Over-the-Rhine business owner James Marable sees his limited edition retail shop, Original Thought Required
(OTR), as much more than a store.
Marable has had an enterprising spirit since he was a child, but with a background in marketing, advertising and graphic design he’s a creator as much as an entrepreneur. In fact, Original Thought Required grew out of Marable’s own T-shirt line, aTYPICAL sOLE, influenced by the originality of sneaker culture.
“The ethos behind that T-shirt line was really about being yourself,” Marable says, “about being unique and having that sneaker or piece of clothing that really speaks to you, that’s not what people are typically used to seeing.”
The store, which opened in 2010, continues that emphasis on new ideas by highlighting young, up-and-coming designers, both local and national.
“We’re always trying to find that next talent and figuring out how we can get that to work out,” Marable says. “We’re at the point now where we’ve seen quite a few different designers who come through the store and become bigger outside of us. We’ve been able to be a springboard to help people check it out or take it to the next level if that’s what they want to do, just to give people that option.”
Now he’s hoping his business will be the next talent that ArtWorks Big Pitch Competition
invests in. Marable appreciates the mentorship provided by ArtWorks as well as the community of small business owners who have made it to the final stage along with him.
“I wanted an opportunity to learn from people who have been doing it longer than me, to think about it differently and learn more steps we can take to really grow the business,” he says. “Even connecting with other contestants and creating a community that helps us all grow.”
Winning any of the up to $20,000 in business grants OTR is competing for will also help the shop grow both by taking on more new artists and by moving to a larger location.
“We have limited edition products, but we also want to reach a wider audience,” Marable says. “Each brand we bring in speaks to different individuals.”
Marable wants to see Original Thought Required expand to more than a retail outlet. He’s seen the business become a cultural center. By working with new designers and maintaining close partnerships with the local hip hop music scene, OTR has become a place people can come for conversation, to meet others with similar interests and be inspired.
“That’s something I never really considered before opening, and that’s what’s kept us going, being a centerpiece for the neighborhood and the city,” Marable explains.
Original Thought Required is trying to take that influence as wide as possible. As the store expands as a business, Marable hopes to also expand its community work, including the informal meeting place in the store and the opportunities provided to youth and artists. OTR frequently partners with Elementz
and highlights young artists in its Final Friday shows.
Marable wants to provide even more programming.
“We want to give youth that opportunity, that exposure, positive reinforcement,” he says. “It’s really about connecting with that individual and seeing that talent and seeing how we can work with that and keep them from giving up.”
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; tickets are on sale now.