Graduating New Businesses

Delgado Entrepreneurship Center aims to provide some much-needed support.

I f you’ve passed by Delgado Community College’s City Park campus in the past year, you have probably wondered about the new building emerging front and center. It’s the Delgado Entrepreneurship Center, and it opened last month during New Orleans Entrepreneur Week with the goal of providing academic and practical training to people looking to launch a business.

“We have nearly 20,000 students here learning trades, from welding to cosmetology to accounting,” says Elizabeth Duett, entrepreneurship director for Delgado. “Every one of them should be opening their own business.”

The new center, which was built with federal funds after Hurricane Katrina, includes classrooms, labs, digital media facilities, and a conference center with state-of-the-art technology.

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In addition, the Louisiana Small Business Development Center plans to open an office in the Entrepreneurship Center, and the City of New Orleans will have a branch of its Office of Supplier Diversity there. Qualified students will be able to obtain city DBE (Disadvantaged Business Enterprise) certification – a designation that ensures a business can compete for federally funded transportation-related programs – by the time they complete the program.

Classes in the center will include entrepreneurial finance, business plans and other topics related to starting a business. Additional seminars will cover subjects like writing contracts, franchising and social media. Students will now be able to get an Entrepreneurship Certificate as part of their Delgado degrees. Additional professional certifications, from HVAC to day care, are also available in the center.

“We really see this as a small business incubator,” Duett says. “We want students to come out of the program ready to launch.”

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The Center will have a strong focus on experiential learning – “connecting academic learning to the real world” as Duett puts it – and include the Delgado student marketplace, where budding entrepreneurs will be able to sell their products and services to fellow students. This provides a low-risk opportunity for students to test-market their ideas, as well as marketing strategies.

Some of the center’s facilities and services may eventually be open to the community as well.  However, with its inherent pipeline of students, Duett anticipates that the entrepreneurship program will fill rapidly from within Delgado.

In addition to preparing students to be entrepreneurs, Duett feels the program can “help students understand what they want to do with their lives. I’d love to see every one of our graduates go out and start their own business!”

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Keith Twitchell  spent 16 years running his own business before becoming president of the Committee for a Better New Orleans. He has observed, supported and participated in entrepreneurial ventures at the street, neighborhood, nonprofit, micro- and macro-business levels.



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