ANNOUNCING THE FEARLESS FOUNDERS: NEW VENTURE PRACTICUM FALL 2022 COHORT

New Venture Practicum is one of the Dingman Center’s signature courses. Taught by Le-Marie Thompson during the Fall semester, students experiment with business models, revenue streams and go-to-market strategies. By the end of this course, some startups are securing their first customers and generating revenue, while others are working on a beta or pilot. In the final class, students pitch for seed funding to move their business forward.

Read on to learn more about this cohort’s exciting student founders and their businesses!

Exercise Network – Candace Austin ’23 (Finance)
Exercise Network is a healthy lifestyle network aiming to help individuals live life healthier through our fitness, aquatics, and nutrition programs.

Fashion House – Vina Chen ’25

Financial WIzard – Toluwalope Adewole ’23

Frontground “The Cerner of Africa” – Kenneth Yeaher Jr. ’24 (Information Science)
Frontground is a social enterprise creating information systems for developing nations and emerging markets. 

Game Changers New York – Sara Blau ’24 (Business Management)
Game Changers is a 501(c)3 non-profit whose mission is to redistribute sports equipment to children globally in order to create sports equity. 

Grassroot – Datta Kaligotla ’24

MatRx – James Dawson ’24 (Business Management)
MatRx is a patent pending, novel device that allows drivers to prevent and cover damage on the floor mats. 

Modest Sports Fashion – Syarifatul Umam ’23

Odin Electric – Joseph Kattan ’22

Old Town, New Clothes – Brian Spinner ’23 (Environmental Science and Policy)
Old Town, New Clothes is a clothing brand I have established in which I sell my own custom and thrifted clothing. Old Town, New Clothes allows members of the UMD community to give me their clothes they no longer have a use for and in turn I sell them at weekly pop-up shops and turn peoples leftover clothing into money for them. 

Recover Pals – Aaron Zeng ‘24  

RewardsHub – David Crabtree ’23

SweetForm – Eman Mirdamadi ’25 (Bioengineering)
SweetForm is a kitchen device startup seeking to give food making hobbyists and pastry chefs a mess free, stick free, and fun way to make ice and sweet treats with any shape they desire. 

TaskPanel – Siddharth Dudla ’24 (Finance and Information Systems)
TaskPanel is a productivity device startup aiming to help people accomplish their daily goals and smash their deadlines in a fun and interactive way.

Feature Friday! Game Changers New York

Game Changers New York providing tennis equiptment to children in Nairobi, Kenya.

DC: What is your name, major, minor, and graduation year?
Blau: Sara Blau, Business Management Major, Sociology Minor, College Park Scholars – International Studies Track, Graduation Year: 2024.

Founder of Game Changers New York, Sara Blau ’24.

DC: Which Dingman Center programs have you been involved with?
Blau: I was in the Pitch Dingman program and I’ve also participated in Dingman Friday’s numerous times. Additionally, I am currently enrolled in Fearless Founders’ New Venture Practicum.

DC: In two to three sentences, how would you describe your startup?
Blau: Game Changers New York is a 501(3)c non-profit whose mission is to redistribute sports equipment to underrepresented children globally. To date, we’ve donated tens of thousands of pieces of equipment to 96 partner organizations in 15 countries. We’ve had an enormous impact on youth athletics, allowing countless numbers of children to play sports.

DC: At what point did you know you wanted to start your own venture? 
Blau: I founded GCNY as a sophomore in high school. As an athlete myself, I recognized the value of having something to look forward to every day during recess, gym class, or after school. As a sophomore, I understood that many underrepresented children faced barriers to participation in sports. At that moment, my work began.

DC: Why did you decide to start a business in this industry?
Blau: From the time I founded GCNY in 2016 until now, there are no other major “players” doing the work we do in this field in New York. We are proudly running this industry in New York and will continue to do so. Game Changer’s concept is simple, yet incredibly effective in that people, programs, national sports leagues, companies, sports centers and more have had a need to donate sports equipment. This desire to donate matches perfectly with our growing global partner organization network that is constantly in need of items to support their programs. 

