Introducing the New Fearless Founders Hatch Cohort

The Dingman Center is excited to announce the next class of student entrepreneurs who have graduated to the Fearless Founders Hatch course. These entrepreneurs have completed important milestones from the Idea Shell stage, including customer development and building their minimum viable products. Now in the Hatch class, students will use the lean launchpad methodology to further develop their ideas, iterate 1their business models, and perfect their pitches. During the first class, Elana Fine set the tone for the semester by telling the cohort they would each be expected to conduct 100 customer interviews. Throughout the semester they will also build experiments, find metrics that matter and measure them, and finally learn from key assumptions. Then lather, rinse and repeat.

Meet our Fall 2014 Fearless Founders Hatch Cohort:

Benjamin Broch
“Have you ever wished your outlet was located in a different part of the room? With AnyOutlet, you’ll be able to properly relocate an outlet into any area in your room. We all know that finding an outlet to charge up all of your electronic devices can be a hassle. AnyOutlet will solve this problem.”

AutoDrive (AutoDL)
Maron Fasil
“I plan on creating a smartphone app that would allow people to carry digital drivers’ licenses and vehicle registration information. These would be the two main functions of the app, but I plan to add other features that would allow for easy mobile transactions, such as paying tickets and fines, as well as setting up various DMV appointments.”

AZ ConsultingFF1
Ayana Cotton
“I want to empower creatives by offering consulting as it relates to brand positioning, marketing strategies, and making innovation work for them.  In a scalable way, I want to rid our society of the stigma that the creative is the most likely to starve.”

Bethany’s Organics
Bethany Monaghan
“Bethany’s Organics provides honestly healthy and delicious food for those times when you are on the go.”

Pablo Zalduondo
“BikeTex specializes in at-home bicycle repair and maintenance. We save our customers time, energy and money by performing our services at their homes!”

GloboClub Fitness
Daniel Stern
“With the Universal Gym Membership, you will have thousands of home gyms away from home.  Whether traveling in New York City, Los Angeles, or London, you will be able to workout at any participating gym of your choice without buying a full time membership or being forced to use a one-time only visitor’s pass.”

Green Shell
Joshua Tyler (JT) Stanley
“Green Shell seeks to reduce greenhouse gas emissions by making environmental reforms financially favorable for businesses. This is executed specifically through replacing disposable food containers with a sustainable reusable container system that will accumulate fewer expenses in the long term.”

Eric Golman
“Javazen is a dry blend of coffee, green tea and raw chocolate. It is the answer to the market demand for a better tasting, ethically sourced, and healthier caffeinated beverage.”

Omar Goheer
“K. Sultana seeks to solve the prevalent problem of discomfort, caused by hot temperatures, experienced by Muslim women who wear the headscarf. Our business follows a social enterprise model that supports women’s entrepreneurship and skills development initiatives.”

Locks of Curls
Fredrica Antwi
“Locks of Curls is a monthly subscription service that focuses on both men and women with naturally curly hair. The service will allow customers to input their hair characteristics as well as how they usually style their hair so that each box sent is geared towards their hair type. Each month the customer will receive a box filled with mini and/or deluxe-sized samples to try and to experiment with.”

Rafiki BeadsFF2
Kikanae Punyua
“Rafiki Beads creates bracelets with beads sourced from Kenya.”

Adam Grudman
“Snaapiq is the first photo contest based social media phone app on the market.  Our sell is that we are the photo contest experts and businesses should use our platform for all of their photo contest needs.”

Social Chair
Brandon Schwab
“I am going to solve the problem of social miscommunication and event planning for young adults after college graduation though an innovative social engagement app.”

TWS Innovation
Douglas Falatko, Jack Rupple, EJ White, Ryan Smearman, and Vishwant Tatagari
“TWS Innovation researches, develops, and markets safe, legal cognitive enhancing supplements covering performance metrics such as focus, energy, mood, and more.”

