Manufacture This

The blog of the Alliance for American Manufacturing

New foundation will offer scholarships to support students interested in making products in America.

We shared a study a few weeks back that found not enough is being done to recruit millennials into the manufacturing workforce.

Now a group of millennial makers are aiming to change that.

The founders of Vortic Watches, a startup company that has pledged to manufacture its products in the United States, recently launched the America Makes Foundation with the goal of recruiting more millennials into manufacturing.

The foundation will sponsor scholarships — ranging from $1,000 to $5,000 that can be applied for technical school or college — for high school or college students who have an idea for a product that can be Made in America. Winners also will receive a cash investment between $500 and $1,000 to implement their idea.

To apply, students must submit a short video that includes a description of their proposed product and an explanation about why they like creating new products. The first batch of winners are expected to be announced in April 2015, with future winners announced quarterly thereafter.

R.T. Custer, cofounder of Vortic and the foundation, tells us:

"We started our company as students in college, and have talked about helping other student entrepreneurs for years. We thought this Foundation would be an excellent way to give back while solving a very serious problem, the future of American Manufacturing, at the same time."

Custer and Pennsylvania State University classmate Tyler Wolfe got the idea for Vortic Watches about two years ago while playing golf on a campus course. Wolfe got annoyed by how his non-adjustable watch moved on his wrist while he swung his golf club, and the pair talked about how it would be great to easily tighten the watch band by twisting the bezel.

A few months later, they put the idea for their new watch into action in an engineering prototyping class. Two classmates joined on, and the group put together a business plan. They filed their first patent, and went on to win Boeing’s Mechanical and Nuclear Engineering Innovation Competition, which led to a grant to continue their efforts.

After they graduated, the foursome moved to Fort Collins, Colo., where Vortic is now based. They raised the money to officially start the company through the American Artisan Series on Kickstarter, quickly exceeding their $10,000 goal.

Vortic is now raising money for the America Makes Foundation by selling a “classic, custom engraved leather bracelet” on its Kickstarter page. The initial funds raised will go toward purchasing the equipment needed to start production on the bracelet, with all funds going to the foundation afterward. All proceeds generated after Jan. 1, 2015 also will go directly to the foundation.

Courtesy America Makes Foundation

Each $20 bracelet is engraved with the tagline “Amer{custom}ican Made,” with custom personalized for each user. The most popular phrase so far is “Amer{Colorado}ican Made,” since Vortic is located in Colorado.

Learn more about the America Makes Foundation, including how to apply for scholarships.