Tag Archives: interview

Student Entrepreneur Pursues a Mega Idea for Staying in Shape

Over the last few years, the Dingman Center has been working with Obidi Orakwusi to launch his company, Gym Supreme and its first product the Mega Bar. The Mega Bar is an innovative and versatile piece of exercise equipment priced lower than its competitors. A member of the EnTERPreneur Academy, Orakwusi won a $1,000 grant from the Dingman Center earlier this year. We caught up with the student entrepreneur to get an update on his business.

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How did you come up with the idea?

The idea came to me in May 2011. School was out for the summer, I had no plans, and I realized I probably was not going to have a job. So I thought to myself, “why note create a job?” I got motivated and began sketching the concept of the Mega Bar on the back of a job application.

I designed the Mega Bar with a friend in mind. My friend had no gym membership, so every time he went back to school he had to settle for resistance bands, which are incapable of working the entire body. With that in mind, my goal was to create a product that would provide an effective workout at home. Unknowingly, my friend was my first target customer. Once I had a reasonable sketch, I made my first prototype with plastic straws, toothpicks, and paper clips to test out the simple physics. Then, I built a full scale plastic prototype. It took me some time to order a production prototype because I was constantly making measurement adjustments. I’m a bit of a perfectionist sometimes.

Tell us about your team.

During the process of developing my startup, I learned not to rush into decisions. I don’t have a full team yet, but I do have friends with skills and connections like my corporate lawyer, web site programmer, investment banking buddy and a colleague of mine with connections to QVC and sporting good chains.

How have you been working with the Dingman Center?

The Dingman Center has been an amazing resource for me. I get to meet and connect with fun business-minded colleagues that give me advice and feedback. Dingman Center Angels Review Days, workshops, and everything Dingman offers gives me different perspectives on what I knew and what I need to do. It always feels good when I say Gym Supreme is a member of the Dingman Center EnTERPreneur Academy at the Smith School.

How are you using the $1,000 grant from the Dingman Center?

The grant was an amazing cushion that opened up cap space for legal fees associated with the utility patent, trademark and the purchase of social media advertising. Although the grant will be split across several expenses, I know it would not have been possible to get all the legal work finished this summer without the grant.

What has been the most challenging aspect of starting a business?

For me it has been a mixture of funding and tedious patent work. The lack of funding prevented me from rushing into decisions because when you have plans that cost more money than you have, there is usually a wait period between milestones. The wait allowed me to analyze needs and create a hierarchy of tasks.

What goals have you set for the upcoming year?

One of my patents arrived on my birthday–that was a nice gift. The main goals remaining for 2013 are the Pitch Dingman Competition and a Kickstarter pre-order. The Kickstarter campaign is time dependent on the number of potential consumers I attract using various social media campaigns. When I feel there is enough interest from a significant number of followers that will likely purchase the MegaBar, I will launch the pre-order. With good revenue from that, Gym Supreme will become eligible and will apply for Cupid’s Cup in 2014, beginning the search for capital.

Have you had to change your business model since you started?

Oh yes. Initially, I was focused on a model that cuts out the middleman in order to maximize profit from sales and avoid margin reductions from wholesale. I soon learned that avoiding the big retail orders might not be effective because I would give up visibility on very popular retail platforms and have to rely solely on my own marketing to make sales. This would result in an increase in consumer acquisition costs and a decrease profit. That strategy is possible, but requires too much capital infused into marketing. The model is evolving to include a platform that will provide recurring revenue if properly executed.

How do you stay motivated to work on your business when success doesn’t come as quickly as you hoped?

I believe there is a reward associated with the risk I am taking and the reward is success. When I imagine the success of Gym Supreme I stay focused, get excited, and keep going because I am determined to reach that goal. If I give up before anything significant happens, I have defeated myself.

GDP_9540 (1)Obidi Orakwusi is the Founder of Gym Supreme and a member of the Dingman Center’s EnTERPreneur Academy. Stay connected with Gym Supreme on Facebook and Youtube or visit http://www.gymsupreme.com.

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Meet Live Unchained and Support their Indiegogo Campaign!

Meet Live Unchained, an EnTERPreneur Academy company in the Hatch stage that is in the midst of a major crowdfunding campaign on IndieGoGo.  We caught up with Kathryn Buford, the founder of Live Unchained, to chat about her organization and her latest efforts.

Tell us about yourself and your company.

A: I am Kathryn Buford, a PhD student in sociology at UMD, an artist, journalist and digital media consultant.

My organization is Live Unchained, an international arts media and events organization featuring works by female artists across the African diaspora. Our media offerings include a growing online magazine at www.liveunchained.com where we’ve interviewed over 100 female artists from over 16 countries. We also offer a variety of events such as art exhibits, festivals, film screenings, concerts and now, with the help of our Indiegogo supporters, we’d like to add an awards ceremony to our offerings as well.

How did you come up with the idea?

A: I started Live Unchained with my college roommate, Miriam Moore. She majored in Graphic Design and I studied Sociology and African American studies. A lot of our classes overlapped and led us to discuss topics like art, social justice and black identity. In our eyes we had pretty radical ideologies. Negative and limited representations of black women in popular culture really upset us and learning more about the history behind those images added fuel to the fire. When it comes to arts media and venues, women of African descent are still under-represented, with not enough done to reflect the diversity of our perspectives and experiences.

At the start, we wanted to create a cultural project that would critique the misrepresentation and under-representation of black women, by satirizing the absurdity of it all. But, as we grew – putting others first and developing a global conscience – the project changed. We didn’t want it to only be about what was wrong, but also celebrating what black female artists were creating. We grew to see it as a platform and community to unite black women across the diaspora.

How has the Dingman Center and the EnTERPreneur Academy helped you and your startup?

A: I am so grateful for all the wonderful entrepreneurs the EnTERPreneur Academy has allowed us to meet. It’s amazing to not only learn about business marketing and strategy from some of the leaders in the industry, but to also see their human side. These accomplished business executives have been so humble and down-to-earth; I really respect their approachability because they model for me the type of entrepreneurial leader I want to be. I also love seeing my colleagues in the program and learning about their businesses.

Tell us about your Indiegogo campaign.

A: The campaign is called “Terrifying, Strange & Beautiful.” The name comes from a line from the poem, For Women Who Are Difficult to Love by London-based Somali poet, Warsan Shire: “You are terrifying and strange and beautiful, something, not everyone, knows how to love.”

After I heard these words I shared the poem with everyone I could. Later, I had a vision for an awards ceremony titled, “Terrifying, Strange & Beautiful,” The goal of this ceremony would be to recognize the many amazing artists that we’ve interviewed during the last 4 years on Live Unchained for their layers, fire, and vulnerability, both as individual women, and as part of an international community.  The ultimate message being that, like in Warsan’s poem, these are qualities meant to be celebrated.

With Warsan’s blessing, we’re raising funds for an awards the ceremony to honor artists across the African diaspora. The funds will also cover the costs of Warsan’s travel and accommodations so she can attend the ceremony. In conjunction with the awards ceremony, Warsan will host a workshop on healing through narrative and participate on a panel on cultural activism.

Why did you decide to utilize crowdfunding and what have you learned about running a crowdfunding campaign so far?

A: Being very resourceful, we’ve been able to put on some really great Live Unchained events and share some great magazine features. However, to make “Terrifying, Strange & Beautiful” a reality, we need money.. For this campaign, I decided we’d raise our own funds instead of waiting on someone else’s grant or competition time-table.

I did a lot of research on crowdfunding platforms and learned some are better suited for different type of initiatives. We’re raising funds for an arts initiative and  want to avoid the risk losing all the funds if we don’t reach our goal soIndiegogo is the best choice for us. I’ve also learned the importance of having a strong start, affiliate networking plan and fundraising milestones. We kicked off “Terrifying, Strange & Beautiful” at our anniversary party and it brought a lot of awareness and positive energy to the campaign.

With an online campaign, social media has been important for spreading the word. We created a lot of visuals that people can share on Facebook, Twitter and Instagram. For example, with the help of the Chair of the Graphic Design Department at the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign we created a digital postcard campaign (http://www.liveunchained.com/inspired-by-the-poetry-of-warsan-shire-design-students-launch-terrifying-strange-beautiful-postcard-campaign/) .

