Biz New Orleans January 2022

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Mental Health in Adolescents: What is being done to help? PG. 30

Betting on a dining boom, restaurants are bouncing back PG. 18

Workforce retention: Top benefits to keep employees and reduce turnover PG. 36

(L-R) Scott Wolfe, Jr., Founder and CEO, Levelset; Matt Wisdom, Founder and CEO, TurboSquid; and Patrick Comer, Founder and CEO, Lucid

PROFILES OF THOSE WORKING AT THE TOP OF THEIR GAME, CELEBRATING WINS AND FACING RECOVERY CHALLENGES IN THE NEW YEAR

OF THE

JANUARY 2022








JANUARY EVERY ISSUE

PERSPECTIVES

VOLUME 08 ISSUE 04

FROM THE LENS 54 GREAT WORKSPACES Big Sexy Neon strives to showcase neon art and signage, educate the next generation of neon artists and keep this distinctive craft alive.

08 EDITOR’S NOTE 10 PUBLISHER’S NOTE 12 ON THE WEB 14 WORD ON THE STREET

64 NEW ORLEANS 500 Michael Merideth, CEO of VPG Enterprise

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HEALTHCARE Educators and mental health professionals address emotional wellness in adolescents.

IN THE BIZ 18 DINING Three classic standbys hope for a big boom and a return to the big dining season. 20 TOURISM Promoting an underutilized draw to New Orleans. 22 SPORTS Brian Kelly brings solid resume, questions to LSU. 24 ENTREPRENEUR Space travel? Pothole tech? Anything is possible in the new year.

28 BANKING+FINANCE In New Book, Ricchiuti Profiles New Orleans Entrepreneurs 34 LAW With the PPP money and now everything beginning to open up again, what advice would you give to businesses experiencing a sudden spike in cash and business? 36 GUEST The Great Resignation: What do workers really want?

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WHY DIDN’T I THINK OF THAT?

Local lifestyle brand hits the streets in style with a collaborative shop model.

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Executives of the Year

New Orleans’ top leaders, innovators and creators making big news across the area.


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EDITOR’S NOTE

Publisher Todd Matherne EDITORIAL Managing Editor Kimberley Singletary Art Director Sarah George Digital Media Editor Kelly Massicot Associate News Editor Rich Collins Perspective Writer Drew Hawkins Contributors Ashley McLellan, Chris Price, Jennifer Gibson Schecter, Melanie Warner Spencer, Poppy Tooker, Keith Twitchell

A New Look

Senior Account Executive Jessica Jaycox (504) 830-7255 JessicaJ@BizNewOrleans.com

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hen a new year arrives, the tendency is often to shake things up a bit, maybe offer a new product or change up the look of something. Here at Biz New Orleans, we’ve done both. If you haven’t seen it yet, I encourage you to get your hands on a copy of our newest product, the New Orleans 500, a new annual publication profiling top business leaders in the 10-parish business community. I’m excited to say that our focus on these changemakers will continue on the last page of Biz, where we’ll highlight one member of the New Orleans 500 every month in what used to be our “On the Job” feature. In this issue you’ll also find a fun new addition called “Word on the Street” where we survey the New Orleans 500 on a topic of interest. Both of these changes are part of a redesign that our designer, Sarah George, has been working on for some time. The magazine has taken on a bit more of an edgy, “rock and roll” look that I think fits the excitement and hope we feel for the future of our region. I’m loving it and I hope you do too. Feel free to drop us a note at editor@bizneworleans.com and let us know what you think. In this, our annual Executives of the Year issue, we’ve also switched things up a bit when it comes to our biggest honor — our CEO of the Year. For the past five years we’ve called attention to a single CEO whose work has benefited our region in a big way. This year, however, the biggest positive news came from

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ADVERTISING Sales Manager Caitlin Sistrunk (504) 830-7252 Caitlin@BizNewOrleans.com

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our startup sector in the form of not one, not two, but THREE big exits, each one bigger than the last, culminating in our first unicorn! We are so excited to feature the three CEOs behind these startup superstars as our first-ever three-way tie for CEO of the Year — our “Tech Titans.” I hope you enjoy learning more about them and this year’s other top executives. This elite group is leading some incredible pandemic pivots, a business deal 16 years in the making, a completed $300 million healthcare expansion, a $325 million investment currently underway in our downtown, a workforce educational powerhouse celebrating its centennial and a biotech superstar innovating how drugs are tested. There’s much to celebrate as we look ahead to a new year. May yours be filled with exciting endeavors. Thanks for reading,

Account Executive Meghan Sumrall (504) 830-7246 Meghan@BizNewOrleans.com

RENAISSANCE PUBLISHING MARKETING Coordinator Abbie Dugruise PRODUCTION Manager Rosa Balaguer Arostegui Senior Designer Meghan Rooney CIRCULATION Subscriptions Jessica Armand Distribution John Holzer ADMINISTRATION Office Manager Mallary Wolfe VP of Sales and Marketing Kate Henry Chief Executive Officer Todd Matherne For subscriptions, call (504) 830-7231

2021 Gold Magazine Design Gold Best Explanatory Journalism Gold Feature Design Silver Best Feature Bronze Best Use of Multimedia 2020 Silver Best Recurring Feature 2019 Gold Best Recurring Feature Gold Best Explanatory Journalism 2018 Gold Most Improved Publication Silver Best Recurring Feature 2017 Silver Best Recurring Feature Bronze Best Daily Email 2016 Bronze Best Feature Layout

110 VETERANS BLVD., SUITE 123 • METAIRIE, LA 70005 • (504) 828-1380

KIMBERLEY SINGLETARY Managing Editor Kimberley@BizNewOrleans.com

Biz New Orleans is published monthly by Renaissance Publishing, LLC, 110 Veterans Memorial Blvd., Suite 123, Metairie, LA 70005; (504) 828-1380. Subscription rate: three year $49.95, no foreign subscriptions. Postage paid at Metairie, LA, and additional mailing entry offices. POSTMASTER: Send address changes to Biz New Orleans, 110 Veterans Memorial Blvd., Suite 123, Metairie, LA 70005. Copyright 2022 Biz New Orleans. No part of this publication may be reproduced without the consent of the publisher. The trademark Biz New Orleans is registered. Biz New Orleans is not responsible for unsolicited manuscripts, photos and artwork, even if accompanied by a self-addressed stamped envelope. The opinions expressed in Biz New Orleans are those of the authors and do not necessarily reflect the views of the magazine or owner.


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PUBLISHER’S NOTE

SALES TEAM

New Additions

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s we welcome the New Year, I want to acknowledge some friends to new positions. This year, many business organizations are changing leaders and I am honored to serve on a few of these boards. The Jefferson Business Council welcomes new Executive Director Larry Dale from the school board, replacing Tim Coulon, who, I am convinced, cannot retire. The Jefferson Chamber of Commerce has a new president, Ruth Lawson, who replaces longtime President Todd Murphy as he moves back into private business. Ruth takes over a well-positioned organization and has the courage to continue its dynamic approach to business leadership. The New Orleans Chamber of Commerce’s new president and CEO is long time Chief Operating Officer Sandra Lindquist. As Ben Johnson leaves, I know he will enjoy retirement, while Sandra will continue to execute the chamber with a smooth transition. All of these executives have excellent credentials and will be great leaders for their member organizations. The change in chairmen for these groups should also be reconized for their volunteer leadership as well, including Jim Martin at the JBC, Donna Austin at the Jefferson Chamber and Mindy Nunez Airhart at the New Orleans Chamber. Thank you for your continued dedication to business and leading these groups. Every member of these organizations should be proud of their new leaders. I also want to recognize some promotions at Renaissance Publishing. Leading our produc-

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tion department and creating excellent design is Rosa Balaguer Arostegui, who was recently promoted to production manager. Continuing to grow is Kate Henry who, in addition to being associate publisher of New Orleans Magazine and St. Charles Avenue, takes on the role of vice president of sales and marketing. Closer to home at Biz New Orleans, Drew Hawkins will add the title of perspective writer to his role as company researcher for the New Orleans 500, as well as producing data driven lists and resources for the editorial staff. In this expanded capacity, Drew will take over writing the monthly “Perspective” columns in Biz New Orleans. I am so proud of the staff with all the accomplishments of this past year and look forward to many new and exciting projects in the works for 2022. And finally, I’d like to congratulate Biz Editor Kim Singletary on her new addition to the family. They were blessed to welcome a new baby girl in November.

Caitlin Sistrunk Sales Manager (504) 830-7252 Caitlin@BizNewOrleans.com

Jessica Jaycox Senior Account Executive (504) 830-7255 JessicaJ@BizNewOrleans.com

Meghan Sumrall

TODD MATHERNE CEO and Publisher Renaissance Publishing

Account Executive (504) 830-7246 Meghan@BizNewOrleans.com


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ON THE WEB BIZNEWORLEANS.COM

THE BUSINESS COMMUNITY IS TALKING ON BIZNEWORLEANS.COM Catch all the latest news, plus original reporting, people on the move, videos, weekly podcast and blogs, digital editions of the magazines and daily Morning Biz and afternoon newsletters. If it’s important to business in southeast Louisiana, it’s at BizNewOrleans.com.

BIZ TALKS PODCAST

We live in a wonderful state blessed by geology and geography. But, if you will, that also serves to be our weakness. We tend to have more hurricanes. We’re having problems with flooding and with coastal loss. This bill invests billions in coastal restoration, and ecosystem restoration, specifically in the Gulf of Mexico. And even more specifically, in the Lake Pontchartrain area. It also has billions for flood mitigation. It has billions to redo sewer, water and storm drainage systems. U.S. Sen. Bill Cassidy on the recently passed $1.2 trillion infrastructure bill

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“Many of them agree that while shoppers really do prefer to start their product research online, most will end up heading to a nearby store for pickup, fitting, service, installation, or perhaps to ask a few more detailed questions. Our average retailer is getting tens of thousands of in-stock referrals per month. Google estimates that almost 70 percent of those shoppers will head to a local store after seeing that a product is in stock.” Tom Whelan of New Orleans-based tech company Locally

EPISODE 82

University of Holy Cross to Match TOPS Scholarship Awards

Under President Dr. Stanton McNeely’s leadership, University of Holy Cross’s rankings are on the rise and several new programs are attracting attention. Find about what’s new and what’s next on campus.

EPISODE 81

From Food Truck to Fast Track

Seventh Ward native Greg Tillery has transformed his dream to create tasty chicken wings into an Instagramfueled success story. After only eight years, We Dat’s Chicken and Shrimp now boasts seven locations in two states, plus a popular line of seasonings, and is quickly moving toward franchising.


