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Danny Smith, winner of the Spring 2010 VolCourt, Tom Graves of CEI and Joy Fisher of UTRF.

KNOXVILLE — Do you have a seed of an idea but need help getting it to grow? The University of Tennessee, Knoxville, is once again providing students, faculty and friends the opportunity to learn from entrepreneurs and business experts from across the state on how to start a business and win a prize to kickstart its growth.

“Vol Court” is a series of one-hour workshops focusing on how to start a business. They begin on Sept. 21. The final session will be a pitch competition where the top two presenters or teams will win cash prizes and valuable business services.

Vol Court will be held Tuesdays at 5:15 p.m. at the Stokely Management Center, Room 701. The program is a joint effort of the UT Research Foundation, the College of Business Administration’s Anderson Center for Entrepreneurship and Innovation (CEI), and Technology 2020’s Center for Entrepreneurial Growth (CEG).

Teams or individuals with the best business ideas will receive up to $1,000 from the Anderson CEI to launch their business, space at the UTRF business incubator, mentoring from CEG, legal advice from Miller & Martin PLLC and accounting services from Parker Business Consulting — a prize package worth more than $23,000. The second prize is worth $8,000 in seed money, incubator space and services.

This year’s schedule is as follows:

  • Sept. 21: Going Pro (Starting Your Own Business)
  • Sept. 28: Practice the Throw
  • Oct. 5: Generating Product Ideas
  • Oct. 12: Knowing your Fans (Who is Your Customer?)
  • Oct. 19: Collecting the Gate (Show Me the Money)
  • Oct. 26: What is Your Game Plan?
  • Nov. 2: Building Your Team
  • Nov. 9: Vol Court Pitch Competition

In the Vol Court Pitch Competition, each team will be given eight minutes to pitch their business idea to a panel of judges that includes a local venture capitalist, current and former entrepreneurs and a lawyer. The judges will have five minutes to ask questions of each team, and then they will decide the winner by consensus.

“Each week gave me a different perspective into the trials and tribulations of an entrepreneur,” said past participant Jon Huber. “If you have a desire to start your own business, then you should take the time and listen to the experts. I began to understand how much I didn’t know about starting a business.”

“VolCourt gave me a huge boost toward my goal of running my own business. As a technical person, I wasn’t aware of everything involved in starting and operating a successful business,” said Greg Shutt, another past participant. “The VolCourt seminars presented several concepts and challenged me to consider how I could apply them to my own business without ever being overwhelming to someone who has never had any business classes.”

For more information on Vol Court, visit

The Anderson CEI facilitates entrepreneurial knowledge creation and dissemination through research, teaching and practice in the area of entrepreneurship. It strives to develop entrepreneurial talent who will start businesses or contribute to the success of existing technology-driven businesses. The center provides experiential learning activities that enhance classroom instruction in entrepreneurship and innovation, offers links between the regional entrepreneurial community and the university, and acts as a hub for cross-campus initiatives that foster the growth of entrepreneurial research and commercially viable enterprises. For more information, visit

The CEG is an entrepreneurial support organization within Technology 2020, one of the primary drivers of innovation and economic development in the region. The CEG helps entrepreneurs develop an execution strategy that leads to a sustainable company. In addition to its strategic planning process, the CEG develops and delivers entrepreneurial training seminars. For more information, visit

UTRF helps turn the ideas and discoveries that emerge from UT into products and services that benefit society. In addition to supporting the growth of research at the university and commercialization of the resulting inventions, UTRF champions entrepreneurship and drives state and regional technology-based economic development. UTRF serves all seven of the UT campuses and institutes across the state. For more information, visit

C O N T A C T:

Joy Fisher (865-974-0520,

Whitney Holmes (865-974-5460,