Grow Bioplastics Wins Spring 2016 Vol Court Pitch Competition

Winner-sliderGrow Bioplastics, a startup company founded by University of Tennessee students, beat 14 competitors to win the spring 2016 Vol Court Pitch Competition last week. Their product is a biodegradable alternative to the plastic mulch film currently used in agricultural applications.

The Grow Bioplastics team is comprised of Tony Bova and Jeff Beegle, both doctoral candidates with UT’s Bredesen Center for Interdisciplinary Research and Graduate Education. They have developed a process based on a patent through Oak Ridge National Lab to produce biodegradable mulch film that is both cost effective and eco-friendly.

Currently black plastic sheeting is used on many farms as a solution for retaining ground moisture and temperature while keeping unwanted weeds out of their fields. It is effective for this purpose, but at the end of the growing season the plastic must be removed and disposed of, creating a significant cost for the farm. Grow Bioplastics’ solution to this problem is to create sheets of biodegradable mulch film made of lignin, a natural waste product of the paper industry. This allows farmers to simply till the film into the ground at the end of the season, saving them the expense of removing it and keeping oil-based plastic products out of the landfill.

Grow Bioplastics is the first repeat winner of the Vol Court Pitch Competition. They first won Vol Court in fall 2014 when pitching a separate product line that they have since expanded upon.

Grow Bioplastics won $1,500, provided by Cirruspath, the presenting sponsor of the Vol Court Pitch Competition. The team will also receive one year of free office space in the UT Research Foundation Business Incubator, consulting services courtesy of Pershing Yoakley & Associates and legal advice from Morehous Legal Group.

Second place went to Kevin White and Gameday Weekenders, a startup providing UT fans with travel accommodations for away athletic events. White, a senior majoring in business analytics, won $1,000 provided by Cirruspath, as well as six months of free office space in the UT Research Foundation Business Incubator, consulting services from Pershing Yoakley & Associates, and legal advice from Morehous Legal Group.

Third place went to mooch, an app that allows individuals to save money by borrowing what they need, and make money by lending what they don’t. The mooch team is comprised of Jared Smith and Kyle Bashour, both seniors majoring in computer science, and Kaleigh Veca, a junior graphic design major. The team was awarded $500 provided by Launch Tennessee.

“The competition was very stiff for Vol Court this semester,” said Tom Graves, director of operations for the Anderson Center for Entrepreneurship and Innovation. “We had more teams competing than ever before, and as a whole, this group of 15 teams was probably the most prepared group we’ve ever had. It was very evident they’d paid attention to this semester’s speakers and put a lot of effort into refining their elevator pitches. Because of that, there was considerable debate when it came time for the judges to select the winners.”

The Vol Court Pitch Competition was the final event of the spring 2016 Vol Court Speaker Series. Prior to the competition, teams attended five entrepreneurial lectures covering topics like intellectual property, basic financial statements and opportunity identification.

Vol Court is a free event hosted by the Anderson Center each fall and spring semester. It is open to UT students, faculty and staff, as well as members of the local community. It’s made possible through sponsorship from Cirruspath, UT Research Foundation, Launch Tennessee, Pershing Yoakley & Associates and Morehous Legal Group.

Vol Court Adds New Topics, Begins Feb. 17

VolCourt-Slider

Now entering its seventh year, the Vol Court Pitch Competition encourages University of Tennessee students, faculty, staff and community members to pitch their business ideas for a chance to win $1,500, space in the UT Research Foundation Business Incubator, and free legal and accounting services.

Vol Court is a six-week entrepreneurial speaker series that culminates in a pitch competition where attendees put what they’ve learned into practice. Based on suggestions from past Vol Court attendees, new topics such as “Copyrights, Trademarks and Patents” have been added to the lineup this semester.

Vol Court has come a long way since it first launched in February 2010. The competition has grown from a single $1,000 award to three cash prizes. Weekly workshops that began with just 20 people now average at least 60 attendees.

“It’s been really exciting to see Vol Court develop,” said Tom Graves, Operations Director of the Anderson Center for Entrepreneurship and Innovation. “When we first launched this program back in 2010, we didn’t know quite what to expect. Since then we’ve seen numerous startup ideas come to life and many students choose to pursue entrepreneurial endeavors. The success of Vol Court is really indicative of the growing entrepreneurial culture on campus.”

Vol Court meets from 5:15 to 6:15 p.m. every Wednesday beginning Feb. 17 in Room 104 of the Haslam Business Building, 1000 Volunteer Blvd. There is no charge to participate and registration is not required. Anyone who participates in the March 30 pitch competition must have attended four of the five series meetings.

