Big iDeas Entrepreneurship Student Women in Business

Mantra and Co. Fuses Culture with Commerce!


Founded as a jewelry brand by Nrithi Subramanian 25’ (pictured above sitting on a chair) in 2020, Mantra and Co. is a South Asian diasporic brand that relaunched on November 1st to additionally sell apparel and other accessories. Mantra and Co. seeks to promote unity within the diversity of the South Asian community! The brand sells crewnecks, t-shirts, and other apparel that merges South Asian culture with a western streetwear aesthetic. The company is one of profit and progress as a portion of its proceeds are used to help fund a non-profit hospital in Chennai, India! 

Along with her team of fellow college students from around the country, Nrithi is passionate about reclaiming the desi culture, narrative, and community! Here are her own words:

“I created this idea, of a desi fusion apparel brand 3 years ago, while confused by my identity, hoping to create the representation for South Asian Americans that our society lacked. 3 years later, my dream, Mantra and Co, is live.

This is for the children that grew up ashamed of their culture, navigating the duality of their upbringing, and building their identity from the ground-up. This is ours.” 


To learn more about Mantra and Co., visit mantra and co. 

Big iDeas Entrepreneurship Student Technology

Sprout Food Solutions Tackles Food Waste!

2022 Big iDea pitch winner Ashwin Rajesh ‘23 is a senior majoring in Computer Science with a minor in Business Administration. Ashwin cofounded Sprout Food Solutions in May of this year as a SaaS startup primarily focused on the reduction of kitchen food waste. The company addresses the complex problem the food industry faces concerning how much perishable food truly needs to be bought in order to meet demand, seen as billions of dollars worth of food is lost every year in the U.S. due to overbuying.  

Using a machine learning data regression, Sprout Food Solutions operates as a dashboard that predicts sales data for the following week. This sales data is used to more accurately determine the amount of perishable food inventory that should be ordered, reducing food waste! 


“Waste Prevention at Heart, Machine Learning in Mind” 


To learn more about the company, visit Sprout Food Solutions  

Entrepreneurship Health Care Technology

Building the Future of Disease Prevention Technology

[Dallas, Texas July 2021] Irewole (Wole) Akande is an Engineer and Entrepreneur. Currently a full time MBA candidate at Southern Methodist University (SMU), Irewole Akande, is leveraging innovative technology to save lives and reduce the spread of infectious diseases around the world through his healthcare technology startup – City Health Tech. Co-founded by Akande and Northwestern University alumnus, Ibraheem Alinur, in 2017, City Health Tech has developed cutting-edge wireless handwashing technology to guide users through effective handwashing techniques, improve hygienic behaviors, and use data collected to prevent the spread of diseases in the community.

In early 2021, Akande had an unfortunate bout with COVID-19. It occurred when so many good things were happening. City Health Tech had just got their first investor, and the company was to launch their product development of their first product Opal™. Unfortunately, COVID set product development back by over three months.

In Akande’s words: “After the initial disease passed, I was hit with a second round of long-haul symptoms that have severely affected my heart with little to no medical explanations on what is going on or if I’d ever be able to run again. As a result, I have developed severe health anxiety. This feeling is especially crippling because I had never fallen ill before COVID.”

As soon as Akande got good enough, he threw myself right back into working on City Health Tech Inc. with a very different mindset. One of a survivor with a burning desire to prevent others from experiencing what he and millions around the world did. “Prevention is better than cure,” has a whole new meaning to him. And protecting his community is a vision that now defines him.

He insists: “The future of healthcare is prevention. The future of healthcare is public health. The future of healthcare is technology. Do not let anyone tell you otherwise. And whatever winding path I take, I will keep me building the future of disease prevention technology.” And he is committed to his goal as in less than a month, City Health Tech will be releasing their first batch of products to strategic partners in the food handling, life sciences, and education spaces.

Akande, is a recipient of the Lucy Billingsley Future Texas Business Legend Award from the prestigious Texas Business Hall of Fame (TBHF). The award is presented to the best and brightest business student entrepreneurs in Texas that exhibit entrepreneurial aspirations and a propensity for leadership and innovation.

City Health Tech is promoting health literacy and more hygienic habits while collecting informative data through its proprietary and revolutionary IoT health communication device, Opal. Opal is a digital assistant that allows schools and organizations to analyze, track, and encourage healthy hand hygiene practices in their community through a variety of health communication/programming. By installing Opal in schools, office buildings, hotels, restaurants, life science buildings, and food manufacturing facilities, customers can encourage healthier habits within their space and collect key hygiene data that can be leveraged to better prevent the spread of infectious diseases.