Venture U
Travis Mitchell
“Venture U uses technology to bring practical entrepreneurship training to students in developing countries! We give them the tools to create their own social change and well-being by empowering teachers to teach our non-academic program in a culturally-relevant way.”

Sam Feldman
“Yolk’d aims to provide high quality protein powder in disposable plastic bottles to eliminate the need for gym-goers to clean their reusable bottles.”

Chetan Singh
Chetan is working on bringing natural sugar-cane juice to the US market.


Beyond the Classroom: Dingman EIRs, Staff and Faculty in the News

Those who spend a lot of time in Van Munching Hall know that the Dingman Center is an excellent resource for student entrepreneurs at the University of Maryland.

But, Dingman’s EIRs (Entrepreneurs in Residence), staff and faculty are not only dedicated to entrepreneurship and innovation on campus — many of them are also entrepreneurs themselves or thought leaders in the field.

Here’s a look at what our talented faculty and staff have been up to off-campus:

Marketplace Radio – Sept. 5 – David Kirsch, associate professor of management and entrepreneurship, talks about Tesla’s $5 billion battery factory as a bet based on present driving habits: “Maybe we all just call an Uber or a Google car. And we don’t care how it’s powered, or how much it costs. We’re kind of predicting marginal changes. We may be missing the radical change.” Listen

Business Standard – Sept. 1Silk Road Rediscovered - Anil Gupta - page 5 Anil Gupta, Michael D. Dingman Chair in Strategy and Entrepreneurship, responds to questions related to his book, “The Silk Road Rediscovered: How Indian and Chinese Companies are Winning in Each Other’s Markets.” Read … Related Q&A Aug. 10 via South China Daily Post.

Business Rx – Aug. 23 – Dingman Center Entrepreneur-in-Residence Liz Sara advises a consultant on taking on outside investment capital. Read

Business Rx – Aug. 10 – Dingman Center Managing Director Elana Fine answers reader questions in an online chat. Read

Stay tuned for more insights from Dingman’s EIRs, faculty and staff!

Terp Startup Kivvik Is Helping College Students Find Jobs

By Danielle Bennings

20140304061411-Kivvik-Logo-GreenCo-Founders Emmanuel Kaska and Chike Nwankwo first began developing their idea for Kivvik during the summer of 2013. Their original goal was to build a platform that would help college students find jobs. After examining the market through months of customer interviews during the Fearless Founders program, they discovered that there was a divide in the way businesses hire candidates. Large enterprise companies such as GE and Boston Consulting have the capital to assess all their candidates with behavioral analysis assessments, in tandem with an interview. As a result, they are able to receive a full picture of their candidates. Chike and Emmanuel saw an opportunity to partner with universities to deliver robust assessments to businesses that cannot afford to pay thousands of dollars for all candidates to take assessments.

Since then, Kivvik has formed a full team including Jeremy Horowitz, VP of Marketing, as well as messaging, assessment and sales staff. The current version of Kivvik’s product is designed to integrate various assessments covering the categories of risk and stress analysis, emotional intelligence, and critical thinking to provide employers with complete candidate recommendations.


Since getting involved, the Kivvik team has been no stranger to the Dingman Center, committing many hours in our co-working space to further the business. Only a few months after developing the idea, Kivvik competed in the Pitch Dingman Competition during Global Entrepreneurship Week. They later went on to enroll in the Fearless Founders Hatch course and was one of only two companies to be awarded a $2,500 Capital One grant. According to the team, the Dingman Center has “made a significant difference in helping [them] transition from college students to entrepreneurs running [their] own business”.


