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MWBC Senior Business Consultant, Karen Kalantzis, presented with Touching Lives Award 2024

These nominees have demonstrated outstanding involvement and commitment to touching the lives of others.

The Maryland Women’s Business Center (MWBC)‘s Senior Business Consultant, Karen Kalantzis, has been recognized for her compassion and dedication to serving the small business community in Frederick County.

The Touching Lives Award recognizes non-management staff that provide front line services to a Frederick County nonprofit’s clientele, or that provide administrative support that sustains the operations of the organization, and does not manage any staff members (employees). These nominees have demonstrated outstanding involvement and commitment to touching the lives of others.

Karen has served as the Senior Business Consultant for the Frederick office for three years, exemplifying MWBC’s mission of empowering small businesses and women entrepreneurs to launch and grow through her multifaceted involvement in community initiatives and programs. As a graduate of Leadership Frederick, Karen utilized this platform to develop the Creative Capital Microgrant (CCM) program, leveraging resources and partnerships to bring this initiative to fruition which provides financial microgrants to qualified businesses in creative industries to accelerate short-term returns on investment and foster ongoing growth.

Karen describes being part of the She Pitch competition as among her favorite accomplishments, helping to get the competition off the ground, and being a part of witnessing the women’s hard work and journey. Karen demonstrates her dedication to supporting female entrepreneurs at various stages of business development, contributing not only to programmatic operations, but also valuable technical assistance to participants, embodying traits of compassion, dedication, and collaboration. Fostering community cohesion through networking events, creating spaces for entrepreneurs to connect, collaborate, and thrive, underscores her commitment to building a supportive ecosystem where peers can learn from and inspire one another.

“Karen’s unwavering commitment to empowering women entrepreneurs reflects her dedication to advancing MWBC’s mission. With compassion, dedication, and innovative leadership, she not only transforms the lives of her clients but also inspires her peers and uplifts the entire community. Karen’s impact extends far beyond her professional role, touching hearts and making a tangible difference in the lives of those she serves. She is a true beacon of hope and inspiration, deserving of this esteemed recognition.” -Danette Nguyen, Executive Director

Read full article: https://frederickchamberinsights.com/2024/04/08/touching-lives-awards-2024/

About Maryland Women’s Business Center

Maryland Women’s Business Center (MWBC) works with women entrepreneurs and small businesses across Maryland’s Capital Region to help them to start, sustain, and grow their businesses. Through workshops, individual counseling, facilitated peer group support, special resources, and access to capital, MWBC annually helps more than 1,500 women gain the skills, connections, and confidence necessary to navigate entrepreneurship. Learn more at https://marylandwbc.org/

Business Spotlight: Potahto

Founder, Daphne Lee

Creative & Stylish Plant Products, Home Decor & Gifts

What products does Potahto offer?

We offer air plants, planters, cork bark wall hangings, and moss decor.

What motivated you to start your business?

Years spent navigating the corporate world had left me feeling unfulfilled, craving a deeper sense of purpose. I embarked on a journey to create something meaningful, and turned to my love for home aesthetics and plants. The path into entrepreneurship started on Etsy, a creative platform that enables testing and fine-tuning of our products. Nothing is more gratifying than to offer what brings joy while enriching the lives of our customers.

What makes Potahto unique?

Our distinctive designs, coming out with original decor ideas catering to customers seeking low-maintenance and stylish greenery options help set us apart in the natural decor market. We also have the ability to take custom requests that help address specific customer needs.

How has your experience been owning a business located in Rockville?

It has been incredible and I can’t ask for a better location. Rockville is a major economic hub, it’s business-friendly with access to resources like the MWBC Shop Local business incubator program. Being in a vibrant urban town center with residents living within walking distance, it has made our store their easy go-to when it comes to shopping for gifts or for themselves. Rockville is also a destination for many (for personal and work) from outside the city and state, hence exposing my business to a wider audience which is a real boon.

Where do you see your business in 5 years from now?

We see our products in more plant stores and garden centers throughout the country, coast to coast. And filling our team with creative people to help further enhance our brand in spreading joy and improving the well-being of our customers through our plant and natural decor products. And building upon our workshop offerings to empower more people to get in touch with their creativity and offering fun, meaningful experiences.

