Our Small Business Incubator
New Orleans currently ranks second in the nation for income inequality, with 52% of African American men currently unemployed. This massive unemployment rate is due largely to disproportionate contact with the criminal justice system. Nationally, there is an 80% unemployment rate amongst workers with a prior felony convictions, and of those workers who are able to find employment 90% are earning wages below the poverty line.
Because discrimination against people with felony convictions by employers is largely legal and unregulated, in our unique workforce development program we foster self-sufficiency through self-employment and small business development enabling our clients to bypass discrimination by employers. Our small business incubator empowers formerly incarcerated people to develop small businesses to (at first) supplement their income while they continue working low-wage jobs, with an overall goal for these businesses to grow to provide full time employment for themselves, and eventually other formerly incarcerated people.
Our small business incubator looks very different from the traditional incubator. Most of the folks who participate in our incubator have a long history of making money through illicit means - that is to say, we work with a lot of former drug dealers. We lean heavily on this prior experience and entrepreneurial spirit to help guide them in developing their new, legal, hustle. However, despite this prior experience with business, most of our members have never had a checking account, created a household budget, created a cash-flow statement for their business income, obtained an occupational license, signed a contract, or gotten their EIN. Our incubator addresses both personal development and business development by meeting people where they are at, respecting their strengths and experiences, and identifying needs.
We currently have 10 small business owners and seven businesses in the incubator - all 7 businesses are earning revenue, and four are creating jobs for other formerly incarcerated men and women. Our incubator is coordinated by our program coordinator, Derrick Perique.