36/86 Startup Conference Lights Up with Women Entrepreneurs


36/86, Launch Tennessee’s third annual event highlighting entrepreneurialism and southern culture, was a smashing success!

However, this success was not a result of the hospitality we have come to expect from the Nashville community, which once again rolled out the “Red Carpet”; it was not because the event included a strong bevy of outstanding startups, which it did; it was not because of the strength of the program offering, which was outstanding; and it was not because of the vibrancy which we always experience from Nashville’s entrepreneurial community.

It was, in fact, because the event was a showcase for the strong and improving state of female entrepreneurialism in the southeast! Included in the thirty six presenting companies were at least ten women holding executive positions across seven of the companies. These companies and women entrepreneurs are as follows:


A Charleston, SC based company which has a goal “to make toys smart and kids even smarter by creating an open platform for interconnected toys to drive cloud content that enables 21st century play patterns.”

The company is led by Co-founder, President and CEO Krissa Watry, a graduate of the US Air Force Academy and M.I.T. Ms. Watry’s “creds” include various projects in support of the USAF in their Joint Space Operations Center, Satellite Program Office and the US Strategic Command. They also include various projects with NASA. Supporting Ms. Watry in Dynepic is Jacqueline Arn, the company’s Educational Products Director with more than 35 years of experience in the educational field.


Led by Lucy Beard, is a Chattanooga, TN based company. The company uses “emerging technologies involving scanning, and modeling technologies combined with additive manufacturing (3D Printing) to ensure you have the most comfortable shoes in the world on your feet.”

Ms. Beard is a graduate of Loughborough University and is a Chartered Financial Analyst and an Actuary. Her experience includes stints with Intuit and Zynga prior to serving as Entrepreneur in Residence at the Fab Lab in San Diego. She founded Feetz in October of 2013.

Good Done Great

Also of Charleston, SC, provides cloud based database solutions for nonprofit organizations.

Their management team includes Rebecca Guthrie, VP Technical Services, a College of Charleston Graduate who also serves as Director of Operations for Boomtown and Founder and CEO of Sweet Spot Operations; and Christina Bowen, VP Strategic Partnerships who brings more than 25 years of experience in public relations and corporate giving to the company.

Jewel Burkes - Founder and CEO of PartPic, 36/86 Blackstone Award winner for Best Overall Startup

Jewel Burkes – Founder and CEO of PartPic, 36/86 Blackstone Award winner for Best Overall Startup


“is a new software solution that simplifies the search and purchase process of replacement parts using visual recognition technology.” The company hails from Atlanta, GA.

Founder & CEO Jewel Burks leads PartPic which was established in January, 2013. She is a graduate of Howard University with experience at Google, including a stint as Entrepreneur in Residence for the company. Supporting Ms. Burks is Nashlie Sephus, CTO, a Mississippi State computer engineering graduate who also holds masters and Ph.Ds. from Georgia Tech in computer engineering.

Utilize Health

A Nashville, TN company founded by Jessica Harthcock, has a mission to “match patients with life-altering conditions to the therapies and facilities that will maximize their potential of recovery.”

Ms. Harthcock, who is Co-founder & CEO of the company, did her undergraduate work at LSU and graduate work at Vanderbilt. She currently serves as a member of the Board of Directors and as Executive Director of the Tennessee Chapter of the National Spinal Cord injury Association and was Co-founder & Creator of the GLAHM Camp, a camp for girls ages 9-13 that have suffered spinal cord injuries.

Work America’s Chief Operations Officer is Laura Zaim.

The company’s objective is to be the “LinkedIn for the Skilled Trades”. It is headquartered in Washington, DC.

Ms. Zaim, who is a graduate of Washington University in St. Louis, is tri-lingual, speaking both Spanish and French in addition to English and brings a background in public relations.


Of Miami Beach, FL “enables users to make and receive calls using their own phone number anywhere in the world without paying outrageous roaming and long-distance charges”.

Andrea Rigali serves as COO and General Counsel of the company. Ms. Rigali is a graduate of the University of Florida and holds a JD/MBA from Stetson. She is a former law partner at a prominent Miami law firm.

Women Wow Again in Launch Tennessee’s 36 86

If the impressive list of companies with female leadership listed above fails to make the point consider this:

  • The Keynote address opening the event highlighted Julia Hartz, Co-founder & President of Eventbrite.
  • The Corporate VC panel included Leslie Bottorff, Managing Director, Healthcare at GE Ventures.
  • Tuesday’s Fireside Chat featured Meghan Joyce, East Coast General Manager at Uber.
  • Tuesday’s Salon Session on “Branding your Startup” was led by Nora Levinson, President & CEO of Caeden, Inc.
  • Wednesday’s Fireside Chats included a reprise by Julia Hartz, Co-founder & President of Eventbrite, and Libby Callaway, Content Creation & Media Consultant, who previously served as VP, Marketing & Global Branding at Billy Reid.
  • Wednesday’s Salon Session on Early Stage Funding included Sue Malone, Owner of Strategies for Small Businesses and Kristina Montague, Managing Partner, The Jump Fund.
  • The Wednesday Salon Session on Non-Dollar Capital & Culture featured Melina Berry, Co-founder and CEO at Power to Fly, and;
  • the session on Social Justice & Tech featured Brit Fitzpatrick, Founder & CEO of MentorMe.
  • Finally, Cat Clifford of Entrepreneur and Geri Stengel from Forbes served as Moderators.

While Tennessee Governor Bill Haslam and Commissioner Randy Boyd of the Tennessee Department of Economic and Community Development made appearances in support of the event and entrepreneurialism, it was woman’s entrepreneurialism that “stole the show.” That fact was reinforced by the awarding of the 36/86 Blackstone Award and $36,000 for the Best Overall Startup to Jewel Burks and PartPic, which was also one of the three Audience Choice selections.

Want to Read More About Female Led Companies and Women Entrepreneurs?  Check out our Women Entrepreneur’s Spotlight!

Alexa Cleek