ArtWorks Big Pitch Announces Finalists



Eight creative entrepreneurs set to compete for up to $20,000 in business grants



CINCINNATI – ArtWorks announced the eight companies accepted to the 2015 Big Pitch program presented by U.S. Bank. The founders of these businesses represent Cincinnati and Northern Kentucky-based creative, small businesses who will participate in ArtWorks’ 10-week mentorship program and business pitch competition to focus and strategize their businesses for the opportunity to win up to $20,000 in business grants.


The eight businesses selected for Big Pitch are:


  • Grateful Grahams, owned by Rachel DesRochers, is an artisanal bakery specializing in handmade vegan graham treats.
  • Butcher Betties Meats and Sweets, owned by Allison Hines, is a female veteran-owned butcher shop and gourmet food store specializing in local, grass-fed, natural, and organic meats.
  • Roebling Point Books & Coffee, owned by Richard Hunt, is a community-focused bookstore and gathering place that supports local authors and artists.
  • Brush Factory, owned by Hayes Shanesy and Rosie Kovacs, is a design and fabrication company specializing in custom contemporary furniture that uses regionally sourced hardwoods.
  • Cityscape Tiles, owned by Jess Sheldon, is a photography service business and product developer, wholesaler and retailer of functional fine art products.
  • Original Thought Required, owned by James Marable, is a streetwear and fashion boutique for Cincinnati focusing on limited edition apparel by independent designers.
  • We Have Become Vikings, owned by Jason Snell, is a creative agency specializing in strategy and design, helping to tell the stories of everyone from major brands to community voices.
  • Cut and Sewn, owned by Jenifer Sult, is a sample room providing design, sewing, and patternmaking services for fashion and soft goods to design entrepreneurs.


As part of the 10-week mentorship program, each finalist will be paired with a business mentor and U.S. Bank Small Business Specialist to help them strategically plan their next stage of growth, refine their business plan, and craft their 5-minute pitch. The program will culminate in a public event on August 27 when, after submitting their final business plans, each entrepreneur will deliver their final pitch to an expert panel of judges. The top business, based on their pitch and business plan, will be awarded a $15,000 business grant. The audience will also have an opportunity to vote for the recipient of an additional $5,000 grant based on the pitch.


“This is an amazing group,” says Caroline Creaghead, Director of ArtWorks Creative Enterprise, “and the diversity of businesses that applied attests to Cincinnati’s growing need for small business support for working creatives. Our hope is that Big Pitch can connect these eight businesses with the support they need to grow and thrive.  This is the type of creative talent that we want to retain and support.”


While ArtWorks’ entrepreneurship initiatives have focused on education and business training through CO.STARTERS and their summer apprentice programs, ArtWorks developed Big Pitch in 2014 in partnership with U.S. Bank to provide in-depth mentorship, exposure, and funding opportunities for more established creative businesses.


“The eight finalists are a true representation of our city’s vibrant and creative entrepreneurial talent,” U.S. Bank Business Banking Specialist Michael Howard says. “In partnering with ArtWorks, U.S. Bank has been given the opportunity to help equip creative small businesses with the financial training and tools that may support their continued success. We are excited to work with this year’s finalists.”


Noble Denim owner Chris Sutton won the $15,000 grant in 2014. The small-batch denim company leveraged the grant and business plan support from U.S. Bank to expand its line of American-made jeans and launch a sister company called Victor. First runner-up Matt Madison of Madisono’s Gelato gained invaluable support from his Big Pitch mentor, Roger David, who helped Madison to expand distribution of his product to 39 new Kroger locations. Regarding his Big Pitch experience, Madison says, “Being part of the Big Pitch program gave me the courage to take necessary steps to get to that place in the future where I wanted my business to be. I really discovered a vision for Madisono’s Gelato through the process.”


If you’re interested in opportunities for involvement with this year’s Big Pitch program, please contact Caroline Creaghead at 513-333-0388.

For more information on ArtWorks Big Pitch and future ArtWorks events, please visit To learn more about the eight finalists, please contact Christine Carli, Director of Communications at 513-333-3613.


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 650 professional artists, and has trained more than 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, individual contributors to the ArtsWave Community Campaign, and the Ohio Arts Council.

About U.S. Bank: Minneapolis-based U.S. Bancorp (“USB”), with $410 billion in assets as of March 31, 2015, is the parent company of U.S. Bank National Association, the fifth largest commercial bank in the United States. The company operates 3,172 banking offices in 25 states and 5,016 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


CONTACT: Christine Carli

Director of Communications or 513.333.3613