Propeller launches $1 million loan fund to aid startups tackling social issues in New Orleans

Announcement made at Propeller Pop event featuring 11 pop-up chefs

NEW ORLEANS – Startup incubator and non-profit Propeller has secured a $1 million social impact loan fund to directly give startup entrepreneurs access to needed capital.

The announcement was made at the annual Propeller Pop event, held Nov. 16 at their headquarters on South Broad Street.

The fund is aimed for entrepreneurs who may not be able to get traditional loans, including minorities and women business owners, said Andrea Chen, executive director and co-founder of Propeller.

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Fifty percent of the fund will be directed for women business owners and 60 percent of the fund will be directed for minority business owners.

Linda Usdin, board chair for Propeller, called the fund a “game changer” for entrepreneurs.

“What we have found is that there is no shortage of ideas and no shortage of talent,” said Usdin. “We saw is that there has been a shortage of funds to take those great small businesses up to scale. That’s what this loan fund will allow us to do.”

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The $1 million loan fund is powered by the Foundation for Louisiana and primary investor Living Cities, a collaborative of global foundations and financial institutions that fund initiatives nationwide to fight poverty.

“In New Orleans, people of color make up 60 percent of the population, but only 27 percent of businesses,” said Ben Hecht, president and CEO of Living Cities. “We are thrilled with what this fund is going to do.”

Propeller’s incubator model supports entrepreneurs and startups that address social and environmental inequalities and disparities in four areas: healthy food, equitable education, health services and water management.

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“At a time when our country and our city are grappling with issues of equity, including race and gender, we know that it is critical to tackle these issues head-on,” said Chen.


A Fine Fête

As attendees learned about Propeller’s 2017 startup ventures and entrepreneurs, they were treated to dishes by 11 local pop-up chefs who serve food at festivals and pop-up kitchens in New Orleans.

With more than 100 guests at the event, it gave the chefs plenty of exposure for potential future followers.

The menus were varied, with savory dishes like apple and hickory smoked pork belly bites and NOLA seafood cheesecake as well as sweet glazed donut holes and organic popsicles.  Authentic macaroons were served by French baker Sully Fournigault, who moved to New Orleans from France one year ago and recently launched a macaroon catering business.

Sarah Davis, who runs pasta pop-up Gattone Grasso! with Lauren Miller, said they started the business after the rave reviews they got from making handmade pasta each week for Sopranos TV nights.

“A year ago, we went to Pal’s Lounge with our handmade pasta, and we kept selling out of it,” said Davis. Gattone Grasso! now serves pasta dishes two nights a week in pop-up kitchens.

Drinks at the event were served from local businesses, Roulaison Distillary Co and Broad Street Cider & Ale, which served a tangy Duchess of Devonshire cider infused with Earl Grey tea.

All the pop-up chefs were able to mingle with Martha Wiggins, executive chef at Slyvain, who served hors d’oueuvers at the event’s earlier patron party and was honored on stage for her success in New Orleans.

A face glitter “bar,” massage chairs manned by massage therapists from Zeel, and a raffle with generous donations from local businesses added to the festive—and celebratory—fête.

To learn more about Propeller, visit

-By Jenny Peterson, Associate News Editor, Biz New Orleans



Check on each pop up chef’s social media page by clicking on their name below:



The Taylored Chef 


Gattone Grasso!

Gonzo Smokehouse & BBQ

Holé Molé

La Monita


2nd Chance Donuts

Chef Sully- email




Roulaison Distilling Co 

Broad Street Cider & Ale



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