Category Archives: social entrepreneurship

A Summer Internship Making Entrepreneurship Inclusive at SEED SPOT

The Dugal Impact Fellowship Program provides a stipend for two undergraduate students to spend their summers interning at early-stage social enterprises, thanks to a generous gift from Ish ’05 and Priya Dugal ’05. 

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by: Adam Sarsony ’20

Incubators across the world tend to focus on established startups that are past seed stage. However, a group called SEED SPOT has decided to try a different strategy: focusing on seed stage startups, mostly with minority and female founders, and helping them to build social enterprises from the ground up.

This past summer I was fortunate enough to intern at SEED SPOT through a Dingman Center fellowship. SEED SPOT is a social enterprise incubator with offices in Washington, D.C. and Phoenix, providing training and resources to founders of nonprofits and for-profits with a social mission to help them grow and measure their impact. Throughout every level of engagement, SEED SPOT focuses on minority and female social entrepreneurs.

IMG_2716-1.JPGWorking at SEED SPOT was an experience like no other—I’ve thought about it as working at a startup that’s in the business of helping startups. The team is small and incredibly passionate about their work. The organization is only a few years old, having seen massive growth since first starting out and only recently adding their WeWork location in DC.

The SEED SPOT office in DC is littered with Mac chargers, marketing materials, books about social entrepreneurship, Harvard Business Review journals, and notebooks that SEED SPOT team members brought back from conferences to share. Working there was just as much an opportunity to access the SEED SPOT library as it was a job (which was perfect for nerds like myself).

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A Summer Internship Fighting Food Waste at Misfit Juicery

The Dugal Impact Fellowship Program provides a stipend for two undergraduate students to spend their summers interning at early-stage social enterprises, thanks to a generous gift from Ish ’05 and Priya Dugal ’05. 

Credit Gotham Greens 1

photo by Gotham Greens

by: Candice Daytner ’19

Team bonding on the New York Subway during rush hour, late night juice tasting at our co-packer facility, tasting fresh microgreens grown in an urban aeroponic vertical farm…these are just a few of the things I got to experience while working at Misfit Juicery this summer.

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photo by Gotham Greens

Misfit is a mission-oriented startup dedicated to fighting food waste by making delicious products from supply chain inefficiencies. This primarily comes in the form of “misfit” fruits and veggies that are often considered too misshapen, discolored, big or small to be sold in traditional grocery retail. My role at Misfit this summer as a supply chain and operations intern consisted of being the right-hand person to the head of operations. With such a small and dynamic team environment, I was able to take on a lot of responsibility and independence.

One of my primary responsibilities was managing the production and inventory Excel workbook. This included a lot of order fulfillment tasks such as entering Purchase Orders, creating Bills of Lading, checking inventory levels, and reconciling outbound signed paperwork with planned pickups. For planning production, I slowly learned more and took over more of the process throughout the summer. From forecasting demand, determining buffers, and planning produce quantities, I was able to plan a whole production run from start to finish by the end of the summer with relatively minimal oversight and adjustment from my managers.

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Smith Finance Major Helps Struggling Business Owners in Ecuador

This summer, we will feature guest posts from students who received a Dingman Center scholarship to participate in the Maryland Social Entrepreneur Corps (MSEC). They will share their experiences learning about social entrepreneurship while consulting with local businesses in Latin America for eight weeks this summer. Learn more about MSEC here.

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by: Yuvraj Walia ’21

Living in Ecuador and interning with the Social Entrepreneur Corps has given me first-hand experience with the unique culture and rich history of the country. My internship has not only exposed me to the problems that different local businesses face, but also an entirely new perspective on how others live their lives. From participating in the indigenous festival of Inti Raymi or consulting with a local artisanal women’s organization, I have been given the rare opportunity to immerse myself into a new culture. When I am not living in Ñamarin or Pulinguí, two small villages in the mountains of Ecuador, I am staying in the small city of Cuenca. With its colonial architecture and old Incan ruins, the city is heavily influenced by Spanish culture while also staying true to its indigenous roots. Personally, I love Cuenca because of the curiosity and openness of the locals. One example of this is when my Spanish teacher went around the room and asked each of us if we believed in God. When she received answers from all sides of the religious spectrum, she proceeded to teach the lesson of that day per usual. These intimate questions are just a glimpse into the vast cultural differences between Ecuadorian and U.S. culture.

