3 Key Lessons from the Inaugural Ladies First Founders Cohort

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

Last week, the inaugural cohort of Ladies First Founders gave presentations on their entrepreneurial journeys. Each female student reflected not only on the growth of their business, but also on how they have personally grown since joining the class. Presentations were followed by feedback from the rest of the cohort, and for every young woman who presented, each of her peers had something uniquely positive to compliment about her confidence, delivery, style or attitude. Witnessing these women celebrate one another and show empathy for their shared struggles was a beautiful experience.

Throughout the presentations, it was evident that before Ladies First Founders, many of these women suffered in isolation from shared issues that, once together, they were able to properly identify and work to overcome. Here are some of the greatest outcomes of taking workshops and connecting with fellow female entrepreneurs in Ladies First Founders:

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Fearless Founder Ryan Pillai Attends MIT’s Sloan Investment Conference

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2016 Pitch Dingman Competition winner Ryan Pillai

Through a Dingman Center grant, last month, Fearless Founder Ryan Pillai `19 traveled to MIT for the Sloan Investment Conference which took place at the Sloan School of Business. Below is Ryan’s first-hand account of the experience.

The annual Sloan Investment Conference brings together investment professionals from different industries and fosters education and meaningful discussions on hot button topics in finance.  This year, the theme was “Value Creation and Shareholder Engagement” with a broad range of ideas from Big Data and AI in the quant investment space to a crypto investment debate. Panel speakers included well renowned speakers from MIT and large private funds, many of whom engaged the audience with a friendly light air, which was refreshing and kept the conference from feeling exhaustive.

There was a lot of technical information presented so having a background in finance was a prerequisite to attending (surprise!). Nevertheless, I was able to somewhat keep up with the jargon with the occasional Google search. Here are some of my key takeaways from the talks that I wanted to share.

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Gender & Entrepreneurship at the Smith Entrepreneurship Research Conference

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Left to right: Mabel Abraham, David Ross, Dolly Oberoi and Rajshree Agarwal

by: Karolyn Maynard MBA ’18

On Friday April 20th, at the 14th Annual Smith Entrepreneurship Research Conference chaired by Professors Anil Gupta and David Kirsch, the Dingman Center’s Ladies First Initiative sponsored a panel discussion, “Gender and Entrepreneurship: Past, Present and Future.”

Sara Herald, our Ladies First champion, shared a thought-provoking statement to introduce the panel discussion: she described the mission of the Ladies First initiative as focused upon understanding the different barriers that female students face and how we can fix the system, not fix the women.

This was an apt introduction to spur further investigation in the area of gender and entrepreneurship, which brought 2 researchers, Mabel Abraham from Columbia University and David Ross from University of Florida, together with Dolly Oberoi, Co-Founder and Chairman of C2 Technologies, to discuss the topic of female entrepreneurship in the US.

The session chair and moderator, Rajshree Agarwal, asked salient questions and highlighted the reality that being a female founder has nearly universally negative outcomes, particularly  in the US. As researchers and founders discussed the hypotheses and reasons for this, something became increasingly clear—even though the barriers have been reduced, it is a misconception to think that the barriers are gone.

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Celebrating Entrepreneurship Day in Van Munching Hall

By: Eric Elliot

The Dingman Center is lucky to be a part of a fantastic community filled with motivated student and alumni entrepreneurs. To celebrate this strong spirit of entrepreneurship at UMD, we hosted Entrepreneurship Day on Tuesday, April 17, which featured student startups at Terp Marketplace during the afternoon and serial technology entrepreneur Raul Fernandez at the Robert G. Hisaoka Speaker Series later that evening.

Terp Marketplace

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Terp Marketplace was an opportunity for student startups to showcase and sell their products & services directly to the Smith community. This semester, we had a huge turnout from students, staff, faculty and alumni who were eager to see the 30 startups on display. A few participants featured included Pitch Dingman Competition second place winner Brianna Queen ’18 of BEEQBOX with her popular F*ckboy Repellent illuminating setting spray, and alumni startup FroDoh, who brought samples of their tasty frozen doughnut holes. The students who participated have taken part in our Fearless Founders Accelerator program, Ladies First Founders or Professor David Kressler’s 461 Entrepreneurship class.

