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.

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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.”

Vol Court Begins January 31

VolCourt-Slider

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.

UT’s Vol Court Speaker Series and Pitch Competition Kicks Off September 27

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 competition begins September 27. 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.

“Whether you have a startup or are just interested in entrepreneurship, Vol Court is a great opportunity,” Shawn Carson, Vol Court director, says. “The schedule is designed to introduce participants to entrepreneurship and give them a starting point to help advance their ideas into reality.”

Vol Court kicks off on September 27 with a five-week interactive entrepreneurial speaker series. The fall series introduces new speakers, which includes local entrepreneurs and UT faculty.

The program culminates on November 1 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. every Wednesday from September 27 through November 1 in Stokely Management Center, 916 Volunteer Blvd. All meetings will be held in Room G4.

Anyone who plans to participate in the November 1 pitch competition must attend four of the five speaker sessions listed below:

September 27: Overview of Value Proposition and Customer Discovery

October 4: The First 100 Customers

October 11: Determining the Legal Structure for Your Business

October 18: Partnerships

October 25: The Pitch

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

Simple Supplements Wins Spring 2017 Vol Court Pitch Competition

2017 Spring Vol Court Pitch Competition winners: Sushmitha Vijaya Kumar, Florin Matei, and Matthew Young.

A simpler, less messy approach to protein supplements helped University of Tennessee, Knoxville, junior Florin Matei take home the top prize at this year’s Vol Court Pitch Competition. Simple Supplements, a startup founded by Matei, beat 18 competitors to take first place.

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

Simple Supplements provides a protein powder product that requires no measuring or preparation by the consumer. The ready-to-use protein powder pods feature an edible casing, ready to mix with liquids.

Matei, a management major from Gallatin, Tennessee, won $1,500 along with one year of free office space in the UT Research Foundation Business Incubator, consulting services courtesy of PYA, legal advice from Morehous Legal Group and a yearlong subscription to TurboFunder provided by Funding Sage.

Second place went to Matthew Young’s Sparrow Drones, a rescue communications device aimed at strengthening the correspondence capabilities of EMTs, police, firefighters and other first responders. Young, a junior in finance from Chester Springs, Pennsylvania, won $1,000, six months of free office space in the UT Research Foundation Business Incubator, consulting services from PYA, legal advice from Morehous Legal Group and a yearlong subscription to TurboFunder provided by Funding Sage.

Third place went to µRNA Technologies, a company developing diagnostic kits for simple, rapid detection of pathogens causing diseases. Sushmitha Vijaya Kumar, a Ph.D. candidate in the Graduate School of Genome Science and Technology from Knoxville, founded the company. She was awarded $500 and a yearlong subscription to TurboFunder provided by FundingSage.

First place winner and Vol Court judges: David Morehous, Morehous Legal Group; Alexa Sponcia, Hard Knox Pizzeria; Paul Sponcia, The IT Company; Florin Matei, Simple Supplements; Aaron Riley, Cirrus Insight; Chris Miller, Three Roots Capital; Nghia Chiem, UT Research Foundation.

“I’m pleased by the number and variety of ideas this semester,” said Shawn Carson, Vol Court director. “Vol Court continues to grow each semester.”

The Vol Court Pitch Competition was the final event of the spring 2017 Vol Court Speaker Series. Prior to the competition, teams attended five entrepreneurial lectures covering topics like opportunity identification and intellectual property. Prize money was donated by presenting sponsor Cirrus Insight and supporting sponsors Launch Tennessee and the IT Company.

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 included Cirrus Insight, the UT Research Foundation, Launch Tennessee, PYA, Morehous Legal Group, the IT Company, Hard Knox Pizzeria, Three Roots Capital and Funding Sage.

Vol Court Pitch Competition and Speaker Series Kicks Off Feb. 1

volcourt-slider

The Anderson Center for Entrepreneurship and Innovation invites students, faculty, staff and members of the local community to pitch their business ideas at Vol Court, a semiannual pitch competition and speaker series.

Winners of the competition receive up to $1,500 in prize money, space in the UT Research Foundation Business Incubator, and legal and accounting services.

Vol Court kicks off Feb. 1 with a five-week entrepreneurial speaker series. The event culminates March 8 in a pitch competition where attendees put what they’ve learned into practice.

Local entrepreneurs and UT faculty will cover a range of business topics. As part of the series, Vol Court director Shawn Carson will share his own entrepreneurial expertise.

“We’re excited to return for the spring semester with new speakers and topics,” Carson says. “Vol Court provides opportunities not only to learn from seasoned entrepreneurs but also to network with area businesspeople and entrepreneurial-minded students, faculty, staff and community members.”

Vol Court has grown in recent years to include more speakers, sponsors, participants and prizes. All pitch competition participants are eligible for cash prizes awarded to first-, second- and third-place winners.

Vol Court meets 5:15 to 6:15 p.m. every Wednesday from Feb. 1 through March 8 in the Haslam Business Building, 1000 Volunteer Blvd. The Feb. 1 meeting will be held in Room 103, but all other sessions—as well as the pitch competition—will be held in Room 104.

Anyone who participates in the March 8 pitch competition must have attended four of the following five series meetings:

Feb. 1: Opportunity Identification and Validation

Feb. 8: Getting to Your Market

Feb. 15: Understanding Basic Financial Statements

Feb. 22: Intellectual Property

March 1: Pitching the Concept

The speaker series and pitch competition are open to the public. There is no charge to participate in the event, and anyone interested in starting a company is encouraged to attend.

Vol Court is made possible by donated funds and services from sponsors, which include Cirrus Insight, PYA, Morehous Legal Group, Hard Knox Pizzeria, The IT Company, Funding Sage, 3 Roots Capital and the UT Research Foundation.