The Future of Jewelry: 3D Printing, AR, and These Female Founders

Combining Augmented Reality and 3D printing, a new female-founded Chicago startup is taking a dive to compete against popular jewelry stores like Pandora with it’s faster, more accurate and personal virtual experience thanks to these disruptive technologies.

It’s not just an app and it’s not just another piece of jewelry. It’s an app with patented digital sizing API that can measure your ring size with 99% accuracy, and it’s metal jewelry that’s 3D printed. This startup was launched right here in Chicago’s 1871 incubator by two sisters who dropped out of law school to carry out what they realized will be the future of jewelry.

This new Chicago startup, De Rigueur Designs creates a personal virtual experience using the company’s BEZEL app, the first-ever augmented reality e-commerce platform.

“BEZEL revolutionizes the way the world buys rings,” said Casey Melvin, one of the founders, “This is just the beginning.  We see the BEZEL platform growing into the idealized e-commerce marketplace where jewelry makers can showcase and sell their own designs.”

Wincy City Cosmo attended their beautiful launch party in Lincoln Park and sat down with one of the founders, Casey Melvin to learn more about this innovative approach to jewelry shopping and being a female entrepreneur. 

The Melvin sisters were both in law school, but Casey Melvin recalled, “We saw this as an opportunity to lean in.”

After seeing the future of jewelry and coming up with this startup idea in February 2017, the sisters applied to a few incubators to develop their idea. Ultimately, they accepted a space at 1871 in Chicago’s Merchandise Mart. Starting in June, they used 1871’s resources to guide them through their startup journey. They launched their company this fall.

“You have to be numb to asking people for help. It’s better than doing something poorly,” Casey Melvin said, “I applied to the 1871 incubator and it’s been a God Send. They do SEO, look at pitch deck, and numbers. They have mentors that pro bono volunteer their time.”

Using their personal network, the sisters also did cold emailing and reached out to their alumnus at Brown and Princeton.

“We said, ‘Hey, will you meet with me in Chicago.’ I met with 10. All of them had advice. One guy was 3D Printing diamonds – we were both in the startup stage. He was further along in the fundraising,” Casey Melvin explained.

After gaining insight into running a business, the sisters also had to learn about the technology and jewelry industry.

There are a few significant changes that 3D printing and AR brings to the table.

“Augmented Reality is a really cool place to be right now. AR is like a Snapchat feature. There’s a hand tracking algorithm that sees your hand [for sizing],” Casey Melvin explained.

Not only is this technology impacting the ability to scale, but also the quality of jewelry.

“Stainless steel is still durable and doesn’t oxidize or look cheap,” said Casey Melvin.

Usually, jewelry stores carry ring sizes 6,7, and 8. They have sizes 3 to 14.

“We invested in 3D models. We own 27 models per ring,” Casey Melvin added.

 

Casey Melvin described this cloud of doubt she felt being a new female entrepreneur, but attributes her success to listening to podcasts, reaching out to her network and joining the 1871 incubator in Chicago.

“There was this guy I met on LinkedIn,” Casey Melvin recalls about her outreach, “He was like, ‘3D Printing isn’t ready for jewelry.'”

“I don’t think he was mean, but they’ve never done it this way before,” she added.

With all of their outreach, the sisters used a few tools to make their messaging manageable. Some of those tools include Mailchimp, WordPress, and a virtual assistant to send email marketing for fundraising.

This year, the female founders have raised $100,000 through friends and alumni at their alma maters.

As for the future of this innovative jewelry company, Casey Melvin said, “We would love to open a store in Chicago. We’re not there yet.”

To learn more about the future of jewelry, click here. As always, make sure you subscribe to Windy City Cosmo so you can learn about the latest startups and events in Chicago.

 

 

 

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Facebook is a Lame Dinner Party: Where Are The Cool Kids?

I can’t think of a worst way to spend the past weekend than deleting pictures on Facebook from 2008.

