Boyd Venture Challenge Awards Funds to Generative Genetics and Flo+Co.

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.

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Graves Business Plan Competition Awards Funds to Six UT Student Start-Up Businesses

Graves Winners 2018

Coonhound, LLC, Generative Genetics, Flo+Co. Cumberland Games Company, Stoked Info, and Patriot Threads win prize money to advance their business ideas.

Six UT student start-up businesses were awarded cash prizes in the Graves Business Plan Competition. The Anderson Center for Entrepreneurship and Innovation in UT’s Haslam College of Business hosted the 11th annual entrepreneurial contest.

Coonhound, LLC and Generative Genetics took home top prizes of $5,000 each in the lifestyle business and high-growth business categories. Flo+Co. and Cumberland Games Company won second place and $3,000 each, and Stoked Info and Patriot Threads each won third place and $2,000.

“The variety and quality of this year’s business ideas was outstanding,” said Tom Graves, operations director for the Anderson Center. “These students showed incredible passion for their businesses and impressed the judges with the work they did to move their ideas forward.”

Coonhound, LLC, which placed first in the lifestyle category, is a full-service camping business, seeking to simplify the logistics of camping so campers can spend more time exploring the outdoors. The company provides equipment along with campsite setup and removal.

A team of six sophomore students founded the company—Dalton Maddox, from Knoxville, Tennessee, majoring in supply chain management; Jeremy Piper, a supply chain management major from Clarkston, Michigan; Michael Richards, a geography major from Cross Plains, Tennessee; Connor Clarke, a supply chain management major from Morristown, Tennessee; Kenny Miller, from Cleveland, Ohio, majoring in both recreation and sport management and business analytics; and Christopher Mikulec, an accounting major from Buffalo, New York.

“We decided to form Coonhound out of our love for the outdoors,” said Piper, Coonhound’s oversight and quality control manager. “We really wanted to get more people out into nature, and Coonhound is a great way to accomplish this goal.”

Coonhound plans to launch this month, offering a range of camping packages in the Smoky Mountains.

“The Graves Business Plan Competition helped show us that people really believe in our business as much as we do,” said Piper. “Through winning this award money, we will be fully operational and cover costs throughout our business.”

Generative Genetics, founded by junior Ariel Ritter, won first place in the high-growth business category. Ritter, from Murfreesboro, Tennessee, is majoring in both chemical engineering and biological sciences.

“I have a passion for both exploration and animals,” said Ritter. “Generative Genetics allows me to continue my research while enabling other researchers to do the same with an increased purpose.”

Generative Genetics seeks to offer solutions for researchers of difficult-to-treat diseases, such as cancer and Alzheimer’s disease. The company breeds axolotls, a species of tiger salamander known for its regenerative ability. Ritter plans to use her winnings to fund a larger business space and cover licensing as her company expands.

Second place in the lifestyle category went to Flo+Co., a floral coffee shop concept created by Meg Hutchinson, a junior supply chain management major from Franklin, Tennessee.

“When I attended floral school in Bath, England, I noticed the strategic pairing of coffee shops next to flower shops,” said Hutchinson. “Being an avid coffee and flower lover, I believed that this was a concept that would catch fire in my hometown.”

Hutchinson plans to use the prize money to grow the business by building on her current brand, Meg Hutchinson Florals. The company will offer floral pop-ups around Knoxville in addition to the floral design services Hutchinson currently offers.

Cumberland Games Company, took home second place in the high-growth category. The company was founded by Grant Peterson, a junior supply chain management major from Murfreesboro, Tennessee. Peterson plans to use his passion for the board game community to create unique games characterized by innovative design and unique visuals.

“The tabletop gaming community is growing rapidly as people seek to spend quality time with their friends,” said Peterson. “Cumberland Games Company aims to provide games that will give lasting memories to this growing generation of game enthusiasts.”

The company is developing the prototype for its flagship game, One Time Gig, with plans to begin a Kickstarter campaign in early 2019.

