The Dingman Center for Entrepreneurship produces Bootstrapped, a podcast featuring founders, investors and serial entrepreneurs. While the podcast covers many aspects of startup life, the heart of the show focuses on funding from both the founder and investor perspectives, thus the name Bootstrapped. The podcast is hosted by Holly DeArmond, managing director of the Dingman Center, and Joe Bailey, an associate research professor at the Smith School. Each episode starts with trend stories from the hosts, then moves on to an interview with a special guest. Topics range from fundraising and marketing to team formation and customer acquisition.
Episode 63: FORTË Fights COVID by Bringing the Gym to You
Special guest: Lauren Foundos ’06, Founder & CEO, FORTË
This episode of Bootstrapped features UMD alumna Lauren Foundos ’06, a former Maryland varsity field hockey player, and founder and CEO of FORTË. After years of working in the finance industry, Foundos left the stability of her well-paying job to start FORTË, a technology company that helps gyms and studios livestream their classes. An entrepreneur ahead of her time, Foundos came up with the idea for FORTË after inviting her clients to her daily gym workouts. As global lifestyles shifted after the COVID-19 outbreak, the FORTË model became an investment win, with demand increasing by the second. Tune in as we discuss raising capital with big-time investors, entering the tech space with no tech experience, and the importance of perseverance amidst a venture’s most troubling moments.
Holly DeArmond, Managing Director, Dingman Center for Entrepreneurship
Holly DeArmond, MBA '17 joined the Dingman Center in September 2012 as Assistant Director, Events and Marketing. In 2014, DeArmond was named associate director of the center and in 2019 she was named managing director. Holly's primary focus is leading the Dingman Center in support of its mission to build a community that discovers, equips, connects and celebrates entrepreneurs. Key responsibilities include oversight of center operations; venture programs; brand positioning; and external relations. DeArmond also develops and maintains relationships with donors, board members, EIRs, the Smith School community and other campus and regional partners.
Joe Bailey, Associate Research Professor, Robert H. Smith School of Business
Joe Bailey's research and teaching interests span issues in telecommunications, economics, and public policy with an emphasis on the economics of the Internet. This area includes an identification of the existing public policies, technologies, and market opportunities that promote the benefits of interoperability. Bailey is currently studying issues related to the economics of electronic commerce and how the Internet changes competition and supply chain management.
Special guest: Lauren Foundos ’06, Founder & CEO, FORTË
This episode of Bootstrapped features UMD alumna Lauren Foundos ’06, a former Maryland varsity field hockey player and founder and CEO of FORTË. After years of working in the finance industry, Foundos left the stability of her well-paying job to start FORTË, a technology company that helps gyms and studios livestream their classes. An entrepreneur ahead of her time, Foundos came up with the idea for FORTË after inviting her clients to her daily gym workouts. As global lifestyles shifted after the COVID-19 outbreak, the FORTË model became an investment win, with demand increasing by the second. Tune in as we discuss raising capital with big-time investors, entering the tech space with no tech experience, and the importance of perseverance amidst a venture’s most troubling moments.
Special guest: Oliver Schlake, Clinical Professor, Robert H. Smith School of Business
In today’s episode of Bootstrapped, we discuss running a business in a post-COVID world with Oliver Schlake, clinical professor at Maryland Smith. With years of academic and professional research under his belt, Schlake is a dictionary for all things entrepreneurship. We dive deep into the pressing questions of our time, including adapting a venture to our changing economy and planning ahead for life after quarantine. In our conversation, we learn how entrepreneurs can prioritize their business operations and optimize their time to sustain their business in an uncertain future. Join us as Schlake highlights the importance of resilience and capacity for agility in this highly requested Bootstrapped feature.
Special guest: Harry Geller ’81, Investor/Serial Entrepreneur/Startup Mentor
In this episode of Bootstrapped, we sat down with our entrepreneur-in-residence Harry Geller ’81, who has over forty years of experience as a serial entrepreneur, investor, and mentor. Geller shares invaluable insights and real-world advice from his experience turning his startup Global Mail into a 60 million dollar success. He also takes us through the startups and investments that followed, including running fine-dining establishments that turned into 10 million-dollar businesses. Through his journey as a mentor and angel investor for the Dingman Center of Entrepreneurship, he discusses what is needed to scale a venture and run a business through tough times. Tune in now, and grab a pen and paper because you’re going to want to take notes!
Special guest: Aaron Epstein ’03, Founder & CEO, Creative Market
This episode of Bootstrapped features the story of the University of Maryland alumni entrepreneur Aaron Epstein ’03, founder of Creative Market. From small beginnings in his college dorm room, Epstein started Creative Market by creating a color-matching web-based service during the dot com boom. After graduating from UMD, he became a self-taught developer and designer to turn his website into an app. Through eventual partnerships with his co-founder and collaborations with Y Combinator in Silicon Valley, Epstein was able to transform his idea from a website that generated petty cash to a full-on marketplace for graphic design assets from independent creators around the world. Join us as Epstein shares what he wishes he would have known as a young entrepreneur and how his connections in San Francisco aided him in making strategic decisions for his company.
Special guest: Mary Schulman ’97, Co-founder & CEO, PYT Beauty
In this episode of Bootstrapped, we talk PYT — not the Michael Jackson song, but rather the clean beauty brand. Maryland Smith alumna Mary Schulman ’97 discusses her entrepreneurial journey as the founder and CEO of PYT Beauty, a makeup brand that offers beauty without the BS, that is, without the harsh chemicals contained in beauty products that can be toxic to the skin. Prior to PYT, Schulman founded a natural snack company called Snikiddy Snacks in 2006. The company gained the attention of Utz Quality Foods, which bought the company for its delicious puff products. Utilizing her past experience as a founder and her finance background, Schulman decided to launch PYT Beauty. Listen and learn how her daughter inspired the company’s mission, how she’s using her marketing strategy to stand out in the beauty industry, and how she’s managing a team of people who live in different states.