Robert G. Hisaoka Speaker Series featuring Raul Fernandez

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UMD alumnus and highly successful entrepreneur Raul Fernandez ’90 traveled to Van Munching Hall for an intimate conversation with Robert Hisaoka ’79 on his experiences in entrepreneurship. As the former founder of Proxicom and currently the Vice Chairman and Owner of Monumental Sports & Entertainment, Raul shared some of the key lessons he learned through his journey and valuable pieces of advice for aspiring entrepreneurs.

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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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10 Things to Know About Raul Fernandez

by: Eric Elliot

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The next Robert G. Hisaoka Speaker Series takes place on April 17 at 6 p.m. in Frank Auditorium and will feature UMD alumnus Raul Fernandez ’90, the current Vice Chairman of Monumental Sports & Entertainment. Click here to register for the event and read on for some interesting facts about this successful entrepreneur and philanthropist!

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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: BEEQBOX

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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BEEQBOX

Brianna Queen, Founder & CEO

beelogo.pngJunior Information Science major Brianna Queen is the founder of BEEQBOX, a makeup brand targeted to millennials that sells illuminating setting sprays, glitter eyeshadow and lip palettes. Brianna started BEEQBOX in August 2016 as a subscription box service featuring black-owned makeup brands. Once she started getting orders, she decided to work on formulating a product of her own to include. That November, some negative personal experiences gave her the idea to create BEEQBOX’s flagship product, “F*ckboy Repellent”, an illuminating setting spray with packaging that promises its contents are vegan, cruelty-free, all-natural, and will also ward off advances from unworthy men. After sharing a photo of her product on social media it went viral, and was soon featured by popular style sites like Revelist and Instagram influencers who were excited to promote such an on-trend product. As Brianna prepares for Pitch Dingman Competition Finals, she’s looking to take her business to the next level.

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An Interview with Pitch Dingman Competition Finalist: Emprology

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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Emprology

Sydney Parker, Founder & CEO

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Senior communications major Sydney Parker is the founder, CEO and “Empress” of Emprology, an empowering influencer marketing consultancy that seeks to educate black female bloggers, vloggers, and podcasters on how to monetize their content. Sydney, who built her social media credentials through multiple Facebook internships, started Emprology as a service that provided her customers with one-on-one consultations, marketing plans and creative assets to enhance their brand presence. With some concerns about overtaxing her own bandwidth, she recently launched a school for aspiring influencers called #BrandBoss Academy. As part of this school model,  established macro-influencers teach classes and provide mentorship to aspiring influencers, who pay an appropriate fee for the privilege. Sydney has been developing Emprology since spring 2017, when she first entered the Dingman Center’s Fearless Founders Accelerator. Through grit and determination, Sydney has built Emprology into a one-stop-shop for black women who want to learn how to make a living off of their passions.

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An Interview with Pitch Dingman Competition Finalist: Flee

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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Flee

Didac Hormiga, Founder & CEO

bluepngflee.pngUniversity of Maryland junior Didac Hormiga is the founder of mobile app Flee, which stands for “Finding Local Events and Entertainment.” Didac is a marketing and information systems double-major with a minor in technology entrepreneurship, but is also a former YouTube content creator (with over 1,000,000 views) and current LinkedIn Campus Editor. Didac’s marketing and social media background is complemented by the app development skills of his CTO, Ian Sawyer, whom he met while interning at Talk Local. Together, they have successfully beta-tested an events app targeted to college students that has what it takes to compete with the limited events functionality pasted onto popular social media platforms. The app currently contains over 200,000 events from both local partners and larger event providers such as Eventbrite and Ticketmaster, with convenient options for discounts, on-site payment (through Venmo or Paypal) and transportation to venues. Between enrolling in the Terp Startup phase of the Dingman Center’s Fearless Founders Accelerator and pitching at Pitch Dingman Competition Finals, Didac and Ian have continued to develop their app based on customer feedback, and are poised to imminently launch a massive contender in the social events app space.

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