Junior Achievement Celebrates its 2012 Rising Stars
On Friday, November 9, Junior Achievement of Greater New Orleans (JAGNO) will honor its ninth class of Rising Stars at the 2012 City Stars Soirée. The celebration, sponsored by Entergy, Peoples Health and St. Charles Avenue magazine, will take place at JA BizTown located on the City Park campus of Delgado Community College.
We are honored to introduce the 2012 Rising Stars in this special section of St. Charles Avenue magazine. They are: G. Perry Eastman, President of Auto-Chlor Services, LLC; Jennifer Medbery, Founder & CEO of Kickboard; Jessica Shahien, Executive Director of 504ward; Gary Solomon Jr., President of Solomon Group; along with Craig Cordes, Co-Founder and CFO, Antonio LaMartina, Co-Founder and Vice President of Sales and Sal LaMartina, Co-Founder and CEO of Cordina Frozen Cocktails.
JA empowers young people to own their economic success with its many hands-on economics learning experiences, and by recognizing and honoring role models. Beginning in 1984, JAGNO began inducting community business leaders into its prestigious Junior Achievement Business Hall of Fame. To recognize and encourage young entrepreneurs showing early excellence and business potential, the Rising Stars award was created in 2002. Recipients are 40 or under individuals from the area that demonstrate leadership, vision, ingenuity and innovation. These Rising Stars serve as role models for others in business and in life. JAGNO encourages and challenges each honoree to continue to strive in their careers so that they might be honored again someday with the recognition as a Business Hall of Fame Laureate!
Message from the JA President and Soirée Chair
Junior Achievement of Greater New Orleans (JAGNO) has decided 9 might just be their lucky number. Last year, through JAGNO’s relationship with New Orleans Saints number 9 Drew Brees, the organization was awarded $31,000 in funding when he won the NFL/FedEx Player of the Week and Year. Not only did this fund programs for the students of our area, it provided all of us Who Dats with hope and cheer all season long. And on November 9, 2012 we will continue the celebration with the City Stars Soirée and JA Rising Stars 9th Annual event.
This year’s honorees, also like Drew Brees, are all under the age of 40. They exemplify the business qualities we are trying to instill in our students; being resourceful, driven and passionate about their products and our community. We invite you to join us as we celebrate the accomplishments of the 2012 Rising Stars: G. Perry Eastman of Auto-Chlor Services, LLC.; Jennifer Medbery of Kickboard; Jessica Shahien of 504ward; Gary Solomon Jr. of Solomon Group and Craig Cordes, Antonio LaMartina and Sal LaMartina of Cordina Frozen Cocktails.
We know this will be a historic year for all of Junior Achievement of Greater New Orleans’ number 9’s (not to mention a certain ‘2peat” as well)! Please join us for the celebration and renew your commitment to teaching our kids the importance of growing our economy and making our entire city a winning environment.
JA Celebrates Its 2012 Rising Stars
G. Perry Eastman IV
President and CEO of Auto-Chlor Services, LLC
New Orleans native Perry Eastman IV, president and CEO of Auto-Chlor Services, LLC, runs a business that provides warewashing, laundry and institutional cleaning and sanitizing products as well as leasing programs for commercial dishwashing, laundry and housekeeping applications. This innovative business model operates throughout an 11-state area in the Southeast and South Central United States. Eastman reached his current status as a successful entrepreneur by simply setting “personal and professional goals” and then “trying to hit them. I stayed patient, took small steps and definitely listened a lot more than I spoke,” he says. “The biggest key was, and still is, being surrounded by an excellent team.”
He credits his parents as his mentors: “They have completely different styles and personalities, and I have learned so much from both of them,” he says. “They were never overbearing and never tried to push me in certain directions.”
The best advice he ever received was “You don’t get what you want; you get what you deserve.” His goals for the future include continuing to build and nurturing Auto-Chlor and “proving that growing businesses can be headquartered in New Orleans.” He says that aspiring entrepreneurs should “find the best, most knowledgeable people you can afford. The better the people, the better the job done.”
