Andrea Chen and Napoleon Wallace are two excellent examples of leaders blending the worlds of entrepreneurship, social impact, job creation, and economic opportunities in America’s cities. All too often, these words seem diabolically opposed to each other. How can a start-up or new business create jobs, pay living wages and solve the food or water crisis? Andrea and Napoleon’s work proves that it’s possible.
Andrea Chen is the Executive Director of Propeller in New Orleans – a social impact accelerator that arose from the ashes of Hurricane Sandy when government resources were not enough to rebuild the local economy and neighborhoods. Since 2011, Propeller has launched “90 ventures through its accelerator, creating 130 new jobs in New Orleans and generating $36 million in external financing and revenue, plus an additional $80,000 in seed funding awarded to early-stage startups in the PitchNOLA competitions.”
Just as Andrea is investing in businesses that had few investment opportunities, Napoleon Wallace is investing in Americans that the banking industry has largely turned its back on. Napoleon is an Executive at Self-Help – a national family of member-owned, mission-driven credit unions. It also serves as a nonprofit loan fund and a policy advocacy organization that works to expand business ownership and economic opportunities for all income groups. Self-Help was instrumental in ensuring that the predatory mortgage bill passed in North Carolina – one of the first state-level bills on this issue passed in the country. Self-Help also has a “secondary markets” program, through which they have partnered with large banks that don’t want to take certain credit risks – typically in low-income communities.