Priorities for 2017

Six NOEW panelists weigh in on what every entrepreneur should know and do this year.

Life as an entrepreneur can sometimes seem like one long, endless “to-do” list. There are 100 things you need to get done today, half of which should have been done yesterday, with another 100 on the list for tomorrow. Plus you have to keep up with the latest trends, technologies and marketplace paradigms, while keeping everyone from your customers to your investors happy. Among all these demands, how does an entrepreneur set priorities, actually get things done, and not go crazy in the process?
With New Orleans Entrepreneur Week (NOEW) coming up March 19 – 24, Biz New Orleans asked a cross-section of panelists from the event what they thought were the most important things entrepreneurs should be focusing on this year.

Kelly Hoey

Investor & Author
Build Your Dream Network

Kelly Hoey began her career in the corporate law world before moving into entrepreneurship, with a focus in the tech world, and then on to investing. In addition to her portfolio of angel investments, she is an LP in two funds and an advisor to New Zealand Trade and Enterprise. Her major current area of focus is network development, and she contributes regularly on the subject to CNBC, and other media outlets. She is the author of the just-released book, “Build Your Dream Network.”

Hoey says that entrepreneurs should build and engage personal networks to provide the support they need in order to focus on building their businesses, but cautioned that these networks need to be used appropriately.

“Everyone reaches out for help just when they need it and expects their network to immediately jump into action. She says startup founders are notorious for reaching out for help at the last minute — when the sales funnel is empty or bank account drained, for example. Enough of the 911 networking calls! Make 2017 the year you change your communication habit. Here’s why: regular communications connect your friends, family, advisors, mentors and potential investors to your journey as a start-up founder or new business owner. From the start, these are the people who know you and want to see you succeed.

“Communicate regularly and thoughtfully so your network can help you. Some tips from my book ‘Build Your Dream Network’ to get those regular communications started include:

• Brainstorm a list of all the people with whom you should be sharing your business highs and lows;

• Spend some time thinking about who should be on your list, then assemble all that contact information on a platform (i.e Slack) or tool you’ll use (i.e. MailChimp or email);

• Pick a day and time to send out regular communications and then stick to that timing, regardless of how exhausted or stressed or deadline driven you are;  

• Craft a message that makes it easy for the recipients to want to help you. Include links. Draft the tweet or Facebook post for them. Attach the job description if you’re hiring. Don’t make your network guess what you need; and

• Remind yourself constantly that networks determine which ideas become breakthroughs or get funding, media mentions, vital connections, etc.”

Speaking on

Tuesday, March 21
11 a.m. to 12 p.m.
Cox Business Stage
“A Keynote with Kelly Hoey: Your Modern Roadmap to Networking in a Hyperconnected World”

To Know “Understand who the customer is. The best investment for a startup is a paying customer, so know who your customer really is and what they will pay for your product or service.”

To Do “Focus on one thing: building your business. Don’t be the founder, entrepreneur, marketer, community strategist, speaker, writer… Focus on one thing, your business, and do that one thing really well.”

Morgan Ford

Senior Community Manager

As the senior community manager for Yelp New Orleans, Morgan Ford lives knee-deep in community marketing initiatives that span social networking, marketing, educating and entertaining. She also has experience on the businesses’ side of social media and review sites, giving her insights into the owners’ perspective and helping them to understand their online marketplace and to take advantage of the free marketing opportunities that online review sites and social media provide.

This is New Orleans, though, where nothing succeeds like real human face time, and Ford was quick to add, “Take the time to mingle. Building brand awareness, especially in New Orleans, takes more than just great online content and an effective e-mail pitch. Research local luncheons and after work social hours. Make time to attend with a pocketful of business cards and an awareness of who might be there that you may benefit from getting to know. A more casual, social interaction can sometimes open the door to relationships that wouldn’t have necessarily been created over the phone or internet, as well as create a healthy break in your work day!”

Speaking on

Thursday, March 23
10 a.m. to 10:30 a.m.
Lookfar Stage
“Manning Your Online Storefront”

To Know  “It’s obvious that brands and businesses have realized the importance of social media as an arm of their marketing, but now more than ever consumers are craving two-way conversations and genuine interactions online. Mastering online relations with your customers will put you and your business head and shoulders above your competitors.”

To Do  “Own and man your online platforms. While this seems obvious, you should pre-emptively claim, set-up and standardize your social media pages as well as your review site listings if you’ve yet to go live. If you already have an online presence, make sure what you’ve put out there has a sense of unity across all platforms. Once you have them set up, carve out time in your schedule to respond to both positive and critical reactions to your online storefronts to create genuine interactions with your online community.”

