Throughout the week of May 8, Tennessee Valley Federal Credit Union (TVFCU) brought their 6th Annual Idea Leap Grant to its conclusion with pitch competitions in Cleveland, Dalton and Chattanooga. A total of 11 entrepreneurs pitched their small business plans and expansion goals, each taking home a grant between $10,000 and $30,000.

“For the first time ever, we expanded the Idea Leap Grant Program by hosting three separate competitions in the Chattanooga, Ocoee and Northwest Georgia areas,” said Tommy Nix, vice president of business and commercial services. “We did this to reach more small businesses and to help further stimulate economies across the 17 counties we serve at TVFCU. On behalf of the entire credit union, I offer a sincere congratulations to the 11 businesses who earned grants during this year’s program.”

The Ocoee Area winners are:

·         Direct Primary Care Associates – $25,000

·         Biskit NV – $15,000 

·         Rods Rockin Rolls – $10,000

The Northwest Georgia Area winners are:

·         Foundation Direct Family Care – $25,000

·         Baxter Dean Studios – $15,000

·         Inflated – $10,000

The Chattanooga Area winners are:

·         Cocoa Asante – $30,000

·         Simply Props – $15,000

·         RMJ Tactical – $10,000

·         The Local Juicery – $10,000

·         The Professional Cleaning Solution – $10,000

“Winning first place was an absolutely incredible moment,” said Ella Livingston, owner of Cocoa Asante. “This was my third year applying for the Idea Leap Grant, so it was a full-circle moment for me. I’m incredibly proud of myself and of the other amazing business owners who pitched as well.”

Since TVFCU started the Idea Leap Grant in 2018, the credit union has awarded approximately $500,000 in grants and scholarships to local small businesses.

“This program and our Idea Leap Loan offering have contributed significantly to our region’s small business ecosystem,” said Todd Fortner, president and CEO of TVFCU. “Next year, we want to extend the reach of our Idea Leap Grant and Loan programs even further. We intend to open applications for the next grant in November, so we encourage entrepreneurs to stay tuned to our social media pages and website for announcements and other news.”

TVFCU extends gratitude to the Cleveland/Bradley Chamber of Commerce, Greater Dalton Chamber of Commerce and Chambliss Startup Group for hosting receptions before each pitch competition. The credit union would also like to thank Dr. Paul Conn, Representative Kasey Carpenter and David Wade for serving as keynote speakers. Finally, TVFCU notes their appreciation for Sunny 92.3, Mix 104.1 and Mix 104.5 for their support in promoting the Idea Leap Grant.

Additionally, TVFCU would like to recognize the panels of volunteer judges in each area that were instrumental in selecting the grant recipients. 

Cleveland Area Judges:

·         Jennie DeCook – Director, Tennessee Small Business Development Center, Cleveland

·         Brittany Katz – Owner, Terra Running Company 

·         Jennifer Pennell-Aslinger – President, Junior Achievement of Ocoee Region

·         Lucy Rymer – Executive Director, Museum & Cultural Center at 5ive Points

·         Margaret Schenck (Celebrity Judge, Night of Pitch Competition Only) – Community Volunteer

Northwest Georgia Area Judges:

·         Jackie Killings – Business Consultant, Khensani Business Advisors

·         Purvi Patel – Owner, Dos Bros Fresh Mexican Grill

·         Yulian Paramo – Owner, Dalton Rug and Realtor with Keller Williams

·         Jonathan Connell – President & CEO, MedStat Supplies

Chattanooga Area Judges:

·         Vickye Bone – Business Consultant, Smith Bone Consulting

·         Kristin Copeland – Manager, Women & Minority Owned Business, EPB

·         Jeffrey Maddux – Attorney, Chambliss, Bahner & Stophel 

·         Chuck Fisher – Attorney, Grant, Konvalinka & Harrison 

·         Ty’Quan Glaze – EPB

·         Mike Bradshaw – Entrepreneur-in-Residence and Interim Director of the Center for Innovation and Entrepreneurship, UTC

·         Liza Soydan – COO, Chestnut Funds

Dionne Jenkins, vice president of diversity and inclusion at TVFCU, led each regional panel of judges.

The Idea Leap Grant is an extension of the credit union’s Idea Leap Loan Initiative that was created specifically for small businesses in 2016. To date, TVFCU has funded more than $5 million in loans to emerging and early-stage businesses through the loan initiative.

For more information about the Idea Leap Grant, and TVFCU’s other products, services and initiatives, please visit