Launching a business usually takes 12 to 18 months, but New Orleans companies are doing it in two weeks.
INNO has partnered with GNOpivot, a New Orleans initiative by Greater New Orleans, Inc. (GNO, Inc.). GNO, Inc.’s mission is to create and maintain jobs in New Orleans. GNOpivot’s goal is to help regional companies shift their business operations in order to make products or provide services to help “flatten the curve” of coronavirus infections in New Orleans.
Interview with GNOpivoten
Thomas Knoll, Revelry COO, hosted a pre-INNO event where he interviewed Grady Fitzpatrick, SVP of Business Development at GNO, Inc. and two of GNOpivot’s local New Orleans partners: Lyle LeBlanc, CEO of Scale Workspace and Aaron Dirks, CEO of Dirks Companies.
They talked about New Orleans as a place of innovation. Lyle and Aaron were able to jump on opportunities to help fight COVID-19 by pivoting their businesses within a matter of days using their existing resources and networks.
Watch their recorded conversation here:
New Orleans is Better Together
Over the past 15 years, New Orleans has faced Katrina, the BP oil spill, and many other disasters that have proven over and over again the resiliency of its citizens. Everyone had to come together to respond to each crisis. To help neighbors and rebuild. The mantra New Orleanians have adopted is, “we’re all in this together.”
Over time, locals have gained a muscle memory that enables them to respond quickly and jumpstart innovation. Local business owners are perfectly geared to startup and scale fast.
“We’ve taken this problem, and we are solving it in a very collaborative way,” said Grady Fitzpatrick about New Orleans’ response to demand for goods and services driven by COVID-19.
“It’s nothing without the people,” said Lyle. “[I’m] lucky to have relationships with these people [and companies] before the shit hit the fan.”
Coming Together: GNOpivot
GNO, Inc. created GNOpivot in response to COVID-19. GNOpivot helps regional companies move to “war-footing,” wherein they pivot their standard operations in order to make products or provide services in demand for the regional fight against the coronavirus. GNOpivot matches companies to regional entities that can use their services, including hospitals, governments and public agencies, and private companies.
To accomplish this, GNOpivot is helping companies get their products to market by filling in any gaps by playing matchmaker. They created a database where innovators and solution providers can meet to bring ideas to market fast. These companies are pivoting to make PPE and hand sanitizer. This keeps these companies thriving and their teams employed.
Here are two examples of GNOpivot partnerships at work:
- Lyle’s team at Scale Workshop creating PPE for Ochsner Health
- Aaron’s team creating and bottling hand sanitizer for Sysco and 7-Eleven
Scale Workspace Creating PPE for Ochsner
Scale Workspace is a unique coworking space in that members have access to a maker’s space on the first floor with 3D printing, fabrication technology, and workspace.
The Mission of Scale Workspace is to support and encourage the physical production of innovative products, devices, designs, and art right here in New Orleans.
Identifying an Opportunity
The Scale team had worked with Ochsner in the past, so they already had an established relationship. On March 16, Lyle sensed an opportunity and framed up a question to Ochsner: “should we try to make face masks?” The health care professionals responded and said, “give us face shields. We need a clear barrier between us and patients.”
Lyle and his team observed that there was a disconnect between health care professionals and their administrators and supply chain. At first, the administration said we don’t need any homemade face shields.
Identifying the Real Problem
Turns out, not only did the hospital not have any face mask inventory, but the price and lead times were going up. The opportunity then became, what can you do and how fast can you go?
Lyle and team assembling prototypes
Quantity and depth of the face mask evolved quickly due to the number of coronavirus patients growing daily in New Orleans. The need shot up from 15 to 15,000 face masks.
By March 26, Lyle’s team had already:
- Shipped: three rounds of prototypes
- Learned: 50 units tested at one of Ochsner’s COVID ICUs
- Iterated: received feedback directly from the doctor on the ground, then made changes and had already started production on the first order
By day 10, Scale was delivering 1260 units a day.
Paying it Forward with Open Source
Scale is also helping seed their 3D printing files by making them Open Source. The files are freely available to folks in other communities around the country.
Aaron Dirks Pivots to Make Hand Sanitizer
Aaron Dirks leads his portfolio of entrepreneurial endeavors through his role as Founder and CEO of Dirks Companies. Aaron is a partner of the Louisiana Pepper Exchange, which had recently put in a brand new bottling line for items like 3.5oz jars of minced garlic. Since the COVID-19 outbreak, that initiative has been delayed.
Identifying an Opportunity
Aaron saw that everyone was running out of hand sanitizers and store shelves were empty. He saw an opportunity to jump in and help right away with his businesses.
Aaron’s CEO, Chris White, had a classmate from West Point where Aaron and Chris both went to school. Chris’ friend is a senior executive at GOJO Industries, the company that owns Purell.
“He was telling us, at that time, his factories that made Purell were doing 24-hour shifts and couldn’t squeeze another bottle out of their supply chain.”
Identifying the Real Problem
Purell still had 20 times more demand than they could fill. Plus, they were restricting all of their sales to hospital systems. Grocery and convenience stores didn’t have any hand sanitizer available and badly wanted to stock up.
Aaron and Chris already had a relationship with distributors like Sysco and 7-Eleven, who were asking what they could do to help. They did a rapid analysis with an engineer and construction firm to see if they could transition to bottling hand sanitizer.
By April 1, they had raised $5,000 and started a corporate entity called Cavalry Sanitizers. They’ve currently ramped up production to 9,000 gallons per day produced by two facilities.
They are now looking at acquiring a third facility and creating a new bottling line in 6 weeks. This would give them an additional 48,000 gallons.
Currently, they are producing 150-200 gallons out of their New Orleans manufacturing complex. They continue to ramp up their supply chain and leverage their relationship with Sysco and 7-Eleven. The company only started just over 17 days ago, and they’re super proud of the 25 new employees they’ve hired.
Support GNOpivot’s Efforts
To help our partner GNOpivot so they can continue to start and grow companies faster in New Orleans, please consider donating.