"Meet the Businesses Helping Lead New Orleans' Restoration" - Inc. Magazine on 10 years after Hurricane Katrina August 25 2015


Meet the Businesses Helping Lead New Orleans' Restoration
Here's how that devastating storm 10 years ago led to the rise of many now thriving home-grown businesses.

It’s been 10 years in the making, but New Orleans is back.

Among other signs of its resurgence, Crescent City has undergone a building boom--with luxury hotels and a billion-dollar state-of-the-art health center, to more sporadic rebuilding efforts in the Lower Ninth Ward. Big businesses including GE Capital and Costco have brought hundreds of new jobs to the city from out of town. And efforts like Idea Village, a non-profit accelerator devoted to fostering entrepreneurship in New Orleans, are taking root.

Small businesses have also played an enormous part in the recovery effort, including bars and restaurants, of which there are 600 additional establishments. There’s also a newly burgeoning tech and software industry, education companies, and alternative energy firms.

The following is a selection of successful businesses from sectors old and new, whose entrepreneurs found their true grit in the events following Katrina. Many are born and bred in New Orleans, and they’re proud of their city’s cultural heritage. Some also were the recipients of high-impact training from Goldman Sachs, whose 10,000 Small Businesses initiative brought needed skills, mentorships, and funding to 400 New Orleans businesses. All share a desire to return New Orleans to a pre-eminent spot among the nation's top cities.

Cook Me Somethin’ Mister

From New Orleans Entrepreneur Week: Kristen Preau, "Jambalaya Girl," with Chet Overall of Lagniappe Brass Band leading a Second Line Parade during the Big Idea Pitch

Kristin Preau got her seasonings business off to a start in the days literally following Katrina. A recent college graduate, she was on the road working for the University of New Orleans sports department. The department heads asked her to try to raise some money for the school to get it up and going again after the storm. So she turned to what she knew best--cooking jambalaya, and raised $100,000 in three months at tail gating parties at other Southern universities. “I did what my family always does to help out,” Preau says. “My entire life growing up, we’d bust out the cast iron pot and cook jambalaya.”

And she comes by her business honestly. Her father was in the restaurant business, too, selling jambalaya pots and specially engineered outdoor cookers for regional specialties, including to famous chefs such as Paul Prudhomme. He just didn’t see that what went into the pots could be as big a business, Preau says, adding that her recipes had been cooked for generations by both her mother’s and father’s families.

It took a few years for her to get her seasonings company going. She started out by selling her blend to local grocery stores, one shelf at a time. And those would sell out pretty quickly, Preau recalls. Today she and five full-time employees sell online, and direct to regional grocery stores-;generating $250,000 in annual sales. She’s soon branching out to Gumbo.