About Potahto

Potahto has been dedicated to bringing the beauty of nature and plant-inspired decor products to our customers. Our mission is to offer home and plant decor items that are accessible and inclusive for everyone, and to spread joy while doing it. We craft unique natural decor items for homes and offices, bringing life to tabletops and transforming ordinary walls into stunning vertical garden displays.

Learn more about Potahto at www.potahto.com

Follow Potahto on Facebook and Instagram

Visit Potahto at MWBC Shop Local – Rockville Town Center through June 2024 at 36D Maryland Ave, Rockville, MD 20850 

MWBC Shop Local is a retail incubator program of the Maryland Women’s Business Center (MWBC).

Two Rockville Businesses Listed in the New York Times 25 Best Restaurants in Washington, D.C.

"The food scene in and around the nation’s capital is vibrant these days..."

View full list of The 25 Best Restaurants in Washington, D.C., Right Now by the New York Times

In an article published on April 29, 2024, the New York Times listed the top 25 restaurants in the Washingon, D.C. area. 2 of the 25 restaurants are located in Rockville, which is no surprise as Rockville is home to many authentic and culturally diverse cuisines. See the featured Rockville restaurants below:

Z&Z Manoushe Bakery

The crust of Z&Z’s classic manoushe, covered in a forest green slick of olive oil and za’atar, is both tantalizingly chewy and thoroughly crisp, from the edge to the tip of each triangle-cut slice. If the quality and complexity brings to mind artisan pizza, you’re not alone. While the owners, Danny and Johnny Dubbaneh, are quick to point out Levantine flatbreads predate pizza, the brothers’ family-run business does operate a little like a pizzeria, with the many variations on its signature item — don’t miss the manoushe topped with tomatoes, cucumbers and toum — ordered to-go in cardboard takeout boxes. The cozy, four-table bakery is a step up from Z&Z’s farmers’ market beginnings, but it still belies the regional demand the Dubbanehs have helped to create for manoushe, with Z&Z products now available in grocery stores across the Mid Atlantic.

1111 Nelson St
Rockville, MD 20850

Pupuseria Mamá Emilia

Salvadoran food is tightly knit into the fabric of the local culture. Elsy Claros — whose mother, Emilia Cruz Lopez, ran a pupuseria in El Salvador — played a role in spreading the cuisine across the metro area, with the pupuserias she opened with her sisters. Mamá Emilia ups the ante. Ms. Claros opened the restaurant with the help of her daughter, Ericka, in 2022. There are traditional pupusas, oozing cheese, frijoles and chicharrón. But there are also pupusas with fillings that include shrimp, mint and kale. There are nearly 30 different styles, all served hot and freshly blistered, starting at breakfast, when you’d be well served ordering the signature item with eggs, in a red sauce that rivals the best enchilada gravy.

785 Rockville Pike
Rockville, MD 20852

Read the full New York Times article: https://www.nytimes.com/article/dc-best-restaurants.html

Business Spotlight: Gold City Jewelers

Owners, Anita and Sab Bhatia

Luxury 22 Karat Gold Jewelry. Generations of Expertise. Exceptional Service.

What services does Gold City Jewelers offer?

We are a full-service jewelry store serving the DMV for the last 29 years. We offer everything from solitaire diamonds to diamond jewelry to custom jewelry to unique 22kt gold handcrafted pieces. You’ll find everyday chains, gold and silver bullion, and children’s jewelry, as well. We also offer same-day repairs and gold buying.

What motivated you to start Gold City Jewelers?

I married into a family of jewelers from India—it has been their family business for many generations. My husband’s main business was jewelry manufacturing and diamond wholesale, so I got a first-hand look at the inner working of the jewelry industry. Once my children were old enough, I decided to start my own business selling 22kt jewelry. It started with weekend trunk shows in hotels and with the support and guidance from my husband, and 29 years later, here we are.

What makes Gold City Jewelers unique?

Our diversity, quality, and knowledge of jewelry makes us unique. We have large inventory of solitaire diamonds and engagement rings, everyday diamond pieces, and handcrafted 22kt pieces that are one-of-a-kind. Gold City really has a complete inventory of jewelry that can fit any person for any day and any occasion.

Why did you choose to run your business in Rockville?

Rockville is the largest business hub in Montgomery County. We also chose Rockville because of it’s diversity.

