Thriving African-American Small Business Initiative

April 3, 2023

United Way announces competitive Thriving African-American Small Business Initiative to incentivize investments, bolster owners’ business acumen 

Program features matched savings accounts, educational workshops for participants 


NEW ORLEANS – United Way of Southeast Louisiana (UWSELA) announced Monday the launch of its Thriving African-American Small Business Initiative designed to help boost the profit potential of Black-owned businesses in greater New Orleans.  

“There is clear evidence of disparities in business ownership and success among the Black and white populations in our communities, but there is also clear evidence that shows how closing that gap has the potential to add jobs, income and overall prosperity to a given region,” said Dr. Takeisha Davis, UWSELA Board of Trustees Chairwoman. “And while United Way has been a long-time investor in the Black small business community through our IDA Project, this new effort adds additional intentionality around our work to close the racial wealth gap and create a more equitable Southeast Louisiana for all.” 

The Initiative pairs a 5:1 matched development account for participating businesses with formal and informal opportunities to learn how to manage and budget money, improve their earning capability and invest in themselves and their communities. 

Once participants save $2,000 and complete program requirements over seven months, UWSELA will provide a $10,000 match in their respective development accounts to help with business expenses and future growth opportunities.  

UWSELA’s expert financial capability staff will manage the program through its J. Wayne Leonard Prosperity Center with support from local financial institutions, chambers of commerce, economic development foundations and the Urban League of Louisiana.  

“As our state and country continue to learn from and experience a racial reckoning, it’s incumbent upon us to play a role in righting historical and systemic wrongs,” said Meaghan McCormack, CEO of St. Bernard Economic Development Foundation. “SBEDF is proud to partner with United Way to uplift Black-owned businesses and help their founders build generational wealth and economic security.” 

UWSELA will select participants through a competitive application process, which includes the criteria below: 

  • Operate within UWSELA’s service area of Jefferson, Orleans, Plaquemines, St. Bernard, St. Tammany, Tangipahoa or Washington parishes. 
  • At least 51% African-American owned. 
  • In business for three years or more. 
  • Annual revenue of $200,000 or less. 
  • Five employees or fewer. 
  • Member of one of the local chambers of commerce or must agree to become a member within the first 45 days of enrollment. 

The online application is open now through April 17.  

The 15 businesses accepted – 10 from the Southshore and 5 from the Northshore – must complete the following requirements over the course of the program:   

  • Make regular savings deposits. 
  • Attend financial education and small business training. 
  • Develop a formal business plan. 
  • Participate in monthly small business savings club meetings. 
  • Attend regular sessions with a financial capability specialist. 

"Through our Prosperity Center work, we know small-business owners are often challenged, searching for a lifeline to take their shop or service from surviving to thriving," said Chiquita Lattimore, UWSELA's Senior Vice President of Financial Capability. "These businesses have the secret sauce to make them successful but need help leveling the playing field. United Way’s Thriving African-American Small Business Initiative gives them that help by equipping participants with the capital and critical business know-how needed for long-term viability.” 

UWSELA is funding the Initiative through the generous support of the St. Bernard Economic Development Foundation, BET, MacKenzie Scott and St. Tammany Corporation.  

“We are proud to be a part of this transformational initiative that will support and uplift entrepreneurs who have historically faced barriers to carving out their own path to prosperity,” said Chris Masingill, CEO of St. Tammany Corporation. “The Thriving African-American Small Business Initiative opens the door to equity, sustainability and growth by giving Black-owned businesses the tools and resources they need to start up, scale, realize their potential and thrive right where they are.”  

To learn more about the program and apply, visit 



About United Way of Southeast Louisiana 

For nearly 100 years, United Way of Southeast Louisiana (UWSELA) has been a leader and trusted partner in improving lives and making a lasting difference. We fight to eradicate poverty by preparing people for quality jobs, growing incomes, and affording better health and education opportunities throughout Jefferson, Orleans, Plaquemines, St. Bernard, St. Tammany, Tangipahoa, and Washington parishes. We have a bold vision of equitable communities where all individuals are healthy, educated, and financially stable – and we have a plan. United Way of Southeast Louisiana’s Blueprint for Prosperity guides all strategic investments in programs, initiatives, collaborations, volunteerism, and advocacy aimed at tackling poverty. Find us on social: @UnitedWaySELA.