Special guest: Amanda Nachman '07, Founder & CEO, College Magazine
On this episode of Bootstrapped, we dive into the story of Amanda Nachman ’07, founder and CEO of College Magazine. A QUEST Honors Program alumna and English major, Nachman began her venture with an idea that she submitted for a business project. Nachman envisioned a trusted guide on how to navigate college, an idea that ultimately became College Magazine. In 2007, Nachman launched the print publication at the University of Maryland and structured her company through an ad-revenue model. She went on to win Kevin Plank’s Cupid’s Cup student business competition, and today the company reaches over nine million readers. Tune in to learn how Nachman built her online platform, designed fully integrated marketing campaigns, and ultimately inspires young professionals to unapologetically pursue their passions.
Special Guest: Sahil Rahman ’12, Co-Founder of RASA
This episode of Bootstrapped follows the story of QUEST alumnus Sahil Rahman ’12, co-founder of RASA, an Indian fast-casual restaurant located in Washington, D.C. Equipped with a bachelor’s degree in operations and supply chain management, Rahman launched his career as a business analyst for Deloitte. Then, in 2014, he and his childhood best friend, fellow UMD alum, Rahul Vinod ’11, followed the footsteps of their restaurateur fathers and started RASA. The duo's vision for delivering traditional Indian food through the lens of a trendy, fast-casual restaurant has attracted tremendous attention and numerous accolades. In fact, the company is planning a major area expansion alongside NFL Redskins star Vernon Davis. Listen now to learn about building customer loyalty, attracting angel investors and climbing the ladder of the culinary industry.
Special Guest: Lauren Filocco, Founder of OpenBarre
This episode of Bootstrapped features University of Maryland alumna Lauren Filocco ’12, Founder of OpenBarre in College Park. Filocco’s background in supply chain and operations management from the University of Maryland landed her positions at McCormick & Company and Amazon. A few years into her corporate career, Filocco became obsessed with taking Barre classes. After spending 10 hours a week in the studio, she had the wild idea of opening up a studio of her own in College Park, Maryland. She took the leap, quit her job and began her journey as an entrepreneur. Tune in to find out how Filocco built her studio from the ground up and grew a community of athletes that have not only become her core customers, but also her family.
Special Guest: Sergio Malarin '13, Co-Founder of Mobtown Fermentation
Kombucha may be sour, but to our guest entrepreneur, it's a sweet business opportunity. In this episode, we interviewed Sergio Malarin ’13, Co-Founder of Mobtown Fermentation, the brewery behind Wild Kombucha. A University of Maryland alumnus with a major in history, Malarin worked for a time as a manager at Thompson Creek Window Company but found his calling as an entrepreneur after his brother perfected a home recipe for kombucha. Malarin reveals how he used supply chain and community engagement to build his brand, and discusses where he hopes to take Mobtown Fermentation in the future.
Special Guest: Ori Zohar '07, Co-Founder of Burlap & Barrel
In this episode of Bootstrapped, we interviewed serial entrepreneur Ori Zohar ’07, co-founder of spice company Burlap & Barrel. A University of Maryland alumnus who majored in Marketing and participated in the QUEST Honors Program, Zohar speaks on the struggles and triumphs of his entrepreneurial experiences, beginning with his very first venture: selling cap and gowns while he was a student at UMD. Zohar defines two entrepreneur archetypes and outlines his career journey as “The Operator” type. From graduation gear to mortgages to spices, Zohar spills the tea on what it’s really like to be an entrepreneur. He also details the secrets behind the launch of his current endeavor, Burlap & Barrel, and how a fascination with cumin lead to the first comprehensive single-origin spice company in the United States.
Special Guest: Andy Shallal, MBA ’19, Founder & CEO, Busboys and Poets.
On this episode of Bootstrapped, we interviewed Andy Shallal, MBA ’19, founder and CEO of Busboys and Poets. Shallal founded the iconic restaurant chain in 2005, where it started from a restaurant/events venue/coffee shop/bar/bookstore in D.C. and expanded to eight locations today across the DMV. After years of operating his business, Shallal returned to school through Maryland Smith’s Executive MBA program, where he has acquired newfound tools to help his empire soar. Shallal sits down with the Bootstrapped hosts to discuss his motivations for starting Busboys and Poets, how his passion for democracy became the bedrock of the business, and the challenges he’s faced in building Busboys and Poets to what is is today and what it can soon become.
Special Guest: Pramod Raheja, CEO & Co-Founder, Airgility, Inc.
On this episode of Bootstrapped, we interviewed University of Maryland alumnus Pramod Raheja '91, co-founder and CEO of Airgility and mystaffNOW. Since graduating from Maryland, Raheja navigated a split career as an airline captain for United Airlines and also as a serial entrepreneur. Now as the CEO of Airgility, Raheja has been able to leverage his experience as an entrepreneur and as an alumnus at UMD to bring his passion for aerospace engineering to life. On this episode, Raheja shares his experience combining his love of the aerospace industry and entrepreneurship, and how he’s been able to maintain his passion for flight at the center of it all.
Special Guest: Zeki Mokhtarzada, Co-Founder, TrueBill, Inc.
On this episode of Bootstrapped, we interviewed University of Maryland alumnus Zeki Mokhtarzada ’00, co-founder of TrueBill and formerly of Webs. After graduating from Maryland, Mokhtarzada was ready for a life of entrepreneurship and he knew exactly where to find co-founders. Alongside his brothers, Mokhtarzada co-founded Webs, one of the earliest free web hosts. Together, Mokhtarzada and his brothers led Webs to an acquisition by Vistaprint in 2011, and they’ve since gone on to found TrueBill, a company dedicated to tracking and managing all of your finances in one place. On this episode, Mokhtarzada shares his expe
Special Guest: Bill Boyle, Founder, FiberGate, Inc.
