Cara d'Ambrosio046The Risk-Takers

Cincinnati’s Innovators and Entrepreneurs

By Craig J. Heimbuch
Photos By Felts Photography

They lay it on the line. They cash out their savings in pursuit of a dream. You only live once, right? But it is more than just the seize the day thing. It’s a burn. An ache. A vision for a product or solution, a business model that’s been formulating in the back of their head for as long as they can remember. They live with and for a purpose, not content to tend someone else’s store, they make their own way.

In a time when the small business has become a catch phrase in debates about tax credits and health care, they have laid their chips down to ride out the store. American as Ben Franklin and Thomas Jefferson, they are more likely to develop their own recipe for apple pie and sell it to you than most of us. And in a town built by entrepreneurial drive – there was a time when Proctor and Gamble were just two guys with a formula for soap – they remind us that there are more things in life, most interesting paths than up the corporate ladder.

Chances are good you haven’t heard of some, most or, even, all of the people on the following pages, but you’ll be glad to know their names soon enough. Because these people represent that voice in the back of your head, the one that echoes off the walls of your cubical or from the windows of your corner office, that voice that wonders if your idea is good enough, strong enough to live on. Only these people have done, are doing, have laid down their chips and made the bet that they can make it, no matter what anyone says.

We salute these innovators and entrepreneurs, these risk takers for their individual accomplishments and as representation of their community, which adds breadth and depth to the community at-large. Maybe you’ll read and be inspired, maybe you’ll decide that it is finally time to chase your vision. Then again, maybe not. Either way it’s nice to know that they are out there and so many more just like them, building prototypes and hanging a shingle, carrying on a tradition that sometimes gets lost in corporate branding and political debates – proving that those who risk deserve reward.

Patrick Yovanov049Patrick Yovanov, 22
Innovator,  Central Venous Catheter Home Maintenance Device
About: “I was diagnosed with Leukemia Oct 10, 2008. Since then life as been a whirlwind of treatments – so this project holds a deep vested interest. I took note of what bothered me about my catheter, and decided that designing a formal device to correct these issues would be a great way to begin giving back to a community that I owe everything to.”
On Innovation: “Innovators need to be open minded and experimental…most of the time my best ideas come from happy mistakes. Thinking outside the box is always difficult, so when I’m mentally ‘stuck’… I find myself flipping the box over, ripping it apart, gluing it back together, and re-evaluating it all over again.”

Dan Clifton039Dan Clifton, 23
Innovator, Ox Handcuffs
About: Ox Handcuffs allow police to apply cuffs to a suspect’s arms without having to place the suspect’s arms behind his back.  The cuffs are tethered together by a retractable cord.  Once applied, the officer can depress the trigger and retract the suspect’s arms to a controlled position behind their back.
On Innovation: “Innovation is anything we haven’t seen, smelled, heard, tasted, felt or, more simply, it’s anything we haven’t experienced before.  It can be as concrete as a physical object or as abstract as a song or idea, but it should be something that has a positive influence on people’s lives through its new experience.”

Michael Bergman025Michael Bergman, 31
Founder, Numbskull
About: Numbskull has evolved from a first-generation SAT Prep board game into a social media based platform for broad educational content delivery.  The interactive, free, fun nature of Numbskull makes test prep for any subject only a click away.  The key element of Numbskull is that it fits any student’s lifestyle. Students can react to content that has been created for them or proactively create custom quizzes to use themselves or with their friends.
On Motivation: I am driven by the opportunity to create something from nothing.  Taking what started as a vague idea and putting time and effort into it to get it to shelf is a tremendous feeling.

Phil Gettinger033Phillip Gettinger, 25
Co-founder, Diabetitec, LLC.
About: Foot ulcers are open sores that develop due to the many complications of diabetes including poor circulation and reduced ability to feel pain. Diabetitec LLC provides a more effective way for people with diabetes to prevent, detect, and treat their foot ulcers.
On Innovation and Entrepreneurialism: “Innovation is the creation of compelling ideas and entrepreneurship is the application into the market. Neither are easy.”

Danny Stull029Danny Stull, 24
Founder, “Families in Motion”
About: Venturepax makes experiencing the outdoors easy.  This free web tool allows individuals and families to find the outdoor experience that’s just right for them.  The information available is helpful, relevant and up-to-date because it’s comes directly from the stories and experiences of other members.
On Innovation and Entrepreneurialism: “Innovators and entrepreneurs require perseverance.  It’s never easy creating something out of nothing.  There will always be bumps in the road and nay sayers.  An entrepreneur uses the bumps in the road as a launching pad to the next level and turns the words of nay-sayers into useful feedback that transforms a good idea into a brilliant one.”

Erik Mueller029Erik Mueller, 38
Owner, Watson’s
About: Watson’s is one of the nations largest recreational products retailers.  Product lines include Spas, Pools, Patio Furniture, Pool Tables, Fireplaces, Bars, Barstools, Exercise Equipment, Outdoor Kitchens, Outdoor Fireplaces and more.  Watson’s just recently launched Envisions Home Theater with a brand new showroom in our Evendale location.  Envisions specializes in custom home theaters and all of your home audio video needs.  Watson’s headquarters are in Cincinnati, Ohio with 7 franchise and corporate locations throughout the Midwest.
On Motivation: “What drives me is creating opportunities for employees that they never thought were possible.  Having a positive impact on theirs lives.  Watching customers reward us with their business when we do it right.”

Noel Gauthier050Noel Leon Gauthier, 27
Owner, UMI Design and Development,
Inventor, Firestop
About: FireStop is a low cost and ecologically responsible fire extinguisher to combat fires in urban slums worldwide.
On Drive: I would say I’m a compulsive problem solver. My Dad, an entrepreneur and serial inventor,  always taught us to see the ways around a problem rather than the problem itself. While in school for Product Design at DAAP we’re taught very systematic ways to see the world around us and how to draw inspiration from the problems we see. Those things combined gave me a curiosity for the goings-on around me, and the assumption that I could change it for the better.

Cara d'Ambrosio046Cara d’Ambrosio, 32
Owner, ME Salon by Cara
About: In 2008, Cara created ME.Salon after purchasing the family business, d’Ambrosio Inc.’s flagship salon, Peter’s Place. Driven by a need to constantly learn, she has since developed the salon into the elite Intercoiffure class of hair salons.
On Drive: “I’m passionate about fashion- Changing looks, accentuating individual beauty potential and helping people feel better about themselves through living up to their beauty potential.”

IMG_1090Jim Geilty, 55
Owner, Everdry Waterproofing
About: Gielty was forced to take early retirement from the Cleveland Fire Department after an injury. At the time, he had heard basement waterproofing was a sham, but a friend told him to meet with the founder of Everdry. Twenty-five years later, Gielty’s Fairfield-based operation is among the most successful franchises in the company
On What Makes an Entrepreneur: “Showing up every day, using the game plan. Don’t reinvent the wheel, set examples. I am driven by the win and the success and growth of people in our company.”