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Staff photo by C.B. Schmelter/ The I Am collection is seen at Divine Purity on Thursday, Aug. 8, 2019 in Chattanooga, Tenn.

What began as a collection of homemade aromatherapy products is now a full-time family business that won Cassandra Tucker a top prize during the Black founders edition of Will This Float? on Monday.

"Our heart and soul is in it," Tucker said in describing her Chattanooga-based business, Divine Purity, to the judges and audience during the Will This Float? pitch competition. "People are not buying what we do — they're buying how we make them feel."

Tucker's business won $3,000 in the 'Up and Running' category for startups that already have a revenue track record. Tucker will use the winnings to invest in marketing and branding for the business she launched in 2014, she said.

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Staff photo by C.B. Schmelter/ Candles are seen at Divine Purity on Thursday, Aug. 8, 2019 in Chattanooga, Tenn.
 

In the 'Launch' category, for businesses in earlier stages of development, Chanté Knox won $3,000 for DelivHer, which she launched in 2018. DelivHer will offer a customized monthly package of period care products, from snacks and pain relievers to the Anu absorbent menstrual cup Knox has developed and patented.

"I named it Anu because it's different from traditional menstrual cups," said Knox, who lives and works as a morning show radio producer in Atlanta. "It's Anu cup."

The "Will This Float?" competition kicked off Startup Week, an annual week-long showcase and celebration of Chattanooga's entrepreneurial community. The week normally features a series of in-person recognition and networking events, but this year, the events are all online.

[Read more: Chattanooga Startup Week goes online, takes on COVID-19 pandemic topics.]

The seven finalists in the "Will This Float?" pitch competition ran the gamut from an art gallery and creative community space to a Southern wood-fired barbecue restaurant. The competition gave each entrepreneur just a few minutes to pitch their vision to a panel of judges.

Finalists for Will This Float? Black founders edition

Launch:

Ty Turner, Turner ATM — Formed in March 2020, this family-owned business partners with local businesses by providing ATM services.

Jonathan Hardaway, SaF — A smart security company that is producing a smart delivery box that will secure and protect packages. Online at safdeliverybox.com.

Keelah Jackson-Harris and Jody Harris, Keeody Gallery — A husband and wife-owned establishment that houses art, hosts events and provides art and creative programming to the public via virtual and in-gallery platforms. Online at keeody.com.

Chanté Knox, DelivHer — A subscription-based business that provides direct-to-door personalized period packages once a month. Online at delivher.com

Up and Running: 

Amber Woodruff, Little Giggles — A personal child care company that provides drop-off care and in-home nanny care. Online at gigglegiven.com.

Brandon Ellis, Chatter Box Cafe — A Southern wood-fired barbecue restaurant and mobile catering company, competition barbecue team, and a line of packaged spice blends and rubs. Online at chatterbox423.com.

Cassandra Tucker, Divine Purity — A self-care product line that uses aromatherapy to enhance mood and overall emotional well-being. Online at divinepuritynatural.com.

 

The contest had more than 40 applicants, and the seven finalist businesses were divided into two categories this year based on revenue — either 'Launch' or 'Up and Running.'

In addition to the $3,000 awarded to the winner in each category, a business selected via online poll won a $1,000 'People's Choice' award.

The winner in that category was SaF, a security company producing a smart delivery box that will secure and protect packages. The box can read tracking labels, and will open and then lock securely once a delivery is made, said founder Jonathan Hardaway.

"Porch pirates are a real thing," Hardaway said during his pitch. "If you haven't experienced one, you probably know someone who has."

Startup Week continues through Friday with more than 80 online events.

Startup Week highlights

To register for the event and view the full schedule, visit colab.co/startupweekcha.

Highlights from the agenda:

Tuesday, Oct. 20

VaynerX’s The Sasha Group is in Chattanooga to Help You — 11 a.m.

TVFCU’s Virtual Idea Leap Grant Pitch Night — 6:30 p.m.

Wednesday, Oct. 21

The State of the Hemp Industry 2020 — 4 p.m.

Spirit of Innovation Awards — 7 p.m.

Thursday, Oct. 22

Latinx Businesses Navigating 2020 — 10 a.m.

Startup Awards — 4 p.m.

Friday, Oct. 23

Amplify Pitch Competition — 10 a.m.

Gig City Innovation Challenge — 1:30 p.m.

 

Contact Mary Fortune at mfortune@timesfreepress.com or 423-757-6653. Follow her on Twitter at @maryfortune.

Past winners of Will This Float?

2019: The Veggie, which specializes in vegan comfort food served through fully prepared meal delivery, catering and personal chef services.

2018: GMST Transportation, a van transport service carrying veterans, low-income and people with disabilities on non-emergency trips.

2017: Tryall, a web and mobile platform that let users try out subscription-based products at no charge.

 

 

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