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Mistakes Were Made

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$130,000,000+ raised by our companies.
Over 400 jobs created.
A Top-10 accelerator in the US.

There are a lot of great stats that I often use when talking about The Brandery. However, if you’ve ever heard one of my talks before, you know that the most important statistic to me is this one:

100% of our participant companies said the program was worth it.

No doubt this remains true today. That said, I’ll be the first to admit we are hanging on to that 100% by the skin of our teeth.

The Brandery team has done a lot of thinking on how to get better in 2017. Our conclusions are that we have slipped in two main areas: type of company selected to be in the program and the stage that company was at when chosen.

When The Brandery was started in 2010, the goal was to bring great talent to Cincinnati. That’s why, in every class, most of the teams come from outside the city. The initial thesis was to choose consumer-facing, high growth companies but we quickly created a lot of wiggle room there to accommodate talented founders over any other factor. I don’t necessarily think that was a bad decision, but we certainly lost focus on other variables. A talented round peg can succeed in spite of the square hole, but it’s not exactly ideally sustainable.

After many years of great results, and a particularly great 2015, we got over-zealous in thinking we could move the needle for anyone we brought in. While we always added some value to everyone who came through the program, the truth is we can help some companies tremendously and others in only limited ways. This is a function of the talents of our staff, mentorship pool, and the intrinsic nature of our close network of partners and sponsors. See here for more about the types of companies we are going after in 2017. Pretty much everyone in our network is well-positioned to add tons of value to these kind of startups.

We also overestimated our ability to take early teams and will them over the line to funding (as we have in years past). Historically, we average close to $2MM in funding per company, but out of the gate in 2016, our alumni did not find great success fundraising. Some of this is the function of the environment, but a lot is on us as well. The current state of venture funding requires significant traction to raise a proper seed round. What was needed to raise an A Round in 2012 you now need for the seed. This means we need to find talented teams that have already hit that product-market fit, raised a bit of money, and are looking to get to that next level. It’s almost impossible to get a small team with just a barebones MVP there in the span of a 16-week accelerator program.

If there was another miss it was simply around expectation setting. Past performance is no guarantee of future results but we didn’t do a great job of correcting the expectation that, as with past Brandery classes, a good majority of our companies would be able to raise a round of funding soon after Demo Day. We need to do better in preparing our companies for the reality of what comes after they leave us.

Running a startup is all about building, testing, refining – and repeating. I look at The Brandery in the same way. We can’t get better unless we’re honest with ourselves about where we fell short. Will our sharpened focus work? I think it will, but the only way to find out for sure is to dive in. I’m looking forward to an exciting 2017 – and learning even more.

We’ve seen a lot of accelerators shut down in 2016/17. It is a tough model if you have lulls/gaps. That said, we’re going to continue to be a strong pillar of the StartupCincy ecosystem for many years to come. Our drive to learn, evolve, and grow is the reason why. I welcome anyone and everyone to help us continue to get better!

Interns, What Have They Been Up To?

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Happy Monday Everyone!

Today the Brandery Interns are taking over the blog to tell you what we’ve accomplished and what we’re up to. It’s officially been one month since the start of our internship and we have all had the opportunity to work with the Brandery team and get acclimated to our new surroundings. By the way OTR, you have been fabulous, thanks for all the food options!

Back to the interns! Camryn, the design intern, has worked diligently to create our agency playbook, infographic and company teasers for the class of 2016. Our tech intern, who just returned from vacation, Jacob has worked on compressing files to create an efficient library of information and updating our website. The two marketing and operations interns, Ravneet and Curtis, have also had their fair share of projects to handle. Both of us have been juggling various social media platforms, as well as getting the Brandery started on a new, not so well-known platform called Snapchat. So if by chance you do have Snapchat, follow us by searching “brandery”! Curt has also spent his time working on compiling a company portfolio of companies that have graduated from the Brandery. I, on the other hand, have spent most of my time preparing for the incoming class. I’ve helped with preparing our welcome gift baskets, organizing the welcome picnic and compiling summaries of founders for a press release.

As our first month of interning comes to an end, it is only the beginning for our startups. The addition of 10 new companies and almost 40 new individuals has certainly changed the atmosphere and dynamics of the office. Every day we arrive with the excitement of getting a new project and seeing how our work, no matter how minimal, can help a company grow. Along with helping the companies, Curt and I also have the unique opportunity of helping the startup community grow, as well.

