Press Releases

Eight finalists chosen in MICA's fifth annual UP/Start Venture Competition

The finalists' ventures range from sustainable skincare-oriented products to a company producing genderless clothing to all-in-one accessible footwear.

Event goers check out ventures at the fifth-annual pop-up-and-pitch event for MICA's UP/Start Venture Competition.

BALTIMORE — The Maryland Institute College of Art (MICA) is pleased to announce this year’s eight Up/Start Venture Competition finalists, who were selected from a total of 37 applicants following their presentations to a panel of judges at a “pop up and pitch” event on Friday, Feb. 7.

The UP/Start Venture Competition, now in its fifth year, is an initiative of MICApreneurship and the newly created Ratcliffe Center for Creative Entrepreneurship, and focuses on incubating and building creative business ventures within the MICA community. The finalists will compete for seed funding totaling $100,000, funded by the Philip E. and Carole R. Ratcliffe Foundation, at the finale event in April. 

The competition is only open to Classes of 2019 and 2020 students and alumni. 

Each finalist will make a final pitch to a new panel of judges (to be announced at a later date), and the funding will be allocated to the winners who present the most compelling and innovative entrepreneurial ideas. The finalists will also each be paired with an industry leader or investor as a mentor to refine their business plans and presentation skills in the weeks leading up to the finale event. 

New this year are funds allocated to the finalists for prototyping and their finale table displays, website development support from Wix and peer mentorship from past UP/Start winners.

The finale event is free and open to the public. It will take place from 5-8 p.m. April 14  in the Brown Center, 1301 W. Mount Royal Ave. In addition to the $100,000 in seed funding, a $5,000 People's Choice Award — which finale attendees will vote for — will be awarded. Those involved who don’t receive funding from the judges will receive $500 stipends to continue advancing their ideas.

To learn more about UP/Start, click here. To learn about MICA’s commitment to creative entrepreneurship, and learn more about the recently announced Ratcliffe Center for Creative Entrepreneurship, click here.

The 2020 Up/Start finalists: 

Hadassah Dowuona 
Founder: Hadassah Dowuona ’20 (Fiber BFA)
Hadassah Dowuona is a Ghanaian-American textile and graphic designer using textiles and graphic design to promote cultural awareness, unite Africans and the African Diaspora and to celebrate black heritage through fashion. Her textiles incorporate themes and symbols from Africa with some western design aesthetics.

M Strickland Design 
Founder: M Strickland ’19 (Social Design MA)
M Strickland Design is an equity-based human centered design (HCD) studio in the DMV. It helps social service organizations — like organizations that provide essential services like healthcare, housing and education to marginalized communities — design more impactful products, programs and services.

Makers for Humankind 
Founder: Mikea Hugley ’19 (Graphic Design BFA)
Makers for Humankind’s mission is to develop accessible footwear that bridges the gap between the fortunate and less fortunate and many stigmas that plague society. Its signature shoe, the “HM1’s,” is an all-in-one shoe, both sneaker and sandal. The shoe consists of a weather proof sock, a 3-D printed sole, a screw and strap, and can be assembled and reassembled by switching out parts for purposes such as weather, affordability and aesthetics. The company’s goal is to utilize a one-for-one model and partner with community organizations to distribute donations.

The Maryland Institute Black Archive
Founder: Deyane Moses ’19 (Photography BFA) and ’21 (Curatorial Practice MFA)
The Maryland Institute Black Archives (MIBA) uncovers The Maryland Institute College of Art’s (MICA) Black History. The collection shares the stories of the college’s first black artists, the accomplishments of those who attempted to study from 1896 to 1954 but could not because of the color of their skin. MIBA is working to archive the current MICA community in its totality, as well as expand to local archives and other institutions.

Photo Story Workshop 
Founder: Heidi Good Boncana ’20 (Social Design MA)
Photo Story Workshop is an educational platform for youth to learn the language of photography and visual storytelling in order to express themselves, amplify voice and build agency from an early age. Photo Story Workshop uses a “photo voice” method of community participatory photography to discuss social issues and promote positive social change.

Founder: Claire Chuff ’20 (Product Design & Graphic Design BFA)
Pura is an ecommerce company that designs, manufactures and sells sustainable, skincare-oriented products. The Pura makeup brush set will be the first of a line of beauty and wellness products designed to be highly functional, aesthetically pleasing and sustainable. The goal of Pura is to offer products that are as good for the environment as they are for your skin.

Small Island Clothing
Founder: Sara Stanton ’19 (Business of Art & Design MPS)
Small Island Clothing is one of the only genderless tie companies designed specifically for transgender and gender nonconforming folks who are tired of having to choose between binary clothing options for “men” or “women,” and who avoid shopping as a result. This genderless clothing line is a new way for disenfranchised folks to feel empowered when shopping for clothing, with a product that provides comfort without labels, for people without labels. Small Island’s vision is a world without labels for “men” and “women.”

Founder: Haven DeAnglis ’20 (Fiber BFA)
STITCH AND DESTROY is the first punk clothing business committed to sustainability and reducing textile waste. STITCH AND DESTORY produces one of a kind punk and alternative clothing and accessories using only recycled materials, such as used clothing and fabric scraps. While being committed to reducing waste, STITCH AND DESTROY also believes sustainable clothing should be affordable. STITCH AND DESTROY received the $500 People's Choice Award at Friday's event.