ArtWorks’ “Shark Tank” program driven by key business mentors

August 25, 2015


CINCINNATI, OH –- On August 27, the hard work of eight entrepreneurs and their mentors will culminate in a competition for up to $20,000 at the ArtWorks Big Pitch presented by U.S. Bank. Tickets are still available for this “Shark Tank”-style competition that marks the end of ArtWorks’ 10-week long mentorship program. All eight finalists were paired with a mentor and U.S. Bank Small Business Banking Specialist to help them refine their business plans, focus on each of the business’ strategic growth and work on their business pitches in advance of the event, which will take place on August 27 at the Cincinnati Masonic Center (317 E. 5th Street, Cincinnati, OH 45202).

ArtWorks Big Pitch Finalists and Teams:

  • Team Brush Factory:
    Mentor Bob Bonder of Rhinegeist, U.S. Bank specialist Michael Walters and owners Hayes Shanesy & Rosie Kovacs
  • Team Butcher Betties Meats and Sweets:
    Mentor Greg Schnelle previously of Progress Supply Inc., U.S. Bank specialist Amanda Hamann, and owner Allison Hines
  • Team Cut and Sewn:
    Mentor Mike Zorn of Macy’s, U.S. Bank specialist Lindsay Kessler and owner Jenifer Sult
  • Team Grateful Grahams:
    Mentor Kathy Chabot of Norwood Hardware, U.S. Bank specialist Jonathan Simpson and owner Rachel DesRochers
  • Team Cityscape Tiles:
    Mentor Sean Mullaney, U.S Bank specialist Khadija Jlaoul, and owner Jess Sheldon.
  • Team Original Thought Required:
    Mentor Steve Fink of Bang Zoom Design, U.S. Bank specialist Vance Marshall and owner James Marable
  • Team Roebling Point Books & Coffee:
    Mentor Sean Parker of Fifth Third Bank, U.S. Bank specialist Mark Sousa and owner Richard Hunt
  • Team We Have Become Vikings:
    Mentor Ghuffran Ali of Modulus, U.S. Bank specialist Michael Howard and owner Jason Snell


Each mentor was paired with a finalist based on a combination of expertise, business background, and personality. Rhinegeist co-founder Bob Bounder, mentored Rosie Kovacs and Hayes Shanesy of Brush Factory. Brush Factory, a design and fabrication company that specializes in custom contemporary furniture, immediately caught Bonder’s attention at the beginning of the program.


“Since I was a kid, my mind has been split between drawing and painting and math and entrepreneurship. When I had to decide between art school and math / science for college, I went with the latter, but have always wanted to re-engage with the arts. Participating in ArtWorks Big Pitch provides the perfect opportunity for me to share the learnings and skills that I’ve gathered through years of consulting and entrepreneurship,” Bob Bonder said.


In addition to the meeting with mentors, each finalist was paired with a Small Business Banking Specialist at U.S. Bank who also guided them through the program and helped them with their business plans. Just last week, finalists practiced their pitches in front of their teams as well as friends of ArtWorks who are skilled presenters and members of the business community. In addition, Joe Jepson, Senior Vice President of Business Banking at U.S. Bank, was also present to provide valuable feedback.


“It was my pleasure to meet with all the participants and listen to their practice pitches,” says Joe Jepson, Senior Vice President of Business Banking at U.S. Bank. “The innovation, creativity and passion of each finalist demonstrates how the entrepreneurial spirit of the Cincinnati area is thriving.  Our U.S. Bank Small Business Specialists have enjoyed coaching the finalists. It has allowed them the opportunity to empower small business owners in the Cincinnati and Northern Kentucky communities with the tools that will help grow and expand their business.”


The $15,000 grant winner will be announced at the Big Pitch event on August 27. Tickets start at $10 and can be purchased at Tickets can be purchased for $25 (includes one drink ticket); VIP tickets, at $50, include front and center seating and exclusive lounge access. All tickets include heavy hors d’oeuvres by local eateries, including Gold Star Chili and Tom + Chee. In addition, each ticket allows the audience member to cast their ballot for the winner of the Audience Choice Award, an additional $5,000 grant awarded and announced that evening.



 About ArtWorks: Founded in 1996, ArtWorks trains and employs local youth and talent to create art and community impact. ArtWorks’ vision is to be the creative and economic engine which unites citizens to transform our region through public art, such as their award-winning mural program, art therapy, and creative enterprise initiatives. To date, ArtWorks has hired over 2,500 area youth and 700 professional artists, and has trained over 250 creative entrepreneurs. ArtWorks is grateful for the support of many individuals and organizations, including the City of Cincinnati, the Carol Ann and Ralph V. Haile, Jr./U.S. Bank Foundation, ArtsWave, and the Ohio Arts Council. To learn more or to support ArtWorks, visit


About U.S. Bank: Minneapolis-based U.S. Bancorp (NYSE: USB), with $419 billion in assets as of June 30, 2015, is the parent company of U.S. Bank National Association, the fifth largest commercial bank in the United States. The Company operates 3,164 banking offices in 25 states and 5,020 ATMs and provides a comprehensive line of banking, brokerage, insurance, investment, mortgage, trust and payment services products to consumers, businesses and institutions. Visit U.S. Bancorp on the web at


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