Strategic Advisors for Small Business Support


After Hurricane Katrina, teams of business school students traveled to New Orleans to help rebuild businesses. These students would work with a business over the course of a week, or in some cases a weekend, on a strategic business challenge that the business owner was unable to address on their own.  This program was called IDEAcorps, and it was a precursor to the conference that was built around it that became known as New Orleans Entrepreneur Week.

As the Times-Picayune reported at the time:

When classes resumed at Tulane University in January, professor John Elstrott taught a "Rebuild New Orleans" course that offered business owners the talent and support of his MBA students, 90 percent of whom returned for the spring semester.

 IDEAcorps volunteers, like the students in Elstrott's "Rebuild New Orleans" course, will provide hands-on assistance to local businesses. Students could take on tasks such as market feasibility studies, sales forecasting, new product analysis and technical audits.

"We felt it was up to us to engage them in understanding what happened and in the recovery," Elstrott said. "Why should this effort end with the class?"

This program continues to present day (it is now operated by Loyola University during NOEW, which is co-hosted by the A. B. Freeman School).  The IDEAcorps experience demonstrates just how significant a role that Tulane and the Freeman School played in the recovery of New Orleans after Katrina.  But it also provides a model for how a great university can support our city’s small business and startup community.  

The Freeman School and the Albert Lepage Center for Entrepreneurship and Innovation are once again in a position to offer leadership and critical resources during this time of COVID-19.

The Lepage Center’s Response to COVID-19

Businesses in New Orleans are being faced with critical decisions every day that will determine the future of their business.  We have begun to support them through a new mentorship initiative that we debuted two weeks ago and for which we plan to host a formal launch meeting this Friday morning at 10 AM CT.  Leveraging our relationships with GNO Inc.the New Orleans Business Alliance (NOLABA) and the City of New Orleans, the Lepage Center is connecting business owners with mentors who can help them navigate access to public and private resources and advise them during this challenging time.

GNO Inc., NOLABA and the City of New Orleans have each committed to refer small businesses to the Lepage Center to be matched with mentors based on the business’s unique needs, from navigating the federal government’s new COVID-19 relief programs to managing their tax returns and business planning to financial forecasting in these times of great uncertainty.

The mentors will include current Lepage Center Innovators-in-Residence as well as dozens of newly recruited advisers, investors and business experts from across the country who have been identified through Tulane’s offices of Advancement and Alumni Relations.

Strategic Advisors For Small Business Support

In a significant expansion of its mentorship and business support efforts in response to the coronavirus pandemic, the Albert Lepage Center for Entrepreneurship and Innovation announced that Freeman students are now being appointed to serve as strategic advisors to small businesses in the Greater New Orleans area. 


Made possible through a special gift from Albert Lepage, this expanded initiative will provide paid positions to full-time undergraduate and graduate students working directly with local entrepreneurs. This opportunity also will be available to recent graduates who have had job offers delayed or rescinded or who have otherwise been adversely affected by the current job market.


Strategic advisors will be assigned to work at businesses for up to 10 weeks providing immediate support based on each business's specific needs. This highly qualified group of students will work virtually on a full-time basis and may serve individually or in teams of up to three based on the nature and scope of work that the business may need. Student applications are currently open until May 11. 


The Lepage Center plans to identify companies from among those that responded to the Greater New Orleans Startup Report as well as those recommended by the City of New Orleans, Greater New Orleans, Inc., the New Orleans Business Alliance and over 20 other partners currently referring businesses to the Lepage Center for mentorship. After evaluating the businesses' pressing needs, students will be matched based on how their backgrounds, education and skills can best assist the companies. Company applications will open in early May. 


2018-2019 Lepage Student Fellows

Ryan Baker, BSM 2020
Majors: Management and Marketing

Hometown:  Westchester, New York

Ryan has been interested in entrepreneurship for as long as he can remember. After seeing the successes of local entrepreneurs in his hometown, he is looking to create his own legacy by starting his own venture. Ryan came to Tulane with an idea for a digital marketing platform that he is continuing to develop and work on through his next two years at Tulane. Ryan is also the president of StartUp Tulane, an undergraduate entrepreneurship club open to all students.

Emily Champagne, BSM 2020
Majors: Finance, Economics, Mathematics

Hometown:  Luling, Louisiana

Emily developed a passion for research and data analysis during her internship with the New Orleans Business Alliance (NOLABA) in the summer of 2017. She hopes to continue exploring the small business ecosystem in New Orleans, and broaden the scope of her work with NOLABA, during her time as a Lepage Fellow. Ultimately, Emily hopes to work at the Bureau of Economic Analysis or at a Venture Capital firm.

Oliver Martin, BSM/BA 2020
Majors: Management and Computer Science

Hometown: Lower Merion, Pennsylvania

Oliver attributes his affinity for startups to the atmosphere and excitement of innovation, and ultimately plans to start his own venture.

Fun fact: Oliver has recently started learning to play the guitar!

Will Potts, BSM 2019
Majors: Communications and Marketing
Minor: Social Innovation and Entrepreneurship

Hometown: Bethesda, Maryland

Will is excited to one-day help entrepreneurs resonate with audiences and investors through powerful brand storytelling. With a background in news journalism and having recently interned for an investment group in Washington, D.C, hearing many pitches taught him that how you sell your startup could often be as crucial as the plan itself. As a student fellow at the Lepage Center, Will hopes to assist the center's expansion through social media strategy so that more Tulane entrepreneurs can be connected to the resources they need for success.

Matt Ricchiuti, BSM 2019
Major: Management, Entrepreneurship

Hometown: New Orleans, Louisiana

A New Orleans native, Matt had his first encounter with entrepreneurship during his senior year of high school while interning for a startup that makes and maintains aquaponic gardens. After deciding on entrepreneurship as a major, Matt was a summer intern at Propeller: A Force for Social Innovation. Matt has a strong interest in statistics and non-profits, and his dream job is to work at the Pew Research Center.

Pranay Sakhrani, BSM 2021
Major: Undecided

Hometown: Clarksville Tennessee

Pranay believes that small businesses are the true driver of the American economy, and he aims to contribute to this economic growth during his time with the Lepage center. 

Fun fact: Pranay has visited nine different countries!

2017-2018 Lepage Student Fellows

Justin Gitelman, BA 2018
Major: Cognitive Science Minor: Liberal Arts Management with a focus in entrepreneurship

Hometown: Stow, Massachusetts

Justin started as an entrepreneur at age ten, when he baked, packaged, and sold dog biscuits at a local park in hopes of making enough profit to buy a Nintendo Wii. Needless to say, his entrepreneurial spirit has stuck with him throughout the years. To date, Justin has founded his own home recording studio, and developed a math tutoring and guitar lesson fusion called +Rock. Justin would like to turn +Rock into an interdisciplinary philosophy for the next generation’s lifelong success.

Fun fact: Justin will often do parkour because taking the stairs seems like too much effort…but scaling a building does not!

Jamie Katz, BSM 2018
Majors: Management and Marketing

Hometown: Hastings-on-Hudson, New York<

Jamie is drawn to entrepreneurship because she loves to oversee projects from their inception all the way through to their success. She is currently writing an honors thesis about e-Word-of-Mouth marketing strategies, and ultimately hopes to start her own venture that commoditizes Word-of-Mouth referral programs.

Fun fact: Jamie has gone bungee jumping and sky diving!