8 Companies to Watch in 2020

Area Businesses Poised for Big Success

 

Local entrepreneurs’ products and services are creating new industries and challenging what’s possible in existing industries ready to evolve.

 

By Camille Platt

 

 

 

Photos by Taylor English Photography

 

Small Batch Bitters, Herbalist Style

The Bitter Bottle

 

Kaleena Goldsworthy-Warnock founder of the Bitter Bottle

Kaleena Goldsworthy-Warnock

A newbie to Chattanooga from New York in 2013, Kaleena Goldsworthy-Warnock had worked as a manager and bartender at The Flying Squirrel for five and a half years when books on historic cocktail culture captured her attention. “Back then, people would turn to bartenders because they had found a way to preserve the medicinal and nutritional qualities of botanicals and alcohol, and they were serving them as drinks to people,” Goldsworthy-Warnock explains. “That to me was the coolest thing. I never had looked at alcohol that way.”

Goldsworthy-Warnock’s interest led her to herbalism, a medicinal practice based on the use of plant and plant extracts. She quickly became enamored by the concept and began making her own bitters, which are potent flavoring agents made by infusing alcohol with aromatic herbs, fruits, and more. When added to a cocktail, bitters accentuate other flavors and add complexity.

How It’s Disrupting the Industry: 

Because bitters are made using alcohol, state law restricted their distribution, thus creating a roadblock for Goldsworthy-Warnock. But in 2017, she was able to offer input on a bill reform that better regulated bitters and allowed her to move forward with her company. Today, she is working to have her products identified as non-beverage, which would make The Bitter Bottle the first alcohol-based bitters company in the state.

2019 in Review:

The Bitter Bottle quietly released its first round of products at MAINx24 in December 2019. Her first three products – Roasted Dandelion Root Bitters, Chocolate Cherry Bark Bitters, and Elderberry & Echinacea Elixir – are made from organic or wild harvest botanicals. Before the end of the year, The Bitter Bottle products had been used at Wildflower Tea Shop, The Flying Squirrel, and Whiskey Thief. “Bartenders love things that are strange and unique and weird. Everyone wants to be the first person to work with a different ingredient, which is why our bitters are different from even craft bitters companies,” Goldsworthy-Warnock says. “We’re trying to do things that are exciting and strange, but they are crafted using the techniques of modern herbalism.”

Outlook for 2020:

The Bitter Bottle will release three new bitters in March, continue partnerships with local distilleries, and begin sourcing herbs from local farmers as well. It’s making those relational connections in the food and beverage industry that will drive The Bitter Bottle into the future.

Top: Tyler Seaberg, CEO and Co-founder; Annalisa D’Andrea, Marketing Specialist

Seated: Kenston O’Neal, Senior Developer; Ryan Seaberg, Vice President and Co-founder

 

Photo by Emily Long

 

 

Adding Blockchain Technology to e-Prescribing

EirSystems, Inc.

 

EirSystems’ software is designed to give physicians a more complete picture when it comes to prescribing medication, but its applications don’t stop there. It can also ensure a prescription falls under a patient’s insurance plan and tell the patient the out-of-pocket expense he or she can expect at different pharmacies. It’s even expected to make an impact on the opioid crisis. Brothers Tyler and Ryan Seaberg have found a way to track a prescription from the moment it’s e-prescribed by a physician and provide details on the patient’s overall drug history to highlight potential red flags.

How It’s Disrupting the Industry:

Using blockchain technology, which is a record keeping technology that tracks changes and provides time stamps, the Seabergs hope to provide better organization to the health care industry. Their first platform, P.A.G.R. (Prescription Abuse Greatly Reduced), provides prescription tracking and oversight. For opioids, the software automatically verifies that the prescription is compliant to state and federal prescription law and then connects the data to the Drug Enforcement Administration (DEA) and National Pharmacy Oversight Board. “Our software is able to search multiple databases and build medical profiles,” Tyler says. “That way, if a patient comes in and tries to hide some medications they’ve been taking, or if they simply just forgot what they were taking, we can supply that information to the doctor right then and there.”

2019 in Review:

Last year, Enterprise Security Magazine named EirSystems a Top 10 Blockchain Solutions Provider. The company grew from a two-man operation to 13 employees, and the software became backed by professional investors looking to make the prescribing portal a success in 2020.

