One of things that is most gratifying about New Orleans is the amount of support and resources available for entrepreneurs and small businesses. Both government and private entities have developed ways to help create, retain, and expand businesses in the region, and have contributed to our continuing economic growth as a result.
However, with all the possibilities, it can be difficult to gauge where to even start or who to contact when building a business. The research alone, although important, is a time-consuming process that can cause frustration and further delay in executing your plan.
Cue in Metro New Orleans Sourcelink, an online platform that connects businesses and entrepreneurs to a network of business-building service providers in the region. Also, the answers to your prayers.
A program developed by The Regional Planning Commission and the Institute of Economic Development at the University of New Orleans, Sourcelink aims to provide small businesses with an efficient yet comprehensive directory of resources and service providers in the region.
Kara Renne, the Director of Economic Development at the Regional Planning Commission, was inspired by Kansas City’s regional Sourcelink website. She added, “After supporting and working with our regional entities, such as the Downtown Development District, GNO Inc., and The Idea Village, we wanted to take an active role to further support and promote these organizations.”
The online portal is programmed to point business owners in the right direction whether they are just starting, growing, or commercializing. With timely and up-to-date information on service providers, licensing, certifications, incentives, taxes, and capital funding, Sourcelink serves as a clearinghouse of information for the growing business market.
The directory is designed to match small businesses with the appropriate assistance they need, and includes an inventory of the region’s professional and business development service providers, economic development agencies, chambers of commerce, business associations, financial sources, training services and facilities, government bureaus, collaborative and office workspaces, schools, and business assistance programs. By providing a little information about your business, the resource navigator tool can create a list of service providers tailored to your specific needs.
Other essential components of Sourcelink are an events calendar and bi-weekly newsletter. They include a wide range of entrepreneurial happenings and registration links for networking events, seminars, workshops, classes, information sessions, business competitions, and chamber meetings to keep businesses owners up to date in the ever changing market.
Although the online tool just recently was launched, the concept of creating this small business specific directory is anything but new. In the past, there have been attempts by several entities to build similar outlets, but they have not succeeded due to a lack of attention in keeping archives of service providers, profiles, and information up to date. As a result, this dated information often created more frustration, misconceptions, and confusion for business owners.
“The challenge in this match-making process between service providers and small businesses is to figure out how to do it with technology efficiently and effectively,“ said Dr. Ivan Meistchovich, Director at UNO’s Institute of Economic Development.
The collaboration between The University of New Orleans and the Regional Planning Commission have certainly mastered creating that kind of tool.
With the RPC subsidizing the program with a grant from the U.S. Economic Development Administration, UNO has committed to supporting it. As readership increases, the evolution of the site will depend on feedback from the users. A contact page and toll-free number are available for comments, suggestions, sponsorship and partnership inquiry, which are encouraged in order to keep the content up to date and further evolving to continue to support the entrepreneurial community.
Beyond the established relationship and strong dynamic between the two entities, the partnership is a strategic one. Having UNO’s Institute of Economic Development host the program minimizes the possibility of a conflict of interest, as its goal is to act as an objective third party and ensure that the traffic from Sourcelink is being directed efficiently to the appropriate business providers.
“From an economic development viewpoint, the objective is to retain and create new jobs.” added Dr. Meistchcovich. “Also, to attract more capital investment, particularly in the private sector, to the region.”
The new tool promises to prove essential in organizing all the resources that are available to entrepreneurs and small businesses into one easily accessible outlet. And frequent updates of the system will keep its users current with the ever-changing and growing entrepreneurial ecosystem. With a fully integrated program that includes all the tools needed to direct any small business into fruition, the team behind Sourcelink is confident that this will continue to support the growth of businesses, and subsequently, the economy of the region.
Adriana Lopez writes about the entrepreneurial community for NolaVie and Silicon Bayou News. She also showcases local start-ups such as the one profiled here through her non-profit organization GenNOLA. For more information on NolaVie, visit NolaVie.com.