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Origami Dinosaur Maker Finds Success Through Lehigh Valley’s Resources for Entrepreneurs

By Colin McEvoy on January 27, 2015

When Lisa Glover first walked into a Lehigh University Halloween party wearing a 15-foot velociraptor costume made out of cardboard, she had no idea it was the start a path that would end with starting her own company.

Glover, now 24, built the costume for her master’s-level Technical Entrepreneurship course, which urged students to utilize the manufacturing process in a creative way. At the time, she thought it was just a fun assignment and that would be the end of it. But with some urging from her Lehigh University professors, and support from local resources like the Ben Franklin TechVentures and the Allentown Bridgeworks Enterprise Center, it has blossomed into a full-blown company.

“I started out not even thinking too seriously that I could be an entrepreneur, but the resources available here in the Lehigh Valley have made it very easy for me to progress from not knowing anything to being able (to) run a business,” Glover said.

A viral success

Lisa Glover is the founder of Architrep, which produces and sells origami dinosaur kits called KitRex.

Lisa Glover is the founder of Architrep, which produces and sells origami dinosaur kits called KitRex.

Glover launched a Kickstarter campaign last year to raise funds to make KitRex, a flat-packed kit letting customers build their own 3-foor-long dinosaur. The enthusiasm went beyond even her wildest dreams. Her goal was to raise $8,000 to buy her own custom-made steel die, which would let her cut the complex shapes that make up the dinosaur. The Kickstarter video went viral, and she ended up raising more than $110,000.

Today, she’s the founder of her own company, Architrep, with plans to produce kits for many different types of creatures, of all shapes and sizes. But Glover said she could not have achieved the success she had without the many resources available in the Lehigh Valley to assist entrepreneurs.

“My background is in architecture and fine arts; I sort of stumbled into this world of entrepreneurship,” Glover said. “I’ve been surrounded by mentors and advisors, and they’ve introduced me to all sorts of people and taught me all kinds of things. If it wasn’t for them, I wouldn’t have been able to do this.”

Lehigh Valley’s entrepreneurial resources

Glover took advantage of those resources along every step of the process leading up to Architrep’s foundation. It all started with her technical entrepreneurship class at Lehigh University, which she took simply because it “sounded really cool.” That led her to take advantage of Lehigh’s Baker Institute for Entrepreneurship, Creativity and Innovation, which provides students with the skills, resources and connections needed to launch entrepreneurial ventures.

After finishing first place in the Baker Institute’s EUREKA! Ventures Competition Series, Glover won a small space at Ben Franklin TechVentures, a Bethlehem business incubator, where she started laying the groundwork for Architrep. She also made use of the laser-cutter at Bethlehem’s Fab Lab, which is associated with Northampton Community College. Glover’s business continued to grow, and last month she moved into a larger space at Bridgeworks, the Allentown Economic Development Corporation’s incubator.

Dawn Ferrante, Lehigh Valley Economic Development Corporation’s (LVEDC) director of regional competitiveness and staff liaison on the Entrepreneurship Council of the Lehigh Valley, said, “This is just another example of an entrepreneur in the Lehigh Valley taking advantage of the many resources available to start and grow a business.”

Glover said she knew nothing about how to be an entrepreneur, and was completely in the dark about such concepts as business models, tax law, intellectual property law and gantt charts. These various institutions not only familiarized her with those concepts, but gave her insight on how to interact with her customers, and led her to long-term planning, pondering how Architrep would look five or ten years from now.

“Lisa and others are able to find help here whether they’re inexperienced and only have a concept or a serial entrepreneur with a developed business plan seeking angel or venture capital,” said Wayne Barz, manager of entrepreneurial services at Ben Franklin TechVentures. “There is a full spectrum of assistance here in the Lehigh Valley’s entrepreneurial ecosystem and the most important aspect of that spectrum is how all of us work together to focus on success of the client.”

Encouragement by professors

The KitRex is an example of industrial origami, which applies the principles of origami to manufacturing, and is typically used for practical items like cabinets or furniture. Glover was inspired to create the dinosaur costume after watching funny YouTube videos of people chasing their friends and family in malls and office buildings while wearing dinosaur costumes.

It was her Lehigh professors that encouraged her to pursue KitRex as a marketable product. Today, they are available for sale at the Moravian Bookstore in Bethlehem, and will soon be sold at the Da Vinci Science Center in Allentown. Glover’s ultimate goal is to make it available nationwide.

In addition to the original velociraptor, Glover is currently working on a pterodactyl kit, for which she plans to start another Kickstarter campaign soon. She plans to do other types of kits, like animals or mythical creatures, as well as makes miniature kids that could be made in as little as a half hour, and partial costume pieces like head masks or arm pieces.

“There’s a lot of potential of where I can go with these flat-packed creations, from the really small to the gigantic to everywhere in between,” Glover said. “There are a lot of possibilities here.”

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