Last week, 11graduates of the The Company Lab’s Fall Accelerator pitched their business ideas, and four of them are in the beta phases.

The Company Lab
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CO.LABis a nonprofit startup accelerator that supportsentrepreneurial growth in Southeast Tennessee.

Its employees work with a wide range of companies to connect leaders with the resources they need to grow.

The four businesses profiled below already have products on the market, which they are improving before they scale their companies.

The others who pitched are in the alpha stage and have created working prototypes. Click hereto read brief descriptions of all the companies.

What follows is a brief introduction and Q&A on each company.

Reunion Yarn Co.,Emily Felix
Emily Felix and her husband/co-founder Michael are both originally from the South and recently came to Chattanooga because of the “beautiful landscape.” And Emily said that the “blazing fast Internet doesn’t hurt” either.

She’s worked as aanimator and designer but then went back to school to get a master’s degree in textiles.

Michaelhas a professional background in user experience and industrial design.

“And [he is an] incredibly creative problem-solver, which comes in handy while we start Reunion Yarn Co.,” Emily said via email.

Tell me about your startup.
Reunion Yarn Co. uses minimal electricity and water to unravel second-hand sweaters into beautiful skeins of yarn for knitters, crocheters and crafters alike.

We aren’t limited by local fibers and natural dyes, allowing our customers more freedom to use bright colors and a variety of fibers without the guilt of supporting unethical and environmentally damaging practices.

What are the next steps for your startup?
While we are currently making and selling yarn, we have a long way to go to reach our goal of revolutionizing the textile industry.

Our immediate goals are to get more people talking about our idea (like following us on social media and through our email newsletter).

We will be launching a crowdfunding campaign soon to raise money to purchase some more equipment to cut down on processing labor, as right now it’s very labor-intensive.

As we scale, the labor and processing will be the most important bit of development that could make or break us. But first we need to build a strong community of believers in our mission to help us reach our crowdfunding goal.

My Smart Garden,Daniel Leake

Leakehas been in Chattanooga for five years. He originally moved here for a corporate job but then grew an online retail side business. That has freed up some of his time to work on his other passions, he said via email.

“I’ve always been a creator and fixer,” he said. “My first invention was an automatic apple-slicer at age 7, which took up a good portion of my family’s garage. (My family still reminds me of that monstrosity.)”

In high school, he worked on several farms in Kansas, where he said he learned how challenging traditional gardening and farming can be.

“So when my wife told me she thought we should have a garden, I balked,” he said. “Mostly because I’m lazy. I have no interest in tilling soil, pulling weeds and daily maintenance in the hopes of some vegetables.”

That led him to look for ways to grow the best possible plants while avoiding a large time commitment and risk.

Tell me about your startup.
For those who aren’t familiar, hydroponics is a gardening method where plants are grown in nutrient water instead of soil. The result is higher yield plants using only 10 percent of the water of traditional gardening, and it can be done anywhere from a backyard to an apartment balcony.

In a world where we have global food and water shortages and a growing number of people who care about where their food comes from, hydroponics is mankind’s best answer.

But, it’s also tough. Until now, it was only for experienced gardeners because it requires careful management, and one mistake can wreck an entire garden in a day.

My Smart Garden makes hydroponics easy by helping growers remotely monitor and manage their gardens.

By placing our sensor set in their garden, growers are able to track the eight variables that are essential for hydroponics. Then if any sensor is in a dangerous range, they get an alert before it’s too late.

Novice gardeners are able to select the exact plants they are growing and get pre-set ranges that are ideal for their specific plants. Expert gardeners can make use of historical and predictive data to connect with their plants like they never have before.

We see the fast-growing interest in home automation, urban gardening and legalized cannabis as perfect triggers for our product.

Unlike any other product available, our [Internet of things] automation tool is specifically for hydroponic gardens, allows for remote monitoring and management, and makes use of real data from gardens around the globe.

Food and water problems aren’t going away. We’re building a global network of smarter, connected gardens.

What are the next steps for your startup?
We’re beta testing with a number of gardens in the Chattanooga area.

Our next step will be to turn our working prototype into a manufacturable product.

We’d love to connect with any electrical design mentors in Chattanooga who are familiar with custom PCB design and production.

Sawdust and Sod, Kelli Munczenski
Raised in Chattanooga, Munczenski graduated from CSAS and then got an undergraduate degree from The University of Mississippi.

“I fell in love with business during my senior year and went directly into finance after graduation,” she said.

Now she has 10 years of experience infinance and business development with Fortune 500 companies, she said.

After she got married and had a son, she struggled with being a working mother. Balancing motherhood and long hours was difficult.

“It didn’t feel right to me,” she said. “I knew that with technology, we can work faster, smarter, and from just about anywhere in the world, at any time of day. I knew that there was a way for me to be both the hands-on mom, and the business person I want to be.With Sawdust and Sod, I’ve found a balance.”

Tell me about your startup.
Sawdust and Sod is a home improvement marketplace, connecting home owners directly to local contractors.

Basically, if you need help fast, you can find and book the service you need in about 60 seconds.

We currently have about 100 Chattanooga area contractors registered. They range from landscapers to interior designers, to flooring specialists, to roofers and more.

We are frequently asked if we are like Angie’s List. The answer is no.

We run a true peer to peer platform and do not play middle man.

It is positioned as a service to the contractors and does not cost them anything, ever. We make money by a service fee added to the total cost of the booking. In our research, our target market said they would be more than willing to pay a little more for the convenience.

What are the next steps for your startup?
We are opening for business next week.

In addition, we are working on a $250,000 capital raise for three key hires and operating capital for the next six months.

We will reevaluate our needs once we see how our revenue looks.

If each of our existing contractors book just two jobs per week, the revenue for our first 12 months will be around $936,000.

We are also getting ready to start building our contractor inventory in Knoxville, Nashville, Charlotte and Birmingham in the next six weeks and will be opening in those areas later in the year.

Positiffitea,Tiffany Malapanes
Malapanes grew up outside of Chicago, Illinois, and came to Tennessee about six years ago. She attented Middle Tennessee State University, where she got her degree in global studies with a concentration in nutritional science.

About 10 years ago, she started studyingherbal medicine, herbal blending and holistic health. She createdPositiffitea, which is an organic tea blending company, as a hobby while she was in college. To her surprise, the business took off, she said via email.

Tell me about your startup.

Positiffitea is a holistic-focused, organic, fair trade herbal tea blending company based right here in Chattanooga.

Our goal is to create delicious, organic herbal tea blends that pass on positive energy with every cup.

We hand blend every order and use only organic teas and herbs and try and use as many fair trade teas and herbs as possible. Our goal is to make a positive impact on the lives of those who grow and harvest the tea and herbs, as well as everyone who enjoys a cup of our herbal tea.

What are the next steps for your startup?
My next steps for Positiffitea is to expand and start working with some more local businesses around town and to also develop a great team so that Positiffitea can meet the demands of growth.

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