Ten years after Hurricane Katrina, the citizens of New Orleans continue to rebuild and grow their city. As local innovators and entrepreneurs assess NOLA’s needs and imagine its future, the nonprofit Propeller is helping them put their ideas into action.
Taking on NOLA’s most pressing issues—food security, water management, healthcare, and educational equity—Propeller’s Impact Accelerator program supports socially-minded entrepreneurs throughout the business lifecycle—from idea, to beta, to growth.
The program has nurtured 60 new NOLA ventures into existence, including a health-focused School Food Authority, Louisiana’s first regional food hub, a wetland mitigation bank, and a maternal health collective.
When foundations like blue moon invest in nonprofits that are incubating new businesses, the economic impact multiplies as those businesses scale up and out into their communities. To protect and further this effect, Propeller also employs a business model to their own financing.
“We don’t ever want to be in a situation where we’re living grant-to-grant,” says executive director Andrea Chen. “Thinking of ourselves as a business ensures financial sustainability; without sustainability, you can’t accomplish your mission.”
New Orleans native and 2015 Accelerator alumni Daniel Johnson says he never imagined the impact that Propeller would have on his company, Greenman Dan, Inc.
When Johnson began installing rain harvesters for his landscaping, he began rethinking the city’s practice of pumping rain water into storm drains where it runs, untreated, all the way to Louisiana’s surrounding bodies of water. What if that water could be stored below ground where the moisture would help prevent soil sinkage, a very relevant problem for New Orleans?
With Propeller’s help, Johnson’s idea turned into a full-blown stormwater management company.
“It wasn’t until I entered the Accelerator program that I learned about the city’s upcoming changes in water management code and regulations—that there would be a need for something like what we’re building.”
Through executive mentorship and increased market exposure, Greenman Dan grew to take on more municipal projects and is now poised to assist as NOLA rebuilds a major aspect of its drainage infrastructure. Right now, its rain harvesting system will keep 900,000 projected gallons of water annually out of storm drains.
Johnson is thrilled with where his Propeller fellowship has taken him, and recommends the program to his friends with small businesses in food, water, health and education industries. As their name implies, Propeller is driving social innovation in New Orleans.
Addressing social and economic causes and effects
—Andrea Chen, Executive Director of Propeller
“Thinking of ourselves as a business ensures financial sustainability; without sustainability, you can’t accomplish your mission.”