Tag Archives: entrepreneurship

Feature Friday! North Star Creations

Co-founders Mat and Elaine Parsons MBA ’22 with their children reading original book, How Does It Feel.

DC: What are your names, majors, and graduation years?
Parsons: Elaine and Mat Parsons, MBA program 2022.

DC: Which Dingman Center programs have you been involved with?
Parsons: Pitch Dingman Competition 2021 Fearless Ideas Competition Grand Prize Winner, 2021 Terp Startup Accelerator Program, and weekly Dingman Friday Participant.

DC: In two to three sentences, how would you describe your startup?
Parsons: We create products for parents to teach their children how to recognize and understand emotions. These tools will equip their children with self awareness and relationship skills to navigate through life.

DC: Now that you’ve completed Terp Startup Accelerator this past summer, what’s next for your company?
Parsons: Our plan is to launch on Kickstarter Oct. 22nd in order to get support to launch our company. Our goal is to raise $5,000 dollars so we can batch order our book, doll, and puzzles.

DC: Can you describe your typical day as a business owner?
Parsons: Putting out fires – I feel like a typical day is solving all of the things that have not worked out over the week!

DC: What’s the most important thing you are working on right now, and how are you making it happen?
Parsons: Without a doubt the most important thing we are working on is our book. We really believe that this book will be a great bridge for parents to start teaching their toddlers how to recognize and understand emotions.

DC: As a business owner, how do you define success?
Parsons: For our business success is helping as many kids as possible. Our two goals are: 

1. Teaching toddlers that these strong emotions they are feeling is ok.

2. Donating holiday toys to kids who can’t afford them.

DC: If you could give advice to any aspiring entrepreneurs, what would it be?
Parsons: Read…Read…Read…The two books Lean Start Up and The One Page Marketing Plan have been our best friend.

To learn more about North Star Creations, please visit the website here.

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Feature Friday! Aurora

Aurora is an inclusive hosiery and apparel company that inspires wearers to be comfortable in their own skin.

DC: What’s your names, majors, minors, and graduation years?
Rickerby: Imani Rickerby, Co-founder & COO, Public Health Science major, 2017 graduation year; Sydney Parker, Co-founder & CMO, Communications major, Women’s Studies certificate, 2018 graduation year; Jasmine Snead, Co-founder & CFO, Government & Politics major, African American Studies certificate, 2017 graduation year; Masters in Public Policy/Masters in Business Administration, 2021 graduation year

Imani Rickerby ’17

DC: Which Dingman Center programs have you been involved with?
Rickerby: Dingman Jumpstart, Ladies First, Dingman Fridays, New Venture Practicum, Terp Startup Accelerator, Pitch Dingman Competition, and Terp Startup Fellows. 

DC: In two to three sentences, how would you describe your startup?
Rickerby: Aurora Tights is the #1 most inclusive athletic hosiery and apparel brand. We make tights for dancers and ice skaters in five shades and seven sizes, from Child Small to Adult 3X. Since its inception, Aurora has empowered performers to bring their own dynamic color and light to the stage. Aurora creates an inclusive space for all athletes to #performincolor.

DC: At what point did you know you wanted to create your own startup?
Rickerby: The Aurora team is composed of a figure skater, synchronized ice skater, and a competitive dancer with over 60 years of performing experience combined. Imani Rickerby, Jasmine Snead, and Sydney Parker attended the University of Maryland, College Park, and are sisters of Delta Sigma Theta Sorority, Inc.

Jasmine, a figure skater of over 20 years, used to dye her tights in a bathtub before every competition, and the process was time-consuming, messy, experimental, and expensive. On the opposite end of the spectrum, Imani, a lifetime synchronized ice skater, grew up skating in tights that were too pale for her complexion. While they had different experiences, they were unified in feeling marginalized, unheard, and unseen in the sport they loved.  

Jasmine Snead ’17

While coaching a team of young synchronized ice skaters, Jasmine and Imani noticed that many of their students, particularly those of color, were reliving their experiences of isolation. Due to the lack of diverse skating gear, their students were lacking confidence, loneliness, and identity issues. Many times, athletes of color draw away from the sport – not because of a lack of talent – but due to the lack of community.  Inspired by their students, the duo both quickly realized that there was an unmet need and shared their stories with Sydney, their best friend and lifetime competitive dancer. 

