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Multi-winner of Anderson Center competitions continues to pursue start-up after graduation

By Tom Ballard, Chief Alliance Officer, PYA

He’s now a graduate of the University of Tennessee, Knoxville (UTK) and has taken a full-time job with a Nashville area wealth management company, but Clay Franklin will continue pursuing his start-up.

“I’m no stranger to working insane hours,” says the Michigan native who moved with his family to Middle Tennessee when he was 14 years old. Now, having hit the trifecta of funding programs for student start-ups offered by UTK’s Anderson Center for Entrepreneurship and Innovation in the past few months, Franklin is more emboldened than ever to commercialize the “Arid Delivery Bag” that he has developed for on-demand food delivery companies.

“We have been able to retain more than 200 percent more heat (than other options) and remove nearly 2X more moisture with our latest version,” he says of the sixth prototype that addresses an existing conundrum for food delivery services — the trade-off between quality and convenience. The bag that he has designed strikes the perfect balance between heat retention and moisture-neutralization to provide meals that are hot and delicious.

In just a few months, Franklin and his Arid Delivery Products LLC: (1) captured second place and $1,000 in the Spring 2022 edition of the “Vol Court Speaker Series & Pitch Competition(see teknovation.biz article here); (2) followed-up on that with a first place win and $5,000 in the “Growth Category” of “Graves Business Plan Competition” (see teknovation.biz article here); and (3) finished the trifecta with a $7,500 investment from the “Boyd Venture Challenge” (see teknovation.biz article here).

Just a year ago, Franklin and Arid Delivery Products won another $10,000 in the “Boyd Venture Challenge” (see teknovation.biz article here). If your math skills are not that great, the total is $23,500 in prize money.

In April, the start-up filed a provisional patent application for its novel delivery bag and aims to start commercializing the product during Q1 of 2023. “By and large, this is what we want,” Franklin says of the existing prototype, adding that “the dimensions might change slightly, but we will go to market with one SKU (stock-keeping unit).”

The recent UTK grad learned firsthand about the challenges that on-demand food delivery faces, having worked for Postmates (now part of Uber), Grubhub, and DoorDash. It is a struggle between quality and convenience, and the “Arid Delivery Bag” allows consumers to enjoy restaurant-quality meals in the comfort of their homes.

Thanks to an introduction to a group of individuals at Radio Systems/PetSafe, the company that Randy Boyd formerly owned, Franklin says he has been connected to both domestic and international companies that could manufacture his creation. He’ll soon issue a Request for Quotes from prospective contract manufacturers.

“Long term, we’re focused on being a B2B company,” Franklin adds. “Selling 10,000 bags to one company is simpler than selling a single bag to 10,000 individuals.”

More important, however, is the fact that he is “happy with where the company is after 13 months – having taken an opportunity and turned it into a patent-pending product.”

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