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Authors Posts by Kyrsten Stoll

Kyrsten Stoll

Kyrsten Stoll
PR & Editorial Intern - Kyrsten Stoll is the PR & Editorial Intern for Chic Publications. Contact her at

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The Ark Spark is a children’s art studio that aims to boost imagination and creativity.

In 2010, Jacquelyn Graff and Emily Otte were recent college graduates trying to pave their new career paths. While both in search for teaching jobs, they bonded over a mutual love for education, art and children.

Eventually, they realized that their calling was to start a business, and The Art Spark was born. “We decided to open our own children’s art studio after working at a similar business during summer break in college,”

Otte and Graff explain. “We love being able to provide children with lasting memories that instill imagination and creativity into their future endeavors.”

Today, The Art Spark has been providing Cincinnati’s children with a creative outlet for five years. The business has grown to provide different age-targeted programs that encourage problem solving, independence and individual creation. Their offerings include pre-school classes, after school classes, home school classes, birthday parties, summer and winter camps and personalized events.

The Art Spark is a bright spot for children among other academic curriculum. “It’s important that children can feel free to carry out their own ideas and [learn] to problem solve in a creative way that they may not be getting during their school day,” say Otte and Graff. At The Art Spark, every class and camp session begins with a brainstorming session. “This allows the child to contribute their ideas – it’s very exciting and makes a child [gain] self-worth and a sense of accomplishment,” Otte and Graff add.

At The Art Spark, creation is more than a finished product. “It’s an investment in the future of every child,” Otte and Graff explain. Every project helps children to develop fine motor skills by using a variety of different supplies and techniques. “We challenge our children to think outside the box and solve problems creatively,” say Otte and Graff. “The kids see it as a fun puzzle but ultimately it’s helping them develop skills that they can use in their daily life.”

An instilled sense of imagination helps children from grade-school age and beyond, according to Otte and Graff. As they grow, a flare for creativity, “helps them to be more confident, have exceptional leadership skills and to not give up when they may hit road blocks,” they add.

The Art Spark offers programs and opportunities to fit every lifestyle. Summer and winter camps are divided up by ages and all have a unique theme. Activities include both individual and collaborative team projects.

Age ranges for camps are 3-4, 5-9 and 7-11. Birthday parties are another way for children to experience The Art Spark. Families can choose between different packages according to their wishes.

“Our Play and Create package offers games, activities, and two art projects that each child takes home with them,” says Otte and Graff. “Our Exploration package offers activities within an elaborately build, full-emersion environment and also includes two take-home projects.”

Birthday parties are also customizable, with the activities and projects based on a theme chosen by the child.

Playing a role in the development of a child is a rewarding experience for Otte and Graff. “We always stick to our guidelines of inspiring imagination, solving problems creatively, and helping children gain independence and confidence,” they said, “We are always inspired by our students’ creativity and each day is a new adventure!”

The Art Spark is located inside Rockwern Academy at 8401 Montgomery Rd. Visit for more information.

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Kevin Tolan left the hustle and bustle of New York City to bring popcorn to the people of Cincinnati in a way they’ve never experienced before.

People's Republic of Popcorn
People’s Republic of Popcorn was founded by Kevin Tolan. You can check it out at events throughout Cincinnati. 

Over the past decade, new businesses have taken root in Cincinnati and a new energy is emerging. But there was still something missing, and Kevin Tolan knew what it was. “[People’s Republic of Popcorn] is bringing popcorn back to its roots and provides sustenance to the customer with no guilt,” he explained.

The concept for this business was born in 2013 when Tolan was working as a Business Improvement District Director for the Fulton Mall Improvement Association in Brooklyn, New York. The Fulton Mall is the largest retail district in Brooklyn, and one of the largest in New York City at just over 2.5 million square feet.

