Liz Bartlett was the winner of 5×5 Night in July 2015
“I believe that when I get to the next level and am vertically integrated and manufacturing,” says Liz Bartlett. “I can bring a lot of jobs, not just to Michigan, not just to Grand Rapids, but to downtown.”
Bartlett has big plans for her company, KNITit, which specializes in 3D weft knit product and was awarded $5,000 in investment capital at 5×5 Night in July.
Bartlett brings a fashion background to 3D knitting.She specialized in knitwear at the Fashion Institute of Technology in New York and went on to work at the Knit Development Center, where she worked on stitch development for industry heavyweights likes Ralph Lauren and Alexander Wang. She first became interested in 3D knitting–a technique that produces a whole garment structure in once piece, producing zero waste and requiring no post knit labor– while she was studying abroad in Milan and visited a facility that manufactures CNC knitting machines.
“I saw showroom upon showroom of the most innovative garments,” Bartlett said. “They were designed for the sake of innovation…to push the limits of knitting technology.”
Upon returning to New York, Bartlett learned how to program the machines herself. It was while completing an apprenticeship at Stoll, a German manufacturer of CNC knitting machines,that Bartlett received the training she needed to bring her programing and development skills to the next level. Her new skill set helped her land a job as a 3D knitting engineer in Grand Rapids, where she produced 3D knit products for high end furniture companies like Herman Miller and Steelcase. She began consulting for the University of Michigan’s architecture and aerospace departments and working as an adjunct professor at Kendall College of Art and Design. Through all of of this experience, Bartlett became inspired to apply her knowledge and skills to the healthcare industry to produce compression garments.
“I knew if I wanted to do it, I would have to do it on my own,” Bartlett said.
She started KNITit in July and secured a live/work space at 319 Division Ave SE through Dwelling Place. She bought her own machine from Stoll, which she waited months for due to a holdup in Germany. Getting the machine into the space was no simple task–she had to coordinate with Dwelling Place to have support beams placed in her basement, install rubber pads for sound insulation and had to make the electrical outlets in the building compatible with the machine. The process alone cost her thousands of dollars. That’s where 5×5 Night came in.
“Winning 5×5 Night was a huge help,” says Bartlett. “It got me to the next level that I needed to be at.”
Like most entrepreneurs pursuing a passion, Bartlett has had to learn the ins and outs of business. She keeps an extremely close on eye on her finances and has invested time into networking and taking advantage of opportunities to pitch KNITit to investors. Before participating in 5×5 Night, Bartlett also pitched at Aging 2.0, a global initiative that provides financial support to improving the lives of older and aging adults.
“I am appreciative of winning 5×5 Night,” says Bartlett. “I am appreciative of the connections that I got from Aging 2.0. I didn’t win, but I made a lot of connections.”
KNITit currently has a few large scale projects in the works, including a prosthetic limb lining for a high profile healthcare company and an advanced manufacturing product for a Fortune 500 company. Bartlett is pursuing more grants in order to secure capital to invest in IP protection. One of her goals this year is to produce a prototype that meets production.
She is also looking forward to contributing to the growth of industry in Grand Rapids and investing in the city as a manufacturer.
“Because of my ambition to become a manufacturer, I think it’s best to stay here. This is where I see the most growth potential…I am very passionate about staying here.”