Stoked Info, a media start-up company, won third place in the lifestyle category. Team members Nicholas Stokes and Trevor Bass, both junior journalism and electronic media majors from Memphis, Tennessee, founded the company. The company encourages consumers to “stay stoked” by consuming news from various viewpoints.

“Stoked Info, The People’s Press, was created to put the news consumer first,” said Stokes. “We aim to become the go-to news curator of everything politics, sports, entertainment, and style.”

The company plans to use the awarded funds to purchase equipment needed to produce Stoked Radio, the group’s weekly news podcast.

Third place in the high-growth category was awarded to Patriot Threads. The “apparel brand with a mission” was founded by Brady Fernandes, a freshman marketing major from Knoxville, Tennessee. The company supports Veteran-based nonprofit organizations through donations from its profits.

With the funds awarded, Fernandes plans to grow the company’s inventory.

“The competition was an amazing opportunity for me to really evaluate my own business and plan to move it forward,” said Fernandes. “The judges provided some much-needed feedback so that I can continue to grow my dream into a reality.”

New to this year’s competition were student financial advisor roles. These students worked with competition finalists, consulting on the start-ups’ financial planning. Logan Sizemore, a junior accounting major from Johnson City, Tennessee, won top prize in the student financial advisor competition, working with Generative Genetics.

“As a young entrepreneur myself, I was delighted to be able to provide my insight and use my major and knowledge in accounting to help Ariel achieve her goals and prepare her financials,” said Sizemore. “The participants obviously earn all the credit, but even being just a small part of their success is a rewarding experience.”

Austin Robinson, a senior finance major from Andersonville, Tennessee, won second prize, and Olivia Davis, a junior accounting major from Franklin, Tennessee, won third prize.

The Graves Business Plan Competition is held every spring and 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 $212,000 to 67 student start-up businesses.

Vol Court Pitch Competition Awards Prizes to Three New Start-Up Business Concepts

Vol Court S18 Winners

A student floral designer with a new coffee shop concept won the top prize at this semester’s Vol Court Pitch Competition. UT undergraduate student Meg Hutchinson pitched Flo+Co., a flower and coffee shop combination, in the semiannual pitch competition and speaker series hosted by the Anderson Center for Entrepreneurship and Innovation in UT’s Haslam College of Business.

“Flo+Co. focuses on providing high-quality floral arrangements at reasonable prices, coffee beverages, and a warm and welcoming environment,” said Hutchinson, a junior supply chain management major from Franklin, Tennessee.

Hutchinson received $1,500 along with a sponsored prize package that includes free office space in the UT Research Foundation (UTRF) Business Incubator, consulting services courtesy of PYA, legal advice from Morehous Legal Group, design services from Innovative Design Inc., and website services from Make Me Modern.

“This shop is something I’ve worked on endlessly, and I was more than ready to get the word out about my dream,” said Hutchinson. “The money was definitely a plus, but I was mostly excited to share my idea and get feedback.”

Second-place winner Anna Veazey pitched Moto-plow, an idea for an agricultural tool designed to aid famers in developing countries.

“Moto-plow is a piece of farm equipment that can attach to the back of a motorcycle,” said Veazey. “Farmers who usually farm by hand can plant, plow, and transport their crops in half the time.”

Veazey, a junior supply chain management major from Hendersonville, Tennessee, received $1,000 and a sponsored prize package that includes free office space in the UTRF Business Incubator, legal advice from Morehous Legal Group, and design services from Innovative Design Inc.

Third place went to Generative Genetics, founded by Ariel Ritter. The company, originally named Ritter’s Critters, aims to offer solutions for the research of difficult-to-treat diseases by raising awareness of rapidly healing organisms. Generative Genetics breeds axolotls, a species of tiger salamander known for its regenerative ability.

Ritter, of Murfreesboro, Tennessee, is a junior with dual majors in chemical engineering and biological sciences.

“My business provides an opportunity for unique creatures to be brought into the public eye and help find cures for presently difficult-to-treat illnesses such as cancer,” said Ritter.

