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Carroll Biz Challenge back for second year

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Think of it as American Idol meets Shark Tank.

Except its local, meaning no Mark Cuban or Simon Cowell.

The Carroll Biz Challenge, which awards one local entrepreneur $5,000, is now accepting applications for the November competition. Applications are due by Oct. 15.

Back after a successful first year, which drew 22 entrants, the Carroll Biz Challenge offers entrepreneurs the opportunity to pitch their business ideas through an online application and live contest at McDaniel College.

"We're going to get to see in this year's contest the best and brightest entrepreneurs that are in Carroll County," said Jason Stambaugh, CEO of Hometown Startups, a business specializing in helping entrepreneurs launch a business.

The challenge is co-hosted by the Carroll County Chamber of Commerce and Hometown Startups.

Similar to the popular reality TV shows, applicants in the business challenge pitch their ideas through an online application before an advisory board selects the best five to advance to a live contest, open to the public Nov. 22, at McDaniel.

At the contest, applicants introduce their business idea with a five-minute presentation before a 10-minute "grilling" by a panel of judges. The panel, along with an audience vote, then select the winner.

Stambaugh, who founded the business challenge, said the contest format remains the same this year, but additional prizes have been added.

The audience at the live event will again have the opportunity to cast a vote, but this year their selection carries with it a $500 prize for the winning selection.

Also added is the Big Idea Award, which will be selected by the panel. The award will give one entrepreneur the chance to meet with local businessmen on advancing their idea.

"We want to reward those for dreaming big with an unbelievable educational and business development opportunity," Stambaugh said.

Sean Schmidt, winner of the inaugural Carroll Biz Challenge, called it an "amazing experience."

Schmidt, founder and president of Holistic Home Energy Services, said he entered the challenge as a way to promote his start-up company, which specializes in home energy audits.

"With no marketing budget, this was a perfect way to get the word out in the community," he said.

Prior to the challenge, Schmidt was the lone employee at Holistic, but he said winning the challenge has enabled to him to hire another full-time employee and add a McDaniel College intern.

This has allowed Holistic to double the amount of audits they perform while becoming more efficient in filing paperwork with homeowners to receive rebates for making their home more energy efficient.

Schmidt said 60 percent of his business is Carroll County residents.

For more information on the Carroll Biz Challenge, visit carrollbizchallenge.com.

Copyright © 2014, The Baltimore Sun
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