Business blossoms at Roane State’s Cumberland Business Incubator

Holly Hanson (right), CBI’s director and business coach, recruited Joe Swift (left), a business owner, full-time inventor and educator to assist with the project.

CROSSVILLE – Small business owners, some confronting problems and looking for help and others with big ideas, convened for a nine-week advanced business seminar presented by the Cumberland Business Incubator (CBI), which is operated by Roane State.

In its role of helping small businesses grow and prosper, the CBI provided the setting for an intensive new program aimed at addressing the question, “In Business, Now What?”

The program was constructed as a series of classes to address and meet specific needs of entrepreneurs and business owners trying to start and successfully grow their young businesses.

Holly Hanson, CBI’s director and business coach and catalyst for this novel program, recruited Joe Swift, who describes himself as a “retiree-wanna-be,” a business owner, full-time inventor and educator.  

Hanson also enlisted Jake Horton, an attorney specializing in intellectual property law. These three worked together to develop and present the participant-targeted course materials. 

Spokespersons from banking, insurance, commerce and business law along with the owner of a highly successful CBI graduate business served as expert guest lecturers. Supplemental course materials included Legal GPS®.

Swift, who founded three different businesses, is now living in Fairfield Glade. He has a high-tech background, was named to the Xerox Corporation’s “Inventor Hall of Fame,” and has more than 100 U.S. patents to his credit.

Early in the program, Swift met Chris Heislop, a Crossville resident who holds a bachelor’s degree in music composition from Maryville College and is now a physics major at Tennessee Tech University. 

Christian Heislop

Heislop said he enrolled in the CBI program at first because of his interest in music and resolving “shortcomings in the recording industry.”

While leading the CBI sessions, Swift learned Heislop had been “dabbling at the low end of the energy spectrum.” Heislop joked that he and Swift developed a rapport because they were the “only two nerds in the room” who clearly shared a near-obsessive interest in music and musical instruments as well as in physics. It became immediately clear that they both were inveterate inventors.  

Swift professed at several occasions his longstanding belief that “every problem, no matter how big or complex, has a solution.” This view provided a common ground and inspiration for the numerous discussions he and Heislop held over several weeks, which in turn led to their sharing some big ideas. Swift and Heislop found they had a common interest in what Swift says involves applying principals of physics to practical problems.

Along the way, they discovered they’re both intrigued by what Swift calls “the broad spectrum of wireless energy transfer.” For instance, Swift asked “what if all-electric cars could be continuously recharged through wireless transfer of energy while in dynamic motion?”

Such an advancement would eliminate the need to stop and spend hours plugged in to recharging stations and would allow for near continuous long-distance road travel, he said.

Heislop said he has compiled many notebooks “full of different ideas,” including cutting-edge concepts involving wireless energy transfer that he feels are patent-worthy. 

The first of these ideas have advanced into a series of inventions that have recently been filed as provisional patent filings at the U.S. Patent and Trademark Office.

Now, Swift and Heislop are entering the formation stage of a new company. “We’re hoping the path that we’re on will position us extremely well to launch at least one new business,” Swift said.

Another co-instructor in the “In Business, Now What?” program was the intellectual property attorney, Jake Horton, who practices at the Knoxville law firm of Pitts & Lake, P.C. 

Horton discussed legal matters of interest to business owners. He is working with Swift and Heislop to secure intellectual property rights for their first few inventions.

Hanson said one of the goals of this program was to foster business relationships. The program attendees also had opportunities to listen to and interact with guest speakers who addressed other issues that owners of new business typically face, like obtaining the necessary licenses, dealing with cash-flow accounting and handling supply chain issues, she said.

The classes also allowed a student with “patentable ideas to move forward after meeting the right mentor,” Hanson said.

For more information on the Cumberland Business Incubator, contact Hanson by email at or by phone at (931) 456-4910.

Roane State is a two-year college providing transfer programs, career-preparation programs and continuing education. Founded in 1971, the college has locations in Roane, Campbell, Cumberland, Fentress, Knox, Loudon, Morgan and Scott counties as well as a branch campus in Oak Ridge. For more information, visit

Remember, eligible adults can now attend Roane State tuition-free with the new Reconnect grant. Learn more at

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