The only online publication for women in Greater Cincinnati
Authors Posts by Amy Scalia

Amy Scalia

Publisher & CEO - Amy Scalia, a Cincinnati native, is the editor in chief and publisher of Cincy Chic. Send her an e-mail at From growing up in the cornfields of Harrison and getting a Mass Communications B.A. degree in the bubble of Oxford, to living on the NKY side of the river in Newport and then Ft. Thomas, Amy Scalia has embraced Cincinnati with her presence. Her major life accomplishments include: being a mom of two girls and a boy, a 2010 "40 Under 40" recipient from the Cincinnati Business Courier, winning the "Best New Product/Service of the Year" Award from the Cincinnati Chamber of Commerce and a national Web-writing award from ASHPE in 2007, a national feature writing award from ASBPE in 2006, and running three Flying Pig Marathons.

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Looking to buy a house in 2021? A local expert offers the five top things you need to know when exploring grant options for first time buyers.

Buying a home can be challenging for a first-timer. With so many steps, tasks, options and requirements, it’s easy to get anxious about making an expensive mistake. Turns out, first-time homebuyers actually enjoy some special advantages designed to encourage more real estate market newbies. 
To demystify the process so you get the most out of your purchase, we tapped the expertise of Cincinnati-based Ron Erdmann at Guaranteed Rate. Here are some money-saving tips and helpful resources to look into before you make the big buy. 
1) The Ohio Housing Finance Agency (OHFA) 
Erdmann says OHFA offers several affordable loan options to help you achieve your dream of homeownership. “The OHFA program is most interesting because there are different grants within the program that are specific to certain demographics,” he explains. “For example, there is a program called ‘Grants for Grads’ that assists recent college graduates with down payment assistance. There are specific programs that teachers, police officers, firefighters, and health care workers have eligibility. It’s definitely something to look into.” To learn more about OHFA, click here:
2) Mortgage Credit Certificate
Also through OHFA, Erdmann says, is the Mortgage Credit Certificate, or Mortgage Tax Credit. This provides homebuyers with a direct federal tax credit on a portion of the mortgage interest, lowering their tax liability by up to 40%. The maximum annual tax credit is $2,000, but this tax credit cannot be larger than the owner’s annual federal income tax liability, after deductions, exemptions and other credits. Click here to learn more about it and see eligibility requirements:
3) Communities First Ohio
The Port of Greater Cincinnati Development Authority, aka “The Port,” offers the Communities First – Down Payment Assistance (DPA) program, providing first mortgage financing and down payment/closing cost assistance grants to eligible homebuyers. “The local port authority created this program to help increase homeownership opportunities for residents in Ohio,” says Erdmann. “So, with a DPA grant instead of a DPA loan, there’s no second mortgage, no extra paperwork, instant home equity, no repayment obligation, and no restrictions or selling or refinancing.” Click here to learn more about Communities First Ohio and DPA grants:
4) Kentucky Housing Corporation
For those Kentuckians in Greater Cincinnati, there’s a resource for you, too. The ​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​Kentucky Housing Corporation (KHC) helps families achieve the dream of homeownership through affordable home loans, down payment assistance, and tax credits. “They help make homeownership more affordable for Kentuckians,” says Erdmann. “KHC can help with everything from down payment assistance and tax credits, to housing counseling and education.” To learn more about KHC, visit:
5) Find a Participating Lender
An approved lender can help you apply for the programs that meet your needs. “Not all lenders participate in these programs, so you’ll want to look into that before choosing one. Guaranteed Rate participates in all four,” explains Erdmann. “Exploring these options can really help with many of the stumbling blocks — like down payments, closing costs, and prep​aids — that prevent or delay home ownership. There are so many programs out there to encourage and help you buy, you just have to find which ones can apply to you and take advantage. That’s what they’re there for!”
To learn more about Ron Erdmann, NMLS 728342, Branch Manager and SVP of Mortgage Lending at Guaranteed Rate, visit You can also contact him via email at or call (513) 609-4484. 

