Tag Archives: Fearless Founders

Terp Toolkit: Finding Office Space for Your Startup

Terp Toolkit highlights resources for starting your business.

Shared office spaces are popular among start-ups and an excellent way to find workspace without breaking the bank. Co-working spaces also often provide perks and resources beyond a desk, including: internet, conference space, area discounts, access to a network of business people and investors, kitchens, and even free snacks and coffee.

Startup-OfficeA few options to check out include:

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Five Startups Named to Dingman Center for Entrepreneurship Summer Incubator

The Dingman Center for Entrepreneurship has announced five students who have been selected for its summer incubator, Terp Startup. Terp Startup is the third and final stage of Fearless Founders, an experiential program that provides student teams the strategy, frameworks and tools necessary to develop their business ideas using lean startup methodology. The program demystifies the venture creation process by breaking it up into three stages: Idea Shell, Hatch and Terp Startup.

While Terp Startup has been a stage of Fearless Founders for several years, it has been revamped to focus on students who want to spend the summer working on customer acquisition, receiving feedback from mentors and attending workshops. More than 15 students applied to the program and the competition was tough.

“Three years ago we set our sights on strengthening our pipeline of talented student entrepreneurs,” said Elana Fine, managing director at the Dingman Center. “The Terp Startup applicants and selected participants exemplify the students, companies and community we aimed to attract.”
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Announcing the Spring 2015 Hatch Cohort

Each semester, students from across campus apply to the Dingman Center’s Fearless Founders program. The by-application-only courses consist of three stages: Idea Shell, Hatch and Terp Startup. True the name of each stage, the Fearless Founders program guides student ventures from idea to launch.

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This spring, 24 students were selected to participate in Hatch program, where they will build and test their business ideas using the Lean Launchpad methodology. Once the course has been completed, the Hatch cohort will be eligible for up to $1500 in seed funding.

What kinds of ventures can we expect from this year’s cohort? Here are “elevator pitches” from two students:

“My company, VR Madras, is developing high quality men’s shirts to ‘re-invent’ the classic button-down to provide an affordable and unique casual shirt for men by contrasting sleeve pattern colors and designs.”  – Vishwant Tatagari, VR Madras

“CrabShell cases provides high quality, customized laser engraved, affordable phone cases to clubs, greek life, and organizations in the UMD community. Our product lets people represent their organization in a unique and intriguing way.”  – Adam Vinner, CrabShell

Below is a complete list of the spring Hatch cohort and their ventures. For more information on the Fearless Founders program and how to apply, please click here.

Nicholas Aversano
MakeSomething.Cool
Bethany Monaghan
Bethany’s Organics
Cody Branchaw
Kanga Trash
Bryce Peterson
CrabShell
Omar Goheer
K. Sultana
Sanil Shah
Tabster
Jordan Greenwald
Meta Cartel
William Botz
Brand It Marketing
Jerome Kelman
Venture Storm
Tommy Johnson
Venture Storm
Mike Mandl
Virtu
Ghedalia Gold-Pastor
Ephraim Rothschild
Venture Storm
Damar Bess
Dipp’d
Brandon Schwab
SocialEye
Emily Peet
Spread the Love
Vishwant Tatagari
V.R. Madras
Alex Jain
Symulate
Adam Vinner
Crab Shell
Sade Cosby
Sadenise Clothing Boutique
Anthony Valle
Spigley
Kevin Fomengia
College Campus Concierge
Ayana Cotton
Star Child Studio
Taylor Johnson
Venture Storm
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Terp Entrepreneur Launches Locks of Curls

Fredrica Antwi, Founder, Locks of Curls

Fredrica Antwi, Founder, Locks of Curls

Fredrica Antwi, a senior studying Accounting and Finance at the University of Maryland, was tired of spending a ton of money purchasing hair products to tame her naturally curly hair. After countless trips to the beauty supply store left her broke and unhappy, she decided to do something about it.

“I would spend so much money purchasing products but at the end of the day, they would end up in a cabinet somewhere unfinished,” said Fredrica.

So, she came up with Locks of Curls, an exciting way for people with naturally curly hair to experiment with products without a huge commitment or breaking the bank.

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Event Recap: Pitch Dingman Competition

Last week, the Dingman Center celebrated Global Entrepreneurship Week. The capstone of the week-long celebration was the Pitch Dingman Competition, where five student entrepreneurs pitched their businesses to a panel of judges for $3,500 in prizes. With upwards of 300 attendees, the competition was a huge success with participation from Fearless Founders, Dingman Center Board of Advisors, faculty, staff and students from across campus.

Before the competition started, student entrepreneurs displayed the products and services to test the market at Terp Marketplace. Nearly 20 vendors participated selling products ranging vegan nail polish to sugar cane juice.

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Dingman enTERPreneur Launches Mega Kickstarter Campaign

Obidi Maryland in manhattan

Obidi Orakwusi, Founder of Gym Supreme

We’ve all heard stories of entrepreneurs whose businesses began on the backs of napkins. But how about the back of a job application?

