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County approves $10 million for quality preschools

The expansion of early education in greater Cleveland received a $10 million boost last week when Cuyahoga County Council and executive Armond Budish reached a biennial budget agreement for 2016 and 2017.
The two-year investment creates the Cuyahoga Early Childhood Trust, a public-private partnership meant to attract private funds to continue the push for universal, high-quality pre-kindergarten education to children across the county.

It’s the kind of support partners of the PRE4CLE initiative say is necessary to achieve and surpass the original goal of enrolling 2,000 additional children into high-quality preschool seats at public and private schools in Greater Cleveland by 2016.
“We are so grateful to the county leadership for this new investment,” PRE4CLE director Katie Kelly says. “It’s going to make a big difference in the amount of kids served across the county. The impact on Cleveland will be significant in not just number of students served, but the quality of our early learning program.”
The investment will fund teacher education and retention programs, as well as social, emotional and behavioral support for low-income students. According to the council presentation supporting the investment, there are 20,800 preschool-aged children in the county, but only 4,700 are in high-quality programs.
“We know it’s one of the most important factors in providing high quality outcomes for students,” Kelly says of teacher education. “Those additional supports in staff coaching and training on how to help students experiencing those challenges is a big part of quality as well. It can make our already good programs even better.”

Hult Prize event seeks social innovation startups

In an effort to promote innovation, creative problem solving and social good at CWRU, the university will host an official Hult Prize qualifier event.  The Hult Prize, billed as the world’s largest student competition to solve the world's toughest challenges, awards $1 million in seed funding to the winning team to build their business.
This year’s theme is Crowded Urban Spaces – building sustainable, scalable fast-growing enterprises that double the income of people living in crowded urban spaces by connecting them to goods, services and capital.
The national contest is limited to 20,000 applicants – 300 teams in the regional competition that CRWU is a part of. “The event will show students that anyone of any background or skill set can be an entrepreneur and make a real difference with nothing more than an idea,” says Cole Morris, organizer and intern for event planning and marketing at Blackstone LaunchPad
Ten to 15 teams made up of CWRU undergraduate and graduate students and alumni will pitch their ideas on Saturday, Nov. 21 at from noon to 2 p.m. at Thwing Center. Teams will have five minutes to present their ideas, followed by five minutes of questioning from judges Lev Gonick, CEO of OneCommunity; Craig Nard director of CWRU School of Law; and Alison Tanker, founder of Tigress. Additional judges may be selected. 
Some students attended a workshop day last Sunday, Nov. 15 at StartMart to take advantage of the wealth of entrepreneurial experts. "We were able to provide a venue for very focused one-on-one time between mentors and participants," says Morris. "Many of the participants were very pleased at the ideas they developed and directions they pursued."
The workshop was good preparation for the pitch competition. “By offering live workshops, the guidance of talented and experienced mentors, and a vast array of resources from many of Cleveland's top startup accelerators, we plan to engage a diverse group of students and show how far an idea, their ability to think critically and creatively, and a willingness to help others can truly go,” Morris says.
Mentors and supporters include StartMart; BioEnterprise; the Health-Tech CorridorEDWINS Leadership and Restaurant Institute; the CWRU IP Venture Clinic; Blackstone LaunchPad; non-profit grant writer Roslyn Chao; and Triple Analytics.
"We’re targeting innovation and offering resources to fix the world,” says Morris.
Pitch teams must be affiliated with CWRU. The teams are made up of three to four members, one of whom can be an alumni. Team registration is still open. The event is open to the public.

Vita Urbana brings gourmet flavors, convenience to Battery Park

Vita Urbana, a multi-service convenience store, is scheduled to open in mid-January in the Shoreway Building, 1260 West 76th St., overlooking Edgewater Park.

