Propeller and Thrive Host Water Challenge March 30th (sponsored)

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Companies pitch solutions to New Orleans pressing water issues!

Environmentally-minded entrepreneurs will present their water companies to a panelist of water industry leaders and pitch their solutions to the most pressing water-related issues facing our community from 2:00pm – 3:30pm, March 30, 2023 at the New Orleans Entrepreneur Week at Gallier Hall, 545 St. Charles Avenue, New Orleans, LA.

RSVP at to attend the event.

“These are existential issues, and New Orleans and Louisiana’s future depends on solving them,” says Andrea Chen, CEO and Co-Founder of Propeller. “The impacts of climate change and frequent storms cannot be faced alone, and the preservation of our city and region lies in the power of coming together and supporting the work and ideas of entrepreneurs on the ground.”

The Water Challenge 2023 is a part of New Orleans Entrepreneurship Week (NOEW), a six-day entrepreneurial fest where startup founders, business leaders, aspiring entrepreneurs, industry experts, investors, and leaders come together to celebrate, learn, and network at the intersection of innovation and culture.

Propeller and Thrive New Orleans are co-hosting the challenge, which is an investment into blue-green infrastructure and coastal restoration in Louisiana, providing pathways to contracts and business expansion opportunities for local small businesses in the water economy, and sets a stage to collaboratively tackle these problems. Following each presentation, the panel will present guidance on how each entrepreneur can best be positioned to compete for contracts with their agencies.

“Our goal in facilitating the 2023 Water Challenge is to build climate resilience within New Orleans and to raise up Indigenous leaders and businesses in developing solutions,” says Chuck Morse, Executive Director of Thrive New Orleans. “We know that Black and African American people face more severe harm from climate change, as reported by the EPA, and addressing climate change and rising tides is a critical social justice issue.”

JP Morgan Chase Advancing Cities, Delta Regional Authority, New Orleans Business Alliance, Greater New Orleans Foundation (Founding Sponsor), and the City of New Orleans are generously supporting the challenge.

“The Greater New Orleans Foundation is proud to be the founding sponsor of The Water Challenge,” said Andy Kopplin, President and CEO of the Greater New Orleans Foundation. “The Water Challenge aims to solve some of the biggest environmental issues we face here in Southeast Louisiana while simultaneously helping entrepreneurs showcase their ideas and innovations to achieve equity in the water sector. The Foundation created The Water Challenge a decade ago to advance our initiative to help our region live better with water. As the Greater New Orleans Foundation celebrates 100 years of philanthropy, leadership, and action, we were proud to support this year’s event once again and can’t wait to see what our entrepreneurs have in store!”

This year’s entrepreneur showcase features presentations by eight BIPOC, growth-oriented entrepreneurs whose businesses focus on innovation in the coastal and green infrastructure industries. Review panelists include executives from Louisiana’s anchor institutions and local government agencies, such as Ghassan Khorban, CEO of the New Orleans Sewerage and Water Board; Brenda Breaux, Executive Director of New Orleans Redevelopment Authority; Greg Grandy, Executive Director, Coastal Protection and Restoration Authority; David Willis, Deputy Small Business Program, U.S. Army Corps of Engineers; and Councilmember Oliver Thomas, Council District E.

Learn more about the growth water entrepreneurs:

Flourish Horticulture
Fabian Harper,

Flourish Horticulture and Landscapes, is a certified DBE bio-friendly and environmentally conscious lawn, garden, and landscape construction company that uses only battery powered equipment and seeks to improve soil structure, water quality and efficiency, outdoor air quality, and increase aesthetic value.

Garden Doctors
Nathanael Scales,

Garden Doctors, LLC designs, builds, and maintains commercial and residential properties and has been certified in the green industry for work related to water management and bioswale installation to create sustainable landscaping. Garden Doctors, LLC has an overall plan to spread further into the Gulf Coast regions and to expand its maintenance division.

Gravel Road
Travis Banks,

Gravel Road Builders & Construction services, llc installs green infrastructure systems, such as french drains, rain gardens, planter boxes, and permeable pavers. In addition, Gravel Road provides traditional general contractor services, consulting, and program management.

ILSI Engineering
Iam Tucker,

Integrated Logistical Support Engineering is a New Orleans-based civil engineering firm that is 100% minority woman owned. It is an 8(a) Small Disadvantaged Business certified by the Small Business Administration (SBA). ILSI Engineering provides civil engineering and construction management services performed by a highly motivated staff committed to excellence. ILSI Engineering was established in 1994 with the mission of providing quality engineering services for federal, state, and local clients.

JC Marks Enterprises
Jasman Marks, and Chabry Marks,

J & C Marks is a full service general contracting company as well as a real estate development and investment company. Some of the construction services they provide are: drywall, painting, flooring, roofing, concrete, electrical, millwork, etc. J & C Marks also service clients through real estate investments. By installing pervious concrete and green roofing, J & C Marks Enterprise can restore and treat where stormwater falls, and reduce flooding in urban areas.

Arien Hall, and Louisa Aballe,

Mastadonte installs stormwater management and green infrastructure systems. Their services include: concrete demolition, excavation and installation of pervious systems as well as living systems. Mastadonte installs holistic systems that help mitigate localized flooding and in addition to the construction of these types of water retention systems, Mastadonte also provides  project management, consultation, inspection and maintenance services. Mastadonte works toward combating the effects of climate change while prioritizing sustainable practices.

Quality First Marine
Christina Couvillion,

Quality First Marine is a turn-key maritime contractor. They own and operate their own shallow draft tugs, vessels, barges, and heavy equipment. Quality First Marine has over 65 years of shallow draft experience with diverse experience in coastal work with focus in restoration, mitigation, and emergency response. Their company is made up of local mariners, USCG licensed captains, engineers, science professionals who share a love for unique coastlines on the Gulf Coast.

Wingate Engineers
Randy  Smith,

Wingate’s civil/structural engineering experience includes the design, construction and management of commercial and residential facilities, utility coordination, wastewater and drainage infrastructure design, roadway design, and stormwater management. We have a strong track record of delivering projects on time and under budget without ever sacrificing the quality of our work.

About The Water Challenge

Over the past decade, Propeller has awarded over $200,000 to entrepreneurs through its PitchNOLA Series. PitchNOLA winners have utilized the funding to expand in new markets, scale to reach over $1 million in annual revenue, and received notable attention in the Washington Post, The Guardian, the Times-Picayune, The Advocate, WWNO, and WWL-TV.

Propeller is a New Orleans-based 501c3 nonprofit that grows and supports entrepreneurs to tackle social and environmental disparities. Our vision is an inclusive and thriving entrepreneurial ecosystem in New Orleans that responds to community needs and creates the conditions for an equitable future.

Thrive New Orleans is committed to racial equity by advancing new systems for economic opportunity, climate resiliency, and community stability. Thrive focuses on three areas of impact: developing a skilled workforce, building the capacity of small businesses, and engaging youth and families. Learn more at

Greater New Orleans Foundation is the philanthropic institution dedicated to driving positive impact through philanthropy, leadership, and action in the Greater New Orleans Region.

What: The Water Challenge 2023

When: 2:00pm – 3:30pm, March 30th

Where: New Orleans Entrepreneur Week at Gallier Hall, 545 St. Charles Ave.

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