$30K awarded to UT students for start-up businesses in Boyd Venture Challenge

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KNOXVILLE, Tenn. (WATE) – Six University of Tennessee students have taken a major steps to make their start-up businesses a reality by winning funding in the 2020 Boyd Venture Challenge.

The Anderson Center for Entrepreneurship and Innovation in the Haslam College of Business hosts the annual grant competition. Four startups created by six Tennessee students will receive between $5,000-$10,000 each.

Brakefields LLC, Rolling Storage LLC, AltFair Solutions LLC, and LEAPh Biosystems LLC were chosen as the winners.

Brakefields LLC, a clothing brand offering adaptive garments for people with disabilities, was awarded $10,000. Mary Cayten Brakefield, a Nashville senior majoring in retail and consumer sciences and minoring in business administration, owns the company.

“Our products give people with disabilities the chance to dress independently, go about their day comfortably and unencumbered by their clothing, and have the freedom to choose if and when they disclose their private medical conditions to the public — experiences taken for granted by able-bodied people every single day,” Brakefield said.

Brakefield is using the funding to conduct further market research to learn what clothing features its customer base needs, take steps toward patenting features of its designs, and present prototypes to a manufacturer.

Rolling Storage LLC, provides temporary, mobile storage solutions at events. The startup allows attendees to store prohibited items and avoid being turned away from an event. Kaleb Winders, a junior from Hendersonville, Tennessee, majoring in management with a minor in entrepreneurship and collateral in marketing, is the owner.

The business has a contract with the Knoxville Civic Auditorium and Coliseum, with plans to expand throughout Knoxville and the Southeast. Winders will use the $10,000 grant to scale the company and buy a new trailer that could serve larger venues such as Thompson-Boling Arena.

AltFair Solutions LLC was awarded $5,000. The business helps companies streamline information between companies and would-be employees at career and job fairs through a software platform. Three juniors, Jace Smith, a supply chain management major from Winchester; Wilson Garrett, a finance major from Goodlettsville and Hugh Gentry, a supply chain management major from Franklin own the startup.

The team will use the award money to develop and launch a website to market the company, as well as invest in software improvements.

LEAPh Biosystems builds “light energy applied photosynthetic” devices that use photosynthetic proteins to convert light to electricity. The start-up received $5,000.

“This approach uses only Earth-abundant components, offering a viable strategy to solar energy harvesting while offering a competitive price point advantage,” founder Nate Brady, of Oswego, New York, said. Brady is a doctorial candidate in biochemistry and cellular and molecular biology.

With the award money, Brady plans to hire a consultant to assist him in writing two Small Business Innovation Research grants, with which he would fund ongoing development of the technology at UT and Vanderbilt University.

A panel of four judges determined the funding awards, which were made possible by Randy Boyd, president of the UT system and founder and executive chair of Radio Systems Corporation.

The students created online video introductions for the judges and delivered their presentations via Zoom.

The Boyd Venture Challenge is open to UT undergraduate and graduate students from any field of study. Since the fund’s inception in 2011, 40 student-owned companies have been awarded a total of $442,000 in seed capital to advance their businesses.

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