think about how sick they are," says Malkin. "They can just go and have a really good time." 

Nonprofit tackles LGBTQ teen bullying

"That's so gay" is a phrase common in most high-school settings, says Liz O’Donnell, co-founder of Dare2Care, a Cleveland nonprofit aiming to create a harassment-free environment for lesbian-gay-bisexual-transgender-questioning (LGBTQ) students.

The slur's casual nature, often used alongside words like "fag" or "dyke," typifies the many insidious ways LGTBQ students are bullied, says O'Donnell. According to the Human Rights Campaign, nine out of 10 students who identify as LGTBQ experience harassment and nearly two-thirds feel unsafe at school because of their sexual orientation.

Dare2Care is shedding light on what group officials believe is a hidden issue by training students as anti-bullying ambassadors. The goal is to inspire these young people to create communities free of harassment and intimidation.

"(LGBTQ) is often a taboo topic among school administrators," says O'Donnell, a mental health professional who launched the organization in 2011 with co-founder Don Wismer. "But students who attempt suicide are far more likely to identify as LGBTQ, or are perceived by their peers that way."

The nonprofit will endeavor to educate Greater Cleveland high school students on the importance of leadership and diversity through a free workshop on March 11 at St. Edward's High School. The workshop, held in partnership with the Global Youth Leadership Institute, will address color, culture and class, with participants encouraged to share their personal stories. About 90 students are expected to attend the program, along with 17 faculty members from representative private and public schools.

"We wanted to invite different schools that normally wouldn’t interact with one another,” says O'Donnell. "In that space, we'll already be creating a level of diversity that requires students to think differently."

Ideally, attendees will leave with an understanding of their personal identities, while recognizing their fellow students without the crutch of harmful stereotypes. The event, the second such program offered by Dare2Care, is reaching people at that critical stage of development where identity is being shaped, O'Donnell says. Those emerging from the workshop, meanwhile, will ostensibly have the tools to confront bullying in a non-punitive manner.

"Kids should be able to understand the impacts their words can have," says O'Donnell. "It's more than anti-bullying: We want to give students skills that allow them to make broader decisions in the larger world." 

Cleveland Tango School embraces the city with Argentinean flair

It may take two to tango, but it also takes two to run a promising dance company. For Micaela Barrett and Alberto Cordero, owners of the Cleveland Tango School, settling in Cleveland early last year warranted much more than picking a location to host dance lessons. It was about creating a community.
 
“There’s definitely an untapped market here,” Barrett says. “There’s definitely an amazing opportunity for tango – especially for a younger generation.”
 
The Barrett-Cordero duo officially set up shop last March in the Canopy Collective, where they began teaching authentic Argentine tango lessons. In February, they found a permanent home at Vision Yoga, 1861 West 25th Street in Ohio City – a location they feel comfortable in because of its close proximity to other arts communities like Gordon Square.
 
Coming from New York City, the couple says that after a year in Cleveland teaching and hosting tango get-togethers, known as milongas, they are confident their new digs are ripe for a developing tango scene.

Although the Cleveland Tango School has only been around for a year, Cordero and Barret are eager to contribute to an already-exuberant community of Cleveland tango enthusiasts that has existed for about 13 years. The dedicated Cleveland dancer can find a milonga happening nightly, from Lakewood to Brooklyn Heights, which makes Cleveland the city in Ohio for tango aficionados.
 
Viva Dance Studio on E. 38th Street hosts its Milonga Nueva twice a month, and Mahall’s Cleveland Tango Bowling Marathon in Lakewood sees on average, 130 people at the weekend-long dance-a-thons. To add to the mix, Cordero and Barrett encourage what’s natural for them as tango experts: to harness the dance’s communal bond via weekend getaways to Detroit milongas with students or just relaxing over drinks after a local session.
 
Cordero and Barrett, who’ve been together after serendipitously meeting in a master class three years ago, were set for a change from the New York scene after a trip to Argentina in early 2014. So the two decided to relocate to a city with “fertile ground” for their own company.
 
After some research, and noticing the rising popularity of established schools in Northeast Ohio, Cordero, a former Puerto Rican radio journalist who later taught dance at Hunter College in New York, and Barrett, a lifelong milonga-hopping New Yorker, had found their spot.
 
“We wanted to put Cleveland tango on the map,” Cordero says. “There are cities around the United States, New York or Chicago, let’s say, where it’s considered a pedigree to be a tango dancer from that city. Our goal is to make Cleveland one of those centers.”
 
Fit for beginners or experienced dancers, Cleveland Tango caters to the novice as well as the aficionado. With three to four classes taught weekly, from Tango 101 to Wednesday late-night practices, Cordero and Barrett lead about a dozen students through hour-long instruction on everything from musicality and turning patterns to mastering the close embraces Argentine tango is known for. “Intimate” is a suitable descriptor for Cleveland Tango. 

"If you're here," Barrett says, "then you're going to be dancing."

Learned from his studies of Buenos Aires tango masters such as the legendary Horacio “El Pebete” Godoy or Mariano “Chicho” Frumboly, Cordero peppers his lessons with anecdotes of tango’s lusty history. These cultural tips are “coming from people,” he says, “who very much lived and breathed the dance.”
 
He and Barrett are confident that novices, with even just Tango 101 under their shoes, will be set to hit the milongas in about a month. Why wait any longer?

“We like to say we teach a lot of ‘self-defense dancing’ for that reason,” Barrett jokes, “meaning that we want to make it easy for people to go out really quick and dance. That’s just the fun of it.”

As Cordero and Barrett adjust to their new space on W. 25th, the two say they look forward to weaving in with Ohio City’s evolving art scene. As their class sizes increase with the incoming demand (they’ve booked two world-renowned dancers from Buenos Aires for a special class because of it), the two are taken aback how much community they’ve created thus far.
 
“To see a man in a suit go out next to a young cat in a full beard with tattoos up and down his arms is incredible to me,” Cordero said. “That confluence of worlds is just amazing – that people are dancing together.”

Two artists pair up to make web-based millennial drama, comedy

Jasmine Golphin began writing screenplays when she was 13 years old, although she’s not so proud of her early work. “They’re teenage angst scripts that will never see the light of day,” the Cleveland Heights resident promises, “but it’s been a long-term passion for me, almost embarrassingly so.”

Now Golphin, 29, is a little more confident in her work. While working as program director for MyMedia, a program for teens interested in journalism and video production, she founded the production company Welcome to Midnight in 2010. The company has put out more than eight works since.
 
At the same time, Nordonia Hills area resident Erin Johnson, 26, was pursuing her own writing interests while working as a quality assurance and marketing associate at Ardleigh Minerals, an industrial recycling company in Beachwood.
 
Both women were working on their own projects when, in October 2014, a mutual filmmaker friend introduced them. The two hit it off and eventually they collaborated on the web series To New Beginnings, which follows six young adults’ lives and covers topics such as class, family issues and mental health. The six-episode series launched on Facebook in December.
 
“'To New Beginnings' is a product of its time,” says Golphin, the series’ writer and director. “The story is about real people, not idealized versions of ourselves.”  The entire show is based in Cleveland and features local musicians and artists.
 
“It very much takes place in Cleveland with plenty of Cleveland references,” Golphin says. “And it’s very much purposeful. It’s a running gag that everything takes place in Cleveland and centers around Batman.”
 
Johnson works on the marketing team. “It’s been great working with Welcome to Midnight,” she says. “There’s an emphasis on telling stories that aren’t normally told and in a novel way.”
 
Golphin and Johnson plan to make two more seasons of “To New Beginnings,” with shooting to begin in May and a release date for season two late this summer.
 
In the meantime, the pair is working together again on the comedic web series “The Adventures of Fab Jenkins,” premiering in March.
 
“'Fab Jenkins' is a Blaxploitation-inspired web comedy following the journey of Cleveland-based stylist, Fabio ‘Fab’ Jenkins,” explains Johnson. “Fab, with the help of his Fab Squad, must save the city from an onslaught of bad fashion caused by the expansion of fast fashion retailer, Eternally 16.”
 
But there is a local purpose as well. "The show also aims to showcase the independent fashion and beauty community in Greater Cleveland and beyond,” Johnson says.
 
“Fab Jenkins” was written by Johnson and her mother, Cynthia K. Johnson, after a random, casual conversation. “We were talking one day, and my mother was holding a blow dryer as if she were a secret agent,” she recalls. “It then led us into a back and forth conversation where we imagined a character who was a stylist with agent/superhero-like tendencies.”
 
After fully developing the script, getting advice from some local pros, “Fab Jenkins” began production via Welcome to Midnight, with Golphin directing. Johnson is co-creator and producer of the show that includes local award winning actors and plenty of Cleveland sightings throughout.

In search of Lake Erie: Tracing streams' paths and histories

When Jim Miller retired as a Cleveland Heights probation officer nine years ago, he developed a rather unusual hobby: he began tracing the brooks and streams flowing through Cleveland’s east side, seeking out where they exist and where they flow underground all the way to Lake Erie.
 
“I began just looking at local waterways, trying to detect them and their link to the lake,” Miller recalls, adding that some streambeds are exposed and others have been erased over the decades. "When you look at it, it’s often a strong economic reason.”

Miller explains the economic correlation: he often found waterways that were buried on smaller properties, while the streams ran open on larger plots of land. “On a 1912 plot map, on the bigger lot sizes the stream is in the open,” he says. “By Coventry School on Lancashire Road, it goes under. By the Rockefeller estate and Forest Hills Park, it’s open.”
 
Miller’s interest in the waterways was piqued 15 years ago after reading his friend and Green City Blue Lake director David Beach's account of a bike ride along the Dugway Brook watershed, which runs through the Heights, into East Cleveland, Cleveland and Bratenahl before emptying into Lake Erie.
 
“You have to get some pretty good rubber boots to do this," he says. "It’s often not so clear what land you’re on. It’s often city land or hasn’t been lived on for 100 years. You have to do a lot of research to find out, because it’s kind of no-man’s land.”
 
Miller explains that “Dugway Brook is one of the bluestone creeks that were of great economic benefit to the early European settlers in the 19th century,” he says of the long-gone quarries, "but which then were deemed of no value in the 20th century." Much of Dugway was buried in culverts.
 
Miller has also traveled portions of Green CreekDoan Brook and Nine Mile Creek, much of which is under Belvoir Boulevard, but there are sections still flowing in the open. “It’s in a steep ravine, so it couldn’t be built on,” says Miller. “If it had been a park, it would have been covered over.”
 
In fact, Miller cites a section of Dugway Brook between Lee Road and Euclid Heights Boulevard, near Cain Park, that was filled in during the 1980s to make way for a parking lot. Residents resisted the parking lot idea so the land remains vacant, although no water can be seen.
 
A reclamation success story, however, exists along a portion of Nine Mile Creek in South Euclid across from Notre Dame College. The city created a wetland area and planted native plants such as milkweed to attract birds and monarch butterflies. “It really looks nice and that branch of Nine Mike Creek has taken on life,” Miller says. “It isn’t the way it looked 100 years ago, but it’s nice.”
 
Further down, on Euclid Avenue, the creek now runs buried beside Luster Tannery, a circa 1848 building on the Cleveland-East Cleveland border. The tannery diverted essential water from the creek for its work in the 19th century. “When you get to Euclid Avenue, there is a building there that is probably the oldest industrial structure in the city,” explains Miller. It’s made of solid stone and the creek runs through the building.”
 
But Miller’s true love of the east side watersheds lies in Dugway Brook. He’s had marker signs erected, mostly along Lee Road in Cleveland Heights. “You probably didn’t even know this little stream had a name,” he says. “We can have wetlands there, so you can have water soaking in to prevent runoff and attract birds.”
 
Miller encourages people to keep an eye out for natural dips in the road – often indicating the presence of Dugway or other area watersheds.  
 
His treks have sometimes been perilous, but it’s worth the journey. “It’s very hard to walk and see these things,” he warns. “In many cases, it’s quite difficult. You go down and it’s a steep slope. You have to do it slowly.”
 
But Miller frequently co-leads tamer walks around these creeks and watersheds. In 2014 he helped lead a tour of Dugway Brook east branch from Cain Park down to Forest Hills Park.
 
Another walk, led by Roy Larick, along with Miller and Korbi Roberts, is tentatively scheduled for May. "Cleveland Heights Rocks & Waters 2016: Nine Mile Creek" is part of the annual Preservation Month, co-sponsored by the Cleveland Heights Historical Society, Cleveland Heights Landmark Commission, Noble Neighbors and Heights Library.
 
On sidewalks and forest paths, the hike follows Quilliams Creek on its course to join Nine Mile Creek. Participants will learn the local geology, ecology and history as well as discuss how best to conserve this unique bluestone landscape. 
 
Miller has documented his explorations through a photo journal on Facebook. He’s also logged his trips along Dugway on YouTube.

Cleveland healthcare companies attracted more than $200 million in new investment last year

Those with an eye on local healthcare-based technology maintain that Cleveland is emerging as a powerful base for medical know-how. For proof of this trend, observers point to the latest Midwest Healthcare Growth Capital Report.

Last year, Cleveland's healthcare industry attracted $201 million in new investments across 34 companies in the areas of medical devices, biopharmaceuticals and healthcare IT, according to the report released Feb. 17 by BioEnterprise. Cleveland ranked third in health-tech funding among major Midwest cities, trailing only Minneapolis ($418 million) and Chicago ($217 million).

"We have a wonderful foundation of biomedical-driven innovation," says BioEnterprise CEO Aram Nerpouni. "There's a critical mass developing."

2015 marked the fourth consecutive year that Cleveland garnered more than $200 million in biomedical investment activity, Nerpouni notes. In that time frame, Northeast Ohio healthcare firms have raised more than $1 billion.

The overall increase is in response to a burgeoning research base as well as funding from local and national investors and state sources like the Ohio Third Frontier program, Nerpouni says. Northeast Ohio's recent success helped place the Buckeye State second overall ($331 million) among Midwestern states that regionally attracted $1.5 billion in healthcare investment last year.

Not mentioned in the report was record Cleveland-area acquisition activity valued at more than $4 billion, says the BioEnterprise official. The two largest gains during 2015 were Steris's $1.9 billion purchase of British company Synergy Health and Rite Aid/Walgreens acquiring pharmaceutical firm EnvisionRX as part of a $2 billion deal. In addition, medical device company CardioInsight was bought by Medtronic, while health IT business Explorys was brought into IBM.

"Companies (like Steris) that grew up here are starting to make their own acquisitions in other places," says Nerpouni. "It's a sign of the overall robustness and maturity of the industry."

Though the numbers are impressive, work is required to bring additional investment to the area's early-stage biomedical companies, Nerpouni says. While local investors may wary about sinking money in younger firms, programs like Ohio Third Frontier are offering pre-seed funding to accelerate the growth of startup tech-based enterprises.

Nerpouni expects more dollars to flow in as the region's healthcare sector continues to establish itself. "All the ingredients are there," he says. 

Shaker to celebrate Historic Preservation Month with photo contest

Known for its tree-lined streets, opulent houses and sense of community, Shaker Heights officials are asking people to share their views of the city in a photo.
 
In honor of National Preservation Month in May, the Shaker Heights Landmark Commission is having its fourth annual Preservation Month Photo Contest.
 
“We look at it as a fun way to celebrate the community,” says Ann Klavora, principal planner in Shaker’s planning department. “We’re asking for both residents and non-residents – anyone who likes Shaker – to show what makes Shaker a special place to them.”


 
Photos will be accepted in three categories: architecture/building; landscape/nature; and community. Last year, a “unique perspective” category was created for Shaker resident Peter Miller’s submission of four photos of Horseshoe Lake taken with a drone.
 
You need not be a pro to submit a photo, Klavora says, or have a drone. “Whatever strikes someone’s fancy,” she says. “We get submissions from folks who are clearly professional photographers and folks who are clearly not professionals. We’ve gotten all sorts of pictures.”
 
Klavora says communities all around the country hold similar events and projects to celebrate National Preservation Month. “We thought this was a fun way of celebrating,” she says. “You don’t have to go to a meeting, you just have to take the picture.”
 
The photo contest in free to enter. Submissions will be accepted until midnight on March 31. The winners will be chosen by a panel of judges from the Landmark Commission and will be announced on May 1. The winners will receive name credit for their photos, which will appear on Shaker's Facebook page, and the city will use the photos for social media.

Wizard World features everything from Thor to Doctor Who to local sci-fi talent

For the second year in a row, Wizard World Comic Con, the convention for all things fantasy, science fiction and the arts, will stop in Cleveland this month as part of its 21-city tour. Attendees dress in costume, wander 120 vendor booths and attend workshops centered around the likes of “Dr. Who,” zombies and Marvel Comics movies and super heroes.
 
“It was such a huge success in the first year that we’re here again,” says Jerry Milani, Wizard World’s public relations manager. “Wizard World offers all dimensions of the pop culture world – sci-fi, gaming, comics and art – and puts it all together in one place."
 
Wizard World takes place Friday through Sunday, Feb. 26 - 28 at the Cleveland Convention Center, 300 Lakeside Ave.
 
Celebrity guests include actor Chris Hemsworth, or Thor, from the “Avengers;” actors Matt Smith and Karen Gillan from “Dr. Who;” and actor Robert Englund, or Freddy Krueger, from the cult classic “Nightmare on Elm Street,” among others.
 
In addition to national celebrities, about half of the exhibitors will be local artists. Among the group will be filmmaker Johnny Wu, owner of film and production house Media Design Imaging (MDI) in Creative House Studios in the St. Clair Superior neighborhood.
 
Wu, who is also co-founder of the Cleveland Asian Festival and co-producer for Cleveland One World Day, got involved with Wizard World last year after producing the Dr. Who fan film series, T.R.A.C.E. The first five films have each had more than 47,000 hits on YouTube, and Wu plans to make three to four more.
 
“Because of that popularity we were noticed by Wizard World last year,” Wu says. “I love science fiction and I love time travel movies, so I've been on and off watching Dr. Who. One day, while talking to my friend in the UK, he suggested I do a Dr. Who fan film. I've done one about Batman's offspring, and one about Superman. So I thought: why not?”
 
Wu’s booth garnered more than 300,000 visits last year. His workshop on how to make fan films was the most attended workshop outside of the celebrity workshops.
 
