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One local entrepreneur is helping young women and teens find themselves and feel confident in uncomfortable situations. 

Shelby Speaks is an organization that helps young women and teens.

Mahatma Gandhi said, “Be the change you want to see in the world.” 

Shelby Pressley is on a mission to be that change through her coaching business Shelby Speaks.  

“Shelby Speaks is the brand I created that encompasses my passion for motivational speaking, education, and self-awareness for young girls and women as they learn about themselves and their individual paths through life,” she says. 

The inspiration for such a business started back in 2019 when Pressley was going through a transition in her career and found herself doing some soul searching.  

“I was thinking about my skill sets and things that interested me and how I could merge the two,” she explains. “I made a list and the two things that stood out to me was my love for education and my desire to educate young women.” 

From there she started building a curriculum that specifically focused on girls and young women, and touched on the things they wouldn’t learn inside a classroom.  

“I wanted to have an open dialogue and a safe space for girls to discuss things like sexual health, bullying, dating, anxiety/depression, self-esteem, and personal goal setting for the future,” says Pressley.  

She says the curriculum was built around one question: What were the things I wish an older woman would have shared with me? 

As the one-woman show behind Shelby Speaks, Pressley says that her self-awareness and experience with many female youth struggles helps her to stay motivated and passionate about what she’s doing to help today’s youth.  

“I want to be that bridge that expresses they’re not alone and equip them with tools they can use now and as they continue to grow,” she says. “I create lesson plans and curriculums that target many of the issues young women are currently facing but may not feel comfortable disclosing to a parent or guardian yet.” 

Before COVID struck, Pressley was teaching weekly classes at Hughes STEM High School, her own alma mater, to the seventh and eighth grade girls. Two days a week she was having engaging discussions with the girls as well as group activities and weekly challenges. She’s also hosted group events and various speaking engagements at Mount St. Joseph University and the University of Dayton, and has worked with individual girls on a one-on-one basis to help them personally address challenges they are facing.  

While her business model has been altered due to the pandemic, she’s still enjoying working with her current clients and having a positive impact on their lives. 

“I absolutely love when I have someone who reaches back out to me and says that something I’ve taught them helped them get through a difficult situation or that they had an encounter like something we previously discussed and felt confident and comfortable on how to handle it because they remembered what I said,” she says. “I think one of the greatest gifts you can give is the endowment of knowledge to someone else.” 

Pressley says that due to COVID, she is continuing her work with goals via weekly Zoom calls and holding live online chats and check-ins.  

“I hope to hold another group event around female health and relationships when I feel it’s safe to do so,” she says.  

To learn more about Shelby Speaks, click here. You can contact Pressley directly via email

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Two brothers turned their obsession into a business idea with high-quality, handmade accessories and apparel. 

Obsess Worldwide was founded by two brothers in Dayton, Ohio.

Luke and Jake Turner are dedicated. They’re dedicated to their hobbies and new-found skills, and they have been since they were young.  

Today, they are the founders of Obsess Worldwide, a handmade accessories and apparel brand based out of Dayton, Ohio. 

While the duo says they grew up looking at their “obsessions” in a negative way, they realized they were able to obtain the skills they need to create these items because of their obsession. 

“We were obsessed with our craft and now, after seeing the outcome of our habits, we see the positive side of obsession as well,” says Co-Founder Jake Turner.  

With the products they create, the Turner brothers wanted to bring together people from all over the world, thus giving the name Obsess Worldwide.  

“Worldwide came in to show unity,” says Turner. “I love the term worldwide because it includes everyone, not just a certain country or area. We all share the same home, and that’s Earth.” 

The world of creating is nothing new to the Turner brothers. They grew up at their father’s canvas shop called Gilman Canvas Products.

