A sold out, standing room only crowd of over 500 cheered on a baker who struggles with OCD and anxiety to win The Big Pitch at Rhinegeist Brewery. On Oct. 7James Avant sailed through his pitch to win $15,000 to seed his budding business Obsessive Cake Disorder
. The audience choice award of $5,000 went to Scott Beseler of The Lodge
in Northern Kentucky.
The Big Pitch is a 10-week program open to creative small business owners who have been in business for at least two years. The entrepreneurs who are selected for the program receive training and mentoring from both a small business mentor and a U.S. Bank banking advisor.
A recent University of Cincinnati grad, Avant saw his ticks and quirks increase significantly with the increased stress of the first few years of college, which prompted him to seek treatment and led him to his calling.
Beseler designed The Lodge as a “one-stop-shop” for bands, including digital and analog audio recording, screen printing studio, photography, event and performance center and even spaces for traveling and hardworking musicians and artists to sleep.
The 2015 winner, Hayes Shanesy, opened by detailing the ways in which his businesses had grown with the win. The woodworker and furniture maker of the Brush Factory opened a new store on Main Street in Over-the-Rhine, and will be featured in Dwell magazine in an upcoming issue.
The pitchers delivered a wealth of anecdotes about inspirational ancestors and the local importance of makers and craftsmen. Jonathan Fox of Fox Aprons recalled his grandfather inviting, "You ready to cook kid?", coaching him to cook and inspiring him to design a sturdy apron where every tool had a place. He wrapped up with a photo of a nearly empty American manufacturing facility, underscoring that his business employed American workers to manufacture the aprons.
An organic line of beauty and self-care products was pitched by Tempal Hitt, who discovered her business calling while struggling to treat a small son with eczema. "I became a mad scientist," she laughed.
The eight pitches were varied and entertaining -- a framer, a screen printer who employed recovering addicts to teach a trade, a furniture maker, a graphic clothing line designer. The shared anecdotes of struggling to fill orders, install central heating, finding manufacturing and studio space.
Over the course of the program, the eight finalists prepared their business plan and their pitches. The $15,000 cash prize presented by U.S. Bank was based on equal parts of the finalists’ business plan and on their pitch.
- James Avant, OCD Cakes takes a bite out of stigma with beautiful custom baked goods and mental health awareness.
- Scott Beseler, The Lodge, is a dream recording studio, event space and resource center for artists of all kinds.
- Jonathan Fox, Fox Aprons makes a kitchen-tested chef's apron like no other out of raw denim produced in the United States.
- Tempal Hitt, Grace Green Beauty uses only “the good stuff” — organic ingredients in her personal care, beauty and wellness line.
- Khisha Asubuhi, Originalitees makes ultra-comfortable T-shirts that let the wearer show off the places they’re proud of.
- Sara Swinehart, SRO Prints offers graphic design with a social mission to employ individuals in recovery.
- Jake Gerth, frameshop is becoming Cincinnati’s go-to place for custom framing in both home and business.