But that’s what Justin Romano, co-founder of Backspace, a new social app, did when he was job hunting as a recent graduate.

“[From] 8:00 am to 8:00 pm [I was] deleting content on a Friday,” Romano said, “Nothing is relevant. It doesn’t reflect who I am today.”

After going through the process, there was that one question lingering in his mind,

“Why isn’t there a full social network where content completely deletes by default?”

I, too feel inundated with content.

It’s so easy to take a photo. To write a note. To send a text. To create content.

In the one month I have had my iPhone (more on that later), I generated over 2,000 photos.

Two Thousand!

Granted I went to Paris Fashion Week, and I am a lifestyle blogger. But after sifting through all of those photos, I realized I don’t want to remember who I danced with on Friday night or  how long it took me to make brunch plans.

It’s not relevant.

And that’s what a new messaging app, Backspace, is aiming to do—keep content relevant.

Disappearing Content: The Power of

The tagline for Backspace is “experience social freedom.”

The concept of the social app is relevancy. And, it’s a concept that a lot of social media networks are aware of. Twitter has the “top” and “live” tabs for hashtag searches, and Instagram is about to join the game, by rearranging profile content from reverse chronological order to a new metric “based on the likelihood you’ll be interested in the content, your relationship with the person posting and the timeliness of the post,” reports TechCrunch. 

User Discovery:

When you join the iPhone social app, you create a profile and discover the top 10 influencers on Backspace. So, you immediately see what and who is trending.

Content Disappears Based on Popularity:

With each content you post—a photo, a video, or a quote—your content is on a clock and will automatically disappear in 24 hours.

But, there’s a catch. You can add time to your content based on the number of “likes” you receive.

The longer your content lasts, the more influence you receive. While your content disappears, your influence builds.

The longest your messages will last is a weekend.

So, you could enjoy spring break while you are on spring break, but you wouldn’t have to do damage control later by deleting your messages later.

“In 2014, 51 percent of employers have not hired someone based on content online,” said Romano, quoting a  CareerBuilder survey, “It doesn’t sound like a big deal but it is.”

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Meet the Co-Founders:

I felt like I met Mark Zuckerberg when I met these guys, co-founders Justin Romano and Matthew Harris.

They were passionate, they were laid back, but most importantly there were on to something.

They were cute in that they look out for each other. I scheduled a meeting with Romano after meeting him at Bloggers Meet Startups. When our meeting began, the coffee shop, Fabcakes, closed. So, we moved location to his office, the shared workspace, Industrious Chicago (320 W Ohio St #3w) , where I could see a true Chicago startup working.

Everyday, these guys are testing their messaging app, Backspace, to improve it. When I walked into their office, Harris was on his iPhone with the developer, who is working remotely from Austin, TX, fixing a bug.

 

 

He smiled, and joined our conversation. I could see the passion and dedication, but also how effortlessly they made the startup business look.

“Statistically we are going to fail,” Romano looked at me, “Everyone wants to be the next Mark Zuckerberg.”

The Story Behind the App: Remember AIM?

There are essentially four people building an app to change the way we create and consume content. It’s not that the Backspace team invented the wheel, they are just perfecting it.

The iPhone messaging app’s competitor is Snapchat, the mother of disappearing content, and of course Instagram and other social media apps – because where the people are is where tech goes.

Think about it, if you can’t share content with the people who you want to receive the message, then why would you share the content?

“Backspace will fill a void,” Romano said,

“AIM was the sh** but you couldn’t find anyone new. You had to type in a username exactly.”

This is similar to how Snapchat works, you have to use other social networks and social media apps to tell people who you are on Snapchat. There’s no search function within the messaging app unless you have their phone number. Most people change their profile picture to the Snapchat image. But, it’s more complicated than that, because even if they are on Snapchat, you have to type in the name exactly for it to appear.

