While in college, D’Mario Northington, FastForward U’s new student program coordinator, started a clothing line he thought would be a hobby. He planned to become a plastic surgeon, after all, going so far as to shadow doctors while an undergraduate at Michigan State University.
But then he visited a student startup accelerator at Michigan State and found he loved the logistics and customer discovery process involved in launching a business.
“There was just something about the idea of having a vision and then figuring out how to make it work,” he says.
Instead of medical school, Northington after graduating joined Venture For America (VFA), a two-year fellowship program that provides firsthand startup experiences. It was through VFA that Northington successfully applied for his position at FastForward U, the student accelerator program of Johns Hopkins Technology Ventures (JHTV). Josh Ambrose, JHTV’s director of student ventures, praised Northington’s “vision for the Baltimore ecosystem.”
“We really appreciate that D’Mario’s own background mirrors a continuum of interests that we find in our JHU students, from art to science,” says Ambrose. “His own experiments and accomplishments so far help give him a foundation of firsthand experience to relate to our student teams, especially those that are considering entrepreneurship for the first time.”
Northington will oversee the Spark accelerator, an early-stage track for teams to validate their ideas and learn the basics of market research and customer discovery. He is starting a series of student think tank workshops, and will be a regular presence on the Homewood campus working with student groups and organizations.
Northington is based at FastForward U’s co-working space in Remington, which is open seven days a week for anyone with a Johns Hopkins ID.
“We’re here for the students,” he says. “Just show up.”
Northington archived his clothing line’s website, but looks forward to gaining inspiration and some new ideas from being back in a student accelerator space.
“Just do it,” he says of the advice he gives aspiring student entrepreneurs. “You have nothing to lose.”