Athenus Financial Group is a startup founded by University of Maryland students Damian Shaw ’24 and Cameron Williams ’21. Athenus is a fintech application that allows its users to easily trade foreign exchange. It is powered by Machine Learning AI, which allows users to analyze price data in seconds, where users can then place successful trades without having to learn the market themselves. Williams participated in New Venture Practicum during the Spring ’21 semester and the team also competed in Pitch Dingman Competition 2021 Semifinals.
Athenus Financial Group has been chosen as the recipient for the 2021 Jason ’96 & Jamie Cohen Entrepreneurship Fund Award. They will receive $1,000 to further accelerate their startup, selected due to the perseverance, level of engagement, and growth potential they have shown over the course of the year. According to Williams, the funding will be put towards backend costs, such as servers and connecting to the brokers network.
Congratulations to Shaw and Williams of Athenus Financial Group!
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 Bar – Maliha 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.
Prommuni – Karsh (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.
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 Ihekweme‘s company, Gstyles, please visit the website here.
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.
Dingman TV is a channel brought to you by the Dingman Center for Entrepreneurship at Maryland Smith featuring all infomercials, all the time! These commercials are produced by student entrepreneurs at University of Maryland to showcase their products and services, drive traffic to their websites and gather feedback and support from potential customers in the UMD community and beyond.
ModBars, LLC is a startup founded by University of Maryland students Jeff Su ’21 and Wyatt Talcott ’21. Also on the ModBars team are UMD students Max Levine ’22, Joe Oleynik ’23 and
Nate Stevens ’21. Jeff and Wyatt completed this video as students in the Dingman Center’s Fearless Founders: New Venture Practicum course, taught by Maryland Smith professor Oliver Schlake. ModBars also competed as semifinalists in Pitch Dingman Competition in fall 2019.
At the end of each academic year, Dingman Center supporter and successful alumni food entrepreneur JasonCohen ’96 gives out the Jason ’96 & Jamie Cohen Entrepreneurship Fund Award of $1,000. ModBars was selected by the Dingman Center team to receive this year’s award.
New Venture Practicum is a three-credit course within the Dingman Center’s Fearless Founders accelerator where, under the guidance of Maryland Smith Clinical Professor Oliver Schlake, students build and test their business ideas using lean startup methodology. Each business is assigned a venture mentor from the Dingman Center Mentor Network. Upon completion of the course, students will be eligible for seed funding.
Read on to learn more about this cohort’s exciting student founders and their businesses!