Posts Tagged ‘social entrepreneurship’

PitchNOLA winner comes full circle

Tuesday, February 3rd, 2015

When entrepreneur Larry Irvin Jr. took the Freeman Auditorium stage at last year’s PitchNOLA startup competition, it did not go well.

PitchNOLA, an annual social entrepreneurship elevator pitch compeition, took place Jan. 28 on Tulane's uptown campus. (Photo by Guillermo Cabrera-Rojo)

PitchNOLA, an annual social entrepreneurship elevator pitch compeition, took place Jan. 28 on Tulane’s uptown campus. (Photo by Guillermo Cabrera-Rojo)

He froze up a minute into his pitch, rushing out of the auditorium as a stunned audience watched his business partner Kristyna Jones dash up to finish the presentation.

Unbowed, the two came back for a second shot last week for PitchNOLA 2015: Community Solutions and more than redeemed themselves. Their venture, Brothers Empowered to Teach (BE2T), won the top $5,000 prize in the annual elevator pitch contest for social entrepreneurs seeking to solve community challenges in New Orleans.

BE2T recruits African-American college students to work as teaching assistants and mentors in area public schools. The goal is to close the achievement gap for at-risk students by inspiring and incentivizing men of color to become teachers.

“We’ve hit another milestone,” Jones said. “Winning means that stipends will be covered this fall for two of our 15 (classroom) participants.”

Held annually at Tulane University since 2009, PitchNOLA allows 10 semi-finalists to go before a panel of judges and a live audience to pitch their ideas to take on pressing, local issues in workforce development, children and families, social justice and the environment. The contest is co-hosted by the A. B. Freeman School of Business,  Tulane Center for Engaged Learning and Teaching and Propeller: A Force for Social Innovation.

“I’ve judged this event since it’s started, and these entrepreneurs had the best pitches I’ve seen, across the board,” said judge Leslie Jacobs.

UnCommon Construction won $3,000 as the second place winner and $640 as the audience favorite. The nonprofit builds houses with high school apprentices and uses the proceeds to provide them with expanded college and career opportunities.

Gator & Crane placed third, winning $2,000. The company seeks to build an environmentally sustainable grocery store that offers healthy foods while reducing packaging waste.


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






Social entrepreneurs seek the perfect pitch at PitchNOLA

Tuesday, November 20th, 2012

Ten teams of social entrepreneurs visited Tulane’s uptown campus last week to pitch ideas to solve a host of environmental and social problems, but in the end, it was a program to help the formerly incarcerated transition back into society that came out on top at the fourth annual PitchNOLA.

PitchNOLA 2012

Latona Giwa delivers her pitch for Birthmark Doula Collective, which earned second place honors and the Audience Favorite Prize at this year’s PitchNOLA competition. (Photos by Cheryl Gerber)

The competition, an “elevator pitch” contest for local social entrepreneurs, is an annual presentation of the A. B. Freeman School of Business, Tulane Social Entrepreneurship Initiatives and Propeller, a local nonprofit that supports social innovation ventures. More than 200 people packed Freeman Auditorium last Wednesday (Nov. 14) to watch the socially minded entrepreneurs deliver three-minute pitches for their ventures to a panel of judges, with a $5,000 cash prize on the line.

The Justice & Accountability Center of Louisiana, this year’s grand prize winner, provides legal assistance to help the state’s large population of nonviolent ex-offenders expunge their criminal records, which can be a major obstacle for them to gain employment and break the cycle of incarceration.

“The potential scale of impact in proportion to the social issue was huge,” said Leslie Jacobs, who served as one of this year’s judges. “It’s innovative, there’s tremendous need, and we felt the speakers had a high level of credibility with their experience. Our one question was the potential to really go to scale, but it was worth the gamble.”

Ameca Reali, executive director of the Justice & Accountability Center, said the prize money will enable the organization to greatly expand its outreach efforts.

“With these extra funds, we can go into more communities and take in more clients, and everywhere we go, we take in clients every single time,” said Reali “We can double the number of clients we serve.”


Of the 10 ventures chosen as finalists for this year’s PitchNOLA competition, seven were started by Tulane students or alumni.

This year’s competition also had some drama. While the grand prize was the only cash award announced, a last-minute gift from an anonymous donor enabled organizers to award a $4,000 prize to second-place winner Birthmark Doula Collective, which seeks to improve birth outcomes in New Orleans, and a $3,000 prize to third-place finisher the New Orleans Fruit Tree Project, which harvests fruit from the trees of private owners to fight hunger in New Orleans. An anonymous donor also provided a $5,000 gift to Smiles2Geaux, an initiative to establish mobile dental clinics low-income schoolchildren and seniors.

This year’s PitchNOLA attracted 60 applications, the most in the four-year history of the event, and seven of the 10 finalists had Tulane connections, including Birthmark Doula Collective, which was co-founded by Freeman School Professional MBA student Dana Keren, and the New Orleans Fruit Tree Project, which was founded by School of Public Health alumna Megan Nuismer.