This year, Wu will again show his fan films, along with having a Dr. Who (David Tenant) lookalike, a TARDIS (Time And Relative Dimension In Space) phone booth and Weeping Angels. Attendees can pose for pictures with all of these icons. He will conduct his fan film workshop again this year on Saturday, Feb. 27 at 6:30 p.m. in room 26BC.
 
Wu himself has a ball at the three-day event. “Wizard World is fun. You get to meet a lot of people, and knowing that we aren't there to sell something but to let the public have a good time and in return hearing them thanking us is touching and gives us warm hearts,” he says. “We also get to meet a lot of other cosplayers and such. It's a fun weekend.”
 
To encourage Clevelanders to come out to Wizard World, MDI is holding a raffle to win a pair of tickets for Sunday.
 
Why should people stop by? “Because it's Comic Con,” Wu says. “It's for all the people who want to dress up, to be comic book superheroes or villains, who are into games, and to get together to express who you are without the fear of being ridiculed. And to get to meet celebrities and have a great time.”
 
Tickets are $35 to $75. Wizard World runs Friday, Feb. 26 from 3-8 p.m., Saturday, Feb. 27 from 10 a.m. to 7 p.m. and Sunday, Feb. 28 from 11 a.m. to 5 p.m. Up to two children under age 10 are admitted free with a paying adult. Photos and autographs cost extra.

Cleveland Foundation to offer up to five $30,000 public service fellowships

The Cleveland Foundation announced last week that it has created three to five year-long paid fellowships through its Public Service Fellowship program. Chosen applicants from a nationwide search will receive $30,000 and be placed with one of the foundation’s partner agencies in the public service sector.

“We’re killing five birds with one stone here,” says Cleveland Foundation president and CEO Ronn Richard. “We absolutely have to get the best and brightest involved in the public sector. It’s really important for the public sector, but it’s also important to help bring young people to Cleveland.”
 
The program also helps college graduates break into the work world. “It’s really hard for young people,” says Richard. “Even if they did really well in college, it’s hard to get that first job.”
 
The foundation is looking for college grads who have earned their degrees in the last two years, says Richard, and who are interested in exploring northeast for long term careers. “It’s a really important first job because it pays well. They can get something on a resume and, hopefully, have a life-transforming experience,” he says.  “It’s altruistic in helping lives, but it also feeds excellent people into the non-profits.”
 
The hope is fellowships will not only bring talented young adults to Cleveland, but that they will then stay here. “We have to attract people nationally, like every other city, and we have to be a magnet for people nationally,” says Richard. “When people come to Cleveland who have never been here, they come to love it and stay.”
 
In addition to working with a public service agency, fellows will be paired with mentors and a have professional development and networking opportunities with senior-level executives and even CEOs. “These are high-profile, high-level [positions],” says Richard of the fellowships. “It’s not going to be filing and answering phones.”
 
The associated agencies have yet to be chosen, but will be selected based on submitted proposals. The agencies will not pay for the fellows; the program will be funded by the Cleveland Foundation.
 
Applications for the fellowships will be accepted through March 3. Applicants must register with the Cleveland Foundation’s application portal. Officials are expecting over 100 applications, of which they will choose 20 interviewees. Three to five will then be chosen as fellows. Richard is optimistic about the applicants.

“We really think we’ll get the best and the brightest,” he says.

David Bowie tribute will be the focus of Dinner Lab’s next CLE event

Last July, Cleveland became the 33rd location in the country for Dinner Lab – a social dining experiment that hosts regular pop-up dinners in unconventional, undisclosed locations as a way for participants to meet new people, try new food and provide feedback to up-and-coming chefs.
 
The first Cleveland Dinner Lab was held at smARTspace in the 78th Street Studios and the group has held 15 subsequent dinners in the 216 since then. The upcoming event on Saturday, Feb. 20, will honor the late iconic musician David Bowie with “Let’s Dance: A Celebration of the Man Who Sold the World.”
 
"For 2016, Dinner Lab is taking a new, more conceptualized approach to our dinners, explains Elise Baros, Dinner Lab’s media relations manager. "So, rather giving members great chefs, we are now, also giving them great chefs and innovative menu concepts."

The Bowie theme seemed like a timely notion. "For the David Bowie tribute dinner, we thought it was a great opportunity to show admiration for such a legend and provide diners with a really cool menu concept, " Baros says.
 
The accompanying cuisine will be made by one of Dinner Lab’s house chefs and centered around Bowie songs. Menu Items include Scary Monsters (And Super Creeps), a beet salad; Return of the Thin White Duke, a cauliflower velouté; Berlin Era: salmon and bread dumpling; South London, shepherd’s pie; and Blackstar/The Parting Gift, a dark chocolate pound cake.
 
Dinner Lab recently began offering free memberships in addition to its $125 select memberships. The free memberships grant access to all core events, while select members receive discounted dinner rates, early registration for the events and access to exclusive additional events.
 
Baros says they started the free memberships to make the experience more affordable. “The problem we were finding was that it’s a huge barrier to entry,” she says. “To think about asking people to pay $125 for a membership and then pay for dinner, that’s [a lot of money] before even paying for a product.”
 
Previous Cleveland Dinner Labs have garnered enthusiastic turnouts. “They’ve been received really well,” says Baros. “Cleveland has always had open arms and been very accepting of the concept of Dinner Lab. It’s always really fun to do dinner in Cleveland.”
 
Tickets to Let's Dance are already on sale, $85, or $75 for select members. The price includes the five-course dinner and open bar with themed cocktails and beer. The location will not be revealed until a week before the event.

YWCA tackles racism with It’s Time to Talk forum

On Monday, Feb. 22 the YWCA Greater Cleveland will continue one part of its mission – eliminating racism – at its second annual It's Time to Talk: Forum on Race at the Renaissance Cleveland Hotel. The point behind the forum is to have an open and frank discussion about race and racism in Cleveland.

“Race is a difficult thing to talk about,” says Heather Steranka-Petit, the YWCA's It’s Time to Talk program director. “We work very hard to create a safe space to talk and be heard and share your thoughts on race and racism.”
 
The luncheon event will include table conversations led by trained facilitators and customized group discussions. “We have 45 to 50 facilitators we have trained here on-site,” says Steranka-Petit. “We have activities to create a sense of safety. It takes time. We’re not asking you when you first walk in the door ‘what’s your perspective on race?’”


 
Part of the conversation will be fueled by the YWCA’s essay contest. Those interested can submit an essay around “Why is an open and honest discussion about race important to you and your community?” Winners will receive a free ticket to It’s Time to Talk. Deadline for entries is this Friday, Feb. 12 at midnight.

Keynote speaker Bernie Moreno, president and CEO of Bernie Moreno Companies, will share his success story in the automotive industry, as well as the challenges he faced along the way as an immigrant from Bogota, Columbia.
 
The work does not end when the event is over, however. Steranka-Petit says it’s her job to follow up with participants after It’s Time to Talk and continue the discussion. “Yes, it’s a big event, but it’s a starting point,” she explains. “This gives people the opportunity to participate.”
 
The idea for It’s Time to Talk came about in 2014 after YWCA Greater Cleveland officials determined they weren't doing enough to foster the organization's mission to eliminate racism. Chief operating officer Sadie Winlock witnessed a similar program in Minneapolis and brought the concept to Cleveland.
 
Last year the event garnered nearly 300 participants despite a snowstorm. This year, Rebecca Calkin, the Cleveland YWCA’s marketing and communications coordinator, says they are hoping to have more than 400 attendees.
 
“We would love people from all walks of life,” Calkin says. “Anyone is welcome.”
 
It’s Time to Talk will run from 11:30 a.m. to 2:30 p.m. Tickets are $125 per person or $500 for a group of five and include lunch.

Millennials are flocking to Cleveland, report shows, but city must prepare for the future

Cleveland ranks eighth in the country for population growth among college-educated millennials, a report commissioned by the Cleveland Foundation shows, but officials say the city has to make sure the city continues to make Cleveland an attractive place to this generation going forward.
 
The study, “The Fifth Migration: A Study of Cleveland Millennials,” was done by the Center for Population Dynamics at Cleveland State University and shows that downtown Cleveland saw a 76 percent increase in residents ages 25 to 34 since 2000. The term “fifth migration” refers to the re-urbanization of metro areas.
 
Additionally, the study shows a higher concentration of millennial residents overall in Cleveland, regardless of education. In 2013, 24 percent of Greater Cleveland’s population was comprised of millennials ages 18 to 34, up from 20 percent in 2006. The report notes that Cleveland ranks eighth, tied with Seattle and Miami, for its millennial growth from 2011 to 2013 and for those with advanced degrees.
 
But just because millennials are choosing to settle in Cleveland – 63 percent of the downtown population were millennials in 2012 – does not mean city planners can relax.
 
“This fifth migration, the force of the millennial generation in the United States, is real and powerful,” says Lillian Kuri, program director for arts and urban design at the Cleveland Foundation. “This study makes it clear that we have to start planning. All of the things they’re interested in are different than the fourth migration, or baby boomers. We have to attract them.”
 
Millennials are moving here from places like Brooklyn because of the low cost of living and job opportunities, Kuri says, but officials need to ensure that the opportunities continue.
 
“We need to continue to do that,” she stresses. “There are policy changes we need to think about. This generation finds it easier to work out of the house. We need to not just allow that, but encourage people to start their own home businesses.”
 
Kuri stresses that this is just the beginning of the fifth migration, and Cleveland needs to keep up with the millennial population if it is to continue to attract this generation. “All of the things they are interested in, we have to attract them,” Kuri explains.
 
For instance, this generation demands a variety of transportation options. “Transportation is important,” says Kuri. “Millennials want multiple forms of transportation. They’re okay with having one car and sharing the car. We need to have choices of transportation and be robust in it moving forward.”
 
While the numbers show that well educated millennials are moving to the city, officials need to maintain a diverse population and create an urban environment that attracts all ethnicities, races and education levels. “We have to think about diversity,” she says. “How do we keep millennials here who don’t have college degrees? We have to think about leveraging technology education and creating jobs for these people.”
 
Housing is another factor. Kuri says millennials are marrying later and therefore enjoy the array of rental housing now available downtown and around University Circle. But they may eventually want to buy homes.
 
“How do we create the next generation of products?” Kuri asks. “We don’t think they’re just going to move to the suburbs. Eventually millennials will want to buy [homes].”
 
Kuri cites Lakewood, which has a high millennial population, as an example of a city that’s doing things right -- with a good mix of both rentals and homes for sale.
 
“Lakewood has the highest concentration of millennials, both college and non-college educated,” she explains. “One should understand what’s going on in Lakewood. Their focus on housing there is really interesting.”
 
Kuri stresses that Cleveland has to harness this trend to ensure a prospering city in the future. “The millennial generation is such a large percentage of the population that is emerging as a force in the city,” she says. If we don’t continue this trend we’re not going to see any growth in this region. The question is, who’s going to do it best, who’s going to make it sustainable. If we don’t have good product, they will go to another city.”

Get a history lesson on Cle's lighter side, eat dinner and have a bit of fun at Music Box

Mike Miller has a long history with Cleveland. His grandfather was mayor of the city in the early 30s and is a self-proclaimed story teller.

So it’s only fitting that when coming up with new programming ideas at Music Box Supper Club, the venue’s vice president decided to do a history series on Wednesday nights.
 
But Music Box’s new Cleveland Stories Dinner Parties series, in partnership with Cleveland History Center, isn’t your run-of-the-mill lecture series on general history. It’s designed to be fun and light, at an affordable price.
 
Admission is free and a rotating weekly prix fixe, three course dinner is only $20. “This is an opportunity to have a fun dinner,” Miller says. We wanted to make this outrageously affordable and fun.”
 
The topics are designed to provide behind-the-scenes insight from speakers who know all the gritty details about Cleveland’s landmarks, celebrities and even the city’s pioneers.
 
The first event on Wednesday, Feb. 17 features Greg Harris, CEO of the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame and Museum, who will talk about how Cleveland landed the Rock Hall and what goes on when the cameras aren’t rolling in “Backstage Shenanigans at the Induction Ceremony – yes, it is all sex, drugs, and Rock & Roll.”
 
The menu that night will have a psychedelic theme that includes ‘shroom soup, pot roast and a cosmic brownie sundae. “It isn’t going to be real mushroom soup,” Miller jokes in regard to the drug references. The other talks have equally witty titles for the food prepared by chef Dennis Devies. “He knocks people’s socks off,” says Miller.
 
On February 24 Cleveland historian Dan Ruminski will speak on “The Vixens of Millionaires Row,” during which he’ll share stories about Cleveland’s wealthiest founders of the 20s and 30s and the parties their antics. “They used to throw some wild parties,” says Miller. “”There were wild shenanigans.”


 
Three months of lectures have been booked, including journalist Mike Olszewski, who will discuss the final interview with Cleveland celebrity Ghoulardi (Ernie Anderson) and other untold tales of Cleveland television, and John Gorman will share stories from his time at WMMS radio in the 1970s.
 
“He’s going to tell some crazy stories,” says Miller of Gorman. “Some speakers will be fun, some educational. They will run the gamut.”
 
Another upcoming talk will feature a Metroparks ranger, who will share how Whiskey Island got its name.
 
Miller, who grew up in Cleveland, moved away for college and a career in Chicago, returned to Cleveland in 2010 after 33 years. He says he wanted to share some of Cleveland’s lighter moments in history and encourage Cleveland pride.
 
“Clevelanders are fiercely proud of being from Cleveland,” he says. “We always have that burning rive thing and losing football teams hanging over us, but there’s a real renaissance going on. The pride is coming back.”

Startup Vikes invites entrepreneurial minds to build a business in one weekend

Entrepreneurs, inventors and startup fans will gather at Cleveland State University’s Fenn Tower Ballroom Friday, Feb. 19 through Sunday, Feb. 21 to pitch business ideas, build a team, create a business and compete for cash and prizes at Startup Vikes – all in just one weekend.
 
Now in its third year, Startup Vikes originated out of the CSU Monte Ahuja College of Business’ entrepreneurial program to attract a new generation of entrepreneurs.
 
“More and more [people], especially millennials, are turning down pathways where they don’t want to work for companies,” explains Heather Schlosser, marketing communications manager for CSU’s Ahuja College of Business. “There’s an entrepreneurial spirit that runs through Cleveland so it makes sense to foster that.”

Four of the six companies that were created during last year’s event are currently in various stages of development. Last year’s winners include Studio Stick, a portable music studio for cell phones; Coffee Drop, a pop-up  custom catering business; and  Puppy Match, a concierge pet service.
 
This year's Startup Vikes kicks off on Friday with pitches. Schlosser encourages anyone with the entrepreneurial spirit to join the fun. “You can have an idea or not have an idea to participate,” she says. “Some people use it for their resumes.”
 
Participants will then vote for the top ideas before forming teams. The teams will then attend workshops that guide them through building a business – from business modeling and customer development to financial models, legal pointers and pitching to investors.
 
At the end of the weekend, the top three businesses will receive $2,000, $1,000 and $500 cash infusions, respectively, as well as business advising and services from organizations like Flashstarts Labs, the Small Business Development Center at the college and access to the 3D printing lab at the CSU Washkewicz College of Engineering.
 
The community is invited to participate in Startup Vikes. Registration is required. Tickets are $49 for CSU students and $99 for community members. The cost includes all workshops, meals from Friday night through Sunday night, snacks and beverages. 

Flashstarts Labs offers a fast track to starting a business

The technology and software business startup accelerator Flashstarts will now offer a way for companies in the formulation phase a way to speed up the process.

Starting today, the organization will begin taking applications for Flashstarts Labs – a way for startups to prepare for the accelerator program.

“It’s a formalization of something we’ve been doing for the last couple of years, where we can work with teams before they are accepted in to the accelerator,” explains Flashstarts co-founder and CEO Charles Stack.  “A lot of teams are missing something – skill sets, market validation, strategy, a co-founder – this will help them get into the accelerator program.”
 
The idea behind the Labs is to offer the fastest path between business concept and startup formation. Companies accepted into the three-month program will receive access to more than 40 mentors, consulting, business tools and office space in StartMart, Flashstarts’ 35,000-square-foot entrepreneurial co-working space in the Terminal Tower.
 
Stack explains that in Flashstarts’ three-year history, he has found that a lot of startups need help getting things organized. “We learned that a lot of people and ideas need a high-speed on-ramp,” he says. “Now we have StartMart, so we have a lot of space to bring in Labs. When a good idea bubbles up from the goo, we grab it and put it in the accelerator.”
 
There's room for 50 people in the Labs, and accelerator companies will be chosen from the Labs teams. "I don't know how many we'll pick for the accelerator, but we will pick from these teams,” Stack says. “We will spend a lot of time working with these teams.”
 
Applications will be accepted on an ongoing basis. Selection criteria will include uniqueness, market opportunity, team background, and likelihood of success.

Cleveland Coffee and Dellavedova create a buzz with a new blend

Just in time for Australia Day today, Tuesday, Jan. 26, Cleveland Coffee Company yesterday introduced a new coffee blend in honor of Australian native and Cavs point guard Matthew “Delly” Dellavedova, called G’Day Mate.

Created by Delly himself, the blend is of Sumatra and Peruvian coffees – Sumatra, which borders Australia, and Peruvian, which is known for its velvety texture, create a rich aroma and bold flavor.
 
After going through the chain of command, Cleveland Coffee owner Brendan Walton first invited Delly to come to his roaster back in December, after taking note of the basketball player’s love for coffee during the NBA Playoffs.
 
“It seemed to be his beverage of preference before, and sometimes during, the game,” says Walton. “So I invited him to our warehouse to do coffee roasting 101, which was cool because he’d never seen it done before. He was very interested and asked a lot of questions, so we had him do one of the roasts.”
 
Walton says Delly, who drinks his coffee black, prefers a dark roast with bold flavor. So after tasting a few blends, Walton and Delly developed a suitable flavor profile in G’Day Mate.
 
Walton delivered the new blend to 40 area retailers yesterday. The G’Day Mate blend will be available through the end of June in stores, online and at Walton’s cafe in A.J. Rocco’s, 816 Huron Road.
 
Furthermore, Walton announced that Cleveland Coffee Company will donate 10 percent of the proceeds from G'Day Mate sales to All Faiths Pantry, a non-profit organization in Old Brooklyn that works with the Cleveland Food Bank to deliver groceries to seniors and other people with limited mobility.
 
