From March 20-27, New Orleans will be hosting the seventh annual New Orleans Entrepreneur Week (NOEW). The event has become a homing beacon for entrepreneurs and startups.
In 2014, the event was attended by approximately 5,000 people. Cameron Yancey, marketing director of NOEW, said “10,000 festival goers are expected to engage,” doubling last years’ attendance. Also increasing in amount are the number of startups that are to be present (click here for a complete list of companies).
“NOEW 2015 will provide over 100 slots for local founders to be showcased. This increase is due to more open call opportunities and demos,” Yancey said.
With more startups making an appearance, there’s more room to provide creative ways for entrepreneurs to engage with one another during the week. Some of those ways include panel discussions, social networking events, workshops and keynotes – there are over 70 unique events designed to captivate and fascinate the festival goers.
Yancey said the idea for NOEW came from students wanting to spend their Spring Break in New Orleans “working with early-stage, high-growth entrepreneurs.”
Six years ago the Economic Development Administration put forth an investment that allowed The Idea Village to grow the event into a festival and become its producer.
Founded in 2000, The Idea Village is an independent nonprofit organization with a mission to identify, support, and retain entrepreneurial talent in New Orleans.
The Comeback City
This year will mark the 10th anniversary of Hurricane Katrina, the costliest natural disaster in U.S. history. More than 1,800 people died as a result of the storm and subsequent flooding. According to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, “during the first 10 months after the hurricane, the city suffered an over-the-year average loss of 95,000 jobs. At the trough of the job loss, in November 2005, employment was 105,300 below the previous year’s November figure. By June 2006, the over-the-year job loss, though smaller, was still substantial (92,900). Lost wages over the 10-month period from September 2005 to June 2006 were about $2.9 billion, with 76 percent of the loss attributable to the private sector.”
Despite the devastation, the city has been touted as the “fastest-growing city” due to investments of local and international companies and government funded programs like the Technology Commercialization Credit and Jobs Program, to young professionals and entrepreneurs who view New Orleans as a new frontier. The Credit and Jobs Program provides credit for companies that invest in the commercialization of Louisiana technology and create new jobs.
Ernest Gethers, the business services director for the city said that in order to revive New Orleans with revenue for the economy, the first goal was to get residents back by restoring utilities. After that, with the city being seen as a “new frontier,” New Orleans became a hub for “businesses wanting to test out their innovations,” Gethers said.
“When rebuilding a city, you want to do it right – a lot of green buildings, a lot of high tech buildings,” Gethers said.
Yancey said that the startups that are to be involved “represent a number of diverse industries including food, water, digital media, technology, education, and arts.”
Some of the startups that have been announced include Cook Me Somethin’ Mister, a food products brand founded by Kristen Preau; myMix, an online purchasing platform offering top grade, customizable, ready-to-mix powder supplements, co-founded by wife and husband Sarah and Crutcher Reiss and Passion Dance Center, a school for the performing arts as well as commercial dance owned by Tamika Jett.
NOEW is not the only organization on the scene for New Orleans’ entrepreneurs. StartupNewOrleans, a website dedicated to New Orleans startups, is also a factor in this hub. Their website boasts a travel package for visiting entrepreneurs to get them into the city and many ways to share the information on the site. Also, the structure of the site allows you to see a grid of randomly selected and arranged startups. One of the different ways of sharing the site information includes an ability to create your own grid using the available tiles and then sharing it via email.
Entrepreneurs and startups seem to be playing a key role New Orleans’ comeback. Their ambitions and creativities are assisting in the revival of the city.
NOEW 2015 will take place March 20-27, 2015 on Fulton St. in downtown New Orleans.