The company which recently relocated to North Texas is looking to deepen its connections within the state of Texas. The founders were selected as one of only 7% of applicants into Newchip’s (based out of Austin, TX) competitive seed accelerator program. They hope to develop the company and expand their fundraising capabilities with expert mentors as they raise their seed round from angel investors or venture capitalists.

Akande credits the Southern Methodist University for providing him a unique space to grow and scale City Health Tech. Being in Texas has allowed him to tap into the unique resources and opportunities provided by the state. The company is looking for partners and investors within the North Texas area as they look to grow and scale their company.

Contact: Irewole Akande | City Health Tech

Phone: 3125326660

Email: |

Big iDeas Entrepreneurship Food & Beverage Student

Make Sister Shaq’s Sweet Tea a Habit

Raleigh DewanRaleigh Dewan is a junior at SMU double majoring in Creative Writing and Marketing with a concentration in Entrepreneurship and minors in Italian, History, and Public Policy and International Affairs. At SMU, Raleigh is a Hunt Leadership Scholar, BBA Scholar, Hilltop Scholar, Pre-Law Scholar, Hegi Career Leader, and a member of the University Honors Program. On the hilltop, Raleigh serves as the Internal Development Chair of Program Council, a member of the Campus Services Student Advisory Board, and is President of the Engaged Learning Student Board.

Raleigh is the founder of Sister Shaq Sweet Tea—a sweet tea company that uses confession worthy, American-grown tea to expand local awareness of human trafficking and empower its victims to regain their independence. He believes the knowledge and experience from participating in the Tower Scholars Program will allow him to better comprehend and advocate for the most effective public policy aimed at fighting human trafficking.

For more about Sister Shaq’s, visit Sister Shaq’s Website

Announcements Arts Entrepreneurship

Rodman Steele is turning it up to 11

Rodman Steele (BA Music ’18) is rapidly growing his music studio based in the Incubator@SMU. With a growing roster of teachers, the Rodman Steele Studio is hosting live events and offering home and studio lessons for guitar, bass, vocals, production, drums, and musical theatre. Turn it up to 11!

Entrepreneurship Finance

Plutus 21 Founder featured on Blockchain & Crypto panel

Hamiz Mushtaq Awan, founder and partner, Plutus21 Capital, recently spoke on NTX Inno panel about Blockchain and cryptocurrency. Watch the panel below:

For more, visit:


– Natalie Smolenski, Head of Business Development, Hyland Credentials and Executive Board Member, Texas Blockchain Council
– Mance Harmon, co-founder and CEO, Hedera Hashgraph
– Hamiz Mushtaq Awan, founder and partner, Plutus21 Capital
– Moderator: Kevin Cummings, Staff Reporter, NTX Inno

Apps Big iDeas Entrepreneurship Environmental Women in Business

GreenerLife LLC: greener life, greener earth

By Haley Zadel, ’20, with Adam Neal

Have you ever wanted to become more environmentally friendly, but you just don’t know how? GreenerLife LLC, founded by Taylor Slaton ’20 (CEO/CTO) and Seher Iqbal ’21 (CFO), is a forthcoming app that helps people track and change their waste habits.

The app will have three main components: Trash CreationTrash Created, and Trash Percentages.

  • The Trash Creation graph allows users to view their trash creation from the current and previous weeks.
  • In the Trash Created section, users input the trash they have used throughout the day. For each piece of garbage, the user can enter its category, type, and quantity.
  • The Trash Percentages section is a pie chart divided by category. Users can see a list of their worst habits and click on each one to learn about possible solutions.

Taylor Slaton graduated in Spring ’20 with a degree in Computer Science and a minor in Mathematics. She is now working at Protiviti and pursuing her MS in Cyber Security at the Lyle School of Engineering. Seher Iqbal is a senior double-majoring in Psychology and Economics.

When Slaton first decided to become waste-free, she decided to do a “trash audit.” Usually this process involves making a spreadsheet or taking notes about your daily waste production. Wanting to make this process easier and more accessible to people, she founded GreenerLife.

GreenerLife won initial funding through SMU’s Big iDeas contest in 2019 and the BigiDeas Business Pitch Competition and Demo Day in 2020. “Winning the Big iDeas competition helped connect us with more people who we can talk to and validate that our idea is a good one. When we won, we realized that we could actually have a big impact. Big iDeas has also helped because now we have funding, which has given us the ability to get the resources we need,” explains Slaton.Slaton adds, “we want GreenerLife to have a positive connotation. Instead of ‘here’s what you’re doing wrong,’ we want to help you see the difference you can make.”With the app currently under development, Slaton and Iqbal have focused on using social media to raise awareness about sustainability in different industries. “Right now, sustainability can’t be the main focus,” says Iqbal. “People have had to go back to single-use items. That’s no reason to feel bad; there are still ways to be sustainable, like making reusable masks or composting.”

