Jenifer Sult has wanted to sew for a living since she was a child. When she was 10, she bought a vintage sewing machine from a yard sale with her allowance and used it for many years after that.
To make her dream into a reality as an adult, she studied fashion design at the University of Cincinnati, where she now teaches
. She eventually became a designer, pattern maker, seamstress and entrepreneur.
“There was the fear of sacrificing a regular paycheck for something unknown and potentially erratic,” she says, “but my need for creative freedom compelled me to pursue my childhood ambition.”
Sult has built her passion for sewing and design into a successful business, Cut and Sewn
, over the course of more than 15 years of creating for clients. She began by taking on work in her own home, designing and sewing products for small businesses and garments for individuals. As the business grew, though, Sult realized she would need a new workspace.
“I had reached the point where my client base and manufacturing jobs were taking over not only my home studio but my living room, dining room and even my kitchen,” she says. “I had to either upscale my business or scale it way down, and you can guess which one I picked.”
So in June Sult moved her studio and business into a storefront on Hamilton Avenue in Northside.
“I have employees now!” she exclaims.
In the Northside space, Sult and her team are able to provide design, pattern-making and production services to more small business and corporate clients in Greater Cincinnati.
”We provide ethical and sustainable manufacturing and designing while helping a new generation of trades people and business owners,” Sult says. “We provide a low-barrier to enter into the designed soft goods market in Cincinnati through working individually with our clients.”
Cut and Sewn focuses on small batch and unique manufacturing to make local businesses’ ideas into tangible, beautiful products.
But Sult is nowhere near done growing her business. In fact, she’s a finalist in ArtWorks’ Big Pitch
contest for small business grants.
“ArtWorks itself is such a proponent of small, local businesses,” Sult says, “it wasn’t hard for the Big Pitch to catch my eye as a glittering opportunity for Cut and Sewn.”
If awarded a grant, Sult will use it to continue to grow her business in its new iteration as well as try a few new things.
“I really want to use my pattern-making skills to create a new line of commercial sewing patterns that are artisanal, well designed and beautifully curated,” she says.
Sult sees the current culture of do-it-yourself creativity as the perfect opportunity to publish this kind of product. She hopes her quality sewing patterns would enable others to participate in this wave of “maker” culture.
Even if she doesn’t receive a grant in the Big Pitch competition, Sult appreciates the opportunity to receive business mentorship and advice about maintaining and growing her business.
“(My mentors) Mike Zorn and Lindsay Kessler have been super supportive and responsive to my business goals as well as my personal ones,” Sult says. “They are great listeners, and I feel that with their notes and criticism I can go far.”
Considering how far she has already come, Sult will likely continue growing and trying new things for her business, fueled by her love of design and sewing.
Soapbox is profiling each of the eight finalists in the 2015 ArtWorks Big Pitch, a 10-week mentorship program that offers artists, makers, designers and creative entrepreneurs a chance to claim up to $20,000 in cash prizes and professional services. The program concludes Aug. 27 with the finalists giving five-minute presentations to a panel of judges and an audience.