Where do you see your business in 5 years from now?

One of our best suits is being adaptable, and because of this, we’ll ride smoothly into all the future trends of jewelry with ease–from natural to sustainable, to styles that range from over-the-top to minimal. Jewelry is here to stay; styles will change or simply rotate, and we’re here to provide whatever the customer has in mind. My son Vikram is the face of the next generation here at Gold City, and for our business to continue to adapt, grow, and go into the next phase, his presence will continue to make an impact. He has worked at Tiffany & Co. and the Rolex Boutique-Tourneau during his time in NYC and we’re excited to see where his expertise will take us.

About Gold City Jewelers

Gold City Jewelers is a woman-owned, family-run business established in 1995. Quality comes first here, designed to be treasured through generations. Find it all, from solitaire pieces, including engagement rings and tennis necklaces, to everyday diamonds that convey a cool nonchalance. 

Learn more about Gold City Jewelers at www.goldcityjeweler.com

Follow Gold City Jewelers on Facebook and Instagram

Visit Gold City Jewelers at 451 Hungerford Dr, #107, Rockville, MD 20850

Business Spotlight: MaximBio

Maxim Bio
Joe Maa, CEO and President

"Innovation for a Healthier World"

What services does MaximBio offer?

Maxim Biomedical is a leading developer and manufacturer of lateral flow and diagnostic technologies. We partner with leading healthcare companies and government agencies to help bring a range of diagnostic devices to market through our full range of turnkey services from development and prototyping all the way through scale up and high-volume manufacturing.

What motivated you to start MaximBio?

Maxim Biomedical was founded in 2005 in an effort to enhance global health through the development and manufacture of trusted diagnostic solutions. Maxim launched the business through multiple FDA approved HIV screening and confirmatory diagnostic tests, but quickly expanded our capabilities into a wide range of other applications including infectious diseases, women’s health, drugs of abuse, food safety, and biodefense.

What makes Maxim Bio unique?

Maxim uniquely provides the diagnostic industry full turnkey development and manufacturing solutions. We are one of very few contract development and manufacturing businesses that can serve as a one-stop outsourced partner for lateral flow and diagnostic devices. We are capable of supporting our clients at any stage in their product life cycle to assist in achieving go-to-market success.

Why did you choose to run your business in Rockville?

Rockville was an ideal location as it serves as one of the nation’s hubs for biotechnology with close proximity to many innovative companies and government agencies.

Where do you see your business in 5 years from now?

Maxim is looking to continue its growth and build upon our history to continue serving as an industry leader in diagnostic development and manufacturing. We are rapidly expanding our client base allowing us to meaningfully contribute to an even wider range of testing applications that will ultimately further increase global access to innovative diagnostic solutions and technologies.

About MaximBio

MaximBio is a Maryland-based leader in lateral flow and diagnostic device manufacturing, dedicated to providing innovative solutions for the detection and diagnosis of various health conditions. With a commitment to advancing public health, MaximBio specializes in the production of high-quality diagnostic tools that play a crucial role in disease detection and management.

Learn more about MaximBio at www.maximbio.com.

Follow MaximBio on LinkedIn

Exploring Rockville’s Eclectic Charm – a Highlight in Washingtonian’s February 2024 Issue

"All the new places to eat, drink, and play in the growing Maryland suburb."

Rockville, Maryland, the heart of Montgomery County, is a vibrant tapestry of cultures, flavors, and experiences. Washingtonian magazine showcased Rockville’s diverse culinary scene, burgeoning retail spaces and exciting developments in their February 2024 issue.

Some of the Washingtonian Neighborhood Guide highlights included:

Washingtonian digital article with a photo of an intersection in Rockville. "Neighborhood Guide: 17 Things to do in Rockville"
Rockville Neighborhood Guide article as seen on Washingtonian's website (accessed March 12, 2024)

The article also provided insight into some of Rockville’s current and upcoming projects including the mixed-used development, Twinbrook Quarter, and Shady Grove Innovation District – a development with state-of-the-art laboratories, luxury apartments and public spaces.

