Kenzie Butera pitches her team’s business idea to the panel of judges during this year’s Hatch It competition.

Hatch It Pitches


Kenzie Butera (Women’s Studies)

Beth Rachlin (Psychology)

Christina Buck (Computer Science)

Deep Learning Drone

Murad Al Qurishee, Babatunde Atolagbe, Ammer Abdelhafiz Ali Elnaiem (Civil Engineering)


Andrew Cox (Economics and Entrepreneurship)


Jacquelin O’Gary (Psychology)

Dan Mailman (Computer Science)


Stephanie Honore (Computer Science)

RBS Retrofit

John David Blankenship (Accounting and Finance)

The Mailbox Doctor

Eric Jones (Business Management)


Judges are, from left, Kurt Schaffer, Richard Rhett and Sarah Mattson.


  • Sarah Mattson: Small Business Specialist at the Tennessee Small Business Development Center on the North Shore. She is also a co-owner of Riverside Plumbing.
  • Richard Rhett: Founder and CEO of Sierra Madre Research, an outdoor company that manufactures high-quality camping hammocks, shelters, insulation and accessories. He previously was on Shark Tank and convinced billionaire Richard Branson to invest $175,000 in his company.
  • Kurt Schaffer: Served as Project Management Consultant for NASA for eight years, then founded Episode49, a technology company that provides solutions primarily through web development, digital marketing and search-engine optimization


Kenzie Butera is firing off some alarming statistics.

  • One in five women will be raped in their lifetime.
  • Twenty million Americans are diagnosed yearly with a socially-transmitted disease.
  • Rape is one of the costliest crimes in the U.S. with an annual cost to victims of $127 billion.

But sex education programs are woeful in the U.S., she says, with less than half the states mandating  sex ed and, even then, much of the material is out-of-date, poorly taught and even medically inaccurate. She explains that the lack of good educational materials is the reason she and two other UTC students created BeforeWeBegin, an interactive, customizable web-based program that will teach students about “no means no,” healthy relationships, reporting abuse and other elements of sex education.

“So join me as we educate, equip and empower,” she says, cool and confident.

Her audience, a panel of three judges, were so impressed with Butera’s presentation, they awarded her team first place in this year’s Hatch It competition in which UTC students prepare two-minute pitches then spend three minutes answering questions, all in a quest to convince the judges to “invest” in their product or business idea.

Students in this year’s Hatch It—described as a “nicer” version of TV’s Shark Tank—ranged from majors in business management, accounting and economics to psychology, computer science and engineering. Attracting students from a variety of majors was a specific intent, says Libby Santin, director of the Center for Innovation and Entrepreneurship in the Gary W. Rollins College of Business.

“We really wanted to engage students from across campus and get them excited about entrepreneurship and the passions they were interested in,” she says.

This year’s competition received 35 submissions and seven were selected to give in-depth descriptions on, among other topics, why they thought their product would sell, who the competition was and how the business would actually operate.

Butera, a women’s studies major, partnered with psychology major Beth Rachlin and computer science major Christina Buck to create BeforeWeBegin. As winners, they received $2,000 and a chance to learn more about business accounting and legal issues through workshops at Chattanooga’s Co.Lab.

Second place and $1,000 went to Andrew Cox, an economics and entrepreneurship major who came up with FoodEZ, sort of an Uber for people who want access to healthy, chef-prepared food 24/7 but don’t want to cook. They can look at an online menu for meals in their area, then have it delivered to their home, Cox explains.

Unlike pitch competitions for business students, which often include a breakdown of costs for production, marketing, personnel and other financials, this year’s Hatch It didn’t require those details.

“The real requirement is that they can prove that there is a market for their idea,” Santin says.

But all students can benefit from being able to convince another person that their idea is a good one, she adds.

“The first thing is the ability to sell an idea and get buy-in for an idea,” she says. “It’s rare when students get an opportunity to do that, but it’s very common to have to sell an idea to someone, whether it’s to tell your spouse where you want to go on vacation or your employer to hire two people to help you do the job.”












Media Relations Contacts: Email Shawn Ryan or call (423) 425-4363.