One of our objectives this summer is to increase the engagement of local students with the startup ecosystem. Curtis and I strongly believe that we have great talent in the surrounding areas, especially on the campuses located near us. We’re looking at you UC, Xavier, Miami and NKU! Therefore, we have organized an event called, Founders 101. This event will be arranged as an open panel between students and well established founders from the Cincinnati area. After the founders introduce themselves, their business and journey we will open the floor for questions and encourage an environment of discussion.

The first event will take place June 24th, from 10am to 11am, in Union Hall. The theme for this panel is, “Start of the Startup”. Founders Matthew Lenahan, CEO of DataRole, James Fisher, CEO of Roadtrippers and Steve Caldwell, CEO of Strap will be in attendance discussing the start of their respective companies. More information on the event and founders can be found on our Eventbrite page, the link is copied below. Seating is limited, so please reserve your free ticket!

https://www.eventbrite.com/e/founders-101-start-of-the-startup-tickets-25936332268?aff=eac2

HackOTR is Coming

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It’s that time of year again. The air smells fresh, the sound of Reds’ home runs can be heard from Great American Ball Park, and the sight of a bunch of brainiacs heading into 1411 Vine Street to compete in an all-out mental brawl fills the streets. Yes, it’s that time of year again: time for the one and only HackOTR to make its way back to The Brandery. We’re bringing back the basics of the event—awesome sponsors, shiny prizes, experienced mentors—while offering new hacks and hosting a brilliant group of hackers ready to work and binge-drink Redbull for twenty-four straight hours (just kidding about that Redbull part… we also have Mountain Dew and coffee).

For the tech-savvy, one new hack offers a hardware-based objective to those who believe they can handle the challenge. Not familiar with coding or working much with programming? No problem, we’ve got another type of challenge tailored for the business-oriented minds. Our marketing and design challenge will allow product marketers and designers to get just as involved as everyone else without even having to write one line of code.

Last time’s hackers were able to walk out of The Brandery office with more than just a smile on their face. Strap from The Brandery’s Class of 2014 led a side-hack last year and awarded one winning team with Pebble smartwatches for their ingenuity. Other hackers from last year won Frameri sunglasses, Dell computers, and even three months of office space in Cintrifuse (check out the full article on everyone’s success). This time around, similar prizes will be offered by both sponsors and teams from The Class of 2015; and although goodies like these might be enough to entice some to take part in the event, the real reward comes from providing and receiving valuable input from a rare hacking holiday that only comes around once in a blue moon.

Hackers who survive the twenty-four hour gauntlet of grinding may continue their work with The Brandery or one of the companies from the Class of ’15. Aman Tsegai—coding expert and now Technology Intern for The Brandery—participated in the last hackathon and created some work that was so impressive The Brandery just had to have him. The start-ups from the Class of 2015 are always looking for new faces to join their team (internships, part-time, or full-time), which is one of the best prizes the event can offer.



If you’re interested in attending or even participating in the event, here’s some quick info to get you started:

What: HackOTR offers the opportunity of creating small projects that can make a big difference within a friendly yet competitive atmosphere that fosters intellectual growth. Teams from The Brandery’s Class of 2015 Brandery itself, and others will be challenging hackers to complete core hacks and side hacks, or objective-based competitions where hackers will create what they can imagine in the time they are given. These objectives can range from being marketing/design based or purely technological, but it’s up to the hackers themselves to decide exactly what type of project they want to work on and what they wish to create.

Who: Anyone. Well, almost anyone. We’re looking for people who are genuinely interested in grinding out work for a full twenty-four hour day but having a blast while doing so. You don’t need to be a programmer, start-up aficionado, or even a graduate from college. All you need is some enthusiasm, creativity for making something great, and a focused mind (a few cups of coffee might help too). Tickets are sold and divided into three categories: Product Marketer, Visual/UX Designer, and Developer. Whether you’re someone looking for a team to join or bringing a full squad of your own, we’ll welcome your interest and input.

When: The event check-in officially begins Friday, August 7th at 4:00 PM and continues onward until Saturday, August 8th at 5:00 PM.

