for Innovation and Entrepreneurship
at Davidson College

for Innovation and Entrepreneurship
at Davidson College

Startup Student Testimonial

Blog Post 4

The past couple of weeks have been super productive. We received our order of 50 shirts from UTEES. Before we started selling them, we applied for and got approved as an LLC through the LegalZoom website. We announced that we were selling shirts to the campus and over the past 4 days we have sold over half of our inventory. Our customers have paid with cash and venmo and we’ve kept a record of all of our transactions. We found a website domain provider through GoDaddy that we will launch once we’ve received the Phase 2 funds. We’ve also set up a PayPal account for mobile transactions and a Twitter account.

We’ve also done research on other brand items. We’ve been looking into new shirts and stickers to help increase the spread of our brand. We’ll have the exact prices from our Utees rep soon. Our artists are also currently working on new designs for future merchandise. The budget has been updated save for the exact prices of the stickers and transportation costs. Finally, we were able to successfully apply for the Davidson Venture Fund Competition and will find out tomorrow if we’ve been accepted as finalists. Things are moving smoothly and we’re confident we’ll be able to sell all 50 shirts and create more buzz for future products.

Startup Student Testimonial

Z Spools Reflection 8

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!


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



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.

Startup Student Testimonial

Blog Post 4

The site is up and running with images! After getting feedback from a friend on what worked and didn’t work, I have fine-tuned what I’m calling my “snarky kindergartener aesthetic.” While I’ll keep honing the image style as I hone the content style, I am happy with the current images and I now feel that the site is strong enough to begin actively recruiting readership. I am still facing some technical difficulties (such as getting the featured images to format the way I want them, rather than taking up more than a screen length in size), but these are small bumps in the road that can be worked out smoothly and with time. Early last week, I had the honor of being invited to speak to Dr. Shireen Campbell’s professional writing class, which is the course in which I initially started blogging about economics. I spoke to them both about developing the blog and the process of applying for grants and writing proposals. In the coming weeks, I’m looking toward shifting my focus away from content and web development and toward more general web presence: facebook, twitter, instagram, SEO and etc.

Startup Student Testimonial

Z Spools Reflection 7

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

Startup Student Testimonial

Blog Post 3

In these past couple of weeks, NXT LVL ENT publicly announced the launch of our clothing line to the Davidson student body via Facebook, our Instagram page and through direct emails. We created a survey for students to fill out that told us what size shirt they wanted and any additional feedback they had to offer. Requests for shirts have been steadily pouring in. We’ve also ordered the first 50 shirts and they should be getting to us either by the end of this week or early next week. In addition to ordering the shirts, we’ve also begun looking at other colors which we will wear to create more of a buzz for shirts and to gauge interests in other colors.

Also, we’ve begun recruiting other artists into NXT LVL ENT and these people will also be wearing the shirts and helping us to get the word out about the NXT LVL clothing line.

Startup Student Testimonial

Z Spools Reflection 6

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!

Startup Student Testimonial

Z Spools Reflection 5: Spring Break

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.

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