New Orleans Business Alliance Launches New Business Growth Initiative, Online Tools, and Tagline

NEW ORLEANS – It’s been a busy day for the New Orleans Business Alliance (NOLABA).

This morning, the organization launched a program that will help local small businesses, owned by people of color, grow into $10 million enterprises. And at noon, during its annual meeting, the Business Alliance unveiled online business tools for business owners, and revealed its new brand tagline: Culture. Equity. Prosperity.

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The action began at NOLABA’s headquarters on Poydras Street, where city officials, business leaders, and academics gathered for a press conference to discuss the new program, which is called InvestNOLA.

InvestNOLA is the local version of the national small business growth program, Ascend, and it’s funded by a $500,000 investment from JPMorgan Chase & Co. The program is designed to accelerate expansion in high-growth potential businesses by connecting them to public- and private-sector opportunities, innovative capital products, and advanced business-management education developed by Tulane and Xavier Universities.

“Accelerating the growth of our businesses owned by entrepreneurs of color will create jobs where they’re needed the most,” said Greg Rattler, an executive director in JPMorgan Chase’s government banking division. “Ascend is a model for supporting small businesses that face historical barriers. It works, and we’re excited to bring it to New Orleans and drive inclusive economic growth.”

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Panelists at the InvestNOLA press conference. (Photo from NOLABA)


In New Orleans, 40-percent of small businesses are owned by entrepreneurs of color, yet they receive only 2-percent of the total annual receipts. Nationwide, the median white-owned small business has revenue 1.5 times larger than its Latino-owned counterparts and five times larger than the median African-American owned firms, according to Ascend.

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InvestNOLA, which will be managed by the New Orleans Business Alliance, will bring together Xavier and Tulane universities to offer business education and management training. It will digitally connect business owners to public and private sector procurement opportunities, and it will offer flexible credit and equity investments through such financial partners as New Corp Inc., TruFund Financial Services, Inc. and LiftFund.

The New Orleans Start-up Fund and the NO/LA Angel Network will provide investment capital to eligible program participants.

“Strengthening the economic health of this community is core to Tulane’s commitment to New Orleans,” Tulane President Mike Fitts said. “Ensuring equitable access to business resources is critical to the success of any economy. Tulane is proud to be a part of bringing this effort to New Orleans and we thank JPMorgan Chase for their generous support.”


Lynnette While-Colin, vice president, Small Business Growth, New Orleans Business Alliance, speaks at the Invest NOLA press conference. (Photo from NOLABA)


Originally launched as Ascend 2020, the program is currently active in seven cities (Atlanta, the Bay Area, Chicago, Los Angeles, Seattle, Washington, D.C. and Long Island) as part of JPMorgan Chase’s $150 million Small Business Forward program to help women, minority and veteran entrepreneurs. Since the program’s launch in late 2016, Ascend has helped 140 businesses earn a total of $8 million in investments, which includes $5 million in contracts and $3 million in new capital.


Shortly after the press conference, NOLABA members gathered at the Hyatt Regency New Orleans inside the Celestine Ballroom for the organization’s annual meeting. In addition to revealing its new tagline, NOLABA launched free online tools that will assist small business owners.

They are: the Business Insight Tool, a comprehensive business information resource; the Crescent City Biz Connector, a “mapping” tool that categorizes resources based on services provided and helps businesses identify a suitable technical assistance provider; and the Opportunities Portal, which connects entrepreneurs of color to upcoming business and government contracting opportunities.


Arnold Donald, president and CEO, Carnival Corp. (Carnival Cruise Lines company), speaking at the New Orleans Business Alliance annual meeting. (Photo from NOLABA)


“Our goal is to offer local entrepreneurs of color increased access to the market intelligence and management education resources within our local community. We want all New Orleanians to realize their business dreams and achieve greater economic security,” said Quentin L. Messer, Jr., president and CEO of the New Orleans Business Alliance. “InvestNOLA, combined with innovative online tools, will strengthen our local economy by equipping more entrepreneurs with the management education required to go from promising startup to a wealth-generating company for its owners, employees and service providers.”

“Increasing the number of growing companies that reflect New Orleans’ demographics enhances the local tax base and inspires our children that success is not beyond their reach,” Messer added. “Imagine the New Orleans economy if America’s next great Fortune 500 company was born from the dreams of an Algiers, New Orleans East or Hollygrove resident.”


Suzanne Pfefferle Tafur is the associate news editor at


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