Feature Friday! Fancy & Spicy

Founder of Fancy & Spicy, Brin Xu ’23, with her first hardcover cookbook, Digital Delicacies.

DC: What is your name, major, and graduation year?
Xu: My name is Brin Xu. I am completing my Ph.D. in Sociology in 2023. 

DC: Which Dingman Center programs have you been involved with?
Xu: Our company participated in the Terp Startup Fellows, Pitch Dingman Competition, Terp Startup Accelerator, and Dingman Fridays at the Dingman Center for Entrepreneurship.

DC: In two to three sentences, how would you describe your startup?
Xu: For culturally curious food enthusiasts who wish to learn how to cook and bake, we offer interactive video classes with home chefs that teach authentic cooking skills and culinary history.

DC: Why did you decide to start a business in this industry?
Xu: During the pandemic, I used my free time to start a blog sharing my Sichuan cuisine with friends. I later published our first cookbook and started offering classes using Zoom. I taught a 10-dish series focused on Chinese Sichuan cuisine. The response was overwhelming, and I loved sharing my cooking and culture with the audience members. I realized there is a demand for interactive cooking classes, so I started marketing the classes beyond my friends. I am excited and committed to making Fancy & Spicy a household name for authentic ethnic cooking in our journey to come.

While still early, we have seen the joy our customers have when they learn to create a new dish. In fact, 60% of our customers take 3 or more classes. We find that young people love cooking at home and sharing their creations. However, existing online media (blogs, social media, videos) fail to provide an immersive learning environment, leaving people feeling entertained but not empowered to cook. That requires an environment that is social, dynamic, and fun, which is why I started Fancy & Spicy.

DC: What updates or significant accomplishments can you share with us about your company from the last six months?
Xu: 2022 is our first business year. This year, we have had 500+ loyal customers. Our monthly revenue has exceeded $10K starting in September, and has been growing with a rate of 10% each month. 

Cookbook, Digital Delicacies, an amazing gift for the holiday season!

Also, we are excited to announce the creation of our first hardcover cookbook, Fancy & Spicy: Digital Delicacies (available on our website, Amazon, and Lulu). This cookbook is a collection of all the live cooking classes we offer, with an introduction from each of our chefs from around the world. We decided to create a book to give back to audiences that support us. It is a physical product to promote our brand awareness and build our customer loyalty. We are currently hosting an Instagram giveaway. Please follow us on IG (@fancyandspicy) and win a free copy! We also plan to host a book launch seminar at the Startup Shell on February 6th. Would love to see you then! (Register here)

DC: What’s the most important thing you are working on right now and how are you making it happen?
Xu: Customer acquisition is the most important thing we are working on. If you or someone you know might be interested in cooking classes, please check out our website at https://www.fancyandspicy.com/. We are offering Christmas sale 25% off on all the classes next week! 

There are several strategies we are pursuing. First, we will continue talking to our customers, discovering our ideal customers and where they turn to for cooking information. We will then tag ourselves to these places and build our community. Second, create amazing content to reach organic growth. While recruiting chefs, we focus on their ability to present, create content and attract followers. Third, continue target advertising while experimenting with diversified channels. Finally, we will motivate people to take more classes by launching new classes and programs. Through these efforts, we aim to acquire customers and to scale our business exponentially.

DC: As a student business owner, what motivates you?
Xu: Our chef team is fantastic. I can’t wait to go to work with them every day. We’re an international team and people share their thoughts about cooking, teaching, and bouncing ideas on social media content. For example, this week we just had a chef team meeting, where we brainstormed how to promote our classes in 2023. It’s really great to have a team that you’re excited to work with every day. 

Not only that, but also the excitement that our customers have for our products and what we’re doing.

