Empowering Entrepreneurs

2021 HCCL’s Women in Business
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Photo by Forest Photography

Using her own experiences, WBEC South’s Tiffany Carter teaches other women the business playbook

Tiffany Carter always knew she wanted to break down barriers. Born and raised in New Orleans, she initially dreamed of being a sports journalist.

“I wanted to be on the sidelines at football games,” Carter says with a laugh. “I wanted to handle the tough questions!”

But after Hurricane Katrina devastated small businesses, Carter found that her skills were needed elsewhere. So, she became a consultant for the Louisiana Department of Transportation, helping small businesses market themselves. That’s when helping small businesses grow became Carter’s mission.

“A lot of companies just didn’t know how to gain momentum and get back on their feet,” she says. “It wasn’t just about marketing. It was about bonding and access to capital and networking. The seeds were planted then of the work that I am doing now.”

From there, Carter began her evolution into a “full-fledged business coach.” After fifteen years of procurement and contracting experience, she became a consultant for Regional Transit Authority’s rail expansion, and in 2014, she joined the Sewerage & Water Board of New Orleans as the Director of the Disadvantaged Business Enterprise, a role in which she streamlined the certification process for small businesses. Carter’s next turning point came in 2016, when was offered the position of Director of the Department of Procurement at the Port of New Orleans.

“It was a tremendous opportunity,” Carter says. “Just to be a woman of color in maritime, which is typically a male-dominated industry.”

Throughout her career, Carter found that she was often the only woman in the room, and on top of that, was often the only woman of color. Observing this pattern — and a growing desire to change it — inspired Carter to take yet another big step five years later. In 2021, Carter left the Port to become the director for the Enterprising Women of Color Business Center, part of The Women’s Business Enterprise Council South (WBEC South).

“At the Port, I was the decision-maker in multi-million dollar contracts,” she says, “And I walked away from all of that to teach other women how to do it, too. I told them, ‘I’m not leaving — I’ll be coming back with a group of women. We’re going to show up, and we’re going to be in the room, and we’re going to ask questions.’”

Now, Carter helps other women find their footing and carve a path forward as entrepreneurs. Her work serves to challenge both gender and racial disparities in the workplace, as well as to create a new pattern of equity for future generations.

“This program is so wonderful and purposeful,” she says. “I did it alone, but they don’t have to. We have a lot of resources between us.”

One of those resources is the Hispanic Chamber of Commerce of Louisiana, whose own equity-driven mission shares a distinct overlap with Carter’s. The relationship between HCCL and the Enterprising Women of Color Business Center is mutually beneficial, as Hispanic business owners are able to connect to Carter’s program, leading to a diversified workforce and more plentiful opportunities for minority professionals in the region.

Carter’s advice to budding entrepreneurs? “You don’t have to know it all! Use the resources available to you,” she says. “Many programs, like mine, are free of cost. We can empower you. You don’t walk in this space alone.

“And,” she adds, “be fearless. You’re good at what you do, and the world deserves what you have to offer.”