The Urban League of Greater New Orleans Women in Business Challenge is focused on educating and empowering women entrepreneurs in the city. The Challenge Pitch that took place this afternoon (March 21) is the culmination of the Urban IDEACenter four-month business program that selected ten women to participate in the inaugural 2013 cohort.
Entrepreneur-In-Residence at the Idea Village, a partner in the Challenge, Carol Markowitz kicked off the event by saying, “NOEW has become a platform for powerful partner engagement.” As more organizations work together, more doors are opened for those who want to “go bigger” in business, a goal of all the women in the cohort.
The organization selected five of the ten entrepreneurs to pitch their companies for a chance at $10,000 in seed capital at the event during New Orleans Entrepreneur Week. The companies pitching included:
- DyverseCity, Nicole Balthazar – a unique marketplace focused on inner-city revitalization, development, and empowerment for artists and entrepreneurs
- GotPlanz?, Ashley Despanza – a full-service, social planning platform that allows users to “find, create, and share” their plans
- Sweet Rising Nursing Tutorial, Velma Lewis, PhD – helps disadvantaged students succeed in nursing school by providing strategic instruction
- Ooh La Bra!, Lisa McKenzie – carries over 100 students of designer bra straps for every imaginable occasion
- Key Models & Talent Agency, Keala Hughes- provides just-in-time staffing support for corporate promotional needs through diverse, experienced personnel
The panel of judges for the Women in Business Challenge included Marc Boucree, Vice President of Community Development Banking, Capital One Bank; Kim Boyle, Partner, Phelps Dunbar; LaToya Cantrell, New Orleans City Council Member, District B; Allen Frederic, Partner, Jones Walker; and Aimee Quirk, Advisor to the Mayor for Economic Development, City of New Orleans.
All five entrepreneurs were vying for the seed capital, hoping it take their businesses to the next level. “It validates that New Orleans has passionate, driven female entrepreneurs who have big ideas…but also specific challenges that need to be addressed to grow businesses,” said Tim Williamson, Co-founder and CEO of Idea Village. “The Idea Village and Urban League partnership has effectively been able to identify and support these entrepreneurs.”
Williamson said they would love to grow the Challenge over the next season and make it an annual event. “What catalyzes the entrepreneur community is diversity. This week is about bringing those diverse communities together to showcase the unique talents of our community in a collaborative way,” said Williamson.
Nicole Balthazar, Founder of DyverseCity took home the $10,000 prize. Her company operates an affordable space for a cultural arts program. The warehouse is home to creative art-and-culture-focused entrepreneurs. A goal of the company is to develop additional commercial properties in neighborhoods outside of the Broadmoor Arts District where they are located now. Nicole hopes to breathe life back into these communities. DyverseCity’s motto is, “for artists, by artists!” For more information, visit dyversecity.com.