Blau ’24 and her team collecting donated supplies for distribution.

DC: What or who is your biggest influence for your startup?
Blau: My family has been my biggest influence on my startup. Although they are not on the board of directors, or advisory board, they play an enormous factor in the success of the organization. Their guidance, love, and support since day-one has enabled me to achieve our goals.

DC: When it comes to your venture, how do you define success?
Blau: We define success when a partner organization is matched with a donor. For example, today, we facilitated a 600-volleyball donation by a large corporation that distributes games to one of our partner organizations that bridges Latino, African American, Hasidic, and residents of NYCHA housing, enabling them to build community together in Brooklyn. We are constantly working on connections and sports equipment redistributions such as this one. When the kids get to use the equipment, it is a true success.

DC: If you could give advice to any aspiring entrepreneurs, what would it be?
Blau: My advice is to just get started. When I founded the organization, I had no idea that this is what it turned into. Every day, there are new opportunities for us at the organization, and you can’t plan for it. I encourage everyone with an idea to just start somewhere, and the rest will fall in its place.

To learn more about Game Changers New York please visit the website here.

Feature Friday! UCleaner

This summer, the Dingman Center will be conducting interviews with the 11 student startups who are participating in our first in-person Terp Startup summer accelerator since 2020. Participating student entrepreneurs will receive a stipend up to $5,000 that will enable them to work exclusively on their startups over the next eight weeks.

Co-founders: Robert Choe PhD ’23, Bioengineering. Blake Kuzemchak ’23, Bioengineering. Erfan Jabari ’22, Bioengineering.

UCleaner’s co-founder, Robert Choe PhD ’23, pitching at Terp Startup Accelerator’s Demo Day.

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

Choe: Our startup revolves around the UCleaner device that is an all-in-one autoflosser for people undergoing dental braces treatment.

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

Choe: As UMD has a great entrepreneurial community and resources, we all had a nascent desire to explore the startup scene on campus. However, the inception of this particular startup idea began in the fall of 2021. 

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

Choe: We don’t have one specific big influence. Rather, being bioengineers, we are motivated by our desire to solve big problems in the healthcare space. We identified a problem area in the dental space and began working to make it a viable startup.

The UCleaner device prototype, designed for the full-mouth to receive automated water jet action.

DC: What makes your business unique?

Choe: We are the only product that aims to design a comprehensive full-mouth oral hygiene product specifically for dental braces wearers.

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

Choe: We started this venture in January. So far, the biggest accomplishment for our team is that we have narrowed down our product-market fit. We have plenty of work to do so continue validating our product-market fit further and actually initiate product testing in the near future.

DC: When it comes to your startup, how do you define success?

Choe: We aim to make the UCleaner device a requisite oral hygiene product for dental braces wearers. 

DC: What do you feel that you have achieved from participating in Terp Startup Accelerator this summer?

Choe: We did the most significant customer discovery during the TSA. The TSA provided the framework, resources, and mentors to really execute the customer validation process. It was an invaluable experience and we would highly recommend any aspiring UMD student entrepreneur to participate in the TSA.

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

Choe: Once you have an idea and form your initial product/customer hypotheses, stop thinking and start doing. Talk to people about your idea, go to start-up gatherings, etc. It may be daunting at first, but take baby steps and keep at it. Successful ventures do not take months but years to develop. The most important thing is that you need to start somewhere.

To learn more about UCleaner, please visit the website here.

Tagged ,

Feature Friday! WaveLi

This summer, the Dingman Center will be conducting interviews with the 11 student startups who are participating in our first in-person Terp Startup summer accelerator since 2020. Participating student entrepreneurs will receive a stipend up to $5,000 that will enable them to work exclusively on their startups over the next eight weeks.

Founders: Robert Castro ’24, CEO and co-founder, finance major. Samai Patel ’25, CSO and co-founder, computer science major. Zach Lefkovitz ’24, CTO and co-founder, computer science major. Corbin Voorhees ’25, graphic designer, aerospace engineering major. Matt Gashaw ’25, marketing lead, computer science major.

