Thanks to the hard work and vision of university leadership, alumni, and students, we have made incredible progress since we opened our doors in 2017. Here are some highlights:

  • Incubated over 64 student startups to date through our student incubator program and Professor Lalka’s new two-semester Student Venture Accelerator course
  • Recruited 23 Innovators-in-Residence, who commit eight hours per month to mentor students, give talks, and provide career advice
  • Awarded $887,500 to student startups through the Tulane Business Model Competition and our Virtual Pitch events since 2006
  • Led data gathering efforts over two years with 32 community partners to survey local entrepreneurs, gathering over 200 responses per year to over 75 questions each to help inform local policy and provide firm-level data for faculty research
  • Association to Advance Collegiate Schools of Business (AACSB) recognized the Greater New Orleans Startup Report as one of 25 “Innovations that Inspire” from around the globe
  • Expanded virtual mentor opportunities to New Orleans area businesses following the COVID-19 shutdowns, with over 120 mentor meetings to date
  • Paired 10 students to work with 12 local startups during the summer of 2020 as part of the Lepage Strategic Advisers program


Top 50 Graduate Program for Entrepreneurship

In its latest survey of university entrepreneurship programs, the Princeton Review ranked the Freeman School 42nd on its list of best graduate programs for entrepreneurship. The Princeton Review selected the schools and tallied its rankings based on a survey of administrators at more than 300 undergraduate and graduate schools offering entrepreneurship studies. Questions surrounded the school’s commitment to entrepreneurship studies inside and outside the classroom. In addition to questions about students, faculty and courses related to entrepreneurship, this year’s survey also asked schools about efforts undertaken during the pandemic to assist their entrepreneurial communities. Freeman was the only business school within a 300-mile radius of New Orleans to make the 2020 rankings. 

Tulane Business Model Competition

In its 20th year, the Tulane Business Model Competition (TBMC) received 100 applications representing more than 50 colleges and universities from across the nation. In addition to those record-setting numbers, the Lepage Center more than tripled the prize pool from $40,000 to $125,000. Originally scheduled to take place in person in March 2020, due to the COVID-19 pandemic the Lepage Center made the decision to not call off the event but instead to reorganize it as a virtual competition, with both rounds being conducted entirely online.  

The Greater New Orleans Startup Report

 Launched in 2019, the Greater New Orleans Startup Report is an annual data gathering effort that the Lepage Center has led along with 32 community partners, including local leaders such as The Idea Village, Propeller, and Greater New Orleans, Inc.  This work addresses the need for regional benchmarking for the startup and early-stage economy. The survey includes questions about hiring practices, revenue, and funds raised. AACSB International, the world’s largest business education network, recognized the 2019 Greater New Orleans Startup Report as part of its “Innovations That Inspire” challenge. The 2020 Greater New Orleans Startup Report was published in the Fall of 2020. Data from 2020 shed light on disparities that exist in the region in terms of access to funding and outcomes for entrepreneurs who are black, indigenous, or people of color.

Lepage Strategic Advisers Program

 Made possible through a new gift from Albert Lepage, the Lepage Strategic Advisers program connected Tulane students and recent graduates with entrepreneurs and small business owners in the Greater New Orleans area in need of assistance. The program ran for 10 weeks during the summer of 2020 and was initially envisioned as a way to help students and recent graduates with an interest in startups, and whose job and internship offers had been rescinded due to the virus, while also providing much needed assistance for cash-strapped local entrepreneurs. The strategic advisers, who were paid by the Lepage Center, worked 35 hours per week for the company or companies with which they are paired at no cost to the business, completing tasks such as market research, communications, and financial modeling. All work was performed virtually. Additionally, the advisers also spent a few hours a week on leadership development activities, including a weekly discussion of relevant readings via video conference. For this pilot year, the Lepage Center received more than 60 student applications for the program’s 10 available spots and participating companies were chosen from more than 50 applicants. By the end of 10-week period, three advisers had received full time job offers with their assigned companies, and at least three others had discussed continuing part-time work with their companies. 

Virtual Mentorship

In the wake of the COVID-19 pandemic, the Lepage Center worked with Innovators-in-Residence, alumni, and other mentors in our network to match students and local entrepreneurs with virtual mentors. An interested student or business owner must fill out a questionnaire and Lepage Center staff will match them with a mentor based on their needs. This can be for one-off strategic assistance or the beginning of an ongoing relationship. To reach interested businesses, the Lepage Center partnered with more than 20 local organizations plus the City of New Orleans and has made 116 matches to date. In addition to one-on-one mentor matching, the Lepage Center also hosted virtual round tables with subject-matter experts.

InvestNOLA Executive Education

The Freeman School and the Lepage Center partnered with Xavier University of Louisiana’s Entrepreneurship Institute to provide executive education as part of the New Orleans Business Alliance (NOLABA) InvestNOLA program, which targets entrepreneurs-of-color in growth stage businesses that are ripe for scaling. This is especially important for New Orleans, a city where 40% of businesses are black-owned but only receive 2% of receipts. Entrepreneurs accepted into the program receive customized executive business management education with Tulane and Xavier faculty, access to private sector relationships for market opportunities, and introductions to a network of investors and lenders. Successful completion of the executive business management education course serves to help qualify businesses for loans and new contract opportunities. The Lepage Center matched mentors from our network with each program participant. The first cohort’s courses began in October 2019 and wrapped up during the first week of March in 2020. Following the completion of courses, one participant, Otis Tucker founder of T.I. Contracting, was included in Inc’s list of 5000 fastest growing private companies in America. 

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