Contributed photo / Alchemy Spice has hired Amanda Nelson Varnell as its new marketing and culinary director.

Alchemy Spice Co. expands nationwide

Following an extensive brand refresh earlier this year, Chattanooga's Alchemy Spice Co. is preparing to sell its handcrafted spice blends to restaurants across the country through US Foods' Direct Program and to consumers across Tennessee through Publix grocery stores.

US Foods, a leading national foodservice distributor serving over 10,000 restaurants across the country, will distribute Alchemy's 25 all-natural, freshly ground spice blends through its Direct Program focused on specialty food products. Alchemy's products will be available to professional chefs to purchase through the US Foods portal in October or November.

Two of Alchemy's Tennessee-themed seasonings, Scenic City Grilling Pepper and Memphis Dry Rub, also will be sold at Publix's 51 stores across the state, beginning in October, through the grocery chain's Tennessee Local product program.

Alchemy has boosted its foodservice sales fourfold in the past couple of years and has added a business line providing staple spices and proprietary custom blends to leading restaurants and food companies in Chattanooga and the Southeast, as well as an international client in South Korea.

As part of its expansion, Alchemy Spice also announced that has hired Amanda Nelson Varnell as its new marketing and culinary director. Varnell joins Alchemy after nine years at the helm of local catering company, Dish T'Pass, which she founded and led as its CEO.

"Amanda brings extensive experience in cooking instruction, recipe development and growing a small business, so we're thrilled to have her join our team," said Henry Oehmig, the CEO at Alchemy who bought the company in 2019. "When we rolled out updated branding earlier this year, we did it with the goal of establishing Alchemy Spice Co. as a national brand of freshly ground, handcrafted spice blends."

Founded in 2003 by Christian and Jessica Chevalier, Alchemy Spice was sold in 2007 to Warren Stanko, a former employee, and then to Ben Gordon in 2013, before Oehmig acquired the company in June 2019. Alchemy Spice Company uses hundreds of different all-natural herbs and spices to create its special seasoning blends.


Accelerator expands statewide for minority entrepreneurs

The Nashville Entrepreneur Center (EC), a non-profit dedicated to supporting entrepreneurs and local businesses throughout Middle Tennessee, is expanding its Twende program for entrepreneurs of color statewide.

Twende, which is Kiswahili for, "Let's go," is a year-long accelerator program for Black and brown tech and tech-enabled business owners in Tennessee and supports their efforts to scale their business through mentorship, networking and education.

"We're on a mission to make Tennessee the most supportive state for entrepreneurs of color, and we're honored to work toward a more robust and inclusive business community across the state," said Jane Allen, CEO of the Entrepreneur Center. "We know that entrepreneurship drives economic success for minority communities, and by expanding entrepreneurship like we're doing with Twende, we can support shrinking the racial wealth gap by as much as 80%."

Twende has a virtual network that offers entrepreneurs of color access to a world-class curriculum, supportive community and individualized mentorship.

The median net worth for Black business owners is 12 times higher than Black non-business owners in Tennessee. Further, the rate of entrepreneurship is 6.75% for Black and Hispanic Tennesseans and 11% for non-minority Tennesseans, "so closing this gap would yield new job growth, reduce unemployment and add millions to our economy," Allen said.

Since its inception in 2019, Twende has served 32 entrepreneurs and seeks to serve at least 200 more across Tennessee over the next year. Twende is open to entrepreneurs who identify as a racial or ethnic minority in a U.S. context, are a CEO or co-founder of an existing business that is scaling its operations, have up to $75,000 in annual revenue, and seek to join a supportive, collaborative community committed to transforming Tennessee's minority-owned business landscape.


JumpFund investment sells to PrestoSports

SuperFan Inc, a woman-led company which was the JumpFund's very first investment, has been acquired by PrestoSports, a leading provider in collegiate and high school streaming, website, social graphics, and stats technology.

SuperFan, headquartered in Louisville, Kentucky, is a mobile fan engagement platform that offers rewards and incentivizes fan participation in high school and college athletics. Terms of the purchase were not disclosed, but PrestoSports officials said the purchase is an expansion of its suite of technology solutions.

"By joining PrestoSports, we can enhance the solutions and services provided to our customers," said Kayla Mount, who co-founded SuperFan, Inc. with fellow sports fan, Chris Nowak. "We can also accelerate the availability of a fully integrated platform for sports programs everywhere, empowering them to execute impactful fundraising and digital fan engagement."

The JumpFund, a Chattanooga-based early-stage, angel investment fund targeting women-led ventures in the Southeast United States, saw the initial potential of Superfan as a "high-powered, woman-led team revolutionizing sports marketing," JumpFund CEO Kristina Montgue said.

The business sale represents a positive exit for the fund, Montague said.

The JumpFund has invested in more than 30 women-led ventures, from clean energy technology to cybersecurity, across the Southeast U.S. since its founding in 2014.


TVA refuels Sequoyah unit after 513-day run

The Tennessee Valley Authority began a refueling of its newest reactor at the Sequoyah Nuclear Plant over the weekend after the unit 2 reactor at the Soddy-Daisy power plant operated for 513 days and generated 14.7 billion kilowatthours of electricity during its previous fuel cycle.

Sequoyah Site Manager Tom Marshall said over 12,000 work activities are planned during the current outage, including loading 81 new fuel assemblies, performing inspections of reactor components, maintenance of plant equipment and installing unit enhancements.

"We know that reliability matters, and Sequoyah's highly skilled workforce is making the most of this opportunity to ensure Unit 2 continues to operate safely until its next refueling outage about 18 months from now," he said.

To implement safe work practices and COVID-19 precautions, Sequoyah continues to conduct health screenings, mandate face coverings and practice social distancing to help protect the health and well-being of TVA employees and additional contract worker who will be work temporarily at the plant during the refueling outage.

Sequoyah Unit 2 is one of seven operational TVA nuclear reactors that collectively supply more than 40% of TVA's electricity.