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Kensington/Port Richmond : Innovation + Job News

40 Kensington/Port Richmond Articles | Page: | Show All

Entrepreneurial mom/lawyer makes business out of beauty in the gritty city

It's a gritty city, and someone's got to pretty it up. Sarah Holmes' Gritty City Beauty Company began as a personal quest for simple skin care products. "It started when I was pregnant," recalls Holmes, who had to give up tubes of topical ointment and needed a healthier alternative. She started making her own scrubs and masks, and it wasn't long before the full-time product liability lawyer saw a business idea in her afterwork potion making.

"It seemed like the more I cut out the prescription creams, the better my skin got," says Holmes, and Gritty City Beauty Company was born at the end of last summer. Holmes is also a wife and mother of a 15 month old toddler, yet she somehow finds time evenings and weekends to create and grow her line of organic beauty products.

Gritty City now carries soaps, scrubs and toners as well as all natural makeup. While the former can be cooked up in Holmes' Port Richmond kitchen, the makeup is created in a lab. While this type of product is not mandated by law, "You do have to adhere to certain manufacturing practices," says Holmes. "Ultimately you have to put out a product that is safe and can hold up to consumer use. I am very careful about that sort of thing."

Gritty City is primarily an online operation, and Holmes sets up tables at local outdoor events, where people are able to smell and test the items. Holmes was surprised to discover that she has a strong older customer base. If she had to guess, she would have placed her target customer in the 18 to 35 age range, but she actually gets a lot of buyers in their 50s and 60s.

Gritty City is also beginning to get placement in Philadelphia boutiques and has met or exceeded all its benchmarks so far. With no outside financing, Holmes relies on social media marketing, and Facebook and Twitter are driving traffic to the online shop. You can find Gritty City at Nice Things Handmade on Passyunk Avenue in South Philadelphia, and Vix Emporium in West Philly. Or head down to Headhouse Square on July 2, when Gritty City sets up shop at the Craft and Fine Arts Fair.

Source: Sarah Holmes, Gritty City Beauty Company
Writer: Sue Spolan

Move over ice cream man, Healthy Carts are coming to Philly neighborhoods

Some Philadelphia neighborhoods have no choice about the food residents can buy. Corner stores stocked with sugary and salty processed snacks, Chinese take-out and pizza shops are the only options in many low-income areas of the city. The city's brand new Healthy Carts Initiative offers a solution to food deserts as well as providing employment to vendors.

"The program came out of the Get Healthy Philly Initiative," says Healthy Cart Coordinator Rachel Hynes, who is now accepting applications from individuals and organizations. "We approved the first five applications last week." Ultimately, the goal is to set up 20 vendors in this first pilot year.

Healthy Cart operators receive free small business training, waived fees, a streamlined inspection process and free EBT machines, which allow processing of debit, credit and food stamps/SNAP cards. "We are covering the minimum monthly EBT fees through March," says Hynes.

Vendors will be allowed to sell cut fruit and vegetables, as long as the chopping occurs in an approved kitchen. The initiative is administered by the Office of Food Protection, a division of the Department of Public Health, and the same group that oversees the city's growing fleet of food trucks.

To figure out which areas get carts, says Hynes, the Healthy Carts program employs a GIS (Geographic Information Specialist) who has mapped out the areas which are most in need. It's a matter of finding a balance of where there's a need and where cart owners will be successful, according to Hynes, who used the Green Cart program in New York as a springboard but added more features to the Philly program.

Cart owners can make a living wage, says Hynes, if they are out seven days a week and establish a routine. Vendors need to come up with their own business models and are responsible for sourcing, purchasing, storing and displaying their goods, with training from the city. Healthy Carts plans to partner with local community organizations and recreation centers to promote the new program.

Source: Rachel Hynes, Healthy Carts
Writer: Sue Spolan

FLYING BYTES: SEPTA's TransitView, MAC founder raises $75M, and Phila. Printworks strikes chord

Flying Bytes is a recurring roundup of innovation and quick updates on the people and companies we're covering:

SEPTA launches TransitView

Back in January, we reported that SEPTA was weeks away from launching a real-time, system wide tracking program. The future is finally here. Like SEPTA's TrainView for regional rail, the new TransitView provides live updates on the whereabouts of buses and trolleys throughout the city. Also launched: SMS Transit Schedule Information, allowing customers to receive a text with the next four scheduled trips, and Schedules to Go, a mobile website function that provides information on the next ten scheduled trips.

