This summer, the Dingman Center will be conducting interviews with the fifteen student startups who are participating in our Terp Startup summer accelerator at the College Park WeWork. Participating student entrepreneurs received a stipend up to $5,000 that would enable them to work exclusively on their startups over eight weeks in the summer.
Founder & CEO: Daniel Raithel ’20, Economics major
Preorder a BraceLint here!
DC: Tell us about your startup. What problem are you solving and for whom?
Raithel: My startup, BraceLint, is a consumer convenience product based around the simple idea of a lint roller. During the year there are many occasions where we have to look or dress our best and present ourselves with confidence. whether it be an interview, meeting, or a date, feeling good about your appearance is one of the best ways to get over these sometimes-uncomfortable hurdles. After leaving the house you can fix your hair or makeup, but your clothes are kind of stuck the way they are. Lint rollers are bulky, often covered in hair, and are not designed to be brought out of the house. This is where the BraceLint comes in! BraceLint is an easy single-use version of a lint roller that fits flat into your pocket or bag until being propped open and used in “emergency” pet hair/lint situations. To understand how it works, think of a paper bracelet that fits over your wrist and slides the same way a lint roller would. After you’re done you can discard it, using the same or even less of the paper you would with a lint roller (after taking off the notoriously gross first sheet of a lint roller). This a product meant for the prepared fully unprepared like me who refuses not to pet animals or avoid situations just because they are forced to dress up!
DC: How did you first come up with your idea?
Raithel: I was driving to an interview wearing a beautiful blue three-piece suit trying to pump myself up for what I thought was my dream job. When I was getting ready to walk out of my car, I decided to check myself one more time in the mirror only to realize that I had gone on a hike with my black lab the day before and was covered in her hair. After frantically looking through the car for anything sticky to make a last-second adjustment I was forced to give up and walk inside with my confidence completely shot. That’s when I was hit with the question: why is there not a portable, pocket-sized version of the lint roller that you can bring anywhere without worry, and the BraceLint was born!
DC: What are some major milestones you’ve achieved so far?
Raithel: Although there have been many setbacks throughout the process of figuring out how to manufacture a new product on a “shoe-string” budget, I have been able to accomplish more than I knew how to do. Since dreaming up this product in early November 2019, I was able to teach myself how to write, design, and submit a provisional patent on my product to have protection while workshopping the idea. This allowed me to attend all the Dingman Showcase events where I had the opportunity to test out my pitch and product to hundreds of students, faculty, and entrepreneurs. Furthermore, going through the New Venture Practicum during the Spring semester helped me to define my original financial metrics showing the opportunity for my company to possibly grow organically although these numbers are constantly changing throughout the process.
DC: What drives you to keep going?
Raithel: Being an entrepreneur has always been my dream as much as I have tried to fight it. When I transferred to the University of Maryland in the Fall of 2018, I promised myself that no matter what, I would focus on a steady career and would not start a new company. Two months later I began obsessively workshopping and prototyping my idea and began unintentionally surrounding myself with the Dingman community. This is not only my passion but who I am as a person and being given the opportunity to build a company that represents what I believe in based on an incredibly practical product is the reason I quit my job three years ago to pursue my degree.
DC: How do you feel about working in a cohort with fellow student entrepreneurs?
Raithel: My Terp Startup cohort has become not just “co-workers” but family in all but a few weeks. When I was sitting at home working full-time and going to school full-time, I always dreamed of being surrounded by creative people that I could bounce ideas back and forth to. This is the life I am so privileged to finally live. Not only do we work in the office together without any barriers with pride or experience pitching ideas freely, but we go to each other’s homes and continue the work while enjoying the company of motivated individuals who push you. I have learned so much just listening and watching the styles and thought processes of my fellow entrepreneurs and know that there is no way this is only going to be a brief summer bond but one that will last for the rest of our lives.
DC: What are you hoping to achieve during Terp Startup this summer?
Raithel: I plan to have the product and packaging fully designed, and first order landed, conduct 500 customer interviews to find the best, first customer segment to pursue, and have a planned route for achieving non-provisional patent.