The team at SavrPak after winning last year’s P&G Innovation Challenge

Procter & Gamble employs a great many people in the Cincinnati area. Its workforce is close to 10,000 in the Greater Cincinnati area, with 4,000 workers based in its downtown headquarters alone. But P&G’s effect on the city’s ecosystem is not just about paychecks. P&G, in fact, makes its mark as a corporate citizen in a number of ways.

For example, Over-the-Rhine partically owes its renaissance to the push from P&G leaders. The company invested $25 million in seed money to launch 3CDC, the nonprofit developer that’s led OTR’s rebirth. Also, Cintrifuse, Cincinnati’s startup hub, was funded and advanced by Bob McDonald, retired chairman, president, and CEO of P&G.

The company’s purposeful measures to innovate, nurture future entrepreneurs and spawn startups is having a profound effect on Cincinnati’s ecosystem.

Training ground

Mark Jeffreys worked at P&G for 17 years in marketing. His areas of concentration included Pampers and hair care, and running the Gillette division for two years before moving on to begin his own company, 4Sight. His company harnesses online data via patent-pending machine learning and natural language processing algorithms, which enables client companies to take action.

We asked Jeffreys what it is about P&G that seems to spark innovation and entrepreneurship.

“P&G tends to move you around in different roles—it’s very purposeful. You might work in general business and then be moved into more creative roles. It’s how people find the kinds of roles they’re most drawn to. I always enjoyed both. In my role in the Gillette division,” Jeffreys said. “I had the regular business duties but was always cognizant of how we needed to compete. It was, in a sense, very entrepreneurial. I found it energizing and fun. At one point, P&G asked me to move to Singapore for a role. I had to decline. but that’s when I started my own company. Now P&G is a client!”

Marvin Abrinica, CEO of Wunderfund, a Cincinnati equity crowdfunding portal, is also a former P&G employee. He explains why he thinks so many innovators come from there. “P&G is known for creating a deep bench of leaders. Everyone comes in with the opportunity to blossom into a general manager. So, it doesn’t surprise me to see so many innovative new companies started by my former colleagues. We’re still a fraternity of P&G alumni that leans on each other,” he said.

P&G Ventures

Five years ago, P&G launched an internal studio partnering with startups, entrepreneurs, and inventors to build brands and businesses within the consumer packaged goods space. P&G Ventures takes a new approach to creating brands by developing both internal and external ideas, as well as by creating unique partnerships that bring in early-stage startups to help them grow.

The studio supports a number of events for entrepreneurs, including:

Break Down – Breakthrough: The Realities of Entrepreneurship—a virtual workshop that was held on May 7, 2021 and is designed to provide entrepreneurs of color with insights and resources to help them overcome the hurdles they may face in their entrepreneurial journey.

PitchBLCK—a live pitch event on May 17 that invited Black entrepreneurs to submit their innovative products ideas.

Lauren Thaman, Senior Director of Communications at P&G Ventures, said, “At P&G Ventures, we really work to reach and support the entrepreneurs behind technologies. We want to make sure that they walk away learning something new and we seek to learn from the entrepreneurs as well.”

Innovation Challenge

One of the best-known ways P&G Ventures seeks out budding entrepreneurs who are driving the next generation of tech is through their yearly Innovation Challenge. The challenge invites entrepreneurs to pitch their proposals for new consumer packaged goods that will make a meaningful difference in consumers’ lives.

On July 14 of this year, three finalists will pitch to a panel of expert judges, with the winner receiving $10,000 and a chance to partner with P&G Ventures to continue developing their product. You can learn more about this year’s Innovation Challenge here.

The winner of last year’s Virtual Innovation Challenge, Bill Birgen, CTO of SAVRpak, said, “I was so grateful to be selected as an Innovation Challenge finalist because it meant I was building close connections with P&G Ventures, an expert in the consumer space. Winning was simply icing on the cake. Last year was full of obstacles, but P&G Ventures found a way to continue creating opportunities for entrepreneurs by making this challenge even more accessible.”

P&G says it wants to make a difference and feel like they are creating a better place to live. Their proactive approach seems to be working.