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We're giving away $175,000 in 2023

For the first time ever, TVFCU is hosting three seperate Idea Leap Grant Competitions in the Chattanooga, Cleveland and Dalton areas. We are giving away $75,000 to entreprenuers in the Chattanooga area and $50,000 each in the Cleveland and Dalton areas.

Small businesses must operate in TVFCU's 17-county service area to apply. 

Applications are open from Nov. 16, 2022, to 5 p.m. on Dec. 16, 2022. There is only one application, and small business owners may use it to enter any one of the three competitions.

Click "Apply Now" to access the application!

Atención solicitantes:

Para su comodidad las reglas del concurso y las preguntas de preparación del ensayo se proporcionan en español. Lamentablemente, debido a las limitaciones del sistema, la solicitud sólo puede proporcionarse en Inglés y las respuestas deben hacerse también en Inglés.  Para los solicitantes de Dalton y el Noroeste de Georgia, si necesita ayuda para completar la solicitud, por favor, póngase en contacto con Lauren Holverson con Pitch DIA, en: [email protected] Para Chattanooga y Cleveland por favor envíenos un correo electrónico a: [email protected]

Buena suerte.


Business Narrative Essay Questions- PREGUNTAS NARRATIVAS 

¡¡¡Esta es tu oportunidad de hacer notar tu solicitud!!! En las preguntas narrativas a continuación, describe detalladamente tu pasión por tu negocio

Once you begin the Idea Leap grant application, it must be completed in one session. The application does not save the information for you to return and finish at a later time to submit. To prevent duplicate applications, we are providing the business narrative questions to prepare your answers before applying. You can then copy and paste your answers into your application session. We appreciate your interest, and good luck!

1) Tell us about your business. What do you make, sell or what service(s) do you provide?
2) What inspired your leap into entrepreneurship and how does your business feed your passion?
3) How do you give back to the community you predominately serve? E.g., volunteer efforts, mentoring, monetary donations or supporting other local entrepreneurs.
4) How is your business different?
5) What would you do with the Idea Leap Grant funds?
6) Anything else you want to share?



2023 Idea Leap Grant Timeline

2023 Idea Leap Grant Timeline For All Three Contests

Application Period

Nov. 16, 2022 - Dec. 16, 2022 at 5 p.m.

Quarterfinalist Selection (Announced on Jan. 20)

Dec. 19, 2022 - Jan. 20, 2023

Video Submissions (Quarterfinalists only)

Jan. 23, 2023 - Jan. 27, 2023

Semifinalist Selection Period

Jan. 30, 2023 - Feb. 24, 2023

People's Choice Award Public Voting

March 27, 2023 - March 31, 2023 at 5 p.m.

People's Choice Finalist Announcement

April 3, 2022

Top 5 Finalist Announcement

April 4, 2022

Chattanooga Area Luncheon and Pitch Night

2nd Week in May 2023

Cleveland Area Pitch Night

2nd Week in May 2023

Dalton Area Pitch Night

2nd Week in May 2023



2023 Idea Leap Grant Contest Rules- REGLAS OFICIALES



The TVFCU 2023 Grant Contest begins on November 16, 2022, and ends with the announcement of winners during National Small Business Week in May 2023.

The 2023 Contest eligible participants are all Small Businesses in operation in the TVFCU 17-County Service area and as further defined below. Eligible participants must continue to meet the following criteria: The Contest is only open to legal residents/business enterprises of the TVFCU’s 17-county community who at the time of entry are independent owners/operators of a for-profit small business that is domiciled in TVFCU’s 17-county community and which has been in continuous operation selling a product or service for not less than twelve (12) months at the time of application. In order to be considered an eligible "small business" for purposes of this Contest, the business must meet all of the following criteria:

  1. Entrant/owner must be at least eighteen (18) years of age at the time of submission;
    b. The business must be currently active, lawful, and have all necessary and required licenses and registrations;
    c. Entrant/owner must be an authorized agent of the registered business;
    d. The business must be in good standing with the Tennessee/Georgia Secretary of State or the County Clerk’s office in their home county, as of the date of Submission and must remain so through the end of the Contest;
    e. The business must have a minimum of 2 employees (including the owner) and a maximum of 25 employees on its payroll (other employees may be seasonal, part time, 1099, W-2 or a co-owner. Employee for definition of maximum employee is defined as full time equivalent);
    f. Must meet TVFCU Business Services membership criteria;
    g. Not in any way be affiliated with a direct seller business;
    h. Not under bankruptcy protection or have judicial liens or attachments;
    i. Annual gross revenue does not exceed two million five hundred thousand dollars ($2.5 million);
    j. Entrant/owner must not be on the OFAC list, individuals with prior felony convictions may be eligible. The TVFCU Grant Advisory committee or its’ designee will determine the eligibility of any applicant with a felony conviction

Prior Winners: The 2018, 2019, 2020, 2021 and 2022 Idea Leap Grant winners (top 5 prize recipients for 2018, 2019, 2021, 2022 and top 3 for 2020) are excluded from participating.

TVFCU shall determine, in its sole discretion, whether an entry meets the eligibility criteria to participate in the Contest. TVFCU’s decisions regarding eligibility and all other aspects of the Contest are final and binding.

TVFCU, affiliated companies and each of their respective officers, directors, employees, agents and persons engaged in the development, production or distribution of materials for this Contest (collectively, the "Contest Parties") and the immediate family members (i.e., parent, child, sibling, and spouse) of each and/or persons living in the same household of such individuals (whether related or not) are not eligible to participate in the Contest. This contest is subject to all applicable federal, state, and local laws and regulations, and is void in all geographic locations where prohibited by law.


During 2023 there will be three Grant Contests. One that will be conducted in Chattanooga, TN for the Chattanooga area TVFCU field of membership, one that will be conducted in Cleveland, TN for the Cleveland area TVFCU field of membership and one that will be conducted in Dalton, GA for the Dalton area TVFCU field of membership. Businesses can only apply for one of the three contests.

For the Chattanooga area, there will be five (5) Winners: one (1) First Place will receive a U.S. $30,000.00 Grant; one (1) Second Place will receive a U.S. $15,000.00 Grant ; three (3) runners-up will receive a U.S. $10,000.00 Grant; Winners will be required to meet with a Technical Assistance provider at least once to qualify. Technical Assistance providers are; BrightBridge, The Company Lab, Launch Chattanooga, Tennessee Small Business Development Center (Chattanooga or Cleveland), SCORE, The Urban League and UTC’s Veteran Entrepreneurship Program.

For the Cleveland area, there will be three (3) Winners: one (1) 1st place of U.S. $25,000.00, one (1) 2nd place of U.S. $15,000.00 and one (1) 3rd place of U.S. $10,000.00. Winners will be required to meet with a Technical Assistance provider at least once to qualify. Technical Assistances providers are: Tennessee Small Business Development Center (Cleveland State), SCORE and others to be announced.

For the Dalton area, there will be three (3) Winners: one (1) 1st place of U.S. $25,000.00, one (1) 2nd place of U.S. $15,000.00 and one (1) 3rd place of U.S. $10,000.00. Winners will be required to meet with a Technical Assistance provider at least once to qualify. Technical Assistances providers are: UGA Small Business Development Center, SCORE, and others to be announced.

To enter the Contest, Entrants ("Entrants") are required to complete and submit a written application (available on the TVFCU Website at no later than 5 p.m. December 16, 2022. Details for application submission are available via an email request to [email protected] or TVFCU’s Website. All Finalists will be required to participate in an in-person Pitch Night (health climate permitting) or a virtual Pitch Night (health climate precludes in person) session with the TVFCU Grants Advisory Committee during National Small Business week 2023 (second week of May). TVFCU reserves the right to postpone or alter the Idea Leap Grant program and the three pitch competitions in any way, particularly in order to uphold public safety guidlines in relation to public health and the COVID-19 pandemic. 