“I think it will go over well, and Delly was very receptive to that,” says Walton. “[Executive director] John [Visnauskas], he’s a good soul working to help people out. I’m sure it will sell.”
 
The Cavs played their first "Australia Day" game last night against the Minnesota Timberwolves and wore their gold uniforms to honor Australia’s colors, gold and green. The Cavs won, 114-107.

Team Promotions is prepared for business boom with the upcoming Republican National Convention

Team Promotions in Beachwood has been helping businesses promote their names and ideas for 28 years.

“I would consider ourselves to be a dimensional advertising agency,” says company owner and president Hank Frisch. “We’re helping people promote their companies through products.”
 
From coffee mugs to adult coloring books, Team Promotions has thousands of products to promote a company or event. “We’ve sold steaks and delivered them to people’s addresses,” says Frisch of one of the more outrageous promotions he has done. Other times, Frisch has shaped T-shirts into a realistic replica of a product his client is promoting.
 
“There are just a million different things – crazy, crazy things – you can do. It’s a matter of creativity.”
 
With the Republican National Convention coming to town in July, Frisch has already gotten inquiries from convention officials. “We’ve done some business as it relates to the Republican National Convention,” he says. “[They’re] interested in the variety of things, some tech products.”
 
As the convention nears, Frisch says he is prepared for the increased business. “We hope to do more,” he says. “We’ve shown our ideas to them and we hope as things get closer we’ll be able to do more for them.”
 
Frisch expects the pace to be hectic, but he’s ready. “There’s a lot going on and it’s interesting to wrap your arms around who’s doing what,” he says. “There’s a lot of opportunity for local businesses. It’s a fast-paced business. We just have to be prepared. We’re ready to be there when they need us.”

Cocktails and classic films help cure the winter blues at the Capitol Theatre

Beginning next Wednesday, Jan. 27th, Gordon Square’s Capitol Theatre will launch its monthly Happy Hour cocktail party – a classic film paired with cocktails and appetizers from local restaurants.

"An evening at our Happy Hour Film Series is a great way to warm up the winter with a drink as you mix and mingle with friends both old and new," says David Huffman, director of marketing for Cleveland Cinemas.
 
The idea came about last fall when theater officials realized they were not using the full potential of the theater’s liquor license. “We were serving beer and wine, but no mixed drinks until last September,” explains Huffman. They tried out the concept with a showing of “Some Like it Hot” last summer during the brunch series. “When we were doing Sunday mornings, a lot of films wouldn’t work with brunch,” Huffman explains
 
So officials then decided to run a recurring cocktail hour series, showing a few contemporary classics. The Happy Hour Kicks off on Wednesday with “Fargo” – a nod, in part, to the Coen Brothers’ upcoming release of “Hail, Caesar!
 
Future showings include “The Sting” in February and “Network” in March.
 
The $10 admission ($8 if you buy in advance) includes one cocktail and complimentary appetizers, catered by local restaurants.  Capitol Theatre’s current cocktail selections include a Moscow mule, whiskey sour, pomegranate gimlet, and a chipotle bloody mary, as well as beer and wine.
 
Cha Spirits and Pizza Kitchen will cater Wednesday’s showing. Toast, which catered the trial run in September, will be at the February event and Luxe will cater the March film.
 
Drinks and appetizers are from 6 p.m. to 7 p.m. Patrons are welcome to refill their beverages before the showings.
 
The Happy Hour series is in addition to the Capitol’s regular Wednesday happy hours, which offers a $1 discount on drinks from 4 p.m. to 8 p.m.

Valet service makes cruising Lee Road nightlife a snap

The Tavern Company owner Chris Armington and his fellow business owners along Lee Road in Cleveland Heights were tired of hearing their customers complain about how difficult it is to find parking on the weekends.

So they got together to solve the problem and, hopefully, increase their business traffic.

Most of the restauranteurs, bar owners and the Cedar Lee Theatre got together and hired VIP Valet to park customers’ car on Fridays and Saturdays. “It’s a convenience for customers,” says Armington. “Everyone’s biggest complaint is parking, walking, getting tickets.”
 
For $5, patrons can park at any of the four valet stations located in the business district along Lee Road – from Taste and Brennan’s Colony  to Parnell’s Pub. When they are done eating, drinking and catching a movie, they can pick their cars up at any station – regardless of where they dropped it off. Even establishments like Lopez, which has its own lot and valet, are participating.
 
Customers do not have to specify where they are heading to use the service. “They won’t turn anyone away,” says Armington. “The business owners are paying for it [the up-front costs] so people can have fun all evening at the restaurants and bars.”
 
Of course, the convenience also means better traffic for the business owners. “It’s a win-win for everyone,” Armington says, adding that the LED “valet” sign cones VIP uses make the valet stations easily identifiable, “inviting and safe.”
 
The service, which began on Friday, Dec. 18, is slowly catching on, according to Armington, with more people using the service as word spreads. “Every weekend is a little better and better,” he says. “Ideally, we want to make Lee Road a destination where people can go, park and then go anywhere.”

East Tech High School sets the pace in CMSD graduation rate improvements

The State of Ohio last Thursday released the report cards for school districts, as a benchmark as to how the state’s public schools are performing.

While graduation rates in Cleveland Metropolitan School District (CMSD) high schools rose to 65.9 percent, up from 64.3 percent and up 14 percentage points since 2011, East Tech High School in particular showed stellar results.

In just one year, the school went from a 46 percent graduation rate to a 72.9 percent rate for the 2013-14 school year, the most recent reporting year. “It’s been a process,” says Paul Hoover, East Tech’s co-principal with Temujin Taylor. “We’ve turned it around using a couple of strategies to build the graduation rate at East Tech.”
 
One of those strategies is moving to an innovative support model with full inclusion, says Hoover, where regular education students and special education students are in the same classrooms. With both a regular teacher and a special education teacher in each classroom, the data proves that all students do better academically.
 
“It benefitted both groups because all the students have the opportunity to work with two teachers,” explains Taylor. “It’s individualized one-on-one learning. You can walk into a classroom and you won’t know the difference between teachers or students.”
 
Furthermore, the school has assigned “near peers” – AmeriCorps volunteers in the City Year program – to every core classroom. These volunteers work with students who are struggling through tutoring, mentorship and after school programs. “It’s a very targeted approach,” says Hoover. “It’s not just this year’s graduation rate. We’re setting it up [for continued success].”
 
Part of that setup is a “no nonsense nurture” approach, explains Taylor, which entails incentives and merits for good performance. Students can earn monetary “Scarab Bucks” (the school’s mascot) based on academics, attendance and behavior. The bucks can then be used at the school store. This year, students can even use their rewards to buy homecoming and prom tickets
 
“We’ve seen decreases in the number of discipline incidents we’ve had happen in the building,” says Taylor. This is to get back on track.”
 
Being a CMSD investment school under the Cleveland Plan, Taylor and Hoover say efforts are paying off. “Prior to the Cleveland Plan, everyone got the same resources,” says Hoover. “The Cleveland Plan has given us the flexibility we needed to align the right support with what our students needed.”
 
Hoover says the jump in graduation rates is just the beginning of good things to come for East Tech students. “This is not a blip, it’s significantly impressive with what’s going on here,” says Hoover. “It’s a good plan, but we have a really fantastic team here. All these people really worked hard.”
 
The current numbers indicate that this year’s seniors should show a 72 to 73 percent graduation rate, says Hoover, while the upcoming senior class is on track to exceed 80 percent.

Pieces of rust belt history come to life at Heights Arts' Remade in Cleveland show

Local artisans who upcycle industrial materials from the rust belt into imaginative, yet functional household objects will be kick off the 2016 Heights Arts season with the gallery's “Remade in Cleveland” exhibit.
 
The work of Doug Meyer’s Rustbelt Rebirth, Kevin Busta, and designers with Rustbelt Reclamation will be showcased in an exhibit that features everything from furniture to accessories using repurposed materials dating back to 100 years ago in Cleveland’s history.
 
The artists use locally sourced wood and metal to create items such as custom tables, seating, lighting, mirrors, wall features, and tabletop objects such as clocks, serving boards and wine caddies.
 
“Cleveland is in its second cycle,” says Greg Donley, head of the gallery committee, founding Heights Arts board member and assistant director of creative services of the Cleveland Museum of Art. “One hundred years ago it was in its first boom. All of these things used to build Cleveland are seeing second lives.”

Meyer fell in love with ceramics while in high school, but instead turned to welding through a Job Corps program. He led the metal fab shop at furniture maker Cleveland Art before starting Rustbelt Rebirth in 2009.
 
“Things that get my creative mojo going: Science fiction movies, surrealist landscapes, googie architecture, electronic music, art deco and mid-century modern design, the streamlining movement, quantum physics, and mysticism,” Meyer says of his inspiration.
 
Meyer says he is glad Heights Arts is exploring the upcycle trend with Remade in Cleveland. “I'm glad to see that the movement is gaining traction and champions,” he says. “It's forced us all to look at things in a different light in terms of quality, design, and creative re-interpretation.” 

Donley defines Meyer’s work as combining raw materials with bent metal. “Meyer simultaneously uses mid-20th Century modern design in a combination of raw materials,” he says.

Busta creates items like lamps made of industrial cast iron fixtures, while Rustbelt Reclamation takes mahogany molds used to make cast iron fixtures and turning them into art.
 
“Cleveland has a long history of making objects with function and design,” says Donley. “Almost everything in [the show] is stuff you live with – chairs, tables you can eat on.”
 
The show opens on Friday, Jan. 15 at 6 p.m. and runs through Saturday, Feb. 27. Gallery hours are Tuesday and Wednesday 10 a.m. to 6 p.m., Thursday and Friday 10 a.m. to 9:30 p.m. and Saturday 1:30 p.m. to 9:30 p.m.
 
On Thursday, Feb.11 at 7 p.m., an  artist talk and ekphrastic poetry event will be held, during which the artists will share their inspirations and challenges from working with salvaged and repurposed materials, while local poets Terre Maher, Mary Quade, Barbara Sabol and Barry Zucker will respond with original verse inspired by select objects in the exhibition. 

Casey Foundation grant will help young adults develop skills, find meaningful jobs

Towards Employment, the non-profit organization that helps low-income people find jobs through training and job readiness programs, recently announced that Cleveland is one of five cities to receive part of a $6 million grant over a four year period from the Annie E. Casey Foundation.

The focus will be on helping young adults, age 18 to 29, develop employable skills, build careers and find jobs.

Towards Employment is the lead organization in a collaborative effort on the jobs front. Other organizations include Cuyahoga County; the local OhioMeansJobs and the local Fund for Our Economic Future. The program, which is just in the planning stages now, will be called Generation Work and will be a part of the pilot program TalentNEO
 
“In this planning stage, the collaborative will be working with many partners - providers, funders and employers - to help young adults find more opportunities to prepare for the workforce and find jobs,” explains Towards Employment executive director Jill Rizika. “There is high need in the community because the unemployment rate [among youth] is higher. We will work with employers to work with what young adults have to bring.”
 
Best practices that serve young adults’ needs, like mentoring, internships and access to on-the-job training, will be promoted, says Rizika, especially in industries that show demand for qualified employees. The collaborative will work together to help create more comprehensive programming in the community.
 
“Our collaborative will look at best practices and encourage broad application of them throughout the community,” Rizika says. “No one agency or system can deliver all of the aspects of the comprehensive model by itself  - something that for the young adult job seeker and the employer seems seamless.”
 
Towards Employment will receive $100,000 in the first, year, and the grant will increase by another $100,000 for three subsequent years. After the fourth year, the Casey Foundation will assess whether to renew the grant for another four years.
 
The other cities receiving part of the Casey Foundation grant are Hartford, Indianapolis, Philadelphia and Seattle.

For more information, on yong adult job training, contact the Youth Resource Center. For more information on Generation Work, contact Rizika.

Mercury Biomed receives Third Frontier funding for its warming technology

Maintaining a patient’s body temperature during and after surgery to prevent hypothermia and infections has long been a challenge in the medical community. Traditionally, medical providers have used Forced Air Warming (FAW) devices to warm a patient, but these devices often fall short.
 
“Current FAW devices, the standard of care, fail to meet the clinical goal of maintaining normal body temperature during surgery in over half of all procedures,” says Brian Patrick, co-founder and vice president of Mercury Biomed. Furthermore, he says the cumbersome and intrusive systems are wasteful and can make the operating room uncomfortable.
 
“There are a growing number of clinicians that question the safety and effectiveness of the current standard of care in perioperative patient warming,” says Patrick. “And that’s why we believe it’s an important problem to solve.”
 
So Patrick and his team have come up with a better way to warm a patient throughout the surgical process. Their better idea earned Mercury Biomed $1.4 million in Ohio Third Frontier funding.

Mercury Biomed’s WarmSmart uses thermal regulation technology to raise core body temperature faster and safely. The technology stimulates the body’s natural thermostat to increase blood flow on-demand -- using blood flow as a short-circuit heat transfer pathway to the body core.  
 
The WarmSmart technology was developed by Kenneth Diller, founding chair of the biomedical engineering department at the University of Texas at Austin. Diller is an expert on bio-heat transfer and the physiological processes that govern temperature regulation.
 
Patrick teamed with Diller in 2010 to form CoolCore to develop and test the technology before partnering with Innovative Medical Equipment in 2015 to form Mercury Biomed in Cleveland.
 
In December Ohio Third Frontier’s Commercialization Acceleration Loan Fund awarded Mercury Biomed a $1.4 million loan to bring its Smart Temperature Management System technology to market.
 
The money will be used to fund the company’s clinical trials, which are currently underway, obtain FDA clearance and refine and build commercial devices using the technology.
 
“We aim to use the state’s award to create high-tech jobs in Northeast Ohio, hire local consultants and commercialization partners, and to bring more prosperity and recognition to the state and the region,” says Patrick.
 
The clinical trials are scheduled to be completed early this year, with the WarmSmart technology due to hit the market later this year. Mercury Biomed is currently working on other applications using the technology, with SmartCool due to begin clinical trials soon and hit the market by 2018.

Restauranteur Zack Bruell dedicates entire month to affordable dining at his restaurants

The holidays are over, and most Clevelanders typically hole-up for the rest of winter while anticipating spring weather.
 
But for the past five years, restauranteur Zack Bruell has held his own Restaurant Week – a three course meal for $33 -- at his area restaurants to drum up business in the slow periods and introduce diners to his menus. 

“Historically, business-wise, this time of year people aren’t going out as much,” Bruell explains. “I’m just experimenting, knowing full-well that in January and February we don’t have anything to lose.”
 
The practice has proven so popular, this year Bruell is hosting a full month of prix fixe menus at each of his six upscale restaurants -- Parallax, Table 45, L’Albatros, Chinato, Cowell & Hubbard and Alley Cat Oyster Bar – for $33 per person, plus tax and gratuity. The special runs from Monday, Jan. 11 through Sunday, Feb. 7.
 
The budget price does not mean lack of choices or skimpy portions, Bruell promises. “Each restaurant will have a distinct menu of options with three choices in appetizers, entrees and desserts,” he says. “It went so well in the past, I wanted to see if we can continue this.”
 
For instance, at L’Abatros in University Circle, diners can choose from soup du jour, winter salad or ricotta gnudi for an appetizer; market fish, chicken roulade or vegan Himalayan red rice for an entrée, each with accompanying vegetable; and warm brownies with dried cherries and ice cream, crème brulee or apple cake for desert.
 
“We’re trying to do stuff that isn’t necessarily on our menu and we’re giving people a choice,” says Bruell. “We try to be user-friendly. As far as I’m concerned, this is about making friends.”
 
While the prices may lure people to Bruell’s restaurants, he argues the specials also show that fine dining can be affordable. “It’s not just a promotion to drive people through the door, it’s a promotion to introduce people to our restaurants,” he says, adding that his establishments also host year-round half-price food and wine specials.
 
“This is similar to that, but it’s a full meal and we’re not skimpy on our portion sizes or any of the ingredients. It’s the same experience, it’s an opportunity to expose people who may not otherwise come into the restaurant.”
 
The prix fixe menus should be listed on each of the restaurants’ websites soon.
 
Bruell’s restaurants also participate in other Restaurant Weeks throughout the year, such as the ones sponsored by Downtown Cleveland Alliance and Cleveland Independents, which include a variety of area restaurants. 

LAND studio launches international search for artists on RTA project

After receiving a $150,000 grant from the Cleveland Foundation in September to create public art in 15 locations along RTA lines, LAND Studio has launched an international search for artists to celebrate diversity through their works.
 
“Right now we are looking for any and all artists who are qualified and have portfolios in the realms of large-scale murals and photography,” explains Joe Lanzilotta, LAND studio project manager. “We don’t want to dissuade anyone from applying for this, because this is something that will last for many years into the future.”
 
Dubbed the INTER|URBAN project, in honor of Ohio’s history of having the largest interurban rail system in the country in the early 20th century, the task is a citywide initiative to create an experience that connects public transit riders physically, socially, and culturally through the installation of public art along Cleveland's transit railways.
 
The work should be inspired by the Anisfield-Wolf Book Awards, celebrating authors of literary works dealing with social justice and the celebration of diversity and the people of all cultures and backgrounds. “We want this to be something accessible, but we don’t want to be restrictive,” says Lanzilotta. “We want to make sure this project is highly visible to RTA riders, who will enjoy it and it will be a positive experience.”
 
The installations will take place in June, to be completed in the time for the Republican National Convention in July. “We want artists who can get it done,” says Lanzilotta. “In this first phase it’s pretty critical in finding people who we feel can get this work done in a short period of time.”
 
The LAND studio curatorial team will review all submissions before choosing the final group of artists. The curatorial team will then work with the artists on executing their projects. Artists will be paid for their work, Lanzilotta says, but the fees will not be pre-determined.
 
In addition to the Cleveland Foundation, LAND studio partnered with the City of Cleveland, the Greater Cleveland Regional Transit Authority, North East Ohio Areawide Coordinating Agency and the Anisfield-Wolf Book Awards to bring INTER|URBAN to Cleveland. 
 
Submissions are due by Friday, Jan. 29. For more information, artists and teams should review the requirements or contact Lanzilotta.

PRE4CLE makes strides toward goal, looks at the work ahead

PRE4CLE, a public-private partnership that aims to provide more high-quality preschool seats for Cleveland children, is more than halfway to its initial goal.

