Tag Archives: entrepreneurship

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.

Tagged , ,

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.

Tagged , ,

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.

Tagged ,

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.

Tagged , ,

Keeping Up With Terp Startup Accelerator 2022!

This week marks one month into the Dingman Center’s 2022 Terp Startup Accelerator program…and it could not be going better!

So far our cohort has had a blast hearing from guest speakers, participating in workshops and roundtable discussions, and even taking field trips to the Johns Hopkins University Fast Forward U program and Towson University’s accelerator at Startups!

Our cohort has also been participating in fun innovation challenges throughout the summer like paper airplane building competitions and playing the card game “A Balancing Act”, created by cohort members and co-founders of Sparza, Ryan Myer ’22, and Kyle Sznoluch.

“TSA has been an amazing experience! The entire community has been extremely supportive and nurturing in helping us with our ventures. The cohort has been really great as well, and it has been extremely educational and beneficial to learn from fellow members. The structured environment and advising have helped us move forward and think about aspects of our venture we hadn’t thought about before. We have immensely expanded our network and have made connections not only at UMCP but also at JHU, Towson, alumni and practicing professionals,” said Ina Kovacheva, founder of Arch Dash

The program, held in the new Idea Factory’s Academy for Innovation & Entrepreneurship Loft on campus, has given these student entrepreneurs the opportunity to advance their own ventures full-time while spontaneously collaborating with one another. Working in this type of environment is relatively new for many students, but participants like Emily Garcia, founder of Em G Art Design Studio, have grown to appreciate the benefits.

“I’ve worked in art studios which are similar in a way. The similarities come from the fact that the space gathers like-minded people. People who are working in a space that inspires creativity and out-of-the-box thinking. One’s environment can influence their work and mindset. It also creates a sense of community,” said Garcia.

Of the 11 ventures accepted into TSA, each is unique–and not only in its products and services. While some students have fully developed ventures that already generate revenue, others simply have an idea and the passion to make it happen. No matter the stage of the startup, each company is given up to $5,000 in financial support and full physical support from members of the Dingman Team, Holly DeArmond, Tsega Belachew, Lottie Byram, and Alex Onufrak.

“The access to mentors, professionals, and their networks has been really helpful. Even more than the specific workshops, simply the ability to connect with and tap into mentor networks has been a huge value add,” said Josh Doying founder of Bedtime Sports.

Despite some ventures being more advanced in their process than others, by the end of the program, all companies will meet critical outcomes such as making data-driven decisions using metrics that matter, finding product/market fit, and acquiring initial customers.

Even though the 2022 program is nearly halfway complete, students are still working hard and are excited to take the next steps in furthering their venture.

“I am very much looking forward to starting a pilot program with the University and learning more about how they can benefit from our technology! A bit nervous about demo day and really dreading the thought of TSA coming to an end,” said Kovacheva.

Tagged ,

Feature Friday! Stockadoo

Stockadoo is a platform that allows fans to trade shares of creators’ channels, which reduces creators’ reliance on ads and sponsors—while giving fans an opportunity to make money.
Justin Fenn ’22

DC: What’s your name, major, and graduation year?
Fenn: Justin Fenn, Computer Science Spring 2022.

DC: Which Dingman Center programs have you been involved with?
Fenn: I participated in and won the Hult Prize 2019 at UMD and was fortunate enough to be able to compete with my team in Boston at the regional finals. Also, I attend Dingman Fridays regularly for guidance on a range of questions. Additionally Stockadoo was worked on in New Venture Practicum, one of the Dingman Center’s signature courses.

DC: In two to three sentences, how would you describe your startup?
Fenn: Stockadoo is a platform that allows fans to invest in their favorite creators by trading shares of creators’ channels, monetizing the creator in the process. Our goal is to reduce the reliance on the advertisement economy by allowing fans to support creators directly while also benefitting through trading on the Stockadoo exchange.

DC: What or who is your biggest influence for your startup? 
Fenn: It may sound silly, but Star Trek is a big influence on my startup and most startup ideas I’ve had. Specifically, the hopeful attitude that Star Trek takes on how the future could be and that we will find solutions to our human vices, such as greed. In the future given by Star Trek, money does not exist, freeing up most anyone to pursue the goals they’d like to in their life. I hope that even if it’s extremely minor, Stockadoo can make a step towards a future like that.

DC: What updates or significant accomplishments can you share with us about your company from the last five months?
Fenn: Since January, we went from an idea to a brand, website, prototype and spread the idea to many people through surveys and word of mouth. We have signed up multiple creators who are willing to beta test the app when it launches.

