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Chicago Interactive Marketing Association (CIMA) Awards $20K in Grant Funding to Two Chicago Start-Ups
Bryn McCoy and Rachel Brooks of Citizen Made were awarded $15,000 and JJ Hanley of JJâ€™s List received $5,000 in grant funding. Both organizations also received complimentary CIMA membership and access to CIMA events for networking and ongoing professional development.
The Chicago Digital Startup Initiative is an annual grant created by the Chicago Interactive Marketing Association (CIMA), the cityâ€™s only interactive-centric professional organization, in an effort to support and expand the digital entrepreneurial community in Chicago.
Of the extensive number of proposals submitted in Fall 2012, the two winning organizations were chosen based on a combination of creativity and strategic direction. Below is more information on the winners.
$15,000 Grant Winnerâ€¨s
Bryn McCoy and Rachel Brooks of Citizen Made
Citizen Made is a product customization toolkit for online stores. With the Citizen Made canvas, users can co-create and visualize products directly from a brand's site. Built by makers for makers, Citizen Made is a turnkey solution that functions across product types (apparel, furniture, food, etc.)
Consumer engagement has become the norm in many ways, as seen with the rise of brand tools like NikeID that offer the online shopper unique product customization options. However to date, all product customization tools are one-off builds that typically arenâ€™t accessible to the small brands dependent on customization as a core part of their business. Designed to integrate with existing cart platforms, Citizen Madeâ€™s product canvas will be accessible with a low monthly subscription fee in lieu of thousands or even millions of dollars in development fees.
Rachel Brooks is a technology entrepreneur and digital strategist for brands and software companies. As a co-founder and CEO of the Chicago-based technology company Citizen Made, Brooks manages business and product development with a team of engineers.
Bryn McCoy, CTO and co-founder of Citizen Made, is a software engineer and product designer. In response to winning the grant from the Chicago Digital Startup Initiative, McCoy stated, â€śWinning the CDSI grant is yet another reason we are proud to have built our software in Chicago! We're delighted to have CIMA's support in our ongoing work to bring more custom product to eCommerce, and look forward to CIMA's advisory role as we spread the word â€“ this is just the beginning of the third industrial revolution, Citizen Made is enabling you and your favorite brands to make it happen." Citizen Made plans to use the $15,000 grant for continued product development.
$5,000 Grant Winner
JJ Hanley of JJâ€™s List
JJ Hanleyâ€™s life and work are driven by a commitment to help make the world a better place. She is founder and executive director of JJâ€™s List, a non-profit, grass-roots organization that works directly with businesses and civic organizations to train them in disability-aware interaction skills for better business and stronger communities. JJ trains and supervises a team of individuals with disabilities to run jjslist.com, a yelp.com-style review site where thousands of reviews and ratings of the disability friendliness of local businesses are posted.
JJâ€™s List offers the only service of its kind to help businesses get attention and differentiate their brand organically, and positively through disability awareness in an increasingly crowded and noisy Internet space, while providing meaningful career paths in online technology and communications to people with disabilities.
As the parent of a teenager with autism spectrum disorder and learning disabilities, founder JJ Hanley recognized that while most business owners strive to deliver good customer service, negative interactions with customers with disabilities take place, not because businesses donâ€™t care, but because they lack the training and resources to do it right. JJ knew there had to be a more collaborative way for businesses to reach the disability consumer and build better community integration opportunities for people with disabilities. JJ Hanley was inspired to build the organization while making Refrigerator Mothers, an award-winning PBS documentary on autism, where she learned about the tremendous barriers to basic participation in the community encountered by people with disabilities after they finish high school.
JJ Hanley responded to winning the $5000 grant. â€śWhy does CIMA recognition matter to our grass-roots organization? Because we are the online experts in disability, and we have a growing reputation in Chicago and beyond. But we lack expertise in marketing. We need help! With this terrific grant, we will get to work with CIMA experts to build a marketing strategy for our service. And the magic of it all? Businesses who use our service directly support the training of folks with disabilities for meaningful careers at JJ's List and beyond. What a way to make difference. This grant will mean much more to us than the cash as we work to change the futures of thousands of young adults with disabilities who want to live and work in their community alongside their peers without disabilities.â€ť
CIMA, www.chicagoima.org, is Chicagoland's only interactive-centric organization devoted to the enhancement and development of interactive business. Founded in 1997, CIMA focuses on thought-leadership and outreach through forums, panels and seminars and has been lauded by industry professionals, think-tank panels and corporate marketing blogs.