NEWARK – Sierra RyanWallick has been a social entrepreneur since she was 10 years old.
Now a University of Delaware student, her passion has culminated in her sustainable fashion startup, Up Cycle Design, placing first in the post-revenue track at the 2021 Hen Hatch startup competition and first in the Great Dames Remarkable Ideas pitch competition.
The Hen Hatch competition for entrepreneurial University of Delaware students, held virtually on Dec. 4, featured pitches for healthy chocolate bars, virtual wellness coaching, a cultural catering service and more.
RyanWallick was awarded $7,250 in cash, which she says will go toward stipends for her team as well as new equipment for their upcoming product launches. She also received 20 hours of business advisory services from Placers. Up Cycle Design received $2,500 for travel expenses to third-party entrepreneurship competitions.
The UD student pitched her startup to the judges as a “huge economic opportunity and a huge social impact opportunity.” To combat textile waste, Up Cycle takes small fabric scraps that would otherwise be thrown away and creates zero-waste products, such as cloth stickers and bags.
Woven into Up Cycle’s business plan is a charitable program in which RyanWallick works directly with nonprofit organizations to create designs for her products. Up Cycle donates 15% from each unit sold to the nonprofit.
“The nonprofits are so excited to sell our products themselves,” RyanWallick said. “It’s also a way for them to sustainably raise money because most fundraising methods or products are not sustainable.”
Central to RyanWallick’s vision is community involvement: Through her social entrepreneurship curriculum, Level Up, she partners with organizations like The Warehouse in east Wilmington to teach high school students about entrepreneurship, design and sustainability. Student cohorts go through the same process as Up Cycle in choosing a nonprofit to support and researching, creating and pitching custom designs. Students learn how to market and host a fundraising campaign for the winning design.
“It’s really cool to empower teens locally and have these grassroots marketing campaigns from it as well,” RyanWallick said.
RyanWallick plans to expand Level Up and create an embroidery training program for people who have barriers to employment, such as people with disabilities.
The Hen Hatch winner recently celebrated another milestone: AutumnLeaf Fundraisers, the nonprofit she founded at 10 years old, reached $100,000 in nonprofit donations. The money raised from AutumnLeaf’s handcrafted items is donated primarily to a local cat rescue, Forgotten Cats.
Up Cycle will relaunch a new line of themed stickers in January, and RyanWallick plans to focus on expanding her product line, with cloth bags, home decor and other accessories on the horizon.
“We have a product that sells and we’re scaling that up,” RyanWallick said. “I can’t wait to do this for the rest of my life.”
Placing second in Hen Hatch’s post-revenue track was Stemmer, a web app created by Samuel Goetz that automates the organization process of music audio engineers. Stemmer was awarded $4,500 in cash prize and 10 hours of accounting service from Belfint Lyons Shuman. Stemmer won the Audience Choice Award for Most Promising Startup, which comes with $1,000 to spend on business model search expenses as a member of VentureOn. Stemmer was also awarded $2,500 for third-party entrepreneurship competition expenses.
Pick-Up Sports, a youth sports program that encourages young people to be multi-sport athletes that was founded by Michael Meola, placed third in the post-revenue track with a $3,250 cash prize and $2,500 to support travel to other entrepreneurship competitions.
Topping the pre-revenue track was Share Wallet, a startup founded by Jason Bangser that streamlines mutual earning rewards by connecting friends’ product and service referral links on one social platform. Share Wallet was awarded $4,800 in cash, in-kind gifts such as Devlin Law Firm providing legal services and filing fee for one trademark or patent application, 10 hours of accounting services by Belfint Lyons Shuman, and $2,500 for third-party entrepreneurship competitions.
Navigating Access, an interactive crowd-sourced accessibility map founded by Amanda Zicherman, placed second with a $2,900 cash price and $2,500 for travel expenses to third-party entrepreneurship competitions. Navigating Access received the Audience Choice Award for Most Motivated startup, which awards $1,000 to spend on business model search expenses as a member of VentureOn.
Supremely Sweet, a startup founded by Santha Rani and Esha Shah that offers sweet and healthy options like chocolate bars, placed third in the pre-revenue track with $2,300 in cash and $2,500 to support third-party entrepreneurship competition expenses.