Biz New Orleans May 2021

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CAREER NEED A BOOST? A mentor can help. How to find one and make it work. P. 40


CRUISING SHUTDOWN Port NOLA CEO Brandy Christian shares her thoughts P. 26


MAY 2021






MAY 2021










Women tend to live longer, be paid less and have more time out of the workforce — all creating a wealth gap. What’s one thing you’d advise women to do to bridge it? MARITIME+PORTS....... 26


Port of New Orleans CEO Brandy Christian shares her thoughts on the cruising shutdown and where New Orleans will stand when it’s over.

GREAT WORKSPACES.........................................................64

Gambel Communications moves to a new, larger space that mirrors its founder’s vision for the company WHY DIDN’T I THINK OF THAT?. . .....................................68

DINING........................... 14

Northshore friends charmed the “Sharks” and walked away with a big business boost.

Opened just before Christmas, Larder Gourmet Market and Eatery in Metairie reunites two culinary families

ON THE JOB..........................................................................72

TOURISM. . ...................... 16

MSY airport positioned for increase in air travel SPORTS .. ....................... 18

Local attorney Tim Falcon makes rugby a family affair


Affordable housing is critically needed. What are your latest projects in this area? GUEST. . ........................... 30

ENTREPRENEUR.......... 20

Should businesses mandate COVID-19 vaccinations?

The tuture of the class-A workspace is here, and its healthier, happier and more efficient.



Power Players

Lifting Each Other UP

These three women are positioned to shape the future of hospitality, space exploration, recreation and environmental stewardship in the region.

Professional mentoring relationships can bring incredible career benefits, but 63% of women have never had a mentor. Why is this and how can we make a change?

Lauren Ramos is part of a strong female team (eight of the 10 managers are women) that have led The Fillmore through its most challenging time.

ON THE COVER (Left to right) Mary Byrd, associate director, Stennis Space Center; Cara Lambright, CEO, New Orleans City Park; Mali Carow, GM, Four Seasons Hotel & Private Residences New Orleans Portrait by Greg Miles




Hardest Hit Publisher Todd Matherne

but study after study has confirmed that women have taken the hardest hit. Anyone with school-age kids is well versed in the scramble that occurs in the best of times to find before-care, after-care and summer care (not to mention random holidays and professional development days), but complete school shutdowns for weeks, even months at a time? That was a whole new strain, and it fell, and continues to fall, largely on women. For some it meant being forced to quit their jobs, for others it meant struggling through trying to work while simultaneously balancing childcare and homeschooling. But even outside of childcare issues, American women have lost more jobs during the pandemic than their male counterparts (5.3 million as of Feb. compared to 4.6 million by men). This isn’t a surprise, as women are disproportionally represented in the hardest hit sectors like hospitality, education and health services. Small businesses in those hardest hit sectors are also more likely to be owned by women. According to an August 2020 survey by the U.S. Chamber of Commerce, the number of female owners who ranked their business’ health as “somewhat or very good” fell by 13% during the pandemic, compared to only a 5% decrease reported by male-owned businesses. Women-owned businesses cut more staff, lost more revenue, and feel less optimistic about the future. And for women of color, the reality has been even worse. In the first 8 months of the pandemic, the number of Hispanic women in the U.S. labor force fell nearly 7%, the number of Black women declined 5.6%, and the number of white women by nearly 3%. That compares to a drop of just 1.7% for white men and less than 1% for Hispanic men. That’s a lot of bad news without a lot of easy answers, which is why we chose to take a different approach with this annual Women’s Edition and focus on some good news. For instance, three recent very high-profile jobs have all been awarded to women. Who are they and what are their plans? We take a look. The pandemic has been a time for so many of us to examine our careers and reevaluate our goals. For some, it’s been a time to change course completely, even start a business. One move that can help with all of those things is to find a good mentor. We asked some of this region’s highest performing women how mentorship has made a difference for them, and how to do it right. Finally, here’s to all the women out there getting it done, for some, amidst incredible odds. May we come out of this with a renewed resolve for the equity that’s long been overdue. THE PANDEMIC HAS HIT US ALL IN DIFFERENT WAYS,

