Throughout the summer, Soapbox will profile 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.
Matt Madison knows that a skilled artist cannot truly create a great work of art based on his mind alone. He needs the proper materials, the right canvas and genuine inspiration to make something creative. For this reason, Madison founded Madisono’s Gelato & Sorbet
in 2006. To understand Madison’s mission, we have to go even further back to a distant era called the “mid-90s”.
“In the mid-90s, a trend emerged of chefs looking out beyond traditional food sourcing companies for higher quality ingredients and more interesting, specific types of flavors,” Madison says.
So Madison and his father, who owns and operates Madison’s
at Findlay Market, ran a unique farm in West Union, Ohio that would source these specific ingredients like custom heirloom tomatoes, heirloom cantaloupes and more to chefs around the Cincinnati area.
“I recognized that for a chef to do really creative, awesome things, it starts with the materials,” Madison says.
After living on the farm for five years, Madison moved back to the city and discovered that his knack for making gelatos and sorbets would allow him to provide that same inspiration and pleasure to chefs and consumers alike.
“This was in 2005, and at that time, we really didn’t have anyone making artisan, handcrafted ice creams and sorbets in Cincinnati,” Madison says. “You’d hear about it in places like Atlanta, New York and Seattle, but nothing here.”
So Madison started Madisono’s in 2006 and went back to the same restaurant contacts he’d had from his days on the farm to ask what chefs would want from an artisan gelato maker.
“They said they wanted something authentic, with great ingredients, and I knew I could do that,” Madison says. “The business is based on our passion for creativity; we’re always trying to create something different and delicious—that’s the focus.”
To keep it authentic, Madisono’s makes the base for its gelatos from scratch every day. Many other companies will order a premade base that includes many extra artificial ingredients; Madisono’s makes its recipes as simple and natural as possible.
Madisono’s can now be found in nearly 40 restaurants in the Greater Cincinnati area, including Taste of Belgium
, Via Vite
, Anchor OTR
and Essencha Tea House
. Madison estimates that this accounts for about 40 percent of the business, while the other 60 percent is geared toward selling pints in retail stores like Whole Foods, Findlay Market
, Clifton Natural Foods and more.
Madison hopes to build the company and brand to the point that Madisono’s is recognized all over the region and thought of as a must-have experience when you’re in Cincinnati. If Madison wins the Artworks Big Pitch
contest, he would be able to upgrade equipment, bring in more employees and expand production.
“Just being a part of the process of being a finalist, I feel like I’ve won already,” Madison says. “Of course, I’d love to win the competition, but even if I don’t, getting the mentorship has been so valuable in helping me develop my business plan. Sometimes, in the midst of running a business, it’s hard to focus on that when there are so many other possibilities and opportunities to think about. But to get this kind of disciplined approach, I feel like I’ve prepared myself to grow the business, whether or not I win the $15,000.”
Check out these other Artworks Big Pitch finalists: