Venture for America Fellows at NOLABA Share First Impressions
For the first time, the New Orleans Business Alliance (NOLABA) is participating in the Venture for America fellowship program, which places highly talented recent college graduates at organizations in cities with emerging entrepreneurial ecosystems for two years. NOLABA’s two VFA Fellows, Thomas Krumins and Sally Lindsay, share why they chose to pursue economic development in New Orleans in a LinkedIn column.
In New York, I felt that in order to support myself I had to pursue a corporate job that was not in line with the work I dreamed of doing. I had spent four incredible years studying Urban Studies at Columbia University and above all else wanted to work to develop equity in a city. When I found the Venture for America postgraduate program, I instantly loved the mission-driven approach, entrepreneurial spirit and supportive network built around the two-year fellowship. It made me feel confident to move somewhere new, where the work would be rewarding and the community of fellows built-in. To be placed at NOLABA was truly a dream come true.
Now, of course, I love this chaotic and vivacious city. I still have a lot to learn and many complexities to grapple with, but working with the New Orleans community has been incredible. At every event and meeting, people bend over backward to help out and always offer advice for places for me to check out. Working to develop economic opportunities in the health and bioinnovation sectors keeps me on my toes. Conversations I have on the weekends seep into discussions about strategy. Development projects and community stakeholders I learn about at work resurface in the built environment as I bike through the city. I bump into VFA Fellows at law symposiums and New Orleans BioInnovation Center happy hours. Everywhere, life and work thread themselves together in beautifully productive ways that make doing business in New Orleans unpredictable and collaborative.
Everyone and everything seem within reach, especially when working in a field like urban development where people are united behind common goals. I hope that during my years at NOLABA I can help expand the promise and potential of the healthcare industry by connecting residents with high-quality jobs and improving health outcomes for our community. I have been invigorated by the work at hand, but more importantly bolstered by the people who make this community so passionate and welcoming.
I’ve always been driven by the desire to create something…to build a business from the ground up and help my community, and I’m lucky to have that opportunity here in New Orleans. When I joined Venture for America (VFA), I knew it was an organization with a genuinely positive culture. Its combination of in-depth training, expansive networking, and ongoing peer- and professional-mentorship allows Fellows like me to take a risk and start building.
VFA prefers to focus on the smaller American cities built from culture, not capital, and New Orleans is a prime example. There’s no place on Earth with such rich and vibrant history, culture, and real beauty. And yet, this city has often been overlooked as little more than a tourist destination or a target for natural disasters. Outsiders have failed to see how New Orleanians rise up to support one another and find ways to celebrate life. Luckily for me, I never felt like an outsider. From the moment I arrived, I knew I was home.
With VFA, I began working with the New Orleans Business Alliance, and it’s been my privilege to create an environment where the passionate and dedicated New Orleans community can truly thrive. NOLABA has helped me create Project Re-Start, a prison re-entry initiative that helps formerly incarcerated individuals find dependable employment and provide for themselves and their families.
Through my work, I’m able to enjoy incredible food and hear deeply human stories, to greet my neighbors each morning, and laugh with strangers every night. I’ve engaged with returning citizens, re-entry organizations, small business owners, government workers, and many other New Orleanians, and it’s comforting to realize how much we all have in common.
I’m truly humbled to serve the wonderful people of this city and help them seize the opportunity to re-start their lives. Each and every day in New Orleans, I’m inspired by the thought that no matter the mistakes of our past, the hardships and struggles, the heartbreak and loss, we can always find a way to build a better future for ourselves, our families, and our city.