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December 04, 2013 | Tom Ballard

First business plan competition of 2014 set for TVBA annual Expo

TVBA-teknoBy Tom Ballard, Director of Innovation and Entrepreneurial Initiatives, Pershing Yoakley & Associates, P.C.

The Knoxville region’s first business plan competition of 2014 will occur during next month’s “4th Annual Business and Education Showcase” hosted by the Tennessee Veterans Business Association (TVBA).

The larger event begins with a reception from 5 to 8:30 p.m. January 27 and runs from 8 a.m. to 4 p.m. January 28. All sessions will be held at the Knoxville Convention Center.

In a recent interview with, TVBA Chairman Jonathan Williams said the program planners decided to move last year’s inaugural entrepreneurial session that was held as a post-conference workshop into the main part of the two-day event.

“There’s a big push nationally to help veterans start a business using the GI Bill,” Williams said. “Not every veteran leaving one of the services wants to go to college.”

TVBA is partnering with Tech 20/20 to conduct a mini-boot camp in January ahead of the event. During the sessions, Williams said the participating veterans will develop their business plans and prepare for a semi-final competition that will be held before the TVBA annual event.

“Three to five finalists will be selected to pitch during our Expo,” he said. The winner will receive a $5,000 prize donated by the Brown & Roberto law firm.

“Any veteran who is interested in starting a company or who has been in business less than three years is eligible to apply to participate,” Williams said. Those interested can access an application here. There’s a mandatory meeting for applicants on January 6.

We have previously profiled Williams, his government contracting firm, and TVBA on It is clear from our frequent interactions that he is really passionate about TVBA’s annual event that has grown from 1,000 attendees in its inaugural year to an expected 3,000 in 2014.

As far as the upcoming program, Williams called our attention to a two-hour business leadership and teamwork keynote speech featuring Scott “Yogi” Beare. The retired Naval Lieutenant Commander served for 24 years. His career included high points such as graduating from the famed Naval Fighter Weapons School “TOPGUN” and being a member of the famed Blue Angels.

After retiring, Beare joined a technology start-up as Vice President of Operations and Manufacturing. The company grew to $170 million in revenue in its first two years.

Beare, who now calls Westminster, SC home, is the author of two books on leadership and a frequent keynote speaker on teamwork, leadership, and pursuit of excellence. Individuals can attend this presentation on January 27 without registering for the entire annual event. To do so, click here.

To register for the entire conference, click here.

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