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ANNOUNCING THE FEARLESS FOUNDERS: NEW VENTURE PRACTICUM FALL 2022 COHORT

New Venture Practicum is one of the Dingman Center’s signature courses. Taught by Le-Marie Thompson during the Fall semester, students experiment with business models, revenue streams and go-to-market strategies. By the end of this 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!

Exercise Network – Candace Austin ’23 (Finance)
Exercise Network is a healthy lifestyle network aiming to help individuals live life healthier through our fitness, aquatics, and nutrition programs.

Fashion House – Vina Chen ’25

Financial WIzard – Toluwalope Adewole ’23

Frontground “The Cerner of Africa” – Kenneth Yeaher Jr. ’24 (Information Science)
Frontground is a social enterprise creating information systems for developing nations and emerging markets. 

Game Changers New York – Sara Blau ’24 (Business Management)
Game Changers is a 501(c)3 non-profit whose mission is to redistribute sports equipment to children globally in order to create sports equity. 

Grassroot – Datta Kaligotla ’24

MatRx – James Dawson ’24 (Business Management)
MatRx is a patent pending, novel device that allows drivers to prevent and cover damage on the floor mats. 

Modest Sports Fashion – Syarifatul Umam ’23

Odin Electric – Joseph Kattan ’22

Old Town, New Clothes – Brian Spinner ’23 (Environmental Science and Policy)
Old Town, New Clothes is a clothing brand I have established in which I sell my own custom and thrifted clothing. Old Town, New Clothes allows members of the UMD community to give me their clothes they no longer have a use for and in turn I sell them at weekly pop-up shops and turn peoples leftover clothing into money for them. 

Recover Pals – Aaron Zeng ‘24  

RewardsHub – David Crabtree ’23

SweetForm – Eman Mirdamadi ’25 (Bioengineering)
SweetForm is a kitchen device startup seeking to give food making hobbyists and pastry chefs a mess free, stick free, and fun way to make ice and sweet treats with any shape they desire. 

TaskPanel – Siddharth Dudla ’24 (Finance and Information Systems)
TaskPanel is a productivity device startup aiming to help people accomplish their daily goals and smash their deadlines in a fun and interactive way.

Feature Friday! Game Changers New York

Game Changers New York providing tennis equiptment to children in Nairobi, Kenya.

DC: What is your name, major, minor, and graduation year?
Blau: Sara Blau, Business Management Major, Sociology Minor, College Park Scholars – International Studies Track, Graduation Year: 2024.

Founder of Game Changers New York, Sara Blau ’24.

DC: Which Dingman Center programs have you been involved with?
Blau: I was in the Pitch Dingman program and I’ve also participated in Dingman Friday’s numerous times. Additionally, I am currently enrolled in Fearless Founders’ New Venture Practicum.

DC: In two to three sentences, how would you describe your startup?
Blau: Game Changers New York is a 501(3)c non-profit whose mission is to redistribute sports equipment to underrepresented children globally. To date, we’ve donated tens of thousands of pieces of equipment to 96 partner organizations in 15 countries. We’ve had an enormous impact on youth athletics, allowing countless numbers of children to play sports.

DC: At what point did you know you wanted to start your own venture? 
Blau: I founded GCNY as a sophomore in high school. As an athlete myself, I recognized the value of having something to look forward to every day during recess, gym class, or after school. As a sophomore, I understood that many underrepresented children faced barriers to participation in sports. At that moment, my work began.

DC: Why did you decide to start a business in this industry?
Blau: From the time I founded GCNY in 2016 until now, there are no other major “players” doing the work we do in this field in New York. We are proudly running this industry in New York and will continue to do so. Game Changer’s concept is simple, yet incredibly effective in that people, programs, national sports leagues, companies, sports centers and more have had a need to donate sports equipment. This desire to donate matches perfectly with our growing global partner organization network that is constantly in need of items to support their programs. 

Blau ’24 and her team collecting donated supplies for distribution.

DC: What or who is your biggest influence for your startup?
Blau: My family has been my biggest influence on my startup. Although they are not on the board of directors, or advisory board, they play an enormous factor in the success of the organization. Their guidance, love, and support since day-one has enabled me to achieve our goals.

