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Startup Student Testimonial

Blog Post 2

In the past two weeks NXT LVL ENT has made significant progress. We’ve met with the UTees representative and we gave him our finalized design and learned that the shirts were cheaper than we originally thought. We made inquiries about other items of clothing that we can order in the future in addition to shirts; items like baseball caps, sweatpants, long-sleeve shirts and stickers for laptops. We’ve received a preview of the shirts and once we make a small tweak to the font we’ll put in the order for the first batch of shirts.

We also had a conference call with Matt Loftus and Kevin Hubbard, the Davidson alumni and founders of Rhoback. We had a really good conversation about what we mistakes we need to avoid, how to generate interest for our merchandise and stay competitive in this business. They pointed us to websites they use for making online sales and they also told us about legal steps we need to take to be able to sell merchandise in North Carolina. It was a very productive conversation.

So now that we have our design finalized, the next step is to order the shirts. We’ll send out surveys and find out how interested the student body is in our shirt. We’ll also begin to let people know that merchandise is coming through our social media accounts and upcoming shows to get people hype about our new product.

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Startup Student Testimonial

Z Spools Reflection 4

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.

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Startup Student Testimonial

Blog Post 3

I’m really excited about the progress I’ve been making. Through my independent study I’ve been generating a lot of content, and where those pieces are longer and covering a variety of topics, I’ll be able to break them up into shorter posts for econically.com and cross post them that way as well. I also have plans to create a glossary of terms as they come up, and I keep getting ideas for new content categories, such as a recommended additional reading section.

I used the funds I initially had set aside for animating software to get a kindle tablet and a stylus. With that investment, I turned a post-it note storyboard into a full video that is now embedded in my first blog post, and has also allowed me to make diagrams as I work on newer posts. I’m really excited for the opportunities the tablet will provide, and I can’t wait to see what I can do next.

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Startup Student Testimonial

Z Spools Reflection 3

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.

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Startup Student Testimonial

Blog Post 1

I’m proud to say that NXT LVL ENT has been making progress with our clothing line initiative. We’ve received the first installment of funds from the Failure Fund grant and have successfully opened up a joint account with Wells Fargo. We’ve contacted the UTees representative and will be able to order the first shipment of shirts very soon. In the meantime, we’ve been talking with a lawyer, a Davidson Alumni, Doug Kim, to discuss the legal implications of starting a business and managing a clothing line. This includes trademarks, copyright and the necessary steps to becoming an entity.

We’ve also been in contact with other Davidson Alumni; specifically Matt Loftus and Kevin Hubbard, the founders of Rhoback, a polo-shirt company. Matt and Kevin will serve as mentors for us as we embark on this journey. We’re sure we’ll learn a lot from them. All in all, we’re off to a great start and Phase one will soon be in full swing. The money is secured and we have mentors to guide us through this process.

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Startup Student Testimonial

Z Spools Reflection 2

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.

Categories
Startup Student Testimonial

Z Spools Reflection 1: It Started with Failure

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!