Articles

Startup Week in Chattanooga, Tenn., Kicks Off

Chattanooga is trying to develop businesses in its downtown Innovation District, and this week's Startup Week includes more than 150 events and activities for entrepreneurs and investors.

by Dave Flessner, Chattanooga Times/Free Press, Tenn. / October 4, 2016

(TNS) -- Felicia Jackson has worked as a physical therapist assistant for more than 20 years, but even she concedes that when her young son got a piece of candy stuck in his throat, she nearly forgot how to respond.

"When it is your child or someone close to you, it's easy to panic and forget what you should do," Jackson said.

Her husband dislodged the candy, but the near fatal experience convinced Jackson to pursue an idea she had long had to develop a device to guide nearly anyone through how to rescue someone who has stopped breathing.

Jackson developed the CPR Lifewrap, a disposable plastic sleeve with pre-marked hand placements and easy-to-follow instructions, and last Friday she launched a Kickstarter campaign to raise $50,000 to begin mass production of the device. Today, she also will pitch her idea to investors and other businesses along with other entrepreneurs who have gone through the Launch program and are presenting their businesses as a part of Startup Week in Chattanooga.

On Monday, Jackson also met with one of the nation's most successful female startup investors during the kickoff to Startup Week in Chattanooga. Kay Koplovitz founded USA Networks and the Springboard venture fund that has helped pump more than $7 billion of investment capital into hundreds of women-owned businesses.

Koplovitz is the first woman to head a television network. She urged local entrepreneurs to find a new technology, service or approach just as she did with satellite television four decades ago.

Jackson said she thinks she has a unique niche for her product and has begun production.

"Chattanooga has become an incredible place for starting a business and getting help in following your business dreams," she said.

Jackson said she sketched out the design for the plastic sleeve a couple of years ago after seeing it in a dream. The idea was converted into a business plan with the help of Launch and the Company Lab in Chattanooga. She is so confident in the business she gave up her physical therapy job last month to work full time on her new venture.

"I'm really not afraid, just excited," she said.

Such startups are what Chattanooga is trying to develop in its downtown Innovation District and with this week's Startup Week, which includes more than 150 events and activities for startup businesses and their investors.

"This is the biggest Startup Week in the state and it continues to grow every year," said Charlie Brock, CEO of Launch Tennessee, the state-funded agency that works to promote and grow more startup businesses in Tennessee. "It's a great opportunity for entrepreneurs to learn more about starting a business, and to make the connections with others to help be successful."

Gregg Higgins, founder and owner of beConnected Branding + Design, said his experience with Startup Week in Chattanooga a year ago helped launch his business.

"It was a year ago that I plugged into the last Startup week and my business just took off," he said.

©2016 the Chattanooga Times/Free Press (Chattanooga, Tenn.) Distributed by Tribune Content Agency, LLC.