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VFA alum, East Coast native grows roots in Ohio

“I’m 6’7” when I speak, write or compete, but I’m 5’4” when I stand up.”

That’s how Dan Bloom explained what motivates him in 25 words or less as part of his application for Venture for America, but 25 words can’t begin to illustrate his ambition.

Bloom, a Boston native, graduated in 2010 from Wesleyan University in Connecticut with a degree in history. Despite never taking a business or math class, his motivation and persistence landed him a fellowship with VFA, which focuses on mobilizing young, talented graduates as entrepreneurs—and subsequently a full-time gig at BlackbookHR.

“I’ve been told a lot in life what I can’t do,” Bloom says. “When someone tells you no or someone says, ‘This isn’t going to work,’ you’re like, ‘No, that’s your opinion—I’ll see you on the other side.’"

Years of college sports helped Bloom develop a mentality that would carry into other aspects of his life. “It’s pretty much like wrestling, where it’s you and another guy your size, so the person who works the hardest is going to win,” he says. “And that’s a fight I’ll always win.”

Great expectations

Bloom’s plane landed at 1 a.m. for his first visit to Cincinnati as part of the inaugural class of VFA fellows. He had absolutely no idea what to expect. “I don’t think I had ever said the word Cincinnati, let alone been here,” Bloom says, adding that his first view of the city made a lasting impression. “I don’t think I’ll ever forget turning the corner, coming in from CVG, and the city is just sitting in the river valley. I was like, ‘Oh my god, this is a legit city here, this is a really beautiful downtown.’”

While Bloom had job offers in Las Vegas and Providence, RI, his sense of exploration and love for BlackbookHR were what brought him here. “I decided I’m never going to have opportunities like this,” he says.

Lessons learned

Cincinnati’s accelerated growth has surprised and excited Bloom as much as the city’s beauty. “I’ve had this sense here that something’s building," Bloom says. "And there’s momentum, and people are excited, and anyone that’s living down here really feels that shift. This city is on the verge of exploding.”

However, Bloom does wish public transportation were more interconnected and accessible. “I can’t understand why a streetcar would be a bad thing,” Bloom says. “If you make it easy to get from Findlay Market to The Banks, that’s a huge value. You could be down at a ball game and you can come up to Over-The-Rhine (OTR) for food, and not have to walk the whole way.” He adds that from OTR where he lives, it's about 10 minutes to bike anywhere in the city, and that's usually how he gets around.

No place like home

While Cincinnati doesn’t remind Bloom of Boston, the community’s attitude and sense of hospitality has made him feel like he’s found a new home. “This community is so welcoming to outsiders,” he says. “The people that live down here are interested in making this community a much more habitable place.”

He sees value in every type of community involvement. “If you’re down here, you’re kind of doing something cool, whether you work at the local coffee shop or you’re working in the schools downtown.” 

Best places to come up with big ideas

In addition to being a big fan of Mayberry and Collective Espresso, rooftops are where Bloom goes to think. “I feel like when you sit on the rooftops in OTR, all you see is opportunity,” Bloom says. “You don’t see boarded buildings; you’re like, ‘What if that was a coffee shop, what if that was this, what if that was that?’” 

It’s the sense of opportunity that motivates Bloom and makes him want to be a part of the city’s future. “In terms of what I’m interested in doing or what I’m interested in seeing for this community, I think the rooftops are the best place to envision that.”

What’s next?

In addition to working at BlackbookHR, Bloom plans to open a sandwich shop, The Port OTR, by next summer, and is currently searching for its location.

“The goal for Venture for America is to build jobs in communities, and that’s what I love about this,” Bloom says. “I don’t think anything so serendipitous has ever happened in my life that changed the course of where I was going.”

By Kyle Stone
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