On the season 6 premiere of Bootstrapped, host Joe Bailey and new co-host Holly DeArmond, MBA '17, managing director of the Dingman Center, interview University of Maryland alumnus Bill Boyle ’81. Boyle is the founder of FiberGate, Inc, chairman of the Dingman Center’s board of advisors and an active member of the Dingman Center Angels. From Fiber Optics to the funding table, Boyle has leveraged his experience building and running his own venture into a successful career as an angel investor and venture mentor to numerous students. On this episode, Boyle shares his experience running FiberGate for 17 years until its successful exit and provides a firsthand account of his journey into the world of advising and angel investing.
Special guests: Jasmine Snead, CFO, Aurora Tights & Imani Rickerby, COO, Aurora Tights
In this episode of Bootstrapped, we interviewed UMD student Jasmine Snead ’19 and alumna Imani Rickerby ’17, co-founders of Pitch Dingman Competition finalist startup Aurora Tights. As both women of color and figure skaters, Jasmine and Imani struggled to find tights that matched their skin tone and saw their performance and confidence suffer as a result. To solve this problem, in college they started Aurora Tights, an athletic brand that designs performance sports gear in an array of tones for all complexions and sizes. In this episode, Snead and Rickerby share how they explored consumer interest, navigated contract manufacturing, and formed a diverse team to help all women feel comfortable in their skin.
Special guest: Santana Moss, Radio and Television Host
In this episode of Bootstrapped, we interviewed radio & television host Santana Moss. Moss played in the NFL for fourteen seasons. As the first-round pick in the 2001 NFL draft, he knew that he was going to need to take proactive measures to maintain his newly acquired wealth. Moss adopted a live and learn approach to entrepreneurship and began investing in real estate and other small businesses, all with varying degrees of success. From his early missteps, he gradually learned what to look for in an investment. In this episode, Moss shares how he learned the hard way that you shouldn’t blindly trust everyone you come across and the importance of perseverance following failure.
Special guest: Jay Sunny Bajaj, Founder & CEO, DMI
In this episode of Bootstrapped, we interviewed alumnus Jay Sunny Bajaj ’99, the founder and CEO of DMI and a Robert H. Smith School of Business advisory board member. Growing up with two entrepreneurs as parents, Bajaj knew he was going to have his own business one day. Now, he operates a $350 million company that offers comprehensive digital solutions to federal and commercial markets. On this episode, Bajaj discusses how he stayed close to innovation to win contracts in the federal market space, and how he shifted his mindset from entrepreneur to CEO to grow as a leader alongside his business.
Special guest: Dr. Charlene Brown, Founder & CEO, Caregiver Jobs Now (formerly ReciproCare Jobs)
In this episode of Bootstrapped, we interviewed Dr. Charlene Brown, CEO and founder of Caregiver Jobs Now (formerlyReciproCare Jobs). Brown has always been passionate about her career in medicine and public health and wanted to take an entrepreneurial approach to solve some of society’s most pressing issues. Through following the Lean Startup methodology, Brown was able to establish Caregiver Jobs Now, an online platform that connects healthcare agencies with caregivers looking for employment. In this episode, Brown shares how she navigated the line between nonprofit and startup, the struggles of balancing a two-sided market, and how she managed a fluctuating product/market fit across different regions.
Special Guest: Stephen Steinberg ’10, Founder & CEO, Raw Athletics
In this episode of Bootstrapped, we interviewed founder and CEO of Raw Athletics Stephen Steinberg ’10. As a student on the UMD hockey team, Steinberg couldn’t find a satisfactory product to clean his hockey pads and worked from his dorm room to develop his own solution. Eight years later, Steinberg and his brother have built Raw Athletics into a consumer packaged goods industry where they sell cleaning spray, gym wipes, and laundry detergent to gyms, athletic teams and retail locations all around the US. In this episode, Steinberg gives advice on securing contract manufacturing, listening to consumers, and positioning a brand for success when expanding from a B2B to B2C market.
Special Guest: Daniel Sugarman, Co-founder & CEO, Zentail
In this episode of Bootstrapped, we interviewed UMD alumnus and co-founder of Zentail Daniel Sugarman ’10. Sugarman and his co-founder, Daniel Sperling-Horowitz, first launched a business called HD Trade Services that used technology to decrease fraud in international trading. After entering Y Combinator, they ultimately realized their business model was not sustainable, pivoted, and renamed themselves Zentail to offer their strong automation and data analytics software to retailers. Today, Zentail is an e-commerce platform that gives online retailers and brands the ability to sync catalog and inventory data, maintain competitive pricing, obtain analytics and ship products through channels such as Amazon, Jet.com, and Walmart. In this episode, Sugarman shares how forming a network and understanding the capital structure behind his startup allowed him to pivot his idea to a different runway while leveraging his current strengths.
Special Guest: Scott Nash, Founder & Owner, MOM’s Organic Market
In this episode of Bootstrapped, we interviewed Scott Nash, founder and owner of MOM’s Organic Market. Nash started MOM’s Organic Market in 1987, selling produce out of his mother’s garage and using his sister’s Chevy Malibu to deliver grocery orders at night. Today, Nash has grown MOM’s Organic Market to a point where it has stores in four states and Washington D.C., employs more than 1,000 people and has a dedicated following of customers committed to its purpose of protecting and restoring the environment. In this episode, he discusses the slow and methodical approach to his growth, how branding is the most valuable aspect of MOM’s and how progressive and socially active values are integral to his business.
Special Guest: Oscar Zeballos, Co-Founder of Podcast Village & Executive Producer of Bootstrapped
In this episode of Bootstrapped, our executive producer switched to the special guest chair as we interviewed UMD alumnus Oscar Zeballos, EMBA ’16, co-founder of Podcast Village and executive producer of Bootstrapped. Often, podcasters have a difficult time nailing every aspect of their show as they don’t always have the resources or know-how. To resolve this pain point, Zeballos created Podcast Village to provide a turnkey solution for podcasters to collaborate and create their video or audio show at the highest level possible. Zeballos discusses the business model behind Podcast Village, the future he sees for podcasting and how he leveraged his network and unfair advantages to bring his vision to fruition.
