Howard Community College (HCC) alumna Emily Kim vividly remembers starting her first business a few years ago, a clothing and fashion company called Dazzleous, with just $1,000.
That’s why she recently presented a $1,000 scholarship to Howard Community College (HCC) student Alicia Holliday, enabling Holliday to invest in her own startup.
After Kim sold the inventory of Dazzleous to another business, she founded “AMOMENT,” another apparel e-commerce business introducing affordable high-end fashion, particularly from merchants in Korea and Europe; then in August 2015, she became a full-time restaurant entrepreneur, pouring all her time into founding and opening Uma Uma, in Ellicott City, which recently celebrated its first year in business. The restaurant specializes in Japanese ramen.
“When I started, Dazzelous was very small,” said Kim. “My first company started with just a thousand dollars, and it changed my life completely.”
Kim believes so much in her fellow entrepreneurs that she decided to create a scholarship to help someone along the startup path. “They have amazing business ideas they want to execute,” she said.
Each year, select students from HCC’s introductory entrepreneurship and creativity course pitch their innovative business ideas in a judged competition. In this bi-annual event, students have five minutes each to present their business ideas to a panel of entrepreneurial business professionals.
At this year’s celebration, Kim presented her scholarship to Holliday, last year’s third prize winner and creator of “Open Chair,” a service for clients and beauticians to schedule appointments and locations. Kim will now serve as a mentor for Holliday, who describes her business as “a platform that empowers salon owners and stylists to make more money.”
Salon owners create an online profile with their available chairs. Then they connect with stylists who need a space to work. “Stylists, create your profile, list your experience and your portfolio — and search for open chairs,” said Holliday.
Kim, who planned Uma Uma as part of a college graduation requirement at the University of Baltimore, said business at the restaurant has been up and down, but has generally been trending upward.
With the fashion startup, it seemed easy to find customers, Kim said. “Customers were actually finding my product. I was naïve, because I thought all businesses would be that easy. But it got harder.”
The restaurant’s opening was stalled for a year by various delays, and Kim and her family had very little income, she said. “My parents have worked in Baltimore; they used to own small grocery stores. So I can be the one to change their lives. We always dream the American dream. We were never satisfied with our lives. I am still in the process of making my family a little [happier].”
Kim says that opening Uma Uma — which is Japanese baby talk for “yum, yum”— was the biggest hurdle she’s ever had, and created the most stress she’s ever faced. “There was a lot of tension, because I was a young entrepreneur.” Twenty-six-year-old Kim still believes quite a few people are judging her, not the food, at Uma Uma.
In addition to generating innovative ideas, today’s young entrepreneurs have a strong passion for giving back to society, said Betty Noble, director of the HCC’s Center for Entrepreneurial and Business Excellence (CEBE).
“Of the 13 entrepreneurs who pitched, eight had some piece of social responsibility within their pitch,” she said. Noble is referring to the pitches given by student entrepreneurs as part of the Fall 2016 Entrepreneurial Celebration, which was sponsored by CEBE, Pinnacle Advisory Group, Howard County Chamber of Commerce, Howard County Economic Development Authority and Maryland Center for Entrepreneurship.
First place in the most recent celebration went to Melissa Robbins for her presentation of RADD, an application designed for children with ADD/ADHD to provide tools to manage attention disorders in a natural, engaging way.
Second place was awarded to Jade Lorain for her presentation of Jaded Pets, a vending machine for dog parks where pet parents can purchase last-minute necessities and donate to a local animal shelter. Lorain was also the recipient of the People’s Choice Award, voted on by the audience at the event.
In another way of giving back, HCC’s young entrepreneurs are also helping downtown Ellicott City shop owners create websites and revitalize their businesses in the wake of the recent historic flooding. Students have been meeting weekly with business owners to help them create an online presence, including web content, logos, photographs of merchandise and social media.
“Every year, these young entrepreneurs continue to be amazing,” Noble said. “What’s most special about them recently is that strong thread of social responsibility, along with the enthusiasm in the presentations themselves.”