Reflecting on the Ladies First: Dolphin Tank with Springboard Enterprises

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by: Karolyn Maynard MBA ’18

On Tuesday, April 3, Springboard Enterprises brought Dolphin Tank to the University of Maryland, in collaboration with the Dingman Center for Entrepreneurship’s ‘Ladies First’ initiative. The Ladies First initiative is a commitment to increase the number of women involved in entrepreneurship at the University of Maryland.

Now, as a self-professed ‘Shark Tank’ lover, I truly love learning about entrepreneurs’ ventures and hearing the critical feedback from the ‘sharks’ across market size, valuation and true opportunity for growth. In fact, after continued viewing, I found myself often adopting the role of an investor, asking the questions from the comfort of my living room and feeling quite good about anticipating the concerns or questions that an investor might have.

That’s my version of a fun night sometimes; What can I say? I love entrepreneurship in all forms.

So when I heard Springboard Enterprises was bringing Dolphin Tank to campus, I, naturally, jumped at the chance to swim with the sharks – or dolphins.

Springboard Enterprises describes Dolphin Tank as “helpful feedback-driven pitch sessions for entrepreneurs to receive constructive insights from knowledgeable professionals. Dolphin Tanks aren’t about sharks, piranhas, dragons, or competing for the best idea – they’re about channeling the expertise of the people in the room. The Dolphin Tank is an interactive discussion led by an expert panel that focuses on one thing: “How can we help?” 

After attending my very first Dolphin Tank, I was impressed with the willingness of the attendees in the room to not only provide constructive feedback, but to provide connections also.

That evening, three female entrepreneurs pitched their businesses and the business opportunity: Ashley Ademiluyi, co-founder of Real Tours, a photography company and next generation business that leverages 3D technology to create virtual tours; Jessica Dew, founder of MyStyle Authority, a one stop shop, multimedia platform that matches and connects quality beauty and fashion professionals; and Jodi Lasky, founder of The Pride, a Bluetooth token which enables women to quickly and discreetly reach out to their network for help when they are in a potentially dangerous situation.

Each entrepreneur had 3 minutes to deliver their pitch, after which they received feedback from the expert panelists present. The panelists included Amy Millman, President of Springboard Enterprises; Ting Shih, CEO and Co-Founder of ClickMedix; Pam Rothenberg, Partner at Ladies First sponsor Womble Bond Dickinson and Dingman Center board member; and Marla Bilonick, Executive Director of the Latino Economic Development Center. The feedback from the panelists covered elements such as refining their market opportunity, identifying their target customer and opportunities for strategic growth and partnerships.  Their feedback was aligned with helping the entrepreneurs grow and develop their business.

What makes Dolphin tank even more special is what happened next.

Those in attendance at the event had the opportunity to ask the entrepreneurs questions and provide connections, and in the audience were lots of female entrepreneurs and women who were interested in becoming founders. These attendees were so passionate about helping fellow founders and professionals grow.

After every pitch, I saw female entrepreneurs, students and business professionals take the time to provide meaningful advice and even offer to connect them with individuals or partnerships within their network that might be beneficial to that entrepreneur.

This is a very special ingredient to the Dolphin Tank—not only do you pitch, but you receive support, feedback and connections from panelists and attendees. This triple combination is critical for entrepreneurs. In fact 48% of female founders reported that a lack of available advisers and mentors limit their professional growth.” Dolphin Tank provides a platform for female entrepreneurs to not only pitch, but to grow their professional network as well.

I’m already looking forward to the next one.


Smith MBA - karolynMaynardKarolyn Maynard is a second year MBA student at the Robert H. Smith School of Business at the University of Maryland. Prior to B-school, she held management roles at PricewaterhouseCoopers and Deloitte in Barbados. Karolyn is driven to combine business with purpose and supports the Ladies First Initiative and the Social Entrepreneurship arm of the Dingman Center for Entrepreneurship.

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