Building a post-Katrina business
Posted: Sunday, March 18, 2012 2:15 pm
Editor: Jacob Geiger
Helena Richardson left her home in New Orleans on a warm August day in 2005, heading for safety before Hurricane Katrina arrived.
She and her husband wouldn’t return for six months. They stayed in Texas after the storm, then moved to Richmond because her husband had landed a nursing job here.
“It was so tiring, because we drove from Texas to New Orleans, got a few things out of the house and drove straight to Richmond,” Richardson recalls. “It looked like a war had taken place. The stench was unbelievable, and it was hard seeing the numbers of the doors that had been spray-painted by search parties.”
While living in New Orleans, Richardson did IT work at NASA’s Stennis Space Center, the nation’s largest test site for rocket engines. She did website development work for the state department of education after arriving in Richmond and started her own company, HRichNetworks, LLC, in April 2009.
“I still get some calls from recruiters, especially about project management positions, but I like the idea of setting my own hours,” she said.
Richardson works with a variety of clients. Most individuals she helps want computer repair, while the small businesses she serves often need help with graphic design projects or network setup. Some of her business has come from companies that previously worked with out-of-state companies on IT projects but wanted to have a local contact.
Richardson has grown her business by participating in the Richmond GATE program. René Haines, a local business consultant, is serving as Richardson’s mentor through the GATE program.
Richardson said Haines helped her focus the business on certain niches, since the IT industry can be so broad.
Business has been climbing since November, Richardson said, as she has gotten more involved with networking and business groups.
As her business grows, Richardson is happy to be in Richmond and glad she’s persevered through the challenges.
“It was very hard to start over,” she said. “I remember we didn’t even have coats for the winter because we left our house in August.”