Alum reaches business competition finals
Located in Baltimore, Zero Gravity Creations is an up-and-coming local business that changes how people think about glass art. Founded four years ago by Tim McFadden and Aric Wanveer, a 2005 graduate of Towson, the business started as a custom glass studio but has grown and changed significantly over the years.
“We’re way past marketing ourselves as artists, now we want to come out as businessmen,” Wanveer said.
McFadden, who also owns another glass design studio located in Baltimore called McFadden Art Glass, said that Zero Gravity Creations is very unique from his own studio.
“It goes far beyond than just glass,” he said. “What we do translates into something beyond art and has practical uses.”
Zero Gravity Creations is just one of the five local businesses that has made the finals of the TowsonGlobal Business Plan Competition. The competition, which is managed by TowsonGlobal Business Incubator and Towson University, is an annual event where local businesses have their business plans judged for cash prizes and recognition.
Unlike an ordinary glass studio, Zero Gravity Creations creates glass products that are fused with metal using their own invention, which gives their art a working function. Wanveer and McFadden developed their metal mounting insert (MMI) years ago when they realized after blowing glass on a copper pipe that the glass had fused with the metal.
“It was so firm we had to actually cut off the piece of the pipe,” McFadden said.
They discovered that the silica in the glass fuses and blends with noble metals (copper, gold, platinum, etc.) while in the furnace which allowed them to attach their glass creations to metal without any glue and possibility of separation. Using their discovery, they now make everything from working glass sinks to glass bar tap handles.
The program coordinator for TowsonGlobal, Stephanie Chin, said the competition does a great service to local businesses in the area and for students.
“We want students to know more about what goes on in the local community,” she said.
The organization holds four workshops in the fall for competitors so that they receive tips and strategies for building their business and developing a business plan.
During said time, the organization also solicits sponsorship’s every fall to raise money for the cash prize that is used in the following spring competitions. Chin said that all of the money donated by sponsors goes to the winner of the competition. Last year the winner received a prize of roughly $17,000.
Wanveer says that they have participated in and won business competitions before but almost all of the money went into securing a patent for their MMI.
“We’re definitely not the first artists to discover this but were the first ones to patent this,” she said. “We have 19 claims, eight of which are completely original.”
This year 27 local businesses were accepted for the competition, but during the preliminary rounds 22 were eliminated. The remaining finalists will be judged based on their business plan and how well they handle the in-person interview sessions. The other finalists in the competition are All Real Concepts, Random Repairs, Rehabtics and Tutela Bediside Technologies, LLC.
Chin said that the final event would be a good networking and social opportunity for students in all majors.
“I hope that some students will participate in the competition and in the networking opportunities we can provide for them,” Chin said.
Wanveer said that if they won the competition, the money would go straight into marketing for their company.
“We’re relatively unknown so this money would go straight to marketing research,” he said.
Wanveer said the new recognition could also help them start their latest project “Tapology,” a business that exclusively creates custom bar tap handles using the MMI.
McFadden said the cash prize won’t be much, from a business perspective, but that the real value would come from the other parts of the competition.
“The recognition and workshops alone are valued a lot higher than [the prize] gives you,” he said. “To promote our business is the most valuable thing for us.”
The public event will take place in Johnny Unitas Stadium on May 1. Free tickets are available on the TowsonGlobal website.