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Local businesses recognized by Governor’s Office of Small, Minority & Women Business Affairs

In the state that has the highest number of minority- and women-owned firms, three local businesses run by women received governor’s citations and joined dozens of other businesses in a business development workshop Tuesday at Carroll Community College.

The Governor’s Office of Small, Minority & Women Business Affairs brought its Ready, Set, GROW! Procurement Connections Workshop to Carroll County for the first time, according to Director of Communications Alison Tavik. The workshop, which is in its fifth year, serves to connect small business owners with buyers from state agencies and local partners and also offers tips on how to navigate the state’s procurement process, according to Tavik.

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Before presentations began and the networking kicked off, the owners of three businesses were recognized for their accomplishments: Firehouse Pottery & Arts, Growing Ideas Sustainable Gardening, and Uncharted HR. Jimmy Rhee, special secretary of the Governor’s Office of Small, Minority & Women Business Affairs, presented the citations on behalf of Gov. Larry Hogan.

Seven local businesses were nominated for the governor’s citation.

Firehouse Pottery & Arts

Firehouse Pottery & Arts, at 115 E. Baltimore St., Taneytown, started with painting pottery and has expanded to include canvas, glass, clay, and other mediums, said Pamela Gregory, chief of staff for the Governor’s Office of Small, Minority & Women Business Affairs.

The citation was presented to mother-daughter duo and co-owners Melody Schell and Harmony Autry. They have collaborated with the Boys & Girls Club in Westminster, New Beginnings Christian Learning Center, Northwest Middle School Parent Teacher Organization, Carroll Vista, and others, Gregory said.

“Being a woman-owned business, it’s super cool I get to work with my mom every day,” Autry said in an interview.

She handles the artistic side of the business, while Schell said her focus is keeping things running in the background.

Autry said her family started the business in 2018 in Mount Airy, then moved to Taneytown in February because they wanted to bring something to the community where Autry lives.

“The kids need something to do,” Autry said. “Once you come in you become part of our family.”

While the focus of the studio is creating art, Autry said the business is “way, way more than art." Autry said she wants Firehouse to be “a place that everyone can come to and feel safe," whether they’re young, old, or have disabilities.

She hopes to build a nonprofit out of the business in the future.

Growing Ideas Sustainable Gardening

Mildred Rodman, of Mount Airy, started Growing Ideas Sustainable Gardening to solve a problem her daughter Kate brought to her attention.

“We have all heard the saying, necessity is the mother of invention. Well, it’s true of Mildred,” Gregory said.

Kate is vegan, and she wanted to grow house plants in soil that was free of animal products, so she turned to her mother for help, Rodman said in an interview. She used her knowledge as a master gardener to create “upcycled” potting mix. One of the key ingredients is coconut coir, the brown hairy stuff on the outside of a coconut.

Rodman learned the coconut potting mix is not only better for the environment, it’s better for gardening, too. It retains more water and nutrients than regular potting mix, which means plants need less water, she said. Peat moss, one of the popular ingredients in typical potting mix, is “unsustainable” as peat bogs are depleted worldwide, she said.

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Rodman took her idea to the Carroll County Biz Challenge in 2018 and made it to the finale for the top five finishers. Her daughter, a graphic designer, designed the packaging and handled marketing, while her chemical engineer son helped develop the potting mix recipe, Gregory said. The mix even comes in bags that are compostable and made from recycled paper, Gregory noted.

Prior to receiving the governor’s citation, Rodman said she was excited for the recognition because it shows people believe in the product.

“I’m glad that people care about it,” Rodman said.

Uncharted HR

A woman with more than 22 years of experience in human resources decided to break away and create her own HR business. Lee Ann Young started her business just two months ago, but said her years of experience speak to her expertise, including 10 years spent consulting.

“People, that’s what Uncharted HR is all about,” Gregory said.

People are a company’s biggest expense and resource, Young said in an interview. Uncharted HR is based in Westminster.

“My goal is to help companies grow through their business,” Young said.

Uncharted HR has experience in 13 states in industries such as manufacturing, health care, consumer services, insurance, nonprofit organizations, and more, according to Gregory.

“Lee Ann always dreamed of being an entrepreneur and she takes great pride in watching others succeed,” Gregory said.

Young encouraged other women to pursue their dreams of owning a business.

“Living your life is the most important thing,” Young said.

Business grows in Maryland

One of Hogan’s priorities when he took office was creating jobs and improving the private sector, Rhee said.

Today, there are 120,000 more jobs, Maryland ranks No. 2 in the country as “the most innovative state” and No. 1 for women- and minority-owned businesses, according to Rhee.

“Running a small business, no matter the economic times, is tough because the landscape on which you stand on is constantly shifting,” Rhee said.

To be successful, businesses need to be aware of the state’s procurement process, Rhee said, and officials from the Governor’s Office of Small, Minority & Women Business Affairs spent a large part of Tuesday’s workshop explaining the ins and outs of this process.

Waiting to speak to the business owners after the presentations were 18 procurement and resource partners such as Carroll Community College, Carroll County, Maryland Transit Administration, Maryland Department of Health, Maryland Women’s Business Center, U.S. Small Business Administration, Miller Resources for Entrepreneurs, Farmers and Merchants Bank, and more. Approximately 40 businesses attended the event.

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