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WORD ON THE STREET NEW ORLEANS 500 SURVEY

NEWS FROM THE TOP Each month we ask the top business professionals featured in the New Orleans 500 to weigh on news and notables that are impacting New Orleans business community.

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LOOKING UP Almost 70% of execs expect increased revenue in 2022 BY RICH COLLINS

HIGHER

NEW ORLEANS 500 2022 REVENUE PROJECTIONS

7%

LOWER

26% FLAT

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But the bounty of federal funds isn’t the rea business leaders are optimistic only reason to be optimistic about the regional about their organization’s finaneconomy, according to the survey. cial outlook in 2022 but clear-eyed Several execs said the success of the new about the dangers to the greater levee systems during Hurricane Ida is a reason New Orleans economy posed by for hope. In addition, COVID-19 cases are way the uncertain trajectory of the down, restaurants and hotels are filling up, and pandemic and the prospect of the Convention Center is hosting big meetings more hurricanes next year. These again — although not at 2019 levels. Saints are some of the takeaways from a games are full of fans, even though many of the Biz New Orleans email survey of the “New team’s stars are stuck on the sidelines. Orleans 500,” a list of influential executives. Yes, there are worries about the pandemic’s Nearly 70% of the leaders who responded to effect on commercial real estate values, but the the questionnaire say they expect their organiresidential market is expected to continue its zation’s total revenue to climb in 2022. About a hot streak throughout 2022. Amazon and other quarter expect revenue to be flat, and less than companies, meanwhile, are building distri10% are forecasting a drop in earnings. bution centers in the region that will support According to the New Orleans 500, there more transportation activity, while the Port of are plenty of reasons to be optimistic about New Orleans continues to lay the groundwork the city’s economy. For one, there is about for a new container terminal in St. Bernard to be hundreds of millions of dollars circuParish that would increase the amount of cargo lating through it thanks to federal pandemic moving through the greater New Orleans area. relief, hurricane relief and the recently signed Also great news: the record setting “exits” of infrastructure bill. Several survey respondents several New Orleans-based technology compaemphasized how important it is to spend that nies. In 2021, local tech startup Lucid sold for money wisely, though. $1 billion, Levelset sold for $500 million and “We cannot assume that the last year is a Turbosquid sold for $75 million. These acquispecial case, and we must plan accordingly,” sitions prove that the city is a said James Martin, an executive viable place to launch a startup at LM Wind Power Tech Center and make it easier for local Americas. “Now is the time for entrepreneurs to attract out-ofbold and entrepreneurial moves Have an idea for a survey town investment. to attract new businesses, such question for the New In addition to all this, many as those emerging in offshore Orleans 500? Please email survey respondents are optiwind energy.” rich@bizneworleans.com.

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mistic that New Orleans will be a destination of choice for remote workers, who will be drawn by the city’s unique culture combined with a relatively low cost of living. “[New Orleans] continues to be one of the most authentic and unique cities in the U.S. We can and should build on that distinction,” said Chris Bourg, executive vice president at Crescent Crown Distributing. “The expansion of our economy into technologies [is encouraging]. We should be a substantial player in the tech space.” Survey respondents agreed on the many challenges facing the city and surrounding parishes. In addition to concerns about future storms and potential pandemic spikes, local leaders place infrastructure, crime, inflation, rising insurance costs, labor shortages and supply chain disruptions at the top of the list. Many expressed hope that the city will use this historic moment to address these problems — and even “build back better.” “I worry about our continued over-reliance on tourism as an economic base, clearly an unsustainable foundation even in non-pandemic times,” said Jennifer Avegno, director of the New Orleans health department. “We have so many local resources — our higher education institutions, historically strong manufacturing and construction industries, medical research, a burgeoning tech and bio scene — that we can, and should, take advantage of these transition times and historic federal investments to rightsize their impacts.” T


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A P PH OTO/ M AT T H E W H I N TO N

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DINING

TOURISM

ENTREPRENEUR

Three classic standbys hope for a big boom and a return to the big dining season.

Promoting an underutilized draw to New Orleans

Space travel? Pothole tech? Anything is possible in the new year.

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SPORTS Brian Kelly brings solid resume, questions to LSU


IN THE BIZ DINING

POPPY TOOKER has spent her life devoted to the cultural essence that food brings to Louisiana, a topic she explores weekly on her NPR-affiliated radio show, Louisiana Eats! From farmers markets to the homes and restaurants where our culinary traditions are revered and renewed, Poppy lends the voice of an insider to interested readers everywhere.

Make Way for the Roaring 2022s

“After almost a year of having nights, weekends and holidays to themselves, a lot of service industry folks are thinking, ‘Maybe I’ll do something else,’” she said. As a result, Commander’s is aggressively tackling the employee issue. This past Christmas Eve, the restaurant closed despite it being their fourth biggest annually. “We’re trying to make life Three classic standbys hope for a big boom more worthwhile for our team.” and a return to the big dining season. Commander’s offers weekly, paid staff training, whimsically dubbed “Aqua Blue U,” which focuses on leadership, team manageBY POPPY TOOKER ment and other industry-specific themes. Not only do team members earn handsome compensation, but “After Commander’s,” Martin said “you can go off and pursue any career with the skills you have learned here.” The biggest pandemic wake-up call for Martin came from the diversified new income here is a lot of pent-up party continued. She especially loves to plan and streams made possible through delivering about to roll into the Crescent host unique, themed lunches and dinners at Commander’s dining experience to homes City. How are the city’s historical Arnaud’s, inviting New Orleanians to don a nationwide. “Although I had been resistant to eateries preparing to roar into costume and join the party, something she looks Goldbelly for a long time, I got religion real 2022? For answers, we turned to forward to continuing in 2022. quick once orders for gumbo, quail and turtle Katy Casbarian, Lisa Blount and Antoine’s was also a preferred private dining soup began to flow in.” (Goldbelly is an online Ti Martin, of Arnaud’s, Antoine’s space during the pandemic, but today, Lisa gourmet marketplace that facilitates sales for and Commander’s Palace Blount, wife of owner Rick Blount, reports restaurants.) She reports that the wine and respectively. an uptick in requests for large parties in the cheese Zoom parties, which were a pandemic When New Orleans is in full swing, packed bustling main dining rooms. “They want to be sensation, will also continue in 2022. “We had with conventions, festivals and partying locals, part of the excitement. They’re lingering longer over 1,000 people from across the country the big three regularly host thousands of diners at tables over favorites like pommes souffles online during our last event. They love to between them on any given day. With closures, and Pompano Pontchartrain.” costume and party New Orleans-style.” capacity restrictions and employee shortages, In preparation for the new year, Antoine’s is The extent that inflation will impact 2022 that hasn’t occurred since early spring 2020. Yet reviving some classic old cocktails and filling remains unknown, while food costs skyrocket all signs today point to a remarkable recovery. up the wine cellar with celebratory bottles of and supply limitations continue to plague the When Arnaud’s reopened in June 2020, Champagne. “There are so many parties that industry. Arnaud’s, Antoine’s and Commandco-owner Katy Casbarian saw a new appreciation couldn’t happen during the pandemic,” Blount er’s have all been forced to reduce menu among locals for her family’s century-plus-old said, “we’re booking dates into 2023.” items, while still respecting the demand for restaurant. “People love to celebrate with us,” she Yet the specters of inflation and employee luxury dishes, such veal and crab. Despite the said. “With our many private dining spaces, they shortages heavily overshadow the challenge, prix fixe menus for were so happy to have the opportunity to safely current business boom. Last fall, bargain seeking diners will also reconnect with family and friends and continue all three restaurants were forced continue in 2022. to mark special occasions at Arnaud’s by dining to refuse reservations, while From weekly jazz brunches Catch Poppy Tooker on her radio privately in one of our many unique rooms. rooms in their vast establishments to Mardi Gras madness, New show, “Louisiana “Even without having an official Mardi Gras remained empty. Orleans’ grande dame dining Eats!” Saturdays 2021, we hosted many float parties for krewes “It’s a very different world we’re establishments are optimistically at 3 p.m. and who couldn’t ride, have a traditional ball or living in,” Ti Martin co-owner of looking for 2022 to finally bring in Mondays at 8 p.m. on WWNO 89.9 FM. observe any of the usual ceremonies,” Casbarian Commander’s Palace reflected. the new roaring 20’s. T

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I L LU S T R AT I O N BY PADDY MILLS

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IN THE BIZ TOURISM

JENNIFER GIBSON SCHECTER was once a tourist in New Orleans herself and is now proud to call NOLA home.

Wellness Travel

Promoting an underutilized draw to New Orleans BY JENNIFER GIBSON SCHECTER

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Primary wellness options in our region are not as rare as one might think. A quick Google search results in several yoga and meditation retreats scheduled for early this year, as well as spas in some of our famed hotels such as the Ritz-Carlton and Hotel Monteleone. People who find nature restorative can choose from numerous camping options an easy drive from the New Orleans Louis Armstrong International Airport, including Bayou Segnette State Park and Fountainebleau State Park. For secondary wellness, the options are much broader. Continuing personal wellness practices during vacation can tie to almost any healthy habit. There are more than 40 yoga and Pilates studios in our metro region, not to mention gyms that offer day rates and hotel gym facilities. Audubon Park, City Park and Lafreniere Park are all easily accessible for running and walking, and Bayou St. John and Lake Pontchartrain offer a number of water activities as well. When tourists dine out, one of the most useful tools developed for our region is Ochsner’s Eat Fit NOLA. More than 125 local restaurants, including our most lauded establishments, partner with the healthy eating program that coordinates with chefs to develop menu items that meet healthy eating standards, including measuring for calories, sugar and sodium content. Some of our favorite Cajun and Creole dishes actually can be made with a recipe that doesn’t come served with a side of remorse. It isn’t a far stretch to market these amenities to wellness travelers and entice them to take a chance on the Big Easy. They are a desirable group to target. GWI reports that wellness trips accounted for only 6.5% of all tourism trips but represented 16.2% of all expenditures in 2020. They say this is because wellness travelers tend to spend much more per trip than the average traveler. And importantly, wellness tourism needn’t rely on Mardi Gras or any specific festival. It can happen year-round and at scales that might fare better during potential pandemic cancellations. T

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vacation in New Orleans is hardly synonymous with healthy travel. Our award-winning restaurants are not acclaimed for their petite calorie counts, and our mixologists make more than mocktails. But within our culture that celebrates living life to its fullest, wellness tourism combines the exploration of new places with a focus on acheiving longevity, and our region can harness this travel trend.