In December the group published its first annual report, announcing that high-quality preschool enrollment grew by 10 percent in the initiative’s inaugural year of implementation.

That percentage represents 1,215 additional children enrolling in high-quality early education between March 2014 and June 2015 in the Cleveland Metropolitan School District (CMSD) and at private and home-based providers.

With partners like CMSD, Cuyahoga County, the George Gund Foundation and PNC Bank, PRE4CLE is now 62 percent to its goal of placing 2,000 more three- and four-year-olds in high-quality seats, as defined by ratings in the state’s Step Up to Quality system.
 
“We feel really great about the progress we’ve been able to make in year one in getting more than halfway to our goal,” PRE4CLE director Katie Kelly says. “We know that that’s due to the great partnership that PRE4CLE has forged among the providers and the community and the school district. It’s been a really strong first year with a lot of commitment to reach our initial goal.”
 
In comparing itself to the first-year results of similar early education expansions around the country, PRE4CLE officials say it beat out San Antonio and Boston, which achieved six and nine percent, respectively.
 
Additionally, 80 percent of children in PRE4CLE classrooms are on the right track to kindergarten, according to Bracken Kindergarten Readiness Assessment data analyzed by Case Western Reserve University researchers.
 
Still, PRE4CLE’s report doesn’t mask the work that still needs to be done. As of June 2015, just one-third of the city’s 12,400 preschool-aged children were enrolled in high-quality preschool programs.
 
The report also includes a map of Cleveland neighborhoods – color coded by the percentage of children who are enrolled in high-quality preschools. Mount Pleasant, Jefferson and Old Brooklyn are among the neighborhoods with less than 10 percent.
 
“It feels like a classic case of ‘we’ve come a long way and have a long way to go,’” says Marcia Egbert, senior program officer for human services at the Gund Foundation and co-chair of the Cleveland Early Childhood Compact. “It’s nothing but encouraging – the long way to go isn’t a sign of being discouraged in the slightest. It’s just to say that this was always going to be a long path, and we are now well down it, which is very exciting.”
 
The report closes with a look at ways the PRE4CLE partnership will attempt to raise those numbers in struggling neighborhoods. One example will be developing a mobile app with Invest in Children, the county’s own early childhood initiative. The app will help families find high-quality preschool options, as well as health, social, and cultural resources.
 
“For us, we know that 2,000 [additional children] is just the initial goal and it will be replaced by a new benchmark to get us even further towards the goal of every child in Cleveland having the opportunity to go to full-day preschool,” Kelly says. “What we’ve been able to build, along with expansion, is also a strong, quality infrastructure and a lot of momentum among educators and providers to improve their quality so that we can serve even more children.
 
“There’s such a strong commitment from the provider community to get on board with the plan to reach those higher levels of quality,” Kelly continues. “I think that’s really what’s going to make that opportunity available to every child in Cleveland.”

Who’s Hiring in Cle: Rape Crisis Center, Neighborhood Progress BlueBridge Networks and more

Welcome to the latest installment of Fresh Water’s “who’s hiring” series, where we feature growing companies with open positions, what they’re looking for and how to apply.


Cleveland Rape Crisis Center
Founded in 1974, the Cleveland Rape Crisis Center supports survivors of rape, sexual abuse and sex trafficking; promotes healing and prevention; and advocates for social change. Each year, 50 full time staff and more than 100 volunteers provide services to nearly 20,000 people in Cuyahoga, Lake, Geauga and Ashtabula Counties.
 
 The center recently received the largest grant in its history – more than $1.4 million through the Victims of Crime Act (VOCA).  The grant allows the center to expand and enhance its counseling, advocacy and outreach services.
 
“Cleveland Rape Crisis Center’s highlight of 2015 is the transformative changes that are taking place as a result of receiving this additional funding,” says Jennifer Schlosser, the center’s director of community engagement. “We’ve grown from 29 employees in September to 50 employees in December, allowing us to expand and enhance the services we offer survivors.”
 
That expansion includes three positions. “We’re expanding and enhancing our core services to reach more people in more places, making our region healthier, safer and stronger,” says Schlosser.
 
The center is looking for a development director, a community outreach specialist and a victim specialist. To apply, email resumes and cover letters to the hiring manager.
 
Cleveland Neighborhood Progress
Cleveland Neighborhood Progress, a non-profit organization that collaboratively builds thriving neighborhoods through innovative programs, is searching for a climate resilience/urban greening coordinator to lead many aspects of the organization’s climate resilience work. Send cover letter and resume to Lynn Friedel by Friday, Dec. 18.   
 
BlueBridge Networks
BlueBridge Networks, a top-ranked datacenter services and technology solutions provider, needs a data center operations manager to manage a complex facility accommodating a wide array of state-of-the-art computer and communications equipment in a rapidly changing collocation environment. The company also needs a data center sales engineer, a network engineer, a systems engineer and an IT sales executive. To apply, send resumes and salary requirements to the hiring manager.
 
Cleveland Institute of Art
The Cleveland Institute of Art needs a director of communications to oversee CIA’s brand message and content generation. The director will manage all communications plan activities and maintain internal and external relationships. Send resumes, cover letters and salary requirements to human resources by Thursday, Dec. 31.
 
Jurinnov, Ltd.
Jurinnov,  a technology firm that works with companies’ IT and legal departments, needs an IT systems analyst to perform reviews, backup monitoring and tape cataloging, as well as troubleshooting and provide support for desktop hardware and software, including PCs, printers, laptops, peripherals, and handheld devices. Applicants must complete a survey before applying.
 
Arbor Park Village
Arbor Park Village, an affordable housing development in Cleveland’s Central neighborhood, is looking for a maintenance technician and a groundskeeper/cleaning technician. Send resumes to Mary Ellen Gardner.

Global Ambassadors Language Academy                                  
Global Ambassadors Language Academy (GALA), a new, international, dual language immersion K-8 nonprofit charter school in Cleveland, has several open positions, including family support liaison; a literacy coach who is bilingual in Mandarin and English; an assistant principal who is bilingual in Mandarin and English; and several K-1 certified teachers, Many of the teaching positions require people who are bilingual in English and/or Spanish and Mandarin. For a full list of job descriptions and to apply, click here.

NewBridge Cleveland
NewBridge Cleveland Center for Arts and Technology, a social change organization that provides youth arts education and market-driven, adult career training, needs a part-time ceramics teaching artist to Instruct and mentor students in artistic skills as well as social, cultural, developmental awareness through NewBridge’s after-school/summer programming. To apply, send cover letter, resume and NewBridge job application to the hiring manager.
 

Accelerate 2016 searches for people with great ideas for change

In its second civic innovation pitch competition, the Cleveland Leadership Center is hosting Accelerate 2016: Citizens Make Change, which gives anyone with an idea for civic improvements in Cleveland the chance to win $5,000 in prize money.

 While the actual completion isn’t until February 24 at the Global Center for Health Innovation, the deadline for applications to pitch the next great idea for enhancing and accelerating Northeast Ohio’s momentum is this Friday, Dec. 18.
 
The competition, which is open to all individuals with an idea focused on a community issue that needs attention. The ideas can be either “one-and-done” projects or sustainable, ongoing efforts. The idea for a civic pitch competition came about last year when Cleveland Leadership officials were looking for a way to allow individuals, as opposed to organizations, a way to share their visions for a better city.
 
"There are so many individuals with great ideas,” says Marianne Crosley, president and CEO of the Cleveland Leadership Center. “They just may not know how to advance their concepts.”
 
Citizens Bank is sponsoring this year’s competition. Joe DiRocco, president of the bank’s Ohio division and Cleveland Leadership board member, says they are proud to support the center’s efforts in developing civic leaders. “People are at the heart of the community and Accelerate provides an opportunity for every individual to share and act on a personal vision to change our region,” he says.
 
The competition is broken into five categories: quality of life – initiatives that impact life experiences, including health, recreation and social services; economic development – initiatives that address poverty and economic self-sufficiency, or stimulate economic growth; educating for tomorrow – initiatives that advance access to educational development; community change – Initiatives that make a meaningful change in people’s lives and neighborhoods; and transformative arts and culture – Initiatives that use arts and culture to transform people and places.
 
Twenty five applications will be selected based on three criteria: Potential for community impact and advancing NE Ohio; how unique, creative and innovative the initiative is; and a realistic implementation plan than would be aided by the prize money.
 
Five semi-finalists will be chosen in each of the five categories. On the day of the event in February, those semi-finalists will attend breakout sessions for their categories, where they will make their pitches and get feedback and advice from community leaders.
 
One individual will then be chosen from each category to go on to make pitches in front of the entire audience. Of the final five innovators, one person will receive the grand prize of $5,000 and the opportunity to work with a mentor to develop the idea. The other four finalists will each receive $2,000.
 
“While winners in each of the five pitch categories will be named at the February 24 event, the real winners are the citizens of Northeast Ohio,” says DiRocco.
 
Last year’s event drew 64 pitch submissions and more than 500 people to the event. Matt Fieldman, founder of Cleveland Codes, took the grand prize at last year’s Accelerate.
 
Although applications are due this week, Crosley encourages people to apply. “Anybody who has got an idea, it won’t take that long to register your idea,” she says. “There’s so much energy that night and such a sense of optimism about our future.”

Geiger’s offers personal assistance to busy downtown holiday shoppers

Business has been booming at Geiger’s since the sporting goods retailer opened its third location downtown last month. “Things have been going really well,” says co-owner Gordon Geiger. “We’re quite pleased with the traffic and the acceptance of the store.”
 
Geiger admits there has been a learning curve to running the store in a downtown environment, as opposed to its Chagrin Falls and Lakewood locations, but the owners have consulted with the owners of neighboring Heinen’s about how to adapt.
 
Then, in a brainstorming session, Geiger’s management came up with an idea that not only returns to the era of personalized service during the holidays, it saves time for busy downtown residents and shoppers.

Geiger’s will offer personalized shopping for its customers during the holiday season.
 
“You have to be a good listener and trust your instincts,” says Geiger of his consultation with Tom and Jeff Heinen on the new store. “We realized the solution of personalized service could be of some value to our downtown clientele.”
 
Geiger says the idea came out of brainstorming session in which that staff were recalling the days at department stores like Bonwit Teller and Halle’s department stores. “Those were the heydays of retail,” says Geiger. “It was a high level of service era, one which we hope will be once again.”
 
Shoppers can call (216) 755-4500 to make an appointment and share their gift lists. A personal shopper will then bring a selection of gifts for everyone on the customer’s list. Customers can enjoy a coffee or another beverage while relaxing.
 
“If they don’t know what they want to get, we can make some nice suggestions,” says Geiger. “In the 11th hour there may be some interest in this sort of thing for last minute shoppers.”
 
Customers can make appointments during business hours, but after-hours exceptions can be made. The service includes free gift wrapping.
 
The service runs through Sunday, Dec. 20. Geiger says they may extend the service year-round if there’s demand for it.

Neighborhood Progress tackling climate resilience with grant money

In a collaborative effort with the city of Cleveland's office of sustainability, four community development corporations and other groups, Cleveland Neighborhood Progress (CNP) is attempting to address the issues around climate resilience – the sustainability factors surrounding climate change.
 
Now, the organization will get additional help with its plans through a $660,000 grant over three years from the Kresge Foundation’s Climate Resilience and Urban Opportunity Initiative, which aims to improve the resilience of low-income communities in the face of climate change.
 
CNP will work with four neighborhoods – Glenville, Slavic Village, Central and Detroit Shoreway – that face a variety of sustainability issues. “We picked the four that best represented the range of typology related to the concentration of vacant land and related to economic diversity,” explains Linda Warren, CNP’s senior vice president of placemaking.
 
In lower income areas, heating and cooling costs during extreme temperatures put a financial burden on residents. Warren cites the Central neighborhood as a most fragile in terms of resilience, while the Detroit Shoreway is the least fragile of the four neighborhoods.
 
Warren explains that vacant land also translates into greater issues with heating and cooling in extreme temperature. “One of the issues in urban places is low tree canopy and high concentrations of heat island effect, making cities warmer than rural places and suburbs,” she explains. “Green space offsets that both by providing alternatives to concrete, which holds the heat, and as places to plant trees, which generate multiple benefits.”
 
In 2014 CNP received a planning grant from the Kresge Foundation. The plan identified projects, programs, policies, engagement strategies, and future research to lessen overall demand for energy, anticipate and prepare for climate changes and shocks, and foster social cohesion.
 
Cleveland was the only freshwater city of the 12 cities receiving money from Kresge’s $8 million pledge.
 
CNP will use the grant to hire 20 neighborhood climate ambassadors; advance climate adaptation strategies; build off of Cleveland’s weatherization and energy programs; and create strategies for the best possible usage of vacant land. The best practices identified will later be implemented in other neighborhoods.
 
CNP plans to implement its program in the beginning of the year. The group is now looking for ambassadors, who will get a small stipend for their work, and a climate resilience coordinator to lead the efforts.  

Rudy’s Pub to fill former Cedar Lee Pub space on Lee Road

When the owners of Rudy’s Pub on Van Aken Boulevard in Shaker Heights learned they had to close their doors last summer, the group of regulars who had been going to the bar for the past nine years were frantic.

“We had grown men crying at the bar,” recalls co-owner Amanda Elfers, who owns Rudy’s with her fiancé Quintin Jones. The doors closed for good on October 3. Then, some friends and regulars told Elfers about the vacancy left on Lee Road in Cleveland Heights when the Cedar Lee Pub and Grill closed for good in mid-October.
 
Elfers drove by the place, and on November 13 she and Jones took ownership. Rudy’s Pub will open once again at 2191 Lee Road on Friday, Dec. 11.

In addition to their loyal clientele from their previous location, Elfers and Jones look forward to meeting new customers on the popular Cleveland Heights bar and restaurant strip.
 
“I think we will fit in really good,” says Jones, adding that Rudy’s will be a “grown and sexy spot. Everyone has their specialty around here.” Other owners on Lee reportedly are eager for Rudy’s to open.
 
In fact, in addition to Rudy’s regular 50-cent wing nights, Friday all-you-can eat fish fries and ladies’ nights, Jones says he wants to work with other area bar owners on a “round-robin” type night, in which everyone will profit.
 
The pub has an extensive menu, including Jones’ famous fried chicken wings, pasta dishes and seafood. Jones has an extensive culinary background, having cooked professionally for more than 30 years worked with many of Cleveland’s better-known chefs and at restaurants such as Lopez y Gonzalez and Noggins. He was the first African-American chef to cook on the hot line at Oakwood Country Club in the 80s.
 
Elfers grew up playing piano in restaurants, and bartended while in college. After living in Russia, starting the hard rock band Seven 13 and touring South Africa, Elfers bought the former Noggins in 2006. The bar is named after her great uncle, Rudolph Vogler, who died of tuberculosis at the age of 24.
 
Rudy’s will have a full bar, including Elfers’ wicked Long Island iced tea. “Drink two and you’re good,” jokes Jones. “People know not to play.”
 
Elfers met Jones in 2009 when he walked into the pub and offered to help her out in the kitchen. She took him up on the offer and the two are now engaged to be married.
 
Rudy’s will cater mostly to the over 40 crowd, but everyone is welcome. Jones likens the atmosphere to the fictional bar on the television show “Cheers,” saying that patrons just chat, and watch sports.  
 
The bar will broadcast sports games on 10 televisions, one of which is a projection television. They will have live music, mostly jazz, about once a month, karaoke nights and will have Rudy’s famous tropical parties. When the weather allows, the entertainment will take place on the back patio.
 
With only three weeks to open Rudy’s, Jones and Elfers have been working with a crew of close friends and acquaintances to ready the pub for opening day – painting, hanging vintage photos, refinishing the floors and other tasks.
 
Rudy's employs an average of 10 to 15 people and is currently hiring at least seven people in all aspects of the restaurant industry. The pub will be open seven days a week, from 3 p.m. to 2 a.m.  Rudy's also can be rented for private parties. 

NOIA celebrates 20 years of Italian heritage, community giving

Twenty years ago, a group of Italian-American business leaders – Umberto Fedeli, Dominic Visconsi, Sr, Nacy Panzica, John Quagliata, Joe and John Miceli, and Sonny Orlando -- wanted to find a way to preserve their Italian traditions while also helping the Cleveland community.

Their idea transformed into the Northern Ohio Italian American Foundation (NOIA).
 
“It started in 1995 with a few businessmen and the organization evolved from there,” explains NOIA executive director Angela Spitalieri. “It started as a group of men getting together to raise money and give it away.”
 
Today the non-profit organization, based out of the Murray Hill School in Little Italy, has 212 members who gather to network, socialize and raise money for causes they believe in. In its 20 years the foundation has given more than $1 million to causes that fit its mission. This includes donations to four Italian church parishes -- St. Rocco, Holy Redeemer, Our Lady of Mt. Carmel and Holy Rosary.
 
Most recently, NOIA established a $200,000 scholarship for Padua High School in Parma to attract Italian American students to the school who wouldn't otherwise pursue a Catholic education.
 
The scholarship provides qualified students with $5,000 a year, renewable annually. Awardees must maintain a 2.5 GPA, be enrolled in the Italian Language Program, participate in Padua’s Italian Heritage Club, and be active in volunteer activities.
 
NOIA partners with the Western Reserve Historical Society on many of their speakers and lecture series and on an archive project. The group also hosts Italian classes.
 
The organization doesn’t look for attention or a pat on the back for its fund-raising efforts. “It’s who we are,” says Spitalieri. “It’s important because it’s something that leaves a legacy and it’s part of our heritage.”
 
In recent years, NOIA has been a bit more open about what they do, and the group’s leaders try to engage its members more in the community. “We’re a lot more out there and we just do more,” says Spitalieri. “We’ve never forgotten where we came from.”
 
In November NOIA officially celebrated its 20-year anniversary in Cleveland with a gala at the Cleveland Museum of Art. Each year since 1999 at the annual gala, NOIA inducts local Italian-Americans who excel in education/community service, medicine, sports, business, religion and government into its Hall of Fame. The 2015 inductee was legendary music producer and Cleveland native Tommy LiPuma.

