Launch Your Career in Greater Chattanooga
Entrepreneurs enjoy Greater Chattanooga's launch capabilities.
For Clea Klagstad, Greater Chattanooga’s entrepreneurial ecosystem shows itself in numerous ways, whether it’s in the myriad of events that foster opportunities for connection or in spaces like Chattanooga’s downtown Innovation District that invite collaboration.
“The Innovation District has public spaces, coffee, shops and restaurants that are all accessible by a free shuttle,â€ says Klagstad, owner of environmental consulting firm Circadian Consulting. “When I moved back here, the downtown area had already become a kind of hub. If you want to connect with anybody about branding, any kind of business know-how or just how to do something, you’re constantly running into people who are trying to start a business that can help you do what you are trying to do. It’s just endless.”
The opportunity for connection blends with affordability and an active, outdoor-oriented lifestyle that appeals to entrepreneurs. The region’s rivers, mountains and forests appeal to rock climbers, hikers and water sports enthusiasts who enjoy paddleboarding, kayaking and whitewater rafting.
The region’s collaborative and nurturing environment has generated new companies and new innovations across a range of tech-oriented sectors, including health care IT, logistics and education technology, with many taking advantage of the nation’s first 10-gig broadband network offered by municipally owned utility EPB to businesses and residents.
That roster includes Chattanooga-based consumer-focused medical device company Hollywog, which develops and manufactures a portfolio of ergonomic and drug-free pain-relief products that employ transcutaneous electric nerve stimulation (TENS) technology. The company’s WiTouch Pro wireless Bluetooth-controlled TENS device transmits electric currents to the nerves through the skin, flooding the nervous system with electric impulses that reduce its ability to transmit pain signals to the spinal cord and brain.
E&G Associates, a company founded by a former University of Tennessee-Chattanooga professor, is helping the U.S. Navy use 3D printing to make explosives. The engineering consulting and contract research firm specializes in handling bulk solids and powders often used in industries such as food production and pharmaceuticals. In 2017, the company helped the Navy with research to turn plastic explosives into a nylon powder that could be fed into an off-the-shelf 3D printer to make explosive charges of varying shapes.
Like Circadian Consulting, E&G is a tenant company in the Hamilton County INCubator, a 127,000-square-foot facility that is the largest incubator in Tennessee and third- largest in the U.S. Since the 1980s, the INCubator has helped more than 600 businesses launch.
The INCubator is part of a network of resources across the region that aid startups. Another incubator, Proof, offers hands-on coaching, mentorship, resources for best practices and workshops to help entrepreneurs in the food and beverage industry improve and expand their businesses. CO.LAB, a nonprofit startup accelerator in Chattanooga, helps businesses scale into major markets with everything from advice on refining business models to connecting with mentors and attracting capital. LAUNCH Chattanooga offers business training, support and business resources to underserved entrepreneurs.
Co-working spaces, such as Society of Work and Workhorse, cater to remote workers, telecommuters and entrepreneurs.
In Whitfield County, GA, is the Dalton Innovation Accelerator. One of its signature events is an annual startup competition, PitchDIA, that offers cash prizes, office space and other services to the winners.
The Cleveland/Bradley Business Center in Cleveland, Tennessee, minimizes the risks of starting a business by offering the latest innovations in business technology in an affordable space where companies can launch and grow.
Downtown Chattanooga’s Innovation District is a vibrant and highly walkable neighborhood with ample public spaces, coffee shops and eateries linked by a free electric shuttle and a bike-share program, all designed to attract knowledge economy talent and promote collaboration.
The 10-story Edney Innovation Center anchors the district, housing CO.LAB, The Enterprise Center and Society of Work and serves as a support base and catalyst for entrepreneurial companies in the region. The center includes a number of community spaces and hosts numerous events.
“When I moved back here, there were really no specialty environmental consulting firms that focused on the green side of development,â€ Klagstad says. “I knew about all the things that were there to help start a business because my mom would send me stuff, and, obviously, one of the things that makes it successful is that it fills a need. Chattanooga is going through a development boom.”
The Critterbox Feeder
When Brandon and Felicia Smith’s 5-year-old son wanted a reptilian sidekick, the couple added a bearded dragon to the family, a lizard that, when young, needs to be fed multiple times a day. When the Smiths were planning a vacation, they had a hard time finding a pet-sitter willing to dish out live bait several times per day. And from that dilemma, the Critterbox Feeder was born.
Unable to find an automated feeder on the market, the Smiths invented one. The prototype, created in January 2018, was a rectangular wooden box with seven bait stables and doors. By March of that year, they upgraded their design using AutoCAD computer-aided design and drafting software and made a prototype with 3D printing technology. By September 2019, their design had gone through several iterations. They obtained a patent for their invention, adding an automated smart device that feeds the reptile while owners are away. Using an app on a smart device, the individual doors’ openings are controlled or can be scheduled to open at predetermined times.
In October 2019, the Critterbox Feeder won the PitchDIA competition sponsored by the Dalton Innovation Accelerator (DIA) to mimic the television show Shark Tank. The entrepreneurs won $5,000 and six months of office space at the DIA in the Landmark Building in downtown Dalton, plus various professional services like information technology and legal help designed to kick-start their business.
If you’d like to learn more about the greater Chattanooga area, check out the latest edition of Chattanooga Region Economic Development.