Category Archives: Ladies First

Introducing the 2020 Ladies First Founders Cohort


by: Hannah Shraim ’20, Dingman Center Marketing Intern

Ladies First Badges-RosesmallIt’s Women’s History Month! While every month should commemorate the contributions that women have made and continue to make in society, any opportunity to highlight the stories of fearless women is one that we should take. As part of the Dingman Center’s Ladies First initiative to get more female and non-binary founders involved in entrepreneurship at University of Maryland, we select a cohort of students every spring for our Ladies First Founders course. Taught by Sara Herald, MBA ’11, the Center’s Director of Venture Development, Ladies First Champion and Maryland Smith’s co-chair of the Committee for Diversity and Inclusion, students enrolled in Ladies First Founders learn soft skills to achieve success in entrepreneurship and beyond. During Women’s History Month, we are excited to introduce the diverse and talented group of young women that make up the third cohort of Ladies First Founders.

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An Interview with Pitch Dingman Competition Finalist: SweetsbyCaroline

In anticipation of the final round of the 2020 Pitch Dingman Competition, the Dingman Center is interviewing each of the five startup finalists about their progress and upcoming challenges as they prepare to compete for the $15,000 Grand Prize on March 10th in the Grand Ballroom of Stamp Student Union. Learn more and register to attend the competition here.



Caroline Ta ’21, Marketing

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DC: Tell us about your startup.

Ta: SweetsbyCaroline is a catering business that specializes in french macarons, cakes, cupcakes, and other desserts for weddings, parties, and many more events! I aim to turn your vision into a unique and delicious product by tailoring it to your event.

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That’s a Wrap! Fall 2019 at the Dingman Center

Things are slowing down at the Smith School. Students are taking their last finals, and we’re finishing up work to prepare for a blissful holiday season ahead. So grab a cup of cocoa and take a trip with us down memory lane as we recap a fantastic fall semester of events, programs and more at the Dingman Center!

A Rise in the Rankings


University of Maryland rose in the Princeton Review and Entrepreneur magazine’s rankings to #7 in undergraduate programming, and #3 for public universities. This marks our fifth consecutive year in the top 10! Read about the rankings here.

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Dingman Center Supports Female-Founded Ventures at Technica


Sara Herald, MBA ’11, Ladies First champion and Director of Venture Development, with Blaze Tracker, the winning team at Technica.

The weekend of November 9th, the Dingman Center hosted a table and sponsored a prize at University of Maryland’s Technica, the nation’s largest female and non-binary hackathon. The Dingman Center table was manned by alumnae of the Ladies First Founders program, a 1-credit course for female and nonbinary students to form a community and overcome gender bias issues in entrepreneurship. The course is the flagship program of the Center’s Ladies First Initiative to get more female and nonbinary students at UMD engaged with entrepreneurship. Many students were excited to learn how they can get more involved with the Dingman Center to help grow their business ideas beyond the hackathon. At the end of the 48 hour hackathon on Sunday, the Dingman Center presented a Kate Spade wallet to Blaze Tracker, the best venture at Technica. Blaze Tracker consists of a team of four computer science freshman who created an app to provide information to those affected by the California wildfires in real time, and for others nearby to open their homes as temporary lodging. They were awarded this prize for having an innovative, unique, and profitable idea. We look forward to the next edition of Technica!

Catching Up With Ladies First Founder Jasmine Snead of Aurora Tights


by: Hannah Shraim ’20, Dingman Center Marketing Intern

Updated March 31, 2020

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. 

We sat down with Aurora Tights Co-Founder and 2019 Pitch Dingman Competition winner Jasmine Snead to talk about her experiences as an entrepreneur. 

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. 

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Azelle is a Terp Startup that’s Saving the Bay with Charm Bracelets

This summer, the Dingman Center will be conducting interviews with the fifteen student startups who are participating in our Terp Startup summer accelerator at the College Park WeWork. 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.



Founder & CEO: Barathi Aravindan ’22, Finance major

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

Aravindan: Azelle manufactures high-quality charm bracelets to raise awareness of the precarious condition of the Chesapeake Bay, the world’s largest natural estuary. Our mission is to support the restoration of the Chesapeake Bay in a fashionable manner and empower women in the field of business by hiring young women in the community.

