Author Archives: UMD Dingman Center

A Remembrance: Thomas (Tom) Savransky, Founder of Enly

This week our team received the tragic news that one of our Fearless Founders, Thomas (Tom) Savransky, died in a car crash at age 23. Tom was the founder of Enly, a sustainability conscientious fashion-tech startup that develops virtual fitting technologies. As a student, Tom participated in many of our Dingman Center programs while developing Enly from an idea to a business. In 2019, Tom’s hustle and commitment to taking Enly to market secured him a spot in our inaugural cohort of Terp Startup Fellows. Tom had the entrepreneurial spirit that we love to see in our student entrepreneurs and he will be terribly missed. The loss of Tom’s potential is heartbreaking. 

The below comment from Tom’s co-founder, Jonathan (Jonny) Schneider, memorializes his entrepreneurial drive best: 

“Tom’s spirit was one of an entrepreneur who was willing to do anything to make his business work. In his words, he was willing to sacrifice it all: health, friends, family, simple pleasures. In many ways, Tom embodied the story of the true entrepreneur, one who undergoes extreme sacrifice with little recognition. The mortal, real, industrious entrepreneur, rather than the glorified fantasy of the entrepreneur.”

Jonny shared with us that Tom’s favorite poem was “Nothing Gold Can Stay” by Robert Frost. We have included that poem below. 

In February 2020, The Diamondback, an independent student newspaper associated with the University of Maryland, published this story on Tom’s journey building Enly.

Our thoughts are with Tom’s family, friends and loved ones as they grieve this incredible loss. 

–Statement from Holly DeArmond, Managing Director, Dingman Center for Entrepreneurship on behalf of the Dingman Center team. 

Nothing Gold Can Stay

BY ROBERT FROST

Nature’s first green is gold,

Her hardest hue to hold.

Her early leaf’s a flower;

But only so an hour.

Then leaf subsides to leaf.

So Eden sank to grief,

So dawn goes down to day.

Nothing gold can stay.

Tom pitching in the Pitch Dingman Competition Semifinals in 2019. 

Enly team: Jonathan (Jonny) Schneider (left) and Tom Savransky (right) 

Jonny (left) and Tom (right) during an Enly business trip to Los Angeles, California

Fall 2020 Semester In Review

by Anisah Ingram

It seems like the time flew by, but here we are concluding the fall semester of 2020! As we close out this semester and students head out for winter break, let’s take a look back at all we did these past couple of months. 

Every Friday of the semester, we held virtual sessions of Dingman Fridays, where students were able to meet with guest advisors, subject matter experts and Dingman staff to listen to their business ideas and offer feedback. Through this program we engaged 32 unique advisors and were able to host more than 100 student sessions.

On October 22, we held a Ladies First Alumni Panel: Adapting During Times of Uncertainty. Three alumni of the Ladies First Founders cohort reflected on their experiences in the course and talked about the progress they have made on their business ideas. The panel was moderated by Barathi Aravindan, the Dingman Center’s own Venture Intern who is also an alumnae of Ladies First Founders. You can watch the session here.

November brought exciting rankings news. For the sixth straight year, the University of Maryland is ranked in the top ten for Innovation and Entrepreneurship Education, coming in at No. 6 for undergraduate entrepreneurship education, according to Entrepreneur magazine and The Princeton Review’s annual survey. Read more in Maryland Today here

In an ever-changing virtual world, things looked a bit different this year but we still celebrated a virtual Global Entrepreneurship Week in November. We hosted our signature program Terp Marketplace, in collaboration with Startup Shell Expo, and welcomed two alumni entrepreneurs to speak on our Ladies First Founders Panel. The panel featured alumni female founders Ngozi Azubike, Co-Founder and Chief Operating Officer of OBAN Corporation, and Lauren Foundos, Founder and CEO of FORTË. 

Throughout the academic year, the Dingman Center provides ad-hoc seed funding for University of Maryland startups, called the E-Fund. Recently, we announced the E-Fund Winners of Fall 2020. In total, we were able to provide funding to seven startups and gave out nearly $5,000. The funding ranged from $250-$1,000 and will go towards the type of costs that can be barriers to getting an idea to market. 

While the annual Pitch Dingman Competition applications do not launch until January, this fall we introduced new programming through the Pitch Dingman Competition Prep Series. These workshop-type events help prepare students for the Pitch Dingman Competition application process. The series included guest appearances from past winners Hydraze and Aurora Tights; an introduction to understanding and identifying your target market with Maurice Boissiere; and a talk on building a profitable and impactful company with Martin Mayorga, founder and CEO of Mayorga Organics

Our Founders Forum also continued to meet monthly this semester via the virtual platform, Spacial Chat. Founders who attended these sessions discussed a variety of topics related to running a business. The Dingman Center Angels met virtually in September, October and November with three new investment opportunities resulting for Nest Collaborative, Wellfound Foods and N5 Sensors. We are excited to watch these startups grow next year with their newfound funding! 