“I had incredible contact with both independent, regional and national retailers during a time of great transformation in Downtown Brooklyn and the borough at large,” Tolan says, “I left Brooklyn in June of 2013 to move back to Cincinnati and plug into the incredible transformation that is happening here.” Tolan, a graduate of University of Cincinnati’s DAAP program, combined his love for business and his creative flair to found People’s Republic of Popcorn in the summer of 2015, an event-based concept throughout the Cincinnati region.

Much like the transformations of the cities Tolan has worked in and for, he saw a need for the concept of popcorn to transform as well. When most of us think of the classic snack, we think of a guilty pleasure smothered in butter and salt. Tolan set out to change that. “[Popcorn] has always been a family treat that we would snack on all the time,” he adds. “From that foundation, and a knack for being inventive in the kitchen, I found popcorn to be a health alternative to so many other snack foods out there.”

People’s Republic of Popcorn prides themselves on producing an organic product, using organic kernels, coconut oil, and “a myriad of spices that speak to the discerning palate,” he says. The current flavors include Sgt. Pepper Lemon Lime, Bees Knees, Feeling Hot, Hot, Hot and Salt & Peppa. These flavors are inspired not only by the rich history of eccentric Cincinnati food, but also by Tolan’s family history, which includes his grandmother who was born in India as the child of missionaries. “The love and experience of spice was introduced to me at a very, very young age,” he explains.

Tolan says the response has been quite positive. “[This has felt like] a seamless process thus far…very natural and affirming”, he says. There are many exciting things on the horizon for People’s Republic of Popcorn as they plan to add more flavors catered to the “adventurous, yet discerning” customer. While People’s Republic is still an event-based company at this time, they are in the process of looking at some retail opportunities within the upcoming year.

You can catch Tolan and People’s Republic of Popcorn at Artworks Ink Your Love Gala on Friday, November 20, as well as the Montgomery Under One Roof Holiday Shopping Event hosted by Cincy Chic on Friday, December 11. You can also like them on Facebook.

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We talk with Julie Lyon, a graduate gemologist and the owner of Jewels by Jules boutique, about what inspired her to get into the industry and why her business is a diamond in the rough.

Jewels by Jules
Julie Lyon, Owner of Jewels by Jules

Diamonds are a girl’s best friend. But for Julie Lyon, they’re also a life-long passion and profession.

Lyon grew up watching her father carefully choose jewelry for her mother. “Most of the time it required designing something and picking out the perfect stones,” she recalls. It was those special family memories that sparked her interest in all things sparkling, which led her to pursue a career in the jewelry business.

After working in a jewelry store through college and completing her education at the Gemological Institute of America, Lyon decided to use her industry knowledge and unique education as Graduate Gemologist to open Jewels by Jules on Montgomery Road in August of 2011. Lyon says Jewels by Jules is dedicated to providing a truly low-pressure, customer-based experience. “I believe in the old school approach,” she adds. “To me, that means getting to know my customers on a more personal level, and working to give them something that they either love for themselves or can be proud to give someone else.”

Not in the market for diamonds this holiday season? Jewels by Jules carries a variety of other products that are great for gift-giving. The boutique sells watches, Debbie Brooks purses, Alex and Ani, Color and Dot ornaments, along with glass platters, handmade scarves, and picture frames. In addition, “[We’re] a full service jewelry store that can provide repairs, appraisals, and jewelry cleaning,” Lyon explains.

There are exciting things on the horizon for Lyon and her boutique. Jewels by Jules is currently in the process of creating a mobile application, specifically for the wedding market. “Customers can create rings on their mobile devices and bring them in for us to create,” she explains.

Lyon loves that the pieces she carries change lives and last for generations. “Jewelry is timeless!” Lyon says. “I have pieces to given to me from when I was young, from being married, having kids, I can tell you where each piece came from and what it represents. Jewelry is symbolic.”

Jewels by Jules will be one of the featured businesses at the November 7 Seasonably Chic Showcase event. Lyon says they will be bringing a great range of products including Alex and Ani, Samantha Fey, and Kameleon. To learn more about Julie and her business, visit