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TVFCU Announces 10 Semifinalists in $100,000 Idea Leap Grant Competition

September 5, 2022

Tennessee Valley Federal Credit Union (TVFCU) announced today that 10 entrepreneurs are moving forward as semifinalists in the fifth annual Idea Leap Grant competition. These small business owners all aim to win one of five grants – grand prize: $50,000, first place: $20,000, and three runners-up: $10,000.

“We congratulate our 10 semifinalists and, once again, thank every small business owner who applied for the Idea Leap Grant competition,” said Tommy Nix, vice president of business and commercial services. “Small businesses are crucial to our local and nationwide economies, so it’s inspiring to see so many entrepreneurs in the communities we serve.”

This year’s semifinalists, representing industries such as food service, janitorial, medical, clothing and more, are:

TVFCU initially received nearly 150 Idea Leap Grant applications before an independent panel of volunteer judges selected 23 quarterfinalists from this group. These 23 entrepreneurs were asked to submit 5-minute videos detailing their business, their intentions for the grant funding and how they support their community. The judges reduced this field to 10 semifinalists after reviewing the videos and conducting site visits.

Now, the credit union is requesting the community’s help to identify the People’s Choice Finalist. Visit to learn more about each semifinalist and for instructions on voting via text message.

The semifinalist with the most votes at 5 p.m. EST on Friday, Sept. 9, will be named the People’s Choice Finalist. The judging committee will also select four other finalists to compete in the Idea Leap Grant Pitch Competition on Oct. 18.

For more information about the Idea Leap Grant, please visit Follow TVFCU on Facebook, Twitter, Instagram and LinkedIn for continual Idea Leap updates.


Fifth Annual Idea Leap Grant Semifinalist Facts

Be Caffeinated

Location: Chattanooga, Tenn.

Owners: Christopher Wood & Douglas Lee

Established: 2019

Grant Wishes: Purchasing new equipment to add New York-style bagels to their bakery lineup


Bela Co., LLC

Location: Chattanooga, Tenn.

Owner: Bethany Wilson

Established: 2015

Grant Wishes: Hiring a digital media specialist to create a stronger online presence, expand online jewelry sales and promote resident artists on a national level


Bella Star Designs

Location: Athens, Tenn.

Owner: Lisa Bell

Established: 2010

Grant Wishes: Implementing much-needed equipment repairs and/or replacements, improved online presence and other studio upgrades so artists can have an enhanced experience and create their own product lines


HIIT 10 Fitness

Location: Cleveland, Tenn.

Owner: Kevin Young

Established: 2018

Grant Wishes: Updating existing software and equipment for the daily workout programs offered. Would also like to use funds toward opening a second location in Chattanooga


Mountain View Low Vision Services

Location: Hixson, Tenn.

Owner: Cheryl Saucier

Established: 2018

Grant Wishes: Purchasing devices that she could leave with potential referrers to showcase products. Would also create a video training library for gatekeepers, occupational therapists, families and VIPs (visually impaired individuals)


Neutral Ground Chattanooga

Location: Chattanooga, Tenn.

Owner: Kenyatta Ashford

Established: 2020

Grant Wishes: Purchasing two professional combination ovens that increase efficiency in the kitchen


NewTerra Compost

Location: Wildwood, Ga.

Owners: Normand Lavoie & Michael Ryan

Established: 2020

Grant Wishes: Constructing a building for office space that would provide a resting place from outdoor manual labor, enhance NewTerra’s productivity and work environment and offer indoor plumbing. Will also put finished product indoors so it’s available without being weather-dependent and will be able to mix compost into soil blends


Sleepyhead Coffee

Location: Chattanooga, Tenn.

Owners: Christian Harris & Brandon Carruth

Established: 2018

Grant Wishes: Opening an improved, larger bakery space for vegan and gluten-free pastries


TEREN Designs

Location: Chattanooga, Tenn.

Owner: Nick Rader

Established: 2018

Grant Wishes: Wants to use the funds to have products manufactured in the U.S. which would increase production and create local jobs


We Clean Chattanooga

Location: Ooltewah, Tenn.

Owner: Romonda Walker-Word

Established: 2018

Grant Wishes: Providing more training for staff, purchasing commercial cleaning equipment to accommodate larger companies and purchasing a van to help employees with transportation to each job site


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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 170,000 members who live, work, worship, volunteer or attend school throughout the 17-county service community. With more than $2.4 billion in assets and 23 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


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