Launch NOLA is an initiative of Thrive New Orleans and was started in 2015 to support underserved entrepreneurs in New Orleans. Launch NOLA works primarily with women and minority founders who often feel isolated and disconnected from their community. Through programs such as their Business Academy, which uses the CO.STARTERS 9-week curriculum, Launch NOLA helps entrepreneurs grow their businesses from part-time, informal businesses to full-time, established businesses.

In addition to coming alongside entrepreneurs through programming, Launch NOLA provides affordable coworking space where graduates can continue to connect. Additionally, they work to create a supportive city-wide ecosystem by engaging with institutions and anchor businesses to create contract opportunities for their graduates. Launch NOLA also collaborates with other entrepreneur support organizations throughout the city to create a pipeline to serve businesses through every stage of growth and across various areas of need.

Beyond running the Business Academy, Launch NOLA also runs the Green Business Academy for landscapers and contractors by augmenting the CO.STARTERS 9-week course with specific stormwater management training and hands-on installations. Most of the participants in the program are African-American males, and many are attempting to re-enter the workforce after being released from prison.

“We approach small business development through the lense of holistic community development,” explained Program Coordinator Ben Shank.  “It is highly relational, as we believe this to be the most effective, dignifying, and empowering way to support our city and entrepreneurs. We have found that many of the entrepreneurs that we serve feel isolated, deflated, and lack professional confidence.”

Launch NOLA and CO.STARTERS work together so well because CO.STARTERS’ model fundamentally fits their philosophy. Since CO.STARTERS’ curriculum is group-based and facilitated (as opposed to taught), it has helped build the professional confidence and communal support that entrepreneurs need to succeed. According to Ben, the curriculum is easy to use, and “so beautifully and profoundly simple to understand—making it approachable yet potent content for anyone to latch onto.”