DC: If you could give advice to any aspiring entrepreneurs, what would it be?
Xu: Use every day as a learning opportunity. Every day is different, and you can use it to learn something new or ask a question. You don’t know what you don’t know, and more often than not, you’d be pleasantly surprised that someone is willing to sit down with you and explain something. Along the way, you might find a mentor or someone who is ready to take you under their wing and help you take those risks and navigate through the complex industry that we work in.

To learn more about Fancy & Spicy, please visit the website here.

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Feature Friday! Platybase

Platybase co-founders, Olivia Bruno ’20 (top left), Colleen Baldwin ’21 (top right), and Mika Panday ’21 (bottom row).

DC: What is your name, major, and graduation year?
Panday, Baldwin, and Bruno:

  • Chief Design Officer: Mika Panday, UMD 2021
  • Chief Technology Officer: Colleen Baldwin, American University 2021
  • Chief Executive Officer: Olivia Bruno, American University, 2020; Cornell University 2022

DC: Which Dingman Center programs have you been involved with?
Panday, Baldwin, and Bruno: Platybase has been fully immersed in Dingman Center programs since our inception. We got our start in Terp Startup Accelerator’s Summer 2021 cohort and we are now part of Terp Startup Fellows. Out of all the Universities our team has attended, American University, Cornell University and UMD, UMD and the Dingman Center have risen far above all others in their impact on our venture. Through the Dingman Center, we gained incredible mentors like Michael Kapoor, Zeki Mokhtarzada and David Engle who have led us through difficult times and allowed us to grow into the team we are today. We are beyond grateful for the mentorship and experiences that Terp Startup has provided us with over the last two years and we are so excited to see where Bill Boyle, Tsega Belachew and the Terp Startup Fellows program will lead us next.

DC: In two to three sentences, how would you describe your startup?
Panday, Baldwin, and Bruno: Platybase was founded by three neurodivergent women on a mission to improve the lives of the next generation of families impacted by disabilities.  With the help of Platybase’s HIPAA compliant communication platform, families and therapy providers build community support and create a visual diary of progress for their children. Visual diaries provide motivation for everyone and focus care teams on the positive impact of their work, while decreasing miscommunications and turnover.

DC: What or who is your biggest influence for your startup?
Panday, Baldwin, and Bruno: Growing up we all faced challenges due to our differences, and we watched those closest to us become victims of existing systems in mental and behavioral healthcare. Accountability and communication are the pillars of trust, which is broken between many families and the institutions aiming to serve them. With Platybase, our goal is to build trust and create the communities we wish our families could have experienced.

DC: What updates or significant accomplishments can you share with us about your company from the last three months?
Panday, Baldwin, and Bruno: Our team has been focused on raising non-dilutive funding and building our client base. Over the last year we have raised a total of 45k non-dilutive funding and we have grown astronomically, from only 36 users at one center to onboarding approximately 1,000 across 14 centers. This growth and financing is allowing us to track the ROI of Platybase, which aims to improve parent satisfaction, learning outcomes for children, client and employee turnover rates, and dosage fulfillment (the number of hours pediatric therapy has been recommended for vs. the number of hours a parent agrees to have their child treated for). By the end of May, we will have meaningful data proving Platybase’s ROI for therapy centers and value for parents and kiddos. 

DC: What’s the most important thing you are working on right now and how are you making it happen?
Panday, Baldwin, and Bruno: The most important thing we are currently working on is showing value to our clients and families; however, on a personal level we are using our product to fight injustice and save lives. Olivia’s uncle who has Down’s Syndrome was badly neglected and abused in a hospital while he was being treated for Covid. He was not prioritized by the medical staff and was left without food, water or access to the lavatory, and since he was in a covid ward his family was not permitted to visit and therefore had no way of knowing how he was being treated or protecting him from such abuse. Thankfully once this was discovered he was moved to a rehab hospital where Olivia’s family has insisted his staff use the Platybase application to increase accountability in his care. With Platybase, his caretakers send photos and videos of his progress and his care daily, and communicate with his entire family in one place. Since moving and using platybase with his new nurses, he has turned a corner and improved significantly. While Platybase is currently marketed to pediatric therapy centers, this horrific experience has taught the founders how critical it is to offer our product to all ages. Once we receive funding and grow as a company, we believe that Platybase will create a better world for people with disabilities at every age.

