Entrepreneurs / Events / Startups

MICA’s UP/Start pitch competition had publishers, prosthetics and plastic bags

Artists got entrepreneurial, and five ventures walked away with funding.

Trisha Cheeney pitches Upcycle Outerwear. (Photo by Stephen Babcock)

MICA students and recent alums took the stage at the Brown Center Thursday night to show off some of their latest creations. Along with unique approaches to their discipline, they also had calculations on how much money would be required to go to market, and how to target potential customers.
The business side was an important consideration that MICA President Sammy Hoi said the arts college is looking to foster. Thursday night was one of the brightest signs of that effort, with the finals of the UP/Start venture competition.
The eight finalists who pitched were selected from a larger group of students and alums who gathered in February. Along with bringing MICA students who are launching businesses together, the program also brings the wider tech community closer to the college community.
The startups who made the finals were mentored by tech community members like Tracey Halvorsen of Fastspot, Ken Malone of Early Charm Ventures and members of the Baltimore Angels. Judges included Tim Train of Big Huge Games, investor John Cammack and David Wise of the Abell Foundation.
Here’s a look at the companies, and the five that received funding:

Dandelion Wine Collective. (Photo by Stephen Babcock)

Dandelion Wine Collective. (Photo by Stephen Babcock)

Dandelion Wine Collective

  • Seniors Paloma Hernando and Bekky Shin received $25,000 to help bring independent comics more light. Their micro-publishing outfit will publish, market and sell comics, zines and graphic novels.

Zee Bait Co.

  • Recent alum Hunter Grogan received the other big prize of $25,000 for his fishing bait and lure manufacturing company.

Danae Prosthetics. (Photo by Stephen Babcock)

Danae Prosthetics. (Photo by Stephen Babcock)

Danae Inc.

  • Winston Frazier was back to pitch his 3D-printed prosthetics company for a second year. The founder and his team are looking to develop software that can create a 3D scan of a person’s original limb to allow more customization for a prosthetic device. Frazier picked up a total of $25,000, winning $20,000 from judges and $5,000 for the people’s choice award.

Guitars by Evil Evil. (Photo by Stephen Babcock)

Guitars by Evil Evil. (Photo by Stephen Babcock)

Guitars By Evil Evil

  • Benjamin Torres and Ian Murphy got $20,000 to ramp up their custom, high-end guitar manufacturing business.


  • Joyce Anitagrace picked up $10,000 for her publishing company, which produces bilingual literature for pre-school and elementary school children.

Upcycle Outerwear

  • Trisha Cheeny is using plastic grocery bags to produce jackets, vests and book bags. Along with using renewable material, Cheeney is looking take on the wasteful production in the fashion industry. She has a pair of prototypes.

Quarters. (Photo by Stephen Babcock)

Quarters. (Photo by Stephen Babcock)


  • Diamond James is looking to tap into college networks with a platform to help people seeking housing during internships or other programs find housing. It can help alumni who stay in town stay connected with their college, and they would be less likely to run up the price on students, she said.

Club Sweetness

  • A new line of streetwear for women is coming from Brittney Dori Wilson, who wants to provide a new way for people to express themselves.
Companies: Maryland Institute College of Art
People: John Cammack / Ken Malone / Tracey Halvorsen

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