Outlook for 2020:

Originally planning to only go to market with the doctor portal this spring, EirSystems will now be launching both doctor and pharmacy portals. The Seabergs estimate the product will initially become popular among small or rural hospitals and clinics and independent pharmacies.

Andy Carroll and Bill Rogers

 

 

Data Collection by Unmanned Aerial Systems

Skytec, LLC

 

Skytec’s drones can perform high-end industrial inspections and utility inspections; take geographical measurements or create maps and 3-D models based on imaging or scans; and monitor natural resource management in locations such as wetlands, stream restorations, and U.S. Environmental Protection Agency Superfund sites. Founded by Bill Rogers and Andy Carroll after the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) approved the use of small, unmanned aircraft for commercial purposes, the company offers both data collection and data analytics. “We’re in a data-driven world, so our clients need the most robust, high-end data possible gathered by the latest tools. And that’s our specialty,” Rogers says.

Why It’s a Company to Watch:

Rogers and Carroll launched Skytec with a three pound battery-powered drone in 2015. Today, they’re flying four aircrafts suited for different needs – one a gasoline-powered hybrid aircraft with a sensor on board, weighing in at about 50 pounds. It’s the cutting edge of what’s available technologically to stay within the confines of the FAA.

In 2016, Skytec had team members in Chattanooga and Atlanta alone. Rogers and Carroll added Pensacola, Florida, in 2018 and Houston, Texas, last year. Every year since inception, Skytec has increased its revenue by double or more. “To date, we have analyzed and delivered analytical information on almost half a million acres,” Rogers explains. Skytec’s specialty is LiDAR, a remote sensing technology that uses pulses of light to measure distance of objects from the sensor. It’s a technology that has become so accurate, it works through coverings and dense canopies and is one of the best services for mapping, inspecting surfaces, and generating 3-D models.

2019 in Review:

Last year, Skytec began flying for Tennessee Valley Authority (TVA), providing an alternative to employees climbing 200 feet into the air to inspect communication microwave towers on Raccoon Mountain. During the inspection, Skytec gathered mapping data to create a 3-D image of the structure. In 2019, the company also became a silver partner with Esri, which operates what is known as the best mapping and spatial analytics software in the world.

Outlook for 2020:

New partnerships may mean that satellite imagery is the future of Skytec, suggesting that the company could truly manage a client’s aerial data need from any distance.

(First) Hemp: referred to in industry as “biomass”

(Second) Chief Science Officer, Nobi Obias PhD, and Director of Quality Assurance, Mel Tipa, review a product analytics test.

 

 

Product Development Assistance in Hemp Processing

Landrace Bioscience

 

The cannabis and hemp industry is relatively new, and many companies are trying to get products to market using an ingredient that poses a lot of challenges. A business-to-business manufacturer, Landrace Bioscience manufactures and sells wholesale pharmaceutical grade hemp extracts while helping similar businesses troubleshoot their own processes. The company was founded locally just before Congress passed the 2018 Farm Bill, which allowed for industrial hemp to be legally grown, processed, and sold in Tennessee and nationwide.

Why It’s a Company to Watch:

Landrace Bioscience layers a service model on top of its manufacturing business. “Our competitors are generally creating hemp extracts and selling ingredients. We decided to pursue a product development service model where we engage with the customer in addressing some of the product development challenges that they are running into – manufacturing constraints, or parameters for marketing on the final product development,” CEO John DeMoss says. “Those create very unique challenges, so we come alongside them, solve those challenges, and help them bring a higher quality product to market more quickly.” Cannabidiol (CBD), for example, is not soluble in water. But in some applications, it needs to be. In fact, Landrace Bioscience created a technology that solubilizes hemp extract in a water-based delivery system.

2019 in Review:

A company originally dreamt up by John Hetzler and Ryan Piersant in 2018, Landrace Bioscience named DeMoss as CEO in January 2019. Last year, the company was a finalist for The Spirit of Innovation Award, presented by the Chattanooga Area Chamber of Commerce, and grew from two part-time employees to 28 full-time employees. Landrace Bioscience also purchased a 40,000-square-foot facility on Amnicola Highway, as well as approximately $5 million in equipment for industrial-scale hemp processing.

