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. 

Arts Education News Women in Business

AnteDia Folkways and Humanities Preservation Society

Pamela BaileyPamela Bailey, who works in the Center on Research and Evaluation in Simmons, recently formed a non-profit, AnteDia Folkways and Humanities Preservation Society!

Bailey is a nationally published author, a singer-songwriter, podcaster, filmmaker, and a self-described “Carolina Daughter” living in Dallas, Texas.  She is descended from enslaved people from the Pee Dee region of South Carolina. Her projects afford her opportunities to collaborate with scholars in the US and internationally on the subject of forced migration of American-born enslaved people and the lasting effects of forced family separations on their descendants.

For more about Pamela, visit

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.”

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.