From education tech startups to social innovation, New Orleans has quickly become a prominent entrepreneurial center. The recent success of New Orleans Entrepreneur Week, an overwhelming amount of national press, and acknowledgment from entities such as The White House and Google as a model city have proved the large impact entrepreneurship has made.
The city’s emerging business culture can be partly attributed to the large presence of growing social enterprises, which use business principles to innovate and scale solutions to social and environmental challenges. Besides generating social impact on both local and global levels, social entrepreneurs continue to make a significant economic impact as well.
There is a common misconception that social entrepreneurs do not make much of an economic impact because their ventures are based on creating solutions to social and environmental problems. However, these businesses are fully sustainable and primarily for-profit entities, so generating revenue is still a large focus for them. The numbers from this year’s Social Entrepreneurs of New Orleans (SENO) Social Venture Accelerator class attest to the economic impact they have collectively made in the city, with 30+ full-time jobs created and $2.2 million in external financing and revenues generated by nine “fellows” in the past 10 months.
The SENO Social Venture Accelerator has provided training, consulting, technical assistance, and workshops to approximately 100 social entrepreneurs to assist in their startups, which are tackling such systemic social issues as healthy food access, housing, public education, and coastal restoration.
One SENO success story is John Burns, who created Jack & Jake’s, the first local food hub in Louisiana, supported by a network of more than 200 farms and fishers within an average 65 miles of their farm-central warehouse. He currently serves more than 300 restaurants and is working on creating a “farm-to-school” program, in which local farmers will have the opportunity to provide fresh, healthy food to public school children in the greater New Orleans area.
“We could not have done it without SENO,” says Burns, who attributes his growth to the necessary financial support he received through SENO’s assistance.
In addition to this year’s Accelerator class, SENO is preparing to open its new incubator in August at 4035 Washington Ave., in the Broadmoor neighborhood. A collaborative project with New Orleans developers Green Coast Enterprises, HUB NOLA’s 10,000 square foot, two-story facility will provide private offices, working spaces, and a shared manufacturing and prototyping space to accommodate more than 100 social innovators. As the city’s primary social entrepreneurship accelerator, the incubator will also offer social entrepreneurs a creative workspace as well as technical assistance and SENO workshops on finance, marketing, law, and accounting.
“SENO is excited for the creative synergy and collaboration that will happen when like-minded people are working together in proximity to solve our city’s most pressing social and environmental challenges,” says Andrea Chen, co-founder and executive director of Social Entrepreneurs of New Orleans. “The HUB New Orleans project represents the tremendous growth and continued potential of social entrepreneurship since Hurricane Katrina.”
For SENO, the intention is to give organizations a collaborative but professional space where they can conduct business and continue to pursue their individual social missions, gain access to resources otherwise difficult for startups to obtain, and further work together to fulfill one ultimate goal: to create jobs and build a strong economy in New Orleans. Several of the entrepreneurs who are already planning to move their ventures into the space are SENO Accelerator Fellows and alums Tippy Tippens of MATTER L3C, Sarah Baird of Takeashine, William Stoudt of Youth Rebuilding New Orleans, and Rural Revolution.
HUB NOLA is part of Green Coast Enterprises’ $8 million development that is expected to be fully complete by the end of the year, with three additional buildings that will house a mix of retail and office spaces, including tenants Laurel Street Bakery, the Broadmoor Improvement Association, Global Green and Green Coast Enterprises. Four buildings within one block of Broadmoor will put a combined 100,000 square feet of newly renovated commercial and office space back into the neighborhood, with HUB NOLA playing a significant role in the rejuvenation of yet another New Orleans neighborhood and the economic development of the city.
Adriana Lopez writes about the entrepreneurial community for NolaVie and Silicon Bayou News. She also showcases local start-ups through her non-profit organization GenNOLA. For more information on NolaVie, go to nolavie.com.