An existing TVFCU account is not required to enter the contest, however all Grants will be paid via a Direct deposit into a TVFCU Business Account. Entrant will be required to include the following information:

xi. Name of Business
xii. Name of Business Owner / Authorized Agent
xiii. Phone Number
xiv. Position/Title at Business
xv. Email Address
xvi. Street Address
xvii. City
xviii. State
xix. Zip
xx. All information for verification of membership eligibility and Grant eligibility
xxi. Company financial statements for year end 2022 and thru September 2022 (semifinalist only) and/or other financial information deemed necessary on a case by case basis. Additionally a request for submission to a criminal background check (acceptable to TVFCU)
xxii. Business website or primary website where goods or services are offered to the public (i.e. Etsy store, Facebook page)
xxiii. Social media sites for the business
xxiv. Is the business a minority-owned business, defined as Asian, Black, Hispanic, and Native American, or US Military Veteran, Female or Disabled person? Ownership by minority or other status defined herein, are individuals in which ownership of the business is at least 51%.
Entrants will be further required to provide responses to a set of narrative-based questions in the application. The response to these questions will be in length as designated.

All entries are subject to approval by TVFCU, in TVFCU’s sole discretion. Entrants will receive a confirmation email of their submission upon full completion of the entry requirements. Entries are subject to disqualification at any time including after initial approval.
Except where prohibited, entry in the Contest constitutes each Entrant’s consent to the publication of her/his/its name, organizational information and completed Entry, including the Digital Image, (to the extent applicable) in any media for any commercial or promotional purpose (including, without limitation, the Internet) by TVFCU, without compensation.

By entering the Contest and providing an email address, each Entrant grants TVFCU express permission to send Entrant emails related to the Contest, including, but not limited to notification of Finalists, Winners and a follow-up email in order to gather feedback regarding the Contest to be used in the planning and design of future Contests. Limit: one (1) entry per business.

Digital images (if submitted) and company logo must be in one of the following formats: .jpg, .png or .gif. Each digital image (including company logo) may not exceed 7MB.
If any digital image contains any material or elements that are not owned by the Entrant and/or are subject to the rights of third parties, and/or if any persons appear in the image, the Entrant is responsible for obtaining, prior to submission of the photograph, any and all releases and consents necessary to permit the exhibition and use of the image in the manner set forth in these Official Rules. If any person appearing in any photograph is under the age of majority in their state/province/territory of residence the signature of a parent or legal guardian is required on each release.
If a professional image is submitted, Entrant is responsible for securing usage rights from the photographer to reproduce, distribute, display, and create derivative works of the image by TVFCU in connection with the Contest and promotion of the Contest, in any media now or hereafter known.
Upon TVFCU's request, each Entrant must be prepared to provide (within seven (7) calendar days of receipt of TVFCU's request) such signed release from all third parties who (a) appear in the photograph or (b) whose owned content appear in the photograph submitted, authorizing use by TVFCU and its licensees ("Authorized Parties") in accordance with these Official Rules. Failure to provide such releases upon request may result in disqualification at any time during the Contest.

During the finalist selection period, the TVFCU IDEA LEAP Grant Advisory Committee or its designee will review all entries to identify all qualifying entries. Upon identifying all qualifying entries, the TVFCU IDEA LEAP Grant Advisory Committee will reduce the total qualifying entry pool to approximately twenty (20) quarterfinalists, these quarterfinalists will submit a no more than 5 minute video via Dropbox for consideration to moving into the Semifinalist round. Any video submission that exceeds 5 minutes is subject to a point(s) reduction in the scoring model. Entrants that do not qualify or are eliminated at this stage will be notified via email or other method as directed by the TVFCU IDEA LEAP Grant Advisory Committee or its designee.