Unless you’re Kylie Jenner, where you can just type it “kylizzle” and the rest of her name will autofill to the full “kylizzlemynizzl”, you have to remember every “z” to find the person you want to follow.

P.S. if you are looking for friends on Snapchat, these are my faves.

“Snapchat is the AIM,” said co-founder Harris, “The next step is you need disappearing content, but you need to find people.”

And that’s what the co-founders of Backspace are working on—the next step.

The Data Research to Make a Messaging App

Backspace began like most startups do, with a problem that they wanted to solve.

That problem is that things you post on the internet will last forever.

In April 2014, Romano and Harris started surveying people and a year later, in April 2015, they built the social app, Backspace.

For research, Romano looked to research firms, CareerBuilder, and universities.

Facebook is a Lame Dinner Party:

They surveyed people from ages 13-35, starting with people they knew and then attending career days and scheduling high school visits.

“They have a Facebook, but they don’t use it,” Romano recalls a recent survey at a business class at a Chicago University, “They compare it to a lame dinner party. You go there to see your family. Twitter is a noisy bar. Instagram is an over glorified part of your life.”

 

While Romano calls these social media platforms “household names,” he says that he waits to hear feedback about Snapchat because it is different and the majority of the people in their target market are on it.

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Surprisingly, when the Backspace co-founders asked a class at Illinois State University in Bloomington, only 25 percent liked Snapchat.

Among the most negative aspects for Snapchat was the discovery and interaction aspect. You can have influence, but it’s like a secret society, unless you are invited, you don’t have access to someone’s Snapchat.

Currently, Backspace messaging app is in beta and available for download on iOS only.

The messaging app for iPhone has over a thousand users.

feature image photo credit: Blonde & Blonder via photopin (license)

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Why Meeting In Person Is Important: The Power of Free Events

When I moved to Chicago, I was nervous because where I came from zero was a dress size and not the temperature outside.

Nevertheless, I wanted to make the most of city life, and I did that by attending a different free event every night.

My adventures and the people I met along the way inspired Windy City Cosmo, a lifestyle blog that encourages you to explore the city with or without heels because there’s new cocktails to drink and CEOs to meet.

On Wednesday, February 24, 2016, Windy City Cosmo was selected to speak at Bloggers Meet Startups Meetup’s first event at 1871. The four-year-old group, Bloggers Meet Startups, was formed by Scottt   and is now moderated by Maddy Osman of The Blogsmith.

I wanted to share with you highlights from my first speech and also share some great blogs and startups in Chicago. There were four featured speakers at the February 2016 Bloggers Meet Startups Meetup, but attendees also have 60 seconds to pitch their own projects. Since we were at 1871, one of the greatest innovation hubs for startups in Chicago, there were a lot more startup founders at this event.

You’re Invited To Free Events Every Day:

It’s hard to believe that you are invited to an event when you don’t receive an invitation. So, I’m giving you a formal one. When you live in the city you are invited to a handful of free events every single day. And these events can be as small as a pop-up sale at your favorite Chicago boutique to as big as a startup competition at IBM.

You can find these events on Windy City Cosmo, Time Out Magazine, Eventbrite, Built in Chicago, and Meetup.com, among other sites.

These events may be exciting like a Ne-Yo concert on Michigan Ave., but the true value comes in the fact that they are held at Chicago businesses like Edelman, The Shift, Basecamp, and The Social Deviant. On top of access to restricted businesses and special spaces in Chicago, these free events also help you gain really easy access to the people you want to meet, the people who are going to inspire you or the people who are going to discover your brand and share your content on social media.


In Person Is Important:

Making real-life, in-person connections is important, even in the digital age.

Aziz Ansari mentioned in his book, Modern Romance, that you can swipe right on Tinder, but ultimately you need to meet the person in person for the relationship to progress. The same is true for job interviews. The third part of the interview is always the in-person interview because meeting in person in important.

