Author Archives: UMD Dingman Center

Feature Friday! Fancy & Spicy

Brin Xu ’22 cooking up authentic Chinese food recipes for her online cooking platform.

DC: What’s your name, major, and graduation year?
Xu: Brin Xu, Sociology, 2022

DC: In two to three sentences, how would you describe your startup?
Xu: Fancy & Spicy is a popular food blog and cooking platform. It provides authentic Chinese food recipes, cookbooks, cooking events, and cooking consultation for anyone who has a home kitchen.

DC: At what point did you know you wanted to create your own startup?
Xu: Fall 2020

DC: What or who is your biggest influence for your startup?
Xu: While many people and companies have an influence on the startup, Airbnb has the biggest impact so far. Airbnb offers an online experience program since the quarantine. The program is timely but has only limited cooking events available. We figured out that an online platform dedicated to cooking would be intriguing and popular.

DC: In the new virtual world, how has your focus or ideas changed?
Xu: Fancy & Spicy started with a food blog, but soon we realized that more interactive cooking experiences are needed, and began to offer online cooking classes since last winter. In the future, we plan to offer different kinds of classes by recruiting cooking ambassadors, improving the quality of my recipes, and making healthy cooking accessible to everyone.

DC: What updates or significant accomplishments can you share with us about your company from the last six months?
Xu: This spring semester I was invited to be a formal instructor for the UMD Stamp Student Union. I offer a course called Essential Sichuan Cuisine. It has been so successful that we’re discussing a second contract with the Stamp.

DC: If you could give advice to any aspiring entrepreneurs, what would it be?
Xu: I think a startup is a process, so it is important to start doing things. Do not let perfectionism slow you down.

Spotlight on Kanchan Singh: CEO and Founder of Crumbs & Whiskers

By Lahari Tammera ’23

Lahari Tammera ’23, Ladies First Founders Spring ’21

A couple of years ago, I was joking around with my sister about how it’d be cool to own my own cafe and how we could create a fun menu and start a business from the ground up. I wanted it to be an establishment with South Asian fusion menu items with the look and aesthetic of a French cafe. I didn’t realize it then, but that idea would continue to stick with me for the years to come. As time passed, I began to realize exactly how much I wanted that random idea to actually come to life and become a reality.

But then came the doubt. I wasn’t sure if it was a career path that I could see for myself and I wasn’t sure if I would end up being able to enact the type of social change I wanted to see through my cafe. I found myself doing research here and there, trying to make my idea into something with a solid foundation. But the thought that I could fail and that it wouldn’t end up being as amazing as I wanted it to kept nagging at me.

Through my research, I stumbled upon a UMD alumna that was doing some amazing work through her own cafe. I was shocked to see that there was someone who had graduated from the same exact university that I was attending, who chose to go into a similar path. Her name is Kanchan Singh and she is the CEO and founder of Crumbs & Whiskers.

Her idea is a very innovative one and her cat cafe was one of the first few in the entire United States. It was a concept that wasn’t seen as common here but is very popular in other countries. As said on the Crumbs & Whiskers website, they partner with rescues that save homeless cats at risk of euthanasia and house them in their different cafe locations. They let people come in and play with these cats and keep them in their cafes until they’re adopted! All their menu items aren’t made in-house.

I was so surprised and elated to see a South Asian woman from UMD create a cafe that works to help in a social cause. It made me believe that I too could maybe create something great that would be helpful to people in my community.

Kanchan’s business flourished from having one central location in Washington DC, to having another storefront in Los Angeles. The importance and impact that social entrepreneurship can create are seen here in a real-life example. According to their website, 1612 cats have been adopted, 3311 cats have been saved from euthanasia, and $392000 has been donated to charity through all the hard work that was done at Crumbs & Whiskers.

If you want to learn more about Kanchan and her journey, you can check out the Crumbs & Whiskers website (they have merch!) or you can listen to her podcast episode on the Dingman Center’s Bootstrapped show!

