Z Spools Reflection 9

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Although this week included Easter Break, it feels busier than any other. Considering my

dedication to Dance Ensemble — with me performing in four pieces, three of which I am

choreographing myself — I have not been able to dedicate all of the time I wished to Z Spools.

Now that I am reflecting on my work, I realize that I greatly overburdened myself with other

activities that I care much about but play no role in my academic pursuits. It also did not help

that my laptop got a virus this week and, for this reason, was out of commission. Next semester, I

will have to pay more attention to this tendency of mine as to avoid any unnecessary stress.

 

This is not to say that I did not accomplish anything this week. I was able to do a bit of

reflection regarding my work with Z Spools. Such reflection focused mainly on how I will use

my remaining Avinger Funds. While I do need to use funding for filament testing (mainly

transparency and strength testing) such services are quite expensive — upwards of $2,000. My

utility patent will already cost me approximately $3,000, so I will need to be a bit frugal with my

spending. While I do have the option of seeking angel funding — more particularly angel

funding or sponsorship from Filabot — I risk loosing 100% ownership of Z Spools and its

intellectual property.

 

Not just this, but to be completely honest, I feel as if I am loosing excitement with my

work with Z Spools. Do I want to invest much more money into a project that I am not as excited

about? I think talking to Filabot may help with this decrease in Z Spools charisma. During our

interview for a blog post, I foresee our conversation reigniting my curiosity for 3D printing. I

look forward to this as I further this relationship with Z Spools.

Julie GoffZ Spools Reflection 9
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Z Spools Reflection 8

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Having received correspondence from Filabot and Davidson’s Venture Pitch Fund, this

was quite an eventful week. The good news first: I received a signed Non-Disclosure Agreement

from Filabot. Not just this, but through LinkedIn, I was able to contact and speak with Tyler

McNaney, the CEO of Filabot and a Forbes 30 under 30! I was able to introduce myself in the

following message:

3D Printing with Invasive Species

Dear Mr. McNaney,

My name is Lorena James, and I am the founder of Z Spools. My early stage

startup manufactures 3D printing filament out of invasive species found in the

Great Lakes.

This startup arose out of a senior thesis project completed at my high school in

Buffalo, NY. This project involved competing in Erie Hack, a pitch competition in

Cleveland, OH centered around the theme, “innovation around Lake Erie.” As a

native of Buffalo NY, I have grown up around this body of water and have

experienced both its beauty and its negative qualities, many of which involve

invasive species.

At Erie Hack, I pitched a business plan that would lessen the detrimental affects

of zebra and quagga mussels (two of the most prominent invasive species in Lake

Erie) and provide a new type of biodegradable 3D printing filament. I won this

competition with Z Spools and, as a result, gained financial support and

mentorship from the Cleveland Water Alliance, Ohio State University, the

University at Buffalo, 43 North, and Davidson College.

I would not have been able to accomplish much of this work without the services

and materials provided by Filabot. I have experience working with your PLA

pellets, EX2 Extruder, Spooler, and Airpath; I have nothing but good things to say.

I look forward to continuing this relationship with Filabot as I continue with my

3D printing, environmental, and business endeavors; by the end of the month, I

will send some Z Spools materials to Filabot as to take advantage of your Plastic

Extrusion Testing Services.

Thank you for such exceptional and supportive services; I anticipate what is to

come with Filabot and Z Spools!

Sincerely,

Lorena James

Davidson College 2021

Z Spools, Founder

In response, Mr. McNaney expressed interest in writing a Filabot blog post about Z Spools! In

the upcoming weeks, I will move forward with this relationship along with filament testing with

Filabot.

 

In other news, unfortunately, I was not chosen as a Finalist for the Venture Fund Pitch

Competition. While this competition was worked into my syllabus, as always, I must change and

adapt. So, I now plan to organize a final presentation in May as to showcase my work with Z

Spools at Davidson. This presentation will allow me to not just provide a business pitch, but a

more cumulative view of Z Spools and my work thus far.

Julie GoffZ Spools Reflection 8
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Z Spools Reflection 7

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This week, there were three things on my mind: my Non-Disclosure Agreement (NDA),

my Materials Safety Data Sheet (MSDS), and my Venture Pitch Application. The first task I have

managed to secure thanks to the help of Nathaniel Lucek at Hodgson Russ, a law firm in Buffalo,

NY with which I have completed legal work the summer of 2017. In summary, the Non-

Disclosure Agreement states that any information I share with Filabot cannot be shared with

other parties without my permission nor can it be claimed as their own work. After a phone

conversation with costumer service last week, Filabot agreed to sign the document. So after I

received the drafted document from Hodgson Russ, I emailed Filabot the document to sign.

