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.
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.