Margaret “Meg” Hutchinson, senior in supply chain management, took home first place in the Vol Court Pitch Competition Wednesday evening.
The semiannual Vol Court speaker series and pitch competition, offered by UT's Anderson Center for Entrepreneurship and Innovation, offers a six-week course of lectures to assist students in developing their entrepreneurial ideas and help with pitch formation.
Twenty-two participants came to pitch their business ideas in rapid fire succession. Pitches ranged from an environmental conservation cartoon movie to a global positioning system designed to find lost keys.
“That’s the challenge of it,” Shawn Carson, director of Vol Court and professor in the College of Business, said. “You’ve got 90 seconds to talk about the problem, your solution, what the market opportunity is, and why you’re different.”
Hutchinson won for her company Flo and Co., a hybrid floral coffee shop which she said was an idea she had while at a floral school in London, England.
“I just noticed how they were putting these flower and coffee shops right next to each other. I would wake up every morning and go get a cup of coffee and go grab some flowers (thinking) ‘this feels like a farmer’s market during the summer with my family,'” Hutchinson said. “I want to be able to give this to people year-round in one location.”
Carson said Vol Court was established eight years ago as a way for students to develop and share their ideas with each other and faculty members.
“It doesn’t have to be a full-blown, flesh business,” Carson said. “This is the one entrepreneurial activity that’s open to anybody whether they’re students, faculty (or) people outside of the campus.”
The pitch competition was preceded by five nights of instruction over the course of five weeks. Each lecture was hosted be a different business leader who helped further develop entrepreneurial skills, Carrie McCamey, director of communication for the Anderson Center, said.
“We have speakers come in once a week...local entrepreneurs, and sometimes our entrepreneurship faculty speak, on a variety of topics that pertain to entrepreneurship,” McCamey said.
A panel of five judges composed of business leaders within the Knoxville community critiqued the pitches for their delivery, feasibility, financial prospect, and originality.
First-place received $1500 and one year office space at the UT Research Foundation’s Business Incubator, which provides entrepreneurs with counseling, coaching and capital funding.
Second-place winner, Anna Veazey, junior studying supply chain management, won $1000 and six months of office space at the Business Incubator for her company Moto-Plow, a company designed to combine mobility and farming.
Moto-Plow would allow farmers to “plant, plow, and transport their crops in half the time while doubling their income,” Veazey said.
Ariel Ritter, a junior in chemical engineering, took home the third-place prize of $500 for her pitch, Ritter’s Critters, a business breeding and selling Axolotl, an amphibian that can regenerate its own appendages.
Previous winners of the Vol Court pitch competition have ranged from a campus-wide ride sharing app to surgical devices designed for better knee surgery.