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TVFCU's Idea Leap Grant Winners

TVFCU Announces Idea Leap Grant Winners

 TVFCU hosted their Fifth Annual Idea Leap Grant pitch night in which five local businesses competed for a total of $100,000 in grant funding.

During the competition, hosted at the Bessie Smith Cultural Center, the five finalists, coming from an original pool of nearly 150 entrepreneurs, had five minutes to explain their business, their growth plans and their intended use for the grant funding. A brief Q&A session with TVFCU’s panel of eight volunteer community judges followed.
The results are as follows:

Grand Prize Winner – $50,000
Be Caffeinated, Chattanooga, Christopher Wood and Douglas Lee
First Place – $20,000
Sleepyhead Coffee, Chattanooga, Christian Harris and Brandon Carruth
Runners-Up – $10,000 each
Mountain View Low Vision Services, Hixson, Cheryl Saucier
Neutral Ground Chattanooga, Chattanooga, Kenyatta Ashford
NewTerra Compost, Wildwood, Ga., Normand Lavoie and Michael Ryan
Following the announcement of Be Caffeinated as the Grand Prize Winner, Tommy Nix, TVFCU’s vice president of business and commercial services, announced that Idea Leap is nearly doubling its impact in the near future by increasing the available grant funding to $175,000.
During National Small Business Week in 2023 – the second week in May – TVFCU will host separate Idea Leap Grant pitch competitions in Chattanooga, Cleveland and Dalton. The credit union will give away $75,000 in Chattanooga and $50,000 each in Cleveland and Dalton.  This comes after TVFCU recently expanded its service area from 13 to 17 counties with the addition of Whitfield, Gordon, Murray and Chattooga counties in North Georgia.
“Our goal with Idea Leap is to support trailblazing, emerging small businesses within the communities we serve to bolster entrepreneurial ecosystems, stimulate the economy, create fulfilling new jobs and enhance the lifestyles of people across our service area,” said Nix. “We’re excited to aid even more entrepreneurs next year as we offer three separate Idea Leap Grants and host three pitch nights.”
In addition to the pitches and announcements, the Fifth Annual Idea Leap Grant Pitch Competition featured keynote speaker Jermaine Freeman, the city of Chattanooga’s economic development officer. Additionally, before the event, Chambliss Startup Group hosted their Chambliss Startup Social at the Bessie Smith Cultural Center.
TVFCU also hosted the first-ever Idea Leap Luncheon earlier in the day, featuring a panel of local small business owners moderated by Newschannel 9’s Greg Funderburg. The panelists included Aaron Hoffman of Hoff & Pepper, Melanie Krautstrunk of Hutton & Smith Brewing Company and Michael Rice of Mad Priest Coffee Roasters.
The Idea Leap Grant is an extension of the credit union’s Idea Leap Loan Initiative that was created specifically for small businesses in 2016. To date, TVFCU has funded more than $4 million in loans to emerging and early-stage businesses through the loan initiative. Furthermore, TVFCU has awarded nearly $300,000 in Idea Leap Grants and scholarships.
For more information about the Idea Leap Grant, and TVFCU’s other products, services and initiatives, please visit
About Tennessee Valley Federal Credit Union

Tennessee Valley Federal Credit Union (TVFCU), a not-for-profit financial cooperative, was established in 1936 when 57 Chattanooga TVA employees pooled $500 to create the member-owned credit union. Today, TVFCU serves more than 170,000 members who live, work, worship, volunteer or attend school throughout the 17-county service community. With more than $2.4 billion in assets and 23 branches throughout the area, TVFCU is the largest credit union in Southeast Tennessee. In 2021, Forbes named TVFCU Best-In-State Credit Union. For more information about TVFCU, please visit
About TVFCU’s Idea Leap Grant

The Idea Leap Grant Initiative is an extension of TVFCU’s Idea Leap Loan Initiative that was created in October 2016. The Idea Leap Loan fills a void in the community for loans up to $50,000 to emerging businesses. Through the Idea Leap Grant Initiative, TVFCU is reinvesting Idea Leap Loan proceeds back into the community.

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