From Instagram to Insta Friends:

I think when you combine technology to create opportunities to meet people and then actually meet in person at these free events, you are able to grow a very strong social network and professional network very quickly.

For example, I have been an active user on Instagram, which requires liking a lot of photos a day. I realized I was finding photos from Once Upon a Dollhouse, a Chicago lifestyle blog. After a few weeks, I checked out their blog. They liked my photos, and I liked theirs. I went to an Ulta Beauty event on Tuesday and one of the bloggers introduced herself. Yes, it was the founder of this blog I had really enjoyed. We instantly connected and they ended up coming to this Bloggers Meet Startups Meetup the next day to support me and also pitch their blog at the end.

This all happened because we created an opportunity through social media, but deepened our relationship in person. Now we also follow each other on Snapchat (@Rationalization, @OnceUponADollhouse).

Be Inspired, Be Inspiring:

The last part of getting the most out of free Chicago events is that you want to give back.

It’s nice to be inspired, but you want to be inspiring as well.

I started Windy City Cosmo because I wanted to have a purpose for going to these events, and I also wanted to document how resourceful and beneficial it is for city dwellers to attend these Chicago events.

I started writing event recaps for SheSays Chicago, an international group of women and men in creative fields helping women advance to leadership roles. Today, SheSays Chicago is still one of the best resources for not only networking, but also mentorship, and freelance work referrals for me.

After the presentation, we had a brief q&a with Windy City Cosmo and the room full of roughly 50 startup founders and bloggers.

People asked about analytics, strategies for promoting blogs, and the hardest part about running a blog.

It was really great to be in a room of Millennials all working on projects to make life better, inspire others, and create ways to form and facilitate relationships.

 

Amanda Elliott from Windy City Cosmo speaking at 171 fir Bloggers Meet Startups. Photo: Amanda Elliott

 

This was Bloggers Meet Startups first time booking space at 1871. Photo: Once Upon a Dollhouse

Chicago Bloggers Pitch:

Several attendees pitched their blogs and startups including the lifestyle blog, Once Upon Dollhouse, and a new event company that followed trends on Pinterest to bring clients the best mix between hiring an event planner and DIY parties, Paris 312.

We were inspired by Susie of Suzlyfe.com to live a life beyond expectations. Susie was diagnosed with a terminal disease but has been living life like a champion by running marathons and helping others with her health and wellness blog and as a trainer.

Startup Founders Pitch:

Startup founders also pitched like Justin and Matt of Backspace app, a social sharing site where nothing lasts forever, and the most liked content stays on the platform longer.

And another startup, ParqEx, is using a similar concept to Airbnb and applying it to parking space by letting consumers rent out their personal garage space or outdoor parking space when they don’t use it. Because yes, parking  is always an issue in cities.

Below are some photos from the networking portion of the event.

The next Bloggers Meet Startups Event will be at Next Door Chicago in Lakeview.

 

Bloggers Meet Startups has three portions: features speakers, 60 second pitches and a networking opportunity. Photo: Amanda Elliott

 

Nisha Mathur, who is currently working on a startup and Sara McAllister of the blog, Freckles and Ivory mingle at Bloggers Meet Startups. Photo: Amanda Elliott  

 

 

 

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Bloggers Meet Startups: Hear From Windy City Cosmo at 1871

Are bloggers startups?

Maybe. Sure.

This week there are a lot of startup events and blogger events in Chicago.

I’m going to start with some exciting news—I’m speaking at one of these events. I’m so honored that my first speaking event is at the most innovative hubs for women and men in Chicago, 1871.

On Wednesday, February 24, 2016, from 6:00 – 8:00 pm, bloggers and startups will be meeting for a special edition of Bloggers Meet Startups, a local networking group where startups and bloggers can pitch their ideas and connect with other entrepreneurs in Chicago.

This networking event will mark the four year anniversary of Bloggers Meet Startups.

