Oh Oberlin: An entrepreneurial gala … or, five new businesses walk into an Oberlin store front

This is the first actual episode with new interviews in a couple months. I ran for Oberlin City Council in the meantime and had a wicked chest cold during which I recorded a couple of what kids these days would call “sick” intros. Meaning good ones, done with an unnaturally deep voice. I’ll probably turn the council run into part of an episode down the road.

Today, though, belongs to the SEEDVentures crew of five entrepreneurs who are getting business help in creating and following through on business plans, borrowing the store front at 29 S. Main St. in Oberlin to show off their products. The grand opening was Oct. 1.

As I mentioned here a few weeks ago, this is also a test of my audio editing abilities, changing from my usual long form conversation to culling a storyline that will follow through a number of episodes. Launching businesses lends itself to that I think.

I’m always open to your feedback.

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Oh Oberlin political extra: Comings on the environment

So, it has been a while since I posted a podcast. They are around … but the post today represents what has been going on simultaneously for the last few months: my run for Oberlin City Council. This recording was provided to me by the Oberlin College students who produced it. I have done no further editing or adding of material. This is political in nature, but only runs to a little more than 8 minutes.

I believe all 14 candidates were invited. We got to choose three questions to answer with a maximum time of 10 minutes.

I am including it here as part of my audio record for the year and am posting it an hour after finishing the second and final community candidates event prior to Tuesday’s election.

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Oh Oberlin: Down to business

What is the story of business in Oberlin? That can sound really complicated when you listen to the owners who put everything they have into starting a new venture. Buying a bookstore a few years before online reading strikes your business model. Long days turn into frigid winter nights installing greenhouse equipment during the winter. Having a business plan isn’t enough to forestall the effects of the Great Recession. And, in the end? Entrepreneurs will start from scratch and try it all over again.

Add into that trying to run a business in the digital age when it can seem just as easy to buy a product online as to drive downtown … Well why would you start a business? Oh Oberlin will start to break that down as I change my own format from the unscripted hourlong conversations I’ve done nearly each week for more than a year to finding and tracing this story in particular. Beginning in November, Oh Oberlin will post shorter episodes twice each week.

I’m working with SEEDVentures to broaden the scope of this podcast. SEEDVentures has picked five entrepreneurs to set up in a storefront in downtown Oberlin – I am not one of them – and is providing business incubator support to a dozen or so altogether.

So as I am breaking format, maybe I better say trying a new format, these are the areas I will focus on. November will begin with:

Oberlin: a business island unto itself

This will be a month spent looking at historical, game-changing famous Oberlin-birthed/based entrepreneurs.

Following that, I plan to get into examples of growing a business from the ground up; those who have done it in Oberlin and those who are doing it now. I call December,

Growing a business from an idea

Is entrepreneurship really just a fancy word?  That is, who cares about entrepreneurship?

Growing networks

How do businesses work together? One possible example is the Food Hub, a story about food entrepreneurs, including farmers and growers.

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Oh Oberlin extra: Meeko Israel interviews Tiffany Ames

I don’t have a lot of background on Tiffany Ames. Meeko Israel interviewed her during the first hour of his Sept. 20 show, the same show I was on for the second half. I offer it as an Oh Oberlin extra.


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Oh Oberlin Extra: Peter Comings with Meeko Israel

So, there I was on the other side of the mic …  or pushing the working mic back and forth at WOBC with Meeko Israel. Israel asked me if I’d like to be on his show earlier this week after he was added to the Oh Oberlin Facebook page.

Yes. Because, you know, I’d been hoping to talk to him on mine.

He divided his two-hour show between myself and Oberlin College junior Tiffany Ames. (I will post that separately in the very near future.)

We talked about community, technology and media. He is interested in starting a podcast.

And I goofed on a date. At the end he asked me about my earliest childhood memory. I answered that I remembered walking through South Campus on my way to kindergarten hearing Kool and the Gang’s song, “Celebration.” That couldn’t have been as that song didn’t come out until 1980. To set the record straight, I did hear that song on South Campus, but I was in third grade.

This is an Oh Oberlin extra.

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Oh Oberlin: David Orr

David Orr is the founder and visionary behind the Oberlin Project.

Borrowing from oberlinproject.org:

A grant-funded venture, the Oberlin Project has four full-time staff who coordinate stakeholder teams working on energy, education, policy, community engagement, economic development, transportation, research, and local foods and agriculture. Stakeholder teams include representatives from partner organizations (City, College, educational institutions, foundations, economic development entities), local and regional experts, and members of the Oberlin community.

