Elevating Innovation

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    Cincinnati is one of the nation’s top locations for consumer marketing, so it’s no surprise success can be had here for aspiring entrepreneurs. There are 10 Fortune 500 headquarters here including Procter & Gamble, Kroger and Macy’s. There are also marketing, branding, design and advertising service companies such as LPK, dunnhumby and Nielsen that call the Tri-State home.


    That’s why the team over at The Brandery, a seed stage start up accelerator, decided to base their operations out of Cincinnati. “The Brandery focuses on consumer marketing and branding,” says general manager Mike Bott. For each session, they choose 8-12 companies for the program and offer them $20,000 in funding, mentoring, design assistance and the opportunity to pitch to investors who can help them become successful.


    Bott says company founders will sometimes come in with their ideas written out on a napkin or a product already in the market. From there, The Brandery helps them get their feet on the ground. “This is a rigorous process that can help companies get in contact with investors and validate themselves,” he explains.


    One of this year’s graduates is Tapfit, a company originally out of Chicago that helps you find, purchase and go to the best studios, gyms and group fitness classes in your area. There are currently four corporate wellness pilots and more than 55 fitness partners in Tapfit’s launch market.


    Nick Cromydas is the the co-founder of Tapfit who also led the product direction of Athliance – LinkedIn for athletes. Co-founder, Scott Lieberman played tennis with Cromydas at Vanderbilt University before he moved to San Francisco and started working for Intuit. Lieberman’s specialities include iOS, front and back-end developing and does UI design for Tapfit. Zack Martinsek followed his dream of music before he moved to Chicago where he worked for a derivative trading firm for four years. Martinsek works on Android and back-end work for Tapfit. You can download Tapfit for your iPhone or Android by visiting www.www.tapfit.co.


    Based in Philadelphia, Co-Ed Supply delivers curated college essentials on a monthly subscription basis to help brands connect with the college market. This engaged service was founded by Marissa Hu and Andy Fortson.


    Hu spent four years working in business development and sales and was most recently one of the earliest members of the development team for the Shanghai Disney Resort. She’s now an investment banker at Goldman Sachs. Co-Ed Supply’s other founder, Andy Fortson, spent seven years in digital and social media marketing for consumer, entertainment and technology companies. He helped lead marketing at SnipSnap, a mobile couponing app. You can learn more by visiting www.coedsupply.com.


    Ricky Phung and Sharon Zhen founded Shoptstoree, a Shanghai-based company, that is comprised of 18 boutiques curated from three companies. Shopstoree has $200,000 in purchasable items and is a visual commerce platform that allows retailers to create an interactive online storefront for customers.


    Phung, Shopstoree’s CEO, has worked in marketing and branding for Disney Consumer Products in both Shanghai and Los Angeles and helped to design the instore experiences for Disney’s retail stores in North America, Europe and Japan. Zhem has been a merchant for customer experience-focused companies including Disney Consumer Products, Anthropologie and Apple Retail in Asia Pacific. For more information on Shopshotree, visit www.shopstoree.com.


    “Dwllr is the simplest way for buyers, sellers and real estate professionals to collaborate and share information while they’re in the housing market,” Bott says of this start up. This Cincinnati-based company has partnerships in 35 major markets and works with 166,000 agents. Khisaun Ferguson and Michael Washington founded the company. Ferguson has a background in marketing and real estate and was named on the Top 10 blacks in technology to look out for in 2013, according to NBC’s The Grio. Washington has nine years of professional software development experience in web development, Android and iOS. More information about Dwllr can be found at their website, www.dwllr.com.


    Frameri, the first interchangeable prescription glasses and sunglasses company, was able to garner more than $40,000 in pre-orders. Founded by Konrad Billetz and Kevin Habich, Frameri is a South Bend, Ind./Chicago-based company. Billetz obtained his MBA from Notre Dame and has had an entrepreneur’s mindset for as long as he can remember. “He developed the idea for Frameri in October 2012 and has been dedicated to the idea ever since,” Bott explains. Before joining Frameri, Habich worked as a freelance developer including five years of web development experience at Plumtree Group, AWT World Trade Group and TATA Consultancy Services. He’ll be Frameri’s lead developer as the company moves forward. You can check out Frameri by visiting www.frameri.com.


    Ryan Watson, Ryan Baker and Craig Baldwin wanted to develop a company that provided clients with a way to gather information about groups of people that was completely painless for everyone. “Since its launch, Sqrl has approximately 100 accounting firms on a beta list and another 8 top accounting firms currently in the piloting stage,” Bott says.


    Watson founded the web-based accounting firm Upsourced Accounting and is the domain expert at Accrew. He’s also responsible for all things product strategy and operations at Sqrl. Baker co-founded Upsourced Accounting with Watson and has five years of corporate accounting experience. Baldwin is a former public accountant and the current chief marketer of Upsourced Accounting and Accrew. He has a focus on product adaptability, content creation and Accrew user acquisition. You can get more information by visiting www.getsqrl.com.


    Donde is based in Vancouver and has $100,000 in annual recurring revenue and 1 million monthly product locaters served. “Anything Nicalo and Fabien Allanic founded Donde,” shares Bott. Nicalo founded an artisan wine brand called Farday Bicycles and Fabien led the engineering teams at Orange and Air France. He currently serves as an advisor at Echo JS. Learn more about Donde by visiting www.donde.io.


    Awesomatic is based in San Francisco and replaced one-on-one chat and community forums with an in-app tool that allows customers to support each other. This website produced 100 self-serve sign ups in the first week and has more than 2,500 customers on a beta list.


    Rob Velasquez is the founder of Awesomatic and has a history with design driven product developed. He’s launched a complete rebrand and design design of the Storenvy Marketplace. Learn more about Awesomatic at www.awesomatic.com.


    In Palo Alto, Calif., you’ll find Chalky, a business that connects advice seekers with mentors who have been where you’ve been. “The company was founded by Isaac Madan and Charlie Yang and has 6,000 mentors and mentees, 13,000 pieces of user-generated content and represents 300 universities,” Bott explains.


    Madan oversees Chalky’s daily operations and writes code for the website while Yang leads the company’s product design and user experience. Learn more about Chalky by visiting www.chalky.co.


    According to Bott, companies can begin applying for the next session, which begins in June, come February 2014. You can learn more about The Brandery, their latest group of graduates and other companies by visiting www.brandery.org/portfolio.