The Water Challenge

Applications are now closed. The Water Challenge by Propeller and Thrive New Orleans, presented by the Greater New Orleans Foundation, sponsored by JPMorgan Chase AdvancingCities, New Orleans Business Alliance, and Entergy will feature entrepreneurs with innovative strategies to improve the way our region lives with water. On June 1st, entrepreneurs will pitch to a judges’ panel consisting of industry leaders and experts to compete for $15,000 in cash prizes.

Selected finalists will receive $1,000 and support in the form of pitch coaching, financial coaching, and design support in preparation for their final pitch. 

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.

Event Date: 06/01/22

RSVP here



June 1st, 2022



4035 Washington Avenue

New Orleans, Louisiana 70125


Propeller and Thrive New Orleans, presented by the Greater New Orleans Foundation, sponsored by the JP Morgan Chase Advancing Cities Collaborative, New Orleans Business Alliance, and Entergy.


Grand Prize: $10,000

Audience Favorite: $500

Finalists will have the option to participate in Propeller’s 2021 Impact Accelerator Program. All finalists will receive pitch coaching, as well as access to financial and design consultants in preparation for the final pitch.

Competing Finalists

Delta Builds (Dorothy Nairne, Leonard Guillory) Enterprises is a New Orleans based company that strives to be the premier supplier of eco-friendly building materials, glass containers and household products all manufactured from recycled materials that are transformed into sand and gravel for stormwater management and flood prevention.

Flourish Horticulture (Fabian Harper) 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.

Gro Enterprises (Joel Holton) seeks to provide healthy, sustainable, affordable housing units to low and moderate income families using industrial hemp based building materials that regulate indoor humidity and provide a healthier indoor air quality; Gro Enterprises uses green infrastructure to regulate and mitigate water on the properties.

Groundwater Studio (Michael Biros) provides landscape architecture and adaptation planning services to help communities mitigate and adapt to ecological challenges with a foundation rooted in place, context, self-determination and health. Groundwater Studio aims to build a modular, prefabricated stormwater retention and treatment system for elevated highways.

Garden Picasso (Preston Robinson) uses green infrastructure techniques with installations that retain and mediate local watershed runoff, reducing the workload on the drainage system. Garden Picasso aims to create a lot sized bioretention area disguised as a residential mixed use property and community garden.

Judges Panel

Monique Bassey

Monique Bassey is a visiting professor and the Marie M. Bickham Chair at the Louisiana State University Robert Reich School of Landscape Architecture.  Prior to her role as a professor, she worked for seven years as a Landscape Designer. Her experience spans a variety of project types, including neighborhood plans, university campus plans, community engagement, site design, streetscape design, and outreach initiatives. Monique holds both a Bachelor of Architecture and a Master of Landscape Architecture from the University of Arizona.

Brenda Breaux

Brenda M. Breaux personifies leadership, strong business acumen, passion and commitment to excellence. As Executive Director for the New Orleans Redevelopment Authority (NORA), she is responsible for providing strategic leadership, stability and growth opportunities for the Authority and the community we serve.Prior to this new role, Brenda served diligently as the Chief Operating Officer of NORA for four (4) years where she was responsible for overseeing and managing Human Resources, Land Management, Land Stewardship, Real Estate Development and the day to day operations of the Authority. In this position, Brenda also directed legal strategies and participated in dispute resolution.

Brenda also served as Senior Chief Deputy City Attorney for the City of New Orleans where her duties included but were not limited to, management of 37 attorneys and support staff with direct responsibilities for housing, development and finance matters, the Mayor's Blight Initiative, DCDBG and CDBG projects, liaison between City, State and Federal entities for the downtown medical complex project and negotiations between the City and State regarding the former Road Home properties.

Additionally, she served as the Deputy Executive Director for the Housing Authority of New Orleans, while there Brenda was responsible for Development, Construction, Section 8, Procurement, Human Resources and Administrative Services and other executive level positions. Brenda has proven that years of experience and leadership has provided her with the opportunity to manage large scale affordable housing and complex real estate development projects in New Orleans and Biloxi, MS. Brenda earned her Bachelor's Degree in Political Science from Spelman College, her Juris Doctor from Loyola University of New Orleans College of Law and has been practicing law for 23 years.