For one Dingman enTERPreneur, what began as a sketch for an at-home, all-in-one fitness device on the back of a gym job application, has turned into a fully operational business. Today, Gym Supreme’s founder and Dingman enTERPreneur Academy graduate, Obidi Orakwusi, has a patented at-home gym device, Mega Bar, and is launching the company’s first kickstarter campaign.

In 2013, the Dingman Center blog caught up with Obidi. To learn about the genesis of his idea, check out that post here.

Since we’ve been uber-focused on the lean launchpad methodology and customer discovery around the Dingman Center lately, we asked Obidi to share some of those insights from his startup journey.

When Obidi initially gained the idea for Mega Bar, he was confident that it would sell. Mega Bar was not the first at-home gym on the market, but Obidi noticed that what was available at an affordable price point was not the best quality.  This validated his hypothesis and he saw an opportunity.

What was your path like toward customer discovery?

I did things a bit backwards. I did much of my customer discovery after the prototype had been developed. I walked around campus and stood outside of Eppley Recreation Center with a clipboard to take notes from discussions with potential customers, who were undergrad students ages 18-22. Through those interviews I found that although my product was an improvement from a quality and design standpoint — think the Nokia compared to an iPhone — it was too expensive for the demographic on campus. The needs matched but the price didn’t. From there, I segmented the target market and shifted focus to a more of a working class, young professional crowd that had money but limited time. Within this space I found my target customer and learned what I was really solving for them: saving people time. This customer spends a majority of his/her time at work, leaving minimal time — sometimes just a few hours at home or outside of the office. With that limited time, people may not always feel like working out, but Mega Bar can help.

What was the biggest challenge in developing and commercializing a new product?

From my experience, the biggest challenges in creating a new product and commercializing it, are marketing and pricing. Pricing will narrow your target market and really affects revenues. For example, if you try to force the price to fit a cheaper audience, you might be faced with a situation where your margins are just too low to keep the company growing. Once you have a set price, the hardest thing is figuring out how to reach the market with the highest willingness to pay when you have no budget for marketing, because marketing has to be continuous for it to be effective.

mega pyramid

How did you navigate the patent approval process?

Getting a patent so early on was a great boost of confidence, and the fact that it arrived at the door on my birthday last year was unbelievable. I knew how important it was to have a patent in the pipeline, but I didn’t have the resources to pay excessive legal fees, so I had to learn it all. I read all the rules very carefully, read articles, and called the USPTO anytime I had a question. With all the knowledge I gained, I was able to submit the patent application and receive the approval to grant the patent within nine months of applying, which is extremely rare. I applied for my second patent last summer.

Have you tried any unique marketing campaigns?

I’ve tested three different marketing strategies. The first two were great strategies, but they wouldn’t work with the minimal resources the company had to work with.

The first was a social media campaign. The second involved attempts to have influencers in the fitness industry promote the company, and then the 3rd strategy was to get a booth at a fitness convention. The social media strategy was put on hold because it felt like the posts were getting nowhere without paying for ads; it was taking too long. The fitness influencers marketing strategy didn’t work because we couldn’t afford to send in free gear so early on or pay them to promote to their fan base. I also tried to get the Mega Bar featured in major fitness publications, but the cold emails felt like putting a message in a bottle and throwing it into the ocean of emails that those publications received everyday.

The entire time, I was trying to figure out a way to reach an audience that would also see the value in the product, but I realized that I had been searching for the marketing middleman that would help us reach the potential consumer, when I should have actually been the one reaching directly to the early adopters because middlemen are always more costly. I had to find a way to reach directly to consumers that would understand the value of the product just by seeing a 30 second video of what the product can do without further explanation, so I decided to get the company’s first booth at a personal training convention to gain exposure for the Mega Bar. That turned out to be the most effective strategy based on time and the little resources the company had.

What resources have you found to be most valuable to you as an entrepreneur?

The most valuable resources found throughout my journey, thanks to the Dingman Center, are the entrepreneurship classes. It started with the Entrepreneur Academy that eventually evolved to Fearless Founders. From that class, I learned so much about how to understand your target customer. Everything about the Dingman Center has been a great resource for me along the journey. From winning the first funding ever for the company, which went toward the issue fee for the first patent, to being able to talk to other successful entrepreneurs to get feedback. It’s all been a source of encouragement to keep progressing.

At the Dingman Center, I attended Pitch Dingman on Fridays where I could talk about creative ideas and strategies freely without being looked at like a crazy person because I was so young. You run into a lot of doubters when you first start your idea because no one believes you, but at Dingman, they believe you and are always there to help you succeed even if you are trying to turn water into wine. I had the chance to go on a trip to New York this past spring to show off the cool ideas that are coming out of UMD to Terps who now live in Manhattan. That would have never happened if the Dingman Center didn’t hook us up with a booth at Cupid’s Cup earlier this year where I connected with the UMD Alumni Association.