Special Guest: Jon Chapman, Co-Founder & President, EverFi
In this episode of Bootstrapped, we interviewed alumnus Jon Chapman MBA ’07, co-founder and president of EverFi, a leading EdTech company. Chapman and his co-founders launched EverFi during the recession of 2008 when they identified an opportunity to teach young adults critical skills such as financial literacy through a gamified educational platform. EverFi’s strategy allows private sector entities ranging from banks like BB&T to professional sports leagues like the NHL and NFL to private label EverFi’s product and partner with EverFi to run educational programs in communities they care about. Chapman details how EverFi focused on understanding their clients as well as their end consumers, and how EverFi went from a bootstrapped company in 2008 to raising $190 M in a Series D round in 2017.
Special Guest: Melissa Bradley, Managing Director, Project 500
In this episode of Bootstrapped, we interviewed angel investor and managing director of Project 500 Melissa Bradley. Bradley’s background in banking, entrepreneurship, venture capital and angel investing has given her a thorough understanding of how to help startups implement sustainable social impact practices without sacrificing profitability. Through Project 500, Bradley utilizes her experience and provides diverse businesses in D.C. with the resources, infrastructure and guidance needed to advance the economic success of both their company and community. In this episode, Bradley stresses the importance of establishing a sustainable business model before pursuing an impact strategy. Hear Bradley talk about the challenges and opportunities when launching a social venture and the sectors where she sees the most potential.
Special Guest: Eddie Inlow, Founder & CEO, Shift Transit
In this episode of Bootstrapped, we interviewed UMD alumnus Eddie Inlow MBA ’09, founder and CEO of Shift Transit. Before becoming an entrepreneur, Inlow had extensive experience in strategy and operations, having worked on the leadership team at Under Armour and consulting for Best Buy and Ross Stores. Inlow’s first exposure to the bike share industry was when he worked for Atla Bicycle Share as the General Manager of the Chicago program in 2013, and he later transitioned into the role of COO for the company. It was in 2015 that Inlow went off on his own to found Shift Transit, a comprehensive bike share service provider that collaborates with cities to launch personalized bike-share programs. In this episode, Inlow discusses how he tailors his program to each individual city, the rapid evolution of the bike share industry and the challenges of working in the public-private partnership space as an entrepreneur.
Special Guests: Pam Rothenberg, Partner, Womble Bond Dickinson
Chris Finlay, Founder & Chairman, Shelters to Shutters
In this episode of Bootstrapped, we interviewed Pam Rothenberg, partner at Womble Bond Dickinson and member of the Dingman Center Board of Advisors, and Chris Finlay, founder and chairman of Shelters to Shutters and the founder and principal of Middleburg Real Estate Partners, a multifamily real estate development company. Rothenberg became an intrapreneur within her law firm by founding the firm’s Impact Business whose mission is to “Power Commerce in the Impact Economy.” Through the Impact Business, Rothenberg and her colleagues work with high growth startups, stabilized Impact operating companies and legacy businesses that are all engaged in both pursuing profit and addressing endemic social challenges through their core business activities. Through this work, Rothenberg encountered Finlay and his non-profit organization, Shelters to Shutters, that partners with apartment community owners to provide full-time employment and discounted housing to the situationally homeless. In this episode, Rothenberg and Finlay discuss their backgrounds in real estate, the growing evolution of the impact economy, and how Finlay is developing Shelters to Shutters into a scalable, self-sufficient nonprofit through implementing a sustainable business model that provides value for the clients it serves, as well as for the multifamily developers that partner with the organization in providing jobs and housing to its clients. Rothenberg works closely with Finlay and the Shelters to Shutters team to support the organization’s mission and objectives.
Special Guests: Josh Goldberg and Vadim Polikov, Co-Founders, Legends of Learning
In this episode of Bootstrapped, we interviewed former Dingman Center Angels and co-founders of Legends of Learning, Josh Goldberg ’03 and Vadim Polikov. In 2008, Goldberg and Polikov launched their first business, Astrum Solar, and together successfully anticipated trends in the market and grew the company until its acquisition by Direct Energy in 2014. Utilizing their background as founders, they then launched the Panther Angels with the aim to invest in and mentor Baltimore and D.C. area entrepreneurs. It was in 2016 that Goldberg and Polikov co-founded Legends of Learning, a platform that uses gaming as an educational tool to foster stronger subject mastery and engagement among K-12 students. In this episode, Goldberg and Polikov explore their shared experiences as both founders and funders and share some of the challenges in being entrepreneurial in the K-12 education space.
Special Guest: Hillary Berman, Founder, Popcorn & Ice Cream
In this episode of Bootstrapped, we interviewed Hillary Berman, a Smith School MBA alumna and the founder of Popcorn & Ice Cream, a marketing and consulting firm designed to cater to the needs and budgets of small businesses and startups. Berman encourages her clients to see their business in the eyes of their customers, then builds them a customized marketing strategy that both attracts customers and meets measured goals and objectives. After six years in business, in 2016 she published Customer, LLC: The Small Business Guide to Customer Engagement & Marketing to provide a resource for entrepreneurs looking to find the most efficient marketing tactics for reaching their customers. In this episode, Berman discusses the benefits of marketing automation technology, common startup marketing pitfalls and her three pieces of advice for entrepreneurs looking to boost their business.