DC: As student business owners, what motivates you?
Panday, Baldwin, and Bruno: Our personal experiences and the experiences of our family members motivate us everyday. One in six children under the age of 18 has been diagnosed with a disability in the USA and it is our responsibility to create a better world for the next generation of people like us.

DC: If you could give advice to any aspiring entrepreneurs, what would it be?
Panday, Baldwin, and Bruno: Entrepreneurship is fun and exciting, but it can also make you feel like Sisyphis, perpetually pushing a boulder up a hill only for it to roll back down again. The problem you are trying to solve needs to be intrinsically important to you, so that the benefits of success outweigh the turmoil of getting there.

To learn more about Platybase, please visit the website here.

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2022 Terp Marketplace Holiday Gift Guide

It’s never too early to start holiday shopping! Find the perfect gifts for all the people in your life while supporting an enTERPreneur this week at Terp Marketplace. Join the Dingman Center on Wednesday, November 16th, in Van Munching Hall to shop from unique student-owned businesses and find everything from tech, to dietary-friendly snacks, to the comfiest UMD custom apparel!

Here is a list of the top 10 things we’re excited about buying this semester at Terp Marketplace:

  1. Bacon Candles:
    • Co-Founders: Austin Smith ‘26, Samuel Sowers ‘26, Jon Kasner ‘26
    • Forget artificial scents, these unique, cost-efficient candles are made with real bacon grease—and will have you craving breakfast all day long.
  2. Testudo’s Closet:
    • Co-Founders: Sarah Ferkler ‘23, Marc Cifiello ‘23, John Fetsch ‘24
    • Show off your Maryland pride with thrifted and upcycled University of Maryland apparel. Testudo’s Closet also accepts custom orders, where they will personalize your own clothes!
  3. Wittle Spoonies:
    • Founder: Emily Garcia ‘23
    • Support a Terp and those affected by chronic illnesses this holiday season with Wittle Spoonies handmade and originally designed stickers, notepads, pins, bookmark paintings, and more! 
  4. The Burrows Garden:
    • Co-Founders: Kayla Swisher ‘24, Ava Laubach ‘25
    • Stay fashionable AND sustainable with The Burrows Garden. Find anything from handmade pressed floral earrings to clay charm bookmarks to crochet bags, hats, and more!
  5. Pepper Bees:
    • Co-Founders: Andrew Webb ’25, Maya Gvirtzman ’26, Vanessa Feeley ’25, Blake Komisar-Bury ’26
    • Have a chef in the family? They’ll love experimenting in the kitchen with Pepper Bee’s spiced-infused honey! Find all your favorites like lavender, basil, rosemary, chili flakes, and mint. 
  6. Magneto by OffTrend:
    • Co-Founders: Ali Rajabi ‘24, Eric Gulich ‘23
    • Calling all tech lovers!! Check out OffTrend’s fashionable MagSafe tech products like phone wallets, RFID blockers, Airtag cases, phone cases, and screen protectors. 
  7. Herbin’s Fashion:
    • Founder: Herbert Obeng
    • Elevate your look with Herbin’s Fashion’s customized African clothing and accessories. Shop apparel like T-shirts, bomber jackers, hoodies, sweatshirts, polos, and more. 
  8. Terp-Town Treats:
    • Co-Founders: Abdullah Diao ‘22, Gabrielle Cannady ‘23, Robert Lukubama ‘26
    • Don’t let your dietary restrictions hold you back. Satisfy your sweet tooth with these delicious and dietary-friendly on-the-go cookies and treats. 
  9. Ruff Days:
    • Co-Founders: Jiasheng Lu ‘22, Yong Hun Na ‘23, Adam Larsen ‘23, Brian Escobar ‘22
    • Ruff Days has the most paw-fect gift for your furry friends. Get a Ruff Bandana, with a custom print from your favorite sports teams. Now you and your best friend can match for game-day no matter who you root for!
  10. Prophets2Profits Capital LLC:
    • Co-Founders: Ephraim Shaw ‘24, Beza Solomon ‘24
    • Give the gift of knowledge with Prophets2Profits Capital LLC’s 10-lesson course on financial literacy. By the end of the course, users will be able to understand concepts like  the stock market, options trading, equity investments, technical analysis, chart patterns, and more.
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Feature Friday! Vitalize