In addition to the many programs and events held this semester, Business Insider published “The top 10 metro areas where Black and Latinx founders are securing the most funding to build their companies.” The Washington D.C. metro area was listed at number 7 noting investments from the Dingman Center and TEDCO. 

As you can see, we had an amazing and busy fall, despite this being a new learning environment for everyone. We hope everyone stays safe and we want to thank our entire community for contributing to such a successful semester!

Ladies First Founders Panel Guides Aspiring Female Entrepreneurs with Timely Advice

by Anisah Ingram

Ladies First at Dingman Center for Entrepreneurship is committed to increasing the number of women involved in entrepreneurship at UMD and addresses the barriers that prevent female and non-binary students from pursuing entrepreneuship.

Last week, students had the opportunity to participate in Global Entrepreneurship Week by attending a virtual panel discussion with alumni female founders, Ngozi Azubike, Co-Founder and Chief Operating Officer of OBAN Corporation and Lauren Foundos, Founder and CEO of FORTË. Azubike’s company provides practical strategic and tactical management solutions to public and private sector clients. Foundos’ company focuses on building software for gyms to broadcast their classes. Participants had the pleasure of hearing about their different journeys in entrepreneurship and fueled an insightful discussion on being a woman in the world of business.

Azubike started off the event by describing her journey. She didn’t always want to be an entrepreneur, which she joked “I didn’t even know how to spell the word.” Originally, she saw herself as a researcher. Foundos had the same response, where she explained that she wanted to work on Wall Street before going into the field she’s in now. The first step that Azubike took to go from an idea to a company was doing her homework. It involved creating a business plan, putting together marketing collateral, and pitching herself.

Foundos explains her journey as ongoing by continuously setting goals for herself and her company to achieve. It’s the state of looking back at where she started and seeing how far she’s come, especially because very few female founded companies get funded. COVID-19 has impacted a lot of business, but FORTË has been thriving because of it. The demand due to gyms being shut down has increased tremendously.

Azubike sees our current times as an opportunity for people to reinvent themselves and pivot into something new, specifically women looking to build businesses. Women that she coaches and mentors are taking their hobbies and turning them into businesses now. Research has shown that young women are less likely to report an idea they have for a new venture. Foundos agreed with this and explained that the reason she was able to start her company was because she found a group of women that enabled and supported her to ask questions.

In the end of the event, they left us with great advice on what keeps them going in their field. Foundos explained how it’s going into any new venture or situation with conviction, even if you don’t have it all together. “Go for what you want and don’t worry about making mistakes”, she said, “It’s important to get out there and just do it”. Azubike explained how you learn from the lessons in your experience, but you can’t get stuck on them. She’s learned that in the end, you have to keep stepping onwards.

Interested in learning more about the Dingman Center’s Ladies First Initiative? Visit go.umd.edu/ladiesfirst for ways to get involved and details on BMGT 369D: Ladies First Founders, our one-credit Spring 2021 course that is now open for registration!

Announcing E-Fund Winners of Fall 2020

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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Vitalize, LLC

Founders: Sanketh Andhavarapu ’23, Veeraj Shah ’21

Vitalize is a mobile app for physicians with activities to alleviate stress and reduce burnout. Their E-Fund award of $1000 will be put towards developing crucial software and app functionality.

Morning Light, LLC

Founder: Harrison Burke ’20

Morning Light fosters competitive Esports teams to make the jump to full-time professional sponsorships. As Morning Light’s web presence is a high priority for this esports organizer, their $1000 E-Fund award will go to website development.

Blimp Logistics, LLC

Founder: Camilo Melnyk ’21

Blimp Logistics provides a fast and robust drone delivery network for any business. To support Blimp’s efforts to complete a full and functional prototype, this $1000 E-Fund will be used for a GPS System, Raspberry support hardware, data plan, and website development.

SweetsbyCaroline, LLC

Founder: Caroline Ta ’21

SweetsbyCaroline is a baking business that specializes in custom gluten-free french macarons, as well as cakes, cupcakes, and other desserts that are perfect for engagements, weddings, parties, and other events. Looking to increase her production while reducing costs and time, Caroline will be investing her $1000 E-Fund into a new, larger convection oven that will triple her delicious output.

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, and developing an app for even easier access.

Across The Board

Founders: Rick Philbin, MBA Candidate ’21

Across the Board is a game rental service for events. They are solving the problem for anyone hosting a wedding / birthday party / tailgate who wants to have exciting games for their event but does not want to own them long-term. Their $312 E-Fund award will be applied to a year-long Squarespace subscription.