Special Guest: Jason Gates, Founder & CEO, Compology
In this episode of Bootstrapped, we interviewed UMD alumnus and co-founder and CEO of Compology, Jason Gates. Compology provides the only image-based container monitoring hardware and software that allows for increased revenue generation, efficiency, transparency and sustainability across the waste and recycling industries. Compology streamlines the waste and recycling collection process for waste haulers, generators and regulators. The idea for Compology started in 2012 when Gates thought to join his passion and background in waste management with his co-founder’s experiences in sensor technology. While Compology initially focused only on monitoring food waste, through customer feedback and market analysis the founders decided to pivot their initial idea to encompass all streams of solid waste. In this episode, Gates discusses how his startup evolved over time and how his hands-on approach and flexibility with customers allowed him to build extensive brand loyalty.
Special Guest: Paul Capriolo, Entrepreneur-in-Residence, Dingman Center for Entrepreneurship
In this episode of Bootstrapped, we interviewed UMD alumnus and serial entrepreneur, Paul Capriolo. Throughout his career, Capriolo founded and led a multitude of technology startups to successful acquisitions. In 2009, Capriolo noticed the explosive growth in the social gaming industry and the lack of a monetization method to capitalize on its user base. Capriolo started Social Growth Technologies to serve as a flexible platform that allows companies to monetize the social gaming market through in-game advertising. After seven years of growth and expansion, Capriolo recently secured an acquisition of Social Growth Technologies by Kiswe Mobile in 2016. In this episode, Capriolo details his initial motivations behind being an entrepreneur, the challenges he faced as a computer science major with no background in business and the process of growing a business in an emerging two-sided market.
Special Guest: Jignesh Shah, Co-founder & CEO, Rybbon
In this episode of Bootstrapped, we interviewed Smith School alumnus and co-founder & CEO of Rybbon, Jignesh Shah. At his previous position as CMO at Metalogix, Shah experienced frustration with the outdated physical gift-giving model; marketing was shifting to digital platforms such as email and social media, and sending a physical gift card in the mail was too slow and cumbersome. So, Shah founded Rybbon to streamline the digital gifting process and to serve as the digital gifting platform for marketers and researchers. In this episode, Shah speaks to the struggles Rybbon faced being a bootstrapped company, the unique strategy they implemented to acquire their first customers, and their the role they play in the digital marketing industry.
Special Guest: Jennifer Lee-Harrison, Founder, Perfect Hair International
In this episode of Bootstrapped, we interviewed Jennifer Lee-Harrison, a Smith School MBA alumna and the founder of Perfect Hair International. Lee-Harrison spent 16 years working in corporate America before she was struck with entrepreneurial inspiration. As senior director of marketing and advertising at Choice Hotels, she was encouraged to complete an MBA to pursue a position as the vice president of marketing at the company. During her entrepreneurship class, Lee-Harrison got the idea to disrupt the $13 billion hair-extension industry with branded products targeted to African-American women. That business, Perfect Hair International, went on to achieve $1.3 million in sales in just one year. Listen to the episode to hear how she leveraged her network to orchestrate her rise to success and learn her three pieces of advice for aspiring entrepreneurs.
Special Guest: John Czupak, President & CEO, ThreatQuotient
In this episode of Bootstrapped, we interviewed UMD alumnus and serial entrepreneur John Czupak, the president and CEO of ThreatQuotient. Before ThreatQuotient, Czupak worked at Sourcefire in a variety of roles from 2002 to 2013, until he ultimately engineered a $2.7 billion acquisition with Cisco, the 3rd largest pure-play cybersecurity acquisition ever. In this episode, Czupak discusses the approach, mindset and key factors that cybersecurity startups must implement to be successful in a competitive environment.
Special Guest: Gary Swart, General Partner, Polaris Partners
In this episode of Bootstrapped, we interviewed venture capitalist and UMD alumnus Gary Swart. Swart operates out of Silicon Valley as a general partner at Polaris Partners, a Boston VC firm that invests in technology and healthcare companies. Prior to his role at Polaris Partners, Swart was CEO of oDesk, a job-search platform that aimed to be the number one destination for job-seekers looking to work remotely. During his eight-year stint as CEO, Swart gained keen insights on customer acquisition, global expansion and staying ahead of competitors, lessons that as an investor he imparts to the entrepreneurs he works with. In this episode, Swart describes the challenges of being CEO, the key factors a startup needs before seeking investment and the differences between the startup ecosystems of Boston and Silicon Valley.
Special Guest: Kathryn Stewart, Managing Director, Cranbrook Capital
In this episode of Bootstrapped, we interviewed Kathryn Stewart, an investor in private and public equity and a member of the Dingman Center Angels and board of advisors. After spending 10 years working as a partner at Alex. Brown covering healthcare and technology, Stewart wanted to give back and help others by creating jobs, so she started to invest in companies that utilized technology in order to make an impact. In this episode, Stewart discusses her personalized approach to how she invests in entrepreneurs and reveals the attributes a startup needs to draw angel investors.
Special Guest: Dr. Mark Olcott, Co-Founder and CEO, VitusVet
In this episode of Bootstrapped, we interviewed veterinarian Dr. Mark Olcott, co-founder and CEO of VitusVet. After losing a pet patient because he couldn’t access their medical records on a weekend, Olcott started VitusVet to electronically connect pet parents and their care providers to improve the health and safety of all pets. VitusVet capitalizes on the two-sided market of the vet industry by creating a platform that streamlines the customer service experience, keeping pet parents happy and practices in business. While researching his business model, Olcott looked to other industries suffering from similarly outdated, paper-driven customer service practices and found some unexpected parallels.
Special Guest: Dale Pfeifer, Founder & CEO, Goodworld
In this episode of Bootstrapped, we interviewed academic turned founder, Dale Nirvani Pfeifer. Less than 4 years ago, when Pfeifer recognized there was a need to bring philanthropic giving to the next generation, she started Goodworld. The company allows non-profits to receive donations through hashtags and shares on social media sites. Pfeifer’s first VC pitch was brutal but it taught her to think bigger about her potential market reach. After raising nearly $3 million in VC funding, Goodworld has successfully bridged the funding gap between non-profits and millennials.