Manny Ruiz

Hispanicize Media Group

Manny Ruiz has capped his 26-year career in the fields of journalism, communications and business by founding the Hispanicize Media Group, consisting of multiple platforms that include the annual Hispanicize Event, DiMe Media, Hispanic Kitchen, Hispanicize Wire, and the Hispanic PR Blog. Under his direction, the yearly Hispanicize Event has become the nation’s leading event for Latino trendsetters and newsmakers in social media, marketing and entertainment.

Speaking on

Wednesday, March 22
11 a.m. to 12 p.m.
Cox Business Stage
“A Keynote with Manny Ruiz: Embracing Your Inner Pigeon”

To Know “Deregulation and tax deductions for companies should bode well for businesses and for a rise in investments. If you’ve been sitting on a business plan waiting for a great time to pitch your new idea, the marketplace should be more receptive than ever.”

To Do “The coming virtual reality/augmented reality revolution is going to surpass every business and technology innovation that came before it. As an entrepreneur, you need to get ahead of this topic right now and not wait for it to disrupt your ideas and investments. These technologies will be transforming the way many industries operate and their impact will be felt across the entire economy, so you might as well explore what this might mean for you before it happens.”

Summer Suleiman

The Distillery

Summer Suleiman is the editor of The Distillery, a blog that explores the real-life experiences of entrepreneurs. She writes about the challenges and hardships entrepreneurs endure as they start and grow their companies. Suleiman began her career as a journalist with CNN in Atlanta, where she also began practicing meditation. She is trained in mindfulness meditation with the Art of Living foundation and in the transcendental meditation technique.

Speaking on

Tuesday, March 21
10 a.m. to 10:30 a.m.
The Backyard
“How to Make Your Mind Work for Your Money”

To Know “The most important thing an entrepreneur should know in 2017 is that your health is your greatest asset. Taking proper care of both your mental & physical health has a direct ROI for your business. The reality is that the work never stops for an entrepreneur, so it’s critical to cultivate practices that work for your non-stop and ever-changing lifestyle. “
To Do
“The most important thing an entrepreneur should do in 2017 is take at least 10 minutes before the start of each day to breathe, find some form of stillness (like meditation) and cultivate mindfulness. As the ultimate doers, entrepreneurs are wired to constantly be in motion. But mindfulness has actually been proven to improve concentration, flow and our ability to perform under high-pressure situations. It’s a game changer!”

Brandon Davis

Phelps Dunbar LLP

Brandon Davis practices law in the areas of labor and employment, business, and employment-based and family-based immigration. He has represented clients on a variety of human resources and risk management issues and has assisted employers with implementing effective strategies and labor solutions. As part of his immigration practice, Brandon represents employers and individuals in a variety of immigration matters.

Speaking on

Wednesday, March 22
1 p.m. to 2 p.m.
The Classroom
“Growing Globally: Hiring and Retaining Foreign Talent in Uncertain Times”

To Know “Entrepreneurs rely on talented individuals who have the talent, drive, ability and/or financial resources to move their vision forward. This often means identifying talent and capital from global — not exclusively local or even national — sources. In this rapidly-changing global climate, entrepreneurs should know about the broad range of immigration options available that might help them locate talent and raise capital to launch and sustain their ventures.”

To Do “With respect to ‘doing,’ today’s entrepreneur must understand and master the changing times.  The global order is being reshaped.  Old alliances and former ways of doing things have changed and will continue to change.  To succeed now, entrepreneurs must keep abreast of changing facts and then plan accordingly through common sense.”

Anthony Dazet


Anthony Dazet describes himself as a “Foodiepreneur.” A born-and-raised New Orleanian, Dazet has turned his passion for food and marketing into a thriving enterprise that provides “real-time” food reviews and connects people to food-related events.

Speaking on

Wednesday, March 22
10 a.m. to 10:30 a.m.
Cox Business Stage
“The (Social Media) Secret: How to Get to 100k Followers and Stay True to Your Brand”

To Know “Stay focused. It will be easy to get very distracted this year with social media, politics and the constant grind of our daily lives. Stay laser focused on your goals and don’t let all the noise distract you.”

To Do “Keep up with technology. It changes so fast and there is always something new and better. Consistent use of technology is a major focus for any entrepreneur in 2017. Know what’s new, watch the trends and stay engaged with your business, clients and audience. Read, read, read!  Learn from the mistakes of others. Fail forward and keep pushing.”


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Categories: Business Events, The Magazine