Where: HackOTR takes place in The Brandery office on 1411 Vine Street, Cincinnati, OH 45202.

Why: Well, why not? We’ve had immense success in the past and truly believe this kind of opportunity offers an experience that local Cincinnatians have come to love and learn from.

We hope to see you hacking soon! If you’re interested in getting even more information about HackOTR, check out its website and FAQ’s here or email Jess for any questions not already answered on the site.

InnovateHER is Coming to #StartupCincy

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We’re excited to announce our partnership with UpTech, Covington, Kentucky’s startup accelerator, to bring the Small Business Administration’s InnovateHER competition to the Cincinnati startup ecosystem!

InnovateHER is a pitch competition and business challenge that focuses on companies that primarily benefit women and families. If this competition is anything like others we’ve been to in town, these entrepreneurs will not disappoint. One startup will be chosen as Cincinnati’s nominee for the finals, in which 10 companies from around the country will pitch in Washington, D.C.

If you’re interested in pitching, we need your application by March 5th at 11:59 pm. You can read all the details about what is required as an applicant on the SBA’s website.

If you’re interested in attending, make sure you get your ticket as soon as possible. We have a feeling it’s going to be a great night!

Stay tuned to Twitter and the event page for announcements on who our awesome panel of judges will include and who has been chosen to pitch at the event. All the information you need and the application are on Eventbrite.

The Brandery's New Accelerator "Deal": $50,000 Per Company

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This summer, the sixth cohort of companies will be joining us at The Brandery. What an amazing first five years we have had (note: information on our five year anniversary celebration will be forthcoming – you need to be there)! Five years later, we remain more focused than ever on our mission of accelerating startups by building powerful brands. Our core approach of layering inspiring brands on top of dazzling technology and driven founders has proven to be a recipe for success. Like the beef Bolognese recipe of your great-grandmother, we are less than enthusiastic to make adjustments to the formula.

But, who are we kidding? We’re an accelerator — evolution and retooling shouldn’t be limited to our portfolio companies. Excellence can be found in rational and thoughtful change. As such, in 2015 we will be announcing some core changes to our accelerator program that will provide our participant companies with an even stronger platform to grow.

We are excited to announce our sixth cohort of companies will receive a total of $50,000 of capital from The Brandery. This will be split into two tranches: (1) $25,000 in for a six (6) percent warrant upon beginning the program, and (2) another $25,000 through an uncapped convertible debt note to each company that completes the sixth week of our accelerator program.

Some accelerators offer more cash than The Brandery and some offer less, but after having 45 startups go through our accelerator, we believe $50,000 is the right amount. We have always had two juxtaposing beliefs about the capital that we provide companies: first, our companies need enough capital to focus solely on building a great company, and second, The Brandery funding should not provide such a substantial runway that the startup loses its sense of urgency. We believe $50,000 will accelerate our startups to the next step, whether that’s raising a round, bootstrapping with revenue, or moving onto the next thing.

The Brandery has always felt strongly that the “deal” needs to be explicit at the outset. Some accelerators offer more capital but hinge the capital on different performance metrics or, in some cases, the discretion of the accelerator’s investment team. We think this is unfair to the startups because it does not provide them with the ability to plan their burn and so that there is not an investment decision that adversely impacts the relationship between the accelerator and its participating founders. As such, the second tranche of $25,000 will be invested purely on the temporal requirement of each company making it through six weeks of our program.

And that’s not all! We’ll have more big news to break in the next week or two. We can’t wait to share.

If you’re interested in learning more about The Brandery Accelerator, go to brandery.org/accelerator, or apply now.

Guest Post: Why Brands Need To Pay Attention To Wearables

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[Editor’s Note: This post, by COO of 2014 Brandery graduate Strap, Patrick Henshaw, originally appeared on Strap’s blog on September 22, 2014.]

With over 10 million wearable devices sold in 2014 alone, should brands start paying more attention to the wearables space?

Based on a recent Forrester report, 25% of American adults plan on buying a wearable within the next year. If Forrester’s data holds true, that would be an estimated 79 million wearables sold within the next year. To put that in perspective, only 64 million smartphones were sold in 2006. This was a year shy of the first iPhone Apple produced and sold beginning June 29th, 2007. (For a cool side story take a look at Time’s interactive timeline of the iPhone.)