Feature Friday! Omega 3 LLC

Edwin Djampa ’22, founder of Omega 3 LLC.

DC: What’s your name(s), major(s), minor, and graduation year(s)?

Djampa: My name is Edwin Djampa (I also go by my middle name Bright). I am a Nutritional Food Science Major and I graduate in May 2022.

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

Djampa: Here at Omega 3 we make granola bars that are enriched in omega-3 fatty acids. We have chosen to focus on this nutrient because it’s essential to a person’s overall wellbeing; and it is lacking in many diets. More specifically, Just like you can go to the grocery store and see a section to help you if you want to lose weight, a section if you want to eat sugar free, a section that is more celiac disease consciences (aka gluten), and a section if you want to bulk up in the gym (keto-friendly and low carb), we believe that there should be a section that screams “Hey do you want to keep your brain balanced, healthy, and strong? Well, here are the food items you can eat to do so”. At Omega 3 we feel as though that aisle is so needed right now. 

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

Djampa: I knew I wanted to create the startup in April of 2019 after attending a nutrition class lecture about how much the American Diet lacks omega-3 fatty acids.

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

Djampa: The lack of attention nutrition was getting as a viable way for people to take care of their mental wellbeing was my biggest motivation to start this business.

DC: In the new virtual world, how has your focus or ideas changed?

Djampa: This new virtual world (especially the isolation part of this new world) has reminded so many people that it is essential to proactively take care of one’s mental health.

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

Djampa:  In the last 6 months we were able to get into 6 stores (1 of them being a small east coast chain store), making that 8 stores in total that we are in right now. 

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

Djampa:  Advice for Entrepreneurs: You have to see the vision of your company before anyone else can. What I mean by that is others might not see or understand your business and that’s okay because essentially that’s what innovation is – An individual sees something and brings it to fruition before anyone else can do the same. Remember if it was easy everyone would do it. Lastly, I’ll leave you with this quote: “If you change the way you look at things, the things you look at change.”  

Entrepreneur of the Century: Whitney Wolfe Herd

By Anna Kaplan ’21

Anna Kaplan ’21, Ladies First Founders Spring ’21

Whitney Wolfe Herd has not just become a symbol for female entrepreneurs, but for
females around the world. Wolfe Herd, a Forbes 30 under 30 recipient with a net worth of over $575 million, first jumped into the entrepreneur spotlight while in college with The Help Us Get Cleaned Up Project.

After graduating from Southern Methodist University, Wolfe Herd spent time volunteering in Asia, and then went to work at an incubator in Los Angeles. While working at an incubator, Wolfe Herd spent her evenings and weekends working with a group seeking to build a
dating app
, this app idea would later become Tinder. However, while Wolfe Herd was pivotal to Tinder’s early growth, she left on bad terms after 2 years. After leaving Tinder, she sued the company for “alleged sexual harassment and discrimination.

Following her departure from Tinder, Wolfe Herd did not allow her career to get derailed, instead she let her experiences at Tinder empower her. In 2014 Wolfe Herd started Bumble, a dating app that gives the power to women as they have to message the guy first. As described on Bumble’s site, Wolfe Herd was inspired to start Bumble because, “so many of the smart, wonderful women in my life were still waiting around for men to ask them out, to take their numbers, or to start up a conversation on a dating app.”

This differs from the majority of other dating apps, by requiring the female to message first. However, the female first angle is not the only feature that sets Bumble apart. Bumble has redefined the swiping game by creating Bumble BFF, to foster friendships, and Bumble BIZZ to foster networking. It is not just the multitude of offerings and features that sets Bumble apart, but the attitude that Wolfe Herd leads with. Her leadership most recently led to Bumble instituting a zero tolerance policy on body shaming.

The rapid success of Bumble is sure to continue into the future, after recently filing for IPO. With the current IPO filing, Wolfe Herd is set to “become one of the youngest female CEOs in tech to take her company public.

Wolfe Herd, a mom, wife, and entrepreneur, has not only paved the way for other female entrepreneurs, but she also serves as a consistent inspiration for women around the world. In a society wrought with sexism and patriarchal ideology, Wolfe Herd has given back some of that power to women. Her constant mission to inspire and empower women is a powerful message to women that they can overcome challenges and sexism to achieve success.

ANNOUNCING THE QUARTERFINALITS & SEMIFINALISTS OF THE 2021 PITCH DINGMAN COMPETITION

Pitch Dingman Competition 2021 received over 50 student applications, all vying for a slice of the increased prize money this year. Our panel of judges were able to narrow down our wide range of applicants to reveal our quarterfinalists and semifinalists for the 2021 competition. The founders of the semifinalists teams will each receive a $500 prize, participate in workshops and meet with advisors in the coming weeks to help them further accelerate their businesses and make them more competitive for the upcoming Semifinalist round. On Friday, April 16 from 12-4 p.m., our 12 remaining startups will pitch their businesses virtually to an expert panel of judges at the Pitch Dingman Competition Semifinals. We’re excited to see who wins the opportunity to pitch at the Finals on May 4, 2021 for a shot at the grand prize of $30,000!

Read on to learn more about our quarterfinalists and semifinalists:

Main Street Track Semifinalists:

Camp Segal LLC Max Segal ’21, Jacob Nelson ’21
Camp Segal provides the support and infrastructure for college-aged individuals to open up small summer camps. We look to establish a series of camp locations in a time where parents look for camps to focus on safety, proximity, and flexibility.
Fancy & Spicy
Brin Xu ’22
Fancy & Spicy started from a popular Chinese Sichuan food blog, providing authentic Chinese food recipes, cookbooks, cooking events, and cooking consultation. In the longer term, we aim to become an online cooking platform where anyone with cooking.
Hana’s Cake Bar –
Hana Bekele ’21
Hana’s Cake Bar is a bespoke bakery that tailors to every customers need for baked goods.
JMakes3D
Jacob Garnett ’21, John Fitzell ’20
JMakes3D is a startup design firm which does 3D design, 3D printing and physical product development. We focus on helping inventors and entrepreneurs, especially those in the College Park and D.C. area, go from ideation to functional prototype.
Omega 3 LLC
Edwin Djampa ’22, Virgil Ulric Sermon ’22 
Omega 3 LLC is a food company producing granola bars that improve and maintain mental health.
STEPS Inc.
Sanketh Andhavarapu ’23, Uzair Chaudhary ’23
STEPS connects volunteers with paying K-12 families seeking personalized, 1 on 1, and long-term tutoring. Volunteers are compensated with service hours, and profits are invested into the STEPS grant foundation to address education disparities.

Quattrone Venture Track Semifinalists:

Athenus Financial Group – Cameron Williams ’21, Damian Shaw ’24
Athenus enables young, amateur investors to engage with and trade foreign exchange. Features such as algorithms and a built in social media community helps new traders navigate the market and manage risk without needing to learn the market.
Blimp Logistics
Camilo Melnyk ’21, Spencer Yaculak ’23
Blimp Logistics is developing a drone delivery system that will provide last mile delivery services to businesses shipping packages under 30 lbs in both suburban and rural areas.
Ionic ST/Ion Global Industries, Inc.
Kyle Fruth ’21, James Bates ’20, Anne Laurence-Nemorin ’20, Brandon Chatmon ’16
Ionic ST is a sports technology company focused on merging A.I, robotics, and analytics together to not only improve the way athletes and coaches train, but also how they track and analyze practice or game data.
MARS Technology LLC –
Xiaohui Li ’21, Dongxia Liu
MARS Technology LLC is commercializing a novel gas-to-liquid technology that can convert low-value, greenhouse gas methane into high-value specialty chemical feedstock. The technology is valuable to biomethane generators as well as hydroprocessing operators.
NuroSTREAM/Memley
Steven Jettoo ’21, Kirsten (Sage) Newman
NuroSTREAM/Memley is a SaaS company, offering digital learning services for disadvantaged students struggling with building successful learning habits in conventional and digital school environments.
Technica
Hugo Burbelo ’22, Utsa Santhosh ’22
Technica sells an innovative online event platform that is custom-built for hackathons to other technology events and corporate partners in order to improve the experience and engagement of their attendees in a virtual format.

Main Street Track Quarterfinalists:

Crys&Co Beauty – Crystal Pinckney ’22
Crys&Co Beauty is a cosmetic line that provides beauty accessories and supplies to a wide range of individuals.Just recently with our 2020 launch, we have expanded our brand to providing lash technician services.
Diaspora Foods
Nathaniel Fikru ’21
The goal of Diaspora Food it to provide people/the African Diaspora with the raw ingredients and knowledge to prepare and consume traditional African cuisine at home. We aim to pass our tradition down from one generation to the next.
First Serve Tennis
Aaron Reznik ’21
First Serve Tennis aims to boost the Northern New Jersey tennis community through offering private lessons, clinics and tournaments to players of all ages and levels.
Gstyles
Goodness Ihekweme ’21
Gstyles is a clothing company that specializes in women and men clothing. We make sure that we make people feel confident and beautiful in their own bodies.
ModBars, LLC
Joseph Oleynik ’23, Nate Stevens, Max Levine, Wyatt Talcott, Jeff Su
ModBars, LLC provides nutritious, affordable, filling snack bars that cater to people with dietary restrictions.
Rendered
Saba Tshibaka ’21
Rendered is a social impact business that works to sell second-hand unique apparel in an effort to raise awareness about the environmental impact of the fashion industry.

Quattrone Venture Track Quarterfinalists:

Corona ConnectsElana Sichel ’21, Joe Kattan, Hadassah Raskas
Corona Connects is a company that connects college students with meaningful, impactful volunteer opportunities that fit their needs, interests and availabilities, empowering them to make a difference.
Friendly Neighbor Services LLC
Colin Hartlieb ’22
Friendly Neighbor Services is the on-demand service providing mobile app that gives everyone the opportunity to become a provider, or request services from providers.
Maryland Tutoring Services
Kidus Adugna ’21
Maryland Tutoring Services provides tutoring services for K-12 and College in partnership with Maryland Community Connections and Social Services.
Recondite –
Vibhor Goel ’21
Recondite is an AI-powered B2B buy-now engine for business consumers to buy products at low costs internationally.
Vitalize App, LLC
Veeraj Shah ’21, Vi Tran, Sanketh Andhavarapu
Vitalize is a mobile app that delivers short, personalized, and evidence-based wellness modules that are tailored to the unique stressors of healthcare to boost the wellness, professional satisfaction, and resilience of healthcare providers.


ANNOUNCING THE LADIES FIRST FOUNDERS SPRING 2021 COHORT

Ladies First Founders is the Dingman Center’s one-credit Spring semester course for female and non-binary entrepreneurs working on businesses at the University of Maryland. Taught by Sara Herald, champion of our Ladies First Initiative, the course helps students build soft-skills for overcoming gender biases in entrepreneurship. The cohort learns about entrepreneurship, grows their business ideas, and supports each other’s entrepreneurial journeys. The syllabus includes a blend of skill-building workshops and networking events. Topics include the how to’s of networking and mentorship, finding balance as a founder/student/human, overcoming imposter syndrome, startup pitching and body language, funding and how to get it, and more.

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

Cloud Closet – Vera Andreeva ’22
The Cloud Closet is designed to significantly decrease the amount of time it takes to get dressed. It simultaneously increases the number of outfits through recommendations while keeping your closet the same size. Based on your style, it will recommend items that will keep you feeling stylish and on-trend.