Campus Gigs

Founders: Nataraj Shivaprasad ’24 and Sri Kanipakala ’24

Currently, the gig economy is estimated to account for 40% of the U.S workforce. With the rise of remote work, this number is slated to grow, making it imperative for college students to be prepared for the unique challenges and skills required for the gig economy. We are looking to solve this problem by developing a platform specifically for students to provide gig services to local businesses. Businesses also benefit from this, untapping the potential of a flexible, cheaper, and in many cases, skilled workforce. Campus Gigs’ $150 E-Fund Award will support their app development.

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Terp Startup Morning Light Esports brings some old-school competition

This summer, the Dingman Center will be conducting interviews with the 12 student startups who are participating in our virtual Terp Startup summer accelerator. 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.

Morning Light Esports

Founder: Harrison Burke ’20

DC: Tell us about your startup. What problem are you solving and for whom?

Burke: Morning Light is an Esports organization focused on bringing a vintage and rustic aesthetic to an industry that is currently filled with companies that are carbon copies of one another. The assumption that everyone interested in Esports wants to see brands that are edgy, neon colored, and filled with intensity, is a massive misconception to me. Everyone wants to champion something whether it’s a band, their university, or a professional team. My ambition is to build an Esports org for people who are bored of the same old thing and give them something to champion.

DC: How did you first come up with your idea?

Burke: I’ve been involved in Esports since 2013 and my obsession with antiques, vintage clothes, and classic rock goes back further than my memory serves me. When I realized that I wanted to run my own Esports organization after having worked in Esports for 2 years, it felt only right to make it harder than I had to for a challenge’s sake. I could create another boring, neon-light-covered, obnoxious brand like everyone else, or I could go a different route and look to create something that hasn’t been done before. It hit me that creating an Esports brand based on vintage and rustic themes would be a way for me to make my work an extension of myself and my identity while bringing something new to the scene.

DC: What are some major milestones you’ve achieved so far?

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360° real estate shopping by drone? Meet Terp Startup Door Robotics, Inc

This summer, the Dingman Center will be conducting interviews with the 12 student startups who are participating in our virtual Terp Startup summer accelerator. 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.

Door Robotics

Founders: Joshua Ermias ’20, Vincent Jaugan ’21, Patrick Crowe

DC: Tell us about your startup. What problem are you solving and for whom?

Ermias: Door Robotics is a 360-camera indoor capable drone company based in Maryland. An expensive problem that real estate photographers and content creators have is the amount of time it takes to complete a job. We set out to provide an autonomous solution that combined 360 cameras and drones. The vision for our drone is to have a Roomba-like functionality and follow-me feature that optimizes the capture of quality video/photo shots with a 360 view.

The Door Robotics Team

DC: How did you first come up with your idea?

Ermias: Initially, I came up with the idea when I was first working on drones, cameras, and 360 footage. My friend had asked me to help him make a 360 app while I was working on a drone project. I put the camera I had on the drone and realized that it added a unique perspective. At the time, there were no other drones that could do something like this, and I was inspired to dive into the startup world.

DC: What are some major milestones you’ve achieved so far?

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Small businesses now deliver with drones – Terp Startup Blimp Logistics

This summer, the Dingman Center will be conducting interviews with the 12 student startups who are participating in our virtual Terp Startup summer accelerator. 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.

Blimp Logistics

Founders: Camilo Melnyk ’21

DC: Tell us about your startup. What problem are you solving and for whom?

Melnyk: Blimp Logistics is a drone delivery company. We are trying to develop a complete drone logistics network that will be capable of providing ultra-fast delivery between local businesses and their customers.

DC: How did you first come up with your idea?

Melnyk: It was a mixture of following the news, interest in drones, writing a research paper for class, and boredom on a family road trip.

During the summer of 2018, my family and I were driving back to Maryland after a family vacation in Canada. A research paper I had just written on drone legislation was fresh in my mind, and to keep from falling asleep my dad and I were taking about business ideas, drones, hobbies, etc. We talked about competitors in the field, ideas blended, and I came up with what I thought was a novel approach to drone delivery.

Camilo Melnyk

After getting home I sat down and did some research. I was hooked. I had a novel idea, at this point I had already been flying and building drones for 6 years, I was majoring in aerospace engineering, and I wanted to be my own boss when I graduated. Starting my own business seemed to be the only option!

DC: What are some major milestones you’ve achieved so far?

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Modify your snacking with Terp Startup ModBars

This summer, the Dingman Center will be conducting interviews with the 12 student startups who are participating in our virtual Terp Startup summer accelerator. 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.

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ModBars

Founders: Jeff Su ’21, Wyatt Talcott ’21, Max Levine, Joe Oleynik

DC: Tell us about your startup. What problem are you solving and for whom?