Travel overall may be on the upswing. Despite current and emerging COVID-19 virus variants, travel industry experts are anticipating surges in travel for 2022 that correspond to increased vaccination rates. A recent report by the World Travel & Tourism Council found that in 2022, the U.S. travel sector is anticipated to grow by 28.4% and travel will generate nearly $2 trillion for the U.S. economy this year. Expedia’s 2022 Travel Trends Report found that more than 36% of U.S. travelers are searching for a sense of contentment and mental well-being during their next trip, and they plan to put away their screens – 24% of them said they intend to be more present and spend less time on electronic devices during travel. The Global Wellness Institute (GWI) has been tracking wellness travel for years, and it predicts that wellness tourism will be a major travel trend in 2022. GWI defines wellness tourism as “travel associated with the pursuit of maintaining or enhancing one’s personal well-being.” In its Dec. 2021 report, “The Global Wellness Economy: Looking Beyond COVID,” GWI charts the rise of wellness travel from 2017-2019, which culminated in $720.4 billion globally spent on wellness travel in 2019. COVID-19 travel restrictions reduced that amount to $435.7 billion in 2020. However, GWI is projecting a 21% annual growth rate for wellness tourism through 2025, reflecting new traveler values that include a quest for nature, sustainability and mental wellness, as well as a period of rapid recovery from pent-up demand in 2021 and 2022. GWI identifies two different types of wellness trips, and the Greater New Orleans area is equipped to offer both. The first, primary wellness, includes travel where the trip itself, the destination and the activities are primarily motivated by wellness. Secondary wellness travel refers to trips where wellness affects some choices and activities because the traveler would like to maintain good health and/or their wellness lifestyle during the trip.


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IN THE BIZ SPORTS

CHRIS PRICE is an award-winning journalist and public relations principal. When he’s not writing, he’s avid about music, the outdoors, and Saints, Ole Miss and Chelsea football.

The Irishman

Brian Kelly brings solid resume, questions to LSU BY CHRIS PRICE

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on the College Football Playoff trophy presentation stage. But will LSU’s recruits – and their parents – believe Kelly has their best intentions in mind or his? Going into 2021 conference championship weekend, the Irish stood at 11-1 and ranked No. 6 in the nation. Despite the opportunity for Notre Dame to move into the four-team playoff, he left the program and flew south for, as he said, an “easier path to the national championship.” College sports – especially off the field rules and regulations – have changed dramatically in recent years. Coaches bounce from program to program in search of the best opportunities. Players can transfer from team to team without penalty. But relationships – especially between players and coaches – are still at the heart of the game. Hopefully, Kelly can return LSU to a championship caliber. He’ll be doing it in the toughest division in the toughest conference in the nation – 13 of the SEC’s 14 teams qualified for bowls this year. He’ll have to win early to shake the malaise of the rabid fanbase and do it with players former coach Ed Orgeron recruited. Max Johnson, the 2021 starting quarterback, has already announced his intention to transfer. Some recruits have rescinded their commitments to enroll. Kelly’s first task will be to turn the tide of people leaving and establishing a level of trust with current and potential players. He’ll be questioned about his loyalty to his players – and some may be turned off by the way he left Notre Dame. That’s a tough way to start a re-building project. He has shown he has the skill to build a winner, but will he be able to meet LSU’s level of expectations? That is one of the biggest questions as the Tigers enter a new era with Kelly at the helm.T I L LU S T R AT I O N BY PADDY MILLS

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SU’s athletic department has made clear its expectations. The lede of its press release announcing the hiring of former Notre Dame head coach Brian Kelly read, “The search for LSU Football’s next championship head coach is over.” The Fighting Tigers won national championships with Nick Saban in 2003, Les Miles in 2007, and Ed Orgeron in 2019. The purple and gold faithful have put their trust in Kelly, to make the program national champions once again.

Kelly brings an amazing resume to Baton Rouge. LSU athletics director Scott Woodward called him, “the most accomplished hire in program history.” In 2021, he moved ahead of the legendary coach Knute Rockne for most wins by a Notre Dame head coach (113), has more victories (280) than any active coach in college football, and led the Irish to the 2012 BCS national title game as well as College Football Playoff appearances in 2018 and 2020. Of interest to fans and potential recruits, Notre Dame produced 53 NFL Draft picks since 2012, including nine in the first round. “Brian Kelly is the epitome of a winner,” Woodward said at the press conference to formally introduce the new hire. “His credentials and consistency speak for themselves.” He’s getting paid like it, too. LSU signed Kelly to a 10-year, $95 million contract, plus incentives, but he’ll have his work cut out for him as he tries to rebuild a team coming off consecutive .500 seasons and not living up to the program’s high expectations. “I could not be more excited to join a program with the commitment to excellence, rich traditions, and unrivaled pride and passion of LSU Football,” Kelly said at his introductory press conference. “I am fully committed to recruiting, developing, and graduating elite student-athletes, winning championships, and working together with our administration to make Louisiana proud.” Tiger fans have to be excited about his drive to win a national title. However, it will be an interesting relationship to watch. Despite raising banners in Tiger Stadium, LSU fired its last two head coaches mid-season. The ongoing Title IX litigation and accusations of mishandling of sexual assault reports still hangs over the program and could have negative effects. Additionally, the way Kelly left the Irish may impact his ability to draw talent to LSU. There is thought that without Notre Dame’s rigorous academic requirements, LSU’s program will attract talent who may perform better on the field than the classroom, and finally get himself



IN THE BIZ ENTREPRENEUR

KEITH TWITCHELL spent 16 years running his own business before becoming president of the Committee for a Better New Orleans. He has observed, supported and participated in entrepreneurial ventures at the street, neighborhood, nonprofit, micro- and macro-business levels.

Entrepreneurial Predictions for 2022

labs, amusement rides and scuba-diving classes. The winner, however, is a company called Pothole Pot, which debuts a way to use the potholes for micro-marijuana farms, supplying Space travel? Pothole tech? Anything the newly increased product demand that is possible in the new year. follows the Louisiana Legislature’s approval of smokable cannabis for medical prescriptions. On a related note, numerous entrepreBY KEITH T WITCHELL neurs launch new marijuana brands to supply Louisiana patients. Among the most popular are Gator Grass, Li’l Mary Jane, Jazz Joints, Panama Rouge, and Burn on the Bayou. Ex-Coach Orgeron also jumps into the marketplace, with a low-potency strain named O-Wow. hile exactly none of last year’s of various sizes that don’t actually hold anything To no one’s surprise, redevelopment of the prognostications came true, up; O-Rings, with a purchase limit of one per former Six Flags site runs into six snags, if not your intrepid columnist is customer; and O-Positive, a series of self-help more. Updated projections for completion of forging ahead with a whole videos that train people to remain optimistic the project set a target of early 2118, coinciding new set of entrepreneurial regardless of the realities around them. with the 400th anniversary of the founding of predictions for 2022. I was The hot market for New Orleans businesses New Orleans. hoping to get a better crystal only gets hotter. In tech, a previously unknown With COVID-19 at last receding, and mask ball for this year, but supply translation app that explains colloquialisms like mandates largely a thing of the past, innovachain issues mean the one I “want that dressed?” and “I know where you got tive reuses of everyone’s vast collection of face ordered last summer is still in a cargo container dem shoes” to tourists is snapped up by Fodor’s. masks spark several new businesses. Included somewhere along the West Coast. A repellent spray designed to ward off corrupt in that number are Corona Clothes Company, The competition in the space tourism busiLouisiana politicians, called “Bayou Off,” is makers of fashionable stitched-mask apparel; ness goes into warp speed. To counter charges purchased by a new joint venture between Raid Vic’n’Nat’ly’s Secret, which uses masks to create that rocket fuel is environmentally damaging, and the FBI. And Bud’s Broiler becomes the seductive ladies’ undergarments; and Xmasks, Elon Musk develops an electric rocket; unfornext local “unicorn,” selling to McDonald’s for which converts the facial coverings into tasteful tunately, it is recalled halfway into its first flight. 1 billion hamburgers. holiday decorations and wrapping paper. A new “pleasure trip” for amorous couples Caesars Entertainment, having rebranded Unfortunately, one mask reuse concept launches under the brand name “SpaceXXX.” the Canal Street casino and purchased naming that does not succeed is using them to cover And Carnival Cruise Lines announces plans for rights to the Superdome, further expands its up the city’s potholes, as the mask supply a cruise ship-sized space capsule, complete with visibility. The company buys naming rights cannot meet demand. The company behind the a freeze-dried buffet and Tang cocktail bars. to the Causeway, City Hall, the former Lee venture pivots quickly and offers masks to the With Facebook clarifying its intention of Circle, the French Quarter, and Mayor LaToya city as liners to undergird repaving of the many universal domination via its new name, Meta, Cantrell’s first-born child. streets under repair. Sadly, this effort also fails, other major tech companies will follow suit. New Orleans Entrepreneur Week as none of the repairs are close Microsoft will change its name to Mega; Google makes a splashy comeback, highenough to completion to start the will change its name to Gaga; and the alwayslighted by a new entrepreneurial actual repaving. trendy AOL will change its name to LOL. contest for companies that make Writer Keith Will any of these prognostiTwitchell’s blog, Closer to home, now-former LSU football innovative uses of New Orleans cations actually come to pass? “Neighborhood coach Ed Orgeron will launch several new prodpotholes. Finalists include firms Maybe not – but here’s one bold Biz,” can be read ucts to keep the revenue flowing (unlike the proposing to use these massive prediction for a much better each Thursday on Tigers’ offense). Among them are O-Lines, ropes divots for hot tubs, marine biology year ahead for us all! T BizNewOrleans.com.

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PERSPECTIVES

28 BANKING+FINANCE

In new book, Ricchiuti profiles New Orleans entrepreneurs

34 LAW

Four lawyers discuss their toughest case

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HEALTHCARE

GUEST

Educators and mental health professionals address emotional wellness in adolescents

The Great Resignation: What do workers really want?


PERSPECTIVES BANKING+FINANCE

AN OPEN BOOK In his new book, Peter Ricchiuti profiles New Orleans entrepreneurs, and what makes them tick BY RICH COLLINS

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ulane University finance professor Peter Ricchiuti and journalist Annette Sisco have co-authored a new book titled “Being Your Own Boss Is Terrific: Unless you’re calling in sick … because then you know you are lying!” Available on Amazon, the tome is a collection of entrepreneurial stories based on some of the interviews Ricchiuti has conducted over the last decade for his weekly “Out to Lunch” business podcast and WWNO radio show. Ricchiuti also offers practical, often humorous tips for anyone starting a business. “After almost 11 years of interviewing the area’s entrepreneurs and small business people — about 850 in all — I had developed a whole bunch of interesting and inspiring stories that I included in my speeches,” said Ricchiuti, who has delivered more than 1200 presentations in 47 states and several countries. “Audiences really enjoyed them and I thought I should write them down while they were still fresh in my mind.” For help with the project, Ricchiuti approached Sisco, who co-wrote his previous book “Stocks Under Rocks.” The pair selected 36 of the most engaging stories and organized them into 12 chapters. There is a business lesson at the end of each chapter. “It was an excellent pandemic project and we spent many an afternoon in our masks

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exchanging ideas,” said Ricchiuti. “I wanted it to be very funny, and I think we got it. … The hardest part was culling it down to just a few dozen entrepreneurs. Each week I meet so many incredible people and the show has made me the most optimistic guy in town.”

