Main Street Ventures helps student entrepreneurs ‘launch’ concepts

A collection of college entrepreneurs will spend their summer working to take their business concepts to the next level after winning admission to Main Street Ventures’ summer residency program.

The teams are University of Cincinnati students Aniruddhan Ramesh and Joe Kuncheria Panjikaran, University of Dayton student Alayah Harris and Miami University student Tatem Lindner.

Each of the winners impressed judges during the annual Launch It: Cincy pitch competition last Friday at Union Hall in Over-the-Rhine. Student teams came from colleges and universities from across the region.

2024 Launch It: Cincy winners pose with pitch competition judges.

Ramesh and Kuncheria Panjikaran created PhizzIO, a business-to-business platform providing software services to physiotherapy centers.

Harris’ The Recipe Book app focuses on homestyle cooking. Silux is a luxury silicone ring brand created by Lindner.

Each winning team received a $10,000 grant and a stipend to spend the summer living, working and exploring Cincinnati. They’ll also have access to office space, mentoring, finance support and other resources to help grow their business ideas.

The prize package – valued at more than $28,000 – aims to empower the students by providing an opportunity to experience the region, learn from experts and build their businesses, according to Sean Parker, Main Street Venture’s executive director.

Parker looks forward to hosting these budding entrepreneurs and building their businesses while showing them “all of the great things that Cincinnati and Northern Kentucky have to offer.”

“The future of our startup community is dependent upon the great ideas and business savvy coming out of the next generation of entrepreneurs,” said Parker, a former executive at The Kroger Co. and Nike. 

Investing in the next generation of innovators

Main Street Ventures provides equity-free funding to entrepreneurs and startups throughout the Cincinnati and Northern Kentucky region. Since 2018, the nonprofit has distributed grants to 164 companies, totaling nearly $3.5 million. 

In addition to grant funding, recipients receive programming support in the form of workshops and business development resources.

A focal point of Main Street Ventures’ work in recent years has been supporting budding business owners. Its Launch It: Cincy program is only open to undergraduate student founders in the Greater Cincinnati region. The goal is to help participants make the transition from students to business owners.

Miami student Tatem Lindner presents her business pitch at Union Hall.

One of last year’s winners was VaLanDria Smith-Lash, whose sustainable skincare company, Coarse Culture, received a feature in Amazon’s Black Business Accelerator Program and is now sold nationally. Connor Paton is founder of a software program called noshable that allows property managers to offer grocery concierge services to guests at short-term rentals. It’s currently in demo status.

Camryn Ellis’ RYN – a mobile styling app that helps users style themselves using their own wardrobe – plans to launch to the public later this year. It landed on Cincinnati Business Courier’s list of top startups to watch in 2024, while Smith-Lash and Paton made the publication’s Inno Under 25 list last year.

For the past three years, Main Street Ventures has partnered on the initiative with Kao USA Inc., which has multiple offices in Greater Cincinnati. Kao’s Lindsay Stricker described the program as a way for her company to “empower local entrepreneurs and bolster our region’s startup ecosystem.” 

“Kao understands the importance of small businesses, innovative ideas and retaining top talent in our region,” she said, “and we look forward to seeing all that these entrepreneurs learn and accomplish.”

Launch It: Cincy

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