Propeller entrepreneurs talk business | New Orleans CityBusiness


Company: Dryads YMCA Daycare


Entrepreneur: Sheila Matute

Propeller program: Impact Accelerator 2022

Area of ​​interest: Education

What have been your greatest successes in addressing educational disparities?

We have a long-standing program in the community that provides comprehensive services in partnership with other service providers in the New Orleans and Central City community. It is also fidelity – we are here to serve the community, we have been here and we will continue to be here. We worked during the pandemic, we were one of the centers that did not close – we first closed for a month but reopened and have remained open ever since.

How have you pivoted your services during the pandemic?

We were diligent about making sure families and children were safe. Although we have an open door policy, we have restricted access to the classroom to only children and staff. We followed the guidelines and best practices published by the Ministry of Health. We continued to ask questions so that we could communicate effectively with the parents. Regarding their HIPAA rights, we have communicated about the health of the children so that we can maintain the health of other students. We also had virtual services for students at home; we sent activities home and provided learning support for parents so that students could complete activities with their teachers virtually.

What are you most excited about this school year?

We are excited about the new kids coming in and that we are not as limited as we were this time last year. It’s an uncertain time with the spread of monkeypox and higher COVID numbers. But there has been a lot of training and professional development for teachers, but we face an extreme shortage of teachers. We are hiring however. Above all, I am delighted to continue to provide the services to our students. We’re energized by the state’s first-ever early childhood conference and ready to get kids back in the classroom.

Company: Sankofa Native Plant Nursery

Naish Williams and Ronni Johnson

Contractors: Rashida Ferdinand, Naish Williams, Ronni Johnson

Propeller program: Impact Accelerator 2022

Area of ​​interest: Water

What services does your business provide and why are they important?

Rashida: Sankofa CDC aims to address racial disparities in access to healthy food, health care, and nutrition education by removing barriers to healthy living. Solutions to systemic problems of racial inequality and socio-economic marginalization must prioritize not only the promotion of health choices in the community, but also the creation of infrastructure for a healthy economy while addressing all determinants social health. Our economic development work involves the development of sustainable infrastructure projects – including Wetland Park on the Florida Avenue Corridor and the Lower Ninth Ward MainStreet, Sankofa Fresh Stop Market project on the St. Claude Avenue Corridor – to improve public spaces and restore environmental balance in our community with resources that support the economic development of the Lower Ninth Ward region.

Sankofa CDC is currently working to restore 40 acres of space to wetland habitat along the north side of the Lower Ninth Ward. This green infrastructure project transforms land on the Florida Avenue Corridor that was once used as a landfill with illegally dumped waste and overgrown vegetation into a space that restores wetland habitats. Located adjacent to the Welcome Bayou – Wetland Triangle, this green infrastructure project will reduce stormwater overflow along the Florida Avenue Corridor into the Lower Ninth Ward through a retention pond system that captures stormwater runoff. The growth of native plants forms more wildlife habitats in the area, resulting in a huge increase in the amount of wildlife that has returned home to this location, with a 90% increase in the bird population in the area. over the past two years. Our native Louisiana tree and plant nursery provides the wetland park with the trees and plants needed for its restoration and wildlife habitats. The nursery also supports other green infrastructure projects throughout the city by donating native plants needed for these projects.

STEM programs focused on wetland ecology at Wetland Park provide hands-on outdoor recreation and education to support our collaborative efforts to address the needs for global warming and environmental justice in our community. We also offer an intergenerational fishing program, through which elders who grew up fishing in the Lower Ninth Ward pass on their knowledge to young people. We partner with the Louisiana Green Corps Workforce Development Training Program, where young adults can learn about green infrastructure and building practices to develop job-readiness skills .

Name one way your business had to adapt during the pandemic.

Rashida:WWe focused on expanding our pantry services to reach four times the number of people in need of disaster relief services. We also launched delivery services and provided disaster relief services. We have suspended some of our programs to focus on food distribution services. We are committed to keeping our team employed as well as safe, we secured two Paycheck Protection Program loans to support the employment of our staff, with some team members working remotely.

As a food service organization, we have continued to operate our food pantry and expanded our services to reach everyone in need of food assistance in the Greater New Orleans area through our partnership with Second Harvest Food Bank. We also launched a delivery service for food pantry participants and people in need of disaster food assistance. We have followed recommendations from the CDC, WHO and the City of New Orleans Health Department to also help guide our safety measures. We adopted protective screens, imposed the wearing of masks and distributed food through protective barriers. We were also able to work with many volunteers who wanted to support access to food and community services while they were away from work during the pandemic period.

The Wetland Park has remained open during the pandemic to provide a space where people have a safe outdoor space to decompress mentally and physically. Many people were cut off from their social networks and experienced feelings of anxiety. Many families have visited Wetland Park regularly during the pandemic as a space to play and relieve stress.

Our long-term goal is to continue to build healthy aquatic and terrestrial ecosystems in our communities, as we restore Wetland Park and the adjacent Bayou Welcome Wetland Triangle, both within the healthy terrestrial spaces that they used to be.

Propeller is a nonprofit that helps entrepreneurs grow their nonprofits and small businesses to address social and environmental disparities in New Orleans. To learn more, visit


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