Tackling NOLA’s Community Issues Through Entrepreneurship

Three New Orleans-based social ventures have a little more seed money in their pockets after participating in last week’s PitchNOLA: Community Solutions. Hosted by New Orleans-based Propeller, a social innovation accelerator and incubator, and Tulane University, the program gave 10 local entrepreneurs a chance to pitch their solutions to pressing community issues in workforce development, children and families, social justice and the environment.

The top winner was Young Creative Agency, which runs a youth design studio that pays teens to work after school and during the summer on digital media and graphic design commissions from local businesses. The startup received $5,000 in seed money and technical assistance from EMH Strategy, a New Orleans-based management consulting firm.

Alberta Wright, Young Creative Agency’s founding director, says the PitchNOLA money, along with $10,000 raised elsewhere, will go toward hiring a part-time mentor to “help us take on more client jobs, serve more youth, and begin to standardize our curriculum so that we can grow efficiently and sustainably.”

Since its founding in 2014, Young Creative Agency has served 31 youth on 12 successful client jobs.

Fund17, which empower micro-entrepreneurs in New Orleans’ 17th Ward, won second place at the PitchNOLA competition and a $3,000 award. The third-place winner and audience favorite was the Food Justice Collective, which is working to create a multi-racial, multi-lingual cohort of farmers to build, among other things, food sovereignty. They received $2,500.

The winning startups all focused on New Orleans’ growing need for youth-based solutions to workforce development issues.

“As New Orleans faces underemployment among opportunity youth, we will need solutions that prepare all young New Orleanians with the skills they need to build a viable future,” says Ginny Hanusik, programs coordinator at Propeller, which has awarded more than $90,000 to 30 ventures through its PitchNOLA competitions.

Wright, who has participated in PitchNOLA before, has some tips for entrepreneurs who may be applying for similar programs: “Research your judges, find people who have done this successfully to give you feedback and make them ask you the tough questions before you get to the actual competition. Finally, know that everyone will give you different feedback so focus back on what’s important to your mission, take what you can use and leave behind what you can’t.”