Junior Achievement is all about the kids. It’s about preparing and inspiring our young people to be successful participants in our rebuilding economy. JA does this with its economics curriculum presented by role model volunteers in classrooms and other settings throughout our rebuilding city and region. JA also does this by honoring successful entrepreneurs.
Since 1984, JA New Orleans has annually inducted business leaders from the community into its “Business Hall of Fame.” These Hall of Fame Laureates are individuals who exemplify all that JA teaches. They are people who have excelled as entrepreneurs and business people making a difference for themselves and the community.
The JA Hall of Fame Laureates are no overnight wonders. They have etched legacies of achievement. For our youth, they are the superstars of business and entrepreneurialism. But before they became superstars they were rising stars.
As JA celebrates our youth again at this year’s “City Stars Soirée,” we recognize that one day our schoolchildren will enter the business world and become the entrepreneurs of tomorrow. Junior Achievement looks forward to those children rising from JA and from under the City Stars of a new Capstone Education center to become rising stars, and maybe, Hall of Fame superstars. To point the way, this year Junior Achievement introduces the 2007 recognition of its “Rising Stars.”
“Rising Stars” recognizes young individuals (40 or under) who have demonstrated strong entrepreneurial skills with high moral and ethical standards. They must be a founder, co-founder, owner, and/or integral key person of a growing entrepreneurial business. The “Rising Star” must demonstrate leadership, vision, ingenuity and innovation, and must serve as a role model for others in business and life.
In 2007, our “Rising Stars” are: John Besh, Chef, Restaurant August; Rita Benson LeBlanc, Owner/Executive Vice President, New Orleans Saints; Philip Nimmo,
Owner, Fast Tax Service; Clark A. Todd, President, Blessey Marine Services; and Sidney D. Torres, IV, Owner, SDT Waste & Debris Services.
Previous “Rising Stars” are: 2006: Sean Cummings, Brian Kern, Kevin Langley, Aaron Miscenich and Robert Nelson; 2004: John Bowers III, John McNamara II, Virginia Miller, Tim Williamson and Jeffrey Zehnder. (There were no awards in 2005 because it was postponed by Hurricane Katrina.)
Message from the JA President & “City Stars Soirée” Chair
On Sat., Nov. 10, Junior Achievement will celebrate its 4th annual “City Stars Soirée.” Please take a moment to read about the soirée, including the recognition of five wonderful “Rising Stars” and, of course, learn a little bit of Junior Achievement’s recovery efforts. Here, we simply want to update you on the “City Stars Soirée” and how Junior Achievement and the Shops at Canal Place came together to host this great event again.
Years one and two of the soirée were held in Junior Achievement’s recently constructed “kid city” on the City Park Campus of Delgado Community College. The concept was simple in design. Where Junior Achievement’s “Business Hall of Fame” has long recognized the “established” business leaders in our region, the soirée would focus its efforts on recognizing a younger and less established business leader who just might be poised and ready to make a big difference in our community—all while welcoming the community into our “kid city.” If you look at this year’s class of “Rising Stars” and those who they join from previous years, it is a dynamic and exciting group of young men and women.
The soirée was postponed in 2005 due to Hurricane Katrina and the damage incurred to JA’s facilities, which even today—more than two years later—remain gutted and unavailable to prepare and inspire our young people.
Year three, and now year four, of the soirée have generously been hosted by the Shops at Canal Place with great thanks and appreciation from Junior Achievement.
So where do we go from here? With a bit of luck, a lot of hard work, and the willing cooperation of the State, Delgado Community College, FEMA, and several other agencies, Junior Achievement will be welcoming you to a new and improved “kid city” in 2008—and you will be amazed at what you will see and what you
Celebrating Rebuilding Through kids at City Stars Soirée!
On Sat., Nov. 10, come to the Shops at Canal Place at 333 Canal St. to celebrate with Junior Achievement of Greater New Orleans. For the price of admission, you will eat, drink, dance, be merry—and maybe win door prizes valued at $7,500.