In the past, I’ve met local startup founders and even international startup founders at these events. Mike Bandar, for instance, spoke about a new startup he was involved with in London called, Hopper, which helps individuals and businesses create and schedule Instagram posts. Hopper is the Hootsuite of Instagram.

Bloggers Meet Startups is a casual event and starts with featured speakers, who give a five-minute presentation. Then, the floor is open for attendees to pitch their blog or startup with a one-minute presentation.

Featured Bloggers Meet Startups Presenters:

Amanda of WindyCityCosmo.com – Windy City Cosmo is a lifestyle blog that invites you to meet entrepreneurs, taste inventive cocktails, and explore Chicago through events (with or without heels).

Susie of Suzlyfe.com – Susie is a Chicago-based Certified Running Coach and Personal Trainer (Coach Suz Training) and the voice behind Suzlyfe, a fitness and wellness blog that aims to educate, connect, and inspire readers to live beyond expectations.

Justin and Matt of Backspace App – Backspace is a community of people who are just like you. Nothing shared on Backspace lasts forever. Be funny. Be weird. Be quirky. Be unique. Be you.

Niku of Paris 312 – Paris312 is a party planning company specializing in Party Boxes wrapped in a bow and shipped to you.

 

Bloggers Meet Startups Four Year Anniversary Photo: Bloggers Meet Startups

 

RSVP to Bloggers Meet Startups:

RSVP to this free networking event through Eventbrite. Bloggers Meet Startups at 1871 is sold out, but more seats may become available, so add yourself to the waitlist!

Special thanks to Intelligent Events for the featured image.

Special thanks to Maddy Osman, Founder of Chicago Cheap Ass, for this opportunity. Osman is a new leading member of Bloggers Meet Startups and you can read about her plans and involvement on Built in Chicago here.

Other Blog Events and Tech Events This Week:

February Wine & Web: Blogging Best Practices

On Tuesday, February 23, 2016, from 6:00 – 7:30 pm,  learn about writing better blog posts from Orbit Media. The event includes wine and Lou Malnati’s pizza, and tips on the following:

  • How to write for scanners
  • How to write blog posts that get more traffic and clicks
  • How to optimize for social
  • How to use visuals to increase dwell time

RSVP to Wine and Web here.  P.S. There are only five tickets left!

Chicago has a monthly tech showcase sponsored by Technori. The Technori Winter Showcase brings together 500 entrepreneurs, developers, designers, investors, and tech enthusiasts to watch five companies present for five minutes each, with an interactive Q&A session. The event is Wednesday, February 24, 2016, from 6:00 – 8:00 pm, with an after party at Rosebud Teatre District.

RSVP to Technori Winter Showcase for last-minute tickets here.

P.S. I know this event is the same day as my event, Bloggers Meet Startups, but I really wanted to go to this event, so I’m sharing it.

P.S.S. The conference is recorded and you can watch past speakers here. 

Hope to meet you in person and share with you the story behind Windy City Cosmo!

 

 

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In the Know: Awesome Moments For Women in Chicago

This past week was a great week for women in Chicago and in America.

And yes, progress takes time, and there are a lot of feminists and activists who help to advance women in the workplace every day. These women and men create better self-esteem in women by doing things like challenge women’s beauty standards. They create opportunities for women when they didn’t know there were obstacles.

There’s something about this past week that made me want to stand up and give women in Chicago and in the world a round of applause. And so, I want to share with you the highlights of women’s progression last week.

 

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Credit: via GIPHY

We Can Stop Talking About Women’s Bodies:

Okay. I guess we will always talk about women’s bodies because they are so different. And that’s it. We finally recognized through the gatekeeper of beauty standards herself, Barbie, that women’s bodies are different. And not one of the templates for a women’s figure is pure perfection.

Women’s bodies are always going to be a sensitive topic. In the cover story for Time, an exec for Mattel, the brand that makes Barbie dolls, divulged, “It even took months to decide on the terms tall, petite, and curvy, and figure out how to translate those terms into different languages without offending people.”

