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Miami University-based investment fund adds to portfolio

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October 18-20, 2023 / Tucson, AZ
The annual summit for research institution gap fund and accelerator programs, including proof of concept programs, startup accelerators, and university venture funds

The Story

A Miami University student-led investment fund has added a pair of new startups to its portfolio targeting diversity, equity and inclusion.

The Social Impact Fund, one of the only undergraduate-led funds of its kind in the nation, announced investments this week in Cincinnati’s Queen City Certified, which offers employer certification and cohort-model programming for workplace equity, and Raleigh-based Keepsake Tales, a digital publishing startup specializing in personalized books.

Brett Smith, founding director of the Social Impact Fund and the Cintas chair in entrepreneurship at Miami University, said $45,000 was invested across the two companies.

Broadly, Queen City Certified and Keepsake Tales will use the money to scale.

Armstrong Nicole
Nicole Armstrong is CEO of Queen City Certified.
Channing Johnson

“Partnering with the Social Impact Fund has been a game changer,” Nicole Armstrongfounder and CEO of Queen City Certified, said in a release. “Not only has it allowed us to secure the capital we need to become tech enabled, but it will help us become a leader in our industry.”

Queen City Certified offers cohort-model programming around DEI for small to medium-sized employers. Its mission is to equip businesses with tools to improve the equity of employment practices.

Armstrong, a 2020 Courier “Forty Under 40” honoree, recently took Queen City Certified through Flywheel Social Enterprise’s ElevateEquity accelerator, a specific program focused on creating a more equitable economy in the Greater Cincinnati region. The Social Impact Fund partnered with Flywheel for the second-consecutive year to increase early-stage impact investing in the region.

Keepsake Tales, meanwhile, creates personalized children’s books that allow children to “see themselves in stories in a way that’s never been possible before,” focusing on strengthening self-image and representation of disabled and diverse children. The company was founded in 2019 by Miami University and Farmer School of Business graduate Mike Vaggalis (class of 2013), who currently serves as CEO.

Keepsake Tales is beginning to level the playing field for all children, especially those traditionally neglected by the publishing industry.

Vaggalis said Miami’s investment will allow the company to respond to customer feedback with a needed investment in technology that will allow it to scale.

“For this opportunity to have been afforded to us from my University, it’s overwhelming,” he said. “I’ve always been proud to be a Miami alum, but never more so than after seeing, and engaging with, the amazing work that’s being done in the entrepreneurial community.”

Queen City Certified and Keepsake Tales represent companies No. 2 and No. 3 in the portfolio. Social Impact Fund, established in 2018, made its first investment in June 2020 in Cincinnati-based Moxie Girl. The Social Impact Fund is led by Miami

Source: Cincy Inno – University-based investment fund adds to portfolio

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