Introducing the 2024 MICA UP/Start Venture Competition Winners

The Ratcliffe Center for Creative Entrepreneurship (RCCE) at Maryland Institute College of Art (MICA) is pleased to announce the winners of the 2024 UP/Start Venture Competition. Founded in 2016, UP/Start is an initiative of the Ratcliffe Center for Creative Entrepreneurship (RCCE), focused on incubating and building creative business ventures within the MICA community. Working with industry partners, it provides mentorship and capital to help nurture ideas into sustainable businesses. This year’s finalists feature a diverse array of creative ventures ranging from alternative fashion practices to advances in the publishing realm. 

One of the first institutions to embrace the term Creative Entrepreneurship, MICA is a leader in impactful, future-oriented arts education. This commitment to practicable creativity has resulted in dozens of Fulbright Awards, grants, and positions in local, national, and international institutions. 2023 UP/Start Venture Winner, Angela McQuillan ‘22 (Business of Art and Design, MPS) for example, has branched out her Chimaera Gallery from a pop-up event on campus to a permanent location in central Philadelphia, PA. Since its founding last year, McQuillan has showcased 5 exhibitions that engage with biology and technology.

Past winners have gone on to establish innovative businesses that push forward their respective fields while aiding consumers’ needs for actionable ideas, such as office equipment designed for neurodiversity, an online platform to connect creatives of color, and user-friendly pharmaceutical devices.  

Finalists now have the opportunity to move their venture from ideation to implementation at MICA’s Creative Entrepreneurship Innovation Lab (CEINNOV), funded by the Ratcliffe Foundation. CEINNOV functions as a hub for MICA students and alumni to “soft launch” their creative entrepreneurship ventures, learning how to share their creative practices while generating income through their work, and curbing the venture dropoff that can happen after completing a pitch program. Participants of MICA’s Creative Entrepreneurship co-curricular programs can now move from the classroom directly into a market ready educational space located in a Baltimore based entrepreneurship ecosystem to incubate at the Baltimore Innovation Center (BIC).

Over $100,000 were awarded to five projects helmed by six MICA students:

$35,000 and the $5,000 voters choice awarded to Jess Lipinsky ’23 (Illustration, BFA) & Jess Lin ’23 (Graphic Design, BFA). JESS JESS PRESS is an emerging press dedicated to uplifting queer and fem artists and artists of color in the comics/magazine publishing industry.

$25,000 to Luka Shanahan ’24 (General Fine Arts, BFA). Deadbeat Devil is an immersive experience of clothing, accessories, and decor combining affordable, wearable, sustainable art. 

$20,000 to Justin Remo ’24 (Printmaking, BFA). Dust Comics is a science-fiction graphic novel series following a group of medieval knights as they set out into the treacherous remains of a once beautiful Earth, searching for clues that will lead them to the truth behind the death of one of their own.⁠

$10,000 to Anthony Culp ’23 (Product Design, BFA). Plexo is a play system that interfaces with Expo dry erase markers, using them as building blocks to introduce moments of play in physical workspaces.

$10,000 to Jantzen Nolan ’24 (Fiber, BFA). VERS, is a queer-designed clothing and leather accessory brand that provides carefully crafted outerwear made to be layered over or worn under leather fetish accessories.⁠

The competition was presided over by a panel of judges comprising Jim Wright (Trustee, Ratcliffe Foundation), Camille Mazelev (Founder & CEO, Maze Consulting LLC), Rheagen King (Founder & Creative Director, Denae Creative), Ken Malone (Co-Founder & Executive Officer, Early Charm Ventures), Jim Peterson (Vice President Small Business Ambassador, M&T Bank), Takia Ross (Founder, Accessmatized, LLC), and Roland Meerdter (Co-Founder, DOOR Ventures).  

About Philip E. and Carole R. Ratcliffe Foundation

Philip and Carole Ratcliffe created the foundation in 2003 with a vision to provide access to education & training for aspiring entrepreneurs and small business owners to grow their ventures, create jobs, and expand economic opportunities in local communities.

About Ratcliffe Center for Creative Entrepreneurship

The RCCE serves as a creative hub for MICA students and alumni to engage with programs that connect resources and training to grow creative ideas into viable businesses.

UP/Start 2024 Award Winners, Finalists, and Partners + Enlarge
Carlene Cassidy (CEO of the Ratcliffe Foundation with UP/Start Alumni, Winston Frazer and Addison Baldridge + Enlarge
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UP/Start Reception + Enlarge
UP/Start 2024 Award Winners + Enlarge

Upstart Reception

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