Here are 11 leaders in Greater Cincinnati’s startup community. Movers & Makers asked the major organizations in the region to introduce their “notables” to our readers, part of a new regular feature highlighting key people in various sectors of Greater Cincinnati’s nonprofit economy. The organizations were invited to identify their notables within three categories or identify their own category.
Under 50 leaders
Dzuricsko inspired by cities, motivated by innovation
Brianna Dzuricsko is the executive lead and director of development and funding programs at Main Street Ventures. She joined the Main Street Ventures Team in 2019 as a program associate, where she was instrumental in shaping the processes for its grant giving programs and brand building. Prior to her time at Main Street Ventures, she served as program coordinator of UpPrize Social Innovation Challenge in Pittsburgh and brand and accelerator strategy coordinator at the eCenter@LindenPointe in Hermitage, Pa. Dzuricsko received her bachelor’s degree from Duquesne University and is a 2019 Venture for America Fellow, a fellowship program for recent college graduates who want to become startup leaders and entrepreneurs.
Knox now leads Northern Kentucky startup initiative
Dave Knox is the executive director of Blue North, Northern Kentucky’s lead economic development organization for entrepreneurship. After driving digital innovation across P&G’s 300+ brands, Knox opened the Cincinnati office of the digital agency Rockfish, growing it to 80+ employees before it was sold to global advertising agency WPP. Simultaneously, he co-founded the startup accelerator The Brandery, which ranked as one of the top 10 programs in the U.S. and became a key part of #StartupCincy. He co-founded Vine Street Ventures and most recently practiced entrepreneurship through acquisition when he bought – and subsequently sold – Nature’s Willow. Knox is a keynote speaker on innovation and the author of “Predicting The Turn: The High Stakes Game of Business Between Startups and Blue Chips.”
Croc-obsessed DesRochers’ favorite thing is helping women
Rachel DesRochers is executive director and founder of the Incubator Kitchen Collective, a nonprofit shared kitchen space for over 60 new food entrepreneurs that has helped over 160 businesses since its founding. The IKC offers mentorship and marketing services, which DesRochers provides free to all members. DesRochers not only leads this effort but is an entrepreneur herself, owning Grateful Grahams, a vegan cookie business. DesRochers’ favorite thing to do is empower women to make healthy businesses. Many don’t know that she has an obsession with Crocs and has gold Birkenstocks for her work events. She began Head to Heart Mentorship, founded the Good People Music Festival, runs two podcasts and in May launched “Power to Pursue,” a one-day women’s entrepreneurial and empowerment conference. Her favorite things: hosting back-porch suppers and hearing her kids laugh. Most don’t know her passion for cooking from scratch.
Payments leader Ammon working remote via new RV
Angie Ammon is a serial entrepreneur (with two previous exits) and co-founder of Tesouro. She maintains high-level visibility within the payments industry and relates that feedback back to Tesouro’s product and engineering team. Ammon has won “40 under 40” from the Electronic Transaction Association and serves on the boards of two fintech companies. She and her husband, Erik, recently purchased an RV and love to travel the country and work remotely while soaking up the best locations throughout the U.S.
Dalton the glue keeping Flywheel going
Josie Dalton is program director for Flywheel Social Enterprise Hub. Dalton excels at designing and running a startup accelerator. From recruiting founders, creating engaging programming, and identifying and securing dozens of subject matter experts and coaches, Dalton makes Flywheel happen. With founders, she sets high standards and is a wrangler, cheerleader, psychologist and connector to the people and services that will aid their success. Dalton takes on any task, and exhibits excellent leadership skills. This spring, Dalton was the glue that held Flywheel together after its long-time leader retired. Dalton has a large network in the startup world, where she has earned great respect from a number of its longtime leaders.