For the Chattanooga area Grant, ten (10) semifinalists will be selected from the approximately twenty (20) Quarterfinalists. For the Dalton and Cleveland area’s Grants, seven (7) semifinalists will be selected from approximately fifteen (15) quarterfinalists. The semifinalists will be notified by email or other method by the TVFCU Grant Advisory Committee of their selection into the Semifinalist round. The semifinalists will then participate in a site visit of their business either in person or virtually as deemed appropriate by the TVFCU Grant Advisory Committee. Additionally, the Semifinalists will provide the Grant Advisory Committee or designee with their most recent year-end financial information and/or other information regarding the business as deemed necessary.

For the Chattanooga area, the final round will include a total of Five (5) Finalists, Four (4) selected by the TVFCU Grant Advisory Committee and One (1) Finalist selected by an open public vote (this finalist will also be scored by the TVFCU Idea Leap Grant Advisory Committee.) For the Cleveland and Dalton areas there will be a total of Three (3) Finalists, Two (2) that will be selected by the TVFCU Grant Advisory Committee and One (1) Finalist selected by an open public vote (this finalist will also be scored by the TVFCU Idea Leap Grant Advisory Committee.)


Application period is: November 16th 2022 through December 16th 2022

Quarterfinalist Selection period is: December 19th 2022 through January 20th 2023

Video Submission Period: January 23rd, 2023 through January 27th, 2023 (Quarterfinalists only)

Semifinalist Selection period is: January 30th 2023 through February 24th 2023

Semifinalist Site Visits: February 27th 2023 through March 24th 2023

People’s Choice Award Finalist Public Voting: March 27th 2023 through March 31st 2023

People’s Choice Winner Announcement: April 3rd 2023

Finalist Announcement: April 4th 2023

During the Application and Judging Period, The TVFCU Grant Advisory Committee or designee will review applications, video submissions and business information required to score the applicants to determine the quarterfinalists, semifinalists and finalists.

The Finalists will be notified via email or other communication as directed by the TVFCU IDEA LEAP Grant Advisory Committee.
The five (5) finalists will be required to participant in an in-person (socially distanced if required) or virtual (if health conditions require) Business Pitch Competition with the TVFCU Grant Advisory Committee during the second week of May 2023.

*** The Grant Advisory Committee will consist of One (1) senior staff member from TVFCU, Two (2) (minimum) representatives from the Technical Assistance providers located in TVFCU’s 17-county community and at-large representatives (number to be determined by the TVFCU Grant Advisory Committee) that live or work in TVFCU’s 17-county community. Non TVFCU employees on the Grant Advisory Committee are acting as agents of TVFCU, all rights and limitations of agents reflected herein are applicable to the Non TVFCU employee members of the Grant Advisory Committee.

Grants are non-transferable. By accepting a Grant, each Winner acknowledges compliance with these Official Rules. All federal, state, local or other tax liabilities arising from this Contest are the sole responsibility of each Winner, respectively. Limit of one Grant per Entrant. All other expenses relating to acceptance of a Grant, including but not limited to taxes and any other expenses not specified herein are the sole responsibility of each Winner. Grant conditions may be added or modified by TVFCU, in its sole discretion. Acceptance of a Grant constitutes permission for TVFCU and its designees to use each Winner’s name, photographs, entry material, other likenesses and biographical information for advertising, promotional or trade purposes, including but not limited to online announcements, in commerce and in all media worldwide without limitation or additional compensation, except where prohibited by law.
A Winner may waive its right to receive the Grant. The Grant is non-assignable and non-transferable. No substitutions may be made by the Winner. TVFCU will not withhold taxes from any award. Prior to receiving the Grant, Winners must execute a W-9 tax form verifying their tax identification number. Payment of federal, state and local taxes and fees due, if any, are the sole responsibility of the Winner. Winners may be required, as instructed by TVFCU, to complete and sign (i) an affidavit of eligibility/liability certifying that such Winner has complied with the Official Rules of the Contest, and (ii) a liability and publicity release (except where prohibited by law). Failure to sign and return any of these documents or to comply with any term or condition of these Official Rules may result in a Winner’s disqualification, the forfeiture of its interest in the Grant, and, at TVFCU’s discretion, the presentation of the Grant to a substitute recipient. A Grant not won and/or claimed by a Winner and not awarded to a substitute recipient by TVFCU in accordance with these Official Rules will remain the property of TVFCU.

