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These black entrepreneurs are fighting gentrification on South Broad Street

They’re part of Propeller’s South Broad Business Initiative, which seeks to close the income gap between white-owned businesses and those owned by people of color.

Left to right: Ty Davis, Beverly D. Smith, James Washington Jr., James Washington Sr., Donald Smith, Tara Simmons, and Trevone Sanson are entrepreneurs building businesses on South Broad Street.
Photo courtesy Catherine Gans of Propeller

First, the good news: New Orleans’ entrepreneurship rate is 68 percent higher than the national average, according to a recent study from The Data Center. The bad news? Although 40 percent of the city’s businesses are black-owned, they receive only 2 percent of business, said Trace Allen, neighborhood program manager at Propeller, a 501c3 nonprofit, business incubator, and coworking space that addresses economic disparity and racial justice in New Orleans.

“From our analysis, this entrepreneurship renaissance has been anything but inclusive,” Allen said. “What we’ve been seeing is that a lot of the exclusion has been race-based and space-based.”

As gentrification brings an influx of affluent white newcomers to New Orleans’ urban core, real estate becomes more expensive. Because the median income for black households is only $25,806, compared to $64,377 for white households, according to the Racial Wealth Divide report, black business owners are often the ones getting pushed out. Businesses owned by people of color have shuttered in historically black neighborhoods including Treme, St. Roch, and Gentilly.

“We know that neighborhood-based small businesses are critical for neighborhood prosperity,” Allen said, “They are integral to its character, culture, and feel—and they also create a lot of jobs.”

To combat gentrification on South Broad Street, Propeller launched South Broad Business Initiative (SBBI), a free five-month program that provides technical support, coworking space, and mentorship to entrepreneurs of color.

“We’ve worked with 17 entrepreneurs, and half have storefronts,” Allen said. “Most are either on South Broad Street or a couple blocks off. For the ones that aren’t brick-and-mortar, the entrepreneurs live in the neighborhood.”

Allen points out that Rhodes United Fidelity Funeral Home, a black-owned business in operation since the early 1800s, is an example of what a brick-and-mortar business can offer in terms of being advocates for the community. The Rhodes funeral home hosts Propeller events, and the Rhodeses are developing a new addiction treatment facility at the intersection of South Broad Street and Washington Avenue.

“When a brick and mortar succeeds, there are long-lasting positive effects,” said Catherine Gans, marketing and communications manager at Propeller. “Longterm, looking at the (SBBI) program, we hope to provide our businesses with the opportunity to become neighborhood anchors.”

Business owners of color can apply for the SBBI program here. Below, find a list of 11 SBBI-supported Broad Street businesses bringing “equitable economic development to their neighborhood,” Gans said.

A Priority One (209 S. Broad Street)

Emerald Services (4134 Washington Avenue)

We Bleed Ink Tattoo Shop (4140 Washington Avenue)

Umoja Visions

NOLA Organic Spa (213 S. Broad Street)

Mackie One Construction (4014 Erato Street)

The Godbarber Beauty Salon (219 S. Broad Street)

Daiquiri Lounge (4201 Washington Avenue)

Chef D’z (424 S. Broad Street)

Custom Optical (3137 Benefit Street)

All-Pro Maintenance (2915 Perdido Street)


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