Catalyzing Dreams into Reality: Winners Announced in TVFCU's $225,000 Idea Leap Grant                                                                                                     Skip to content
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Catalyzing Dreams into Reality: Winners Announced in TVFCU's $225,000 Idea Leap Grant

May 10, 2024

CHATTANOOGA, Tenn. (May 8, 2024) — In a culmination of innovation and entrepreneurial spirit, Tennessee Valley Federal Credit Union (TVFCU) celebrated the conclusion of its 7th Annual Idea Leap Grant with electrifying pitch competitions across Cleveland, Calhoun, and Chattanooga throughout the week of April 29. A total of 15 impassioned entrepreneurs unveiled their small business plans and expansion visions, each walking away with grants ranging between $10,000 and $30,000.

Tommy Nix, vice president of Business and Commercial Services at TVFCU, shared his enthusiasm, stating, “This marks the second year of the expanded Idea Leap Grant Program in the Chattanooga, Ocoee, and Northwest Georgia areas. TVFCU is thrilled to empower more small businesses and fuel economic growth across the 17 counties we proudly serve. On behalf of our entire credit union, I extend heartfelt congratulations to the 15 remarkable businesses who secured grants during this year’s program.”

The winners from the Northwest Georgia Area include the dynamic ventures of Cake Addicts ($30,000), Insane Paintball ($15,000), Dalton Brewing Company ($10,000), Caffeine Addicts ($10,000), and Dyer Livestock Beef ($10,000), each receiving grants that will help propel their unique visions forward.

In the Ocoee Area the winning businesses: Ocoee Riverside Farm ($30,000), Bakery on Main ($15,000), Burnside Insurance Group LLC ($10,000), Ace Kayaking School ($10,000), and Treehouse Mountain ($10,000), emerged victorious, ready to revolutionize their respective industries.

Meanwhile, the Chattanooga Area witnessed triumphs from: Southern Soul Yoga ($30,000), Renew Exterior Services ($15,000), Creekside Flower Farm ($10,000), Divine Purity Aurapothecary Co. ($10,000), and Humanitees Print & Design ($10,000), all poised to redefine excellence within their sectors.

Reflecting on the monumental win, Jenna Wright, owner of Southern Soul Yoga, expressed, “Winning first place was an absolutely incredible moment. With this grant, we’ve not just received funds, but a validation of our passion and purpose. Here’s to turning every dollar into a story of growth, community, and making a difference.”

Since its inception in 2018, TVFCU’s Idea Leap Grant has awarded approximately $750,000 in grants and scholarships to local small businesses, igniting a transformative spark within the entrepreneurial landscape.

Todd Fortner, the president & CEO of TVFCU, affirmed the credit union's unwavering dedication to fostering small business growth, emphasizing, “The impact of our Idea Leap Loan initiative on the local entrepreneurial landscape has been profound.”

Acknowledging the invaluable support received, TVFCU extends gratitude to the Cleveland/Bradley Chamber of Commerce, Gordon County Chamber of Commerce, and Chambliss Startup Group for hosting receptions preceding each pitch competition. Keynote speakers Roger Pickett, president of MurMaid Mattress; Jackie Killings president of Khensani Business Advisors; Karen Hutton, CEO of Hutton; and the Rev. Bernie Miller, alongside media partners Sunny 92.3, Mix 104.1, and Mix 104.5, played pivotal roles in amplifying the event's reach.

The rigorous selection process was facilitated by panels of volunteer judges, whose expertise and discernment ensured the grant recipients truly embodied the spirit of innovation and growth.  Dionne Jenkins, vice president of Corporate Engagement at TVFCU, led each regional panel of judges, bringing together esteemed professionals from various industries to assess and recognize excellence.

The Ocoee Region Judges were Brittany Katz, owner of Terra Running Company; Jennie DeCook, director of Tennessee Small Business Development Center in Cleveland; Jennifer Pennell-Aslinger, president of Junior Achievement of Ocoee Region; Lucy Rymer, executive director of Museum & Cultural Center at 5ive Points; Margaret Schenck, community volunteer; and Rick Platz, George R. Johnson Center for Entrepreneurship & Innovation Advisory Board Chairman.

The Northwest Georgia Region Judges were Andy Baxter, owner of Baxter Dean Studios; Jonathan Connell, owner of MedSTAT Supplies; Kristie Gazaway, sales director at JMB Office Solutions; Phenna Petty, board member 14th Congressional District at Georgia Department of Education; Purvi Patel, owner of Dos Bros Fresh Mexican Grill; and Yulian Paramo, owner of Dalton Rug and realtor at Keller Williams Dalton.

The Chattanooga Region Judges were Chuck Fisher, director at Grant Konvalinka & Harrison, P.C.; Jeffrey Maddux, attorney at Chambliss, Bahner & Stophel; Kristin Copeland, manager of Women & Minority-Owned Business at EPB; Liza Soydan, COO at Chestnut Funds; Sharon Green, owner of The Professional Cleaning Solution; and Vickye Bone, business consultant at Smith Bone Consulting.

The Idea Leap Grant stands as a testament to TVFCU’s commitment to nurturing small businesses, building upon the success of the Idea Leap Loan Initiative launched in 2016. To date, TVFCU has provided over $5 million in loans to emerging and early-stage businesses through this initiative.

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

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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 165,000 members who live, work, worship, volunteer or attend school throughout the 17-county service community. With more than $2.6 billion in assets and 24 branches throughout the area, TVFCU is the largest credit union in Southeast Tennessee. 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 $75,000 to emerging businesses. Through the Idea Leap Grant Initiative, TVFCU is reinvesting Idea Leap Loan proceeds back into the community.

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