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June 02, 2022 | Tom Ballard

Bunker Labs Knoxville graduates “22 Alpha,” welcomes “22 Bravo” at late Wednesday celebration

By Tom Ballard, Chief Alliance Officer, PYA

Bunker Labs Knoxville joined with chapters in 22 other cities across the country on Wednesday evening for a nationwide showcase spotlighting participants in the “Veterans in Residence” program.

The event was a graduation celebration for those that comprised “22 Alpha,” a cohort first introduced in late December (see article here), and “22 Bravo,” a new cohort that will begin its six-month weekly sessions on June 15.

Nine military veterans participated in the full programming offered to “22 Alpha,” down from 11 that were announced in December, and one of those – David Weaver of Sustainable Organix – will continue as a participant in “22 Bravo,” joining with seven other veteran-founded businesses. Weaver is focused on composting food waste rather than placing it in landfills.

Wednesday’s celebration was co-hosted by Tony Lee (pictured right) and Derren Burrell and held at the Sutherland Avenue office of Appalachian Grit, one of the participants in “22 Bravo.” The company builds food production systems and edible landscapes in Knox and surrounding counties. “We serve residential, commercial, and community clients using sustainable and regenerative practices that bring unique solutions to your challenge and adhere to your vision,” the company writes on its webpage. “We take on projects at any scale to serve our mission of increasing access to healthy, beyond-organic food for all members of our local community.”

Besides Sustainable Organix and Appalachian Grit, other participants in the new cohort are:

  • Bravo Beard Company is a start-up founded by Brad Horner.
  • Checkpoint Gaming, founded by Jen Poche, is described on its Facebook page as a video gaming store.
  • Dents and Detail, launched by Jesse Howell, does exactly what its name implies. However, in addition to repairing dents, the company also offers ceramic coating and window tinting.
  • Farm Care Kids, the start-up founded by Jen Durant that won $6,500 combined in the fall 2021 editions of the “Vol Court Speaker Series and Pitch Competition” and “Graves Business Plan Competition.” Both are hosted by the Anderson Center for Entrepreneurship and Innovation(ACEI) in the Haslam College of Business at the University of Tennessee (UT), Knoxville. Farm Care Kids’ programs combine small scale farms with childcare centers to provide unique learning and life experiences.
  • Outdoor Gear Revival, launched by Alejandro and Michele Guanaga a little more than two years ago, is a consignment store for where consumers can buy and sell pre-owned outdoor gear and apparel.
  • Sober Living from Rick Henley is focused on a critical need – providing clean and safe housing for veterans that have completed a drug and alcohol abuse program. The start-up’s vision is to provide the best possible opportunity for veterans to stay in recovery and to decrease the homeless veteran population.

Those who completed “22 Alpha” were:

  • Keith Bridges of Knox Goats, a company that started with 10 goats five years ago to clean-up sites overgrown with vegetation like Kudzu and now has nearly 250 goats.
  • Rick Cox of Next Level Brewing.
  • Stephen Manners of Forever Fit Coaching who told us the business is growing rapidly, primarily through referrals (see article here).
  • Eric Carlson of Blue Sky Cyber Inc., one of several participants focused on cybersecurity.
  • Brent Gallo of Hire a Cyber Pro, another of the cyber-focused start-ups (see article here).
  • Matt Gordon of Elevation Personal Development, focused on personal professional development.
  • David Watts of Effectual Robotics, a subsidiary of his Security Effects Inc. business that we spotlighted recently (see article here). Watts plans to launch the drone-focused company later this month with an initial focus on bridge inspections.
  • Alex Weber of D3D VR Studios, a start-up focused on his passion for mixed reality which is a combination of augmented and virtual reality technologies. Weber was awarded $20,000 in the most recent “Boyd Venture Challenge,” the third program offered by the Anderson Center at UT, Knoxville.

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