Sydney had a similar experience while dancing, with the added pressure of being a dark-skinned woman in a predominately white sport. The hair products, makeup, and especially the apparel never fit her appearance. Sydney’s feelings of isolation rose so high she avoided even looking in the mirror. It was only after finding her community on her collegiate team of predominantly black women that Sydney started to have confidence in not only her skills, but also her appearance. She understood then what it meant to have a support channel to turn to in times of need. Together the three decided to be the catalysts to end the destructive cycle of monoculturalism within performance sports and instead build a community of empowerment.

DC: What or who is your biggest influence for your startup?
Rickerby: While we are a for-profit company, our social impact mission is directly baked into our business model. Supporting and empowering minority athletes to say involved in their passions is the fundamental driver of Aurora. We strive to make sure all athletes feel comfortable in their skin, excel at their athletic passions, and have a long-lasting tenure in their sport. 

DC: Can you describe/outline your typical day as a business owner?
Rickerby: Our typical day includes brainstorming strategies, solving day-to-day issues, responding to customers, monitoring our social media, and A LOT of meetings.

Sydney Parker ’18

DC: How have the effects of the pandemic changed your company’s focus or ideas?
Rickerby: Before COVID-19, Aurora Tights had a lot of momentum. However, with social distancing policies, large events and team sports practices were canceled, and sports complexes and gyms were closed. As a result, there has been a substantial decline in tight sales, and several large accounts were postponed until teams can practice safely. As entrepreneurs, we looked for the silver lining. We launched our line of at-home workout apparel which kept Aurora alive while we all stayed safe in the home. Now with everything opening up, our large accounts are coming back into focus and our tights are set to be featured in the newest Shondaland show, “Inventing Anna,” and the Broadway show “SIX”!

DC: What updates or significant accomplishments can you share with us about your company from the last six months?
Rickerby: There have been a lot milestones within the last six months! We were accepted in the Desai Accelerator, which has been a huge driver for growth. Also, we hosted our third cohort of the Aurora Tights Internship, added 11 teams to our Aurora Teams program, refreshed brand, and rolled out our newest product – shimmery tights!

DC: As a young business owner, what motivates you?
Rickerby: Well, both ice skating and dance are diversifying rapidly, which is a huge motivator! To best support this inclusive environment, we need to change the definition of beauty in performance sports. To do this, the first step is ensuring that all performers have apparel in their unique skin tone. Currently, there is a whole population of performers who do not have tights that match their skin color or do not like the shades that are available to them. We strive to make sure adults and children, just like us, feel comfortable in their skin and excel at their athletic passions.

DC: If you could give advice to any aspiring entrepreneurs, what would it be?
Rickerby: So many times as young people, we feel unqualified to go after our vision. We are so hard on ourselves and feel as if we must first become experts at something before execution. Yet many people do not put those same pressures on themselves and instead exude a confidence that is needed for the entrepreneurship world. I encourage young people to work every day on building that same level of confidence in themselves and to not be afraid to just do it. There is so much magic in our ideas and the world would be made better for it!

For more information about Aurora, please visit the website here.

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Feature Friday! ModBars

Co-founders Jeff Su ’21 and Wyatt Talcott ’22 selling ModBars at the Derwood Farmers Market in Rockville, MD.

DC: What are your names, majors, and graduation years?
Su: Jeff Su — Finance and Supply Chain Management ’21, Wyatt Talcott — Marketing ’22, Max Levine — Finance ’22, Joe Oleynik — Information Systems ’23

DC: Which Dingman Center programs have you been involved with?
Su: Pitch Dingman 2019, Terp Startup 2020.

DC: In two to three sentences, how would you describe your startup?
Su: We specialize in making a variety of different snack bars from protein, energy, to trail mix and even dessert bars. They’re low in sugar and packed with fiber so they’ll keep you feeling full without the sugar crash.

DC: What or who is your biggest influence for your startup?
Su: Gary Vaynerchuk. He’s the one that inspired me to just start and the whole thing a shot.

