Office of Engaged Learning Office of Engaged Learning - Entrepreneurship

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.”

Office of Engaged Learning Office of Engaged Learning - 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

Office of Engaged Learning Office of Engaged Learning - Entrepreneurship

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.