Urban Entrepreneur Partnership Provides Coaching for New Orleans Businesses

As a pro soccer player, Jared Montz of Mandeville knew the values of a good coach, so he started a business: a soccer camp and online soccer academy for kids. But as an entrepreneur, Montz didn’t realize how much a coach could help with his business until he began meeting with John Laurie, a New Orleans-based business coach whose free consulting helped Montz’s ventures grow in revenue and number of employees.

“We learned a whole lot,” Montz said. “The consulting made a world of difference.”

Montz is one of 400 entrepreneurs from the New Orleans area who have received free one-on-one business coaching through the Urban Entrepreneur Partnership, a free course tailored to individual businesses.

With outposts in New Orleans and Baton Rouge, the Gulf Coast program was established in 2005 as part of the White House’s response to the economic devastation caused by Hurricanes Katrina and Rita. It is funded jointly through the Kauffman Foundation and a $500,000 annual grant from the state Office of Community Development.

Client businesses go through a five-stage process with their coach to improve any problem areas. Each stage is tailored to address the business’ particular needs, be it ballooning expenses, insufficient market research, or the need for outside investment.

That customization enables the program to work better for the client business than other programs that use a one-size-fits-all approach, said Laurie.

“Every client’s different,” Laurie said. “Our primary goal is to increase profitability and scalability, so we’re not doing our job if we’re taking them through things they don’t need because that’s a waste of our time and their time.”

The program seems to work: the average client company has seen annual revenue and profits increase by 9 percent and 8 percent, respectively, said Daryl Williams, CEO of Urban Entrepreneur Partnership, based in Kansas City, Mo.

That growth for individual businesses translates to a healthier economy as a whole, Williams said.

“At the core of it all is the fact that small and medium enterprises are the biggest job-creators in the country,” Williams said. “Our goal is to scale businesses up to be able to hire more people and contribute more to the tax base.”

Local entrepreneur Shuchi Khurana has been meeting with Laurie for the past four months to help grow his biotech start-up, Bioceptive, which is working on an innovative new insertion tool for female birth control devices that minimizes adverse effects. Khurana said that Laurie helped his company better package itself to ultimately amass $130,000 in funding.

“The best part of the coaching was not just the guiding part but his asking us questions, like, ‘Why are you doing it this way, what are the problems you foresee, what happens if some prospective customers or doctors don’t like the product, or what if they love it — are you ready to grow quickly?'” Khurana said. “Without this coaching we might have been a bit slower and difficult to figure all that out.”

Any business can pay for the program’s consulting services. To qualify for the free program, however, entrepreneurs must meet the following criteria: be an existing business, have fewer than 100 employees, and not be established as a religious or political organization.

Eligible businesses also must be located in one of the following 20 parishes: Ascension, Assumption, Calcasieu, Cameron, East Baton Rouge, Iberia, Iberville, Jefferson, Lafourche, Livingston, Orleans, Plaquemines, Point Coupee, Rapides, St. Bernard, St. Landry, St. Mary, St. Tammany, Terrebonne and Vermillion.

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