TVFCU reserves the right, in its sole discretion, to disqualify any Entrant at any time that it finds to be tampering with the entry process or the Contest; to be acting in violation of these Official Rules; or to be acting in an inappropriate or disruptive manner, or with intent to annoy, abuse, threaten or harass any other person.
Submitted Entries must be consistent with TVFCU mission, strategy and values and TVFCU reserves the right, in its sole discretion, to reject and/or disqualify any entries at any time that TVFCU deems to be hateful, slanderous, libelous, violent, obscene, defamatory, discriminatory (based on age, race, gender, religion, natural origin, physical disability, sexual orientation or political affiliation), profane, offensive, lewd, sexually explicit, pornographic, false, misleading, deceptive, self-mutilating (e.g. relating to murder, the sales of weapons, cruelty, abuse, etc.), illegal (computer hacking, underage drinking, etc.), threatening, harassing, or otherwise inconsistent with its standards, audience expectations, or reputational interests or that contain images, words or symbols widely considered offensive to individuals of a certain race, gender, ethnicity, religion, sexual orientation or socioeconomic group, or that TVFCU believes may violate any applicable law or regulation or the rights of any third party or may subject the contest, TVFCU, or TVFCU's advertisers, clients, or members to controversy, negative publicity, scorn, or ridicule. For purposes of this paragraph, Submitted Entries include content on the Entrant’s website and social media sites.
Should TVFCU determine, in its sole discretion, that any announced winner has violated any of the prohibitions contained in these Official Rules or should be disqualified for any other reason, TVFCU shall have no obligation to award a Grant to such Entrant.
As a condition of entry, TVFCU reserves the right to conduct a background check on any potential finalist and/or winner and reserves the right in its sole discretion to disqualify any Entrant based on such background check if in its sole discretion, TVFCU determines that awarding the prize to such Entrant might reflect negatively on TVFCU’s image and/or reputation.

By participating in the Contest, each Entrant releases and holds TVFCU, its affiliate companies and each of their directors, officers, employees, representatives, and agents harmless from and against any claims, costs, injuries, losses or damages of any kind arising out of or in connection with the Contest or with the acceptance, possession, use of or defect in any Grant (including, without limitation, claims, costs, injuries, losses or damages related to personal injuries, death, damage to, loss or destruction of property, rights of publicity or privacy, defamation or portrayal in a false light). TVFCU is not responsible for any incorrect or inaccurate information, whether caused by technical or human error or otherwise which may occur in the processing of entries in this Contest or in the running of this Contest. TVFCU will not be responsible for typographical, printing or other errors in these Official Rules or in other materials relating to the Contest.
If for any reason, the Contest is not capable of running as planned, including but not limited to by reason of fraud, computer virus, worms, bugs, tampering, unauthorized intervention, technical limitations or failures, human error, mistake or any other cause that in the sole opinion of TVFCU could compromise, undermine, corrupt or otherwise affect the security, integrity, fairness, administration, or proper conduct of this Contest, TVFCU reserves the right, in its sole discretion, to cancel, terminate, modify or suspend the Contest at any time and without notice.
Notwithstanding anything set forth above, to the extent that the preceding release is determined by a tribunal of competent jurisdiction to be invalid, unenforceable or void for any reason, each Entrant agrees that, to the fullest extent permitted by law (i) any and all disputes, claims, and causes of action arising out of or in connection with the Contest, or any awards awarded shall be resolved individually without resort to any form of class action; (ii) any claims, judgments and awards shall be limited to actual out-of-pocket costs incurred by such Entrant, but in no event attorney's fees and no greater than $100; and (iii) under no circumstances will any Entrant be permitted to obtain any award for, and Entrant hereby waives all rights to claim, incidental, punitive or consequential damages.