The schedule for this semester’s Vol Court series is as follows:

Feb. 17 – Opportunity Identification and Validation

Feb. 24  – Reaching Your Market

Mar. 2 – Basic Financial Statements

Mar. 9 – Copyrights, Trademarks and Patents

Mar. 23 – Business Plan Presentation

Mar. 30 – Pitch Competition

Vol Court is a semi-annual event hosted by the Anderson Center for Entrepreneurship and Innovation. Vol Court is made possible by donated funds and services from our sponsors: Cirrus Path, Launch Tennessee, Pershing Yoakley and Associates, Morehous Legal Group, and the UT Research Foundation.

Boyd Venture Challenge Accepting Applications Through Oct. 31

The Anderson Center for Entrepreneurship and Innovation is now accepting applications for the Boyd Venture Challenge, a seed fund grant that awards up to $20,000 to student-owned startup companies each fall and spring semester.

The Boyd Venture Challenge is open to any early-stage company owned by a UT student. To be eligible, companies must be legally established and the student owner(s) must be enrolled in a UT undergraduate or graduate degree program in Knoxville at the time of application. Applications must be received by the Anderson Center no later than 5 p.m. Friday, Oct. 31, 2014. For full application instructions and eligibility details, click here.

The Boyd Venture Challenge is made possible by the generosity of Randy Boyd, president and CEO of Radio Systems Corporation, makers of PetSafe, Invisible Fence and SportDog brands. To date, this endowed fund has awarded $109,500 to 16 student-owned startups.

10/14 Vol Court: Finding Investors at the Right Time

Chris Miller, portfolio manager at Capital Bank, will be speaking at the fourth session of Vol Court tonight at 5:15 p.m. in Stokely Management Center Room G2. He will be discussing different types of funding, investor expectations and the importance of a management team.

Vol Court is a five-week entrepreneurial speaker series that culminates in a pitch competition where attendees put what they’ve learned into practice by presenting their business ideas to a panel of successful entrepreneurs for a chance to win $1,000 in cash, office space in the UTRF Business Incubator and various professional services. Vol Court meets every Tuesday beginning September 23 from 5:15 – 6:15 p.m. in Stokely Management Center, room G2. This series (including the pitch competition) is open to students, faculty, staff and members of the community. Refreshments will be served.

10/7 Vol Court: Entity Selection and Issues

David Morehous, founder of Morehous Legal Group PLLC, will be speaking at the third session of Vol Court tomorrow night at 5:15 p.m. in Stokely Management Center Room G2. He will be discussing entity selection considerations and legal issues associated with entity formation. Vol Court meets every Tuesday beginning September 23 from 5:15 – 6:15 p.m. in Stokely Management Center, room G2. Refreshments will be served.

Vol Court is a five-week entrepreneurial speaker series that culminates in a pitch competition where attendees put what they’ve learned into practice by presenting their business ideas to a panel of successful entrepreneurs for a chance to win $1,000 in cash, office space in the UTRF Business Incubator and various professional services. This series (including the pitch competition) is open to students, faculty, staff and members of the community.

9/30 Vol Court: The Business Model Canvas – Part 2

Eric Dunn, a serial entrepreneur and the founder of Catalyst Coaching, LLC, will be speaking at the second session of Vol Court Sept. 30 at 5:15 p.m. in Stokely Management Center Room G2. He will be covering the second part of the business model canvas worksheet, discussing revenue streams, partners, and cost structure. Vol Court meets every Tuesday beginning September 23 from 5:15 – 6:15 p.m. in Stokely Management Center, room G2. Refreshments will be served.

Vol Court is a five-week entrepreneurial speaker series that culminates in a pitch competition where attendees put what they’ve learned into practice by presenting their business ideas to a panel of successful entrepreneurs for a chance to win $1,000 in cash, office space in the UTRF Business Incubator and various professional services. This series (including the pitch competition) is open to students, faculty, staff and members of the community.

Vol Court Offers Entrepreneurial Workshops and Cash Prize

The Vol Court 2014 Speaker Series kicks off at the University of Tennessee on September 23. Vol Court is a five-week entrepreneurial speaker series hosted by the Anderson Center for Entrepreneurship and Innovation (ACEI) and led by local entrepreneurs and business experts. The series culminates in a pitch competition where attendees put what they’ve learned into practice by presenting their business ideas to a panel of successful entrepreneurs for a chance to win $1,000 and professional services.

Vol Court meets every Tuesday beginning September 23 from 5:15 – 6:15 p.m. in Stokely Management Center, room G2. The series and the pitch competition are open to students, faculty, staff and members of the community. There is no charge to participate in this series and anyone interested in starting a company is encouraged to attend.