Career on Wall Street leads entrepreneur home to start MarkersA

Born and raised in Cleveland’s Glenville neighborhood, Reginald Cash left home for New York City 14 years ago to pursue a career in financial services. A University School graduate, Cash earned a degree in economics from Columbia University and went on to become the one of the youngest directors of investor relations on Wall Street – working for both Deutsche Bank and UBS – raising billions in capital.

After a while on Wall Street, Cash’s hometown and his entrepreneurial spirit kept drawing him back. “After I had some professional success, my Cleveland roots started calling at me,” he recalls. “In Cleveland, it’s pretty important to give back to the city itself. That part of me never really left. It was tugging at me to build something and build something in Cleveland.”
 
So earlier this year Cash moved home and started MarkersA – a company created around an investor relations tool that aggregates financial data for real time communication. Cash came up with the idea based on his job experiences.
 
“I could relate information very quickly and I know who was the best person to receive it, who needed it when,” he explains. “I learned very early that I kind of had a knack for that. So, I created a tool that aggregates that information, identifies the relationships among information and provides some hints on who would be best placed with the information.”
 
Cash says he’s found the investment industry is behind the times in communications. “Right now, we [investor relations] report out earnings every three months,” he explains. “That idea is really dated. We communicate in real time and that’s the expected rate of communication. Financial communications have to join the world of real time communications.”
 
MarkersA does just that. “We want to be the tool where a company can begin to communicate with their shareholders, their stakeholders in real time,” Cash says. “We aggregate and bring all that information into one place.”
 
In fact, MarkerA has caught the attention of some big Cleveland players, Cash says. KeyBank, Parker Hannifin, Invacare and RPM International are all interested in the product. “The reception that we’ve had from local companies has been great,” he says.
 
Cash met with Flashstarts' Charles Stack about his business idea. While he didn’t go through the accelerator program, he was one of the early tenants of StartMart. “I was one of first people to raise my hand and say ‘I want to be a part of this,’” Cash says. “We’re excited. The space is great – it’s really turning into a great community. Moving back to Cleveland, we’ve been able to get audiences with larger companies. People want to invest in our ecosystems and I don’t think we’ve been turned away yet.”
 
Cash already has three employees and is looking for more. 

Beloved restauranteur Sammy Catania remembered by local chefs

News spread quickly of the passing of iconic restaurateur and Tremont West Development Corporation director Sammy Catania, who passed away on Tuesday, Dec. 1st and made many contributions to the city, including the 1980 introduction of Sammy’s in the Flats, the first fine-dining destination in the district.

"Sammy was one of the biggest believers of the Importance of food in downtown Cleveland," says Loretta Paganini, founder of the Loretta Paganini School of Cooking in Chesterland. "He was not only a pioneer but stuck around when others fled the urban landscape. His parties were top notch and set the standard back in the day."
  
Eric Williams, owner of four popular Cleveland restaurants including Momocho and Happy Dog, recognizes Catania as a Cleveland legacy among restauranteurs. “Cleveland’s food scene began in the Flats and Sam was a pioneer in the industry,” he says. “We shouldn’t forget where we started.”

Fresh Water reached out to other members of the local food industry for their reactions on a highly respected and beloved colleague.
 
Tremont residents were proud to claim Catania as their own. “Sammy was a huge part of the party scene in Tremont back in the day when Tremont was starting to turn into a dining destination,” recalls Ricardo Sandoval owner of Fat Cats and Lava Lounge. “He went from story-telling giant to concerned citizen and community activist. He was a big part of Tremont. He always made time to stop and talk to everyone. I’m going to miss seeing and talking to him about the business and Tremont.”

“Sammy Catania was the man behind the scenes that made Tremont what it really is,” says Dante Boccuzzi, chef/owner of four Tremont eateries.
 
Paulius Nasvytis, owner of the Velvet Tango Room and Citizen Pie, saw Catania as an innovator. Catania was one of Nasvytis’ first customers at the Velvet Tango Room 19 years ago. “His restaurant, Sammy’s, was the first place in our city that broke the mold – that’s what he always did,” he says. “He offered me sound advice and I always had his support. He also gave me his solid friendship. Sammy was a straight shooter. He made Cleveland a better place.”
 
Flour restaurant owner Paul Minnillo saw Catania as a role model. “Sammy Catania was one of the pioneers of changing the dining scene in Cleveland,” he says. “He brought many talented chefs into the field. I thank him for helping to put Cleveland’s food scene on the map.”
 
Brad Friedlander, owner of Moxie and Red The Steakhouse, agrees that Catania set the stage for future restauranteurs. “Sammy will be missed; I have such memories of him opening in the Flats,” he says.
 
Catania made an impact on Doug Katz early in his restaurant career. “I worked with Sammy and Roberta when I was at Oakwood Country Club as a teen,” recalls Katz, who owns Fire Food and Drink, the Katz Club Diner and Provenance. “He was always a class act and sweet man. I will miss him and am so sad for [wife] Roberta and her family.”

Even those who didn’t personally know Catania felt a connection with the man. SOHO Kitchen & Bar owner Nolan Konkoski never met Catania, but recognized his influence.   “He was obviously a long-time pillar of the restaurant community in this town,” he says. “I always heard wonderful things about him; he was respected by the people I respect most.”  Tim Bando, owner of Grove Hill, didn’t know Catania well but remembers him as supportive and highly respected.

Catania is survived by his wife, Roberta Rocco. She is asking for cards with your “Sammy stories,” which may be dropped off at Tremont West Development Corporation, 2406 Professor Avenue.
 
The cause of death has not been released. A memorial service is scheduled at Trinity Cathedral, 2230 Euclid Ave. on Saturday, December 12th at 9:30 a.m.

Zebrafish help unlock the mysteries of hearing loss in humans

Everyday items like head phones, ear buds, even loud music through speakers can damage our hearing. Hair cells and hair bundles in the inner ear receive audio information and transmit it to the brain. When those hair bundles are damaged, hearing loss can occur.
 
“The hair cells are used to convert sounds to electrical impulses that go the brain,” explains Brian McDermott, associate professor of otolaryngology-head and neck surgery at CWRU School of Medicine. “When sound comes into the ear, the hair bundles, or stereocilia, move back and forth. Loud noises can kill the bundle.”
 
 But now researchers at Case the have discovered that the movement of protein within hair cells of the inner ear shows signs of a repair and renewal mechanism. That recognition means that researchers may be able to find a way to reduce or repair hearing loss, says McDermott. “We hope it gives insight into the important hair cell.”
 
McDermott and his team are using zebrafish – a transparent fish found in India's Ganges River – to study and better understand the workings of the human ear. “We use zebrafish in our research to study ears because the fish are optically clear,” explains McDermott.  “Their hair cells are similar to human hair cells.”
 
McDermott learned a lot about the human ear from studying the fish. “For a number of years people thought that the hair bundle was a static structure and really didn’t change much over time,” he says. “We showed the hair bundle proteins actually move quite fast. We were shocked. We were surprised to see that movement.””
 
The discovery gave the researchers hope that there may be a way to cure hearing loss. “The reason that movement is important is it implies that there is a renewal process going on,” says McDermott. “Proteins are exchanging, which might be a repair process.”
 
The next step is to determine how the hair bundle may repair itself with the protein movement. McDermott and his team will continue to study the process fully in the transparent zebrafish ear. “There are no drugs right now that actually cure hearing loss,” says McDermott. “It’s very much a possibility that when we understand the process, that movement may heal hearing loss.”


The research was published in the Nov. 17 edition of Cell Reports

TechPint marks 10th networking with beer event at Agora Thursday

When Paul McAvinchey launched TechPint back in June 2013, he was simply looking for a forum where entrepreneurs could  casually share ideas over a beer.

He called his first event a mini-tech conference in a bar with pints. Ten events later, TechPint has evolved into a popular and regular event in both Cleveland and Akron, hosting startup summits, winter jams, and even paired up with Flashstarts for a pitch competition.

“It’s only been two-and-a-half years, but I personally have learned so much and met so many people,” says McAvinchey, adding that more than 1,000 people have attended TechPint events since the first one. “We started with a bang when nearly 200 attended our first event in 2013 but that number kept growing.”
 
This Thursday, Dec. 3, TechPint will mark its 10th event with a combined Winter Summit and regular TechPint event at the Agora.


 
The day will begin at 1 p.m. with the Winter Summit – a tech conference with speakers and time to connect with other business founders from across the region – followed by a regular TechPint, complete with JumpStart’s Demo Pit of startups, Flashstarts Pitcher Night, and speakers Ed BucholzCEO and founder of ExpenseBot, and Morris Wheeler, founder of Drummond Road Capital.
 
This time around, McAvinchey says he wanted to highlight successful women who know the startup industry. He says he has found it difficult in the past to find female speakers. Thursday, three of the six scheduled speakers are women – including Jess Erickson, director of diversity at 500 Startups; Emily Baum, founder of Keyrious; and Kim Gardner, founder of Pigeon.io.
 
“All three are great examples of high caliber females not just participating, but succeeding in tech,” says McAvinchey. “It's refreshing to hear from such impressive people in startups, never mind the fact that they happen to be women.”
 
Other speakers include Guy Turner, managing director at Hyde Park Venture Partners; John Knific, founder and CEO at DecisionDesk; and Nick Solaro, former Google android business development executive and partner at Drive Capital.
 
At 5:30 p.m., the beer starts flowing and the doors open to TechPint.
 
Tickets to both the Winter Summit and TechPint are $75, while tickets to just TechPint are $20. Discounts are available on the TechPint website.

Urban Kutz welcomes all, already benefitting from the upcoming RNC

Growing up in East Cleveland and a graduate of Shaw High School, Waverly “Big Wave” Willis has been cutting hair since he was a kid. After high school, Willis was tempted by a life of trouble. “I was a street guy,” he recalls. “But I wanted to leave that lifestyle alone. I thought about leaving town.”

Instead Willis moved to Cleveland’s west side and went the business route. He opened Urban Kutz Barbershop at W. 111th Street and Detroit in 2008. Willis did so well, he opened a second location on Pearl Road in 2014 and the shop was voted best barber shop on the 2015 Cleveland Hot List.
 
Urban Kutz caters to all types of customers. The only caveat is you must have a good time when you’re in the shop. “We’re a diverse barber shop,” Willis says. “We get a myriad of Clevelanders, people of all races. During your time in the barber shop, be it 15 minutes or an hour, we do have a good time.”
 
Willis cites a recent day when he had a customer from Vietnam, a customer from London and two customers from the United States sitting in his chairs. Urban Kutz is also well respected in the LGBT community. “You can’t be homophobic or racist,” says Willis. “Everybody is welcome. Our clientele and diversity is really what set us apart. When people come through here we have a good time, we just talk about stuff.”
 
When Willis learned Cleveland would host the Republican National Convention in 2016, he started to notice an uptick in customers. He estimates each location began seeing an increase of two to 10 people a week, all with some affiliation to the RNC. So he promptly signed Urban Kutz up for the Cleveland 2016 Host Committee supplier list. Almost instantly, Willis began to see an even more diverse customer base emerge.
 
“We have seen a significant amount of people doing some type of work with the RNC,” Willis explains. “I didn’t expect to see anything until next summer. We had a North Carolina guy here who was in Cleveland specifically to wash windows. We had another guy doing security detail. We’ve been getting a lot of business from people from the RNC already. I’m really looking forward to the RNC when they get here next year.”
 
When Willis isn’t busy with running his two shops, training staff as a licensed barber instructor and meeting people affiliated with the RNC, he spends his time doing charity work. Most recently, he participated in a winter coat drive with 93.1 radio personality Sam Silk. The huge cardboard box he put out overflowed quickly with donations. Willis is active with The Urban Barber Association (TUBA) and The Barbershop Literacy Project and works with several area shelters.
 
It all fits with Willis’ mission. “I try to do my best,” he says. “I feel so fortunate. From the moment we opened our doors we were received so well.”

County approves $10 million for quality preschools

The expansion of early education in greater Cleveland received a $10 million boost last week when Cuyahoga County Council and executive Armond Budish reached a biennial budget agreement for 2016 and 2017.
 
The two-year investment creates the Cuyahoga Early Childhood Trust, a public-private partnership meant to attract private funds to continue the push for universal, high-quality pre-kindergarten education to children across the county.

It’s the kind of support partners of the PRE4CLE initiative say is necessary to achieve and surpass the original goal of enrolling 2,000 additional children into high-quality preschool seats at public and private schools in Greater Cleveland by 2016.
 
“We are so grateful to the county leadership for this new investment,” PRE4CLE director Katie Kelly says. “It’s going to make a big difference in the amount of kids served across the county. The impact on Cleveland will be significant in not just number of students served, but the quality of our early learning program.”
 
The investment will fund teacher education and retention programs, as well as social, emotional and behavioral support for low-income students. According to the council presentation supporting the investment, there are 20,800 preschool-aged children in the county, but only 4,700 are in high-quality programs.
 
“We know it’s one of the most important factors in providing high quality outcomes for students,” Kelly says of teacher education. “Those additional supports in staff coaching and training on how to help students experiencing those challenges is a big part of quality as well. It can make our already good programs even better.”

Hult Prize event seeks social innovation startups

 
In an effort to promote innovation, creative problem solving and social good at CWRU, the university will host an official Hult Prize qualifier event.  The Hult Prize, billed as the world’s largest student competition to solve the world's toughest challenges, awards $1 million in seed funding to the winning team to build their business.
 
This year’s theme is Crowded Urban Spaces – building sustainable, scalable fast-growing enterprises that double the income of people living in crowded urban spaces by connecting them to goods, services and capital.
 
The national contest is limited to 20,000 applicants – 300 teams in the regional competition that CRWU is a part of. “The event will show students that anyone of any background or skill set can be an entrepreneur and make a real difference with nothing more than an idea,” says Cole Morris, organizer and intern for event planning and marketing at Blackstone LaunchPad
 
Ten to 15 teams made up of CWRU undergraduate and graduate students and alumni will pitch their ideas on Saturday, Nov. 21 at from noon to 2 p.m. at Thwing Center. Teams will have five minutes to present their ideas, followed by five minutes of questioning from judges Lev Gonick, CEO of OneCommunity; Craig Nard director of CWRU School of Law; and Alison Tanker, founder of Tigress. Additional judges may be selected. 
 
Some students attended a workshop day last Sunday, Nov. 15 at StartMart to take advantage of the wealth of entrepreneurial experts. "We were able to provide a venue for very focused one-on-one time between mentors and participants," says Morris. "Many of the participants were very pleased at the ideas they developed and directions they pursued."
 
The workshop was good preparation for the pitch competition. “By offering live workshops, the guidance of talented and experienced mentors, and a vast array of resources from many of Cleveland's top startup accelerators, we plan to engage a diverse group of students and show how far an idea, their ability to think critically and creatively, and a willingness to help others can truly go,” Morris says.
 
Mentors and supporters include StartMart; BioEnterprise; the Health-Tech Corridor; EDWINS Leadership and Restaurant Institute; the CWRU IP Venture Clinic; Blackstone LaunchPad; non-profit grant writer Roslyn Chao; and Triple Analytics.
 
"We’re targeting innovation and offering resources to fix the world,” says Morris.
 
Pitch teams must be affiliated with CWRU. The teams are made up of three to four members, one of whom can be an alumni. Team registration is still open. The event is open to the public.

Vita Urbana brings gourmet flavors, convenience to Battery Park

Vita Urbana, a multi-service convenience store, is scheduled to open in mid-January in the Shoreway Building, 1260 West 76th St., overlooking Edgewater Park.

Designed with a sense of community, the compact, 4,000 square-foot space will pack a host of services for residents of the Shoreway Building and the entire Battery Park neighborhood.
 
“Vita Urbana will combine the convenience of a coffee shop, an artisanal grocery store, and a full service bar bistro,” says entrepreneur Mike Graley, a 35-year veteran of the grocery business.
 
A native west sider, Graley opened his first venture -- the wine bar, YOLO (now Cha Spirits & Pizza Kitchen) – right next door in the Battery Park Powerhouse.  
 
In addition to his own operations, Graley’s been a wine buyer at the Rocky River Heinen’s for 25 years. Graley got his start at A&P and then worked for Rego’s in his early days. These experiences, along with an opportunity to travel abroad, have led him to Vita Urbana.
 
The coffee shop will rely on local roasters to produce a specially brewed, house-blended dark roast, along with assorted flavored coffees. Graley is also planning a simple breakfast menu with added emphasis on fast, friendly service.
 
The artisan grocery store will offer a variety of necessities while emphasizing quality and uniqueness; a place cooks will want to shop.
 
The full-bar bistro will specialize in an array of gourmet selections that will showcase many of the exquisite products sold in the store. The bar will provide a variety of wine, beer and specialty cocktails.
 
Vita Urbana brings convenience to the center of the Gordon Square neighborhood. It will be open seven days a week, from 7 a.m. to 11 p.m. Monday through Saturday and 7 a.m. to 4 p.m. on Sundays.
 
Graley will hire 10 to 15 people to staff Vita Urbana and envisions opening two additional locations in other Cleveland neighborhoods over the next two years.

Apollo creates next generation of blood test

As a biomedical engineering graduate student at CWRU, Punkaj Ahuja was working in 2010 on applications for a core sensor his team was developing.

Then the idea for a rapid blood test using the same technology came to him. By October 2014, he had formed Apollo Medical Devices – a company that is developing a low-cost, accurate and rapid blood analysis system. The company has offices at BioEnterprise.

“Our device uses rapid blood testing technology with a single drop of blood in just five minutes,” explains Apollo CEO Patrick Leimkuehler. “It delivers when time matters most – in the ER, the ICU and the OR.”
 
The Apollo system uses a single drop of blood to get basic metabolic panel, or CHEM-7, results in minutes. The test measures various basic levels like glucose, sodium, creatinine and potassium to diagnose illness and determine treatments. Other tests require a blood draw and take up to two hours for results.
 
“I was working on another project using the same sensor technology and a group of us were in a room brainstorming,” recalls Ahuja. "We were discussing what else we can do with this sensor technology – with its low cost and rapid results.”
 
After talking to a physician, Ahuja was convinced they had to develop their product. “That’s what pushed us toward the test itself,” he says. “Once it was ingrained in our minds, a lot of work and a bunch of labs tests began to get this into the real world.”
 
