Who We Are
Propeller is a 501c3 nonprofit that grows and supports entrepreneurs to tackle social and environmental disparities. Our vision is an inclusive and thriving entrepreneurial ecosystem in New Orleans that responds to community needs and creates the conditions for an equitable future.
Our strategy is to build a critical mass of small businesses and nonprofits working to tackle disparities in community economic development, education, food, health, and water. 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 is our Impact Accelerator, a free program designed to help startup and growth stage entrepreneurs start, grow, and transform their businesses. Since our first accelerator program in 2011, Propeller has graduated 215 entrepreneurs who collectively have generated over $112+ million in revenue and financing and created more than 485+ full- and part-time jobs for New Orleanians. 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
Direct Assistance to Entrepreneurs
Our Impact Accelerator works with startup and growth stage entrepreneurs to start, grow, and transform financially successful businesses rooted in social impact, racial equity, and a commitment to our region.
Our pitch competitions award funding and provide a platform for emerging entrepreneurs working to tackle our city’s most pressing social and environmental inequities.
Access to Capital
Our $1mm Social Venture Fund $1mm Social Venture Fund makes loans to social entrepreneurs and BIPOC entrepreneurs headquartered in Orleans Parish.
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.
Research and Analysis
We work with systems experts to understand the history of disparities in our focus areas in order to pursue responsive programs and complementary policy work.
We apply our research and analysis to share data-based explanations for the root causes of current disparities in entrepreneurship and our focus areas.
We bring together systems leaders to organize around the common goal of developing and implementing equity agendas in our city’s leading institutions.
We identify opportunities within local and state policy to increase equity and dismantle racism with our focus areas and the entrepreneurial ecosystem.
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 opens its Incubator building at 4035 Washington Avenue in partnership with Green Coast Enterprises, who developed the space. Once a tire and rim shop, the building served as an anchor in Green Coast’s project to revitalize the intersection of Washington and S. Broad.
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.
2018: Propeller launches its Social Venture Fund and the South Broad Business Initiative.
2019: Propeller purchases its building. Propeller Accelerator graduates total over 200.
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 identify as BIPOC and 40% of the city’s small businesses are owned by BIPOC, but those firms persistently collect less than 2% of receipts 
- Only 1% of VC-funded startup founders are Black. 12% are Asian, and 87% are white .
Social and Environmental Disparities
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 community economic development, education, food, health, and water without first addressing inequity, we risk leaving people behind.
- The life expectancy is 25 years lower in New Orleans’ deliberately under-resourced neighborhoods compared to its most affluent .
- 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 .
- 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.
- BIPOC 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  .
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.