This post by John Nettles originally appeared on the Louisiana Technology Park blog.
In the tribulations of the 2016 Flood — the unprecedented 1000-year inundation that devastated Baton Rouge — the nation witnessed the kindest and most socially responsible qualities of southern culture. But more than that, people also saw the entrepreneurial, innovative side of Louisianians.
Here are four instances during the flood that prove southerners are natural entrepreneurs:
Fundraiser Under the Overpass — Entrepreneurship for Social Good
Entrepreneurs see problems and offer solutions. One such challenge arose on the weekend following the flood, when everyone in Baton Rouge desperately needed a break — but no one wanted to stop helping.
The response was to hold fundraiser in which people could unwind for a bit and simultaneously help flood victims with donations. At the Fundraiser Under the Overpass on Perkins Road near Mid City Baton Rouge, attendees sampled food and drinks from more than a dozen donor restaurants and suppliers. There was also live music, and for $25, party goers could skip lines for food and drink.
“We had people that were gutting houses all week that needed a break, people that wanted to give back but couldn’t do it through physical labor, and people that were from out of town and curious about our community,” says Kenny Nguyen, organizer of the event. “Overall, what this event did was that it gave everyone a chance to get together and take a break from a very tough week for a good cause through food, booze and music.”
Some of the food cooked and donated to the event was delivered to flooded neighborhoods. All told, the Fundraiser Under the Overpass raised more than $40,000 for the Baton Rouge Area Foundation’s Flood Relief Fund. Many of the funds were raised in $25 increments.
“Entrepreneurship should be all about this – finding missions that will fulfill needs for the people,” say Nguyen.
Cajun Navy — Resourcefulness En Masse
One of the most well-known disaster response initiatives during the flood is the Cajun Navy, a spontaneous group of waterborne rescuers whose story will likely be told in South Louisiana for generations. The origins of the group highlight the entrepreneurial nature of its founders.
When The Times Picayune of New Orleans asked one of the Cajun Navy founding members Kyle Page what he was thinking when he hopped into his boat to rescue flood victims, he responded simply that he was thinking, “I’ve got to do something.”
Although it turned out that Page had indeed lost nearly everything, he nonetheless helped organize and grow what CNN would eventually call “possibly the nation’s most important neighborhood watch.”
One reason the group was effective was that it was able to quickly reach areas that other rescue teams could not. As cellular carriers lost coverage, the Cajun Navy was able to use social media to deploy to areas where they were needed most. For two days, the Navy would go on to rescue dozens from rising flood waters, and many cajun sailors even returned to homes to help with repairs.