First Lower 9th Ward Grocery Store Since Katrina Wins Propeller Pitch

Local entrepreneurs Burnell and Keasha Cotlon take home $5,000 to expand the first food store to open in the Lower 9th Ward in the decade since Hurricane Katrina.

23 April 2015

Media Contact:

Catherine Gans    
(504) 302-3747

First Lower 9th Ward Grocery Store Since Katrina Wins Propeller Pitch

NEW ORLEANS, LA (Apr. 23, 2015) – Ten entrepreneurs with ideas for a healthier New Orleans took the stage at PitchNOLA: Living Well on Tuesday, April 21, 2015 at the Propeller Incubator in front of a packed audience of over 150 community members and health advocates. Louisiana ranks 48 out of 50 states in overall health. The solutions presented offered opportunities to make significant impact in critical areas including maternal health, food literacy and security, and access to healthcare.  

Propeller awarded $10,000 in seed funding, provided by the W.K. Kellogg Foundation, to the evening’s three Finalists, selected by a judging panel of Dr. John Elstrott, Dr. Florencia Polite, and Dr. Joe Kanter.

“To see people from the community take initiative and bring creative new ideas to the table that are NOLA-based and NOLA-centric is not only inspirational, it’s the way we’re going to move forward as a city,” said Dr. Kanter.

Burnell and Keasha Cotlon won the $5,000 First place prize for The Lower 9th Ward Market, the first food store to open in the area in the 10 years since Hurricane Katrina. The Lower 9th Ward Market is currently in operation at the corner of Caffin Avenue and North Galvez Street. Prior to the market’s opening in November 2014, many nearby residents were traveling 5 miles or 3 bus lines to reach the nearest grocery store.

Burnell Cotlon says the community’s reaction is striking: “Some people come in there and they just stand in the store and cry because they don’t have to catch the bus anymore. They can walk to our store.”

With $5,000 in funding from PitchNOLA, the Cotlons plan to expand their inventory and purchase a second truck, allowing them to pick up more fresh produce and make local deliveries. “We’re going to fight every day until we make our community look like the rest of the city,” said Mr. Cotlon.

The Second place prize of $3,000 went to current Propeller Accelerator Fellow Community Plates (, a solution to food waste and food insecurity that leverages volunteers through a mobile app. In the last six months, Community Plates has saved 9,500 fresh meals from being thrown away, and helped redirect them to receiving agencies like shelters, food pantries, and soup kitchens.
The Third place prize of $2,000 went to the Urban Farmstead (, an educational center dedicated to teaching Permaculture design and homesteading skills like growing fresh produce, composting methods, and integrated water management, while also providing vegetables and starter plants through its sister organization, Southbound Gardens. Over the next year, the Urban Farmstead plans to increase the extent to which people are growing their own food in New Orleans, and address food access issues in Central City through free workshops to neighborhood residents. 

The Audience Favorite award of $1,310.44 went to Birthmark Doulas’ ( latest initiative, the NOLA Milk Bank , which will be Louisiana’s first accredited service to improve health outcomes for mothers and babies through access to a safe, high quality supply of donor breast milk. The prize was funded entirely by audience donations and determined by a live text-in vote from the audience.

The competition brought together partners working to increase access to health and wellness across the city: Louisiana Public Health Institute, Tulane’s Prevention Research Center, Louisiana State University, Ochsner Health System, Institute for Mental Hygiene, Market Umbrella, The Rethinkers, as well as food sponsors Whole Food Market and Be Well Nutrition.

About Propeller: A Force for Social Innovation
Propeller drives social, environmental, and economic impact in New Orleans by incubating ventures that have the potential to solve our city’s most pressing issues. Our vision is to build a critical mass of entrepreneurs tackling key challenges in our issue areas of food security, water management, healthcare, and educational equity in order to make significant change for underserved individuals.