The book, which took about 18 months to complete, makes clear how much affection Ricchiuti has for the business people he’s met while making the show — and how evangelical he is about their work. “I sometimes refer to both the show and the book as “entrepreneurship for the rest of us,” he said. “Many people will say, ‘Oh, I could have come up with that.’ But, here’s the thing: you didn’t and they did.” There are common traits linking the entrepreneurs who’ve been guests on “Out to Lunch.” For one thing, almost all of them have experienced failed entrepreneurial ventures in the past, and “what surprised me is that they didn’t try to hide this,” said Ricchiuti. “It is sort of a merit badge for these folks.” Another commonality: “They each had several other ideas lodged in their heads and most never wanted to go back and ‘work for the man.’” Ricchiuti said some of the entrepreneurs are seeking fame and fortune while others want to bring jobs to their community or serve as role models. Interestingly, most don’t want to scale their companies. They value a work-life balance. Notably—maybe alarmingly?— threequarters of the guests on the show aren’t originally from the New Orleans area. “Over time, I realized that nurturing the area’s entrepreneurs was really the best hope for growing the New Orleans economy,” said Ricchiuti. “Let’s face it: New Orleans is weird. And that’s why we love living here. But this makes it difficult to attract existing businesses. Most big companies are attracted to ‘cookie cutter’ places. I think I’m most proud that the show seems to raise the pride of the people who live here. I hope the book does the same thing. So many people tend to focus on the area’s negatives (crime, potholes and education, and rightfully so) and have no idea about these fascinating success stories. … For instance, how many people know that the rocket to Mars is being built in the Ninth Ward?” T


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PERSPECTIVES HEALTHCARE

DID YOU KNOW? According to statistics compiled by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention in March 2021, approximately 4.4 million youths have diagnosed anxiety disorders, 1.9 million have diagnosed depressive disorders and nearly 75 percent of those diagnosed with depression also meet criteria for anxiety disorders.

A STATE OF MIND Mental health professionals address emotional wellness in adolescents BY JAMES SEBASTIEN

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ven in the age of political correctness, the stigma associated with mental health unfortunately remains very much intact, something that can be especially hard on adolescents who are struggling to find their identity and place in this world. “Adolescents struggle with depression and anxiety, which can be triggered by multiple events [such as] bullying, body image issues or problems in the home,” said Kertrina Watson Lewis, director of communication at DePaul Community Health Centers.

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“Suicide is the second leading cause of death among adolescents. Excessive social media use, coupled with cyberbullying, are contributory causes of anxiety and depression.” There is no magic cure for treating youths with mental health issues, but the first step is an easy one: create a safe space, according to Lewis. “Adolescents need to have a safe space to discuss their issues,” she said. “We must help to dispel the stigma attached to therapy. Young people need outdoor physical activity. Screen time and activities done in isolation should be limited. Listen closely to them when they open up and talk.” Lewis advises parents to look out for any changes in mood or activity, and if necessary, consult a primary care provider who will be able to recommend a behavioral health provider. Adolescents can also consult with their school social worker or counselor for emotional support. “Pay attention and be kind,” Lewis said. “Don’t judge or make negative assumptions about behaviors that may be a cry for help. If they feel that they can speak freely, they will be more inclined to discuss the underlying issues, which can begin the process to [achieve] emotional and mental wellness.” With Hurricane Ida and the ongoing pandemic, we have all been through a lot, but with all the COVID-19 safety precautions and regulations, the toll on the youth cannot go unnoticed. “Our hope is that the past year and a half has created a stronger sense of resilience in adolescents that will help them in adulthood, and that adolescents will begin to receive the mental health care that they need,” Lewis said. “There needs to be greater access to care along with dispelling the myth that counseling is for ‘crazy’ people. “It is healthy to process thoughts, feelings and achievements with a neutral party that can help young people get in touch with their feelings in a nonjudgmental space.” DePaul Community Health Centers offers behavioral health services at its 11 health centers and at 27 schools in the Greater New Orleans area. Families seeking support for their children may contact DCHC at (504) 207-3064. DEPRESSION AND ANXIETY

While mental health issues in adolescents may stem from many sources, the issues usually manifest in forms of depression and anxiety. And for some teens, these feelings may seem impossible to overcome.

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There needs to be greater access to care along with dispelling the myth that counseling is for ‘crazy’ people.

Kertrina Watson Lewis, director of communication at DePaul Community Health Centers

According to statistics compiled by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention in March 2021, approximately 4.4 million youths have diagnosed anxiety disorders, 1.9 million have diagnosed depressive disorders and nearly 75 percent of those diagnosed with depression also meet criteria for anxiety disorders. “The rates of depression and anxiety have increased over time, with approximately one in five youths currently having a diagnosable mental health disorder,” said Mary Lynn Dell, MD, medical director of Psychiatry and Behavioral Health at Children’s Hospital New Orleans. “Early identification and effective treatment of child and adolescent depression and anxiety would not only improve quality of life, but would provide coping skills [for] many of the stresses that exacerbate poor mental health, such as bullying, adverse social media influences and substance use. And, of course, earlier identification and treatment also will reduce the most extreme consequence of adolescent mental health concerns – suicide.” But how can professionals and families help? Dr. Dell recommends providing a calm, nonjudgmental presence and healthy routines; permitting youths to grieve, whether it be disrupted friendships, lost opportunities, damaged or lost property, or deaths of family members and others important to them; and encouraging reconnections with friends and family members. T


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PERSPECTIVES LAW

What was your toughest case? IAN C. BARRAS Registered Patent Attorney Intellectual Property Consulting, L.L.C.

MATTHEW SHERMAN Attorney Chehardy, Sherman, Williams, Recile and Hayes

The most challenging case I have handled involved representing a minority member/ shareholder of a family business. My client and his wife started the company many years ago, and along the way, permitted other family members to acquire an ownership interest in the company. For many different reasons, my client decided to withdraw from the company and hired us to obtain the fair market value of his share. Like any dispute involving family members, this case was complicated because of the emotional toll on all parties involved. Separating emotions from legal issues is always a difficult task, especially when you form a close relationship with your client.

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One of my toughest cases was a trademark infringement lawsuit where our client, the brand owner, sued an infringer. The case was straightforward, and my client was headed toward an easy victory on the merits, which prompted the defendant to settle. That’s when the real trouble started. First, the defendant refused to honor settlement terms the parties had agreed to just a few weeks earlier, forcing us to go back to court to enforce the settlement. Later, once the settlement issues were resolved, the defendant simply ignored both the settlement agreement and a related consent judgment, forcing us to file a motion for contempt which eventually resulted in a full hearing before the court. Our client ultimately prevailed. Thankfully, our client understood that winning on the merits is sometimes just the beginning of the fight.

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Bruce A. Cranner “I typically wear the hat of commercial litigator, but [also]serve as a Swiss law expert in U.S. litigations, given my background as a Swiss-trained lawyer. My first such matter involved a highstakes case with complex questions of Swiss probate and estate law. The case involved the estate of a golden-era Hollywood actor who passed in Switzerland. Translating Swiss precedent and doctrine from German and French into English, and finding ways to explain concepts of Swiss law that did not have direct U.S. parallels, made this matter particularly challenging yet rewarding.” David N. Luder Member, Barrasso Usdin Kupperman Freeman & Sarver, L.L.C

Partner Talley, Anthony, Hughes & Knight, L.L.C.

At the end of the Cold War, a lot of grain to support Russia was being shipped through the Port of New Orleans. The river was full of Russian ships. A young Ukrainian man named Miroslav Medvid was crewman on one of these ships. He was Roman Catholic and felt oppressed by Russian/Soviet regime then governing his country, so when his shipped anchored off Belle Chasse he slipped over the side and swam for the freedom he hoped to find. A kindly couple dutifully turned him into federal officials who listened to his plea for asylum and brought him back to his ship. A Ukrainian/ American aid society were mounting an effort to arrest the Russian ship and save Medvid from certain imprisonment or death. I accepted the case and over the next few days arrested the ship and, under my senior partners, litigated to retain the vessel in New Orleans. The testimony was compelling and dramatic, but the outcome was, unfortunately, predictable. The arrest was lifted, the ship departed and all hope that Medvid would survive was lost. I regretted that outcome for years until, just a few years ago, the local press reported that a certain Ukrainian priest had spent some time in New Orleans. It was Miroslav Medvid who returned to Ukraine safely after all to serve and live his faith.


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PERSPECTIVE GUEST

JACK DUVERNAY is one of Louisiana’s leading employee benefits professionals with nearly 20 years of experience. Specializing in both small and large group employee benefits, Jack advises clients on all aspects of benefits selection, administration, managing open enrollment, employee education, and providing benefits and labor law compliance support.

The Great Resignation What do workers really want? BY JACK DUVERNAY, BENEFITS ONE

For any job offer, salary will be a crucial factor, but benefits play a vital role in overall employee compensation. So, what are some of the top benefits employees are looking for right now? • HEALTH INSURANCE

This staple benefit is of the utmost importance to job candidates and typically includes coverage for their families. In fact, 46% of U.S. adults said health insurance was the either the deciding factor or a positive influence in choosing their current job, and 56% said that employer-sponsored health coverage is a key factor in deciding to stay in their current job. • RETIREMENT

The most common type of employer-sponsored retirement plan is the 401(k). These plans allow both employees and employers to make tax-deductible contributions to employees’ accounts and, as such can be the most efficient way to supplement employee salaries. • DISABILITY

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mid the economic panic of 2020, workers were unwilling to sacrifice job security for a new work environment. Many workers felt it was foolish to re-enter the job market during this crisis. However, in 2021, employers from nearly every industry have experienced unprecedented resignations and turnover known as “The Great Resignation.” The U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics announced that a record 4.4 million Americans quit their jobs in September alone. Turnover is expensive: recruiting, hiring, onboarding, and training new hires is costly and when an employee leaves, the company not only loses a valuable resource but also must re-distribute duties to other team members until a replacement is hired and trained. Unnecessary and excess turnover can have a ripple effect on operations and morale. Employers are always looking for ways to attract and retain talented employees.