The company received some interest from Rob McGovern; a UMD alumnus and serial entrepreneur who took his first business, CareerBuilder, public. In 2004, he founded the online job-search site Jobfox, and he is now the CEO of CoBrain. Having experience in the industry, Rob McGovern agreed to a meeting with the Kivvik team. Chike, Emmanuel and Jeremy learned a lot from that meeting and are currently working to accomplish some of the short-tern goals suggested by McGovern. They focused on three goals this summer: 1) wrapping up sales and referral initiatives, 2) pursuing external funding to grow the team and diversify product offerings, and 3) improving the product both on the front and back-end.

To student entrepreneurs, the Kivvik team says “once you have a great idea, execution is key. You need to have the drive to get up every morning to do what most people consider the impossible.” They also recommend watching a YouTube video called “Life is Best Lived“. The team watches it at least once every week to stay motivated.

Stay connected with Kivvik on Facebook, Twitter and LinkedIn.

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.

locksofcurls3 (1)

Fredrica got involved with the Dingman Center last year as she was browsing the Smith School’s website. She had just begun thinking about her idea for Locks of Curls but hadn’t made much progress. Frederica knew she needed guidance and resources. After reading about the Center’s student accelerator, Fearless Founders, Fredrica thought the program could help her bring the idea to life. She then applied and was accepted to phase one of the accelerator, Idea Shell. Fredrica spent seven weeks using the Lean Launchpad methodology  to discover and talk to customers all the while receiving advice from Dingman Center Entrepreneurs in Residence. After completing Idea Shell, she competed in a Pitch Dingman Competition and won a $500 grant from Capital One to build her minimum viable product.


giveawayFollowing the Pitch Dingman Competition, Fredrica launched a YouTube channel and
immediately uploaded two videos. The YouTube channel has become a platform for people with curly hair of different ethnicities to talk about the products they use. The videos showcase two women of different races showing how the same products can work on different types of curls. The products are from the brand Texture My Way, a Locks of Curls sponsor. With this strategic partnership in place, Fredrica launched a giveaway of free products. Users who subscribe to the Locks of Curls YouTube channel and leave a comment on one of the videos are entered to win four full-sized products from Texture My Way. Until August 15, people can also enter by sending a tweet to @locksofcurls on Twitter.

This fall, Fredrica will complete Fearless Founders stage two, called Hatch, taught by Elana Fine. In the second stage of the accelerator program, she hopes to focus more on bringing her product to life. For Fredrica, a big part of the Idea Shell stage was determining if the product can exist and customer segments. She is looking forward to taking the research and customer development from Idea Shell and making Locks of Curls a reality.

Fredrica’s next milestone is to finalize suppliers and packaging so that she can start shipping Locks of Curls to monthly subscribers by February 2015. To other student entrepreneurs, Fredrica says “As a student entrepreneur, you tend to make a lot of excuses because you have so many other things going on that will sometimes take priority over your business. It’s important to keep trying — don’t get discouraged.”

Meet Fearless Founder Chris Lane

By Danielle Bennings

Chris Lane is a Smith School student that wears many hats: entrepreneur, Fearless Founder and campus leader, just to name a few. The role we at the Dingman Center know him best for is founder and CEO of Procity, a University of Maryland service network that rewards users for doing Procity Logo 2014 good. Chris got the idea for Procity, during his first semester at UMD. While taking a Psychology 101 course, he learned about reciprocity; doing something good that may result in getting something good in return, but not asking for it. Chris developed Procity to combat the idea that money is the only value in society. Using his platform, you can do good in your community and receive rewards such as discounts from restaurants or ProPoints used to obtain items from the site. The company launched on September 17, 2013 and now has more than 470 users.

Procity Team

Chris Lane and his co-founder Dev Kavathekar enrolled in the Fearless Founders course because they loved the idea of getting school credit for working on their business. On the first day, the pair did not know what to expect. Would it be free time to work on your business? What would the lessons be like? Instead, Elana Fine quickly taught them to go back to the basics. They learned to take a step back and think carefully about their customers and the value proposition for each customer segment. As a result of taking the course, the Procity team now has a solid platform in place. Their goal for the summer has been to make the platform more sustainable to retain customers for the long haul. Learning from their extensive customer feedback, the team is also working on a more streamlined way for users to claim rewards and improved site navigation.

