First Batch

First Batch

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A Cincinnati-based business accelerator is helping women-owned businesses get their products developed and launched into markets. Read on to see what makes this first-of-its-kind accelerator unique.

Fashion designer Anastasiya Yatsuk (left) and jewelry designer Jill Gouliat (right) in the First Batch OTR warehouse's fourth floor workspace.
Fashion designer Anastasiya Yatsuk (left) and jewelry designer Jill Gouliat (right) in the First Batch OTR warehouse’s fourth floor workspace.

Ohio is one of the country’s leading manufacturers, and Cincinnati serves as the state’s No. 1 manufacturing region. Because manufacturing is such a big part of the state and city’s economy John Spencer was inspired to create a business accelerator that supports manufactured products that help create jobs and revenue.

“Though there are hundreds [of business accelerators], First Batch is the first in the nation dedicated to locally manufactured physical products,” says Spencer. “It helps entrepreneurs recognized and prepare to address the major issues they will face in growing their organizations and their sales.”

This nonprofit offers an open application process during the spring of each year. Spencer says that selection on which organizations they work with is done by a team of judges that consider the quality of the people as well as their product ideas.

While First Batch was founded back in 2013, Spencer notes that this year is the first that the majority of participants are women-owned business. In its three years since inception, Spencer says that applications, funding, program scope, and the number of businesses who have benefited from First Batch has grown every year.

Spencer co-founded First Batch with Matt Anthony who continues to serve as the nonprofit’s president. Spencer and Anthony are graduations of the University of Cincinnati’s College of Design, Architecture, Art, and Planning (DAAP).

The program is also supported by a roster of Cincinnati business, manufacturing, marketing, and civic leaders who serve as advisors to the program and mentors to entrepreneurs. “First Batch is funded by the TechSolve, the U.S. Small Business Administration, and the Duke Energy Foundation,” adds Spencer.

Aside from being the first business accelerator in the country that focuses on physical products that are locally manufactured, First Batch is the only program of its kind in the region that has a physical focus as well.

First Batch is also proud of its reach to female business owners. “Last year, for the first time, 50 percent of participating businesses were women-owned,” says Spencer. “This year, it is 67 percent – all in fashion-related fields.”

Businesses who participated in First Batch this year included Jill Goulait of Grey Goose Gifts, Monica Kohler of Skube.me, Jenifer Sult from DAAP, and Anastasiya Yatsuk of TextileHaus.

Goulait went to First Batch seeking help to significantly scale up her line of products that are currently available through Etsy and at retail stores including Mica and Morrison and Me.

Kohler launched a line of reversible, stretch knit skirts that can be worn as tops or scarves. “Skubes can even be worn over more casual clothing, helping women transition among activities without having to totally change outfits,” says Spencer.

DAAP’s Jenifer Sult introduced high-fashionable clothing patterns for women who enjoy designing their own clothing and want true style.

TextileHaus by Anastasiya is a line of elevated contemporary women’s clothing. “TextileHaus targets active, sophisticated young women who want distinctive, high-quality, comfortable clothing that is appropriate for daytime and evening,” says Spencer. “She will be at Fall Fashion Week in New York meeting with retailers and wholesalers from September 8 through September 16.”

Spencer says that no one knew in advance that a majority of 2016 participants would be women-owned businesses. “When the judging was completed, they were the best people with the best products,” he says.

“One of the exciting and challenging things about a business accelerator that covers a spectrum as broad as physical products is that you never know what types of businesses you will be supporting, or their specific needs, until the applications arrive each year,” says Spencer.

With the awarded participants being focused on the fashion industry, Spencer says that First Batch has now had to think about whether an expertise is something the accelerator should add as an added focus next year.

You can learn more about First Batch and its participating businesses at www.firstbatch.org.