DC: What’s the most important thing you are working on right now, and how are you making it happen?
Fenn: We are finishing the beta version of the app and will be launching this summer. We are excited to get feedback from users and creators alike and hope we can provide a valuable product to both.

DC: As the founder of Stockadoo, how do you define success?
Fenn: I define success as the continual process of refining an idea to provide the most valuable solution while maintaining the integrity of the core goal of a business. In the case of Stockadoo, the app may change drastically, but the core goal of reducing the reliance of digital content on advertisements remains the same.

DC: If you could give advice to any aspiring entrepreneurs, what would it be?
Fenn: The most important piece of advice I could give is simply to lean toward making any decision instead of making the best decision. Most startup decisions are situations where you can analyze the multiple options for an eternity and still not have enough information to make the best decision. If you make decisions sooner, you save a lot of time and make incremental progress to a larger goal.

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

Tagged ,

Feature Friday! Chat Health

Aishwarya Tare ’22 (second from the left) winning second place at the 2022 Pitch Dingman Competition Finals.

DC: What is your name, major, minor, and graduation year?
Tare: Hi, I’m Aishwarya Tare. And in a week, I’ll officially have my degree in Human-Computer Interaction with a minor in art history!

DC: Which Dingman Center programs have you been involved with?
Tare: For programs, I’ve only done Pitch Dingman, but I’ve been involved through Ladies First, Dingman Fridays, Startup Shell, and interning at StartupUMD all since my freshman year. We also just won second place at the PDC.

DC: In two to three sentences, how would you describe your startup?
Tare: Chat Health is an AI data analytics platform that equips university health centers with information to make more efficient decisions on where to allocate their time and resources on campus. Our app, including our NLP chatbot, allows students to view and leverage all of the health resources, services, and events available to them on campus. Our predictive analysis dashboard for universities allows them to see in real-time, how students are utilizing the health ecosystem and how well their services are faring.

DC: What or who is your biggest influence for your startup? 
Tare: Potentially corny, but my personal inspiration will always be my parents, who I think perfectly balance the importance of family and close relationships with the drive and ambition you need to be successful working at a startup. They never shied away from working overtime, but are also some of the coolest adults I know. 

Also, growing up in Silicon Valley, I was surrounded by all these companies that used data to change the world including IBM, Oracle, Salesforce, Palantir, etc. They are such inspirations because we would like to disrupt healthcare in the same way, and really change the way that people view their health for generations.

DC: What updates or significant accomplishments can you share with us about your company from the last six months?
Tare: We’ve made some pretty big pivots in the last six months, definitely feeling the growing pains of achieving product-market fit. We completed our MVP and launched a beta test with UMD students, went through the i-Corps program, and participated in the Values and Ventures finals and PDC finals. We also began focusing on building long-term tools for university health centers over solving just the problem on the student side because focusing more on our student app felt something like putting a band-aid on a gash. For this summer, we’re focused on applying to some SBIR grants, iterating on the university-facing dashboard, and securing a couple of pilots with schools for the Fall 2022 semester.

DC: What’s the most important thing you are working on right now and how are you making it happen?
Tare: The biggest thing we are working on right now is security partnerships with universities. By co-developing Chat Health with them, we can make sure we are meeting their needs while also making it a really easy sell when we have validated how the product fits into each university’s health ecosystem. To do this, we are illustrating where student needs on campus aren’t being met, and how we have closed some of these gaps through students using our app at UMD. By the way, if you’re a student interested in joining our ongoing UMD pilot, you can sign up here!

DC: As a young business owner, what motivates you?
Tare: The adrenaline of making progress. It is such an addicting feeling to glean a new insight that challenges your perspective, find a new use case, validate an assumption, make a pivot, or get funding from others who believe in what you’re building.

DC: If you could give advice to any aspiring entrepreneurs, what would it be?
Tare: You don’t have to be the foremost expert in the field of the problem you’re trying to solve, you just have to be willing and motivated to become more knowledgeable about it than anyone else. Talk to as many people experiencing the problem as possible, seek learning material, surround yourself with people who are experts and lean on them, and be willing to constantly change and iterate your understanding of it because your startup will become so much bigger than yourself.

To learn more about Chat Health, please visit the website here.

Tagged ,

Feature Friday! Fusion100

Founder of Fusion100, Ilan Orgel ’22, sporting his merchandise.

