NOEW 2017: The Festival for Entrepreneurs

We spend our time bouncing between Chicago and New Orleans, so when we heard about New Orleans Entrepreneur Week, or NOEW, our interest was peaked. Turns out this event is basically the "Mardi Gras of Entrepreneurship," with over 100 FREE events held over one week. Hosted by the Contemporary Arts Center of New Orleans (beautiful building!) and the Ogden Museum of Southern Art, this annual business festival celebrates creativity, innovation, and the entrepreneurial mindset. We had an absolute blast, and while we wish we could have seen more talks, here are a few of our personal favorites and the key lessons we learned:

Who knew a career in make-em-ups could create so many jobs?

Creative Industries Summit

We go way back with the Creative Industries. In fact, Amber has been focusing on the Experience Economy and Creative Industries ever since she studied abroad in Copenhagen with DIS back in 2009. Long story short: she took one class on the Creative Industries, fell in love with the subject, and somehow convinced the teacher to hire her as an assistant. Her main task? Create the compendium of reading material for the next session. That's all it took for her to become completely hooked, so much so that she moved to Chicago to follow in her teacher's footsteps: work in theatre for a few years to truly understand the industry. Now we help companies actively involved in the creative industries communicate their value (along with a few actors & musicians too).

But this summit was especially interesting because we got to learn how creatives in New Orleans are making the city a haven for artist entrepreneurs. (And, honestly, why can't New Orleans be considered the creative cluster of the U.S.? This needs to happen.) It's important work, since the Creative Industries generate "30 million jobs globally and $704.2 billion in U.S. GDP alone." And as older jobs disappear, this economic sector is definitely one to keep an eye on.

Here are a few of the thought leaders we got to learn from:

Steve Martin, art + design new orleans


This man has created a gorgeous fashion & arts magazine, and he's working hard to make sure New Orleans gets the international credit it deserves for creativity. This city is more than just a tourist destination, after all. It's a bustling, thriving hub for artists, innovators, and other creatives who are looking to create change on a larger scale. 

Ethel Williams, Cocoa & Cream


Ethel has her own successful food truck, but more than that, she's a leader who posed really insightful questions regarding how younger members of the community can get the education and empowerment they need to fulfill their passion as creatives, whether that's in the culinary arts or some other field. We need teachers who are passionate and capable leaders - not just in the classroom, but out in the trenches. Could this lead to new forms of apprenticeship, perhaps? We're thinking about that one, and definitely inspired by what Ethel is doing. 

Mitchell Gaudet - Studio Inferno

This man had fantastic comedic timing, and a delightful (yet self-depreciating) sense of humor. He didn't take himself too seriously, and added a wonderful amount of charm to the summit. More than that, he's working very hard to bring artists together, and we really appreciated learning about his struggles with building a collective. Very unique individual who's doing great work, and excited as hell to be doing it.

Jeanne Nathan - Executive director, Creative Alliance of New Orleans (CAN)


Jeanne led this summit, and truly put her background in journalism to good use - asking poignant questions and often digging deeper than just surface answers. She's also leading the charge for the Creative Industries in NOLA with the Creative Alliance, so props to her for sure. She did invite us all to an event later that evening, but we had to miss it due to an unfortunate crawfish étoufée incident. We do hope to meet with her again in the future. Really appreciated her hard work and dedication to the cause of the artist entrepreneur. 

Kim Chestney - Director, Creative Industries Acceleration, pittsburgh technology council, and Founding Director of the Creative Industries Network


Kim came all the way from Pittsburgh to discuss how her work in the Creative Industries has been transforming her community, despite the fact that she was basically laughed out of the room when she started her organization. People seem to equate "creative" with "penniless sitar player of no value," but Kim sets them straight with economic evidence suggesting the power that artists and creatives can have over our society. Automation will have a big impact on our country in the next few decades, but creatives asking the big questions and challenging the status quo will continue to be an economic force to be reckoned with. It was such a thrill to learn from her experiences, and we felt fortunate to walk out with the knowledge she provided. Such a treat! 

After the summit, there was a Downtown NOLA Arts-Based Business Pitch competition, in which five finalists tried to win $40,000 in cash and services offered by the Downtown Development District (DDD). Here were our main lessons learned from the event: 


When giving presentations or trying to secure funding, make sure you have answers to the following questions: 

  1. If you win (or get funding), what - specifically - will you do with the money? Or, if I invest $X, what will that money go towards?
  2. What will be my return on investment (ROI)? What specific numbers do you plan to hit, and how will you reach them?
  3. How do you plan to scale? 
  4. How many jobs will you provide to the community?

And finally: Be authentic. Know your numbers. Rehearse your shit. 


One fabulous pair of shoes to rule them all.

A keynote with Kelly Hoey: Your Modern Roadmap to Networking in a Hyper Connected World.

Kelly Hoey (@jkhoey) is the author of Build Your Dream Network, and a true business maven. In this keynote, Kelly outlined her strategies for creating genuine relationships, rather than just "networking." We felt like the cat that had eaten the canary after her talk, because she completely changed our mindset about communicating with others online and in-person. Mind blown. Listed below are a few of her suggestions, but we'll also be reading her book soon. (Stay tuned!) 


  1. Treat LinkedIn posts like you're speaking at a business conference or gathering. 
  2. Twitter is a cocktail party, so don't use automation. 
  3. Asking questions at events is great PR. 
  4. Facebook is mostly for friends and family, with a little bleed over. 
  5. Yes, you can absolutely wear sparkle heels to a conference. #Girlboss

Bonus: She has an "Ask a Question" section on her site! You can ask her anything at


There's a reason why everyone knows Kim Kardashian.

