NEW ORLEANS’ ECONOMIC POTENTIAL DELIVERS
Val McKay, Managing Director, Smashing Boxes: Val McKay saw her adopted hometown of New Orleans rebound back to its vibrant, artistic identity after Hurricane Katrina, and now the business she helps lead – Smashing Boxes – is helping to shape the city’s technological future.
Smashing Boxes expanded to New Orleans in 2015, opening an office on Gravier Street to complement its headquarters in Durham, N.C., after its initial attraction to the city’s economic potential arose at New Orleans Entrepreneur Week.
McKay is the New Orleans Managing Director, and she said it was an ideal city to pursue for many reasons, even though Smashing Boxes wasn’t looking to expand at the time.
“Having lived here both pre- and post-Katrina levee failure, I have experienced firsthand how a community can claw its way back from catastrophic devastation by sheer will, determination and stubbornness,” McKay says. “This city is truly a unicorn – it is like no other.”
Smashing Boxes is a design and technology firm founded in 2010 that specializes in digital product design and development. The company is investing $500,000 in its New Orleans operations and expects to create 85 new jobs over the next five years.
McKay says New Orleans’ authenticity appeals to her company, whose self-described mission is to achieve clients’ business objectives by challenging the status quo – essentially “smashing boxes.”
“New Orleans does not put on airs,” she says. “It is uniquely itself.”
For McKay, New Orleans has become home even though she grew up in Baton Rouge. She moved to New Orleans in 1988 to attend Loyola, went to Chicago in 1993 to earn a master’s degree, and then returned to New Orleans after only a three-year absence.
“I wanted a more relaxed quality of life where I could have a full-time job that paid the bills, but also afforded me time to spend with friends and family,” McKay says. “I wanted a house and a yard for a dog without having to live in a suburb and travel two hours round-trip by train each day to work.
“So, what keeps me here? Yes, it’s the food. Yes, it’s the friendly people. Yes, it’s the music and the history and the architecture and the festivals and the creativity that surrounds us. But why I really stay here is for a very simple reason: It is home.”