Staff photo by C.B. Schmelter / Erroll Wynn poses in the studio at the Times Free Press on Monday, Nov. 30, 2020 in Chattanooga, Tenn.

The traits of top athletes and successful entrepreneurs might be more closely aligned than you think. Creativity, mental toughness and teamwork are all skills that shift smoothly from the locker room to the board room.

Ten years ago, Atlanta native Erroll Wynn was carrying the ball for the University of Tennessee at Chattanooga football team. Today, he's a coach, of sorts, at The Company Lab (CO.LAB), Chattanooga's startup accelerator. At the same time, Wynn continues to nurse his own dreams of startup success. His new app, Hashtag Mall, aims to link small, brick-and-mortar and digital businesses through online commerce.

With a degree in psychology from UTC and a minor in business entrepreneurship, Wynn, a father of three, serves as operations coordinator at CO.LAB.

"I head a lot of our minority programming," Wynn says. "I've been working there going on six years. I've helped a lot of entrepreneurs."

Wynn says small businesses often need help with accounting, banking and legal services, for example, so entrepreneurs can concentrate on their core business. He says one success story he has been involved with is a thriving food market at the Patten Towers in downtown Chattanooga.

Wynn, 32, grew up in Atlanta, where he was a star running back at the then-new Munday's Mill High School.

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Former UTC football star

One of his earliest childhood memories is surviving a car accident when he was about 5 years old that resulted in a gash on his face and a broken collarbone.

"My father was driving and I was asleep in his truck," Wynn recalls. "The truck hit black ice and we ended up hitting a tree head-on. I went through the windshield and I wasn't supposed to walk away."

Later, Wynn would work for his father's construction business overseeing job sites.

At UTC, Wynn played running back from 2006 to 2010 and ended his career with 2,457 total yards, placing him fourth among the school's all-time rushing leaders.

Like all entrepreneurs, Wynn says he is looking for ideas that will create new markets. An early idea for a car-mounted voice amplification system was the basis of a company called Expozur Technology, but the need for millions of dollars in seed capital eventually put the brakes on the idea, he says.

His new venture, Hashtag Mall seeks to link small businesses the way a bricks-and-mortar mall links retail stores.

Erroll Wynn

* Job: Entrepreneur, outreach coordinator at The Company Lab

*Age: 32

* Hometown: Atlanta, Georgia

* Family: Three children ages 8, 11, 14

"It's like a mobile shopping center and hub for local businesses," Wynn explains. "We have merchants, small minority businesses, that have a product but need a tool like this to help them operate."

Wynn says Hashtag Mall creates a marketplace for small companies that now may only market themselves on Facebook or Instagram. So far, 47 businesses have expressed interest in being part of the platform, and a beta version of the app was set to go live before the end of 2020, he says.

"We have jewelry companies, boutiques, wood working companies, individuals who sell furniture," he says. "I'm looking for Hashtag Mall to grow to some legs. We want to keep an office in Chattanooga but eventually extend the business to Atlanta."