The Hustle is Contagious at #NOEW2015

Why New Orleans Entrepreneur Week matters.


New Orleans Entrepreneur Week is happening this week, and this seventh installment is the biggest yet. The energy at the events that I’ve attended so far this week has been amazing.

Tabitha Bethune of The Wild Life Reserve, the winner of the 3rd Annual Downtown NOLA Arts-Based Business Pitch (Photo: DDD New Orleans)

Tabitha Bethune, co-founder of the Wild Life Reserve, an upstart fashion line pitched their expansion into fashion incubation, creating a community for designers in New Orleans. I remember seeing the ties designed by Micaiah Bethune a few years ago in a shop on Magazine Street and thinking to myself — this is the type of business that we need to be supporting in New Orleans.

And sure enough, not only had they worked their way onto the stage at NOEW, but Tabitha’s pitch already reflected the pay-it-forward ethos that Idea Village has instilled in the ecosystem.

Just a few years ago, I’m not sure the Wildlife Reserve would have found its way into the entrepreneurial ecosystem. And that is a tribute to the power of NOEW — it has democratized entrepreneurship for New Orleans. The most important lesson to be learned is that anyone and everyone has the ability to become an entrepreneur.

In my own career, my passion and focus has been high-growth startups. I’ve carved out a niche in the ecosystem working to help connect companies to capital.

An important reflection for me yesterday was that startups ≠ entrepreneurship. Startups are a subset of entrepreneurship.

NOEW and the organizations like 4.0 Schools and Creative Alliance of New Orleans & the Downtown Development District are teaching our community that we can solve problems entrepreneurially. That is a powerful new mindset for people in this city, and its dramatic how fast its spreading.

As businesses like the Wildlife Preserve succeed in the most prime location in New Orleans, the corner of Canal and St. Charles — people take notice. If Micaiah and Tabitha can start a business, why can’t I?

The hustle is contagious.
Matt Candler and Hassan Hassan announcing the winners at the 4.0 Schools #4futurenola pitch. (Photo: 4.0 Schools)

4.0's program provides a platform for smart founders to start businesses, schools and nonprofits. The commonality is that they are doing so entrepreneurially. As Kristyna N. Jones, co-founder of Brothers Empowered 2 Teach was clear to note on stage yesterday:

“We are building this organization with a sustainable, earned-income revenue model.”

That is entrepreneurial thinking. That is what people are being taught, and its the right mindset. It also hasn’t always been the case.

Five years ago, the social entrepreneurship trend was hot in New Orleans. And though the mission of the organizations and companies was important, the entrepreneurial element was missing.

Socially-minded entrepreneurs were employing traditional business models too dependent on grant funding and donations. For a city often criticized as looking for a handout, were organizations going to work that felt like the same old New Orleans? No.

This attitude is changing in New Orleans and you can feel it. Entrepreneurs are taking responsibility for their own success, and owning their future.

The hustle is contagious.

The crowd at the 2012 Big Idea pitch. (photo: SiliconBayouNews)
Mardi Gras, NOEW, Jazz Fest, Saints, Repeat.
Idea Village CEO Tim Williamson on stage at the 2014 Big Idea (photo: SiliconBayouNews)

Tim Williamson has successfully slotted NOEW into the rhythms and rituals of the city, proving the power of repetition and perseverance. Idea Village has executed on a grand vision of connecting the entire community to the entrepreneurial hustle.

NOEW works for our city because it employs the Mardi Gras model of building community. Set a date, create a platform, and invite everyone to the party. It’s open source ecosystem development.

Producing NOEW is the role that Idea Village was born to play. And by open-sourcing it to the community and focusing on the platform, NOEW has become scalable. It continues to grow as everybody contributes.

Traditions and krewes are forming and, of course, everyone has a good time. We are New Orleanians after all.

If you haven’t made it out to NOEW events yet this week, its worth hitting up. The showcase of entrepreneurs will instill pride in anyone who cares our city.

And you’re gonna catch the hustle, because it’s contagious.


You can catch me hustling around to lot of the NOEW events this week. I’ll be on the panel at the “Get Started” Pitch Competition Wednesday. Register for the Big Idea on Friday on NOEW.org. Thanks to Peter Bodenheimer, Molly Oehmichen, Cameron Adams & Cambria Martinelli for reading drafts of this post.