Happy Reading,

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MAY 2021

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to stop the brain drain and keep our children and grandchildren here in Louisiana. We need to create opportunities for them and future generations so we do not become an exit state but a place where people see and have opportunity to stay home. I have focused on doing this for my children for over 30 years, trying to create a place for them to call home and not have to go elsewhere and I am fortunate to have two of my daughters here in New Orleans and establishing roots. My third daughter is in a military marriage and is traveling the country from Navy base to base with new assignments every few years. So many of my friends have children moving away, mostly to Texas, all with the desire for them to come home. On April 13, at 4:14 p.m., I switched my focus. That focus is now on grandchildren and future opportunities. Little Penelope Jane was born and I am now a proud grandparent. I heard Michael Hecht speak a few weeks ago about the U-Haul index — the measurement of how many one-way moving rentals are leaving Louisiana. This index needs to change and I am onboard to see that happen, because 20 years from now, Penelope, and everyone else, need to have opportunities here at home. My daughter, son-in-law and new baby girl are doing great, starting their family. I am so proud of them. Yes, I will have all the great fun of being a grandfather, but my commitment and dedication to them is the same as it was 30 years ago — focused on the future, Louisiana and our children. Todd Matherne BIZNEWORLEANS.COM



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MAY 2021




We’re seeing more quotes going out in the last few weeks than we have seen in the last few months. Don Drucker, owner of live event production company Pyramid Productions, speaking in March about the good news he’s seeing regarding the return of live events. Among the company’s upcoming events will be Hogs for the Cause in June, and Jazz Fest and Zoo-to-Do in the fall.



COMMERCIAL REAL ESTATE MARKET IMPROVING BUT PANDEMIC EFFECTS STILL UNCLEAR Henry Shortess with Urban Properties Real Estate shares his thoughts on how remote work has changed the commercial market in the region.




Convention Center Chooses Partner for Development “River District offered interesting ideas and demonstrated they had an understanding of the Authority’s vision for the development of the 39 acres. As important, they are committed to involving SEB/DBE businesses all along the way.” Exhibition Hall Authority President Jerry Reyes speaking in March about the announcement that River District Neighborhood Investors, led by Louis Lauricella, was chosen by the Ernest N. Morial New Orleans Exhibition Hall Authority as its partner in the development of new dining, retail housing and entertainment offerings on the 39 acres upriver from the convention center. The project is part of a $557 million capital improvement plan that began in 2018. The other contender for the partnership was Woodward Design+Build, which is nearly finished converting the former World Trade Center into the new Four Seasons Hotel and Private Residences.



MAY 2021

Jon Atkinson, CEO of Idea Village, producer of New Orleans Entrepreneur Week, talks highlights from this year’s event, which drew participants from 34 countries.

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


FAT CITY DREAMS — THE REVITALIZATION OF A METAIRIE NEIGHBORHOOD Jefferson Parish District 5 Councilmember Jennifer Van Vrancken discusses the parish’s efforts to transform Fat City and the potential next steps.





MAY 2021


DINING Larder Gourmet Market and

Eatery reunites two culinary families

TOURISM MSY Airport positioned for

increase in air travel

SPORTS Local attorney Tim Falcon

makes rugby a family affair

ENTREPRENEUR Should businesses

mandate COVID-19 vaccinations?


No Place Like Home Opened just before Christmas, Larder Gourmet Market and Eatery in Metairie reunites two culinary families BY POPPY TOOKER



MAY 2021


A native New Orleanian, 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.

