Introducing Go.Be.

Celebrating its 20th year, Good Work Network is changing more than its name.

Illustration by Tony Healey

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.


 

Changing the name of any enterprise is always a major inflection point. For the former Good Work Network, switching monikers to Go.Be. resulted from an unusual confluence of opportunity, accident and a major milestone.

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This year the organization celebrates 20 years as an entrepreneurial support nonprofit. Go.Be operates at the intersection of minority- and women-owned businesses with between $150,000 and $1 million in annual revenues, and has assisted some 6,000 clients.

“We are really focused on helping minority entrepreneurs go beyond survival to success,” said Executive Director Hermione Malone, who noted that three years out, the failure rate for these types of businesses increases appreciably.

While the name change is timely as an anniversary marker, it arose out of conversations about simply changing the organization’s messaging. This, in turn, was prompted by receipt of a federal grant that enabled the group to expand its work statewide, which led the nonprofit to conduct focus groups to help flesh out what that work would look like.

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“During these stakeholder conversations, questions came up about the name,” recalled Malone. “We realized that we had an opportunity to better reflect how our work has changed.”

One key component of the organization’s new direction is the individualized approach Go.Be. takes with each of its clients.

“We are meeting people where they are and customizing the resources we bring to them,” explained Malone. “They tell us where they need support.”

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Sometimes, Malone said, the biggest challenge is getting clients to accept assistance.

“So many entrepreneurs’ brains are wired to go it alone,” she said. “But someone who is all over digital marketing may need help with accounting or human resources.”

Go.Be.’s name and focus change also coincide with the many changes in the business landscape wrought by the pandemic. Malone questions whether the traditional brick and mortar, location-based model will come back.

“We have clients that began making and delivering food but had no actual storefront,” she said, “but their goal was always to establish that storefront. Now, a lot of folks are not going in that direction, and will continue as caterers and food deliverers.”

She also noted that, while various government programs helped many businesses survive the pandemic, her clients did not benefit as much. Some, she said, were reluctant to take on debt in uncertain times. Smaller businesses with few employees saw few benefits from the PPP program, with its focus on supporting payrolls. Underlying all this, minority and women-owned businesses always face greater challenges with access to the banking system, through which many of the aid programs were administered.

As a reflection of the new circumstances, as well as Go.Be.’s refocused mission, the organization has just launched a new “Elevate Fund” of targeted small grants.

“Our work is like air traffic control, said Malone. “We see the big picture and we know what businesses need, but just like they can’t do it all, we can’t do it all.”

The program helps entrepreneurs discover what specific business needs they have, then connects them with expert resources to help meet those needs. The grants reach up to $4,000; more information can be found at www.gobe.org.

Meanwhile, the organization continues its own process of establishing its new name and brand.

“We are still doing that delicate dance where you still need to reference Good Work Network,” Malone said. “Fortunately, this is a little easier with a smaller organization.”

The new name reflects more aggressive, dynamic approach to serving its clientele; applying these same principles to its own transition will assure Go.Be. of at least 20 more years of success.

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