Designed with a sense of community, the compact, 4,000 square-foot space will pack a host of services for residents of the Shoreway Building and the entire Battery Park neighborhood.
“Vita Urbana will combine the convenience of a coffee shop, an artisanal grocery store, and a full service bar bistro,” says entrepreneur Mike Graley, a 35-year veteran of the grocery business.
A native west sider, Graley opened his first venture -- the wine bar, YOLO (now Cha Spirits & Pizza Kitchen) – right next door in the Battery Park Powerhouse.  
In addition to his own operations, Graley’s been a wine buyer at the Rocky River Heinen’s for 25 years. Graley got his start at A&P and then worked for Rego’s in his early days. These experiences, along with an opportunity to travel abroad, have led him to Vita Urbana.
The coffee shop will rely on local roasters to produce a specially brewed, house-blended dark roast, along with assorted flavored coffees. Graley is also planning a simple breakfast menu with added emphasis on fast, friendly service.
The artisan grocery store will offer a variety of necessities while emphasizing quality and uniqueness; a place cooks will want to shop.
The full-bar bistro will specialize in an array of gourmet selections that will showcase many of the exquisite products sold in the store. The bar will provide a variety of wine, beer and specialty cocktails.
Vita Urbana brings convenience to the center of the Gordon Square neighborhood. It will be open seven days a week, from 7 a.m. to 11 p.m. Monday through Saturday and 7 a.m. to 4 p.m. on Sundays.
Graley will hire 10 to 15 people to staff Vita Urbana and envisions opening two additional locations in other Cleveland neighborhoods over the next two years.

Apollo creates next generation of blood test

As a biomedical engineering graduate student at CWRU, Punkaj Ahuja was working in 2010 on applications for a core sensor his team was developing.

Then the idea for a rapid blood test using the same technology came to him. By October 2014, he had formed Apollo Medical Devices – a company that is developing a low-cost, accurate and rapid blood analysis system.The company has offices at BioEnterprise.
“Our device uses rapid blood testing technology with a single drop of blood in just five minutes,” explains Apollo CEO Patrick Leimkuehler. “It delivers when time matters most – in the ER, the ICU and the OR.”
The Apollo system uses a single drop of blood to get basic metabolic panel, or CHEM-7, results in minutes. The test measures various basic levels like glucose, sodium, creatinine and potassium to diagnose illness and determine treatments. Other tests require a blood draw and take up to two hours for results.
“I was working on another project using the same sensor technology and a group of us were in a room brainstorming,” recalls Ahuja. "We were discussing what else we can do with this sensor technology – with its low cost and rapid results.”
After talking to a physician, Ahuja was convinced they had to develop their product. “That’s what pushed us toward the test itself,” he says. “Once it was ingrained in our minds, a lot of work and a bunch of labs tests began to get this into the real world.”
While the Apollo device is still in the development stage, Ahuja and Leimkuehler plan to have the product to market by 2017. Apollo plans to market the device primarily to hospitals’ emergency departments, intensive care units and operating rooms. Once launched, Leimkuehler says Apollo plans to expand and target primary care doctors and the home health care markets.
Last summer, Apollo Medical Devices won the $20,000 grand prize in JumpStart’s Startup Scaleup NEO Up-and-Comers Pitch Competition. The company has also received funding from the Northeast Ohio Innovation Fund, CWRU’s Case-Coulter Translational Research Partnership and Ohio’s Third Frontier Technology Validation and Start-up Fund.

Activists work to make anti-discrimination law less discriminatory

In 2009, Cleveland City Council updated its non-discrimination law to include transgender people. Then council added an amendment.

 But there was a problem with the wording, activists in the transgender community say. Council added an amendment to the law stating that employers and places of public accommodations could tell a transgender individual which restroom – men’s or women’s -- they could or could not use,  instead of leaving that decision open to whichever sex he or she identifies with.

“You don’t often see discriminatory language in a non-discrimination law,” says Jacob Nash, co-chair of Cleveland is Ready, the group working on ordinance 1446-13, which would change the wording in the current ordinance.

“What removal of this piece would do is make it safer for transgender people,” explains Nash. “It’s not safe right now – telling a transgender woman to go into the men’s restroom. I know women who have been attacked or cornered or raped because that’s where they were told they needed to go.”