DC: What is your name, major, and graduation year?
Orgel: Ilan Orgel, Finance, graduating in May of 2022.

DC: Which Dingman Center programs have you been involved with?
Orgel: Pitch Dingman Competition 2022.

DC: In two to three sentences, how would you describe your startup?
Orgel: Fusion100 is a global lifestyle clothing brand whose mission is to inspire people to become the best version of themselves.

DC: What or who is your biggest influence for your startup? 
Orgel: Marketing through professional athletes in the NBA and NFL.

DC: What updates or significant accomplishments can you share with us about your company from the last six months?
Orgel: We were featured on the biggest sports media outlets in the world Sportscenter, Bleacherreport, and NBA on ESPN. We have shipped our products to countries outside of the United States.

DC: What’s the most important thing you are working on right now and how are you making it happen?
Orgel: Currently working on an entire summer collection that is going to launch at the end of April. It will include shirts, shorts, and more.

DC: As the founder of Fusion100, how do you define success?
Orgel: Building a community around the world and have people feel a certain way when they are wearing Fusion100. Continuing to work with big names and expand the brand.

DC: If you could give advice to any aspiring entrepreneurs, what would it be?
Orgel: Believe in yourself and have a vision.

To learn more about Fusion100 please visit the website here.

Tagged ,

Feature Friday! Quandry

Quandry is a digital platform that provides retail traders tools for researching, developing, and deploying automated trading strategies.

DC: What are your names, majors, and graduation years?
Houlton: Bryan Houlton, Computer Science and Robotics, Winter 2023. Ryan Downing, Finance and Computer Science, Spring 2022.

Co-founder Bryan Houlton ’23

DC: Which Dingman Center programs have you been involved with?
Houlton: I’m involved in a lot of startup stuff at UMD. For Dingman, my company is participating in the Pitch Dingman Competition for 2023. We’re in the Quattrone track and competing for $30,000, but I’m also involved in the Hatchery and Startup Shell.

DC: In two to three sentences, how would you describe your startup?
Houlton: We make tools for algorithmic trading, a field where people make use of complex formulas and mathematical model to make decisions to buy or sell stock. Our product basically boils down to a web platform where you can log on, build an algorithmic investing strategy, test it over years of market data to see how it would have performed, and if you like the results, start trading with real or fake money. Then, you can list your strategy on the marketplace for others to invest in, and you’ll make a commission on their profits: essentially making everyone their own hedge fund.

Co-founder Ryan Downing ’22

DC: What or who is your biggest influence for your startup? 
Houlton: We’ve had a lot of support from the UMD entrepreneurship community. We were accepted into the Hatchery, a new UMD incubator, and are being mentored by some amazing people there. We also have great connections through Dingman, Startup Shell, etc. To shoutout a few, I’d say Haroon, Idris, and Zeki Mokhtarzada, Juliana Neelbauer, the Startup Shell admin team, and our main Dingman contacts, Lottie Byram and Alex Onufrak.

DC: What updates or significant accomplishments can you share with us about your company from the last six months?
Houlton: Well, we’ve only been around for ~5mo and are launching our product in May. So, our big updates are that we were accepted into the Hatchery and are close to finishing our initial product. We’ve also managed to onboard two awesome people to work with, one of which is another UMD student helping with some software engineering, and another is a UI/UX designer based out of California. I would consider getting them onboard to be a significant accomplishment purely because of how much they have contributed to the company and how important they have been to our success so far.

DC: What’s the most important thing you are working on right now, and how are you making it happen?
Houlton: Right now, our most important thing is making sure that the product is ready for launch by the end of May. We’re working hard on building out the last couple features that we need, fixing bugs, iterating on our user experience, and marketing. Both Ryan (my cofounder and CTO) and I are working probably 50+ hours a week to really push this through, so organizational processes like sprints have been a must for consistent execution. We’re also looking to raise some money in alignment with the product launch, so opportunities like Pitch Dingman, Y Combinator, Contrary, and other VC firms that we have connections to are a hot topic for us right now.

DC: As a young business owner, what motivates you?
Houlton: There are two answers to this: the internal and the external. Internally, it’s the cliché “I’ve always liked to build things”. It’s what everyone says, but for most people that are into this kind of stuff, it’s true. Getting to build a product that you’re excited about and see other people also get excited about is a truly unique experience. The external motivation is the people I get to interact with by being a part of UMD entrepreneurship. This ranges from my fellow students in Startup Shell to the Mokhtarzada brothers running the Hatchery, as they all come together to drive UMD in the entrepreneurship space. Watching every one of them be passionate about UMD’s startup community makes me want to participate in the great opportunities popping up all over the university.

