The city of New Orleans is no stranger to the importance of small businesses. And one business-minded local has learned the power of serving small business owners’ needs to grow the community.
“Small businesses are the backbone of the economy,” says Myla Poree, vice president and managing director of TruFund Financial Services’ Louisiana market. “They are the individuals and business owners that actually know what’s going on in the community.”
Poree’s interest in the growth of small businesses began long before she took her first job with TruFund in 2007. Since her youth, she has been entrenched in local small business culture via her grandparents’ family owned Dooky Chase’s Restaurant.
“It opened my eyes to possibilities as an entrepreneur,” Poree says. “And then being able to see both the ups and downs of the process of actually working in a small business, I wanted to be a part of that by helping other small businesses grow, expand and achieve their goals.”
That early exposure to the experiences of small business owners led Poree to study business administration with a concentration in business management at Xavier University. From there, she went on to Texas Southern University to earn her MBA in 2007.
During that time, seeing New Orleans and its small businesses struggle to recover after Hurricane Katrina encouraged Poree to pursue a career path in assisting the redevelopment of the local community. Poree attended a meeting her grandparents had with TruFund, which at the time was part of the Business Recovery Grant and Loan Program.
Then managing director of TruFund (known as Seedco Financial at the time) Robin Barnes asked Poree if she would be interested in assisting the nonprofit as an intern by updating information for their resource guide. This would be Poree’s start at an organization in which she would rise in the ranks over the next nine or so years, while providing the guidance and funding that small businesses — like her family’s — needed to reach their potential.
In 2007, Poree began working for TruFund as a technical assistance coordinator, where she worked one-on-one with small businesses to provide referrals to other providers that could assist those business owners with access to capital and business support systems. She went on to serve as program manager for TruFund’s Southeast LA Fisheries Assistance Center, and, in 2010, she was promoted to her current position overseeing the nonprofit’s Louisiana market.
While her daily duties tend to change, Poree oversees TruFund’s offices in New Orleans, Gretna and East Baton Rouge Parish. She coordinates with staff who speak with small business owners in the community and potential partnering organizations to see how to best meet those business owners’ needs.
TruFund and Poree help a variety of small businesses, but their focus is on minority and women-owned businesses, particularly local sub-contractors. The specific needs of these businesses vary, but overall, per TruFund’s research, these businesses particularly struggle with gaining access to capital and business support systems, such as organizing documentation and financial statements. Without capital and business support, these smaller contractors may not be able to bid on the larger contract jobs needed to help their business grow.
“It’s important for us to assist them with that so that they’re able to bid on those projects and be able to get those projects started and pay their employees, who are the local community workforce,” Poree says.
With TruFund’s help, Poree is able to take some of the weight off the shoulders of these small business owners, who are often “working every day from sunup to sundown doing every aspect of the business,” she says. By opening their eyes to the potential their business has when capital and business support are in place, Poree and TruFund create an atmosphere for business owners that enables them to envision the future rather than scrape by in the present.
“There’s no way for you to be able to grow a business if you’re doing everything in that business by yourself,” Poree says. “It’s very important for them to see that you need to have additional help, whether it’s financial assistance or employees, to be able to grow your business.”