The Cupid’s Cup business competition this year expanded beyond the university to award cash prizes to the most promising entrepreneurs in the country. But the April 5 competition, sponsored by Under Armour founder and CEO Kevin Plank ’96 and hosted by Smith’s Dingman Center for Entrepreneurship, found its top winner close to home.
Started by two UMD alumni, Phil Weiner UMD ’11 and John Gorby UMD ’11, Earth Starter took home more than $50,000 as the grand prize winner for their innovative creation of the Nourishmat modular garden kit.
NourishMat takes the guesswork out of gardening, as users simply spread the fabric mat in a suitable growing space and plant the included seed balls in the marked holes. The mat uses companion planting techniques, which eliminates the need for pesticides. The weed-barrier mat also includes a built-in drip irrigation system that connects to a regular garden hose.
“I was really interested in being a social entrepreneur, and I always wanted to develop a product — to build stuff that matters,” says Phil Weiner, CEO of Earth Starter. “We want to help people turn their brown thumbs to green thumbs with our Nourishmat, so we launched Earth Starter to give people a healthy alternative to mass-produced food without having to spend a lot of time in the garden.”
The event attracted 24 applicants from 16 states and six finalists from five states: Maryland, Virginia, Ohio, Florida and California.
“Our commitment to entrepreneurship extends far beyond this competition,” said Elana Fine, managing director of the Dingman Center. “We are working with our campus counterparts to inspire a community of entrepreneurs. We want to help develop the entrepreneurial mindset here on campus and throughout the region that gives people the courage to take steps to take their fearless ideas to market.”