Student Startups Offer Goods and Services, Hone Entrepreneurial Skills at Terp Marketplace
If the college campus is the embodiment of democracy’s marketplace of ideas, Terp Marketplace might be the smaller-scale equivalent for University of Maryland entrepreneurialism.
Hosted once a semester by the Dingman Center for Entrepreneurship, the market features dozens of student startups. In fall 2019, the event had more than 30 student startups selling everything from hot sauce and home goods to clothing and cupcakes.
Terp Marketplace is an opportunity for the UMD community to learn about Terp-founded businesses, buy unique products and support students. And the budding entrepreneurs gain more than just cash. Dingman Events and Marketing Manager Megan McPherson said it's a chance for them to get comfortable facing customers, making sales pitches and receiving feedback on their products and services.
“Whether their business ultimately makes money or not, it’s rewarding just to participate," McPherson said. “Getting out there and selling to customers is such a valuable experience in entrepreneurship.”
Terp Marketplace first opened in 2014 and has grown to support more student vendors and become an experiential component in classes. Many students participate in as a requirement of UMD’s innovation and entrepreneurship minor, a program that attracts students from a range of majors, from architecture to journalism. Some have been developing their products for years.
Jeff Su ’21 started making his own protein and snack bars his senior year of high school because of a tree nut allergy that prevented him from eating many of the popular brands(and those that were safe to eat he hated. What began as a small operation out of his mom’s kitchen is now Modbars, a product with six customizable flavors for which buyers can adjust the ingredient list when they make an order.
He said he received valuable feedback at the marketplace last semester to professionalize the packaging, which was originally in cellophane and tinfoil.
“Bro, you got to improve the packaging cause it looks like you’re selling something inedible,” Su recalled being told.
Saba Tshibaka ’20 will be back today as the founder of Rendered, a business that sells secondhand vintage clothing and educates consumers on sustainable shopping practices. She said Terp Marketplace is a good way to expose the brand and find participants for the company’s events.
“You’re getting cool clothes, but you’re also saving the environment,” Tshibaka said of her business.
McPherson said Terp Marketplace is ultimately a showcase of the entrepreneurial spirit of the university, whose undergraduate innovation and entrepreneurship program was ranked in the top 10 in the nation for the fifth consecutive year by The Princeton Review and Entrepreneur magazine.
“It’s great to see this little microcosm of entrepreneurial activity at the University of Maryland,” she said.
– Written by Dan Novak M.Jour. ’20. Republished with permission from Maryland Today.