In addition to working on Procity, Chris was a summer Resident Director for the Smith School’s LEAD program, which provides 30 high-achieving, rising high school seniors the opportunity to explore finance, entrepreneurship, accounting, and marketing for two full weeks at UMD. Chris led and trained a team of five resident assistants, while facilitating team cohesion and managing projects behind the scenes.

This year’s LEAD program required the students to develop a business idea and create a 15-minute pitch by the end of the last week. Dingman Center staff, Danielle Bennings and Adam VanWagner, were brought in to teach courses on “Ideation” and “How to Pitch,” as well as provide coaching for the final presentations.


Chris Lane is used to juggling a lot of responsibilities. To other student entrepreneurs, he says, “don’t be afraid for your priorities to shift. One day you will be focusing on your business and the next day you are going to HAVE to focus on studying for a test. The next day you might have to focus on being the leader of an organization. Be prepared for that.”

Stay connected with Procity on Facebook and Twitter.

Catching Up With Dingman Venture Fellow Bethy Hagan

By Danielle Bennings

Second-year MBA student, Bethy Hagan was not the traditional MBA candidate. After completing her undergraduate degree in liberal arts at the University of Virgina, she wasn’t interested in the corporate culture and stumbled into a job at a startup in California. Although it wasn’t what she initially envisioned for herself, Bethy fell in love with the exciting startup culture on the west coast. Knowing she wanted to move back to her hometown of Baltimore, MD, she searched for top-tier entrepreneurship centers in the area, which brought her to the Smith School and the Dingman Center for Entrepreneurship. Bethy dove in head first during her first year as a Smith MBA. You may remember her as one of the guest bloggers from the AdVENTURE Challenge: China and as a member of the winning team at the China Business Model competition!


Grand Prize winning team, Wireless ISP, with Smith School and Peking University leadership.

Bethy is spending her summer as a Dingman Venture Fellow; a program for MBA students who are highly interested in entrepreneurial innovation and/or startups. Through this program, students who are designated Dingman Venture Fellows work closely with the Dingman Center and the Office of Career Services to pursue

summer internships with VC- or angel- funded startups and early stage companies. Bethy is currently a marketing and strategy intern at SocialToaster, a Dingman Center Angels portfolio company that helps brands engage with their fans through a platform that allows the easy sharing of content over multiple social networks. She is spearheading a marketing campaign that includes paid advertising and tailoring content that targets the right people at the right time. Like all interns, she can add “other duties as assigned” to her job description.

For Bethy, the most appealing aspect of working at a startup is being able to lead projects that really make a difference. Startups that have a small staff and are going through a growth phase aren’t looking for MBA talent to stuff envelopes and make coffee. Instead, Dingman Venture Fellows, including Bethy, work on mission critical assignments that can truly impact the growth of the startup. The results of a Venture Fellow’s work is seen almost instantly, motivating them to do their best every day.

At the end of her first year as a Smith MBA, Bethy was named one of only two Hisaoka Fellows for best exemplifying the entrepreneurial spirit and mindset  through her involvement with the Dingman Center and other academic and non-academic entrepreneurial endeavors.

Upon graduating next May, Bethy hopes to work for an early stage company where she can manage the process of scaling up. Her professional goal is to help companies become more sustainable and maintain best practices while bringing on new clients. To other students who want to work at a startup, Bethy says, “Take initiative and ask for what you want. They’re not going to look for you when they need help; they’re going to keep going. Ask for meetings and ask for deadlines.”

For more updates from the Dingman Center’s connected community of remarkable entrepreneurs, follow the blog, like us on Facebook and follow us on Twitter.