“He custom makes boat covers, enclosures, pool covers, etc.,” explains Turner. “By about age 18 Luke was there working full-time and developed his sewing skills very quickly. He was never one to turn down a job, and consistently tests his skills. While Luke was working there full-time, I was in college, working at Cheesecake Factory and teaching myself to become a photographer, and later on a videographer as well. After doing work for other brands, and realizing we possess the perfect skills to start something of our own, Obsess Worldwide became an idea.” 

Obsess Worldwide officially launched January 1, 2021, and their current inventory includes bags, shirts, sweatshirts, and hats. 

Obsess Worldwide stays true to its mission of providing high-quality goods rather than the cheaper, mass produced items on the market. “Even if we have to expand, we will keep the products genuine and always created with human hands,” adds Turner.  

The business is looking forward to the future as they create more products for their collection as well as custom-made products for customers.  

To learn more about Obsess Worldwide, visit www.obsess-worldwide.com. You can also follow them on Facebook and Instagram.  

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#makeyourownhappy with creative illustrations from this local artist.

More Art | More Heart is run by a local artist who wants to help you spread happiness with her creative illustrations.

Jacquelyn Sommer lives by a guiding principle: “We can change the world for the better, one little piece at a time. Even the smallest force can make big changes. Go make happy.” 

She makes her own piece of happy to share with the world through her business More Art | More Heart, a studio and brand that she founded back in 2016.  

“The ethos is about spreading joy one piece of art at a time,” she explains. “It originated as a concept to spread joy and creative positivity through found art and art making.” 

Then, in late 2020, the business evolved beyond the hands-on workshops and summer camps to a full-on brand that includes an Etsy retail experience, Indie Maker Markets, a blog, and a full social media presence. 

Now, what started as an art postcard style project is now on a mission to help you #makeyourownhappy with its one-woman show in Sommer. 

“I am the lone unicorn that makes the engine run,” she says. “I hand illustrate each character in my sketchbook with graphite, watercolor, and micron ink pens. From there I create a digital drawing and begin to design the line of products that each character is featured on.” 

When you shop More Art | More Heart, you’ll find a variety of products that help people make their own happy including: 

– Vinyl Die Cut Stickers 

– Thermal Tumblers 

– Home Décor, such as throw pillows, rugs, and funky items for your bathroom like shower curtains and bath mats 

– Apparel and Accessories like totes, waist packs, watchbands , T-shirts and hoodies 

– Journals and Notebooks 

– Dog Beds 

– Face Masks  

Sommer says that she finds joy in connecting with the people who engage with her shop in addition to the creativity involved in designing her products.  

“I love the creation of a community that comes with spreading joy,” she says. “Knowing that my illustrations are making someone happy is why I do what I do. It’s what keeps me motivated to keep creating and growing the brand.” 

If you ask Sommer what makes her business unique, she says that its ability to be more than just retail is what sets it apart. “The goal is to ‘make happy’ and ‘spread joy,’” she says. “I am looking to create joy and community. It’s important to feel connected. I have each illustration available on a range of products, making it obtainable. If you love Mr. Chicken but can’t get a T-shirt or a tote bag and a vinyl sticker make sense, then you can get more of what makes you happy and give one to your BFF. The shop is about giving joy to yourself and others. Every item has to pass the test, “Does this make me happy?’” 

Every few weeks with More Art | More Heart you’ll find a new character illustration and product line featuring the character. “Every illustration is paired with a companion playlist found on the More Art | More Heart Spotify channel,” says Sommer. 

To learn more about More Art | More Heart, visit moreartmoreheart.com. You can also follow along on Instagram for up-to-date works in progress, playlist announcements, and blog post announcements. You can also shop her Etsy store here

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Fate and friendship brought together a group of experienced business people who decided to launch a coffee brand that stands out among the rest.

Oakley Artisan Roasters offers a variety of coffee roasts for a unique coffee experience.

When a group of strangers was brought together by fate, friendships blossomed and a business idea grew thanks to their shared love for coffee.  

The business idea became Oakley Artisan Roasters.  