Shah closes $72 million IPO with Universal Business Payment Solutions

Following a hot tip, we learned that Bipin Shah, creator of the MAC, was seeking $72 million for payments startup Universal Business Payment Solutions. On May 13, UPBS (NASDAQ: UBPSU) got its money. According to Shah's partner Peter Davidson, "we closed on 12 million shares at $6.00 per share. The underwriters have a 45 day option to cover any over-allotments, which they have not exercised to date." Investors include hedge fund magnate J. Kyle Bass, who purchased about 800,000 shares.

Philadelphia Printworks up, running, finding its market

The lovely ladies at the helm of Philadelphia Printworks are going full speed with their new T-shirt business. Co-founder April Pugh reports that most of PPW's customer base has come from custom work, particularly from local indie rock artists. PPW loves its rockers right back and offers a band discount. Pugh says she and partner Ruth Paloma Rivera-Perez are now seeking partnerships with retail outlets and will be selling at upcoming summer festivals.

Specticast expands with EuroArts partnership
Digital entertainment distribution company Specticast continues to widen its reach. The company, which we originally profiled back in April, announced an exclusive partnership with EuroArts, bringing live and pre-recorded events from Berlin's Philharmonie, The Sheldonian Theater at Oxford University, and Madrid's Teatro Real, according to Mark Rupp, SpectiCast president.

Source: Andrew Busch, SEPTA; Peter Davidson, UBPS; April Pugh, PPW; Mark Rupp, Specticast
Writer: Sue Spolan

Lights, Camera, Ice Cream: Little Baby's rides into East Kensington

It's mobile punk rock ice cream with the cutest darn name. Little Baby's is pedaling into Philadelphia, courtesy of three guys who approach the creamery craft like a rousing cymbal crash. Little Baby's makes its debut on May 21, when the fledgling company rolls out its custom built multimedia tricycle at The Kensington Kinetic Sculpture Derby, a fitting location for what is sure to be a steampunk delivery system complete with music, lights and an ingenious regulatory-compliant system that provides hot running water, created by local sculptor Jordan Griska.

Little Baby's flavor roster reads more like a set list for a show, with options that include Earl Grey Sriracha, Balsamic Banana and Cardamom Caramel. And that makes sense, since co-founders Pete Angevine, Martin Brown and Jeffrey Ziga are musicians and artists, not formally trained chefs.

"It's been mind over matter," says Angevine, who is also a drummer. "It's a strange, engaging, intriguing kind of fun."

Based in East Kensington, Little Baby's is already generating buzz, with articles in Zagat's, Meal Ticket and Thrillist. The fledgling outfit has a loose agreement with Pizza Brain, which will provide storage for Little Baby's full offering of twelve to fifteen flavors. At any given time, the Little Baby's trike will offer 6 of those flavors on a rotating basis. Little Baby's will also set up at private parties and events, tricycle optional. And Angevine reports that Green Aisle Grocery, on East Passyunk Avenue, will carry the frozen confection if you need your fix and the trike's not out and about. For up to the minute info on Little Baby's whereabouts, check them out on Twitter and Facebook.

Source: Pete Angevine, Little Baby's Ice Cream
Writer: Sue Spolan

Kensington's Perfect Prototype creates new realities

A three dimensional rendering of a human heart is beating atop a card you hold in your hand. It's not reality, it's Augmented Reality, the latest method of bringing two dimensional images into a 3D world. Augmented Reality images exist only on the screen of a computer or mobile device, but with the addition of a live camera feed, viewing the virtual sculptures feels astoundingly real.

Perfect Prototype describes itself as an interactives company, "telling stories with innovative technology to create engaging, educational experiences for people," says Matthew Browning, company president. Located in the Crane Arts building, Perfect Prototype flies under local radar but is creating a national splash with projects for educational and corporate clients, such as a museum exhibit that lets you hold a virtual brain in your hands, a locomotive simulator that provides the virtual experience of operating a train, and a presentation to a corporate audience that integrates 3D animations. And if you are in the mood for some new fashioned hand to hand combat, Browning says Perfect Prototype has come up with a device that allows people across the country to arm-wrestle.

Browning, who is working overtime along with ten independent professionals to meet customer need, says clients range from museums such as Chicago's Museum of Science and Industry, to corporations including Norfolk Southern and Hyundai, along with the NHL's Pittsburgh Penguins.

Perfect Prototype is at the forefront of a rapidly growing technology that has implications across many sectors. Browning says of the technology that is still in its infancy, "There is so much untapped potential in Augmented Reality. It's a joy to push the limits and create new and innovative uses." And, he adds, with increased computing power on mobile and stationary devices, Perfect Protoype continues to give people a new experience, and a new way of looking at the world around them.