Now, I wait for the signed document to be returned through email as to proceed with the “Plastic

Extrusion Testing Service.”

 

The second document I must send to Filabot is a Material Safety Data Sheet. Fortunately,

I know that zebra and quagga mussel shells consist of calcium carbonate; so, as Allen Stowe

informed me during a meeting this week, all I have to so it find a Calcium Carbonate Safety Data

Sheet online and send this to Filabot. Below are excerpts of the MSDS I will send to Filabot once

I receive the signed NDA.

 

Last but certainly not least, I am in the process of applying for the Venture Fund Pitch

here on campus. If accepted, I will have the chance to win up to $25,000 to use for filament

testing and, of course, a utility patent. Next week, I will hear of the results; so until then, I keep

moving forward.

Z Spools Data Safety Sheet

Z Spools Data Safety Sheet Section 2

Julie GoffZ Spools Reflection 7
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Z Spools Reflection 6

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Considering the smoldering state of my filament extruder, I view it best to work with a

third party as to continue my filament testing. Alternatively, I could continuing extruding on

campus, but I have already put so much strain on my extruder — due partly to the coarse

qualities of materials I am extruding, and partly because of my relatively amateur ability to

operate said machinery. Fortunately, Filabot, the same company from which I bought my

filament extruder and from which I continue to buy my PLA pellets, offers a new service called

“Plastic Extrusion Testing.” Such a service will allow me to send Z Spools materials away to the

Filabot facility in Vermont where they would not only extrude my filament for me, but would

also provide information regarding the ideal extrusion speed and temperature range for my

filament. The fee is just $180 for which I can pay with my Avinger funds.

 

Before I send my materials away to Filabot for testing, I must first draft a Non-Disclousre

Agreement and a Material Safety Data Sheet. The first document is necessary so to ensure the

protection of my intellectual property during my service engagement with Filabot. The second

document is necessary so that the Filabot technician who will make my filament is aware of any

safety regulations they mast adhere to while handling my materials. In the upcoming week, I will

speak with Nathaniel Lucek — an attorney with which I have worked with in the past — and

Allen Stowe — the Environmental Health and Safety Manager here on campus — regarding a

Non-Disclosure Agreement and a Material Safety Data Sheet (respectively).

 

Until then, as I look back on the steps I have taken with Z Spools, I see that, if Z Spools

had offered this “Plastic Extrusion Testing Service” earlier on my path with Z Spools, I probably

would have used the service to test my filament instead of investing in a filament extruder. This

would have saved me time and money; however, I would have been more hesitant to experiment

with my own extrusion abilities. By working with a filament extruder on my own, I have learned

through trial and error how to work with the machinery on which the Z Spools business premise

is based; so for this reason, while I may wonder “what if ,” I realize that I have gained unique

skills through this file trial and error method of filament extrusion. But thanks to Filabot’s

“Plastic Extrusion Testing Service,” Z Spools persists!

Julie GoffZ Spools Reflection 6
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Z Spools Reflection 5: Spring Break

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This spring break, I had the opportunity to work with the Hiawasee Water Coalition, a group in

Murphy, North Carolina that works to improve the quality of the Hiawasee water shed, a water

system the affects the entire Mississippi water shed. During the trip, we removed invasive

species such as Chinese Privet, Multi-flora Rose, Bamboo. Using clippers and saws, we cut

down such plant that weakened river banks in this agricultural area. We would then plant native

trees that would strengthen the river bank and prevent erosion and water turbidity, an occurrence

that suffocates fish in the Hiawasee river shed.

 

It was very meaningful and inspiring work; while working with these invasive plants, fellow

volunteers described them as an unwanted nuisance, nothing more than garbage. But through my

work with Z Spools, I have learned to see value in the unwanted. These invasive plants would

either be left to decompose in the woods, or collected to be burned. But many of these plants

have medicinal uses in their native countries. Similar to hemp, bamboo can be used to make

clothing. Clearly, these plants are anything but useless. A means of collection already exists:

volunteers through organizations such as the Hiawasee Water Coalition. All that is needed is

someone who is willing to find the value in these “useless” plants. She must form a team of like

minded individuals to propel this idea into fruition, into a market, and into environmental and

entrepreneurial prosperity. I am this person, and I look forward to continuing this line of work

through Z Spools and other similar endeavors.

