Social entrepreneurs seek the perfect pitch at PitchNOLA

November 20, 2012 2:55 PM

Mark Miester

Ten teams of social entrepreneurs pitched their ideas to solve regional social problems recently on the Tulane uptown campus, but in the end, it was a program to help formerly incarcerated individuals transition back into society that came out on top at the fourth annual PitchNOLA.

At PitchNOLA, teams of social entrepreneurs present their ideas and compete for cash.

Which idea would win the PitchNOLA competition? Audience members filled Freeman Auditorium on Nov. 14 to find out. (Photo 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 entrepreneurs deliver three-minute pitches 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 often presents an obstacle to gaining employment and breaking the cycle of incarceration.

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

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 the competition to award a $4,000 prize to second-place winner Birthmark Doula Collective, which seeks to improve birth outcomes in New Orleans and was co-founded by MBA student Dana Keren.

A $3,000 prize went to the New Orleans Fruit Tree Project, which harvests fruit from the trees of private owners and uses it to fight hunger. That project was founded by Megan Nuismer, an alumnus of the Tulane School of Public Health and Tropical Medicine.

This year’s PitchNOLA attracted 60 applications, the most in the four-year history of the event, and seven of the 10 winning ventures were started by Tulane students or alumni.

Mark Miester is the editor of Freeman magazine for the A. B. Freeman School of Business.

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