Tennessee Valley Federal Credit Union announces the 2020 Idea Leap Grant winners who participated in TVFCU’s Virtual Pitch Night on Tuesday. During the virtual competition, finalists had up to five minutes to pitch their business via a video detailing why they were deserving of the grant.
A brief socially-distant Q&A session with judges followed each presentation. The judges scored the finalists on a five-scale rubric.
Volunteer judges included Emily Gilliam, loan processor at BrightBridge, Inc., Sarah Mattson, small business specialist at Tennessee Small Business Development Center, Darian Scott, director of talent and economic inclusion at Chattanooga Area Chamber of Commerce, and Melanie Krautstrunk, owner of Hutton & Smith Brewing Company, 2019 Idea Leap Grant winner and 2020 celebrity judge. Dionne Jenkins, vice president of diversity and inclusion at TVFCU, chaired TVFCU’s Idea Leap Grant judging panel.
“This year is definitely unique, so we had to get creative with how to create a virtual event and keep the suspense,” said Tommy Nix, vice president of business and commercial services at TVFCU. “For production purposes, we filmed the program in advance through a socially-distant video shoot. The finalists did not know their ranking until they watched the virtual event last night. This way we were still able to make it a surprise.”
Locals Only Gifts & Goods received first place in TVFCU’s Idea Leap Grant Pitch Night. Danielle and Eric Landrum started the North Shore shop that specializes in small-batch and artisan crafted goods that are proudly made in Tennessee in 2015. They plan to use the $10,000 grant to help hire a dedicated marketing specialist to increase gift box sales, in-store sales and website sales.
“Winning this generous prize from TVFCU means that we can create another job for someone that lives in our community,” said Ms. Landrum. “It is going to help us grow our business, which in turn will grow the businesses of the local maker partners and small businesses that we work with. We are so grateful for TVFCU’s continued support. The Idea Leap program is such an asset to local small businesses like ours.”
Chatta-Cakes Bakery, a family-oriented, hand-crafted bakery in Hixson, was named the second place Idea Leap Grant winner. Business owners, Shannon and Mike Anderson, created the bakery in 2013. They plan to use the $7,000 grant to help purchase a new oven, refrigeration equipment, dough sheeter and another edible image printer.
Cashew, a plant-based vegan café in Chattanooga’s North Shore, received third place in TVFCU’s Idea Leap Grant Pitch Night. Cashew was also the People’s Choice Finalist after they secured the most community votes during a text-voting campaign prior to Pitch Night. Business owners, Bailey Cole and Kristiana Mallo, opened the restaurant in 2013. They plan to use the $3,000 grant to help upgrade equipment and update kitchen HVAC and ventilation system.
The Idea Leap Grant Initiative is an extension of TVFCU’s Idea Leap Loan Initiative that was created in October 2016. The Idea Leap Loan fills a void in the community for loans up to $50,000 to emerging businesses. Through the Idea Leap Grant Initiative, TVFCU is reinvesting Idea Leap Loan proceeds back into the community.
“Our Idea Leap Grant Pitch Night is always filled with energy and enthusiasm, and this year was no different,” said Todd Fortner, president and CEO of TVFCU. “Despite the virtual format, we could still feel the excitement and Chattanooga’s support of small businesses. We are grateful to play a small role in helping Locals Only Gifts & Goods, Chatta-Cakes Bakery and Cashew accomplish their next business goals.”
For more information about TVFCU and the Idea Leap Loan and Grant Initiatives, please visit tvfcu.com.