TVFCU Opens Applications for $175,000 Idea Leap Grant Contest                                                                                                     Skip to content
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TVFCU Opens Applications for $175,000 Idea Leap Grant Contest

November 16, 2022

TVFCU Opens Applications for $175,000 Idea Leap Grant Contest

CHATTANOOGA, Tenn. (Nov. 16, 2022) — Today, Tennessee Valley Federal Credit Union (TVFCU) opened applications for the Sixth Annual Idea Leap Grant competition in which the credit union will award $175,000 in grants to local small business owners across its 17-county service area. Additionally, for the first time ever, TVFCU is launching three separate competitions to be hosted in the Chattanooga, Cleveland and Dalton areas.

“Our Idea Leap Grant program has been very impactful to the small business communities in our region,” said Tommy Nix, vice president of business and commercial services. “In fact, we’ve provided over $300,000 in grants and scholarships to dozens of entrepreneurs in the area through this initiative. Now, we’re working to make the program even more beneficial by offering a total of $175,000 in multiple contests.”

TVFCU will award $75,000 in Chattanooga and $50,000 each in Cleveland and Dalton. In the Chattanooga area, First Place is $30,000, Second Place is $15,000 and three Runners-Up will receive $10,000 each. In both the Dalton and Cleveland areas, First Place is $25,000, Second Place is $15,000 and Third Place is $10,000.

Applications are open online until 5 p.m. EST on Dec. 16, 2022, and all submissions will be reviewed internally by credit union personnel in collaboration with independent panels of community judges in each region.

TVFCU will announce quarterfinalists for each competition on January 20, 2023. Semifinalists will be selected in February based on video submissions and site visits. Then, the community will select one finalist in each contest via People’s Choice Voting. The other finalists in each competition will be selected by their respective panel of community judges.

During National Small Business Week, the second week in May 2023, TVFCU will host a pitch night in each region where the finalists will present themselves, their businesses and their plans for growth in front of the judges and the general public.

Each small business owner may only apply for one of the three competitions, and they are asked to apply in the primary region in which their business operates and provides most of their goods and/or services. To apply, the small business must have between two and 25 employees (including the owner), annual revenue may not exceed $2.5 million and the business must be based within TVFCU’s 17-county service area.

“TVFCU is a not-for-profit financial cooperative, so we’re able to place a powerful emphasis on reinvesting funds back into the communities we serve,” said Todd Fortner, president and CEO. “In fact, proceeds from our Idea Leap Loans, which were created specifically to assist emerging small businesses, help fund the Idea Leap Grant each year. We are grateful for this opportunity to support entrepreneurs, bolster our local economy, help create fulfilling new jobs and aid small businesses as they build innovative new products and services within the community.”

Last month, TVFCU finished the Fifth Annual Idea Leap Grant by awarding $100,000 at a pitch competition at the Bessie Smith Cultural Center. Be Caffeinated won the Grand Prize of $50,000, Sleepyhead Coffee won $20,000 and NewTerra Compost, Mountain View Low Vision Services and Neutral Ground Chattanooga received $10,000 each. Chambliss Startup Group also hosted the Chambliss Startup Social directly before the pitch night.

The Idea Leap Grant, which started in 2018, 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 $4.5 million in loans to emerging and early-stage businesses through the loan initiative.

Visit for business eligibility, rules, timeline, past event recaps, frequently asked questions and the application. Submit your application from now until 5 p.m. EST on Dec. 16, 2022.


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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


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 has awarded more than $300,000 in grants and scholarships to area small businesses.


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