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Ross, Takia ReneeMF03
Takia Ross, owner of makeup service company Accessmatized, won first place in the Community College of Baltimore County's second annual Business Plan Competition. (The Daily Record/Maximilian Franz)

CCBC competition teaches ‘entrepreneurial spirit’

It started with a few teenage girls asking to get their makeup done for prom. It’s grown into a fledgling new business — and an opportunity for Takia Ross to turn her passion into a real career.

Ross, 35, started doing makeup for family and friends several years ago as a hobby, but word of her talent got around. So, in 2013, she said she “took a leap of faith” and started Accessmatized, a one-person makeup services company.

Now, the early success and future potential of Accessmatized has been validated. Ross, a 2004 alumna of the Community College of Baltimore County, won first place in CCBC’s second annual Business Plan Competition for her plans to expand her company.

As the first-place winner, Ross received $1,000 in seed money to grow her business, plus other benefits. Thanks to the contest, she says, she now has a detailed strategy for expansion — and it starts with a van.

Ross purchased a 16-person shuttle bus at an auction for $3,000. It needs a good deal of work, she said, but once it’s decked out with equipment and wrapped with branded images, the bus will enable her to realize her vision of a mobile makeup service.

Ross’ concept was unique and specific enough to win over the competition’s panel of judges, which was comprised of five Maryland businesspeople. Of the 64 participants in the competition, seven were selected as finalists, and only four were chosen as winners.

The second place prize of $500 went to Terry Donohue and Larry Robinson for their venture Avid Plant Healthcare, which helps residential, commercial and municipal clients care for their plants and lawns.

There were also two honorable mentions, which each came with a $250 prize. Those prizes went to Jerina Bryant for her decorating service, Extraordinary Events, and Daniela Beall, whose company GroWellness Massage Therapy will provide special care for trauma victims.

Many other colleges and universities in the region also sponsor business plan competitions, but CCBC’s is unique. The four winners each get to work with a team of CCBC students who are currently enrolled in a marketing/entrepreneurship course to actually implement their business plans.

The students will help with website design, marketing, accounting, human resources or other business operations.

Ross, for example, is looking forward to working with three or four students in the course to design her marketing materials, including a logo, a website and all the imaging for her “Pretty on Wheels” mobile makeup studio.

“I’m my only employee, so all that work would take me months and months in between running the business,” said Ross, who graduated from CCBC in 2004 and later received her degree from the University of Baltimore. “So I am so excited about this team of students because it’s like a mini-workforce.”

The students will then present the marketing materials they create for Ross as their final project for the course.

Dennis Sullivan, the executive director of CCBC’s Center for Business Innovation, which is organizing the competition, said he wanted to involve as many people on campus as possible in the contest.

The motivation for launching the competition, which is open to current CCBC students and alumni, came from conversations with students on campus, Sullivan said.

“I asked students why they were taking our business and management courses, and about half told us they’d like to start a business someday,” he said. “So I thought, why not give them the opportunity to do that?”

Then, he wrestled with the question of how to give hands-on experience to more business students.

“So I decided, let’s marry the two,” he said. “Let’s have students interested in launching a business participate in the business plan competition, and then have the winners work with students interested in marketing and entrepreneurship to help them launch it.”

But the competition is about more than starting new businesses,” Sullivan said.

“The companies are cool — it’s something we can show off,” he said. “But this is about teaching the entrepreneurial spirit; that’s what employers want.”

About Alissa Gulin

Alissa Gulin covers health care, education and general business at The Daily Record.