A trip to England inspired Dawn Pritchard to pursue opening a lavender farm in Carroll County and now with the help of the Carroll Biz Challenge, she may be open one year sooner than expected.
Pritchard, founder of Silver Linings Lavender Farm, a proposed agrotourism destination in the county featuring fields of lavender and a variety of lavender products, was named the 2014 Carroll Biz Challenge Friday at McDaniel College.
The first place prize carries with it a $5,000 cash prize.
"I'm speechless, except for thank you," Pritchard said shortly after the event.
The Carroll Biz Challenge, now in its second year, is a contest for small business startups to compete for a $5,000 cash prize. Founded by local entrepreneur Jason Stambaugh, the event is hosted by Carroll County Chamber of Commerce and sponsored by 24 county businesses.
Pritchard outlasted 15 entries in the competition. Of the 15, five were chosen to present at the live competition in front of more than 120 spectators and a four-member panel. Finalists were required to give a five minute pitch for their business before a question and answer session with the panel.
Judges unanimously chose Pritchard as the winner.
Prior to announcing their selection, judges said the winning idea would benefit Carroll County residents and the local economy both in the short term and the future.
"We think it's going to be amazing for years to come," said Jeanne Sherwood, one of the four judges and CEO of Sykesville based Well Advantage.
Pritchard said she plans on using her winning to purchase about $1,000 of lavender products to start the retail aspect of her farm.
She said the remaining $4,000 will go toward a down payment for the farmland either in Sykesville or Westminster.
Pritchard expects the prize money will allow her to move up her opening from April 2015 to April 2014.
Even if she wasn't named the winner, Pritchard said she "absolutely loved" participating in the Carroll Biz Challenge.
"I've made so many contacts and met so many people that I can work with and benefit from mutually," she said.
For more information on Silver Linings, visit silverliningslavender.com.
Stratosphere Trampoline Park, owned by Bryan Zuber, received the audience vote, which carries with it a $500 prize.
Zuber plans to open family-oriented facility in Eldersburg where all ages will have open trampoline jump areas and arenas for dodgeball, basketball, volleyball, and fitness.
The other finalists included:
• Debra Cancro: Founder of Autonomy Engine, which is voice recording software that measures the tone of your voice informs you how you come across to your audience.
• Jason Harder, Lance Garber, Duane Martin, and Luke Fisher: Founders of IndiThat, a local social media site aiming to connect its users to what they enjoy most in Westminster.
• Steve Lowe and Pinwheel Liester: Co-founders of MuffinBomb, a company that produces baskets of individually wrapped muffins to be sent as a gift.