8 Companies to Watch in 2022

Area Businesses Set Up for Success

Chattanooga’s business community is tech-forward. It’s creative. It’s diverse. From photography to commercial transportation, custom birdseed to the Cloud, we’re tracking eight companies set up for success in 2022. 

By Camille Platt

Bold, Minimalist Outdoor Apparel 

Handup

 

Cody Wallis grew up dirt bike racing and converted to cycling when he moved to Chattanooga eight years ago. He wasn’t a fan of the gloves on the market, so he put his design skills to work and made his own. It was a minimalist approach: no padding in the palm, bold graphics, and a quippy saying when you put your hands together. With success in gloves for mountain biking and road biking came a brand expansion into apparel.

 

Why It’s a Company to Watch: 

After the success of its signature A.T. Pants as well as gloves for golf and snow, Handup released the Stretch Jorts, which was reviewed by The Wall Street Journal in June 2021. Next came the Hawaiian shirt. Wallis runs his company with his wife, Jamie, and says that each piece is aiming for casual wear that can transition from, say, Stringer’s Ridge during the day to the Northshore at night.

 

Jamie and Cody Wallis, Founders of HandUp

Jamie and Cody Wallis, Founders

2021 in Review:

Handup sold more than 125,000 units last year, and revenue rose by 42% year over year from 2020. Operating at 60% direct-to-consumer ecommerce and 40% brick and mortar, Handup is distributed to bike shops nationally through the largest distributor of bike components and apparel in North America. Available at REI, Mike’s Bikes, Midwest sporting goods store Scheels, and Level Nine Sports in Utah, Handup was also the best-selling glove on bicycle parts and accessories site QBP.com in August 2021.

 

Outlook for 2022: 

In cycling, a hand-up is the hand-off of a water bottle, a beer, a dollar bill – or perhaps even a piece of bacon – from friends standing in the pit to cheer you on. The Wallises’ plan is to continue to use their products to embody the lighthearted moments in cycling, hiking, skiing, and golf. Their goal for this year is to expand their product line and grow Handup by at least 30%, including opportunities internationally.

Erlanger Web Ad

Sharae Moore, Founder

(First) Photo by Lanewood Studio; (Second) Photo Courtesy of Uber Freight

 

Mentoring Women & Minorities in Commercial Transportation

S.H.E. TRUCKING

 

Founded by Sharae Moore, S.H.E. Trucking began as a clothing line for women in the transportation industry. Hoping to empower women in careers not traditionally held by women, Moore also created a social media community to provide encouragement and support for women across America in the trucking industry. In 2019, she established a commercial driver’s license permit class in Chattanooga and graduated more than 100 truck drivers in a six-month timespan. Today, S.H.E. Trucking partners with the U.S. Department of Labor and their National Apprenticeship intermediary, Fastport, to support motor carriers looking to begin training apprentices.

 

Why It’s a Company to Watch: 

S.H.E. Trucking is the largest global women’s trucking organization with more than 30,000 members in its professional network. Last September, the S.H.E Trucking Expo was hosted in Chattanooga during National Truck Driver Appreciation Week. The event brought more than 1,000 potential and professional truck drivers and logistics and supply chain leaders to the Scenic City.

 

2021 in Review:

Last year, in an effort to bring more women and minorities into trucking, Moore was invited by the U.S. Department of Labor to participate in a White House roundtable alongside other key tranportation industry leaders. S.H.E. Trucking also received national and regional awards, including CNN Champions for Change and Chattanooga Micro-Business of the Year. Moore was named a National Truckin’ Magazine Industry Legend Driver and self-published the book BUILDING A LEGACY: How I Created a Life-Changing Legacy in the Trucking Industry!

 

Outlook for 2022:

Moore plans to purchase commercial property for S.H.E. Truck Driving Academy and will collaborate with more trucking company employee partners for her national apprenticeship program for young adults ages 18 to 21. With a revenue goal of $1.2 million, Moore also plans to lobby for maternity pay in the transportation industry and expand her commercial driver’s license program with added programs that focus on safety and endorsements certifications.