DC: How have the effects of the pandemic changed your company’s focus or ideas?
Su: We definitely switched gears and started doubling down on e-commerce. A majority of our sales are now coming from our website which has been awesome to see. It’s also given us enough time to think long term and plan for the future. We’ve got exciting projects ahead that’ll hopefully push us to our next milestone.

DC: What updates or significant accomplishments can you share with us about your company from the last six months?
Su: In the past 6 months we’ve actually gotten the chance to sell at our first farmers market up in Rockville—Derwood Farmers Market. It was amazing to get back to our roots and do in-person sales again. On top of that, we had the opportunity to partner up with a few of the local neighborhood outdoor pools which not only drove more sales but also let us get our name out there to new customers. Overall, we’ve seen high recurring customer rates and overall really positive feedback from the community. We’ve also been doing a lot of R&D recently that’ll hopefully help drive more sales coming up. There may be a shift in our current product line but more time is needed. Moving forward we want to start investing heavily in media marketing since that has been one of the key areas we’ve been lacking for some time now.

DC: If you could give advice to any aspiring entrepreneurs, what would it be?
Su: Be prepared to work really hard. It requires a lot of sacrifice. There’ll be a ton of distractions and things that won’t work in your favor; if you’re not willing or dedicated enough it’ll make you want to quit at every step. So ensure you’re having fun putting work into your venture and don’t gloss over even the smallest victories.

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

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Dugal Impact Fellowship 2021: A Day in the Life Interning at Nest Collaborative

By Madison Mazer

DC: What is your name, major, minor, and anticipated graduation year?
Anderson: Alanna Anderson. Major: Linguistics. Minor: Second Language Education. Graduation Year: December 2021

DC: In a couple of sentences, how would you describe your time in the Dugal Impact Fellowship Program?
Anderson: My time in the Fellowship Program was informational and engaging. Interning with Nest Collaborative gave me a lot of insight into a start-up that I didn’t have before. It was also amazing to be financially compensated since that’s not a reality for many available internships. I appreciate the Robert H. Smith Business School and its donors for making this opportunity possible and encouraging students to engage with companies who want to make a positive social impact.

DC: Tell us about Nest Collaborative. What is the company’s mission and core competencies? 
Anderson: Nest Collaborative is a telehealth lactation company. They have a team of International Board-Certified Lactation Consultants who educate and assist parents on their breastfeeding journey. Whether it’s your first time breastfeeding or your fourth, they’ll advocate for you and provide you with the information you need to achieve your breastfeeding goals. Their mission is to assist parents with breastfeeding in an educational, equitable, and inclusive way. They also work very hard to forge relationships with more insurance companies so that appointments are covered with no copay and no deductible.

DC: Why did you want an internship with Nest Collaborative? 
Anderson: I wanted to intern with a company that noticeably improved the lives of mothers, parents, and families. It’s clear that Nest Collaborative has since it was voted Best Overall Online Lactation Consult by Verywell Family. I was also impressed by the mission of the CCO, Amanda Gorman. As a Pediatric Nurse Practitioner and mother, she has seen and experienced the difficulty of breastfeeding and created Nest Collaborative to confront those difficulties.  

DC: What were some of your responsibilities while interning with Nest Collaborative? 
Anderson: Two interesting small projects: I fixed the company’s podcast transcriptions on Otter to assist the VP of marketing with SEO and visibility. I had to interview 4 IBCLCs to get their opinion on how the company can make their job easier and improve patient care.

My largest project involved me pretending to be multiple patients so that I could go through the booking process and try multiple things such as booking on the same day, canceling an appointment, missing an appointment, etc. I then had to present my findings to the employees so that they could improve the flow of booking and improve customer experience.

DC: What were your favorite aspects of interning for Nest Collaborative?
Anderson: I felt like I was part of the team. During my first monthly company meeting, I was introduced and invited to share some information about myself. The company even sent me a branded journal and pen. I also felt like my opinion was valued by the members of the company. If I had a suggestion, question, or concern, I was always listened to and assured that it would be taken into consideration. I also felt like I had the chance to make an impact. During my first company meeting, the CCO read positive feedback that the IBCLCs had received from customers and presented figures that showed that the breastfeeding retention rate for Nest Collaborative customers was higher than the national average. I kept this in mind while working because I hoped to be a part of that positive change.

