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Key to the City

Why Cincinnati is Having an Entrepreneurial Moment

Key to the City BY courtney conway 01/29/2019

 

 Otot Studio taking shape. 

Artists, get thee to the Rust Belt. “Cincinnati is the kind of place where that you can start something with very little risk. Rent is cheap, resources are abundant, and there are a lot of opportunities,” says Colin Klimesh, one half of CKTC, makers of colorful, shapely vases and vessels. The city is big enough to have creative energy—a world-class art museum, tons of local businesses—and contained enough for a supportive community to flourish. “It’s such a small city, but there’s a lot going on,” says his co-founder Taylor Carter, a native. “It’s exciting.” Here, four reasons why it’s a spot to keep an eye on.

 

OLD BUILDINGS ARE PUT TO GOOD USE

“Like a lot of Rust Belt cities, Cincinnati is in this transitional period,” Taylor says of her hometown. Former factories that could sit vacant or be turned into condos are instead being rented out by creative entrepreneurs. Adds Colin, “Buildings are being flipped, and there are lots of cheap, empty warehouse spaces. Landlords may subsidize studio spaces, and the city works with business owners to build out storefronts and offers grants for artists and creatives.” In this city, it’s attainable to rent a warehouse, get some equipment, and start something without having to raise zillions of dollars first. “All my friends are doing that,” Colin says.

 CKTC ceramics ready for the kiln. 

MIXED-USE SPACES ARE WHERE IT’S AT

For their part, Colin and Taylor opened a co-operative studio space called OTOT in 2017. “We found a landlord who was willing and able to open doors for us,” Colin says. “He believed in our idea and did a whole build-out for us with a loading dock, freight elevator, and fresh paint.” The studio is their way of contributing to Cincinnati’s creative culture in a bigger way, giving young artists access to space where they can work and grow their businesses. Another example: “Rosie Kovacs, who is a force in Cincinnati, opened Sew Valley, a similar, flexible workspace for fashion entrepreneurs,” Colin says. Rosie’s furniture company Brush Factory outfits many of the city’s coolest shops and restaurants, too!

Small plates at Please. 

 

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THERE ARE BUILT-IN MANUFACTURING TIES

“The Ohio River Valley was a major manufacturing area, and a lot of those companies are still around,” says Colin. “It's very easy to find a local company that’s willing to work with you on projects, from small-run fabrication to production manufacturing. There is also a wave of people moving into the city, and a lot of that has to do with the city getting behind revitalization efforts,” Colin explains.

Longfellow's all about a cozy vibe. 

COLLABORATION IS EVERYWHERE

To give you an idea of how tight-knit this community is, another of Taylor’s local favorites is Una Floral founded by Patricia Duque Campos, who works with photographer Brooke Shanesy, who also does photography for this design studio Working Girls, which sells to the concept shop Continuum, where Taylor also happens to work. See what we mean? “Cincinnati is a small enough city that new businesses are opening constantly, and all of the creative people are connected and supportive of each other,” Taylor says. “When a cool bar or restaurant opens, they’ll get their ceramics and furniture from local artists, hire small businesses to build out their space, and host pop-ups with other people in the community.” Restaurant-wise, Sotto, Longfellow, Please, and The Rhined are among Taylor and Colin’s favorites. They also love the plant store Fern, which sells locally made CG Ceramics, and shout out the jewelry line Rock Salt Vintage, the screen-printers Cryptogram, and Four Eyes Ceramics as fellow small-biz owners to support. As if you weren’t sold already!

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