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June 14, 2012 | Tom Ballard

Virtuous Products wins “Big Idea” competition

Virtuous Products, a manufacturer of a LEED-certified material known as Sedonite that is ideal for outdoor furniture and tabletops, won last night’s “What’s the Big Idea?” business plan competition.

Mark Wassennar, the entity’s Chief Executive Officer (CEO), described the company during his 10-minute pitch as one that will “turn trash to treasures” by taking broken bottles destined for landfills and using them in the production of tabletops.

Explaining that he had been “in manufacturing all of my life” and at one time “managed the largest manufacturer of casual furniture in the country,” Wassennar said that Virtuous Products’ mission includes 3 Rs – reversing the downward spiral in manufacturing, reducing landfill usage and retooling the workforce.

A video of this presentation is posted at the end of this article.

Virtuous Products won over two strong competitors – DineTouch, a smartphone application that allows restaurant patrons to order food directly from their phone, and LineShark Audio, a professional audio accessory for mobile devices. Joe Natour, DineTouch CEO, and Jonathan Mayer, Line Shark co-founder, made their company’s presentations.

The winning entrepreneur received more than $35,000 in capital and business services including:

  • $10,000 cash grant for start-up costs
  • $15,000 potential equity investment by Tech 20/20 Venture Start-Up Fund
  • One-year’s rent at the Fairview Technology Center
  • Services provided by Rodefer Moss & Company (accounting), CEO Advisors (business coaching), The IT Company & Digital Crossing Networks (IT hosting and services), Kathleen Zitzman (legal services) and Knoxville Chamber (membership).

The event was organized by the Knoxville Chamber, Development Corporation of Knox County, and Tech 20/20. The competition was sponsored by Rodefer Moss & Company and Oak Ridge National Laboratory (ORNL).

Judges were Knoxville entrepreneur Lee Martin; Amy Nolan, Editor of the Greater Knoxville Business Journal; and Tom Rogers, ORNL’s Director of Industrial and Economic Development Partnerships.


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