While some members of the transgender community are open, or “out,” others are not, Nash explains. Either way the situation can be humiliating. He tells of a transgender woman who was made to use the men’s room while a police officer stood guard outside the door.

“That’s ridiculous,” Nash says. “To have someone literally policing the restroom?”

Diane Dierker is also campaigning for 1446-13. “I’m a transgender woman, so this is of great concern to me, especially because now I’m a Cleveland resident,” she says. “Who is better able to determine who should use which bathroom than the person who has to go?”

Dierker’s employer allows her to use whichever bathroom she identifies with and she has never personally been harassed. “But I think about it every time I’m in a public place and have to go to the bathroom,” she admits, adding she does know people who have been harassed or even arrested.

Dierker points out that transgender people are not looking to do anything malicious. “Transgender people are in the bathroom for one purpose – to go to the bathroom,” she says. 

Nash says Cleveland is Ready has gotten support from some city council members, but so far ordinance 1446-13 has not gone to a vote. Nash says they are hopeful it will be heard by the end of the year.

Bloom Bakery will soon fill the air with sweet aromas

The aromas of fresh baked bread and pastries will soon waft through the streets of Cleveland when Bloom Artisan Bakery and Café opens two locations next year. In a social enterprise venture, Towards Employment, a non-profit organization dedicated to helping low income and disadvantaged adults achieve self-sufficiency through employment, announced last week that it will open bakeries in both Public Square and on the Cleveland State campus.

“The Towards Employment board of directors set out to start a social enterprise a couple of years ago,” says Logan Fahey, Bloom’s general manager. "We looked at different industries – manufacturing, lawn care – and then we found this crazy bakery idea. It met a need in downtown Cleveland and it’s an incredible training opportunity for our students.”
Bloom will hire and train 12 to 14 employees through Toward Employment for both locations in its first year, with a vision of expanding into additional locations, corporate catering and wholesale. “We wanted to create a business that is scalable,” says Fahey. “The hope is that once they graduate from the bakery they will move on to jobs with higher wages and use the skills they’ve learned.”
Before being hired by Bloom, potential employees will go through Towards Employment’s four-week career readiness course.
Once hired, employees will be learning baking skills from the best. Internationally-renowned artisan baking specialist Maurice Chaplais will personally train the staff on the art of making pastry and bread with locally-sourced ingredients.
Menu items include items such as the Great Lakes Beer bread, house white bread, assorted dinner rolls and croissants, pies, cookies, cakes, brownies and tarts. If that wasn’t enough, Bloom will also serve a lunch menu of sandwiches, sides and soups.
The CSU location at 1938 Euclid Ave. will house the production facility in addition to the retail shop. “It will have full commercial kitchen with glass windows so you can see the bakers making the product,” says Fahey.
Training starts in January and Fahey says they expect to open in February or March. In the meantime, Bloom Bakery is looking for an experienced executive head baker. Interested candidate can email their resumes to Fahey.

Haus Malts revives an industry forgotten in Cleveland since prohibition

Like many new college graduates, Andrew Martahus was on a seemingly never-ending quest to find a job after earning his chemical engineering degree from Washington University in St. Louis in 2014.
“I was interviewing to find a job in Cleveland and nationally, but nothing seemed to stick,” Martahus, 23, recalls. “So I started brewing beer.”
It sounds like a typical hobby for a new grad without a job. But the beer brewing turned into a curiosity about the process – and of the malt that goes into beer. That curiosity turned into the creation of Haus Malts last April, a craft malting institution for local commercial craft brewers. It is the first Ohio malt house since prohibition.
Haus Malts will create custom malts in batches for local breweries. Grains are soaked, partially germinated, dried and roasted to turn them into malt. Martahus would like to eventually expand the business to serve the food industry and home brewers. In fact, the company has already partnered up with Mennel Milling Company in Fostoria, Ohio.
After telling his father, Craig, about his interest in the malt process and touring a malt house in Asheville, North Carolina, the son and father team decided to go into business in Cleveland and revitalize an industry that once thrived here.

