In the past couple years, New Orleans has become a hub of entrepreneurial energy. Some people are surprised to learn that the Big Easy was named the number one “Brain Magnet” city in the country by Forbes in 2011.
It’s true: Inebriation, tardiness and general dysfunction are characteristic of New Orleans—attributes that would seem to conflict with the fast paced, stress-filled, highly productive lifestyle of the typical entrepreneur. But this dichotomy—New Orleans meets entrepreneur—is in fact a false one. New Orleans is a veritable entrepreneurial playground—a place with abundant passion and a plethora of problems for the solving.
Swamp-tough . . .
The generic, laissez-faire portrait of New Orleans glosses over the fortitude, improvisation and dogged work that has gone into keeping this city afloat—for the past eight years, yes, but also going back to the city’s inception. Beneath the easygoing demeanor characteristic of New Orleans natives is a raw passion and vigor for life that provides the spiritual fuel necessary to keep residents of this city thriving in the midst of continuous calamity.
To be an entrepreneur, one must be able to forge onward in times of great uncertainty, to improvise when faced with disruptions, and work doggedly towards a crystalline vision in the face of unforeseen challenges. One must also be just a little insane. All the same could be said about being a New Orleanian. The city is sinking, its future is uncertain and constant environmental disruptions necessitate ongoing improvisation. In face of all the calamity dropped upon the city, residents of New Orleans have mustered an unflinching drive to survive with grace, power and beauty.
. . . From Day One
New Orleans has been a quintessentially entrepreneurial city going back to its origins. The first people to arrive in the French Colony back the early 1700s had been convicts and prostitutes in the old world, who arrived in the swamp and began crafting a new world for themselves. Under Spanish rule, New Orleans was a hub of roughish businessmen the likes of Jean Lafitte the pirate, who treasonously did business with the British. And, most notably, New Orleans has a prolific history of slaves buying their own freedom by selling hand-crafted goods. What could be more entrepreneurial than that?
Today’s NOLA Entrepreneur
Since Katrina, New Orleans has been bursting back to life with an energy unseen anywhere else in this country. This is a town where you see new things being built every day and new ideas being brought to life. There is a grand hopefulness shrouded by an uncertain future and a powerful energy to solve great problems. No wonder the city is attractive to entrepreneurs. As an entrepreneur, one often feels isolated—lost in a maze of problems and passions when the rest of the working world walks a straight line from 9:00 to 5:00. New Orleans has a uniquely entrepreneurial geography. The city itself is a winding, weaving obstacle course of problems and passions. Everybody has to be a bit entrepreneurial to survive in New Orleans—allowing entrepreneurs to feel at home in a city of kindred spirits.