Baltimore startup WhitePaw RunMitts won $27,500 on Friday to help expand production of its mittens for runners.
Founder Susan Clayton plans to use the money from the Crab Tank pitch competition — a part of the three-day Baltimore Homecoming event — to buy the supplies necessary to continue production and complete current purchase orders.
“I’m at that point where I need money,” she said. “I can start production next week because of this. I can pay for some fabric because of this.”
Clayton won $25,000 from the overall competition along with the $2,500 audience choice award. WhitePaw RunMitts creates special mittens for runners that can keep fingers warm while also having the ability to let in air as the athlete cools down after a run. The design also allows customers to slip the gloves down on their sleeves, making a glove falling out of your pocket a thing of the past.
The company was founded in 2016 and has generated $350,000 in total revenue. After several years of expansion, the company is now slated to earn that amount of revenue in 2022 alone. In 2021, the company began a partnership with REI, starting with four stores. By the 2022-23 winter season, the company plans to be in 80 regional stores.
Before starting the company, Clayton operated a hair salon downtown for 27 years. To make the transition, she worked with Sew Bromo in South Baltimore to help learn about manufacturing, pricing and other aspects of the garment industry.
Clayton previously won three other pitch contests, earning around $30,000. Outside of that funding, WhitePaw RunMitts has been entirely self funded. Clayton was surprised by her win, since many of the other companies at the event were focused more on technology.
“We felt like if she had the funding to hire other individuals, that she could really expand, and that it could expand into a national company and expand really quickly,” said Jason Murphy of Murphy Enterprises, one of the Crab Tank judges.
This year marked the return of Crab Tank after being on hiatus since 2019, when Femly, founded by Arion Long, won both the audience choice and regular competition. The 2020 homecoming was a virtual event, with 2021 being canceled.
“There’s something you can’t put your finger on when it comes to the special energy of seeing people in person,” Baltimore Homecoming CEO Robbin Lee said.
The lineup of Crab Tank businesses showcased the diversity of Baltimore’s talent with all of the companies being led by women or people of color, Lee said. The other companies who participated in the competition were Brickrose Exchange, a collaborative meeting space in the Metaverse; Astek Diagnostics, a medical device company; and The Cube Cowork, a coworking space that also provides onsite babysitting services. Ecomap, a Baltimore startup that collects data on various kinds of ecosystems and builds platforms to help people navigate them, was also initially slated to compete but dropped out of the competition because it had recently completed a seed funding round.
Baltimore Homecoming connected local businesses with national figures with Baltimore roots for three days at Whitehall Mill in Hampden. Lee said 60 to 70 people with Baltimore roots returned to the city for the event, with 400-500 people attending the tour of Lexington Market event on Thursday.
“When you pitch to a local audience the networks in that room only go so far,” Lee said. “When you are able to bring people from different ecosystems, like Detroit and San Francisco, you are able to tap into those networks as well.”
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