“There used to be a large malt house on W. 11th and Front Streets,” explains Martahus. “Cleveland and Cincinnati were two of the largest brewing cities before prohibition.”
The aroma of the MidTown building the Martahuses purchased on Carnegie Avenue is more like a bakery than a place where grain is converted to malt.“During the fermentation process it sort of smells like cucumbers, a very fresh smell,” Andrew says. “When its in the kiln it’s a grassy or hay smell, like darker bread.”
The business fits right in with its neighbors – Pierre’s Ice Cream to the north and American Sugar to the east. “It’s sort of like a food block here,” Martahus says. “We wanted to be downtown somewhere and we liked the idea of taking an old building built in the 1900s and keeping it going.”
Martahus says he has secured verbal agreements with Great Lakes BreweryNano BrewMarket Garden Brewery and Platform Beer Company,  Brick and Barrel and  the BottleHouse Brewing Company.
While Martahus is still working out the kinks before officially opening, he does give tours on request

Tech Elevator attempts to solve the demand for tech talent in Northeast Ohio

Cuyahoga County employers advertised more than 6,000 open software development jobs in September, while Cleveland area colleges graduate only about 400 people computer science majors each year, according to Anthony Hughes.

Hughes, the founding director of JumpStart’s Burton D. Morgan Mentoring Program for three years and former president of Akron’s Software Guild, wants to close the talent gap and bring more coding talent to Cleveland. “I saw the struggle we were having as a region to support startups,” says Hughes. “The concentration of technical talent in Northeast Ohio has lagged behind the rest of the country.”
Modeled after internationally-recognized coding boot camp programs and his experience with the Software Guild, Hughes recently started Tech Elevator – a 14-week boot camp that teaches Java and .Net to students. At the end of the program, graduates receive job placement assistance. Hughes has aligned with a number of Cleveland-based companies, including Hyland SoftwareOnShift and Brandmuscle, to name just a few.
 In fact, Hughes promises he’ll refund the $12,000 tuition if they don’t find a job within 120 days of completing the program.
The average salary of developers in Cleveland is $85,000, and the industry is on track to have one million open positions nationally, according to Hughes. The problem is, these are jobs that require training. “It's a fierce market for technical talent right now,” he says. “There’s a lot of poaching going on between companies. It’s a great field to get into, but it’s not a fake it ‘til you make it field.”
Tech Elevator hopes it can train the right people and help fill some of those open positions. “If you are willing to work hard, take advice and learn, they payoff is so great,” says Hughes. “From a local standpoint, it’s an opportunity to reinvent ourselves and not be too dependent on one industry.”
Applicants must take an aptitude test to determine if they are right for software development careers. The test measures logic, reasoning pattern matching and basic algebra. Applicants also go through an interview process. “We want them to want this for the right reasons,” says Hughes.
Tech Elevator is holding an open house on Thursday, November 5 and Friday, November 6 for prospective students. Six students will graduate in December from the program, and applications are open for the spring session, which starts January 25.

After life-saving lung transplant, local couple give a $2 million endowed chair to Cleveland Clinic

