DC: What is your name, major, and graduation year? Xu: Brin Xu, Sociology, 2022
DC: Which Dingman Center programs have you been involved with? Xu: I have been involved in Pitch Dingman competition, Terp Startup Accelerator, Terp Startup Fellows programs.
DC: In two to three sentences, how would you describe your startup? Xu: Fancy & Spicy is a digital culinary platform allowing anyone in the world to share authentic food experiences. We primarily offer online cooking classes, and plan to become a social platform for food lovers.
DC: Now that you’ve won the Pitch Dingman Competition ‘21, what’s next for your company? Xu: Since we won the Pitch Dingman Competition, we have been working on our scaling initiatives with support from the Dingman Center for Entrepreneurship. We are moving our company toward the path of sustainability.
DC: What updates or significant accomplishments can you share with us about your company from the last six months? Xu: In the last six months, we redesigned our website to build the foundation for future development, expanded products lines, built a team of 4 top chefs, continued producing attractive social media contents, and honed our value proposition. These efforts have been very rewarding. For example, we have acquired 157 new customers and received revenue about $10,000 so far.
DC: Can you describe your typical day as a business owner? Xu: My typical day as a business owner is busy and fun. I usually read industry news and emails during my breakfast to catch up information. In the morning, I check our class bookings, billings, and cash flow to make sure things are on track. In the afternoon, I meet up with my customers, chefs, website developer and other stakeholders. Evening is a good time to reflect, and plan work for the next day.
DC: As a business owner, how do you define success? Xu: As a business owner, I think success is running a profitable company that contributes to social goods. Knowing that I am doing is helping myself and others toward a better and heartier life means a lot to me.
DC: If you could give advice to any aspiring entrepreneurs, what would it be? Xu: I would advise them to find a supportive community. I have been very lucky to have the Center’s support through the way, otherwise Fancy & Spicy would not be here today. I encourage first-time founders reach out to communities and move forward.
To learn more about Fancy & Spicy, please visit the website here.
DC: What’s your names, majors, minors, and graduation years? Rickerby:Imani Rickerby, Co-founder & COO, Public Health Science major, 2017 graduation year; Sydney Parker, Co-founder & CMO, Communications major, Women’s Studies certificate, 2018 graduation year; Jasmine Snead, Co-founder & CFO, Government & Politics major, African American Studies certificate, 2017 graduation year; Masters in Public Policy/Masters in Business Administration, 2021 graduation year
DC: Which Dingman Center programs have you been involved with? Rickerby: Dingman Jumpstart, Ladies First, Dingman Fridays, New Venture Practicum, Terp Startup Accelerator, Pitch Dingman Competition, and Terp Startup Fellows.
DC: In two to three sentences, how would you describe your startup? Rickerby: Aurora Tights is the #1 most inclusive athletic hosiery and apparel brand. We make tights for dancers and ice skaters in five shades and seven sizes, from Child Small to Adult 3X. Since its inception, Aurora has empowered performers to bring their own dynamic color and light to the stage. Aurora creates an inclusive space for all athletes to #performincolor.
DC: At what point did you know you wanted to create your own startup? Rickerby: The Aurora team is composed of a figure skater, synchronized ice skater, and a competitive dancer with over 60 years of performing experience combined. Imani Rickerby, Jasmine Snead, and Sydney Parker attended the University of Maryland, College Park, and are sisters of Delta Sigma Theta Sorority, Inc.
Jasmine, a figure skater of over 20 years, used to dye her tights in a bathtub before every competition, and the process was time-consuming, messy, experimental, and expensive. On the opposite end of the spectrum, Imani, a lifetime synchronized ice skater, grew up skating in tights that were too pale for her complexion. While they had different experiences, they were unified in feeling marginalized, unheard, and unseen in the sport they loved.
While coaching a team of young synchronized ice skaters, Jasmine and Imani noticed that many of their students, particularly those of color, were reliving their experiences of isolation. Due to the lack of diverse skating gear, their students were lacking confidence, loneliness, and identity issues. Many times, athletes of color draw away from the sport – not because of a lack of talent – but due to the lack of community. Inspired by their students, the duo both quickly realized that there was an unmet need and shared their stories with Sydney, their best friend and lifetime competitive dancer.
