Shakeel Alexander and Iman Carr, founders of Blvck Door. Photo courtesy of MICA.

Maryland Institute College of Art (MICA) has announced the winners of this year’s UP/Start Venture Competition, which awards over $100,000 in combined funding to emerging entrepreneurs.

Blvck Door, an online platform that connects creatives of color with employers, was awarded $40,000. The platform was founded by MICA student Iman Carr and her business partner, Shakeel Alexander.

MICA student Herschel Ruben, founder of Compressent Co. – a company that designs products for neurodivergent people who experience sensory overload – won $30,000 in the competition. Compressant Co.’s flagship product is an office chair that applies pressure on certain points in the nervous system, providing a calming mechanism for the user. 

Convo, an HR technology solution and framework that helps employees and leaders communicate with compassion in the virtual space, received $15,000. The company was founded by two MICA students, Emma Koramshahi and Julia Breskin, both in the Design Leadership MA/MBA program. 

MICA MFA student Book Karnjanakit, founder of “Knock the Block,” won $12,000. Karnjanakit’s venture is a deck of creative and self-care card prompts to help people overcome artistic challenges. The deck contains 60 cards divided into three categories: subject prompts, technique prompts, and self-care prompts.

And Pharma-D, winner of the $5,000 People’s Choice Award, is a tool library of at-home medical and therapeutic devices. Pharma-D will also receive a $1,000 stipend for participation.

Two other ventures – Mira, founded by Jana Thompson, and Core Immersive Labs, created by Paolo Narciso – will also receive a $1,000 stipend.