What are your next steps with your business?

A: I’m really excited about adding people to our advisory board. We’re also adding a non-profit component to the business so we’ll by established as a hybrid for-profit/non-profit entity.

Additionally, we’ll share more regular video features and new content at www.liveunchained.com.

Do you have any advice for fellow aspiring entrepreneurs?

A: When it came to spreading the word about the “Terrifying, Strange & Beautiful” campaign, I had some reservations about asking people for money. One of my mentors told me, simply, if you want people to give you something, you have to ask for it directly. So, I’d say, once you are clear about what you want and why, there’s no need to be self-conscious about asking for the help you need in making it happen.. Make your requests professional, but also personal; whenever appropriate, include a visual component that humanizes your work.

And, most importantly, Live Unchained.

Watch the video below to find out more about Live Unchained’s Indiegogo campaign. Help support Live Unchained by contributing to their Indiegogo campaign at http://www.indiegogo.com/projects/270627!

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Business Rx Entrepreneur Q&A with Elana Fine – Part 5

Elana Fine, Managing Director of the Dingman Center recently participated in a live chat with the Capital Business section of the Washington Post for their Business Rx column. Elana answered questions from regional entrepreneurs on improving and starting a business. This post features some of the questions from the live chat. Follow the Dingman Center’s Facebook Page and Twitter Page for information on the next live chat and other Dingman Center news and events:

Q. How do you think small businesses should use advertising to help sales? What are new and efficient opportunities?

Elana Fine: Depending on your business, online advertising can be an inexpensive and somewhat effective tool to build brand awareness to a target group of customers. Advertising platforms are sophisticated in their ability to use customer behavior for ad placement. However, you get what you pay for — you are still focused on customers that might not be looking for the product you are selling. Small businesses might be better served by lead generation platforms that might better connect you with potential customers, even though you may have to give them a higher percentage of your revenue. If you are brick and mortar — focus on promotions that will drive foot traffic.

Q. I am looking to open a small restaurant, and I am looking to consider my revenue before I can decide what costs I can incur. How should I calculate anticipated revenue for my restaurant?

Elana Fine: This is a tough one to answer in just a few sentences as it really depends on a number of factors. Start building your model based on expected traffic, expected revenue per customer based on price points (is this fast food or sit-down, low-end or high-end?), throughput of customers per meal (are you open for breakfast, lunch or dinner? etc.) You also need to forecast how long it will take for traffic to ramp up and how much it will cost to drive traffic. Also, think through the mix of new customers and repeat ones. Is this something people will eat once a week or once a month? You also need to think through the ongoing expenses — once you build out the space, you’ll still have food expense, which can be costly. Since you can’t store most food inventory for very long, you have to figure out a sophisticated approach to forecasting demand. So … you have a lot of questions to ask yourself.

Q. I want to start a business but not sure in what industry — my passion is sweets (candy/cupcakes/chocolate), but not sure if this can be profitable enough to sustain. Any suggestions?

Elana Fine: There are certainly a lot of options out there for sweet tooth’s — so clearly there is a business model to be found. The issue will be finding a niche for yourself among the many cupcake companies. The takeaway from the proliferation of cupcake and hamburger chains has been that people are willing to pay for high-end treats. If we are going to eat “unhealthy,” we want to do it right. This is also part of an experience — so creating a unique experience for buying candy, cupcakes, chocolate or all three is part of the model just as much as the products themselves. Look at what has been successful among brands like Georgetown Cupcake, Pinkberry and Elevation Burger. Think about what they have done well and where there might be additional opportunities that their current product lines don’t address.

Q. It would seem to me that the answer is almost right in front of this writer: If you want to have a sweets shop, you really need to get into some bakery that specializes in this to get the inside experience of how this business runs (i.e., store size, ingredients order, recipe development, etc.).

Elana Fine: Yes, get smart and educate yourself. Learning from others’ successes and mistakes is better, faster and cheaper than learning from your own.

Q. How much of my savings should I put up for starting a solo PR agency serving medical, dental and other health care professionals? I can’t borrow because of an ongoing foreclosure. I have savings, but I’m not sure how much to tap.

