We are delighted to announce that three student entrepreneurs at the University of Maryland were featured in DC Inno's 25 Under 25. DC Inno's 25 Under 25 is an initiative to recognize the DMV’s top 25 entrepreneurs who are under the age of 25. Coming from the hallways of D.C. high schools and universities, coworking spaces, meetups, and incubators, these entrepreneurs are truly making an impact on the local startup ecosystem.
Three of the 25 people featured are student entrepreneurs who passed through the Dingman Center for Entrepreneurship at the Robert H. Smith School of Business: Richard Kong ’21, Brianna Queen ’19, and Jasmine Snead ’18.
Richard Kong, at just 20 years old, is one of the youngest student entrepreneurs on the DC Inno list. While Kong was a junior in high school, he launched Gravity LLC and his website Gravity Tales, an English-translation site for Chinese and Korean wuxia fantasy novels. As a freshman computer science major at UMD, he was accepted into the Entrepreneurship and Innovation Program (EIP) and grew the business to become among the top 1,600 most visited websites in the United States. In fall 2016 he entered the Dingman Center for Entrepreneurship’s Pitch Dingman Competition and won the third place prize of $3,500 at the Finals in March 2017. Soon after, Gravity LLC was acquired by Chinese literature media/publishing company Yuewen, a subsidiary of publicly traded internet value-added services company Tencent. Kong stayed on as CEO and continues to grow the business during his time as a student. He is also a member of Startup Shell, a student-run coworking space and incubator at the University of Maryland.
Brianna Queen, a senior information science major, is the founder of BEEQBOX, a cosmetics company that sells illuminating makeup products with a provocative brand appeal. Queen launched BEEQBOX in August 2016 as a subscription box service featuring black-owned makeup brands but began to go viral after releasing products of her own. BEEQBOX has an impressive 57,000 followers on Instagram, with scores of posts from influencers praising its products for its vegan, cruelty-free and all-natural appeal as well as its on-trend branding. Brianna applied to Pitch Dingman Competition in fall 2017 and in March 2018 won second place and $7,500 in the Final round.
Jasmine Snead, a 2018 government and politics graduate, is one of three co-founders of Aurora Tights, an athletic brand that designs high-quality performance sports gear for an array of skin tones and sizes. After launching the idea in December 2017, Snead spent a busy spring semester growing and showcasing her venture through the Fearless Founders: New Venture Practicum course. She also joined the inaugural cohort of Ladies First Founders, a new Dingman Center course that provides female founders with soft skills to overcome gender biases in entrepreneurship. Later that spring, Aurora Tights became one of 10 startups accepted to the Terp Startup summer accelerator, which provided Snead and her co-founders with a stipend and eight weeks of workshops and mentoring to grow the business. After spending the summer securing valuable connections and outside funding for Aurora Tights, Snead has successfully created an MVP (Minimum Viable Product) and is promoting her business through ambassadors.
Other notable additions to the list are Fearless Founder David Engle '15, an alumnus of the first cohort of Terp Startup, and his Upright Labs co-founder Jackson Geller. The founders of Dingman Center Angels portfolio companies Hatch Apps and Misfit Juicery were also featured.