“That connection rooted and grew immediately into the idea of a company that exceeds the expectations of the typical coffee experience,” says Oakley Artisan Roasters Managing Partner Tim Eckert. 

Oakley Artisan Roasters is a company of small batch, custom roast coffee that aims to produce something distinctly different from other coffee shops, with a focus on the customer and their experience. 

“Our mission has been to engage growth but at the same time keep our customers at the center of what we do each day and deliver a superior product experience, whether it be in a restaurant, coffee shop, at work, or at home,” adds Eckert.  

In addition to Eckert, the team behind Oakley Artisan Roasters includes Joe Krimmer and Beth Thress. Together the three owners bring to the business a variety of levels of experience that help to round-out their acumen.  

Their backgrounds include experience in the coffee roasting and custom coffee production industry, formal education in custom roasting for flavor extraction, management of national chain coffee shops, and 32 years in retail and whole distribution management and marketing.  

“We knew we could appeal to a broader base of customers and delight consumers while also supporting local, high caliber businesses and also financially supporting farms that we source from,” says Eckert. 

Oakley Artisan Roasters is based in Oakley and calls 3000 Robertson Ave. home. There you’ll find their new, large facility of nearly 8,000 square feet and where all of the products are located. In addition to having a home base, coffee from Oakley Artisan Roasters can be found at many small local retailers and attractions in and around the Cincinnati area including the Cincinnati Art Museum, Lehr’s Prime Markets, and Country Fresh Markets. 

Those who are unable to visit the area to shop local retailers can also utilize the Oakley Artisan Roasters e-commerce site. 

“Our customer base has grown to extend our reach from coast to coast, literally, as we have customers thousands of miles in any direction across the country,” says Eckert. 

When you shop Oakley Artisan Roasters, you’ll find 13 different beans and roasts from regions like Africa, Central and South America, Mexico, and others.  

“We currently roast, blend, and offer flavors totaling over 25 different varieties of offerings and that’s just our hot coffee,” he adds. “Add another few offerings when you factor in our cold brew coffees.”  

Lately, Oakley Artisan Roasters has been sourcing beans from farms that they know they can provide a truly positive financial contribution to. “Just recently, we have begun a new relationship with a farm in Honduras who deals in Fair Trade and provides economic stability to an entire community through his model of sustainability, fair wage, and focus on growing and exporting high quality coffee,” says Eckert. “It’s just a way to do business that we feel good about and we know every dollar we spend and subsequently sell helps to support an entire town.”  

Eckert says the team at Oakley Artisan Roasters is currently working on building out a new office as well as moving roasting and cold brew production into a single-visit, friendly space.  

“We are always watching the industry and looking for new ways to innovate,” he says. “Bringing new products to market and expanding our brand footprint as well as delighting our current and future fans is always at the top of our list.” 

To learn more about Oakley Artisan Roasters, visit www.oakleyartisanroasters.com. There you can learn more about their products and shop their e-commerce website. You can also keep up with them on Facebook<https://www.facebook.com/OARcoffee> and Instagram<https://www.instagram.com/oakleyartisanroasters/>. 

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After COVID-19 threw a wrench in literary plans, the Cincinnati Public Library is bringing back its Writer-in-Residence for a second year.

The Cincinnati Library Foundation’s Writer-in-Residence is bringing back Dani McClain for a second year. 

“Due to COVID-19 limiting the type of programs we could do with Dani, as well as the importance of  understanding journalism and nonfiction writing, the Library Foundation is pleased that we can present Dani for  a second year as the Writer-in-Residence,” says Staci Dennison, the Thomas W. Jones Executive Director of The Library Foundation. 

In addition to serving in her Writer-in-Residence position, McClain is also continuing work as the library’s literary ambassador to the community by hosting the library’s monthly “Inside the Writer’s Head” podcast, writing blog posts, holding office hours, and leading writing workshops. 

McClain is hosting a virtual introduction to reporting workshop in March as well as a variety of other virtual events to maintain safety during COVID-19. For a  calendar of her upcoming events, go to cinlib.org/WIR2021.