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You found your dream home, but there’s a competitive housing market. Two local experts offer five helpful tips to give you a leg up on other offers without over-spending.

You finally found your dream home and you’re ready to make it official. But, uh oh, it’s a competitive seller’s market and there may be some other offers on the table already. How do you make your offer stand out to get accepted without over-spending? Here are five helpful tips: 

1) Have a good team. Your real estate agent and lender are your star players in making a home run offer. A good real estate agent will have a solid understanding of the market, be proactive, and communicate well. Your lender must be well-respected and locally well-connected. “Who you’re pre-approved with matters,” says Cincinnati-based Ron Erdmann, Branch Manager and SVP of Mortgage Lending at Guaranteed Rate. “Make sure they’re a lender who local realtors recommend, respect, trust, and know to have a great reputation. Realtors and sellers tend to lean toward local businesses they know and trust.”

2) Get pre-approved, not just pre-qualified. Unlike pre-qualification, pre-approval is a more specific estimate of what you could borrow from your lender. It requires documents such as your W2, recent pay stubs, bank statements and tax returns. The lender then uses those documents to determine exactly how much you can be pre-approved to borrow. “A pre-qualification vs pre-approval makes a world of difference. It means your lender has already verified your income sources, pulled credit report and verified your credit resources,” says Erdmann. “Sellers don’t want to sell to you if there’s any question about whether you can get a loan.”

3) Your down payment matters. According to the National Association of Realtors, in the past five years, more than 70% of non-cash, first-time home buyers — and 54% of all buyers — made down payments of less than the standard suggested 20% downpayment. That’s why Erdmann suggests having the ability – on paper – to make the larger 20% down payment, even if that’s not what you plan do in reality. “Having the ability to put down a larger downpayment is attractive, but that’s not necessarily what you have to put down,” Erdmann explains. “You can write a contract subject to putting down a larger downpayment, but that doesn’t mean you necessarily have to make a larger downpayment. It’s the ability to do so that counts.”

4) Consider non-contingency. A contingency is a clause included in an offer, which states that specific conditions must be met in order for a deal to close. If the conditions stipulated in the contingency are not met, the buyer is able to break the contract without facing financial repercussions. Therefore, contingencies are a means of providing buyers with protection against the risks involved in purchasing a home. One common contingency, according to Scott Oyler of Coldwell Banker Realty, is the buyer’s ability to sell their current home in order to purchase the new one. “Be able to to close quickly. If a house is vacant or if a seller has already moved on to buy their next house, they are more enticed to take an offer that will allow them to sell their house quickly and painlessly, even if the offer is slightly lower than the other offers,” he explains. “Try to write your offer non-contingent upon selling your current house if you currently own a house. Make sure you’re comfortable carrying two house payments if it comes to that. There are ways to access equity if you need it.”

5) Write a Love (Your Home) Letter. Want to win a seller’s heart — and home? A good, old-fashioned letter might do the trick. In competitive markets, it’s not uncommon for a house offer letter to be included in an offer on a house. “Some sellers really appreciate a personal note from the buyer as to why they want to buy the house. If you’re financially strong and you think it’ll help, you might as well. It adds that human element if the seller is open to it,” Oyler says. “It’s been a secret ingredient for many buyers, so it’s worth an ask. But always work with your realtor to craft the letter to not include any information that may be in violation of fair housing regulations.”

To learn more about Ron Erdmann, NMLS 728342, Branch Manager and SVP of Mortgage Lending at Guaranteed Rate, visit You can also contact him via email at or call (513) 609-4484. 

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See how a new fitness studio in West Chester, specializing in Electrical Muscle Stimulation-based personal training sessions, gets the results of 90 minute workouts in only 20 minutes.