Founder & CEO of Kickboard
Jen Medbery moved to New Orleans as a founding teacher of a local charter school. Her experience as an educator inspired her to launch Kickboard, an education technology company that offers a next-generation gradebook-as-a-platform. Kickboard allows teachers to collect, analyze and share mission-critical data while keeping track of student performance as a whole. It also records academic progress, behavior and character development, along with parental communication.
“There is no typical day,” says Medbery. “I wear many hats so my daily activities vary wildly, depending on what’s most pressing that particular day.” She constantly communicates with her team in order to remain aware of what’s happening across her company, whether it’s in the field of product development, customer service or sales and marketing.
It isn’t surprising that Medbery credits her former teachers as sources of inspiration. While she was in college, professors helped her refine her skills in technology, and her colleagues in the schools where she worked helped her become a better educator. They “acted as a sounding board while I was formulating my idea for Kickboard,” she says. Medbery is ambitious about the company’s future. “We would like to see dozens of districts nationwide using Kickboard. Imagine if all the same grade level or subject area across multiple schools could share best practices and extract trends from their classroom data? The impact,” she muses, “could be profound.”
Executive Director, 504ward
As executive director of 504ward, Jessica Shahien meets with young professionals; gives career advice and suggestions on how to “plug into” the New Orleans area; coordinates events for members of the organization and discusses the talent needs of local companies; and figures out how to connect them to top talent. The mission of 504ward is to retain the influx of young talent in the area, focusing on 23-35 year olds. The organization helps both newcomers and natives by connecting them to key events, people, organizations and opportunities. Shahien, herself a native, says she has always had a knack for helping people connect. “I was lucky to discover 504ward while it was being incubated at the Idea Village as a ‘brain gain initiative,’” she says. Her hard work and faith in the city has helped tremendously.
“One obstacle I originally encountered through 504ward was convincing the establishment in New Orleans that the young professional community was not only in New Orleans but they wanted to stay here,” she explains.
Shahien is excited about growing the organization, which currently represents approximately 25 percent of the young professional community in the area.
“I look forward to finding new and creative ways to connect our members to the many opportunities that exist here.”
Gary Solomon Jr.
President, Solomon Group
Solomon Group provides creative and technical production services to high-end live events, museum and attraction environments and multimedia installations. The heart of this business, explains president Gary Solomon, is that “we’re all storytellers. Our job is to bring your story to life, to make it moving and memorable, to engage, entertain and educate.”
A graduate of New York University’s prestigious Tisch School of Arts, the native New Orleanian (who also studied at NOCCA and St. Martin’s) returned home to develop his career.
“I went to college with eyes on a lighting design career in musical theater, but New York exposed me to opportunities that allowed me to imagine a career bringing that sense of theatricality to markets that craved and valued creativity and complex technical coordination outside of the traditional ‘theater’ environment,” he says. He also credits his parents for mentoring him as he started Solomon Group with two partners in 2009 – today the company has more than 50 employees. With roots that are firmly established here, the company is also expanding its reach outside the local market. “One goal for the future is to bring our talented New Orleans team to work on large projects around the country and prove that New Orleans can be home-base to a world-class production team that doesn’t have to live in New York or Los Angeles to be successful,” he says.
Co-founder, CFO, Cordina Frozen Cocktails
Co-founder, Vice President of Sales, Cordina Frozen Cocktails
Co-founder, CEO, Cordina Frozen Cocktails
Craig Cordes and his friends, brothers Sal and Antonio LaMartina, are in the business of enhancing the fun. Big Easy Blends is an innovative alcoholic beverage company – perhaps you’ve sipped on one of their products at a local music festival or on a trip to the beach, which is where they first came up with their idea. The flagship product is Cordina (a portmanteau of their last names) frozen cocktails, which are served in a stand-up flexible pouch. Sal LaMartina, CEO, says they face obstacles every day, such as competing against billion-dollar liquor companies. “It takes passion and hard work to win,” he says. Through hard work and “calculated risks,” the team has become a success both locally and nationally. Cordes says that every day is different – whether they’re reviewing new product launches or reviewing financial performances. For aspiring entrepreneurs, he says, “Do not get hung up in writing an elaborate business plan, as your plan will change every day. Have a clear view of what you want the end to look like, and continue to jump the hurdles throughout the cycle to get there.” Antonio LaMartina adds, “Do not be afraid to share your ideas with your peers … People are generally willing to assist with your efforts rather than take them.”
