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Boyd Venture Fund
From left: Randy Boyd, president and CEO of Radio Systems Corp.; Jake Baron, UT alumnus and creator of Casenova; and Tom Graves, director of operations for the Anderson Center for Entrepreneurship and Innovation.

KNOXVILLE—The designer of a single-strap knapsack that reduces stress on the back is the latest recipient of a $12,500 grant from the University of Tennessee, Knoxville, Boyd Venture Fund.

The fund is administered through the Anderson Center for Entrepreneurship and Innovation in the College of Business Administration.

Jake Baron, UT alumnus and creator of Casenova, was awarded the seed money for his company, Baron Innovations, LLC. He is the second recipient of money from the fund.

As part of the grant, the Anderson Center will connect Baron to a mentor who will help him build his business.

Casenova is a single-strap backpack that redistributes weight evenly throughout the body to reduce stress on the back. Its design, which is pending patent, and Neoprene construction makes it waterproof and lightweight. The product includes strategically placed pockets for easy access to phone, sunglasses, and water bottles, while providing comfort and enhanced security against theft.

The idea for Casenova was born in the fall of Baron’s junior year. He was walking back to his apartment after a long day of classes and as he trekked up and down hills on campus, the weight of his traditional backpack began causing noticeable pain.

He decided to design a better alternative. Baron tested Casenova with UT students.

“All the students in the test were extremely pleased with the added benefits incorporated into Casenova’s unique design,” he said. “I couldn’t have accomplished all that I did without the support, mentoring, and guidance from the Anderson Center faculty.”

The grant will allow Baron, a December 2011 graduate in accounting, to finalize a web-based ordering system and place an initial inventory order with his factory in China.

The Boyd Venture Fund is available to any UT Knoxville student-owned business and is awarded each spring and fall.

“Creating new local businesses is the cornerstone to a community’s success,” said fund benefactor Randy Boyd, president and CEO of Radio Systems Corp. “These businesses create jobs, pay taxes that fund other investments such as education, and support the local community with philanthropy. I cannot imagine a better return on investment than supporting future generations of entrepreneurs.”

The grant from the Boyd Venture Fund is the third Anderson Center competition that Casenova has won. The initial Casenova prototype won first place and $5,000 in the center’s spring 2010 Undergraduate Business Plan Competition. The next fall, Casenova finished second in the Vol Court Pitch Competition.

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