Julie GoffZ Spools Reflection 5: Spring Break
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Z Spools Reflection 4

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It has been a great experience working in Studio M for the past few weeks. I have been able to

not only work with 3D printers and laser cutters, but I am also able to dedicate more time to

making Z Spools filament. This past Thursday, I headed down to Studio M to do just this. I start

every session with a purging process. This involves extruding not with PLA, but with purging

pellets, a material that is meant to clean out any debris collected in a filament extruder. I am

accustomed with working with low-temperature purging pellets. This essentially means that, as

to use this material, I must preheat the extruder to 180 degrees Celsius. Today, however, I

decided to use a new type of high-temperature purging pellet which is meant to give your

extruder a more thorough cleaning. With this material, I would have to preheat the extruder to

300 degrees Celsius which would not be a problem if the extruder were relatively clean. But no.

Apparently, the extruder still had some left over calcium carbonate residue from the material I

work with. So, once the extruder reached 250 degrees Celsius, it started spewing this thick, white

smoke that smelled of a sweet, burning plastic. Whoops. Considering, I work in the basement of

an academic building, this was not ideal. There were classrooms next door that shut their doors

due to the smell. Before I set off any fire alarms, I unplugged the extruder, picked up the

machine by its green sides and rushed outside, leaving a trail of white smoke in my wake. The

next day, after washing the plastic smell out of my clothes and hair, I returned to Studio M to

take apart my extruder as to give it a good cleaning. Hopefully, we’ll have better luck after

spring break.

Julie GoffZ Spools Reflection 4
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Z Spools Reflection 3

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This week, I planned to complete a run through of a lab during which I would find the

percentage of calcium carbonate in a select collection of zebra and quagga mussel shells. I used a

method of titration for this data collection; after setting up the lab in a space in Wall, I found that

my high school chemistry experience had faded and, in short, I had no idea what I was doing. I

decided to put a hold on the lab as to regroup with my academic advisor. After reviewing the

processes making the needed solutions for titration, I decided to postpone the lab work until the

week after spring break.

 

I am a bit disappointed, but I need to remember that I cannot do everything. I am an entrepreneur

first and a scientist second — if at all. As a woman with great ambition, I tend to get myself into

such situations where I feel overwhelmed and have to reach out to others for help — through

these bumpy experiences not only do I persist and persevere, but I also form strong relationships

along way.

 

Such an experience occurred this weekend at the Davidson Black Alumni Network (DBAN)

Reunion. This event occurred on February 16th and 17th during which I met many supportive

Black Davidson Alumni. During a Davidson Innovation and Entrepreneurship panel, I was able

to pitch my Z Spools endeavor to an audience of like minded alumni — the accompanying visual

of which is shown below.

Lorena's timeline for Z Spools from March 2107 to August 2018

After my aforementioned failure of the past week, it was an invigorating experience; I received

great words of encouragement. Sometimes, I find that I am so busy with work that I do not

realize the extent of my accomplishments. It was great to momentarily experience this sense of

pride, a feeling that helped me look to the future. Let’s not dwell on a short falls of last week;

instead, let’s think “what’s next, what else do we need to accomplish to reach our goals?”

 

Well, here are a couple of things, after making connections with a materials scientist and patent

lawyer at the DBAN reunion, I look to run my patent drafts and methods of extrusion by these

professionals. This is something to look forward to in the upcoming week as I head towards the

mid-point of this semester.

Julie GoffZ Spools Reflection 3
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Z Spools Reflection 2

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This week, I planned a lab in which I would test the levels of Calcium Carbonate in my

zebra and quagga mussel shell powder. Due to unforeseen circumstances, I had to reschedule

this lab for the upcoming week. But, this is what entrepreneurship is all about: pivoting and

adapting; this shift in schedule allowed me time to step back and review my syllabus for this

ENV295 independent study.

