ArtWorks "Big Pitch" finalists: Mortal Ski Company and Sweet Petit

Mortal Ski Company


Nineteen years ago, Ron Gerdes met Mark Branham at Perfect North Slopes. They had a shared passion for skiing and saw the need for skis specific to Midwestern snow, and, despite the sport’s popularity, there wasn’t anything specific for Midwestern terrain. After designing on paper and enlisting a builder in California, they had a prototype that was loved by everyone who tried it. At that point, Gerdes and Branham decided to figure out how to build their own skis, and Mortal Ski Company was born.

“We build skis, by hand, one at a time. We have simplified the ski design and applied basic, time tested materials to build a high-performance ski,” Gerdes says.

Each ski at Mortal Ski Company is built one at a time using time-tested techniques and materials to create a personal skiing experience. “The design incorporates smaller turn radii, shorter lengths, wider widths, and stiffer flex patterns, all with the purpose of giving the skier increased performance on all snow conditions,” Gerdes says.

Mortal Skis are built one at a time, by hand, by the people that use them. They are passionate skiers and this passion directly translates into the methods and practices used to make the skis.

Founded in 2015, Mortal Ski Company has been growing their brand and is now one of eight finalists for the fifth annual ArtWorks’ Big Pitch presented by U.S. Bank, where they will compete for a $15,000 Grand Prize business grant and the Audience Choice Award during a live five-minute pitch on September 25 at Memorial Hall.

Gerdes’ main focus is to grow the brand’s recognition among area skiers, targeting areas around Ohio, Michigan, Illinois, Minnesota and Wisconsin.

“Our biggest hurdle is getting our product into the hands of potential customers,” he says.

Mortal Ski Company is looking to expand their reach, visiting one slope at a time, in the hopes that when people try their skis, they’ll love them. Since the skis are designed unique to this region, Gerdes finds people are hesitant to try them out, but once people do they’re hooked.

The $15,000 in prize money would cover targeted advertisements, promotions at participating ski areas, and cost of materials to manufacture the skis.

“We have set up Mortal Ski Company with a network of supporters,” he says. “We have been teaching our team how to build skis and how our process works so that when we find ourselves in a position to expand production, we are ready.”

As a Big Pitch finalist, Gerdes has been working with two mentors, Greg Dorr and Keith Jackson, to develop a marketing campaign and strategy. “They have been amazing,” he says. “They are pushing us to think differently and to take advantage of all opportunities”

Gerdes is looking forward Mortal Ski Company’s next steps. “When a customer takes our skis for a run and I see them smile, I get a huge scene of satisfaction. That’s what it is all about.”


Sweet Petit


Taren Kinebrew and her dessert shop, Sweet Petit Desserts, offer both yummy treats and courses that show people how to bake them. Whether you have a sweet tooth or a sweet touch, this bakery is a stop you want to make in Over-the-Rhine.


“I started in this business because of my passion and love for baking and being taught to bake as a child,” Kinebrew says.
“With my love of baking and teaching, it was natural for me to not only open a bakery but to also start to teach others how to bake.”


Kinebrew is a third-generation baker, who is eager to pass her knowledge along to others, especially youth. Showing young people how to create baked delicacies is what drove her to apply for ArtWorks’ Big Pitch competition.


Kinebrew is now one of eight finalists for the fifth annual ArtWorks’ Big Pitch presented by U.S. Bank. She will compete for a $15,000 Grand Prize business grant and the Audience Choice Award during a live five-minute pitch on September 25 at Memorial Hall.


Since April 2018, Kinebrew has been teaching kids in her Junior Baking Series in her current space on Race Street. The popularity of the class has been booming but having adequate room to fulfill the demand has been an issue.


“Right now, the space is limited and isn’t designed for large classes...being able to maximize my space to accommodate the demand would be amazing,” she says.


The $15,000 in prize money would transform her current space into a teaching kitchen, which would allow the functionality to host more classes.


As a Big Pitch finalist, Kinebrew has been working with two mentors, Anthony Berin and Christopher Goodpaster, to develop a strategy for expansion. “We definitely have a lot in common, which has made this process great for me,” she says.

Kinebrew is excited about Sweet Petit’s future. “I absolutely love young people,” she says. “We have some amazing youth in this city,” she says. “Knowing they have the drive to become something more really inspires me.”


How to Attend the ArtWorks “Big Pitch” presented by U.S. Bank:

ArtWorks’ Big Pitch presented by U.S. Bank returns for a fifth year at 6 p.m. on Tuesday, Sept. 25, at Memorial Hall. Eight of Greater Cincinnati's up-and-coming creative entrepreneurs will each deliver a five-minute pitch in front of a panel of judges and a live audience to compete for a $15,000 grand prize and the Audience Choice Award.

Tickets start at $10 and are available on the ArtWorks website.
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