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Startup Champs Moves into Hamilton County INCubator


Of the many decisions startup companies make, whether and when to relocate to office space often lands near the top of the list. Hamilton County’s Business Development Center has you covered.

For Startup Champs, LLC, the time for dedicated office space has arrived.

Over the past two years, Alex Lavidge, CEO and co-founder of Startup Champs LLC (previously Director of GIGTANK at CO.LAB and VP Business Development at Variable, Inc.) has focused on facilitating the discovery of market research insights that accelerate sales performance.

Regional clients have included Bridge Innovate, Finworx, Smart RIA, Kahuna Brands and Pass It Down as well as new ventures across the country from San Francisco to Austin, Texas.

“A lot of these clients are established corporations seeking to create more recurring revenue streams, or, they are self-financed startups,” Lavidge said. “In either case, they want processes to follow that will make it easier to grow sales for new ventures upward to their first $1 million.”

In addition to expanding its sales and marketing services, Startup Champs will focus on creating multimedia content for entrepreneurs during its first year of incorporation. Additionally, it will be gathering market insights before designing software products and launching an online accelerator program for startups seeking investment capital.

Dania Hernandez, co-founder and Chief Creative Officer at Startup Champs, moved to Chattanooga last December from Austin. After 10 years working in accounting for tech startups in New York City and Austin, she too saw a need for an agency helping entrepreneurs go through design thinking processes. At Startup Champs, she now leads both user experience and new product design.

“Behind every scalable business model is a well-thought-out user experience,” she said.

Both Lavidge and Hernandez say they feel “right at home” in the INCubator.

“The startup community here is so warm and welcoming, unlike any other I’ve visited across the world,” Hernandez said. “It also puts us in the middle of a lot of robust collaboration about how to improve success rates of new ventures and entrepreneurial energy that is as unique as Chattanooga itself.”

“Both current Business Development Center business owners and grads of the program add to our economy. In a recent 12-month period, INCubator businesses generated $17 million in revenue and investment,” said Hamilton County Mayor Jim Coppinger. “In the BDC's 30th year, it's great to see entrepreneurship continue thriving as businesses like Startup Champs join our impressive roster of businesses the INCubator has supported.”

Alexis Willis, Director of Small Business and Entrepreneurship at the INCubator, said Startup Champs represents a growing focus for Chattanooga’s startups – the importance of scaling.

“Scaling is how you get your business to a higher level,” Willis said. “That growth allows the business to create jobs, take on more clients – to push out of the startup phase.”

About the INCubator

The INCubator is 127,000 square feet of startup support on Chattanooga’s NorthShore – the largest business incubator in Tennessee, and the third largest in the nation. A program of the Chattanooga Chamber of Commerce, the INCubator is located in the Hamilton County Business Development Center (BDC) in downtown Chattanooga, the urban core of Hamilton County, Tennessee.

The INCubator helps entrepreneurs achieve success through a three-year, progressive development program that capitalizes on the synergy of the BDC’s unique entrepreneurial ecosystem made up of about 50 startup businesses. Clients benefit from shared administrative services, manufacturing and office space, training workshops, use of a state-of-the-art technology conference center and access to free onsite business counseling from the Tennessee Small Business Development Center.

The BDC building was built for manufacturing in the 1920s when Chattanooga’s economic base was largely industrial. The site housed innovative industrial giant 3M in the 1950s until it was transitioned to Hamilton County in the mid-1980s. Local economic development leaders transformed the facility into the community’s first business incubator, planting the seeds of what would become Chattanooga’s dynamic entrepreneurial ecosystem.

Find a timeline further detailing the BDC's history here.

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