We all know that Apple changed the smartphone landscape from being something clunky and difficult to use into something that a 3-year-old can pick up— and find out how to watch Barney on. Will the same hold true for the wearable industry? Will Apple maintain their ability to lead thought and change in the wearable market as they have for years now in the mobile space?

Insiders report that Apple is readying supplies to sell 50 million Apple Watches in 2015. According to another report, Bank of America and Merril Lynch predict Apple will sell 20 million watches. Personally, I think Apple Watch sales are going to be closer to the 10 million unit mark. If Forrester is correct and 25% of the 300 million iPhones users on the market today were to purchase the Apple Watch, they would sell 75 million of these wearables in 2015. Now my prediction that Apple sells 10 million Apple Watches in 2015 doesn’t seem like too daunting of a task.

Inevitably, wearable technology will provide brands an unseen ability to provide content that is of value to their potential (or current) customer.

So why do brands care about this? Or should they? While there has been no clear leader or front runner as a singular wearable device, marketers and brands should still start paying attention to these devices. Inevitably, wearable technology will provide brands an unseen ability to provide content that is of value to their potential (or current) customer. The Content Marketing Association even put out an article with four key opportunities for content marketers to really show true value to their intended consumers. The short version of the article portrays these points: 1) Changing methods of reading, 2) Re-inventing push notifications, 3) Augmented reality, and 4) More content and data creation.

There are a few challenges for marketers who want to start using this new medium for content: adoption, value, and privacy. Providing value is a must in marketing today. Long gone are the days of the one-sided consumer-to-brand relationship. Brands must provide value— and provide it continually— to gain traction and maintain customers while trying to minimize churn. At the forefront, though, privacy will still remain. It is going to be key for the players in the industry to have privacy at the utmost of importance – this will also, in turn, drive adoption.

The Bottom Line

Brands need to pay attention to wearables— because their customers are. If brands and marketers truly want to understand their customers, where to reach them, and how to provide better value to the content they are providing, then wearables and wearable trends are something that need to be at the forefront of their thoughts and decisions.

Read more of Patrick and the rest of the Strap team’s thought leadership on their blog.

Resource Roundup: 11 ways to meet like-minded entrepreneurs in Cincinnati

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Wherever you are, we think you should surround yourself with people who will inspire you, push you, and advise you on building your business. In Cincinnati, there are so many ways to find people like you in the entrepreneurial scene.

Here are some of our favorite Meetups in the Cincinnati area:

1. Side Project Cincinnati
What: An initiative of Brandery graduate Roadtrippers, Side Project Cincinnati is your way to share your ideas, find collaborators, and fuel your creativity in a safe place. And beer… there is always beer. Read more about the Roadtrippers team’s side projects in Soapbox.
Next Meetup: November 11

2. Girl Develop It
What: It’s no secret tech skews male. GDI is aiming to tip back the scales by teaching women to code. Build sweet websites with awesome people. No questions are off-limits.
Next Meetup: Drinkup on October 1 for anyone interested in learning more, Intro to Web Concepts on October 8

3. User Enjoyment / UX Meetup
What: The User Enjoyment Meetup is for anyone who wants to make their users’ experience better. Our entrepreneurs love it as a place to get feedback on their products, but these UX enthusiasts discuss everything from usability testing to typography to lean development.

4. Startup Grind
What: Yeah, you got us. We’re the organizers of this one. But it’s just because we think it’s such a great initiative. There are over 125 cities in 55 countries with a Startup Grind chapter, and Cincinnati’s is growing each and every month. We bring in a prominent figure in the entrepreneurial ecosystem to talk about their highs and lows and tips for aspiring entrepreneurs as they go through “the grind.”
Next Meetup: The founders of The Launch Werks, Matt Anthony and Noel Gauthier, will talk about their experiences in the wonderful world of physical products on September 30.

