About Us

Propeller is a New Orleans-based nonprofit founded in 2009.

Who We Are

Propeller is a 501c3 nonprofit that grows and supports entrepreneurs to tackle social and environmental disparities. We work to create a powerful community of diverse entrepreneurs and stakeholders working together for a more equitable future where everyone can lead healthy, fulfilling lives free of racism, poverty, and other systems of oppression.

Our strategy is to build a critical mass of small businesses and nonprofits working to tackle disparities in food, water, health, and education. These are areas we have identified as having significant inequities and proven market opportunities for local entrepreneurs to implement solutions.

What We Do

At the heart of Propeller’s work lies our accelerator programs, designed to support small businesses and nonprofits at every point of their growth—from idea, to pilot, to beta, to growth. Since our first accelerator program in 2011, Propeller has graduated 130+ entrepreneurs. Read more about their impact.

Our 10,000 square foot Incubator building offers a collaborative work and meeting space for small business owners, nonprofit leaders, and community members. More than 50 organizations and over 100 individuals are members. Our space is also available to rent for events, and can accommodate gatherings of all sizes.

How It Works

Accelerators

We run accelerator programs that provide promising for-profit and nonprofit entrepreneurs with mentorship and free support, from financial planning to HR, marketing, and design.

Pitch Competitions

We host free, public pitch competitions to award funding to entrepreneurs with promising solutions to our city’s most pressing social and environmental inequities.

Access to Capital

We offer $50,000 in pre-committed equity investment to select for-profit companies enrolled in our Growth Accelerator program.

Coworking

Our 10,000 square foot coworking space provides 50+ organizations and 100+ New Orleans small businesses, nonprofits, and community members with the space to connect and collaborate as they grow their own ideas.

Policy Work

We advocate for policy changes that can significantly improve the operating environment for small businesses and nonprofits working to tackle disparities within our four sectors of food, water, health, and education.

Timeline

2006: In the aftermath of Hurricane Katrina, Propeller Executive Director and co-Founder Andrea Chen and a group of friends revive the volunteer-run Social Entrepreneurs of New Orleans.

2009: Propeller is founded and begins mobilizing people, telling their stories, and offering support to nonprofits and for-profit social entrepreneurs.

2011: Propeller launches its first accelerator program, supporting nine nonprofits and small businesses making social and environmental impact.

2012: Propeller grows into its 10,000 square foot Incubator building, creating a work and gathering space for social entrepreneurs in New Orleans. A former tire and rim shop located at a crossroads intersection at the heart of the city, the Incubator building is a part of a larger redevelopment project that has grown to include a community health center, a bakery, the LGBT Community Center of New Orleans, and a local distillery. Learn more about the redevelopment in this short video.

2014: More than 50 organizations and 100 people work out of Propeller on a daily basis. Propeller’s fourth accelerator class begins, bringing the total number of accelerated ventures to 60.

2015: Propeller expands its accelerator programming to offer accelerator programs that zero in on the issue areas of food, water, health, and education. This more than doubles the number of nonprofits and small businesses it serves per year, totaling 90 ventures launched.

2016: Propeller tailors its accelerator programs further to include a Startup and Growth track for nonprofits and small businesses at different stages of their lifecycle. Propeller’s graduates totals over 100.

2017: Propeller revises its mission and vision to focus explicitly on inequity. Propeller’s team gears its programs and work towards understanding and dismantling disparities in entrepreneurship and its issue areas of food, water, health, and education.

Propeller launches a pilot of the South Broad Business Initiative, its first accelerator for small businesses in the surrounding neighborhoods of Broadmoor, Central City, Gert Town, Zion City, and Hoffman Triangle.

Why Inequity?

Entrepreneurship

We are part of a growing movement in entrepreneurship to ensure that those who have been historically excluded are at the decision-making table and reflected in our entrepreneur portfolios. We believe that Propeller needs to correct for past and current injustices to groups that have been disadvantaged and socially, politically, and economically excluded.

  • 60% of New Orleanians are people of color, but only 27% of the city’s small businesses are owned by people of color, and even more concerning, those businesses receive less than 2% of receipts [1]
  • Only 1 percent of VC-funded startup founders are people of color. 12% are Asian, and 87% are white [2].

Social and Environmental Issues

We acknowledge, now more than ever, that at the core of the social and environmental issues facing our city is race. As we move forward in our work in food, water, health, and education, without first addressing inequity, we risk leaving people behind.

  • The life expectancy is 25 years lower in New Orleans’ poorest neighborhoods compared to its most affluent [3].
  • In 2015, 81.5% of SNAP recipients in Louisiana’s 2nd congressional district (including New Orleans and Baton Rouge) identify as black or African-American [4].
  • Though the achievement gap in Orleans Parish has improved compared to Louisiana statewide, 2014 state tests show there remains a 24% difference between Black and white students scoring at basic or above.[5]
  • People of color in New Orleans are far more likely than white residents to bear the brunt of flooding due to the location of historically black communities in the lowest-lying and most flood-prone sections of the city, such as New Orleans East and the Lower Ninth Ward [6] [7].

Getting Here

Propeller is easily accessible by New Orleans’ public transportation system. We are adjacent to the intersection of Washington Ave and S Broad Ave, the second-busiest transit hub in the city. It is served by the 27, 28, and 94 RTA bus lines. The stop is “Washington at S Broad.”

The 94 Broad starts in New Orleans East, runs through Gentilly, and ends right next to Propeller, at the Washington at S Broad intersection.

The 28 M.L. King runs from downtown to uptown. If you are coming from downtown, take the 28 M.L. King towards Napoleon at Tchoupitoulas. If you are coming from uptown, take the 28 M.L. King towards S. Rampart at Canal.

The 27 Louisiana runs from the riverside to City Park, in Mid City. If you are coming from Mid City, take the 27 Louisiana towards Louisiana at Tchoupitoulas. If you are coming from the riverside, take the 27 Louisiana towards Orleans at City Park.