While the Apollo device is still in the development stage, Ahuja and Leimkuehler plan to have the product to market by 2017. Apollo plans to market the device primarily to hospitals’ emergency departments, intensive care units and operating rooms. Once launched, Leimkuehler says Apollo plans to expand and target primary care doctors and the home health care markets.
 
Last summer, Apollo Medical Devices won the $20,000 grand prize in JumpStart’s Startup Scaleup NEO Up-and-Comers Pitch Competition. The company has also received funding from the Northeast Ohio Innovation Fund, CWRU’s Case-Coulter Translational Research Partnership and Ohio’s Third Frontier Technology Validation and Start-up Fund.
 
 
 

Activists work to make anti-discrimination law less discriminatory

In 2009, Cleveland City Council updated its non-discrimination law to include transgender people. Then council added an amendment.

 But there was a problem with the wording, activists in the transgender community say. Council added an amendment to the law stating that employers and places of public accommodations could tell a transgender individual which restroom – men’s or women’s -- they could or could not use,  instead of leaving that decision open to whichever sex he or she identifies with.

“You don’t often see discriminatory language in a non-discrimination law,” says Jacob Nash, co-chair of Cleveland is Ready, the group working on ordinance 1446-13, which would change the wording in the current ordinance.

“What removal of this piece would do is make it safer for transgender people,” explains Nash. “It’s not safe right now – telling a transgender woman to go into the men’s restroom. I know women who have been attacked or cornered or raped because that’s where they were told they needed to go.”

While some members of the transgender community are open, or “out,” others are not, Nash explains. Either way the situation can be humiliating. He tells of a transgender woman who was made to use the men’s room while a police officer stood guard outside the door.

“That’s ridiculous,” Nash says. “To have someone literally policing the restroom?”

Diane Dierker is also campaigning for 1446-13. “I’m a transgender woman, so this is of great concern to me, especially because now I’m a Cleveland resident,” she says. “Who is better able to determine who should use which bathroom than the person who has to go?”

Dierker’s employer allows her to use whichever bathroom she identifies with and she has never personally been harassed. “But I think about it every time I’m in a public place and have to go to the bathroom,” she admits, adding she does know people who have been harassed or even arrested.

Dierker points out that transgender people are not looking to do anything malicious. “Transgender people are in the bathroom for one purpose – to go to the bathroom,” she says. 

Nash says Cleveland is Ready has gotten support from some city council members, but so far ordinance 1446-13 has not gone to a vote. Nash says they are hopeful it will be heard by the end of the year.

Bloom Bakery will soon fill the air with sweet aromas

The aromas of fresh baked bread and pastries will soon waft through the streets of Cleveland when Bloom Artisan Bakery and Café opens two locations next year. In a social enterprise venture, Towards Employment, a non-profit organization dedicated to helping low income and disadvantaged adults achieve self-sufficiency through employment, announced last week that it will open bakeries in both Public Square and on the Cleveland State campus.

“The Towards Employment board of directors set out to start a social enterprise a couple of years ago,” says Logan Fahey, Bloom’s general manager. "We looked at different industries – manufacturing, lawn care – and then we found this crazy bakery idea. It met a need in downtown Cleveland and it’s an incredible training opportunity for our students.”
 
Bloom will hire and train 12 to 14 employees through Toward Employment for both locations in its first year, with a vision of expanding into additional locations, corporate catering and wholesale. “We wanted to create a business that is scalable,” says Fahey. “The hope is that once they graduate from the bakery they will move on to jobs with higher wages and use the skills they’ve learned.”
 
Before being hired by Bloom, potential employees will go through Towards Employment’s four-week career readiness course.
 
Once hired, employees will be learning baking skills from the best. Internationally-renowned artisan baking specialist Maurice Chaplais will personally train the staff on the art of making pastry and bread with locally-sourced ingredients.
 
Menu items include items such as the Great Lakes Beer bread, house white bread, assorted dinner rolls and croissants, pies, cookies, cakes, brownies and tarts. If that wasn’t enough, Bloom will also serve a lunch menu of sandwiches, sides and soups.
 
The CSU location at 1938 Euclid Ave. will house the production facility in addition to the retail shop. “It will have full commercial kitchen with glass windows so you can see the bakers making the product,” says Fahey.
 
Training starts in January and Fahey says they expect to open in February or March. In the meantime, Bloom Bakery is looking for an experienced executive head baker. Interested candidate can email their resumes to Fahey.
 

Haus Malts revives an industry forgotten in Cleveland since prohibition

Like many new college graduates, Andrew Martahus was on a seemingly never-ending quest to find a job after earning his chemical engineering degree from Washington University in St. Louis in 2014.
 
“I was interviewing to find a job in Cleveland and nationally, but nothing seemed to stick,” Martahus, 23, recalls. “So I started brewing beer.”
 
It sounds like a typical hobby for a new grad without a job. But the beer brewing turned into a curiosity about the process – and of the malt that goes into beer. That curiosity turned into the creation of Haus Malts last April, a craft malting institution for local commercial craft brewers. It is the first Ohio malt house since prohibition.
 
Haus Malts will create custom malts in batches for local breweries. Grains are soaked, partially germinated, dried and roasted to turn them into malt. Martahus would like to eventually expand the business to serve the food industry and home brewers. In fact, the company has already partnered up with Mennel Milling Company in Fostoria, Ohio.
 
After telling his father, Craig, about his interest in the malt process and touring a malt house in Asheville, North Carolina, the son and father team decided to go into business in Cleveland and revitalize an industry that once thrived here.

“There used to be a large malt house on W. 11th and Front Streets,” explains Martahus. “Cleveland and Cincinnati were two of the largest brewing cities before prohibition.”
 
The aroma of the MidTown building the Martahuses purchased on Carnegie Avenue is more like a bakery than a place where grain is converted to malt. “During the fermentation process it sort of smells like cucumbers, a very fresh smell,” Andrew says. “When its in the kiln it’s a grassy or hay smell, like darker bread.”
 
The business fits right in with its neighbors – Pierre’s Ice Cream to the north and American Sugar to the east. “It’s sort of like a food block here,” Martahus says. “We wanted to be downtown somewhere and we liked the idea of taking an old building built in the 1900s and keeping it going.”
 
Martahus says he has secured verbal agreements with Great Lakes Brewery, Nano Brew, Market Garden Brewery and Platform Beer Company, Brick and Barrel and  the BottleHouse Brewing Company.
 
While Martahus is still working out the kinks before officially opening, he does give tours on request

Tech Elevator attempts to solve the demand for tech talent in Northeast Ohio

Cuyahoga County employers advertised more than 6,000 open software development jobs in September, while Cleveland area colleges graduate only about 400 people computer science majors each year, according to Anthony Hughes.

Hughes, the founding director of JumpStart’s Burton D. Morgan Mentoring Program for three years and former president of Akron’s Software Guild, wants to close the talent gap and bring more coding talent to Cleveland. “I saw the struggle we were having as a region to support startups,” says Hughes. “The concentration of technical talent in Northeast Ohio has lagged behind the rest of the country.”
 
Modeled after internationally-recognized coding boot camp programs and his experience with the Software Guild, Hughes recently started Tech Elevator – a 14-week boot camp that teaches Java and .Net to students. At the end of the program, graduates receive job placement assistance. Hughes has aligned with a number of Cleveland-based companies, including Hyland Software, OnShift and Brandmuscle, to name just a few.
 
 In fact, Hughes promises he’ll refund the $12,000 tuition if they don’t find a job within 120 days of completing the program.
 
The average salary of developers in Cleveland is $85,000, and the industry is on track to have one million open positions nationally, according to Hughes. The problem is, these are jobs that require training. “It''s a fierce market for technical talent right now,” he says. “There’s a lot of poaching going on between companies. It’s a great field to get into, but it’s not a fake it ‘til you make it field.”
 
Tech Elevator hopes it can train the right people and help fill some of those open positions. “If you are willing to work hard, take advice and learn, they payoff is so great,” says Hughes. “From a local standpoint, it’s an opportunity to reinvent ourselves and not be too dependent on one industry.”
 
Applicants must take an aptitude test to determine if they are right for software development careers. The test measures logic, reasoning pattern matching and basic algebra. Applicants also go through an interview process. “We want them to want this for the right reasons,” says Hughes.
 
Tech Elevator is holding an open house on Thursday, November 5 and Friday, November 6 for prospective students. Six students will graduate in December from the program, and applications are open for the spring session, which starts January 25.
 

After life-saving lung transplant, local couple give a $2 million endowed chair to Cleveland Clinic

 The Buoncore Family Endowed Chair in Lung Transplantation, a $2 million gift to further research lung transplantation, was recently award to the Cleveland Clinic after Dr. Atul Mehta gave Lori Buoncore a second shot at a healthy life.
 
Buoncore, 60, has always been an active person. But in 2008 a cough and wheezing started to slow her down. “Everything else about her was 100 percent healthy,” says Lori’s husband Rick. “She never smoked in her life and she doesn’t drink. She’s the cleanest person I know.”
 
Soon after the cough began Lori was diagnosed with interstitial lung disease (ILD) – which damages lung tissues, inflames the air sacs and can permanently scar the tissue between the air sacs. Scarring of these tissues leads to the lungs becoming stiff – making breathing very difficult.
 
“Slowly but surely the capacity of her lungs got eaten up and they got harder,” recalls Rick. She had 20 percent capacity in her left lung and 50 percent in her right.” Oxygen helped for a while, but Lori couldn’t even take the oxygen mask off long enough to pose for a photo.
 
Lori needed a lung transplant. She was referred to pulmonologist Atul Mehta at the Cleveland Clinic Lung Transplant Program and went on the transplant list in August 2014. Then, after a couple “dry runs” to the Cleveland Clinic, the Aurora couple got the call that there was a match and lungs were available in November 2014. Lori checked in and received a double lung transplant.
 
There are currently about 1,500 people on the waiting list for lung transplants. Last year 1,925 lung transplants were performed nationally last year and  the Cleveland Clinic did 106 of them, the second most in the country. The one year survival rates for lung transplants at the Clinic is about 88 percent in 2013, which is slightly higher than the national average.
 
Almost a year later, Lori is doing well. After the transplant, the Buoncores were so grateful they were looking for a way to say thank you to Mehta and the Clinic. “They should have a medical school and put his picture up,” says Rick. “I’ve never seen a doctor who not only has technical ability, but patient ability. He’s call up and ask, ‘how’s she doing?’”
 
“Everyone loves him,” Lori adds of Mehta.
 
Rick and Lori talked to Michelle Amato, a friend and vice chair of the Clinic’s Philanthropy Institute, about how to best thank Mehta. “I asked, ‘what’s the greatest honor I can do for him,’ and Michelle said an endowed chair is the greatest honor a doctor can get.
 
So earlier this year, Rick and Lori established the $2 million Buoncore Family Endowed Chair in Lung Transplantation. The chair will fund research in lung transplantation outcomes.  The five year survival rate after a lung transplant is 55 percent. Mehta would like to improve on that, although he says he has patients who have survived more than 20 years.
 
“I didn’t ask for anything from them, but [Rick] kept telling me he want to do something,” recalls Mehta. “It was just a surprise to me. But it’s good for the Clinic, it’s good for patients. My biggest honor is when the patient asked me to take care of her.”
 
While the Buoncores wanted to create the chair in Mehta’s name, he refused. So the three decided it will be in the Buoncore name until Mehta retires, at which time the endowed chair title will be changed to his name.
 

Artist Gina DeSantis puts a new spin on showcasing her work

As much as she likes to show off her ceramics, artist Gina DeSantis wanted a new way to highlight the works she creates in her studio at the Screw Factory in Lakewood. “I hate showing my work in galleries,” she declares. “It just sits on a white pedestal and it’s like, ‘oh look, a mug.’”

Then DeSantis started thinking about the whole farm-to-table movement, and the practice of sourcing food locally. She thought, why can’t that practice apply to the plates people use to eat their local food?
 
So DeSantis contacted her friend Jillian Davis, owner of Toast restaurant, about a showing her work in the restaurant. Davis loved the idea, and with that Kiln to Table: An evening of fine craft and fine dining was born.
 
DeSantis designed 50 three-piece place settings – a salad plate, a dinner plate and a soup bowl – for the restaurant. Diners have the option to buy their place settings after dinner (the setting will be cleaned and packed up for pick up on Friday). Of course, guests are not obligated to buy their settings.
 
"I came up with rustic, simple dinnerware for Toast,” DeSantis says. “It accentuates the food and doesn’t distract from it.”
 
Kiln to Table is a one-night exhibit. But DeSantis would like to see restaurant shows become a regular thing. “It’s one night only, but hopefully it will be more,” she says. “I might get other artists involved and we’ll hop around the city. “
 
DeSantis adds that she wants to continue the trend of buying locally. “There’s this frenzy for everything local,” she says. “We’re growing and sourcing everything locally and then throw it on a 50-cent Ikea plate.”
 
She encourages people to take the trend a step further and buy their dinnerware locally as well.  We’re so concerned about sourcing everything local, but we get from A to Y,” DeSantis explains. “It may be more costly, but if you’re really concerned about sourcing local, it’s worth it.”
 
 Kiln to Table is scheduled for Thursday, November 5 from 4:30 pm to 11 pm. Reservations are recommended.

Who's Hiring in CLE: MidTown Cleveland, QED and more

Welcome to the latest installment of Fresh Water’s “who’s hiring” series, where we feature growing companies with open positions, what they’re looking for and how to apply.
 
MidTown Cleveland Inc.
Business is booming in MidTown, from restaurants and new office developments to historic redevelopment and premier healthcare providers.
 
University Hospitals’ plans for its Rainbow Center for Women’s and Children’s Health on East 57th Street and Euclid Avenue is slated for completion in May 2016. Hemingway Development is developing more than 240,000 square feet of innovative office space geared at entrepreneurs with its MidTown Tech Park. The Agora Complex is home to offices and a new restaurant. There’s a new police station and plans to create plenty of green space.   

“MidTown’s right in the middle between downtown and University Circle,” says Dan Fashimpaur, the chair of MidTown Cleveland’s board of trustees. “It’s becoming more of an attractive area. And we’re setting the table for a lot more aggressive growth going forward.”
 
In preparation of that aggressive growth, MidTown has assembled a search committee to find its next executive director. “We’re looking for a high-powered, energetic individual who’s going to fight fires,” says Fashimpaur. “We need someone who is going to establish relationships with the city and foundations. Someone who thinks outside of the box to scale growth in MidTown.”
 
The executive director will be responsible for community engagement and collaboration; strategy development; performance management; finance; and fund development.
 
Send resume, cover letter highlighting qualifications and three to five professional references to Virginia Houston at Strategy Design Partners by 5 pm on Friday, October 30.  
 
Quality Electrodynamics
Quality Electrodynamics (QED), has several positions open as the global developer, manufacturer and supplier of advanced medical equipment electronics grows and prepares to move to its new 77,000 square foot space in Mayfield Village. Some of the open positions include a manufacturing engineer with an electrical engineering background; a product quality engineer; and a quality assurance (QA) inspector.
 
Send resumes to human resources.
 
Cleveland Office of Sustainability
The City of Cleveland Mayor’s Office of Sustainability, which leverages the city’s assets by collaborating with the community to improve the economic, environmental, and social well-being of its citizens, needs an executive assistant.
 
The assistant is responsible for assisting and providing support to a variety of projects. Responsibilities include working collaboratively with Office of Sustainability staff as well as staff from all city departments and divisions as needed to support the implementation of sustainability.
 
Submit a resume, cover letter and three references outlining experience and qualifications by Sunday, November 1 to Jenita McGowan, chief of sustainability, Mayor’s office room 227, 601 Lakeside Ave Cleveland, OH 44114.
 
The Music Settlement
The Music Settlement, which offers music therapy, early childhood education, and music instruction to people of all ages and levels of experience, has three open positions: controller; operations and publicity assistant for the Bop Stop; and maintenance assistant.  Apply through the Music Settlement’s careers page.
 
The Cleveland Foundation
The Cleveland Foundation needs a  gift planning officer to assist in the development and execution of strategic cultivation and fundraising activities that contribute to the growth of the endowment of the foundation.
 
The gift planning officer interacts daily with external constituents with a primary focus on the cultivation of relationships with professional advisors and other wealth management professionals and their clients to establish new funds and planned gifts.
 
Send resume and cover letter indicating salary requirements to the hiring manager by Friday, Nov. 6.

 

Mod Meals offers fresh, locally-sourced meals delivered right to your door

Eating delicious, healthy food on a busy schedule is about to get a lot easier. Beginning next week, some of Cleveland’s most prized chefs will cook locally-sourced, health-conscious meals that will be delivered directly to customers' doors through a company called Mod Meals.

With a few clicks, customers can choose from a daily rotating menu of entrees, side dishes and kids' meals on both the Mod Meals website and app. “We take the headache out of making dinner,” says Mod Meals marketing director Scott Churchill. “It’s tough to keep business going, it’s tough to go out. We bring it right to your door.”

Started by entrepreneur and CEO Bruce Teicher, Mod Meals' participating chefs include Ben Bebenroth, chef owner of Spice Kitchen and Bar; Karen Small, owner of The Flying Fig; Eric Williams, chef owner of Momocho and El Carnicero; and Brian Okin, chef owner of Cork and Cleaver Social Kitchen and Graffiti. Additional chefs are expected to be announced soon.
 
Mod Meals will feature four to five entrée choices each day, four to five side dishes and a selection of kid-friendly fare. “We’re really focusing on kids’ meals,” says Churchill, who cites Bebenroth’s meatloaf – jam-packed with vegetables and shows smiley faces and frown faces when the loaf is cut – as one fun option for kids.

Some of the planned menu items include wood-grilled chicken,; arugula pesto and potatoes; chili garlic salmon with steamed broccoli; smoked brisket with Memphis barbeque sauce and crunchy slaw; seasonal crudite with hummus and dukkah; Asian noodle salad with cashew dressing, carrot and bok choy; kale, dried cherries, mustard caper vinaigrette, egg; and a squash and coconut bisque.

Meals will cost between $10 and $14, with a $2.95 delivery fee. “Our overhead is lower because we don’t have a restaurant,” Churchill explains. “But we’re piggy backing off the growing foodie scene here.” Menus will be posted a couple of days in advance so users can make their selections and choose their delivery times. Deliveries will be between 4 pm and 10 pm.
 
Additionally, with every order placed Mod Meals will make an equivalent monetary donation to the Greater Cleveland Food Bank.  
 