 The Buoncore Family Endowed Chair in Lung Transplantation, a $2 million gift to further research lung transplantation, was recently award to the Cleveland Clinic after Dr. Atul Mehta gave Lori Buoncore a second shot at a healthy life.
Buoncore, 60, has always been an active person. But in 2008 a cough and wheezing started to slow her down. “Everything else about her was 100 percent healthy,” says Lori’s husband Rick. “She never smoked in her life and she doesn’t drink. She’s the cleanest person I know.”
Soon after the cough began Lori was diagnosed with interstitial lung disease (ILD) – which damages lung tissues, inflames the air sacs and can permanently scar the tissue between the air sacs. Scarring of these tissues leads to the lungs becoming stiff – making breathing very difficult.
“Slowly but surely the capacity of her lungs got eaten up and they got harder,” recalls Rick. She had 20 percent capacity in her left lung and 50 percent in her right.” Oxygen helped for a while, but Lori couldn’t even take the oxygen mask off long enough to pose for a photo.
Lori needed a lung transplant. She was referred to  the Cleveland Clinic Lung Transplant Program and went on the transplant list in August 2014. Then, after a couple “dry runs” to the Cleveland Clinic, the Aurora couple got the call that there was a match and lungs were available in November 2014. Lori checked in and received a double lung transplant.
There are currently about 1,500 people on the waiting list for lung transplants. Last year 1,925 lung transplants were performed nationally last year and  the Cleveland Clinic did 106 of them, the second most in the country. The one year survival rates for lung transplants at the Clinic is about 88 percent in 2013, which is slightly higher than the national average.
Almost a year later, Lori is doing well. After the transplant, the Buoncores were so grateful they were looking for a way to say thank you to Mehta and the Clinic. “They should have a medical school and put his picture up,” says Rick. “I’ve never seen a doctor who not only has technical ability, but patient ability. He’s call up and ask, ‘how’s she doing?’”
“Everyone loves him,” Lori adds of Mehta.
Rick and Lori talked to Michelle Amato, a friend and vice chair of the Clinic’s Philanthropy Institute, about how to best thank Mehta. “I asked, ‘what’s the greatest honor I can do for him,’ and Michelle said an endowed chair is the greatest honor a doctor can get.
So earlier this year, Rick and Lori established the $2 million Buoncore Family Endowed Chair in Lung Transplantation. The chair will fund research in lung transplantation outcomes.  The five year survival rate after a lung transplant is 55 percent. Mehta would like to improve on that, although he says he has patients who have survived more than 20 years.
“I didn’t ask for anything from them, but [Rick] kept telling me he want to do something,” recalls Mehta. “It was just a surprise to me. But it’s good for the Clinic, it’s good for patients. My biggest honor is when the patient asked me to take care of her.”
While the Buoncores wanted to create the chair in Mehta’s name, he refused. So the three decided it will be in the Buoncore name until Mehta retires, at which time the endowed chair title will be changed to his name.

Artist Gina DeSantis puts a new spin on showcasing her work

As much as she likes to show off her ceramics, artist Gina DeSantis wanted a new way to highlight the works she creates in her studio at the Screw Factory in Lakewood. “I hate showing my work in galleries,” she declares. “It just sits on a white pedestal and it’s like, ‘oh look, a mug.’”

Then DeSantis started thinking about the whole farm-to-table movement, and the practice of sourcing food locally. She thought, why can’t that practice apply to the plates people use to eat their local food?
So DeSantis contacted her friend Jillian Davis, owner of Toast restaurant, about a showing her work in the restaurant. Davis loved the idea, and with that Kiln to Table: An evening of fine craft and fine dining was born.
DeSantis designed 50 three-piece place settings – a salad plate, a dinner plate and a soup bowl – for the restaurant. Diners have the option to buy their place settings after dinner (the setting will be cleaned and packed up for pick up on Friday). Of course, guests are not obligated to buy their settings.
"I came up with rustic, simple dinnerware for Toast,” DeSantis says. “It accentuates the food and doesn’t distract from it.”
Kiln to Table is a one-night exhibit. But DeSantis would like to see restaurant shows become a regular thing. “It’s one night only, but hopefully it will be more,” she says. “I might get other artists involved and we’ll hop around the city. “
DeSantis adds that she wants to continue the trend of buying locally. “There’s this frenzy for everything local,” she says. “We’re growing and sourcing everything locally and then throw it on a 50-cent Ikea plate.”
She encourages people to take the trend a step further and buy their dinnerware locally as well.  We’re so concerned about sourcing everything local, but we get from A to Y,” DeSantis explains. “It may be more costly, but if you’re really concerned about sourcing local, it’s worth it.”
 Kiln to Table is scheduled for Thursday, November 5 from 4:30 pm to 11 pm. Reservations are recommended.