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Employers can offer short-term disability (STD) or long-term disability (LTD) insurance to their employees. If an employee is unable to work due to illness or injury, these plans can replace lost income while employees are out. • LIFE INSURANCE

Life insurance and accidental death and dismemberment insurance (AD&D) are important as employees look to the future and want reassurance in protecting their families. Employers should also consider some less traditional benefits that have become increasingly popular. These “perks” can be offered in addition to the employee’s salary and benefits package and may sway an employee to value one employer over another. Some of the most valued perks in 2022 are: • MENTAL HEALTH RESOURCES

Wellbeing and mental health have taken on a new significance during the pandemic. 48% of employees indicated they have experienced elevated levels of stress and are looking for support. Employers can offer an

Employee Assistance Program (EAP) which helps employees solve problems – including those related to finances or other non-work stresses. But employers are also offering more comprehensive mental health services such behavioral telehealth. Behavioral telehealth allows employees to access care from their homes with more options for safety, privacy and convenience. • PAID LEAVE

Shockingly, 32 million U.S. workers do not get paid sick days. Employees need to unplug and recharge. Offering paid sick days and paid vacation days is an easy place to start for drastically improving the lives of your staff. • FLEXIBILITY/REMOTE WORK OPTIONS

Remote work and flexibility have always been popular among employees, but their importance soared during the pandemic. Flexibility has been a key factor in providing for employees who have had changes in their life such as caring for a chronically ill loved one or those who suddenly had virtual school for their children. In fact, 76% of workers said they would be more willing to stay with their current employer if they could work flexible hours. • FAMILY LEAVE/CHILD CARE

This past year has served as a reminder that employees’ lives do not just revolve around work. With pets and children crashing our Zoom calls, and other responsibilities – including eldercare and childcare – on worker’s minds, it is evident that employees have other responsibilities and priorities that distract us from work. During the pandemic, one in four women considered leaving the workforce or scaled back their work role because of added family caregiving pressures. Employees want their employers to recognize and care for them so as we navigate this strange new world, smart business leaders should take the time to regularly ask their employees for feedback. The best leaders will also find a way to act on this feedback. Offering valuable benefits and meaningful perks will be a key driver in retaining and acquiring incredible talent amid “The Great Resignation.” T

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PORTRAITS BY GREG MILES EXECUTIVE PROFILES BY CHRIS PRICE CEO PROFILES BY KEITH TWITCHELL CEO INTRODUCTION BY RICH COLLINS

OF THE YEAR


Each year, we face the difficult task of selecting our CEO and Executives of the Year. The task is difficult simply because New Orleans is so rich in leadership, innovation and ideas. This year was no different, except for the fact that our leaders faced monumental obstacles in 2021, from pandemic pivots to hurricane delays. Despite all, each one excelled in their field and provided unparalleled services to the New Orleans business community. We look forward to a new year, one which we are sure will be rich with opportunities and continued development.


“WE’VE HAD ONE HIT AFTER ANOTHER, BUT WE HAVE MANAGED TO REBOUND.”

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EDUCATION

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LARISSA LITTLETON-STEIB CHANCELLOR, DELGADO

LARISSA LITTLETON-STEIB is chancellor of Delgado Community College, but she calls herself “the chancellor of crisis management.” “We’ve had one hit after another, but we have managed to rebound. We are resilient, and I am just so proud of what Delgado Community College has been able to do in spite of what we faced this past year.” Littleton-Steib has many reasons to be proud. Hired in 2019, she’s had to endure the COVID-19 pandemic for most of her term. As the virus seemed to wane this summer, Hurricane Ida struck. Still, 2021 was a banner year for the school, which is celebrating its centennial. In March, education research firm Intelligent.com named Delgado one of Top 50 Community Colleges in the nation. That same month, the school broke ground on the Ochsner Center for Nursing and Allied Health. In July, Delgado reached a credit transfer agreement with University of Holy Cross, meaning its students can now transfer their Delgado credits to every public and private school in the state. To top it off, the $9.3 million Advanced Technology Center on Delgado’s Westbank Campus opened in August. “I’m the chancellor of the institution, so I get the interviews and quotes, but this could not have been done without the dedicated group of individuals that I have working along with me in our faculty and staff,” Littleton-Steib said. “Our faculty flipped 100% of our classes that were face-to-face to virtual. Our staff worked virtually nonstop. We never closed our doors. We were constantly open, and that is why we were named No. 37. There are 1,187 community colleges in the United States, so for us to be No. 37, that’s saying a lot.” In March, the school received the largest gift in its 100-year history. Ochsner Health gave $20 million with a stipulation that $10 million be used to establish the Ochsner Center for Nursing and Allied Health at the City Park Campus, expected to open for the spring semester in 2023, and the other $10 million to fund the Ochsner Scholars program. “Delgado produces 1,200 nursing and allied health professionals each year who remain in New Orleans and the surrounding metropolitan area,” she said. “This facility will allow our students to train in a setting as if they worked in a hospital. It will be state of the art with the latest equipment. The school of nursing is going to be a tremendous game-changer. “There are many exciting things on the horizon for Delgado Community College.”


LAW

MANAGING PARTNER AT MG+M

Max Swetman, a managing partner at MG+M The Law Firm, is one of only a handful of attorneys in the United States who has a law degree and a master’s in public health in epidemiology. So, when COVID-19 emerged in 2020, and its variants spread last year, he was uniquely positioned to not only keep his firm at the forefront, but was also able to help new and existing clients – some of whom employ more than 100,000 people – to manage the threat, too. “The pandemic should not have, but did, take everyone, including me, by surprise,” Swetman said. “Everybody was kind of mimicking what the news was saying, ‘two or three months and then we’ll come out of it.’ And I said that that’s not how a pandemic like this works. That’s not what the earmarks of this virus tell me it will be.” Because of the nature of his firm’s work, Swetman said switching

to working at home wasn’t a big challenge for his attorneys. “Although I sit in New Orleans, I do work all over the country and that’s the case with all of our partners. We’ve always said that geography should be irrelevant, and because of that we had really solid infrastructure to support the shift. As a result, there was really very little in terms of hiccups with client relationships and servicing clients. To tell the truth, we obtained some pretty good clients because we were able to withstand the pressures of the pandemic. I don’t think a whole lot of people picked up work during the pandemic, but we did.” Swetman said the biggest surprise during the pandemic has been the desire for business leaders to keep their people safe, first, and then to look for guidance on how to best keep their facilities running. “This has been really difficult, I think, on everyone in the world. We’re 20 months into it, and it’s just a real morale killer. People had no idea how to respond at all, and things were changing so quickly.” While the advent of COVID-19 vaccines has helped to stem the tide of the pandemic, Swetman anticipates the virus will continue to mutate into variant forms. “We are going to see another variant at some point. It’s going to be something that scares us,” he said. While there is no onesize-fits-all approach to protecting businesses, he advises people to trust science. “It’s become so politicized, but following the science is what has saved every life that’s been saved,” he said. “I’ve got clients that are conservative. I’ve got clients that are liberal. And I always say, ‘If you want to do the best thing for your people, follow the science.’ If for yourself, you want to do something else, it’s fine. It’s fine. But if you want to do what’s best for your people in your company, follow the science.”

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DEVELOPMENT

MANAGING PARTNER AT HENRY CONSULTING

Sixteen years after Hurricane Katrina devastated New Orleans and left the Six Flags/ Jazzland theme park in ruins, the city of New Orleans finalized a plan for redevelopment of the site when it chose to move forward with the Bayou Phoenix proposal after Kiernan West and Drew Brees withdrew their plan. Bayou Phoenix, made up of Henry Consulting, TKTMJ, and Hillwood, plans to transform the area with emphasis on family-friendly amenities, including a sports complex, indoor/outdoor water park and hotel, as well as a logistics center and mega travel center to aid the Port of New Orleans’ expansion downriver, and the redevelopment of the Eastover Country Club and golf course. The team is attempting to purchase 172 acres of adjacent property to expand the master plan to include retail opportunities and an amusement park. “I drive by that site every day and it’s a constant reminder of 16 years of inactivity. And it’s disappointing because it’s such a visible site.

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It’s just an unhealthy reminder of the lack of progress,” said Troy Henry, managing partner of Henry Consulting. “My life’s ambition wasn’t to redevelop that site at all, but through a set of introductions and discussions we put our heads together and came up with a transformative project not only for eastern New Orleans, but the broader New Orleans community and the tourism industry, too.” Henry believes in many people’s mindsets New Orleans is not always a destination to bring kids, but with a sports venue that could be a magnet for as many as 70 events for travel sports like baseball and soccer, a water park and hotel, the east could add some gems to New Orleans’ marketing crown. “Our site is going to be family driven,” he said. “It will give an opportunity to make New Orleans more of a family-oriented destination than it ever

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has been. It’s going to be an attractive entrance into the city, a 180-degree, different type of reminder than what’s there.” The logistics center is expected to pick up business from the port’s new down-river operations, which can handle the world’s largest seagoing container ships, and could add up to a thousand new jobs, he said. “This new port is a game-changer in many ways,” he said “These container ships have been limited in their ability to come in because they can’t go under the bridge. Now they don’t have that limitation. We’re well-positioned, right off of I-510 to access it and get you to [interstates] 10, 59 and 55 really easily.”


HEALTHCARE

JOHN R. NICKENS PRESIDENT AND CEO OF CHILDREN’S HOSPITAL

“ALL OF THE CHANGES WE MADE WERE MADE IN THE BEST INTEREST OF THE KIDS.”

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C H I L D R E N ’ S H O S P I T A L made the national news when a COVID-19 spike in New Orleans began affecting kids at an unprecedented rate. Throw in a hurricane, and it’s not the summer that anyone at the Uptown institution hoped for. Battling the virus and Mother Nature on the front lines were daunting tasks, but Children’s managed to not only fight the illness, but keep its revolutionary campus transformation on schedule. In 2021, Children’s Hospital completed a $300 million expansion project that added 230,000 square feet of new clinical care space, including new units for surgery, cardiac intensive care, emergency and behavioral health services, a comprehensive cancer center and a novel child life area. “COVID affected kids like we had never seen before, and certainly New Orleans was the hot spot,” said John R. Nickens, Children’s Hospital’s president and CEO. “Then we had an out of season RSV outbreak, which normally happens in the winter. And then Ida. So, one of the things I’m most proud about and that, really, we hold as a moment of having a good year is we remained focused on our core mission – providing the best care for kids – and completing the $300 million campus transformation. “We hit all of our ribbon cuttings in the midst of these challenges, even though we couldn’t have anyone from the public [attend]. We did our jobs. We took care of business.” Nickens said the new campus was designed with each step of the patient and family experience in mind. Natural light permeates the floor to ceiling windows illuminating the interior of the main concourse, which runs the length of the hospital and makes it easier for patient families to traverse the different areas of the hospital. For children who deal with sensory overload, he said there are places specifically designed to be quiet and help them from being overwhelmed. Additionally, with the recent addition of the Hogs for a Cause “Hog House” and the soon-to-come Ronald McDonald House, out-of-town families now have an on-campus housing option so they can stay close by. “It’s like being at a at a hotel, but there’s no cost, and they’re right here,” Nickens said. “So, they don’t have any struggles with transportation or trying to figure out how to get to the hospital. “All of the changes we made were made in the best interest of the kids.”

