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Catapult Fund Coordinator Wins Prestigious Award

Catapult Fund Coordinator Wins Prestigious Award

Louisiana Small Business Development Center State Director Rande Kessler (left) and 2016 State Star Dianne Sclafani, Business Consultant at LSBDC Greater New Orleans and Bayou Region.


When the New Orleans Jazz & Heritage Foundation began reaching out to partners to create the Catapult Fund – a program to provide training and funding for small businesses in the food industry – we knew that Dianne Sclafani was going to be key to our success.

Dianne, a business development consultant with the Louisiana Small Business Development Center for the New Orleans area, has a unique understanding of the food industry. She grew up in it, literally – she was raised in an apartment above family’s restaurant in New Orleans.

Now she has been given the highest honor – the “State Star” – by the organization that oversees small business development centers across Louisiana. 

Those who work with Dianne are not surprised by the award from the statewide Louisiana Small Business Development Centers, which recognizes “an exemplary performer (who) makes a significant contribution to his or her state and shows a strong commitment to small business.”

Since 2013, Dianne has helped entrepreneurs to start 17 businesses, creating more than 115 jobs, and she has helped to secure nearly $2.1 million in financing. So far in 2016, she is working on more than $1.2 million in loan packages on behalf of her clients.

Dianne is “extremely passionate about assisting business owners in achieving success," said Carmen Sunda, who runs the office where Dianne works, the Louisiana Small Business Development Center - Greater New Orleans and Bayou Region.

For the New Orleans Jazz & Heritage Foundation, Dianne manages the instruction for the 12 members of the current class of the Catapult Fund. The Catapult Fund is a program to provide training and grant funds to small business owners. This year’s focus of the Catapult Fund is the food industry, which makes Dianne a natural to provide leadership and assistance.

Dianne coordinates the 17 weekly classes that comprise the business training of the Catapult Fund – organizing the topics and presentations, bringing in guest speakers and teaching many of the classes herself.

One of the Catapult Fund class members, Chris Case of the Old School Eats food truck, said: “Dianne is nicknamed our Fairy Godmother in class as she always seems to know what we need to hear or learn just at the right time. She builds our confidence with knowledge and support. She is also genuinely devoted to making each and every one of us shines.”

Another class member, Becky Wasden of the Two Girls One Shuck oyster catering company, said Dianne’s expertise has been invaluable.

“Dianne probably knows every person in town related to food service, business and banking,” Becky said. “She has brought in such an amazing flow of guest speakers for us to meet, ask questions of and learn from – we’ve learned so much about every facet of culinary business ownership.”

The Catapult Fund is a program of the New Orleans Jazz & Heritage Foundation, along with four partner organizations: The Louisiana Small Business Development Center, Capital One Bank, the Louisiana Cultural Economy Foundation and the Ashé Cultural Arts Center.

In the program, 12 small business owners in the food industry were selected from more than 90 applicants statewide. The participants in the program receive intensive training in entrepreneurship and business operations, with a strong focus on the food service industry. After a 17-week training “boot camp,” the participants present a business plan and are awarded a share of $75,000 in grant funding.

For more about this year’s Catapult Fund participants, see here. For more about the Catapult Fund, see

The New Orleans Jazz & Heritage Festival and Foundation, Inc.