Sanketh Andhavarapu ’23 pitching Vitalize at the 2022 Pitch Dingman Competition Finals.

DC: What is your name, major, and graduation year?
Andhavarapu: My name is Sanketh Andhavarapu, and I graduate in the spring of 2023 with a degree in Health Decision Sciences. [Vitalize was also co-founded by Veeraj Shah ’21.]

DC: Which Dingman Center programs have you been involved with?
Andhavarapu: We participated in the 2020 Terp Startup Accelerator, and the 2021-22 Terp Startup Fellows. We won the Quattrone Venture Track Grand Prize and Audience Choice Prize at the 2022 Pitch Dingman Competition.

DC: In two to three sentences, how would you describe your startup?
Andhavarapu: Vitalize works with healthcare employers to improve the mental health of their staff. For individual healthcare workers, we offer a mobile app with healthcare-centric coaching, peer support and mindfulness content. For employers, we provide a web-based dashboard with robust data on staff well-being trends, app engagement, and drivers of burnout.

DC: At what point did you know you wanted to create your own startup?
Andhavarapu: In high school, I had the opportunity to be the Chief Human Resources Officer of a nonprofit organization. I learned that I really enjoyed leading and inspiring teams to collectively achieve social impact. This experience directly motivated me to found STEPS, a revenue-generating education nonprofit. In this role, I realized how important it was for me to take on an irreplaceable role in anything that I put time and effort into. I liked knowing that as a founder, there is no one more knowledgeable about your idea and innovation than yourself, and that you’re leaving a unique footprint on the world. I didn’t find this same sense of personal fulfillment when looking at the different clubs I could join when I first came to UMD. This is why, when I had the idea for Vitalize, I knew I had to take action and it was a no-brainer that I wanted to invest my time and effort into making it successful. Through Vitalize, I have the unique opportunity to transform healthcare through innovation and creativity.

DC: What updates or significant accomplishments can you share with us about your company from the last six months?
Andhavarapu: Last summer, Vitalize launched an unpaid pilot with Midland Health. We were able to convert this pilot into a paid annual contract with their entire system, where we’re now launching to 2000 staff members in January, 2023. Yes, this means we’re officially post-revenue! With this progress, we’ve also accepted investments from several VC funds and angels including Conscious Venture Partners, StartUp Health, and Dorm Room Fund.

DC: What’s the most important thing you are working on right now and how are you making it happen?
Andhavarapu: As the Chief Product Officer, I am currently working on ensuring that our product and coaching pipeline is ready for the upcoming health system launch. I currently manage a outsourced development team of 5 engineers and meet with them daily to ensure that we’re staying on timeline and building our product efficiently. I also coordinate all communications and onboarding of coaches to ensure the service-side of our product is ready-to-go. Finally, I work with our Director of Mindfulness to ensure that our library of on-demand content is also ready for launch.

DC: As a student business owner, how do you define success?
Andhavarapu: Success means answering the following three questions that must be answered with a resounding “yes”:

  1. Am I addressing a problem that I care deeply about with a solution that has potential for grand impact. In my opinion, poor mental health of healthcare workers is one of the largest problems in healthcare, and building Vitalize allows me to be a part of the solution.
  2. Am I continuously learning new skills, gaining knowledge, learning about myself, and growing my network. I have arguably learned more from building Vitalize than most of my classes, and I got to meet amazing founders, healthcare executives, and clinicians throughout my journey.
  3. Is my time and effort translating into meaningful traction milestones or learnings for the venture? With Vitalize, I have the opportunity to set new goals each month and work towards them.

