Grand Prize Winner, Haiwen Ding, CEO, ICOW and (L), 2nd Place Winner Megan Riggs, CEO, Dance 4 Life & Health at the StartRight Business Pitch Contest awards event in Maryland. (Jeffrey MacMillan/Jeffrey MacMillan )

It’s the same in nearly every fitness class you walk into, whether it’s spinning, Zumba or Pilates — the room will be filled with young and middle-aged adults.

Not in Megan Riggs’s classes.

One year ago, Riggs founded Dance 4 Life and Health, a company that provides dance-party-style fitness classes tailored specifically to senior citizens. On Thursday, her firm was honored as one of the most promising woman-owned start-ups in the Washington area as part of the StartRight competition, an annual event hosted by Rockville Economic Development, Inc. and the Maryland Women’s Business Center.

Dance 4 Life and Health won in the “pick the pitch” category, a portion of the competition that allows the public to vote online (voting was hosted by Capital Business and The Washington Post) for their favorite video-recorded business pitch from eight finalists.

Based in Gaithersburg, Maryland, Riggs’s company currently offers classes in Zumba—a Latin-inspired and dance-heavy fitness program—held at senior centers, nursing homes and assisted living facilities. She says the classes are intended to be lively and social, giving participants an opportunity to meet and mingle while staying active and healthy.

“My grandmother is in a nursing home, and when I went to visit, I realized that so many of the residents had nothing to do—they were just sitting in their rooms,” said Riggs, who has been working in fitness for about two years. “I love dance and fitness, and many of them love music and are looking for ways to be social, so it’s a perfect fit.”

Riggs’s company was not the only winner last week.

Haiwen Ding’s company, ICOW, won in the StartRight judge’s category, determined by a panel of local female business leaders.

Originally from China, Ding moved the United States to pursue her master’s in engineering at the University of Maryland, and she says she found the process of remotely vetting and applying to schools overseas next to impossible. In light of her experience, she started a blog to help other Chinese students navigate the same process.

Ding left her job two years ago to expand the blog into an online platform and is hoping to roll out her new Web site later this year. It will include tools that, for example, let students input biographical information in Chinese characters and generate a resume in English.

“Through the blog, I was mostly helping students one-by-one,” Ding said. “Through this new software, we’ll be able to reach many more people.”

Now in its 11th year, the StartRight competition features firms that are majority owned by women, less than three years old and located in the District, Virginia or Maryland.

Ding’s company, based in Silver Spring, was awarded $5,000 for winning the grand prize in the judge’s category and plans to put that money toward Web development and design services. Riggs was selected as one of three runners up in the judge’s category and received $2,500. She also won free virtual workspace service for a year for her ‘pick the pitch’ win.

The other two $2,500 checks went to Third Space Wellness in Silver Spring and Sunflower Health in Gaithersburg, both of which offer acupuncture and other wellness services. Honorable mention was awarded to Poshpacker Corporation, a travel booking site and lifestyle company based in the District.

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