Read the full Washingtonian article at https://www.washingtonian.com/2024/02/29/neighborhood-guide-things-to-do-in-rockville/

Investments in Rockville companies exceed $455 million in 2023

In 2023, Rockville companies received $455 million out of $2.2 billion in investments throughout Montgomery County

Press Release published by Montgomery County Economic Development Corporation (MCEDC)

Montgomery County, Maryland, companies had a strong year of investment in 2023, with more than $2.2 billion generated through more than 100 deals. Companies in a wide range of industries, from life sciences and technology to manufacturing and real estate, brought in substantial investments, showcasing a positive economic direction going into 2024.

Life sciences companies in Montgomery County continue to be a powerful driver of investment, with more than $500 million dollars generated in 2023. Montgomery County anchors the thriving Biohealth Capital Region, which rose from #4 to #3 in the top 10 of U.S. biopharma clusters.

Recent highlights for Montgomery County’s ongoing life sciences success include:

  • Deka Biosciences closed $60 million to continue developing drugs for patients suffering from cancer and autoimmune diseases;

  • Welcoming Amgen to Montgomery County through a $28 billion acquisition of Horizon Therapeutics, now building its North American technical center in Rockville;

  • The impact of two life science leaders and soon-to-be neighboring companies:  MilliporeSigma and Horizon Therapeutics, together represent more than $500 million invested in new facilities;

  • Selecta Biosciences merging with Cartesian Therapeutics, which included a $60.25 million private financing deal for Cartesian.

“Deka Biosciences has grown exponentially as part of Montgomery County’s Business Innovation Network,” said Deka President & CEO John Mumm. “We wouldn’t be where we are without them. They have completely enabled us to grow faster than I’ve ever grown a company before,” he explained about the incubator facility.

Nine companies in the manufacturing sector received funding in 2023, including MasPanadas, a home-grown success story. With a recent influx of investment, MasPanadas is in the process of building a space that will triple its square footage to 18,000, while adding another 70 employees.

“Our company continues to thrive here with exceptional growth in annual sales and our client base including having our products in national grocery chains,” said Margarita Womack, founder of MasPanadas. “Montgomery County has been a great partner providing connections to programs, tax credit assistance and funding. We are excited about our growth and expansion plans.”

Another highlight in the manufacturing arena is Eat the Change, which received a $14 million venture capital investment. Co-owner Seth Goldman, who is also co-founder of PLNT Burger and Honest Tea, said: “Downtown Bethesda may not be Silicon Valley or Route 128, but with its active startup community and experienced workforce, it has served us well as the perfect location to launch and scale a mission-driven tea brand…twice! Our success with Honest Tea helped us launch Just Ice Tea in 90 days, and then close our Series A $14 million financing in just 60 days. Just Ice Tea, a product of mission-based Eat the Change, is now the nation’s top-selling organic tea brand and we look forward to continued expansion into mainstream channels.”

Technology leaders continue to thrive in Montgomery County, with close to 50 companies receiving funding. Companies include Quantum Xchange, GivHero, and Aledade. Rockville-based N5 Sensors received $2.5 million in funding for its proprietary cloud-connected ecosystem of smart sensors to keep people safe from environmental hazards. N5 Sensors’ CEO Abhishek Motayed says the company has grown from seven people to over 25 in their three years in Montgomery County. “We plan to open a second facility, a high-tech semiconductor manufacturing center, to support advanced R&D and product delivery for different critical markets from defense to environmental detection.”   

Montgomery County is a welcoming home to businesses with a diverse economy, top talent pools, access to funding and anchored by major federal agencies including the National Institutes of Health (NIH), the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) and the National Institute of Standards and Technology (NIST).

“By many measures, 2023 was a very good year for the Montgomery County economy and I applaud the successful efforts of the Montgomery County Economic Development Corporation,” said County Executive Marc Elrich. “We are expanding our economy by building on our strengths as well as opening our doors to new opportunities. We are better equipped to address challenging issues, and we are making progress. This was reinforced during our economic development trips to Taiwan, India, and Vietnam last year. People, around this nation and throughout this world, know Montgomery County, Md., as a welcoming and diverse place with a wealth of talent and plenty of possibilities. I am looking forward to more economic success in 2024.”

“The robust investment in Montgomery County companies is a testament to our pioneering spirit, diversity, and exceptional climate for business growth,” said Bill Tompkins, president and CEO of Montgomery County Economic Development Corporation. “While the country as a whole has experienced a downturn in funding, investments in Montgomery County businesses, especially in life sciences, continues to be strong.”

