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March 03, 2021 | Tom Ballard

Brotallion wins Spring edition of “Vol Court Speaker Series and Pitch Competition”

By Kailyn Lamb, Marketing Content Writer and Editor, PYA

Spencer Payne, an MBA student at the University of Tennessee, Knoxville (UTK), won first place in the spring edition of the “Vol Court Speaker Series and Pitch Competition” on Tuesday night.

Payne, a former Blackhawk pilot, pitched Brotallion, an apparel company focusing on pilots in the U.S. Army. He said most aviators had trouble identifying with other military apparel because it was too serious or didn’t connect back to the piloting community. Payne is President and Co-Founder of the company and hopes to expand its market into other branches of the military as well as potential lateral markets. He won a $1,500 cash prize in the competition.

The second-place prize of $1,000 went to JP Nelms who pitched the SIP Pad, a product that will help prevent injury to nurses and other caregivers when they need to lift incontinent patients to clean their bedding. The third-place prize of $500 was given to Mary Warchol for Wrap It Up, a press-and-seal wrapping paper.

Organized by UTK’s Anderson Center for Entrepreneurship and Innovation, the latest “Vol Court” competition followed four weekly sessions that started February 2. There were 14 participants who competed in the virtual event.

In the sessions prior to the final competition, students heard from different presenters covering important business topics including:

  • Ideas and Opportunities, presented by Lynn Youngs (read more in this article),
  • Customer Discovery, presented by Shawn Carson (read more in this article),
  • Franchising, presented by keynote speaker Shelly Sun, UT alumni and Co-Founder and Chief Executive Officer of BrightStar Care (read more in this article), and
  • Preparing to Pitch, presented by Lia Winter of Winter Innovations. (Read more in this article.)

Judges for Tuesday’s event included Publisher Tom Ballard; former UTK student, and winner of previous renditions of the “Graves Business Plan Competition,” and the “Boyd Venture Challenge” Mary Cayten Brakefield; Founder and Chief Executive Officer of and former UT MBA student John Platillero; VF Corporation Executive Vice President and Chief Financial Officer Scott Roe; and former Olympic Swimmer, Director of Brand Marketing for Zone Swimwear, Kate Ziegler.

Carson facilitated the student pitches, each of whom was given 90 seconds to present and 90 seconds for Q&A with the judges. Many students used a slideshow presentation but were not required to do so in the competition.

Other competitors and their ideas in the order they presented were:

  • Justin Gilmer who pitched a company that could help eliminate 3D printing waste by using proprietary imaging for better printing;
  • Ricky Chen who presented Quarters, a company using recycled shipping containers to create sustainable and affordable housing options;
  • Saurabh Pethe who presented the Vol-a-Cup, a biodegradable option for Keurig Coffee brewers that would also have more coffee grounds in the pod;
  • Max Thompson who developed PocketPantry, an app that would track customer purchases and their expiration dates in order to provide reminders and recipes for items in order to help eliminate food waste;
  • Evan Dyer who pitched Welu Brand, an apparel company geared toward extreme sports athletes such as kayakers;
  • Soriya Cooper who presented an affordable meal plan service that gives back to local community organizations and reduces food waste;
  • Renee White who developed a Universal Card which tracks rewards information for multiple store brands and chains such as gas stations and grocery stores;
  • Jeff Park who presented a special cat-proof plant pot that prevents animals from eating potentially dangerous house plants;
  • Hoangnha Vo who developed PantryBook, an app that tracks grocery items in the user’s pantry, providing recipes and community posting platform to help prevent food waste;
  • Allison Campbell who pitched a nonprofit that gives unique stuffed animals to children with chronic health conditions.

The Scott and Dianna Roe Foundation provide the cash prize. In-kind partners include the UT Research Foundation; PYA, the power behind; Morehous Legal Group; Three Roots Capital; and Innovative Design Inc.

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