published Wednesday, November 20th, 2013

Outdoor gear startup Granola wins prize in 'Will this Float?' competition

Emcee Nancy Patterson address the crowd gathered for Will This Float? at the Chattanooga Public Library's 4th Floor on Tuesday.
Emcee Nancy Patterson address the crowd gathered for Will This Float? at the Chattanooga Public Library's 4th Floor on Tuesday.
Photo by C. B. Schmelter.
WILL THIS FLOAT WINNERS

1st place - Granola - An outdoor gear company

2nd place - Temperate - A made-in-America clothing line

3rd place -- Gludi, a mobile app to help patients manage Type II Diabetes

Source: "Will this Float?"

An 18-month-old outdoor gear company took the top prize at the Co.Lab's "Will this Float?" startup competition Tuesday night.

The company, Granola, sells high-quality, locally made outdoor gear ranging from backpacks to chalk bags, and is already available in regional stores.

"We pitched to nine retailers and so far we're nine for nine," cofounder Conner Scott said. He added that Chattanooga-based Rock/Creek Outfitters just agreed to carry the Granola line in its stores.

Scott was one of 10 fledgling entrepreneurs that gave three-minute pitches to a crowd of investors, students, entrepreneurs, judges and just plain interested Chattanoogans at the Co.Lab's 'Will this Float?' competition Tuesday night.

As the winner, Scott walked away with $300 cash, 10 hours of free accounting services and 10 hours of free legal services. But the competition isn't really about the prize, said Sheldon Grizzle, air traffic controller at the Co.Lab.

"The goal of the event is to celebrate the entrepreneurial spirit of Chattanooga," Grizzle said. "Everyone brings something different to the table."

The crowd of about 300 attendees cheered, laughed and applauded as the startups -- which ranged from a guitar maker to a website that sells only curated art -- pitched, persuaded and answered questions.

Pitcher Kyle McClain, who lives in Knoxville, made the trip to Tuesday's competition as part of a bid to raise $125,000 to get his mobile app, Gludi, off the ground. The app would help people diagnosed with Type II diabetes both manage their symptoms and connect with a support community, he said.

"It can be a lonely disease and there aren't great ways to make it easier," McClain, who was recently diagnosed with Type II diabetes, told the crowd during his pitch. He finished in third place after the judges were wary of his plan to charge a $2.99 per month subscription for the app.

"We think the idea has a lot of potential, he just needs to figure out how to make money on it," said judge Kristina Montague. She is a managing partner of a brand-new Chattanooga angel fund, The JumpFund, which will invest in women-led companies.

"Will this Float?" is in its fourth iteration, and a handful of now-successful local businesses are past 'Will this Float?' winners. The first winner, Supply Hog, is now selling building supplies in 49 states, said founder Nathan Derrick. Another past winner is Node, which manufactures sensors that communicate with smart phones and other mobile devices.

Both companies are growing and still locally based.

"Whoever wins has big shoes to fill," Grizzle said.

Contact staff writer Shelly Bradbury at 423-757-6525 or sbradbury@timesfreepress.com.

about Shelly Bradbury...

Shelly Bradbury covers police and crime in Chattanooga and Hamilton County for the Times Free Press. She's been with the paper since 2012, working first as an intern and then as a business reporter. She is from Houghton, New York, and graduated from Huntington University in Huntington, Indiana, with a bachelor’s degree in journalism and minor in management. Before moving to Tennessee, Shelly previously interned with The Goshen News, The Sandusky Register and The Mint ...

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