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ENTERTAINMENT

DAN REAL

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REGIONAL PRESIDENT FOR CAESARS ENTERTAINMENT

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C A E S A R S E N T E R T A I N M E N T , parent co m p a n y o f Ha r ra h’s Ne w O r l e a n s, announced in December 2020 a $325 million renovation and construction project of the downtown casino to be completed by 2024, and it’s been on a roll since. “It’s been an amazing year despite the pandemic and the hurricane that really hit us pretty hard,” said Dan Real, regional president for Caesars Entertainment, who oversees the casino’s properties in New Orleans, Baton Rouge, Lake Charles, Bossier City and the Mississippi Gulf Coast. “It’s been a lot of ups and downs, but the whole way through the team at Harrah’s New Orleans was just extremely resilient. They remain excited as we continue to go through the name change and the rebrand.” Caesars New Orleans will include a new 340-room hotel with two floors dedicated to the boutique brand Nobu and a Nobu restaurant, additional culinary and hospitality offerings within the casino, and full exterior and interior architectural and design enhancements. In April, the company joined the New Orleans Saints to announce a 20-year, $138 million namingrights deal for the Caesars Superdome. Home of the Saints, annual Sugar Bowl and College Football Playoff games, the Essence Festival and special events including the 2022 NCAA Men’s Final Four and Super Bowl LIX in 2025, the Superdome represented a solid investment for Caesers, who approved of the current $450 million dollar renovation, on top of more than $350 million in improvements in the last 12 years. “We’ve invested for two full decades, and hopefully it will be beyond that,” Real said. “We believe, longterm, it’s going to be an unbelievable opportunity for us and for the city.” This fall, Caesars Sportsbook was named the official sportsbook partner of LSU Athletics just a month before the Sportsbook App and legal in-person sports betting went live at the company’s Harrah’s New Orleans and Horseshoe Bossier City Hotel & Casino. In November, they announced an advertising deal with the “First Family of Football.” Archie, Peyton, Eli, and Cooper Manning will be featured in advertising for and make live event and commercial appearances for Caesars Sportsbook.

“IT’S BEEN A GREAT RIDE. I’M THRILLED TO BE ABLE TO SHOW THE PEOPLE, LOUISIANA, HOW COMMITTED CAESARS IS TO THE STATE.”

Additionally, Caesars announced a partnership with Spiegelworld to construct a brand-new theatre and bring a live circus-comedy show, Absinthe, as part of the renovation in 2024. “Caesars, as a whole, is all in when it comes to Louisiana, especially when you talk about New Orleans,” he said. “A lot of times people will just talk about what they want to do and what they’re planning to do, but we put our money where our mouth is in the state of Louisiana. We truly are a huge fans of Louisiana, and we wanted to show it through our investment. “It’s been a great ride. I’m thrilled to be able to show the people, Louisiana, how committed Caesars is to the state. It’s only going to get bigger and better from here.”


BIOTECHNOLOGY

PRESIDENT AND CEO OF OBATALA SCIENCES

Dr. Trivia Frazier, president and CEO of Obatala Sciences, entered 2021 on a wave of success that she’s continuing to ride today. Her biotech business received major licenses and investments from institutions such as Harvard University and Ochsner Health, and partnered with STEM NOLA to introduce teens to the biotech field. Frazier, a native New Orleanian, was also asked to co-chair the working group that will decide how COVID-19 relief funds will be spent in the city. Frazier holds undergraduate degrees in physics and biomedical engineering through a dual degree program between Tulane and Dillard universities, and graduate degrees from the Biomedical Science Program at Tulane University School of Medicine, as well as a master’s in business from the executive program at Tulane’s A.B. Freeman School of Business. She cofounded Obatala with Dr. Xiying Wu and Dr. Jeffery Gimble, her

postdoctoral advisor, after the National Science Foundation awarded the three a grant to commercialize their “faton-a-chip” technology in 2017. The team set up shop in the New Orleans BioInnnovation Center (NOBIC), a business incubator on the campus of the University of New Orleans, and began their groundbreaking work on tissue engineering, stem cell research, and preclinical therapeutic evaluations, which are advancing research in the fields of obesity, diabetes, and cancer. In layman’s terms, Obatala cultivates and feeds donated human cells that are used to represent tissue and the way the cells will behave inside the body. Researchers are able to use the tissue for disease modeling and to test developing therapies against obesity, diabetes, some of the various forms of cancer. “We mimic fat tissue from women, men, all ages, space, body mass indexes and ethnicity,”

Frazier said. “We look for indicators of the tissue response, whether it will be positive or negative. Researchers testing drugs or medicines can then see if their product is effective or not.” The team’s success has led to company growth. “We’ve grown from a three-person team to a 13-person team,” she said. “We really have positioned ourselves to be a partner to the local universities, with a pipeline of students who are really the next generation of talent who would typically be leaving the state for other opportunities.” In April, Mayor LaToya Cantrell named Frazier co-chair of group that will decide how $375 million in COVID-19 relief funds will be spent in the city. “The mayor assembled a great team,” she said. “This board is focusing on how to allocate those federal funds with a mission of advancing the city, moving it forward in the best way possible with the best resources that we have in hand.”

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was fortunate to avoid any major water events in 2021, it was nevertheless a watershed year for area tech entrepreneurs. Even amid the economic slowdown caused by the pandemic, three local tech startups were purchased during the year by larger companies for eye-popping sums. These deals thrill economic development officials because they validate the local tech community, infuse cash into the local ecosystem and inspire new entrepreneurs. In January, online image marketplace Shutterstock acquired New Orleans-based 3D image platform TurboSquid in a deal worth $75 million. Then, in September, California’s Procore Technologies Inc. signed an agreement to acquire Levelset, a New Orleans tech company that created an online platform for managing construction liens, in a deal said to be worth WHILE GREATER NEW ORLEANS

roughly $500 million. Later that month, a Swedish market research firm (Cint Group) bought Orleans-based analytics company Lucid for roughly $1.1 billion. The transaction’s price tag means the company founded in 2010 is the region’s first “unicorn” (a startup valued at more than $1 billion). “These exits validate the ‘long play’ that has been made by the New Orleans entrepreneurial community since Hurricane Katrina,” said Michael Hecht, CEO of Greater New Orleans, Inc. “Many of these companies w e r e s u p p o r te d a n d funded by groups like Idea Village, Launch Pad, the New Orleans Startup Fund, and GNO, Inc. – and now we can see that sustained effort pay off, literally.” Ordinarily, Biz New Orleans features one CEO of the year. Considering the exciting developments of 2021, this issue will feature three: Patrick Comer, the founder of Lucid; Scott Wolfe Jr. of Levelset; and Turbosquid’s Matt Wisdom. Their companies may have achieved successful “exits,” but their contributions to the local economy are just beginning.

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His advice to a new tech start-up: Go ahead and do it! The biggest failure is failure to try. Make that first attempt, take that first at-bat. Get in the game.

When Lucid sold to Swedish tech firm the Cint Group in late October for $1.1 billion, the event capped an extraordinary year for the New Orleans tech scene. Following on the heels of earlier high-dollar merger/ acquisitions, Lucid became the city’s first “unicorn,” the popular term for companies that sell for $1 billion or more – and attract international attention in the process. Founded by Patrick Comer in 2010, Lucid is fundamentally an online market data gathering firm. Its services enable customers in such diverse fields as major retailers, polling firms and academia to receive information from and about their constituencies, primarily via direct surveys. These surveys have now reached more than 437 million respondents, from 110 countries, who have collectively answered over 135 billion questions. Lucid offers related services to help its clients analyze and understand the data they gather. This includes market insights and trends, understanding customers and their needs, and gauging media and advertising impacts. Originally named Federated Sample, the company received an initial round of investment to the tune of $2.5 million in 2011. Participating in the Idea Village’s entrepreneur programs – despite losing the annual competition in 2012 – raised the profile and capacities of both

FOUNDER AND CEO LUCID

Comer and the firm, and rapid growth ensued. By 2017, Lucid was the name and global expansion was the game, with offices distributed as far away as London, Delhi and Sydney. A new round of fundraising brought in $60 million, enabling the company to add 100 new employees. At the time of the acquisition, Lucid had more than 550 employees around the world, including 130 in New Orleans. Revenues through the first three quarters of the year exceeded $80 million. Following the sale of the company, the present owners will have 17% ownership of the Cint Group, and Comer is expected to become chairman of the Cint board of directors.

On what gives him optimism about New Orleans and the “Silicon Bayou:” I get excited about what’s possible. People and institutions have been working for 20 years to transform the innovation economy here, and this year validates that work. This will bring more jobs, more opportunities, more capital reinvestment. It’s taken 20 years for this first turn of the flywheel, but I think the next companies to turn over were probably started five years ago, two years ago or even more recently. I think we are only a few years out from the next wave. We have proven to the world that we can grow these companies. The quality of the companies going into the accelerator programs is going up. I see companies raising hundreds of millions of dollars. It’s going to happen.

His big thought for 2022: Since the merger, I get asked all the time if I’m staying. Why do people always assume that if you’re successful, you’re going to leave? We’re going to change that paradigm. I’m dug in like a tick. Because of these sales, we have $600 to $700 million in capital coming back into the economy. And it’s not just in the hands of a few people, there are probably 300 families on the receiving end. That’s transformative for them, they can pay off student loans, mortgages, get out of debt. Now we have the money and the means to do things locally that you couldn’t do before. New Orleans is special, let’s build it!

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On what he is most proud of: I’m proud of the way our team builds value and the way we are able to deliver it to our industry and our customers. Our software really does impact the construction industry. It helps people reduce their cash stress, to deal with how difficult it is to get paid.

