BREW High-stakes Pitch Competition deadline Is Friday

Staff Writer
Gonzales Weekly Citizen

Applications to pitch a business idea during Baton Rouge Entrepreneurship Week's (BREW's) high-stakes pitch competition are due this Friday, Oct. 12, 2012. This event will be similar in format to ABC's popular show, Shark Tank, with companies competing for investment commitments before a live audience and is sponsored by Whitney Bank. Five regional business leaders have agreed to come prepared to invest $25,000 or more in entrepreneurs or start-up companies if the deal is right. SeNSE will lead and facilitate the evening's pitch competition. Applications to pitch an idea are now being accepted by visiting the BREW website, BREW is presented by the Greater Baton Rouge Business Report and Louisiana Technology Park and supported by the Baton Rouge Area Chamber (BRAC).

"We encourage everyone around the state, and even the country, with a solid business plan to submit an application for this event," said Adam Knapp, President and CEO of the Baton Rouge Area Chamber. "This is an enormous opportunity for entrepreneurs and start-ups. Winners of this competition have an opportunity to receive a cash investment and valuable mentoring from extremely successful entrepreneurs"

The regional business owners who have come forward as investors and judges in this competition include the following:

· Todd Graves is the owner and founder of Raising Cane's Chicken Fingers, a fast-food restaurant specializing in fresh chicken fingers. Graves started his business with one store in Baton Rouge, LA and now has locations in seventeen states. He has been recognized in Nations Restaurant News, Chain Leader, QSR, Entrepreneur, Rolling Stone, and USA Today. He has appeared on FOX News Network's "Your World" with Neil Cavuto and "FOX and Friends", as well as highlighted on CNN Headline News's "Pulse on America" series. Graves was also featured in Entrepreneur's Young Millionaires cover story. In 2002, the Greater Baton Rouge Business Report named him the Young Businessperson of the Year. In 2008, Graves was named an Ernst & Young Entrepreneur of the Year and in 2010 he was awarded the SCORE Award for Outstanding Socially Progressive Business.

· Mike Wampold is the founder and owner of Wampold Companies, a real estate company focused on development, construction, major capital renovations, and property management that employs over one hundred people in Louisiana. The company has worked on several well-known buildings in the Capital Region including City Plaza, II City Plaza, Chase North Tower, Shaw Plaza, and the recently completed Renaissance Hotel. Wampold Companies has developed, constructed, and/or performed major renovations on approximately 4,000 multi-family housing units located throughout the state and currently owns and manages over 700,000 rentable square feet of commercial office properties. In 2001, Wampold was named Businessperson of the Year by the Greater Baton Rouge Business Report. He is also a member of the Louisiana State University Foundation and a past board member of the Baton Rouge Area Chamber.

· Lane Grigsby is the founder and chairman of the board of Cajun Industries, a nationally recognized construction leader that has successfully completed over $2 billion in contracts providing a broad range of services to various markets, including government work, water quality, power, manufacturing, and industrial. Grigsby founded the Baton Rouge branch of the Associated Builders and Contractors (ABC), which became the premier chapter in the United States. He served in every position, including chapter president and state president and spent eighteen years on the board of directors. He has received ABC's Man of the Year award twice. He has also served on the board of directors for the Baton Rouge Area Chamber, The Shaw Group, advisory board of the College of Engineering at LSU, and the Construction Industry Advisory Council, and is a past chairman and current member of the board for the Louisiana Association of Business and Industry.

· Joe Agresti is president and co-owner of Mercedes-Benz of Baton Rouge. He has increased sales in all departments by over 200 percent and profits by over 400 percent since he joined the business. He was awarded the prestigious Mercedes Benz Best of the Best Award in 2005. In early 2010, Mercedes-Benz of Baton Rouge was named Silver Best of the Best for their performance during 2009. This award is the pinnacle of Mercedes-Benz recognition, saved for only ten dealerships nationwide. In the same program, Agresti was recognized by Mercedes-Benz USA as the top ranked dealer in the United States for 2009. Additionally, he has been selected as Louisiana's Young Business Person of the Year in 2007 and Louisiana's Top 40 Under 40 in 2008.

· Kevin Couhig is the founder and CEO of Source Capital. He presently serves as the chairman of PreSonus Audio Electronics, is on the board of managers of Bon Carre Business Center LLC, and is on the board of US Agencies Insurance Company, where he is the chairman of the corporate governance committee. Couhig has been a director at the Baton Rouge Area Chamber, Baton Rouge Convention and Visitors Bureau, City Club of Baton Rouge, Louisiana Business and Technology Center, and the Baton Rouge Soccer Association. He was an entrepreneur-in-residence at the Levy-Rosenblum Institute at Tulane University and was named Entrepreneur of the Year in 1985 by the Greater Baton Rouge Business Report.

All applications must be submitted through the website by the close of business on October 12, 2012. Applicants chosen to participate in the live pitch competition will be notified prior to or during the week of October 29, 2012. Pitches can be made by entrepreneurs or start-ups from

anywhere, but must be willing to move to the Baton Rouge area should they be chosen and accept funding from an investor wishing to invest locally.

"This high-stakes pitch night has been a long time in the making! We are excited to host this event with BRAC and the Greater Baton Rouge Business Report and put real money into the

hands of start-up entrepreneurs," said Sean Simone, SeNSE chairman. "As a start-up founder, I know how hard it can be to get the capital and the awareness necessary to launch a successful business. This event will be that opportunity for a handful of start-up entrepreneurs."

Several other events are being held as part of BREW 2012, and the schedule is being updated frequently. Visit for events details. Additionally, registration is available for anyone interested in receiving updates, participating in planning of events, or sponsorship opportunities.

About the Baton Rouge Area Chamber

The Baton Rouge Area Chamber (BRAC) leads economic development in the Baton Rouge metropolitan area, the Creative Capital of the South. Serving as the voice of the business community, BRAC's investors includes more than 1,200 organizations whose employees represent over a third of the workforce.

About SeNSE

SeNSE is a results-driven organization that is focused on connecting the Louisiana entrepreneur community and cultivating the best ideas into reality. With over seven hundred members and thirty entrepreneurial-focused events hosted over the last three years, SeNSE is a go-to resource for start-up entrepreneurs and the professionals that cater to them.

About Global Entrepreneurship Week

More than just seven days, Global Entrepreneurship Week is a rapidly emerging movement of creative and innovative individuals and organizations—all unleashing new ideas. To learn how you can get involved—and to see if your country is already participating—visit