3 Things I Did To “Surprise and Delight” My Way to 15,000 Customers

by: Sam Feldman, Founder, CardBuddy



I fell in love with entrepreneurship soon after arriving at college, and made it my goal to run a business full-time upon graduating. I went 2 years without any paying customers, but during my junior year I started CardBuddy, a stick-on phone wallet company that now does over $100K annual revenue (and have been running it full-time since graduating last May).

I have some unique customer service strategies which have brought me great results, and I thought I’d share them here!

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Terp Toolkit: How To Attract & Hire The Right Talent

Terp Toolkit highlights resources for starting your business.  Interested in additional business guidance or have a startup idea? Come to Dingman Fridays for feedback from our experienced venture mentors, or consider applying to our Fearless Founders accelerator. You can also learn about the startup world and discover stories from real founders through our Bootstrapped podcast and Washington Post: Business Rx index.

by: Eric Elliot

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Resources to Help Find Talent:

  • Utilize Teachers and Mentors – Teachers and mentors are a fantastic resource to utilize when it comes to finding new talent. Not only will they have extensive networks that they can pull from, but if you both get along well, they’ll probably go out of their way to find someone that fits the needs of your startup. At the very least, they’ll keep their eye out for anyone they run into that could help you out.
  • Find Relevant Channels – There are a multitude of different mediums that you can use to attract talent. If you’re a student, for example, take advantage of the opportunities and communities within your school: reach out to the business clubs on campus, participate on social media and job boards, attend events that will allow you to meet and recruit potential talent, etc. Being proactive will go a long way in building awareness for your startup and attracting the right personnel. In addition, check out the various jobs and events around MD through the Dingman Center’s biweekly newsletter, The Pitch.
  • Go to Startup & Networking Events  – Take advantage of networks and talent pools in your area! Go to local startup and networking events and connect with other entrepreneurs and business people. Attendees at these events are usually more than happy to help younger startups trying to grow, and they’ll often have a vast wealth of contacts with the skills you’re looking for that they can put you in touch with.
  • Leverage Your Own Personal Network –  When it comes to hiring talent, consider who’s already within your own personal network. Do you already know someone who has the skills you’re looking for? Do any of your friends know someone that you could get in touch with? Have you looked through your LinkedIn connections and reached out? You know a lot more people than you think, so take time to go through your connections and explore the options already open to you.

Things To Consider When Hiring:

  •  Focus on Passion Over Talent –  Be wary of hiring somebody based just on their talents alone. While it may be great for someone to have a 4.1 GPA, tons of experience and plenty of accolades, if the desire and vision aren’t there, they aren’t going to be the best possible fit for your startup. You can always teach someone job skills, but passion for a business or industry is innate.
  • What You Can’t Offer In Salary, You Can Offer In Experience – As a startup, it’s more than likely that you won’t be able to pay a new hire an extensive amount of money. Most people will probably understand this when applying, but let candidates know that they’ll have an actual impact with real and visible effects on your company. They’ll play a vital role in shaping the success of your business, and the experience that they’ll gain from working for you will be invaluable to them in the future.
  • Timing Is Critical – Timing plays a huge role in determining whether or not your hire will be successful. If you hire someone too early, you run the risk of not having a suitable infrastructure for them to work within. If you hire them too late, however, then you may miss key opportunities to use your new hire that you could’ve capitalized on earlier. The best time to hire someone is right before you actually need them, so to take steps to ensure that you’re hiring the right personnel at the right time.


Eric Elliot is the Marketing Intern at the Dingman Center for Entrepreneurship. Eric is currently a junior pursuing a degree in Marketing at the Robert H. Smith School of Business and is part of the Strategic Design and Innovation Fellows. In his spare time, you can find Eric reading, drinking coffee, or playing the newest video games.


What’s Coming Up at the Dingman Center

There are plenty of exciting events happening at and around the Dingman Center for Entrepreneurship. Get out your calendars and mark down these dates—we’ll see you there!


Pitch Dingman Competition Applications
Monday, September 18 to Thursday, October 19

Pitch Dingman Competition is the University of Maryland’s only business competition exclusively for Terps. Held annually, students can compete for $30,000 in startup funding. Student entrepreneurs should apply at go.umd.edu/pitchcompetition.

Dingman Jumpstart
Friday, October 6, 12-3 p.m. | 1505 Van Munching Hall

Dingman Jumpstart is open to all University of Maryland students who have a startup idea, but lack a business framework with which to operate. This pivotal workshop is a 3 hour crash-course in business models, financials, understanding your competition, and much more. Set your business up for success, and apply now at go.umd.edu/jumpstart!

spark: Where Fearless Ideas Start by the Dingman Center & Startup Shell
Friday & Saturday, October 20 – 21 | Pownall Atrium, Van Munching Hall

spark: Where Fearless Ideas Start is a two-day ideation event featuring brainstorming activities that encourage students to find solutions to problems they want to solve. spark provides students who are interested in entrepreneurship but haven’t yet founded a venture with a means to discover and explore how their passions can translate into business ideas. Register at go.umd.edu/spark

Friday, October 20, 5-9 p.m.
What Problem Do You Want To Solve?

