Are you ready for your business plan 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.

The Basics

Everyone has seen the “Welcome to Waverly” mural as they drive north on Greenmount Avenue.  Designed by Baltimore-based international 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 mural serves as a symbol of the rebirth of the Waverly Business District – and is also the site of The Root to Success contest.  Four winners – inventive and skilled rather more so than lucky – will make the Welcome to Waverly building the home of their new retail start-up concepts. Two additional office-based businesses will be awarded a fully-furnished office at the OfficeFlex Executive Center directly across the street.  

In an effort to reactive several long-vacant or underutilized commercial properties in the Waverly retail district, Barrus, along with its partners, is working to create small, multi-purpose spaces that function as co-working hubs and retail and office spaces along Greenmount Avenue between 29th and 34th Streets. The initiative’s goals are twofold: to breathe new life into a neighborhood business district that has struggled for decades and to provide an opportunity for new and existing Baltimore-based micro businesses.

Contest Details

To foster economic development in neighborhood business districts, the surrounding community must nurture and support the entrepreneurial spirit of its residents. That being said, a primary goal of the contest is to provide six local entrepreneurs with space for expansion as well as a supportive community network that will help guarantee their long-term success on Greenmount Avenue.

The contest, open to both new and existing micro businesses, invites local Baltimore entrepreneurs to compete to bring their business vision to life in one of four available retail spaces or two fully furnished offices in the Waverly Business District.

Through collaborative efforts, the six winners will receive 12 months of rent-free retail or office space, business training and mentoring, legal assistance, financing opportunities, space design, and marketing support. 

Eligibility and Criteria

With a strong emphasis on BIPOC and women-owned businesses, all existing Baltimore micro businesses, as well as entrepreneurs with a budding business concept, are eligible to apply, with the exception of smoke and tobacco retailers and liquor stores. Applicants must be able to adequately explain what products or services they offer, what makes their business or business concept unique to Waverly, and how they meet a community need or desire that isn’t already met. 

Businesses applying for available retail space must intend to utilize the ground-floor commercial establishment and be open to the public during regular business hours. 

Applicants are strongly encouraged to attend the workshop series during the week of May 1st. While failure to attend the workshops will not impact a finalist’s ability to participate in the pitch contest, it will be taken into consideration when deciding on contest winners. In addition, businesses will be evaluated based on financial and retail viability on Greenmount Avenue and may be asked to undergo a financial review prior to the selection of finalists. 

The Prizes

Four retail-based contest winners will be awarded a year’s free rent in one of four newly renovated retail spaces in the Waverly Gateway building at 3011-3017 Greenmount Avenue.

Two office-based contest winners will be awarded a year’s free rent in one of two fully furnished executive office suites at the OfficeFlex Executive Center across the street at 3030 Greenmount Avenue. 

A Network of Supportive Partners

All contest participants will benefit from our community of partner organizations dedicated to the success of local entrepreneurs. In May, all applicants are invited to attend our 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. The workshops by themselves will work to complement the contest with a supportive, educational component that contestants can take with them wherever their business visions lead. 

It is the hope that contest partners will create a network of supportive services for winners and non-winners to use as needs arise throughout their expansion process. 

Applications may be submitted by filling out the application form linked below.  The submission period closes on Friday, April 28th. 

The workshop series will take place during the week of May 1st, 2023.  This program, completely free of cost, is greatly valuable for any entrepreneur considering starting a new business or expanding their current one, even if they aren’t a contest winner. Workshops will be hosted in the evenings and available via a hybrid platform. More event details will be posted here in the coming weeks. 

A review panel made up of prominent Baltimore business people and representative from partner organizations will then make their recommendations for 12 finalists – eight retail-based and four office-based – from the initial pool of applicants. 

The project will conclude with a pitch contest for the 12 finalists to present their business ideas to a selection panel made up of representatives of the Waverly Main Street and surrounding neighborhood community associations. The selection panel will make the final decision on contest winners. 

The six winners will be announced in early June, 2023.

The Timeline

Online Application Opens

Monday, March 27th, 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 

The Selection Process

Three panels of judges will determine the contest winners. The initial pool of applicants will be thoroughly analyzed, and the Pre-Review Panel will eliminate those that do not qualify based solely on the type of business and how thoroughly they completed their application. 

Applications of those selected as semi-finalists will then be passed along to the Review Panel, which will evaluate applicant profiles based on factors such as their financial feasibility, business concept, and fit for the community. The Review Panel will recommend 12 finalists (eight retail and four non-retail) to participate in the business pitch contest.

The pitch contest, taking place on Thursday, May 25th, will give the 12 finalists an opportunity to present their business concept to the Selection Panel made up of Greenmount community stakeholders and neighborhood representatives. 

Pre-review Panel
This panel will review each incoming submission and eliminate any that are disqualified to participate, due to factors such as type of business or an incomplete application.
Review Panel
This panel is made up of representative from partnering organizations and members of the local business community. It will review the submissions of all semi-finalists and award points to each.
Selection Panel
This panel, made up of members of the surrounding communities, will review the 8 retail and 4 office finalists, attend the pitch contest and ultimately decide the 6 contest winners.

Contest Application


The first step of this process is to tell us about your existing business or business concept through our online application. Six winners will be selected based on viability, finances and how well they will fit into the Greenmount community. We hope to gain a strong understanding of your motivation and desire to call the Waverly Retail District your new home. All applications must be submitted by Friday, April 28th. 

We are here to help along the way and encourage you reach out with any questions regarding the online application 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: provides training and consulting services to small businesses and entrepreneurs.   

Baltimore Community Lending: Supports the revitalization and strengthening of underserved neighborhoods through innovative and flexible financial resources designed to promote community development.

Maryland Volunteer Lawyers Services: Removes barriers to justice through free civil legal help, community engagement, and advocacy for equitable laws.

Himmelrich PR: Provides public relations, content development, community relations, and marketing support to clients. 

Neighborhood Design Center: Partners with community leaders to envision better parks, public spaces, streetscapes, and more.

Waverly Main Street:  Provides assistance to local businesses through planning, designing, and managing of the physical environment, specifically vacant buildings, streetscapes, public facilities, and open spaces.

Baltimore Neighborhood Business Districts: Foster’s economic revitalization of disinvested urban business districts through the empowerment of the local community and small businesses. 

OfficeFlex Executive Suites: A full-service business center for startups and micro businesses. 

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