And the Nominees Are…Meet The Entrepreneurs Vying for the Traction Award


Traction Award nominees Harvey Abouelata and Uta Preston talk startup strategy at the Knoxville Entrepreneur Center (KEC) during November’s First Friday preview.

Three Knoxville area entrepreneurs and Startup Day alums are vying to be the recipient of the first ever UT Federal Credit Union (UTFCU) Traction Award during Startup Day 2015, Thursday, November 19, 2015 on the U.S. Cellular stage at The Bijou Theatre. Doors open at 1:45 pm with the program beginning at 2:30 pm.

The UTFCU Traction Award recognizes an alum who has made significant progress, gaining the most ‘traction’ since presenting a Startup Day Power Pitch.

Knoxville’s Startup Day , which began in 2013, promotes new ideas and businesses in the East Tennessee region. In addition to the UTFCU Traction Award, this year’s event includes seven pitchers competing to win a $5,000 cash prize sponsored by BOBA.

Meet the Traction Award nominees:

HARVEY ABOUELATA, ARiES Energy An alternative energy solutions company launched in 2011 by Harvey Abouelata, ARiES Energy takes customers through a process of evaluating, reducing and producing while leveraging savings that provide the greatest economic impact. Since its launch, ARiES has installed the first proton power gasification system at Wampler’s Farm Sausage; signed a contract for Sevier Solid Waste’s waste to energy gasification system; and installed multiple commercial, residential and off-grid solar systems, including a 1.73 MW community solar project agreement underway for Appalachian Electric Coop. Doubling in sales every year, expanding from four to nine full-time employees, ARiES’ recent merger increases the company’s buying power and bonding capabilities, further enhancing the success of an evaluation process that includes monitoring customer habits and feasibility studies.

BOB BRADLEY, NewsBreak Media Networks What started out as an outlet to provide news and advertising on over-the-pump television screens at Knoxville-area gas stations in 2009, has since grown to include a proprietary software to introduce new revenue streams through merchandising. NewsBreak Media Network’s growth is the brainchild of President/CEO Bob Bradley, a 2014 Knoxville Startup Day alum who became an investor in the company in 2011. He’s since taken the start-up digital company to national prominence. NewsBreak is now a fully integrated, smart merchandising platform that converts fuel-only customers to multi-product purchasers with expected growth to include 200 convenience stores by the fourth quarter of this year, up from 88 at the end of 2014 and 32 at the end of 2013. Earlier this year, NewsBreak opened its first site in Santa Clara, California, a major change from locations primarily in Tennessee.

UTA PRESTON, Little Fishkopp When Uta Preston founded her German-inspired kids clothing brand Little Fishkopp, she had a simple vision of bringing safer, sounder and more stylish sleep to babies across the globe by producing eco-friendly clothing that lasts. In just a few years, Preston’s vision has spun into a business that sells worldwide, proving that while she may have “little fish” in her company name, business is booming on a big fish scale. A 2013 Startup Day alum, Preston sells locally at two prominent vendors in Knoxville – Bliss and Twig – and she’s bringing more vendors onboard in 2016.
Boasting a robust online business, Little Fishkopp is found in nurseries worldwide. She’s also expanded beyond lightweight and standard sleep bags to include infant bodysuits and toddler T-shirts.

Additional activities during Startup Day include three Fireside Chats featuring international entrepreneur Angel Gambino; and several local investors and innovators.

For more information,