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Student Start-Ups Win Funding and Office Space in Vol Court Pitch Competition

November 16, 2021

Three student-owned businesses were honored with prizes at the fall 2021 Vol Court Pitch Competition, hosted by the Anderson Center for Entrepreneurship and Innovation at the University of Tennessee, Knoxville’s Haslam College of Business

Jennifer Durant holds her large $1,500 check
Jennifer "Farmer Jen" Durant

FarmCare, which offers childcare in a farm setting, took first place, winning $1,500 and the opportunity to have office space for a year at the University of Tennessee Research Foundation Business Incubator. FarmCare provides children with learning opportunities, exercise and fun, and helps build community as parents participate in activities on the farm. Founder Jennifer “Farmer Jen” Durant is in a dual-degree program to earn an MBA and an master’s in agriculture and resource economics.

“It is tough as a working parent to find high-quality, affordable childcare and to get a healthy dinner on the table every night,” said Durant, who spent 20 years as a Navy pilot and is now happy to call Knoxville home. “I have two sons, ages 4 and 7, and being in the trenches as their mom is how I came up with my idea.” 

Lindsey Hickok-Perry and Cameron Manor hold their large $1,000 check for Sonder Parking
Lindsey Hickok-Perry and Cameron Manor

Second place, $1,000 and space in the incubator went to Sonder Parking, an app that lets students find and reserve available parking spaces on campus without having to drive around looking. The app is the brainchild of Lindsey Hickok-Perry, a sophomore economics major from Lawrenceburg, Tenn., and Cameron Manor, a sophomore marketing major from Dickson, Tenn.

“We recognize there is a major parking problem on campus and we wanted to help fix it and make students’ lives easier,” Manor said. 

Alex Weber holds his large $500 check
Alex Weber

EVRLASTING placed third and won $500. The platform, founded by Alex Weber, provides professional recording and rendering services that allow users to relive their weddings, graduations, birthday parties and other life events in virtual reality. Weber came up with the idea after filming his own wedding with 360 cameras.

“While watching the footage, I realized there was potential to recreate experiences in virtual reality and decided to build a platform to provide this service,” said Weber, an MBA candidate from Lynnville, Tenn.

Lynn Youngs, executive director of the Anderson Center, served as director and coordinator of Vol Court this fall. 

“It is always interesting to hear new ideas and see how the students present themselves,” Youngs said. “It is exciting to see these ideas come from across campus as the interest in entrepreneurship continues to grow.”

The Vol Court Pitch Competition was the final event of the fall 2021 Vol Court Speaker Series. Prior to the competition, students attended four entrepreneurial lectures covering topics such as “How to Go Broke While You Are Still Making Money,” “Minimum Viable Product and How Important It Is,” “Legal Issues for Entrepreneurs and Start-ups” and “How to Prepare Your Pitch”. All of the speakers are entrepreneurs themselves and bring a wealth of knowledge to the table. 

Vol Court, a free event hosted by the Anderson Center each fall and spring semester, is open to UT students, faculty and staff, as well as members of the local community. The Scott and Dianna Roe Foundation sponsors Vol Court and provides the prize money. 

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CONTACT: 

Laura Rust, lrust1@utk.edu, 865-974-5126