Hagan_E-21Aug13-5Bethy Hagan is a first year MBA student and Dingman Venture Fellow from Baltimore, MD. She received her undergraduate degree from the University of Virginia. Following graduation, she worked for a sports startup in Santa Monica, CA in a variety of operations and program management roles. Through the Smith School and the Dingman Center she hopes to build her understanding of strategy implementation in order to assist in the growth and development of early stage companies.


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.


In the fall of 2012, Scott and his co-founders took a big risk. They landed a meeting with Dingman Center Managing Director Elana Fine, and pitched her on their platform to be used for the EnTERPreneur Academy (now Fearless Founders). Scott and his team had to show how excel spreadsheets simply weren’t cutting it anymore. They outlined how the product would address the program’s pain points and were able to demo a working minimal viable product. Their hustle paid off as the Dingman Center and University of Maryland later became their first paying customer. During the summer of 2013, the VentureBoard team began building the first custom “university-side” of the platform for UMD.


Now, VentureBoard is being used in the classroom for the Fearless Founders course to facilitate building the business model canvas. It is also being used by student groups to collaborate, and the platform keeps faculty members aware of growing student startups on campus that they otherwise wouldn’t know about. Outside of UMD, VentureBoard is also being used at North Carolina State University, the University of Virginia, and with two non-university customers in Washington D.C.

Scott decided to enroll in the Fearless Founders Hatch course to continue the customer discovery process. The most beneficial aspect of the course was that the users of VentureBoard were in classroom alongside him. Scott says, “The class provided a structure that I can use when talking to other schools. It helped me to make sure I wasn’t just building something, but I was acquiring new customers along the way”.


Last month, Scott Block and VentureBoard were awarded a $500 NCIIA grant to support Scott-Aviworking on the business this summer. The VentureBoard team has been able to use the money for travel costs associated with reaching out to new schools throughout the state of Pennsylvania. Summer is the heart of their sales cycle, as universities have time in between semesters to evaluate new tools, making the next few months crucial for Scott and his team. Currently, the team is cleaning up the platform based on the feedback they have gotten from the past year. June and July will focus on showcasing these improvements in order to help attract new customers and retain old ones.


To his fellow student entrepreneurs, Scott says, “don’t hesitate to put your feet in the water and dive in pretty early on. It is really important to talk to people who are ultimately going to be your paying customers. The customer interview process taught by the Dingman Center has been very helpful!”

VentureBoard is currently looking for new universities to partner with. All inquiries can be addressed to Scott Block at

You can also stay connected with VentureBoard on Twitter.

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 His track record of participation in the entrepreneurial community at UMD doesn’t end with the Pitch Dingman Competition. Daniel also participated in the Startup Showcase at Cupid’s Cup in 2011, 2013 and 2014. noskin 2 Since pitching Greek Recruits as a freshman, Daniel has moved on to a new venture called Parallel (formerly Parallel Tracks). Parallel is a social networking website and mobile application that gives users the ability to broadcast and listen to music with others in real time, creating a more social and enjoyable listening experience. Using a twitter like interface, users can “track” more than just their friends. They can also follow their favorite celebrities, athletes, and musicians to discover new music in a unique way. Detailed analytics help users strategize their music brand so that they can target specific audiences and advertise accordingly. parallel Through pursuing Parallel wholeheartedly, Daniel became one of the star students in the Fearless Founders Hatch cohort. After months of customer interviews and research, he realized there was not enough traction. Daniel is now developing a completely new app designed around a more minimalist approach; listening with athletes in real time. Just before graduating, he was awarded $2,500 grant from Capital One to continue working on Parallel. A true entrepreneur, it is no surprise that Daniel Noskin was offered a position at successful startup, Dropbox, in Autin, TX. Even with the new job, Daniel will continue to work on Parallel. To the other student entrepreneurs following in his footsteps, Daniel says “adventure always. After all, no one wishes they slept more in college.” To stay updated on this Terp alumnus, follow him on Twitter @dnosk

Alumni Spotlight with KidFit Academy

Since 1986, the Dingman Center for Entrepreneurship has helped foster countless students and entrepreneurs. We are always excited to speak with alumni about their successes. Today, we caught up with Margaret Croushore (Maggie), a 2013 UMD graduate who launched her business, KidFit Academy, in Oakland, California.

