Is your business ready to put down roots?

Six lucky entrepreneurs will win business startup assistance and a year of free rent in Baltimore City’s most up-and-coming neighborhood.

Contest Overview

Everyone has seen the “Welcome to Waverly” mural as they drive north on Greenmount Avenue. Designed by internationally renowned Baltimore muralists Gaia, the mural wraps around the entirety of Waverly Gateway – a two-level commercial building that has been vacant for over a decade.  The building, once a symbol of pervasive neglect, now newly painted serves as a symbol of the rebirth of the Waverly Business District – and is also the center of “The Root to Success” contest. 

Barrus, a Baltimore City centric social impact developer, has created “Growing Greenmount,” an initiative to reactivate a long disinvested commercial strip between the 29th and 34th blocks of Greenmount Avenue known as the Waverly Business District. The initiative’s goals are twofold: to breathe new life into a neighborhood business district that has struggled for decades, and to provide opportunities for new and existing Baltimore-based micro businesses.  Barrus, along with several partners, is in the process of creating small, multi-tenant and small business spaces in currently underutilized and vacant spaces all along the district.

As Barrus is Growing Greenmount, it’s inviting new and existing micro-businesses a chance to grow as well by putting down their own roots in the Waverly Business District.


Six inventive and skilled entrepreneurs will compete to win space in the Waverly Business District.  Four retail-based business will receive 12 months of rent-free retail space Waverly Gateway building for their new retail start-up, plus a tenant improvement allowance to build out their space. Two additional office-based businesses will receive a rent-free, fully-furnished office suite, at the OfficeFlex Executive Center directly across the street.

In addition to free rent, Barrus has partnered with several local organizations to provide each winner with training and support in all aspects of business management, including marketing, daily operations, business financials, and legal advice, as well as access to various financing options.

Eligibility and Criteria

All existing Baltimore micro businesses entrepreneurs, as well as those with a business concept, are eligible to apply, provided they meet the restrictions of a C-1 commercial district and those of the Waverly Business Area Urban Renewal Plan. 

Applicants must adequately detail products or services they offer, how they meet a community need or desire that isn’t already met, and what will make their business or business concept unique to Waverly.

Retail applicants’ business plans must be for a retail establishment and must be open to the public during regular business hours, and office applicants may not be open to the public.

Business plans will be evaluated based on their financial and retail viability on Greenmount Avenue and may be asked to undergo a financial review prior to being considered as a finalist.

Grand Prizes

The street level of the Waverly Gateway building at 3011-3017 Greenmount Avenue (as seen above) will be renovated into four retail spaces, with windows looking over Greenmount Avenue. Each of those four spaces, as shown in the illustration below, will be awarded to one contest winner.

Two office-based contest winners will be awarded their own fully furnished, one- or two-person office suite at the OfficeFlex Executive Center, rent-free for an entire year. The brand new OfficeFlex Executive Center, located at 3030 Greenmount Avenue, features reservable flex conference room space, a café, and a full-service copy/ship center on site.

A Network of Supportive Partners

All local entrepreneurs will benefit from the Growing Greenmount community of partner organizations, all dedicated to the success of local entrepreneurs both on and off Greenmount. In May, all applicants are invited to attend our partners’ week-long workshop series catered specifically to entrepreneurs looking to take their next steps in business development. The workshops will include presentations on building your brand, developing a formal business plan, financing opportunities, space design and more. This educational series is of great value to any entrepreneur interested in starting a new business or growing an existing one and are offered at no charge to all applicants. 

The application will open on Wednesday, March 29th and will remain open until Friday, May 12th. 

The Small Business Workshop Series will take place between May 15th and May 18th, 2023. Workshops will be hosted in the evenings, and may be attended either in-person or online. Further event details will be posted here in the coming weeks.

A Review Panel will then choose eight retail-based and four office-based finalists from the pool of applicants.  The 12 finalists will be announced on Friday, May 26th.

The project will conclude with a pitch contest taking place on Thursday, June 15th, for the 12 finalists to present their business ideas to a Selection Panel. Further event details will be posted here in the coming weeks.

The Selection Panel will review the 12 finalists’ applications and presentations, and make a final decision on the 6 contest winners. Winners will be announced on Friday, June 26th. 


Online Application Opens

Wednesday, March 29th, 2023

Virtual Kick-off and Community Q & A

Thursday, April 6th, 2023

Online Application Closes

Friday, May 12th, 2023

Small Business Workshop Series

Week of May 15th-18th, 2023

Contest Finalists Announced

Friday, May 26th, 2023

Finalist Pitch Contest

Thursday, June 15th, 2023

Contest Winners are Announced

Friday, June 26th, 2023 

Selection Process

Three panels of judges will determine the contest winners. A pre-review panel will review all applications to ensure they meet contest criteria and have fully completed their applications. 

Applications of those selected as semi-finalists will then be passed along to a Review Panel of prominent Baltimore businesspeople and representatives from partner organizations. 

The Review Panel will evaluate applications based on their financial feasibility, business concept, and fit for the community and will recommend 12 finalists (eight retail and four non-retail) to move on to a business pitch contest.  

The pitch contest will allow the 12 finalists to present their business concept to the Selection Panel of representatives of Waverly Main Street and surrounding neighborhood community associations. 

Pre-review Panel
This panel will review each incoming submission and eliminate any that do not meet contest criteria and/or have submitted an incomplete application. Applicants that meet all criteria will be considered semi-finalists.
Review Panel
Made up of representatives from partnering organizations and prominent Baltimore businesspeople, the Review Panel will evaluate all semi-finalists and select 12 finalists.
Selection Panel
Made up of local community stakeholders, the Selection Panel will evaluate the 12 finalists based on their business concept and pitch and will decide the 6 contest winners.


Ready to grow your business?



The first step of this process is to tell us about your existing business or business concept through our online application. We hope to gain a strong understanding of your motivation and desire to call the Waverly Business District your new home. All applications must be submitted by Friday, May 12th, 2023. 

We are here to help along the way and encourage you to reach out with any questions regarding the application process via 


Our Community Partners

Barrus Real Estate Group:  A social impact-driven real estate developer in the process of reactivating long-vacant retail properties along Greenmount Avenue. 

Maryland Small Business Development Center, Baltimore Region: will participate in the contest workshop series and provide business training and consulting services to contest winners. 

Baltimore Community Lending: will participate in the contest workshop series, provide financial resources and work with contest winners to finance their business development.

Maryland Volunteer Lawyers Services: will participate in the contest workshop series and provide as-needed civil legal guidance to contest winners or other applicants. 

Himmelrich PR: will participate in the workshop series, presenting on topics such as content development, business marketing, and community relations. 

Neighborhood Design Center: will participate in the workshop series and provide technical, interior design, and facade design assistance to contest winners. 

Waverly Main Street: will participate in the workshop series to provide information on Main Street expectations and community interactions. WMS will also be a part of the Selection Panel.  

Baltimore Neighborhood Business Districts: will support contest winners throughout their expansion period with development needs such as grant research and writing, community relations, permitting guidance, etc. 

OfficeFlex Executive Suites: A full-service business center for startups and micro businesses that will support contest winners with discounted services. 

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