DC: If you could give advice to any aspiring entrepreneurs, what would it be?
Andhavarapu: Customer discovery is one of the most important skills in your toolkit, and it remains on your to-do list regardless of the stage of your venture. If you have an idea that you are looking to pursue, it is important to conduct several unbiased interviews with all the potential stakeholders (customers, payers, partners, etc). Customer discovery is a great way to validate assumptions and de-risk your startup before investing too much money and time into a potentially flawed concept.

Also, don’t be afraid to talk about your idea! So many people are concerned about someone stealing their idea, but talking about it is the only way to get the feedback and advice you need to continue building the business.

Finally, don’t confuse funding for traction. Ultimately, what determines a success trajectory for a startup is proving value and willingness to pay for customers. Funding is amazing and can help you achieve these milestones, but funding alone does not progress the venture.

To learn more about Vitalize, please visit the website here.

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E-Fund Grant Winners | Fall 2022

Public Health Beyond Borders Inc.

Student: Sara Miller
Prize: $324.00

Globally, incredible amounts of morbidity and mortality are caused by preventable diseases that can be mitigated by changes in health behavior and community-level health interventions. Oral diseases impact nearly 3.5 billion people, malaria affected 241 individuals in 2020, and diet-related noncommunicable diseases are linked to unhealthy eating behaviors that persist internationally (WHO). Public Health Beyond Borders, Inc. is determined to empower families and communities both locally and globally, to achieve their best health through sustainable education workshops and advocacy. We envision a world where the next generation of global health professionals works collaboratively with communities to identify, combat, and reduce health disparities.

Current PHBB, Inc. projects are located in Compone, Peru; Calaba Town, Sierra Leone; Varanasi, India; Philadelphia, Pennsylvania; and locally in Prince George’s County, Maryland. Since the founding of PHBB in 2013, nearly 1,000 students, faculty, and graduate students have traveled on 13 international trips and reached nearly 3,000 children and community members. PHBB is focused on building sustainable relationships with partner communities and approaching its work through a culturally competent lens. All PHBB, Inc. interventions are based on needs-based assessments that ensure the development of relevant and effective material. Ties with our partner community are sustained through constant communication, even through the COVID-19 pandemic, in which projects were still completed including fundraising for school materials for SouthPoint elementary school in India, the creation of COVID-19 health promotion videos for our partner school in Compone, Peru, the sending of an iPad to Abigail D. Butscher Primary School in Calaba Town, Sierra Leone, and other fundraising events and projects in all partner communities. PHBB, Inc.’s efforts are directed towards making a change in these partner communities on a personal level by understanding what the focus of the most effective intervention would be. In addition to having a global influence, the goal is to reduce health disparities while instilling long-lasting knowledge of cultural competency in the group members to create a generational impact.

Use of Funds

Public Health Beyond Borders, Inc. previously received $314 from the Dingman Center for similar costs incurred by our start-up, which allowed us to continue hosting our website and maintain our social media.

JuJu Inc.

Students: Kent Wang, Zeyang Liu, Nanxin Luo
Prize: $1000.00

Juju Food Delivery provides affordable food delivery for busy students and workers. We use bulk delivery and food locker pick-up to improve efficiency and reduce delivery costs.

Learn more at jujufooddelivery.com.

Use of Funds

  1. Marketing Events, Tabling Event ($400)
  2. Website Server, API, Text API ($400)
  3. Branding Material, worker’s brand clothes ($200)

Herbin’s Fashion

Students: Herbert Obeng
Prize: $1000.00

Herbin’s Fashion mission is to promote the heritage and style of African culture and use some of the profits to donate to the less privileged in the Society.