The idea for McClain to host a virtual introduction to reporting workshop arose from her experience as a reporter. She has been featured in Time, Slate, and Ebony.com, and is a contributing writer for The Nation magazine and a fellow at the Type Media Center in New York, where her work focuses on reproductive health, race, and activism. 

McClain is the author of numerous pieces including “We Live for the We: The Political Power of Black Motherhood,” which was shortlisted in 2020 for a Hurston/Wright Legacy Award, and contributed chapters to “Killing Trayvons: An Anthology of American Violence” and “Octavia’s Brood: Science Fiction Stories from Social Justice Movements.” 

You can read McClain’s blog posts on CincinnatiLibrary.org/blogs/ and listen to Inside the Writer’s Head podcast on Spotify at cinlib.org/InsideWritersHead.  

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A local graphic designer is working one-on-one with customers to create custom apparel they love for any occasion.

The focus at Mount Apparel is the customer. “I work with individuals and small businesses to create custom apparel for any occasion,” says Founder Paul Homan. 

The sole employee of Mount Apparel, Homan wanted to provide customers the ability to create merchandise whether they approach him with a polished logo or a vision in their head of what they want to see.

“I work one-on-one with the custom, design their graphic, and lay it out on apparel for purchase,” he explains. “The process is ultimately aimed toward people who want to create custom apparel without having to buy in bulk or pay crazy expensive fees for a one-off order.”

The inspiration for creating a customized apparel business comes from Homan’s passion for sharing his creativity with others. 

“My goal is to use my skill set to fill the gap for custom merchandise for individuals and small businesses,” he says. “Connecting with people and giving them an opportunity to explore and create one-of-a-kind merchandise has been such a great experience.”

Homan’s background provides him with the skills he needs to run Mount Apparel. He works full-time as a product development engineer and operates Mount on the side as a self-proclaimed graphic designer.

Homan says that one of the best selling items from Mount Apparel are the custom vector illustrations of pets.

“The process works like this,” he says. “You send in a picture of your pet, I create a custom illustration of your furry friend, then send you a link for purchase of your pet illustration on merch. It’s that easy.”

Homan says that what makes Mount Apparel unique is its approach to one-on-one customer service, as well as his streamlined purchasing through Amazon.

“My platform is based through Amazon,” he says. “This makes the purchasing process super easy. Once we finalize your design, the product is then available for purchase through Amazon just like you would buy anything else (even Prime shipping).”

Additionally, organizations can find ease in ordering Mount Apparel products through Amazon with a link. “Rather than tracking down sizes, collecting money, ordering in bulk, and making sure everyone gets their apparel once it arrives, the gym owner would simply send out the Amazon link to interested members,” he says. “Mount’s process simplifies the process dramatically.”

The goal for 2021 at Mount Apparel is to work with more small businesses in the Cincinnati area. “Currently our clients are mostly individuals and a couple of places in Mount Adams,” he says. “We are looking to expand our reach and help our more local businesses create their own merchandise. If you are interested or know someone who could be, we would love to talk!”

To learn more about Mount Apparel, visit their website. You can also follow along on Facebook and Instagram.

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See how this locally-based Ennegram and quantum energy coach helps you understand your motivations and wiring to truly feel alive - in business, relationships, leadership, and more.

Whitney Ellison, Founder of Wellison Enterprises

We’re all searching for our purpose in this world. But sometimes, we have a tendency to make that search a little more complicated than it needs to be. 

To help us find our “why,” is Whitney Ellison, the founder behind Wellison Enterprises. 

“Wellison Enterprises is the business home to the two-step Wellison Method: 1. Enneagram type development work and 2. Quantum Energy coaching,” she says. “This method is for people who are ready to dismantle their subconscious defense mechanisms and move beyond societal constructs to rediscover what makes them feel alive – in business, relationships, leadership, and/or life.”