DC: When it comes to your venture, how do you define success?
Blau: We define success when a partner organization is matched with a donor. For example, today, we facilitated a 600-volleyball donation by a large corporation that distributes games to one of our partner organizations that bridges Latino, African American, Hasidic, and residents of NYCHA housing, enabling them to build community together in Brooklyn. We are constantly working on connections and sports equipment redistributions such as this one. When the kids get to use the equipment, it is a true success.

DC: If you could give advice to any aspiring entrepreneurs, what would it be?
Blau: My advice is to just get started. When I founded the organization, I had no idea that this is what it turned into. Every day, there are new opportunities for us at the organization, and you can’t plan for it. I encourage everyone with an idea to just start somewhere, and the rest will fall in its place.

To learn more about Game Changers New York please visit the website here.

Feature Friday! Bedtime Sports

This summer, the Dingman Center will be conducting interviews with the 11 student startups who are participating in our first in-person Terp Startup summer accelerator since 2020. Participating student entrepreneurs will receive a stipend up to $5,000 that will enable them to work exclusively on their startups over the next eight weeks.

Founder: Josh Doying, MBA Candidate 2023.

DC: In two to three sentences, how would you describe your startup?

Doying: Bedtime Sports is a subscription storytelling service for the sports fan parents of young children. Subscribers will receive stories highlighting the athletes and stories about their favorite teams allowing them to share their fandom with their family during the season in an age appropriate and accessible format.

Founder of Bedtime Sports, Josh Doying, MBA Candidate ’23.

DC: At what point did you know you wanted to create your own startup?

Doying: I’ve always been drawn to innovative solutions to problems and opportunities that I see around me. This specific idea came out of my personal experience trying to share my love of sports and my baseball team, The New York Mets, with my own kids.

DC: What or who is your biggest influence for your startup?

Doying: My daughter. I started creating the stories for her, and her enthusiasm is what made me think there might be wider interest in something like this. She has been my tester for the stories.

DC: Why did you decide to start a business in this industry?

Doying: I worked for 7 years in education, and I’m constantly motivated by opportunities to support children and families. While the idea for Bedtime Stories came from an experience in my own family, research shows that emotional resilience can be strengthened by hearing a variety of stories – with good and bad outcomes. (I know that I’ve developed a lot of emotional resilience through my own fandom of the New York Mets!) I hope I’ve built a product that can create shared time for parents and kids, help build emotional resilience, and be a pathway for more frequent and open communication.

DC: What updates or significant accomplishments can you share with us about your company from the last couple months?

Doying: Actually building a product and getting it off the ground and running. Just two months ago, I had an idea, 130 survey responses, and drafts of a couple stories. Now, we have a “Minimum Viable Product” (MVP) live at www.bedtimesports.com. After doing a lot of customer validation, surveys, idea pitching, business planning, etc, I’m excited to allow real customers to interact with our content, collect feedback, and adapt to meet customer demand.

DC: When it comes to your startup, how do you define success?

Doying: I think success is creating something so valuable that people are willing to give you money for it! It’s incredible to be able to create something like that. With Bedtime Sports, I also wanted to learn about entrepreneurship and everything associated with taking an idea and turning it into a business. I’ve learned so much that I would count this process as a huge success even if we didn’t get any customers (although I look forward to continuing to learn even more through the customer acquisition process!)

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

Doying: My goal during the Accelerator was to create an MVP and begin marketing to and acquiring subscribers. We soft-launched last week, and are planning a hard launch this weekend, so mission 50% accomplished.

DC: If you could give advice to any aspiring entrepreneurs, what would it be?

Doying: It’s not my advice, but I was told a long time ago that “the idea is not the secret sauce, you are.” Basically, there is a lot of fear about sharing ideas and “what if someone steals it” or “what if people think it’s dumb?” but really, you are what is going to make your idea successful, not the idea itself. I really appreciate the Terp Startup Accelerator for giving me the platform, opportunity, and framework to talk about my idea over and over again with lots and lots of people. It has helped bring it from an idea, to an actual, real thing. And that doesn’t happen until you start to share your idea with people.

To learn more about Bedtime Sports, please visit the website here.

Feature Friday! Em G Art Design Studio

This summer, the Dingman Center will be conducting interviews with the 11 student startups who are participating in our first in-person Terp Startup summer accelerator since 2020. Participating student entrepreneurs will receive a stipend up to $5,000 that will enable them to work exclusively on their startups over the next eight weeks.

Founders: Emily Garcia ‘23, Studio Art & Art Education double major.

Founder Emily Garcia’s ’23 setup for Terp Marketplace 2022.