5. QC Merge Drinkup
What: Discuss all things web and technology over a couple of drinks. These Meetups are a great place to network, too. We’ve had a couple of our companies find employees— and even co-founders— at these monthly gatherings.
Next Meetup: Drinkup on October 2 at Japp’s

6. Lean Startup Circle
What: This group focuses on the practices of The Lean Startup movement. If you’re an entrepreneur or wantrepreneur exploring new ways to launch, evolve, or grow your business, join the group.
Next Meetup: Traction Book: Skype interview with Justin Mares on October 9

And a few more specific ones, when you’re looking to expand your knowledge and skill set:

7. Smart Home Meetup

8. Search Engine Optimization Meetup

9. Wearable Developers Meetup

10. Node.js Meetup

11. Startup Finance & Accounting

BONUS (thanks, @joshowens!): Meteor Cincinnati Meetup

This post is part of a series in which we’re highlighting local resources for entrepreneurs. If there are any we miss or you wish existed, let us know!

Accelerator Update: Week 5

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Can you believe it’s already week five of our accelerator program? Yeah, neither can we.

The momentum is picking up. The companies are coming in earlier and staying later as many of them launch their alpha and beta products. Final company branding is being nailed down. Websites are being fleshed out.

Each week of the program is focused on a different area of building a startup to help keep everyone working quickly and thoroughly. So far, we’ve completed “Branding for Startups,” “Design and Consumer Understanding,” “Founders’ Advice,” and “Defining and Building Your Product.” This week is focused on “Building Your Business Model.” We bring in experts in each of the fields to share their thoughts, lead workshops, and sit down and talk with each of the companies to try to address their specific needs. As General Manager Mike Bott says, “Each company is a slice of Swiss cheese. We want to help them fill in the holes.”

Last week, we had professional photographer Zackariah Cole join us to take some shots of the space, each company, and the Brandery co-founders. He did a phenomenal job. We’re pretty obsessed with his photos. It’s always been hard to capture what our space looks like, but Zack nailed it.








There’s been such terrific progress with all ten companies in such little time. It’s hard to grasp how hard the teams have been working. We want to share the excitement with you. Here are a couple companies that are killing it right now (we’ll update you on a few more next week):

Accrew is an all-in-one accountant collaboration tool. It enhances your current software to allow clients and their accountants to communicate seamlessly and give feedback through an interactive dashboard. Their team is made up of Craig, Ryan W., and Ryan B. from Columbus, three accountants that started a firm called Upsourced Accounting together. We’re lovin’ on Accrew’s Modern Accountant Blog these days, and they are holding two events at the Brandery in the near future. Come learn more about the co-founders, their business, and the changing accounting landscape. You can find more information and Eventbrite sign up for Accrew’s events in their blog.



Craig and Ryan B., two of the three co-founders of Accrew


Chalky is a duo of Stanford sophomores that wants to help high school students get into college and help college students succeed in their education and beyond. Operating in stealth mode until now, Chalky has created a peer-to-peer mentoring system for students. They’ve been crazy busy building out their site and system in the last few weeks and we love what they’ve accomplished so far. You can sign up for Chalky’s private beta here.



Charlie and Isaac, co-founders of Chalky


Looking for updates on our graduates? Don’t worry, they’re coming soon! Lots of exciting things have been happening for our grads. Did we mention that Brandery alum FlightCar is coming to the Brandery for the August edition of Startup Grind? Don’t miss it!

All images in this post courtesy of Zackariah Cole Photography.

Meet the Mentors: Joe Medved, SoftBank Capital

1. Tell us about yourself! Who are you and how are you involved with the Brandery?

I am a Partner at SoftBank Capital, a venture capital fund focused on mobile applications, social media, ecommerce, online advertising, gaming, and cloud computing. I have been a mentor at the Brandery since its inception. Dave Knox, who had been a great mentor to companies in our portfolio, encouraged me to join the program when it launched.

2. Why are you passionate about the startup community in Cincinnati?

I grew up in New Hampshire but my parents both came from Cleveland, so I have personal ties to Ohio and great fondness for Cincinnati (except when the Bengals are playing the Browns). Dave, JB, Rob and Bryan laid out a vision that would leverage Cincinnati’s industry leading consumer companies and wealth of design talent. The timing was perfect given the evolution of the web, as open source solutions and utility computing leveled the playing field a bit on the infrastructure side, enabling a new wave of innovation at the application layer. Great branding and design, which the Brandery and Cincinnati represent, are the key elements to differentiation at this layer of the stack.

3. As a specialist in investments and venture capital, what is your biggest piece of advice for applicants and aspiring entrepreneurs?

