Seven University of Tennessee, Knoxville, student startups were recently awarded cash prizes in the Graves Business Plan Competition. The Anderson Center for Entrepreneurship and Innovation in UT’s Haslam College of Business sponsored the 10th annual entrepreneurial contest.
Sophomores Kelsey Duncan and Ryan Cunningham took top prizes of $5,000 each in the high growth business and lifestyle business categories. Second and third place winners in both categories were awarded $3,000 and $2,000 respectively.
Duncan, a marketing major from Nashville, Tennessee, placed first in the high growth
category with The Sorority Guide. The values-based analytical tool uses a cellphone application to guide potential new sorority members through the recruitment process. The application eases the process by providing users with information about each sorority, facts about recruitment events and journaling options for users to privately record their experiences. Duncan is in contact with several SEC schools, pursuing possible contracts for her new app.
“The competition not only allowed me to perfect my business pitch, but it also allowed me to sit down and figure out the financial side of my company and what I need to move forward,” Duncan says. “I am very grateful for the experience and opportunity that UT has given me to advance my company.”
Cunningham, a supply chain management major from Collierville, Tennessee, was awarded the top prize in the lifestyle business category with Campus Car, a flat-rate ride-sharing startup for the UT campus area. The company hires local students as independent contractors to provide low-cost transportation to and from campus in downtown Knoxville, Fort Sanders and the campus area. The company plans to launch in August.
“The Graves Business Plan Competition helped me by allowing me to pitch my idea in front of judges and university representatives who gave critiques that assisted in shaping the future of my business,” Cunningham says. “The requirements of the pitches and prep work necessary to make a good presentation have made my business plan even more solid and will help me to achieve the goals I have planned.”
Second place in the high growth category went to the Wahie Women team, composed of Brennan Galbraith, a junior in marketing from Brentwood, Tennessee; Caroline Conley, a junior in economics from Franklin, Tennessee; Anna Amagliani, a junior in supply chain management from Memphis, Tennessee; and Caroline Cate, a junior in industrial engineering from Brentwood, Tennessee.
Wahie Women is a food delivery service customized to meet the nutritional needs of women. The company uses a cellphone-based application to track users’ menstrual cycles and creates meals designed to replace the nutrients naturally depleted during a woman’s cycle.
In With the Old, a social-media-based clothing retail service, took home second place in the lifestyle category. The company was founded by Baker Donahue, a junior in communication studies from Franklin, Tennessee. In With the Old uses online social auctions to sell repurposed vintage college apparel. The company began at UT and now includes four additional college campuses
Tied for third place in the high growth category were Simple Mow and Grassroots Co-Op.
Simple Mow delivers an efficient hands-free mowing experience. Created by Treavor Johnson, a senior in mechanical engineering from Englewood, Tennessee, Simple Mow uses a combination of satellite navigation and a customized plot route to eliminate the need to perform the physical labor of mowing. Johnson has plans to finalize a prototype this summer.
Grassroots Co-Op, created by Barrett Darlington, a junior in mechanical engineering from Knoxville, seeks to simplify the internship hunting process for UT students in science, technology, engineering and mathematics fields. The company uses web and cellphone application-based services to match students with local businesses seeking interns.
Just Tap It, created by Mason Timken, a senior in mechanical engineering from Murfreesboro, Tennessee, was awarded third place in lifestyle. Just Tap It is a self-serve bar tap that aims to change the way consumers order beer. The mobile unit attaches to a keg and allows consumers to purchase and pour directly at the tap.
The Graves Business Plan Competition is held every spring. It is open to UT undergraduate students from any field of study. An outside panel of judges from the business community judges entries and selects the winners. Since the competition’s inception in 2008, it has awarded $192,000 to student startups. Sixty-one startup ideas have been funded, 46 percent of which are still in business or have pivoted to a new business.