Posts Tagged ‘entrepreneurship’

Jazz Fest poster has Freeman School roots

Thursday, April 25th, 2013

In the 38 years since its debut, the official New Orleans Jazz & Heritage Festival poster has become as much a part of the annual celebration as Irma Thomas, Crawfish Monica and Rosemint Tea, but few fans are probably aware that the highly collectible posters—which fetch hundreds of dollars on eBay—got their start as a class project at the A. B. Freeman School of Business.

Bud Brimberg (L ’75) created the first Jazz Fest poster, shown above, as a class project in the Freeman School’s first entrepreneurship course.

In 1975, Bud Brimberg (L ’75) was a third-year law student casting about for a class to take just for the fun of it. Unable to find anything to his liking at the  law school, he wandered over to the Freeman School and signed up for the only course that didn’t require any business school prerequisites, a recently introduced class called Entrepreneurship and the New Business Enterprise.

Developed by marketing professor Bill Bennett and based on a class he’d taken at Harvard Business School, the course consisted primarily of case studies, but Bennett also required his students to complete a class project. Each student was asked to create a pro forma for a proposed business detailing the venture’s capital requirements and projected cash flows and income. Those numbers would then have to be programmed in FORTRAN and run on the university’s mainframe computer.

That’s a lot of work for just a simulation, Brimberg thought. One day after class, he approached Bennett and asked if instead of writing a pro forma he could actually start a business.

“He looked at me and he said, ‘That’s highly unorthodox,’” Brimberg recalls with a laugh. “I looked at him and said, ‘For God’s sake, it’s entrepreneurship!’ And he said, ‘Well, go ahead.’ And that was it.”

From the beginning, Brimberg focused his entrepreneurial attention on Jazz Fest, which was then in its sixth year. His original plan was to make a live recording in the Gospel Tent and release it as an album, but when that concept didn’t pan out, he went to his friend Quint Davis, producer of the Fest, and pitched his second idea: a high-quality commemorative print in the style of classic French poster art. Davis was skeptical.

“We’ve already got a poster,” he said, pointing to the cardboard placards volunteers would staple to telephone poles around town to promote the Fest.

Brimberg explained he was proposing something very different, a numbered, limited-edition print silk-screened onto museum-quality paper. Davis still wasn’t convinced.

“Okay, I’ll tell you what,” Brimberg finally said. “Maybe you’re right, but I think I can come up with some program that will work and I’ll pay you off the top a percentage of gross. No risk. I’ll underwrite the whole thing. And if I sell one poster, you’ll make money.”

The 2013 Jazz Fest poster was designed by artist James Michalopoulos and features Aaron Neville.

It was an offer Davis couldn’t refuse. Brimberg commissioned two Tulane architecture students to create a design featuring an umbrella-waving parade grand marshal with lettering in the classic art nouveau style. The hand-pulled edition of 1,000 posters sold for $3.95 each at the Fest, and Brimberg spent much of his time explaining to customers why that was such a good deal.

When the dust settled, Brimberg walked away from the Fest with less than $500 in profits (and an A in the class). It may not have been much, but it was enough to launch Brimberg on what’s become an almost 40-year career as a businessman and entrepreneur.

He went on to found ProCreations Publishing Co. and Art4Now, which together have produced the Jazz Fest poster every year with the exception of a three-year stretch in the early ’90s. In 1994, Brimberg began producing the Congo Square poster as well, and in 1998 he debuted an expanded line of Jazz Fest apparel —  BayouWear — based on the popular “HowAhYa” Hawaiian shirt he’d introduced in 1981. He also started a number of other businesses along the way, most notably Plan-A-Flex, a manufacturer of architectural design and planning kits. Brimberg sold that company to Stanley Works in 1986.

Looking back on his career, Brimberg credits the Freeman School and that first entrepreneurship class with giving him the tools he needed to be successful.

