Smith School Undergrads Present Research in Rome

SIF Conference Sign

From left: Fasika Delessa, Evan Haas, Aishwariya Chandrasekar, Sarina Haryanto and Professor David Kirsch

by: Megan McPherson

On April 18-19, four Smith School students in the Center for Social Value Creation’s Social Innovation Fellows program, Sarina Haryanto, Aishwariya Chandrasekar, Fasika Delessa and Evan Haas, and Professor David Kirsch attended the inaugural IESE-LUISS Business School Conference on Responsibility, Sustainability and Social Entrepreneurship in Rome. Under the guidance of Professor Kirsch, these undergraduate students presented their paper, Hybrid Organizations and Social Enterprise Ecosystems: Findings from a U.S. Survey, to a room full of established academics.

The survey that formed the basis of their research was first launched by Halcyon Incubator in Washington, D.C. Last year, Halcyon released From the Ground Up: Defining Social Enterprise Systems in the U.S., the results of a nationwide survey to social entrepreneurs that assessed cities based on four “pillars” that create a healthy framework for a social enterprise ecosystem: Funding, Quality of Life, Human Capital and Regulations & Receptivity. The findings of the report designated Washington D.C. the number one ecosystem for social entrepreneurs.

After Halcyon Incubator formed an official partnership with the Dingman Center this past fall, Dingman Center Associate Director for Social Entrepreneurship Sara Herald and Halcyon Incubator Program Manager Ryan Ross discussed a research partnership on this year’s survey. Sara reached out to David Kirsch and the Social Innovation Fellows, who as part of their program must do a practicum or consulting project in the spring semester. Sarina, Aishwariya, Fasika and Evan were eager to volunteer, and with support from their professor, started the rigorous process of researching, refining and amending the content of the original survey, as well as expanding the survey’s outreach to increase the quantity and quality of participants.

When I interviewed Sarina and Aishwariya about their research experience, Sarina reflected on the first survey, “We were wondering, how did they come up with these four pillars in the first place? That’s when literature review became really essential.” As part of the academic process, every change they made had to be documented and justified with established research to eliminate bias as much as possible. When determining new questions to add to the survey, Aishwariya commented , “It was interesting to move out of our own perspectives. We had to imagine what people looking at the report would want to see, or what people answering the surveys would want to see.”

Throughout this exploration into academia, David Kirsch, the Dingman Center’s 2017 Rudy Award winner for Faculty Member of the Year, acted as a supportive guide and mentor. “Professor Kirsch has been our champion since day one,” Sarina exclaimed, going on to tell me about the late nights he spent with them at the Smith School to collaborate on their research. Sarina and Aishwariya both described the paper as a “consummate effort” on the part of the students and their professor. The night before their presentation in Rome, they all stayed in the hotel lobby until 2 a.m. to practice, talking through the paper and responses to potential questions. In one particularly surreal moment, Professor Kirsch told the fellows, “You need to refer to me as your co-author and you need to call me David.” Sarina and Aishwariya admitted, “We had to practice!”

In Rome, the academic community proved welcoming of these young students already engaged in high-level social innovation research. The fellows had the opportunity to meet face-to-face with their academic “celebrities,” people whose work was frequently cited in their paper. They were honored that several of these academics, including keynote speaker Johanna Mair, attended their presentation. Since their own presentation comprised a short span of the two-day conference, they attended many other interesting sessions as well on topics ranging from scaling social impact to an anthropological analysis of milk.

After the conference, the students went on an extensive food and sightseeing tour of Rome with Professor Kirsch. Along the way they had the chance to visit Impact Hub Rome, where they learned of the unique cultural challenges Rome poses as a social enterprise ecosystem. For example, in Italy public funding has a negative connotation, so there are fewer government-funded foundations that generate impact. Though social enterprises in Rome are also not legally distinct from for-profit businesses, they fulfill a valuable role in supplementing the lack of publicly-funded resources.

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The overall experience of the research project, conference and Rome trip had no small impact upon Sarina, Aishwariya, Fasika and Evan. Aishwariya remarked that “Before this, going into a PhD or writing a dissertation just seemed unapproachable.” Sarina agreed, adding, “Investing a lot of time and effort in research, it’s such a fulfilling process to see how we’re producing knowledge…That trip opened my eyes to academia and it’s something I look forward to doing in life.” Both of them were confident on one point: “Social Innovation Fellows has changed our lives.”