Photos Courtesy of MaxTrans Logistics

 

Trust Your People, Utilize Your Assets

MaxTrans Logistics

 

An intermediary that connects mom-and-pop carriers to customers with goods that need shipping, MaxTrans Logistics has been named by Inc. 5000 as one of the fastest-growing private companies in America three years in a row. The company was founded in 2014 and started with zero revenue, but has since grown organically into an $88 million company hosted in four different locations. MaxTrans operates independently under President Joe Etheredge, but it falls under the umbrella of GuideOn Group, which operates with managing partner Mike McCallie at the helm. 

 

Why It’s a Company to Watch: 

Etheredge says the company’s success is driven by culture. “We invest in our people with training and a commitment to making them successful quickly instead of employing a mass ‘hire-and-fire’ strategy. We take a lot of time making sure the hire is a fit for the industry and our culture, and then we spend a lot of resources training them. That’s a differentiator for us in the brokerage world,” he explains. “Additionally, as we’re part of a larger logistics group, we have the ability to give our customers a broader service offering with over 1,000 trucks and 2,000 trailers in GuideOn’s fleet. Ultimately, our strategy is to hire smart, invest in training, and focus on behaviors that we know lead to customer satisfaction and employee growth.”

 

2021 in Review:
Joe Etheredge, President of MaxTrans Logistics

Joe Etheredge, President

While revenue increased across all three GuideOn Group companies, Etheredge says maintaining a workplace culture that celebrates and instills trust in employees was his biggest success. In the office, MaxTrans has implemented Ambition, a technology that gamifies office performance with leaderboards, theme music, and scorecards. Last year, MaxTrans also transitioned to letting employees work from home every Wednesday. “The happiness our people are able to have here with us is really a better indicator of our success than just revenue dollars,” Etheredge says.

 

Outlook for 2022:

MaxTrans Logistics is heading into 2022 ready to grow its employee base. Etheredge says he brings on only three to four employees at a time and does not include a non-compete clause, with the goal of keeping the company culture warm and inviting for those who work there. “I’ve hired every person on my floor. They all make fun of me and put Michael Scott pictures on my door,” he says with a laugh. “I really do have a wholesome love of my people because I started here as a broker. I’ve watched it grow from this little-bitty acorn into an oak tree.”

Hughes Retirement Group Ad

Photos Courtesy of StratusGrid

 

Platforms & Applications in the Cloud

StratusGrid

 

An Amazon Web Services (AWS) partner, StratusGrid manages, builds, secures, and optimizes its clients’ cloud and other IT environments. Located in the INCubator at the Hamilton County Business Development Center, the company has a distributed workforce that includes team members in the United States, Spain, and Colombia, allowing for 24/7 engineering cloud operations support. “Scalability is a huge part of what we do,” says Evan Bissonette, director of the growth team. “If a company is experiencing rapid growth on its platform, we help put the right technologies in place to make sure it does not have anything that’s ‘mission critical’ go down and does not lose revenue because it can’t keep up with the growth rate.”

 

Why It’s a Company to Watch: 

In entertainment and media, StratusGrid works with streaming providers managing large amounts of data that need to scale as user base increases. In supply chain and logistics, StratusGrid technology helps companies with systems that don’t “communicate” well with each other and companies with data they are collecting but not yet utilizing in a way that helps them make actionable decisions, as well as with custom software development. Now looking to make a difference in healthcare and other industries, StratusGrid has grown from three employees to almost 50 in less than two years. 

 

2021 in Review:
Chris Hurst, CEO of StratusGrid

Chris Hurst, CEO

StratusGrid saw revenue growth of more than 400% from 2020 to 2021. In August, the company announced it had become a member of the Well-Architected Partner Program at AWS. “We’ve aligned a lot of our services and our approach to AWS, and it’s an incredibly strong partnership,” Bissonette says. “If you are investing in technology, then you are competing. If you are not investing in technology, then you are falling behind every single day.”