Special Guest: Jason Cohen, Founder & CEO, Halen Brands
In this episode of Bootstrapped, we spoke with serial entrepreneur and CEO of Halen Brands, Jason Cohen. Cohen walks through his journey from being unable to pay his phone bill, to selling 5 companies worth over $500 million, including brands like Sensible Portion Veggie Straws and SkinnyPop, the two fastest-growing “better for you” snacks known today. Dubbed as the 'club king' of packaged foods, Cohen highlights the importance of targeting high quantity distribution channels such as Costco to augment your reach toward popular outlets like Whole Foods. Tips on how to hire top talent with no startup capital are also covered.
Special Guest: Brian Taff, President & COO, Streetsense
In this episode of Bootstrapped, we spoke with Brian Taff, serial entrepreneur and president of Streetsense, an experience-focused strategy and design collective. Taff talks about the changing face of retail and the need to create a personalized experience for customers. The goal of brand marketers is no longer about authenticity as people see right through that, Taff claims; it's about making the brand approachable and meeting customers' expectations. Taff discusses how to get customers to be not just promoters, but defenders of your brand.
Special Guest: Domonique Foxworth, Senior Writer of The Undefeated, Co-Host on The Morning Roast on ESPN
In this episode of Bootstrapped, we spoke with former NFL cornerback and former NFL Players Association president Domonique Foxworth. After seven years in the NFL, two of which he served as NFLPA President, Foxworth pursued his MBA at Harvard Business School. While enrolled at Havard Business School, Foxworth discusses how he went from investing in bonds to investing in startups. When evaluating whether to invest in an entrepreneur, he cites soft skills as key to the decision-making process. Understanding an industry and coming up with a viable idea is the easy part, according to Foxworth. Your level of self-awareness, coachability, and motives can make the difference between a venture’s success or failure.
Special Guests: Matt Furstenburg, Co-Founder & CEO, Grip Boost
Chanda Arya, Co-Founder & COO, Grip Boost
In this episode of Bootstrapped, we talk football with Grip Boost founders Matt Furstenburg and Chanda Arya. As a former NFL player, Furstenburg was familiar with the shortcomings of football gloves. After receiving half a million dollars in seed funding through organizations such as TEDCO and VOLT, the founders iterated for almost 2 years. Five years later, Grip Boost is sold in 70 stores across the US, selling apparel for football, baseball and golf.
Special Guest: Ursula Mead, Founder & CEO, InHerSight
In this episode of Bootstrapped, we interviewed Ursula Mead, founder of InHerSight. The website easily appealed to users eager to rate their experience as a female employee. Unlike other job sites, InHerSight gathers data on the female perspective and became a prime location for companies looking to recruit women. Mead monetized her company by selling data insights back to the companies rated on her site. Now three years old, InHerSight has over 170,000 users and 30,000 companies on its website.
Special Guest: Elise Whang, CEO & Co-Founder of SNOBSWAP
This episode of Bootstrapped features Elise Whang, CEO and co-founder of SnobSwap. As an avid consignment shopper, Whang got the idea for SnobSwap while working late hours as an attorney unable to access second-hand finds online. With brick and mortar only consignment stores losing approximately 30% of their potential revenue, Whang found an 'in' to this traditionally winner-take-all market. Supply-side customer acquisition was as straightforward as googling "best consignment stores in LA", then pitching their idea to a select target list. Now five years after their launch, SnobSwap is turning down about 50% of the stores that apply to be on their site.
Special Guest: Bob London, Founder & CEO, Chief Listening Officers
This episode of Bootstrapped tackles marketing with the help of Bob London, founder and CEO of Chief Listening Officers and an active Dingman Center entrepreneur-in-residence and 1776 startup mentor. During a time when there is a constant “war for customer’s attention,” London advocates for listening. If your startup is not getting customers, try asking someone, “What would make you a customer for life?" Starting with a customer’s “elevator rants” or complaints about a product or service makes for a solid foundation for a new enterprise.
Special Guest: Glen Hellman, CEO & Founder, Driven Forward LLC
This week’s episode features Glen Hellman, CEO & founder of Driven Forward LLC, which provides strategic planning, interim executive leadership, executive coaching and development services for technology-oriented, venture-capital-backed companies. In this episode, Hellman tackles the topic of pitching. He explains that using story-telling to engage the reptilian brain in your audience helps move people toward action and increases your chances of wooing investors.
Special Guest: Aviva Goldfarb, Founder, The Six O’Clock Scramble
In this week's episode of Bootstrapped, we talked with Aviva Goldfarb, founder of the Six O'Clock Scramble. This online meal planner offers busy parents health-conscious solutions for the daily scramble of cooking a family dinner. Goldfarb admits "my biggest competitor is free." Goldfarb monetized her idea through a membership model, offering dietitian-approved recipes that can be made quickly, along with a mobile grocery list. By requiring customers to submit a credit card to activate their free trial, Goldfarb has managed to gain a sizable following with a 60-70% customer retention rate.
Special Guest: Brad Sayler, Co-founder and CFO/COO of Spotluck
In this episode of Bootstrapped, we spoke with Brad Sayler, co-founder & CFO/COO of Spotluck. The app is an asset for both restauranteurs and foodies alike, offering up discounts to customers while driving foot traffic to restaurants. One might ask — how did a lawyer get into app development? Sayler says "you don't need to have a computer science degree" to get your product going. He stresses the importance of separating form from function when developing prototypes. He turned to knowledgeable friends and family for the initial bootstrapping of Spotluck. Sayler admits satisfying both sides of a two-sided market is challenging but knowing that there is an ever-changing formula keeps the customer base growing.