Grant Lee (GL): Hi Maggie! Tell me about yourself?
Maggie Croushore (MC): I graduated from the University of Maryland School of Public Policy in May 2013, with a focus in education policy and nonprofit management and leadership. Prior to UMD, I taught middle school literacy in Washington, DC for four years. I became involved with the Dingman Center at the end of my first year at UMD, when I pitched an idea that would get students more active throughout the school day. The idea has evolved over time into what is now KidFit Academy.

GL: Describe your business. What is the problem? What is your solution?
MC: KidFit Academy promotes healthy lifestyles, enhances academic achievement, and improves classroom culture through purposeful fitness education. Affecting about 1 in 3 children in the US, childhood obesity is a serious problem, with huge ramifications on children’s emotional, academic, and physical well-being. Concurrently, teachers have the immense challenge of teaching increasingly difficult standards, often with limited resources. Due to budget cuts and decreased resources, schools are limiting—or cutting completely—subjects like physical education. As a result, students are spending a lot of time sitting still, with limited opportunity for purposeful movement. KidFit addresses these issues with its holistic program designed specifically for teachers, giving them the resources they need to not only get kids moving, but also save time by facilitating smooth, peaceful transitions, allowing them to teach more material more efficiently. KidFit Academy provides materials and support to teachers as they implement three “10-minute activity brain breaks” at strategic moments throughout the day: morning, after lunch/recess, and mid-afternoon. These breaks are designed specifically for the needs of students at the specific time of day, helping them release energy, increase focus and better prepare their brains to absorb knowledge.

GL: How did you get involved with Dingman Center?
MC: I first got involved with the Dingman Center in spring 2012. At the end of my first year at Maryland, I pitched an early versionof KidFit Academy in the Pitch Dingman Competition, winning some initial funding to start testing the idea. The following summer, I participated in a week-long program sponsored by the Center, during which I furthered my idea and received more funds that allowed me to launch a pilot program at a local DC high school. The pilot went extremely well; students in the program lost, on average, 1-2 inches off of their waists and completed a grueling 5k running event at the end of the program. That success helped me launch another pilot program in Chicago. I was still in DC, but I managed the program remotely, testing how successful the program could be in a different setting. I worked with an elementary/middle school teacher and the program was also a huge success! Students in the program not only improved their health, but were also more engaged at school and showed increased understanding of important life skills.

GL: How do you differentiate your business from competitors?
MC: Education and health/wellness is a competitive market. One thing that makes KidFit Academy different is that it is structured within the school day, which is uncommon. It is hard to penetrate the school day since the time is so incredibly valuable and, rightfully, carefully monitored. As a result, many health/wellness programs are typically reserved for after school. KidFit’s model and program allows it to serve a different, and very important, need. Also, in order to increase accessibility, KidFit Academy provides all the tools teachers need to use the program online. As long as there is an Internet connection, they can use the program.

GL: What’s your vision for your Kid Fit Academy?
MC: KidFit Academy seeks to truly transformthe way schools approach fitness education. With school models, philosophies, and structures shifting, it is time for movement in schools to innovate as well. And,KidFit is about more than just movement; it uses fitness as a tool to help students build strength of body,mind, and character. Each week, an important life skill, such as goal-setting, determination, and grit, is introduced and discussed throughout the week. Most importantly, KidFit strives to bring joy and fun back to the classroom, allowing, teachers can connect to students on a whole other level. KidFit is not just about decreasing obesity among children, but also about creating healthier communities through fitness. When multiple teachers use KidFit, schools see the power of fitness transform the health of not only the school, but also the entire community.

