NOEW Event Empowered Women in Business and Honored a Culinary Icon

Chef Leah Chase won the 2019 InnovatHER Award

NEW ORLEANS – On Tuesday afternoon, as a roomful of women sipped water and snacked on sugar cookies, TruFund Financial Services, Inc. debuted a national loan fund meant to benefit female entrepreneurs. They also honored culinary icon Leah Chase, and engaged business professionals through an interactive panel discussion. The collection of events, dubbed the Krewe of InnovatHERs, was held in conjunction with New Orleans Entrepreneur Week (NOEW).

Within recent years, TruFund has experienced a spike in loan requests from Women's Business Enterprises (WBEs) totaling nearly $5MM in capital. As the percentage of WBEs grows compared to all businesses, the need for accessible capital continues to increase.

The Wisdom Fund, co-created by TruFund and lender CDC Small Business Finance, funnels money from accredited investors – institutions, funds, foundations, family offices and individuals – into business loans for low- to moderate-income women and women of color. 

"I'm excited that TruFund is a part of the inaugural group of lenders with the Wisdom Fund,” Myla R. Poree, the vice president and managing director for TruFund in Louisiana, said in a statement. "This fund further helps TruFund become a vehicle of change for women entrepreneurs in Louisiana, helping them grow and scale their businesses."

CNote is the technology platform hosting the Wisdom Fund and, as a result, driving visibility and new investment dollars towards Community Development Financial Institution (CDFI) lenders who are supporting the Wisdom Fund's gender equality effort. (CNote is an investment product allowing clients to earn money from their idle cash while supporting financially-underserved communities across the country.)

After launching the Wisdom Fund, event organizers presented chef Leah Chase with the 2019 InnovatHER Award. The room erupted into applause when she accepted the award. Chase is a cookbook author and the owner of the nationally-recognized Dooky Chase’s Restaurant on Orleans Avenue. She has four children, sixteen grandchildren and twenty-two great-grandchildren. 

“Mrs. Chase was selected for the Inaugural InnovatHER Award because she is the 'Queen of Creole Cuisine', and she is an inspiration to women and entrepreneurs, and an example of what being an InnovatHER is all about,” said LaShaunda P. René, the assistant vice president, and the manager of business development services and program development for TruFund Financial Services, Inc. 

“She represents all that we encourage our entrepreneurs to strive for; she knows her value proposition; she built her reputation and brand by focusing on what she is good at, and by including and supporting others on her team to excel in their strengths, to support the greater good of the business; and she gained the trust of her clientele, the city and the nation by delivering an excellent product, supported by stellar customer service,” continued René. “And maybe most importantly, Mrs. Chase was the driving force behind the Dooky Chase Restaurant, which has become an anchor entity and community asset that has been a source of economic development, providing much needed quality jobs, as well as a catalyst for tourism and an ambassador of New Orleans culture.”  

TruFund’s InnovatHER panel discussion featured top earning female entrepreneurs from across the region. They offered advice on how to access to capital, identify contract procurement opportunities, and find the resources to build a business. They also examined the programs and certifications needed to run a business, and discussed the economic impact of  women owned business.

“I hope the women who joined us for a dynamic panel discussion on business resiliency, and the power of contracts as catalysts for growth, left the space feeling empowered to continue – or to start – their entrepreneurial journey, knowing that organizations like TruFund have resources, such as the Women in Business program and the Wisdom Fund, that can help to propel their business to the next level, and (knowing) that they can count on us to help them navigate what can at times feel overwhelming or challenging,” said René. “I also hope they left understanding the importance of having access to affordable and adequate capital, strong business acumen and knowledge, (and) a strong network to move their business from where it is currently to where they would like it to be. Lastly, I hope that the women who joined us left the space knowing that they can do it, they have what it takes, and that the resources are here. They just need to reach out and get involved.”


Suzanne Pfefferle Tafur, is the associate news editor of


Categories: Around Town, Awards/Honors, Business Events, Today’s Business News