Foraday—2021 UP/Start Finalist

Sean Duffy ’20 (User Experience Design MPS), Stephanie Petagno ’02 (General Sculpture Studies BFA), and Amber LaRosa, co-founders of Foraday, a 2021 UP/Start Finalist

With backgrounds that cross graphic design and sculpture, as well as set and costume design, three friends—Sean Duffy ’20 (User Experience Design MPS), Stephanie Petagno ’02 (General Sculpture Studies BFA), and Amber LaRosa—came together as business partners, in part, because of paper.

Stephanie Petagno ’02 (General Sculpture Studies BFA)

“Being a graphic designer, paper is our go-to material for things, so it’s always something I’ve worked with,” LaRosa explained.

So when she was asked to help with a stingray costume for a niece to wear during a theme day at summer camp, it was only natural that LaRosa turned to paper. She sent it digitally so that her niece was able to print the costume and assemble it herself. And after showing Petagno the costume, the idea for Foraday, a finalist in the 2021 UP/Start Venture Competition, was born.

 “Amber actually had made some other really incredible paper projects that were graphically beautifully fleshed out,” Petagno said. “And I’d made full costumes before out of paper. But I hadn't considered costumes as a product that could be shared between people, across continents, until then.”

The pair teamed with Duffy, a friend of LaRosa’s from their days as graphic design undergraduates at the University of Cincinnati. And Duffy—who was, at the time, also a part of the MPS in User Experience Design program at MICA—used the research skills he was gaining at the College to explore the potential of launching a paper costume company.

“I began researching, asking questions such as is this really a market, are we really meeting unmet needs from parents or people that might be shopping at big box costume stores?” he said. “We found that people were really looking for something like this and nobody was providing it in a big way.”

That something is Foraday, a paper costume company, which seeks to produce print-it-yourself costumes that can also be mailed to customers pre-printed and pre-cut and are fully recyclable. With a vision to create spaces for children and adults to indulge their creativity and innate desire to play, the trio plan to feature original characters, customizable artwork, and narrative-driven designs.

To help get the venture off the ground, the business partners began looking at grants, and Duffy said that the College’s UP/Start competition was a natural fit for their goals.

Sean Duffy ’20 (User Experience Design MPS)

“Because we're all artists, we want to make a for profit business. We want to grow something that is economically sustained. We want to get other creatives involved beyond the three of us, to create something that truly grows. And that’s what MICA was looking for.”

And in speaking about artists as entrepreneurs, Petagno added, “The narrative of the starving artist needs to be abandoned, because it doesn't hold up, as evidenced by my career and also the careers of my two business teammates. Nobody here is a starving artist, and that really speaks to the ingenuity and the potential of the artistic brain in creative fields and in other fields including business.”

She continued, “And the second narrative that I want to challenge is that creative people aren't business people. That’s not true at all. Time and time again creatives have gone on to create things that have changed the world.”