For seven years now, the St. Bernard Economic Development Foundation and the Meraux Foundation have been recognizing startup success through their Startup St. Bernard competition. This year, Glass Half Full took home the grand prize of nearly $100K in cash and in-kind services. Glass Half Full is a glass recycling company that collects glass and converts it into beach-like sand and glass cullet for disaster relief, eco-construction, new glass products, and more.
Glass Half Full started with a bottle of wine and a backyard. Their founders, Max Steitz and Franziska Trautmann, were seniors at Tulane University and were frustrated with New Orleans's lack of glass recycling. They believed it to be unrealistic to try and reform the whole recycling system, so instead they looked at the glass half full and decided to hatch a plan for implementing their own grassroots recycling program. Thus, they began collecting and hand-crushing their friends' glass in a backyard. Since then, they have grown immensely and are made up of a team of staff, volunteers, and community members who pitch in daily to make sure tens of thousands of pounds of glass stay far away from NOLA's landfills every week. To contribute your glass to the project, you can schedule residential pickup, business pickup, or participate in the free drop-off.
Glass Half Full laid out its plans for St. Bernard Parish during the initial pitch. Doing so, they explained that the company would provide ample opportunities for parish residents to recycle their glass, diverting waste from landfills and putting it to good use. For example, the glass could be converted to make Mardi Gras beads or help with coastal restoration. The entrepreneurs also highlighted that they would create high-wage, high-skilled "green" jobs in the parish.
The competition was open to any business under five years old that agreed to locate their base of operations in St. Bernard Parish and participate in its entrepreneurial system. Three finalists pitched their businesses following the style of a Shark Tank-like competition. Nice Plants Good Pots, a commercial plant nursery headquartered in Arabi, and St. Bernard EcoTourism, a local eco-tourism destination in St. Bernard for both tourists and locals alike, were the other two finalists, who each won $5,000.
"Startup St. Bernard is all about showcasing our parish as a great place in which to do business, and all three of these companies are shining examples of the innovative and creative businesses that will thrive here", Rita Gue, president of the Meraux Foundation, said. Gue made it clear that the competition was thick this year with some of the most impressive groups of businesses they had ever had compete in Startup St. Bernard.
The finalists and winner were considered by a long list of successful individuals. The finalists were selected by an independent scoring committee with Goldman Sachs 10,000 Small Businesses Program at Delgado Community College. The lucky grand prize winner, however, was chosen by an independent panel of judges, including: Andrea Chen, co-founder and executive director of Propeller: A Force for Social Innovation; Della Rucker, AICP, CEcD, and principal of Wise Economy Workshop; Allen Square, founder and CEO of Square Button Group; Kevin Wilkins, founder and managing director of trepwise; and Desiree Young, founder and CEO of VentureWalk Business Partners, LLC. Lastly, the event was emceed by Tom Gregory, Multiple Emmy-winning host, writer, producer, and reporter.
Without the generous support of sponsors who contribute cash and in-kind services, the event would not be possible. This year's sponsors are the Meraux Foundation, Associated Terminals, Bernard Franks - A Corporation of Certified Accountants, Biz New Orleans, CORE: Louisiana Counseling & Recovery Center, Ditto's Printing & Copy Center, evanschmidt design, the Frederick J. Sigur Investment Company, the Ganon Group, the Greater New Orleans Foundation, Mr. Floyd Gue, Mrs. Rita Gue, Gulf Coast Bank & Trust Company, Mr. Joey Nieto, Leadership St. Bernard, the Nunez Community College Foundation, Outfront Media, Park Investments Ltd., Ragusa Consulting, Senator Sharon Hewitt, Sherman Strategies, Shine Productions, Sidney Torres Law Firm, Southern Insurance Agency, the St. Bernard Chamber of Commerce, the St. Bernard Parish Assessor, St. Bernard Parish Government, the St. Bernard Tourist Commission, The Palms too, The Ranch Studios, and Valero Meraux Refinery.
Startup St. Bernard is truly an opportunity for businesses to take their work to the next level. Meaghan McCormack, executive director of the St. Bernard Economic Development Foundation, explained that the startup competition is an effective tool for promoting business attraction and growth within the parish. "We cannot wait to see the services, jobs, and impacts Glass Half Full brings to our community in the coming years," McCormack said.
For more information about the winning company, visit glasshalffullnola.org.