DC: If you could give advice to any aspiring entrepreneurs, what would it be?
Houlton: I’m assuming anyone reading this is going to be from UMD, so my advice we be to get involved in the UMD startup communities. My background is in tech and a solid portion of what I do at Quandry is coding, but I find that more and more of running a startup is about people. Who are your mentors, who are you learning from, how well do you get along with your cofounders and core team, who are you hiring, etc. We’re not at this point yet but what I’ve heard is that, especially as your company grows, you’ll be spending less and less time on the base level work (coding, cold calls, so forth). It’s important to have a team that you can trust and rely on to be able to delegate to and propel the company forward. To find people, some great communities to get involved in are Startup Shell (would HIGHLY recommend for any students), Dingman Center (great events like Pitch Dingman and the Summer Accelerator), and the Hatchery (applications are every September). At these places you can find some amazing people to learn from, but also, working for a startup is a good way to see if you want to make your own. You’ll get a good idea of what the job looks like for founders, as well as learn a lot about tech, marketing, or whatever you’re working in to help when you start your own company. To summarize, focus a lot of your time on finding great people that have skills that compliment your own, and learn as much as you can about startups through work experience or campus communities. There will probably never be a better time in your life to take a risk on a startup, so if you’re thinking about it, just go for it.

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

Tagged ,


Ladies First Founders is the Dingman Center’s one-credit spring semester course for female and non-binary students interested in entrepreneurship. Taught by Sara Herald, champion of our Ladies First Initiative, the course helps students build soft skills for overcoming gender biases in entrepreneurship. Students do not need to have launched a venture, as the focus of the course is on demystifying entrepreneurship. The syllabus includes a blend of skill-building workshops and networking events. Topics include the how to’s of networking and mentorship, finding balance as a founder/student/human, overcoming imposter syndrome, startup pitching and body language, funding and how to get it, and more.

Read on to learn more about this cohort’s exciting student founders and some of their businesses!

Yemi Ikotun ’23 (Business Management)
“I signed up for the Ladies First Founders class because I’m surrounded by female entrepreneurs in my life and I wanted to learn more about what inspired them!” -Ikotun

Terriana Jones ’25 (Architecture)
“I hope to gain knowledge about the entrepreneur world from the perspective of woman. I would also like to build my entrepreneurial mindset!” -Jones

Luo Nanxin ’24 (Finance and Information Systems) EFuxion Studio
We are a company that focuses on the development of voice synthesis software in collaboration with major companies for music composers and educational facilities. We also provide a virtual male icon in accordance with our software, providing the project the duality of both Technology Software and Virtual pop singer idols.

“[I signed up for Ladies First Founders because] I want to build up connections with more talented women entrepreneurs on campus and learn how to launch a business systematically.” -Nanxin

Jordan Marshall ’23 (Marketing and Technology Entrepreneurship)
“I joined the Ladies First Founders class to gain knowledge that would help me turn my entrepreneurial dreams into actionable plans.” -Marshall

Syona Mehta ’25 (Public Health, PreMed)
“I signed up for Ladies First Founders to become inspired and empowered to follow my dreams.” -Mehta

Michael Ndiaye ’22 (Finance)
“From BMGT369D I hope to gain more perspective into the POV of being a female entrepreneur, and the struggles that come with it.” -Ndiaye

Kamsiyonna Ogochukwu Obiora-Offor ’22 (Operations Management, Business Analytics and Technology Entrepreneurship) ANY Art Collective
ANY Art Collective is an Art Zine that focuses on highlighting Black and POC artists.

“I want to learn more about the process of launching a business and take more steps to developing my own.” -Obiora-Offor

Takiyah Roberts ’25 (Material Science Engineering)
“I wanted to take Ladies First Founders to learn more about what it means to be a female entrepreneur. I also took this class to learn how to overcome the struggles that come with being a black woman in the field of entrepreneurship.” -Roberts

Keying Sun ’23 (Statistics)
“I hope to learn the intelligence and power of women, and I want to know other people’s ideas on starting business.” -Sun

Benis Tambe ’23 (Information Science and Technology Entrepreneurship)
“As member of Ladies first founders, I hope to learn what is needed to start a business.” -Tambe

Beniyam Berhan

Mia Lulli ’23

Isela Sanchez ’22

Tagged ,