FITOPIA EMS is powering up a workout like no other with the grand opening of its first-ever location in West Chester. The concept provides Electrical Muscle Stimulation (EMS) to a 20 minute workout, guided by a personal trainer, which gets a 48-hour calorie burn and the results of a 90 minute conventional workout.
“We’re really excited to bring this cutting edge technology to Greater Cincinnati. It’s unique and more effective than other fitness options because it burns, on average, 1130 calories with just 20 minutes of exercise,” says founder Bharat Kakar.
“Now, clients can tone muscles and lose weight with a short, deceptively easy weekly workout.”
FITOPIA EMS has been scientifically proven to be effective for a wide range of fitness levels and age groups. “One of our greatest joys is seeing how this helps so many different types of people,” says Kakar. “Busy moms are losing 25 pounds and feeling like themselves again. Athletes are getter faster and breaking performance plateaus. Older adults are building strength and stability which keeps them independent longer.”
In light of COVID-19, the private, or semi-private, workout sessions at FITOPIA EMS offer a safer alternative to a busy gym or impersonal at-home options. With each session pre-scheduled, only two clients permitted in the facility at a time, complete sanitization of all equipment before each session, a MERV-13 air filtration system, among many other precautions, “We’re going above and beyond to make this a safe, healthy space for clients to improve their fitness and wellbeing,” says Kakar. 
FITOPIA EMS is located at 7604 Cox Lane, West Chester, OH. Those interested can sign up online to receive a free week of personal trainer-led low-impact workouts can visit

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Remote work and hybrid offices have become a fixed part of millions of people’s lives. Whether you’re cruising along or still struggling to find a good work from home rhythm, it’s important to find ways that make your day easier. When you’re at a virtual desk, it can be hard to disconnect and recognize that your home really isn’t just a place to do your job. These time-saving strategies will help you accomplish more and achieve a greater work-life balance.

Plan Your Meals

Pre-made salads and sandwiches should always be in the fridge to make your lunches easy and nutritious. Whether you want to get groceries delivered to your doorstep or still enjoy a weekly run to your local supermarket, make sure you take time to figure exactly what’s on the menu every week. This prevents you from overspending on last-minute takeout and eating overpriced, unhealthy frozen meals. Although it might seem like it takes more time at first, meal prep actually helps you stick to a better budget. You’ll be able to know exactly how much you need, how much it should cost and get the bulk of cooking out of the way on weekends so you never wind up standing in front of the fridge wondering what to eat.

Tackle Bills Online at One Time

Cell phone bills, utilities, rent/mortgage payments and other expenses should be tackled as closely together as possible. You’ll save time by ensuring everything is always taken care of before or on its due date, and there will be less time wasted logging into slow portals to make payments throughout the month. You can even use the internet to order essentials like your Ohio medical marijuana card. The ultra-fast process costs $99 and takes 15 minutes. You aren’t charged until you’re approved, and it’s an easy way to simplify your self-care without leaving home.

Mix Exercise with Other Activities

Take the dog for a 30-minute walk or practice some cardio-aerobic moves while you tend to the housework. Chores can pile up when you’re constantly occupied with work, and if you focus too much on what needs to be done around the house, you’ll likely find yourself falling asleep after another long day hunched in front of the laptop with little to no exercise. Fitness doesn’t have to be complex to be effective; do some calf-raises while you wash the dishes, some squats while you’re folding laundry and leg sit-ups when you’re on the couch.

Keep Distractions to a Minimum

Turn off the TV, install a website blocker during work hours and schedule your social media breaks. Remote work-life can quickly become a hub of distraction with so many temptations within reach. In an eight-hour workday, 10 minutes per hour scrolling through your feed costs you an hour and 20 minutes of productivity. If you are prone to distraction, try designating a distraction-free work zone in your house that helps you get into the right mindset. You can also download some apps that make it easier for you to stay on track. Notes, planners and time-trackers are all great tools to improve focus and discipline.

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Hair extensions are a great option for those who want to have the long hair now (for one evening maybe), and not wait years when their short haircuts will grow out.