Cosmicals Cards – Dani Feng ’23
Cosmicals Cardsis a line of humorous cartoon space-themed greetings cards.

Degree – Lahari Tammera ’23
Degree will be an Indian and French fusion cafe with traditional Indian recipes reimagined as different concepts. Tammera plans for the cafe to be a social enterprise with some of the profits either being donated to different causes or using the profits for community building in the local area surrounding the cafe.

F3S Professional Bridge – Ed-love Lesley Aidoo ’21
F3S Professional Bridge is a social venture that provides visa and international college students with professional development such as externships, internships, part-time and full-time positions.

Heart2Starr – Ileana Y. Lozano ’22
Since 2013, writer and poet Ileana Lozano has shared her thoughts, poetry, and artwork with her community under the social media handle @Heart2Starr.

Heed – Anna Kaplan ’21
Heed is a platform that provides self-care ideas and inspiration for women in their 20’s.

Hi Monkey Co. – Yasmin Molkara ’22
Hi Monkey Co. is devoted to helping others hone their unique style and promoting sustainable shopping through our favorite handpicked second-hand pieces.

Lace Bar – Maliha Bukhari ‘22

Pop Shop – Ananya Ramkumar ’21
Pop shop aims to connect college students with restaurants and retailers through pop-up shop experiences. Our mission is to allow students to dine and shop from the convenience of their campus by converting unused classrooms and trailers into restaurants and stores.

Feature Friday! Aurora Tights

Parker, Rickerby and Snead from Terp Startup Accelerator in summer of 2018.

DC: What’s your name(s), major(s), minor, and graduation year(s)?

Parker: Sydney Parker, Communication and Public Relations major, Women’s Studies Certificate, Spring 2018; Imani Rickerby, Public Health Science major, Spring 2017; Jasmine Snead, Government and Politics, African American Studies Certificate, Spring 2018, MBA/MPP 2021.

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

Parker: Aurora Tights designs inclusive athletic apparel and hosiery for dancers and ice skaters of ALL skin tones and ALL sizes. We are fully black women owned and seek to increase the diversity of all performance sports through our products and philanthropic initiatives throughout the year.

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

Parker: Growing up as a dancer I was rarely able or advised to wear tights and other apparel that matched my skin tone color. In 2018, my cofounders and former skating coaches noticed a similar phenomenon happening with their young skaters and we vowed to end this cycle of disempowerment. Therefore we created Aurora Tights to make sure ALL athletes could perform in color.

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

Parker: The biggest influencers for our startup are the black and brown dancers and ice skaters who have paved the way for athletes like ourselves to fall in love with the sports we have dedicated most of our lives to. Athletes such as Misty Copeland, Surya Bonaly and many more were the inspiration for so many of our tight shades and we later named each of our shades after our former teammates and students who continue to inspire us to this day.

DC: In the new virtual world, how has your focus or ideas changed?

Parker: We are dedicated to meeting our customers where they are at, which is mostly at home now, and keeping them motivated to still go after their athletic passions. At the end of last summer we partnered with five dance and ice skating non-profits who work to increase diversity and inclusion policies within these sports areas to raise money for their year-round initiatives. With the help and support of our community we were able to raise $13,000 for black and brown skaters and dancers to help them stay in the sports that they love!

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

Parker: Over the last six months, we were able to raise $13,000 for black and brown dancers and ice skaters through the Perform In Color virtual showcase, move our items to a fulfillment center for faster shipping times, and get our story featured in Pop Sugar and Dance magazine!

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

Parker: Just start and activate on whatever idea is in your soul to build. Also, lean into the resources that are right at your fingertips! Within our two years we were able to raise $25,000 in startup funding with the help of the Dingman Center for Entrepreneurship and continue to lean into the mentorship community they have there as well. It all started with a Dingman Friday!

