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August 25, 2016                                                                                                          Jacqueline Lara, MWBC

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE                                                                      , 240-305-2133

StartRight! 2016 Business Plan Competition Winners Announced

Alice Blayne-Allard, Free State Cooperage is the Grand Prize Winner

Rockville, MD, August 25, 2016 – Today, the Maryland Women’s Business Center (MWBC) and Rockville Economic Development, Inc. (REDI) announced the winners of the 13th annual StartRight! Women’s Business Plan Competition at the Power Conference at the Bethesda North Marriott Hotel & Conference Center.

The annual competition is supported with funding from sponsors that awards cash and in-kind prizes totaling over $13,000. Shulman Rogers was this year’s Gold Level Sponsor joined by Morgan Stanley at the Silver Level. Bronze Level sponsors include Prince George’s County Economic Development Corporation, Revere Bank, TriBridge Partners, LLC, EagleBank, Snyder Cohn, Maryland Department of Commerce, and Intelligent Office. Allegra, SameGrain, Women’s Business Report, and Clark Concepts are in-kind sponsors of the competition.

This year’s $5,000 Grand Prize was awarded to Free State Cooperage owner, Alice Blayne-Allard. Free State Cooperage manufactures sustainably sourced American oak barrels for use in distilleries, wineries, and breweries, and offers tours featuring Maryland history and forestry practices. Free State Cooperage was selected from over 30 business plans reviewed by a panel of 22 volunteer judges. “The StartRight Business Plan Competition came at the right time as I prepare to expand my business.  The feedback was very comprehensive and focused.  Everyone was incredibly helpful, and I look forward to building my business,” said Blayne-Allard, owner of Free State Cooperage.

“Congratulations go out to all of our finalists for doing a great job and being an inspiration to those interested in starting a business. This year was particularly tough in selecting our finalists as we had a number of great candidates to choose from,” noted Kiesha Haughton, Managing Director of the Maryland Women’s Business Center. She added, “We are so grateful for our volunteer judges, and the support of our sponsors who make the StartRight! Business Plan Competition possible by believing enough in this program to donate their time and resources.”

This year’s winner of the “Pick The Pitch” category was Shenita Penn and Krystina Sims, co-founders of Next Steps in Nursing, LLC (NSIN), which offers career coaching, education, and networking for the Millennial nurse, providing professional development opportunities to optimize performance. With support from our sponsors, elevator pitches from 10 semifinalists were filmed and posted on MWBC’s website, and the public was invited to vote for their favorite. The Pitch Prize is one year of complimentary office space from Intelligent Office. Grand prize winner, Alice Blayne-Allard of Free State Cooperage, will also receive this complimentary service from Intelligent Office.

The First Runner Up prize was awarded to Damini Agarwal, owner of MedAPT. MedAPT provides affordable IT-based medical device solutions to make quality healthcare accessible to all.  The primary product is BlinkIT, an eye-blink detection based communication system for quadriplegics. Second Runner Up was awarded to Shenita Penn & Krystina Sims, NSIN; offering career coaching, education, and networking for the Millennial nurse, providing professional development opportunities to optimize performance. And Third Runner Up prizes were awarded to two semifinalists, Takia Ross with Accessmatized and Deborah Bodin Cohen with The Story House. Accessmatized is a flexible and mobile professional makeup company that provides a personalized service at their location or yours as early as 5:00 am and as late as 11:00 pm. The Story House is an independent mobile bookstore for children, teens and their families, partnering with local schools and organizations to appear at book fairs, community festivals, and at pop-up locations in neighborhoods.  “This business plan process provided me with concrete feedback, and encouraged me to learn more about my competitors. My next steps will be to obtain a patent, in addition to grants that will help me advance my work,” said Damini Agarwal, owner of MedAPT.

“We congratulate the StartRight! Business Plan Competition winners, and will continue offering a variety of business support tools to help women entrepreneurs achieve their goals.” said Laurie Boyer, Executive Director of REDI.


About The Maryland Women’s Business Center

MWBC was established in 2010 as a program of the non-profit Rockville Economic Development, Inc. (REDI) to help people throughout the region start and build successful women-owned enterprises that are positioned for long-term growth. MWBC conducts specialized training, offers individual business counseling, and provides unique resources.  Our special initiatives include a Childcare Business Development Program and StartRight! Women’s Business Plan Competition. Stay connected on Facebook, Instagram , LinkedIn, and Twitter.

About Rockville Economic Development, Inc.

Rockville Economic Development, Inc. (REDI) is a public-private partnership formed in 1997 by the City of Rockville, Maryland to strengthen and broaden the city’s economic base through business entrepreneurship, expansion, retention, and recruitment programs. REDI offers guidance and support to help businesses at all stages of growth launch, locate and expand in Rockville.  For more information, contact 301-315-8096 or visit