GL: What made you want to become an entrepreneur?
MC: It sounds funny because I definitely wasn’t looking to be an entrepreneur. Entrepreneurship found me. Before policy school, I was an English teacher in a DC middle school. Prior to that, I studied childhood obesity from an academic perspective, writing my undergraduate thesis on the link between symbolic advertising and childhood obesity. When I began teaching, I saw the ramifications of childhood obesity play out in my classroom. In DC, 1 in 3 students are overweight or obese, causing huge emotional, academic, and physical challenges. I became increasingly frustrated with the lack of role schools were taking to improve this and decided to do something about it. Growing up, sports and fitness had been a huge part of my life. I like to call myself an athlete by choice, not design. I was not graced with much natural athletic talent, but I have pushed myself to be active, regularly participating in marathons and triathlons. I have seen the power of fitness transform my life and wanted to share that with kids. When I was teaching, I would use similar concepts to get kids moving in my English class and decided to create a program to harness this power in a more strategic way.

GL: What challenges have you encountered so far?
MC: Being an entrepreneur is really hard. As I mentioned, I first piloted the program in fall 2012 and am still learning about how best to achieve KidFit’s mission and vision. Last spring, I graduated from policy school and made the decision to pursue KidFit full time, moving across the country in August. It was a huge challenge to understand the new education environment in the San Francisco Bay area; I am still learning more every day. However, with a deep culture of entrepreneurship and dedication tohealthy lifestyles, I knew that it was the perfect place for KidFit to prosper and grow. But, similar to any market, it has its challenges. I am constantly meeting with key stakeholders to better understand the unique needs of the area. Despite all of the challenges, though, I continue to focus on KidFit’s mission; the work needs to happen and I am determined to persist.

GL: Female entrepreneurs are gaining attention. How does being an entrepreneur and a woman affect you?
MC: There have been times when I looked around and was one of the only women at events, especially in a founder role. However, I do see that this is changing. Recently, I attended a conference sponsored by y-combinator for female founders. There were over 500 women in attendance, many of whom were in a founding role. It was great to not only meet other awesome entrepreneurs but also share some unique challenges for female entrepreneurs. Entrepreneurship can be lonely; it is always great to connect with others who are having similar challenges.It is especially important for entrepreneurs from historically underrepresented populations, such as women, to build connections and support each other along the way.

GL: What does entrepreneurship mean to you?
MC: That’s a good question. Entrepreneurship is about creation and empowerment. Seeing a problem and working hard to solve it, no matter what. To succeed, you need to completely put your pride and ego aside. You also have to be passionate because if you are not 100% determined, it is not going to be successful.

GL: Is there anything else that you would like to share?
MC: This has been a great journey and I owe a lot to the Dingman Center and MSPP’s Center for Philanthropy and Nonprofit Management for their guidance and support. I learned a lot at UMD and definitely built a lot of confidence and practiced articulating my idea through the various competitions. I am also excited to announce that the first Bay Area program launched in a kindergarten class this spring and it is going extremely well!  Students in the program are loving the exercises and demonstrate increased focus, engagement, and joy in the classroom. The teacher is also noticing that she saves time in transitions, allowing her to cover more material throughout the day.  KidFit has a long way to go to achieve its mission but we are taking small steps every day. Thanks so much to everyone who has supported (and will support) KidFit along the way!

Maggie Croushore_Picture

Maggie Croushore
An advocate for educational and health equity, Maggie Croushore holds a bachelor’s degree from Boston College, a Masters of Teaching from American University, and a Masters of Public Policy from the University of Maryland.  Maggie was a four-year middle school English teacher in Washington, DC and a Teach for America corps member.  She is also an avid athlete, teaching group cycling and participating regularly in athletic events; she has completed many marathons, half marathons, 5K’s, 10K’s, and triathlons, including a half Ironman.