More than two years post-Katrina, JA New Orleans, like everyone else who suffered the ravages of Katrina and the challenges of rebuilding, has plenty to sing the blues about. And, while we cannot abandon our persistence in working with the absurdities that seem to come with the recovery bureaucracy, we have our eyes on the future: the children of our New Orleans region. Because of them and through them we are rebuilding. And, with that in mind, we will pause again and celebrate at our fourth Junior Achievement “City Stars Soirée,” presented by Latter & Blum. We invite you to become part of the celebration.
You’ll join JA friends, volunteers, and supporters commemorating our children at this event introduced in 2003. That year, JA supporters partied and danced under the stars of JA’s Exchange City – New Orleans, the kid-sized city run by 5th and 6th graders on the City Park Campus of Delgado Community College. Though the post-Katrina flooding washed Exchange City away, the event was moved last year to the Shops at Canal Place as we looked forward to bringing back an even better Capstone Education experience. We’re not there yet, but as we confidently look forward, the celebration goes on.
In 2004, JA New Orleans introduced its “Rising Stars” recognition of young entrepreneurs. What a great way to celebrate and inspire our young people. In 2007, we introduce the third class of “Rising Stars” in cooperation with St. Charles
A Stellar Event!
A $100 ticket ($150 per couple) includes a VIP reception, 6 p.m. to 7 p.m., on Level Three of the Shops Canal Place, where the 2007 “Rising Stars” will be honored. At 7 p.m, the festivities move to Level One in the Shops of Canal Place where partygoers can enjoy food from many New Orleans fine restaurants, beverages courtesy of Republic National Distributing, and dancing to the music of ELS. In addition to the celebrating, by buying a ticket to the 2007 “City Stars Soirée” you’ll have the opportunity to win one of seven door prizes worth $7,500. Prizes include five cash prizes of $1,000 each, a shopping spree at the Shops at Canal Place, and a New Orleans weekend getaway.
Please join Junior Achievement at its fourth annual “City Stars Soirée” on Sat., Nov. 10. You’ll not only have fun and possibly win something from the raffle, you will also be supporting our children’s future.
For information and tickets, call Melissa Binder at 569-8658, or visitwww.jagno.org.
Junior Achievement 2007 Rising Stars
Rita Benson LeBlanc
Owner/Executive vice president,
New Orleans Saints and VooDoo
One of the most powerful team players for the New Orleans Saints and VooDoo organizations is a woman. Since becoming the owner/executive vice president of both teams, Rita Benson LeBlanc has hit the ground running and broken several sales and marketing records while working to rebuild the Gulf South.
The Saint’s 2006-2007 season was memorable for lifetime fans, as well as new additions to the bandwagon, and the year also marked a season ticket and luxury suite sellout for the Saints. The team’s successful strategies earned a 2006 Marketer of the Year award from the American Marketing Association and a 2007 MAX award for the “Winning is An Attitude” advertising campaign. “I predict another exciting season for Saints fans,” LeBlanc says. “Each year we prepare for a championship season by providing the support the team needs both on and off the field. These young men have the best facilities, dynamic coaches, outstanding fan support and the passion for greatness.”
In addition to managing two major football teams, LeBlanc is involved with several charitable organizations that she says are, “all impactful, worthy causes. They are also fun ways for people to get involved with good works that enhance our way of life.” LeBlanc serves on the United Way Board of Trustees, the New Orleans Business Council, the Board of Trustees of Loyola University, the Shirley Landry Benson PACE Center at St. Cecilia, and the Oblate Missionary Partnership.
Restaurant August, Lüke, La Provence
After leading a squad of infantry U.S. Marines in combat during Operation Desert Storm, directing staff through a dinner rush at any one of his renowned restaurants must seem like a cake walk for chef John Besh. Besh received his formal training at the Culinary Institute of America and has refined his palate while eating and traveling around the world. Even with this education, Besh considers Louisiana one of the world’s most exciting places to learn about food.
