Schmelly’s Dirt Farm took home the grand prize at the 5th annual Startup St. Bernard presented by the Meraux Foundation and St. Bernard Economic Development Foundation. The composting business was selected by a panel of judges out of a pool of three finalists who pitched their businesses in front of an audience of over 100 on Friday at Docville Farm. Schmelly’s was awarded $40,000 in cash and over $43,000 in in-kind services to help them scale their business, which will expand into St. Bernard Parish. The other two finalists, Breathing Waters and DaParish Kayaks received $5,000 each.
“I congratulate Schmelly’s and look forward to their growth here in St. Bernard,” said Rita Gue, the president of the Meraux Foundation, which founded Startup St. Bernard and is a presenting sponsor. “I’m proud that, now five years in, we’re proving that Startup St. Bernard is promoting the parish as a great place in which to do business, and also that the businesses who participate do well.”
Schmelly’s is a compost collection and processing company that is offering Greater New Orleans another option to the landfill. According to the startup, going green is in their nature, but the real work takes place with values-based job creation. Schmelly’s mission is to transform food and organic waste into healthy soil and natural fertilizer while generating meaningful work opportunities and removing barriers of workplace marginalization. More information about the company can be found at its website, schmellys.com.
“We are overjoyed to have won Startup St. Bernard and we offer a huge thank you to all the organizers who made it possible,” said Nicola Krebill, the founder of Schmelly’s. “We are thrilled to begin our work in St. Bernard Parish, a vibrant business community that is about to see some great green opportunities flourish. This prize will help us strengthen our mission and scale up our business, servicing the entire region from a new location in the parish.”
Startup St. Bernard was created to promote the parish as an ideal place to start a business and to attract startups. The event is held each year in conjunction with New Orleans Entrepreneur Week.
“Congratulations to Schmelly’s Dirt Farm, Breathing Waters, and Da Parish Kayaks on their stellar pitches at this year’s competition,” said Andrew Jacques, Executive Director of the St. Bernard Economic Development Foundation. “And thanks to all of our donors that make this day possible. I’m overwhelmingly excited about the progressive ideas showcased.”
The competition was open to businesses that were five years old or less and existing businesses creating a new division. They also had to have revenue under $1M and five employees or less. Entrants also agreed to locate their base of operations in St. Bernard Parish and participate in its entrepreneurial ecosystem.
An independent scoring committee from the A.B. Freeman School of Business at Tulane University chose the three finalists based on business viability criteria and the quality of their business plans. The finalists pitched their businesses at a live event, and the winner was selected by a panel of judges that included Mindy Nunez Airhart, president and CEO of Southern Services and Equipment, Inc., Kristen Essig, co-chef and partner of Coquette, Andy Kopplin, president and CEO of the Greater New Orleans Foundation, and Blake J. Stanfill, director of growth at trepwise.
Top donors for the 2019 prize package are the Meraux Foundation, Park Investments, Ltd., St. Bernard Parish Government, Associated Terminals, United Steelworkers, Palms Truck Stop, Sidney Torres Law Firm, and St. Bernard Community Foundation. Additional funds are provided by Mrs. Rita Gue, Mr. Floyd Gue, Sherman Strategies, Nunez Community College Foundation, The Ranch Studios, Southern Insurance Agency, Frederick J. Sigur Jr., Palmisano, Sheriff Jimmy Pohlmann, BERG Services, Reactive Digital Systems, District Attorney Perry Nicosia, Representative Ray Garofalo Jr., St. Bernard Economic Development Foundation, and Senator Sharon Hewitt.
Primary contributors of in-kind services include Gulf Coast Bank & Trust Co., Sherman Strategies, Ragusa Consulting, Biz New Orleans, evanSchmidt design, LLC, Shine Productions, Outfront Media, Bernard Franks, A Corporation of Certified Accountants, and Eric Nunez Photography. Additional in-kind services are being provided by Kushner LaGraize, The Meraux Foundation, St. Bernard Chamber of Commerce, BaumTech, Crave, Grow St. Bernard, and Leadership St. Bernard.
The event was recorded by St. Bernard Parish Government, and a video will be broadcast on the local public access station in the coming weeks.