DC: What did you gain from your experience as a Dugal Impact Fellow?
Anderson: I gained insight into the daily duties of a start-up. The employees must take care of so many moving parts and responsibilities, but the changes were exciting and made me eager to do my job. I also have greater insight into what I would like my future jobs to be like. I feel like I’ve helped make a difference at Nest Collaborative, and I want to feel the same way with any job I have in the future.

DC: Have you had any cool startup/networking experiences since you’ve been at Nest Collaboration? 
Anderson: Getting to sit in on the company meetings has been really valuable. The directors and managers are very clear about the steps they are taking to improve the company and address the concerns of the IBCLCs. For example, one manager completely redid the intake process for patients to address the IBCLCs’ concerns. It was interesting to see how a start-up balances growth with employee satisfaction.

DC: What was the biggest adjustment?
Anderson: I had to adjust to not having a set of instructions to follow. My supervisors would present a task to me and explain it, but it was up to me to get it done in a way that was efficient and practical.

For more information about Nest Collaborative, please visit the website here. For more information about the Dugal Impact Fellowship Program, please visit the website here.

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Senior Send-Off: The Synapto Team

In our Senior Send-Off series, the Dingman Center celebrates the student founders who are part of the graduating class of Spring 2020. We are so pleased to have had the chance to get to know each of these talented entrepreneurs through our programs. 


From left: Chris Look, Anoop Patel, Megha Guggari, David Boegner, Dhruv Patel

SynaptoLogo on white_White BkgrdSynapto

Co-founder & CEO – Dhruv Patel ’20, Bioengineering major
Co-founder & CTO – Christopher Look ’20, Bioengineering major
Lead Systems Engineer – David Boegner ’20, Bioengineering major
Lead Software Engineer – Megha Guggari ’20, Bioengineering major
Lead R&D Engineer – Anoop Patel ’20, Bioengineering major

The Synapto team is made up of five University of Maryland bioengineering majors who are using a portable EEG and machine learning to provide doctors with a more efficient tool to diagnose Alzheimer’s. Having worked on this idea since 2017, the team has achieved many milestones along the way, including a prize from NIH, second place at the 2018 Do Good Challenge, and third place at the 2019 Pitch Dingman Competition Finals. The Dingman Center has had numerous opportunities to watch these founders grow: Chris Look enrolled in our Terp Startup accelerator for a different idea, Senvision, as a freshman; David Boegner and Anoop Patel represented Synapto in the 2018 Terp Startup cohort; and Megha Guggari was part of the first cohort of Ladies First Founders. The Synapto team took home our Rudy Award for Social Entrepreneurs of the Year in 2019, and we are excited to see how these impressive founders continue to shine post-graduation.

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An Interview with Pitch Dingman Competition Finalist: Door Robotics

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.


Co-founder Josh Ermias with the Door Robotics drone prototype

Door Robotics

Joshua Ermias ’20, Public Health Sciences
Vincent Jaugan ’21, Communication and Media Studies

image005 (1)DC: Tell us about your startup.

Door Robotics: Door Robotics is helping build a future of better content. We are building a 2D and 360 camera drone and custom software enabling for lower barriers to entry for 360 content creating and post-production. A huge market facing issues with 360 cameras is the real estate virtual tour market. There are over a million real estate photographers on LinkedIn. In order to create virtual tours to post to listing site, a photographer needs to position a 360 camera on a tripod in a property, get out of the camera shot, click and capture, reposition a few feet away, and repeat the process until the whole property has been captured. They then need to pay to use 3rd party software to create virtual tours and 3D mapped layouts from the series of pictures. Our drone can autonomously fly through a property in a quarter of the time it currently takes and upload fully generated virtual tours to the cloud immediately after the flight.

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Meet the Speakers: Being Black in Entrepreneurship Fireside Chat

FTBT Flyer w_ Headshots

by: Hannah Shraim ’20 (Ladies First Founder and Dingman Center Marketing Intern)

Passion, tenacity, and courage — all three qualities are essential to being an entrepreneur. With that being said, those brave enough to take on the Herculean task must navigate through numerous obstacles. In a system that disproportionately excludes people of color from entrepreneurial spaces, and with the amount of struggle that entrepreneurs face by nature, it is paramount to uplift the voices of black entrepreneurs.

