by: Hannah Shraim ’20, Dingman Center Marketing Intern
Jasmine Snead ’17, MPP/MBA ’21 is a first year MBA student at the University of Maryland. She is set to graduate with a joint degree in policy and business in 2021. Snead majored in Government and Politics as an undergraduate at UMD and was part of the pilot Ladies’ First Founders cohort.
Snead was a part of Ladies’ First, a course launched by the Dingman Center to help increase the number of women involved in entrepreneurship at UMD. After launching the program, Dingman saw that female engagement in our programs increased from 25% to 40%.
While Snead makes it look seamless with her many accolades, starting a venture is no easy feat. After launching her company, which sells apparel for performers of all skin tones and sizes, Snead was in search of guidance and mentorship.
“I wanted to be in an atmosphere to grow with women founders and discuss [the challenges] we were facing,” she said. Ladies’ First became that community for her.
The cohort allowed Snead to contextualize the intersection of her experience as a woman of color and entrepreneur. The weekly conversations Snead had with her peers provided a much-needed confidence boost — she realized that many females were going through the same challenges, like overcoming inner doubt.
Snead’s favorite part about being in Ladies’ First is the network she created with her peers. “I took the class with my fellow founder, so it was nice to bond over Aurora and within the class as well,” said Snead, “you will still see each other at events and know that there’s a community to fall back on.”
According to Snead, the biggest challenge that women entrepreneurs face in the business today surrounds representation. “[We are] not seeing enough women entrepreneurs in general who are boss women! We see many young white males, but we don’t see enough people who look like us,” she said.
According to ProjectDiane, CEOs who happen to be women of color receive less than 1% of all VC funding every year. Slowly but surely, with more initiatives like Ladies’ First, we hope to see that percentage steadily increase.
After cultivating her business with the help of Terp Startup and the Ladies’ First community, Snead entered the Pitch Dingman Competition in 2019.
“Winning Pitch Dingman gave us momentum and helped us shape our long term goals, she said. “After the pitch, we were able to develop children’s tights, create additional shades, purchase another order of tights, and have our largest photoshoot to-date.”
Today, Aurora is focused on growing sales to sports teams. Snead’s primary advice to students considering entering the competition is to practice until saying your pitch naturally flows out of your system.
Snead and her co-founders hope to continuously expand the company. They’re looking into creating partnerships with band dancers and have a special project brewing that should be launched within the next year. The idea is similar to WeWork, but specifically curated for women of color entrepreneurs.
In the spirit of continuing the Ladies’ First legacy, Snead left us with some advice for female entrepreneurs intending to launch new ventures:
- Learn as much as you can about your industry, talk to as many people as possible, and pitch to people you know then people who have no idea what you’re talking about. Do your spiel over and over again — it builds that confidence for you to be able to respond to questions later on.
- Join join join Ladies’ First! It’s very conversational and inclusive. Be open to learn more and challenge the ways you’ve been doing things before.
Hannah Shraim is a senior undergraduate student majoring in Business Management with a pending minor in Law and Society. She is a UMD transfer student and gained her associates degree in General Studies, Business Administration and Government at Montgomery College. She is part of the Impact Ambassadors cohort at the Smith School of Business and previously served as a columnist at Global Student Square. In her free time, you can find Hannah making videos for her YouTube channel, Libre Looks, and planning her next travel experience.