DC: In two to three sentences, how would you describe your startup?

Garcia’s hand-drawn “Cherry Blossom Stickers”.

Garcia: An online arts & crafts + stationery shop. Where all products are originally designed and handmade to promote joy and creativity. 

DC: At what point did you know you wanted to create your own startup?

Garcia: I’ve been dreaming of having my own business since high school. But I was afraid of taking the next step, thinking I wouldn’t be good enough. It wasn’t until I attended my first Terp Marketplace that I decided to officially open my first online shop.

DC: What makes your startup unique?

Garcia: Everything is handmade!

Find Garcia and support her startup at the Wheaton Arts Parade and Festival on September 25th, 2022!

DC: What updates or significant accomplishments can you share with us about your company from the last six months?

Garcia: I am currently redesigning my shop. I will be focusing on spreading awareness on Fibromyalgia. The products are designed to be relatable, allowing sufferers to feel seen and heard. You can find my shop at www.em-g-art-design-studio.com . I will also be selling pins soon!! On September 25th, I will have my shop set up at the Wheaton Arts Parade and Festival!

DC: As a student business owner, what motivates you?

Garcia: The way I grew up, and my experiences taught me to take advantage of any opportunities available to me while I can. I am constantly trying to learn more and better myself so that I can be a great role model for my younger sister. To prove to her that anything is possible if you set your mind to it.

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

Garcia: To gain a clear understanding of what I want my business to look like, what my target market will be, and how I will address their needs.

DC: If you could give advice to any aspiring entrepreneurs, what would it be??

Garcia: Don’t be afraid to take the opportunities and resources available to you out of fear. If you’re passionate about your idea, go for it!! It doesn’t matter if you don’t know all the answers now. You will learn along the way.

To learn more about Em G Art Design Studio, please visit the website here.

E-Fund Grant Winners | Spring 2022

Panthalassa Holdings, LLC

Student: Perri Moeller, ’23
Prize: $858.01

Panthalassa Holdings is developing land based aquaculture opportunities through the innovative Recirculating Aquaculture System (RAS) technology. This will create healthier and sustainable domestic seafood production and create economic incentives for environmental stewardship as the RAS will be located in economically suppressed rural areas. As of 2019, the US Seafood trade deficit is $16.9 billion and these imports are causing the collapse of our natural resources. Panthalassa Holdings will help fill the seafood production gap in America as we need a network of sustainable land based aquaculture to easily and sustainably feed our growing population.

Use of Funds

Perri and Panthalassa Holdings plans on using the funds to attend the Industry Conference RASTech to showcase her venture and make important industry connections, as well as business cards to facilitate her networking.

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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!

An Interview with Pitch Dingman Competition Finalist: Hydraze

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.

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Dean Robert Orr presenting the Hult@UMD award to Hydraze co-founders Charles Grody, Tuvia Rappaport and Jack Sturtevant

Hydraze

Charles Grody ’20, Mechanical Engineering
Jack Sturtevant ’20, Computer Engineering
Tuvia Rappaport ’20, Aerospace Engineering

hydraze_high_resDC: Tell us about your startup.

Hydraze: Hydraze is a water conservation focused startup that delivers high performance automatic toilet flushing technology for commercial buildings. Our stall-latch activated flushing product can save hundreds of dollars per toilet by reducing the number of times it flushes compared to competitor products.  We have also developed a proprietary flush tracking and optimization platform that can drastically improve a facility manager’s ability to maintain their bathroom. Hydraze drives water conservation by improving bathroom performance and generating savings.

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Get to Know the Dingman Center: Sara Herald

This summer we will be featuring our current Dingman Center staff in a special blog series. Read along and get to know a little more about each member of our team!

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Sara Herald, Associate Director for Social Entrepreneurship

Sara Herald came to the Dingman Center from the Center for Social Value Creation in January 2016, bringing social entrepreneurship along with her. Since her arrival, the Dingman Center has sought to create a welcome space for students interested in leveraging venture creation for social impact. She has challenged us to reframe our concept of “entrepreneurship” to be inclusive of students who don’t self-label as “entrepreneur”, and might prefer the term “changemaker” or “problem-solver” instead. Through her landmark Ladies First initiative, we are seeing more female students than ever exploring entrepreneurial pathways at University of Maryland. Sara’s progressive attitude toward entrepreneurship and its role in building a better world are inspiring to both staff and students.

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