The goal of this project was to ensure that entrepreneurs of color, particularly those with businesses poised to scale, could access the capital and community resources they need to grow their enterprises – resources that technical assistance providers, capital providers, anchor institutions and others have often denied them.
In New Orleans, the entrepreneurial ecosystem (in this case, the network of institutions, organizations, individuals and other supports available to develop and grow the city’s business community) is not currently meeting the needs of its majority Black population, despite a long history of entrepreneurship among the Black community in New Orleans. As the SU(3) cohort lead and venture capitalist Monique Woodard wrote recently, and based on the New Orleans Business Alliance (NOLABA) research, “New Orleans has a 60% majority Black population but Black entrepreneurs have been underrepresented in the city’s emerging entrepreneur community of local accelerators, incubators, and angel investor networks. Of the $41 million of local angel investment in entrepreneurs, only $1.3 million was invested in entrepreneurs of color.”
To better understand the barriers and lack of access that entrepreneurs in New Orleans face, Living Cities and our local SU(3) partner, NOLABA, set out to map the city’s entrepreneurial ecosystem. By identifying all players present, their programmatic or financial focus, their relationships to one another, and whether they served entrepreneurs of color, we could begin to see both the gaps and redundancies in the ecosystem and its supports.
Living Cities was able to leverage ample NOLABA research developed for its website. We also conducted additional research into which organizations explicitly commit to serving entrepreneurs of color in their mission, vision, annual reports or other foundational materials. Some of the gaps we found include:
- An abundant but disconnected technical assistance landscape, with weak relationships between technical assistance providers and lack of cohesion in service
- Disparities in access to ecosystem supports, especially to technical assistance providers, by race
- Need for focused capital for high-growth entrepreneurs
- Lack of access to large contracts for entrepreneurs of color
- Lack of peer networks and mentorship for entrepreneurs of color
Our intent with this graphic is to provide a visual representation of how entrepreneurs in New Orleans experience the ecosystem based on their race so that ecosystem players consider the consequences of how they serve entrepreneurs of color. We are not suggesting a “separate but equal” approach, but we do believe that in a majority Black city, it takes intent, understanding and commitment to overcome the systemic barriers that prevent businesses owned by people of color from thriving.
As you browse the graphic and see the ecosystem from the perspective of both a white male entrepreneur and a male entrepreneur of color, understand that the experiences of women entrepreneurs, particularly women of color, are even more stark. The position of women entrepreneurs of color within the ecosystem not only has implications for the women themselves, but it also disproportionately affects their families and communities considering the outsized role that Black women, in particular, play as heads of households.
After you click through the various types of support, view the experience of the ecosystem from the two different entrepreneurs’ perspectives, and better understand the challenges they do or don’t face, we recommend going to our SU(3) Medium publication to learn more about how New Orleans is tackling these issues.