The Being Black in Entrepreneurship Fireside Chat on Feb. 26 from 6-8 p.m. in 2333 Van Munching Hall is supported by Maryland Smith’s Dingman Center for Entrepreneurship, the Office of Diversity of Inclusion, the Office of Undergraduate Studies and the Student Success Leadership Council. The event that will bring together black entrepreneurs for evening of discussion and breakout sessions. If you’re thinking of starting a business, this session will provide you with a toolkit that you can use to understand what it really means to be an entrepreneur. Register today!

There are some incredible speakers lined up for the evening — let’s take a quick look into their experiences:


Michael Echols ’87 – Founder and CEO of MAX Cybersecurity

Michael A. Echols (Mike) is a graduate of the National Preparedness Leadership Initiative – Harvard Kennedy School of Public Health and the Federal Executive Institute. He holds a Master of Business Administration, a Master of Science in Biotechnology, a Graduate Certificate in Technology Management, and a Bachelor of Science in Criminal Justice; all from the University of Maryland. Mike is the CEO of Max Cybersecurity LLC. He launched the company after 7 years at the Department of Homeland Security (DHS).  In 2015, Mr. Echols became the White House point person for the rollout of Presidential Executive Order 13691 – Promoting Private Sector Cyber Information Sharing. Most recently Mr. Echols authored five Forbes articles and was featured on a PBS cybersecurity special. Mr. Echols has also led two organizations to CSO 50 Award honors for information sharing in the last three years. He is currently on the Health and Human Services CISA Cyber Awareness Task Force.

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Robert G. Hisaoka Speaker Series Preview: Tom Davidson

The Robert G. Hisaoka Speaker Series continues with the Founder & CEO of EVERFI, Tom Davidson, on Wednesday, April 10 from 5:00-6:00 p.m in 2204 Edward St. John Learning and Teaching Center. In a conversation with Robert Hisaoka ’79, attendees will gain insights into the mind and career of Tom Davidson. Space is limited, so be sure to register now to attend.


Tom Davidson is the Founder and Chief Executive Officer of EVERFI, Inc. based in Washington, D.C. Since starting the company in 2008, Tom has led EVERFI from a startup in a Georgetown apartment to an organization with over 4,300 corporate customers and financial institutions.

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An Interview With Pitch Dingman Competition Finalist: OpenPoll

In anticipation of the final round of the 2019 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 7th in the Grand Ballroom of Stamp Student Union. Learn more and register to attend the competition here.



Zachary Wynegar ’19, Founder & CEO

DC: Tell us about your startup.

OPENPOLLLogo.pngZW: OpenPoll is a startup focused on changing the way opinion data is collected. Unlike other online survey tools, OpenPoll allows decision makers to distribute surveys using push notifications, see who hasn’t responded, and gather responses easily. Users heavily prefer OpenPoll over other survey tools due to the ease of use, short length, and rewards they earn for taking polls. Within a minute of publishing a poll, decision makers begin getting real time information from their audience without sending a single email. We offer completely free options for associations, with almost no limits.

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Hisaoka Speaker Series Founders Panel Preview: Paul Capriolo ’06

The Robert G. Hisaoka Speaker Series continues with a Founders Panel on Tuesday, February 19 from 4:30-6:00 p.m. Panelists Paul Capriolo ’06, Kristen McClellan and Jeff Grass 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 transforming their ideas into lucrative businesses. Register now to attend, and stay tuned to our blog to learn more about each of the panelists.


Social Growth Technologies – Paul Capriolo ‘06

Throughout his career as an UMD alumnus and serial entrepreneur, Paul has founded and led a multitude of technology startups to successful acquisitions. In 2009, Paul noticed the explosive growth in the social gaming industry and the lack of a monetization method to capitalize on its user base. Paul started Social Growth Technologies to serve as a flexible platform that allows companies to monetize the social gaming market through in-game advertising. After seven years of growth and expansion, Paul recently secured an acquisition of Social Growth Technologies by Kiswe Mobile in 2016.

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