Kristine French and Erika Fiola were in search of a way to help people who had big ideas make the community better. They also wanted to be able to provide the innovators with the resources they needed to get their foot through the door.
That’s when the dynamic duo developed the idea behind Cincy Sundaes, an ice cream social that funds micro-grants for innovative ideas in Greater Cincinnati and Northern Kentucky.
“At Cincy Sundaes, every gets a vote and a sundae, which makes it a delicious and easy way to engage people in their community,” explains Fiola. “A lot of opportunities to get involved require a good deal of time, something not everyone has. So, Cincy Sundaes is an easy way to spend a couple of hours on a Sunday getting involved with your community.”
For $5, attendees receive one sundae and one vote. During each event four presenters are given the chance to get up in front of the audience and share their idea for four minutes. The audience is able to ask questions and following the presentations, attendees vote for their favorite idea and 100 percent of the money collected at the door goes directly to the idea that receives the most votes.
The first Cincy Sundaes event was held on April 13, 2014 at Rhinegeist. “Since then, we’ve had three more events and we have one more left this year – on Nov. 16 at The Sanctuary in Newport,” says Fiola.
All of the Cincy Sundaes events are structured the same. For the first 30 minutes, people are invited to make and enjoy an ice cream sundae. There is then an introduction and the presentations by those who want to showcase their ideas for making the Tri-State a better place. After the presentations and Q&A session, all four presentations are voted on and the winner is announced.
Fiola says they had no idea what to expect when they launched Cincy Sundaes. They were just hoping to get a few people together who were interested in what they were doing. They got much more than that at the first event in April, which drew 175 people. “Luckily we had enough gelato from Dojo Gelato,” she laughs.
Now, Cincy Sundaes has funded four ideas that are making a difference in the region, something that Fiola and French are both proud to play a role in supporting.
The two are also proud of how the business community has rallied behind the idea of Cincy Sundaes. Fiola says that Dojo Gelato donates all the gelato for the sundaes, HYPE is the sundae toppings bar sponsor, Legacy is the spoon sponsor and KIND granola, Daisy Mae’s and Dean’s Mediterranean Imports all provide items for the toppings bar.
Other local organizations have also jumped in to help out with funding. The Big Idea Challenge of the Greater Cincinnati Foundation provided a 1-to-1 match for all money raised at the first two events, People’s Liberty did the same at the next two events and The Big Idea Challenge will be matching the last event of the year. “This gives the winners twice the amount of money to implement their idea,” explains Fiolla.
Although there are similar events that exist in other cities across the country, most of them revolve around soup – including Detroit Soup and SLOUP in St. Louis. “We wanted our event to be all about ice cream because Cincinnati has such a rich history of producing incredible ice cream,” says Fiola.
She adds that they’ve been lucky to partner with Dojo Gelato, not only because they have delicious gelato but because they’re exactly the type of small, innovative business Cincy Sundaes wants to promote and support.
Cincy Sundaes is also unique in that it awards people with great ideas. “Most opportunities for funding for big ideas that comes from foundations and corporations needs to go to nonprofit organizations,” she says. “We really want to give people an opportunity to get funding without needing to go through the long and sometimes expensive process of getting a nonprofit designation.”
To learn more about Cincy Sundaes, visit their website. You can also check them out on Facebook, Instagram and Twitter.