• Caroline Glattly

Cohort 11 Makes the Switch to Online Learning

Like many offices and classrooms across the country, the 11th cohort of entrepreneurs in Launch NOLA’s current Business Academy have joined the online classroom to take their businesses to the next level.

The twelve-week course consists of an eclectic group of entrepreneurs from yoga instructors to non-profit owners looking to enhance their businesses through networking with colleagues and learning a curriculum specifically designed to help entrepreneurs lay a solid foundation to build and launch their businesses! Complete with a workbook chock-full of exercises on marketing techniques, customer profiles, vision boards and more, the Launch NOLA Business Academy equips, connects and empowers entrepreneurs of color to launch and grow thriving businesses across New Orleans.

At the culmination of the 12 weeks, participants have the opportunity to showcase their hard work and progress through pitch events or an interactive pop-up experience.

“I’m doing this to take my business to the next level,” says Jarrell Hamilton, a business owner with a mission of supporting emerging southern artists. “It’s a great way to bounce ideas off of my colleagues and bring resources into my space”.

Because the cohort is comprised of such a diverse number of businesses, the entrepreneurs are able to receive valuable feedback in a space where it is important for everyone to be heard. The classroom layout is even designed for group interaction, with tables and desks arranged in a circle for easy communication.

COVID-19 Shakes up the Classroom

In light of social distancing measures put into place due to COVID-19, the cohort has had to transition from the classroom to online, meeting weekly through Zoom Discussions led by an incredibly flexible and resourceful team of coaches, mentors, facilitators and guest speakers who have gone out of their way to adapt to the changes and obstacles that arise when making the switch to an online classroom.

“Many of our entrepreneurs are focused on health and wellness, and my hope is that they can keep their ideas fresh, especially now when we need them the most,” says Kayti Chung-Williams, Director of Launch NOLA.

Despite not being able to meet in class face-to-face, the cohorts are doing what it takes to succeed under changing circumstances. Of course, working from home poses some challenges, especially for those with children, or those who lack internet access. But with passion and dedication to finish out the program, the cohorts are resourceful in finding ways to work around these obstacles. Some participants have even been joining zoom meetings from the privacy of their cars, in order to create a work-conducive environment.

The view from the class's new online classroom.

While online learning certainly lacks some of the benefits of meeting face-to-face, it has encouraged the cohorts to take a more hands-on approach to learning the curriculum at their own pace, and in a way that makes sense for their unique schedules.

“It definitely requires more self-discipline,” says Hamilton. “I make sure I set aside an hour a day to put pen to paper. But meeting online has given us the opportunity to hone in on the curriculum in a way we couldn’t before because of the extra level of self-care we’ve been able to give ourselves with this flexibility”.

Finding a Silver Lining

This positivity and willingness to persevere extends across the virtual classroom, including Orion Prater, owner of full-service wedding and event planning business, Opulent Productions and Women Mean Business Expo.

“I was nervous about the switch because of how resourceful the class was in person. But it’s still like being in the actual classroom” says Prater. “The curriculum is amazing, especially the vision boards, which allow us to put our vision on paper.”

Execuitive Director of Launch Nola, Chuck Morse at Cohort 10 Graduation

Amidst growing uncertainty about what the future has in store for us, one thing is for sure. This group of entrepreneurs isn’t going to let a global pandemic stop them from taking their businesses to the next level. But perhaps one of the most inspiring things about the group is their willingness to support and uplift their fellow cohorts in their journey.

The Cohort 11 entrepreneurs and facilitators are a powerful reminder of what you can accomplish if you think outside the box and invest in others as much as you invest in yourself! For now, the participants are getting the most out of their weekly meetings, developing their business, making connections and taking challenges in stride.

This shift to virtual learning opens a door to the potential for Launch NOLA to offer more virtual courses and resources in the future. As the popularity and demand for virtual resources grows, entrepreneurs and businesses are growing too, inspiring the community to take advantage of online learning to make their dreams a reality!



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