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That’s a Wrap! Spring 2019 at the Dingman Center

Spring 2019 wrap collage

Graduation is this week, and we’ve had some time to reflect on the numerous events and programs we’ve held throughout the semester. The community has impressed us once again with their enthusiasm, passion and dedication to entrepreneurship throughout spring. Here are some featured highlights from our events, and be on the lookout for upcoming interviews with the student entrepreneurs in our Summer 2019 Terp Startup Cohort.

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Takeaways from Cohort 2 of Ladies First Founders


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Today marks the last class of the semester for Ladies First Founders, a one-credit course led by Sara Herald, the Dingman Center’s associate director for social entrepreneurship. Last year, Sara launched Ladies First Founders as part of the Center’s Ladies First initiative to get more women engaged in entrepreneurship programming at University of Maryland. Ladies First Founders provides a platform for aspiring female and non-binary founders across campus to come together, find community and learn strategies for overcoming the gender gap in entrepreneurship.

Last week, each female founder in the course provided perspective on their journey this semester to a room of their peers, Dingman Center staff and mentors. While many made significant progress on developing their ideas, all of these young women reflected on the value of the course for their own personal growth. Below are some notes on each of the founders, their ideas and their journeys.

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Introducing the Spring 2019 Cohort of Ladies First Founders

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On Tuesday afternoons, the Smith School’s executive board room is taken over by the second cohort of the Dingman Center’s Ladies First Founders program, a group of nine young women united by their experiences as female entrepreneurs. At the head of the room’s imposing conference table sits adjunct professor Sara Herald, MBA ’11, the Dingman Center’s Associate Director for Social Entrepreneurship and founder of the Ladies First initiative to get more women involved in entrepreneurship at UMD.

This year, the Ladies First Founders were paired with expert female mentors to help guide their entrepreneurial journeys. The theme of this year’s Ladies First initiative is centered around role models, and these successful women provide an inspiring template for the cohort to follow. Over the course of the semester, we’ll be catching up with these student founders to see how their venture ideas have progressed under the guidance of professor Sara Herald and their mentors.

Read on to learn more about the diverse group of female founders and businesses that make up the Spring 2019 Ladies First Founders cohort:

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An Interview With Pitch Dingman Competition Finalist: Aurora Tights

In anticipation of the final round of the 2019 Pitch Dingman Competition, the Dingman Center is interviewing each of the five startup finalists about their progress and upcoming challenges as they prepare to compete for the $15,000 Grand Prize on March 7th in the Grand Ballroom of Stamp Student Union. Learn more and register to attend the competition here.


Imani Rickerby & Jasmine Snead at the Pitch Dingman Competition Semifinals

Aurora Tights

Jasmine Snead ’19, Co-Founder & CFO – Finalist
Imani Rickerby ’17, Co-Founder & COO
Sydney Parker ’18, CMO

DC: Tell us about your startup.

Aurora Tights Title Logo-01Jasmine Snead: Aurora Tights designs performance apparel for dancers and ice skaters of all skin tones, shapes, and sizes. The Aurora team is comprised of a solo figure skater, a synchronized ice skater, and a dancer. As competitive athletes, we were forced to wear tights, mesh, and other paraphernalia in the wrong skin tone because our shades were not readily available. The lack of color variety posed a drawback for performance athletes because it is not aesthetically appealing to the eye and it’s frustrating to practice your passion while feeling like you’re in someone else’s skin. Additionally, overall appearance is judged in performance sports, unlike in traditional sports. In the words of Olympian Johnny Weir, “Aesthetics are still a part of the subjective scoring in figure skating.” His words are true in figure skating and in other performance sports as well.

As a solution, I learned to dye my tights to match my complexion. Years and a stained bathroom later, my mom and I perfected the process of dyeing tights and would do so before each competition. Self-dyeing is an option for athletes, but it is messy, time-consuming, expensive, and experimental to find the right shade. That is why there is a strong need for Aurora Tights to simplify the tight buying process for women of all skin tones and sizes. We believe buying tights in your shade should be as easy clicking “add to cart” online or shopping at your local sporting goods store.

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