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Small Business

Projects aim to make Indianapolis nicer

February 20, 2013

Indianapolis is about to get nicer.

At least that’s the idea behind the inaugural Nice Grants program, an initiative that aims to give high-potential community projects a financial boost.

Local Web marketing firm SmallBox and consumer-ratings service Angie’s List provided the money—$5,000 each—and this month chose 10 ideas to back with $1,000 grants. Now the fun part begins.

“Within a few months, we should be able to see if it has an impact,” said SmallBox CEO Jeb Banner, whose team came up with the grants after earning a performance-based bonus last year. Angie’s List matched the donation after learning of the program.

Nearly 200 applications were submitted, and the winners were selected from a group of about 50 finalists. Banner was impressed by the diversity of ideas.

“They were strong ideas across the board,” the local entrepreneur said. “There were easily another 10 or 20 we could have funded.”

Winning projects run the gamut from urban beekeeping to a “coder dojo” that would encourage girls to learn computer programming. SmallBox will follow their progress on its blog, providing valuable exposure in addition to funding.

“This is not just about money,” Banner said. “We’re looking to give them a push.”

And if all goes as planned, their successes will improve the community as a whole.

“We love this idea and hope to see it grow,” Angie’s List namesake Angie Hicks said in a prepared statement. “Indianapolis is already a pretty nice place. These projects are destined to make it even better.”

The winners are:

— Bee Public, which aims to expand urban bee hives in the Fountain Square area and other Indianapolis cultural districts.

— Clifton-on-the-River Green Tomato Festival, which plans to build a bus stop shelter near the corner of 36th and Clifton Streets as part of an expanded neighborhood harvest celebration.

— Draw on the Walls, a working prototype of a drawing robot to be installed permanently in the Big Car Service Center for community use, as well as a second robot for use in homes or community murals.

— Freewheelin’ Community Bikes, which wants to teach kids about bicycle maintenance and offer stipends to apprentice bike mechanics.

— IndyGo PUPstop, which would help People for Urban Progress re-use 9,000 Bush Stadium seats at IndyGo bus stops.

— Cataracts Music Fest, which aims to build participation in the annual cultural event.

— Earth Art Labyrinth, which wants to build, document and market a nature-inspired labyrinth and host a one-day workshop on the art form.

— Visualize Indy, which would commission local graphic artists to create licensed infographics that portray various aspects of Indianapolis.

— PROJECTiONE, which would help bring a design group founded by two Ball State University graduates to Indianapolis from Muncie.

— Coder Dojo Indy, which would recruit female volunteers/mentors and increase the number of girls participating in dojo activities to encourage them to explore technology and computer programming.
 

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