Here are the Rockville companies that raised funding through IPO, private funding and venture capital in 2023:

Initial Public Offering (IPO)
Mergers & Acquisitions (M&A)
Private Equity
Venture Capital (VC)



View the entire list of Montgomery County companies here: Montgomery County, MD Investments in 2023

View the full press release here: https://thinkmoco.com/blog/2023-moco-investment

Business Spotlight: Lion Solutions

Taija "Taj" Thomas, President/Principal of Lion Solutions

“We Listen, We Observe, We Collaborate, We Deliver.”

What services does Lion Solutions offer?

Lion Solutions is an Enterprise Information Technology Services and Solutions company that delivers technology modernization for public sector government, non-profit and private organizations across Infrastructure Operations for Managed IT Services, IT Professional & Support Services, Operations & Maintenance, Data Center Management, IT Project Management, Continuity & Contingency Planning, IT Hardware & Software Procurement and IT Staffing.

What motivated you to start Lion Solutions?

I’m a native Washingtonian, raised in a single-family household and the oldest of 2 younger siblings. Technology was always an interest to me at a very young age, as video gaming with my Atari 2600 and Commodore 64 propelled my interest in technology. Through my middle-school and high school years I took any and every computer class that was available including “Introduction to Programming”, “Computer Applications”, “DBase” and “Early DOS 6.x”. I later attended Community College in Prince Georges County and transferred to Strayer College as a Computer Information Systems major. Later attended Computer Learning Center in Laurel, MD. and specialized in Network Information Systems and certified as Certified Novell Administrator – CNA back in 1997.

As I developed through my professional career as a subject matter expert, technical lead and mid-level manager which started in April 1998 through January 2016 across many disciplines in Enterprise IT Service delivery, it was time to take my next big step into the next level of leadership, which for me was Entrepreneurship. Lion Solutions was then born on January 19th, 2016.

What makes Lion Solutions unique?

Our approach and mindset to customer relationship building is key to our success as we have adopted the mindset of “We listen, We observe, We collaborate, We deliver” approach of doing business. My 26+ years of subject matter experience and technical leadership is the motivation to the way our team approaches “Leadership, Integrity, Opportunity and Network” LION which everyone is responsible for bringing this type mindset to the customer table. We also organically believe that “customer and community” are one in the same, so our community partners are just as important as our paying customer partners. We must engage and collaborate successfully with both audiences to truly drive change, opportunity and success!

Can you share a milestone that has defined your business’ presence in its industry?

We have a newer initiative that we are truly excited about that is scheduled for programming and launch in calendar Q2 ’24 called our “Career Catapult Bootcamp Program” which focuses on promoting and offering Information Technology training to minority and disadvantaged individuals who are either just newly interested in tech, seeking career change into tech, age discriminated in present job or justice impacted. This program is the bridge to tech-equity for those “who believe they can” or “wonder if I could” be that next tech professional. We focus on supporting and motivating the growth of filling the technology job shortage around technology professionals by providing this 12 – 15hr aggressive bootcamp program through our CompTIA Delivery Partnership. This program will be offered in the Washington, DC Metropolitan area as well as Charlotte, North Carolina in the later year. It’s going to be AMAZING outcomes in our community!

Why did you choose to run your business in Rockville?

I have been living in Montgomery County for almost 20 years and wanted to be sure my business was built in this community. I also spent most of my adolescence growing up in Prince Georges County (our neighboring county, much respect) and made a move to this community to be physically closer to my oldest child during her elementary years. There was a GovCon Incubator Program that provided the necessities, resources and business guidance to support the growth of small businesses that specialize in government contracting which brought our home base out to this specific Rockville community. We have most recently opened a second office presence in Silver Spring, MD.

About Lion Solutions

Lion Solutions is a certified disadvantaged small business that specializes in providing Enterprise IT Services and Solutions to public, private and non-profit organizations. With over 25+ years of experience delivering IT Enterprise Services to Federal Civilian Government we focus on delivering modernized solutions to support digital transformation efforts in driving those missions forward leveraging our customer collaboration focused approach of doing business into the future. Learn more about Lion Solutions at www.lionsolutions.com.