Top Innovation Challenge prize goes to proposal for wellness center
Westminster, MD
04/12/2016 12:17 PM

Nicole Rutherford, a senior from Westminster, Md., won top prize of $10,000 April 11 at the inaugural Innovation Challenge finals for “Flourished,” her business proposal for a wellness, fitness and nutrition center.

Second place — $5,500 — went to senior Ryan Lutes, a senior Accounting Economics and Business Administration major from Lawrenceville, N.J., for “Ryan Lutes LLC,” a niche waste and recycling business, and “Panta Rhei,” artisanal brewers of healthful beverages, by sophomore English major Tyler Van Dyke of Aspers, Pa., and junior Biochemistry and Environmental Studies major Jeb Shingler of Hagerstown, Md., garnered a third place award of $2,500.

“Flourished,” the wellness center has been a dream of Rutherford’s since she first brainstormed the idea for a project at Winters Mill High School in Westminster.

“This prize gives me the confidence to go on,” said the soon-to-be graduate who supported her vision with a double major in Business Administration and Exercise Science and Physical Education. “My plan is to bring this into reality within the next two years — thanks to this prize.”

Already, Rutherford owns two businesses, Nicole Marie’s Beauty Boutique, which she opened in 2014, and Rutherford Strength and Conditioning, which debuted in 2015. She learned cosmetology in high school and does the hair designs herself, and her studies in Exercise Science fuel her work in personal training and coaching in strength and conditioning.

A packed Decker Center Forum at the College listened as the five finalists presented their ideas. Four first-round judges reviewed the more than 20 proposals submitted by McDaniel students. In addition to the three prize winners, other finalists are “The Financial Literacy Project,” an educational outreach program by Nina Breece ’17, Tyler Krebs ’17 and Allen Calvert ’16, and “Weavr,” a social media app by Josh Peeling ’16.

The 20-plus proposals focused on ideas related to health and fitness, new businesses, apparel, apps and initiatives highlighting McDaniel’s long-term connection to social entrepreneurship. Students proposed stylish leggings with a place for a cell phone, athletic shoes with replaceable outsoles, apps that provide total parking solutions and tracking food choices and fitness specifically for college students, and a new on-campus eatery. All of the proposals are posted on the Innovation Challenge web page.   

The judges for the finals were Steve Chapin, Jr., founder of, Inc., owner of JARS Residential Properties, LLC, and a lecturer at McDaniel College; Steve Moore, founder of Run Moore located in Downtown Westminster and Grand Prize winner at the 2014 Carroll Biz Challenge; and Deborah Dale Seidel ’84, vice president and manager of investment compliance and business risk at T. Rowe Price.

The first round of the competition was judged by McDaniel alumni Gregory Merril ’87, co-founder of Brain Sentry and CEO of Yost Labs; Deborah Dale Seidel ’84, vice president and manager of investment compliance and business risk at T. Rowe Price; Barbara Thomas ’70, global village team leader for Habitat for Humanity International; and Donald Lavin, McDaniel lecturer in Economics and Business Administration. The McDaniel Innovation Challenge is sponsored by The Encompass Distinction and made possible with the generous support of Dennis Sisco ’68 & Alexine Lesko through The Sisco Fund for Enterprise Management.


Cheryl Knauer
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