Three renowned entrepreneurs to support 500 new business owners in New Orleans

With the success of the second IDEAinstitute education session and the approaching deadline for IDEAxcelerator applications, the 2013 entrepreneur season is officially underway. Now The Idea Village has welcomed Kevin Wilkins, Carol Markowitz, and Robbie Vitrano as this year’s Entrepreneurs-in-Residence (EIRs.)

The Idea Village supports New Orleans-based entrepreneurs with big ideas.

These three seasoned entrepreneurs have experience building successful businesses of their own, and have been chosen from a list of candidates to directly support more than 500 locally based entrepreneurs. From now until the culmination of the 2013 New Orleans Entrepreneur Week in March, the three EIRs will provide entrepreneurs with strategic consulting, mentorship, educational workshops, and access to their networks.

“With more than 70 years of combined experience in business management and start-up ventures, these experienced executives are a great asset to the growing entrepreneur ecosystem in New Orleans,” says Tim Williamson, co-founder and CEO of The Idea Village.

Wilkins, Markowitz, and Vitrano will be managing The Idea Village’s core entrepreneur programs. These include IDEAxcelerator, an intensive, six-month business accelerator program for high-growth ventures; IDEAinstitute, a weekly entrepreneur education program comprised of workshops, roundtable discussions, and keynote speakers; IDEAsessions, which are two hour, one-on-one strategic brainstorms or pitch assistance sessions; Strategic Challenges, collaborative programs produced by The Idea Village in conjunction with partner organizations; and Capital Village, investor pitch programs and capital access opportunities managed by The Idea Village.

The EIRs possess specific talents and skills that are key to starting and building successful businesses, and each will share his or her unique insight, as well as resources, with the New Orleans entrepreneurial community.

Kevin Wilkins is returning as an EIR for the second year.

Wilkins, for instance, will be sharing his expertise in management, marketing, and operations. With 25 years of both corporate and start-up experience, Wilkins has worked in brand management for The Procter & Gamble Company and has done marketing and strategic planning for Fidelity Investments, where he launched Portfolio Advisory Services as well as the first institutional discretionary money management service. He also ran the SSRM Distribution Company for State Street Research & Management, Inc. before getting involved as an investor, operator, and strategic advisor for several start-up companies in the financial services sector, and then moving to New Orleans in 2010. Wilkins is a graduate of Harvard Business School.

“I’m all about accountability and if you commit to The Idea Village, we’ll make a difference on your business,” says Wilkins, who is returning as an EIR for the second year.

Carol Markowitz moved to the city just last year, and will be providing advice in finance and accounting.

Markowitz also has experience working with both corporate and start-up companies. With a background in finance and accounting, her expertise spans the telecommunications, retail apparel/beauty, and music publishing spaces. Her career began with SBC Communications, Inc. (currently AT&T), where she pioneered the first long-term planning and analysis team within one of the company’s divisions. After graduating from Harvard Business School, Markowitz moved to Los Angeles, and became a divisional controller for two brands owned by Liz Claiborne, Inc. (now Fifth & Pacific Companies, Inc.). She began honing her entrepreneurial skills and joined a private equity-backed beauty retailer called PureBeauty, which was eventually acquired. She then became the VP of Finance for MyShape Inc., an early stage, VC-backed e-commerce retailer of women’s apparel and accessories.

As a proud and recent New Orleans transplant, Markowitz says that with her background, she knows what it takes to launch and sustain a business, adding, “ I look forward to sharing those best practices with New Orleans entrepreneurs.”

Robbie Vitrano is paying it forward after starting several successful businesses in New Orleans.

New Orleans’ own Vitrano brings his entrepreneurial expertise and brand marketing talent to the mix as co-founder of The Idea Village, local branding agency Trumpet, and international pizza franchise Naked Pizza. Trumpet and Naked Pizza have each been recognized as a “Fast Company Magazine Top 10 Most Innovative Company in the World” in the advertising and food categories, respectively. In addition to serving as an EIR this season, Vitrano will continue his ongoing roles as a brand advisor to Naked Pizza and chairman of Trumpet.

“I have successfully started worldwide brands out of New Orleans, the most recent being Naked Pizza,” said Vitrano. “I am ready to pay-it-forward during the 2013 entrepreneur season.”

Applications for the IDEAxcelerator program close at 11:59 p.m. CT on Monday, August 27, 2012, and are available at