On Friday night, under the direction of Professor Oliver Schlake students will brainstorm with their peers about problems they would like to solve. By the end of the night, they will join a team and begin collaborating to come up with ideas for solutions to their chosen problems.

Saturday, October 21, 10 a.m. – 5 p.m.
How Will You Solve It?

On Saturday, students will attend a series of workshops and work with mentors to fine-tune their idea and ultimately present their results at a Show and Tell, where judges will pick winners to take home prizes.

Terp Marketplace
Friday, October 27, 12-2 p.m. | Pownall Atrium, Van Munching Hall

(Terp Marketplace)dsc_0062blogTerp Marketplace is an opportunity for student entrepreneurs to sell or showcase their products and gather feedback from the Smith community. There’s no better way to test your product on the open market than going out there and selling what you have, even if it isn’t perfect! Participation is free and is open to all current UMD students. Sign up for a table at go.umd.edu/terpmarketplace!


Ladies First Fall Dinner
Wednesday, November 8, 6 p.m. | 2517 Van Munching Hall

(Ladies First)DSC_0016Ladies First is the Dingman Center’s initiative to get more women involved in entrepreneurship at UMD. Female students are invited to attend the second annual Ladies First dinner and learn more about upcoming Ladies First programs and events for the 2017-2018 academic year.

Pitch Dingman Competition Semifinals
Thursday, November 16, 6:00PM | Frank Auditorium

featuredphotoAt Pitch Dingman Competition Semifinals, 10 student startups will pitch their businesses to judges to win a spot at the Finals in the spring. At the end, five startup teams will move on to compete for a shot at the $15,000 grand prize! Come cheer on your fellow Terps and learn more about the Pitch Dingman Competition at go.umd.edu/pitchcompetition!

7 Life Lessons from the Robert G. Hisaoka Speaker Series feat. Ted Leonsis

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by: Mandar Kashikar MBA ’19

As I scrambled to find an open seat in a jam-packed auditorium, I knew that this was going to be amazing start to the Robert G. Hisaoka Speaker series. We had, on campus, two of the most influential businessmen known locally as well as nationally. Soon enough, Elana Fine, Executive Director of the Dingman Center, took the stage to elegantly inaugurate the event, describing the objective of the event to enable student learning by bringing business leaders and entrepreneurs to campus. Dean Alex Triantis further took the stage to introduce Bob Hisaoka, the man behind the Robert G. Hisaoka Speaker series. As a student, I couldn’t imagine a better opportunity to learn about business and entrepreneurship. It was an entrepreneurial journey of 40 years packed into 2 hours. Crash course—Entrepreneurship!

As Bob Hisaoka went on to introduce Ted Leonsis, it seemed like the list of achievements would never end. Ted is an Internet industry pioneer and serial entrepreneur. He helped build AOL into the global business it is today. Under his leadership, AOL increased its membership from under 800,000 members to over 8 million, and their annual revenue increased from $100 million to $1.5 billion. He is the owner and CEO of Monumental Sports & Entertainment, which owns and operates the NHL’s Washington Capitals and other sports properties. Additionally, he serves on the board of directors at Groupon as well as American Express. But his accomplishments don’t stop there. Ted is an award-winning producer of documentaries, and the founder and chairman of SnagFilms. His philanthropic efforts are many and his impact on society continues to grow to this day.

Life Lesson 1: Little things if done well go a long way!

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Startup Stories: A Summer Internship at Sandboxx

This past summer, Michael Khizgilov ’20 received a stipend to work at a startup through our Kathryn Stewart Fellowship Program. The Dingman Center asked him about his experience to give other students a preview of the benefits a startup internship has to offer.


Tell us about Sandboxx. What is the company’s mission and core competencies?

SANDBOXX simplifies the military lifestyle. Its mission is to keep the military community connected—and it does that in a number of ways. It helps people send letters to their loved ones who are off the grid at boot camp. It also helps parents find great travel deals and helps active duty members stay connected with their community. This all centers around the free SANDBOXX app. SANDBOXX was founded by vets and is leveraging tech to improve the military community—to serve those who serve us.


Tell us about your responsibilities over the summer at Sandboxx?

My responsibilities were focused on operations as well as marketing. I helped ensure that the operations process was running smoothly, with a focus on quality and efficiency. In addition, I was responsible for analyzing various stages of the operations process and finding ways to improve the quality and efficiency of the system, with great success. This type of thinking and focus on constant innovation is ingrained into the company culture, and I often find myself analyzing ways to improve my own daily workflow since completing the internship. On the marketing side, I was also responsible for writing blog posts and creating social media content. This process required me to truly understand Sandboxx’s mission and the expectations of its users. I feel that my marketing experience had a strong connection to the process of launching a startup as I had to emphasize with the end-user and understand their needs and pain-points. For example, in the case of Sandboxx’s Letters platform, I needed to fully understand the challenge that loving family and friends face in staying connected to their future service member during boot camp. As someone with limited prior exposure to the military, I had to truly immerse myself in the culture and history to effectively fulfill my role.

