Payson Entrepreneurial Senior Goes Out to Lunch with National Public Radio

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Once a week, Tulane A.B. Freeman School of Business professor Peter Ricchiuti invites budding entrepreneurs from the greater New Orleans area to lunch with him at the Commander’s Palace restaurant as part of the National Public Radio (NPR) local affiliate, WWNO's program entitled “Out to Lunch.” The premise of the program is to highlight emerging businessmen and women of the city that big financial names like Forbes and the Wall Street Journal have deemed the most up-and-coming entrepreneurial city in the country.

Featured on the February 19th episode of "Out to Lunch" was Payson's own International Development undergraduate coordinate major and intern, Haley Burns, student founder and executive director of Fund 17, a microfinance nonprofit organization whose mission is to combat opportunity inequality in New Orleans by providing clients with the tools and empowerment necessary for success.

Over lunch at New Orleans’ most renowned eatery, Burns featured in the "Remember, you heard it here first" segment of the show pitched Ricchiuti and his guests on Fund 17’s goals. According to Burns, the clients that she and her team are interested in funding are the “invisible” ones; she elaborates, “We’re not necessarily going after [people] with storefronts.”

These behind-the-scenes entrepreneurs often operate from their homes and work odd hours to make ends meet. “You could drive down a street and not know that half of the houses you’re passing by have a candy store behind the door,” Burns explains. Small, informal businesses, according to Burns, “provide valuable services to their communities,” but their needs frequently don’t merit a business loan from a bank. Sometimes, a simple $1,500 leg-up, provided by Fund 17, is all they need to get started.

Burns started Fund 17 during her sophomore year at Tulane, having spent her Freshman service-learning period working with residents of the Hollygrove neighborhood in the city’s 17th ward. The poverty she witnessed firsthand compared to her comfortable, “Tulane bubble” lifestyle, as she puts it in her 2012 TedxTU talk, inspired her to take active measures to alleviate the glaring socioeconomic inequalities around her.

Fund 17 has done and hopes to continue to do just that. After she graduates this May, Burns hopes to take on Fund 17 fulltime in the hopes of aggregating more clients and increasing their chances for economic success. With more time and attention devoted to the organization, Burns will hopefully be able to perpetuate her cause with more tenacity and resolve than ever before.

Tulane Freshman, Madeline F. Birch contributed to this story.

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