Source: Matthew Browning, Perfect Prototype
Writer: Sue Spolan

FLYING BYTES: Tech Week, Pancakes and Booze, Entrepreneur Expo and LaunchRock @SXSW

Flying Bytes is a regularly occurring wrap-up of innovation nuggets from across Greater Philadelphia:


It's a week long celebration of technology innovation, according to Technically Philly's Christopher Wink, one of the organizers of Philly Tech Week, April 25 to 30. "Wharton, University City Science Center, First Round Capital, the Franklin Institute, and Indy Hall are either sponsoring, hosting events or getting involved," says Wink. Check the PTW calendar for panels on Augmented Reality, Switch Philly, and a municipal government data unveiling. The final Friday night signature event will take place at WHYY, which will serve as headquarters for the week. Stay tuned for more.

LA's biggest underground art show is coming to town. Pancakes & Booze features over 50 of Philly's underground artists, and will take place Friday March 11 at Bookspace, 1113 Frankford Avenue, starting at 8 p.m. and scheduled into the wee hours. Admission is just $5 and covers all the pancakes you can eat plus live body painting. Pancakes & Booze is on national tour, with stops in San Francisco, Nashville, Denver and more. It's worth going just to see Bookspace, a massive former elevator factory converted into a surreal bookstore stacked to the rafters with more than 50,000 titles.

Philly Startup Leaders wants you to show off your stuff at the Entrepreneur Expo 2011. The area's brightest business minds are set to convene at University of the Arts on March 31. Last year's event drew 400 people. PSL is now accepting exhibitor applications from members, and will accept bids from the general public starting March 13. Register to attend this free event at Ticketleap.

The winner of this year's Startup Weekend Philadelphia plans on giving away $5,000 at SXSW Interactive in Austin, Texas March 11-16. LaunchRock is a service that creates a viral "coming soon" page for budding businesses. The entrepreneur who gets the most signups using LaunchRock during SXSW will receive a dollar per sign-up up to $5,000. Results of the competition will be tracked on a 22-foot leaderboard on Sixth Street in Austin.

Source: Technically Philly, Bookspace, Philly Startup Leaders, Launchrock
Writer: Sue Spolan

Solar States flips the switch at Crane Arts for city's largest rooftop PV array

The switch is flipped at Crane Arts. This week, the Kensington warehouse building, which houses artist studios and commercial space, powered up Philadelphia's largest rooftop photovoltaic solar array. Over four hundred panels will supply 81 kilowatts per year. The array is owned not by Crane, but by a new company called Solar States, which hopes to expand partnerships with property owners to create 15 commercial solar rooftops in the city for a total of 1 megawatt of solar capacity outputting thousands of megawatt hours.

In a departure from traditional solar panel installation, the for-profit Solar States offers photovoltaic installation at zero cost to building owners, selling back electricity at a discount. According to Micah Gold-Markel, founder of Solar States, the plan is for Crane to remain on the grid, so tenants will be using a mix of solar and traditional electric company power. Another way Solar States could profit is by selling back surplus power to the grid. It's a complicated auction system in which a company like Solar States sells a certificate to electric companies as a way of diversifying their energy portfolio, in compliance with the state Alternative Energy Portfolio Standard. While Gold-Markel hopes Crane will use the maximum output offered by the solar array, there will be many hours of sunlight when the building is quiet, and excess power generated by the array will generate certificates, as well as a discount to Crane. Gold-Markel says that for Solar States, profitability is sustainability. Solar States, not the building owner, also receives all Pennsylvania and federal solar rebates, tax incentives and credits.

The Crane array was designed by Helio Systems and GRASS (Green Roofs and Solar Systems), and Solar States estimates that it will provide a 20 percent cost savings over standard PECO rates.

Source: Micah Gold-Markel, Solar States
Writer: Sue Spolan

FLYING BYTES: PHL to QUE, Drexel and Boeing, and Mutual Funds from Hedge Funds

Flying Bytes is innovation nuggets from around the region:


Get your beret and cafe au lait. This summer, US Airways starts direct flights from Philadelphia to Quebec City. The daily, year round service begins June 2 and offers three nonstop round trip flights. The quick trip to the Quebec capital is under 2 hours each way.