“If you try to understand what makes a frog jump by cutting it open, which is what most academics do, you really don’t know what makes a frog jump,” Brimberg says. “But if you sit there and observe the frog from every angle, you may not understand the molecular level, but you’ll understand what makes the frog jump. I think what [the entrepreneurship class] did was make me understand how the frog jumped. It showed me all the moving parts you would need to start a business and how everything locked together. So, yes, it was pretty useful.”


Elstrott to be honored as Entrepreneur of the Year

Thursday, April 11th, 2013

The A. B. Freeman School of Business at Tulane University will honor longtime faculty member and entrepreneur John B. Elstrott Jr. at this year’s Tulane Council of Entrepreneurs Awards Gala. The ceremony will take place on Friday, April 19, at the Audubon Tea Room.

Longtime faculty member and entrepreneur John B. Elstrott Jr. will be honored at this year’s Tulane Council of Entrepreneurs Awards Gala.

Elstrott, a professor of practice and emeritus executive director of the Freeman School’s Levy-Rosenblum Institute for Entrepreneurship, will receive the Tulane Distinguished Entrepreneur of the Year Award and the Tulane Outstanding Social Entrepreneur of the Year Award at the ceremony. This marks the first time in the history of the event that both awards have gone to a single individual.

Freeman School Dean Ira Solomon and Levy-Rosenblum Institute Executive Director Ralph Maurer will present the awards.

Elstrott earned his PhD in economics from the University of Colorado at Boulder in 1975. He joined Tulane in 1982 and has taught entrepreneurship at the Freeman School since 1986. In 1991, Elstrott became the founding director of the Levy-Rosenblum Institute for Entrepreneurship, which was established to coordinate entrepreneurship initiatives at the school and in the community.

In addition to his career as an educator and administrator, Elstrott has also had a long career as an entrepreneur and investor. In the early 1970s, Elstrott was part of the management team that helped build Celestial Seasonings into the world’s largest specialty tea company. Today, Elstrott continues to be an active investor and board member in the venture capital, wetlands mitigation banking, pharmaceutical, financial services, medical and functional food, and herbal remedy industries. He currently serves as chairman of the board of Whole Foods Market, the world’s leading retailer of natural and organic foods. Elstrott has served as a director of the company since 1994.

The Levy-Rosenblum Institute presents the awards each year to highlight outstanding entrepreneurs. The Distinguished Entrepreneur of Year Award honors individuals who embody the true spirit of entrepreneurship and philanthropic generosity, while the Outstanding Social Entrepreneur of the Year Award recognizes individuals dedicated to improving their communities through entrepreneurial initiatives.

For more information about the Levy-Rosenblum Institute for Entrepreneurship, visit






MBA grads go whole hog into new venture

Thursday, May 31st, 2012

The local food movement is gaining popularity among foodies nationwide. In Louisiana, it seems like old hat. Whether they are eating fresh-caught shrimp, creole tomatoes or Ponchatoula strawberries, Louisianians feel that locally originated food is better. Two 2012 Freeman School MBA grads are hoping they can bring Louisiana meat into that number.

Freeman grads Seth Hamstead and Simone Reggie are the founders of Cleaver & Co., a locally sourced, whole animal butcher shop.

This summer, Simone Reggie and Seth Hamstead are opening Cleaver & Co. in New Orleans, a locally sourced, whole-animal butcher shop. The idea is to buy whole cows, pigs, chickens and ducks from South Louisiana farms.

“Our rule of thumb is 200 miles, whenever possible,” Hamstead says. “We know that sometimes we may have to go a little bit farther, but we want to make sure that we can tell the consumer exactly where it’s from.”

Hamstead calls the practice of buying whole animals and butchering them here “a more sustainable business practice” that benefits both the supplier and the consumer.

“We’re making sure the farmers are getting as much as they can out of that animal,” Hamstead says. “We’re also able to choose the farmers who are doing things in the way we think is right. The animals aren’t coming from confined feedlots; they’re not being raised in industrial conditions.”

