Gourmet Cotton Candy Company Wins 2019 JEDCO Challenge

photo from jedco
From left to right: Jerry Bologna, Jeanne O'Leary, and Scott Walker

GRETNA, La. – A new startup is enjoying the taste of sweet success, since taking home the top prize at JEDCO's seventh annual startup pitch competition.

On Tuesday evening, The Jefferson Parish Economic Development Commission (JEDCO) announced Poof Cotton Candy – a gourmet cotton candy manufacturer – as the winner of the 2019 JEDCO Challenge, powered by Greater Lakeside Corporation. The company's founder Jeanne O'Leary delivered the pitch that led her team to a prize package worth over $80,000 in cash and donated business services, including:

$20,000 in direct capital thanks to Greater Lakeside Corporation, Home Bank, Ochsner Health System, Daul Insurance, and Susco Solutions
25 hours of strategic and competitive intelligence work from Ardyn Thriffiley & Associates
Ad placement for two half-page ads to run in Biz New Orleans by the end of 2019
Legal services through Carver, Darden, Koretzky, Tessier, Finn, Blossman & Areaux's Intellectual Property Practice Group
Insurance consultation with Daul Insurance
One hour of presentation support with Bill Ganon of The Ganon Group
Accounting support from LaPorte CPAs and Business Advisors
Billboard package from Outfront Media
Marketing support from Touchpoints Marketing & Advertising
Membership with the Jefferson Chamber of Commerce
Recognition at the June 6th New Orleans Baby Cakes game
Interview on the new JEDCO podcast (coming soon)
Recognition at the 2019 JEDCO Annual Luncheon
After learning that Poof Cotton Candy was the winner of the challenge, O'Leary shared effusive words of thanks.

"Thank you, JEDCO and those in attendance, for choosing Poof Cotton Candy as the 2019 JEDCO Challenge winner," said O'Leary. "The $20,000 in working capital and in-kind lagniappe will fuel the company's expansion to bring Poof to registers near you. This would not be possible without JEDCO and the Greater Lakeside Corporation. Thank you from the bottom of my heart."

Poof Cotton Candy elevates the classic confection by creating such flavors as King Cake, Cookies & Cream, and Toasted Coconut, garnished with sprinkles, edible glitters and cookie crumbles, among other dulcet treats. Poof's single serving, 100-calorie pinwheels are perfect for wedding and party favors, client gifts, and swag bags – or simply an afternoon pick-me-up.

Manufactured in Jefferson Parish, Poof is sold by businesses throughout region, including the Smoothie King Center, Hilton New Orleans Riverside, Fleurty Girl, NOLA Discount Pharmacy, and Evan's Creole Candy Factory. Through collaborations with local restaurants like Meril, Sucre, and District Donuts, the company helps pastry chefs delight their diners with whimsical desserts.

"We are excited to elevate opportunities for all of our entrepreneurs through the JEDCO Challenge each year," said JEDCO president and CEO Jerry Bologna. "Poof is a vibrant food manufacturer with an excellent vision to create jobs and investment in Jefferson Parish. The winnings from the pitch event allow Poof to advance the company forward at an accelerated pace. Additionally, Poof's mission aligns directly with the Jefferson EDGE 2020, the Parish's long-term economic development strategic plan. The growth and success of companies in the food and beverage industry remain a priority for JEDCO and Jefferson Parish."

The JEDCO Challenge highlights entrepreneurs with ties to Jefferson Parish. Thirty-five companies applied to compete in Tuesday evening's live pitch event. In addition to Poof Cotton Candy, Don't Get Mad Get Paid, nDorse, RentCheck, and Repurpose Food Co. comprised the list of competitors vying for the Jefferson Parish prize package.

RentCheck, which came in second place, won $7,500 in direct capital from the JEDCO Development Corporation, as well as an insurance consultation with Gillis Ellis & Baker and legal assistance through Carver, Darden, Koretzky, Tessier, Finn, Blossman & Areaux's Intellectual Property Practice Group, which holds a value worth more than $5,000.

All of the finalists received a free year of membership with the Jefferson Chamber of Commerce, along with training and support from Bill Ganon of The Ganon Group.

​The winner was partially chosen by a panel of Jefferson Parish business leaders: Jerry Bologna of JEDCO; Leigh Isaacson of Dig – The Dog Person's Dating App; Neel Sus of Susco Solutions; Erin Graham of Lakeside Shopping Center and Greg Dietz of Theo's Neighborhood Pizza. The candidates were evaluated on the following criteria: their company's impact on Jefferson Parish impact, its level of innovation and potential for success, and their pitch delivery. The entrepreneurs also received points based on a crowd vote. Scott Walker, the owner of Shipley Do-Nuts in Metairie, emceed the event, which took place at the Gretna Cultural Center for the Arts.

"Through the JEDCO Challenge, our community has an opportunity to witness the ingenuity, innovation, and excellence displayed by a number of startups building their companies locally," said Bologna. "The entrepreneurs showcased through our event this year represent the future of economic growth in Jefferson Parish. They are passionate, driven, and very creative. 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."


Suzanne Pfefferle Tafur is the associate news editor of BizNewOrleans.com. Follow her on Twitter @SuzPfefferle.