Vol Court Awards Funding to Three Student Startups

September 29, 2022

A mobile app to scan perishable foods, a dual-functioning automotive window tint and a straw that detects drink tampering swept the podium at the Anderson Center for Entrepreneurship and Innovation’s fall 2022 Vol Court.

Vol Court is a five-week entrepreneurial speaker series held every semester at the University of Tennessee, Knoxville’s Haslam College of Business. The series culminates in a competition in which participants put what they’ve learned into practice by pitching their business ideas to a panel of successful entrepreneurs for a chance to win up to $1,500.

The team of judges awarded first place and $1,500 to Fresh Now, a mobile app that allows users to scan perishable food items and receive notifications when the expiration dates are approaching. The app suggests meals that incorporate the scanned items, giving priority to the ingredients that will expire soonest.

“Getting to be a part of Vol Court and learn more about entrepreneurship from people in Knoxville has inspired me so much,” said Fresh Now’s founder, Taylor Gingrich, a senior industrial engineering major from Dayton, Ohio. “This money will allow the research and development of the Fresh Now app to continue and hopefully get a prototype version launched.”

Second place and $1,000 went to SeaShade, a dual-functioning automotive window tint that changes opacity. The product is created from recycled marine plastic materials that run on renewable energy.

“As an entrepreneur, it’s nice to be innovative and promote something good,” said SeaShade founder Anthony Do, a freshman finance major from Chattanooga, Tenn.

Safe Sip, a straw that changes colors if a drink has been tampered with, received third place and $500. Tanner Hawkins, a senior management major from Corryton, Tenn., created the product to provide users with protection and peace of mind.

“Winning Vol Court has added fuel to my entrepreneurial fire,” Hawkins said. “It has motivated me to pursue this and many more ventures to make the world a better place.”

Vol Court Speaker Series

The fall 2022 Vol Court Speaker Series kicked off on week one with John Sorochan, Distinguished Professor of Turfgrass Science and Management at UT. He is the co-owner of Summit Performance Testing, a company that uses PCT-pending technology to measure the performance, playability and safety of sports surfaces, along with measuring the forces on the body during athlete-to-surface interactions. Sorochan, who serves as the representative and advisor for playing surfaces to the National Football League Players Association, shared his experience and expertise of turning his love for science and sports into a business. 

In week two, students heard from Vol football player Grant Frerking, CEO and founder of ground cover company Metro Straw. Frerking spoke about his experience of starting a business at 15 and growing that business while being a student and playing football at UT. Grant offered advice on being an innovative entrepreneur, turning a failure into a success, the power of networking, the importance of being adaptable and the sacrifice that accompanies being an entrepreneur.

2013 UT alum Hannah Lee, founder of digital marketing firm Second Mile Marketing, spoke in week three. She shared about being a young, female entrepreneur who didn’t study business or marketing, and about how she was able to set her business apart from others in the saturated and competitive digital marketing industry.

Lia Winter, CEO and co-founder of Winter Innovations, rounded out the Speaker Series in week four. Winter Innovations is an award-winning medical device company developing innovative tools for overlooked areas in orthopedic surgery. The company created the EasyWhip™ suturing needle, which enables easy, fast and accurate stitch placement with less variation. As an entrepreneur who has won pitch competitions worldwide, Winter’s expertise in giving award-winning pitches was crucial information for all participants as they prepared for week five’s pitch competition.

The Anderson Center for Entrepreneurship and Innovation (ACEI), located in the Haslam College of Business, is proud to continue to support a variety of student startups across the UT campus. ACEI thanks the Scott and Dianna Roe Foundation for supporting Vol Court and the students involved.

About the Anderson Center for Entrepreneurship and Innovation 

The Anderson Center for Entrepreneurship and 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 Hullett, bgalbrai@vols.utk.edu