Entrepreneur Week Shows New Orleans’ Upstart Spirit

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This year, organizers of Entrepreneur Week in New Orleans say attendance is ten times last year’s, an indication of how the entrepreneurial spirit in the city is also growing.

Entrepreneur Week gives people tips, connections, and even cash to help them get their new businesses rolling.  This is the fifth year for the event that is organized by the non-profit group Idea Village.

Among the people hoping to make some contacts was Leigh Wright, the marketing director for Kirkendoll Management LLC.  Much of her work focuses on the technology side of marketing and promotions.  She was looking to meet some programmers and code writers at the event.

“Since I’m just out of college, I’m looking for people who are also trying to pad their resumes,” she said.  “I’m really looking for people who are go getters.”

Wright was confident she could find the expertise she needed in New Orleans, and one of the speakers at this week’s event agrees.

“I’m a huge fan of New Orleans and a big believer that what’s happening here is the sort of thing that needs to happen elsewhere,” said business writer Donna Fenn shortly after making a presentation at Entrepreneur Week.

Fenn wrote the book Upstarts!  How GenY Entrepreneurs are Rocking the World of Business and 8 Ways You Can Profit from Their Success.  She also writes for Inc. Magazine and penned an article calling New Orleans the coolest start-up city in America.

Fenn says GenY entrepreneurs are starting their own businesses because they’ve seen how corporate downsizing has affected older friends and family members.

“It’s really about, you know, I want to be the CEO of my life,” Fenn said of the GenY entrepreneurs.

The event includes contests as well.  Organizers say the challenges prompt people to rethink tired practices.  And while the ideas are fresh, not all of the sources are GenY.

In one of the contests, the winner’s idea was fresh even if he was well past his college years.

“The winner was a 71-year-old inventor from Cutoff, Louisiana,” said Robbie Vitrano, the co-founder of Idea Village.

Vitrano says modern entrepreneurs don’t have to be GenY but they do need to bring fresh ideas to a world that changes quickly with technology.

New Orleans has received favorable reviews and rankings over the past few years as a technology or entrepreneurial city.  Vitrano says ideas are flourishing here because the entire city is taking innovative approaches to urban planning, health care, and education.

Friday, the event wraps up with an opportunity for entrepreneurs to pitch their ideas on Fulton Street with an opportunity to win up to $50,000 in start-up money.