For more information about Sydney Parker’s company, Aurora Tights, please visit the website here.

ANNOUNCING THE FEARLESS FOUNDERS: NEW VENTURE PRACTICUM 2021 COHORT

New Venture Practicum is one of the Dingman Center’s signature courses. Taught by Maryland Smith Clinical Professor Oliver Schlake during the Spring semester, students experiment with business models, revenue streams and go-to-market strategies. By the end of the three-credit 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!

Athenus Financial Group – Cameron Williams ’21
Athenus enables young, amateur investors to engage with and trade foreign exchange. Built in features such as algorithms and a built in social media community helps new traders navigate the market and manage risk without the hassle of learning the market or hiring a mentor. 

Campus Gigs – Nataraj Shivaprasad ’21 & Sri Kanipakala ’24
We connect small businesses in College Park to students to foster symbiotic economic ties in the community. We achieve this through a platform where businesses can request gig services and post exclusive deals for students.

Cloud Closet – Vera Andreeva ’22
The Cloud Closet is designed to significantly decrease the amount of time it takes to get dressed. It simultaneously increases the amount of outfits through recommendations while keeping your closet the same size. Based on your style, it will recommend items that will keep you feeling stylish and on trend.

Compass Check – Paul Celius ’22 and Jourdan Wright ’21
Compass Check is about educating young adults on investing while being able to foster a great community on the platforms. The goal is for users to build a solid foundation and have the confidence to make educated financial decisions. 

Cruising Altitude – Alan Soclof ’22
Our mission at Cruising Altitude is to educate and engage the next generation of long term investors. We achieve our mission through a weekly newsletter that is engaging, entertaining, and contains original analysis on prospective investments.

Lace BarMaliha Bukhari ‘22

Lydia Liriano – Nishelle Oglesby ’21
Lydia Liriano is a luxury candle company that strives to give black women high-quality self-care experiences that benefit mental health.

Mindgrasp – Thai Cao ’23 and Rushil Joshi ’22
Mindgrasp.io is an AI-powered web app that can perform several complex text-related tasks for its users, including answering user questions based on text, summarizing, and paraphrasing. The service is primarily designed for students and academics.

PrommuniKarsh (Utkarsh) Patel

Quiet Storm Digital – Eric Ross ’21
We provide customer retention strategies for “diamond in the rough” nano-brands who yearn for a cult-like following. 

ScholarTrac – Casey Puentes ’23
ScholarTrac connects untapped high school talent with local businesses.

SoundBites – Mike Houser ’17, ’22 Graduate
SoundBites is a sound sommelier: using proven research to create immersive soundscapes, perfectly paired to tasting menus for an optimized fine dining experience.

Teacher Recommender System – Sander Schulhoff ’24
TRS automates and expedites the process of connecting high school students with their teacher recommenders for college.

Wardrobe – Gerald Berman ’23
Wardrobe is a digital wardrobe app for young professionals that will impact how individuals get dressed.

White Lotus – Tigh Eisenberg-Rayburn ’21
White Lotus focuses on helping athletes of all levels grow their mental and physical abilities to be more flexible, coordinated, and mobile.

E-Fund Recipients of Spring 2021

Through generous gifts from Carly Fiorina and Kevin Plank, the Dingman Center provides ad-hoc seed funding for University of Maryland startups, called the E-Fund. These nondilutive grants range from $250-$1000. Funding typically goes towards equipment purchases, website hosting, rapid prototyping, incorporation fees or any other costs that you see a barrier to getting an idea to market.

Check out this semester’s E-Fund recipients!

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Edullo

Founders: Eric Patel ’21 and Esha Vangara

Edullo is a platform created by students for students. They connect scholars to freelancers to do their part of level the playing field in education. Their $500 E-Fund will go towards supporting and maintaining their data-heavy website platform.