One of the most important things an entrepreneur does in his or her company’s infancy, is to hire the right people to build their team. The same diligence that is put into the recruiting and hiring process should be applied when selecting mentors and investors. Having the guidance of Mike and the team at the Brandery can help entrepreneurs identify the mentors and investment partners that are optimal for their business goals and culture.

4. If you started a company, what would it be?

Many of the greatest startups, particularly on the enterprise side, are built by people that are attempting to solve a problem they’ve experienced firsthand. Being a VC is an incredible job, but one pain point in the job is email. We network with an extraordinary number of people in order to help our portfolio companies and identify new entrepreneurs to back. I am constantly behind on email and feel bad about responding slowly. My dream company would be one that completely disrupts email with a more efficient form of communication.

5. What are your goals for the Brandery as a mentor?

My goal is to share my perspective in areas where I have significant experience and to help make connections with experts in areas where I don’t. One of the things that I learned early on as a VC, from my partners who had decades of experience operating and investing, was to understand your strengths and weaknesses as a mentor. Just because you help control a lot of investment dollars, people may assume you’re an expert on every facet of being a startup, or worse off, you may believe it yourself! Our team has investors from a variety of backgrounds, ranging from sales to product to tech to finance. We aim to leverage those talents across our portfolio, and I try to take the same approach to my mentorship role at the Brandery.

My goal as a mentor representing SoftBank Capital is also for us to find great companies to invest in, which we did recently with FlightCar. I mentored the team at the Brandery, and we are thrilled to be investors in the company. The Brandery helped the brilliant young team at FlightCar craft a powerful brand message that is clearly resonating in the market.

For more information about Joe Medved or any of our mentors, visit www.brandery.org/mentors!

Get REVVED!

Wanting to get involved in development and/or the Cincinnati startup scene? Looking for a quick way to develop new skills?

Well, you’re in luck.

The tech minds behind Brandery graduates Modulus and REPP are starting Revved – a series of classes that will teach new and seasoned developers the skills they need to move to the next level. With the support of Xavier University, Cintrifuse and The Brandery, Revved will help create top notch development talent here in Cincinnati.

Interested? The first course, Web Application Development, is scheduled for May 21 at Xavier University. Space is limited, so make sure to register ASAP: http://www.revved.co

REPP Offering Free Profiles for Brandery Community!

REPP Offering Free Profiles for Brandery Community!

Have you ever wondered if your online date really was being truthful or if that person coming over to your house from Craigslist is a convicted felon? Well a Brandery graduate can help ease your worries, and for a limited time, it’s completely free!

REPP was founded in June 2012 and is located in Cincinnati, Ohio. It is the first and only company to allow users to create verified online profiles that are easily embedded and shareable, using a patent pending process.

Using your full name, date of birth and address, REPP develops personalized quizzes only you would know, searches national records to retrieve your criminal record, allows you to confirm and add your social media sites to your profile, and soon, will verify your profile photo. Once your profile is set, share it with others and ask to see their REPP.

REPP recently launched a beta version of their platform and is offering free
profiles to the Brandery community!

For more information, please visit www.myrepp.com or email info@myrepp.com

OFFF Returns to Cincinnati

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World-famous creative conference, OFFF, will return to Cincinnati on March 6 at the Aronoff Center for the Arts.  The event, first held in Cincinnati in 2011, was founded in Barcelona and is recognized as being an innovative, informative, and inspiring design conference.

OFFF garnered such a positive response from attendees in 2011 that the organizers have, once again, named Cincinnati as the conference’s exclusive U.S. location.  The event will include presentations from James Paterson, Onur Senturk, James Victore, Sara Blake, Jon Burgerman, Brendan Dawes, Ramon Escolá and Multitouch Barcelona.  James Victore is best known for his animation visual effects work on movies, such as Dark Knight Rises and The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo.

OFFF is a mecca for creative professionals, including designers, innovators, creative thinkers, and entrepreneurs.  The conference exposes them, not only to high-quality curated content, but also to a network of peers, mentors, and potential business partners.

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The conference was held at the Contemporary Arts Center in 2011, but is being moved to the Aronoff Center to allow for more participants.  This year’s conference will be available to approximately 400 attendees.

Don’t miss out on this awesome opportunity!  Get your tickets now at cincinnatiarts.org!