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September 7, 2017                                                                                                    Jacqueline Lara, MWBC

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StartRight! 2017 Business Plan Competition Announced

Stacie Whisonant, PYT Funds, Inc. as the Grand Prize Winner

Rockville, MD, September 7, 2017 – Today, the Maryland Women’s Business Center (MWBC) and Rockville Economic Development, Inc. (REDI) announced the grand prize and runner-up winners of the 14th 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 and HSBC are this year’s Gold Level Sponsors. Bronze Level sponsors include Capital One, Crowe Communications, Prince George’s County Economic Development Corporation, Intelligent Office Rockville|D.C., Maryland Department of Commerce, M&T Bank, Revere Bank and Snyder Cohn. Allegra, Women’s Business Report, Intelligent Office Bethesda and Clark Concepts are in-kind sponsors of the competition.

This year’s $5,000 Grand Prize was awarded to PYT Funds, Inc. owner, Stacie Whisonant. PYT Funds, Inc. is an online financial services firm combining crowdfunding with traditional bank funding for the underserved college student population. PYT Funds, Inc. was selected from over 40 business plans reviewed by a panel of 20 volunteer judges. “I am thankful for the support and resources provided to me from the beginning of the application process to the competition finale. The StartRight! opportunity strengthens our platform to build more innovative solutions to better serve our students,” said Whisonant, owner of PYT Funds, Inc.

“Congratulations go out to all of our finalists for doing a great job and being an inspiration to those interested in starting a business. It seems that every year gets tougher and tougher selecting our finalists, as we continue to get highly competitive candidates to review and select 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 Mychal Pilia, founder of Frederick Birth Center LLC, which provides a home-like, safe alternative birth experience, while maintaining the highest standards of quality of care for women and their families. With support from our sponsors, elevator pitches from 11 semi-finalists 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 Rockville|D.C. Grand prize winner, Stacie Whisonant of PYT Funds, Inc., will also receive this complimentary service from Intelligent Office Rockville|D.C.

The First Runner-Up prize was awarded to Dr. Isfahan Chambers-Harris, owner of Alodia Hair Care. With its tagline: learn, love, grow, Alodia Hair Care is a hair solution system consisting of four style kits made with natural ingredients, which encourage natural hair growth and lead to healthy hair and scalp, especially for women of color. Second Runner-Up was awarded to Judy O’Connor, Like Neighbors, LLC, a crowdfunding platform that provides meal deliveries and other services for those in need by connecting them with family and friends nationwide. And Third Runner-Up prize was awarded to Mychal Pilia, Frederick Birth Center LLC.

“There were many benefits participating in this competition from mentorship to networking. I now have a more detailed view of my business and I am ready to seek additional funding opportunities,” said Isfahan Chambers-Harris, owner of Alodia Hair Care.

“We congratulate the StartRight! Business Plan Competition winners, and all of this year’s competition entrants, 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 FacebookInstagram , 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