Elana Fine: Before investing your entire nest egg, think about how you can test the market for your services. Talk to health care professionals first and understand their current demand, how much they will be willing to pay for a retainer and what kind of pilot arrangement they’d be willing to commit to. Understand your competition — are they using other providers (which would require switching costs) or are they not engaging any providers (which might mean a longer sales cycle because they don’t have a budget)? Try to forecast when you might line up some initial paying clients and when you will have enough for the business to be sustainable. If you don’t have enough runway in your savings, you may need to think about initially consulting as part of a group or on the side before you fully commit.

Q. For tech start-ups, what are your thoughts on raising seed funding via crowdfunding (i.e., Kickstarter)? Will this scare away formal forms of financing down the road (e.g., venture capital)? If so, how should entrepreneurs address that?

Elana Fine: VC firms will need to be open minded about crowdsourced funding because of its increasing popularity on sites such as Angel List. These sites also give VCs insight into deal flow and help build future pipeline of early stage deals. Entrepreneurs do need to be aware of their capitalization and careful about having too many small investors that might cause problems in later rounds. I think crowdfunding can be a helpful substitute to a friends and family round—to help fund development so you can test the market. Beyond that, I think it is important to really know your investors and what they can bring to the table in exchange for equity. Angel investing is very risky even for the most sophisticated investors, so the diligence really needs to go both ways.

cupidscup-033012-185_hr1Elana Fine was appointed Managing Director of the Dingman Center in July 2012, after joining the team in 2010 as Director of Venture Investments. As Managing Director, Elana’s primary focus is leading the Dingman Center in support of its mission and strategic plan. Key responsibilities include oversight of our student venture incubator, Dingman Center Angels investor network, business competitions, and technology

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EnTERPreneur Academy Profile – Comrade Brewing Company

To celebrate Global Entrepreneurship Week, the Dingman Center is featuring a series of blog posts about our EnTERPreneur Acadmey, a program to help guide student ventures from idea to launch. The Academy provides members with a variety of resources including startup fundamentals workshops, advising, office space, selling opportunities and seed funding. The Academy’s three stages Idea Shell, Hatch and Terp Startup provide students with specific resources and requirements that suit the level of progress for their ventures.

Today’s featured startup is Comrade Brewing Company, the dream company of EnTERPreneur Academy member, David Lin. David is a Full Time MBA student at the University of Maryland who can frequently be found in the halls of the Dingman Center volunteering with programs and absorbing everything he can about entrepreneurship. David’s company, Comrade Brewing, was an honorable mention at the 2012 China Business Plan Competition and also an audience choice award winner at Pitch Dingman.  Read the Q&A to find out more about David and his business, Comrade Brewing Company!

Q: Please describe your business.

A: Comrade Brewing Company will be a Denver, CO based business that will brew and serve hand crafted beer, free of corn syrup and chemically modified hop extract. Customers will be able to visit and drink beer by the glass on the brewery premises.  The brewery will follow a tasting room model, where no food and only beer is served.  I’m planning to head back to Denver after finishing up my MBA this semester and I hope to open sometime in 2013.

Q: How did you get the idea for your business?

A: Ever since I started brewing professionally in 2005, I have known that I eventually wanted to work in the craft beer industry full time.  I saw the success of other breweries and thought to myself, hat a great way to make a living, doing what I love and what I would normally be doing anyways. After two years of brainstorming, the name of Comrade Brewing came to me one day while I was on vacation.  In the brewing industry, there is a lot of camaraderie between small breweries who often help each other out. I want to showcase this “brotherhood” as well as provide the foundation for some funny “tongue in cheek” beer names.  The idea for a tasting room model was something that always intrigued me as I visited breweries across the country.
Q: What phase is your venture in and what are your next steps?

A: We’re on our way to becoming operational.  I have already taken on a talented brewmaster as a partner, contracted my raw materials, talked with equipment manufacturers, met with cities, and looked at zoning.  I also have nearly all the funding I need as well as the domains, social media handles, and incorporation needed to start my business.  My next step is to sign a lease on a building, place the down payment on the brewhouse, apply for federal and state licensing and permits, and begin construction.

Q: As a student start up, what are some of the challenges that you face?

