This year’s Entrepreneur Week marked a milestone for the amount of local support garnered within the community, and, as a result, many people have mentioned to me that they now get it, some even asking for ways to get involved. However, there have been several local leaders in business, law, and communications who have been encouraging the city’s entrepreneurs for years by providing services and educational resources to young moguls.
Such supporters have been playing a major role in cultivating entrepreneurship and the growing business culture in the city. They have essentially become investors in the rising enterprises by providing entrepreneurs with crucial assets that can sometimes offer more value to a startup than a freshly signed check.
One New Orleans organization that has been doing so is law firm Baker, Donelson, Bearman, Caldwell and Berkowitz, PC.
The firm is one of the largest in the country, and has leveraged its resources to create ways to help New Orleans entrepreneurs through educational resources and specialized services.
In the past two and a half years, the law firm has hosted several boot camps, including one during New Orleans Entrepreneur Week. As part of NOEW’s curriculum, registration was left in the hands of The Idea Village, which brought in more than 120 people to participate in the program. The boot camps cover the legal basics that every entrepreneur should consider in the early stages of starting a business to prevent unnecessary and costly mistakes in the future.
“We saw very few of the entrepreneurs coming to us in the early stages of development,” says David Rieveschl, one of the attorneys guiding the efforts. “By the time they would approach us for legal help, it was sometimes very expensive or even too late to resolve the mistakes that were made when forming the business.”
Rieveschl gives a common example of the entrepreneur who finds out months into doing business that the name he or she has already branded for the company can’t be trademarked or used.
The idea is to make entrepreneurs aware of such issues as intellectual property, employment, and taxes (to name a few) to avoid mistakes. Educating business owners about the core process helps them get things right from the start.
Besides education are legal services. Being mindful of start-up expenses, the attorneys have the flexibility to create flat-rate service packages that cater to entrepreneurs. For them, free education and services are long-term investments in locally based companies.
“In the long term, we would rather see a company invest in the product, and become a successful company rather than pay unnecessary lawyer fees,” says another involved attorney, Ben Janke.
One common misconception that the firm tries to break is that prominent firms represent only established companies. Bigger firms can be a good option for emerging companies, as they have the capabilities to access information quickly or connect startups with potential partners and investors.
Baker Donelson also offers several free resources on its website, such as Entrepreneur Minute, an archive of 60-second videos that offer tips and advice on such topics as trademarks, customer contracts, pitching, and lawsuits.
The benefits of supporting startups doesn’t go only to the entrepreneurs.
For Quinn Breland, getting involved in entrepreneurship evolved after he felt compelled to return to the city, having read about the new New Orleans.
When he moved back last summer, Breland used the opportunity to get back into the community and connect with his fellow transplants. Now, he says, he realizes the potential that cultivating the entrepreneurial community can serve in luring displaced New Orleans natives back to the city.
Robert Wollfarth, a New Orleans native, played a role in the growth of the film industry and is eager to see other industries grow as well.
“The explosion of the entrepreneurial community is almost unavoidable, and ensures long-term success for the economy of the city,” he says. “It would be negligent not to pay attention to what is happening.”
To learn more about their efforts or to sign up for the newsletter, visit www.bakerdonelson.com.
Adriana Lopez writes about the entrepreneurial community for NolaVie and Silicon Bayou News. She also showcases local start-ups through her non-profit organization GenNOLA. For more information on NolaVie, go to nolavie.com.