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Terp Startup Tommy WARES Makes Ethically Sourced Custom T-Shirts

This summer, the Dingman Center will be conducting interviews with the ten student startups who are participating in the Terp Startup summer accelerator phase of our Fearless Founders program. 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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Tommy WARES.pngTommy WARES

Founder & CEO: Tommy Piantone ’18, Information Systems major

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

Piantone: Countless small organizations spend a lot of resources organizing custom t-shirt orders for members of their community. Organizing a bulk t-shirt order takes a lot of time, energy and money that an organization could be spending on its real missions and goals. Rather than charging an organization for custom apparel, Tommy WARES helps organizations raise money through their apparel orders. We charge zero set-up fees and sell shirts to individual members of the organization’s community. For every shirt sold, we split the proceeds with our partnering organization 50/50. Our shirts are all union made in the USA and printed on only organic fibers.

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Forging Connections and Consulting for Impact in Guatemala

This summer, we will feature guest posts from students who received a Dingman Center scholarship to participate in the Maryland Social Entrepreneur Corps (MSEC). They will share their experiences learning about social entrepreneurship while consulting with local businesses in Latin America for eight weeks this summer. Learn more about MSEC here.

by: Carter Griffin ’20

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The country of Guatemala is so beautiful, and I feel has taught me so much in my time here. Two months is not enough to capture the whole essence of the culture, food and many sites there are to see here, but I am so grateful for the experiences that I will bring back to my family and friends. I can’t wait to try speaking Spanish to my family and friends, and though my Spanish has greatly improved, it certainly is not perfect.

The Guatemalans (Including food)

The people that I have met here have been some of the kindest people I’ve met in my life. From the moment I stepped into the country I was greeted by several kind people who helped me figure out where I was, as I almost immediately got lost in the airport. My first host mom, Dona Gris, is very kind, and though she knew no English, she gave her all to helping me understand what was going on. She always listened to my abysmal Spanish and did her best to give me easy words to work with. My second host family is large and incredibly kind. I am eternally grateful that I have been placed with them, because they really helped make my experience in Xela ten times better. My family consists of the father, Francisco, the mother, Vicky, the grandmother, Erica, and the children, Javier, Mellie, Carlos, Pablo, Dulce, Benji and baby Julia. They have told me so much about Guatemala and our discussions have been the highlight of this trip. The diversity and taste of the food that I eat every day always manages to surprise me. My family can cook very well, and I am always excited for dinner. Lunch in the city is always an adventure, as most every place in the city serves delicious meals.

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UMD Students Consulting with Local Businesses in Ecuador

This summer, we will feature guest posts from students who received a Dingman Center scholarship to participate in the Maryland Social Entrepreneur Corps (MSEC). They will share their experiences learning about social entrepreneurship while consulting with local businesses in Latin America for eight weeks this summer. Learn more about MSEC here.

blog_pic4by: Gunleen Deol ’21

My time in-country here in Ecuador with the Maryland Social Entrepreneur Corps (MSEC) has been phenomenal. I’ve had the opportunity to learn a tremendous amount from my peers, not just those from UMD, but also those from the University of Conneticut. Moreover, I’ve experienced an incredible amount of personal growth from conversing with my host familes in Spanish and really getting to know them by immersing myself in their culture. The most rewarding part of my experience, however, is the work that we do here in the rural communities.

Before dividing off into two groups and traveling to different rural communities in Ecuador, the entire SEC team spent two weeks in Cuenca, Ecuador, familiarizing ourselves with the four main projects that we have the liberty to work on during our time in the rural communities.

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Reflecting on the Ladies First: Dolphin Tank with Springboard Enterprises

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by: Karolyn Maynard MBA ’18

On Tuesday, April 3, Springboard Enterprises brought Dolphin Tank to the University of Maryland, in collaboration with the Dingman Center for Entrepreneurship’s ‘Ladies First’ initiative. The Ladies First initiative is a commitment to increase the number of women involved in entrepreneurship at the University of Maryland.

Now, as a self-professed ‘Shark Tank’ lover, I truly love learning about entrepreneurs’ ventures and hearing the critical feedback from the ‘sharks’ across market size, valuation and true opportunity for growth. In fact, after continued viewing, I found myself often adopting the role of an investor, asking the questions from the comfort of my living room and feeling quite good about anticipating the concerns or questions that an investor might have.