Back in 2007, in the frontier-like landscape of post-Katrina New Orleans, construction attorney Scott Wolfe Jr. saw a big problem: Local contractors had all the work they could handle, but getting paid for that work had become a substantial issue. He began researching potential solutions to this problem, which on top of everything else was deepening economic inequities in the city, as the smaller contractors were having the biggest problems. He incorporated as zlien and developed software that provided contractors with the processes and paperwork they needed to expedite payments, or in the worst-case scenarios, pursue legal action. The need was great and the approach successful, and by 2011, the company had begun staffing up. In 2013, Wolfe joined the Idea Village’s entrepreneurs-in-training program, a move that paid off handsomely when zlien won the 2014 New Orleans Entrepreneur Week Big Idea Pitch Contest. While the company had already recovered $1 billion in receivables for its clients by that point, this rapidly accelerated the company’s growth, both in terms of outside capital investment and new employees. Wolfe rebranded the company to Levelset in March 2019, and in the next month hired its 100th employee. Investment capital continued to flow in, including $30 million raised in November 2019, and the pace of growth continued unabated despite the onset of the pandemic. Staff doubled again by September 2020, and another 100 personnel came on board by August 2021. In addition to New Orleans, Levelset operates

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FOUNDER AND CEO LEVELSET

On what is behind the recent flurry of purchases of New Orleans tech firms: Coincidence. TurboSquid, Levelset, Lucid all started around the same time. It’s like, why did all the seniors graduate from high school at the same time? And there is another whole class of people behind us. And like a school, we have to keep recruiting new classes and nurture those students until graduation. Also, the macro-environment is extremely favorable. All around the world there is a lot of cash in tech companies, and the interest rates are low. We fielded multiple M&A [merger and acquisition] inquiries before we accepted one. This is happening everywhere, not just in New Orleans.

offices in Austin, Texas and Cairo, Egypt. This October, Procore Technologies, a construction management software firm, completed its acquisition of Levelset for approximately $500 million. At present, Wolfe plans to keep his base in New Orleans, and the company will operate largely as it did pre-acquisition while he maintains the CEO role.

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His advice to a new tech start-up: Focus on building team and building value. Your team will need to grow by leaps and bounds to do something special. It will require a team, it’s not something you can bench press by yourself. Getting your team to grow together is important. Businesses that succeed build value, for customers and for investors, so that people see why the business is worth what it’s worth. Build that team, build that value, and get your mind out of New Orleans and think big about your company.


FOUNDER AND CEO TURBOSQUID

MATT WISDOM in 3D graphics technology in the later 1990s upgraded the quality of the various models that could be produced, getting those models into the hands of the game developers, news agencies, architects, visual effects studios, advertisers and creative professionals who might use them was close to impossible. To address this problem, in 2000 Matt Wisdom assembled a team of 3D artists and founded TurboSquid. The group had to create not just the technology to circulate their graphics but also the business in which people could purchase and upload the graphics for their own commercial use. Since then, more than 2.5 million people have engaged with the company, from purchasers to contributing artists. New technologies and software developed by the company have revolutionized computer modeling and graphics, ultimately earning it the distinction of being the world’s largest 3D marketplace. TurboSquid’s products are probably seen by almost everyone who goes online every day; yet unlike most people in creative fields, the company’s artists remain largely anonymous, while their creations are themselves the canvasses for others across a broad spectrum of industries. About the name: according to Wisdom, “We had the ‘Squid’ idea, with On the past year: We tentacles everywhere, then someone were terrified we were going to see the economy suggested ‘Turbo’ from a Porsche and it collapse, like it did in 2009. was kind of retro; in the ‘80s there was Revenues went down, and it was looking grim. But the turbo-everything it seemed. It stuck. government backstopped a Nobody really ever forgot it.” lot of businesses with the PPP loans, and everyone started In early 2021, TurboSquid was buying. COVID-19 created a acquired by stock image company Shutlot of winners and losers. It moved industries, changed terstock for $74 million. The purchase the way growth happened. But a lot of local companies came in the context of a general ended up on the positive side, corporate trend of moving away from and it ended up being a really prosperous year for us for a lot still images and towards motion and of unexpected reasons. The 3D. TurboSquid continues to operate pandemic actually triggered the acquisition. largely as it did before the purchase, and Wisdom retains the title of CEO. WHILE ADVANCES

On what concerns him about New Orleans: We are still not a wealthy city, and I worry that we can’t do things like raise the minimum wage. We’ve traded our companies for real money, but now people outside the city control a number of entities that are really important to the city, and I hope they will keep the jobs here. We need to grow some of our companies into something major, like Google, but instead, the buyouts are happening before our companies grow to that scale.

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ADDITIONAL Q+A ONLINE AT BIZNEWORLEANS.COM

His advice to a new tech start-up: Talk to other people, to your peers. Being an entrepreneur is like getting on a crazy rollercoaster while wearing blinders and you don’t know where it’s going. Connect to the networks. Solve a problem that you think is a real problem, something that fills something missing. Make something that gives people real value. You don’t have to be an expert right away, you’ll learn as you go along, as long as you have some instinct, some intuition. It’s a long, long journey, and you have to keep on figuring out why this problem is timely after five years, 10 years, 15 years.

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New Orleans 500 Influential, Involved and Inspiring Executives 2022 EDITION

The New Orleans 500, an annual publication from Biz New Orleans magazine, profiles the business leaders who are driving the greater New Orleans economy today and making decisions that will shape the region’s future. The book is overflowing with details about regional CEOs, presidents, managing partners, entrepreneurs and other executives who are as devoted to their professions as they are to civic affairs. It’s a diverse group that includes fourth- and fifth-generation owners of family businesses as well as young, social media-savvy entrepreneurs building their brands one like or follow at a time.

O R D E R T O D AY B I Z N E W O R L E A N S .C O M


FROM THE LENS

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WORKSPACES

NEW ORLEANS 500

Big Sexy Neon strives to showcase neon art and signage, educate the next generation of neon artists and keep this distinctive craft alive

Louisiana Pepper Exchange continues to revolutionize the industry

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WHY DIDN’T I THINK OF THAT? Local lifestyle brand hits the streets in style with a collaborative shop model


FROM THE LENS GREAT WORKSPACES

BIG SEXY NEON 1618 Oretha Castle Haley Blvd. BigSexyNeon.Work // Insta: @bigsexyneon FB: facebook.com/Big-Sexy-Neon

Big Sexy Neon was founded by artist Nate Sheaffer in the Spring of 2020. It is located in a circa-1900 limestone and brick building on Oretha Castle Haley Boulevard in Central City.

CENTRAL CITY GLOW UP Big Sexy Neon strives to showcase neon art and signage, educate the next generation of neon artists and keep this distinctive craft alive BY MELANIE WARNER SPENCER

PH OTOS BY SARA ESSEX BRADLEY

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ate Sheaffer, artist and owner of Big Sexy Neon, visited New Orleans for an athletic event in 1985 and had wanted to move here ever since. His long-held goal was finally realized in 2020. “After a successful art show collaborating with Louis St. Lewis at Martine Chiasson Gallery in 2019, I began a relationship that made me want to move to New Orleans, which I formally did in March of 2020,” writes Sheaffer in an email. “I moved here full-time in 2020, renting the space on Oretha Castle Haley a month before the pandemic shut down. Joy! My reason for moving is … love. Probably not best to print that, except it’s true.”


Starting a business during a pandemic is far from ideal, but Shaeffer describes it as a positive experience. “The business climate in New Orleans has been favorable and welcoming as I begin my work life in the city I love,” he writes. “The house float movement from last year’s Mardi Gras was a pleasant surprise in the midst of the bleakness of the pandemic, allowing a bit of creative engagement with the community on a scale that felt so very New Orleans, with sugar skulls, garlands, and flowers commissioned for several homes and businesses.” As the city and its inhabitants cautiously reclaim pre-pandemic vibes, Sheaffer visited with us via an email interview about his decades-long immersion in his craft, the neon industry’s challenges, creative opportunities and the many ways in which Big Sexy Neon is staying lit. What were your goals for the overall design concept?

Our build out of the space is minimal — basic clean-up and construction of movable partitions for displaying artwork and creating moveable tables for layout and glass bending and fabrication. How did you end up in the neon business?

My previous location is still operational in Raleigh, North Carolina. Glas is the second iteration of [my] neon shop/studio following on the heels of Neon Impressions, Inc., which I founded immediately upon graduating from UNC-Chapel Hill with a B.A. in German in 1986 … After a nine-year stint as a stay-at-home parent, I started making art again, gradually working back into some old commercial accounts and specialty architectural and design firms, testing the waters to re-enter the business of making commercially viable neon art commissions. Glas in Raleigh evolved from a very small art studio to a teaching facility and larger production company with five full-time craftspeople creating corporate and private commissions shipped and installed across the country. I am still involved in the day-to-day operations of Glas with a talented staff on top of all the details requisite to complicated projects. How would you describe your company’s mission and its core audience?

Big Sexy Neon opened at a time — the pandemic and post-pandemic — when so little was available to work on and work with. Our mission, though, remains the same. Design and manufacture high quality neon art and signage

while promoting educational opportunities to keep the craft alive … The loss of actual experienced sign manufacturers of neon tubing will be significant to the trade unless a significant number of younger people become involved, soon. The loss of knowledge will feel very much like a library burning to the ground.

“Cherry Coffee company is operating a pop-up coffee shop in the front of the space — soon to be a permanent Cherry location,” says Sheaffer. “We sponsor pop-ups of curated local artisans and vendors, our next one falling on Dec. 4. In all our endeavors, we are greeted by the wonderful people who live and work in [Central] City.”

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How do you offer something different or set yourselves apart from entities doing similar work in New Orleans?

Our studio has over 100 lighted neon pieces that range from one-of-a-kind abstracts to restorations of 1930s era signage. The open architecture and rolling walls and tables allow us to re-configure the space enough to host events ranging from 12-person gourmet dinners to 125-person celebrations with DJs, bands, and food-and-drink trucks. Recently we started bi-weekly yoga classes in the space, called “Glow and Flow,” the first of which garnered such a response as to prepare us for many more. In the spring we will begin hosting monthly burlesque shows with local artists and musicians, combining two long associated art forms with neon and colorful ambience. Cherry Coffee company is operating a pop-up coffee shop in the front of the space — soon to be a permanent Cherry location. We [also] sponsor pop-ups of curated local artisans and vendors. In all our endeavors, we are greeted by the wonderful people who live and work in [Central] City. The business and artistic communities have been giving to us from the first day I began work in the building. Our efforts at community engagement are important to us, from inviting new classes of students from Café Reconcile once a month for a 20-minute demonstration and sharing session regarding positive work habits, to including the Youth Empowerment Program in any pop-ups we do to allow them to spread the word about their positive works. Long-term viability of a work community depends on the health of all neighbors and their engagement on any level is critical in growing both the sense of community and the comfort of community support. How do you promote a positive work atmosphere?

