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Junior Achievement of Greater New Orleans celebrates ‘2016 Rising Stars’ at ‘City Stars Soiree,’ Oct. 7

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To celebrate and honor entrepreneurs in the New Orleans community, the Oscar J. Tolmas Charitable Trust presents Under the Big Top 2016 City Stars Soiree benefiting Junior Achievement of Greater New Orleans (JAGNO) on Friday, October 7 from 7:30pm-11:00pm. Tickets are $50/person and can be purchased at
“Junior Achievement of Greater New Orleans is a local office of Junior Achievement Worldwide, the world’s largest and fastest-growing non-profit economic education organization whose mission is to prepare young people to successfully participate in our economy through workforce development, entrepreneurship, and financial literacy.”
With a presence in 12 parishes in Southeast Louisiana, “Junior Achievement of Greater New Orleans impacts more than 30,000 students in classrooms, afterschool programs, and summer enrichment camps all designed for particular age groups to introduce them to economic concepts that enhance their understanding of the world around them.” 

For the 13th year, Junior Achievement of Greater New Orleans will present its Rising Star award at the City Stars Soiree to six entrepreneurs, all of whom “have demonstrated strong entrepreneurial skills with high moral and ethical standards and are taking full advantage of the American Free Enterprise System.” This year’s honorees include Adam Biderman, Owner of Company Burger; Wesley Palmisano, President and CEO of the Palmisano Group; Karl Senner, President of Karl Senner, LLC; Alon Shaya, Executive Chef/Owner of Shaya, Domenica, and Domenica Pizza; Cleveland Spears III, President and CEO of the Spears Group; and Dana Stumpf, CEO of Durr Heavy Construction. 
“I am looking forward to a relaxed and fun event recognizing some very deserving individuals for the amazing contributions they have made to our community,” said Chad Berg, City Stars Soiree Chairperson and Vice President of Lee Michael’s Fine Jewelry. “We have a very diverse group of honorees this year. They come from all over the city from a vast array of backgrounds.”
Honoree Karl Senner, President of Karl Senner, LLC said, “It is a huge compliment and very humbling to be honored as one of the 2016 Rising Stars. As I look at the list of past honorees, I feel very blessed to be a part of such a list of amazing people.”
He continued, “I volunteered for my first Junior Achievement event earlier this year, which gave me the opportunity to see the tremendous benefit it brings to the community, both the volunteers and the kids. Through that one experience, we were able to connect with many great kids who have dreams ranging from social work to becoming President of the United States. I feel the Junior Achievement program is a vital part of connecting the youth of the city to people who have made their life here, with hopes of keeping more of the great talent in our great city.” 
Honoree Wesley Palmisano, President and CEO of the Palmisano Group, echoed Karl’s sentiments. “It feels great to be included in such an amazing group of honorees this year,” he said. “At Palmisano, every day we work hard to live our mission of building to have an enduring impact on our community. Our real successes lie in the satisfaction we feel when we turn an abandoned building or empty lot into something beautiful and beneficial to the community. Being recognized for something that we’ve worked so hard to create is really gratifying.”
Wesley added, “As an entrepreneur, I feel it is my duty to take the time and energy to inspire and help young people reach their dreams and Junior Achievement provides the perfect outlet to do just that. I was lucky to have my dad and uncle encourage my entrepreneurial spirit, but not everyone in our community is so fortunate. Through Junior Achievement, we have the opportunity to help the next generation prepare for their successes.”
For The Company Burger’s Adam Biderman, being recognized by Junior Achievement is for sure a highlight in his career. “It’s an enormous honor!” he smiled. “Being honored by Junior Achievement is a high water mark that says that my team, family, and I have created something special and have made a positive impact on the food community and our city.”
“Junior Achievement is so important because school can only take a person so far,” affirmed Adam. “I never graduated from college, but I started working at a young age in the restaurant business. Through work experience and some amazing teachers and mentors, I was able to learn everything I needed to know to run restaurants. Education, of course, is incredibly important, but combining that with work experience is the key to success in business. Junior Achievement helps provide young people with the tools and experiences to step into the workforce and be successful.”
For honoree Dana Stumpf, CEO of Durr Heavy Construction, the recognition from Junior Achievement came as a surprise. “As a new CEO, I have been so focused on building our team, our culture, and our business that I do not stop enough to think about everything I’ve accomplished,” she remarked. “Being chosen for a recognition such as this facilitates reflection and makes me proud of not only my work, dedication, and accomplishments, but also those of my entire team as well.”
She continued, “Junior Achievement prepares young people for the real world. As someone who grew up in a family business, I did not realize until recently that business-related items that were second nature to me were completely foreign to others. These items, such as workforce development, business culture, and financial literacy, are important for both employers and employees to understand. In addition, these things can be applied in both one’s professional and personal lives.”

Like the other honorees, honoree Cleveland Spears III of the Spears Group is honored to be recognized. “I am deeply humbled and honored to be selected as a Junior Achievement Rising Star,” he said. “It is an honor to join the ranks of previous Rising Star honorees. An honor such as this from an institution with the history and legacy of Junior Achievement only deepens my resolve to work hard and be successful to ensure I am representing what Junior Achievement stands for.” 

“The work of Junior Achievement is vital to begin the process of introducing our young people to the various career paths that await them in this global and interconnected economy,” he affirmed. “In a city such as New Orleans with significant poverty, in 2016, where many young people will still be first generation to attend college, the exposure provided by JA is truly priceless. Exposure is one of the most valuable things that can be given to young people.” 

So what advice do these successful honorees and entrepreneurs have for our young, up and coming entrepreneurs?
“Surround yourself with people that you can depend on,” noted Karl. “My dad, brother, and I have great team around us. We all depend on each other to be successful.”
“Don’t be afraid to take a chance as long as you are willing to commit to the challenge,” added Wesley. “It’s not enough to have a great idea; it takes sweat equity, hard work and dedication to create something really successful.”
“Work hard, be humble, and don’t let your ego get in the way of reason and logic,” said Adam. “Don’t let your emotions affect your judgment. Treat guests, employees, customers, and teammates with temperance and tolerance and also know when to correct and adjust. Management is so complex and nuanced that it takes time to learn how to get what you need from people, so be patient. Besides all of that, have fun! It’s your business and you should have fun building and running it. Live by the sword and die by the sword, but do it gloriously.”

“Always trust the process,” Cleveland noted. “There is no such thing as an overnight success. Greatness is a process. No amount of talent can replace hard work. If you are talented and you work hard, you will be successful beyond your wildest dreams.” 
Dana concluded, “Embrace the challenges and set-backs. The more you are challenged, the more you are growing, and if you are growing, you are not dying!”
Join the Junior Achievement of Greater New Orleans as they honor these successful entrepreneurs and continue to provide our youth with workforce development, entrepreneurship, and financial literacy skills. 

WHAT: City Stars Soiree
WHEN: Friday, October 7 (7:30pm-11:00pm)
WHERE: JA BizTown (5100 Orleans Ave.)

Last modified on Monday, 03 October 2016
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