H O M E T O W N G I R L A L I S O N V E GA K N O L L Back home, the chef duo combined travels the world in her kitchen. beloved childhood food memories with Knoll’s renowned culinary flights of fancy recent island favorites at their casual all began at the Little Greek restaurant on Bucktown restaurant, Station 6. Metairie Road, just down the street from “The restaurant is all about our family where she grew up. While on a dinner date and our shared experiences — the fishing during college, she noticed a “Waitress and shrimping we love to do with the boys Wanted” sign in the restaurant’s window. ... there’s even a photo of my dad right at the Knoll got the job, but one night she was front door!” Alison Knoll said. asked to help out in the kitchen, and it was During Drew ’s days at Delmonico’s there that she found her true calling. in the 1990s, he enjoyed a fast friendship After acquiring a working knowledge of with fellow chef Chris Wilson that has Greek food, Knoll apprenticed with Susan continued unabated since. Wilson’ wife, Spicer at Bayona, learning the value of fresh Amy Hollister Wilson, and Alison formed herbs while exploring Spicer’s international a partnership with Alden Lagasse, Emeril’s flavor palate. Next, the budding chef headed wife, purchasing and expanding the Cajun to the kitchen of Spicer’s early mentor, Chef Caviar brand in 2011, the same busy year Daniel Bonnot, soaking in his classical Station 6 debuted. A clue to the families’ French style and technique. friendship can also be found in “Wilson’s At the young age of 22, Knoll opened her Chowder,” a Wilson family classic that’s a first restaurant, acting as chef/partner of mainstay at Station 6. Zissis, located coincidentally in the same Chris Wilson rose to the position of Metairie Road spot formerly occupied by Emeril’s chief culinary officer but was laid the Little Greek. The Zissis partnership off due to the pandemic in June 2020, ending didn’t last, but with help from her parents, a 28-year career with the company. she took over the lease and opened Vega “Our families did a lot of cooking and Tapas, where her Mediterranean-inspired drinking wine in our backyards together dishes served small plate style caused an last summer,” he recalled. “We talked about immediate sensation. a Larder style concept — something I’d During the early Vega Tapas years, she wanted to do myself for 30 years — and how married Drew Knoll, chef de cuisine at perfect it would be in today’s world.” Emeril’s Delmonico. Two sons, Jake and When a former Burger King in a prime Delery, born barely one year apart, quickly Metairie location became available, they followed. When Drew Knoll was hired as jumped into action, opening the Larder executive chef at a Caribbean resort in 2003, before Christmas. Alison Knoll quickly sold Vega Tapas and The new spot showcases everything the moved her young family to the island of Wilsons and the Knolls love about food. Antigua. Sons Zach and Sam both arrived From a morning cup of coffee to carefully during that idyllic time on the beach. curated wines and cheeses and family For five years, Knoll was “just a mom” to dinners to go from their drive-through the four boys, while entertaining fantasies window, the Larder has it all. But for Alison, about opening a coffee shop. When her it especially represents home. husband resigned from his corporate chef ’s “When a long-time friend and customer job, he contemplated opening a pizza place. learned our youngest, Sam, was going to With neither ready to leave island life behind, Jesuit this fall, she brought me a little blue they opened the Larder, a gourmet market jay on a silk cord and said, ‘I got this when and deli. A smashing success from the start, my son went to Jesuit, but I want you to the Antigua Larder became a local hub have it now.’ You can’t get that kind of love favored by American ex-pats. anywhere but New Orleans!” n “It was certainly the only place on the island you could get Better Cheddar!” Alison Knoll laughed. When their eldest son, Zach, was ready for middle school, the two New Orleanians realized it was time to go home. “We wanted our boys to have all the Catch Poppy Tooker on her radio show, wonderful advantages Drew and I enjoyed “Louisiana Eats!” Saturdays at 3 p.m. and Mondays at 8 p.m. on WWNO 89.9 FM. growing up in New Orleans,” said Knoll.




Ready for Takeoff MSY Airport positioned for increase in air travel BY JENNIFER GIBSON SCHECTER



MAY 2021


Jennifer Gibson Schecter was once a tourist in New Orleans herself and is now proud to call NOLA home. She also writes the Wednesday Tourism Blog on