Loh MegaBaring

University of Maryland President Wallace Loh with the Mega Bar

What advice do you have for student entrepreneurs? 

The biggest advice I would have for student entrepreneurs is to be confident, but don’t think you already know everything about your idea on day one. Be confident about your idea, but don’t be arrogant because it is just an idea until you can start selling it or acquiring users. You will need help to keep your idea progressing, but watch out for anyone who starts wasting your time because you can not replace time. Learn from the good things that happen along the journey, and also learn from the bad. Every experience will help you understand what to do the next time.

What’s one of the biggest lessons learned in starting Gym Supreme?

I’ve learned so much through building a product and launching a brand to push the product, but the biggest lesson that I’ve learned is that you should always test out your theories, never rush into decisions. Starting a company with no money after product development will force you to find new solutions to overcome marketing barriers.

You recently launched a Kickstarter campaign. What do you hope to achieve through Kickstarter?

My main goal with the Kickstarter campaign is to launch the first sales of the Mega Bar and to introduce Gym Supreme’s story to the world. The goal is to raise $12,000 through sales so that the company can finally generate revenue.

Do you have any bootstrapping tips for our readers?

Start saving your money now! Before senior year, I had a work-study job on campus and saved every paycheck. By the time graduation rolled around, I had enough money to develop a prototype.

Never jump into decisions without thinking twice about it. When you receive that first offer, don’t just take it. Be cautious of investors who are just opportunistic and don’t genuinely believe in your product.

Also, be resourceful. For example, I taught myself to code, which saved a lot of expense and was something I could figure out through studying.

What’s your long-term vision for Gym Supreme?

The long term goal for Gym Supreme is to become a fitness lifestyle brand that creates excellent products, which help us all stay consistent with our health goals. I want this company to help anyone that has a desire to Lift Good, Live good, and Look Good®.  Gym Supreme Logo

To learn more about Gym Supreme and to place your order for the Mega Bar, visit their Kickstarter Page to support the $12,000 goal.

And, be sure to connect with Gym Supreme on social media:

https://www.facebook.com/GymSupreme
https://www.youtube.com/GymSupreme
https://twitter.com/GymSupreme
http://instagram.com/gymsupreme

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Fearless Founder Brings Taste of the Islands to the DMV

Meet Tenaj Ferguson, Fearless Founder and CEO of Lady Epicure Gourmet.

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While attending the University of Maryland, Tenaj turned her passion for health, nutrition and her Bahamian culture into a thriving business. Today, Lady Epicure Gourmet brings a taste of the Bahama islands to their customers through their all-natural gourmet popsicle line.

We recently caught up with Tenaj to learn more about her journey and her tips for future fearless founders.

Bringing the islands to Maryland. Continue reading

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Fearless Founder Helps Those with Curly Hair Find the Right Products

By Danielle Bennings

Fredrica Antwi is the founder of Locks of Curls, a customized subscription box service for people with naturally curly hair. She’s tackling a problem that curly haired people have known forever: not all curls are the same and thus cannot be treated the same. To help the millions of people taming their curly hair users of Locks of Curls receive five sample sizes of products chosen specifically for them based on a questionnaire that they fill out on the Locks of Curls web site. After a few months, users should be able to identify products that work for their hair and lifestyle.

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Fearless Founder Scott Block and VentureBoard Team Moving Forward This Summer

By Danielle Bennings

Scott Block has been involved with Dingman Center throughout his college career. His first taste of entrepreneurship was doing web development for Greek Recruits, which was founded by fellow student entrepreneur, Daniel Noskin, in 2010. The pair tackled a live Q&A session together during a Pitch Dingman Competition, but the venture eventually ended. Remaining close friends, the two eventually pursued other startups. Noskin is now the founder of a company called Parallel, and Scott teamed up with Avi Eisenberger and Justin Searles to launch VentureBoard in 2012. VentureBoard began as a platform for students to better find resources on campus. Since then, it has become a fully-functioning online platform that helps students start companies, and universities better track, manage, and advise student startups.

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Entrepreneur Alumni Spotlight: Daniel Noskin ’14

By Danielle Bennings

Daniel Noskin ‘14 is an entrepreneur at heart. The first time he came to the Dingman Center was in September of 2010 to attend the first Pitch Dingman (now Innovation Fridays) session of his freshman year. Only on campus for a short time, the 17-year-old self-starter was excited to pitch his first business idea. Daniel developed the idea for Greek Recruits, a social networking site that facilitated Fraternity Rush on campus. His original Greek Recruits co-founder was Scott Block, another student entrepreneur who is now working on the startup, VentureBoard. The pair later went on to become two of the co-founders of the Startup Shell, UMD’s first ever student-run incubator. After spending many one-on-one advising hours with Entrepreneur-in-Residence, Harry Geller, Noskin persisted and was selected to compete in the Pitch Dingman Competition in the Fall of 2011. Although he did not win, Noskin competed again in February 2013. noskin Continue reading

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