FreshCane Wins 2016 JEDCO Challenge

Arpit Bhopalkar, FreshCane Founder

JEFFERSON, LA – A company with plans to bring sugar cane water into the market won the fourth annual JEDCO Challenge on Monday, March 15, 2016. The Jefferson Parish Economic Development Commission (JEDCO) and First NBC Bank, in partnership with the Jefferson Chamber, announced FreshCane as the winner of the 2016 JEDCO Challenge powered by First NBC Bank. Arpit Bhopalkar, the company founder, delivered the winning pitch.

         Before moving to New Orleans to achieve his MBA from Tulane, Bhopalkar was an international athlete; he played table tennis. The drink of choice for athletes in his home country of India was sugar cane water, but when Bhopalkar moved to the United States, the drink was nowhere to be found. Louisiana is the second largest producer of sugar cane in the U.S., so the decision to start making his own cane water came easily. Today, FreshCane produces its cane water at Farmer's Markets around the region.

         FreshCane's aim is to serve people with a functional beverage, which is healthy, raw, unaltered and uncompromised in its taste. In its natural form, Cane Water has many essential nutrients, such as an abundance of potassium, fiber and a low glycemic index. As a natural hydrant, Cane Water provides a sustained source of energy. FreshCane sources local sugar cane for its drink.

         “We are very excited to celebrate the successes of FreshCane this year,” says Jerry Bologna, JEDCO Executive Director. “This company has proven itself to be a true innovator in its industry and we are enthusiastic about the potential for positive impact that FreshCane will have on Jefferson Parish and Louisiana.”

         “Through the JEDCO Challenge, our community has an opportunity to experience the high level of talent, innovation, and excellence displayed by a number of startups building their companies locally,” Bologna added. “The entrepreneurs showcased through our event this year represent the future of economic growth in Jefferson Parish. They are passionate, driven, incredibly creative, and we commend each of them for their efforts in this competition and beyond. We look forward to continuing our support of their endeavors as they grow and thrive in our community.”

         “Winning the JEDCO Challenge is a big boost and validation from the people and entrepreneur community that Cane Water is indeed a special beverage,” says Bhopalkar. “We are grateful to represent the entrepreneurial spirit of New Orleans and Jefferson Parish community.”

         Held during New Orleans Entrepreneur Week (NOEW) presented by IBERIABANK, which is produced by The Idea Village, the JEDCO Challenge powered by First NBC Bank is a pitch competition developed to highlight entrepreneurs with ties to Jefferson Parish. Five startups were chosen out of nearly 30 applicants to participate in Monday's event at Southport Hall. Lowry Curley, PhD, of AxoSim Technologies, Charles Carriere of Scandy, Aaron Rubens of Kudoboard, and Todd Mashburn of Mashball joined Bhopalkar to compete for the Jefferson Parish prize package.

         The entrepreneurs pitched to a full house at Southport Hall Monday afternoon. The winner was partially chosen by a panel of Jefferson Parish business leaders: Aimee Quirk of InnovationOchsner, Kristen Preau Moore of Cook Me Somethin' Mister (and previous JEDCO Challenge finalist), Ray Areaux of Carver, Darden, Koretzky, Tessier, Finn, Blossman & Areaux, Kerry Kirby of 365 Connect, and Fred Beebe of First NBC Bank.

         The judges scored the pitches on presentation, innovation, ability to answer questions effectively, Jefferson Parish impact and company scalability. The entrepreneurs also received points based on a crowd vote and business plans submitted in advance of Monday's pitch competition.

         FreshCane won a prize package worth nearly $65,000 in cash and donated business services, including:


• $20,000 in cash thanks to First NBC Bank, 365 Connect, Innovation Ochsner, Atmos Energy and Daul Insurance

• 25 hours of strategic and competitive intelligence work from Ardyn Thriffiley & Associates

• Ad placement for three half-page ads to run in Biz New Orleans at the end of this year

• Legal services through Carver, Darden, Koretzky, Tessier, Finn, Blossman & Areaux's Intellectual Property Practice Group

• Insurance consultation with Gillis Ellis and Baker

• 20 hours of PR services with Gambel Communications

• Membership with the Jefferson Chamber, an introductory meeting with Chamber President Todd Murphy and recognition at the Chamber's Small Business Luncheon.

• Accounting services with LaPorte CPAs and Business Services

• One year of weekly sales training with Sandler Training

• 10 sleeping rooms and 10-day usage of a board room from the Marriott Metairie at Lakeway

• FreshCane intends to utilize the JEDCO Challenge prize package by expanding their reach in the Greater New Orleans Metropolitan Area and launching FreshCane as a bottled product.


         The second place winner, Kudoboard won insurance consultation with Daul Insurance and legal assistance through Carver, Darden, Koretzky, Tessier, Finn, Blossman & Areaux's Intellectual Property Practice Group, valued at over $5,000. All of the finalists received a free year of membership through the Jefferson Chamber of Commerce and access to Gillis, Ellis & Baker's GEB University Seminars. 

         Both FreshCane and Mashball will be advancing to NOEW's Blackstone Big Idea, a crowd-driven pitch extravaganza featuring 10 of the next big ideas to come out of the New Orleans Area.  This year's event will take place on Fulton Street on Friday, March 18, from 6:00 p.m. – 8:30 p.m.  


          2016 JEDCO Challenge Sponsors include: First NBC Bank, 365 Connect, Ardyn Thriffiley and Associates, ATMOS Energy, Biz New Orleans, Carver, Darden, Koretzsky, Tessier, Finn, Blossman & Areaux, LLC, Cox Communications, Daul Insurance, Gambel Communications, Gillis, Ellis & Baker, InnovationOchsner, Jefferson Chamber of Commerce, LaPorte CPAs and Business Advisors, LSBDC Greater New Orleans, Marriott Metairie at Lakeway, and Sandler Training.

         2016 JEDCO Challenge Supporting Partners include: Jefferson Parish, Jefferson Chamber of Commerce, The Idea Village, The Louisiana Small Business Development Center, CRC Global Solutions, Goldman Sachs 10,000 Small Businesses, Greater New Orleans, Inc., Dixie Business Center, and the New Orleans BioInnovation Center.


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