A: This is a brick-and-mortar business, and because my business is located in Denver, being 1,500 miles away makes it difficult for me to do things like overseeing construction.  There’s only so much I can do electronically or via paper.  While I’m enjoying my time as a student here at Smith, I am eager to head back to Denver once I graduate to oversee the remaining steps to opening the brewery.

Q: How did the Dingman Center contribute to the development of your startup?

A: The Entrepreneurs in Residence have been an incredible resource. Some of them have had relevant experience on starting a food service company and have advised me on the common pitfalls of the industry. Being part of the Dingman Center’s active entrepreneurial community has also given me the opportunity to listen to a variety of business ideas and taught me how to look at them from a more critical business standpoint giving me a framework that I would use while running the brewery.

Q: What about being a part of the EnTERPreneur Academy excites you the most?

A: Meeting all the other students who are as passionate and driven as I am. There are so many people out there that say that they have a passion for something, but in reality I believe they just like the idea of that something.  My fellow Academy members are people with the initiative to actually pursue their passions.  The networking with these passionate people, as well as sharing feedback on our ideas, has been incredibly helpful and rewarding.

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EnTERPreneur Academy Profile – imagine(x)

To celebrate Global Entrepreneurship Week, the Dingman Center is featuring a series of blog posts about our EnTERPreneur Acadmey, a program to help guide student ventures from idea to launch. The Academy provides members with a variety of resources including startup fundamentals workshops, advising, office space, selling opportunities and seed funding. The Academy’s three stages Idea Shell, Hatch and Terp Startup provide students with specific resources and requirements that suit the level of progress for their ventures.

Today’s featured startup is imagine(x), the brainchild of EnTERPreneur Academy member, Eric Mintzer. Eric is also an undergraduate student at the University of Maryland who has been engaging frequently with the Dingman Center for Entrepreneurship. Eric’s current startup, imagine(x), which was the runner-up at last month’s Pitch Dingman Competition, is an engineering firm poised to change the way we experience performance art.  Read the Q&A to find out more about Eric and his business, imagine(x)!

Q: Please describe your business.

A: imagine(x) is a creative engineering firm which bridges the gap between science and art.  We strive to develop the most innovative and awe-inspiring technologies of the future, today.  We specialize in augmented reality, pixel mapping, interactive installations, and real time visualizations.

Q: How did you get the idea for your business?

A: I had the idea to create imagine(x) after being blown away by incredible stage setups and immersive entertainment environments.  I wondered, “What can we come up with next?” and decided to become part of that ‘we’ by creating systems that allow concert-goers to naturally interact with these complex audio-visual systems.

Q: What phase is your venture in and what are your next steps?

A: imagine(x) is hatching.  My next step is to finish developing various projects I am working on, while servicing a handful of clients to enhance my portfolio and create revenue to reinvest.

Q: What drew you to become an extrepreneur?

A: I attribute three large areas of my life that contributed towards my entrepreneurial motivations: my parents, my education, and the internet.

My parents, from a very young age, prioritized the importance of being happy and doing what I wanted to do.  This was very different from what my outside environment suggested – financial success.  When financial success became less important, education towards an industrial job became boring and I started doing what any middle-school student would do for fun – independently studying computer programming.  This old drive to Create has gratefully stayed with me long enough to be amplified by the University of Maryland with their unparalleled support and initiatives.

Q: As a student startup, what are some of the challenges that you face?

A: Apart from my daily challenges of generating and debugging code, my greatest is managing my time efficiently.   I have various business oriented goals that involves marketing, branding, analyzing and more, but I am more interested in testing and bringing new technology to the market quickly.  This temporary solution is allowing me to super-accelerate my learning and development, but also has the potential to restrict the speed of business growth.

Q: How did the Dingman Center contribute to the development of your startup?

A: The Dingman Center has been a tremendous resource for my venture.  Faculty and staff have provided me with outstanding mentorship; entrepreneurs-in-residence and alumni have consistently offered guidance and experience; the supporting network and relationships connected me with industry leaders, potential clients and growth opportunities; and the workshops, speaker events and week-long summer entrepreneurship boot camp provided hands-on education, real life experiences, and startup funding.