ModBars: We are ModBars, a snack bar company with the mission to provide snacks that are nutritious, filling, and that cater to various dietary restrictions. We currently hold six flavors including two whey protein bars, two trail mix bars, a s’mores bar and a coffee energy bar. We will soon introduce complete customization to ensure individual freedom and unique value to our customers. By visiting our website you will be able to choose from a list of ingredients and create your own bars from scratch. Our target audience includes health conscious, young people who aim to accommodate their chosen lifestyles, diets, and/or allergies.

DC: How did you first come up with your idea?

ModBars: Growing up with a severe tree-nut allergy, I [Jeff] had to be extremely cautious about what I was eating. When I started high school, I began taking nutrition more seriously for my competitive swimming career. I noticed, however, that it was difficult to find a nut-free protein bar that I could eat after practice. The ones I did find either tasted awful, were too sugary, or contained chemicals that weren’t even pronounceable. Fed up with the lack of available options, I recruited four other student-athletes and together we created our own bar. We spent five months researching and experimenting with different kinds of ingredients. After batch #94, the five of us finally achieved a low-sugar, nut-free, high-protein granola bar, known today as the Viking Whey. We immediately received overwhelmingly positive feedback from our classmates and teachers at school, and thus, ModBars was born. Since then, we have developed new recipes and expanded our business to a larger community. We hope you enjoy our bars!

DC: What are some major milestones you’ve achieved so far?

ModBars: Since obtaining our LLC in early 2017, we have taken many large steps towards achieving our goal of being in multiple Whole Foods. We have created six starter flavors ranging from whey protein bars to trailmix and dessert bars. In the Summer of 2019, we were able to get our product in our local summer swim club snack bars. That Fall, we were semi-finalists at the annual Pitch Dingman Competition. This Spring, we received the Jason ‘96 & Jamie Cohen Entrepreneurship Fund Award, given to budding University of Maryland startups, along with a small grant.

DC: What drives you to keep going?

ModBars: There’s no better feeling than exceeding someone’s expectations when you have them try your product for the first time. We want to get rid of the stigma associated with the bad taste of protein bars, one person at a time. We want to help people with severe allergies like our CEO Jeff to find an affordable snack.

DC: How do you feel about working in a cohort with fellow student entrepreneurs?

ModBars: Luckily, we’ve had the opportunity to work with other UMD startups over the spring semester in Dingman’s New Venture Practicum course and it was a really great experience for us there. We were able to meet with many companies outside of our industry and even some competing snack bar companies, which offered us a wide variety of knowledge and expertise. We hope to continue to explore the relationships we’ve built with other student entrepreneurs, both through that course as well as our other involvement with Dingman. We greatly value the importance of collaboration and are thankful to be part of Terp Startup!

DC: What are you hoping to achieve during Terp Startup this summer?

ModBars: With the COVID-19 pandemic preventing us from manufacturing, we hope to focus on our company’s R&D — from creating a newsletter to developing a more user-friendly website to gathering more consumer data — over the summer so that when the school year starts and we move back into our kitchen, we can hit the ground running.

For the booked, the busy and the bougie: Terp Startup O.pal.es.cent Nails

This summer, the Dingman Center will be conducting interviews with the 12 student startups who are participating in our virtual Terp Startup summer accelerator. 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.

O.pal.es.cent Nails

Founder: Doyinsola Oladimeji-Stevens ’20

DC: Tell us about your startup. What problem are you solving and for whom?

Oladimeji-Stevens: O•pal•es•cent Nails is a custom handmade press-on nail company for the booked, the busy, and the bougie. Our purpose is to give people back their time, convenience, and money without sacrificing on quality. We are targeting people who are tired of spending hundreds of dollars a month on nails that on average only last 2 weeks before they have to go in and do the same thing all over again. Millions of dollars are spent annually on nails that might last for 3 weeks at best. Why buy something temporary when you can invest in something long-lasting?

DC: How did you first come up with your idea?

Doyinsola Oladimeji-Stevens

Oladimeji-Stevens: I had always been interested in nails and nail art. In high school, I would spend hours on a Saturday doing a nail design on my left hand that would end up chipping by the next week. I initially bought some nail tips sophomore year of college to be able to do the same designs but in a form that I could reuse. I first came up with my business idea in October and it was as if a light bulb went off. I honestly thought to myself, “Why hadn’t I been doing this sooner?!”

DC: What are some major milestones you’ve achieved so far?

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Terp Startup Sow Co: Reap (and eat) what you sow

This summer, the Dingman Center will be conducting interviews with the 12 student startups who are participating in our virtual Terp Startup summer accelerator. 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.

Sow Co

Founder: Jacques Marais ’20

DC: Tell us about your startup. What problem are you solving and for whom?

Sow Co aspires to help you satisfy your human need to be involved in the process of growing and enjoying food while appreciating the warmth and personality of a bountiful, hanging, in home veggie garden.

DC: How did you first come up with your idea?

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