WaveLi’s co-founder Robert Castro ’24 (left) and graphic designer Corbin Voorhees ’25 (right) tabling at Terp Startup Accelerator’s 2022 Demo Day.

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

Castro: We’re a social media platform that connects users in real life through events tailored to their interests. Our app is the best way to find exciting events while meeting awesome people along the way.

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

Castro: It was definitely after my freshman year of college when I had just finished my first internship at a local investment bank. Although I enjoyed the experience, I did some introspection and realized I had more passion for my work when I create my own things, especially those that help and inspire others. I’ve always enjoyed working on engineering projects, making art, and building things that had value, and I finally understood that building my own business, particularly one that solved a common problem, would give me great fulfillment. So, I reached out to some friends around campus with a similar vision and we started brainstorming to see if we could make it a reality.

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

Castro: I would say my biggest influence was definitely my family. Both of my parents came from very humble backgrounds in a place where opportunities to make a living were very scarce. I’m very grateful for their dedication to their career as it allowed me to have the resources I have now, especially those here at the University of Maryland, and I feel it’s my obligation to take advantage of these opportunities and work on things I’m truly passionate about when my relatives never got that chance.

DC: How did you come up with the name of your venture?

Castro ’24 and Voorhees ’25 pitching at Demo Day.

Castro: We’ve had three names so far, but the first two didn’t last very long. We decided our new name needed to convey the essence of our users moving from place to place and being in communities of like minded people. Our team got to work and made a list of words and phrases that evoke these ideas, and one of the most popular words was “wave” as we liked the colors and imagery that could be used for our brand. We came up with many variations using “wave” but we ultimately chose “WaveLi” as it was short, sweet, and catchy.

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

Castro: We’ve hit many major milestones on our journey towards launch. The first of which is the fact that our company was recently incorporated in the state of Delaware which gave us access to a company bank account and the Apple Developer program. In addition, we’ve also grown our waitlist and Instagram account substantially. This will give us a solid community of initial users for when our app launches in the fall. Furthermore, in the spring of 2022, we won the audience choice award during the Pitch Dingman Competition which gave us invaluable feedback for our startup and prize funds for our budget. Finally, we’ve just finished developing our first alpha test which will go live in a few days, so we’re making good progress towards our release on the App Store.

DC: When it comes to your startup, how do you define success?

Castro: We would consider ourselves successful when we have a growing platform full of users who have found exciting events and met great friends they may have never met otherwise. Once we’re at a point where we can confidently say we’ve helped our users consistently find events they’re looking for in a straightforward manner while integrating them in a new community, we will know WaveLi is succeeding.

DC: What were you hoping to achieve during the Terp Startup Accelerator this summer?

Castro: Our main goals were to build our network and gain knowledge for our company to grow to its potential. We were very excited to work with the professionals and coaches so we can learn from their experience and avoid common mistakes that startups tend to make. WaveLi will incorporate this knowledge into our growth plan and leverage the network at the Dingman Center to connect other professionals to our platform.

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

Castro: I would make sure they understand that being an entrepreneur is a very bumpy road, it is not a straight line upwards at all. You’ll have wins and losses. You’ll feel triumphant and defeated. What matters is not the things that happen, but how you react and adapt to them. The two most important qualities an entrepreneur can have in my opinion are resilience and persistence. It’s a long journey, so don’t focus on the end goal. Focus on the small things, and don’t beat yourself if you make mistakes, because they will happen. You’ll learn so much in this process that even if things don’t work out exactly the way you wanted them to, you’ll be a stronger and more capable person by the end of it.

To learn more about WaveLi, please visit the website here.

Tagged ,

Feature Friday! ReGlass

This summer, the Dingman Center will be conducting interviews with the 11 student startups who are participating in our first in-person Terp Startup summer accelerator since 2020. Participating student entrepreneurs will receive a stipend up to $5,000 that will enable them to work exclusively on their startups over the next eight weeks.

Founders: Bennett Greenspun ’24, business management major, astronomy minor.

Bennett Greenspun ’24, founder of ReGlass, pitching his venture at Terp Startup Accelerator’s Demo Day 2022.

