In With the Old, a student startup supported by the Anderson Center for Entrepreneurship and Innovation at the University of Tennessee, Knoxville's Haslam College of Business, has been named a semifinalist in the national Student Startup Madness (SSM) competition. The social-media-based clothing retailer was selected from more than 200 startups from universities nationwide.
Baker Donahue of Franklin, Tennessee, a senior communication studies major and entrepreneurship minor, founded the company.
SSM is the only nationwide collegiate tournament focused on digital media startups. The competition began at South by Southwest (SXSW) in 2012. In With the Old advanced from a field of 64 startups to reach the semifinal round. The top eight companies will pitch their businesses to investors and entrepreneurs in March at SXSW in Austin, Texas.
“The national exposure of SSM and SXSW is an incredible opportunity for startups,” says Lynn Youngs, executive director of the Anderson Center for Entrepreneurship and Innovation in UT’s Haslam College of Business. “We’re always excited to see our students progress to this level of competition.”
Donahue and his team repurpose and resell vintage collegiate apparel through online social auctions.
“In With the Old has participated in a number of local competitions, so we figured we’d try our hand at something national,” said Donahue. “It is encouraging to see how we stack up against companies across the nation.”
Donahue created the company in 2016 after noticing an interest in vintage UT apparel and a need for a centralized resource. He began with one Instagram account and $300 of vintage UT apparel. After giving the merchandise a little love via a wash, professional photographs and clever titles, Donahue turned his original investment into $1,500.
“I clearly remember not being able to sleep because I was too excited to sell more clothing the next day,” he said. “After a successful initial run of clothing I began to consider the scalability of In With the Old.”
Seeing the growth potential for his startup, he sought funding through business plan competitions hosted by the Anderson Center.
Using funds received in the Boyd Venture Challenge and Graves Business Plan Competition, he began to grow the company beyond the original UT focus. The In With the Old brand now includes six universities, and Donahue plans to continue the startup’s nationwide growth.
“Participating in UT’s pitch competitions has been an incredibly eye-opening experience. I have learned more about business and what investors look for in a company than I could have ever imagined,” said Donahue. “My company is now more suitable to scale thanks to the advice and mentorship I have received from the Anderson Center.”
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