 

Outlook for 2022:

Early this year, StratusGrid brought on Jeremy Scardino, who has 20 years of experience as a global operations leader in the IT industry, as chief operating officer. Bissonette says the company’s current trajectory is to double its employee base this year to reach between 80 and 100 team members. He also expects to more than double revenue as it moves into partnerships in healthcare technology.

Patten & Patten ad

Hannah & Sara-Anne Waggoner, Founders

(First) Photo by Reed Schick; (Second) Photo by Kelly Lacy

 

Clay Earrings & Creative Services

The August Sisters

 

Hannah and Sara-Anne Waggoner started The August Sisters in a lighting studio playing around with fashion, accessories, and photography. A seamstress, Hannah designed custom dresses. Sara-Anne, while a senior at the University of Tennessee at Chattanooga, took to ceramics and learned how to make small-scaled pieces like earrings. In 2019, the sisters began selling their earrings online and at pop-ups around Chattanooga. Now they’re pushing their colorful, ethereal brand into creative services: product photography, portrait photography, set design, and content creation for other small brands.   

 

Why It’s a Company to Watch: 

The August Sisters jewelry line has a dreamy vibe – clouds, rainbows, hearts, cowboy boots, pearls. A nod to ‘60s mod and ‘70s glam, many of the pieces are made from colorful polymer clay. And it’s the marketing that makes the brand so fun to follow. As content creators on social media, Hannah and Sara-Anne have created a community of creativity. 

 

Photo by Sara-Anne Waggoner

2021 in Review:

Last year, The August Sisters obtained studio space in the INCubator and began selling their jewelry wholesale, starting with contracts with Citizen Supply, Locals Only, Sleepyhead Coffee, and the Southern Belle riverboat gift shop. Hannah says it was the sisters’ ability to adapt that made 2021 such a success. “The pandemic has led to a spike in consumerism,” she says. “Trends are moving so fast. We have to think about our intentionality behind our brand and stay true to ourselves.”

 

Outlook for 2022:

In addition to continuing to accept wholesale orders, Hannah and Sara-Anne will transfer Sara-Anne’s photography business into The August Sisters umbrella and offer creative services in product photography and digital content creation. “We love supporting other small businesses, so we want to work with other brands,” Sara-Anne says. “If they like our aesthetic, they can have that aesthetic too.”

Bailey Bullard Web Ad

Susan Vandergriff, Founder

Photos by Mandy Lamb

 

Feed the Birds, Find Joy

The Happy Birdwatcher Company

 

Susan Vandergriff was sitting on her front porch trying to reduce her anxiety – naming five things she could see, four things she could touch, three things she could hear – when she first became captivated by birdsong. However, she was frustrated that the seed she purchased wasn’t drawing birds into her yard. Now an advocate for the positive effects of birdwatching on mental health, Vandergriff uses bird sighting data to identify species native to a specific zip code and create customized birdseed blends that appeal to local birds.

 

Why It’s a Company to Watch: 

Sourcing premium ingredients like black oil sunflower, white millet, and Nyjer seed from an Amish farm in the Midwest, Vandergriff says her secret is how the ingredients are proportioned. Considering migration patterns and the season, Happy Birdwatcher keeps track of what birds can be found in a customer’s zip code on a monthly basis and adjusts its blends accordingly. A no-plastic product, the bags of birdseed are sent in recyclable boxes and fully compostable transparent pouches.

 

2021 in Review:

Vandergriff left her job as the executive director of a nonprofit and launched the Happy Birdwatcher website in June. She had originally thought the subscription service would be her biggest seller. Instead, it was gifts. Happy Birdwatcher started taking orders for Christmas in late October, and in November, she saw a 275% increase in sales over the previous month. 

 

Outlook for 2022:

This year will be all about scaling. Vandergriff would like to expand into a commercial space and hire employees. Currently shipping orders to 33 states, she aims to see customers in 48 states in 2022. A registered benefit corporation with the state of Tennessee, for every 10 pounds of birdseed she sells, Vandergriff donates $1 to a mental health charity. In the future, she would like to earn B Corps Certification through B Lab Global.

Audiology Services of Chattanooga Ad

Vaidehi Rathod, Founder

Photos by Rich Smith

 

 

Nutritional Vegan Snacks & Meal Replacements

ChaiBiscuits

 

A student at Chattanooga School for the Arts and Sciences (CSAS), Vaidehi Rathod noticed most of the vegan bars on the market topped out at 12 to 15 grams of protein. In 2019, she took on the problem as a part of her regional science fair. She was able to create a protein bar with 28 grams of protein, and after further development she transformed her first-place winning project into a full-time company. She acquired a business license, permits, food safety certification, and a commercial kitchen. In time, her research yielded a 100% vegan, high-protein snack jar in five different flavors: French Vanilla, Café Mocha, Pecan Pie, Chocolate, and Caramel.

 

Why It’s a Company to Watch: 

Unlike other nut butter products, the texture of Rathod’s product is less like peanut butter and more like a cookie dough. It has been celebrated as a potential meal replacement that could one day be utilized in the military or at area food banks for those with dietary restrictions. A healthy addition to yogurt, oatmeal, or toast, the jars can also be used as a base for recipes like spiced pecan whipped cream.

 

2021 in Review:

Originally sold at the Chattanooga Market and Ooltewah Farmers Market, the Snack Jar earned shelf space at Vinterest Southside and Vinterest Hixson in March 2021 and at multiple high-end hotels and Market Wagon later in the year. The snack jars are also sold online via the brand’s website. Rathod looked to numerous mentors from her school and local small business owners to learn strategies for pricing her products, marketing, and moving into ecommerce. 

 

Outlook for 2022:

Rathod’s goal for the coming year is to move her product into grocery stores. In order to be considered for placement in Whole Foods and Publix, she will aim to increase the shelf life of each Snack Jar to beyond six months. After graduation in May, Rathod plans to attend college to study in the fields of business and technology or computer science.

Morning Pointe ad

Photos Courtesy of TextLocate

 

Text-Based Supply Chain Location Updates

TextLocate

 

In the supply chain and logistics industry, if you’re working with a third-party carrier and reaching out for location updates, you historically have two choices: an app or a phone call. The apps track the driver consistently, but many drivers don’t want that kind of monitoring. The check calls can take hours. TextLocate founder and CEO Ryan Rogers, who has more than 23 years of experience in the industry, has found a solution. On his platform, drivers can respond to a location request with a single click. The one-time location update will automatically populate a TextLocate dashboard with the driver’s current city, state, and zip code.

 

Why It’s a Company to Watch: 

TextLocate allows users to pre-log location update requests, which means the system can request updates on dozens of loads at a time without the user having to pick up a phone or a driver having to answer a call. TextLocate plans vary based on number of pings per month, number of users, the addition of Location Scheduler, and options for two-way text check, a dedicated toll-free number, and Application Programming Interface (API) access. 

 

Ryan Rogers, Founder & CEO of TextLocate

Ryan Rogers, Founder & CEO

2021 in Review:

Rogers launched TextLocate in July of last year with Covenant Transport as his first customer. By the year’s end, the company had customers ranging from a small freight broker to an enterprise-level third-party logistics company valued at $4 billion. With thousands of users connected to the system, the company has produced content with FreightWaves, doubled its employee numbers, and brought on interns from the University of Tennessee at Chattanooga.

 

Outlook for 2022:

“Based on the feedback that we’re getting, I think we’ll more than double our size this year from a clientele perspective,” Rogers says. But more importantly, TextLocate will focus on customer engagement, customer experience, and customer retention. “We’re going to continue to grow our product with additional features and get connected with other people’s transportation management systems and operations systems. We fully expect to get integrated with those pieces so the systems can continue to do a lot of the heavy lifting behind the scenes.”

Ferguson ad

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