Shemar Coombs took an entrepeneurship class in his senior year of high school. This brought him through the doors at NextFab and eventually to New York City for the national 2015 Network for Teaching Entrepeneurship Challenge semi-finals.


The entrepeneurship class was supported by The Network For Teaching Entrepreneurship (NFTE). The NFTE was established to “inspire young people from low-income communities to stay in school, to recognize business opportunities and to plan for successful futures”. One of the requirements of the course was to think of an innovative idea and make a business pitch for it. Coombs and a classmate teamed up and conceived of a phone case that prevents tangled headphones and dubbed the device “Rap-It-Up”.

Once the pitch was complete they had the opportunity to present it to a panel of judges. The pitch went well, they placed 3rd and moved on to a city-wide competition. They excelled in the city-wide competion, placing 1st in their segment. Fifteen of the city-wide winners advanced to the regional competition. Coombs explains, “After 3-4 hours of presentations the judges announced that my teammate and I won 1st place and will be moving on to the National competition held in New York City.”

Rendering of Coombs “Rap It Up” mobile phone case

Coombs’ enthusiasm grew as the project gained momentum, “Every competition before the city wide competition felt like I did it just for the prizes, field trips from school and some free food. But when we got to the city wide competition and saw that it was held at the SAP headquarters and there were cameras, businessmen/women, investors, CEOs and a genuine interest in what every contestant was presenting, I realized that what we were doing could really become possible. From then on I began working to turn Rap-It-Up into a success.”

Coombs needed a prototype. He contacted Alex Kaplan at NextFab and NextFab agreed to sponsor Coombs’ project.

“I got in touch with Alex and got the sponsorship. I learned so much while at NextFab. I met people like Scott and Walt, who both helped me further think about what I want Rap-It-Up to be in the future. Because of my college schedule, I’ve only been able to make it to NextFab with about two and a half hours left before closing time but Scott and Walt helped to make much of that time. Along with developing a love for 3D printing, NextFab has showed me that anything is possible with hard work and passion.”

In October, Coombs took what he learned at NextFab and competed in the 2015 NFTE National Entrepreneur Challenge in NYC. He made the semi-finals but missed the final round by a few points. “Although I missed out on the final round, I was still able to tell everyone about 3D printing and NextFab at an Expo. People loved the idea of Rap-It-Up and everyone said “I can’t wait to see it!”

We look forward to seeing the finished Rap-It-Up and any future projects that this bright young man comes up with. He is currently finishing up his prototype with help from NextFab’s 3D staff.