Special Guests: Ann Yang, Co-Founder, MISFIT Juicery & Phil Wong, Co-Founder, MISFIT Juicery
Ann Yang and Phil Wong, the co-founders of MISFIT Juicery, started their cold-pressed juice company in their dorm room at Georgetown University with a hundred pounds of peaches and a borrowed blender. A social venture, MISFIT transforms "ugly" fruits and vegetables into visually appealing, delicious juice that disguises its "misfit" origins while combating food waste. Through bootstrapping and a scrappy willingness to ask for help when they needed it, they managed to grow MISFIT into one of the hottest local food startups. After graduating from Halcyon Incubator, they secured funding from angel investors including Dingman Center Angels, and are currently one of six food startups around the country accepted into the Chobani Food Incubator. Yang and Wong discuss the passion and tenacity required to run a social venture, the secrets of their strong branding strategy and the power of asking for help.
Special Guest: Micha Weinblatt, Founder of Crooked Monkey and Betterific
Micha Weinblatt founded his first company, Crooked Monkey, in college at a bar. While sitting at legendary bar Cornerstone, just off campus from the University of Maryland, Weinblatt considered how the traditional college t-shirt could be re-fashioned. Like any true entrepreneur, he started a company that produced cool, graphic t-shirts and called it Crooked Monkey. The shirts are now sold at Bloomingdale's, Urban Outfitters and other chic retailers. Seven years into the venture, Weinblatt got what he calls the "7-year itch" to start something new. That something is Betterific, a platform where ideas and innovation can be crowdsourced. In this episode, Weinblatt talks about how he funded his startups and the one thing every investor or entrepreneur should know before investing in or launching a startup.
Special Guest: Andrew Sherman, Partner at Seyfarth Shaw, LLP and Adjunct Professor, Smith School of Business
Whether you are the sole founder or co-founder of a start-up, equity can play a major role in the growth and direction of your company. Andrew Sherman, a partner at the Seyfarth Shaw law firm, began his career with a successful startup in aerobic tennis. Today, he advises entrepreneurs on the brass tacks of drafting stock options, exit strategies and aligning managerial responsibilities with equity. Accustomed to asking hardball questions like, "How to value sweat equity", "What are the income needs of the various stakeholders?" and "How to link expertise to equity", Sherman encourages entrepreneurs to do an (often free) preliminary attorney meeting in the early stages of a startup.
Special Guest: Ed Barrientos, CEO, Brazen
In this episode of Bootstrapped, Ed Barrientos, CEO of Brazen, a cloud-based HR tech start-up, talks about the market for talent. In its initial onset, Brazen aimed to create the LinkedIn for millennials. Focused on improving product-market fit, Barrientos's team shifted gears and created a communication platform for texting-centric millennial job candidates to get past the 'apply online' brick wall recruiters often have trouble pulling top talent through. Today, Brazen is used by Deloitte, Nasa, Amtrak, and over 120 universities. Barrientos is also the managing partner of Zeitgeist Holdings, an angel investment firm.
Special Guest: Ali von Paris, Founder, Route One Apparel
In this episode of Bootstrapped, hear about the crafty beginnings of the beloved University of Maryland apparel company Route One Apparel. Founder Ali von Paris used her vast UMD network and her social media savvy to create an online following for her startup. Witty, regionally-driven products like the 'Get Loh' t-shirt and Terp-themed tailgate tents were an instant hit throughout the UMD community. Now four years old, Route One Apparel has 40 employees and offers over 1,500 products.
Special Guest: Tien Wong, CEO of Tech 2000 & Founder of CONNECTpreneur
Cold calling was one of Tien Wong's least favorite aspects of his career in real estate finance. Learn how he turned that challenge into CyberRep, Inc., which is valued at $1.7 billion and is now one of the largest call centers in the world operating under XEROX. Wong, a self-proclaimed introvert, is also the founder and host of CONNECTpreneur, a community of 5,000+ CEOs, entrepreneurs and angels. Hear how Wong went from being an entrepreneur convincing his own customers to invest in his startup to becoming an active angel investor.
Special Guests: Eric Golman, Co-founder & Chief Energy Officer, JavaZen
Ryan Schueler, Co-founder & Chief Relationship Officer, JavaZen
Bootstrapped turns to coffee talk during this episode as the co-founders of JavaZen take the mic. JavaZen is a one-of-a-kind hybrid that combines the energy of coffee with the health and flavor benefits of tea, in one amazing beverage that's the best of both worlds. Hear how Eric Golman, Ryan Schueler and their third co-founder Aaron Wallach, came up with the idea of a coffee and tea blend and what fuels their success. Get the inside scoop on how they tested the market, selected sales channels and how they funded the startup. Stay tuned to hear about their aspirations to build a healthy lifestyle brand. If you’re thirsty for a cup of JavaZen, check out their blends online at drinkjavazen.com.
Special Guest: Amy Millman, President, Springboard Enterprises
This episode is about something we don’t have enough of in entrepreneurship: Women. The special guest is Amy Millman, president of Springboard Enterprises, a highly-vetted expert network of innovators, investors and influencers who are dedicated to building high-growth technology-oriented companies led by women. Millman has been tackling issues faced by women in business for more than 20 years. While she started her career as a lobbyist at Phillip Morris, it was during the Clinton administration that she was asked to lead the National Women's Business Council, a position that placed her at the forefront of women in entrepreneurship. Listen as Millman talks about the challenges present for female entrepreneurs and how Springboard helps them overcome those challenges. She shares what she believes are the biggest obstacles women face and—believe it or not—the issues today are the same as they were in the 1990s. Millman has one simple piece of advice for all the entrepreneurs out there. Listen to see what it is. Stay tuned to play the week’s installment of “Kickstarter or Not?”
