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April 13, 2022 | Tom Ballard

UTK student winners announced in latest “Graves Business Plan Competition”

Six start-up companies launched by students at the University of Tennessee, Knoxville (UTK) were awarded a total of $20,000 in funding during the 18th edition of the “Graves Business Plan Competition.”

Hosted by the Anderson Center for Entrepreneurship & Innovation (ACEI) in the Haslam College of Business, the competition is designed to give undergraduate and graduate student entrepreneurs a real-world experience of a multi-round competition ending with an in-person pitch for investment. Participants compete in two different categories, and each offers three levels of prizes. The “Growth Category” is for start-ups seeking high investment with large scalability, while the “Lifestyle Category” is for new ventures that are more local or smaller scale opportunities.

“Growth Category”:

  • First place and $5,000 went to Arid Delivery Products. Founded by Clay Franklin, a senior finance major and Franklin, TN native, it is a business-to-business firm helping on-demand food delivery companies amplify customer satisfaction through meals that are hot and moisture-free. We spotlighted Franklin last August in this article when he described his motivation for launching the company and the many versions of the product that he has developed. This is the latest win for him, coming a little more than a month after taking second place and a $1,000 prize in the Spring 2022 edition of the “Vol Court Speaker Series & Pitch Competition.”
  • Second place and $3,000 was awarded to Inter-Gauge, a start-up formed by three computer science majors. It is described as a platform that facilitates anonymous communication of student engagement between teachers and their students. The student founders are Alexander Krneta and Jacob Howard, both from Hendersonville, TN, and Eli Carter from Lexington, KY.
  • BC Exchange, founded by Kinley Koontz, a senior from Knoxville majoring in biomedical engineering and minoring in social entrepreneurship, captured third place and $2,000 in prize money. BC Exchange is focused on creating a convenient and secure distribution channel and payment processing for retailers and wholesalers who sell hemp products.

“Lifestyle Category”:

  • First place of $5,000 went to KnoxVerified, a real estate platform that provides renters in Knoxville with verified rental options. Founder Ian Parten, a sophomore from Chattanooga double majoring in finance and accounting, had encountered many illegitimate rental listings on the internet and wanted to prevent this for others. KnoxVerified removes the uncertainty of renting because it verifies local Knoxville landlords. The company captured third place and $500 in the Spring 2022 edition of the “Vol Court Speaker Series & Pitch Competition.”
  • NeverFull Waffles, founded by Bryce “NeverFull Trill” Vickers and NeverFull Goose, both Nashville natives, captured second place and $3,000. The company makes multi-flavored waffles for students on the UTK campus, in particular as a late-night food option.
  • Third place and $2,000 went to Evan Sudduth, a marketing major and entrepreneurship minor senior from Somerville, TN for the Fayette-Ware Mentoring Program. It is a nonprofit that serves Fayette-Ware High School in the founder’s hometown, providing mentors, scholarships, service opportunities, and more. Sudduth decided to form the program because he had experienced first-hand the need for support and investment in the Fayette-Ware community.

“The Graves Business Plan Competition is more than just a pitch competition,” said Lynn Youngs, ACEI Executive Director. “It gives students the real-world experience to present their startup in front of five esteemed judges and allows them to receive funding, perhaps for the first time ever, giving their company some important momentum.”

Click here to read the UTK news release.

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