The 2018 Carroll Biz Challenge has concluded, with Brewery Fire taking the first place prize of $20,261. Brewery Fire also won the People’s Choice Award and $1,500.

The 2018 Carroll Biz Challenge

The Carroll Biz Challenge is an annual competition in which local entrepreneurs enter their business ideas. Five finalists, chosen by the Advisory Committee, pitch their ideas to a panel of judges. A grand winner is selected from the finalists and receives a cash prize of over 5,000 dollars – this year, the prize is worth more than twenty thousand dollars.

The competition is meant to allow entrepreneurs to build local connections, get publicity for their business, and have the opportunity to win cash to help fund their new company. It also promotes innovation in Carroll County and encourages young people to share their business ideas with the world. You can read more about it on the Carroll Biz Challenge website or in our article about the Biz Challenge.

Applications to this year’s Carroll Biz Challenge were due on May 31, 2018. The finalists, who competed last night for the grand prize, were chosen in late June. After several minutes of deliberation by the judges, Brewery Fire was chosen as the first place winner. Brewery Fire is a local brewing company that wants to bring better local beer to Carroll County – more on them below. The finale was held yesterday at the Carroll Arts Center in downtown Westminster. It began at 5:00 PM and ended at around 9:00 PM.

Winners from previous Carroll Biz Challenges have also had some fantastic ideas, which you can learn more about on the competition website.

The final round of competition in the Carroll Biz Challenge is a Shark Tank-style presentation, during which contestants have to prove that their business idea is the best one. Finalists had five minutes each to pitch their ideas to the judges and the audience. This was immediately followed by seven minutes of answering questions posed by the judges and the audience members, who could submit questions via text message.


The audience also voted on which business would receive the People’s Choice Award, a secondary prize worth 1,500 dollars – Brewery Fire was also chosen to win this award, in addition to the grand prize.

Twenty-four applicants entered the 2018 Carroll Biz Challenge. Five finalists made it to the final round of competition.

The Finalists

After a long selection process, these are the five finalists that were chosen to compete in the Carroll Biz Challenge finale. Their business ideas include all kinds of things, from gardening supplies to catering services. All the finalists performed outstandingly well at last night’s event and displayed their knowledge and skill when presenting their ideas.

Brewery Fire

Dave Palmer & Jesse Johnson

The winner of the 2018 Carroll Biz Challenge, Brewery Fire wants to provide quality craft beer to Carroll County. They will provide a friendly and relaxed atmosphere, onsite taps, and catering via food trucks. The microbrewery hopes to be the first in the county to do this.

Brewery Fire impressed the judges with their passionate business pitch, innovative idea, and support for their community. They were also the only team that had not yet started their business, and they hope to use the money from the competition to buy new equipment to get their brewery started with.

You can learn more about Brewery Fire in their intro video.

Floral Fêtes

Janet Paulsen

Floral Fêtes plans incredible events and creates beautiful experiences through their expertise in floral decoration. They offer many options, from a single flower to whole bouquets or arrangements created from local and imported flowers. In addition to flowers, an assortment of gifts, local art, cards, and jewelry is available at their shop.

As noted in Floral Fêtes’ business pitch, the shop has helped revitalize Main Street in Taneytown and brought new business activity to the area. Visit Floral Fêtes’ website to find out more about their business.

Growing Ideas Sustainable Gardening

Mildred Rodman

Growing Ideas Sustainable Gardening is attempting to make building a healthy garden a more environmentally-friendly process. Mildred Rodman, the founder of Growing Ideas, designed an alternative potting mix that replaces peat moss and perlite, non-renewable resources, with more sustainable ingredients, such as coconut coir and rice hulls.

The high-quality organic potting mix is designed to be both better for your garden and the planet. It outperforms some traditional potting mixes, and is packaged with recycled paper and compostable plant-based plastic. Have a look at Growing Ideas Sustainable Gardening on Etsy to learn more about their products.

It’s All Good

Daniel Smith

It’s All Good is a food truck catering business that does things differently than other catering companies. They are offering more delicious and healthy food options, backed by passion and talent gained during many years in the food service industry.

It's All Good

More information about It’s All Good can be found on their Facebook page.

Sertified., LLC

Justin Arter & Owen Long

Sertified., LLC is trying to improve the availability of affordable, efficient, and high quality American Red Cross training in the mid-Atlantic region of the East Coast. They are working to create network of instructors who can provide training in areas including Emergency Medical Services, CPR, Lifeguarding, and First Aid.

You can read more about Sertified in our article from last month or in their pitch video on YouTube.

The Judges

This incredible event would not have been possible without the four judges who shared their time, wisdom, and skills with the community and made the 2018 Carroll Biz Challenge even better.

The judges

Drew Baker

Farmer, Vigneron, Entrepreneur

Drew Baker started Old Westminster Winery when he was 22, planting over 7,000 grape vines on his family’s farm. Now, the winery distributes wine to 10 states and ranks as one of the top 100 wineries in America.

Mike Gibble


Mike Gibble founded Gibble Enterprises Holdings, or GEH, as an initial stage venture capital firm. The company now has eight businesses in its portfolio, including architecture and real estate development companies.

Trisha McLean

Director of Marketing, Strategic Leader

Trisha McLean has worked in marketing and advertising for twenty years, and continues to create new and innovative strategies to help businesses grow. Currently, she is the Director or Marketing at Ting Internet.

Amy Wallace-Yingling

Regional Director

Amy Wallace-Yingling has worked for Fortune 100 and Fortune 500 companies and has over 18 years of marketing and market research experience. She is now the SBDC Regional Director and helps local businesses in Cecil County, Carroll County, and Harford County.

The Sponsors

This year’s competition was hosted by the Carroll County Chamber of Commerce and sponsored by many organizations, including MAGIC, Ting127 Creative, and the Carroll County Public Library. The generosity of these organizations made this incredible event possible.

Contributions from the Carroll Biz Challenge sponsors helped to find the grand prize, valued at $20,261. This includes all kinds of help from local businesses that could be useful to a startup. Just a few of the rewards include $5000 in cash, marketing services from 127 Creative, small business workshops from Miller, fiber internet from Ting, and 3 months of retail/advertising space from the TownMall of Westminster. Here’s the full list:

Grand prize

Several local businesses also provided refreshments for the event:

Thanks again to all the sponsors!

Celebrities Comment on the Carroll Biz Challenge

It seems that the Carroll Biz Challenge has gained international attention, as made evident by a series of tweets posted throughout the event.

Everyone from Donald Trump to LeBron James had something to say about this incredible event!

Congratulations, Brewery Fire

Brewery Fire was announced as the winner following a brief intermission. They were handed a check for $1,500 for the People’s Choice Award, and another for $5,000 for the 2018 Carroll Biz Challenge grand prize.

Congratulations to all the contestants, finalists, and the winning team, Brewery Fire. Each of the finalist’s ideas has great potential and all teams did an amazing job competing in the 2018 Carroll Biz Challenge. We look forward to seeing what new ideas will be presented at the Carroll Biz Challenge next year!

See you next year

For information about the winners of the 2019 Carroll Biz Challenge, check out our latest post.