Friday, June 21, 2024

Smith: A reflective look at 2022, and ahead to 2023

by BIZ Magazine

The beginning of this new year is the perfect time to reflect upon the successes of BRF’s Entrepreneurial Accelerator Program (EAP) in 2022, as well as look forward to what 2023 may hold.  

The number of businesses seeking assistance from EAP in 2022 was almost the same number as we were seeing prior to the onset of the Covid pandemic.  

As of October 31, 2022, the number of businesses screened since EAP’s inception in 2014 was nearly 1,500. To date, EAP has helped fund 75 companies, which have created 366 new direct jobs in our area with an annual estimated payroll of $20.1 million. 

The New Louisiana Angel Fund (NLAF), North Louisiana’s first angel fund made up of accredited angel investors who make investments in North Louisiana-based companies, is another important initiative created and supported by BRF. NLAF contributed $1 million into local businesses in 2022 and helped syndicate another $11 million. Since the fund’s inception, 22 North Louisiana companies have been able to raise $99 million directly through angel investments.  

Education is a huge component of EAP’s mission, and we work alongside several Louisiana colleges to host their annual pitch competitions. EAP became involved in the university pitch competitions in 2017 with only one competition being held at Louisiana State University in Shreveport. In 2022, EAP participated in pitch competitions at five college campuses throughout Louisiana and helped to sponsor the University of Louisiana Monroe (ULM) Entrepreneurship Pelican Cup. This year, all Louisiana colleges will have the opportunity to compete at the Pelican Cup in April, and EAP will again be partnering with ULM. This competition will be the premier business plan competition for the state of Louisiana with one of the largest cash prizes for a business plan competition in the nation. With a goal of inspiring participants and the community to think entrepreneurially by rewarding creativity, professionalism, and hard work, the Pelican Cup is the perfect partner for EAP to continue to reach young entrepreneurs. Considering the growing involvement in these competitions, there is a clear demand for entrepreneurial education at the collegiate level throughout the state. EAP believes that starting with student entrepreneurship and showing them the path to being an entrepreneur post-college is a key to their success. With 65 educational programs in 2022, EAP has seen the impact of entrepreneurial education for all ages.

One of EAP’s greatest achievements of 2022 was assisting in the launch of portfolio company Small Business Consulting Corporation (SBCC), which helped secure 19 Small Business Innovation Research (SBIR) awards to support Air Force Global Strike Command (AFGSC). SBCC helps entrepreneurs win federal grant money to develop their ideas which ultimately will support AFGSC. As a result of the work being done by SBCC, research and development dollars are coming back into Northwest Louisiana. Most importantly, technology challenges of the U.S. Air Force are being addressed while a local defense industry is being built around the existing strengths in our communities. This activity will continue to bring dollars and jobs to the region.

Finally, the Wall of Entrepreneurial Achievement was rededicated in honor of Dolores “Sissy” LaVigne, who has been a champion of entrepreneurs in the North Louisiana community for decades. We look forward to continuing to meet with entrepreneurs, helping them bring their ideas to life, and adding them to the Dolores George LaVigne Wall of Entrepreneurial Achievement!

In 2023, EAP hopes to continue to focus on the services we offer to North Louisiana tech-based startups and provide support to BRF’s Shreveport Next effort, which recruits small to mid-sized businesses from across the country to relocate or build new facilities in the Shreveport-Bossier area, bringing new jobs and revenue to the region. 

As important as it is to celebrate the wins of 2022, we are ready to focus on the future and accomplish the goals we have set for 2023!

Dave Smith | Entrepreneurial Accelerator Program (EAP) Executive Director 

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