Two businesses owned by UT students were awarded a total of $25,000 in the spring 2018 Boyd Venture Challenge. The Anderson Center for Entrepreneurship and Innovation in UT’s Haslam College of Business hosted the seed-fund grant competition.
Start-up companies Generative Genetics and Flo+Co. were selected from a group of eight finalists. A panel of five judges determined the funding awards.
“This semester’s pitches were some of the strongest we’ve seen since the challenge’s inception,” said Tom Graves, operations director of the Anderson Center. “We’re pleased to see these student entrepreneurs continue to hone and develop their businesses as they move through the Anderson Center’s programs.”
Generative Genetics, founded by Ariel Ritter, was awarded $15,000. The company breeds axolotl, a species of salamander known for its regenerative abilities. Generative Genetics aims to help researchers utilize the abilities of these organisms to progress medical advancements.
“Animals such as the axolotl will likely provide medical research with answers,” Ritter said. “The potential cure for cancer, Alzheimer’s disease and heart failure may exist in the way these organisms rapidly heal themselves.”
Ritter began exploring the idea for Generative Genetics because of her passion for axolotls.
“They can regenerate a limb in 30 days,” she said. “That is a fast and incredible regenerative capability .”
Ritter, a junior from Murfreesboro, Tennessee, is majoring in both chemical engineering and biological sciences. She plans to use the funds to expand her business, allowing her to expand her contact with researchers.
Flo+Co., a floral coffee shop business, was awarded $10,000. Meg Hutchinson of Franklin, Tennessee, a junior supply chain management major and entrepreneurship minor, founded the company. She formed the idea while studying floral design in Bath, England.
“I noticed the strategic pairing of coffee shops next to flower shops,” Hutchinson said. “Being an avid coffee and flower lover, I believed that this was a concept that would catch fire in my hometown.”
Hutchinson began offering floral design services in Knoxville and Franklin. In the past year, she has completed projects for weddings, holidays and UT events.
“I am so excited and passionate about Flo+Co.,” said Hutchinson. “An idea I had one day in England has become something that people talk about around campus. I love when people approach me to see if I’m ‘that flower girl.’”
Building on her current brand, Meg Hutchinson Florals, she plans to offer floral pop-up shops around Knoxville and Franklin this summer.
“The Boyd Venture Challenge was a great opportunity to dive deep into the financial plans for my company. Some of the questions the judges asked, I had not considered before the competition. It was meaningful to receive feedback at that level, and it helped push my business forward,” said Hutchinson.
The Boyd Venture Challenge is made possible by the generosity of Randy Boyd, founder and executive chairman of Radio Systems Corporation, makers of PetSafe, Invisible Fence and SportDog brands.
The Boyd Venture Challenge is administered each fall and spring semester. It is open to UT undergraduate and graduate students from any field of study. An outside panel of judges from the business community decides the funding awards. Since the fund’s inception in 2011, 35 student-owned companies have been awarded a total of $362,000 in seed capital to advance their businesses.