The construction, validity, interpretation and enforceability of these Official Rules, and all issues and questions relating thereto, along with the rights and obligations of all Entrants and of TVFCU, shall be governed by, and construed in accordance with the laws of the State of Tennessee, without giving effect to any choice of law or conflict of law rules or provisions. In the event that any provision is determined to be invalid or otherwise unenforceable, such determination shall not affect the validity or enforceability of any other provision, and these Official Rules shall be construed in accordance with their terms as if the invalid or unenforceable provision was not contained therein.
Any specific waiver of any obligation hereunder by TVFCU does not constitute a general waiver of that obligation nor of any other obligation of Entrant. Any dispute concerning this Contest shall be submitted to binding arbitration in Hamilton County, Tennessee within one (1) year from the date that the cause of action arose (or, if multiple cause of actions are involved, from the date that the first cause of action arose), with such arbitration conducted pursuant to the then prevailing rules of the American Arbitration Association. To the fullest extent permitted by law, no arbitration brought pursuant to these Official Rules shall be joined to any other arbitration initiated pursuant to these Official Rules.

By participating in the submission process for this Contest, the Entrant grants to TVFCU and affiliated companies an exclusive, assignable, royalty-free and irrevocable right and license to edit or otherwise use all materials submitted by Entrant in connection with the Contest, in whole or in part, for any purpose and in any manner or media (including, without limitation, the Internet) now known or hereafter devised, throughout the world in perpetuity, and to license others to do so, without notice and without compensation, royalty, accounting, liability or obligation of any kind to any Entrant. Each Entrant further agrees that it will use its best efforts to have its employees, consultants, volunteers, officers and directors sign any additional licenses or releases that TVFCU may require.

TVFCU reserves the right to edit the submission materials and other materials prior to posting them to the website in its sole discretion.

The names of the Winners may be obtained following the end of the Contest by visiting

Sponsor: Tennessee Valley Federal Credit Union; P.O. Box 23967, Chattanooga, TN 37422. Attention: Business and Commercial Services/IDEA LEAP Grant.
Email: [email protected]




Q: What is the Idea Leap Grant?

A: Every year since 2018, TVFCU has hosted the Idea Leap Grant competition to help local small businesses grow and enhance their services, stimulate the local economy and create fulfilling jobs within our service area. This grew from the Idea Leap Loan program which started in 2016 and has provided over $4 million to small businesses by utilizing flexible and non-tradtional underwriting criteria, an expedited approval process and other great features to connect entrepreneurs with funding when other financial institutions may reject their request. As a not-for-profit credit union, TVFCU was able to reinvest proceeds from Idea Leap Loans to fund Idea Leap Grants.


Q: How impactful is the program?

A: Since 2018, TVFCU has awarded over $300,000 to local small businesses through grants and scholarships. In the 2022 Idea Leap Grant, TVFCU awarded a total of $100,000 in grants to five entrepreneurs. This year, we’re giving away a total of $175,000 in the Chattanooga, Cleveland and Dalton areas.


Q: Who should apply?

A: Small business owners within TVFCU’s 17-county service area may apply. Entrants must be 18 years of age or older, the business must have between 2 and 25 employees (including the owner, seasonal and part-time employees, contract workers, etc.) and annual revenue must be under $2.5 million. For additional qualifications, see the program rules.


Q: Which of the three contests should I apply for?

A: Each small business may only enter one of the three Idea Leap Grant competitions. Please apply for the primary area in which your business operates and provides most of your goods and/or services.



Grant information for each region

Small business owners should apply in the primary area in which their business operates and provides most of its goods and/or services.

Chattanooga Area:

TVFCU will award $75,000 in grants as follows:

  • First Place - $30,000
  • Second Place - $15,000
  • Three Runners Up - $10,000 Each

Cleveland Area:

TVFCU will award $50,000 in grants as follows:

  • First Place - $25,000
  • Second Place - $15,000
  • Third Place - $10,000

Dalton Area:

TVFCU will award $50,000 in grants as follows:

  • First Place - $25,000
  • Second Place - $15,000
  • Third Place - $10,000



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