While many classes at the University teach you to learn from the past using best practices and the Dingman Center for Entrepreneurship expands on this by also encouraging and fostering innovation and leadership for an unpredictable future.

Q: What about being a part of the EnTERPreneur Academy excites you the most?

A: The enTERPreneur Academy is a large leap forward towards alternate opportunities and reform in education for students that strive on it,\ and I am excited to be in the inaugural EnTERPreneur Academy class!  I am anxious to watch the growth of this program and the successful stories that result from it.

Come back for tomorrow’s feature!  And don’t forget to “like” the Dingman Center’s Facebook Page tomorrow!  One lucky new fan will receive an awesome prize package from the Dingman Center for liking us tomorrow for our Facebook Challenge!

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Center Stage with Doug Humphrey, CEO of Joss Heavy Industries

What are you most focused on right now?
Helping other people with their businesses — that’s not just being nice; it exposes me to a wide range of other entrepreneurial thinking. Some things can be invented by focusing on narrow subject matter but it’s not how I work. I’m more of a synergist. I like to understand broad areas and look for overlap. At a certain point in the discovery process, you hurt yourself a lot if you limit your areas of interest.

What is your involvement at Dingman and why is it a special place?
I don’t know if the Dingman Center is unique, but it’s very rare. This is a well-established organization, which has a good focus on true entrepreneurship.

What is “true entrepreneurship”?
An organization that is about true entrepreneurship cannot be too focused. The beauty of focus is that it allows you to get a lot done, but that can limit what else you see. A true entrepreneur is always heads-up, always looking for what he or she doesn’t know.

What do you think of the DC area as a place to start a business?
DC is a good place to start a company. It has a very, very different culture and mindset than Silicon Valley. It’s very different from Boston as well. DC right now is trying hard to move from the “good place to start up” to the “great place to start up”.  There’s a huge effort by cashed-out entrepreneurs and by company founders to coalesce around this region and to get it to the next tier.

What is the single most important piece of advice you could give going into an investor pitch?
Understand who your customer is. It’s usually the guy writing the check. Also, understand your cost inputs. Many, many people who are new at this show up and say, “I’m giving my labor for free”. You need to be sure to include those costs.

Also, it’s not just your business, it’s you. Many venture capitalists who I’ve met with say, “we bet on the jockey, not on the horse”. What I mean by that is that they’d rather have a great entrepreneur taking a shot at a decent opportunity than a decent entrepreneur taking a shot at a great opportunity. A startup company is the creature of the people who start it.

Mr. Humphrey is an Internet pioneer and “Father of Managed Hosting” who resides in Laurel, Maryland. He has been the CEO of Joss Heavy Industries since 2004 where he also directs the Joss Research Institute, a 501(C)3 non-profit doing scientific research in a wide array of subject areas. He also mentors startup companies at the Dingman Center for Entrepreneurship. Perhaps best known for co-founding Digex in 1992, Humphrey took the Internet Service Provider public and sold it in 1997 to Intermedia Communications Inc. WorldCom then bought Intermedia in 2001 and it is now a part of Verizon.

Connect with Doug on LinkedIn

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Center Stage with Rudy Lamone, Founder of the Dingman Center for Entrepreneurship

At 80 years old, Rudy Lamone is still an active member of the Dingman Center team. Keep reading for Rudy’s reflection on his years with the Dingman Center as its founder and the Smith School of Business as dean for 20 years.

What keeps you interested in the Dingman Center at your age?
Students. My young entrepreneurs energize me all the time.

What has been your greatest accomplishment during your career?
The Dingman Center is my favorite accomplishment. Secondly, starting the Dingman Center academic program, and together with Charlie Heller, former director of the Dingman Center, helping to establish the Global Consortium of Entrepreneurship Centers. We started with about 30 schools attending the first conference. Today, the GCEC has over 220 colleges and universities worldwide as members.

Do you have any regrets?
My greatest regret is not being able to start a school for entrepreneurship in Baltimore years and years ago. I wanted very much to have a presence in Baltimore and my idea for a school for entrepreneurship was a way I felt we could get approval to start a program. For a number of reasons, mostly political, we were not able to get into the Baltimore marketplace. That has now changed as we have a physical presence with our Smith School campus at the University of Maryland BioPark which opened a few years ago.

