A North Shore shop that specializes in locally made food, art and gifts of every sort won $10,000 in the Tennessee Valley Federal Credit Union Idea Leap virtual pitch competition Tuesday.
"We've been in business since 2015, and we've always had the same mission statement: To use our business to help other local small businesses," said Eric Landrum during the video pitch for Locals Only.
The TVFCU Idea Leap pitch competition is part of 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.
Locals Only carries goods from over 130 Tennessee businesses, with 80 of them based in Chattanooga. Their video pitch featured the voices of local artists who said the shop gives them a valuable way to offer their goods in a retail setting. Cassandra Tucker, owner of Divine Purity and a winner of the Will This Float? pitch competition on Monday, said Locals Only provides an important connection to her customers.
"I don't currently have a storefront, so carrying my products at Locals Only means that I'm in front of customers that I would never meet otherwise," Tucker said.
Chatta-Cakes Bakery, a family-owned, hand-crafted bakery in Hixson.
Locals Only Gifts & Goods, a Chattanooga shop specializing in small-batch and artisan crafted goods made in Tennessee.
Cashew, a plant-based vegan café in Chattanooga’s North Shore.
Locals Only began with Danielle Landrum assembling local gift boxes in the Landrums' living room, Eric said. Now they hope to expand the gift box concept into its own arm of the business, he said. During the early days of the pandemic, the shop had to quickly rethink its business, offering online ordering, local delivery and creating 'boredom buster' packages to entertain their customers.
"We didn't make a million dollars, but we stayed in business," Danielle Landrum said.
Local bakery Chatta-Cakes won second place and a $7,000 grant in the Idea Leap competition. The business was hit hard when wedding season all but disappeared in March, but they got creative and have found ways to continue to serve their customers, said Shannon Anderson, who owns the shop with husband Mike.
"We came up with an elopement package that exploded," she said. The Andersons had previously put a limit of one or two weddings a weekend on their business, but that package let them expand to six to 10 weddings a weekend, she added.
Cashew, a vegan cafe that opened in 2013 on the North Shore, was awarded $3,000 as the third-place finisher. Cashew landed a spot in the competition as the 'people's choice' finalist. Twelve small businesses were part of the text-voting campaign, and the contest received more than 2,000 votes during a five-day voting period. An independent panel of volunteer community judges selected the other two finalists.
"The Idea Leap grant initiative started as a way to reinvest Idea Leap Loan proceeds back into the community in 2018," said Tommy Nix, vice president of business and commercial services at TVFCU. "It is a grant — an award from the credit union to three area small businesses to help fulfill their next dream whether that is providing a new service or purchasing much-needed equipment."
During the virtual competition, each finalist had five minutes to pitch their business via video. A brief, socially distant Q&A session with judges followed each presentation.
Contact Mary Fortune at firstname.lastname@example.org. Follow her on Twitter at @maryfortune.
Startup Week highlights
To register for the event and view the full schedule, visit colab.co/startupweekcha.
Highlights from the agenda:
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.