Restaurant August was Besh’s first foray as a New Orleans restaurateur in 2001. Since then, he has opened two more restaurants, Besh Steakhouse and Lüke, and bought La Provence. He also led the renovation of Willie Mae’s Scotch house immediately following Hurricane Katrina out of respect for the legendary establishment and cook. “Willie Mae and I are friends … I felt it was the least I could do as a human being, a friend and a fellow cook. Her food and her story are important to New Orleans,” Besh says. Besh’s entrepreneurial spirit and love for New Orleans continues to motivate him to expand his businesses. “I think the city will continue to recover and grow. It will become populated by a more progressive demographic. I look forward to growing my businesses with the community. I want to continue investing in this community that has contributed so much to my success.”
Of all the upcoming projects Besh has scheduled for this fall—including competing to be an Iron Chef—he is most excited about an appearance on the PBS program, “Kids on the Farm.”
“That event is closest to my heart because I get to go shrimping and cook with my four sons,” Besh says.
Owner, Fast Tax Service
Philip Nimmo thought starting his own business would be more exciting than finding a job after he graduated from Louisiana State University. In 1991, Nimmo started Fast Tax Service, which is a retail tax preparation and electronic filing service.
“At that time, electronic tax filing was in its infancy so it was a chance to grow with the industry,” Nimmo says. The industry has changed significantly since he opened his first store, but Fast Tax Service continued to innovate and distinguish itself from competitors. “There are over 50 million people filing their taxes electronically now, but we are growing because of our reasonable prices and personalized attention,” he says.
Nimmo lost most of his offices to Hurricane Katrina two years ago. “We had 26 offices in the New Orleans market before the storm and we were left with four after it,” he says. This year, he will have 24 locations throughout New Orleans. Fast Tax and its affiliates operate over 75 offices located throughout the South and file more than 40,000 tax returns annually. Nimmo expects to double his business in a few years and open more locations in new cities.
Nimmo is also president-elect of the New Orleans Rotary Club, a board member of Louisiana Civil Service League, and a dedicated family man to his wife, Julie, and their three sons, Thomas, John and David.
Clark A. Todd
President, Blessey Marine Services
“I made the right decision to hang up my glove and begin my business career,” president of Blessey Marine Services, Clark A. Todd, says about his decision to turn down an offer to play with the Chicago Cubs in 2001. After graduating from the University of Texas-Austin and earning his MBA from Southeastern Louisiana University, Todd’s talents were also noticed by Blessey Marine Services. Clark was named President in 2005 and he is one of the youngest executives in the industry.
With the support and guidance of Walter Blessey, owner and CEO of Blessey Marine, Todd intends on working hard to maintain the core values that have allowed the company to become an industry leader.
Blessey Marine Services operates a multi-faceted inland tank barge and towing vessel fleet in the U.S. and transports liquid bulk cargoes on the Mississippi River.
Although a native of Lufkin, Texas, Todd has developed a special connection to New Orleans and has made a home here with his wife, Laura Blessey Todd, and their first child, Cooper Alderson Todd.
“I was not born or raised in New Orleans, but I have grown to love this unique city and all it has to offer. Our family is dedicated to the continuing recovery efforts and is excited about what the future brings.”
Sidney D. Torres IV
Owner, SDT Waste and Debris Services
Sidney D. Torres IV can renovate historic houses, drive garbage trucks
and keep up with rock stars. But few know about his extensive entrepreneurial expertise.
Torres launched his first business endeavor in New Orleans when he was 20 years old after a year at Louisiana State University and touring the country with musician Lenny Kravitz. Equipped with a $100,000 loan co-signed by his grandmother, he began renovating shotgun houses and discovering his passion for details. He continued to build on his renovation business and it expanded—developing over $70 million in commercial and residential real estate throughout the New Orleans metro area.
Two years ago, Torres added waste and debris services to his repertoire after purchasing the equipment to clean up the mess Hurricane Katrina left behind. Torres already has great expectations for SDT Waste and Debris Services. “In five years, I see SDT as the number-one waste services provider in the city of New Orleans and the state of Louisiana because of quality service and affordable pricing,” he says.
Torres is equally optimistic about the city’s recovery efforts and future entrepreneurial opportunities. “I think New Orleans is on the road to recovery, but it is important that city officials continue to keep an open mind and emphasize our recovery as a team effort with the business community and local residents. Together, I think we can return New Orleans to the great city we all want it to be.”