Xavier University ‘X-LINK’ Students Share Stories of Local Businesses

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Charitable Words Scholars is partnering with Xavier University’s Williams College of Business on an innovation program to connect local businesses and nonprofits with undergraduate and MBA students in “experiential-based learning” projects.  Here is a guest post by Owen Raisch, X-LINK’s founding director.

By Owen Raisch

Xavier University

Owen Raisch, founding director of Xavier University's X-LINK experiential learning center.

Owen Raisch, founding director of Xavier University’s X-LINK experiential learning center.

In cities nationwide, locally-owned and independent businesses remain the backbone of the community. Xavier University’s X-LINK program is joining with Charitable Words Scholars to make this backbone stronger and better connected in Cincinnati.

From Ma and Pa shops to entrepreneurial ventures, Cincinnati’s local businesses together provide the lifeblood for our commerce and development. They connect ideas over coffee, employ our parents and children with good jobs, create unique character in our neighborhoods and return more money to our economy than non-local businesses.  But among these collective engines of growth, each business has its own compelling story to tell that is unique in its history and its vision for what is to come.  Sharing these stories links businesses with the people in our community that they support – the same people that must support our local businesses if we want neighborhoods to be vibrant.

The new storytelling initiative is called X-LINK Stories and it immerses students in neighborhoods across Cincinnati. Connected with local businesses and community leaders, students profile small business owners and craft stories that show customers a glimpse inside local businesses and the business districts around them. “This glimpse offers customers a seat at the table, a part in the story; that’s how communities form.

The initiative aligns with X-LINK’s mission to support student-engagement for a thriving community of locally-owned businesses, and the local non-profit Charitable Words is providing internships, advisors and resources for students to tell these stories in engaging ways.

X-LINK stories are an invaluable asset to Cincinnati’s independent business community. It gets boots on the ground.  Sharing stories can help people connect with their community in unexpected ways, and creating these comfortable relationships between residents and their neighborhoods or businesses  is another way X-LINK can strengthen Cincinnati’s locally-owned businesses.

X-LINK Stories Storytellers, who will also be “Charitable Words Scholars,” meet with local business leaders to profile independent businesses and neighborhood business districts, uncovering the passion and inspiration driving innovation. When serving as photographers, videographers and designers, students will capture the essence of each neighborhood and business to help the narrative come to life. The X-LINK Stories program launches this summer with the help of 3 Charitable Words Scholars: Pete Shipley, Katie Hautman, and Sean O’Brien.

 

Pete Shipley

Pete Shipley

Pete Shipley, an X-LINK writing Storyteller, sees potential for the program moving forward. “There is power in storytelling,” hey says. “Cincinnati is home to countless independent businesses. This program serves as a great opportunity to share our neighborhood treasures with a wider audience.” He has already written stories on businesses in Mt. Adams, focusing on the history, both past and present, which make neighborhoods across Cincinnati special.

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Katie Hautman

Katie Hautman, a Xavier senior, has lived in Cincinnati her whole life. As photography and design intern, Hautman connects businesses and people by creating promotional materials for neighborhood events. She looks forward to sharing more of what her hometown has to offer. “Photography and design allow people to connect to businesses and neighborhoods in a whole new way,” she says. “I help businesses step outside numbers and create a lasting image. The creative challenge is a win-win for both me and area businesses.”

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Sean O’Brien

Supporting social media communications and press relations,Sean O’Brien is a Xavier University senior whose past experiences as an entrepreneur fuel interest in local business engagement. “Though I am still immersing myself into the city, I am proud to take part in creating and supporting entrepreneurship,” he says. “These are the people we are referring to when people talk about American ingenuity, and we could use more of them. Hopefully my small part helps to affect a large scale change.” Sean is a public relations major with an interest in running his own business in the future.

The feedback from the area businesses has been overwhelmingly supportive; their stories, including early features on the neighborhood of Oakley and of Upper Eden in Mount Adams, will posted online at both www.BuyCincy.com and on other sites affiliated with local business partners. Moving forward, Raisch plans to expand the X-LINK Storytelling program, connecting Cincinnati’s small businesses and neighborhoods to the larger community. “The potential is exciting,” says Raisch. “I am glad X-LINK can play such an important role in the community.”

Charitable Words Scholars connects nonprofits, students and recent graduates and a network of volunteer professional advisors. Here are ways you might support Charitable Words with giving or engagement in our network of advisors and pro bono connections.

Please share this good story, well told, on social media links below.  Thank you.

 

 

 

 

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