The Upstarts

MICA Art and Design Entrepreneurs Compete For $100,000 in Venture Funding Through Up/Start Initiative

Artists and designers are some of the world’s most creative thinkers. What’s more, they are ambitious risk takers whose imaginations generate an abundance of ideas. It’s no surprise then that a large number of art school graduates—up to 75 percent—go on to become entrepreneurs who launch truly innovative businesses, and many members of the MICA community exemplify this entrepreneurial trend. To help maximize and support these efforts, MICA recently hosted a “Shark Tank”-style venture initiative called the Up/Start Venture Competition—the College’s first pitch and startup contest for students, graduates, and alumni who are launching or growing businesses. Last spring, eight teams of MICA-related entrepreneurs competed in front of a live audience and a panel of judges made up of some of the city’s most successful business leaders and owners, with up to $100,000 in investment funding awarded to four teams. Audience members chose a $5,000 People’s Choice winner.


TNP Studios

Founded by Jay Jackson ’16 (MPS in the Business of Art + Design), along with Micah Payne, Terrence Carpenter, and Jack Rous, TNP Studo received $30,000 in investment funding. TNP Studios, LLC is a media company focused on talk shows that focus primarily on film, gaming, and politics. It provides on-demand programming that aims to entertain as well as inform its audience through engaging and meaningful discussion.



Founded by Julie Buisson ’15 (MBA/MA in Design Leadership) and partner Mark Verdecia, MODERNature received $30,000 in investment funding. MODERNature is a company that specializes in the development of sustainable growing methods for use in cities. They use a mix of human-centered design and biomimicry to create technologically-driven agricultural solutions that are truly ecologically minded.



Founded by Sam Acuff ’15 (General Fine Arts BFA) and Brendan Choi ’16 (Interdisciplinary Sculpture BFA), Two Bolts Studios received $25,000 in investment funding. Two Bolts Studios is a small fabricating shop focusing on handmade furniture that incorporates reclaimed materials and industrial design. They want to make handcrafted furniture more accessible and bring work back to artisans and aspiring craftsmen.


Joint Youth Movement (JYM)

Founded by Juansebastian Serrano ’16 (Painting BFA), Renz Balagtas ’14 (General Fine Arts BFA), and Sam Rietenbach ’16 (General Fine Arts BFA), Joint Youth Movement received $15,000 in investment funding. JYM’s mission is to positively impact cultural and creative exchange in Baltimore City by uniting and promoting emerging artists and creatives in a professional and fair (equal access) manner, and in a socially conscious way. Their vision is to establish themselves as the curator and retail location of choice for emerging artists and clients in Baltimore and the Mid-Atlantic region.



Founded by Jordan Bradley ’16 (Interactive Arts BFA), Pi received $5,000 in investment funding as the People’s Choice Award winner. Pi is an entirely new kind of visual day planning app for creative people. It helps users set manageable plans for the day, without sacrificing health and wellness.


The Up/Start competition is part of an ongoing College-wide entrepreneurial initiative, which was launched earlier this year after MICA was awarded a three-year, $600,000 grant from the Philip E. and Carole R. Ratcliffe Foundation to capitalize on the unique talents of its students and recent graduates.