Spark Fest offers aspiring entrepreneurs tools, ideas

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April 15, 2015
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Pelicans relish opportunity to be in the hunt
April 15, 2015
UPDATE: School board asks for cheerleading rules to be reviewed
April 15, 2015

Aspiring local entrepreneurs will gather to learn from experienced business leaders at the Houma-Terrebonne Civic Center next week for an event intended to foster local small business growth.

The two-day schedule of seminars and panel discussions is called Spark Fest.

Organizers say it will be geared toward helping local high school students and area entrepreneurs with the mechanics of starting a business, by learning from the mistakes and triumphs of successful business leaders from the region.

“Folks who are engaged in those sectors of the business community can share their insights. What they did well, what they should have done better…,” said Katherine Gilbert-Theriot, Terrebonne Parish Economic Development Department Marketing Manager. “In an effort to help those who want to go into the business understand some of the real challenges and really what it takes to get over some of those humps.”

The parish is coordinating the event with the help of local businesses.

The first day of the event is tailored for high school students graduating soon with vocational training. There will be three-person panel discussions with area business leaders from automotive, medical, manufacturing, construction, technology and general businesses.

The idea, Gilbert-Theriot said, is to empower students who will be graduating high school with vocational training to start their own business using the skills they’ve learned in school.

Gilbert-Theriot said day one brings in business leaders to help high school students who are graduating with a vocational certification who are at a point where they only need to “take just a few more steps before you can potentially go into business on your own to help compliment this.”

Brandon Landry, founder of Walk-On’s Bistreaux & Bar, will give the keynote address.

Seminars will include tips on basic steps for starting a business, how to be innovative and some marketing basics.

The second day is tailored to entrepreneurs trying to start businesses. The focus of the day’s activities are on the business formation process. Everything from business concept, to Louisiana law on establishing a business, to legal issues will be discussed.

There will be a “Captains of Industry” panel discussion with prominent local business leaders featuring J.J. Buquet, president of Buquet Distributing; Kerry Chauvin, former CEO of Gulf Island Fabrication; Jake Giardina, former CEO of Cameco Industries; and Donny Rouse, managing partner of Rouse’s.

Other panel discussions will cover small oil and gas service companies, retailers, restaurants, professional and personal services.

The second day’s seminars will range in topics from how to get investor funding to essential staff to how to market your business with a $100 budget.

Both days will feature pitch critiques where enterprising upstarts can get feedback from an investor and a banker on their business idea presentation to potential investors, Gilbert-Theriot said.

Registration for high school students is free. The general public must pay a $20 registration fee.

Sparkfest will be held at the Houma-Terrebonne Civic Center on next Wednesday and Thursday, April 22-23. Registration for day one starts at 9:30 A.M. and for day two at 7:30 A.M.

For more information, visit or contact Katherine Gilbert-Theriot at 985-873-6890 or