TVFCU Awards Idea Leap Grants to Five Small Businesses                                                                                                     Skip to content
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TVFCU Awards Idea Leap Grants to Five Small Businesses

October 20, 2021

CHATTANOOGA, Tenn. (Oct. 20) — Tennessee Valley Federal Credit Union is proud to announce the winners of the  Fourth Annual Idea Leap Grant Pitch Competition.

During the outdoor pitch competition on the lawn of the Bessie Smith Cultural Center, finalists had up to five minutes to pitch why they were deserving of the grant. A brief Q&A session with judges followed each presentation. The judges scored the finalists on a five-scale rubric.

Volunteer judges included Vickye Bone, vice president, Urban League of Greater Chattanooga, Jennie DeCook, director, Tennessee Small Business Development Center at Cleveland State Community College, Emily Gilliam, credit analyst, Brightbridge Capital, Charles Fisher, partner/director, Grant, Konvalinka & Harrison, P.C., Danielle Landrum, co-owner of Locals Only Gifts and Goods, 2020 Idea Leap Grant Winner & 2021 Celebrity Judge, and Diane Parks, retired director of Leadership Chattanooga, Chattanooga Area Chamber of Commerce. Dionne Jenkins, vice president of diversity and inclusion at TVFCU, chaired TVFCU’s Idea Leap Grant judging panel.

First Place — $21,000

Chatt Taste Food Tours, LLC, Chattanooga, Briana Garza

Grant Uses: To build out the region's first electric mobile dining car, an elevated dining room on wheels.

Second Place — $15,000

Champion Christian Learning Academy, Chattanooga, Cynthia Evans

Grant Uses: To purchase furniture, playground equipment and learning curriculum. 

Third Place — $10,000

Wild Violet Permaculture, LLC, Signal Mountain, Nathaniel Bankhead and Bryant Hawkins  

Grant Uses: To create comprehensive training programs and materials for employees and clients, to invest in future native plant nursery on Signal Mountain, and to scale compost production and distribution program.

Fourth Place — $7,000

Salon Posh, Athens, Allison Stiller
Grant Uses: To expand salon creating a space for continued education for license professionals, as well as adding manicure tables, pedicure chairs and treatment rooms so that we can offer more services. 

Fifth Place — $5,000

Lil Mama's Chicago Style Hoagy, Chattanooga, Tiffany Pauldon-Banks 

Grant Uses: To invest in continued staff training, marketing, catering and new equipment. 

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 $3.8 million in loans to emerging and early-stage businesses through the loan initiative. Furthermore, TVFCU has awarded more than $183,000 in Idea Leap Grants.

For more information about the Idea Leap Grant, please visit

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Photo Caption: From left, Nathaniel Bankhead and Bryant Hawkins from Wild Violet Permaculture, LLC, Cynthia Evans from Champion Christian Learning Academy, Briana Garza from Chatt Taste Food Tours, LLC, Allison Stiller from Salon Posh, and Tiffany Pauldon-Banks from Lil Mama's Chicago Style Hoagy.

About Tennessee Valley Federal Credit Union

Tennessee Valley Federal Credit Union (TVFCU), a not-for-profit financial cooperative, was established in 1936 when 57 Chattanooga TVA employees pooled $500 to create the member-owned credit union. Today, TVFCU serves more than 164,000 members who live, work, worship, volunteer or attend school throughout the 13-county service community. With more than $2.2 billion in assets and 21 branches throughout the area, TVFCU is the largest credit union in Southeast Tennessee. In 2021, Forbes named TVFCU Best-In-State Credit Union. For more information about TVFCU, please visit

About TVFCU’s Idea Leap Grant

The Idea Leap Grant Initiative is an extension of TVFCU’s Idea Leap Loan Initiative that was created in October 2016. The Idea Leap Loan fills a void in the community for loans up to $50,000 to emerging businesses. Through the Idea Leap Grant Initiative, TVFCU is reinvesting Idea Leap Loan proceeds back into the community.


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