Sydney had a similar experience while dancing, with the added pressure of being a dark-skinned woman in a predominately white sport. The hair products, makeup, and especially the apparel never fit her appearance. Sydney’s feelings of isolation rose so high she avoided even looking in the mirror. It was only after finding her community on her collegiate team of predominantly black women that Sydney started to have confidence in not only her skills, but also her appearance. She understood then what it meant to have a support channel to turn to in times of need. Together the three decided to be the catalysts to end the destructive cycle of monoculturalism within performance sports and instead build a community of empowerment.
DC: What or who is your biggest influence for your startup? Rickerby: While we are a for-profit company, our social impact mission is directly baked into our business model. Supporting and empowering minority athletes to say involved in their passions is the fundamental driver of Aurora. We strive to make sure all athletes feel comfortable in their skin, excel at their athletic passions, and have a long-lasting tenure in their sport.
DC: Can you describe/outline your typical day as a business owner? Rickerby: Our typical day includes brainstorming strategies, solving day-to-day issues, responding to customers, monitoring our social media, and A LOT of meetings.
DC: How have the effects of the pandemic changed your company’s focus or ideas? Rickerby: Before COVID-19, Aurora Tights had a lot of momentum. However, with social distancing policies, large events and team sports practices were canceled, and sports complexes and gyms were closed. As a result, there has been a substantial decline in tight sales, and several large accounts were postponed until teams can practice safely. As entrepreneurs, we looked for the silver lining. We launched our line of at-home workout apparel which kept Aurora alive while we all stayed safe in the home. Now with everything opening up, our large accounts are coming back into focus and our tights are set to be featured in the newest Shondaland show, “Inventing Anna,” and the Broadway show “SIX”!
DC: What updates or significant accomplishments can you share with us about your company from the last six months? Rickerby: There have been a lot milestones within the last six months! We were accepted in the Desai Accelerator, which has been a huge driver for growth. Also, we hosted our third cohort of the Aurora Tights Internship, added 11 teams to our Aurora Teams program, refreshed brand, and rolled out our newest product – shimmery tights!
DC: As a young business owner, what motivates you? Rickerby: Well, both ice skating and dance are diversifying rapidly, which is a huge motivator! To best support this inclusive environment, we need to change the definition of beauty in performance sports. To do this, the first step is ensuring that all performers have apparel in their unique skin tone. Currently, there is a whole population of performers who do not have tights that match their skin color or do not like the shades that are available to them. We strive to make sure adults and children, just like us, feel comfortable in their skin and excel at their athletic passions.
DC: If you could give advice to any aspiring entrepreneurs, what would it be? Rickerby: So many times as young people, we feel unqualified to go after our vision. We are so hard on ourselves and feel as if we must first become experts at something before execution. Yet many people do not put those same pressures on themselves and instead exude a confidence that is needed for the entrepreneurship world. I encourage young people to work every day on building that same level of confidence in themselves and to not be afraid to just do it. There is so much magic in our ideas and the world would be made better for it!
For more information about Aurora, please visit the website here.
DC: What are your names, majors, and graduation years? Su: Jeff Su — Finance and Supply Chain Management ’21, Wyatt Talcott — Marketing ’22, Max Levine — Finance ’22, Joe Oleynik — Information Systems ’23
DC: Which Dingman Center programs have you been involved with? Su: Pitch Dingman 2019, Terp Startup 2020.
DC: In two to three sentences, how would you describe your startup? Su: We specialize in making a variety of different snack bars from protein, energy, to trail mix and even dessert bars. They’re low in sugar and packed with fiber so they’ll keep you feeling full without the sugar crash.
DC: What or who is your biggest influence for your startup? Su: Gary Vaynerchuk. He’s the one that inspired me to just start and the whole thing a shot.
DC: How have the effects of the pandemic changed your company’s focus or ideas? Su: We definitely switched gears and started doubling down on e-commerce. A majority of our sales are now coming from our website which has been awesome to see. It’s also given us enough time to think long term and plan for the future. We’ve got exciting projects ahead that’ll hopefully push us to our next milestone.