Mod Meals plans to start delivery on Monday, November 9 to downtown and the east side suburbs. The company plans to expand delivery to the west side within the month. Go to the Mod Meals website to get the app or place orders.

New app to help users find waterfront access points, appreciate Lake Erie

The West Creek Conservancy, a group focused on preserving natural habitats and expanding opportunities to experience nature, is developing a new mobile app that will allow users to locate a watershed, map water-related public access points and learn more about that river or stream.
 
Developers hope the app will help people get out and explore Ohio’s Lake Erie basin. The app will serve as a mobile version of ODNR’s Coastal and River Access guide. It will use the phone’s GPS to direct users to the nearest water access points.
 
“The real idea here is we have such a great asset at our back door and people don’t know how to get to it,” says Derek Schafer, West Creek’s executive director. “When you get access to it, you care about it. If you’re recreating on it, you love it and want to keep it healthy.”
 
Schafer is hesitant to use the term “watershed” when talking about the yet-to-be-named app. “It sounds like a regulatory term,” he explains. “This is to hook, line and sinker get people to the water – whether it’s a boat launch, a canoe put-in, marina, whatever it is. Get them to know where to get to the water – all of the rivers and all lake access points in all of Lake Erie.”
 
But the app isn’t just about waterfront fun. It’s also designed to get users involved in conservation and advocacy groups. “It’s about getting people engaged in advocacy, to action,” Schafer says. “It’s how to get people to the Lake Erie coastline, watersheds and all the rivers. It’s about how to get people to them, enjoy then and then once you get there, you get them to respect them and enjoy them.”
 
The app, which is scheduled to be completed in beta version for IOS by the end of the year and Android sometime next year, will feature Lake Erie and watershed protection tips, a photo gallery, Lake Erie and watershed FAQs, newsletter and links to advocacy groups.
 
West Creek Conservancy is still trying to decide on a catchy name for the app. Anyone with a good name idea can email Schafer with it. 

EmployStream makes the hiring process a paper-free snap

After working in software development for 20 years, Rob Sable decided that there must be a way to streamline the hiring process. He was right, and in 2014 he started EmployStream, which uses Software-as-a-Service (SaaS) to digitize and customize employers’ hiring processes.

Sable had worked for a large software company before he became CIO of staffing and recruitment company Alliance Solutions Group in 2012. Alliance was hiring about 15,000 people a year at the time and Sable was in charge of overhauling and upgrading the company’s technology platforms. “The cost of hiring a single person really takes a lot of work,” explains Sable. “With 15,000 [employees] a year you have to go through a process of paperwork and other onboarding.”

Sable approached Alliance owner Aaron Grossman about developing a new hiring system. “Combined with the owner’s background and my background in software applications development we came up with a prototype to streamline the process of getting someone hired and plugged in to payroll,” he recalls. “You can do it on tablets, phones, wherever you are. What we ended up with was a system on its own.”

In October 2014, Sable founded EmployStream, a paperless system that helps high-volume employers avoid mistakes, expenses and delays in the onboarding process and integrate their Applicant Tracking Systems (ATS) and payroll. “People make mistakes and fail, even if they get it right 99 percent of the time,” Sable says, adding that EmployStream takes the risk of human error out of the mix.
 
Alliance, which was Sable’s first customer with the pilot in 2013, was able to save $150,000 in labor costs during the first year it used EmployStream. The software officially launched earlier this year.
 
Sable says the EmployStream system helps virtually any type of employer – from small companies without HR departments to staffing companies. The system eliminates redundancies and paperwork. “It’s for anyone who hires 100-plus people a month,” he says. “The way we built the system is that anyone can load any of their documents in it – tax forms, customer specific documents, employment agreements.”
 
The EmployStream system can also be tailored to incorporate a company’s color scheme and logo. “Within a few hours you have a system online with a job board, application page,” says Sable. “I think it has applicability to any organization that has to engage with people or has paperwork.”
 
Sable began actively selling EmployStream this summer and has a handful of customers. “No one has told me ‘you’re on the wrong track, we’re going back to pen and paper,’” he says. “We’re just focused on getting the word out to more and more companies.”
 
In addition to staffing companies, Sable is now targeting non-profits and small local chains. “If I can help non-profits streamline costs, I like serving spaces that are under-served,” he says. “It’s hard to say no to the something that’s better and more reliable.”

MAGNET's second annual ProtoTech Pitch competition aimed at product-focused startups

On Thursday, Oct. 29th, area entrepreneurs will present their product-focused technology startups at the Manufacturing Advocacy and Growth Network (MAGNET)’s second ProtoTech Pitch event. Six companies will have about 12 minutes each to pitch their product and take questions from a panel of judges in hopes of winning cash prizes and free business services.

"There's going to be a wide breadth of companies,” says Dave Crain, executive director of entrepreneurial services at MAGNET. “It’s going to be a lot of fun.”

About 15 applicants will be chosen. From that pool, six finalists will then be chosen to present their pitches. The first place winner will receive $12,000, the runner-up will win $7,500 and the audience favorite will get $1,000.

The winners will also receive free entrepreneurial business services from MAGNET and other sponsors. MAGNET will provide a voucher for $5,000 in business services; Apple Growth Partners has offered $5,000 worth of start-up consulting to the top three finalists; and Dyan Sutton, owner of Creative Ideas Matter, is donating brand analysis and development services valued at $2,000 to the winner and one-hour consultations to the second place and audience favorite.

The event will also include a display section where startups will showcase product prototypes and talk to audience members before they give their presentations.
 
Chris Wentz, founder and CEO of Everykey, a company that makes wristbands that replaces keys and passwords, won last year’s ProtoTech Pitch. He will speak about his experiences at this year’s event. Everykey has gone on to raise more than $1 million in funding and also ran a successful Kickstarter campaign.

Winning last year’s ProtoTech pitch competition was a real turning point for Everykey. “Not only did the money help us immensely, but we also received a huge surge of press opportunities to get Everykey out in front of the masses," says Wentz. "The timing was impeccable because just a week later, we launched our Kickstarter campaign that raised $117,000.  The exposure we received from ProtoTech almost certainly drove to a large portion of that.”
 
ProtoTech Pitch will be held at the Ariel International Center on Oct. 29th from 4:00-6:30 p.m. Entrepreneurs have until Friday, Oct. 16 to submit their applications to pitch. Tickets to the event are $50 and include dinner.

Tech companies are thriving in NE Ohio, according to OHTec's latest study

Northeast Ohio’s tech industry is not only growing, it's thriving, according to OHTec’s recently-released 2015 NEO Tech Industry Report. The organization conducted the same survey in 2014 as it did at the end of 2010 and recent results show an increase in employment, revenue and overall growth.

“Four years ago, we used the same survey to get a snapshot of what the industry looks like,” explains OHTec director Brad Nellis. “We wanted to see what it looks like now and how things have changed in four years. It’s important because people don’t really realize the impact and scope of the tech industry here in Northeast Ohio. This report gives light to it.”
 
Nellis cites the fact that 68 percent of the region’s tech employers now have more than 10 employees – far above the national average of 18 percent – while in 2010, 45 percent had 10 or fewer employees. Today, only 32 percent fall into the very small category, while the number of companies with more than 25, 50 and 100 employees has grown significantly.
 
Furthermore, the report states that in 2010, just seven percent of companies reported revenues of more than $10 million annually, while in 2014 that percentage rose to 13 percent.
 
Nellis notes that an important point in the report is that 60 percent of the area’s tech companies are doing business outside of Northeast Ohio. “It’s not just moving money around in the region that’s already here,” he says. “With big growth in companies doing business outside of Ohio, that’s dollars being imported into the region.”
 
There really hasn’t been much change in the types of technology companies in the region, says Nellis -- Northeast Ohio continues to host a mix of companies, from software and IT services to web site development. And many tech employees are making good money. "We don't have any mega-tech companies here like Oracle, Google or Facebook, but there are high salaried individuals in web development, software development -- many making six figures," he says. 
 
Ohio in general has strong technology bases statewide, each with its own niche market. Nellis says the state has been supportive of the technology industry, which will only fuel future growth.
 
“Barring an economic upheaval, we will continue to see strong growth,” Nellis says. “We consider ourselves on a good, strong path.”

First CLE MedHack brings innovative ideas to reality

Brains were on overdrive and sleep was a luxury at the first Cleveland Medical Hackathon on September 26th and 27th at the Global Center for Health Innovation. The 24-hour event, designed to leverage the region’s strength in healthcare against technology and diverse skills in medical innovation, drew 190 participants on 22 teams.

"It was so fantastic to see the diversity of solutions the teams were working on,” says Sunnie Southern, founder and CEO of Cincinnati’s Viable Synergy and one of the judges.
 
Three teams won prizes of $3,000, $1,500 and $500 for their solutions to healthcare issues.
 
The IQ Sensor Solutions team, comprised of industrial, medical and software experts from Rockwell Automation, the Cleveland Clinic, LeanDog, and the University of Akron, took first place for their creations of a wearable blood pressure cuff using flexible sensor technology. The device would eliminate the need for an air bag, take real time blood pressure measurements and report results back to the doctor for better accuracy in medications and monitoring.
 
“This was my first hackathon, and it was quite a rewarding experience for sure,” says Kyle Reissner with Rockwell. “It was fun.”
 
Reissner and his wife, who is a transplant nurse, had been talking about developing a device for patients on the transplant waiting list that would monitor their vitals and reduce the number of hospital visits they would need to make.
 
While the team did not fully develop a working prototype in the 24 hours the MedHack allowed, Reissner is excited at the potential. “We didn’t prove it can actually measure blood pressure, but if we solve this problem it will have a pretty big impact,” he says. “We still have to go further.
 
Team member Morteza Vatani of the University of Akron’s mechanical engineering department plans to move the technology forward, along with other flexible sensor applications in wearable electronics, with his recently formed Smart 3D Solutions.
 
Team NEO+Natal, with team members from DragonID, Arrow Electronics, Cleveland State, the University of Michigan and the Federal Reserve Bank of Cleveland,  won second place with its development of an app to prevent infant mortality among at-risk expectant mothers.

The team developed a short questionnaire and a tablet app that allows community health workers to address risks and potentially save an unborn child’s life. The app also assigns each mother and community worker a unique pin number to coordinate follow up appointments and provide accountability. 
 
DragonID lead engineer Ilya Malinskiy says the team members are all friends with a common interest in biomedical technology. “We decided this was the perfect opportunity for us,” he says. “We thought we’d go there, build some cool science and possibly win a prize.”
 
Malinskiy says they may pursue developing the app further in the near future.
 
The Watershed Health Project team, led by Carl Preusser, an expert with Cuyahoga County Board of Health (CCBH), other experts with the CCBH, Vitamix, KSU and the Cleveland Fed, developed a prototype for a mobile app that would monitor water quality, eliminating the need for paper and duplicate or erroneous data.

“This management tool will lead to more efficient reporting of potential communicable disease risks allowing citizens to enjoy the watershed and protect our vital drinking water resource,” says Preusser. “This will reduce duplicate data entry and reduce the response time from 30 days down to one day.  Both street view and earth view of locations are given to the users, including the ability for routing, giving CCBH inspectors the ability to more accurately find location in remote areas.”

Southern appreciated all of the teams, but the three winners stood out. “I was very impressed with the diversity of the winners,” she says. “It was a great representative example of the 22 teams that participated. My hope for Cleveland is that this is the start of something awesome.”
 
Four other teams were recognized for their innovative ideas.
 
The event was sponsored by Nesco Resource and partners Cleveland Clinic, University HospitalsCWRUIngenuityCleveland, FlashstartsMetroHealth System and BioEnterprise.

Teen Tech Tank invites high school entrepreneurs to pitch ideas for chance at CSU scholarship

The Young Entrepreneur Institute, a group that encourages Northeast Ohio students to get involved in entrepreneurial experiences and organizations, is hosting Teen Tech Tank – a technology business idea pitch competition for high school students.
 
The entrepreneurs will compete for a chance to win $30,000 in prizes, including a scholarship to Cleveland State’s Monte Ahuja School of Business. Students with an idea for a tech business must submit a 60-second video by midnight today, Monday, October 5th.
 
"The hopes are that they will formulate a great idea that has real world feasibility with a technology component,” says Wendy Wercion, director of underwriting and sponsorship with the Young Entrepreneur Institute, who adds that organizers are hoping to receive 200 videos.
 
“Hopefully they’ll practice, practice, practice and then make the 60-second video. The pool of contestants will have such a wonderful opportunity to win if they deliver a great pitch.”

From the submissions, 20 semifinalists will be chosen. The semifinalist videos will be posted online through October 28th, where the public is invited to view and vote on their favorites. All 20 semifinalists receive $100 and a Teen Tech Tank T-shirt.

Five finalists will then be chosen by a combination of public voting and a panel of six community judges. The videos will be judged based on originality, real world application and presentation.

The five finalists will then pitch their ideas to “Shark Tank” star and entrepreneur Daymond John and an audience of approximately 450 educators at Enspire 2015, an event for entrepreneur educators, on Saturday, November 7.

“It will be such a confidence builder to get up in front of that many people and present an idea,” Wercion says.
 
All five finalists will receive an additional $150, a year’s supply of Coca-Cola products, a Best Buy Chromebook laptop, and a CSU Ahuja College of Business scholarship. The students must apply and be accepted to CSU to receive the scholarship.
 
Wercion stresses that the applicants don’t have to write a business plan, they only have to formulate an idea. But the idea much be technology-centered. “It could be specifically tech – hardware, software, music or games – or it could be an efficiency component for a medical company,” she explains.
 
Videos explaining how to apply, eight tips for making a great pitch video and sample videos are available on the Teen Tech Tank Site.

Banyan Tree opens its third location in Uptown

For the past 14 years, Christie Murdoch has called Tremont home for her eclectic boutique Banyan Tree – which sells unique clothing, jewelry, accessories and gifts to loyal customers. Last October, the Banyan Box became one of the first tenants of Small Box Cleveland, a collection of shops in renovated shipping containers.

Now, Murdoch is moving east and is about to open her third Banyan Tree store at 11440 Uptown Alley in University Circle. “I feel like it’s a fresh and new area that people are just hearing about, just learning about,” says Murdoch of the location. “There’s a mixture of people coming here, and it’s different than Tremont.”

Murdoch wasn’t actively looking for a third location, but Uptown felt right. “I looked at spaces over the years, but it wasn’t right,” she says. “Then this came along and we were open to it. It turned out really nice. It has the same feel as Tremont, but more modern.”

The Tremont Banyan Tree has a solid east side customer base, Murdoch says, but she believes she can reach a larger audience with her Uptown location. “Our east side customers are very loyal, but I think they’d come here more. And we love that we’re staying in the City of Cleveland.”

The Uptown store will carry similar items to the Tremont location, but Murdoch will adapt as needed. “In the beginning we will have very similar things,” she says. “Then, when we figure out who our client base is, we will bring in more items. We want to get to know our clients first, get feedback, then go from there.” The store will also showcase work from local artists and designers.
 
Murdoch grew up in retail – her mother owned a seasonal store – but didn’t initially intend to go into retail herself until she came across an empty storefront in 2001. “I had graduated from college and was looking for a job when I saw this space in Tremont,” she recalls. “And I decided I could do it.”
 
Fourteen years later, the Banyan Tree is one of Cleveland’s prized stores for shoppers looking for something different.

The Uptown location opens Thursday, October 8th with an opening night party at 6 pm with food, drinks and shopping exclusives. Regular store hours are Monday through Wednesday from 11 am to 7 pm, Thursday through Sunday from 11 am to 9 pm and Sunday 11 am to 4 pm.

Cleveland Jam's sweet new creations made from local wine and beer

Jim Conti started making wine as a hobby five years ago. While his friends loved his wine, he wanted to do something with the sediment left at the bottom of his bottles.

“I didn’t want to throw it away,” he recalls. “I thought about what I could do with it. I tried it, and it was pretty good.”

Then one day an idea came to Conti: Why not make jams out of the sweet sediment left over from the wine he created? After many recipe trials and taste tests, Cleveland Jam was born. Since 2013, Conti and his two partners, Dennis Kramer and Dennis Schultz, have been producing jams and jellies made from local wines and beers.

Conti begins the jam-making process by boiling down the wine to remove the alcohol, then processing it into jams and jellies. After perfecting the wine jellies, he thought “why not beer?” So Conti went to work on making beer jams as well.

Cleveland Jam now has five beer jams and three different wine jellies – all made with the aid of local brewers and vineyards and locally-grown produce. The company’s signature wine jelly flavors are Dynamite White Zinfandel, Rock and Roll Merlot and Press Play Cabernet.
 
The company has its own half-acre vineyard in the Clark-Fulton district off W. 25th Street on Sackett Avenue. The eight varieties should start producing fruit in the next two years. The site is actually an old brewery from the Prohibition era and Conti hopes to open a storefront there. His ultimate dream is to open urban vineyards all over the city.

In addition to his original Beer Jam, Conti began working with Great Lakes Brewing Company last year to create Burning River Pepper Jam. In July, the two companies released Eliot Ness Fig-Apple jam. “They put it on prosciutto sandwiches,” Conti says. Cleveland Jam also makes two beer jellies with a brewing company in Catawba – blueberry IPA and mango habanero.

The jams are used on menu items at Great Lakes and are available in Great Lakes gift shops.  Their popularity is keeping Conti busy these days. This summer, Cleveland Jam was chosen as one of three companies in the Old Brooklyn Community Development’s business pitch competition to receive a grant to open a storefront in the Old Brooklyn. Conti says he hopes to open in the city in the next few months.

Ingenuity transitions into new era with annual festival at Voinovich Park

For the past 10 years, IngenuityFest has been known as a three-day celebration where art and technology come together in somewhat unknown places, like the lower level of the Detroit Superior Bridge or Docks 30 and 32.

This year, Ingenuity Cleveland decided to highlight its evolution from just the festival to a full-blown organization by moving IngenuityFest 2015 outdoors to Voinovich Park in North Coast Harbor Friday, Oct. 2 through Sunday, Oct. 4. “Everyone remembers the bridge,” says Emily Appelbaum, director of programming. “This year we’re building it from the ground up."

