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May 01, 2024 | Tom Ballard

Five finalists announced for next week’s The Launchpad pitch event

The competition features start-ups based in Blount County for a cash prize of $3,000.

The Sky City Entrepreneur Center has announced the finalists for next week’s The Launchpad pitch event as well as those who will serve as judges. The event begins at 6 p.m. EDT on May 9 at the historic White Star Station, 133 West Broadway Avenue in downtown Maryville.

In a series of Facebook posts on Wednesday morning, the Center announced the five start-ups competing for the top prize of $3,000. They are, in order of announcement:

  • Valerie Colclough, Founder of @BeyondTheBeanTN chocolatier, and her husband Ken, Founder of KC Roasters of Maryville, are launching their first business together. It is a mobile coffee trailer named the Brew-Ha-Ha, but the venture is “not just about coffee; it’s about community, convenience, and creating moments of joy in the everyday hustle.”
  • Catherine Ensworth, the creative force behind Smocked Revival, described as a blend of Poshmark and a local consignment sale, offering a platform for parents to buy and sell gently used boutique clothing for kids.
  • Ashley Merrick, Founder of United Capping. Its mission is to provide hope and confidence to people undergoing chemotherapy. Through cold cap services that freeze the hair follicle during chemotherapy treatment, Merrick offers a way to preserve hair and self-image during a challenging time. “United Capping isn’t just about preserving hair; it’s about preserving hope and self-esteem,” Sky City writes on its website, adding, “Ashley’s business offers a beacon of light amidst the darkness of a cancer diagnosis, providing a supportive and stress-free experience for her clients.”
  • Brian and Cindy Canfield, the duo behind Harvest Thyme LLC. It “isn’t just a garden system; it’s a revolution in gardening technology,” Sky City explains. “Combining solar-powered sensors with an intuitive app, Brian and Cindy have created a solution to make gardening easier and more accessible for everyone.”
  • Cheyanne “Channie” Marston, Founder of C.C. Marston & Company. She is the author of the cookbook titled Love and Butter and a dedicated advocate for seniors whose mission is to empower and support our aging population through advocacy, education, and compassionate care. “C.C. Marston & Co. is more than a business; it’s a lifeline for seniors and their families navigating the complexities of aging. From assessing home modifications to end-of-life planning,” Sky City writes in describing the business.

The judges are:

  • Abhijit “A.V.” Verkar, Founder of Avero Advisors, a Maryville-based company that helps governments and public agencies navigate the complex and ever-changing world of technology by finding efficient and modern ways to fulfill the needs of their citizens;
  • Joy Carver, Founder of Dandy Lions Gifts, a side hustle creating custom stationary that she started in her home 15 years ago that is now located in the historic library building in downtown Maryville; and
  • Aaron Owen, Vice President of Lending in the Knoxville Market for Pathway Lending, Tennessee’s largest non-depository Community Development Financial Institution.

There’s also a unique “Audience Choice” voting option that begins May 6. In an earlier article on, Shannon Bryant, Executive Director at Sky City, described how that process works. “It’s $5 per vote. The contestant with the most ‘Audience Choice’ votes gets their pool of voting money, and the rest is a donation to Sky City. So if someone had the most votes with $500, they get the $500 minus processing fees.”

Tickets for the event are available at this link.

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