Three businesses owned by students at the University of Tennessee, Knoxville, were awarded funding in the spring 2019 Boyd Venture Challenge. The Anderson Center for Entrepreneurship and Innovation in UT’s Haslam College of Business hosts the seed-fund grant competition.
Start-up companies Winter Innovations, Quantum Lock, and Flo+Co. were selected from a group of nine finalists. A panel of five judges determined the funding awards.
“The potential demonstrated by all of the competitors was impressive,” said Tom Graves, operations director of the Anderson Center. “This semester’s awardees showed significant advancements with their businesses, and we are pleased to see this growth.”
Winter Innovations, a product development company founded by Lia Winter, was awarded $10,000. Winter, a dual MS–MBA candidate studying biomedical engineering and business administration in the Tickle College of Engineering and the Haslam College of Business, designed the company’s patent-pending surgical device, EasyWhip.
EasyWhip is a two-part detachable needle designed for use in orthopedic reconstruction surgeries.
“The next key milestone for EasyWhip is filing for regulatory clearance with the FDA,” said Winter. “This summer we will prepare documentation and conduct necessary testing, which the Boyd Venture Challenge funding will help us accomplish.”
Winter, a native of Pittsburgh, pitched the startup with team members Preston Dishner and Ryan Cunningham, both in the Haslam College of Business. Dishner, from Bristol, Tennessee, is a dual MS–MBA candidate studying business analytics. Cunningham, of Collierville, Tennessee, is a senior supply chain management major and entrepreneurship minor.
The team has successfully used past funding from the Boyd Venture Challenge to file for EasyWhip’s patent and hire a mechanical engineering group to optimize the design of the product for large-scale manufacturing.
“We can honestly say that none of our success would have been possible without the seed funding that we received from the Boyd Venture Challenge,” said Winter.
Quantum Lock, founded by graduate student Erica Grant, was awarded $10,000. Grant designed the company’s patent-pending prototype to increase the security of smart locks by utilizing a quantum property found in light.
Grant, from Richmond, Virginia, is a doctoral candidate studying quantum computing in the Bredesen Center for Interdisciplinary Research and Graduate Education.
“This competition is a fantastic opportunity to present your business plan in front of a panel of judges who give unbiased feedback that can help shape your business model,” said Grant.
Grant’s most recent prototype boosts the security of hotel room locks, offering a safer and more eco-friendly alternative to plastic keycards and current smartphone entry options.
“With the Boyd Venture Challenge funding, I will be able to develop my next prototype and continue to pursue protection for my intellectual property,” said Grant.
Flo+Co., founded by senior Meg Hutchinson, was awarded $5,000. The company provides floral design services in the Knoxville and Nashville areas.
“The funding and the feedback from the Boyd Venture Challenge have opened a new direction for my business in the next year,” said Hutchinson. “I’m excited to use the funding to help grow my business in the Knoxville area.”
Hutchinson, of Franklin, Tennessee, is a supply chain management major and entrepreneurship minor in the Haslam College of Business.
“This opportunity has helped move my dream forward,” said Hutchinson. “I’m looking forward to graduating and pursuing my startup full time.”
The Boyd Venture Challenge is made possible by the generosity of Randy Boyd, interim president of the University of Tennessee System and founder and executive chair of Radio Systems Corporation, makers of PetSafe, Invisible Fence, and SportDog brands.
The Boyd Venture Challenge is open to UT undergraduate and graduate students from any field of study. An outside panel of judges from the business community decides the funding awards. Since the fund’s inception in 2011, 36 student-owned companies have been awarded a total of $412,000 in seed capital to advance their businesses.