Reds fan Ober one-third through her MLB stadium goal
A Cincinnati native, Abby Ober has dedicated her career to supporting entrepreneurs. Ober is the director of community engagement and entrepreneurial support at Main Street Ventures. She joined the MSV team in late 2021 to build out the Level Up Program to tailor specific resources for regional entrepreneurs. Over the years, Ober has worked tirelessly to hone her skills in community building by forming lasting relationships with startups, stakeholders and potential supporters. She received her bachelor’s degree in communication and public relations from the University of Cincinnati. She is also a member of the board at the Carnegie Center of Columbia-Tusculum. Ober’s favorite thing to do when she isn’t working is supporting small businesses in her neighborhood, spending time with family and friends and participating in a local volleyball league. Ober is a die-hard Reds fan and is on a mission to visit every professional baseball stadium in the MLB (she has currently checked off 10 out of 30).
Reynolds wants ‘going green’ to be mainstream
Brandon Reynolds is all about making “going green” an accessible goal for the average person. Reynolds has spent the last seven years working on business ideas centered around addressing sustainability issues. A graduate of both the Brandery and Flywheel accelerators, his latest business, B the Keeper, works with businesses and landowners to install pollinator habitats in urban areas that reduce carbon emissions, increase curb appeal and protect pollinators. Reynolds has a passion for engaging the community and is a frequent speaker at Cintrifuse and universities as he wants to engage aspiring young people to create businesses that have purpose and make a difference. Reynolds is launching a second business this fall and has just been accepted into Flywheel’s Sustainable Cincy fall 2022 program to help launch that business.
Prominent or rising BIPOC leader
Moore helping to create wealth for Black community
Michael R. Moore is founder/president/CEO of Black Achievers Inc., a nonprofit organization whose mission is to connect, educate and economically empower the Black community. Moore has grown the organization to over 5,000 members in Cincinnati and over 30,000 nationwide in 12 additional cities. Black Achievers changes lives through mentorship, employment and entrepreneurship for high school, college and young professionals. Its Business Academy has graduated more than 50 people with skills to start or buy businesses. Black Achievers also helps local corporations attract and retain diverse talent. Increased employment opportunities help its members with
long-term wealth creation.
Vora’s studio helps underrepresented founders
Anu Vora is the CEO of Candid Ventures, a venture studio investing primarily in underrepresented founders that use technology to solve society’s most difficult problems. Candid’s portfolio focuses on improving educational access, empowering workers for a new world and helping life-long learners find meaningful opportunities. Vora is also CEO of fintech startup PayTile, which allows you to send money without exchanging usernames or sharing personal information. An AirDrop for money, Paytile is making transactions safer for those whose distrust traditional banking methods. Vora serves on the boards for Cintrifuse, Talent Now, Ms. Medicine and ShiftUp.
Recent addition with great expectations
Seppi intends to make more noise with Alloy
Antony Seppi was named director of the Alloy Growth Lab in late 2020. Seppi’s goal has been to
make more noise in the region’s startup community and he has done just that. Seppi worked to get the Alloy Growth Lab recognized as a “Top 10 Incubator” in the world. Seppi honed in on defining the “why” for Alloy Growth Lab startups. Alloy’s focus is to help startups find investment, develop growth strategies, fit products to markets, and connect with like-minded entrepreneurs. Seppi’s mission now is to help startups focus on jumpstarting revenues rather than securing seed funding. This approach is spearheaded by the unveiling of a new program with GrowthX to provide critical go-to-market programming. When not working, his favorite thing to do is meditate with ’80s and ’90s rap.
Zaring responsible for Startup Week
Donna Zaring is director of development and external relations at Cintrifuse, whose mission is to connect and catalyze the Greater Cincinnati startup ecosystem to make the region the fastest-growing startup hub in the Midwest. Zaring joined Cintrifuse with a bold vision for cultivating strong relationships with key community stakeholders – including founders, entrepreneurs, corporate partners, venture capitalists, political leaders, philanthropic organizations and the startup ecosystem. Zaring leads Cintrifuse’s programming, communications and community engagement efforts, including StartupCincyWeek. She currently serves on the board of the Cincinnati Museum Center.