DC: What updates or significant accomplishments can you share with us about your company from the last six months? Su: In the past 6 months we’ve actually gotten the chance to sell at our first farmers market up in Rockville—Derwood Farmers Market. It was amazing to get back to our roots and do in-person sales again. On top of that, we had the opportunity to partner up with a few of the local neighborhood outdoor pools which not only drove more sales but also let us get our name out there to new customers. Overall, we’ve seen high recurring customer rates and overall really positive feedback from the community. We’ve also been doing a lot of R&D recently that’ll hopefully help drive more sales coming up. There may be a shift in our current product line but more time is needed. Moving forward we want to start investing heavily in media marketing since that has been one of the key areas we’ve been lacking for some time now.
DC: If you could give advice to any aspiring entrepreneurs, what would it be? Su: Be prepared to work really hard. It requires a lot of sacrifice. There’ll be a ton of distractions and things that won’t work in your favor; if you’re not willing or dedicated enough it’ll make you want to quit at every step. So ensure you’re having fun putting work into your venture and don’t gloss over even the smallest victories.
To learn more about ModBars, please visit the website here.
UPDATE – Recently, we caught up with Brice to get a few updates on iUnit. Within the next few weeks, iUnit will deliver to tenants the first project and MVP. This video gives the viewer a glimpse into the construction process and community amenities. In additional news, iUnit is expanding its partnership with the National Renewable Energy Laboratory (NREL), one of the world’s largest research centers focused on energy efficiency. The iUnit prototype will be housed in NREL’s Energy Systems Integration Facility where it will be used in testing everything from materials used to build the iUnit to energy efficient mechanical systems like iUnits battery and software systems.
It’s an exciting time for Brice and his team. To put a finer point on the company’s progress, Brice commented “iUnit is essentially the electric car of housing.”
February 4, 2015 – Envision the Prius of apartment buildings: wired with the latest “smart” technology, environmentally friendly, affordable, cool. That’s exactly what lifelong entrepreneur Brice Leconte delivers in his latest venture, iUnit.
Brice is one of the Dingman Center’s EIRs (Entrepreneurs-In-Residence), who help UMD students realize their entrepreneurial ideas during the Dingman Center’s weekly Dingman Fridays sessions. A long-time entrepreneur, Brice has a passion for disrupting industries and building socially active companies. He has started and invested in a wide range of businesses, from real estate development, to bricks and mortar, to e-commerce and tech startups. Today, he is focused on disrupting the real estate industry with his latest brand, iUnit.
Startup marketing can involve a variety of different activities, from the creation of promotional materials to Search Engine Optimization. Given limited time and resources, particularly among student entrepreneurs, it can be overwhelming to think about where to start.
Your marketing focus will depend upon the nature of your business and your target customer. For a fairly comprehensive list of marketing tools and resources, for everything from Advertising to Analytics, check out The Essential List of Start-up Marketing Resources.
In celebration of UMD’s 3rd Annual 30 Days of Entrepreneurship, the Dingman Center EIRs will be on the TerpRide bus on these two dates to provide startup feedback to Terps. The bus will be parked outside the Stamp Student Union. Terps can pitch their business ideas on the bus from 11 a.m. to 1 p.m.
April 22: 10th Anniversary Cupid’s Cup Competition
Join Under Armour CEO Kevin Plank and an all-star panel of judges as six student entrepreneur finalists compete for more than $115K in cash prizes in one of the world’s toughest business competitions. RSVP today, space is limited and the event will sell out!
May 6: Inaugural Rudy Awards presented by the Dingman Center for Entrepreneurship
Guests will be invited to join the Center for its inaugural awards celebration where honors will be given to a Student Entrepreneur of the Year; Mentor of the Year; Alumni Entrepreneur of the Year; a Faculty Award and more. Invitations will be distributed in the upcoming weeks.
