(by Missy Wilkinson for Curbed) – First, the good news: New Orleans’ entrepreneurship rate is 68 percent higher than the national average, according to a recent study from The Data Center. The bad news? Although 40 percent of the city’s businesses are black-owned, they receive only 2 percent of business, said Trace Allen, neighborhood program manager at Propeller, a 501c3 nonprofit, business incubator, and coworking space that addresses economic disparity and racial justice in New Orleans.
“From our analysis, this entrepreneurship renaissance has been anything but inclusive,” Allen said. “What we’ve been seeing is that a lot of the exclusion has been race-based and space-based.”
As gentrification brings an influx of affluent white newcomers to New Orleans’ urban core, real estate becomes more expensive. Because the median income for black households is only $25,806, compared to $64,377 for white households, according to the Racial Wealth Divide report, black business owners are often the ones getting pushed out. Businesses owned by people of color have shuttered in historically black neighborhoods including Treme, St. Roch, and Gentilly.
“We know that neighborhood-based small businesses are critical for neighborhood prosperity,” Allen said, “They are integral to its character, culture, and feel—and they also create a lot of jobs.”
To combat gentrification on South Broad Street, Propeller launched South Broad Business Initiative (SBBI), a free five-month program that provides technical support, coworking space, and mentorship to entrepreneurs of color.
“We’ve worked with 17 entrepreneurs, and half have storefronts,” Allen said. “Most are either on South Broad Street or a couple blocks off. For the ones that aren’t brick-and-mortar, the entrepreneurs live in the neighborhood.”
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