Throughout the summer, Soapbox is profiling each of the eight finalists in the Artworks Big Pitch competition, presented by U.S. Bank, which offers artists, makers, designers and creative entrepreneurs a chance to claim up to $20,000 in cash prizes, as well as pro-bono professional services. The competition concludes August 27 at the American Sign Museum with the eight finalists each giving five-minute presentations to a panel of judges. You can read Soapbox’s article on the Big Pitch here.
It’s not often that you find a business that wasn’t founded to create specific products or services, but instead simply to inspire. Many businesses have core values, but to make your core values into a business is something different. But then again, Cordario “Monty” Collier and Jason Matheny, founders of Misfit Genius
, have never been too concerned with what everyone else is doing.
Misfit Genius can be summed up as a lifestyle brand, but the two founders are quick to point out that they mean something slightly different by that phrase than most other companies.
“Most companies that say that, it’s just based around clothing,” Collier says. “Yes, we sell clothes as well, but we’re more about community-building. The clothes are there to remind us of these values we live by.”
Collier and Matheny met in 2008 as students at Thomas More College
, where Collier approached Matheny and asked him about a sweater he was wearing. This opened up the initial conversation about fashion, a common interest they both shared.
As a business, Misfit Genius was started in 2010. It has remained a very fluid process as Collier and Matheny have been working to find the best way to share their message.
“The last four years has really been like going to college for entrepreneurs,” Collier says. “We’ve been through a lot of failure and seen some success, too; the moments of success are what carry you through.”
After initial dreams of opening a retail store and creating their own fashion lines, the two men went back to the drawing board several times to find what would really work for them.
“We learned that it was more about the idea and the message,” Matheny sas. “The more we focused on that idea of challenging people to pursue their passions, we kept getting signs that that was where we should go.”
Now, Misfit Genius describes the clothes they offer as the “back end” of their services. The core of their business is based around five values: Passion, Loyalty, Intelligence, Confidence and Humility. Collier and Matheny have started giving motivational speeches around the area in schools and universities based on these values.
“The premise of Misfit Genius is that it’s the misfit in you that makes you who you are—you have to embrace that,” Collier says. “The five values we identified are what you use in order to take that difference and become the genius.”
Ultimately, Matheny and Collier want Misfit Genius to become a creative hub in Cincinnati, where ideas and inspiration are bred and real connections are fostered.
“At first we were thinking of our brand in a more competitive mode,” Collier says. “Now we’d rather work with other businesses and see how we can help each other to get further. We’re building community one person at a time.”
Check out these other Artworks Big Pitch finalists: