Feature Friday! Cruising Altitude LLC

Alan Soclof ’21 (top, right) being interviewed by the “Chit Chat Money” investment personalities.

DC: What is your name, major, and anticipated graduation year?
Soclof: My name is Alan Soclof, and I am a Management major with an anticipated graduation date of December 2021.

DC: In two to three sentences, how would you describe your startup?
Soclof: Cruising Altitude is a financial media company focused on educating and inspiring the next generation of long term investors. Through our flagship newsletter, we share high quality, yet simple, stock analysis so anyone and everyone can learn more about the stock market! If Warren Buffett was born in 2000, he would read Cruising Altitude. 

DC: At what point did you know you wanted to create your own startup?
Soclof: Ever since I was young, I have absolutely loved investing! The process of analyzing and learning about the greatest companies in the world is something that I just find so fascinating! Throughout this year, while many of my contemporaries were bored and stuck at home, their interest in the stock market grew significantly. Many of the resources targeting Gen Zers are focused on day trading and cryptocurrencies and there is nothing out there (for Gen Z specifically) promoting fundamentally driven long term investing. I realized just how big the opportunity could be for a company that is looking to fill this niche, and I had to give it a shot!

DC: What or who is your biggest influence for your startup?
Soclof: I would say the biggest influence for a startup is Warren Buffett. The Oracle of Omaha (his awesome nickname!) is one of the greatest investors of all time. He has showed the whole world how being diligent and patient can lead to lucrative returns. Taking Buffett’s investing approach and mixing it with some Gen Z energy and humor is the Cruising Altitude way! 

DC: How have the effects of the pandemic changed your company’s focus or ideas?
Soclof:
In many ways, we think we were born due to the pandemic! Gen Z flooded into the stock market at unprecedented rates during the pandemic because, well, that was all that was going on! This trend has created a significant opportunity for someone to educate and inspire these new investors to be long term investors (the proven and easiest way!) and Cruising Altitude is looking to do just that!

DC: What updates or significant accomplishments can you share with us about your company from the last six months?
Soclof: There are two significant accomplishments, other than getting accepted into the Terp Startup Accelerator, that we are very proud of. The first one is growing our newsletter from 0 to 750 subscribers in just a handful of months! The second accomplishment that we are proud of is that we released an awesome newsletter every week for 27 consecutive weeks. This consistency that we provide to our Cruisers is something that we value and take very seriously!

DC: What are you hoping to achieve during Terp Startup Accelerator this summer?
Soclof: During the Terp Startup Accelerator, our main goal is to (almost) double our subscriber-ship to 1,400 subscribers! The newsletter is free and only comes once a week (and it is really funny!) so make sure to sign up!

DC: If you could give advice to any aspiring entrepreneurs, what would it be?
Soclof: The advice that I would give to any aspiring entrepreneur is to work hard and be patient. Unlike your Amazon order, success does not come overnight! Trust the process, focus on your daily goals, and just wait and after a few months you will be shocked at how much you have accomplished!

For more information about Cruising Altitude LLC, please visit the website and sign up for the newsletter here.

Feature Friday! StockBrew

Peter Chun ’22, Dakshay Mehta ’22, and Jay Patel ’22 are the co-founders of StockBrew.

DC: What are your names, majors, and anticipated graduation years?
Team StockBrew: Jay Patel, Information Science, 2022; Peter Chun, Computer Science, 2022; Dakshay Mehta, Mechanical Engineering, 2022.

DC: In two to three sentences, how would you describe your startup?
Team StockBrew: StockBrew is a mobile app that helps busy stock market investors get notified of real-time insights and upcoming catalysts for their current or potential investments. Build the knowledge you need to make that next trade without having to spend hours a day.

DC: At what point did you know you wanted to create your own startup?
Team StockBrew: All three of us grew up with parents that were all self-starters, who built and ran their own small businesses. Growing up in an environment like that, a sense of hard work and entrepreneurship was instilled on us from a young age. The 3 of us met during our freshman year of college and we worked on several large projects such as engineering our own electric bike and starting our own private investment fund. These projects made us realize we worked well together. Fast forward to September of 2020, when we combined our interests for finance, technology, and entrepreneurship to begin building our startup.

DC: What or who is your biggest influence for your startup?
Team StockBrew: Our team knew we wanted to build a startup in the financial tech industry. At first, we came up with various ideas related to a social platform for investors. Then, we started to hold interviews with our potential customers, which is when we began to see a recurring problem. Students and those in the workforce didn’t have the time to constantly check for stock insights/updates, leading to less confidence in making future investment decisions. We owe it to our interview participants for telling us the stories that inspired our idea.

DC: How have the effects of the pandemic changed your company’s focus or ideas?
Team StockBrew: We came up with the idea during the pandemic so it didn’t really have a major impact on our company’s focus. However the pandemic did lead to a spike in stock trading, showing us that this is a strong market to get into right now.

DC: What updates or significant accomplishments can you share with us about your company from the last six months?
Team StockBrew: We’ve been working on this company for almost 5 months. During this time, we’ve been able to launch a landing page website, where people can get more information about the app and join a mailing list for upcoming releases. Additionally, we’ve created mock-ups for our application and created a development plan for our MVP. Just recently, we’ve begun coding the application, and some of the tools we’re using include: AWS, React, IEXCloud, and SqlDBM. 

DC: What are you hoping to achieve during Terp Startup Accelerator this summer?
Team StockBrew: During the Terp Startup Accelerator, we hope to learn just how to build a company and market to our customers. Also, we aim to learn about useful resources that are available to us. And lastly, we hope to grow our social network. 

DC: If you could give advice to any aspiring entrepreneurs, what would it be?
Team StockBrew: Try to figure out whether people actually have the problem you’re trying to solve before you spend months building something.

For more information about StockBrew, please visit the website here.

Feature Friday! Art Behavioral Analysis

Mika Panday ’21, Colleen Baldwin ’21, and Olivia Bruno ’21 are the co-founders of Art Behavioral Analysis.

DC: What are your names, majors, and graduation years?
Team ABA: Mika Panday, Studio Art 2021; Colleen Baldwin, Physics 2021; Olivia Bruno, Business Administration and Entrepreneurship 2021.

DC: In two to three sentences, how would you describe your startup?
Team ABA: Art Behavioral Analysis is an intuitive platform allowing HIPAA compliant photo sharing and the creation of medical timelines. Our mission is to help children with disabilities connect with their care teams on a personal level and to enhance the communication between their guardians and healthcare providers.

DC: At what point did you know you wanted to create your own startup?
Baldwin: When I was in 7th grade, my mother was a hospice nurse and I wanted to help the people she served, so I started writing uplifting letters. I worked with a couple of the kids that hung out in our art classroom during recess and inspired them to write letters with me. I received funding from my local church that allowed us to write over 100 letters to people on hospice care. This is when I realized I love the freedom of having my own company and the ability to help people.
Panday: I experienced a major dip in one of my bipolar swings that left me feeling with doubt about my future. Instead of letting it consume me, I drew in my sketchbook every day. I shared my illustrations that reflected how I was feeling to a community online. Overtime, the outlet to create something was the solution to combat my depression. From that experience, I feel motivated to share this tool with other people to cope with their emotions.
Bruno: My parents own an architecture firm, Bruno Architecture in Blue Hill Maine. As I grew up watching them experience the good, bad and ugly parts of entrepreneurship, I realized that it was a viable path towards financial independence, as well as an important way to contribute to my communities. Now I hope to bring my knowledge of business to help the community dearest to me: children with disabilities.

DC: What or who is your biggest influence for your startup?
Team ABA: The Maryland Autism facebook group, where mothers share triumphs and challenges involved with Autism, has been a source of inspiration to us. The number of posts surrounding breakdowns of communication between healthcare providers, special education teachers, and therapists, made us realize that this is a problem worth solving in a market ripe for innovation.

We are also inspired by the fearless women who run Applied Behavior Analysis (ABA) Centers. ABA therapy is a female dominated industry, which is both exciting and refreshing. We have been very lucky to connect with several innovative mentors who have already built, scaled and exited multiple companies in the space. The mentorship and guidance that these women have shared with us has transformed our MVP into a simpler and more impactful tool for families and healthcare providers.

DC: How have the effects of the pandemic changed your company’s focus or ideas?
Team ABA: As we moved from in-person experiences to zoom calls and emails, we learned the importance of communication and humanization through technology. We realized that written dialogue itself is not enough, we must change the way communication is structured, especially in the context of the disability community, so that neurotypical and neurodiverse populations can successfully understand and humanize with one another. Based on this hypothesis, we pivoted from a machine learning based diagnostic tool, to a HIPAA compliant photo and video sharing platform, which has received glowing feedback from our mentors in the ABA community.

DC: What updates or significant accomplishments can you share with us about your company from the last six months?
Team ABA: Over the last six months we have brought on Colleen our technical co-founder, completed customer interviews with over 30 potential customers, connected with four mentors and founders in the ABA community, and built our MVP.

DC: What are you hoping to achieve during Terp Startup Accelerator this summer?
Team ABA: Our most pressing goal is to get our app into the hands of ABA centers so that we can receive feedback from real users and iterate successfully. In order to do this, we need to finish developing the photo storage database and complete beta tests to ensure our platform is fully secure. Currently we have a working frontend and backend for user authentication and security. We hope to leverage insights from our upcoming beta tests to begin fundraising by the end of the Terp program in order to accommodate our growing tech costs.

DC: If you could give advice to any aspiring entrepreneurs, what would it be?
Team ABA: Remember to always pivot! Always revert back to your customer and understand their needs; ultimately you are making a product that will help them with their everyday life. Follow the sales, if people are not actively trying to buy your product, pivot!

For more information about Art Behavioral Analysis, please visit the website here.

Feature Friday! Blimp Logistics

Camilo Melnyk ’21 and Spencer Yaculak ’23 are the co-founders of Blimp Logistics.

DC: What are your names, majors, minors, and anticipated graduation years?
Yaculak and Melnyk: Spencer Yaculak, Mechanical Engineering, Spring 2023 and Camilo Melnyk, Aerospace Engineering, Spring 2021.

DC: In two to three sentences, how would you describe your startup?
Yaculak and Melnyk: Blimp Logistics is building a decentralized drone delivery network to provide last mile delivery services in rural and suburban markets. Using autonomous drones and automated hubs, we’ll be able to deliver orders from local grocery and convenience stores weighing up to 30 lbs.

DC: At what point did you know you wanted to create your own startup?
Yaculak: For me, my first bit of startup experience was an internship at ARMR Systems Inc. a couple years ago. They were developing cutting edge hemorrhage control systems for battlefield injuries. I loved the start-up culture, the excitement, and the stakes. I knew I wanted to do something like that. When Camilo started talking to me about the tech that would become the backbone of Blimp, I was sold immediately!
Melnyk: I knew for a very long time that I didn’t want to work a traditional desk job. I didn’t really know what form my career would take, at one point I was planning on going to film school! After high school I found myself at UMD where I watched some of my friends start their own ventures, and from that moment I knew that was the path I wanted to take, it just took me a couple of years to come up with a venture idea that I was really excited for.

DC: What or who is your biggest influence for your startup?
Yaculak: I love to help people. Blimp has given me the opportunity to connect an economically divided nation.
Melnyk: My biggest influence has been my fellow student entrepreneurs at UMD. Seeing my peers work their hardest at entrepreneurship motivates me, and it’s always inspiring to work alongside them.

DC: In the new virtual world, how has your focus or ideas changed?
Yaculak and Melnyk: The new virtual world has only sharpened our focus on our original idea. Customers and businesses are participating in e-commerce now more than ever, but the approach to last mile delivery hasn’t really evolved. Last mile delivery is the final link in the whole e-commerce chain, and when it’s slow, expensive, or the experience sucks it negatively affects the whole chain. We’re laser focused on fixing last mile delivery. This isn’t a problem that’s going away, our new virtual world has only caused it to get bigger, faster.

DC: What updates or significant accomplishments can you share with us about your company from the last six months?
Yaculak and Melnyk: In the past six months we’ve made a significant number of steps forward. Our top three would probably be:

  1. Participating in the National Science Foundation Innovation Corps program, where we conducted interviews with business customers about their logistics processes and what they were looking for in a last mile delivery service.
  2. Completing designs of some very exciting prototype hardware to handle packages onboard our drones.
  3. And last but certainly not least, taking home the grand prize of $30,000 of seed money as the first place team in the Quattrone Venture Track at the 2021 Pitch Dingman Competition.

DC: If you could give advice to any aspiring entrepreneurs, what would it be?
Yaculak: Talk to other entrepreneurs, ask them questions, heed their advice, and take advantage of their networking circles to expand your own. People are everything!
Melnyk: Find people that can help push your idea forward, and that are just as excited about it as you are. Blimp wouldn’t have come as far as it has in the past year without my amazing co-founder Spencer and the incredible people at the Dingman Center. Fully utilize your network and the resources you have access to, and you’ll get much farther much quicker. Working with the right people will make you more productive, successful, and you’ll have much more fun!

For more information about Blimp Logistics, please visit the website here.

Jason and Jamie Cohen Entrepreneurship Fund Award 2021 Recipient – Athenus Financial Group

Athenus Financial Group is a startup founded by University of Maryland students Damian Shaw ’24 and Cameron Williams ’21. Athenus is a fintech application that allows its users to easily trade foreign exchange. It is powered by Machine Learning AI, which allows users to analyze price data in seconds, where users can then place successful trades without having to learn the market themselves. Williams participated in New Venture Practicum during the Spring ’21 semester and the team also competed in Pitch Dingman Competition 2021 Semifinals.

Athenus Financial Group has been chosen as the recipient for the 2021 Jason ’96 & Jamie Cohen Entrepreneurship Fund Award. They will receive $1,000 to further accelerate their startup, selected due to the perseverance, level of engagement, and growth potential they have shown over the course of the year. According to Williams, the funding will be put towards backend costs, such as servers and connecting to the brokers network.

Congratulations to Shaw and Williams of Athenus Financial Group!

Feature Friday! Hana’s Cake Bar

Hana Bekele ’21, founder of Hana’s Cake Bar, displaying her logo proudly.

DC: What’s your name, major, and anticipated graduation year?
Bekele:
My name is Hana Bekele and I am a Community Health Major graduating this Spring 2021.

DC: In two to three sentences, how would you describe your startup?
Bekele:
Hana’s Cake Bar is a bespoke bakery where I tailor every baked good for what the customer desires. I aim to provide high quality and unique flavors for every treat.

DC: At what point did you know you wanted to create your own startup?
Bekele:
My startup was actually created by accident. I created a cake design for a friend just to see how well I could do it and once I posted it a lot of people started inquiring about cakes so I thought I should start it up. 

DC: What or who is your biggest influence for your startup?
Bekele:
My friends are my biggest influences for my startup. Since the beginning they’ve encouraged me and have always helped me through everything for my business. 

DC: In the new virtual world, how has your focus or ideas changed?
Bekele:
The virtual world definitely helps my ideas. Following new cake trends and ideas that are all over social media helps me keep up.

DC: What updates or significant accomplishments can you share with us about your company from the last six months?
Bekele:
Well my company only started 6 months ago, but in 6 months I have been able to surpass my revenue goal which is a huge accomplishment for me.

DC: If you could give advice to any aspiring entrepreneurs, what would it be?
Bekele:
If I could give advice to any inspiring entrepreneurs I would say to do it! You lose nothing from trying something out so I would definitely encourage them to follow what they want to do. 

FEATURE FRIDAY! Athenus Financial Group

Damian Shaw ’24 and Cameron Williams ’21 show off the Athenus mobile app.

DC: What are your names, majors, and graduation years?
Shaw: Cameron Williams, Mechanical Engineering, 2021 and Damian Shaw, Computer Science, 2024.

DC: In two to three sentences, how would you describe your startup?
Williams: Athenus is an app that allows traders to participate in the foreign exchange market. The app is powered by Machine Learning AI that helps traders manage risk by knowing which trades to enter and how to manage their trades. With Athenus, it has never been easier for amateur investors to get started trading currencies. 

DC: At what point did you know you wanted to create your own startup?
Shaw: Having a startup has been our dream for a very long time. Maryland’s alumni have started large, successful companies like Google and Oculus, with one of the most recent being Squarespace, however we wouldn’t describe ourselves as people who would brainstorm ideas. We knew most of the best ideas stemmed from need or identifying a gap in the market. We had noticed that a lot of people really struggled with investing and Cameron has been investing for a very long time. We saw that there was a huge opportunity there and with the help of Dingman Fridays, we were able to consolidate our initial idea to what it is today. Once we identified that there was a gap in the market and that our solution seemed viable, we decided to just go for it. 

DC: What or who is your biggest influence for your startup?
Williams: Our customers who don’t know they are our customers yet. One thing that motivates us everyday is the amount of people looking for ways to get started in investing but they buy into a program that can “teach them how to get rich”. These programs are always a scam but so many people fall for them because they really want to learn and the people that run them know that they can’t provide any valuable knowledge. It is blatant exploitation and one of Athenus’ main goals is to provide a rewarding alternative so that people can truly build wealth for themselves.

DC: In the new virtual world, how has your focus or ideas changed?
Shaw: Our idea has not changed but our market has gotten larger, which is evident from many other fintech companies and financial events. The recession has caused more people to want to earn money, people have had time to learn about investing and are more interested in it. Right now is the perfect time to get people started with investing, especially in a market that they may not be as familiar with.

DC: What updates or significant accomplishments can you share with us about your company from the last six months?
Williams: We have raised over $11,000 through a crowdfunding campaign. The alpha of the app has been built and the beta is still being developed. We already have 100 pre-registered users eager to download the app as soon as it is available. 

DC: If you could give advice to any aspiring entrepreneurs, what would it be?
Shaw: Market opportunity is the single most important thing that determines whether or not your startup will be successful. The idea itself does not matter as much. Athenus has pivoted several times throughout our company’s short history. The idea you have now, most likely won’t be the idea you go to market with. Identifying gaps in the market, a need that is currently not being serviced effectively, and if you can fill that gap, will take you extremely far. 

Feature Friday! Fancy & Spicy

Brin Xu ’22 cooking up authentic Chinese food recipes for her online cooking platform.

DC: What’s your name, major, and graduation year?
Xu: Brin Xu, Sociology, 2022

DC: In two to three sentences, how would you describe your startup?
Xu: Fancy & Spicy is a popular food blog and cooking platform. It provides authentic Chinese food recipes, cookbooks, cooking events, and cooking consultation for anyone who has a home kitchen.

DC: At what point did you know you wanted to create your own startup?
Xu: Fall 2020

DC: What or who is your biggest influence for your startup?
Xu: While many people and companies have an influence on the startup, Airbnb has the biggest impact so far. Airbnb offers an online experience program since the quarantine. The program is timely but has only limited cooking events available. We figured out that an online platform dedicated to cooking would be intriguing and popular.

DC: In the new virtual world, how has your focus or ideas changed?
Xu: Fancy & Spicy started with a food blog, but soon we realized that more interactive cooking experiences are needed, and began to offer online cooking classes since last winter. In the future, we plan to offer different kinds of classes by recruiting cooking ambassadors, improving the quality of my recipes, and making healthy cooking accessible to everyone.

DC: What updates or significant accomplishments can you share with us about your company from the last six months?
Xu: This spring semester I was invited to be a formal instructor for the UMD Stamp Student Union. I offer a course called Essential Sichuan Cuisine. It has been so successful that we’re discussing a second contract with the Stamp.

DC: If you could give advice to any aspiring entrepreneurs, what would it be?
Xu: I think a startup is a process, so it is important to start doing things. Do not let perfectionism slow you down.

Spotlight on Kanchan Singh: CEO and Founder of Crumbs & Whiskers

By Lahari Tammera ’23

Lahari Tammera ’23, Ladies First Founders Spring ’21

A couple of years ago, I was joking around with my sister about how it’d be cool to own my own cafe and how we could create a fun menu and start a business from the ground up. I wanted it to be an establishment with South Asian fusion menu items with the look and aesthetic of a French cafe. I didn’t realize it then, but that idea would continue to stick with me for the years to come. As time passed, I began to realize exactly how much I wanted that random idea to actually come to life and become a reality.