The schedule for this semester’s Vol Court series is as follows:

  • Tues., Sept. 23 – The Business Model Canvas and Lean Startup – Part 1
  • Tues., Sept. 30 – The Business Model Canvas – Part 2
  • Tues., Oct. 7 – Entity Selection and Issues
  • Tues., Oct. 14 – Finding Investors at the Right Time
  • Tues., Oct. 21 – Preparing the Pitch
  • Tues., Oct. 28 – Vol Court Pitch Competition

Vol Court is sponsored by UT Federal Credit UnionUT Research FoundationPershing Yoakley and Associates, Morehous Legal Group, and Launch Tennessee.

For information on past winners or to download materials that will be used in this series, click here.

7th Annual Undergraduate Business Plan Competition

                              2014 Undergraduate Business Plan Competition

Aspiring UT Entrepreneurs:

The 7th Annual Business Plan Competition Is On!

Got the next big idea? Think you might have an entrepreneurial streak? Like challenges and the chance to make an impact?

If so, the University of Tennessee, Knoxville’s Anderson Center for Entrepreneurship and Innovation, housed in the College of Business Administration, invites you to enter the sixth annual Business Plan Competition. In an effort to strengthen the entrepreneurial culture and spirit of the university, the competition encourages participants to enhance their understanding of new venture creation, polish their communication skills by presenting ideas to investor-judges and network with successful local entrepreneurs, business owners and venture capitalists.

All undergraduate students on the Knoxville campus — from any college and any discipline — are eligible. Students can enter any idea, from the world’s best lemonade stand to a new way to harness solar energy.

The 2014 competition is offering awards in two categories: technology-enabled growth businesses and lifestyle businesses. Technology-enabled growth businesses have the potential for significant national and international expansion; lifestyle businesses typically remain local to a specific regional area. The top three plans in each category will win $5,000, $3,000 and $2,000, respectively.

“Entrepreneurs power the engine of economic growth. Seldom in the history of our country has there been a greater need for these generators of wealth. This competition is a first step for students who want to follow an entrepreneurial path,” said Tom Graves, director of operations for UT’s Anderson Center for Entrepreneurship and Innovation.

“The college designed the Business Plan Competition to simulate real-world entrepreneurial challenges and stress levels,” he said. “By providing students with experiential, out-of-the-classroom learning opportunities, the university greatly enhances their chances for future success.”

Students can work individually or in teams of up to four people. The competition encourages students with both technical and commercial skills to come together to build strong, well-rounded teams.

“This competition provides participating undergraduate students an excellent chance to develop planning and persuasive presentation skills,” said Lynn Youngs, executive director of the center. “The business plan competition is another way that the university is using applied learning to enhance the educational level of our graduates. I’m excited to see the plans that will be developed.”

Deadlines for the following activities for the 2014 competition are outlined below.  More information is available at http://www.andersoncei.utk.edu/competitions/undergraduate-business-plan-competition.

  • February 24: Deadline for concept summary to be submitted to the Anderson Center for Entrepreneurship and Innovation, email to cei@utk.edu attn: Undergraduate Business Plan Competition (requirements for concept summary and other information is available at the Anderson Center site, called out above.
  • March 7: Ten semifinalists in each category will be notified.
  • March 14: Each semifinalist will make a 15-minute presentation and take five minutes of questions from the judges. Semifinalists must also prepare 5 bound copies of their business plan to be left with the judges for their review.
  • March 19: The five finalists in each category will be announced.
  • March 28: During the final round of judging, each finalist will make a five-minute “final pitch” (no sales or visual aids allowed) and then take 20 minutes of questions from the judges.
  • March 31: Winners announced.
  • Date TBA:  Awards presented.

The judges will include UT educators, local entrepreneurs and business professionals, and individuals (such as venture capitalists, bankers, etc.) who support the entrepreneurial community.

For more information, visit: www.andersoncei.utk.edu/competitions/undergraduate-business-plan-competition

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UT Entrepreneurship Students Strut Their Stuff!

By: Christopher C. Saah

As most college students where sleeping in or walking to 8 AM classes, UT’s very own Collegiate Entrepreneur’s Organization (CEO) was doing the catwalk.  Periodically, Oak Ridge High School puts on a business professionals course.   During this course, students are encouraged to learn more about what it means to be a business professional and help them prepare for the real world outside of school.  CEO has had plenty of experience with that; having traveled to multiple conferences in Chicago, been in countless meetings with entrepreneurs, and organized and participated in multiple pitch competitions, these college students understand what it means to be a professional in today’s changing world.  Given one month to prepare, CEO was tasked with helping these high school students learn more about dressing professionally.  Emily Bright, a sophomore at UT and the communication chair for CEO had a very bright idea.  “Why don’t we have a fashion show?” Emily was quoted as saying.  The rest of the group was hesitant at first, but with Emily’s prior experience in the fashion industry, they felt confident that she could pull it off.