“I’m really proud of all the Tulane participants and finalists,” said Lina Alfieri Stern, director of the Freeman School’s Levy-Rosenblum Institute for Entrepreneurship. “We’re committed to fostering and supporting social entrepreneurship across the university, so it’s really exciting to see more and more students using the knowledge and skills they’re learning in the classroom to make an impact in the local community.”


Register now for PitchNOLA 2012

Wednesday, October 3rd, 2012

Got an idea to solve a social or environmental problem in New Orleans? Register for PitchNOLA, Propeller’s annual social innovation “elevator pitch” competition, and you could win up to $6,000 to make that idea a reality.


PitchNOLA contestant Tamara Prosper delivers her pitch for Sheaux Fresh Sustainable Foods at last year’s competition.

This year, PitchNOLA features two different tracks dedicated to addressing two different community challenges. PitchNOLA 2012: Community Solutions is designed to identify sustainable ventures that solve pressing social or environmental problems in New Orleans. PitchNOLA 2012: Lots of Progress is intended to develop creative ideas to utilize the city’s abundant vacant lots in ways that benefit the community.

The 10 best proposals received in each track will earn their submitters the right to pitch their ideas to a panel of celebrity judges in front of a live audience on Nov. 14 and 15. The best pitch in the Community Solutions track can win up to $6,000 to develop the idea, while the top three pitches in  the Lots of Progress track will receive vacant lots on which to demonstrate their ideas.

If you think you might have an idea, don’t delay. The application deadline for Community Solutions is Monday, Oct. 15, and the application deadline for Lots of Progress is Monday, Oct. 22.

PitchNOLA is an annual presentation of Propeller, formerly SENO (Social Entrepreneurs of New Orleans), and is co-sponsored by Tulane University’s Social Entrepreneurship Initiatives, the A. B. Freeman School of Business and the Levy-Rosenblum Institute for Entrepreneurship.

For more information about PitchNOLA 2012 and to register online, visit

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.”

Innovative approach to health care wins top prize at PitchNOLA

Friday, October 7th, 2011

The ideas presented spanned everything from urban farms to educational wetlands trips to an online crowdsourcing program to support underprivileged students, but in the end, it was an innovative approach to health care that captured the top prize at PitchNOLA 2011.

Sarah Mason, left, and Arwen Podesta, right, won first place at this year’s PitchNOLA competition with their pitch for an integrative medical practice. Also pictures are Andrea Chen, second from left, executive director of SENO, and Stephanie Barksdale, manager of Tulane’s Social Entrepreneurship Initiatives. (Photos by Guillermo Cabrera-Rojo.)

The Well, a multi-modal clinic combining primary, holistic and mental health care services, won first place at this year’s PitchNOLA competition, an “elevator pitch” contest for local social entrepreneurship ventures.

The competition, a presentation of Tulane Social Entrepreneurship Initiatives and Social Entrepreneurs of New Orleans (SENO) with support from the Freeman School and the Tulane Entrepreneurs Association, took place on Thursday (Oct. 6) in the Woldenberg Art Center’s Freeman Auditorium.

In earning this year’s top honors, the Well edged out nine other ventures to win a prize package worth more than $6,000, including a $3,500 cash award, $2,000 in pro bono marketing and PR services from Trumpet Group, $500 in billable legal hours from the law firm of Baker Donelson, and a mentorship and pro bono technical assistance from SENO.

Serving as judges for the competition were Leslie Jacobs, founder of Educate Now! and chair of GNO Inc.; Eric Shaw, vice president of policy and programs at Foundation for Louisiana; and Nishith Acharya, executive director of the Deshpande Foundation, who delivered a keynote address to attendees.

The Well’s Dr. Arwen Podesta, an assistant professor of psychiatry at Tulane Medical School, and Sarah Mason, a registered nurse, won the competition with their pitch for a new outpatient clinic, one that would serve both the primary care and mental and behavioral health needs of patients. Podesta noted that the lack of a comprehensive approach to care at the clinic level results in many patients failing to receive the treatment they need.

“There are examples of integrative, holistic centers, but none that I know of that include mental health, psychiatry, behavioral health and addiction,” said Podesta.

That unique approach to meeting a significant social need impressed the judges.

“One of the things we were asked to judge was the level of innovation,” Jacobs said. “In our mind, they were clearly very innovative. This problem exists, it is the first we’ve heard of this type of solution, and we felt it was worth an investment to see if this could be viable.”

This year’s PitchNOLA attracted more than 200 people, making it the biggest competition in the three-year history of the event.

“The Well really had the passion,” added Shaw. “I think they could create a model that could be replicated throughout New Orleans and throughout the state.”