WISE Cities, LLC

Founder: Marie Brodsky

WISE Cities recently won a pilot project with the City of Fairfax following a smart city challenge competition, proposing WISE Cities: Where Innovating Supports the Elderly. Stemming from what they saw facing their own grandparents: a major problem that continues to worsen is the isolation and inactivity experienced by seniors, especially in lower income communities, associated with depression as well as neurodegenerative conditions and long-term health problems. They are working towards two goals: in the shorter term, a geographically-based senior social network app, and in the longer term, the construction of WISE spaces (senior areas for exercise and interaction) in several DMV locations. Their $640 E-Fund will be applied to developing the app.

GoodNewsUniversity

Founder: Oluwafunsho Adeyale, ’21

A new clothing collection, GoodNewsUniversity is coming into the world with some bold fresh trends. Their $500 E-Fund will be used for airbrushing their next line.

Camp Segal, LLC

Founders: Max Segal ’21 and Jacob Nelson ’21

Camp Segal provides the support and infrastructure for college-aged individuals to open up small summer camps. They look to establish a series of camp locations in a time where parents look for camps to focus on safety, proximity, and flexibility. Their $1000 E-Fund will be applied to website development and to expand marketing outreach in New Jersey and New York.

Feature Friday! Gstyles

Goodness Ihekweme ’21 is all smiles modeling an outfit from the Gstyles collection.

DC: What’s your name, major, minor, and graduation year?

Ihekweme: My name is Goodness Ihekweme and I am majoring in Marketing and minoring in technology entrepreneurship. I graduate May 2021. 

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

Ihekweme: Gstyles is a Women and Men fashion label that builds a gap within one’s self that feels lost. Gstyles creates one of a kind look that allows an individual to feel confident and unique. Gstyles is a place where everyone belongs even when you don’t feel like you do. 

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

Ihekweme: Well it all started with my friend Mia. Mia always had a hard time finding clothes when we were little. Mia wasn’t the average woman size. She was a bit thicker in some areas and it was very hard for her to find clothes that were still stylish and unique in her size. I didn’t understand why it seemed like that for most brands and I didn’t like how it made my friend feel. I felt her pain and how much she didn’t feel included. At that moment, I wanted to create clothes for those who may feel excluded. Gstyles was put in place to build a person’s confidence in any shape, size, and form because they do belong. 

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

Ihekweme: My parents. They were hardworking. They taught me that anything you want in this life, you can achieve by continuously working hard and never giving up. They always told me daily that “you can do anything you put your mind to” and this is what stuck with me everyday. So when it comes to my brand, giving up was never an option and persistence was the key.

DC: In the new virtual world, how has your focus or ideas changed?

Ihekweme: I started to now see the importance of comfy clothes. At first, when I started designing, I was only thinking of clothes that are meant to be worn outside for events or occasions. When the pandemic started, not a lot of people were going out anymore. That is when I noticed that people also shop for more relaxed and stay at home clothing. That is what inspired a bit  of my recent collection. I fell more in love with comfy apparel. 

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

Ihekweme: I recently dropped my biggest  collection ever from my brand. This collection is called Genesis and you should all go check it out. It took about 7 ½  months in preparation which included designing the pieces, looking for fabric, curating a photoshoot, putting it on the site and creating my campaign. That was one of my biggest accomplishments in 2020 for my brand.  In addition, I was also blessed to have interns who willingly want to help the brand grow. In 2021 I finally have my dream team all thanks to God. 

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

Ihekweme: The advice that I would give to any aspiring entrepreneurs would be the same advice my parents gave to me. They told me that whatever you put your mind to, you can achieve. Don’t give up, keep going! Failure is not a bad thing and if you fail one time, try again. When you fail you only get better because now you know what not to do and now you can try something else. Lastly, trust in yourself, always go back to why you started your brand and think about the end goal to stay motivated. You got it! I am rooting for you all. 

For more information about Goodness Ihekwemes company, Gstyles, please visit the website here.