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Two University of Tennessee, Knoxville, student startups were named to the national Student Startup Madness (SSM) pitch competition. Andy’s Beekeeping was selected for the competition’s semifinal round. Digital publication Abled Magazine was named in the competition’s initial round. Both companies were chosen from applicants representing 54 universities and colleges nationwide.

As a semifinalist, Andy’s Beekeeping will compete in a pool of 32 companies for the honor of presenting in the final round of competition at South by Southwest (SXSW) Interactive in Austin, Texas, in March. Initial competition rounds are held online.

Andy’s Beekeeping, a business providing all-natural honey and beeswax products, was founded by Andrew Swafford, a senior plant sciences major in UT’s Herbert College of Agriculture.

Andrew Swafford

“It’s always nice to receive recognition for hard work,” said Swafford, who began beekeeping while in high school in his hometown of Pikeville, Tennessee. During this time, he became passionate about the importance of honeybees.

“It’s encouraging to receive greater visibility to promote local agricultural pursuits and educate others on the significance of the decreasing bee population,” said Swafford.

Andy’s Beekeeping produces several types of honey along with a line of beeswax lip balms and salves in a variety of scents. Swafford sells these products locally and nationally through the company’s website.

Abled Magazine, a digital publication celebrating and supporting people with disabilities, was named among the competition’s top 64 companies.

“It feels encouraging and affirming that others believe enough in the vision of Abled Magazine to name it in a national competition,” said co-founder Lindsey NeSmith. “Wins like this push us even harder to create an awesome business to share with the world.”

Lindsey NeSmith

NeSmith, a recent graduate who studied journalism and electronic media in the College of Communication and Information, founded the company along with her brother, Will NeSmith, a sophomore accounting major in the Haslam College of Business. Both are from Franklin, Tennessee.

“When Will became disabled at age 12, we got a close-up view at how little nonmedical information exists about disabilities, and how many false perceptions exist about what people with disabilities are able to do,” said Lindsey NeSmith. “When finding some great information changed Will’s life, we both became passionate about using our resources to advocate for people with disabilities and put positive information out there.”

Andy’s Beekeeping is a past winner of the Vol Court Speaker Series and Pitch Competition and the Graves Business Plan Competition hosted by the Anderson Center for Entrepreneurship and Innovation in the Haslam College of Business. Abled Magazine is a recent winner of the Graves Competition. The student entrepreneurs received funding and feedback through the competitions to help grow their startups, in addition to mentorship and support through the Anderson Center.

Student Startup Madness is the only nationwide collegiate tournament focused on digital media startups. The top eight student startups will pitch their businesses to investors, technologists, and entrepreneurs at SXSW.


Carrie McCamey (865-974-9964,