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

Greenspun: ReGlass is a company that makes glasses with interchangeable lenses so people can save money on frames and express themselves better through their eyewear.

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

Greenspun: My father is an entrepreneur and has been running his company my whole life, so growing up entrepreneurship was all I saw in regards to what working was like. I liked the idea of freedom in decision-making and not having a boss so I decided early on that it was something I wanted to pursue.

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

Greenspun: My father is the biggest influence in my startup because I always go to him for advice, and he has become such a valuable mentor to me while I’ve been building this company.

DC: Why did you decide to start a business in this industry?

Greenspun: I wanted to pursue this idea because it affected me personally. Having to buy new glasses every year or so when my prescription changes is not something I want to do. I wanted to solve this problem so that others didn’t have to go through it.

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

Greenspun: Right after coming up with the idea in January I applied to the Pitch Dingman Competition for the Fearless Ideas track. I got to the finals where I could pitch in front of judges and won. I received $5,000 and admission to the Terp Startup Accelerator summer incubator, which gave another $5,000. I have made significant progress prototyping and am 1 to 2 months away from having physical glasses for people to try out.

DC: As a student business owner, what motivates you?

Greenspun: Having full control over my decisions is what motivates me. Throughout all of elementary, middle, and high school most of my big decisions were made for me, and to some extent, even in college, you are bound to your classes and degree requirements. Owning a business and being able to have full control gives me a sense of freedom that motivates me to keep going.

DC: What do you feel that you have achieved from participating in Terp Startup Accelerator this summer?

Greenspun: I have deeply learned about the many aspects of starting a business and know that even if this business fails, this information will stay with me and could be useful for starting a different business. I picked up information that I know will last.

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

Greenspun: My advice would be to just start. A lot of people spend time being dreamers, thinking about ideas or the best possible way to implement but are afraid to start. The best way to go about it is to just build. Your first version will suck, but that’s the first step to making something that people will eventually want.

To learn more about ReGlass, please contact Bennett Greenspun.

Tagged ,

Terp Startup Accelerator’s Demo Day 2022

Demo Day 2022, located in the Iribe Center at the University of Maryland.

On Thursday, July 28th the Dingman Center’s Terp Startup Accelerator 2022 cohort gathered for Demo Day. During the event which was held at the in the Brendan Iribe Center for Computer Science and Engineering, each cohort member delivered a five-minute venture pitch that they have been developing all summer. 

With more than 100 in-person attendees and 50 additional individuals joining online, Demo Day had a fantastic turnout–and even better energy. This year’s pitches were creative, engaging, and a perfect display of the progress everyone made since the beginning of the accelerator. 

“The best part of demo day was seeing the growth that everyone else in the rest of the cohort achieved. It was awesome to watch them present their ideas in full and I was blown away by how awesome everyone was,” said Josh Doying, founder of Bedtime Sports. 

Demo Day is not only a way for the entire cohort to display their acceleration, but also a chance for select members to win prizes that fund their startup. This year, it was up to the audience to choose winners for certain prizes using ‘Dingman Dollars’. The audience was able to “invest” these ‘Dingman Dollars’ into their favorite companies, and at the end of the event, ventures with the highest “investments” received a shared prize, totaling $1,000. The breakdown was the following:

  • $192.50 – Sparza LLC
  • $149.06 – Arch Dash
  • $136.64 – ReGlass
  • $130.04 – Bedtime Sports
  • $111.80 – UCleaner
  • $99.30 – JuJu
  • $86.90 – EMPIRE 242
  • $74.50 – Em G Art Design Studio
  • $12.40 – Omega 3
  • $6.21 – WaveLi

Although each member in the cohort displayed growth of their business throughout TSA, the following were selected as main prize winners, each prize totaling $1,000: 

Holly DeArmond, managing director at the Dingman Center, opening the event.

Pitches were assessed by an incredible panel of guest judges: the Dingman Center’s own managing director, Holly DeArmond, and academic director, Brent Goldfarb, Alla McCoy, the director of startup support at UM Ventures, Bill Bentley, the director of the Fischell Institute, Dean Chang, UMD’s interim chief innovation officer, and Kory Bailey, the director of relationship development at UpSurge Baltimore. 