The result, say Hamstead and Reggie, is a better-tasting product — something residents of food-obsessed New Orleans should appreciate.

While both admit that beef doesn’t usually come to mind when people think of what Louisiana does best, they say there is a long tradition of cattle ranching here that has been “pushed aside by the industrial food system.” They hope they can take New Orleanians’ zeal for local seafood and translate that into a desire for local, “land-based protein.”

“There’s such a market for local seafood,” Reggie says. “You see the signs for Louisiana seafood everywhere, and that’s great. We’re looking to make a movement for Louisiana meat as well.”

For more information about the business, visit Cleaver & Co.

A bicycle built for business

Friday, May 18th, 2012

Rob Lynch (MBA ’12) didn’t just start a new business in New Orleans. He helped start a new industry.

Rob Lynch (MBA ’12), owner of Bike Taxi Unlimited, spent a year and a half working with city officials to draft an ordinance legalizing pedicabs in New Orleans. (Photo by Paula Burch-Celentano)

Lynch is the founder of Bike Taxi Unlimited, which last year became one of three companies awarded the right to begin operating pedicabs in New Orleans.

“We get people from A to B with kind of an interesting look at the city,” Lynch says of his pedal-powered rickshaws. “It’s all about showing people a different side of New Orleans.”

A graduate of Loyola University in New Orleans, Lynch worked as a financial analyst in St. Louis for four years, but he eventually grew tired of the corporate grind. When his brother told him about the thriving pedicab business in Charleston, S.C., Lynch, an avid cyclist, realized the tourist-friendly mode of transport would be a perfect match for New Orleans.

He spent two years living in a friend’s basement and subsisting on peanut butter and jelly sandwiches to save money for the venture, and then another year and a half working with city officials to draft an ordinance legalizing pedicabs.

“The New Orleans ordinance on pedicabs is one of — if not the — most comprehensive in the nation, and that has a lot to do with local officials here wanting to do it right,” says Lynch. “I brought other pedicab ordinances from across the country to their attention and worked with them to form something that would keep everybody safe and let the industry survive.”

Lynch’s hard worked paid off. Bike Taxi Unlimited carried its first passenger in September 2011, and since then the company’s distinctive yellow pedicabs have become a familiar sight around town and at events like Jazz Fest and the French Quarter Festival.

Lynch recouped his initial investment in December, sooner than he had projected, and he says the business has done so well he plans to expand into two additional cities as well as start a new venture designing and selling pedicabs to operators across the country. Regardless of how much the company grows, however, Lynch says he’s committed to New Orleans.

“New Orleans is going to be the home base of where I do everything,” Lynch says. “I love the city. I’ve loved it ever since I came to college here, and I want to stay here.”

Elstrott honored with dedication of elementary school in India

Tuesday, April 3rd, 2012

John Elstrott’s name has been synonymous with entrepreneurship education at the Freeman School for more than 25 years. Now, thanks to a California-based company, Elstrott’s name is synonymous with education in rural India as well.

Dr. John B. Elstrott Elementary School

John Elstrott, top right, with students at the school named in his honor in Rajasthan, India.

In December, Traditional Medicinals honored Elstrott with the dedication of the Dr. John B. Elstrott Elementary School in Dayakaur, Rajasthan, India. The school, located approximately 120 miles from Jodhpur in the Thar Desert, is one of three built in India by the company, a maker of herbal medicinal teas and dietary supplements. Elstrott has been a board member and partner in the company for more than 30 years.

As part of its Revive! Project, Traditional Medicinals is investing $1 million in six Rajasthan farming villages critical to the company’s herbal supply chain. The project includes training for villagers in a variety of areas, including agricultural and conservation best practices, community organization and leadership, and, for women in the villages, health, hygiene and empowerment. In exchange for the investments in their communities, parents agree to send their children, including girls, to school.