Who's Hiring in CLE: MidTown Cleveland, QED and more

Welcome to the latest installment of Fresh Water’s “who’s hiring” series, where we feature growing companies with open positions, what they’re looking for and how to apply.
MidTown Cleveland Inc.
Business is booming in MidTown, from restaurants and new office developments to historic redevelopment and premier healthcare providers.
University Hospitals’ plans for its Rainbow Center for Women’s and Children’s Health on East 57th Street and Euclid Avenue is slated for completion in May 2016. Hemingway Development is developing more than 240,000 square feet of innovative office space geared at entrepreneurs with its MidTown Tech Park. The Agora Complex is home to offices and a new restaurant. There’s a new police station and plans to create plenty of greenspace.   

“MidTown’s right in the middle between downtown and University Circle,” says Dan Fashimpaur, MidTown Cleveland’s board of trustees chair. “It’s becoming more of an attractive area. And we’re setting the table for a lot more aggressive growth going forward.”
In preparation of that aggressive growth, MidTown has assembled a search committee to find its next executive director. “We’re looking for a high-powered, energetic individual who’s going to fight fires,” says Fashimpaur. “We need someone who is going to establish relationships with the city and foundations. Someone who thinks outside of the box to scale growth in MidTown.”
The executive director will be responsible for community engagement and collaboration; strategy development; performance management; finance; and fund development.
Send resume, cover letter highlighting qualifications and three to five professional references to Virginia Houston at Strategy Design Partners by 5 pm on Friday, October 30.  
Quality Electrodynamics
Quality Electrodynamics (QED), has several positions open as the global developer, manufacturer and supplier of advanced medical equipment electronics grows and prepares to move to its new 77,000 square foot space in Mayfield Village. Some of the open positions include a manufacturing engineer with an electrical engineering background; a product quality engineer; and a quality assurance (QA) inspector.
Send resumes to human resources.
Cleveland Office of Sustainability
The City of Cleveland Mayor’s Office of Sustainability, which leverages the city’s assets by collaborating with the community to improve the economic, environmental, and social well-being of its citizens. needs an executive assistant.
The assistant is responsible for assisting and providing support to a variety of projects. Responsibilities include working collaboratively with Office of Sustainability staff as well as staff from all city departments and divisions as needed to support the implementation of sustainability.
Submit a resume, cover letter and three references outlining experience and qualifications by Sunday, November 1 to Jenita McGowan, chief of sustainability, Mayor’s office room 227, 601 Lakeside Ave Cleveland, OH 44114.
The Music Settlement
The Music Settlement, which offers music therapy, early childhood education, and music instruction to people of all ages and levels of experience, has three open positions: controlleroperations and publicity assistant for the Bop Stop; and maintenance assistant.  Apply through the Music Settlement’s careers page.
The Cleveland Foundation
The Cleveland Foundation needs a  gift planning officer to assist in the development and execution of strategic cultivation and fundraising activities that contribute to the growth of the endowment of the foundation.
The gift planning officer interacts daily with external constituents with a primary focus on the cultivation of relationships with professional advisors and other wealth management professionals and their clients to establish new funds and planned gifts.
Send resume and cover letter indicating salary requirements to the hiring manager by Friday, Nov. 6.

Mod Meals offers fresh, locally-sourced meals delivered right to your door

Eating delicious, healthy food on a busy schedule is about to become easier. Beginning next week, chefs from some of Cleveland’s most prized chefs and restauranteurs will cook locally-sourced, health-conscious meals that will be delivered to customers’ doors for Mod Meals.