Outlook for 2020:

Landrace Bioscience recently announced a partnership with Abacus Health Products to supply hemp extracts for their over-the-counter and non-prescription topical brands. The company will also be working with Abacus to develop new products for former professional football champion Rob Gronkowski’s upcoming CBD line. In addition, the company will expand operations into Europe, developing relationships with distributors in Italy, the Netherlands, and Slovenia.

 

L to R: Rush Feldhacker (Branch Manager, Tampa), Heath Haley (CEO), and Carter Garrett (Vice President)

 

Relationship First, Then Reliability

Trident Transport

 

When a company or an individual needs a product shipped, Trident Transport relies on clear, consistent communication to make it happen. Matching freight with a carrier in their network, the company is founded first on honesty. CEO Heath Haley and COO Mark Harrell insist success is not about promising the lowest price – it’s about offering the best service. “Telling your customers the truth and following through with what you say you’re going to do – that’s how you land business,” Harrell says.

Why It’s a Company to Watch:

Named two years in a row in the Top 500 fastest growing companies in the nation by Inc., Trident Transport launched with four employees in 2013, offering only truckload services. Today, the company has 150 employees – 100 located in Chattanooga – and is a full-service logistics provider. That means they can offer truckload, air, ocean, intermodal (two or more different types of transportation), domestic, international services, and more. Haley says what makes their brokerage stand out is being innovative with employees. Employees who feel well-trained, engaged, happy, and valued will in turn be motivated and reliable for customers. Keen on recruiting young talent and keeping the office enjoyable, Trident Transport prides itself on its putting greens, basketball goals, and arcade games, as well as competitive pay, uncapped commission, and unlimited vacation policy (new in 2019). In addition, each year the team dresses up for Halloween and delivers candy to inpatients at Children’s Hospital at Erlanger.

2019 in Review:

Trident Transport has doubled its revenue every year for five straight years. In 2019, the company also doubled its workforce. Expanding beyond the Scenic City, Trident Transport opened a branch in Tampa, Florida, in February and a branch in Minneapolis, Minnesota, in July. Last year, the company was also a Top Three Finalist for the 2019 Small Business of the Year Award, presented by the Chattanooga Area Chamber of Commerce.

Outlook for 2020:

Harrell and Haley will add an interactive way to share metrics within the office this year. “We have developed a proprietary gaming platform for our employees to show the metrics that we measure every day,” Harrell says, “to motivate them and help motivate each other – and ultimately, to make the job more fun for employees.”

 

 

When two become one: The Full Ninox FlatLay System paired with the Inferno Insulation System, both successful Kickstarter campaigns

 

Photos by Casey Hyde

 

Comfort, Light, & Warmth on the Trail

Sierra Madre Research

 

Richard and Juli Rhett first found acclaim when they made a deal with Richard Branson on ABC’s “Shark Tank” in 2017, agreeing to a business partnership and a $175,000 investment on their Nubé Hammock Shelter. But really, Sierra Madre Research, an outdoor company committed to innovation, was born years earlier when Richard traveled to rural Honduras and slept outside using gear that let him down. He came home, purchased a $50 sewing machine, and got to work. Sierra Madre Research moved from Vicksburg, Mississippi, to Chattanooga in 2018 for the outdoor amenities and for the entrepreneurial scene. 

With seven fully funded Kickstarter campaigns under its belt, the company has made a name for itself for not only providing comfort outdoors but also for using a percentage of profits to dig freshwater wells in Central America. 

Why It’s a Company to Watch: 

“Innovation is our primary focus,” Richard says. “I feel like the outdoor industry has become a little bit stale. There are a lot of people who are regurgitating the same kind of things – changing colors, doing slight updates. We search for problems, and we bring solutions to the marketplace. We’re doing it in a way that really connects with our customer.” By listening to customer feedback on what irks them in a tent or on the trail, Sierra Madre recently launched the Ninox FlatLay Hammock, which allows individuals who have never been able to achieve a good night’s sleep outdoors the chance to finally lay flat, lay diagonally, sleep on their side, or sleep on their stomach. 

sierra madre research hot pocket warmer

2019 in Review: 

Last year, Sierra Madre’s revenues were up 330% over 2018. Richard and his team created eight new products, launched several patents, and worked on restructuring leadership roles within the company.