It was of course part of the goal, of course, to talk about how the Oberlin Project came to be. We also talked about his youth in western Pennsylvania and the way the town in which he grew up did and didn’t serve its own needs in the mid-20th century; the politics of his coming on board at Oberlin College; climate change … each of those could have been an hour (or more) on their own.

After a year of doing this podcast, trying to put a finger on what Oberlin is, some patterns start to emerge. There are technical and economic reasons why the Oberlin Project would work well here, but at the street level, Mindy Brueggeman and Lester Allen both described Oberlin as a community unto itself; that is, in a bigger city, neighborhood communities would be defined by something like we have here.

And that people-level phenomenon SHOULD be capable of fostering conversation to include everyone in how this works and/or evolves.

Beyond the Oberlin Project, lies the Lake Erie Crescent.

There is a wrinkle coming to these podcasts in the future. More when that happens. In the meantime, thanks to all 251 of you who follow this on Facebook, 130 of you on Twitter and the rest wherever you are.
250 followers. Thank you for joining.

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Oh Oberlin: Aaron Appel/Oberlin alumni soccer 2015

This week I talk with Aaron Appel, a rising Oberlin College senior with a developed interest beyond academia in the city of Oberlin. He wrote this bio for me:

“My task this summer was to create a Soft Skills Development Course for local workers employed by the Ohio Means Jobs Summer Youth Employment Program. I had some ideas coming in as to what this would mean and some pedagogical preferences for how to accomplish this task, but of course there was more taking place within the city of Oberlin that would influence this program. Now I find myself engaged in conversations centered around youth engagement and reviving the Youth Council from the early ’90s and I wonder where this will go and how such a project will impact Oberlin.”

On a completely different note, the Oberlin High School alumni soccer game took place Saturday. We, the alumni, won 6-5. There were 25 of us though. For the heck of it I took my phone out and recorded 19 of them I think to get at least their names and what they are up to these days.

Publishing off the Friday Saturday schedule because it has been a bit and I want to get another show out the door.

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Oh Oberlin: Liz Schultz

This week’s interview is with Liz Schultz, who is scheduled to take over from Pat Murphy as the executive director of the Oberlin Heritage Center. Schultz started eight years ago as the museum education and tourism coordinator.

The Heritage Center has its own oral history program, which Schultz mentions in passing as having recorded roughly 150 interviews. This interview will also be shared with the Heritage Center for posting or distribution according to their methods. (It should also be said that one of those involved with the oral history project, Marly Merrill, is a supporter of this podcast.)

We talked about her early interest in archeology clear through to the idea that modern technology has its own items that will need to be saved. Save those .pdfs people.

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Oh Oberlin: Henry Gardner, Rhi McKee, Kris Carter, Erik Andrews

In January, I sat down with Erik Andrews and Ray Cunningham to talk about the Appalachia Service Project. We had a great conversation about that project and why young adults from Oberlin should join (and how Erik started the trips from Oberlin). It was also a chance to reminisce with Erik about trips we each took to South Dakota as members of First Church.

Monday, Andrews joined me at First Church with high school students Henry Gardner and Rhi McKee (who have been on the ASP trip for three and two years, respectively) and Kris Carter, who started on these trips as a Fairview High School student and now helps lead them as an Oberlin resident.

Gardner and McKee are engaging young adults and have plenty to say about what they saw and what they learned.

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Oh Oberlin: Doug McMillan

Talking to Doug McMillan at OMLPS, I feel more like I have an understanding about the purpose and capabilities of the power generation plant in Oberlin.

Until around 1970, the engines generated Oberlin’s power. These days it’s a peak plant that in 2003, during the great Northeast blackout, could run most of Oberlin. It’s a procedure, that. Start an engine, connect sections of city. Repeat.

We talked about power generation, energy savings, power outages, his having graduated from seminary, operating budgets and street lights. It would be worth it to go back and listen to my conversations with Sean Hayes, executive director of the Oberlin Project, and Greg Jones, the energy advocate for Providing Oberlin With Efficiency Responsibly (POWER), for context.

It’s a holiday weekend. You need good listening while mowing the lawn or grilling.

The most esoteric bit of knowledge I picked up: New LED street lights don’t buzz the way street lights used to.

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