LineGard Med, SweetBio, and ZUNI Learning Tree win 2nd Annual Delta Entrepreneur Showcase

March 18, 2016

NEW ORLEANS, La. – Five entrepreneurs from the Delta region won awards Thursday at the Delta Entrepreneur Showcase, an event sponsored by the Delta Regional Authority as part of the 8th annual New Orleans Entrepreneur Week. From the field of nineteen, Spencer Jones, Founder and CEO of LineGard Med of Little Rock, Arkansas, won the grand prize of $10,000. SweetBio from Memphis, Tennessee, took home $2,500 and second place, and Tina McCord, Founder of ZUNI Learning Tree from Little Rock, was 2nd runner-up and awarded $1,500. Joel Halpern of Musistic and Sandeep Pednekar of Renewable Energies, Inc., both from Memphis, won audience favorite awards.

“Entrepreneurs from across the Delta have been able to access the investors, information, ideas, and peer groups that will help them build their businesses, attract funding, and succeed in realizing their innovations and dreams through the DEN fellowship and NOEW programming,” said Chris Masingill, federal co-chairman of the Delta Regional Authority.

The fellows are part of a class of 19 entrepreneurs from six DRA states that participated in the showcase, during which entrepreneurs engaged with judges, investors, fellow entrepreneurs, and other NOEW attendees in a round-robin of conversational pitches on their companies. From this round, judges selected three of the participating entrepreneurs—SweetBio, ZUNI Learning Tree and LineGard Med—for a final on-stage pitch to the entire audience for the grand prize of $10,000 in startup funding.

“This year’s entrepreneurs bring incredible business models that have the potential to disrupt the industries that they’re working within,” said Katie Milligan, director of small business & entrepreneurship for DRA. “These are companies that have grown in the Delta and plan to stay in the Delta, investing in their local community. We’re proud to be able to support them with a strong network of resources, mentors, and peers.”

Additional entrepreneurs that pitched in the Delta Entrepreneur Showcase: Amelia Thomas of EntreLinc and Ryan Bergeron of Revival Coffee from Alabama; Rachel Fuller of Feather from Arkansas; Dr. Lula Luu and Dr. John Crilly of FIN Gourmet and Steve Gough of N.O.V8.ion from Kentucky; Arun Lakhotia of Cythereal, Mark Savage of Viper Drill, Mark Moore of Prep Tech LLC, and Joey Comeaux of CoverSix from Louisiana; Alexander Ray of Zyn Careers and Manivanh Chanprasith of Billy’s Original Foods from Mississippi; and Hirsch Serman of Divorce Secure, Marc London of FrontDesk Connect, and Bryant Warren of MyCollegeSTREAM from Tennessee.

“This entire week has been such an amazing experience and winning the Delta Entrepreneur Showcase was icing on the cake. Building a successful business is hard, and the technical training provided by the DRA sharpened everyone's skills,” said Spencer Jones, Founder and CEO of LineGard Med. “Having co-founders of companies like AOL and Reddit share their stories is inspiring and helps keep young entrepreneurs driven. Those moments would never be possible without events like NOEW and the people at the DRA hustling to make it happen. This was my first year attending NOEW, but I'm definitely going to be here every year moving forward!”

In its second year of participating in NOEW, the dynamic eight-day business festival that engages New Orleans’ entrepreneurial community in discussion, debate, education, competition, and celebration designed to support new ideas and elevate entrepreneurial thinking, the DEN hosted four days of programming that helped to advance the regional conversation about strengthening the Delta’s entrepreneurial ecosystem.

Entrepreneurs and entrepreneurship support organizations in the DEN participated in NOEW Interactive panels and workshops on entrepreneurship development, business skills, and specific industry innovations. DEN also held programming for leaders of historically black colleges and universities that will focus on strategies for incorporating HBCUs and their entrepreneurs into the region’s ecosystem.   

“As we continue to build New Orleans’ brand as a leading entrepreneurial ecosystem, our partnership with DRA is helping to expand entrepreneurship and NOEW’s network beyond New Orleans into the greater Delta region, establishing NOEW as the premier festival for entrepreneurship in the South,” said Tim Williamson, Co-founder and CEO of The Idea Village. “The Delta entrepreneurs are an important addition to the idea-sharing and excitement of NOEW and New Orleans’ ecosystem.”

The participating entrepreneurs were selected through the Delta Challenge, a series of six pitch competitions held across the Delta region in Fall 2015. The entrepreneurship support organizations were identified through an application and interview process with regional experts and practitioners in entrepreneurship. The entrepreneurs and ESOs come from seven DRA states, representing both rural and urban communities, and are listed here.

About Delta Entrepreneurship Network

The Delta Entrepreneurship Network was launched by DRA in January 2015 to identify, connect, and grow entrepreneurs in the Delta region and those organizations supporting them into a vibrant ecosystem of innovation and economic success. Over the course of the fellowship, DEN fellows receive technical assistance in pitch development, business planning, marketing and branding, and other important entrepreneurship skills. Learn more about the Delta Entrepreneurship Network at www.dra.gov/entrepreneur.

###

Spencer Lucker
(202) 744-3558
slucker@dra.gov