Diversity & Inclusion

10 founders pitched at Open Works, and showed how makerspaces can help build businesses

A by-maker-for-makers tool called the Versamaker took home the win at the EnterpRISE Venture Competition. As a whole, the Nov. 17 event signaled energy toward building new product businesses in Baltimore.

Being a pitch competition at a makerspace, Open Works’ EnterpRISE Venture Competition featured plenty of demos that came to life off the screen.

There was even some help from the living. For the second pitch, a bike carrying a pair of girls descended the steps. Later, a dog that helped model a hiking pack.
Throughout the Nov. 17 event, the ten ventures pointed to how startups making physical goods have a place among the city’s startup community. While the approaches spanned lifestyle products to clothing to medical devices, the big focus on the night was bringing manufacturing back to Baltimore. Each entrepreneur worked with a mentor from the Baltimore tech community, and most had an idea for how they would utilize the tools at Station North–based Open Works to move forward.
Here’s a look at the pitches from the Nov. 17 contest:

The Winner

In the end, however, it was a tool that will help create products that impressed judges. The Versamaker, created by Johns Hopkins student Travis Chan, took home the $10,000 prize, which comes with a six-month membership with studio space at the makerspace. The product looks like a 3D printer, but is designed to allow for multiple tool heads for CNC milling, laser engraving and other tasks on the same machine.
“With every single tool that I add, I’ll be able to reach a new market,” he said.

In second place…

Groundbird Gear took home a $5,000 prize on the night, as well as a six-month Open Works membership with studio space. Marie Sellenrick’s harness and saddlebag system helps dogs help hikers lighten the load. Sellenrick talked about some recent traction, and how moving into Open Works helped with the company’s efficiency. Having a canine onhand to show off the product probably didn’t hurt, either.

These three entrepreneurs won $1,000 and Open Works membership access:

Femly Box is a subscription-based box with feminine hygiene products including tampons and pads. Chief Estrogen Officer Arion Long is also stocking it with natural body care and beauty products.

Clean Tools, from Scrub Nail Boutique founder Jasmine Simms, features a line of single-use biodegradable manicuring tools.

Guitars by Evil Evil, the custom guitar business that impressed at MICA’s Up/Start pitch competition, made some noise once again. Benjamin Torres said the founders have been working to build up the company’s social media reach ahead of launch and are looking to move into a new space.

Bikes, Yoga and Hats:

Stephenia Lewis Stone provided one of the strongest illustrations of the night on how Baltimore’s manufacturing past links to a future that spaces like Open Works are catalyzing. Stone remembers the days when downtown Baltimore’s streets were lined with makers. With Alida’s Millinery, she is looking to revive custom hatmaking.

Another note for Baltimore manufacturing was sounded by Tom and Mary Longest, who created yoga shorts that are designed to be comfortable for men.

J. Neal Designs showcased a new ride for cyclists, with room for the kids. The Maggie Waggie traversed the stairs at Open Works. Jason Neal wants the streets to be next.

Surgical Vision Systems showcased the medical device innovation that’s happening in Baltimore. The company has a thermal imaging laparoscope and software to provide surgeons with real-time images. Rasa Ghaffarian and surgeon Jonathan Pearl are looking to move forward with commercializing the technology.

For Jim Klausmeyer, salvaged building materials offer an opportunity to create furniture using one-of-a-kind lumber that no longer grows, as well as employ youth in the process of making the products. That’s the idea behind bMore Reclaimed.



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