As the students filed into the 200-person auditorium, the lights dimmed and the moderating CEO members took to the front.  What started as a very formal slideshow presentation slowly turned less prescribed. Mitchell Poythress, a senior studying business management and entrepreneurship, had this to say about the matter.  “As the slides droned on, we could all tell we were losing them.  I remembered back when I was in high school, and I always hated boring talks.  We had to get them this information, without boring them to tears.”  With that came jokes from the CEO executive board and a far less official presentation.

Once the slides were completed, the real fun began.  The lights dimmed, and the high-energy pop music started pumping through the auditoriums speakers.  The student’s heads started to bob, and the fashion show was beginning.  First came Jeremy Tate, the organization’s president dressed in prototypical business casual attire from the back of the room.  The students watched and listened as the remaining CEO members dissected his clothes and accessories and relating what he was doing well.  As more of the “models” came down to the front of the room, the students had the chance to learn more about business professional dress for men and women, business casual, and formal dress.  If what came before was the “do’s,” then what followed was most definitely the “don’ts.”  Eric Rutledge, a sophomore computer science major at the university, usually the most dapper of the group, strutted down to the front of the room in what was best described as “hooligan attire.”  Eric had is wrinkled button down shirt not tucked in to his not pressed black pants, adorning his sloppy flip flops, and a bright orange boa across his neck to top it all off.  After the moderators reeled the students back in from laughter, they broke down everything he had done wrong and why he would not be impressing anyone in the professional world.  Although exaggerated, the students understood how important it is to dress well and present themselves in a good light.  After the students asked multiple questions, the Oak Ridge High School bell rang three times, and the students started to pack up their things.  “Although I do not see my modeling career taking off any time soon,” Jeremy Tate jested, “I honestly believe that we helped those kids.”  It was clear that they had, and that the Collegiate Entrepreneur’s Organization Fashion Show was a true success.

Vol Court Fall 2013 Winners Announced

Eight teams went head-to-head in the fall 2013 Vol Court pitch competition recently with the first place team receiving $1,000 to move its business forward, space at the University of Tennessee Research Foundation (UTRF) business incubator, consulting services from Pershing Yoakley and Associates, legal services from the Morehous Legal Group, and mentoring from the College of Business Administration’s Anderson Center for Entrepreneurship and Innovation (ACEI) and Launch Tennessee —a prize package worth more than $5,000.  The second place team will win $500, space in the UTRF business incubator, legal services from the Morehous Legal Group, and mentoring from ACEI and Launch Tennessee.

First place went to Style with Benefits.  Looking for a way to combine a for-profit business with social consciousness, Chelsea Padgham, a senior at UT majoring in Economics created Style with Benefits, an on-line retailer that purchases products from the artizens in developing countries and contributes a portion of the profits to smaller, often overlooked, social cause organizations in the region. “People want products that support good causes”, says Padgham, “my business model helps the artizens in developing countries and social cause organizations here at home.” Padgham acknowledges that similar businesses exists but feels that she can effectively compete by incorporating “Karma Points” that reward customers by allowing them to earn points that can be redeemed for future products with each purchase. More information can be found at www.stylewithbenefits.org.

Second place went to on-line retailer, The Gifter’s Market, founded by Emily Skaar, a senior at UT majoring in Logistics. “I believe we all want to give unique gifts to the special people in our lives”, Skaar said, “by searching out unique craft items at national craft shows and out-of-the-way businesses The Gifter’s Market can offer truly different gifts for our customers.”  Skaar intends to differentiate the business, not only with unusual gifts but also by developing interactive relationships with customers. She intends to send out reminders for birthdays, anniversaries or other important dates that customers place in their personal profile on the site.

Vol Court is a speaker series and pitch competition presented by the College of Business Administration’s Anderson Center for Entrepreneurship and Innovation and sponsored by UT Federal Credit Union, UT Research Foundation, Morehous Legal Group PLLC, Pershing Yoakley & Associates and Launch Tennessee.  The goal of the program is to help people develop new business ideas and gain entrepreneurial skills. Speakers include entrepreneurs, investors, and subject matter experts who address how to evaluate a business opportunity, how to make money, and how to pitch the idea to potential investors.

Vol Court is offered every fall and spring semester and is open to students, faculty and the general public.