What advice do you have for young entrepreneurs?
Be passionate in what you believe to be a great entrepreneurial opportunity. Do what you have to do to make your dream come true.

What is your idea for the future of entrepreneurship and innovation on campus?
I am excited about the proposed new Center for Innovation and Entrepreneurship because I believe it will open up significant new pathways to explore ideas in entrepreneurship and innovation. The campus-wide center will open enumerable ways for students to pursue entrepreneurial dreams.

Dr. Rudolph P. Lamone is the Founder and member of the Board of Advisors of the Dingman Center for Entrepreneurship and a Professor Emeritus at the Robert H. Smith School of Business. From 1973 to 1992, Dr. Lamone served as Dean of the Robert H. Smith School of Business and as the first chair of the Program in Entrepreneurship. He is co-founder of the National Consortium of Entrepreneurship Centers and a founding member of the National Consortium for Life Science Entrepreneurship Programs.In 1996, Dr. Lamone was named “Entrepreneur of the Year” by Ernst & Young for his work in support of entrepreneurship. In 1998, Dr. Lamone was selected to receive the President’s Medal at the University of Maryland. In 1999, Dr. Lamone co-founded DirectGene, a biotechnology company that has developed gene therapies directed toward the treatment of metastatic prostate and breast cancer. A member of Phi Beta Kappa, Dr. Lamone received his B.S. and Ph.D. degrees from the business school at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill.

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Elana Fine, Associate Director, on ABC’s Washington Business Report

Associate Director, Elana Fine was interviewed by Rebecca Cooper of  ABC’s Washington Business Report about the Dingman Center for Entrepreneurship. The segment includes an overview of our key programs: Pitch Dingman, Dingman Center Angels, and Cupid’s Cup. The segment originally aired on ABC 7 on Sunday, February 5. Watch the video below and leave your comments!

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Center Stage with Michael Schwab, Co-President of D&H Distributing Company

What drives your interest in entrepreneurship?
From my vantage point, what is really tremendous is not only what I do, but what I get to see. Our company is a technology distributor of both software and hardware. I would say that 5-10 new companies a week come to D&H and present their innovative ideas. They need help with price points, marketing, and a number of other business problems.

What’s so encouraging to me is that these individuals come from all walks of life. Many of them have decided to leave large organizations, and have ventured out on their own to work on a product they believe in. When I think about that aspect of entrepreneurship, that’s what gets me excited.

Why work for yourself?
After graduating from law school and working for several large companies, I found that I was looking for something specific; the ability to control my own destiny and to have a positive impact on defining a firm. Entrepreneurship gives you the flexibility to make those decisions on your own. D&H’s business profile really lends itself to an entrepreneurial spirit. We’ve done it through shared ownership in the company. By providing employees with ownership stakes, we’ve created a business with more than 1000 entrepreneurs.

How did you get involved with the Dingman Center?
My son, Brett, is an undergraduate at the University of Maryland in the Smith School. The entrepreneurship program was a big part of his decision to attend. I now have a second son there as well.

Dingman has an entrepreneurial process and program far beyond what I had ever seen or experienced and I wanted to get involved. I wanted to help the Dingman Center grow by leveraging my own expertise. My goal was to help students understand the fundamentals of starting a business, and the importance of intellectual property in the marketplace.

I was also interested in Dingman’s efforts to bring many pieces of the University together, whether through Tech Transfer or through the annual trips to Israel and China. This is an important part of [University of Maryland President] Dr. Loh’s focus on the future of innovation and entrepreneurship on a global basis.

What type of business has the greatest chance of success right now?
I would say we are seeing strong growth in storage technology. In other words, how do you take all the information being created by individuals, corporations, etc. and make it readily accessible by a number of individuals on a number of devices? This is about the creation of a “personal cloud” instead of using another shared cloud solution.

What traits do all successful entrepreneurs have in common?
Diligence and Grit. As an entrepreneur, you can’t give up. The successful entrepreneurs understand that if Plan A doesn’t work, they need to deploy Plan B, C, or D. The most successful people we’ve worked with understand that running a business requires long hours and being in the right place at the right time. If the first opportunity doesn’t go quite as well as you thought it would, look to find a new strategy, always focusing on the long term. The reality is that for most entrepreneurs, businesses have the opportunity to grow exponentially, but not necessarily on a straight line.