Learn more in their feature at on the Diamondback.

Use of Funds

  • Inventory: $500
  • Transportation: $200
  • Shipping: $300

NotUrAverage Candles

Students: Courtney Johnson ’23
Prize: $1500.00

NotUrAverage Candles’ mission is to highlight the wonders of science, technology, engineering, and mathematics (STEM) through fragrance. They aim to not only provide phenomenal candles with dynamic scents but expose our customers to various STEM fields and phenomena. Each line released will be centered around a different field. All NotUrAverage Candles are hand-poured and made with sustainability in mind. All materials in our candles are environmentally friendly, phthalate-free, and reusable.

They will use their funds to prepare for the holiday season.

Use of Funds

  • Wax: $360
  • Fragrance Oils: $300
  • Wicks: $110
  • Jars: $270
  • Lids: $240
  • Storage Shelf: $100
  • Canva Pro: $120

Game Changers New York

Students: Sara Blau ’24
Prize: $1000.00

Game Changers New York is a 501(c)3 non-profit organizations that collects and distributes sports equipment for kids in need globally.

They will use their funds to help underrepresented children who don’t have access to sports equipment.

Use of Funds

  • $360 – one year subscription to Quickbooks
  • $444 – 6 hours of work of website developer
  • $196 – 2.45 hours of work of our accountant


Students: Robert Choe ’23
Prize: $500.00

There are 4 million individuals (3 million adolescents and 1 million adults) that receive dental braces treatment every year. Unfortunately, braces wearers face a long and complicated oral hygiene routine that compromises their oral health. Specifically, this population faces an increased risk of developing cavities and gum disease during/after treatment. When we overview the market, there is no oral hygiene product that specifically caters to this population. Our venture aims to develop a full-mouth oral hygiene device that primarily utilizes fluid-jet action to remove the debris and plaque off the high-risk area on teeth and dental braces.

Use of Funds

  • $500 – Prototyping and redesign of device casing

Exercise Network

Students: Candace Austin ’23
Prize: $1500.00

At Exercise Network we design fitness and aquatics programs to help individuals Live.Life. Healthier. We are solving the problem of physical activity levels declining especially among children. Researchers have found that this decline is linked to an increase in chronic disease cases, such as sudden cardiac arrest and obesity, developing among children.

Use of Funds

  • $900- Licenses and Certifications necessary for Fitness Instruction
  • $250- Website/online development (Updating website, creating digital promotional content)
  • $200- 1 month of space rental for class demos
  • $100- Equipment for classes
  • $50- Marketing & Ads (Printing Flyers, Signs, Digital Ads)

Feature Friday! Old Town, New Clothes

OTNC’s new clothing drop, “Old Town, In October”.

DC: What is your name, major, and graduation year?
Spinner: Brian Spinner my major is Environmental Science and Policy with a concentration in Environment and Agriculture and my graduation year is May 2023.

Old Town New Clothes’ September Pop-Up Event in College Park.

DC: Which Dingman Center programs have you been involved with?
Spinner: I am currently involved in the New Venture Practicum.

DC: In two to three sentences, how would you describe your startup?
Spinner: My startup is my clothing brand “Old Town, New Clothes” which has created a circular economy for clothing in the College Park region. I take in students and members of the local communities Old clothing they no longer have a purpose for and put them on display at pop-up events all around campus and these donors get a portion of the profit once these items sell. I use the remaining revenue to invest back into my company to make custom clothing for my brand.

DC: What or who is your biggest influence for your startup?
Spinner: I have a couple of influences for my startup. My parents have always been very supportive of me and love what I’m doing and when they are impressed with how its going this keeps me going. I also would like to give a shoutout to two of my inspirations that have also been friends and mentors Carson Alford the founder of wiseandfoolish clothing co and Findcnt a local artist and musician and founder of NBCKWRLD. These two people are the ones who I talked to over the phone and they helped me early on with guiding my passions in the right direction. 

