Cincinnati-based nonprofit Main Street Ventures provided nearly $225,000 in equity-free funding to a collection of more than a dozen regional startups over the past three months.
The 14 businesses received money through Main Street’s third quarter grant cycle for its Leap and Launch programs, as well as through its Launch It: Cincy initiative.
“Every quarter, we are continuously energized by all of the small business owners we see who are working hard to turn their ideas into flourishing businesses, and this quarter was no exception,” said Abby Ober, director of engagement at Main Street Ventures. “Main Street Ventures is excited to support and guide these entrepreneurs as they develop their ideas and take their businesses to the next level.”
Launch funding provides $5,000 to $10,000 to emerging, pre-revenue businesses at the prototype or product stage. The goal is to provide the founders with enough capital to increase their odds of getting to market. Main Street’s Leap funding goes to promising, revenue-generating businesses. They receive $10,000 to $30,000.
Grants are given equity-free and Main Street doesn’t take any stake at this point in the process. Other funding or investment opportunities are possibly available through Main Street or its partners down the road, however.
“By investing in local businesses we’re investing in the region as a whole, we’re keeping amazing ideas and talent here, and we’re highlighting the people who make up this vibrant community,” Ober continued. “Each grant helps these businesses expand and grow quicker and with less friction allowing them to continue to pour resources and new ideas into the region.”
Meet the Cincy businesses of the future
Companies earning Launch grants are:
- Aitrtrek Robotics – Creates robotic solutions to automate airport ground handling activities.
- Bailout Systems – Technology company revolutionizing the fall safety industry with its patented hands-free descent technology.
- Karneyium – Artificial intelligence (AI)-powered geographic information system that accelerates and democratizes clinical trials by unlocking new, untapped, and underserved markets in the United States with research potential.
- Together Digital – National network of women who work in digital marketing, advertising and tech who choose to share their knowledge, power and connections.
- Cereal Box Studio – Graphic and publication design studio, print shop and small press that supports clients in producing and publishing hand-crafted print editions using risograph print techniques.
Leap winners are:
- Bosa – Community-powered goal management app that aims to help a user collect, collaborate on and complete the goals.
- Concerted – Nonprofit technology platform igniting civic and community engagement while increasing access to live music and entertainment.
- Safewave Technology – Provides the deaf and hard of hearing community with vibration-based safety and communication alerting at their workplace and homes.
- Laughing Bees – Provides locally sourced honey products and sweat treats
- Cream + Sugar Coffeehouse – Black-owned coffee shop that serves coffee, breakfast and lunch with a focus on locally sourced and plant-based ingredients.
- Davis & Biddle Properties – Black woman-owned business opening a commissary kitchen in Cincinnati’s Price Hill neighborhood.
Bosa co-founder Anastasia Tarpeh-Ellis called winning the Leap Grant a “timely vote of confidence for our team.”
“The funding will help us build momentum in product development and community building,” she added. “Main Street Ventures’ continued commitment and investment in Bosa will have a ripple effect and impact. We’re beyond excited and grateful for this opportunity.”
Between June 1 and July 28, Main Street Ventures hosted its annual Launch It: Cincy Summer Program. The program specifically works with business founders who are still completing their college degree.
This year’s cohort featured three companies:
- Coarse Culture – Self-care company that specializes in whipped shea butter products.
- Noshable – Tech-enabled, grocery delivery service focused on allowing travelers to pre-stock the fridge and/or pantry at their short-term rental.
- Ryn – Mobile app that leverages AI to provide the user with personalized outfit recommendations using their own clothes.
Launch It: Cincy participants receive a stipend to live in the city all summer, and they also win a $10,000 grant from Main Street Ventures at the end of the program.
Connor Paton and his business partner, Mac Hoeweler, came up with Noshable as part of a capstone project at Miami University in Oxford, Ohio.
At the time of their selection to the Launch It: Cincy program last February, the team had a general understanding of the company. However, they were still working to configure many of the technical aspects of the app. They hoped to get that help this summer.
Over the two-month period, Paton, However, and the other student-founders worked with subject matter experts to craft business development plans and fine tune their products. They also took part in networking events and received extensive mentorship.
As part of the Launch It: Cincy process, the the Noshable team decided to rework the name of the company.
“This program is going to help us get some of those key things settled early on so we can move forward to market as quickly as possible,” Paton told Spectrum News back in February.
Two decades of supporting Cincy’s ‘Main Street’
Main Street Ventures launched in 1999 with focus on providing budding tech companies with a physical office space and technology tools at their home base Main Street in Over-the-Rhine.
Over the years, the small business and entrepreneur support organization has grown to focus more on providing direct funding to support their growth. Its particular focus is on serving budding business owners and founders from underrepresented communities.
Data from Main Street Ventures shows that 83% of entrepreneurs don’t have access to funding when starting a business. Women and minority founders face even greater barriers to accessing funding and social capital.
Each potential grant recipient must submit a formal application, including the specifics of their business model, branding, etc. They then must present to Main Street Ventures.
Since launching its grant initiatives in 2018, Main Street Ventures has distributed over $3 million to more than 100 companies across the region. Nearly 80% of those grants have gone to founders from an underrepresented group.
Total funding to this round of grantees was $224,592.
Main Street Ventures grants are made possible, in part, due to financial support from Ohio Third Frontier, the city of Cincinnati, the Hubert Family Foundation, the McDonald Family Foundation, Jacob G. Schmidlapp Trust and Northern Kentucky Entrepreneurship Fund in collaboration with Blue North and Horizon Community Funds.
“When we give grants we are raising up these founders and they in turn continue to raise up the community they are a part of which, thankfully for us, includes Main Street Ventures,” Ober said.