In addition to Dingman Center staff, this summer we brought on two Terps to help run the day-to-day operations of our Terp Startup accelerator. Recent Smith MBA graduate Katharine McHugh, MBA ’19 joined as a Venture Associate to take the lead in managing the programming, providing on-site advising and support, tracking goals and helping the cohort generally make the most out of their experience. Katharine’s efforts were supported by Accelerator Intern Tunji Onigbanjo ’19, a Smith School finance major and recent graduate who will be starting a position at Bloomberg in the fall. We are so grateful for their support this summer. Read on to hear their perspective on Terp Startup.
Katharine McHugh, MBA ’20, Venture Associate & Tunji Onigbanjo, Accelerator Intern
DC: What got you interested in entrepreneurship and Terp Startup?
Katharine: I’ve always been interested in entrepreneurship because I love innovation and thinking about how things might be done in new and different ways. I also love entrepreneurs — nothing like taking a risk to get the blood pumping! I did my MBA at UMD because of the Dingman Center and have enjoyed participating in the center’s various initiatives. I am beyond thrilled that I got to be involved in Terp Startup.
Tunji: I got interested in entrepreneurship during my junior year of undergrad when I was working on a sneaker recognition application with a few friends. Working on that application exposed me to the world of entrepreneurship and how people have been able to turn ideas into profitable companies. What got me interested in Terp Startup is the idea of being around people that have created companies and wish to continue to grow their companies to be profitable businesses. I enjoy being around people that create solutions because it gives me new perspectives on how I plan on reaching my short- and long-term career and investment goals that I have set up for myself.
DC: Katharine, what was your approach to running the cohort?
Katharine: I wanted to create an environment of psychological safety where everyone in the cohort felt comfortable talking about their struggles and successes. I tried to play the role of Chief Encouragement Officer. At the same time, I was tough about goal setting at the debut of the program for each venture — because clear goals are important for direction, planning, and motivation.
DC: Tunji, what did you learn while helping out at Terp Startup?
Tunji: Two important things that I learned when helping out at Terp Startup is that starting a company is truly a marathon and that you cannot do it alone. I realized that due to the fact of the different components that go into operating and growing a business such as marketing costs, hiring people, legal fees, and proper tax structuring. Creating and running a company is something that you cannot do alone. With Terp Startup, I have witnessed the founders of each companies helping each other through advice in regards to how they have been able to get over various kinds of challenges and I myself have been able to provide assistance in regards to some financial related advice since I completed my undergraduate degree in Finance.
DC: What were some of your favorite Terp Startup moments?
Katharine: My favorite moment was final pitches. It was so inspiring to see how far each of the Terp Startup entrepreneurs has progressed over the summer.
Tunji: One of my most favorite moments of Terp Startup was the first day of Terp Startup. On the first day, I was able to learn from each founder in the accelerator what their company did and how they came about the creation of their company. It truly made me realize how great of an opportunity I had in front of me as an Intern for Terp Startup because I knew that I would be working with a great and diverse group of people throughout the summer. The first day of starting something may not always be the greatest, but when it is like it was for me, it creates a memory for yourself that you will always remember and be thankful for.
DC: What advice would you give to aspiring student entrepreneurs looking to get into and make the most out of Terp Startup?
Katharine: Set goals! Clear, prioritized goals will help you push forward your venture as well as provide a solid idea to mentors and others in the Terp Startup support network about what you really need help with to take concrete next steps.
Tunji: One important piece of advice that I would give to an aspiring student entrepreneur looking to get into and make the most out of Terp Startup is to recognize that your business plan does not have to be complex. Your business plan is something that is dynamic and is consistently changing. You should not try to tie your entire business down to a single document that you create to apply to various grants, programs, and accelerators. Rather, your business plan should be a consistently simple and adjustable document that hits on the key critical points of your business and how your business is something that truly solves an issue.