Students showcase their businesses at Smith School event
Chris Wright, a senior communications major, is the owner of Horace Images, a photography company he founded in 2018. He found out about the Terp Marketplace in a newsletter email from the Dingman Center. Figuring he had nothing to lose, he applied for a spot in this month’s marketplace.
“At first I thought I didn’t get in. I’m not in the business school or anything,” Wright said. “But [on] Friday I got the notice and I was just happy.”
The Terp Marketplace gave student entrepreneurs the chance to present their products and services in the Pownall Atrium of Van Munching Hall on Wednesday, April 10.
The Dingman Center for Entrepreneurship is one part of the Robert H. Smith Business School’s Centers for Excellence initiative, according to the program’s site. The Dingman Center focuses on providing students with curricular and non-curricular opportunities to explore entrepreneurship.
The Dingman Center hosts the Terp Marketplace once a month during the fall and spring semesters. It is one way for student business owners to test the waters and feel out the market for the services they’re delivering. Interested students must fill out an application online to participate.
At this month’s marketplace, students and faculty walked through the Pownall Atrium, finding a variety of services and products in videography, food, cleaning services and fashion.
Wright began doing photography for two reasons. He and his friends were interested in modeling, but felt the prices photographers were charging were too expensive. While working as a social media marketer for a local business, he was inspired to take photos to create better social media posts for the company.
Like Wright, Yasmine Hardy-Njie’s business came from a place of passion. Hardy-Njie, a junior architecture major, had always been a thrift shopper, so starting a clothing resale company came second nature to her.
Njie and two other students founded Rendered Inc. in October 2018, with the intention of streamlining the process of thrift shopping, as well as providing customers with a sustainable alternative to fast fashion.
“We first go to thrift stores. We find items that we think are valuable,” Hardy-Njie said. “Sometimes we’ll look up the price that other stores are pricing it at and compare it to see if it’s an actually valuable item. But other times it just looks cool, so we’ll take it.”
Both companies highlighted marketing as a challenge, a common sentiment among small business owners. However, Wright and Hardy-Njie are taking the necessary steps to get their brands out to people.
For Wright, the business came after a trial and error period with photography. He would watch a YouTube video, then go out and test what he’d learned. Sometimes it was successful. Other times he had to return to the drawing board and get the technique just right. Luckily for Wright, he had the opportunity to practice shooting with his friends.
“When I first started out, I had no portfolio,” Wright said. “My friends were into modeling and were like ‘You can shoot with me any day.’ So I set up a consistent schedule and every Friday, we would shoot, shoot, shoot.”
Rendered Inc. went through a phase of rebranding, Hardy-Njie said. Instead of just posting pictures of the items for sale, the company’s site and Instagram page now features models, giving customers a better idea of what they’re purchasing.
In addition to that upgrade, Rendered Inc. would like to see its team continue to grow. The company is looking to expand services and sell reworked thrifted clothes with the company logo.
“We’re working on branding Rendered on clothing that we have thrifted,” Hardy-Njie said. “Get a thrifted T-shirt, bleach it and put our logo on it.”
Social media is an important marketing tool, but Wright and Hardy-Njie have also invested in physical forms of marketing like business cards, fliers and laptop stickers.
Wright believes being able to successfully brand a company is all about knowing what it has to offer.
“I know I have competition here, but it doesn’t matter because I know I am different from them, different from everybody else,” he said.