But then came the doubt. I wasn’t sure if it was a career path that I could see for myself and I wasn’t sure if I would end up being able to enact the type of social change I wanted to see through my cafe. I found myself doing research here and there, trying to make my idea into something with a solid foundation. But the thought that I could fail and that it wouldn’t end up being as amazing as I wanted it to kept nagging at me.

Through my research, I stumbled upon a UMD alumna that was doing some amazing work through her own cafe. I was shocked to see that there was someone who had graduated from the same exact university that I was attending, who chose to go into a similar path. Her name is Kanchan Singh and she is the CEO and founder of Crumbs & Whiskers.

Her idea is a very innovative one and her cat cafe was one of the first few in the entire United States. It was a concept that wasn’t seen as common here but is very popular in other countries. As said on the Crumbs & Whiskers website, they partner with rescues that save homeless cats at risk of euthanasia and house them in their different cafe locations. They let people come in and play with these cats and keep them in their cafes until they’re adopted! All their menu items aren’t made in-house.

I was so surprised and elated to see a South Asian woman from UMD create a cafe that works to help in a social cause. It made me believe that I too could maybe create something great that would be helpful to people in my community.

Kanchan’s business flourished from having one central location in Washington DC, to having another storefront in Los Angeles. The importance and impact that social entrepreneurship can create are seen here in a real-life example. According to their website, 1612 cats have been adopted, 3311 cats have been saved from euthanasia, and $392000 has been donated to charity through all the hard work that was done at Crumbs & Whiskers.

If you want to learn more about Kanchan and her journey, you can check out the Crumbs & Whiskers website (they have merch!) or you can listen to her podcast episode on the Dingman Center’s Bootstrapped show!

Feature Friday! Omega 3 LLC

Edwin Djampa ’22, founder of Omega 3 LLC.

DC: What’s your name(s), major(s), minor, and graduation year(s)?

Djampa: My name is Edwin Djampa (I also go by my middle name Bright). I am a Nutritional Food Science Major and I graduate in May 2022.

DC: In two to three sentences, how would you describe your startup?

Djampa: Here at Omega 3 we make granola bars that are enriched in omega-3 fatty acids. We have chosen to focus on this nutrient because it’s essential to a person’s overall wellbeing; and it is lacking in many diets. More specifically, Just like you can go to the grocery store and see a section to help you if you want to lose weight, a section if you want to eat sugar free, a section that is more celiac disease consciences (aka gluten), and a section if you want to bulk up in the gym (keto-friendly and low carb), we believe that there should be a section that screams “Hey do you want to keep your brain balanced, healthy, and strong? Well, here are the food items you can eat to do so”. At Omega 3 we feel as though that aisle is so needed right now. 

DC: At what point did you know you wanted to create your own startup?

Djampa: I knew I wanted to create the startup in April of 2019 after attending a nutrition class lecture about how much the American Diet lacks omega-3 fatty acids.

DC: What or who is your biggest influence for your startup?

Djampa: The lack of attention nutrition was getting as a viable way for people to take care of their mental wellbeing was my biggest motivation to start this business.

DC: In the new virtual world, how has your focus or ideas changed?

Djampa: This new virtual world (especially the isolation part of this new world) has reminded so many people that it is essential to proactively take care of one’s mental health.

DC: What updates or significant accomplishments can you share with us about your company from the last six months?

Djampa:  In the last 6 months we were able to get into 6 stores (1 of them being a small east coast chain store), making that 8 stores in total that we are in right now. 

DC: If you could give advice to any aspiring entrepreneurs, what would it be? 

Djampa:  Advice for Entrepreneurs: You have to see the vision of your company before anyone else can. What I mean by that is others might not see or understand your business and that’s okay because essentially that’s what innovation is – An individual sees something and brings it to fruition before anyone else can do the same. Remember if it was easy everyone would do it. Lastly, I’ll leave you with this quote: “If you change the way you look at things, the things you look at change.”