Contest recognizes innovative businesses

A mobile clinic that expunges legal records, a service for women in childbirth and a nonprofit that picks unwanted fruit for charity were the winners in a recent search for innovative “community solutions” sponsored by Propeller and Tulane University.

Propeller holds PitchNOLA every year, offering innovative small businesses a chance to win cash prizes to expand their work.

Companies with revenues of $50,000 or less were eligible. Each company was allotted three minutes to explain its concept. The three top choices of the judges could then pitch again, answering further questions.

The winner was JAC’s Mobile Expungement Clinic, which provides affordable legal services to ex-offenders and the wrongly convicted who need their records corrected. JAC won the grand prize of $5,000.

Second place and $4,000 went to Birthmark Doula Collective, which provides support for women in childbirth.

The third place prize of $3,000 went to The New Orleans Fruit Tree Project, a nonprofit that organizes volunteers to pick unwanted fruit from trees in local back yards and lots, then donates the fruit to charities that feed the hungry.

Other finalists were: Enlighten through Travel, enrichED, Fe-Fi-Fo-Farm!, Smiles2Geaux, SODI-CAN, The New Orleans Fruit Tree Project, Youth Radio New Orleans, and ZomBeads: Mardi Gras ReMade in New Orleans.

Speakers were Andrea Chen, Stephanie Barksdale and Lina Alfieri-Stern.

The keynote speaker was Bill Bohnett, member of the board of Synergos, which works with nonprofit foundations. Tulane finance professor Peter Ricchiuti was master of ceremonies.

Bohnett encouraged the companies and audience to progress in their early stage ventures and to continue to “ their crazy ideas.”

“Out of chaos comes clarity and opportunity,” he said. “When you think you have something, go for it, and go for it aggressively.”