The team of students and Professor Kirsch are currently working on finalizing the paper and their findings to submit to the Journal of Business Ethics, which is releasing a special issue devoted to the conference. Over the next few months, they will continue to extrapolate trends from the survey data and examine potential correlations between cities. We look forward to sharing the results of their research in the next Social Enterprise Ecosystems report.

Funding for Sarina Haryanto, Aishwariya Chandrasekar, Fasika Delessa and Evan Haas to travel to Rome and attend the conference was provided by the Dingman Center for Entrepreneurship, the Center for Social Value Creation, Office of Global Initiatives and the Office of Undergraduate Studies.

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A Day of Entrepreneurship with the Dingman Center

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by: Megan McPherson

This year for 30 Days of Entrepreneurship, the Dingman Center decided we would roll a month’s worth of activity into a single day: Thursday, April 20. The result was our Day of Entrepreneurship, which featured the return of a popular Dingman Center event, Terp Marketplace, and later a rousing speech by entrepreneurship guru Jeff Hoffman.

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Exploring Social Entrepreneurship at the Ashoka U Exchange

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by: Katie Aranas and Trerese Roberts

Social entrepreneurship is a trending topic around the world, but since it’s a fairly new concept, it can be difficult to understand. The organization Ashoka has made it their mission to build a community where people are “capable of responding quickly and effectively to social challenges, and in which each individual has the freedom, confidence and societal support to address any social problem and drive change.” Part of the organization, Ashoka U, focuses on colleges and universities to catalyze social innovation and social entrepreneurship in higher education. Last month, the group hosted their annual conference, the Ashoka U Exchange, in Miami, FL. There were over 750 participants, 150 colleges involved from around the world, and 100 sessions to attend. During the Exchange, Ashoka U offered site visits, workshops, panels, and keynotes. In addition, attendees were able to network during the lunch breaks.

We attended as student representatives from UMD and leaders of our Enactus chapter.  The first workshop we attended, “Social Entrepreneurship for All”, began by asking audience what the word “entrepreneurship” means to each of us in one word. Immediately, we could see that there was a divide between business and non-business majors when it comes to the field of Social Entrepreneurship. We discussed how to bridge the gap between both groups so that everyone engages in this field. One suggestion was to teach social entrepreneurship as a new ‘language’, while being aware of the terminology that is being used in different groups. Another suggestion made was to go out into the local community to see social entrepreneurship first-hand. Being able to see it in action is one of the best ways to really understand how it works and experience the impact that is gives. James Madison University created the “10-5-3 Challenge” in which students talk to 10 people that they did not know, have 5 questions prepared for those that they talk to, and have 3 stories to tell them about social entrepreneurship.

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Catch Up with this Semester’s Crop of Fearless Founders

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The spring season is a time for growth, and there is no exception at the Dingman Center. Each spring semester we welcome not one, but two cohorts of aspiring entrepreneurs to watch their business ideas grow under our Fearless Founders program. Students come to an Idea Shell to validate their idea through repeated testing until they are able to form a minimum viable product. Once they reach the Hatch phase, they continue to iterate on their idea by fine-tuning their business model and market segment until it’s ready to launch.

Read on for a list of all the ideas growing in Idea Shell and Hatch this semester.

Idea Shell

Adaptive Audio – Javed Akthar Shaik, Abhishek Velayudham, Praneeth Chandu
Beat’n Coffee – Asad Masood, Khaled Nurhssien
The Beauty of I am… – Shanazar Dupuy Sandy
Ashley Ellis
Cali Club – Joey Hurm
College Cleaning –  Michaela Clarke
Dibble – Roman Fuentes
Emprology, LLC – Sydney Parker
GROTechnologies – Abeeb Ayodeji
NPO Connect – Akhil Gupta
pecunia – Amartyo Sen
Plus Interest – William Singelstad
Rapha – Andrae Wiggins
Record Venture – Duk Shin
Recyclify – Charlie Barton, Ardy Djourabtchi
See Food – Oluwatamilore Olafunmiloye
The SPARC Initiative – Taj Keshav
Wedding Planner – Sandhya Taneja
Yomil – Alexandra Gbozia


You may recognize some of the Fearless Founders below. Nina Silverstein and Babafemi Adegbite’s social ventures 2B and Re-Empower have been profiled on our blog. afterclass and FroDoh were Pitch Dingman Competition semifinalists, and POSH and Grumpy Joes made it to the final round. Carpo’s app launch was featured in The Diamondback. Stay tuned for more great things from this Hatch cohort!