Z Spools business model canvas

My original plan was to start modeling weekly Business Model Canvases (BMC) in

March, but now, I see that it will be best to create these BMCs weekly starting this Monday. By

reviewing my Value Propositions, Key Partners, Key Activities, Key Resources, Customer

Relationships, Channels, Customer Segments, Cost Structure, and Revenue Streams every week,

I will be able to stay focused on two main goals — pitching at Davidson’s Venture Pitch

Competition and filing a utility patent — while, at the same time, complete all of my lab work in

a timely fashion. For example, one of my labs involves exploring possible sources of tensile

strength testing. The purpose of this lab is to compare the strength of my filament to the strength

of other filaments such as PLA or ABS. This data would neatly fall into the value proposition

segment of my BMC: if Z Spools filament proves to be stronger than its standard counterpart,

my data serves as a value proposition for those looking for stronger filament options. On the

other hand, if Z Spools filament proves to more brittle, I can conclude that Z Spools filaments

has greater biodegradable qualities than standard PLA filament, a value proposition for the

environmentally conscious. I am currently looking to outsource such testing as to receive reliable

data. But, before I send off any filament for testing, I must finalize my extrusion process.

 

With an official job at Studio M, I am able to dedicate more time to working with my

filament. Not only this, but I also have been afforded the ability to work closely with a variety of

high-end PLA 3D printers. Working with filament with such a consistent quality, I think to

myself, “this is my goal, this is where I want to be, and I am close;” this upcoming week, I am

changing my printing tactics as to further refine my filament. This involves changing certain

temperature settings and extrusion speeds on my filament extruder — located in Studio M.

Hopefully by the end of the month, I will have a finalized edition of Z Spools filament. Until, I

will be working closely with my Business Model Canvases as to stay on target.

Julie GoffZ Spools Reflection 2
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Z Spools Reflection 1: It Started with Failure

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One year has passed since the ideation of Z Spools, my early stage start-up venture. The

idea started with a certain failure faced my senior year of high school; as a student in an

entrepreneurial studies class, I was assigned the task of presenting a seventy second pitch to my

classmates, the purpose of which was to convince them to pursue said idea as a class project. All

of my classmates were given the same assignment, and the top three pitches with the most votes

would be selected as projects for the remainder of the course. Here, I made my first pitch for

what was then called Edible Solutions.

 

The concept was this: Edible Solutions would harvest invasive species and sell them in

restaurants and grocery stores as food products. For example, waterthyme (hydrilla verticillata) is

a prominent invasive species in Lake Erie. This organism is known for creating monocultures;

however, the plant itself has a high calcium content and is sold in stores in powder form for use

in smoothies and protein shakes. In the case of hydrilla, not only would Edible Solutions provide

a high quality, nutritious smoothie and shake ingredient, but we would also help diversify

natural areas affected by the dominant nature of hydrilla. The day following this mini pitch

competition, I learned that I lost out to a cruise line, pillow supplier, and ice cream shop.

 

A cruise line. A pillow supplier. An ice cream shop.

 

I was more shocked than disappointed that my classmates did not see the great value of my

proposition. Throughout the experience of the Entrepreneurial Studies course, I learned to view

entrepreneurship as a way to improve my society, to pursue a passion that would benefit others.

My classmates’ apparent lack of societal and environmental virtue moved me to action. No

matter where or how, I knew I would pursue my environmental entrepreneurial endeavor.

 

I expressed these qualms to my entrepreneurial studies teacher. She proceeded to provide

information regarding a competition called Erie Hack, a pitch competition taking place around

all major cities around Lake Erie — my hometown of Buffalo, NY included. The theme of the

competition was “innovation around Lake Erie,” making Edible Solutions an ideal contender. I

enrolled in the competition and began to prepare for a succession of pitches that would lead to

my to winning the Grand Prize in Cleveland, OH not for my concept of repurposing invasive

species.

 

While Edible Solutions, was not explicitly included my final pitch, a series of

consultations with high school teachers and professors at the University at Buffalo led me to

pivot towards Z Spools, a similarly minded startup with a more technical theme. I pivoted for this

reason: Lake Erie is not a clean water source, it contains a lot of pollution from runoffs and, for

that reason, most organisms living in the Lake are not safe to consume. So, while I would not be

able to repurpose invasive species for food, I began to think along the lines of something nonedible

like plastic. Reminded of a school field trip to a 3D printing company in Buffalo, on a

whim, I thought, why not make 3D printing filament? It was not after much research did I

discover a legitimate way to make 3D printing filament out zebra and quagga mussel shells —

two of the most prominent invasive species in not just Lake Erie, but also the Great Lakes.

 

Today, February 5th, 2018, I have an award winning, patent pending business idea that

arose out of seeming failure. I have earned over $10,000 in funding, and am continuing work

with my environmental entrepreneurial endeavor through an independent study on Davidson’s

campus. Stick with me for the next four months for an inside look on the life of a student

entrepreneur and how to pivot from failure to success!

Julie GoffZ Spools Reflection 1: It Started with Failure
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