Ritter received $500 and a sponsored prize package that includes legal advice from Morehous Legal Group and design services from Innovative Design Inc.

“We heard several interesting business ideas this semester,” said Shawn Carson, Vol Court director. “It’s exciting to see these ideas come from across campus and the interest in entrepreneurship continue to grow.”

The Vol Court Pitch Competition was the final event of the spring 2018 Vol Court Speaker Series. Leading up to the competition, participants attended five entrepreneurial lectures covering topics like opportunity validation and entrepreneurial storytelling.

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. Sponsors for the spring competition include the UT Research Foundation, PYA, Morehous Legal Group, Three Roots Capital, Innovative Design Inc., Make Me Modern, and Hard Knox Pizzeria.

Anderson Center Accepting Applications for Boyd Venture Challenge

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Student-owned start-up businesses seeking funding can apply to the Boyd Venture Challenge, beginning now. The seed-fund grant awards up to $20,000 to legally established student-owned startup companies each fall and spring semester. The competition is hosted by the Anderson Center for Entrepreneurship and Innovation in UT’s Haslam College of Business.

The challenge is open to any legally established early-stage company owned by a UT student. The student owner(s) must be enrolled in a UT Knoxville or UT Institute of Agriculture undergraduate, master’s, or PhD degree program at the time of application.

To apply, students must submit an application to the Anderson Center by midnight Wednesday, April 4. Applications should consist of an executive summary, request for funds, and milestones that will be accomplished with the funds if awarded. Full application instructions and eligibility details are on the Boyd Venture Challenge website.

Teams that advance to the presentation round will pitch to a panel of business professionals Friday, April 20.

“Boyd Venture Challenge awardees are often able to advance their start-up businesses post competition,” said Tom Graves, Anderson Center director of operations and director of the competition. “The combination of seed funding and valuable feedback from experienced entrepreneurs provides a boost to these early-stage companies.”

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.

Since 2011, the endowed fund has awarded $337,000 to 35 student-owned start-ups.

Graves Business Plan Competition Accepting Applications

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UT undergraduate students with a business idea or early-stage startup can apply to the Graves Business Plan Competition beginning February 22. The annual competition, hosted by the Anderson Center for Entrepreneurship and Innovation in the Haslam College of Business, was created in 2007 to help aspiring student entrepreneurs grow businesses.

The competition is open to any undergraduate student currently enrolled at UT Knoxville or the UT Institute of Agriculture. First, second, and third prizes of $5,000, $3,000, and $2,000 respectively are awarded in two business categories: growth and lifestyle. All student-owned companies, whether legally formed or in the planning stages, are eligible to compete.

“Participating in the Graves Business Plan Competition provides students with the opportunity to turn a concept into a business or develop an early-stage startup,” said Tom Graves, director of the competition and Anderson Center director of operations. “Students receive meaningful feedback during the competition process that can help them advance their idea.”

To apply, students must complete the application form. Applications are due by midnight Thursday, March 22. Applicants advancing to the first presentation round will pitch to a panel of local business professionals and alumni entrepreneurs Friday, April 6.

Two information sessions will be held for students to learn more about the competition and application. Both sessions will be held Tuesday, March 6, in Haslam Business Building Room 316—one from 8 to 9 a.m. and one from 4 to 5 p.m. Students can attend either session. No registration is required, and attendance is not required in order to apply to the competition.

To date, the competition has awarded $192,000 to 61 student business ideas and startups.

Grow Bioplastics Awarded NSF Grant

Grow Bioplastics

Tony Bova and Jeff Beegle, co-founders of Grow Bioplastics, with a sample of their lignin-based plastic. (Adam Brimer / University of Tennessee)

 

Grow Bioplastics, a University of Tennessee, Knoxville, student startup, has received a $225,000 National Science Foundation (NSF) Small Business Innovation Research (SBIR) grant. The award will fund research and development work on lignin-biomass-based biodegradable plastics for agricultural applications, specifically plastic mulches.

