Johnson School team aims to help New Orleans startups

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Joe Schwartz

A team of Johnson School students has been invited for the first time to compete in the Idea Village Entrepreneur Challenge, March 20-27, in New Orleans.

The challenge, part of Entrepreneur Week 2010, charges teams from the nation's leading business schools to use their professional skills in short-term, high-impact service roles in the revitalization of New Orleans.

Known as the IDEACorps, the group of M.B.A. students from Cornell, Northwestern, Stanford, Tulane, Loyola, the University of New Orleans, the University of Chicago, and the University of California-Berkeley are helping local startups prepare pitches to venture capitalists.

The team of Daniel Hest, Marlon Nichols, Kelly Dwyer, Padraic McConville, Lou Paik, Jamease Leonard, Henry Parry-Okeden and Matthew Donovan is working with Schedulist, a New Orleans-based startup with a workforce scheduling program designed to improve employee retention. The team is assisting Schedulist with developing a plan to address their most pressing business problems.

"This endeavor will make a meaningful difference to the teams' entrepreneurial partners while showcasing the strong and deep talent that we have here at the Johnson School," said Risa Mish, a lecturer in leadership and the team's adviser.

The team is in New Orleans for a week-long intensive program to help Schedulist and its founder, Christopher Laibe '88, develop the company's launch plan, which will include a sales and marketing strategy and investment sourcing approach.

One of the main benefactors of IDEACorps efforts has been the city of New Orleans, which was devastated by flooding that followed Hurricane Katrina in 2005. The nonprofit Idea Village, created in 2000 to help businesses get back on their feet, launched IDEACorps in 2006.

"It is a business-oriented Peace Corps concept that pairs M.B.A. candidates with local entrepreneurs," said president and co-founder Tim Williamson.

The Johnson School team is sponsored by American Airlines. Co-sponsors include the Black Graduate Business Association and the Roy H. Park Leadership Fellows Program, with additional financial support from the Office of Diversity and Inclusion, Marketing Association, Health Care and Biotechnology Club, Entrepreneurship and Venture Capital Club, the Consulting Club, Sustainable Global Enterprise Club and several members of the Johnson School faculty.

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