Jeff Hébert

Jeff Hébert is President of HR&A Advisors and is leader in climate adaptation and urban revitalization. He works with cities to develop strategies that mitigate future social, economic, and physical shocks and stresses. Mr. Hébert previously served the City of New Orleans in many capacities in the recovery of Hurricane Katrina, including as the First Deputy Mayor & Chief Administrative Officer, Chief Resilience Officer, and as Executive Director of the New Orleans Redevelopment Authority. He has been an adjunct faculty member at the Tulane University School of Architecture, is Co-Chair of FUSE Corps, board Vice President of the Urban Design Forum, and serves on the Policy Advisory Board of The Reinvestment Fund, the Advisory Board of the ULI Center for Sustainability and Economic Performance, and the board of New Hope Housing.

Mr. Hébert holds a bachelor’s degree from New York University, a master’s degree in City Planning from the Massachusetts Institute of Technology, and is a graduate of the Achieving Excellence in Community Development program at Harvard University’s Kennedy School of Government. Jeff was chosen to participate in the Future Leaders program (PIPA) at the Ministry of Foreign Affairs of France in 2018 where his focus was climate change policy.


The Water Challenge by Propeller and Thrive New Orleans, presented by the Greater New Orleans Foundation will consist of 4-6 Startup stage ventures (under $75,000 in annual revenue); ideal applicants may work in, but are not limited to, the following areas:

Urban Water Management: the design, installation, and maintenance of water management infrastructure in our region, improving safety and furthering the goal of environmental justice

Coastal Environments: products, processes, or financing mechanisms that preserve coastal wetland, mitigate current wetland loss, accelerate or enhance our understanding of the science of coastal restoration, or complement planned coastal preservation and restoration projects

Water-based Industries: small businesses or organizations that bring to market innovative products, services, or initiatives including but not limited to workforce development initiatives, fisheries and seafood production, eco-tourism, and cultivation of native plants.

Judging Criteria

The Water Challenge winners will be selected by a panel of judges, using the following criteria:
  • Potential for Social and Environmental Impact: The solution must improve the coastal environment, urban water management, or local water economy.
  • Financial Viability: Solutions should demonstrate a viable and sustainable revenue stream if revenue is required for implementation.
  • Entrepreneurial Leadership: Strong leadership is important to the success of any organization. Show us that you have a vision and that you are a motivator and problem solver.
  • Commitment to Racial Equity: Winning business models will demonstrate how the organization advocates for the rights and well-being of BIPOC communities in its mission, goals, and processes.
  • Alignment with City and State Plans for Water Management: Sustainable proposals will align with local governments’ current strategies to improve water management and reduce coastal erosion.

Entrepreneurial leadership can be demonstrated via:

  • Educational, professional or life experience;
  • Proven track record starting, leading, or operating an initiative, program, or past venture;
  • Demonstrated experience in your field of work;
  • Ability to connect to, engage with, and serve communities of New Orleans most impacted by disparities.

Audience Participation 

Audience members play a key role at each PitchNOLA competition. Each audience member will have the opportunity to vote for their favorite ventures for the Audience Favorite Awards!

Past Participants 

  • Ubuntu Construction Company, Greg & Nicole Nixon (2021 PitchNOLA: Water): Ubuntu, the winner of Propeller’s 2021 PitchNOLA Water competition, is a trusted contractor for full service stormwater management projects. The company is highly motivated by technology and its mission towards urban resilience. Ubuntu was established in 2019, dedicating its work toward stormwater management interventions around the City of New Orleans.  The company worked as a subcontractor, successfully installing 21 green infrastructure projects in its first year - 12 of which were a part of NORA’s Community Adaptation Program. Ubuntu was featured in the July 2021 edition of Biz NOLA Magazine for their work as a new and notable business.
  • Glass Half Full, Franziska Trautmann & Max Steitz (PitchNOLA Water 2021): Glass Half Full recycles New Orleans' glass into sand and cullet used for disaster relief, eco-construction, new glass products, and so much more. Since its inception in 2020, Glass Half Full has diverted 800,000 pounds of glass from our landfills and reimagining recycling as an inclusive movement to build community and benefit our planet. Glass Half Full has been featured on numerous national news outlets for their outstanding work including Good Morning America, Now This News, and The Weather Channel.
  • Mastodonte, Arien Hall & Luisa Abballe (2018 Impact Accelerator, 2019 Propeller Water Challenge): Mastodonte is a stormwater management and construction company that provides a holistic approach to historic renovations and stormwater management systems. Mastodonte also offers apprenticeships to young people of color through their lab garden and educational workshops. Mastodonte took home the first place prize of $10,000 at the 2019 Water Challenge presented by Greater New Orleans Foundation, Propeller’s annual pitch competition for entrepreneurs building a stronger, more equitable water industry. Mastodonte also took home the Audience Favorite Award of $500, awarded by an audience vote.


Register to see the competition live. Tickets are free, seating is limited.

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