Lepage Center launches Ignite RLC

Patrick Johnson, Contributing Reporter

Monroe Hall is home to the Ignite RLC for the 2022-2023 school year. (Yazmine Parker)

This year, Tulane University is offering a new program to incoming students interested in entrepreneurship: Ignite Residential Learning Community. It aims to instill networking and business development skills in first-year students from the unique entrepreneurial landscape of New Orleans. 

The goal is “to reach young future entrepreneurs in their freshman year so that they can create and work on their startup idea for the entire time that they are at Tulane,” Timekia Mallery, senior program coordinator at the Albert Lepage Center for Entrepreneurship and Innovation, said. 

“When students come to Tulane they fall in love with the rich culture of the city,” Emily Egan, director of strategic initiatives at the Lepage Center, said. “Working with students at the beginning of their Tulane journey will hopefully set them up for success so they are able to stay in the city they love so much and become part of its entrepreneurial landscape.” 

Ignite students will meet with student startup founders, local startup founders and Tulane alumni to learn from those who have successfully created new businesses. Service learning also plays an important role in the program, as partnering with organizations gives first-years experiential learning opportunities to see the ecosystem firsthand, Co-Instructor Evan Nicoll said. 

For freshman Elina Khoshnevis, joining Ignite was an opportunity to expand upon an idea she pitched in high school and has developed ever since: a fully-sustainable clothing outlet. She is excited to pursue her ideas in New Orleans, where she said the entrepreneurial spirit is more supportive than her competitive hometown of San Francisco. 

And local freshman and culinarian Oscar Foster said Ignite was the ideal program to help grow his business. By further networking with entrepreneurs and farmers in his area, he said he hopes to expand his healthy and sustainable catering business, especially to underprivileged areas dominated by cheaper, unhealthy food. 

“The more network, the more context I have, the more I can bring my own community together,” Foster said. 

Foster hopes to learn more about local-first companies too. 

“The businesses that we’ve thus far seen have had a big concept of going global at the forefront and also being bought up by bigger companies,” Foster said. “While that’s a good thing, I would also want to experience the opposite side of companies and businesses that do stay local and maintain local first meaning.” 

Last week, Ignite students visited and volunteered at the Idea Village, a local nonprofit seeking to elevate small business and startups in the New Orleans community. Students met co-founder Tim Williamson, who illustrated the urgent need for the Idea Village and local entrepreneurship, to reverse negative trends of political corruption, economic and social decline, poor education, high crime rates and to assist with the rebuilding efforts post Hurricane Katrina. The organization hosts competitions, workshops and business accelerators and promotes Web3 technology to support local artists.  

Mallery said she hopes to make Ignite the most sought after RLC on Tulane’s campus in the next few years.

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