Grow Bioplastics’ team, led by co-founders Tony Bova and Jeff Beegle, will use the SBIR funding to create new biodegradable plastics from lignin, a waste product of the paper and biofuel industries. Bova is an energy science and engineering PhD candidate in UT’s Bredesen Center for Interdisciplinary Research and Graduate Education. Beegle, a recent graduate with a master’s degree in microbiology, also completed his studies in the Bredesen Center.

The company’s biodegradable product offers an alternative to plastic mulch films used by farmers nationwide. Current nondegradable plastics must be removed at the end of each growing season and cannot be recycled. Grow Bioplastics’ biodegradable film can be plowed into the soil after each use, offering a solution to the additional labor costs and environmental impact of current films.

“Being selected for this competitive award from the NSF is a huge step for our company,” said Bova, who serves as CEO. “This funding will help us validate the fundamental science behind our lignin-based plastic technology, allow us to hire our first employees here in East Tennessee, and bring us one step closer to realizing our vision for a socially and environmentally driven business model to support a circular economy.”

Bova and Beegle began Grow Bioplastics’ journey at UT when they pitched the business idea at Vol Court, a speaker series and pitch competition hosted by the Anderson Center for Entrepreneurship and Innovation in UT’s Haslam College of Business.

“Working with the Anderson Center was the bridge between the science world and the business world,” said Beegle. “Tony and I were able to take an idea that originated from the lab and cultivate it into a business, with the help of the Anderson Center.”

The team’s Vol Court win was followed by seed funding from the Anderson Center’s Boyd Venture Challenge. The company went on to receive funding through several local, state, and national pitch competitions.

“It’s been remarkable to see Grow Bioplastics progress from concept stage to this incredible milestone,” said Lynn Youngs, executive director of the Anderson Center. “This is the type of success we hope to see when we work with student startups.”

In With the Old Advances in National Pitch Competition

UT student startup In With the Old was named a semifinalist in the national Student Startup Madness (SSM) competition. The social-media-based clothing retailer was selected from more than 200 startups from universities nationwide. Baker Donahue of Franklin, Tennessee, a senior communication studies major and entrepreneurship minor, founded the company.

Baker Donahue

Baker Donahue, founder, In With the Old

SSM is the only nationwide collegiate tournament focused on digital media startups. The competition began at South by Southwest (SXSW) in 2012. In With the Old advanced from a field of 64 startups to reach the semifinal round. The top eight companies will pitch their businesses to investors and entrepreneurs in March at SXSW in Austin, Texas.

“The national exposure of SSM and SXSW is an incredible opportunity for startups,” says Lynn Youngs, executive director of the Anderson Center for Entrepreneurship and Innovation in UT’s Haslam College of Business. “We’re always excited to see our students progress to this level of competition.”

Donahue and his team repurpose and resell vintage collegiate apparel through online social auctions.

“In With the Old has participated in a number of local competitions, so we figured we’d try our hand at something national,” said Donahue. “It is encouraging to see how we stack up against companies across the nation.”

Donahue created the company in 2016 after noticing an interest in vintage UT apparel and a need for a centralized resource. He began with one Instagram account and $300 of vintage UT apparel. After giving the merchandise a little love via a wash, professional photographs and clever titles, Donahue turned his original investment into $1,500.

“I clearly remember not being able to sleep because I was too excited to sell more clothing the next day,” he said. “After a successful initial run of clothing I began to consider the scalability of In With the Old.”

Seeing the growth potential for his startup, he sought funding through business plan competitions hosted by the Anderson Center.

Using funds received in the Boyd Venture Challenge and Graves Business Plan Competition, he began to grow the company beyond the original UT focus. The In With the Old brand now includes six universities, and Donahue plans to continue the startup’s nationwide growth.

“Participating in UT’s pitch competitions has been an incredibly eye-opening experience. I have learned more about business and what investors look for in a company than I could have ever imagined,” said Donahue. “My company is now more suitable to scale thanks to the advice and mentorship I have received from the Anderson Center.”