DC: How did you come up with the name of your venture?
Spinner: I came up with the name Old Town, New Clothes early fall semester of my Junior year. I had an idea of starting a produce stand in Old Town that would run weekly with the name “Old Town, Fresh Produce” in mind. When drawing up this name in my sketchbook I never even got to writing fresh produce I just added New Clothes instead and loved the way it looked and sounded.

DC: What’s the most important thing you are working on right now and how are you making it happen?
Spinner: The most important thing I am working on right now is my “Northeast Tour” I printed 100 shirts that have a roadmap graphic of my tour that will take place next weekend. I am selling 25 different shirts at 4 different colleges in the northeast region. I already have the shirts and now I am working on promoting and getting the word out to these other schools. By the end of this tour starting here at UMD I will have 100 other people from all over the country wearing my merchandise and supporting the business. I will use the revenues from this to launch my Fall Winter drop which is in the works right now.

DC: As a student business owner, what motivates you?
Spinner: The thing that motivates me most is creation. All my life I had a drive to create media for others to consume whether this was YouTube, Instagram, or TikTok, art or music. I always loved creating things that other people can enjoy. Old Town, New Clothes is the platform that I use to combine all of these things into one and continue to create never before seen ideas that came from my head. There has been days where I will walk around and see 10+ people wearing pieces of clothing I sold them and that alone is enough to motivate me to keep going.

DC: If you could give advice to any aspiring entrepreneurs, what would it be?
Spinner: My advice to young entrepreneurs is to take that risk and bet on yourself. Getting that prototype made, or making a post on your personal instagram about your business can be scary. But take the chance because college is the best time to do that and I wish I started earlier. Starting up that idea of yours is a lot easier when you have a student and university by your side helping you through the process and rooting for you.

To learn more about Old Town, New Clothes, please visit the website here.

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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! UCleaner

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.

Co-founders: Robert Choe PhD ’23, Bioengineering. Blake Kuzemchak ’23, Bioengineering. Erfan Jabari ’22, Bioengineering.

UCleaner’s co-founder, Robert Choe PhD ’23, pitching at Terp Startup Accelerator’s Demo Day.

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

Choe: Our startup revolves around the UCleaner device that is an all-in-one autoflosser for people undergoing dental braces treatment.

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

Choe: As UMD has a great entrepreneurial community and resources, we all had a nascent desire to explore the startup scene on campus. However, the inception of this particular startup idea began in the fall of 2021. 

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

Choe: We don’t have one specific big influence. Rather, being bioengineers, we are motivated by our desire to solve big problems in the healthcare space. We identified a problem area in the dental space and began working to make it a viable startup.

The UCleaner device prototype, designed for the full-mouth to receive automated water jet action.

DC: What makes your business unique?

Choe: We are the only product that aims to design a comprehensive full-mouth oral hygiene product specifically for dental braces wearers.

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

Choe: We started this venture in January. So far, the biggest accomplishment for our team is that we have narrowed down our product-market fit. We have plenty of work to do so continue validating our product-market fit further and actually initiate product testing in the near future.

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

Choe: We aim to make the UCleaner device a requisite oral hygiene product for dental braces wearers. 

DC: What do you feel that you have achieved from participating in Terp Startup Accelerator this summer?

Choe: We did the most significant customer discovery during the TSA. The TSA provided the framework, resources, and mentors to really execute the customer validation process. It was an invaluable experience and we would highly recommend any aspiring UMD student entrepreneur to participate in the TSA.

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

Choe: Once you have an idea and form your initial product/customer hypotheses, stop thinking and start doing. Talk to people about your idea, go to start-up gatherings, etc. It may be daunting at first, but take baby steps and keep at it. Successful ventures do not take months but years to develop. The most important thing is that you need to start somewhere.

