Skip to content


Meet the Inspire MD 2023 Honorees: Rising Star Award Winners

Apr 11, 2023

Four remarkable Maryland young professionals were recognized with the 2023 Rising Star Award during the Maryland Chamber of Commerce’s Inspire MD event.

RJ Batts, Inventor & CEO of Picklehead LLC, Courtney Delatorre, an Analyst with Emergent BioSolutions, Ali von Paris, CEO & Founder of Route One Apparel, and David White, Founder & CEO of Tomorrow’s Bio Today were recognized for their inspiring work, leadership and growth, which represents the future of Maryland business.

In addition to these honors, the Maryland Chamber of Commerce also inducted two of Maryland’s most accomplished business leaders, Sheela Murthy and Mike Rosenbaum, into the Maryland Business Hall of Fame, and honor Senator Delores Goodwin Kelley with the 2023 Public Service Award.

Robert “RJ” Batts, Inventor & CEO, Picklehead LLC

RJ Batts is an inventor and the CEO of Picklehead, LLC, a Maryland company that RJ founded at just twelve years of age. RJ was consumed with the idea to help his father, a professional chef, protect his hands from cuts and injuries. To solve a problem that faced chefs in professional and home kitchens everywhere, RJ invented Tip Tough®, a simple, inexpensive and innovative product that can be used to protect chef’s fingers and hands when cutting, slicing and preparing food.

In his journey to invent, produce and sell Tip Tough®, RJ spent countless hours learning, building his business, and bringing Tip Tough® to market. RJ attended the Young Entrepreneurs Academy sponsored by the Salisbury Area Chamber of Commerce when in middle school, where he learned how to setup a business, find funding, craft a pitch and bring Top Tough® to market with the help of local business owners as mentors.

RJ has received startup funding from the Shore Hatchery Competition at Salisbury University, won a Rural Business Innovation Grant for the design and prototype phase of his product from TEDCO, and has won several awards including Salisbury Area Chamber of Commerce Spirit of Entrepreneurship Award and the Maryland Small Business Administration Rising Star Student Entrepreneur Award. Most notably, in 2021, RJ struck a $100,000 deal with Joy Mangano of QVC after appearing on the small business pitch show America’s Big Deal.

In addition to his work with Picklehead and Tip Tough®, RJ spends time speaking with and mentoring future entrepreneurs at local high schools and colleges, encouraging them to take a chance on themselves and their ideas.

Courtney DeLatorre, Analyst – Defense Affairs, Emergent BioSolutions 

Courtney DeLatorre is an analyst with Emergent BioSolutions, a Maryland company that develops, manufactures and delivers protections against public health threats through a pipeline of innovative vaccines and therapeutics worldwide.

In her day-to-day role, Courtney isn’t technically responsible for human resources-related work, but in recent years, has demonstrated strong leadership, independent initiative and true dedication to strengthening the environment of diversity, equity and inclusion at Emergent BioSolutions.

Although she had no formal role or authority, after the shocking and devastating George Floyd murder in 2020, Courtney took the initiative to convene her colleagues to share perspectives, provide support, identify ways to support fellow colleagues and their company, and as a result, the broader communities in which they operate. From there, Courtney has continued to make a remarkable impact on Emergent BioSolutions’ culture, helping to create and lead conversations, collaborate on diversity, equity and inclusion initiatives, and to build trust through sharing and listening circles through which more than 1,000 employees across the globe participate.

Courtney is also active in her community. She serves as co-chair for Emergent BioSolutions’ Black Originators, Leaders and Doers, and has led efforts to mentor and support local high school students through unique opportunities, including dual-interviewing events for students.

Her contributions to diversity, equity and inclusion among colleagues and community members has made a tremendous impact, and serves as an inspiration for individuals and organizations everywhere.

Ali von Paris, CEO & Founder, Route One Apparel

Ali von Paris is the Founder & CEO of Route One Apparel, a Maryland small business that creates, sells and distributes Maryland-themed apparel and accessories. An entrepreneur, small business owner and active community member, Ali launched her company in 2010 from within her dorm room at the University of Maryland. In the 13 years since, she has grown Route One Apparel into a highly respected brand and one of the fastest-growing companies in the state.

Through innovative brand partnerships with universities across Maryland, regional favorites National Bohemian, Domino Sugar and Utz, national, billion-dollar companies McCormick, Hershey and Morton Salt, as well as unique collaborations and trend-setting community building initiatives, Ali has built a highly successful business, and along the way, fostered community pride. She has supported other small businesses and has given back to the communities in which her staff and customers live through generous donations, fundraisers and design collaborations.

At just 33 years old, Ali has achieved many of her professional and personal goals, and with each passing year she gets significantly closer to fulfilling her dream of making Route One Apparel a household name, nationwide.

David White, Founder & CEO of Tomorrow’s Bio Today

David White is the Founder and CEO of Tomorrow’s Bio Today, a Maryland company dedicated to improving technology and diagnostic capabilities. An entrepreneur and inventor, Mr. White designed an ingestible tablet camera system configured to capture and quickly transmit images of internal organs. His invention builds and significantly improves upon existing tools for examining and diagnosing vessel diseases, digestive diseases and cancers, which are some of the most serious health risks to humans. In addition, Mr. White’s ingestible tablet camera system will also benefit the farm and veterinary fields, helping to reduce costs on farmers looking to diagnose and treat medical issues in their animals and livestock.

Born and raised in Maryland and living in Somerset County, Mr. White is an avid supporter of workforce development, training and funding. He has advocated for the support of technology literacy efforts on the Eastern Shore, testified regarding the need for and importance of funding and job training for the careers of tomorrow at the state level, and uses his personal time and funds to tutor and train youth, including under-resourced students with limited access to technology and training, to help them gain the skills needed to secure positions in the Information Technology field.

Inspire MD is an annual celebration that gathers Maryland’s community of leaders, changemakers, entrepreneurs, influencers and professionals for an evening celebrating the people and organizations that make Maryland unique. Featuring networking, entertainment, food, drinks and festivity, the event is ticketed and open to the public.