This year’s theme, “transitions,” celebrates not only Ingenuity’s transition into an organization with year-round programming, but Cleveland’s transitions into a modern, thriving city. “We’ve always been in underutilized spaces,” says Appelbaum. “Instead, this year we’re looking at all the great development that’s taken place over the last couple of years – looking at what’s happened."

In keeping with its campaign “what’s your transition,” Ingenuity has partnered with organizations like SE Blueprint and Agnes Studio to help with a wayfinding campaign. “Ingenuity has always been a good place to come out and see objects, but we’re really excited this year about the feeling of moving through place,” says Appelbaum. “There will be some iconic large-scale wayfinding elements.”

There is no typical schedule, but instead a scavenger hunt for visitors to make their way to events. Challenges include making something with your hands or staying in touch with an artist after the event to find your way to the next attraction.

Four artists, including Stephen Manka and Brad Civic, have designed fire pits that will be located throughout the venue. Other artists featured include Leila Khoury’s sculpture, “Dirges.”  Tesla Orchestra will produce its piece, “Big Tippy,” which mimics the classic arcade claw game.

Organizers are also having some fun with words this year, with areas dubbed IngenuiTEAtime, IndusTREE Alley, and Archi-TECH-tonica featuring installations, discussions, performances, workshops and other interactive activities. There will be four stages at the event for bands that have not yet been announced.

“We want it to feel like you are walking into the living room of your best friend,” explains Appelbaum. “It should feel like a place where you feel at home and are able to let your guard down, strike up a conversation and dream a little bit.”

A Very Ingenious Person Salon (VIP) experience is open to the general public for $20 and includes access to IngenuiTEAtimes, Friday and Saturday, 6-9 p.m. and Sunday, 12-2 p.m., with civic thought leaders and Ingenuity partners. VIP tickets also include music by Ernie Krivda and social dance lessons from Viva Dance Studio, drink tickets and discounts free parking.
 
General admission is free. VIP tickets must be purchased by Wednesday, Sept. 30. IngenuityFest runs from 5 pm to 1 am Friday, 12 pm to 1 am Saturday and 12 pm to 5 pm Sunday.

SpiroSano helps patients, doctors manage conditions like asthma and COPD


When Radu Iancu left his native Romania for Cleveland to pursue his Ph.D in biomedical engineering at CWRU, he was worried about leaving his mother, who suffered from asthma and had a history of high blood pressure.

Iancu’s concern for his mother sparked an idea for monitoring such conditions. Then he met Jacob Glenn, who has a technology business consulting background. “He wanted to figure out how he could keep track of her health,” says Glenn.

Iancu and Glenn met in 2008 at Rosetta, where the two built the company’s mobile practice. They went on to form SpiroSano, a software-as-a-service company that was incorporated in April 2014.

SpiroSano has developed a system to track and manage data related to respiratory conditions such as asthma, COPD and cystic fibrosis. The data can be tracked using any medical device, such as an inhaler, with any mobile device. “The goal is to improve quality care that reduces costs and engages the patient in the process,” explains Glenn. “We make it as easy as possible to see the information.”

Basically, a doctor assigns a personalized treatment management kit to a patient. The patient chooses the devices and apps associated with the management kit assigned. SpiroSano compiles the data and provides aggregate data streams that are easy to understand and help both the patient and doctor make better treatment decisions.

Glenn says as much as 90 percent of emergency room visits for asthma attacks are unnecessary and Spiro Sano could significantly reduce ER visits and hospital admissions. “I think we will see more and more demand for this,” he says.

Glenn notes that patients often do not take their medications until they start to experience symptoms and doctors tend to disregard data if there’s too much information. “If a patient tells the doctor, ‘I used my rescue inhaler six times,’ and the doctor can see that the patient didn’t take regular meds for three days and began taking them when they started to feel bad, patients tend to leave that out. And if there’s too much data in front of the doctor, they won’t use it.”

With SpiroSano, doctors can see all of a patient’s data on the application’s dashboard in about 30 seconds. Glenn likens his device to other health devices like Fitbit or Jawbone.

Patients collect their data through their smart phones, while doctors use a web-based portal. The service costs between $20 and $40 a month, while the entire asthma kit costs between $300 and $500. Right now, insurance does not cover SpiroSano because the company is still young and there’s no return on investment information yet.

Glenn reports that the SpiroSano is just now beginning to generate revenue. The company received a $100,000 Innovation Fund grant in 2014 and was named Most Innovative Startup at the TechPint Summit in May.

CWRU research team takes a step forward in treating breast cancer

A collaborative team of researchers led by Case Western Reserve University have made an important breast cancer research discovery. They've found that a targeted therapy for treating some forms of breast cancer is effective in predicting early-on whether the drug bevacizumab, known commercially as Avastin, will be or will not be effective in individual patients.

The FDA rescinded its approval of Avastin for breast cancer in 2011 after it determined the drug did not improve survival rates. While the drug is still being used in Europe with some success, researchers and scientists at CWRU, Brown University, Yale University, and Philips Research North America worked to determine whether they could tell early whether Avastin might work or whether the medication’s significant toxicity would cause harm without much effect on treating the cancer.
 
They found that just one dose of Avastin, given upon initial diagnosis, could show whether the drug would be effective. “We thought if that one dose would change that tumor in the first 15 days, if it could predict at the very early stage how they would respond, that give us a chance to target treatment,” explains Vinay Varadan, assistant professor of general medicine at the Case Comprehensive Cancer Center, and lead author on the team’s findings presented in the International Journal of Cancer.
 
“I think it’s pretty exciting. With just one dose we might be able to figure out who it might help. It will help us personalize therapies for the patient.”
 
While additional clinical trials are needed to determine if this approach is effective, Varadan says the more important point in these findings is that it is a step forward for finding targeted therapies for breast cancers that have not responded well to other targeted treatments – specifically, what is known as Triple Negative cases. Triple Negative cancer cells do not have receptors for estrogen, progesterone, or HER2 -- 10 to 20 percent of all breast cancers.
 
"Now we have a framework we can use,” says Varadan. “It’s exciting. The framework seems to be effective across cancers and can speed up the process in finding biomarkers.” Identifying biomarkers can help find more targeted treatments.
 
Now Varadan and his team are working with Case's biomedical engineering department to determine if an MRI could be used to identify whether the Avastin will be effective, as opposed to the second biopsy now needed.
 
“This becomes even more exciting because MRI imaging would be non-invasive than running a second biopsy after treatment,” Varadan says.
 
The CWRU team on this research included principal investigator and senior author Lindsay Harris with University Hospitals Seidman Cancer Center, Hannah Gilmore in the department of pathology, and Ajay Basavanhalli in the biomedical engineering department.

Micah's brings a taste of Ghana to Cleveland stores

While a student at Hiram College, Nana Kwamena Takyi-Micah caught the entrepreneurial bug. At the same time he was craving the spicy flavors of his mother’s cooking in his native Ghana. So Takyi-Micah put the two loves together and created Micah’s Specialty Foods.
 
Micah’s signature product -- Supreme Sauce – is a taste of Ghana in a spicy tomato-based sauce and marinade with habanero and green peppers and onion. “My mom gave me the recipe,” Takyi-Micah says. “She taught me how to cook. What makes it unique is its flavor and versatility”
 
After getting his mom’s recipe, Takyi-Micah began making the sauce and passing it out to friends on the Hiram campus. People loved it, and in 2011 he was pitching his product against 11 other Northeast Ohio colleges at the Entrepreneur Immersion Week at Ashland University. He didn't fare very well.
 
“We didn’t even make it to the top three,” Takyi-Micah recalls. “So I started putting together a business plan.”
 
Four years later, Takyi-Micah today works out of his East Cleveland home and bottles Micah’s Supreme Sauce at the Cleveland Culinary Launch and Kitchen. His sauce is in 20 stores around the region, including Zagara’s Marketplace in Cleveland Heights and Narrin Asian Spice and Sauce at the West Side Market.
 
Takyi-Micah spends his weekends passing out samples in local stores to promote his product. “We demo it as a salsa because the cost of chips is cheaper than doing marinated meat,” he explains. “Because of its versatility we’re able to reach different demographics. Most of our customers are white, but Hispanics like it, lots of Africans, and Asians like it as a salsa. It’s like everyone’s product.”
 
Sales have been good -- Takyi-Micah sells an average of 20 to 25 cases a month – and he plans to soon expand to Columbus, Indiana and New York City. “We want to be in 10 other African markets in the next 10 months,” he predicts, adding that there are more than 100 African markets in New York alone. “We want to establish a presence and promote the product efficiently.” Takyi-Micah has one employee to assist with social media and marketing and has a photographer on contract.

Now Takyi-Micah is working on additional products, including a powdered ghost pepper rub for kabobs and his own version of a hot and spicy barbeque sauce.

Who's Hiring in CLE: IBM UrbanCode, NewBridge and more

Welcome to the latest installment of Fresh Water’s “who’s hiring” series, where we feature growing companies with open positions, what they’re looking for and how to apply.
 
IBM UrbanCode
Companies around the world in the gaming, retail, banking and technology fields have turned to IBM UrbanCode for help in supporting their DevOps needs. A leader in its field with headquarters in Cleveland, IBM UrbanCode continues to save its customers money with automation tools that enable organizations to deliver software to production faster while reducing errors.

“Organizations are finding that they can save money and increase customer satisfaction by simplifying and speeding up their entire software development and delivery process by using IBM UrbanCode software,” says Tracy Gavlak, IBM UrbanCode’s business operations specialist.
 
UrbanCode was acquired by IBM in 2013 but they still have a start-up vibe. “The Cleveland office is great because we have retained a startup feel,” explains Gavlak. “It's a professional yet relaxed atmosphere in a bright and fresh office space just a block from Playhouse Square.”

To keep up with demand for its software, IBM UrbanCode is looking to fill 23 positions on its software development team. The developers will code new features, do bug fixes and perform integrations with software development lifecycle tools. Qualified candidates may even help develop new products as they design, test, research and review existing code.
 
Open positions include senior Java software developer; software development manager, software tester and a business development representative. Qualified candidates should have a computer science degree or equivalent, Java coding experience, be a self-motivated strategic thinker with an analytic and problem solving skills and a passion for writing code. Register and apply online on IBM UrbanCode’s careers page.
 
C.TRAC
C.TRAC, marketing solutions provider specializing in interactive marketing, database management and related support services, is looking for a development lead to develop and deliver solutions that answer client needs using salesforce marketing cloud and related interactive capabilities. Experience managing projects from whiteboard to delivery is critical. This person will lead the development team and collaborate with account service and technical solutions teams. To apply, please send resumes to the hiring manager.
 
NewBridge
NewBridge, an arts and technology vocational training center for youth and adults, has four open positions, including a chief program officer/director of student experience, a student employment specialist, a student recruitment specialist and an administrative assistant. Email resume, cover letter and NewBridge application form to the hiring manager.
 
NLDP
The Neighborhood Leadership Development Program (NLDP), which is dedicated to enhancing the leadership abilities of engaged Clevelanders who are committed to creating a city and region which works for everyone, is looking for a graduate support manager to provide support and resources to NLDP graduates to enhance the development of their leadership skills and expand networking opportunities to create positive change in Cleveland. The manager will develop and maintain a broad based multi-faceted graduate support program using a variety of strategies. For questions or to apply, send resume and cover letter to Yuolanda Murray by Friday, September 25.
 
Terves
Terves, Inc., a materials science company producing engineered composites used in the oil and natural gas well completions and defense industries, has a variety of open positions, including an executive assistant to provide support to the COO and a project manager to manage all aspects of product development projects from feasibility to pilot scale production. To apply, email resume to the hiring manager.
 
OnShift
OnShift, a provider of staffing solutions software for long-term care and senior living facilities, currently has 15 open positions, including front end and back end software developers and a marketing communications manager.   Click here to create a profile and submit an application.
 
Complion
Complion, an early stage software company whose cloud-based software stores critical clinical trial documentation for hospitals and medical centers, needs a director of marketing, a software product manager, an inside sales executive and a software developer. Email resumes to Rick Arlow  
 
SplashLink
SplashLink, an online resource for the water industry focused on connecting water challenges all over the world with expertise, solutions and the tools to manage projects from conception to deployment, needs collaborative and internet-savvy associates to provide research, data-entry and related support to assess water industry information and input applicable content; and identify and capture pertinent contact information to aid SplashLink’s sales team. Send cover letter and resume to Michele Kilroy by Thursday, October 8.  
 
Software Answers
Software Answers, which helps improve the learning of K-12 students through its software suite, ProgressBook, needs a technical support analyst to provide technical support to customers. Candidate must have knowledge of SQL and Microsoft Office applications and have one year of customer service experience. Email resume to the hiring manager.
 
Jakprints
Jakprints, a custom printer, needs a designer and two production operators. Email resumes to the hiring manager.

F*Sho celebrates Cle furniture makers for seventh straight year

Jason Radcliffe – steel furniture designer, owner of 44 Steel in Avon, reality show finalist on SpikeTV’s Framework, and a cheerleader for the Cleveland maker movement – will once again bring the F*Sho to Cleveland on Friday, Sept. 18th from 5-8 p.m.

The F*Sho is a contemporary furniture show featuring work by local designers, furniture makers and Cleveland Institute of Art students. Radcliffe has been staging the show for seven years now, primarily to highlight the style and talents of local builders. “Time flies,” he says. “I feel like we just started this a couple of years ago.”
 
Radcliffe says there’s no doubt these makers are Clevelanders. “The best thing about this show is we are hands-down Cleveland builders and you can see that in everything we do,” he explains. “We all use local materials, reclaimed wood or fallen trees from here, all local steel. If you look at how we do steel in this city – it’s undeniably us.”
 
This year’s show features 27 furniture makers – six of whom are new to the show. One home builder, David Krebs of Modern Smart Homes, will also showcase his work. “I’m excited at the idea of a home building company that designs, builds and has furniture,” says Radcliffe.
 
Other designers and makers include 2nd Shift Design, Sawhorse Woodworks, blacksmith and metal fabricator Stephen Yusko, and Framework co-finalist Freddy Hill.
 
The F*Show is never in the same space twice. “We move it every year to an obscure location,” he says. “We try to show some buildings and spaces that are not normally on the radar.” This year’s show is in 20,000-square feet of space on the fifth floor of the 44 Building, 3615 Superior Ave. E., in Tyler Village – a new hotspot for furniture builders. “One of the cool things about Tyler Village is there are soon to be five makers in space there,” says Radcliffe.
 
Radcliffe and Hill hosted the first F*Sho in Los Angeles last March, after Framework was over. “L.A. went unbelievably well, he says. “We had almost double the response we had from the first Cleveland F*Sho. We’re working on doing another one out there in the spring.”
 
The F*Sho is free and open to the public. Everything the artists show is also for sale. Food and drinks will be served and a D.J. will spin tunes. “The fifth floor is all windows, all the way around,” says Radcliffe. “You can see the lake, downtown, and south. When the sun goes down the space lights up. We’re really happy about this space, these designers.”

RTA Red Line public art to celebrate diversity with a literary twist

The Cleveland Foundation has announced a $150,000 grant to LAND Studio to create public art along five to seven stops on the RTA Red Line from downtown to the airport. The public art will celebrate diversity. The grant follows support from the city’s economic development department and $357,000 in funding from the Northeast Ohio Areawide Coordinating Agency (NOACA).

The money will go toward the first phase of a project that will eventually span the Red, Green, Blue and Waterfront RTA rapid lines to become one of the largest outdoor public art galleries in the country. The goal is to get the first phase done in time for the Republican National Convention next year.

The plan for public art along the RTA route came about after Valerie McCall, Cleveland mayor Frank Jackson’s chief of government and international affairs, and other interested officials rode the route that ushers passengers from the airport to downtown.

“They asked, what type of welcome mat are we putting out,” says Tiffany Graham, project director for LAND studio. “The RNC was the impetus for getting this done quickly, but it will endure over time.”

The art, which will include photography and paintings, will be based on winners of the Anisfield-Wolf book awards, the only juried prize in the nation for books that confront racism and celebrate diversity. Named for Cleveland poet and philanthropist Edith Anisfield-Wolf and presented by the Cleveland Foundation, past winners include Toni Morrison, Nadine Gordimer, Martin Luther King Jr. and Malcom X. The 80th awards ceremony was held last week and honored five authors.

"Social equity is what public transportation is all about,” says Maribeth Feke, RTA director of programming and planning, adding that the Red Line is a perfect route for art installments. “Transportation is all about movement and motion and a lot of stations have very long, linear corridors. It will be about ‘what are you going to see next.’ A lot of pieces work as you are in motion.”

Lillian Kuri, Cleveland Foundation program director for architecture, urban design and sustainable development, says the project evolved at the right time. “From our end this was a really critical moment of time to help get something done,” she says. “Over many years it can create a cultural aspect of Cleveland through a collection of murals and photos. For us it connected the dots for many things.”

Local, national and international artists will be chosen by a curatorial team led by LAND Studio. The artists will then work with the authors whose work will be represented. Graham says a meeting is planned this week to review and choose the artists.

“This will look at issues Cleveland has struggled with for so long,” says Graham. “It will be a platform for these types of issues to be addressed -- conversations can be started and healing can happen.”

County announces continued support for ECDI small business lending

Cuyahoga County executive Armond Budish renewed the county’s commitment to making sure Cleveland small businesses get the funding they need for success. At a recent press conference at Toast wine bar, he announced a $2 million commitment by the county to the Economic and Community Development Institute (ECDI) for the continuation of the partnerships in the Cuyahoga County Microenterprise Loan Program.

“When I began my term I made it clear jobs are my top priority,” Budish said at the press conference. “Most jobs are created by small businesses, which struggle to grow because they can’t get funding.”
 
Budish cited Toast as one such business that has thrived because it received a small business loan from ECDI to open and then later expand. The restaurant and wine bar has created 13 jobs since opening.  “We need more businesses like Toast, so we are continuing our commitment,” he said.
 
With its initial funding from the city, ECDI has been able to provide 52 loans to 38 businesses in Northeast Ohio since it opened an office in Cleveland in 2013. “In 2013, the city provided a $550,000 investment to create a revolving loan fund,” explains ECDI vice president of lending and lending operations Greg Zucca. “With that money we were able to leverage an additional $1 million in lending capacity. Since then, we’ve exhausted those funds.”

ECDI founder and CEO Inna Kinney introduced Budish, thanking him and Cuyahoga County