In the mid-20th century, neighborhoods on Lafayette’s northside looked a lot like neighborhoods communities are trying to build now. In places like McComb, Veazey and Fightinville, families could live, work and play on their blocks.
The communities were stitched together by schools, churches — and businesses. Entrepreneurship was a big part of the fabric of the community: the family grocery store or barber shop. A restaurant or even a zydeco club.
Fast forward to the 21st century and many of those businesses have vanished. And opportunity left with them.
But the spirit of entrepreneurship is still very much alive. And organizations like the Lafayette Entrepreneurship and Economic Development Center at UL see an opportunity to revive Lafayette’s Northside with that spirit.
Kevin Guillory grew up on the Northside — of Lake Charles that is. And that community tells a similar story. Growth and prosperity moved southward in Lake Charles, leaving older neighborhoods behind.
Kevin got his MBA from UL and moved to Texas, thinking he’d never look back. But look back he did. He landed at UL in 2014 as an admissions counselor and works today as the LEED Center’s Office Coordinator.
Kevin’s behind the scenes work is essential to the success of the LEED Center’s Accelerate Northside program, which offers workshops and training for entrepreneurs. That program kicked off in 2021 and has kept growing ever since.
Accelerate Northside was modeled after a successful program offered by the University of Notre Dame in South Bend, Indiana. And one of the guys responsible for importing the idea was Kevin’s colleague, Jonathan Shirley.
Jonathan grew up in Abbeville and has long family ties to economic development. His mom used to run the Chamber of Commerce and his dad was an extension agent with Wildlife and Fisheries. Jonathan has been the LEED Center’s Program Manager since 2020.
In that role, Jonathan has overseen the launch of Accelerate Northside and its “head and heart philosophy.” The idea is they don’t just teach you how, but try to understand the why of your business.
Even if you have a great idea for a business and the drive to give it everything you’ve got, if you don’t come from a business background or grow up around entrepreneurs it can be tough to know essential business basics, and especially how to avoid making mistakes you don’t need to make.
You can check out graduates from Accelerate Northside on previous episodes of Out to Lunch – especially The Williamses and Creole Nutcracker – and see for yourself the significant difference Kevin and Jonathan’s program is making.
Out to Lunch Acadiana is recorded live over lunch at Tula Tacos and Amigos in downtown Lafayette.