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New Orleans Entrepreneur Week 2018 is in full swing, and with the festivities comes a set of fresh, inspired professionals looking to contribute to New Orleans’ entrepreneurial boom. At the forefront of it all is NOEW Executive Producer (and The Shop member) Victoria Adams Phipps. Since attending Loyola University during Hurricane Katrina, falling in love with New Orleans, and working in the local music industry at the start of her career, Phipps founder her calling when she joined the NOEW team as a program manager in 2011. This career switch allowed Phipps to become directly involved in core programming over the years, which included expanding NOEW’s workshop series, and eventually, managing all of NOEW.
Make sure to attend NOEW’s informative events this week to understand Phipp’s impact on the festival, and check out excerpts from her recent cover story with Biz New Orleans magazine below.
How did NOEW get started?
We never actually set out to start a festival. New Orleans Entrepreneur Week grew out of recovery efforts following Hurricane Katrina. We were getting phone calls from MBA students from around the country who wanted to come to New Orleans and contribute to the recovery efforts, but they didn’t necessarily want to rebuild a roof or gut a house; they wanted to leverage the skill sets they were building in business school and apply those to local companies. They didn’t just want to meet companies, they wanted to talk to the mayor, they wanted to meet other young professionals, they wanted to find a great place to get crawfish.
We were [facilitating these meetings] around the clock and it was massively inefficient, so we decided to organize something around spring break — craft it as an experiential learning opportunity and get all these students to descend on New Orleans in one week.
We did that for about two years, and then we realized there was some magic in bringing people together to support local companies. At that point, we decided to flip that experience on its head, not make it micro about students and companies, but broaden it to bring the whole community into supporting local entrepreneurs, learning about entrepreneurship and finding ways that entrepreneurship transforms the community. We became New Orleans Entrepreneur Week in 2009. Fast-forward to today, and you have a massive experience that engages thousands of people from all across the community, and really, all across the region.
Can you talk a little bit about the team that makes NOEW happen?
The NOEW team is the Idea Village team; we are one and the same. We are a diverse group of passionate people, all of whom are committed to New Orleans. Many of us are not originally from here, but in some way, shape or form found our way to the city and made it our adopted home. Some of us came from the startup world, some come from big corporations like Google or Whole Foods Market, but everyone who works on New Orleans Entrepreneur Week has a commitment to contributing to their community. That’s the thread that ties us all together and keeps us moving forward.
What are a couple of the biggest ideas that have been launched out of NOEW?
Launch, for NOEW, is an interesting term because we view ourselves as more of a platform. The vast majority of companies that are featured at NOEW have launched at some point earlier in the year and are now showcasing themselves at Entrepreneur Week.
That said, we’ve had a few really cool ones come through our doors. One that I really love is Your Nutrition Delivered by Erik Frank. They’re a nutrition/wellness company that delivers healthy delicious meals to corporations, hospitals and so forth. Erik attended New Orleans Entrepreneur Week in 2012. He came to The Big Idea, our large, culminating event, and he said, “I’m going to be on that stage.” In 2013 Erik was on that stage and won the grand prize. I love that 360 of someone standing in the audience and envisioning themselves actually being able to achieve that.
Where Y’Art is a great online gallery where you can meet hundreds of New Orleans artists — from painters to sculptors to craftsmen and jewelry designers. It’s a 24-hour meeting place where the artist is always present. They pitched at The Big Idea, they pitched at Demo Day in 2015, and they’re now partnering with the “300 for 300” campaign at NOLA.com, and issuing all the portraits for all those significant New Orleanians. It’s very cool to watch these companies go from a small seed idea to something that is reverberating all across our community.
Are there any goals you still have for NOEW?
I think any large event has room to improve; you always want to deepen your impact and expand your value. But the big goal that is looming out there in the distance is translating New Orleans Entrepreneur Week into a year-round experience. We will always have the week in March and dedicated programs that are taking place that week, but moving our content toward something that’s annual — doing industry-specific summits that might happen quarterly, focusing on some of those industries that we have a competitive advantage in, using those moments to catalyze activity that can then culminate in New Orleans Entrepreneur Week in March — that’s the big goal that our team is starting to hustle toward.
Read the full story here.