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.

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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.

Vol Court Begins January 31

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UT students, faculty, and staff, as well as members of the local community, are encouraged to pitch their business ideas at Vol Court, a semiannual pitch competition and speaker series run by the Anderson Center for Entrepreneurship and Innovation in UT’s Haslam College of Business.

The series begins January 31. Winners may receive up to $1,500 in prize money and space in the UT Research Foundation Business Incubator as well as legal and accounting services.

The series and competition are open to the public. There is no charge to participate in the event, and anyone interested in entrepreneurship is invited to attend.

Designed to introduce participants to entrepreneurship, the series provides a starting point to help advance business ideas into reality. The spring 2018 series includes five interactive entrepreneurial speaker sessions with local entrepreneurs and UT faculty.

“We’re excited to introduce fresh topics and new speakers this semester,” Shawn Carson, Vol Court director, said. “The spring lineup is packed with opportunities to learn from experienced entrepreneurs.”

New sessions include “Funding Continuum for Startups” and “The Art of Entrepreneurial Storytelling.” Participants will learn how funding sources change during the different stages of a growing business and how to effectively share information about a new business.

The program culminates on March 7 in a pitch competition where attendees put what they’ve learned into practice. All pitch competition participants are eligible for cash prizes awarded to first-, second-, and third-place winners.

Vol Court meets from 5:15 to 6:15 p.m. weekly from January 31 through March 7 in the Haslam Business Building, 1000 Volunteer Blvd. All meetings will be held in Room 104.

Anyone who plans to participate in the March 7 pitch competition must attend four of the five speaker sessions listed below:

January 31: Opportunity Identification and Validation

February 7: Getting to Your Market

February 13: The Funding Continuum

February 21: The Art of Entrepreneurial Storytelling

February 28: Preparing Your Pitch

Vol Court is made possible by donated funds and services from sponsors including PYA, Morehous Legal Group, 3 Roots Capital, the UT Research Foundation, and other local businesses.

Healthcare Innovation EasyWhip Wins Fall 2017 Vol Court Pitch Competition

A time-saving surgical tool created by UT graduate student Lia Winter took home the top prize at this semester’s Vol Court Pitch Competition. Winter pitched the device, EasyWhip, to beat a record 23 competitors.

Vol Court is hosted twice a year by the Anderson Center for Entrepreneurship and Innovation in UT’s Haslam College of Business.

EasyWhip is designed to help improve the speed and consistency of certain orthopedic surgical procedures.

“An individual orthopedic surgery can cost more than $50,000,” said Winter. “Costs associated with orthopedic surgical procedures can be reduced by decreasing the time that each surgery takes or by reducing the surgery revision rate.”

Winter, from Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania, is both an MBA candidate in the Haslam College of Business and an MS candidate in the UT Institute for Biomedical Engineering. She won $1,500 along with a sponsored prize package, which included free office space in the UT Research Foundation Business Incubator, consulting services courtesy of PYA, legal advice from Morehous Legal Group, and design services from Innovative Design Inc.

Second-place winner Matthew Young pitched his technology-enabled mirror business, Smart Mirrors. Originally built as a gift for his father, Young’s product delivers information to users directly on the mirror’s surface.

“I’ve been showing people the finished product, and it surprised me how many people gave the advice to make more and start selling them,” said Young. “I’m going to make the mirror the best it can be, using touch screen and voice command technology.”

Young, a senior in finance from Chester Springs, Pennsylvania, won $1,000 and the sponsored prize package.

Third place and $500 went to Quantum Lock, a technology that enhances the security of smart lock technology in private homes. Erica Grant of Richmond, Virginia, a PhD candidate in the UT–Oak Ridge National Laboratory Bredesen Center for Interdisciplinary Research and Graduate Education, founded the company.

“Quantum Lock leapfrogs the current smart lock generation by using a property of quantum physics to block out any hacking and provide maximum protection to a home without sacrificing any of the convenience,” said Grant.

“Vol Court has become one of the fastest-growing pitch competitions in the area,” said Shawn Carson, Vol Court director. “As the number of participants increases, we continue to see great pitches from people who are passionate about growing their idea into a viable business.”

The Vol Court Pitch Competition was the final event of the fall 2017 Vol Court Speaker Series. Prior to the competition, participants attended five entrepreneurial lectures covering topics like customer discovery and legal structure for businesses.

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 fall competition included the UT Research Foundation, PYA, Morehous Legal Group, Three Roots Capital, Funding Sage, and Innovative Design Inc.

Boyd Venture Challenge Application Deadline Nov. 2

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The application period 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, opens October 11. The competition is sponsored by the Anderson Center for Entrepreneurship and Innovation in UT’s Haslam College of Business.

The challenge is open to any early-stage company owned by a UT student. Eligible companies must be legally established, and 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 Thursday, November 2. Applications should consist of an executive summary, requested 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 local business professionals Friday, November 17.

“The Boyd Venture Challenge is an exciting opportunity for early-stage ventures,” said Tom Graves, Anderson Center director of operations and director of the competition. “We are pleased to be able to offer opportunities for funding at this level.”

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 $312,000 to 34 student-owned startups.