Known for the Companies We Keep

Helping Businesses Launch, Locate, and Expand in the City of Rockville, Maryland

August 29, 2013

StartRight! Women’s Business Plan 2013 Winners Announced

Silver Spring’s Mercaris Captures Top Prize

Rockville, MD – The Maryland Women’s Business Center and Rockville Economic Development, Inc. (REDI) announced the winners of the 10th annual StartRight! Women’s Business Plan Competition on August 29, 2013 at The Power Conference at the Montgomery County, Maryland Conference Center.

The annual competition is supported with more than $23,000 in cash and in-kind prizes by Shulman, Rogers, Gandal, Pordy and Ecker; Comcast Business; The Maryland Biotechnology Center; Foster, Soltoff & Love; ActionCoach; Morgan Stanley; Citi; Walmart; Maryland Casino Business Investment Fund managed by Meridian Management Group; Intelligent Office; The Montgomery County Department of Economic Development; and Washington Post Capital Business.

This year’s $5,000 Grand Prize was awarded to Mercaris, founded by CEO Kellee James of Silver Spring, Maryland. Mercaris (, a market data service and on-line trading exchange for organic and non-genetically-modified agricultural commodities, was selected from 42 business plans reviewed by 33 volunteer judges. “This was a great opportunity,” said Ms. James. She further noted that the cash prize was very helpful, but it was the connections she made that will boost her business.

“This year we had companies from as far as Richmond, Frederick and Baltimore representing a variety of industries including: food, government contracting, apparel, technology, retail, life sciences, health and wellness, and consulting,” noted Lori Gillen, Managing Director of The Maryland Women’s Business Center.

First Prize in the Life Sciences category and a check for $2,500 were awarded to Arti Varanasi, President & CEO of Advancing Synergy, LLC. Started in Baltimore, Maryland, this venture provides a web platform to support low and moderate income women battling cancer. Advancing Synergy’s ( products address health disparities that continue to persist despite advances in care and treatment with evidence-based solutions developed in collaboration with community-based leaders and research teams.

In the Technology Category, First Prize, along with $2,500, was awarded to Jai’s Dreams founder Dana McFadden. Jai’s Dreams also won the online Capital Business Pick-the-Pitch Competition, which allowed the public to view all of the semi-finalists’ short pitches and vote for their favorite. Located in Germantown, Maryland, Jai’s Dreams ( is an online retailer specializing in infant and toddler bedding and everyday essential items. Family-owned and operated, the company expects to launch its on-line store soon.

Ruth Bielobocky, CEO of Artis Scarvz, LLC (, earned First Prize and $2,500 in the General Business Category. Based in Frederick, Maryland, the company invented and markets scarves which hold their shape due to the patentable Flex&hold© feature. Says founder Ruth Bielobocky, the scarves have “lift, dimension, and the hold you’ve always wanted.”

Honorable Mentions and checks for $1,000 were awarded to three semifinalists. The three winners were Cheryl Kollin, Founder & CEO of Full Plate Ventures DBA Farm to Freezer, which harvests, freezes and sells surplus locally-grown vegetables to wholesalers and partners that serve food-insecure clients; Madhvi Upender, Founder and CEO of Naveenum, LLC, who plans to integrate wearable electronic devices, mobile apps and web portals to assess the quality of sleep and detect and diagnose sleep disorders; and Mona Hall McKenzie, Founder & CEO of Capital City Sweets & Treats, LLC, a business that creates gluten-free confections.

“We had some great start-up companies participate in StartRight! this year, and are already looking forward to next year’s competition”, said Laurie Boyer, Executive Director of REDI.


About The Maryland Women’s Business Center

MWBC was established in 2010 as a program of the non-profit Rockville Economic Development, Inc. (REDI). to help people throughout the region start and build successful women-owned enterprises that are positioned for long-term growth. MWBC conducts specialized training, offers individual business counseling, and provides unique resources. Our special initiatives include a Childcare Business Development Program and StartRight! Women’s Business Plan Competition.

About Rockville Economic Development, Inc.

REDI is a non-profit public-private partnership funded by the City of Rockville to strengthen and broaden the city’s economic base through business recruitment, retention, and expansion programs. From accessing funding sources to workforce development; educational programming to market intelligence; advisory services to introductions to key decision-makers; REDI helps companies grow by providing knowledge, access, resources, and direction to companies at all stages of growth. REDI offers its resources to the community free-of-charge, and welcomes inquiries and referrals. For more information, contact (301) 315-8096 or visit

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