Monday, March 23, 2009

Culture, Crawfish and Crazy Ideas!

Saturday morning my colleague, Tara Canobbio, and I landed in the beautiful city of New Orleans. Since we were unable to check into our hotel room early in the morning, we explored the French Quarter and were pleasantly surprised at how busy all the shops were! The last time we were here with the Black Googlers Network in September 2008, Hurricane Gustav just hit and most of the shops were still closed. However now, some shops owners have reported that their patronage is back to pre-Katrina numbers!

In the afternoon, we headed to the "Welcome to Orleans Party" at the Idea Village, sponsored by GNO, Inc. This was the first time that all the teams from Stanford, DePaul, Kellogg, Chicago Booth, Berkley Haas, and Google would meet, along with all the great entrepreneurs, and representatives from the city. Although we went through 80 lbs of crawfish, the party was a great event for everyone to share thoughts and ideas about the entrepreneurial opportunities in the ever growing city of New Orleans.

On Sunday morning, Sally and Alton Doody were gracious enough to host us all for a Jazz Brunch and another opportunity to further interact with the entrepreneurs and city officials. I also got a chance to get to know some of the students better and find out why they came to the MBA Challenge in New Orleans. I found myself surrounded by bright minds and eager hearts ready to explore the possibility of helping a historic city re-emerge.

In the afternoon, we took a bus tour of New Orleans where the tour guide took us around to historical sites of the city, as well as the affected areas of New Orleans such as the lower 9th Ward. Although the Lower 9th was very affected by Hurricane Katrina, very affluent areas were greatly affected as well. It definitely added more perspective to the catastrophe: everyone in the city - rich or poor, black or white - was affected.

On Sunday evening, the Idea Village held a Team Building New Orleans School of Cooking Olympic Challenge at Jax Brewery. At this event, each of the 6 teams had 15 minutes to complete each challenge which included a Scrabble challenge, an all-aboard challenge where each team had to fit within a shape on the ground, a cooking challenge, a Price is Right challenge, Marshmallow Engineering and a mixology competition. Each of these challenges presented a different problem that each team had to solve and we (the judges) had to award points based on team work, use of time, presentation and quality. The camaraderie that occurred at this event was invaluable and further solidified the bond between each MBA school with their local entrepreneur partner.

What's happened at the end of these events? Idea Village created a new community of young, creative, entrepreneurial minds - who otherwise may have not come together - to fall in love with New Orleans.

View Event Pictures!

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