2B – Nina Silverstein
afterclass – Uday Misra
Carpo – Alec Aronwald
Dark Sonar – George Lee, Simon Schlegel
Feast – Arsalaan Ali, Stephen Frocke, Christina Michael
FroDoh – Alexandra Cimino
Grumpy Joes – Gary Hwang
Line-a-day – Benjamin Taragin
Pangea Medical – Ariel Efergan, Jacob Pollack
POSH – Nathalyn Nunoo
re: Fresh – Carl Comasco
Re-Empower – Babafemi Adegbite
ROOTS – Salvador Fawkes, Elizabeth Gilahuanco, Nebafabs Nwafor
Smith Store – Duk Shin
Terra Bella – Georges Colbert, Val Csontos
Think About It – Von Bell
Tommy Wares – Thomas Piantone

Capital One provides seed funding to exemplary entrepreneurs in the
Idea Shell and Hatch programs.

Ladies First Profile: The Story Behind 2B

This story is part of a blog series for the launch of Ladies First, the Dingman Center’s commitment to increase the number of women involved in entrepreneurship at UMD.

By: Nina Silverstein

I began every year of my teaching tenure in Baltimore by asking my students what they wanted to be when they grew up. My kindergarten and first grade students were eager to announce that they were going to be a teacher or a police officer or a football player. A select few said they wanted to be doctors or firefighters. I noticed that when I called my students “Dr. Demetira” or “Police Officer Denard”, their interest and engagement in their schoolwork peaked. Additionally, when my school held a career day, I again saw the level of engagement in school peak. It was as if the students saw the possibilities of future endeavors appear before them and helped them realize why school was important to achieving that.

2B colors.pngThat was when the idea for 2B emerged. 2B is a mission-driven clothing company aimed at expanding children’s horizons and helping them to envision themselves as a variety of different occupations when they grow up. 2B seeks to help students learn about different careers by providing books and clothing centered around each occupation, which helps to provide reasoning for why school is an important factor to their future success. We aim to make the connection between hard work in school and future attainment of their dreams. In order to ensure that all children benefit from envisioning their dreams, 2B will be donated to under-resourced schools so that every child, regardless of background, has the same access to opportunity and the same ability to envision themselves as anything they want to be when they grow up.

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Pitch Dingman Competition Finals Rundown

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The Pitch Dingman Competition Finals were on Tuesday, March 7 and as promised the Dingman Center and our partners gave away more than $30,000 in startup funding! Here’s the breakdown:

The David & Robyn Quattrone Grand Prize – $15,000
Curu, David Potter & Abb Kapoor

Second Place Prize – $7,500
CourseHunter, Aaron Bloch, Benjamin Khakshoor

Third Place Prize – $3,500
Gravity LLC, Richard Kong

Audience Choice Prize – $1,500
Curu, David Potter & Abb Kapoor

Runners Up
Grumpy Joes, Gary Hwang
POSH, Nathalyn Nunoo

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Ladies First Profile: Shizu Okusa of JRINK

As part of the Dingman Center’s involvement in Women’s Month at Smith, this post profiles Shizu Okusa, a local founder who will be participating in our Ladies First: Becoming a Savvy Startup Investor workshop on March 10th.

by: Nina Silverstein MBA ’17

Shizu Okuza - Head shotShizu Okusa’s entrepreneurial journey has not been a lateral one, but rather a circuitous culmination of experiences that led her to co-found JRINK, a “fresh-pressed solution for life-pressed people.” The no-sugar added, preservative-free, cold-pressed juices are locally produced in Falls Church, Virginia, and have permeated the Washington D.C. healthy living scene. JRINK serves delicious and nutritious offerings via both their retail locations and online delivery.

Shizu’s path to launching JRINK was a winding one, first taking her to the trading floor at Goldman Sachs, where she met her future co-founder, Jennifer Ngai. After her analyst program ended, Shizu traveled to and worked in Mozambique and Bali, where yoga and clean eating were key priorities. It was during this trip that she became more curious about the world and other cultures. When she returned to D.C., Shizu took a job with the World Bank, where Jennifer was also working. Having kept in touch over the years, the two reunited and quickly realized that healthy food options were not available near their office. They did not have access to delivery services at the time and had no healthy options nearby, and the idea for JRINK emerged. Seeking to solve their own problem, Shizu and Jennifer began bringing their own juices to work, where colleagues would ask for tastes and where to one for themselves.

