Marissa Donapel, Illustrator

Marissa Donapel is a first generation college graduate, born and raised in Northeast Philadelphia. She attended the Arts Academy at Benjamin Rush High School and enrolled upon graduation at Drexel University with the intention of studying film. Marissa had always loved film growing-up, and dreamed of becoming a film director. But, at the end of her freshman year, she realized that film wasn’t for her and she switched her major to graphic design. This decision proved right: Marissa is a prolific maker and being able to create a lot of visual art as a Design Major was a huge plus, and she felt an affinity with her new graphic design peers because of their shared passion for the visual arts.

Mad Rabbit Sticker

Marissa began selling her work while still in college. She created a line of stickers featuring popular animated characters that she sold on RedBubble. Her brand continued to evolve and soon, she opened an Etsy shop. After learning how to screen print at Drexel, she expanded her product line to include hats, hoodies, graphic tees and more. She also sells printed reproductions of her illustrations, and, recently, she launched a successful line of handmade earrings and holographic stickers.

The COVID 19 pandemic has been both a blessing and a curse for Marissa. Social isolation has given her the gift of time which she has utilized to create more artwork; but, she has also had to deal with the mental hurdle of finding the motivation to create. These past six months have taught her not to push the process, but instead how to use COVID 19 as an inspiration rather than a hurdle. She completed a series of paintings inspired by her pandemic experience, which she is now selling as prints on her Etsy shop. These prints are incredibly relatable and they encapsulate a time in the history of the world that not one of us will easily forget. (Pictured below.)

Marissa’s illustrative style is graphic, current and edgy. She uses bright splashes of color and bold contrast to create exciting works that speak loudly of who she is as an artist. When you see an illustration by Marissa Donapel, you know it is by “Marissa Donapel.”

Marissa is a very recent college graduate – June ’20; she is currently looking for her first post-graduate job during a time of pandemic economic fragility. Of her fellow 2020 graduates, Marissa says, “We were really thrown into the fray and it’s been difficult finding our footing- but we are a strong group.” She affectionately refers to her class of graduates as “the guinea pig class.”

In addition to looking for a full-time position in the arts, Marissa hopes to participate in the numerous punk flea markets that are popping up in and around Philadelphia: virtual for now, though she looks forward to the in person markets that are sure to be back once the roller coaster ride that is COVID – 19 is over. In the meantime, she will continue to work hard to grow her online shop and possibly write a sequel to her first children’s book “Around the World with Remy and Fox”; regardless, she is excited to see where her journey in the arts takes her.

I asked Marissa, “What makes a person an entrepreneur? What makes you an entrepreneur?” Her response: An entrepreneur is a creator: someone who has a drive to build-off of their passions and to take the leap towards that first step that turns a passion into a lifestyle. I don’t consider myself a business person. I’ve just always loved art and yearned to make art whenever I can, whether through film or just picking up a pencil. I am both a creator, and someone who has the drive to make change through what I love. I probably won’t be able to fix global warming or systemic problems on my own by drawing a pretty picture, but I can make someone’s day better with that picture, and that’s just as important to me.”

Marissa is this week’s featured entrepreneur on The Close School of Entrepreneurship’s Instagram Proving Ground Pop Up. She is also on Social Media. You can visit her website at; her Etsy shop at; and her instagram is


Reilly Brady of More – Empathy

America is in turmoil. While suffering from a seemingly never-ending pandemic, America is also facing an “it’s-about-time” reckoning over racism. And it’s still answering for the predatory sexism brought to light by the Me Too movement. If that wasn’t enough, its citizens are ideologically divided on the verge of a national election. Who doesn’t need MORE EMPATHY now?

Reilly Brady

This is a question that Reilly Brady has been pondering as she considers her place in the world. Reilly is a Senior at Drexel University, majoring in Behavioral Health and Counseling. She is also a prolific maker and small business owner. For the past few years, Reilly has run a handmade jewelry company, called Tilly’s Art Box. Tilly is the nickname her parents gave Reilly when she was a little girl. Although she has great sentimental affection for the name, Reilly has decided that it is time for Tilly’s Art Box to re-brand to include her social agenda in her business model. Tilly’s Art Box is now More -Empathy, a brand whose mission is to raise awareness about the issues of diversity, inclusion, and accessibility; to advocate for non-profits that support under-represented populations; to raise awareness about the importance of mental health wellness and to normalize the discussion of mental health issues in the workplace.

Whew! That is a lot to think about, especially for one so young. Although More – Empathy may be in its start up infancy, Reilly believes that, for there to be true change in this world, brands and businesses need to step up and declare what they stand for – right from the start. Reilly aims to establish a company whose values reflect who she is as a person and as a business leader.

Reilly began making jewelry during her freshmen year at Drexel University after she contracted e.coli. Already prone to anxiety, this illness sent her mental health into a tailspin. She moved out of student housing and home to Doylestown to live with her parents. She began drawing and making jewelry and discovered that the act of creating helped alleviate her anxiety. These creative pursuits led to the establishment of Tilly’s Art Box; first, as an Etsy store, and then as a marketplace website, using the social media platforms of Instagram and, especially, Twitter for marketing.  She describes her jewelry aesthetic as “Funky, fun and different” with a bent towards bold colors. (Sounds a lot like Reilly’s personality, actually.) As Tilly’s Art Box has evolved to become More – Empathy, so has Reilly. She continues to learn new skills that include working with polymer clay and learning how to screen print as she plans to add a fashion component to her collection in the future.ti

If you would like to see more of Reilly’s work, you can visit her website at Her Instagram is; Twitter: She is this week’s Proving Ground Pop Up’s Featured Entrepreneur at