With a few clicks, customers can choose from a daily rotating menu of entrees, side dishes and kids meals on both the Mod Meals website and app. “We take the headache out of making dinner,” says Mod Meals marketing director Scott Churchill. “It’s tough to keep business going, it’s tough to go out. We bring it right to your door.”
Started by entrepreneur and CEO Bruce Teicher, participating chefs include Ben Bebenroth, chef owner of Spice Kitchen and Bar; Karen Small, owner of The Flying Fig; Eric Williams, chef owner of Momocho and El Carnicero; and Brian Okin, chef owner of Cork and Cleaver Social Kitchen and Graffiti. Additional chefs are expected to be announced soon.
Mod Meals will feature four to five entrée choices each day, four to five side dishes and a selection of kid-friendly fare. “We’re really focusing on kids’ meals,” says Churchill, who cites Bebenroth’s meatloaf – jam-packed with vegetables and shows smiley faces and frown faces when the loaf is cut – as one fun option for kids.

Some of the planned menu items include wood grilled chicken, arugula pesto and potatoes; chili garlic salmon with steamed broccoli; smoked brisket with Memphis barbeque sauce and crunchy slaw; seasonal crudite with hummus and dukkah; Asian noodle salad with cashew dressing, carrot and bok choy; kale, dried cherries, mustard caper vinaigrette, egg; and a squash and coconut bisque.
Meals will cost between $10 and $14, with a $2.95 delivery fee. “Our overhead is lower because we don’t have a restaurant,” Churchill explains. “But we’re piggy backing off the growing foodie scene here.” Menus will be posted a couple of days in advance so users can make their selections and choose their delivery times. Deliveries will be between 4 pm and 10 pm.
Additionally, with every order placed Mod Meals will make an equivalent monetary donation to the Greater Cleveland Food Bank.  
Mod Meals plans to start delivery on Monday, November 9 to downtown and the east side suburbs. The company plans to expand delivery to the west side within the month. Go to the Mod Meals website to get the app or place orders.

New app to help users find waterfront access points, appreciate Lake Erie

The West Creek Conservancy, a group focused on preserving natural habitats and expanding opportunities to experience nature, is developing a new mobile app that will allow users to locate a watershed, map water-related public access points and learn more about that river or stream.
Developers hope the app will help people get out an explore Ohio’s Lake Erie basin. The app will serve as a mobile version of ODNR’s Coastal and River Access guide. The app will use the phone’s GPS to direct users to the nearest water access points.
“The real idea here is we have such a great asset at our back door and people don’t know how to get to it,” says Derek Schafer, West Creek’s executive director. “When you get access to it, you care about it. If you’re recreating on it, you love it and want to keep it healthy.”
Schafer is hesitant to use the term “watershed” when talking about the yet-to-be-named app. “It sounds like a regulatory term,” he explains. “This is to hook, line and sinker get people to the water – whether it’s a boat launch, a canoe put-in, marina, whatever it is. Get them to know where to get to the water – all of the rivers and all lake access points in all of Lake Erie.”
But the app isn’t just about waterfront fun. It’s also designed to get users involved in conservation and advocacy groups. “It’s about getting people engaged in advocacy, to action,” Schafer says. “It’s how to get people to the Lake Erie coastline, watersheds and all the rivers. It’s about how to get people to them, enjoy then and then once you get there, you get them to respect them and enjoy them.”
The app, which is scheduled to be completed in beta version for IOS by the end of the year and Android sometime next year, will feature Lake Erie and watershed protection tips, a photo gallery, Lake Erie and watershed FAQs, newsletter and links to advocacy groups.
West Creek Conservancy is still trying to decide on a catchy name for the app. Anyone with a good name idea can email Schafer with it. 

EmployStream makes the hiring process a paper-free snap

With 20 years in software development, Rob Sable thought there must be a better way to streamline the hiring process. He was right, and in 2014 he started f EmployStream, which uses Software-as-a-Service (SaaS) to digitize and customize employers’ hiring processes.