“Education is the key to a better life for the people and their children, particularly for the women in these tribes,” says Elstrott, professor of practice and executive director of the Levy-Rosenblum Institute for Entrepreneurship, who traveled to India for the dedication ceremony. “I could see in a very substantive way how these schools are changing the culture of the villages, empowering the next generation and making stronger, more prosperous communities.”

Elstrott is a longtime champion of the business philosophy known as conscious capitalism, which emphasizes the importance for organizations to consider the interests of all stakeholders as well as the environment. Throughout his long association with Traditional Medicinals, Elstrott has worked closely with company co-founder and Chairman Drake Sadler, a fellow conscious capitalist, to incorporate those principles into the company’s activities.

“For us, it’s obviously a win-win strategy,” says Elstrott. “If we strengthen these communities and strengthen their ties to us, they produce a better quality herb for us and they’re a more dependable source because there’s always going to be another generation of farmers. It’s very important to our long-term growth and profitability for all our stakeholders that we reinvest in all the communities of farmers and gatherers around the world where these herbs come from.”

Ideas growing for businesses that make a difference

Friday, March 23rd, 2012

Ventures with strong connections to Tulane University and the A. B. Freeman School of Business were big winners in last week’s 2012 New Orleans Entrepreneur Week, an event highlighting the city’s thriving startup community. Companies founded by Tulane staff, students or alumni won three of the five major contests, each winning a $50,000 cash prize, while many more participated as contestants throughout the week.

Tulane Challenge Winner

NanoFex CEO David Culpepper, left, is congratulated by Tim Williamson (BSM ’87), CEO of the Idea Village, after being selected as winner of the $50,000 Tulane Challenge during the 2012 New Orleans Entrepreneur Week.

“Tulane graduates and students continue to be at the forefront of the entrepreneurial movement in New Orleans,” said Lina Alfieri-Stern, director of the Freeman School’s Levy-Rosenblum Institute for Entrepreneurship. “Our graduates are discovering that entrepreneurship can be the answer to finding employment in New Orleans, generating wealth for our city and solving our community’s most pressing problems.”

Tierra Resources, a company that aims to create a market for carbon credits for wetland restoration, won the week’s Water Challenge. Company founder and CEO Sarah Mack earned a PhD from the School of Public Health and Tropical Medicine in 2009.

SOLarchitect Studio won The Big Idea Challenge. Co-founded by architecture alumnus Alex Landau, the firm provides a free, web-based tool to assess the feasibility of installing solar panels on homes.

For a special Tulane Challenge dedicated to innovations of Tulane staff, students and graduates, seven ventures competed for prize money donated by an anonymous alumnus. NanoFex, started by Vijay John, professor of chemical and bimolecular engineering, and David Culpepper won for an innovative solution to remediate contaminants in groundwater using biodegradable materials like sugar cane and crawfish shells.

“The seven teams who participated represent a fraction of the many alumni and students involved in social innovation and entrepreneurship in the region,” Alfieri-Stern said.

Entrepreneur Week is an initiative of The Idea Village, a nonprofit that supports and sustains entrepreneurs and startups in New Orleans.

Princeton Review ranks Freeman 14th nationally for entrepreneurship

Tuesday, September 20th, 2011

For the sixth consecutive year, Tulane University’s A. B. Freeman School of Business has been recognized as one of the top 25 schools in the country for graduate entrepreneurship education.

The Princeton Review ranks the Freeman School 14th on its new list of the nation’s top graduate programs for entrepreneurs. The ranking appears in the October 2011 issue of Entrepreneur magazine, which hit newsstands on Sept. 20, and can be viewed online at and

The Tulane Business Plan Competition is the only business plan competition in the nation dedicated to the principles of conscious capitalism.

“We are delighted to again be recognized as one of the nation’s leading schools for entrepreneurs,” said Ira Solomon, dean of the Freeman School. “New Orleans has earned national headlines in recent years for its remarkable entrepreneurial resurgence. The Freeman School is proud to play a part in that rebirth.”

