Power of Possibilities Competitors: Where are they now?

The Power of Possibilities series at Garrett College began in 2014 and has engaged over 1,200 entrepreneurs, want-to-be entrepreneurs, business owners/managers and those in the region that support and enable small business formation and growth. Although the upcoming spring summit on April 28, 2017 is a learning, sharing and networking event for all those in the entrepreneurial ecosystem in Garrett County and the region, the event is also a celebration of entrepreneurship and new entrepreneurs, and is anchored by the annual Power of Possibilities Business Plan and Innovation Competition. Winners receive cash awards and are recognized with the Daniel E. Offutt III Innovation Medal and certificate of recognition.
Participants that entered this year’s competition are in the process of finalizing their business plan proposals in preparation for the April 28th event. Alice Blayne-Allard, winner of the previous year’s business plan competition, shared how being involved in the Power of Possibilities experience has impacted her life. “I had an idea I am working on turning into a reality. It’s been a continuous learning experience, and it’s exciting to see it all take shape. I’m honored to be a part of a program that promotes innovation and opportunity in Garrett County.” AliceBlayneAllard

Her winning business plan turned into a reality. The Power of Possibilities launched Free State Cooperage, serving the craft distillery, wine, and brewery industries with custom-crafted white oak barrels of the highest quality. Free State Cooperage is located in the Deep Creek Lake, Md. area. “The strongest component of the Power of Possibilities business plan competition is pairing participants with mentors. These individuals are a valuable resource, providing moral support, constructive feedback, and seeing the forest through the trees.”

In addition to mentors, she also attributes rigorous due diligence in conducting market analysis and preparing financials as factors that helped contribute to her success in building a solid business plan from the ground up. Regularly, scheduled meet-ups took place between competitors and mentors throughout the process, from start to finish. “Initially, I had my idea and decided to enter to see if my idea was feasible. Through the meet-ups, working with my mentors, and diving into the specifics I was able to see how my idea was not only feasible, but could be viable. “

Her advice to others who may be thinking of starting a business, or have a new idea?  “Don’t give up. If you believe in your idea and it’s viable, you’ll figure out ways to get around road blocks and over the hurdles that arise. Enter the next Power of Possibilities competition.”

Halley Gillespie, second-place winner, to last year’s event, also provided a glimpse of her experience and where she is today. “After the competition, I have continued to put my ideas into action. There have also been things I realized I wanted to change as time went on. I think any entrepreneur has to be willing to embrace change and be sure that their plan of action aligns with your goals as those evolve and become clearer. I held a retreat earlier this year and have several more planned in the warmer months.”

Upon entering the competition, Gillespie already had an idea for her business, Refresh Holistic Health & Fitness Retreat, to offer wellness vacations, including nutrition coaching, personal training, yoga, cooking classes and organic gardening. “I had come up with my business name, logo and even conducted a couple of small-scale retreats. Mike Tumbarello knew of my idea and had given me some advice previously, so it was he who encouraged me to join the competition,” she stated.

Like Blayne-Allard, Gillespie also credits being paired up with a mentor as one of the factors that led to not only success in the competition, but their business plan. “I am neither a seasoned businessperson nor an analytical number cruncher, so I made a point to really focus on what I consider to be my strengths – writing style, and an ability to synthesize large volumes of information from multiple resources. I spent a great deal of time just gathering as much data and analysis as possible before I even started writing; Kim Durst from Garrett County Economic Development was very helpful. My mentor, Daniel Porter, gave me some great advice which was to tell the story behind my business and what led me to create the concept; that’s what would help set me apart from fellow competitors.”

“Doing well in the Power of Possibilities gave me a great deal of confidence and sense of accomplishment. I was introduced to so many people who are committed to help businesses succeed in Garrett County and even made new friend in Alice. Having affirmation from the business community has made me feel far less isolated, which I think is something any entrepreneur can feel when starting out. Through the process of being a competitor, I was able to take a step back and find greater perspective for my business vision.”

Registration is currently open for the upcoming Power of Possibilities spring entrepreneurship summit on April 28, 2017. Individuals can learn more and register online at www.4ruralsuccess.com or contact the front desk at Garrett College Continuing Education & Workforce Development at 301-387-3069 or email Mike Tumbarello at This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it. .
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