An entrepreneur builds their business with what they have; core values, integrity and Character. They respect and celebrate their team by fostering a collaborative Culture. Together, they are in tune and want to give back to their Community.

Last September, our BBB celebrated three businesses for Character, Culture, and Community. Our first Spark Awards honored social entrepreneurs, startup founders and new business owners who demonstrated this foundation for trust, and represented the future of a trusted marketplace.

We just opened nominations and applications for entrepreneurs age of 35 and younger and/or businesses less than three years old that demonstrate Character, Culture and Community for BBB of Greater Maryland’s 2019 Spark Awards.

Winners will be announced in conjunction with our Torch Awards – an honor for established businesses – on Oct. 16 in Baltimore.

BBB starts with trust, and trust starts with a spark. We think a few stories from our inaugural winners may just inspire you to apply or nominate a business you admire. And, just in case you were wondering, it’s free and BBB Accreditation is not a requisite.

“I created and manage my business with the idea that our actions must always match our beliefs. In practice, our core value of sustainability is reflected from our decision to create snacks using all natural ingredients all the way down to selecting packaging that is 100 percent compostable,” said Brianna Billups.

“Our efforts to have sustainable packaging plays into our value of integrity. Communicating our value to promote sustainability in our community and the importance of our local food system means we make decisions that keep us honest and transparent with our consumers.”

Billups is the CEO of Fully Grown LLC, a company that provides food snacks and meal prep service using all natural ingredients, and packaging that is 100 percent compostable. It donates a percentage of its profits to support its nonprofit organization, the Garden Project, which eradicates food deserts by partnering with local Baltimore City public schools to launch after-school gardening programs and healthy cooking clubs as well as with other nonprofits to teach urban agriculture and healthy eating to elementary school-aged kids.

Ortus Academy’s experiential and game-based learning model engages 5th to 12th grade students in programs, teaching more than just financial literacy and education – but Financial Intelligence. Its programs encourage learning through trial and error, foster an entrepreneurial mindset, and put math skills into action.

According to Aaron Velky, CEO, Ortus Academy, “Our culture is a direct reflection of the dynamic game we play with our students; it embodies the framework of Bloom’s taxonomy, and embraces a coaching mentality. We have regular accountability meetings that allow us to learn from our team members’ accomplishments, observations and to brainstorm challenges.”

He added, “Our programs and team both develop and progress through this process of continuous reflection. The individuals that make up the Ortus team undergo constant development and that progress is constantly pulling our program to new levels.”

Our final inspiration hails from Donna Kolb Boesl. She founded Walter Electric, a company she says is “wired to make your home, business or property work better,” and named for her grandfather. Boesl and her husband are working to promote often overlooked, but well-paying, and viable career options.

“Walter Electric is committed to improving our community through encouraging more individuals to consider the trades for employment… We actively support and hire graduates of the Associated Builders and Contractor’s Apprenticeship program, and participate with Maryland Stem conferences, to name a few.”

Do the three C’s of Character, Culture and Community speak to you and your values? If they do and you’re under 35 or your business is three years old or younger, skip on over to our website and have a look at the Spark Award on 

Angie Barnett is president and CEO of the Better Business Bureau of Greater Maryland.