Whether a team won a prize or not, Demo Day was a success for everyone involved. Each venture had an opportunity to deliver a live venture pitch to a packed audience and network with the Dingman Center’s startup community. 

“My favorite part of demo day was pitching,” said Ina Kovacheva, founder of Arch Dash. “Although it was very nerve-wracking, it was also very exciting since it was my first live pitch; the follow-up networking, and learning how what we are trying to do resonates with others was also very memorable, and the prizes were very fun!” 

Despite many businesses preparing for their pitch in different ways, the Dingman Center team was able to provide continuous support, which catered to the specific needs of each of them.

Founder of Arch Dash, Ina Kovacheva ’23, pitching at Demo Day.

“I practiced my Demo Day pitch over 30 times with my co-founder Kyle Sznoluch,” said Ryan Myer co-founder of Sparza. “Holly and the team were also incredibly helpful in giving us feedback on our pitch presentation.” 

“Lottie and Tsega helped make the pitch more efficient and concentrate on the main topics by reducing a 19-page deck to a 13-page deck,” said Weixiang Wang, co-founder of JuJu Food Delivery. 

After eight weeks of detailed, hands-on training, Demo Day was a bittersweet way to commemorate TSA coming to an end. The experience was a fun and memorable way for cohort members to reflect on their time in the program and see how far they have come with their startups.

“At the base level, TSA provided us with numerous workshops, mentors and resources to put together our final pitch deck, said Robert Choe, co-founder of UCleaner. “However, the program provided us with a great platform to execute our customer validation process and helped us reach a promising product-market fit.”

Tagged ,

Feature Friday! Bedtime Sports

This summer, the Dingman Center will be conducting interviews with the 11 student startups who are participating in our first in-person Terp Startup summer accelerator since 2020. Participating student entrepreneurs will receive a stipend up to $5,000 that will enable them to work exclusively on their startups over the next eight weeks.

Founder: Josh Doying, MBA Candidate 2023.

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

Doying: Bedtime Sports is a subscription storytelling service for the sports fan parents of young children. Subscribers will receive stories highlighting the athletes and stories about their favorite teams allowing them to share their fandom with their family during the season in an age appropriate and accessible format.

Founder of Bedtime Sports, Josh Doying, MBA Candidate ’23.

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

Doying: I’ve always been drawn to innovative solutions to problems and opportunities that I see around me. This specific idea came out of my personal experience trying to share my love of sports and my baseball team, The New York Mets, with my own kids.

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

Doying: My daughter. I started creating the stories for her, and her enthusiasm is what made me think there might be wider interest in something like this. She has been my tester for the stories.

DC: Why did you decide to start a business in this industry?

Doying: I worked for 7 years in education, and I’m constantly motivated by opportunities to support children and families. While the idea for Bedtime Stories came from an experience in my own family, research shows that emotional resilience can be strengthened by hearing a variety of stories – with good and bad outcomes. (I know that I’ve developed a lot of emotional resilience through my own fandom of the New York Mets!) I hope I’ve built a product that can create shared time for parents and kids, help build emotional resilience, and be a pathway for more frequent and open communication.

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

Doying: Actually building a product and getting it off the ground and running. Just two months ago, I had an idea, 130 survey responses, and drafts of a couple stories. Now, we have a “Minimum Viable Product” (MVP) live at www.bedtimesports.com. After doing a lot of customer validation, surveys, idea pitching, business planning, etc, I’m excited to allow real customers to interact with our content, collect feedback, and adapt to meet customer demand.

DC: When it comes to your startup, how do you define success?

Doying: I think success is creating something so valuable that people are willing to give you money for it! It’s incredible to be able to create something like that. With Bedtime Sports, I also wanted to learn about entrepreneurship and everything associated with taking an idea and turning it into a business. I’ve learned so much that I would count this process as a huge success even if we didn’t get any customers (although I look forward to continuing to learn even more through the customer acquisition process!)

DC: What are you hoping to achieve during the Terp Startup Accelerator this summer?

Doying: My goal during the Accelerator was to create an MVP and begin marketing to and acquiring subscribers. We soft-launched last week, and are planning a hard launch this weekend, so mission 50% accomplished.

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

Doying: It’s not my advice, but I was told a long time ago that “the idea is not the secret sauce, you are.” Basically, there is a lot of fear about sharing ideas and “what if someone steals it” or “what if people think it’s dumb?” but really, you are what is going to make your idea successful, not the idea itself. I really appreciate the Terp Startup Accelerator for giving me the platform, opportunity, and framework to talk about my idea over and over again with lots and lots of people. It has helped bring it from an idea, to an actual, real thing. And that doesn’t happen until you start to share your idea with people.

To learn more about Bedtime Sports, please visit the website here.

Feature Friday! Em G Art Design Studio

This summer, the Dingman Center will be conducting interviews with the 11 student startups who are participating in our first in-person Terp Startup summer accelerator since 2020. Participating student entrepreneurs will receive a stipend up to $5,000 that will enable them to work exclusively on their startups over the next eight weeks.

Founders: Emily Garcia ‘23, Studio Art & Art Education double major.

Founder Emily Garcia’s ’23 setup for Terp Marketplace 2022.

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

Garcia’s hand-drawn “Cherry Blossom Stickers”.

Garcia: An online arts & crafts + stationery shop. Where all products are originally designed and handmade to promote joy and creativity. 

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

Garcia: I’ve been dreaming of having my own business since high school. But I was afraid of taking the next step, thinking I wouldn’t be good enough. It wasn’t until I attended my first Terp Marketplace that I decided to officially open my first online shop.

DC: What makes your startup unique?

Garcia: Everything is handmade!

Find Garcia and support her startup at the Wheaton Arts Parade and Festival on September 25th, 2022!

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

Garcia: I am currently redesigning my shop. I will be focusing on spreading awareness on Fibromyalgia. The products are designed to be relatable, allowing sufferers to feel seen and heard. You can find my shop at www.em-g-art-design-studio.com . I will also be selling pins soon!! On September 25th, I will have my shop set up at the Wheaton Arts Parade and Festival!

DC: As a student business owner, what motivates you?

Garcia: The way I grew up, and my experiences taught me to take advantage of any opportunities available to me while I can. I am constantly trying to learn more and better myself so that I can be a great role model for my younger sister. To prove to her that anything is possible if you set your mind to it.

DC: What are you hoping to achieve during the Terp Startup Accelerator this summer?

Garcia: To gain a clear understanding of what I want my business to look like, what my target market will be, and how I will address their needs.

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

Garcia: Don’t be afraid to take the opportunities and resources available to you out of fear. If you’re passionate about your idea, go for it!! It doesn’t matter if you don’t know all the answers now. You will learn along the way.

To learn more about Em G Art Design Studio, please visit the website here.

Keeping Up With Terp Startup Accelerator 2022!

This week marks one month into the Dingman Center’s 2022 Terp Startup Accelerator program…and it could not be going better!

So far our cohort has had a blast hearing from guest speakers, participating in workshops and roundtable discussions, and even taking field trips to the Johns Hopkins University Fast Forward U program and Towson University’s accelerator at Startups!

Our cohort has also been participating in fun innovation challenges throughout the summer like paper airplane building competitions and playing the card game “A Balancing Act”, created by cohort members and co-founders of Sparza, Ryan Myer ’22, and Kyle Sznoluch.

“TSA has been an amazing experience! The entire community has been extremely supportive and nurturing in helping us with our ventures. The cohort has been really great as well, and it has been extremely educational and beneficial to learn from fellow members. The structured environment and advising have helped us move forward and think about aspects of our venture we hadn’t thought about before. We have immensely expanded our network and have made connections not only at UMCP but also at JHU, Towson, alumni and practicing professionals,” said Ina Kovacheva, founder of Arch Dash

The program, held in the new Idea Factory’s Academy for Innovation & Entrepreneurship Loft on campus, has given these student entrepreneurs the opportunity to advance their own ventures full-time while spontaneously collaborating with one another. Working in this type of environment is relatively new for many students, but participants like Emily Garcia, founder of Em G Art Design Studio, have grown to appreciate the benefits.