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Get to Know the Dingman Center: Elana Fine

This summer we will be featuring our current Dingman Center staff in a special blog series. Read along and get to know a little more about each member of our team!

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Elana Fine, Executive Director

Elana Fine is the fearless leader of the Dingman Center, a position that demands she wear many different hats: professor, podcast co-host, traveling panelist, thought leader, three-time “Tech Titan” and last but certainly not least, the manager of our team. Even during the Center’s busiest, most stressful times, Elana’s unwavering energy and tenacity serve as a beacon for her team to follow. Her “Monday morning meetings” are a weekly fixture that even those who would never call themselves “morning people” have come to look forward to. In these meetings, and on a daily basis, every member of the team is encouraged to contribute their thoughts on how we can best express the Dingman Center’s appeal and execute on its mission. In the face of adversity, we can press forward with confidence knowing Elana will fight for her team like a tiger protecting her cubs. Maybe that sort of maternal fierceness comes easily to her, as in addition to being a full-time executive director, she’s a full-time mom to twin 10-year olds. It’s unclear where she finds the time or energy for all of this, but some mysteries are better left unsolved. Not all heroes wear capes, after all.

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Get to Know the Dingman Center: Holly DeArmond

This summer we will be featuring our current Dingman Center staff in a special blog series. Read along and get to know a little more about each member of our team!


Holly DeArmond, Associate Director

Holly DeArmond is effectively the Dingman Center’s COO—she is instrumental in the strategy and planning necessary to execute on our mission, and does so with aplomb. Holly’s tenure at the Dingman Center began in 2012, before any of our other current staff, giving her a unique perspective on how the Center’s identity and mission have evolved. Formerly an organizer of the much-celebrated Maryland Day, her well-established events, marketing and branding expertise have been crucial to the Center’s success as we know it today. Under her direction, Pitch Dingman Competition Finals expanded to Stamp’s Colony Ballroom, “Fearless Founders” and “Dingman Fridays” became common Smith School buzzwords, and University of Maryland saw its first startup weekend, spark: Where Fearless Ideas Start. In addition to her Dingman Center credits, Holly is currently working to complete the Smith School’s part-time MBA program. Every curve-ball thrown her way she knocks out of the park, and inspires those who work with her to do the same.

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Learning to Appreciate Life in Pulingui, Ecuador

This summer, we will feature guest posts from students who received a Dingman Center scholarship to participate in the Maryland Social Entrepreneur Corps (MSEC). They will share their experiences learning about social entrepreneurship while consulting with local businesses in Latin America. Learn more about MSEC here.


by: Chris Wolfe

While Cuenca was little different than a typical city in America, Ñamarin began to show us what it was like to live without the luxuries we enjoy in the States on a daily basis. There was little wifi or cell service, a lack of hot water, and a lack of temperature control within buildings. I did not see any of these things as great hardships because I was still able to live fairly comfortably. Little did I know what I was about to face in our last village: Pulingui.

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Leveling the Playing Field for Cybersecurity with Terp Startup Dark Sonar

This summer, the Dingman Center will be conducting interviews with the eight student startups who are participating in the Terp Startup summer incubator phase of our Fearless Founders accelerator program. Participating student entrepreneurs received a stipend up to $5,000 that would enable them to work exclusively on their startups over eight weeks in the summer.


Dark Sonar

Representing cybersecurity startup Dark Sonar in Terp Startup this summer is COO and co-founder Brian Freeman, a rising mechanical engineering junior at University of Maryland. He joined the founding team after CEO George Lee, a rising senior finance major, and CTO Simon Schlegel, a rising senior computer science major, began developing cybersecurity software that is both simple to integrate and affordable for businesses of all sizes. Dark Sonar’s competitors are primarily focused on fraudulent transactions for large corporations, and charge an appropriately large amount for the privilege. The founders of Dark Sonar are looking to focus on the needs of a target market that has been largely ignored by the cybersecurity industry—small and medium sized businesses. The customizable and adaptable subscription model of Dark Sonar will make it easier for any business, big or small, to combat identity fraud.

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Get to Know the Dingman Center: Megan McPherson

This summer we will be featuring our current Dingman Center staff in a special blog series. Read along and get to know a little more about each member of our team!


Megan McPherson, Events & Marketing Coordinator

I, Megan McPherson, have been your humble narrator for this blog all along, so allow me to abandon the third-person pretense. Hello, dear readers! I joined the Dingman Center in January 2016 to bring a fresh creative energy to the Center’s events and marketing activities. My duties include coordinating logistics for events like spark: Where Fearless Ideas Start, Pitch Dingman Competition and the Rudy Awards; running social media and the blog; creating and supervising the creation of print and digital marketing materials; drafting and sending e-vites and newsletters (subscribe to The Pitch!); and more. As the staff’s resident quirky nerd, I take pride in my work when I can let my personality show through while telling the Center’s story. Through revealing myself, I want to encourage entrepreneurs to strive for honesty within themselves and what they want to achieve, and to portray the Dingman Center as an inclusive space where Terps are encouraged to get their hands dirty and explore both the ups and downs of entrepreneurship.

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