Hair extensions used to be the thing only celebrities had, but Instagram’s trends with ever-changing hair have promoted extensions among millions of people. It sounds great – get long hair without popping hair vitamins and waiting for our strands to grow. But only after you have bought the extension you discover other aspects like not so easy the attachment process and upkeep.

Extensions require high maintenance similar to natural strands, even more careful. Additionally, quality extensions come with a quite high price tag. Find out all there is to know about getting hair extensions, before considering buying one for yourself.

The Basics

Usually, hair must be at last 4 inches – long enough to braid or make a cornrow base for extensions to be applied.

The health of hair is also one of the most important factors. If the hair isn’t healthy, it must be treated before any extensions are applied to it. 

There are natural and synthetic hair extensions and it’s important to consider the differences between them. Natural hair extensions are usually made from human hair. Some less expensive hair extensions can be mixed with synthetic fibers or even animal hair. Fully synthetic hair is made from plastic fibers. It also could be processed for the desired texture. Such extensions have an unnatural feel and you can differ human and synthetic hair based on maintenance, texture, and price.

Hair Extension Applications

There are differences in how hair extensions are applied. 

Weave hair extensions – there are specific weave extensions. To apply them, you need to braid the natural hair into a cornrow and use a needle and cotton thread to attach the extra lengths.

Micro-link hair extensions (that are also known as micro-bead extensions) are applied by looping the extensions through natural hair and clamping it down with a pair of pliers and a metal bead.

Tape-in hair extensions are classified as semi-permanent extensions. They’re pre-taped on either side of a person’s own hair.

The pre-bonded extension is also known as fusion hair extension. They are attached to the natural hair using keratin or glue.

Clip in hair extension is considered as one of the least damaging to hair and very quick to apply because they are not attached to a braid. 

Net weaving extensions – another weaving technique that prevents additional stress on the hair. The net is sewn on the base of the cornrows, and the weave weft extensions are sewn to the net. 

Crochet extension is done using the same technique used to apply weft weaving, but the extensions are not sewn onto the braids, they are applied using a latch hook needle.

There is no one type of bond that is better than the other. The type of hair and method is going to determine by each person. For thin hair tape-in extensions are generally best when for coarse locks any other option would work.

Maintaining Hair Extensions

Typically it’s recommended to wait 2 days after hair extensions have been put in before washing. Before washing, detangled hair with a brush, from the ends to the roots. Regular shampoo won’t be a good choice, in this case, better to use a good quality shampoo and conditioner that was specifically created for use on natural and synthetic hair. Hair should also be gently dried and detangled. Avoid going to bed with wet hair.


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Learn about a program for leaders through the Cincinnati USA Regional Chamber that improves the ability to shift cultural perspective and adapt behavior and communication styles to successfully accomplish business results.

Today’s changing workforce and expanding markets require our ability to bridge across difference and communicate across cultures. The Cincinnati USA Regional Chamber offers a Building Cultural Competence (BCC) program to build that bridge.

The program not only builds the bridge, but walks teams of leaders across to deliver measurable improvement on an international standard of cultural competence.

According to Amy Thompson, Senior Director of Leadership Programs at the Cincinnati USA Regional Chamber, “It’s skill building for cultural competence, learning the impact of our emotions (EQ) on how we relate to and deal with differences. We help participants understand how their moral foundations impact decision making,” she adds. “There’s a neuroscience of bias and strategies to mitigate bias. Participants map out SMART goals at the end of the program. The focus on action planning is designed to create system change and impact.”

The Chamber is thankful to partner with the lead facilitator Priya Klocek, CEO of Consultant on the Go and several other experts to deliver the program.

So far, 220 leaders have graduated since 2017, and more than 50 organizations are represented. Thompson says the Chamber defines “leader” broadly for this program: anyone who is leading a team, has influence, and can make a difference. Participants have included business executives; healthcare providers; elected officials; clergy members; educators; community activists; journalists; realtors and more.

Through Building Cultural Competence, we are creating a growing network of leaders who serve as champions for change in our community,” she says. “By increasing the cultural competence of leaders, we can leverage their wide circles of influence to more effectively catalyze change in our region.”

Applications just opened for the sixth cohort. “Every cohort has made a significant increase in their collective level of cultural competencies, proving the program’s effectiveness and methodology,” Thompson says, adding that research based evidence shows the effectiveness. “Cultural competence has increased 11 points overall. Based on the scale used by the IDI, any increase over 7 points is significant and meaningful.”

Thompson says companies are finding it effective to send cohorts of leaders at the same time. “The virtual format has received positive feedback,” she adds. “The program is designed to be interactive and engaging. Through guided activities and interventions, participants have learned from each other in the cohort and build meaningful relationships.”

As a previous BCC cohort participant, Anisha Bhirud, Brand Marketing & Chair of Diversity & Inclusion at Perfetti Van Melle, says her experience “has been a revelation. The medium is very conducive to gaining personal insights through the perspectives of others, particularly the small group discussions,” she explains. “Previously thinking of myself as quite progressive, the program has spurred additional reflection about gaps in my ability to validate other cultures and perspectives. I believe I have developed this skill set during the program.”

Bhirud says the cohort experience provides many alternate perspectives that trigger personal insights and spur growth. “It also helps us with collaboration on the execution of systemic change within our organization,” she adds.

One of the biggest takeaways from BCC for Bhirud was the realization that every person is an iceberg. “So, what you see on a superficial level in the professional context belies that person’s full complex identity,” she explains. “That incongruence between what is allowed to manifest superficially and what is contained underneath impedes honest communication. Understanding each other on this level is crucial to bridging cultural competencies.”

Bhirud says the BCC program has shifted the way she thinks significantly, particularly about equity. “We have focused so much on Diversity and Inclusion in the past, but 2020 has demonstrated the prescience of equity, especially as opposed to equality,” she says. “An example of this is called ‘The Box.’ We are all different heights and trying to look over a fence. Each person is given the same size box, giving each person an equal boost. However, despite equal assistance not everyone may be able to look over the fence. Equity dictates that each person needs the right size box for them in order to truly have an opportunity.”

Bhirud says she highly recommends BCC to anyone interested in expanding their perspectives as it relates to Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion. “You’ll find, as did myself and all my peers, that the DEI journey has only started and there is a long way for many of us to go,” she adds.

The program is open to business, non-profit and community leaders from all sectors. Tuition includes two intercultural competence assessments and two individual coaching sessions as well as all materials, meals and related program costs. The program is delivered in 13 sessions over two months. For more information, visit competence.

Applications are due January 15, 2021.

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This completely renovated Victorian near Hyde Park Square features a chef's kitchen and amazing outdoor entertainment space. Keep reading for a peek inside.

This is a completely renovated Victorian located very close to Hyde Park Square & Wasson Way Trail. It boasts gorgeous curb appeal with a stone path & wrap around porch. Renovations kept the home’s original charm with the lead glass windows & doors. The home has a chef’s kitchen with two ovens & gas range. It also has modern amenities like 2nd floor laundry & zoned HVAC. You don’t want to miss this amazing outdoor entertainment space, with covered patio & fireplace. Other features include an attached breezeway and an oversized 2 car garage used as an entertainment outpost. You’ll never need to leave the home! It is tax abated til 2026! This 4 bedroom, 3 bathroom home in near Hyde Park Schools is listed at $999,900.

This listing is sponsored by Ron Erdmann at Guaranteed Rate, the official mortgage professional of Cincy Chic.



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See how this annual event (virtual this year) brings together business and community executives for best practices in inclusion, an inspiring keynote, and an update on how the region is becoming more diverse by design and inclusive by intention.

The community’s largest annual business gathering focused on inclusion, the Fifth Third Bank Diversity Leadership Symposium hosted by the Cincinnati USA Regional Chamber, is coming up Dec. 10. This year, it’ll look much different than usual, but event organizers consider that a good thing.

“Before this, the conversations were happening, the room was full, and we still weren’t reaching everyone we needed to. More people are raising their hands now. Because of COVID-19 and George Floyd along with many others, we have greater awareness coupled with a business community that says we’re going to come out of this COVID depression and emerge a better version of ourselves,” says Jill Meyer, president and CEO of the Cincinnati USA Regional Chamber. “Hearts have been changed, awareness has been lifted, and we’re putting tools in the hands of those who will rebuild differently. It’s an opportunity we didn’t ask for but it’s our reality. It’s an opportunity to build things the right away. My excitement is how quickly, and robustly a diverse the group of participants – and not just our usual suspects in these conversations – are coming to participate now.”

The event’s exclusive conversations will be headlined by Greg Carmichael, President & CEO of Fifth Third Bank and David Taylor, President & CEO of The Procter & Gamble Co. Participants will hear directly from these top leaders of the importance of having intentional, committed focus on diversity and inclusion in the workplace, and how the business community can have profound impact on meaningful progress. Additional programing will include panel discussions and breakout sessions. 

Jill Meyer, president and CEO of the Cincinnati USA Regional Chamber

“We are kicking off the conversation with how they have been tackling this, producing results, and how we can all learn from one another,” says Meyer. “Normally, we bring in a national speaker, who’s on the circuit, and usually has written a book about the issues we’re focusing on. This year, we’re focused on Black talent, and hearing from businesses based right here in Cincinnati instead.”

Meyer says that while there’s work to do, there are many good things happening in our businesses – with measurable results – and the Chamber is thrilled to highlight that work to inspire even more. “Things that people can learn from and replicate,” Meyer adds. “What’s happening and going well that people can learn from? Who are our local leaders and resources that can help others lean in and think creatively?” 

This focus on inclusivity, Meyer says, isn’t new for the Chamber. “The work we’ve been doing at the Chamber for more than five years has been centered on the commitment to model inclusion in everything we do,” she explains. “We see the data that says not everyone is participating in our economic momentum and the rise of the community. There’s a big population in this region not participating, not because they don’t want to, it’s because they can’t break through or navigate some of the systems that are in place.”  

Meyer says she’s confident in our collective ability to build differently going forward because it’s in the DNA of this region. “It’s the Cincinnati way. Maybe sometimes we’re too humble. But it’s the willingness to roll up our sleeves and really dig in. There’s a lot of that happening now on the diversity, equity and inclusion front,” she says. “To think about the Cincinnati we knew in February –there was a lot of good stuff happening then. But the Cincinnati that emerges from this is going to be far more vibrant, with an even more lively energy …because there’s an imperative that we must do better. More people are taking ownership of inclusion in an intentional and committed way. It absolutely will bring the community to life in a way it hasn’t in the past.”

Due to ongoing health concerns of public gatherings, this event – which typically sells out with over 800 attendees – will be held virtually. “We see this as an opportunity to reach even more people with a message that’s more important and needed than ever,” says Meyer. The event will take place from 8am-12pm. Click here to learn more and RSVP:

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Learn about the Workforce Innovation Center that now offers more than 120 inclusive best practices, policies, and partnerships to support companies’ unique workforce and talent needs.


It’s no secret that businesses are facing unprecedented challenges in the current economy. People are also struggling. With poverty and disparities, especially along lines of race, it’s holding our community back. That’s where the Cincinnati USA Regional Chamber’s  Workforce Innovation Center can help. 

Through a newly unveiled three-tired service offering the Workforce Innovation Center helps by providing:

  • assessment services to help companies identify issue areas
  • more than 120 practice and policy recommendations and partnerships to customize solutions for companies
  • evaluating and recognizing companies through a formal process, which is in development

Workforce Innovation Center Executive Director Audrey Treasure says the concept is led by the idea of “inclusive capitalism,” which aims to make capitalism benefit employees, communities, and shareholders with the positive results. 

“Business was designed to be in the best interest of their stakeholders, meaning the employees, employers and community as a whole,” explains Treasure. “We aim to return to this idea that a business invests in their people as part of their long-term talent play for all. It doesn’t have to be about how fast you can turn a profit. It’s about building a strong community. We’re beating our drum that this is how we want businesses run in Cincinnati.”

Treasure says plans to launch the Workforce Innovation Center has long been in the works, but COVID-19 made the need for its services even more apparent. “COVID-19 forced us to make this more available to more companies. That’s why we broke it down into three service offerings, you can choose one, or two or three of those so we can help you reach your goals,” she explains. “The pandemic also made it more apparent that people live in financially precarious positions, which is really troubling. We want employers to be part of the solution.”

The Workforce Innovation Center takes a direct approach of consulting with companies to understand what is happening within their workforce. Through an assessment process of a company’s identified challenges, policies, and employee experience, the Center proposes solutions that can improve the business’ operations and can also help address challenges that employees might be experiencing. “A company may have a tardiness policy that is overly punitive and results in a high turnover rate of employees that could otherwise be successful,” explains Treasure. “The Center can then support an employer in implementing practice changes in order to achieve its desired outcomes and improve its bottom line.”

Not only does the Center offer this support, but it also serves as a hub between businesses and the workforce ecosystem that exists in this region. “These social solutions organizations excel at removing barriers for people who are looking to advance their lives through work and can bring companies new sources of talent that employers may not have previously considered,” she says. “There’s also been a real increase in focus on racial disparities. Companies come to us asking how we can help them bridge the gap. They want to be intentional about how they improve policies and practices, as part of their business strategy and we’re there to help.”

Treasure says they help local businesses large and small through the Center, the smallest currently having 14 employees and the largest having thousands.

Liza Smitherman, Vice President of Corporate Strategy at Jostin Construction, Inc.  

“We see an opportunity for companies to drive changes within their business to improve company operational and financial performance and support their employees,” says Treasure. “We can give businesses – regardless of size – tools and measurements to tell them how they’re doing. We think if we can do this company by company, this will have a transformational effect on the community as a whole.”

The Workforce Innovation Center was established by business leaders who wanted to make the reduction of poverty in the region a priority. Liza Smitherman, Vice President of Corporate Strategy at Jostin Construction, Inc.  sat on the advisory board of the Workforce Innovation Center prior to launch, and also recently brought Jostin Construction on board to utilize all three service levels.

“They made it easy to share and acknowledge that there are opportunities for improvement so they can then help. It’s so important to know where our employees fit, center their voices, so we can hear from our stakeholders, our assets our employees,” Smitherman explains. “A good business that wants to have good jobs needs to hear from their people. The center helps our employees give comprehensive feedback, while also getting an objective review of that feedback, benchmarked by industry standards and best practices to let us know how we’re doing and areas of needed growth.”

Smitherman says she feels extremely thankful to have access to the Center’s services in Cincinnati. “We are in Ohio, so we’re more conservative about how we look at things,” she adds. “I give credit to the Chamber in particular who pull together a very diverse group of voices that then help move this needle forward. There’s some empowerment felt that my voice can be heard as much as a big business that’s been around for 20-30 years.” 

This business-focused resource is part of the Cincinnati USA Regional Chamber. Through this, the Workforce Innovation Center is able to offer support to companies while helping them solve challenges and find new sources of talent, consider new ways of doing business to support their success, and engage companies in the process of increasing economic mobility for those in poverty. 

To learn more about the Workforce Innovation Center, visit You can check out more using the Cincy Chamber’s presence on TwitterLinkedIn and Facebook and the Center’s new LinkedIn page. You can also watch and share these short videos focused on the Center’s approach for businesses and how it will impact the community as a whole.

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See how you can easily and quickly switch to a tech career -- at no cost to you -- through a registered apprenticeship with technical training and paid, on-the-job experience.

Where you’re headed, not where you’ve been. That’s the focus for Apprenti Cincinnati, a registered apprenticeship program designed to recruit and train professionals — based on their aptitude, not their background — helping to fill Greater Cincinnati’s shortage of skilled tech talent.

