⊕ Ovation Awards 2015: Spirit of Entrepreneurship


Honoring individuals who have made something from nothing, who have withstood the test of time and/or carved out a unique business model where none previously existed.


CALFKILLER BREWING COMPANY WHITE COUNTY | 1839 Blue Springs Road, Sparta | (931) 739-2337

Don and Dave Sergio.
Don and Dave Sergio.

Don and Dave Sergio are definitely planning for the long term. And why not? The masterminds behind the UC’s signature Calfkiller beer have been brewing their “paradoxically complex” creations for six years now. Their beer – the Grassroots Ale, J. Henry Mild and the Wizard Sauce rank among the favorites – can be found at more than 100 locations throughout Tennessee, from Nashville, Knoxville, Chattanooga and all points in between. Their in-house distributing company, Grassroots Distributing, handles three-quarters of that load. And a recent expansion will up production 30 percent.

But think even longer term, still. That aforementioned expansion will tap out – literally – the Sergios’ space at Blue Springs Road. To counter, they’ve purchased an old water treatment plant in Sparta that will some day serve as their new production space – and maybe, several years down the road, a restaurant.

“That’s our dream,” Don Sergio said. “It could be a place where you can launch canoes and kayaks, and we could bring you back to grab a burger. Maybe even longer term, a hotel. It will be a beautiful thing when we get it done, because we’re going to try to fashion it to look like the existing brewery – the brewery now has a neat architectural look, and it will also give us much a bunch more space.”

Fans of the current locale and all its rustic-ness need not worry, however. Sergio said they would only move production of large-batch beers, like Grassroots and J. Henry, to the transformed water treatment plant. Specialty brews, like the first ever Strawberry Harvest Trail Ale, will continue at their home base.

“This place will stay running forever,” Sergio said.


KELLIE FITZPATRICK: CARAVAN/LENNY & EVA PUTNAM COUNTY | 101 W. Broad St., Cookeville | (931) 854-1646

Caravan is the latest boutique in Cookeville.
Caravan is the latest boutique in Cookeville.

Kellie Fitzpatrick may be best known as the creator of Lenny & Eva, an interchangeable cuff and jewelry line, but she’s also the face of the newest clothing boutique to set up shop on Cookeville’s West Side.

After renovating its 101 W. Broad St. address, Caravan opened in July 2014. The store carries clothing for men, women and children as well as home goods, shoes and accessories. Popular lines include bohemian brands Free People, Wildfox, Lucky and JACHS for men.

“The inspiration is to cater to the free spirited. It’s really just a huge spectrum of things,” Fitzpatrick said. “We always hear that shoppers really love the atmosphere of the store, that they love the selection, that there’s something for all ages here. And they can shop brands that maybe they would drive to Nashville or shop online for. But it’s mostly because they love the experience.”

Ironically, Caravan does not sell Lenny & Eva, but the cuffs are now sold at 1,500- 2,000 other retailers in the U.S. and beyond. Fitzpatrick said they just added accounts in Dubai, Mexico and Australia (Cookeville’s closest, by the way, is The Market on the Square, a 2014 Ovation Award winner for Excellence in Retail).

“It’s been fun to see it expand outside the United States,” Fitzpatrick said of the Lenny brand. “People who have been shopping with us since 2010 are still shopping with us. It’s still growing and that’s exciting.”



For 71 years, Cumberland Lumber and Manufacturing has stayed true to its bread and butter – the making of hardwood flooring. Its products are shipped to hardwood flooring distributors all over the country, 95 percent, in fact, outside Tennessee’s borders, said Ray Spivey Jr.

No matter how far its reach, the company has maintained its hometown roots. Spivey’s grandfather was among the original founders, and his dad, Ray Spivey Sr., ran the company until his retirement.

“Hardwood flooring has really done well for us over the years,” Spivey said. “We’ve had a few bumps, like when the economy sputtered, and we’ve done some other things over the years (trim, paneling, etc.) but overall, it’s been real good, and the flooring is where we’re especially concentrating right now.”

Spivey said they’re investing roughly $1.25 million this year on automated equipment. He’s planning for a fall installment.

As for future goals, Spivey says they hope to increase production. Growth continues to be slow and steady. Cumberland Lumber employs roughly 100 in the McMinnville community. And the company’s longevity is not to be overlooked; many mills have changed ownership over the years or were acquired by larger firms.

“Back when we started up, there were lots of little mills all over the Southeast. That number has contracted,” Spivey said. “We’ve managed to stay independent, and we like it that way. Hopefully we’ll be able to continue to do so over the next several years.”


MICAH JOHNSON AND ALANE BOYD/ GOFANBASE PUTNAM COUNTY | 490 E Spring St, Suite C, Cookeville | (855) 880-6337

Go Fan Base
Micah Johnson and Alane Boyd.

Micah Johnson and his wife Alane fell in love with Tennessee. So much so, they decided to relocate their business, GoFanbase Inc., to Cookeville. And the company has seen growth since its birth in San Diego in 2007. There’s 20 employees across the country. An office now on Spring Street. Plus, the pair is set to release a new mobile app that will help companies better generate social media content – posting and promoting themselves with just a few taps.

The app, which also goes by the name GoFanbase, is still in beta testing, but Johnson said it’s a culmination of years of experience, and it’s already getting quite the rave review. Johnson said they look to work with clients in automotive, banking, real estate, retail, fitness, non-profits and more.

“Mobile advertising is hot, and we know what works and what doesn’t,” he said. “We’ve done a number of demonstrations, and the response has just been absolutely incredible. Businesses can literally tackle the most important aspects of social media, all within their phone.”

The app relies heavily on photos– Johnson said that’s the most valuable content around; 20 times more effective than video. Within the app, for example, a business can take a satisfied customer photo and get permission to share that photo on social media, while a customer can leave positive feedback and more.

“We travel a lot, and everywhere we go, the first thing we do is look online and check out the ratings,” Johnson said. “If (a business) doesn’t have a good rating or there’s nothing online, we don’t even bother.

“The app allows you to ‘build a Fanbase’ for free,” Johnson added. “For example, if I’m looking at a dealership whose Facebook page is covered with happy customers with great experiences, and I look at another down the road that has none, just by human nature, I’m going to side with the one that has a lot of great experiences. That’s really where the power comes in. Not just building a ‘fanbase’ and generating likes, but leveraging that to actually get business.”


About the awards

The Upper Cumberland’s annual Ovation Awards honor the top businesses and individuals in the region. Among the 29 total awardees in 2015, 20 are first timers. Ovations were awarded in seven categories overall, including:


Ovation Award winners are nominated by Upper Cumberland Business Journal readers and selected by the UCBJ staff. The awards were first founded in 2008.

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