Big Pitch Finalist: Khisha Asubuhi, Originalitees

Khisha Asubuhi’s state, city and neighborhood pride shirts have become so popular in Cincinnati that her company, Originalitees, cannot keep up with the demand.
Originalitees’ popularity shouldn’t be too much of a surprise: Asubuhi has worked hard to make sure her company creates high-quality shirts and offers top-notch customer service, as well as a dose of pride in place and community.
“They’re super comfortable, we try to tell people ‘We’re sorry if it becomes your favorite shirt!’” Asubuhi says. “And a lot of times, people will tell us it’s their favorite shirt. Our shirts are conversation starters. When you wear your shirt, expect people to love it, to comment on it.”
Asubuhi started Originalitees about seven years ago when she was tired of her T-shirts shrinking. Her inspiration comes from other place shirts like “I Love NY.”
“I began thinking, what if Ohio had something like that, but I wanted something that was different,” Asubuhi says. She didn’t want her shirts to be a cliché.

“I remember after hearing about all these amazing people who are from Ohio, and people don’t know where they’re from," she says. "People want shirts that say where they’re from, and seven years ago that wasn’t available, so we did start that movement.”
Originalitees’ designs now go much deeper than the T-shirts themselves. They feature designs like “Born and Raised” in the outline of Ohio; city shirts of Cincinnati, Columbus and Cleveland; and even neighborhood shirts that list street names from communities like Over-the-Rhine, UC and Walnut Hills. They have featured shirts from as far as Florida and California, but most of their products are designed to display a sense of pride in places close to home — Ohio, Indiana and Kentucky.
For Asubuhi and her customers, it goes much deeper than the brand itself. “One of the best parts about the business is seeing that vibe that people have when they wear our apparel, as well as meeting customers. I don’t think that’ll ever get old.”
But the shirts’ popularity and customers’ devotion have outgrown Originalitees’ production capacity. To keep up with demand, Asubuhi entered Artworks' Big Pitch presented by U.S. Bank to take her business to the next level.
The idea is that the business grants available to the winner of the competition will help Originalitees keep up with demand and expand their offerings to more neighborhoods and places. What Asubuhi has found is that the mentorship, business plan and pitch writing aspects of the program have been just as valuable.
“Everyone should have a pitch ready,” she says. “You never know who you’re going to talk to.”
Asubuhi attributes a lot of her success in the business so far — and in her Big Pitch experience — to her sense of  “you can do anything” drive.

“There’ll be plenty of times when things don’t go your way, but are you just going to quit?" she says. "When there’s something that may seem hard, you just need to push yourself, and you can do some pretty amazing things.”

ArtWorks Big Pitch Presented by U.S. Bank is a 10-week mentorship program that culminates in a pitch competition Oct. 6 at Rhinegeist. You can purchase tickets here.