Fueled by a post-Hurricane Katrina wave of business students eager to participate in the revitalization of New Orleans, the Freeman School has in the last decade established a national reputation for social entrepreneurship. More recently, the Freeman School has become a leader in promoting conscious capitalism, a broader concept that calls for organizations to consider the best interests of all stakeholders—including employees, customers, suppliers, shareholders and community members—rather than focusing solely on shareholder returns. The Tulane Business Plan Competition, an annual presentation of the Tulane Entrepreneurs Association, is the only business plan competition in the nation dedicated to the principles of conscious capitalism.

“This outstanding ranking is a reflection of all the alumni, students, faculty, staff and entrepreneurs who have worked together to make it possible,” said John Elstrott, clinical professor of entrepreneurship and executive director of the Levy-Rosenblum Institute for Entrepreneurship. “By devoting our passion and creativity to raising the level of entrepreneurship education at the Freeman School, we hope to inspire a new generation of entrepreneurs and social innovators across the university and in the community.”

The Princeton Review surveyed more than 2,000 business schools for this year’s ranking. Each program was evaluated based on key criteria in the areas of teaching entrepreneurship business fundamentals in the classroom, staffing departments with successful entrepreneurs, excellence in mentorship, and providing experiential learning or entrepreneurial opportunities outside of the classroom as well as for non-traditional, distinguishable aspects of their programs.

The Freeman School of Business at Tulane, originally the College of Commerce and Business Administration, was established in 1914 and is a founding member of AACSB, the premier accrediting body for collegiate schools of business. Today, Freeman is a leading, internationally recognized business school with more than 2,000 students in programs spanning three continents. The Freeman School is consistently listed among the nation’s best business schools by publications including U.S. News & World Report, Bloomberg Businessweek, Forbes, Financial Times and AméricaEconomía.


Green jobs training program wins top honors at PitchNOLA

Monday, November 22nd, 2010

Disposing of used cooking oil is an unpleasant cost of doing business for most restaurants, but one local group is turning that task into green—green fuel, green jobs and green cash.

PitchNOLA 2010

Hamilton Simons-Jones, left, of the Gulfsouth Youth Biodiesel Project, shakes hands with Joel Tilton of New Orleans Panthers FC as master of ceremonies Chris Reade, center, looks on. Simons-Jones won first place and Tilton won the audience favorite prize at this year's PitchNOLA competition. (Photo by Erica Stavis)

The Gulfsouth Youth Biodiesel Project, which trains inner-city youths to convert used cooking oil into biodiesel fuel, took home first place and a cash prize of $5,000 at the 2010 PitchNOLA competition, an elevator pitch competition for local social entrepreneurship ventures. The event took place Wednesday (Nov. 17) in the Woldenberg Art Center’s Freeman Auditorium on Tulane’s uptown campus.

The competition—a joint presentation of Social Entrepreneurs of New Orleans (SENO), Tulane University’s Social Entrepreneurship Initiatives, the A. B. Freeman School of Business, the Tulane Entrepreneurs Association and the Young Leadership Council—gave 10 social entrepreneurs three minutes each to pitch their ventures before a panel of judges and a live audience of more than 150 people. The judges evaluated the ventures, which ranged from a fleet of eco-friendly taxi cabs to swimming lessons for urban kids, and provided the entrepreneurs with feedback on their ideas and presentations.

The Gulfsouth Youth Biodiesel Project collects used cooking oil from restaurants, which earn a tax deduction for their donations, and sells the clean-burning biodiesel fuel it makes to fleets and distributors, but the project’s true focus is its social mission. The group provides technical training and job skills to out-of-work young people between the ages of 14 and 25, many of them high school dropouts with few alternatives. In addition to gaining valuable skills for the emerging green economy, all graduates of the program earn a certificate from the National Center for Construction Education and Research (NCCER), which qualifies them for a variety of well-paying jobs.

