UT Students Awarded Startup Capital at Spring 2022 Vol Court

March 3, 2022

The Anderson Center for Entrepreneurship and Innovation, housed within the University of Tennessee, Knoxville’s Haslam College of Business, announced the winners of its spring 2022 Vol Court pitch competition on Wednesday, March 2. The judges awarded first place to Fluffy Friends for Children with Chronic Conditions, second place to Arid Delivery Products, LLC, and third place to KnoxVerified.

Fluffy Friends for Children with Chronic Conditions develops methods to improve patient experiences and outcomes for chronically ill children. With her first-place win, founder Allison Campbell receives $1,500 and office space at the University of Tennessee Research Foundation (UTRF) Business Incubator for one year. Campbell, a recent UT alum from Knoxville who was a pediatric chronic illness patient, set out to create a world in which every child with a chronic illness feels safe and secure. 

“Winning Vol Court was the heartwarming finish to the UT pitch competition trifecta and my journey on Rocky Top,” Campbell said. “I am thankful to learn from such remarkable mentors at UT and the Anderson Center for Entrepreneurship and Innovation.”

Second place, $1,000 and six months of office space in the UTRF Business Incubator went to Arid Delivery Products, LLC, started by Clay Franklin, a finance major and native of Franklin, Tenn. The company is a B2B firm that helps on-demand food delivery companies amplify customer lifetime value and satisfaction through meals that are hot and moisture-free. With the award money, Franklin plans to secure a provisional patent for the company’s sixth and final prototype. 

“We’ve solved the pervasive cold and soggy food problem through a multi-layered, insulated delivery bag that emphasizes neutralizing moisture while retaining heat,” Franklin said. “Placing at Vol Court means that the judges believe in Arid’s long-term potential and the ability for the company to make a difference in the market, which is an encouraging sentiment.” 

Ian Parten, a sophomore from Chattanooga double majoring in finance and accounting and information management, won third place and $500 for KnoxVerified, a Knoxville-based real estate platform focusing on verified rentals. 

“This has confirmed that KnoxVerified is a platform that Knoxville needs,” Parten said. “I’m happy to receive the support of business leaders from the community.” 

Speaker Series Culminates in Pitch Competition

Vol Court is Haslam’s five-week speaker series leading up to the pitch contest. This semester, 17 start-ups presented pitches after learning from real-world entrepreneurs and professors each week. 

Week one: 

Lynn Youngs, executive director of the Anderson Center, discussed “Ideas vs. Opportunities,” noting the difference between a great idea and a true business opportunity. Not all ideas can turn into a profitable business, but a business idea that is validated by customer demand may be a good opportunity.

Week two:

Kris Tatum, founder and president of Company Distilling, headquartered in the Great Smoky Mountains of East Tennessee, shared his journey: Auditor to Distiller – How’d THAT Happen?” Upon graduating from college in logistics, the Miami-born and Knoxville-bred Tatum started his career in auditing, making his way through the restaurant, hospitality and construction industries in Tennessee, Kentucky and Ohio.

Week three:

John Turley, of Turley & Company and First Commercial Real Estate Inc., presented “Real Estate Development: Each Project a Startup.” Turley’s companies have owned, developed or managed millions of square feet of commercial space in East Tennessee and surrounding areas. He talked about his journey from buying 400 acres of land to developing it into a mixed-use commercial development known as Turkey Creek. “Focus on the little details while always sustaining a long-term vision,” Turley said, pointing out that he had to sell people on the long-term vision of Turkey Creek before anything could be built.

Week four: 

Lia Winter, the Anderson Center’s entrepreneur-in-residence and co-founder and CEO of Winter Innovations, rounded out the series. Winter, who started her company during college, was able to raise more than $150,000 in national and international university pitch competitions. Winter Innovations develops innovative tools for overlooked areas in orthopedic surgery. Winter’s EasyWhip™ suturing needle enables easy, fast and accurate stitch placement with less variation. “Express your passion when you give a pitch,” Winter told participants. “You have to be your company’s biggest hype person.” 

The Anderson Center thanks the Scott and Dianna Roe Foundation for supporting Vol Court and the students involved. 

About the Anderson Center for Entrepreneurship & Innovation 

The Anderson Center for Entrepreneurship & Innovation (ACEI) is a university-based resource for entrepreneurship across the region and the state of Tennessee. Its mission is to foster an entrepreneurial culture at UT and across the state by developing student skills, providing experiential learning opportunities, conducting meaningful entrepreneurial research and connecting students with mentors and resources that enable them to successfully start and grow new businesses.


Brennan Galbraith, bgalbrai@vols.utk.edu