That’s my version of a fun night sometimes; What can I say? I love entrepreneurship in all forms.

So when I heard Springboard Enterprises was bringing Dolphin Tank to campus, I, naturally, jumped at the chance to swim with the sharks – or dolphins.

Springboard Enterprises describes Dolphin Tank as “helpful feedback-driven pitch sessions for entrepreneurs to receive constructive insights from knowledgeable professionals. Dolphin Tanks aren’t about sharks, piranhas, dragons, or competing for the best idea – they’re about channeling the expertise of the people in the room. The Dolphin Tank is an interactive discussion led by an expert panel that focuses on one thing: “How can we help?” 

After attending my very first Dolphin Tank, I was impressed with the willingness of the attendees in the room to not only provide constructive feedback, but to provide connections also.

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An Inside Look at the Inaugural Ladies First Founders Cohort

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From left: Audrey Awasom, Yinyin Lao, Megha Guggari, Maria Chen, Natalie Urban, Breonna Massey, Sydney Parker, Jess Rosenthal, Jasmine Snead, Fiona Whitefield, Sara Herald

by: Megan McPherson

This semester, something truly remarkable is happening on Monday afternoons in the Smith School’s executive board room. Sitting around the room’s imposing conference table are the inaugural Ladies First Founders cohort, ten young women united by their experiences as female entrepreneurs. At the head of the table sits adjunct professor Sara Herald, 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. Yesterday, I was offered the privilege to sit in on the class and discover what Ladies First Founders is all about. What started out as an observational study for a blog post became an empowering exercise in what can happen when women are given a platform to learn from and support one another.

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An Interview with Pitch Dingman Competition Finalist: Symbiont Health

In anticipation of the final round of the 2018 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 6 in the Grand Ballroom of Stamp Student Union. Learn more and register to attend the competition here.

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Erich Meissner, CEO; Maria Chen, CMO; Kyle Liu, CTO

Symbiont Health

Erich Meissner, CEO
Maria Chen, CMO
Kyle Liu, CTO

Logo&Slogan.pngSenior electrical engineering major Erich Meissner came up with the idea for a new kind of wearable fall detection device after his grandmother experienced a fall. He learned from her doctor that over 40% of senior falls are due to syncopy, a sudden loss of consciousness, which isn’t solved by common fall notification systems like Life Alert that require users to press a button. Furthermore, his grandmother had a Life Alert but wasn’t wearing it at the time—many seniors feel these devices carry an unwanted stigma advertising their loss of independence. Teaming up with junior pre-med student Maria Chen and sophomore computer science major Kyle Liu, Erich launched Symbiont Health to tackle the issue of unconscious elderly falls. In 2017, they competed in the Do Good Challenge and took second place in the Ventures track, then participated in the Terp Startup summer incubator phase of our Fearless Founders Accelerator. Leading up to Pitch Dingman Competition Finals, Symbiont Health has tested more subtle wearable devices as well as WiFi Mesh Networking solutions to detect falls.

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Hisaoka Speaker Series Young Founders Panel Preview: Evan Lutz

By: Eric Elliot

RGHisaoka_LOGO_2The Robert G. Hisaoka Speaker Series continues with a Young Founders Panel on Tuesday, February 13 from 5:00-6:45 p.m. Panelists Ali von Paris ’12, Evan Lutz ’14 and Brandon and Bradley Deyo are all successful entrepreneurs who started their businesses as students. In a panel moderated by Robert Hisaoka, students, staff, faculty and alumni will hear about the experiences and challenges each founder faced while turning their dorm room startups into lucrative businesses. Register now to attend, and stay tuned to our blog to learn more about each of the panelists.

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Hungry Harvest – Evan Lutz ’14

Evan wanted to be a social entrepreneur ever since he was little. Particularly, he wanted to do something about the inefficient food system of this country. Every year, 40% of food produced goes to waste due to superficial abnormalities; at the same time, 20% of the U.S. lacks access to a nutritious diet. Wanting to do something about this, Evan Lutz started Hungry Harvest in the basement of his dorm room during his senior year at the University of Maryland with the goal of reducing food waste and eliminating hunger. Hungry Harvest purchases surplus ‘ugly produce’ that would have gone to waste from farmers and wholesalers and then distributes them to weekly subscribers. For every box they deliver to a customer, they donate a healthy meal to someone in need.

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