Hanging Onto a Tights Lead
Inclusive Performance Apparel for Ice Skaters, Dancers of All Skin Tones Wins Pitch Dingman Competition’s Top Prize
Jasmine Snead ’18, MBA ’21 has been skating since she was 5. But her challenges began before she took the ice, with finding the right gear.
“I would dye my tights to match my skin tone. That just became a habit,” she said. “As I started coaching, I would see these little girls that don’t have tights that match their skin tone. I thought, ‘This should be something on the market.’”
She received a big boost toward that goal Thursday, when Aurora Tights, a startup run by Snead and fellow ice skaters/dancers Imani Rickerby ’17 and Sydney Parker ’18 that makes performance apparel for dancers and ice skaters of all skin tones, won the $15,000 grand prize at the Pitch Dingman Competition, UMD’s annual “Shark Tank”-style business event.
More than 500 students, faculty, alumni and VIPs watched the five finalist teams of student entrepreneurs compete for $30,000 in seed funding at the event. It was hosted by the Dingman Center for Entrepreneurship at the Robert H. Smith School of Business and chaired by Robert G. Hisaoka ’79, whose donation created more opportunities for student entrepreneurs to receive funding, guidance and mentorship.
“We hope this event will not only lead to success for the finalists, but will also inspire and empower future entrepreneurs and change-makers to make the leap from an idea to a venture,” said Holly DeArmond, MBA ’17, managing director of the Dingman Center.
Pitch Dingman applications opened at the beginning of the academic year, with a quarterfinals phase in October. A vetting process from alumni entrepreneur judges led to a selection of 10 semifinalists. At the semifinals in November, the field was narrowed to five.
On Thursday at the Stamp Student Union, the panel of expert judges assessed each startup’s current level of success, plan for using the funds and their overall growth potential.
Following Aurora Tights, which plans to use most of the prize money to fund more inventory at auroratights.com, the winners were:
- $7,500 Second Prize: Solr Tech, a solar-powered charging station that can retrofit any patio umbrella, invented by Alex Onufrak ’20
- $3,500 Third Prize: Synapto, a device that uses novel artificial intelligence and portable EEG to streamline Alzheimer’s disease diagnosis, developed by Dhruv Patel ’20, Christopher Look ’20, Anoop Patel ’20, David Boegner ’20 and Megha Guggari ’20
Synapto also took home the $1,000 audience choice award, decided by text voting.
Also pitching in the finals were crepkitchen, a web service to alert customers of limited-edition sneaker and clothing before they sell out, led by Mathew Steininger ’22; and OpenPoll, an interactive web and mobile polling platform to collect reliable opinion data, launched by Zackary Wynegar ’19.
Hisaoka ’79, who has an extensive background running and co-owning car dealerships, donated funding in 2017 that has allowed the Dingman Center to host a bigger and better final round. David Quattrone, a 2005 MBA graduate and co-founder and CTO of CVENT, and wife Robyn, along with credit union SECU, also donated to fund the competition.
Quattrone served as a judge for the competition and was joined by Cassie Costin, community market leader of SECU; Bill Boyle ’80, founder of FiberGate and chair of the Dingman Center Board of Advisors; and Gloria Jacobovitz, technology manager of Applied Physics Laboratory.