A local nonprofit that helps people jumpstart their own small businesses and get ahead has opened a new hub and incubator that aims to do something similar for an entire corridor of small businesses with a long history in New Orleans.
Good Work Network primarily serves minority- and women-owned enterprises, guiding them through the start-up phase to help build a broader level of prosperity across the community. This summer, the nonprofit completed a renovation of the historic, once-blighted Franz Building on Oretha Castle Haley Boulevard in Central City. It now offers office and retail space for small businesses and operates its Chase Business Incubator, named for its major backer, Chase Bank.
“It takes what we do to the next level,” says Good Work Network founder Phyllis Cassidy. “We’re able to offer physical space to some of our clients and be closer to them to offer them more of that back office support and other assistance.”
While many other buildings along the street were originally designed as large retailers or department stores, Cassidy likens the Franz Building to “a turn-of-the-century strip mall.”
“It was built for small businesses and small shops and we’re really excited about returning it to its original purpose,” she says.
O.C. Haley Boulevard was once among the city’s most important commercial corridors. Some 200 businesses lined the street during its peak in the 1940s and ’50s. Though the boulevard and its surrounding neighborhood have suffered decades of decline, the Franz Building’s rebirth comes along as a number of important projects gather steam.
“One of our goals is to make sure that as the revitalization happens, it doesn’t neglect the people who have lived here,” Cassidy says.
The budding businesses that Good Work Network helps range from small construction contractors to home health care providers. In most cases, their owners had experience and skills in their fields, but didn’t know how to manage a start-up or where to turn for help.
Funding for the $2 million Franz Building project came from a mix of support from Chase Bank, the New Orleans Redevelopment Authority and local foundations, and the original concept sprang from a competition among college students that Chase sponsored in 2008.