AMPS, a producer self-sustaining urban farms, won this year’s “audience favorite” award and a prize package worth $1,000. Audience members were able to vote on which pitch they liked best via text message during the competition.

Prior to PitchNOLA, LifeCity in conjunction with SENO and Tulane presented Green the Gras, a competition for ideas to make Mardi Gras more environmentally sustainable. Beadcycle, an initiative to reward individuals who recycle their Mardi Gras beads with tokens good for discounts at local restaurants, won the top prize of $1,000 plus consulting services from SENO.

This year’s PitchNOLA attracted more than 200 attendees, making it the biggest in the three-year history of the competition. According to Shaw, that attendance reflects the remarkable growth of social entrepreneurship in New Orleans.

“It really is a groundswell,” Shaw said. “SENO has been amazing bringing attention to it, Tulane has been amazing bringing attention to it, and a lot of foundations are supporting it. It really is a new type of entrepreneurship, to help people and address a need in the community.”


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.


Freeman and SENO announce PitchNOLA 2011

Monday, August 8th, 2011

Got an idea to improve life in New Orleans? Enter PitchNOLA and you could win $1,000 to help make it a reality.

Alan Fisher of GTC NOLA, a green transportation company, makes his pitch at last year’s PitchNOLA competition.

Budding entrepreneurs have about a month to submit entries to PitchNOLA 2011, an “elevator-pitch” competition for ventures designed to effect positive social or environmental change in New Orleans.

Now in its third year, the contest gives local social entrepreneurs the chance to pitch breakthrough ideas to a panel of celebrity judges and an audience of more than 200 business professionals, social activists and community members.

The competition takes place at 7 p.m., Thursday, Oct. 6, at Freeman Auditorium in the Woldenberg Art Center on Tulane University’s uptown campus. To enter, individuals or teams must submit a one- to three-minute YouTube video pitch and a 500-word proposal online at by 11:59 p.m., Sept. 7. The top 10 proposals will earn a spot in the live PitchNOLA competition at Tulane. Anyone interested in participating as an audience member may visit this same website to register to attend. The audience plays a key role in the competition by providing constructive criticism and helping entrants better connect with resources and contacts.

“The Freeman School of Business is delighted to partner with PitchNOLA to give entrepreneurs a platform to not only hone their presentation skills but to engage and inspire the community with their innovative ideas for social change here in New Orleans,” said Ira Solomon, dean of the A.B. Freeman School of Business at Tulane.

The individual or team with the most innovative idea will win $1,000 plus executive mentorship, consulting and pro-bono technical assistance from Social Entrepreneurs of New Orleans (SENO). A second $500 prize will be given to the audience’s favorite pitch.

PitchNOLA is sponsored by SENO, Tulane Social Entrepreneurship Initiatives and Tulane University’s A. B. Freeman School of Business. For more information about the competition, visit

Business Forum looks at corporate consciousness

Monday, October 12th, 2009

Whole Foods Market co-founder and CEO John Mackey drew the wrath of many longtime customers in August with a Wall Street Journal opinion piece that proposed free-market alternatives to healthcare reform, but the article was vintage Mackey, combining the iconoclastic executive’s strong beliefs in the power of capitalism and the importance of social responsibility in business.

Whole Foods Market CEO and co-founder John Mackey will deliver the luncheon keynote presentation at this year's Tulane Business Forum.

Whole Foods Market CEO and co-founder John Mackey will deliver the luncheon keynote presentation at this year's Tulane Business Forum.

On Friday, Oct. 16, Mackey will be in New Orleans to deliver the luncheon keynote presentation at the 2009 Tulane Business Forum, which this year focuses on the theme of corporate consciousness.

“The whole idea of corporate consciousness goes back to the basic business fundamentals of doing things in an ethical manner and being responsible and purposeful in how you gear your business,” says Tom Spiers (MBA ’01), board member of the Tulane Association of Business Alumni (TABA), which organizes the annual event. “We thought this would be a good way to focus on how to return to core values and how certain large organizations are doing it and succeeding at it.”

In addition to Mackey, other speakers addressing corporate consciousness, ethics and social responsibility include Mark Quartermain, president of Shell Energy North America; Alan R. Yuspeh, senior vice president and chief ethics and compliance officer of HCA; and Gary Jay Saulson, director of corporate real estate with PNC Financial Services Group.

The forum will also feature a panel discussion on alternative energy and financing featuring Jon Guidroz, director of project development with Free Flow Power Corp.; D’Juan Hernandez, president and CEO of Sun Energy Group; and Eldon Klaassen, CEO of Allegro. The discussion will be moderated by Michael L. LeBourgeois, principal of NGP Energy Technology Partners in New Orleans.

The 2009 Tulane Business Forum will take place at the Hilton New Orleans Riverside. Registration and continental breakfast will begin at 8 a.m. and the forum will begin at 8:30 a.m. For more information about this year’s program, visit

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