We Come From the Mountain…and Start Things

Sheldon Grizzle
Sep 20, 2017 · 7 min read

Many people who know me know that I’m a proud graduate of a small, Christian liberal arts school- Covenant College. Being a “startup guy,” I can’t help but admire the entrepreneurial spirit of Covenant’s students and alumni. Having been deeply involved in Chattanooga’s entrepreneurial reawakening over the last decade through CO.LAB, I’ve had a lot of people ask me, “What’s going on at Covenant that keeps producing graduates who keep starting great companies and organizations?”

One of the best answers I’ve heard to this question was said by a well-known foundation leader in Chattanooga. He said, “When a Covenant graduate sees a gap in the community, he sees an opportunity to provide a service to the community. And because of the importance of his faith in his life, he feels like it is his responsibility to do it to the best of his abilities because that is what Jesus has called him to do.” I was caught off guard by his answer because he was one of the last people I would have ever expected to say something like that. And yet it seemed so plainly obvious to him.

A faith-infused worldview is clearly foundational. I also think Covenant has created an atmosphere on campus to foster a spirit of being real world problem solvers. One of the major reasons I chose Covenant was that I was astonished by the ideas (number and quality) being shared around campus — the dorm rooms, classrooms, soccer trips, and dining halls — I was always surrounded by them!

I believe this kind of environment creates a hunger for knowledge and nurtures a desire to solve real world problems…big and small. And when you want to make the world around you (or the wide world) a better place, a natural by-product is the creation and growth of companies, initiatives, churches, projects, organizations, and movements.

As a fun side-project, over the last few years I’ve been assembling a list of all the companies and organizations have been founded, owned, or run by Covenant alumni/faculty/staff. I’d love for this list to continue to grow over time. Please email me at sheldon@verypossible.com or leave a comment if you have additions or changes. If you are on the list and want to be removed for any reason, please let me know.

Go Scots!

Important disclaimers: This list is certainly not exhaustive and has a heavy emphasis on Chattanooga since that’s where I’ve lived and worked. The individuals listed below are founders or owners connected to Covenant, including graduates, attendees, faculty, and staff. I did not list any non-Covenant founders or owners. I included people who acquired their businesses from previous founders, not just founders. Also, I’m certain there are dozens of churches and missions-related organization as well that are not included.

Community/Social Impact


Creative Services







  • Empi (Acquired by Black Stone Group)- Philip Vierling (‘78)- CEO
  • Kalypto Medical (Acquired by Smith & Nephew)- Philip Vierling (‘78)- CEO
  • Liver Cell Technologies- Philip Vierling (‘78)- CEO
  • Physician Insurance Services- Kris Perkins (‘97)- Co-owner
  • SlipStream Health- Kris Perkins (‘97)- Co-founder
  • Southern Family Medical Center- Sean Lynch (‘93)- Founder
  • Thompson and Lett Eye Care- Aaron Thompson (‘97)- Co-founder


Real Estate

  • Heartwood Land Management- Joe Lloyd (‘12)- Founder
  • Homestead Rescue- Jeff Swiger- Founder
  • Howlett & Kiehl Properties- Troy Duble (’93) and Bryan Pierce- Co-founders
  • Jim Lea’s Team- Jim (’02) and Monique Lea (‘01)- Co-founders
  • Keller Williams Realty Chattanooga- Jim (’02) and Monique Lea (‘01)- Co-founders
  • Strada Development- Jonathan Bragdon (‘92), Sheldon Grizzle (‘03), and Gabe Weaver- Co-owners
  • Treetop Hideaways- Enoch Elwell (’12) and Andrew Alms (‘10)- Co-founders


Service Providers


  • Coptix/Medium- Jeff Cross (‘94)
  • Cued-in- Seth Marsh (‘11)- Founder
  • Developcents- David White (‘09)- Founder
  • Diginius- Nate Burke- CEO
  • FoxMark (acquired)- Hal Bowling (‘87)- Founder
  • Gadgetry- Brian Hooper (‘04)- Founder
  • Mendr- Parker Benda (’07) and Patrick Thibodeau (‘08)- Co-founders
  • Nehemiah Security- Todd Bramblett- (‘85)
  • NewFire Media- Chris Hitchcock (‘95)- Co-founder
  • Optu Consulting- Matt Dixon (‘00)- Founder
  • Park Digital (acquired by WestPak)- Clayton Douglass (‘97)- Founder
  • Plickety Switch- Derek Odegard (‘93)- Founder
  • ReadyCart (acquired)- Sheldon Grizzle (’03), Jonathan Bragdon (‘92), and Gabe Weaver- Co-founders
  • Roo Village- Yukari Takata Schneider (‘05)- Founder
  • Spire (formerly LifeKraze)- David Nielson (’10) and Ben Wagner (‘10)- Co-founders
  • Skuid- Ken McElrath (’86)- Founder
  • Slack- Eric Costello- Co-founder
  • SociallyU- Andre Dantzler (‘00)- Founder
  • Stork- Jonathan Bragdon (‘92)- Co-founder
  • TopNock- Brian Freed (‘99)- Co-founder
  • Tricycle- Jonathan Bragdon (‘92)- Co-founder
  • Very- Jonathan Bragdon (‘92), Sheldon Grizzle (‘03), and Gabe Weaver- Co-founders/Partners
  • VidCad- Dr. Walter Black (‘68)- Founder
  • YouthDigital- Justin Richards (‘09)- Founder

Editorial note- Added clarification that this list includes founders and owners or CEOs who did not start their companies. Also added several businesses and created a new category of “Creative Services.”

Sheldon Grizzle

Written by

Follower, husband, father, cofounder @chattanoogafc, @thecompanylab, and @very_possible