I think that women, Millennial moms, who Mattel is now targeting, are concerned about promoting positive body images. It’s true that as you get older, you care more about your health than your beauty. But, I think that we are owning are beauty and our health by giving women and our future kids more realistic role models. Dove did it. Now, Barbie’s joining in.

The new Barbie dolls are on sale online only at Barbie.com, but will be on shelves this spring.

1871 Celebrates Women in Technology with WiSTEM:

1871 has always been a spot for developing new ideas that build community. Lately, they have spotlighted women. In fact, 1871 made this statement on its website:

“For a whole host of reasons, 1871 believes Chicago is the best place in the country for women entrepreneurs to start a business.”

Their first step was bringing in Nicole Yeary from Ms. Tech, a global women’s networking group that helps business women do tech and tech women do business.

More recently, they introduced a new, first of its kind program, WiSTEM, which fosters opportunities for women in technology entrepreneurs by giving them access to capital, technology, and community.

The WiSTEM program includes 13 women founders who will facilitate a 12-week program that includes weekly educational courses and access to female and male mentors and investors, said 1871 COO Tom Alexander, The Chicago Tribune reported.

The program is part of Google for Entrepreneurs’ #40Forward initiative, and is also supported by the Lefkofsky Family Foundation, Motorola Mobility Foundation, and AT&T.

WiSTEM had its first event, the WiSTEM showcase on January 25, 2016, which included female founders of the following startups:

  • mRelief simplifies the qualifying process for social programs by quickly showing people if they are eligible or not, and recently unveiled a text messaging feature that makes the food stamp screening process even easier.
  • Pay Your Selfie brings brands and consumers together using selfies. It creates a performance-based mobile marketing platform for advertisers, and it pays users cash for selfies, turning their social currency into real currency.
  • iTravel Benefits is a shared, elective benefit that rewards employees who save for personal travel by providing a company match.
  • PartySlate is a digital platform designed for party hosts and event professionals.

Spring courses for WiSTEM are currently closed for the 17-week program from March 7, 2016 – June 30, 2016. For more information about mentoring or applying for future WiSTEM programs, visit the 1871 WiSTEM website.

Women Gave Themselves Credit:

My last piece of news comes from Chicago’s very own success story, Ms. Shonda Rhimes, the mastermind behind ABC’s TV series, Scandal. In her acceptance speech for the Producers Guild’s Norman Lear Award for Achievement in Television on January 23, 2016, Rhimes said something bold, something dare I say, no one says when they accept an award. And I completely love her for it.

“I’m going to be totally honest with you, I completely deserve this. I have against the odds, courageously pioneered the art of writing for people of color as if they were human beings. I’ve bravely gone around just casting parts for actors who were the best ones. I fearlessly faced down ABC when they completely agreed with me that Olivia Pope should be black. And I raised my sword heroically and then put it down again when Paul Lee never fought me about any of my storytelling choices.”

Rhimes is known for pushing the limits and for putting hard issues in America before our eyes, pressing us to think about them and not cover them up. And, by no means does she not have fears. She just spoke on Ellen DeGeneres about how in 2015, she decided to face her fears. She’s one of my role models (sorry Barbie) because she is human, she does have fears and flaws and she can’t fix everything like Olivia Pope, but she’s not afraid of helping us talk about things like:

  • Do I want Olivia Pope to sleep with the President of the United States?
  • Do I think it’s okay that Ms. Pope had an abortion without telling the father?
  • Do I think police officers are racist?

Rhimes does life differently and makes her viewers think of life differently. I don’t agree with everything she does, but I am proud that she brings women’s issues and moral issues and race issues to us like presents we cannot wait to open instead of problems we don’t know how to solve. To be honest, I think she deserved the award, too, and it makes me happier to know that she knows it as well.

 

 

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