Grant Lee
Grant Lee is a second year full-time MBA student focused on Marketing at the Robert H. Smith School of Business. Prior to Smith, he had four years of experience in retail marketing and sales management. He is passionate about sports, marketing, and entrepreneurship. To learn more about him, check out his blog: 


KidFit AcademyKidFit Academy
KidFit promotes healthy lifestyles, enhances academic achievement and improves school culture through purposeful fitness education.  Our structured program incorporates 3 “10 minute activity brain breaks” emphasizing health and character development at strategic moments throughout the school day. Students are taught important life skills—such as goal-setting, grit, and determination—while increasing fitness levels and preparing their brains to absorb knowledge. By empowering teachers, KidFit helps transform the health of schools and communities.

Connect with KidFit

Diagnostic anSERS Launches Affordable Trace Detection Technology

We first began working with Diagnostic anSERS a few years ago when Sean Virgile began coming to the Dingman Center for advising. Since then, Sean has competed in Cupid’s Cup, become a Fearless Founder, and moved into M Square Research Park. Take a look at the latest press release from Diagnostic anSERS for an update on the company.

Diagnostic anSERS has introduced a groundbreaking SERS sensor that enables trace chemical detection for only a few dollars per test, a sensor that is poised to bring SERS into the mainstream.

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SERS, or Surface Enhanced Raman Spectroscopy, enables measurement of a molecule’s uniquely identifying Raman “fingerprint” at trace levels. While Raman alone can only identify bulk materials, SERS enables the sample’s molecular fingerprint to be obtained at millions of times lower concentrations than would be possible using Raman alone.

By applying a sample to a SERS substrate (sensor) and measuring the fingerprint with a handheld spectrometer, molecular identification can be carried out at the parts per billion level in under a minute. Despite this incredible promise, SERS has been hamstrung by the high cost of commercially available SERS substrates, at $50-100 per disposable sensor.

P-SERS™ is the first SERS sensor that is both cost effective, at a few dollars per test, and highly sensitive, outperforming the $100 market leader by 10-100× in independent testing. While existing substrates are rigid sensors on silicon wafers, P-SERS™ substrates are flexible and can be used as dipsticks or surface swabs as well as a cost-effective alternative to existing silicon wafer substrates. Diagnostic anSERS is able to achieve this combination of low-cost and high sensitivity through a patent pending technique in which roll to roll ink-jet printing is used to precisely deposit special nanoparticle ink onto paper and other flexible support materials.

P-SERS Slide Mounted

These easy-to-use sensors can be used for detection of a wide variety of molecules, including drugs, explosives, food contaminants and taggants for anti-counterfeiting. Custom sensors are available which can be optimized for detection of targets which are difficult to measure and/or require ultra-high sensitivity, such as biological markers. Tests which previously would have required samples being sent to centralized labs, with the consequent multi-day wait and high price tag, can now be performed on-site. Affordable access to this class of ultra-trace detection enables practical screening in a wide variety of applications.

P-SERS™ research was recently featured as the cover article in the prestigious analytical chemistry journal Analyst. In this article, the researchers demonstrated detection of malathion, an organophosphate (class of insecticides and nerve agents) at 413 picograms. They also demonstrated detection of heroin and cocaine at 9 and 15 nanograms, respectively. Notably, these dipsticks and surface swabs were shown to provide repeatable, quantitative measurements, reporting the amount of drug residue on the surface (not merely presence/absence).


Eric Hoppmann, co-founder of Diagnostic anSERS, said, “We have combined best-in-class detection performance with ease of use and a game changing price point. While P-SERS™ substrates are a drop in replacement for existing substrates, what’s more exciting to us is the ability to apply this technology to address applications which were previously infeasible.”

P-SERS™ premiered at SPIE DSS 2014, a global conference on sensing for defense, security, industry, healthcare and the environment, held at the Baltimore Convention Center, Baltimore, MD, on May 5-9 2014.

For more information about P-SERS™, including a technical white paper, please visit: