Since winning the second annual Carroll Biz Challenge in November, the ensuing months have been "very hectic, to say the least," according to Dawn Pritchard.
"Starting any business is really difficult and stressful," said Pritchard, the founder of Silver Linings Lavender, a company that produces homemade, all-natural lavender products.
"It's a little overwhelming, but when you have that reminder that people believe in you, it gives you fuel," she said.
Pritchard wants to make her company site an agrotourism destination, complete with fields of lavender, a store, and space to host events or meetings.
"I like to tell people that this will be the place they bring their out of town guests,'" she said.
Carroll Biz Challenge judges unanimously chose her concept as the competition winner in November, awarding her a $5,000 prize.
Although things have gone well for Pritchard since winning the Biz Challenge, she still need one thing — a 6- to 10-acre farm with a barn to plant her lavender and begin hosting events and selling her products.
She said it's been "much more difficult" to find a location than she imagined.
"It's a pretty weird request to have just a barn and 10 acres," said Pritchard, who has been working with a Realtor to locate a property, preferably between Sykesville and Westminster.
Her goal is to purchase a property early this summer, plant her first crop this fall, and begin harvesting next year. "The sooner I start, the sooner I can get to that point where it's a real destination," she said.
In the meantime, Pritchard has been purchasing lavender from farms along the East Coast, including Delaware, Maryland, and Pennsylvania, to make her products. She is currently selling her hand lotion, laundry detergent, lip balm and other products online at http://www.silverliningslavender.com.
She plans on a full schedule of farmers markets and craft shows this spring to sell her products and is also in the process of making products available at local retailers.
Pritchard said she has been learning "so much, so fast" with the help of county programs aimed at helping small businesses, such as the Carroll Business Path.
If Pritchard can find an appropriate location, it would be "huge" for Carroll County, said Mike McMullin, president of the Chamber of Commerce.
"For a business to come to this area that is really complementing the agribusiness that we are so well known for, I think it would be an incredible destination," he said.
Pritchard has one assistant, Anna Pease, helping make products and maintain a schedule.
Besides Pease, Pritchard is the only person behind Silver Linings Lavender.
Jason Stambaugh, founder of the Carroll Biz Challenge said he has been "very, very impressed" by Pritchard's progress since winning the event aimed at helping local startups.
For Pritchard, winning the Biz Challenge has "helped tremendously."
In response to Pritchard's statement, Stambaugh said that is why the county offers the Biz Challenge, to help local entrepreneurs.
"It's the most gratifying work that I've had the chance to do professionally," he said.
The Carroll Biz Challenge, is for small business startups that is hosted by Carroll County Chamber of Commerce and sponsored by 24 county businesses.
The 2013 competition had 15 entries with five 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.