Klassi R. Duncan currently serves as Vice President of the Center for Entrepreneurship & Innovation (CEI) at the Urban League of Louisiana based in New Orleans, LA. CEI operations include two centers: the Women’s Business Resource Center, and the Contractor’s Resource Center. The CEI provides small business education, counseling services, and access to resources to women and minority entrepreneurs across Southeast Louisiana. In this role, Klassi is responsible for the oversight and management of the organization’s operations, programming, and staff. Her responsibilities include establishing and leading the strategic direction of the organization, developing market-specific training curricula and special events, fund development and management, fostering strategic partnerships, and increasing the Centers’ impact in the community.
Under her leadership, the Women’s Business Resource Center was awarded the 2019 Region VI Women’s Center of Excellence Award and the 2017 Women’s Business Champion Award by the U.S. Small Business Administration, Louisiana District Office for their work in promoting and developing women-owned businesses across the region.
In 2017, Klassi created and produced the Urban League of Louisiana’s first annual Women in Construction Convening, a one day event dedicated to providing women in construction and supporting fields with a platform for professional development, education and networking. In the same year, Klassi also created and produced the Urban League of Louisiana’s annual Veterans Small Business Breakfast and Resources Summit. The purpose of this annual event to thank veteran entrepreneurs for their service, to celebrate their business accomplishments, and to support their entrepreneurial aspirations. In 2019, the CEI held two Veterans Breakfasts, in New Orleans and Shreveport.
Prior to joining the Urban League of Louisiana, Ms. Duncan served as the Director of Business Support & Evaluation for the Goldman Sachs 10,000 Small Businesses program at Delgado Community College, New Orleans, La. In this role, she led the Business Support Services team in providing advising and technical assistance to small businesses. She also oversaw the program’s Measurement and Evaluation function to capture and assess the critical impact metrics of participating businesses before, during, and after graduation. Prior to this role, she served as a Business Advisor for more than three years in the program.
Ms. Duncan began her professional career as a Buyer at Ford Motor Company in Dearborn, MI, where she was responsible for the procurement of various products and services throughout her time with the company, including catalyst internals and IT products and services. In 2008, Ms. Duncan assumed the role of Manager of Supplier Diversity & Sustainability at Covidien, a healthcare manufacturer, in Mansfield, MA. There she was responsible for developing and implementing a strategy and program for the inclusion of small and diverse businesses into the strategic sourcing process, and for working with these businesses to build capacity and increase operational efficiencies. She was also responsible for developing the sustainable sourcing strategy which included product stewardship, materials compliance, and environmentally preferable sourcing policies for various products.
Klassi is an active member of the United States Association of Small Business and Entrepreneurship and the Association for Women’s Business Centers. In recent years, Klassi served on the Board of Directors for the National Association of Women Business Owners – New Orleans Chapter as the Chair of Programs (2018-19) and on the Board of Directors of the Homer A. Plessy Community School in New Orleans and serves as the Chair of the Development Committee (2017-19). She has also participated as a member of the National Association of Women in Construction – New Orleans Chapter, Value Louisiana: Regional Sustainability Committee.
Klassi also supports various other organizations and cause-based non-profit organizations, including Warriors for Willow – MSD Foundation and the Saul’s Light Foundation.
In addition, Klassi is often called upon to serve as a speaker or host to various groups and constituents. In collaboration with the New Orleans Citizens Diplomacy Council, she has been able to support the US Department of State’s International Visitor’s Leadership Program by providing insights on entrepreneurship and guidance on scaling for business growth to a number of business leaders and women entrepreneurs from around the world.
In 2016, Klassi was published in the Huffington Post blog What’s Working: Small Businesses where her article “The Power of the Pivot: Knowing When It’s Time to Change Direction” was featured. She is also a regular speaker during the annual Essence Music Festival’s empowerment series, speaking in 2016, 2017, and most recently, during the 2018 festival on the topic of scalability for entrepreneurs.
In 2019, Klassi was awarded the Regional Leadership Award by the New Orleans Regional Leadership Institute for her dedication to equity and economic development across Southeast Louisiana. In 2018, Klassi was named one of Gambit New Orleans Magazine’s “40 Under 40” leaders to watch in New Orleans. She also received the “Tech Innovator of the Year Award” during the 2018 National Urban League Whitney M. Young Leadership Conference, as well as, the 2018 and 2019 Partner of Year Award from the Women’s Business Enterprise Council-South.
Also in 2019, Klassi served as a special guest speaker at the Women’s Impact Forum in Bordeaux, France. This global convening brought together women from across the world to share, connect, and obtain insights, education and best practices to start and grow their businesses. The conference was hosted by L’Connect, a women’s organization based in Bordeaux, FR that provides education and empowerment programs to women entrepreneurs.
Ms. Duncan earned a BS in Business Management and a Master’s in Business Administration at Florida A&M University in Tallahassee, FL. She is also a Certified Professional in Supply Chain Management and a Certified Professional in Supplier Diversity.