Open Works' venture competition isn't only about the pitch - Technical.ly Baltimore

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Sep. 25, 2018 11:24 am

Open Works’ venture competition isn’t only about the pitch

Along with the showcase and prizes, the Station North makerspace's EnterpRISE offers business training and access to its tools. We checked in with one of last year's winners.

Groundbird Gear took home second prize at the EnterpRISE Venture Competition.

(Photo by Stephen Babcock)

Open Works is opening up its tools to a group of small business and startups this fall.

The EnterpRISE Venture Competition returns for its second year, and is seeking out early-stage companies that make a physical product. The Station North makerspace will pick eight companies to participate. Winners get cash prizes up to $10,000, and Open Works memberships for six months. Applications are due by September 28.

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“If you can leverage our wood shop, metal shop, CNC router, laser cutter, 3D printer, sewing, or graphic design facilities to prove your idea and take it into production, we will give you the resources to do the rest,” Open Works Executive Director Will Holman said in a statement.

The program include a four-week business bootcamp, which offers coaching on business, legal and funding topics. It also includes pitch preparation. The final round for the competition is Nov. 17, when judges select winners at a pitch night. It’s one of a number of newer programs for maker and creative startups we’re seeing around town that offer access and resources to help build a business beyond a single night.

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Among this year’s judges is Marie Sellenrick. The MICA grad is the founder of Groundbird Gear, which makes custom hiking gear for dogs, including packs and harnesses. Sellenrick took part in last year’s inaugural competition. Though the concept of pitching was “very new,” she ended up winning second prize. The business advice and access to Open Works offered “renewed clarity of how I should take this to the next level and recommit to it all,” Sellenrick said.

During last year’s competition, Sellenrick also moved the industrial sewing machine from her house into the microstudio space at Open Works. With the winnings and membership that followed, she was able to buy a second machine. With access to a lasercutter, she also digitized the patterns for the company’s products, transitioning from paper and hand cutting.

“Now we can machine cut all of our parts, which saves a ton of time,” Sellenrick said.

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