“We take individuals that have different backgrounds and help move them into careers in technology,” says Apprenti Cincinnati director, Christina Misali. “In about a year and a half, you can completely switch careers and take on no tuition debt in the process.”

Apprenti Cincinnati was brought to the region through the Cincinnati USA Regional Chamber and the CIO Roundtable. Thanks to a generous investment by JPMorgan Chase and support from the Duke Energy Foundation, they’re leading this tech talent collaborative designed to expand and diversify the region’s IT workforce. Since the program launched in February 2019, Apprenti Cincinnati has placed 46 talented professionals into a variety of IT roles.

Maria Konerman is one of those professionals. “I was working in non-profit management. I started to realize it wasn’t a good fit for me,” recalls Konerman, now an Associate Application Analyst/Developer at Great American Insurance Group. “I just had this nagging voice that I wanted to pursue a career in IT.” 

At first, Konerman says, thinking about a career change, the education costs and starting from scratch in a new field seemed too daunting. That is, until Apprenti Cincinnati made her dream a reality. “I could not be more grateful to have this opportunity. It’s changed my life and I’ll always be profoundly grateful,” she says. “Sometimes I wake up and get on my computer to do my development work and I can’t believe it. I’m like ‘How did I even get here?'”

Konerman, like many other candidates and apprentices like her, got there through Apprenti Cincinnati’s non-traditional solution to drive more tech talent in and to the Cincinnati region. Apprenti was launched by the Washington Technology Industry Association, headquartered out of Seattle, in 2016. It now has multiple locations across the country with more than 1,000 apprentices placed in a variety of tech roles.

To get started, candidates take the aptitude assessment to measure math, soft skills and critical thinking abilities. Then, there’s a multi-level screening process. “The entire process can be 3-5 weeks. Some, we talk to over a six month period,” says Misali. “It depends on where our employers are in their hiring process and where the candidates are in their career journey. We meet people where they are.” 

After interviewing with an employer, the apprentices participate in certified technical training ranging from 10-15 weeks through one of several local training partners: Cincinnati State, Tech Elevator, MAX Technical Training, Per Scholas, Kable Academy and the University of Cincinnati.

After training, they start work with their hiring partner – local employers, such as Kroger Technology, Procter & Gamble, CVG and Great American Insurance Group. Employers pay for the technical training and continue to educate their apprentices through paid on-the-job training for one year. Roles currently offered include: software developers, IT business analysts, network security professionals, IT support admins, cloud specialists, cybersecurity analyst and more.

Local employers are eager to fill their tech positions, Misali says. In fact, more than 37,950 IT roles were posted in the Cincinnati Region in 2019. Apprenti Cincinnati works with companies large and small to fill open positions with tech-interested individuals, regardless of educational or professional background. 

Recent events have only accelerated this need. “We’re depending even more on tech for everything. People are finding themselves unemployed or they’re thinking about what really matters to them and reconsidering career choices,” Misali says. “We help companies lean in to meet demands of un- and underemployed professionals, and we help candidates who have more than ever on their plates step toward a new career.”

According to Misali, 46 percent of Apprenti Cincinnati apprentices were unemployed for less than 27 weeks prior to starting the program. “That leads to a municipal investment for the region as the average salary post-graduation in our area is $50-70k,” she adds, “Some people are seeing over 100 percent increase in earnings. And we have 100 percent retention to date for our region.”

Apprenti Cincinnati also helps to diversify employer’s candidate pipeline. “Women, minorities and veterans are a focus for this program. We’ve placed apprentices from age 18-49. Our inaugural class was 55% women,” Misali explains. “Given everything going on in the world right now, especially with recent racial injustices, employers can partner with Apprenti to increase diversity within their tech teams. This is a community. This has always been about offering support.”

Apprenti Cincinnati is for the broadest range of candidates possible – no IT experience is required, just interest, aptitude, and work ethic. To learn more, or register, visit