Social Media Influencers: A Guide to Digital Word-of-Mouth Marketing


Jeff Januszek - FOunder of The 504 Agency


Okay, Jeff was totally in our running for "best presentation of the entire week." Not only was he highly informative (and possibly using Canva - one of our favorite things!), but Jeff was a personality. Maybe this goes back to his radio days...but damn, Jeff can give a presentation - even after undoubtedly losing plenty of sleep between building a slide deck and welcoming a brand new set of twins into the world. He's a great teacher, and clearly very passionate about his work. He certainly convinced us to start rethinking our social media strategy. (You got a book, Jeff?)


  1. Before you put your plan into action, ask yourself: "How will I know if this worked?" 
  2. Cyber-stalk others for ideas. 
  3. Engagement rates > follower counts. 
  4. #SPONSORED should be included on all sponsored content posts.
  5. Focus on only 12 metrics at a time. 


And the award for Best Event (for us) goes to...(drumroll)...

King of the Compromise: Distinguished Negotiation Strategies for Entrepreneurs

A week ago, we didn't know anything about Frilot Forward, or either of these guys (Everett Fineran and Ben Castoriano); but now we're pretty much obsessed, like to the point where we were thinking, "Should we have gone into law? Seems cool." No, we're not going into law...but these two lawyers made it look like so much fun. They totally riffed off the 'good cop/bad cop' strategy, with one presenting after the other; but each lawyer brought a different personality, style, and area of expertise to the event, giving it this really funky dynamic. We covered negotiation techniques, contracts, and even Louisiana law - and everyone appeared to be completely engaged, all because of the energy these guys brought into their presentation. (They even offered to email their slide deck out to people! Props for going the extra mile.)

Now that we've seen their website, it totally makes sense: these guys are the startup founders of the legal world, and it's completely bad ass. Not only that, but they were great presenters, we both learned so much, and even though it was law-related, these guys made the entire experience exciting yet lighthearted. Absolutely wonderful event. Based on our experience, these guys have to be good at what they do...they just have to be. 


  1. Prepare for any negotiation as if preparing for a sporting event. (As an athlete, not a spectator.)
  2. Perception of fairness is crucial. 
  3. The "Trump walk out" is a thing.
  4. Do your research! 
  5. Turns out, we didn't fuck up that contract back in 2015 after all. 


Our Runner-up for "Best Presentation:"

Failing Fast: Insights From the First Year at Three Startups

This was the talk we needed...two years ago...then again, if we had not suffered through the exact same failures ourselves, this presentation might not have been so meaningful to us. More than anything, it was nice to know that we are not alone. And that we all make stupid mistakes in our efforts to build and maintain a business. We're still only human. But this event was really special because it wasn't just one company explaining their journey - it was a very well-prepared presentation shared between three: Christian Britto, Operations Manager at Rasa (; @rasa_io); Joshua Grippo, CEO at Radolo (; and Stephanie McGehee, Director of Operations at Grit Marketing (, @GritMarketing). They crushed it. 


  1. Focus on the immediate task. 
  2. Create a Google Doc with a step-by-step process for managing accounting and finances on a monthly basis, especially if that's not your thing. 
  3. Know your "qualified lead." 
  4. Eat that frog! 
  5. If you're rude in 'thank you' cards, you don't get gifts anymore. (Had to be there.) 


Yes, and...

Send Smarter: 6 Email Marketing Best Practices You Need to Know

This event made Amber nostalgic for her Second City days. The presentation was clearly well thought out and rehearsed, but there were pockets of ambiguity that allowed for improv, sarcasm, and a bit of awkwardness to exist. It was a breath of fresh air. That said, there was a ton of information included in this presentation, and it made us both realize that we haven't been focusing enough on our email marketing game. Oops. 

But we're on it now, thanks to these lovely ladies: 

Lianna Patch - Founder, Punchline Conversion Copywriting and SNAP Copy


Julia Sevin - Co-founder, Tightship Design


Creative industries in action!


  1. Don't shy away from personal vulnerability (lesson in action). 
  2. DON'T USE ALL CAPS! Be human. 
  3. Call-to-action buttons should stand out...and it's okay if they're downright ugly. (Gasp!)
  4. Purge inactive subscribers. 
  5. TEST! Test like your life depends on it. 


Have you seen the view from the balcony? Unbelievable.

Ogden After Hours

We nearly missed this event. We were tired. It was an art museum. We were about to just skip it and catch up on work. But then we were like, "We'd be total hypocrites if we didn't visit the art museum!" So off we ran down Tchoupitoulas to the Ogden, just in time to hear Bob Malone rock out on the piano. Needless to say, we were not disappointed. There are some genuinely stunning pieces of art at the Ogden, and the atmosphere that night was bouncing with energy, as Malone filled the space with his work. It was really special, and it didn't seem like it could even exist outside of a city like New Orleans. Plus, the drinks (along with the balcony view recommended by the bartender) were fantastic. 

OGden Museum of Southern ARt


Bob Malone 


Final thoughts...

Thank you to the city of New Orleans for such a fantastic "Entrepreneur Festival!" We can't wait to see what happens next year, as you celebrate your Tricentennial. 

And if you're ever able to attend NOEW, we highly, highly recommend it. Why don't more cities celebrate business this way? Leave it to the South...

- Amber & John