WHILE THE COVID-19 PANDEMIC SHUT DOWN carrier, Southwest, restarted its nonstop international travel for most of 2020, the twice-weekly flights to Cancun. Two new Louis Armstrong New Orleans International regional airlines also announced new Airport (MSY ) was working diligently to services last month, bringing the airport’s remain an industry leader. Now that travel numbers up to 18 airlines serving 57 nonstop restrictions are lifting and vaccination rates destinations. are growing, MSY is poised to serve travelers Boutique Air will connect New Orleans and help New Orleans regain its footing as a with Greenville, Mississippi, with nonstop tourism destination. flights on Thursdays, Fridays and Sundays. Early last month, the Centers for Disease The Mississippi Delta city is the first nonstop Control and Prevention (CDC) released destination in Mississippi from MSY and fares updated guidance that those fully vacci- start at $79 one-way. Silver Airways has added nated against COVID-19 could resume nonstop twice weekly flights between New domestic travel without getting tested for Orleans and Jacksonville, Florida. . the virus before or after travel and removing The timing of the early 2020 COVID-19 the requirement to self-quarantine after travel restrictions came on the heels of MSY travel. For international travel, fully vacci- opening its new $1.3 billion terminal in nated people do not need to get tested for November 2019. Just as the fanfare around COVID-19 before leaving the U.S. unless the new terminal died down, the pandemic required by their destination, and they do kicked in and critical revenue projects not need to self-quarantine after arriving became impossible to hit. The new terminal back in the U.S. delivered at least one return on investment As of early April, the CDC reported more beyond money, and just over a year after than 108 million people in the U.S., or 32.6% opening it was ranked third by USA Today of the total population, had received at least 10Best Readers’ Choice travel awards in the one dose of the COVID-19 vaccine and more 2021 Best Large Airport contest. than 63 million people were fully vaccinated. “It is an outstanding achievement to According to the Louisiana Department of have our airport named as one of the top Health, 1.2 million residents had received three in the country,” said Judge Michael at least one dose and more than 834,000 Bagneris, chair of the New Orleans Aviation residents were fully vaccinated. Louisiana Board in a release. “This is proof positive State Region 1, which encompasses Orleans, that the City of New Orleans and the New Jefferson, St. Bernard and Plaquemines Orleans Aviation Board’s investment in a new parishes, reported 22% of the region’s popu- terminal facility was well worth it.” lation as being fully vaccinated. “Not only have we been making significant The updated travel guidelines and investments in our airport’s infrastructure, increasing vaccination rates are already but we have also been laser focused on resulting in a boost in air travel. The ensuring that our passengers receive the best Transportation Security Administration possible customer service experience,” said ( TS A) is reporting a rise in traveler Dolliole in a release. throughput, with early April numbers above MSY also received an award for Best 1.5 million travelers per day, compared to Hygiene Measures by Region ( North April 2020 COVID-19 quarantine numbers America) from the Airports Council consistently below 120,000 per day. As International (ACI) World’s 2020 Airport recently as February 2021, daily throughput Service Quality (ASQ) program. It was one was consistently below 1 million. of only six airports in the U.S. and Canada The growth in air travel is being felt locally to receive the honor. as well. At the regular March meeting of the “MSY plays a major role as a gateway and New Orleans Aviation Board, Director of aviation hub for the state and the Gulf South Aviation Kevin Dolliole reported a steady region for all of our national and internamonthly increase in passengers at MSY and tional visitors,” said New Orleans Mayor said he expected business to continue to LaToya Cantrell. “Our airport continues to improve gradually. The resulting growth is be recognized for its leadership, cleanliness, helping MSY bring new services for passengers. customer satisfaction and overall perforAmerican Airlines announced in March mance, despite the challenges from the that it will begin daily nonstop flights from COVID-19 pandemic.” New Orleans to Austin, Texas, beginning To learn more about flying safely from May 6. Last month, MSY’s largest passenger MSY, visit n




Striking “Gold” with Rugby Local attorney Tim Falcon makes the game a family affair BY CHRIS PRICE



MAY 2021


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. Price also authors the Friday Sports Column at

