• Ben Shenk

The Power of Local Voices in Leadership

I hear you. I know what it’s like to be in your shoes.

Simple phrases that can make a world of difference in the lives of others.

The power of empathy and understanding creates trust, safe spaces, and mutual understanding at times and in places that otherwise could seem foreign or uncomfortable.

In teaching, building trust has been shown to create radically better outcomes for students. And in the world of business, every great leader knows that all business is built upon trust.

Launch NOLA’s mission is to equip, connect, and empower local small businesses. In order to do that, they recognize the importance of deep mutual trust between each staff member and entrepreneur.

Which is one reason why Launch NOLA’s Director, Kayti Chung-Williams is especially excited about the development and growth of Nika and Ari, who joined Launch in July.

“There’s something very important about having local leaders, not just within the entrepreneurs we serve, but even within our own staffing to make sure that we are capturing the voices and perspectives of people from New Orleans. It’s very beneficial and very empowering to have Nika and Ari on staff, who are both ‘born and raised New Orleans’. Their perspectives and presence contribute to the rest of Thrive’s staff in a really powerful, and much needed way.” said Kayti.

"Their giftings really benefit Launch, and although there is a learning curve for the ‘technical’ things, the work we do is very relational, so having local connections really helps build trust. Already I’ve seen how the local connection can build instant relationships when Nika or Ari is talking with an entrepreneur and realizes that they’ve seen their business before because of a family or neighborhood connection from way back.”

While the “local” trust is a major benefit of having local leaders on the Launch NOLA team, the empathy and unique perspectives that they are able to bring make their presence all the more of an asset.

Moreover, with Launch NOLA's physical presence on Claiborne Avenue, and commitment to embodying equity while serving local entrepreneurs, most of whom are minority women themselves, it is imperative to have leadership that reflects the character of the neighborhood.

“There’s something very important about having local leaders, not just within the entrepreneurs we serve, but even within our own staffing - Kayti Chung-Williams

Kayti’s admiration and excitement are evident, saying, “As New Orleanians, black women, and younger mothers, they bring so much to the table. They have a view and perspective that I do not. Even generationally they have a different perspective that Thrive’s leadership might not have. They can understand what many of the entrepreneurs that we work with may be going through - not just in business, but in life. And that matters, life doesn’t stop for business, so effective business support must be able to reach into entrepreneurs' lives as well. Plus, they know the local community, and already have so many ideas and such passion for entrepreneurship in our community.”

As Nika and Ari continue to develop as leaders within Launch NOLA, they’ll be playing pivotal roles in supporting Launch NOLA’s 20 Business Academy participants, 140 alumni, and 10 Launch NOLA Green participants this fall; walking alongside them to equip, connect, and empower them to take their businesses to the next level.



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