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.


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.”

Boyd Venture Challenge Awards Funds to EasyWhip and Campus Car

Two businesses owned by University of Tennessee, Knoxville, students were recently awarded a total of $25,000 in the fall 2017 Boyd Venture Challenge. The Anderson Center for Entrepreneurship and Innovation in UT’s Haslam College of Business hosted the seed fund grant competition.

EasyWhip, a surgical tool, and Campus Car, a ridesharing company, were selected from a group of eight finalists. A panel of four judges determined the funding awards.

“The judges saw an impressive group of finalists this semester and provided insightful feedback,” said Tom Graves, operations director of the Anderson Center. “We’re pleased to offer this opportunity to help our student entrepreneurs move their businesses forward.”

EasyWhip, founded by Lia Winter, was awarded $12,500. Winter created the surgical tool to decrease the time and costs associated with certain orthopedic reconstruction procedures. With the funds received, she will seek a full patent for EasyWhip and optimize the tool’s design.

“The Boyd Venture Challenge was an amazing and exciting experience. I was able to apply the concepts that I’m learning in my business classes to my innovative biomedical engineering idea to develop a comprehensive and feasible business plan,” said Winter. “I also made connections with mentors in the Anderson Center who encouraged me and helped me achieve my goals. I think the Anderson Center is an invaluable resource that students should take advantage of during their time here at UT.”

Winter, from Pittsburgh, is an MBA candidate in the Haslam College of Business and a graduate student in the biomedical engineering program in the Department of Mechanical, Aerospace and Biomedical Engineering.

Campus Car, a campus-based ridesharing company, was awarded $12,500. Ryan Cunningham of Collierville, Tennessee, a junior supply chain management major and entrepreneurship minor, founded the company.

Cunningham launched the flat-rate ride-sharing company in October after using funds from a previous Boyd Venture Challenge to build the Campus Car cell phone application. The company hires UT-affiliated individuals as independent contractors to provide low-cost transportation to and from campus in downtown Knoxville, Fort Sanders, and the campus area.

“The funds received this semester will allow me to expand the Campus Car service area and continue to serve UT and the Knoxville community,” said Cunningham. “I am very thankful for the opportunities provided by the Boyd Venture Challenge.”

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, 39 student-owned companies have been awarded a total of $337,000 in seed capital to advance their businesses.

Graves Business Plan Competition Makes Awards to Seven Student Startups

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

Kelsey Duncan, The Sorority Guide

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.”

Ryan Cunningham, Campus Car

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.”

Anna Amagliani, Brennan Galbraith, Caroline Cate and Caroline Conley of Wahie Women

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.

Baker Donahue, In With the Old

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.

Treavor Johnson, Simple Mow

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.

Barrett Darlington, Grassroots Co-Op

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.

Mason Timken, Just Tap It

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.