Diversity & Inclusion

With a pitch for crowd manufacturing, FranciePants wins Open Works’ EnterpRISE Venture competition

Here's a look at the ten maker entrepreneurs who pitched on November 16, and how they plan to grow.

Tech pitch competitions typically feature products that can benefit from blockchain, cloud computing and artificial intelligence. At Open Works’ EnterpRISE Venture Competition, however, teams sought to utilize tools that the Station North makerspace offers such as laser cutters, 3D printers and industrial sewing machines to create physical products.
On Friday, Nov. 16, those teams pitched new products to a panel of judges in areas including healthcare, fashion and transportation. They also shared how their ideas were rooted in the community of Baltimore. It marked the second year of the event.
While each team walked away with an Open Works 3D–printed squirrel and 6 months access to the makerspace, they were pitching for $18,000 in prizes from sponsors that included Baltimore Development Corporation, the Maryland Department of Commerce, PNC Bank, the Abell Foundation, and TEDCO.
The entrepreneurs came from a variety of backgrounds. Among the founders were an engineer, a polymer scientist and  a labor and delivery nurse. Each participant went through four workshops and had access to mentors to prepare a pitch. The winners demonstrated a clear path to scalable product development in Baltimore.

First Place goes to….

FranciePants' Francie Wasser (second from left) won Open Works' 2018 EnterpRISE Venture Competition.

FranciePants’ Francie Wasser (second from left) won Open Works’ 2018 EnterpRISE Venture Competition. (Photo by Dawn Musil)

FranciePants received $10,000 to grow. Founded by Francie Wasser, the company is creating 100 percent cotton underwear for females that is actually stylish and cute. But the true innovation comes from the unique manufacturing style, called “crowd manufacturing,” that provides women with access to training and certification so they can make the products in their home for a livable wage. The company is bringing the gig economy to manufacturing.

And next up…

ClearMask took second place, earning $5,000 with their vision to build more breathable foams at Open Works to incorporate into the company’s clear surgical masks. Cofounder Aaron Hsu works to help those who are deaf and hard of hearing find comfort and access to clear, nonverbal communication cues while experiencing medical care.

3 runners up won $1000 to continue their project, including…

Marsha Hammond pitches Mind the Current at EnterpRISE Venture Competition 2018. (Photo by Dawn Musil)

Marsha Hammond pitches Mind the Current at EnterpRISE Venture Competition 2018. (Photo by Dawn Musil)

  • Engineer Alexander DelSordo, of Blood, Sweat & Gears won $1000 to help build Spredd, an automated salt spreading machine. The product reacts to the weather to help address the more than 600,000 falls that happen annually costing an average of $25,000 per incident due to ice and wintery weather.
  • Mind the Current, created by cancer survivor Marsha Hammond, is transforming the cancer experience through art. She shared her vision for expanding her market, positive reach across the country and how Open Works would make that possible.
  • Spiked Orchids offers upcycled bags and fashion items created from your memorable clothing items. Sporting a skirt upcycled from jeans, Nicole Mighty shared her vision to address the wasteful fashion industry while giving treasured clothes a second life.

Here’s a look at all the teams who pitched:

James Dolgin pitches Durachain at Open Works' EnterpRISE pitch competition. (Photo by Dawn Musil)

James Dolgin pitches Durachain at Open Works’ EnterpRISE pitch competition. (Photo by Dawn Musil)

James Dolgin created Durachain, a longer lasting, no maintenance-needed bike chain that is both rust-free and lubricant-free made of an alternative composite material with production cost that cuts the price of current bike chains in half. His experience in polymer science and improv came through in his pitch for a better commute for bikers world wide. He plans to both test the design and manufacture in Baltimore.
Labor and delivery nurse Katy Lally designed a simple device to hold fetal heart monitors in place at the right angle to face the baby’s heart. Aptly named the Electronic Fetal Heart Angler, she demonstrated her idea to help stabilize fetal heart rate monitors and how she would use Open Works to bring it to life using the CNC and 3-D printer for prototypes.
Kareema McClendon pitched her collection of conservative bridesmaid for older brides at a reasonable price. She showed a silk gown with sequined top to demonstrate one of her first set of designs of Kareema McClendon Baltimore and how it would bring five skilled jobs to the city.
Kevin Brown is using his background in education and social work to help instill creativity in the Baltimore’s youth through handmade leather and leather alternative products. He modeled a pair of handmade boots and brought bags of various colors and sizes that he had made by hand. During the pitch, he talked about how each tool in Open Works’ toolbox would help him bring the satisfaction and skill of handmade products to young members in Baltimore’s community through KB Kollections.
Marta Ali Studios, named after founder Marta Ali, is a digitally-enabled architecture design studio that is creating innovative interior designs while bringing jobs both in manufacturing and design to Baltimore. Marta Ali has had her work displayed on TV sets, houses and conferences around the world.
Judges included previous winner Marie Sellenrick, who has grown and expanded Groundbird Gear through last year’s funding to include two part time employees and more space at Open Works.


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