WITH MINOR LEAGUE BASEBALL GONE FROM something we certainly want to learn from,” New Orleans’ spring and summer schedule, Falcon said. “We’re willing to learn from Major League Rugby is hoping to take its anybody and everybody to try and make this place — figuratively and literally. a better experience and to grow the sport When the AAA team formerly known as and the business.” the Zephyrs, then the Baby Cakes, packed Major League Rugby Commissioner up and left the Big Easy for Wichita, Kansas, George Killebrew said the NOLA Gold have local attorney and owner of the NOLA Gold been at the forefront of the league’s launch rugby team Tim Falcon saw the perfect and growth. opportunity for a score. “There is something for everyone in New The Gold are one of the founding teams Orleans, so there is a lot of competition for of Major League Rugby, the highest level entertainment dollars, and they just have of professional rugby in the United States, done a really great job,” Killebrew said. which launched in 2018 with seven inau- “They’re in one of our smallest markets, but gural teams. Since then, the league has that really doesn’t matter because their grassexpanded to 12 teams across the United roots approach to the NOLA Gold is starting States and Canada, will add an expansion to pay dividends. The fans are engaged. They team next year, and hopes to grow to as put on a good show and have grown year many as 32 teams in the future. over year. That’s what it’s about. That’s “We built a business model, which was really what we want. It’s not about necesabout sustainability and understanding sarily being in the biggest market. It’s about that to bring it to the next level we’d have to being a great operator in the market you’re educate a lot of sports fans in America on in. For new expansion teams that come into how dynamic rugby is and [how to] enjoy the league, they’ll be able to learn from the it,” Falcon said. New Orleanses of the world.” The Gold played at the 3,000-seat Joe A major part of the league’s marketing Zimmerman Stadium at Archbishop Shaw plan and investment has been finding broadHigh School in Marrero for two years before cast partners to help more people be able moving across the river to Metairie in 2020 to access the game and learn more about it. to take residence at the former Zephyr Field, “We’ll have 35 matches on national teleformerly lovingly referred to as the “Shrine vision this year,” Killebrew said. “Our final on Airline” and now dubbed the “Gold Mine will be televised live on August 1 on what I on Airline.” like to call ‘Big CBS.’ ” The baseball field was converted to a Falcon said raising awareness and drawing rugby pitch, with one sideline running crowds is the next step to further success. roughly along the former left field line and “We want to grow the sport, to get bigger a goal line running along the former right sponsorships and better TV deals, and fill field line. the stadiums that we have. When the fans Falcon said the move fits perfectly with come and you fill the stadiums, then the MLR’s current business plan. sponsors come and then the better broadcast “This stadium seats around 10,000 people, deals come.” has 14 suites, and can hold an overflow The Gold’s 18-week regular season runs crowd on the levee that’s out in former through July 17. Their final home game is center and right field,” he said. “So, we scheduled for June 5. MLR playoffs will kick have plenty of room to grow, and that’s the off at the close of the regular season and business plan for MLR over the next five, six conclude with the Championship Final. n years — to increase to 7,000 up to 10,000 person crowds for each game.” Falcon said the Gold’s core base are people already involved in the game who love it with a passion. “They’re our backbone,” he said. “But it’s not big enough to sustain us. We have to go beyond that.” To that end, the Gold and MLR are following a blueprint similar to those laid out by Minor League Baseball and Major League Soccer. “They are very creative in the ways they do different events to engage fans. And that’s




Should Businesses Mandate COVID-19 Vaccinations? There’s a lot of factors to consider BY KEITH TWITCHELL



