• Todd Petrella

How UP Cycle Design is Making It Happen

When it comes to starting and running a business, all the makings and narrative elements of a story are present. UP Cycle Design is no different. A few weeks ago, I went over how and why our company was started. If you’re new to the blog and missed it, you can go back and read the introduction story. Continuing from that, I want to talk about the next part of the story: pitch competitions and gaining funding to maintain the business.

UP Cycle Design 2nd Place at Make It Happen Challenge

Sierra and Michelle have gone through many pitch competitions in order to support their business and get it off the ground. One of their recent victories happened in a University of Delaware event called the Make It Happen Challenge. You can read about that here, but essentially the challenge is a semester-long design challenge presented by the UD MakerGym and Horn Entrepreneurship to provide funding, hands-on training, and mentoring to winning students to assist with furthering their venture.


After what was described as a super intense pitch and Q&A session, UP Cycle Design placed 2nd overall, with 1st place going to Hydra Cultivation Network (a microbiology based project) and 3rd place going to Coral Connectors (a coral reef revival project). I actually have a class with Samuel K, the brilliant mind behind Coral Connectors, and I’m hoping to have an interview with him in the near future to share more about his project here on the blog! These three teams all received funding, and Sierra and Michelle actually received the most funding despite placing 2nd overall! Go us! Not only that, but the judges gave a specific shout out to UP Cycle Design for following one of the key aspects of entrepreneurship: focusing on the problem (problem, problem, problem, gotta drive it home), not the solution.


As mentioned before, the challenge lasts the entire semester, and seeing that it is now May, the challenge will be ending in a few short weeks. Over the course of the semester, the facilitators of the Make It Happen Challenge required weekly check-ins, which mostly served as design consultations. Michelle helmed the majority of the design work, but she described it as hard to keep up with, which is very understandable; we are all college students after all. As a matter of fact, I have to give my own personal shout out to both Michelle and Sierra because I definitely can not do what they have been doing this whole time.


In order to balance the project and schoolwork, Michelle has spent the majority of the semester designing a plan to be enacted over the summer, while also designing three different prototypes for the challenge. Let’s go over the plan and prototypes.


The main goal of the project is to cut down on the time it takes to make the stickers, which is currently around 30 minutes to create one sticker. Ideally, our new production time would be half of the time it takes now. In order to help with this, Michelle used the funding to purchase an embroidery machine, as well as, a Cricut, a super duper fancy fabric cutting machine.


As for the three prototypes, the first was a design for upcycled backpacks, which unfortunately turned out to be too hard and time consuming (for the time being, of course). After deciding to put the backpacks on hold, Michelle made a makeup/toiletry bag prototype. The second prototype is for upcycled tote bags. The aim of the tote bags is to assist Delaware businesses struggling to find alternatives to plastic bags after plastic bags were banned in Delaware in early January of this year. The third prototype was actually gone over already a few weeks ago, in our Level Up to the Moon and Back post! Be sure to read up on that in case you missed it or are new to the blog! To quickly summarize, Level Up is an 8 week long program for high school students to teach them about entrepreneurship and sustainability, while also supporting nonprofit organizations. The most recent cohort helped design the Unity to the Moon and Back sticker, which can be found in our shop for a limited time! This design serves as the third prototype for the Make It Happen challenge.

Unity to the Moon and Back Sticker
Unity to the Moon and Back sticker

So that’s where Up Cycle Design is at currently in its story, and as the Make It Happen Challenge wraps up along with this current spring semester, we’ll be moving forward to implement our plan! So stay tuned for exciting new updates coming soon!


Do you have any questions, comments, or opinions? We’d love to hear from you! Feel free to leave your thoughts in the comments below! Thank you for reading!


Follow us on Instagram: @up.cycle.design and Facebook: UP Cycle Design

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