Michael Schwab, Co-President, D&H Distributing Company

Michael Schwab runs D&H, a 93 year-old company which focuses on e-commerce solutions and the distribution of technology products to retailers, e-tailers, college bookstores, and solution providers. With annual revenues exceeding $2.5 billion dollars, D&H has expanded its operations almost ten-fold over the last decade. In 2009, Michael was named #15 on the list of the most innovative executives of the year published by ChannelWeb, a division of United Business Media LLC. This list also included John Chambers, Steve Ballmer, Mark Hurd and Paul Otelllini. As well, D&H was named Cisco’s Global Distributor of the Year for 2009.

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Center Stage with Wayne Kimmel ’92, Founder of Artists & Instigators

You’ve started, and helped start, a number of businesses over the course of your career. What are you working on now?
I’m building a new company, “Artists & Instigators”, which will be a consumer brand. To accomplish this, I’ve partnered with Marc Ecko, who founded the billion-dollar brand “Ecko Unltd.”  He is an expert in selling and marketing products.  More to come next year…

Over the last decade, I’ve personally run a venture capital fund, which has invested in close to 30 companies. Most of those startups have been consumer product and technology companies. We have been fortunate to have had a number of great successes over the last decade with several of the investments we’ve made like with SeamlessWeb that was founded by a Terp alum and was acquired by ARAMARK, Take Care Health Systems that was acquired by Walgreens, and NutriSystem that was the top performing stock in the U.S. for 5 consecutive years.

As the manager of a venture capital fund, you’ve seen dozens of entrepreneur pitches. What advice do you have for someone preparing for a pitch?
Passion is the most important part of any pitch. Anyone doing a pitch must truly believe in what they’re selling and that company they work for. They have to be personally involved. It’s obvious when people are pitching a business and they don’t truly believe in what they’re saying. Whatever you do, you’ve got to believe in it. If you don’t love it, and you’re not excited about it, then you’re doing the wrong thing. That’s the kind of advice I give to people all the time. It’s very, very important for you to believe in what you’re doing. You have to love it.

Given the state of the economy, what would you say to someone considering the launch of a business?
Why not? What’s the alternative? These are the times when some of the best businesses are built. Follow your passions, follow your dreams. This is the time to go and make things happen. Yes, there are a lot of problems out there today. At the same time, it’s not like there’s a safety net in having a job. There is no loyalty from employers. It’s not personal; it’s just the way it is today. The pundits out there have dubbed this generation of kids, “The Lost Generation.” That’s just not true. Students today have skills that other generations are not capable of having because of the technologies they’ve grown up with. The employers that embrace this will be successful. Now is an opportunity for young people to go make their mark.

Why is the Dingman Center a special place?
[Managing Director] Asher Epstein and Dean Anand have really been the driving force behind entrepreneurial opportunities that you typically don’t get at other universities. The entrepreneurial spirit that Asher brings to the table is contagious. He has a real passion for helping students achieve their own goals; whether during the MBA summer trip to Israel, the various programs at Dingman, or as an advisor. Students look at him as a peer because he’s approachable. That kind of a relationship that he’s been able to have with students is a major feather in the cap of the Smith School and the University of Maryland in general. It’s a major selling point for the University.

Wayne Kimmel '92, Founder and Managing Partner, Artists & Instigators

Wayne D. Kimmel is a Founder and Managing Partner of Artists & Instigators with Marc Eckō and Tony Bifano. Wayne is an entrepreneur, venture capitalist, philanthropist and tireless networker. In 1999, Wayne founded a venture capital firm that invests in startup and early-stage companies. Some of his successful investments included, SeamlessWeb (acquired by ARAMARK), Take Care Health Systems (acquired by Walgreens), and NutriSystem (NTRI), (top performing stock in the U.S. for 5 consecutive years). Currently, Wayne serves on the Board of Directors of Ecko |Code, OrganizedWisdom, Ryzing, meetMoi and KGRA Energy.

Follow Wayne on Twitter @waynekimmel

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