Judging this year's competition were, left to right, John Elstrott, Robin Keegan and Roy Glapion. (Photo by Erica Stavis)

“They’re reaching an audience that can really use the help, they have a sustainable plan and they’re building on things that are already in the market,” said John Elstrott, executive director of the Freeman School’s Levy-Rosenblum Institute for Entrepreneurship and one of this year’s judges. “It was a nice program, and we wanted to give them help.”

Hamilton Simons-Jones, chief development officer at Operation Reach Inc., which runs the Gulfsouth Youth Biodiesel Project, said the cash prize will help the group scale up its training program, but he added that one of the biggest benefits of the competition was the chance to network with other social entrepreneurs.

“There were a couple of people who were finalists that I made sure to get cards from,” said Simons-Jones. “We depend on community support and understanding of our work, so to have such a diverse audience like this is awesome.”

In addition to the Gulfsouth Youth Biodiesel Project, New Orleans Panthers FC, which operates a soccer club for Central City youths funded in part by a community garden that supplies produce to local restaurants, won a prize of $500 for being voted as favorite pitch by audience members.

Ann Davis of Swim 4 Success, which provides free-of-charge swimming lessons to local kids, gets feedback from the judges after delivering her pitch. (Photo by Erica Stavis)

“We don’t plan on soliciting grants all that much, but if something comes up again, this experience will definitely be a benefit,” said Joel Tilton of New Orleans Panthers FC. “I made some connections and met some interesting people. It’s been a good experience.”

PitchNOLA received nearly 100 entries this year, twice the number it received in 2009. According to Andrea Chen, chair of SENO, that increase speaks to the growth of social entrepreneurship in New Orleans.

“Every year more and more people have ideas, and they’re starting to take action on them because they see all the great examples of people who were just like them,” said Chen. “These are community members who said here’s a problem, I can step up to the plate and solve it and make an impact in my community.”

Funding for this year’s program was provided by Penny Hart, a Tulane parent and member of the Tulane Parents Council.

“I’m an entrepreneur myself and I’ve lived the American Dream, so I love the concept of supporting entrepreneurship,” Hart said. “At the same time, I have three children and I am very concerned about the environment and the future of our earth, so the combination of the two is a really wonderful thing to support.”

Freeman ranked 13th nationally for entrepreneurship

Tuesday, September 21st, 2010

For the fifth consecutive year, the Freeman School has been recognized as one of the top 50 schools in the country for entrepreneurship.

The Princeton Review in its latest survey of entrepreneurship programs ranks the Freeman School 13th on its list of the nation’s top graduate programs for entrepreneurs. The ranking appears in the October 2010 issue of Entrepreneur magazine, which hit newsstands on Sept. 21. The ranking can be viewed online at (more…)

Wilson family, Hall-Trujillo to be honored as Entrepreneurs of the Year

Thursday, April 8th, 2010

The Freeman School will honor the Wilson family, owners of Barriere Construction Co., as Tulane Distinguished Entrepreneurs of the Year and Kathryn Hall-Trujillo, founding director of Birthing Project USA, as Tulane Social Entrepreneur of the Year at the 2010 Tulane Council of Entrepreneurs Awards Gala.

The gala, which also will feature the announcement of the winner of this year’s Tulane Business Plan Competition, takes place at 6 p.m. on Friday, April 16, at the Westin New Orleans at Canal Place.

The Distinguished Entrepreneurs of the Year Award was established to honor individuals who exemplify true entrepreneurial spirit and philanthropic generosity, while the Social Entrepreneur of the Year Award recognizes individuals dedicated to improving the community through entrepreneurial initiatives. John Elstrott, clinical professor of entrepreneurship and executive director of the Levy-Rosenblum Institute for Entrepreneurship, will present this year’s awards.


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