To learn more about UCleaner, please visit the website here.

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Feature Friday! WaveLi

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: Robert Castro ’24, CEO and co-founder, finance major. Samai Patel ’25, CSO and co-founder, computer science major. Zach Lefkovitz ’24, CTO and co-founder, computer science major. Corbin Voorhees ’25, graphic designer, aerospace engineering major. Matt Gashaw ’25, marketing lead, computer science major.

WaveLi’s co-founder Robert Castro ’24 (left) and graphic designer Corbin Voorhees ’25 (right) tabling at Terp Startup Accelerator’s 2022 Demo Day.

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

Castro: We’re a social media platform that connects users in real life through events tailored to their interests. Our app is the best way to find exciting events while meeting awesome people along the way.

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

Castro: It was definitely after my freshman year of college when I had just finished my first internship at a local investment bank. Although I enjoyed the experience, I did some introspection and realized I had more passion for my work when I create my own things, especially those that help and inspire others. I’ve always enjoyed working on engineering projects, making art, and building things that had value, and I finally understood that building my own business, particularly one that solved a common problem, would give me great fulfillment. So, I reached out to some friends around campus with a similar vision and we started brainstorming to see if we could make it a reality.

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

Castro: I would say my biggest influence was definitely my family. Both of my parents came from very humble backgrounds in a place where opportunities to make a living were very scarce. I’m very grateful for their dedication to their career as it allowed me to have the resources I have now, especially those here at the University of Maryland, and I feel it’s my obligation to take advantage of these opportunities and work on things I’m truly passionate about when my relatives never got that chance.

DC: How did you come up with the name of your venture?

Castro ’24 and Voorhees ’25 pitching at Demo Day.

Castro: We’ve had three names so far, but the first two didn’t last very long. We decided our new name needed to convey the essence of our users moving from place to place and being in communities of like minded people. Our team got to work and made a list of words and phrases that evoke these ideas, and one of the most popular words was “wave” as we liked the colors and imagery that could be used for our brand. We came up with many variations using “wave” but we ultimately chose “WaveLi” as it was short, sweet, and catchy.

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

Castro: We’ve hit many major milestones on our journey towards launch. The first of which is the fact that our company was recently incorporated in the state of Delaware which gave us access to a company bank account and the Apple Developer program. In addition, we’ve also grown our waitlist and Instagram account substantially. This will give us a solid community of initial users for when our app launches in the fall. Furthermore, in the spring of 2022, we won the audience choice award during the Pitch Dingman Competition which gave us invaluable feedback for our startup and prize funds for our budget. Finally, we’ve just finished developing our first alpha test which will go live in a few days, so we’re making good progress towards our release on the App Store.

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

Castro: We would consider ourselves successful when we have a growing platform full of users who have found exciting events and met great friends they may have never met otherwise. Once we’re at a point where we can confidently say we’ve helped our users consistently find events they’re looking for in a straightforward manner while integrating them in a new community, we will know WaveLi is succeeding.

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

Castro: Our main goals were to build our network and gain knowledge for our company to grow to its potential. We were very excited to work with the professionals and coaches so we can learn from their experience and avoid common mistakes that startups tend to make. WaveLi will incorporate this knowledge into our growth plan and leverage the network at the Dingman Center to connect other professionals to our platform.

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

Castro: I would make sure they understand that being an entrepreneur is a very bumpy road, it is not a straight line upwards at all. You’ll have wins and losses. You’ll feel triumphant and defeated. What matters is not the things that happen, but how you react and adapt to them. The two most important qualities an entrepreneur can have in my opinion are resilience and persistence. It’s a long journey, so don’t focus on the end goal. Focus on the small things, and don’t beat yourself if you make mistakes, because they will happen. You’ll learn so much in this process that even if things don’t work out exactly the way you wanted them to, you’ll be a stronger and more capable person by the end of it.

To learn more about WaveLi, please visit the website here.

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