Despite the physical challenges - perhaps also owing to them - a sense of camaraderie among glass workers and apprentices quickly develops. For me - passing on the trade to those willing to put in the work and sacrifice - I want a relaxed atmosphere that will allow concentration and as much comfort as possible. Frequently, we have deadlines for such complicated work that no one has ever considered creating before, and I feel like laughter and commiseration in an environment with good music and pretty things to look at make the work easier, at least for me.

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Education is integral to Sheaffer’s mission. He says, “The loss of actual experienced sign manufacturers of neon tubing will be significant to the trade unless a significant number of younger people become involved, soon.”

What are the biggest challenges within your industry?

Other current challenges to the trade revolve mostly around LED proliferation and a rather dishonest attempt by LED manufacturers overseas to advertise their products as neon. LED signs and artwork have an average lifespan of 7,500 operational hours before diode failure becomes rampant. Neon work, on the other hand, has an average lifespan of 175,000 hours plus, with many systems lasting 50 to 60 years without failure … Anyone with a social media account can attest to the number of advertisers flooding the market with LED neon products, cavalierly glossing over the fact that there is nothing factually neon-related to any of their products. With the erosion of the more traditional market(s), and fewer shops able to sustain themselves, the next challenge the industry faces is availability of materials and equipment. At present there are no glass tubing manufacturers for the industry in North America and no manufacturers of the fairly specific equipment needed to produce neon. Many glass shops are able to rely on buying out failed and shuttered shops’ inventories, but the cost of importing new materials is rising in leaps and bounds.

What are your biggest business challenges?

The work is hard, and often quite hot, working with fires to bend glass tubing to patterns and forms — all performed by hand. Glass shards and sharp edges can leave fingers tender and hot glass and pattern paper can reward an apprentice with second-degree burns until one becomes accustomed to working glass. What goals are you looking to meet in the next 12 months?

Over the next 12 months, our goals include adding another two glass blowers to meet the increased demand for the work we do. Our efforts servicing large clients like Live Nation across the country will continue with more creative, memorable displays and original work while we also pursue public art projects and large space activation such as airports and convention centers nationwide. An upcoming joint show with Louis St. Lewis at Flight Gallery in San Antonio in March of 2022 will debut new works and collaborative efforts, kicking off a busy year of shows and growth in response to the world healing from the ravages of the pandemic. T

ADDITIONAL PHOTOS ONLINE AT BIZNEWORLEANS.COM


QUICK LOOK Location 1618 Oretha Castle Haley Boulevard Date building was built Circa 1900

Style of building’s architecture Originally a fiveand-dime store, the building has a limestone and brick façade. Square footage Just over 5,000 square feet Move in date Spring of 2020

Adding two more glass blowers to his roster, as well as pursuing public art projects and large scale installations are just the beginning of Sheaffer’s ambitious plans for 2022.


FROM THE LENS WHY DIDN’T I THINK OF THAT?

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POET MOTORS 1114 Josephine St. PoetMotors.com // @poetmotors

Local lifestyle brand hits the streets in style with a collaborative shop model BY ASHLEY MCLELLAN

PH OTOS BY EDMUND FOUNTAIN


The perfect man? A poet on a motorcycle. You know, the kind who lives on the edge, the free spirit. But he’s also gotta have the soul of a poet and a brilliant mind. Lucinda Williams

Poet Motors, located in the Lower Garden District, is more than just a motorcycle accessories shop; it’s a lifestyle that owner Bronson Bigelow has carefully curated for years.

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or local motorcycle and lifestyle shop owner Bronson Bigelow, riding a bike is like poetry in motion - so much so that he named his New Orleans boutique and brand “Poet Motors.” Inspired by a quote from songwriter Lucinda Williams, Bigelow and his family packed up their belongings and moved, leaving behind his successful career as a corporate attorney in New York City for a lifestyle

that more aptly fits a bohemian aesthetic. Bigelow developed the Poet Motors brand himself, with a specialized store that provides accessories and products to support and enhance those that have a passion for motorcycles and the open road. Originally from upstate New York, Bigelow attended Boston College and law school at Georgetown University before moving to New York City where he worked for 15 years. After a New Orleans vacation (and a detour into life working in upstate New York), Bigelow, like so many before him, found himself bitten by the Crescent City bug. “My wife and I first visited New Orleans about 13 years ago and immediately fell in love,” he said. “We decided we had to figure out a way to live here. So, for me, first and foremost, it was about getting out of New York and relocating and living in this great city. We never shook our desire to live in New Orleans. That desire

only grew when our daughter, Willa Cash, was born, because we wanted her to grow up in New Orleans, experiencing the history, music and culture that make this place so special.” Bigelow decided to pursue a lifelong passion, launching Poet Motors online in 2018 and a brick-and-mortar location on Josephine Street in April 2019. “I practiced law at a big firm in NYC for 10 years. I was up for partner and had to decide if this was something I wanted to do for the rest of my life. The answer was ‘no.’ Luckily, my loving, generous and very understanding wife supported my crazy decision. I had always loved motorcycles - riding, tinkering, collecting. I have been a motorcycle enthusiast for many years and have a small collection of vintage and new motorcycles. It was always a dream of mine to have a small motorcycle shop to share my passion with others. So, the swing was all about following my passion and desire to live life to the fullest. I think this is something we New Orleanians are better than anyone at,” he said. Poet Motors is located in the Lower Garden District, tucked in with a tight community of neighboring boutiques, businesses and creative makers; a location that has proved to be a win-win for Bigelow, the shop, plus the community-driven products and lifestyle he and his fellow business owners provides. “Poet Motors shares space with The Good Shop, a collaborative shop based in New Orleans featuring ethical gifts by local makers,” he said. “Many of the products in the Shop give back charitably, and all strive to make a beneficial impact for our community. Poet Motors

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Poet Motors offers a wide range of apparel and accessories for motorcycle enthusiasts and more.

gives a percentage of all its sales to the Preservation Hall Foundation, which works to protect, preserve and perpetuate New Orleans music and culture. I like to joke that I have the bestsmelling motorcycle shop in the World, as Poet Motors is wedged between the scented candles and soaps of The Good Shop and the perfumes of Smoke Perfume.” In addition to amazing aromas, the collaborative shop model has provided Poet Motors with benefits that go beyond the location itself, particularly during the height of the COVID-19 quarantine. As the pandemic created new barriers for both new and established businesses, both locally and across the U.S., many are seeing a decided benefit from working together. According to Main Street America (MainStreet.org), shared retail spaces provide a leg up for new businesses, help to overcome the limits of space availability, regulate rent prices and create a feeling of community with a “mini ecosystem” of their own. “A great benefit of the collaborative shop model Poet Motors is part of, is that we all share the duties of working at the Shop, and the expenses that go along with having a

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retail space,” Bigelow said. “A good deal of Poet Motors business comes from tourism, particularly tourists making their way down Magazine Street, and obviously many of those folks disappeared over the past two years. I’m grateful for our collaborative model, which probably allowed for Poet Motors to survive the pandemic. Things have improved as the city and world reopen so I’m hopeful for the future.” The distinct Poet Motors brand logo, which can be found on the store’s collection of highquality T-shirts, hats, neck gaiters and more, came from Bigelow’s own fascination with vintage design. “I’ve always loved the ‘wheel and wings’ logos motorcycle companies and motorcyclists have used historically, and I also thought the idea of Edgar Allan Poe in a motorcycle helmet would be a perfect image. And I worked with some talented artists and designers to turn my sketches into reality.” In addition to cool apparel, Bigelow’s curated collection of accessories includes books, vintage items (imagine the coolest, most classic leather jacket you can think of, a la Steve McQueen), hip flasks, Zippo lighters

and a specially designed magnetic tank bag, developed in collaboration with local makers at Tchoup Industries. Poet Motors’ website, in addition to providing the store’s accessories, is a one-stop shop for ideas, videos, clips, writing and more, embracing life on the open road. But, for Bigelow, developing Poet Motors goes well beyond a brand, boutique or lifestyle shop. For him, and for many of the fans of the shop, it comes from a place much deeper. “People often ask why I love motorcycles, which can be difficult to explain. I think it’s the immediacy and visceral nature of riding. In a car, you are separated from the world around you, looking through the windshield like watching television. On a motorcycle, you are connected with the world and the machine, but you are alone. It’s meditative. I also love the mechanical nature of motorcycles - especially vintage motorcycles. They can be worked on, repaired, and made to operate better, but they have personalities and foibles. There is nothing better than when a 50-year-old motorcycle is dialed in, running beautifully.” T

ADDITIONAL PHOTOS ONLINE AT BIZNEWORLEANS.COM


Poet Motors gives a percentage of all its sales to the Preservation Hall Foundation, which works to protect, preserve and perpetuate New Orleans music and culture.

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PUBLISHER’S NOTICE: All real estate advertised herein is subject to the Federal Fair Housing Ace and the Louisiana Open Housing Act, which make it illegal to advertise any preference, limitation, or discrimination because of race, color, religion, sex, handicap, familial status, or national origin, or intention to make any such preference, limitation, or discrimination. We will not knowingly accept any advertising for real estate which is in violation of the law. For more information, call the Louisiana Attorney General’s Office at 1-800-273-5718.

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LUXURY


R E A L E S TAT E

JUST LISTED I N T E RE S T E D IN S E L L I N G ?

SOLD!

BIZNEWORLEANS.COM/REAL-ESTATE/

For more information, contact Sales Manager, Caitlin Sistrunk at 504.830.7252 or Caitlin@Bi Ne Orleans.com

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FROM THE LENS NEW ORLEANS 500

TAKING A BIG SWING After working for Chevron, this engineer and former baseball player partnered with Andre Lewis to establish a New Orleans-based real estate development, construction and property management company. VPG Enterprise specializes in government and municipal contracting, multi-family real estate development, residential and commercial construction, and property management. Merideth is a graduate of Tuskegee University.

What’s something exciting on the horizon for your company? We are super excited to get started on the River District Development. The massive amount of housing, entertainment and retail is going to create a whole new neighborhood in NOLA, and we are stoked to be able to play a part in this.

Michael Merideth

CEO of VPG Enterprise is a real estate rising star BY RICH COLLINS

PORTRAIT BY ADRIENNE BAT TISTELLA

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What’s the best advice you’ve received? There is no middle ground on integrity. You’re either at 0% or 100%. Make sure you are on the right side of this equation. What’s your go-to restaurant? Lil’ Dizzy’s. Everything down to the homemade ranch salad dressing is delicious. What’s your hidden talent? I play drums and piano. I love producing movie scores during my down time.

ADDITIONAL Q+A ONLINE AT BIZNEWORLEANS.COM