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  • Ben Shenk

Creating Programs to Empower New Orleans' Small Business "Starters" Through Partnership

Updated: Aug 1, 2019

If you have a dream, you can spend a lifetime studying, planning, and getting ready for it.... What you should be doing is getting started. Drew Houston, Founder of Dropbox

It seems like almost anywhere you turn and with anyone you talk to there’s bound to be some dream of a business that they’re cooking up. The supply of business ideas far outweighs the demand...in other words, business ideas are a dime a dozen.


Entrepreneurs who turn those ideas into actual businesses, however, are rare. These are the type of people that resonate with Ghandi’s call to “be the change you want to see in the world”, the kind of leaders who are willing to commit their time, their passion, and their resources to create something new because they believe it will make a difference in the world. The folks I’m talking about don’t just have ideas, they are starters.


Starters are priceless.


Which is good news for New Orleans, because over the past year both Launch NOLA and business support ecosystem partner, Propeller have seen a dramatic uptick in interest and applicants in the first phase, the “concept” phase of building a business.


In other words, there has been an increase in the number of “starters” across New Orleans.


The challenge that many of the “starters” we’ve interacted with face, is that although they have the vision and grit and are committed to launching their business, they often don’t know where to start. On top of that, the obstacles that starters have to navigate in the concept phase face are unique from more established businesses, as they are stepping into something completely new and relatively unknown.


In light of the increased number of promising and committed aspiring entrepreneurs, Launch NOLA and Propeller teamed up to help serve and empower this population.


“I have seen with my own eyes how much of an impact entrepreneurship can have on a family, community, and really the entire city. So to leave this whole group of entrepreneurs underserved was leaving too many people’s gifts on the table.” Remarked Launch NOLA’s Director, Kayti Williams.


Trace Allen, Community Economic Development Program Manager at Propeller doubled down on Kayti's remarks asserting, "...As ESOs (entrepreneur support organizations), we have to reckon with the influence, whether real or perceived, that we have over the success trajectory of these entrepreneurs."


"Both Propeller and Launch NOLA are in the business of supporting entrepreneurs in achieving their dreams and having a meaningful impact in their communities for a more equitable New Orleans. In order to truly live into that, we had to have the bootcamp. It provides entrepreneurs with access and support from us to begin their entrepreneurial journey and also with a group of other like-minded entrepreneurs committed to growing and building."


"A dream deferred, is a dream denied" Chuck Morse, Executive Director of Thrive New Orleans

Together, Launch NOLA and Propeller created what they refer to as the “Startup Bootcamp Series” of programming, which includes intensive “Get Started” workshops using curriculum by Co.Starters to help turn ideas into real action. Later, they plan to roll out specific certification days to help starters navigate the red-tape that bogs many down.


14 "Starters" committed their Saturday morning to turning their dream into action at a Get Started Workshop

So far, 35 aspiring entrepreneurs and future business owners have decided to take the leap from idea to action through the three Get Started Workshops that the partners have hosted.


The Startup Bootcamp Series and partnership between Propeller and Launch NOLA is a part of a larger effort to create a business development pipeline across the entire city.


If business support organizations try to do it all alone, it's the entrepreneurs they serve who suffer. But when we intentionally collaborate, not just in word, but in action, we all win, especially the entrepreneurs. They gain a wider network and benefit from the best that each organization has to offer.” said Kayti.


Propeller's Senior Water Manager Allison DeJong, reflected on the unique value that this partnership has created, saying, "I love working with LaunchNOLA because of our shared commitment of serving the entrepreneurs - a true partnership where our organizations can pool resources, labor, knowledge, and energy to support these people and their goals."


The collaborative pipeline is already having an effect. Attendees of the Get Started Workshops who have gone out and turned their ideas into action are now applying for Launch NOLA’s Business Academy to support their businesses as they launch, while several of Launch NOLA’s Alumni have gone on to participate in Propeller’s Accelerator Programs and Pitch NOLA competitions.


"I am so inspired by these folks (bootcamp entrepreneurs).... I've been incredibly grateful to see them collaborate with each other, share resources, and build community amongst each other." remarked Trace.


Both Propeller and Launch NOLA are excited about what this pipeline will lead to for New Orleans entrepreneurs, and for the opportunities that the Startup Bootcamp Series has created for both organizations to now be able to walk alongside this budding group of aspiring change-makers and entrepreneurs.