Jess Sheldon of CityScape Tiles wins Aviatra’s Flight Night pitch competition

Kenton Hornbeck
Kenton Hornbeck
Kenton is a reporter for LINK nky. Email him at [email protected]

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Eleven rising female business owners took center stage at Fedder’s Car Barn in Newport Thursday, each looking to wow the crowd with their personalities and entrepreneurial acumen. 

Hosted by Covington-based Aviatra Accelerators, a nonprofit that supports women-owned startups and small businesses, the Flight Night pitch competition gave 11 Greater Cincinnati area female business owners a chance to broadcast their business pitches to a captive audience of fellow entrepreneurs, community leaders and family members.

Each participating entrepreneur recently graduated from Aviatra’s Momentum Accelerator – a 10-week, 30-hour program designed for newer, revenue-positive businesses of $50,000 or more seeking to build upon their “momentum.”

“I can’t believe that it’s only been ten weeks with these lovely ladies,” said Jasmine Hughes, marketing strategist and program manager at Aviatra. “I feel like I’ve known them for so much longer. You know, all the time that we’ve been able to spend together in class and out of class, it’s just been an absolutely delightful whirlwind and they’re all amazing women.”

Throughout the Momentum Accelerator program, each entrepreneur created a business plan with a three-year financial projection and participated in networking and coaching on sales strategies, finance, funding, marketing, and human resources taught by local experts.  For their participation, each entrepreneur received $1,000 of in-kind business services.

In the end, Jessica Sheldon of CityScape Tiles, a Cincinnati business that imprints photographs onto ceramic tiles for either gifts or functional use, took home the grand prize of $1,000 in cash. 

“CityScape Tiles is doing more than creating timeless and functional art,” Sheldon said during her pitch. “We’re making the process interactive, fun, and engaging for collectors and gift givers alike.”

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Sheldon began her business through happenstance. Her first job out of college was working as a lifeguard in Cincinnati’s Over-the-Rhine neighborhood in the early 2000s. At the time, the neighborhood was undergoing a revitalization, with many of its historic buildings being renovated.

One day, Sheldon said she was walking down the street when she noticed a pile of discarded ceramic tiles sitting in a dumpster next to a historic building.

“I did what every rational human being does, and I gathered them up and brought them back to my apartment,” Sheldon said.

Nearly a year passed before she finally found a good use for the tiles. A photographer by trade, Sheldon decided to imprint a collection of her photographs onto each tile. Her plan was to gift them to her partner.

When presented with the tiles, her partner graciously accepted the unique gift. However, Sheldon said that after about a month, the tiles began to deteriorate. It was at that moment she was struck with inspiration.

“In that moment, I learned two incredibly valuable lessons that aided me along this journey,” Sheldon said. “One: to listen, and two: be ready to pivot.” 

Sheldon fine-tuned her process, turning her gift idea into a business venture. Today, Sheldon said she has placed tile orders from cities across the country — from New York and Chicago. 

Jessica Wright of Wright Workforce Solutions, a Florence-based human resources provider for small businesses, startups, and entrepreneurs, took home the Fan Favorite Award, which audience members voted on.

Northern Kentucky was well represented at Flight Night. In total, six of the 10 participating businesses were from Northern Kentucky.

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  • Jessica Wright of Wright Workforce Solutions.
  • Emily Ryan of Petal & Stem: Covington-based full-service, philanthropic floral company specializing in weddings, events, and build-your-own-bouquet classes.
  • Jennifer Myka of Free Radical Ranch: 54-acre farm in Morning View that provides farm stays, tours, science, and educational programs about animals and sustainable farming.
  • Billie Kegley of The Roost Latonia: Latonia-based coffee shop and retailer looking to expand into catering, short-term rentals, small-venue rentals, and an online marketplace for Kentucky products.
  • Jaqueline Mayer of Mayer Law: Newport-based criminal defense that consults with clients to help navigate the legal system.
  • Ashley Meenach of Boundless Beauty: Newport-based styling service that provides makeup, hairstyling, and wardrobe rentals.

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