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
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!