Cincinnati’s Corporate Strengths Trickle Down to Startups

Corporate powerhouses like Kroger, P&G and Macy’s inspire entrepreneurial innovation

Cincinnati, the city nestled in the southwest corner of Ohio along the Ohio River, is known for its world-famous Cincy-style chili, longstanding tradition of brewing top-notch beer, professional sports teams, and reputation for fostering entrepreneurship with nationally-ranked resources. It’s also home to an inordinate number of major corporations for a city of its size, boasting ten Fortune 500 companies, led by retail and consumer packaged goods (CPG) behemoths Kroger, Procter & Gamble (P&G) and Macy’s Inc. These corporate anchors, perhaps more than anything else, have helped shape the city’s identity in the 21st century—and inspire the next generation of innovative companies.

“The city really draws on the strength of its major corporations. Not many other cities, especially mid-sized cities like Cincinnati, can claim as many headquarters as we do, and certainly not as many of this magnitude,” said Olga Yurovski, CEO of Shopperations and a former P&G employee. “You see the effect of these companies everywhere you turn, especially our workforce, where more and more millennials are moving to or staying in Cincinnati. If you ask someone in their 20s or 30s, there’s a good chance they’re employed by P&G, Kroger or Macy’s.”

And if they’re not working for one of these retail giants, they just might be developing technologies around these important industries. Cincinnati, in addition to punching above its weight class in corporate presence, boasts a thriving entrepreneurial community, supported by Ohio Third Frontier partners like The Brandery, CincyTech, Cintrifuse, HCDC, and more. Thanks to the presence of major players in the retail and CPG industries, entrepreneurs are jumping in to drive innovation and develop cutting-edge solutions that they can turn around and pitch to the big guys.

One such entrepreneur is Natasia Malaihollo, founder and CEO of Wyzerr, a technology company that uses playful survey formats to collect relevant data about customer, employee, and user experience. After securing partnerships and adoption by local companies like P&G and Kroger, Wyzerr surveys are now used by companies like Google, Disney, Unilever, Facebook, McDonalds and more.

“We’re in a sweet spot for our solution. How does it get better than Cincinnati for retail technology solutions? You get to develop your technology in an environment that’s so supportive to entrepreneurs and with lower costs than the alternatives, then turn around and pitch it to some of the biggest corporations in the world right in our backyard,” said Malaihollo. “If it works for them and they like it, you’ve just gained the legitimacy you need to take your product big time. Wyzerr has been lucky to grow in the Cincinnati area.”

And Malaihollo’s product is just one of many who’ve leveraged the strength of these industries to grow their businesses. Cloverleaf, OROS, Losant, and LISNR are just a few more thriving in, or around, the retail and CPG spaces.

“I don’t see this momentum slowing down,” said Malaihollo. “Why would it? We have everything we need right here in southwest Ohio.”

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