Big Fish on the rise in BR

In just a few short months, Big Fish Presentations has done work for Blue Cross and Blue Shield of Louisiana, Raising Cane’s, Voodoo BBQ and other well-known companies around Baton Rouge.

The five-man team has put together professional presentations for jobs as small as $500 and as large as $4,500. Big Fish’s revenue projections are on track, and are set to hit the “low six figures” in the first year, say its partners. And about a week ago, they completed a move to a new office above an AT&T store on Perkins Road near Acadian Thruway.

But don’t take these guys out for beers to celebrate or discuss a new account. Because only two of them — Nafees Alam, 22 and Drew Reilley, 27 — are old enough to drink.

The energy behind Big Fish Presentations is yet another example of young, local talented college students not waiting around for graduation to launch their careers.

They are all undergrad students, who started Big Fish Presentations in February at the student incubator at the Louisiana Business and Technology Park on LSU’s South Campus. They represent the first company to move on to their private digs while still holding student status.

The decision by Big Fish to leave the incubator was basically a combination of all the reasons entrepreneurs strike out on their own:

--An urge to cultivate their own identity that doesn’t get stirred in with other companies sharing the incubator space.

--A heightened sense of professionalism — perceived or otherwise — that comes with having your own address.

--A location that will help the business grow.

“To get bigger clients you have to have your own image,” said Kenny Nguyen, founder of Big Fish Presentations and a 20-year-old finance junior at LSU. “We needed to have our space, not shared space.”

“We love the incubator,” chimed in Sam Claitor, 20, one of the partners of Big Fish Presentations and a graphic design junior at LSU. “We just feel this is our next step in the process.”

When describing their services, Nguyen and Claitor say, sure, Big Fish can put together a PowerPoint presentation. But the company also uses other presentation software platforms like SlideRocket, which builds customized slide presentations with photos, graphics and other media.

“We will even coach you about how to give a presentation,” Nguyen said.

Clients say they were looking for a presentation designer with “zip.”

“We are committed to supporting local business, especially new and up-and-coming entrepreneurial talent coming out of local universities,” said Courtney Ardoin, director of market research and product development at Blue Cross and Blue Shield of Louisiana.  “Given the topics we cover in the marketplace and internally, we found their product an exciting alternative to our current approach.”

Raising Cane’s, another client, was attracted to Big Fish Presentations’ entrepreneurial energy.

“Frequently Cane’s crewmembers are asked to present on the Raising Cane’s story, so we hired the group to update our presentation,” said Julie Perrault, a Raising Cane’s spokesperson. “Being an entrepreneurial company, Raising Cane’s values start-ups and works to support business development and entrepreneurialism.”

GiftMeo, another student-germinated company formed by Michael Angle and Martin Roth, that links gift cards with social networking sites, also recently left the student incubator. However, their move — into the more traditional Louisiana Business and Technology Center incubator at LSU — was primarily because neither Roth nor Angle were students any longer — a definite prerequisite for using the rent-free space in the student facility.

“Martin recently graduated LSU so we no longer have a student in the business; therefore needed to move out from the student incubator,” Angle said.

Big Fish Presentations’ new office location — easy to access off of the South Acadian Thruway I-10 exit — was important to the crew.

“We wanted someplace that was easy to find,” Nguyen explained.

The AT&T store building has several upstairs offices and a burger restaurant is set to move into the other ground-floor commercial space. There’s also an empty slab next door where The Caterie used to be that seems ready for new development. All of these factors played a role in Big Fish’s location.

“We wanted to put ourselves in a place of growth,” said Gus Murillo, 19, and another partner. Murillo is a sophomore at LSU studying biological sciences. He mostly manages accounts at Big Fish.

“And we can kind of see ourselves as a real company now,” he added.

And a real company they are.

“Look, we have our own white board now,” said Nguyen one recent afternoon while offering a “tour” of the 385-square-foot office with a nice view of Acadian Thruway.

The group also holds weekly staff meetings to stay organized and identify priorities.

“We’re great with time management,” Claitor said.

“And we love it when we can scratch something off that list,” he added, pointing to a corner of the marker-board, with a list of “potential and current clients,” among other notes.

Big Fish Presentations was recently one of six student companies to participate in the final round of the Global Student Entrepreneurial Awards in New York in May. Even though the company did not take home the top recognition, Big Fish was the youngest company there and the first to come out of LSU, Nguyen said. Some 1,700 student companies applied.

At the GSEA events, judges remarked on Big Fish’s keen presentation abilities, Nguyen recounted.

“Which I guess makes sense, since that is what we do,” he added.

However, the group’s tight organization and professionalism also has not gone unnoticed locally.

“Kenny is a real star and I knew it would not take long to incubate his businesses as he is a ‘driven and focused entrepreneur,’” said Charles D’Agostino, executive director of the Louisiana Business and Technology Center. “From the day he entered the LBTC Student Incubator, he was focused on graduation and having his own space.” 

And Big Fish Presentations has done exactly what D’Agostino and others envision companies to do: grow up and leave the proverbial nest.

“That is the mission of the LBTC, to give necessary guidance, counseling, resources and networks, then allow the winners to move on and spread their wings,” D’Agostino said.