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An Interview with Pitch Dingman Competition Finalist: Grumpy Joes

In anticipation of the final round of the 2017 Pitch Dingman Competition, the Dingman Center is interviewing each of the five startup finalists about their progress and upcoming challenges as they prepare to compete for a total of $30,000 in startup funding on March 7.


Grumpy Joes co-founders Gary Hwang and Mike McGraw at the Semifinals

Grumpy Joes

Gary Hwang, Co-Founder & CFO
Michael McGraw, Co-Founder & CEO

logoGrumpy Joes is not your average veteran t-shirt company. Visit their site and you won’t find a stereotypical veteran t-shirt combination of American flags, bald eagles, automatic weapons and threatening mantras about killing enemies. The veteran co-founders of Grumpy Joes, Gary Hwang and Mike McGraw, set out to portray a less well known and, for some veterans, a far more resonant side of military lifestyle: humor. Since launching in October 2016, their brand of military inside joke driven apparel has gone viral in the veteran community. Besides producing a variety of quirky t-shirt designs, the founders produce their own funny content in the form of videos and also share memes that fit with their brand. A recent video they posted has received 1.4 million organic views, and counting. Grumpy Joes resonates with a niche veteran community that, until this point, has been relatively ignored. As their following continues to grow, Grumpy Joes is becoming not just a t-shirt company, but a platform for veterans to connect positively with one another in a post-military world.

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An Interview with Pitch Dingman Competition Finalist: Gravity LLC

In anticipation of the final round of the 2017 Pitch Dingman Competition, the Dingman Center is interviewing each of the five startup finalists about their progress and upcoming challenges as they prepare to compete for a total of $30,000 in startup funding on March 7.


Richard Kong, Founder & CEO of Gravity LLC

Gravity LLC

Richard Kong, Founder & CEO

logo6_concept_1_copyGravity LLC produces Gravity Tales, an online platform that publishes English translations of Chinese and Korean fantasy novels. Since Gravity Tales first launched in January 2015 with just one novel, the website has grown to become one the top 1,600 most visited websites in the United States, and in the top 3,000 in the world. The reasons for its popularity lie in its niche appeal among its adolescent user base. While Japanese “light novels” and comics have gained relative success in the U.S. publishing industry, Chinese and Korean works have a limited to non-existent presence on retail bookshelves. In addition to providing a forum for a growing segment of young readers looking to explore interests in Chinese culture and history, Gravity Tales offers its users free, unlimited content. The site’s rapidly increasing daily page views attracted advertisers, allowing Gravity Tales to collect revenue to pay its contracted translators and editors without charging users. At first launch, Gravity LLC founder Richard Kong was a junior in high school. Now a computer engineering freshman at University of Maryland, Richard is the youngest finalist in this year’s Pitch Dingman Competition.

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An Interview with Pitch Dingman Competition Finalist: POSH

In anticipation of the final round of the 2017 Pitch Dingman Competition, the Dingman Center is interviewing each of the five startup finalists about their progress and upcoming challenges as they prepare to compete for a total of $30,000 in startup funding on March 7.


From left: Elania Tait, Nathalyn Nunoo, William Kwao


Nathalyn Nunoo, Founder & CEO
William Kwao, Operations & Tech
Elania Tait, Public Relations

Posh logo black.pngPOSH is a web platform that offers a reliable, affordable way to book freelance beauty professionals for any occasion. The task of scheduling a makeup artist typically comes with a number of obstacles and uncertainties: How do I know that the artist will give me the look I want? Are their rates consistent with other makeup artists? What happens if they’re late (and they often are)? How much do I tip, and at what point in the process is it proper to do so? POSH conveniently answers those queries on the back-end to ultimately pair their customers with artists who are vetted, talented and consistently punctual. The payment rates are transparent, the tip is included and all the customer has left to worry about is the event at hand. Makeup artists see a benefit as wellall the complicated logistics of working with a client are handled through POSH, allowing them to concentrate fully on their art. With its emphasis on convenience and customer service, POSH’s initial customer base has inevitably led to a growing list of new clients.

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