In our Senior Send-Off series, the Dingman Center celebrates the student founders who are part of the graduating class of spring 2020. We are so pleased to have had the chance to get to know each of these talented entrepreneurs through our programs.
Jacques Marais – Munch
Jacques Marais ’20 is an architecture major who in his last year at University of Maryland has become increasingly involved with the Dingman Center for his startup, Munch, a company offering a portable grow-it-yourself kit for customers to produce three pounds of microgreens per week in their own kitchens. Jacques pitched Munch during our regional round of The Hult Prize in November, and in the spring joined our New Venture Practicum class. Last week, Jacques went on to win the 2020 AgEnterprise Challenge launched by the College of Agriculture and Natural Resources. In partnership with F³Tech accelerator, Munch will gain access to $30,000 in seed funding for commercialization through the competition. To cap off a strong year of entrepreneurship for Jacques, Munch was accepted into our virtual Terp Startup accelerator this summer, which provides a $5,000 stipend, access to workshops and ongoing advising. We hope to see Munch the company grow as prodigiously as its microgreens.
What’s your plan after graduation?
Live cheap. Very cheap. To sustain myself and work on Munch full time until about August/September. Then I will reevaluate my plans because the bank will soon expect those $1500+ a month student loans payments to roll in. Which could cripple my ability to work on Munch. We need to be in a good spot by then. I’m excited about the time crunch challenge.
What’s something you’ll really miss about UMD?
Architecture as a degree can be grueling and time consuming, but, I feel, it develops friendships like no other because there are only so many 2 hour naps you can take on the scruffy carpets in the upstairs classrooms, at 3 a.m. before final crit days, with a handful of your dedicated buds before you guys build up a camaraderie that lasts a lifetime. And yes, we got our work done by sacrificing some sleep, sometimes, but we all became very good friends because of spending so much time together dealing with the same challenges. I’m going to miss the people the most.
What’s your favorite memory from New Venture Practicum?
Hanging out with guest speaker Greg Schaub after his talk about the global world of payments; talking to him about how he runs his consulting firm, wins clients, and how to calculate and ensure fair pay. Or walking with professor Oliver Schlake down to Mowatt Garage after class, talking about his Ph.D. work and the business he built around it. I’m always eager to learn from those far more experienced than myself.
What’s your biggest takeaway from your experience winning the AgEnterprise Challenge?
I consider it to be a foot in the door. Not only for Munch but for UMD and their partnership with F3 tech. I feel honored for Munch to have the responsibility to use F3 tech resources wisely. In a way that not only encourages them to empower future students but justifies the level of confidence I feel from the AgEnterprise Team. Massive thank you to Cedric and Dave for their guidance and help.
What are you most looking forward to about Terp Startup?
Terp Startup is empowering me to give Munch a real shot even during uncertain times. Which could be all the head start we need to get the company off the ground. For that, I’m incredibly grateful! I’m looking forward to learning a ton from the team and working through the unending barrage of challenges that will naturally surface over the next few months.
What advice would you give to student entrepreneurs just getting started?
Live life in parallel and not in series. Don’t think about doing something tomorrow, do it today, you can fit it into your schedule I promise. Life is meant to be messy.
Don’t do debt/student loans. Find ways to make college free, cheap or don’t go. Don’t make my mistake.
Don’t work on projects for money, work to build skills and meet interesting people and the resources will come. Play the long game.
Most employers love creative problem solvers that can build teams via systems thinking. Fundamentally that’s what an entrepreneur does. So even if you don’t want the entrepreneurial lifestyle long term and hope to get employed one day, entrepreneurial experience is most likely more valuable than having all A’s, more valuable than that extra hour of sleep, more valuable than most things, including reading this message. Stop reading this and go build something.