Through her business, Ellison hopes to convey her philosophy and message to the world: People overcomplicate the idea of “purpose.” Everyone’s purpose is the same. Our collective purpose on the earthly plane is to experience life. It is what makes us feel alive that is unique to each of us. 

Ellison believes that when people do what makes them feel alive, that is when they full step into their purpose. “This experience of purposeful flow has been called spiritual, holy, religious, divine, The Universe, God, the holy spirit,” she says. “Whatever you name it, it means we are mindfully and presently living and acting from a space of love and abundance. Being loved and worthy is our birthright. We tend to forget this as we move out of infancy and learn to survive in this world – or as I like to say, ‘as the world gets to us.’”

At Wellison Enterprises, you’ll find a focus on their two-prong method called the Wellison Method.

“First, we work on rediscovering the person we were before the world got to us (usually a pivotal moment that happened somewhere in childhood),” she explains. “I use the Enneagram as a tool to do this work. I am an avid proponent of doing Enneagram work without being typed by a test. The Enneagram is a tool based on motivation, not behavior. This is not something easily diagnosed and assigned by a test. This day and age, we all have the expectation to get answers quickly. When we do divine soul work, we need to exercise patience, grace and the ability to dig in and really learn about ourselves and a tool that can be incredibly life changing. It can also be incredibly ineffective when a person is mistyped – which tests often do (being on average about 54% accurate – and yes, I am even talking about the good ones that you pay for – I have coached many people typed by that test who were mistyped too).”

After discovering a client’s Ennegram type, recognizing and dismantling the defense mechanisms associated with it, becoming more self-aware, and opening the repressed child-like energy, Ellison begins part two: the energy work.

With coaching certification in the 7 Universal Laws of vibrational energy, Ellison can work on the vibrational energy that we give off. “We continuously put off a vibrational frequency – not unlike sound waves,” she says. “ This frequency includes even our thoughts and words – hence the word ‘quantum’ – the idea that these vibrations are so tiny we do not even realize they exist.”

Ellison says that when we match our emotions with our thoughts, we begin to manifest. “Mywork in the second prong of the Wellison Method is to help people start consciously understanding their emotions and matching them with their thoughts and desired outcomes to engage in fully living the lives of their dreams,” she adds. 

Wellison Enterprises offers workshops for other to participate in:

The Introductory Enneagram workshop is a 2.5-hour workshop to help people understand the tool, each type, and basic elements that will give them a basic level of fluency in understanding and talking about the Enneagram. Some people leave knowing their types, others continue to do the work to really hone in on what their type is. The objective is to make sure everyone understands each type (because empathy for others is just as important as self-awareness) and is on a solid journey of discovering the Enneagram type they lead with. 

“I am doing an upcoming 7 Universal Law weekly series of virtual workshops with the WISe Wellness Guild, starting 1/7/21 and running through 2/18/21, where we will gather Thursday evenings at 7pm. Each 45 minute-1-hour workshop will be an introduction to one of the 7 Universal Laws, and then we will do an exercise to learn how to open our minds to the energy work associated with that law,” Ellison says. “Exercises include meditations, writing, list making, dialog, breakouts and more. It is going to be so much fun! Limited seats are available.”

Wellison Enterprises offers private events and is collaborating with Maggie Gough of Relize WellBeing to do a 6-month virtual retreat and round table program for 10-12 Executive Women. “This program will be called the Infinity Squad,” she says. “We will provide a restorative path for wellbeing, utilizing the Ennegram, the power of a squad, and transformation of personal growth into influential leadership.” 

Ellison says that what makes her business unique is that she’s combined Ennegram coaching and Universal Law coaching into one. “When I do Enneagram work – people always ask me – ‘what’s next?’ and the great thing is, I have an answer for that,” she says. “In addition, my credentials go beyond coaching – I have excellent training in working with clients of all walks of life and backgrounds because of my success in both corporate sales, as a practicing attorney, and through clinical and human rights fellowship work in law school. Finally, I realize my work and I are not for everyone, and I am completely at peace with this. I know that whomever my work is meant for will find their way to me and it will change their lives.”