May 7-9: Smith Entrepreneurship Research Conference
The Robert H. Smith School of Business’ Management and Organization Department will host the 11th Annual Smith Entrepreneurship Research Conference (SERC) in Van Munching Hall. The conference is a gathering of PhD students and professors who perform research on the topic of entrepreneurship. It’s an opportunity for researchers across the world to exchange ideas about their work. Click here for more information.
May 21: UMD Commencement Ceremony
The Dingman Center will see many Fearless Founders, MBAs and other student entrepreneurs walk across the graduation stage. For details, please visit ww.rhsmith.umd.edu/commencement/.
May 23-31: AdVENTURE Challenge: China
The Dingman Center will travel to China for the 9th Annual China Business Model Competition. This year’s delegation includes MBA students from the Smith School and the Technion-Israel Institute of Technology. Check out more details here.
Last week’s snow storm couldn’t keep the Smith community from celebrating student entrepreneurship at the spring 2015 Pitch Dingman Competition. Held twice annually, the competition gives student entrepreneurs the opportunity to apply and compete for $3,500 in startup funding.
Five finalists were selected to pitch their businesses to a packed auditorium and all-star judges panel on Wednesday, March 4 at Van Munching Hall. The judging panel included Asher Epstein, COO of Access Health Group; Harry Geller, Entrepreneur in Residence at Dingman Center for Entrepreneurship; Liz Sara, CEO of Best Marketing LLC; Mark Walsh, Founder & CEO of Genius Rocket; and Tien Wong, CEO of Opus8, Inc. (pictured below with Elana Fine, Managing Director of the Dingman Center for Entrepreneurship).
Elana Fine, Asher Epstein, Mark Walsh, Harry Geller, Liz Sara and Tien Wong.
On March 4th, five Terp start-ups will compete for $3,500 in funding at the semi-annual Pitch Dingman Competition, which will be held from 6:00-7:30 p.m. in Tyser Auditorium, Van Munching Hall. The finalists will each have 6 minutes to pitch their business before the UMD community.
An all-star panel of judges will select the most promising companies to walk away with the cash prizes. The audience will also have the chance to text-to-vote for their favorite company and award them the $500 Audience Choice Award. Make sure you register to attend and bring a friend to cast your votes at the competition!
We hope everyone had a happy holiday season and is refreshed for a productive spring semester at Van Munching Hall.
The Dingman Center is hosting many exciting entrepreneurship events and programs this spring. Here are a few you don’t want to miss!
The 10th Annual Cupid’s Cup
An impressive 197 applications were submitted from 93 universities around the globe for the 10th Annual Cupid’s Cup competition, chaired by Under Armour CEO and Terp alumnus, Kevin Plank.
The applications — which hailed from the U.S., Canada, Mexico, Thailand, Greece, Nigeria, and beyond — are now undergoing the initial review process. Judges will select 12 applicants to advance to the semifinals on March 12. Watch out for that announcement in mid-February. And, be sure to save the date for the showcase and final competition on Wednesday, April 22, 2015, at the Clarice Smith Performing Arts Center at the University of Maryland.
For all those student entrepreneurs out there, are you ready to take your startup to the next level? Consider applying for the spring Pitch Dingman Competition to be held March 4, 2015, from 6-7:30pm at in Tyser Auditorium in Van Munching Hall. Five finalists will pitch to a panel of all-star judges including regional entrepreneurs and members of the Smith School community, as they compete for $3,500 in start-up funding.
The application deadline is Monday, February 16 at 10 a.m. Click here for more information and eligibility requirements.
Pitch Dingman Sessions are Back!
Beginning Friday, Jan. 30, Pitch Dingman sessions will continue every Friday for the remainder of the semester. Students, faculty, staff and alumni are encouraged to attend a walk-in sessions from 11 a.m. to 1 p.m. to get feedback on their business ideas. In addition to insights from experienced entrepreneurs, participants will leave Pitch Dingman with actionable next steps. Students interested in competing in the March 4 Pitch Dingman Competition must attend at least one walk-in session.
Questions? Email email@example.com or visit the website.
To hear about additional events, programs and news, visit our website, follow us on Twitter, like us on Facebook, connect with us on LinkedIn and continue reading this blog.
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.