Magnolia Blooms is metaphor for a start-up and a community

Magnolia BloomsBy Tom Ballard, Chief Alliance Officer, PYA

When you hear or read the words “Magnolia Blooms,” what comes to mind? The most likely answer is probably a picture of the blooms on the tree that carries the name.

In the case of two Knoxville brothers, it’s much, much more. The two words are the name of a business they launched and a band in which they perform as well as the metaphor for a section of Knoxville they call home and a place they are committed to helping revitalize economically.

Daniel and Micah Hodge have encompassed all of their passions under the Magnolia Blooms brand. They describe it on their webpage as “a collective of creative entrepreneurs reshaping the way we work & interact in our daily lives through beautiful app development, mindful design, + music.”

The older of the two brothers is Daniel who earned his B.S. in Political Science at the University of Tennessee’s Knoxville (UTK) campus. After contemplating what he would do with his undergraduate degree, Daniel earned an Master of Architecture where his thesis project, titled “Pro Bono Publico: The Architect As Developer, was all about revitalizing housing and businesses in the Magnolia corridor of East Knoxville.

Micah, the younger brother, enrolled at UTK as a biochemistry major before shifting to physics. He’s suspended his collegiate work for now to team with Daniel on their Magnolia Blooms business and initiative.

“He’s the engineer, I’m the architect,” the older brother says of the siblings.

Together, their app and software development firm has launched two products. They are clearly at opposite ends of the spectrum. One is Light TRVLR, a game available only in the Apple App Store. It is described this way: “It’s the year 3048HE. After the collapse of the 3D universe in 2615HE, a small cadre of humanity now travels through vague structural representations of the known physical universe in search of a home. It is up to you, dear TRVLR, to navigate the generative landscape of 2D chaos and lead your people into new and uncharted atmospheres by logging light years (LY) to save what’s left of humanity.”

The other, a business app that the Hodges have been testing for several months, is focused on helping motor coach operators and eventually trucking companies comply with new federal regulations that have just gone into effect.

A little more than two years ago, the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration (FMCSA) published its final rule mandating that an electronic logging device (ELD) be installed on motor coaches to electronically record compliance with the maximum number of hours drivers may operate before a break. The technical term is “Hours of Service,” and the goal was to replace the paper logbook that drivers maintained.

The new requirements became effective in December, and the Hodges have developed Fleet, an app available in the Apple App Store that manages the ELD requirement but also helps the smaller operators do so much more.

“It’s the only business-to-business product of its type available,” Daniel says, pointing to the description on the webpage. “Fleet is the first totally mobile iOS-built and iCloud-secured integrated job scheduling and fleet management solution.” The app provides a “proprietary blend of driver, client, and asset management functionality, all in one.”

The latest version of the app has just been released, and Daniel says that “it’s the most robust edition yet.” It features a fully integrated inspection reporting system, push notifications for role-specific team members, and a custom-built route building and optimizing feature.

The brothers are self-financing the new products, so features for Fleet are being implemented over time. They will include job scheduling and planning, asset maintenance and management, individualized service logs, trip logs, both driver and asset assignments, and client and lead management tools.

Headquarters for the Hodges start-up is their dining room. As they build the company named Magnolia Blooms, they want it to be an example for other aspiring entrepreneurs of what can be done to build a stronger economic base in the section of Knoxville they call home. Their vision includes an innovation district housing other small businesses as well as a co-working space that would also include a prototyping and a fabrication section.

“We want to see the Magnolia area bloom this spring,” Daniel says.

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