Entrepreneurs Jumpstart Business Thanks to ‘Vol Court’ Program at UT

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KNOXVILLE — A University of Tennessee, Knoxville, undergraduate student and a 2009 graduate have been given the tools to grow their own business, thanks to the Vol Court program at UT.

Daniel Smith, a senior in aerospace and engineering, and David Teeters, a 2009 graduate of mechanical engineering, won the April 13 competition that concluded Vol Court, a series of nine free how-to seminars led by entrepreneurs and business experts from across the state.

Smith and Teeters’ business, “Boulder Booties,” beat out seven other teams of budding entrepreneurs to win $1,000 to launch their business, space at the University of Tennessee Research Foundation (UTRF) business incubator, mentoring from Technology 2020′s Center for Entrepreneurial Growth (CEG) and 10 hours of legal advice from Miller & Martin PLLC — a prize package worth more than $20,000.

During the competition, teams had eight minutes to pitch their business ideas to a panel of judges that included a local venture capitalist, current and former entrepreneurs and a lawyer. The program is a joint effort of UTRF, the College of Business Administration’s Center for Entrepreneurship and Innovation (CEI) and the CEG.

As recreational and competitive rock climbers, Smith and Teeters saw a problem that needed a solution. Climbing shoe soles are easily damaged by dirt and debris and are not meant to be worn on the ground. This damage degrades the “stickiness” of the shoe, making it less safe. Yet, taking the shoes off is not a convenient option since climbing shoes are typically very tight-fitting. “Boulder Booties” slip over rock climbing shoes and protect them, thus solving the conundrum.

“‘Boulder Booties’ started out as an idea on a napkin in a fast food place, but we really thought that it was an innovative product and that people would buy it,” Smith said. “We were brainstorming ideas over Christmas break and decided that ‘Boulder Booties’ had the most potential.”

With the winnings, the pair’s first priority is to begin purchasing the intellectual property rights for the company. Smith and Teeters aim to sell their product nationwide in retail stores and at popular climbing sites. Currently, the booties can be bought for $30 online at http://www.boulderbooties.com.

Smith and Teeters launched “Boulder Booties” in January, before the Vol Court began, but they feel the program has given them the tools they need to make this business venture, and any future venture, a success.

“We have both learned an immense amount from this process and feel that if either of us comes up with another great idea, that it would be easier for us to replicate this success,” Smith said. “Business planning, market research, intellectual property, Web design, graphic design and financing are all skills that we have learned and will apply to other projects in the future.”

For more information on Vol Court, visit http://utrf.tennessee.edu/news/.

The CEI facilitates entrepreneurial knowledge creation and dissemination through research, teaching and practice in the area of entrepreneurship. It strives to develop entrepreneurial talent who will start businesses or contribute to the success of existing technology-driven businesses. The center provides experiential learning activities that enhance classroom instruction in entrepreneurship and innovation, offers links between the regional entrepreneurial community and the university, and acts as a hub for cross-campus initiatives that foster the growth of entrepreneurial research and commercially viable enterprises. For more information, visit http://cei.utk.edu/.

The CEG is an entrepreneurial support organization within Technology 2020, one of the primary drivers of innovation and economic development in the region. The CEG helps entrepreneurs develop an execution strategy that leads to a sustainable company. In addition to its strategic planning process, the CEG develops and delivers entrepreneurial training seminars. For more information, visit http://www.tech2020.org/ceg_about.html.

UTRF helps turn the ideas and discoveries that emerge from the University of Tennessee into products and services that benefit society. In addition to supporting the growth of research at UT and commercialization of the resulting inventions, UTRF champions entrepreneurship and drives state and regional technology-based economic development. UTRF serves all seven of the UT campuses and institutes across the state. For more information, visit http://utrf.tennessee.edu.

C O N T A C T:

Whitney Holmes (865-974-5460, wholmes7@utk.edu)

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