‘Miscellaneous Men’ wins Tennessee Tech Eagle Works competition

From left, Andrea Kruszka, Eagle Works manager; Katie Patterson, Blake Daniels and Will Talbert, Miscellaneous Men; and Michael Aikens, Tech’s director of innovation and entrepreneurship.

COOKEVILLE – A business aimed at helping individuals and businesses tackle a wide variety of projects is the recipient of the first Rural Reimagined Award at the sixth annual Eagle Works competition held April 6.

Eagle Works is a competition similar to the television show Shark Tank where Tennessee Tech undergraduate and graduate students pitch their innovative ideas to a panel of judges for a chance to win a portion of $17,000.

“Eagle Works supports and encourages student entrepreneurship at Tennessee Tech,” said Michael Aikens, Tech’s director of innovation and entrepreneurship. “It is an opportunity for students to start their own business, create their own jobs, work in interdisciplinary teams, and participate in activities which create both academic and experiential learning outcomes.”

The winning business, Miscellaneous Men, is the idea of Cookeville natives Blake Daniels, a junior finance/law major, and Kaitlyn Patterson, a sophomore marketing major. 

“Miscellaneous Men didn’t start on paper or as part of a plan,” said Daniels. “I did odd jobs along my street from time to time, as I was always busy in high school with classes, sports and clubs, so I never had time to work a regular job. I’d help one person, then they would refer me to another person that needed help.”

His business grew from just him to a team of more than a dozen Tech students helping people and businesses all over Middle Tennessee within a year.

“We are a service business, so most work is on an on-call basis,” Daniels said. “Simply put, a client contacts me via text, email, call or direct message on Facebook with a project or task they need help on. I then evaluate if we can help. Serious projects, like electrical or plumbing, are usually referred to specialist companies. If I think we can help, I say yes. From there, I work with the clients’ schedule and our employees’ schedules, all of whom are Tech students, to determine when we can help. This way, the clients get the help and the students are able to focus on school and still make some pocket cash.”

The competition featured 16 teams, representing 15 majors and six colleges, with contestants from 20 rural, distressed or at-risk counties.

“Literally every business idea this year stood out to us, they were all outstandingly good,” Aikens said. “We were extremely proud of all 16 teams who competed.”

This year, the ideas ranged from apps, additive manufacturing, artificial intelligence and assistive technologies to machine learning, medical devices and services.

“Miscellaneous Men stood out to both the preliminary and finalist judges for first place because it is a real business, generating more than $22,000 in revenue this past year,” Aikens said. “The judges felt the $7,500 would be a great jumpstart to reach their next business goals. We attribute their success to not only having a great business model, but also attending the pop-up workshops during the spring semester and participating in the pitch practices (which are available to all contestants) and incorporating what they learned into their business strategy.”

Miscellaneous Men also won the inaugural Rural Reimagined Award, given in the name and spirit of Tech’s Grand Challenge which seeks to solve problems, address disparities and transform rural communities. 

“Miscellaneous Men was the clear winner for the Rural Reimagined Award because of its potential to impact rural areas due to their innovative business model,” Aikens said. “This team is already creating numerous jobs in our rural region and it is our belief that the award will further Miscellaneous Men’s ability to help clients in rural areas.”

The award totals $1,000. Half of that will be awarded to the team as a scholarship and the other half will be in the form of technical assistance from the Center for Rural Innovation.

The second place award went to Trade ‘Em, an application that will solve sneaker enthusiasts’ problems when it comes to a secure method of buying, selling and trading shoes. This business is committed to authenticating and verifying the legitimacy of each transition and ensures a secure and trustworthy marketplace. That team won $4,000.

Third place went to Frenchi, an app to provide mobile organization and management assets to the professionals of the beauty industry. The app aims to alleviate the stress of salon life because time saved organizing is more time spent with the client and a more organized stylist, which leads to a happier lifestyle. That team won $2,000.

Two thousand additional awards, such as most creative, best technical innovation and more were also given out, all 100 percent donor funded.

“We want to thank our innovation and entrepreneurship committee, a team of 15 faculty and administrators and our partners at the Biz Foundry and the Small Business Development Center for all their efforts to make Eagle Works a reality,” said Andrea Kruszka, Eagle Works manager.

For more information on Eagle Works, visit https://www.tntech.edu/innovation/eagleworks/.

From left, Anthony Taylor and Kalen Berry with Trade ‘Em; Katie Patterson, Blake Daniels and Will Talbert with Miscellaneous Men; and Stevie Fitzpatrick and Ben Guffey with Frenchi.

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