November Fun Under the JA Biztown Stars
On Friday, November 9 from 7pm to 11pm, you’re invited to join Junior Achievement of Greater New Orleans as we gather under the stars of JA BizTown for the ninth annual celebration of the “City Stars Soirée.” This fête will be located on the City Park campus of Delgado Community College and will honor both the children of our area and the young entrepreneurs that will act as their role models in both business and community leadership.
During the Soirée, we’ll recognize our seven Rising Star recipients. For just a $50 ticket (or $75 for a couple), you can enjoy the music and dancing provided by the always rockin’ Bucktown All-Stars, delicious cuisine courtesy of New Orleans’ finest restaurants and libations provided by Republic National Distributing and Crescent Crown Distributing. You can also take a stroll around JA BizTown’s kid-city to have your caricature drawn or have your tarot cards read.
At the Friday, November 9 City Stars Soirée, guests will enjoy a silent auction with over 100 items to bid on, New Orleans cuisine and libations. Music will be provided by the Bucktown All-Stars plus amusing entertainment featuring fortune tellers, photo booths and caricaturists!
The Rising Star
The Rising Star award signifies outstanding performance and achievement. Junior Achievement of Greater New Orleans presents each Rising Star recipient with a dazzling shooting star sculpted out of crystal. It brilliantly symbolizes the stellar achievements they have already reached in their careers and lights the way for others to follow. Junior Achievement’s Rising Stars create, innovate and shine brightly.
JA Inspiring Future Business Leaders
Junior Achievement of Greater New Orleans (JAGNO) empowers young people to own their economic success. This focus on workforce development, entrepreneurship and financial literacy fosters a partnership between the business and education communities of our area. In simplest terms, JAGNO, its programs and its trained volunteers seek to link classroom learning to the everyday demands of real life in a free enterprise economy.
JAGNO provides economics education to young people in grades kindergarten through 12 within their own classroom. This in-class continuum from grade to grade is built upon sequential hands-on economics programs presented by classroom volunteers from the business community, local colleges and universities, as well as parents (providing introduction to some of the first conversations about economics between parent and child). These programs teach young people business principles, decision-making and critical thinking. Most importantly, these school programs provide the link between volunteer role models and the child’s real life.
To strengthen and reinforce this, JAGNO offers two site-based programs: JA BizTown for 5th and 6th graders and Capital One/Junior Achievement Finance Park for 7th through 12th graders. Both programs begin with up to 18 hours of classroom preparation leading to the heavily hands-on, experience-based learning at the respective site-based facilities.
JA BizTown’s curriculum culminates with a unique experience in a simulated kid-sized city located in JAGNO’s facility on the City Park campus of Delgado Community College. At JA BizTown, students apply what’s learned in the classroom as they own and operate businesses and buy and sell goods and services.
For the older students, Finance Park, presented through the generous support of Capital One, includes a one-day experience in financial literacy in a “mobile” leaning lab that has operated at sites at JAGNO’s facility and within St. Charles and St. Tammany parishes.
Be it in-class or site-based, each JA program provides a strong stand-alone economics learning opportunity, preparing young people for the future and enhancing financial literacy. Through JAGNO’s work to develop ongoing partnerships with schools and businesses throughout its 12 parish service area in southeast Louisiana, last year 23,819 students benefitted from the full gamut of economics learning that will, in turn, benefit us all in the future.