The Urban League of Louisiana announced the launch of its inaugural “Small Business Advisory Council”. The organization established the Council as a strategic outreach and “Voice of the Community” mechanism to support its work in deploying the SBA Community Navigator Pilot Program in select cities across Louisiana. The Council will provide the Urban League of Louisiana with valuable insights on the community-specific business needs, challenges, opportunities, and ecosystem gaps that exist within Louisiana’s most underserved communities.

The SBA Community Navigator Pilot Program is an American Rescue Plan initiative designed to reduce barriers that underrepresented and underserved entrepreneurs often face in accessing the programs they need to recover from a disaster or economic crisis, grow, or start their businesses. Launched in 2021, the program aims to provide a total of $100 million in funding to 51 organizations that are working with hundreds of local community groups to improve access to SBA and government resources for America’s entrepreneurs.

“I applaud the Urban League of Louisiana for reaching out for advice from small businesses and organizations who support disadvantaged small businesses and learning more about how Community Navigators can connect them to U.S. Small Business Administration programs and services to help them start, grow and thrive,” said Region 6 South Central Regional Administrator Ted James. “We need everyone’s help to move toward equity in all of government, which is the goal of the Biden/Harris Administration.”

Community Navigator grantees serve as “hubs” — centralized, lead organizations, which incorporate “spokes,” organizations that have built trust in their local communities and are the ‘boots on the ground’ that will connect small businesses to critical resources and assistance.

The National Urban League is one of 8 Tier 1 “Hubs” overseeing 25 Urban League affiliates across the country as trusted community navigators delivering technical assistance and providing resources to businesses in their respective communities during economic recovery, including: financial assistance and access to capital; contracting and procurement; marketing, operations, and business development; and industry-specific training.

The Urban League of Louisiana serves as a Tier 1 Spoke for the National Urban League Hub. Through the CNPP, the Urban League of Louisiana is expanding its catchment area to provide entrepreneurial training, counseling services and access to resources for businesses in Shreveport, Lake Charles, Baton Rouge, Lafayette, and other areas.

“Small businesses across Louisiana have been met with overwhelming obstacles over the past few years. The Covid-19 pandemic, Hurricanes Laura and Ida, and other events, have made small business ownership a test of survival. For those businesses who are still standing, the Urban League of Louisiana is committed to ensuring increased access to the right resources and services to support small business recovery and growth”, says Judy Reese Morse, President & CEO of the Urban League of Louisiana. “As we continue to expand our footprint across the state, the SBA Community Navigator Pilot Program enhances our ability to provide more services and reach more clients in our most vulnerable communities.”

To support the Community Navigator Pilot Program, ULLA has assembled the Small Business Advisory Council to gain insights on the community-specific business needs, challenges, opportunities, and ecosystem gaps that exist for Black-owned businesses in Louisiana. The committee will meet quarterly and include a select group of Black small business owners from Shreveport, Lafayette, Hammond, Baton Rouge, and New Orleans. Representatives from other cities will be invited to join at a later date.

The inaugural Council members will serve a term starting in August of 2022 and ending in November of 2023. The 2022-23 ULLA Small Business Advisory Council includes:

  • Drayden Dunn, Envision Media (Shreveport)
  • James Thrower, Life Changing Solutions (Shreveport)
  • Iam Tucker, ILSI Engineering (New Orleans)
  • Julie Vaucresson, Vaucresson’s Café and Deli (New Orleans)
  • Andre Lewis, VPG Enterprise (New Orleans)
  • Nenette Gray, Lemonade Creative Marketing (Baton Rouge)
  • Dr. Lawrence Salone, Post-Trauma Institute (Baton Rouge)
  • Dr. Jennifer Jackson, RD, LDN, Keystone Nutrition (Lafayette)
  • Brandi Wells, Urban Market Experience (Hammond)

“We are so excited to launch the Urban League of Louisiana’s inaugural Small Business Advisory Council”, says Klassi Duncan, Vice President of the Center for Entrepreneurship & Innovation at the Urban League of Louisiana. “We know that hearing and learning from the voice of Black business owners is critical as we seek to address the right challenges, galvanize the right resources, and mobilize the right programs and partners to achieve equitable economic development across the state. We want to do this in a very deliberate, responsive, and innovate way. This Council will help us to do just that!”

To learn more about the Urban League of Louisiana Center for Entrepreneurship & Innovation, please visit or email us at