Sable had worked for a large software company before he became CIO of staffing and recruitment company Alliance Solutions Group in 2012. Alliance was hiring about 15,000 people a year at the time and Sable was in charge of overhauling and upgrading the company’s technology platforms. “The cost of hiring a single person really takes a lot of work,” explains Sable. “With 15,000 [employees] a year you have to go through a process of paperwork and other onboarding.”
That’s when Sable had an idea to simplify the hiring process. So he approached Alliance owner Aaron Grossman about developing a new hiring system.
“Combined with the owner’s background and my background in software applications development we came up with a prototype to streamline the process of getting someone hired and plugged in to payroll,” recalls Sable. “You can do it on tablets, phones, wherever you are. What we ended up with was a system on its own.”
In October 2014, Sable founded EmployStream, a paperless system that helps high-volume employers avoid mistakes, expenses and delays in the onboarding process and integrate their Applicant Tracking Systems (ATS) and payroll. “People make mistakes and fail, even if they get it right 99 percent of the time,” Sable says, adding that EmployStream takes the risk of human error out of the mix.
Alliance, which was Sable’s first customer with the pilot in 2013, was able to save $150,000 in labor costs during the first year it used EmployStream. The software officially launched earlier this year.
Sable says the EmployStream system helps virtually any type of employer – from small companies without HR departments to staffing companies. The system eliminates redundancies and paperwork. “It’s for anyone who hires 100-plus people a month,” he says. “The way we built the system is that anyone can load any of their documents in it – tax forms, customer specific documents, employment agreements.”
The EmployStream system can also be tailored to incorporate a company’s color scheme and logo. “Within a few hours you have a system online with a job board, application page,” says Sable. “I think it has applicability to any organization that has to engage with people or has paperwork.”
Sable began actively selling EmployStream this summer and has a handful of customers. “No one has told me ‘you’re on the wrong track, we’re going back to pen and paper,’” he says. “We’re just focused on getting the word out to more and more companies.”
In addition to staffing companies, Sable is now targeting non-profits and small local chains. “If I can help non-profits streamline costs, I like serving spaces that are under-served,” he says. “It’s hard to say no to the something that’s better and more reliable.”

MAGNET's second annual ProtoTech Pitch competition aimed at product-focused startups

On Thursday, Oct. 29, area entrepreneurs will present their product-focused technology  startups at the Manufacturing Advocacy and Growth Network (MAGNET)’s second ProtoTech Pitch event. Six selected companies will have about 12 minutes to pitch their product and then take questions from a panel of judges in hopes of winning a cash prizes and business services.
"There's going to be a wide breadth of companies,” says Dave Crain, executive director of entrepreneurial services at MAGNET. “It’s going to be a lot of fun.”
About 15 applicants will be chosen. From that pool, six finalists will then be chosen to present their pitches. The winner will receive $12,000, second place will win $7,500 and the audience favorite will get $1,000.
The winners will also receive entrepreneurial business services from MAGNET and other sponsors. MAGNET will provide a voucher for $5,000 in business services; Apple Growth Partners has offered $5,000 worth of start-up consulting to the top three finishers; and Dyan Sutton, owner of Creative Ideas Matter, is donating brand analysis and development services, valued at $2,000, to the winner and one-hour consultations to the second place and the audience favorite.
The event will also include a display section, in which pitchers will showcase product prototypes and talk to audience members before they give their presentations.
Last year Chris Wentz, founder and CEO of Everykey, a company that makes wristbands that replaces keys and passwords, won last year’s ProtoTech Pitch and will speak at this year’s event. Everykey has gone on to raise more than $1 million in funding and ran a successful Kickstarter campaign.
“Winning last year’s ProtoTech pitch competition was a real turning point in our business, says Wentz. “Not only did the money help us immensely, but we also received a huge surge of press opportunities to get Everykey out in front of the masses. The timing was impeccable because just a week later, we launched our Kickstarter campaign that raised $117,000.  The exposure we received from ProtoTech almost certainly drove to a large portion of that.”
ProtoTech Pitch will be held at the Ariel International Center on Oct. 29 from 4-6:30 p.m. Entrepreneurs have until Friday, Oct. 16 to submit their applications to pitch. The public is invited and individual tickets are $50 and include dinner.
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