• Ben Shenk

Launch NOLA Kicks Off Renewed Approach, Highlighting Alumni Entrepreneurs

Updated: Aug 1, 2019

The Launch NOLA Family has come a long way from its inception back in 2015: from piloting with a single entrepreneur, to now 4 years, 12 business academies, and 140 entrepreneurs who Launch has gotten to walk with through the startup process.

Walking with that many businesses has brought wisdom, experiences, and opportunities to the organization - largely thanks to the incredible entrepreneurs that they’ve had the privilege to walk alongside. In many ways the alumni have become a part of the Launch NOLA family.

And with any family, comes real responsibility. For Launch NOLA, that responsibility is supporting their family of entrepreneurs in a real way.

Growing and Adapting To Better Serve Entrepreneurs

For the first four years, Launch NOLA’s model has been anchored in their flagship 12-week Business Academy, which equips entrepreneurs with the foundational knowledge and business tools needed to launch their businesses. Yet today, the Business Academy is no longer enough, given the number of alumni who have gone through the Business Academy, launched their businesses, and are now facing new and dynamic challenges as they grow.

Just as a family needs a house big enough to accommodate everyone, Launch NOLA’s alumni network requires a model that can accommodate everyone.

Focusing on the Family

Launch NOLA Director Kayti Williams has eagerly taken on the challenge of building that new model, and Alumni are at the heart of it.

Moving forward, our Alumni, our family, are going to be a central part of Launch NOLA’s model. The health and growth of the organization is going to be tied to how well we’re supporting them. Our (staff’s) successes will be alumni successes. The alumni are going to be the way that we measure our impact...where they started, and where they are at today.”

In order to kickstart this new model, Launch NOLA hosted the first of two Alumni Circle events in order to listen and learn from alumni. In this way, the new model will be rooted in the needs and vision of the alumni themselves.

The event, which included “speed marketing”, a talking circle, and plenty of “family” time for alumni to catch u, felt like a much needed reunion of sorts.

Entrepreneurs Renata Johnson and Tyrone Shoemaker practice their business pitches at the Alumni Circle Event

“The Alumni seemed really happy to be there. It seemed like they wanted to be back together and to share their voice about what is next.” remarked Ari Williams, one Launch NOLA’s Program Coordinators.

“We’re finding out where people are at truly, so we can meet them where they really need it.” said Kayti. “That’s why we had the event, to get feedback straight from the alumni themselves.”

The staff is creating this new model to leverage what they believe to be Launch NOLA’s greatest asset: the Alumni.

“Each alumni that I talk to has a unique set of skills, experience, expertise, and connections that nobody else in the room has. If we (Launch NOLA) aren’t doing our best to create a platform for those gifts to flourish, we’re missing the mark completely.” said Kayti.

Highlighting Strengths Through a Circular Model

To do this, Launch NOLA has begun designing what they refer to as a “circular model”.

“Our new model is a circular model. We walk with them from applicant, to business academy participant, to Alumni. Then, as Alumni grow and develop it isn’t just “goodbye”, but inviting them to come back into the fold as a speaker, workshop leader, or whatever kind of connection other alumni and participants might need. It’s moving away from the one-dimensional ‘how can we help you’ toward the holistic ‘how can we help one another’”.

The staff is already compiling feedback from the event, and using it to begin developing new opportunities for the alumni to re-engage as a part of the new model. Alumni can keep their eye out for these opportunities to be coming to fruition within the next month.



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