Special Guest: Evan Lutz, Founder, Hungry Harvest
Evan Lutz launched his social enterprise, Hungry Harvest, from his dorm room at the University of Maryland. Hungry Harvest believes no produce should be thrown away, which is why they carefully source, hand-package, and deliver these fresh, although not so pretty, items to their customer's doorsteps at a discounted rate. Hungry Harvest was featured on Shark Tank in 2015. In this episode, hear about the rigorous and not-so-glamorous Shark Tank experience; how the appearance affected the business; and all he learned along the way. You can also hear why Hungry Harvest is not just about the sales, Lutz and his team are passionate about the company's social mission to reduce food waste and provide the more than 50 million Americans who are food insecure with healthy options. Listen to learn about the company's four criteria for their sustainable donation model and play along with another segment of "Kickstarter or Not."
Special Guest: Jason Shrensky, Founder, CEO of Complex Interests
After practicing law for a brief time, attorney Jason Shrensky decided to quit his job and build a software company. It was 2000 and the dot-com bubble hadn't burst yet, so why not? Hear how the imminent burst affected him and his startup. Shrensky also talks about the process of exiting your company and the reality of starting over as an entrepreneur. You will also learn Shrensky's tips on raising money and investing — he's made 12 investments in DC tech. Listen on as he talks about his newest venture, Complex Interests. Play along with co-hosts Elana Fine and Joe Bailey in this week's installment of "Kickstarter or Not?"
Special Guests: Dan Cowens, Founder, Oasis Marinas and Snag-a-Slip.com
Paige Holden, VP of Marketing & Communications, Oasis Marinas and Snag-a-Slip.com
After an eight-year career in the military and 20-plus years of experience in hospitality management, Dan Cowens entered the Smith School's executive MBA program. He completed the program with a degree and a new startup. The company, Oasis Marinas, provides high-quality marina management services in Annapolis and around the world. When pitching the idea in his entrepreneurship class, Cowens was joined by fellow classmates including Paige Holden, who is now the VP of marketing & communications. In this episode of Bootstrapped, Cowens and Holden talk about founding not one but two startups targeted to boaters. The founding team talks about discovering a pain point experienced by many boaters and deciding whether to buy, build or outsource a solution. In their case, there was nothing to buy so they built Snag-a-Slip.com, which acts as a Hotels.com for boaters looking to book a boat slip. Challenges included building the market on both the supply and demand side; determining a business model that works for both the marinas and the boaters, and ensuring a replicable and scalable model before launching in new markets. Hear their story and play along with this episode's installment of “Kickstarter or Not.”
Special Guests: Danielle Tate, Founder & CEO, MissNowMrs.com
Culin Tate, Co-Founder & VP, MissNowMrs.com
This episode of Dingman Bootstrapped features a serial entrepreneur power couple: Danielle and Culin Tate. The frustrating process of changing her name after their marriage inspired Danielle to start MissNowMrs.com, a TurboTax style website that streamlines the name change process. Five years ago, Culin exited his own electronics manufacturing company to help Danielle grow MissNowMrs.com to over 300,000 customers across two countries. This year, Danielle published her first book, Elegant Entrepreneur: The Female Founders Guide to Starting and Growing Your First Company. Hear their thoughts on serial entrepreneurship, the advantages of bootstrapping your startup and the challenges and rewards of becoming a female entrepreneur. The Tates also play along with co-hosts Elana Fine and Joe Bailey in this week's installment of "Kickstarter or Not?"
Special Guest: Liz Sara, Founder, Best Marketing, LLC
Liz Sara has 20 years of experience in the Washington D.C.-area high tech community as an entrepreneur, business leader, angel investor and philanthropist. In 2001, she founded Best Marketing, LLC to provide early-stage software companies with strategic marketing, PR and business development services. In this episode of Bootstrapped, Sara talks about marketing from the perspective of securing customers. She also talks about how to build partnerships with pilot customers and how they can help you make the sell. Listen to learn what she thinks the first step is in marketing a startup. Sara shares her investment philosophy and plays along with co-hosts Elana Fine and Joe Bailey in this week's installment of "Kickstarter or Not?"
Special Guest: Kanchan Singh, Founder, Crumbs & Whiskers
Cafes full of cats are uncommon in the United States but are a trend in other countries around the world. This is the quirky story of how a young entrepreneur quit her consulting job to change that and open one of the first five “cat cafes” in the States. Kanchan Singh '12, one of Joe Bailey’s former QUEST students joined our show to tell us about how she raised over $35,000 on Kickstarter to fund Washington, DC’s first cat cafe, Crumbs & Whiskers in Georgetown.
Special Guest: Sam Medile, CEO, Unified Parking Partners/Angel Investor
This Bootstrapped episode features Angel Investor Sam Medile. Medile is a University of Maryland scholarship football athlete who graduated in 1980. He is a serial entrepreneur in the parking world. Medile's first valet parking company became the nation’s premier provider of hotel parking services with over $200 million per year in sales and 9,000 employees in over 40 plus cities.
As an investor, Medile works with startups as well as fully developed companies on their growth, direction and recapitalization. Medile has been an active investor with Dingman Center Angels for many years. He is passionate about mentoring entrepreneurs and structuring deals.
Listen to Medile talk about innovations in parking, his tips on investing and his next big idea.
Special Guest: Mark Walsh, Chief Investment & Innovation Officer for the U.S. Small Business Association
In this Boostrapped episode, Oscar Santana, Talk Show Host at the Mike O'Meara Show and current Smith School of Business EMBA student, talks about how he pitched the idea of doing a startup podcast to his professors Elana Fine and Joe Bailey and how it came to fruition.
The special guest is Mark Walsh, a serial startup operator and veteran of AOL, who is now leading investments and innovation at the U.S. Small Business Administration (SBA). He will talk about what the federal government can do for startups to prove, validate and scale their businesses. Mark gives some insider tips on the "non-trivial (crappy) government paperwork" needed to get SBIR funding. He'll also cover hot trends in government funding. Finally, find out why Walsh thinks pitching a startup is similar to pitching a Hollywood movie script.