Outlook for 2020: 

Long anticipated and available this spring, the newest product by Sierra Madre Research is The Hot Pocket, a stuff sack with twin battery-powered heat panels that allows you to heat your sleeping bag and clothing. The first of its kind, it operates by push button, and each heat cycle lasts 15 minutes before automatically shutting off. Campers can preheat their sleeping bag before removing it from the stuff sack, then once they go to bed, they can treat The Hot Pocket like a heated blanket inside their sleeping bag.

Jewelry Insurance in an Instant

Zillion

 

The value of a piece of jewelry isn’t just in the monetary expense but also in the memory it captures. But historically, insuring a piece of jewelry required paperwork and waiting to receive a quote or secure a policy. By partnering with retailers, Zillion changes the experience so customers can have their items covered immediately after a purchase, before they leave the store. And the protection is attractive. Backed by one of the largest insurers in the world, AXA XL, customers will be covered come theft, damage, loss, acts of God, or mysterious disappearance (think “oh no … where did I put it”), and Zillion will repair or replace an insured piece of jewelry for no out-of-pocket cost.

Why It’s a Company to Watch:

Jewelers partnering with Zillion will help customers insure their pieces using technology integration that takes the guesswork out of how long it will take to determine eligibility and how much a policy should cost. “We feel there’s data here that answers all these questions, and that data belongs to the customer. At the end of the day, we have the opportunity to make it both easy and transparent,” says co-founder and Chief Technology Officer Craig Lyons. “We work with a jeweler to provide a one-click insurance experience because there’s no reason the customer should have the burden of maintaining and entering that information to determine eligibility, and furthermore, they shouldn’t have to wait days and days to get a quote and get a policy.”

2019 In Review:

Zillion’s engineering team operates out of Chattanooga, and Lyons explains that 2019 was ultimately a year of positive feedback and growth. “Our goal in 2019 was delivering a revolutionary experience at an attractive cost using cutting-edge technology,” he explains. The company also sponsored a number of events and organizations in town including ChaDev, Gig City Elixir, Chattanooga Technology Council, Scenic City Summit, Groxio Elixir Mentoring, and Gratefull Chattanooga.

Outlook for 2020:

This year will mean continued growth and market share in the United States as the company looks to expand internationally. Lyons explains, “We do that by focusing on our customers and jewelry partners as we continue to deliver the best and easiest jewelry insurance in the industry.”

CEO Chantz Yanagida poses in one of Hamilton County’s VW eLabs.

Training High School Students in Technology Repair

eLab Repairs

 

In 2018, Chantz Yanagida spent 200 volunteer hours on the construction and maintenance of VW eLabs in Hamilton County Schools. Over the course of the year, he repaired about 20 3-D printers and three laser cutters, including devices at his alma mater, Hixson High School. A graduate of the mechanical engineering program at UTC, he saw a need for long-term support of digital fabrication labs in education. The premise behind eLab Repairs isn’t simply fixing educational technology as needed – it’s providing students with diagnostic devices and training so they can learn how to fix the technology themselves. 

Why It’s a Company to Watch:

“Digital fabrication labs are becoming a standard in K-12 STEAM education, and they are teaching our students critical skills that will make them competitive in the growing tech market,” Yanagida says. “We are obsoleting the repair side of our business and giving the power of repair to students. We believe that it is critical for our students to know both how to use a machine and how to repair it.” eLab Repairs has manufactured a device called eLab Rx, which works like a diagnostic scanner for a car. Made for digital fabrication equipment, the device will provide diagnostics for malfunctioning 3-D printers, laser cutters, and computer-controlled cutting machines; work with a web application to walk the student through steps for repair; and provide estimates for the purchase of repair equipment available through eLab Repairs.

2019 in Review:

Last year, eLab Repairs partnered with Hamilton County Schools, the Public Education Foundation, the University of Tennessee at Chattanooga, and local private companies to gather data and build instructional videos geared toward high school students for eLab Rx. Yanagida also won $15,000 from LaunchTN 36|86 Student Pitch competition and received the ChaTech Early Innovator Award.

Outlook for 2020:

eLab Repairs plans to launch eLab Rx, compatible with at least five different types of 3-D printers, into open beta by the fourth quarter of this year. By 2021, the device will be compatible with 10 brands of 3-D printers, with diagnostic processes being translated to desktop laser cutters and computer-controlled cutting machines as well. Yanagida is also hopeful for a Small Business Innovation Research grant from the Department of Education, which would yield $200,000 for research on eLab Rx efficacy at STEM School of Chattanooga. CS

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