Wellison says that she’s looking forward to launching pre-recorded workshops for Ennegram and Universal Law Energy basics for people who want to do the work on their own time. 

Additionally, she will be launching a second Instagram Live Series, called the Ennegram Entrepreneur Interviews, featuring entrepreneurs from all over who know and understand their Ennegram type and will talk about how it relates to their businesses. 

To learn more about Wellison Enterprises, visit wellisonenterprises.com. You can also follow along on Instagram. They are also on LinkedIn https://www.linkedin.com/company/wellison-enterprises, YouTube and Facebook.

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In a school year that’s been unlike any other, a duo of Montessori teachers are changing the way kids learn at home. Read on for more.

The way we’re all doing things now are a little bit out of the ordinary. Schedules, workplaces, and social lives have been flipped upside down and it doesn’t look like we’ll be going back to normal any time soon. 

For parents, remote learning has been a massive adjustment. We’re not just working in home offices anymore, but our homes have also become schools. 

To help families get through this new way of learning, CASA Design Consulting is here. 

“We are child development experts with a passion for transforming the way children’s spaces look, feel, and function,” says CASA Design Consulting Co-Founder Aubrey Wallen. “We take a chaotic playroom, bedroom, or living room, and transform it into a developmentally appropriate, functional, and beautiful space through implementing a sustainable toy rotation system.”

CASA Design Consulting also specializes in creating virtual-learning spaces for families supporting children who are remote or schooling in the home. 

The inspiration for CASA Design Consulting came before COVID, although its benefits have helped families find the calm in the chaos of a global pandemic.

According to Wallen, the inspiration for CASA Design Consulting comes from her and her business partner Christine Trimmer’s experience as Montessori teachers. 

“After years of working in the classroom serving children and their parents, we know how critical a prepared environment is for the developing child, as well as the adult caring for the child,” says Wallen. “When the environment is prepared for the child at their developmental level they improve their independence, executive functioning skills like organization, concentration, and impulse control, as well as their fine and gross motor coordination.”

The duo took that inspiration and saw a need for bringing the principles of their Montessori classrooms into children’s homes to help support their academic and personal growth. Thus, CASA Design Consulting was born.

In the depth of the pandemic and with in-person learning thrown into limbo, CASA Design Consulting turned to home school renovations called “School by Casa.”

“We use our time in your home to organize and ensure that you and your child have the best set-up for virtual learning,” explains Trimmer. “As a full-time teacher in 2020, I know all of the tips to ensure that the home is set-up to promote concentration, motivation, and organization. With our perspectives, you can feel confident that School by Casa will help your child be prepared for whatever this crazy school year may bring.” 

Wallen says CASA Design Consulting took a big hit when COVID arrived, although their services through School by Casa were able to help them start booking clients again in late summer.

“Many families realized the necessity for sustainable ways to maintain order in their homes and reached out to us,” says Wallen. “Now we ensure clients that we take all precautions prior to working with them such as taking our temperature, wearing masks and gloves in the home, and switching to more virtual conversations in order to minimize in-person work.”

Wallen and Trimmer say they are looking forward to what’s to come in 2021. “We have lots of dreams and goals for the upcoming year,” they say. “It was amazing to hit all of our 2020 goals in the knick of time, so we can’t wait to see what 2021 brings. We enjoy being featured on podcasts, and it was such an honor to be named Best of the City 2020. We want our business to continue to thrive while we grow our community through connecting with more families and local businesses.”

To learn more about CASA Design Consulting, visit www.casadesignconsulting.com. You can also follow along on Facebook and Instagram. For those interested in School by Casa, send an email to info@casadesignconsulting.com to schedule or ask questions.

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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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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 cincinnatichamber.com/cultural competence.

Applications are due January 15, 2021.

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