During the COVID-19 pandemic quarantine, Catherine Baxter was first introduced to pickleball in her boyfriend’s parents’ apartment through their makeshift pickleball court. This level of dedication showcased the love people have for pickleball—and a huge opportunity to break into a new segment of the market. From this opportunity came: Nettie, a pickleball brand bringing well-designed, affordable, and retro-inspired gear and apparel to the ever-growing population of pickleball players.
Catherine, the founder and CEO of Nettie, is originally from Wyoming, Ohio, a short way up I-75 from Cincinnati. In fact, Union Hall’s Vine Street runs all the way up to her hometown! Coincidence? We think not. Catherine called Wyoming home until she left for college at the University of Michigan. After getting her degree, Catherine moved to Chicago. Then, to the Bay Area. Then, NYC. Throughout her time away from Cincinnati, Catherine worked in women’s leadership to empower women at TechBridge Girls and sales for The OpEd Project. Here, she was exposed to entrepreneurship and felt the calling to explore her own ability to create and lead. As she began to work on Nettie, it became increasingly clear that successfully launching the brand in NYC would prove difficult.
Catherine then “boomeranged” back to Cincinnati in search of the tighter-knit community, the abundant resources, and the connections it offered. She knew that “anyone can sell something on the internet,” but the true “difference-maker would be relationships.” And Cincinnati and Cintrifuse were the perfect places to form those relationships.
Catherine got started with Cintrifuse by attending StartupCincy Week, an annual celebration of the local startup community that builds momentum and provides a range of opportunities for the Greater Cincinnati ecosystem. There, she was connected with Brian Duerring, the Director of Startup Services and Operations at Cintrifuse. Brian was a mentor to Catherine, helping her navigate through many opportunities and resources, made vital connections, and, most importantly, instilled the confidence and awareness necessary to begin trying for grants and funding. This resulted in a wave of growth that would have been unlikely alone. “Cintrifuse provided me with the resources and awareness to be able to access their network, but what I didn’t realize was how quickly I could tap into it. The connections were right there at my fingertips.”
Nettie sold out of all products in four months, only two weeks after starting advertising. The $150 annual fee for Cintrifuse access returned over $500,000 in 6 months through sales and fundraising. And Catherine isn’t looking back. She has spent the last few months building & getting to the next phase through fundraising, supply chain development, and product line expansion.
“I started Nettie to bring products and experiences into the world that spark connection, joy, and meaningful relationships. After two years of isolation, technology dependence, and societal divisiveness in the world, we need more ways to get outside and just play with each other.” As Nettie and pickleball grow quickly, the community Catherine has created is doing just that. Her efforts mirror the growing Cincinnati pickleball community with pickleball tournaments and events, a thriving Cincinnati Pickleball Club, and a $500,000 court renovation project underway at Sawyer Point. So make sure to grab a paddle (like this one inspired by Pendleton!), head to the nearest pickleball court, and spark some joy along the way. We can’t wait to see you there.
Also, make sure to check out Nettie’s feature on the Drew Barrymore Show!
Stories like these happen everyday in our community of founders and startups. If you are interested in learning more about Cintrifuse and our membership options, please visit us at cintrifuse.com/cintrifuse-