Turner Investments of Berwyn announced the launch this week of three alternative mutual funds that employ hedge fund strategies. The Medical Sciences Long/Short, the Market Neutral and the Titan Fund all rely on diversified long and short investments. Matt Glaser, who manages the Market Neutral, says the funds seek to deliver superior risk adjustment return for clients. "Post financial crisis investors are looking for ways to mitigate risk and lower volatility, so hedge funds, and mutual fund vehicles are here to stay."

Drexel University engineering students will be working on Boeing projects, thanks to a long term agreement signed this week between CDI-Aerospace and Boeing. Through the school's co-operative education program, students will be working on structural designs, software conversions and stress analysis for the CH-47 military helicopter, the V-22 Osprey vertical takeoff and landing aircraft and the Boeing 787 commercial transport aircraft.

The Kensington Kinetic Sculpture Derby is back for its 5th year, and organizers have put out a call for entries. Last year, participants crafted a bicycle powered steam engine, a conveyance that catapulted paint filled balloons onto a canvas, pirate ships and dragons, all foot powered. If your passion lives at the intersection of biking and art, visit the Sculpture Derby's home page for guidelines and registration forms. The event takes place May 21, and submit your entry form by April 15 to get free T-shirts for your team.

Source: USAirways; Henry Pyatt, Kensington Kinetic Sculpture Derby; Matt Glaser, Turner Investments, CDI
Writer: Sue Spolan

Interactive mapping platform launched to connect Philadelphians to their local communities

It's one of life's great mysteries: you can travel to a thousand cities and eat at a hundred fancy restaurants and drink a dozen craft beers at each of the bars along the way. But a meal never tastes as good as one at your favorite neighborhood haunt. And according to Philadelphia's sustainability leaders, this phenomenon is not just good for your appetite, it can be good for your neighborhood and your city as well.

Based on a concept created by the William Penn Foundation, partners from the Sustainable Business Network, Azavea and NPower created Common Space, a new mapping platform that creates a network of neighborhood establishments within a certain walkable, bikeable or busable distance to help residents support local business.

"The really cool thing is, I can map my friend's common space as well as my own," says SBN Executive Director Leanne Krueger-Braneky. "So if I am leaving from my office in Center City and meeting my husband who is coming from our house in West Philadelphia, he could say he is going to bike for 15 minutes and I could say I was going to walk for 20 minutes and Common Space will map the area where we would be able to meet up and map local culture events and businesses in that field."

Partnering with tastemakers like UWISHUNU and Yelp, Common Space shows you the best spots in your transit area, allowing you the most sustainable way possible to hit your next favorite haunt. After their trial run, organizers hope to partner with citywide festivals and cultural events like LiveArts and Philly Beer Week.

"Sustainability was one of the values William Penn outlined, which is why they wanted to partner with us," Krueger-Braneky says. "Because the application does encourage walking, biking, and public transit, it's a way of showing what's going on in the city while encouraging alternative transit."

Source: Leanne Krueger-Braneky, SBN
Writer: John Steele

Knight Arts Challenge offers $9M over three year for next great urban artistic movement in Philly

From the LOVE statue to the Mural Arts Program to Market Street's massive Clothespin, Philadelphia has its share of big, urban art projects. But there is more to creating the next big movement in urban arts than making the largest painting or sculpture. So the John S. and James L. Knight Foundation launched the Knight Arts Challenge, a search looking for urban projects to change the artistic landscape of American cities for the better. Started in Miami, Knight Arts brings it's challenge to Philadelphia this fall.

"We are coming to Philadelphia and it would be presumptuous of us to say that we know just what you need in the arts," says Knight Arts VP Dennis Scholl. "So instead of saying that, we're saying we don't know what Philadelphia's next art idea is and we need you to tell us. It's not about large institutions only getting grants, people who have been in the arts forever only getting grants. It's open to everybody in the community."

After three successful years in Miami, the Knight Arts Challenge has spawned poetry collectives and arts education centers and jazz festivals. Philadelphia's challenge, a three-year, $9 million initiative, will provide new funding for established arts institutions, independent artists, businesses, service organizations and anyone else with a great idea and a plan to execute it. The challenge kicks off October 5 with a cocktail reception, where interested artists can find out how they can contribute to Philadelphia's artistic future.

"Philadelphia has two important things going for it: it has incredible, world-class cultural assets," says Scholl. "But in addition to that, Philadelphia has an incredibly hot, steadily rising art scene, with collectives and up-and-coming performance arts groups. And that is really why we were drawn to Philadelphia, because it's kinda happening, frankly."

Source: Dennis Scholl, Knight Arts
Writer: John Steele
40 Kensington/Port Richmond Articles | Page: | Show All
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