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Urban League Helps Entrepreneurs Grow Their Businesses And The Community

Eve Abrmas
Gary Harrell teaches at the Entrepreneur Boot Camp

The Urban League’s Women’s Business Resource Center provides training, assistance and resources to aspiring and existing entrepreneurs. As an entrepreneur WBRC services can help improve your management skills, strengthen your enterprise, and increase your business’ capacity for success.



Gary Harrell is teaching a class called Empowering Communities One Entrepreneur at a Time at the Urban League’s Women’s Business Resource Center.

“We obviously have to have general liability insurance,” Harrell tells his class.  “We have to have property insurance. Do we need worker’s comp for our employees? More than likely, yes. If you operate a business below I-10, I-12, guess what? You need business continuity insurance.”

This class is part of an eight week entrepreneurial boot camp covering topics like marketing, business plan development, and financials. Harrell tells his entrepreneurs they need two to three different types of checking accounts.

“You need one for payroll, and payroll needs to be all by itself, period. It always needs to be funded. And then operating expense can be a second one, and taxes can be third.”

“Even after taking these classes, it’s good to go back and get a refresher,” says Ericka Lassair, a graduate of the boot camp. She’s a chef and the owner of Diva Dawg.

“Diva Dawg is a gourmet hot dog spot, so I have specialty hot dogs with Creole toppings,” explains Lassair. “Things like red bean chili dog with fried chicken, an andouille ketchup with barbecue shrimp, a sweet bayou oyster, a Zapp's chip dog.”

She even has a vegetarian dog.

“I do, I make it from scratch too. It’s all vegetarian. It has red beans in it, mirliton, carrots, corn. It is very, very good.”

Lassair, or Chef Diva, was one of 10 women the Urban League selected last year for the Women in Business Challenge. After attending the entrepreneurial boot camp, Lassair made a pitch during entrepreneur week at Idea Village. She won a $10,000 prize for her business.

“It was good for me,” smiles Lassair. “It was very good experience. You learn a lot about yourself, a lot about your business. Even without the $10,000 people see my vision, and they trust it, and so they’re willing to help me more.”

“Very often we’re challenging our entrepreneurs to think bigger in the scope of what they want to do,” says Lynnette Colin, the director of the Women’s Business Resource Center — the entrepreneurial arm of the Urban League, with a focus on policy, workforce and justice.

The Women’s Business Resource Center is one of two certified women’s business centers in the state. And though their focus is women, they don’t exclude men. The bigger goal is to build and empower community through entrepreneurs.

“We want to make sure they have businesses that are sustainable, that employ residents of New Orleans to help to grow our economy,” says Colin. “So in this boot camp we actually develop the curriculum ourselves, and it’s really based on the things we know our entrepreneurs need.”

They want entrepreneurs to have big goals.

“We’re going to help them see more globally,” explains Colin. “What you really can do with this business, where you can really grow it to, how you can employ other people, how you can give back in your business by employing other people.”

Because there’s a bigger objective: wealth creation.

“We want to empower people to have that in their own hands. That you don’t have to go out and look for a job and get laid off," he says. "It’s in your hands, you get to control your own destiny.”

“But in the process we want you to also think about how do you give back to your community. If you can grow a bigger business and you can take someone on and teach them a skill so that they’re creating wealth for themselves and their families, then that comes full circle, and we grow our economy and learn to help each other.”

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