“I’ve worked in art studios which are similar in a way. The similarities come from the fact that the space gathers like-minded people. People who are working in a space that inspires creativity and out-of-the-box thinking. One’s environment can influence their work and mindset. It also creates a sense of community,” said Garcia.

Of the 11 ventures accepted into TSA, each is unique–and not only in its products and services. While some students have fully developed ventures that already generate revenue, others simply have an idea and the passion to make it happen. No matter the stage of the startup, each company is given up to $5,000 in financial support and full physical support from members of the Dingman Team, Holly DeArmond, Tsega Belachew, Lottie Byram, and Alex Onufrak.

“The access to mentors, professionals, and their networks has been really helpful. Even more than the specific workshops, simply the ability to connect with and tap into mentor networks has been a huge value add,” said Josh Doying founder of Bedtime Sports.

Despite some ventures being more advanced in their process than others, by the end of the program, all companies will meet critical outcomes such as making data-driven decisions using metrics that matter, finding product/market fit, and acquiring initial customers.

Even though the 2022 program is nearly halfway complete, students are still working hard and are excited to take the next steps in furthering their venture.

“I am very much looking forward to starting a pilot program with the University and learning more about how they can benefit from our technology! A bit nervous about demo day and really dreading the thought of TSA coming to an end,” said Kovacheva.

Tagged ,

Feature Friday! EMPIRE 242

This summer, the Dingman Center will be conducting interviews with the 11 student startups who are participating in our first in-person Terp Startup summer accelerator since 2020. Participating student entrepreneurs will receive a stipend up to $5,000 that will enable them to work exclusively on their startups over the next eight weeks.

Founders: Kang Ewimbi ’23, Entertainment Industry major.

Kang Ewimbi ’23 (second from the right) preforming live at the University of Maryland’s Next NOW Fest with his music group, 242.

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

Founder of EMPIRE 242, Kang Ewimbi ’23.

Ewimbi: Empire 242 is a record label ran by artists for artists looking for an alternative path from the major recording companies, as independence and transparency are paramount to creativity.

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

Ewimbi: I decided to create my own startup as I was entering high school. My friends and I were in a band, and we knew that we wanted to be in the music industry. As I was doing research to figure out how to expand our careers as artists, it became apparent to me that the business practices used by major record labels were underhanded and overall detrimental to creators. Thus, I got to work creating an avenue for us and other artists to pursue viable, long-lasting careers within the music industry.

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

Ewimbi: Artist-owned record labels like Death Row, Young Money, No Limit, Dreamville, OVO, etc.

DC: How did you come up with the name of your business?

Ewimbi: So back in middle school, my friends and I were in a program called Rock Band. In it, we were able to learn how to play non-traditional instruments in a classroom setting — like electric guitar, bass, drums, keyboard, etc. Simultaneously, we would learn about history in the 20th century through the lens of music and pop culture. This experience really resonated with us, and so we decided to start an out-of-school band. After going through a multitude of names, we landed on Room 242, named after the Rock Band classroom where we cultivated our love of music. Going into high school, we stopped being a band as our music taste shifted towards hip-hop and pop, which lead to us becoming a record label and adopting the name 242 to pay homage to our origins.

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

Ewimbi: We have gotten our first record contracts drafted, released a constant portfolio of records across our artist roster, planned a series of underground concerts for the DMV music scene, and developed an efficient release checklist for our future drops.

DC: As a student business owner, what motivates you?

Ewimbi: I’m motivated by the change I want to see within the music industry, the drive of my friends as they grow artistically, and the general love of music I’ve had since birth.

DC: What are you hoping to achieve during the Terp Startup Accelerator this summer?

Ewimbi: I’m hoping to get our website designed, contracts signed, and business plan finalized by the end of the Terp Startup Accelerator.

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

Ewimbi: Develop a team and trust them as much as you’re comfortable with. Teamwork makes the dream work, as they say.

To learn more about EMPIRE 242, please visit the website here.

Tagged ,