Apps Big iDeas Education Entrepreneurship

A new way to tutor – EZTutor

By Haley Zadel, ’20

Tutoring can be a daunting concept for a lot of students who are struggling with academic success. It is easy to become discouraged if you have an adult tutor who you have nothing in common with and is out-of-touch with the current times. Luckily, the world of tutoring is changing thanks to SMU Dallas sophomore Aryan Bhatnagar. His company, EZTutor, is a network of top students in the Dallas-Fort Worth area that have mastered their curriculum to the point where they can teach it.


EZTutor is a marketplace for peer-to-peer tutoring that provides young and experienced tutors to students in need. Students can easily connect and form a bond with their peer tutor because they are close in age. This connection fosters a comfortable learning environment for the student to grow in. EZTutor also believes that money should never be a deterrent when it comes to education. While private tutors typically charge 60 dollars an hour, EZTutor offers lessons starting at 25 dollars an hour. EZTutor is also flexible. With no upfront fees or contracts, students can book as many or as few lessons as they want and are able to easily cancel or reschedule if needed.


In high school, Bhatnagar saw the disconnect between student and tutor as a problem worth trying to fix. Starting out, he was unsure if the concept of a peer-to-peer tutoring company would work, but this quickly changed when he started pitching his idea.

Bhatnagar has won several pitch competitions that have helped him fund his company which include SMU’s Big iDeas Pitch Competition in 2019, SMU’s Big iDeas Business PlanCompetition in 2019 and 2020, and MBA Cox Competition in 2019.

“Big iDeas has honestly helped me so much. I think the biggest thing it’s given me is mentorship. If you don’t have someone who is experienced and is betting on you, other people won’t want to bet on you either. That’s something I learned early on is that you need to have people who are making sure you have the right framework,” explained Bhatnagar.

Bhatnagar is planning to expand the EZTutor network to twenty school districts in low-income areas. He wants to make sure that students at these schools know that college is a viable option for them. I think it is safe to say that the future of EZTutor is going to be bright!

Visit the EZTutor Website

Arts Big iDeas Entrepreneurship Women in Business

Teaching confidence and communication through theater

by Haley Zadel ’20

You might be surprised to find out that there is more to the art of acting than just theater and film. Although you might picture Hollywood and the red carpet when you think of acting, SMU Dallas junior, Alysia Giakoumas, envisions something far different. Her company, The Playground Acting Program, reshapes the common skills and techniques taught to actors/actresses to apply to real-world situations for children ages seven to fifteen. Using various acting exercises, the program aims to teach and develop soft skills such as public speaking, communication, and confidence.

“We use viewpoints techniques to develop the child’s ability to understand their impulses and how to create shapes with their bodies; We use improvisation games to encourage the children to be creative, think quick on their feet, feel confident with their ideas, and feel confident while being silly; We use devised theatre activities to encourage the children to be creative, work effectively as an ensemble, and work using communication skills under a time constraint,”explained Giakoumas.

The Playground logoGiakoumas first dreamed of creating The Playground Acting Program when she was fourteen years old after realizing her passion for theater, education, and working with children. In high school, Giakoumas started a drama club at age fifteen and became president of the Thespian Society at age seventeen. These experiences taught her the skills needed to build out a curriculum and be an effective leader.

In the Fall of 2019, Giakoumas’ dream became a reality. With the encouragement and support from her Arts Entrepreneurship professor, James Hart, Giakoumas pitched her program at SMU’s Big iDeas contest and won.

“Creative and arts entrepreneurship is so important for creatives and artists, as the skills taught in the arts entrepreneurship courses in Meadows dramatically increase the likelihood of professional success, following graduation. Students learn to develop a strategy, to compete in the market effectively and to create their own professional opportunities, in addition to pursuing more conventional jobs. Alysia is embodying what we teach in arts entrepreneurship at SMU in that she is taking her creative career into her own hands, rather than just relying on others for her ability to work professionally,” said Hart.

Big iDeas has played a monumental role in helping Giakoumas successfully grow her program.Winning the Big iDeas contest not only has provided Giakoumas with one thousand dollars in seed money, but also given her access to the SMU Incubator and its resources. “Big iDeas has given me everything I need in order to succeed,” said Giakoumas.

Alysia Giakoumas with studentsJennifer Ebinger, Director of SMU’s Office of Engaged Learning, adds, “Alysia has taken full advantage of the Incubator@SMU space. By holding her workshops there she has been able to develop and test her vision for The Playground, as well as understand what it takes to run your own business including hiring staff, marketing, and general event logistics. It has been wonderful to see her build confidence in her approach, refine The Playground, and build a future for herself in a field that she loves.”

Giakoumas hopes that in the next couple of years, The Playground Acting Program will be accessible to all public school children and eventually grow to become “the” program in Dallas.