Sci Chic: Launching a Business at the Intersection of Engineering, 3D Printing, Fashion, and Education
“I was debating on getting an entrepreneurship minor or starting my own company. I decided to make the leap. Starting a company is you putting yourself out there. If you have an idea, go for it. You can’t be too worried about not having it too perfect or ready. If you think it’s going to make a difference, put your idea out there. I wouldn’t be in this spot with my company if I didn’t take that chance.”
– Erin Winick, Founder and CEO Sci Chic, B.S. Mechanical Engineering
Founded in October 2015, Sci Chic is an exciting mashup of science, technology, design and fashion. The company’s mission is to show the beauty in STEM and encourage young girls and women to pursue careers in science. The tools being used to complete this mission: killer, science-inspired jewelry and science-fashion subscription boxes designed in CAD and 3D printed in everything from plastic and steel to 14K gold. With inspired designs, such as the Apollo Trajectory necklace and Moon phase pieces to Pi and weather-themed jewelry, if you have an interest in science, Sci Chic has a piece for you.
Launching a Business with No Experience
CEO Erin Winick, then an engineering student at the University of Florida (UF), was inspired to pursue the company after helping start a 3D printing outreach program as president of the Society of Women Engineers. The outreach day brought 60 middle school girls to the UF campus to demonstrate computer modeling and how they could take these designs and transform them into 3D printed objects. The school girls’ reactions to seeing their work come to life ignited Erin’s devotion to showing the beauty in STEM.
“My biggest passion is science communication,” Erin stated. “I want to show people how much fun science and communication can be. I see the difference that people like Bill Nye and Neil deGrasse Tyson have made and it’s my ultimate goal to have some kind of positive impact on the way people think about science.”
“I came from an engineering background with no experience in business or sales,” Erin said. “When I started Sci Chic, it was a learning experience in addition to a passion project.” The work, much like STEM itself, revolved heavily on experimentation. On launch, Erin was running the business off of her personal printer, creating designs in SOLIDWORKS, and selling on Etsy. Eventually Erin grew to a dedicated e-commerce site in January 2016 and took to the task of establishing a brand and earning publicity.
In October 2016, Erin moved operations from her personal printer to The Selling Factory, a local co-working space in Gainesville, Florida. She now employs two workers, a CAD designer to help with monthly subscription box designs in SOLIDWORKS and a graphic designer to assist with marketing and the creation of promotional materials. Sci Chic also gets support from others in the co-working space with sales to assembly. “The Selling Factory really helps people without experience in sales and business learn and get things done,” Erin stated.
An Early Start for a Life in STEM
It should come as no surprise that Erin was introduced to engineering at a young age. “I always loved making things,” Erin said. “Everything from Legos, K’NEX and sewing kept me busy. I also had family members in the space program who valued and appreciated science and engineering. My love for making things and a supportive family really piqued my interest.” Clearly Erin’s experience is validation for encouraging kids to become invested in STEM at a young age.
Erin was introduced to SOLIDWORKS during her freshman year at UF. “I used SOLIDWORKS in a computer-aided design class, required for mechanical engineers,” said Erin. “I love the creativity SOLIDWORKS lets you have. It felt like using a very artistic tool in engineering. This was one of the determining factors that led me down the mechanical engineering path.”
Networking also paid dividends for Sci Chic. As part of the Society of Women Engineers, Erin attended the group’s National Conference. Here she met another college entrepreneur, and former SOLIDWORKS intern, Gaby Rochino. Gaby introduced Erin to the SOLIDWORKS Entrepreneur Program, an opportunity for startups to receive software, training, and co-marketing resources by partnering with SOLIDWORKS. Sci Chic joined the program in 2017.
Designing STEM Fashion in SOLIDWORKS
Erin and her team have a yearly calendar mapped out for their kids’ and adults’ monthly fashion boxes. “We try to plan out three months in advance to what’s in each both in terms of jewelry, like necklaces, charms, or rings,” Erin said. “That way we know the designs and can test and experiment with different materials. Since we’re able to create product quickly, we can reach out to women in STEM, one of our target audiences, get their opinions and hear their thoughts for other design ideas.” Again the business, in this case the monthly boxes, really mimics the collaboration needed in STEM careers.
“We’ve had great reactions from the kids and adults boxes from women everywhere from Australia to Germany,” Erin stated. “This gives anyone in STEM the opportunity to wear fashionable items inspired the fields they work in.” Further, Sci-Chic’s jewelry becomes conversation pieces to drive interest from both adults and kids alike. To illustrate, Erin pointed to a monthly kids’ box subscriber who purchases two boxes for her kids. “Both kids love learning about chemistry and coding thanks to their boxes and are much more excited about exploring science and technology than before.”
Sci Chic jewelry is manufactured in a wide variety of materials from Plastic ABS and PLA in multiple colors and filaments to stainless and bronze steel and even up to silver and 14K gold. Since a variety of designs and materials are used, Erin uses SOLIDWORKS to achieve proper dimensioning, meet wall thickness constraints and understand strength requirements.
For Erin and her team, it’s important to have tools that enable them to iterate on ideas quickly. Every month means brainstorming new, fresh, and fun ideas to meet the company’s monthly fashion box demands, which is critical to Sci Chic’s growth. “Our biggest business and educational goal is to grow subscription boxes,” Erin stated. “The boxes enable us to introduce kids and adults to different areas of science and maintain longer consumer connections. By increasing our subscribers, we can bring on more new designs and quality educational materials to everyone in our base.” Ultimately, getting more subscribers means introducing or extending the world of STEM to future innovators. The world would be a better place for it and hopefully more students will follow Erin’s lead and make that leap.
To learn more about Sci Chic or to sign up, please visit: http://www.scichic.com