MAY 2021

to all adults in the U.S., and as government restrictions on business operations disappear, employers are facing a new dilemma: Should you require all your employees to get vaccinated before returning to the workplace? Most experts believe that laws and government regulations make this legally permissible — with certain conditions — but other factors may influence this decision, especially for smaller businesses. Per the Occupational Safety and Health Act, employers are required to provide a safe workplace. Current government guidelines indicate that requiring COVID-19 vaccinations falls under this requirement. Specifically, in December 2020, the U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC) provided guidance indicating that employers can mandate vaccinations, though the wording is not 100% explicit. The guidance does require employers to “provide a reasonable accommodation for the religious belief, practice or observance” of an employee. The language also states that if “a vaccination requirement screens out or tends to screen out an individual with a disability, the employer must show that an unvaccinated employee would pose a direct threat due to a ‘significant risk of substantial harm to the health or safety of the individual or others that cannot be eliminated or reduced by reasonable accommodation.’ ” These caveats aside, the final EEOC conclusion is that “if an employee cannot get vaccinated for COVID-19 because of a disability or sincerely held religious belief, practice, or observance, and there is no reasonable accommodation possible, then it would be lawful for the employer to exclude the employee from the workplace. This does not mean the employer may automatically terminate the worker.” The key phrase here is “reasonable accommodation,” which has not been clearly defined. Examples might be plexiglass shields, wearing PPE, working remotely and even allowing a leave of absence. The other key government agency overseeing workplace safety, the Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA), had not provided guidance as of this writing, but both EEOC and OSHA have previously stated that employers can require other vaccinations, such as flu.

Legalities aside, if you are an entrepreneur running a smaller business, myriad other considerations come into play. The nature of the business and the workplace are primary factors. Given the circumstances, what threat would unvaccinated employees be to coworkers? To customers? Vendors or suppliers? Businesses with higher customer traffic and/or smaller workspaces are obviously at greater risk. Also, companies doing international business should consider that going forward some countries may require proof of vaccination to enter. How employees will respond to a vaccination mandate is also a crucial consideration. Some staff members might quit rather than get vaccinated; for small businesses, losing even one or two key personnel could cause a significant disruption. Public or legal complaints — even if not upheld — could also cause serious headaches. At the same time, allow ing some personnel to return to work unvaccinated could cause friction with vaccinated employees, and potentially cause some of them to quit as well. Since everything COVID-19-related seems to be a moving target, one option may be to set a temporary policy. This could include allowing some staff to continue working at home for a while longer, or reconfiguring the workspace to allow more distancing. Given that acceptance of the vaccine appears to be increasing as more people receive it, this could buy a business some time while vaccine holdouts reconsider. Staff education may also help. One major concern voiced by vaccination skeptics is that the development and approval process was so rapid that the shots cannot be considered safe. It’s important to remember that the scientific community has been working on this technology for years, and simply applied it to the coronavirus. None of this is legal advice; if you have concerns or issues arise, consult an employment attorney. Hopefully, you will find a path forward that sustains workplace safety, keeps your employees happy and creates the framework for ongoing business success. n


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.






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BANKING+FINANCE What can women do

to help bridge the wealth gap?

MARITIME+PORTS Port of New Orleans

CEO Brandy Christian shares her thoughts on the cruising shutdown


housing is critically needed. What are the latest projects in this area?

GUEST The future of the class-a

workspace is here, and its healthier, happier and more efficient






Don’t take Social Security early! It’s tempting, but doing so reduces the benefit significantly. If you delay until age 70, the benefit increases by 8% every year. Second, to offset women’s generally lower wages or the loss of income during the childrearing years, you could become a super saver later in life, when you are at your highest earning years. Sweep everything that you used to spend on kids, college education and the like, into your savings for three to five years and it will make a big impact. Third, consider stepping into retirement, instead of jumping off a cliff. Maybe work part-time for a few years. This could help you to leave your savings alone and let that retirement account grow.

TAMMY O’SHEA CHIEF MARKETING OFFICER FIDELITY BANK The one thing I would advise is to start saving early. Working for a company that has a qualified 401k plan and company match has many advantages. Strive to always put enough in your account to get the matching dollars. Your goal should be to contribute the maximum dollars allowed, but if you can’t do that start small and increase your contribution each year. If you’re over 50, it’s not too late! Take advantage of catch-up contribution options.



Women have been driving change in the workplace, earn more money than ever before, and more college and graduate degrees than men. We make up half of the workforce and are closing the gap in middle management, but there is still work to do. A lack of confidence is often what holds women back at their companies. Speak up, educate yourself and be confident in your skills. Break the taboo around money talk. Make money a more common conversation; a great place to start is talking about retirement: “Am I saving the assets I need to produce the income I want in retirement?”


Women tend to live longer, be paid less and have more time out of the workforce — all creating a wealth gap. What’s one thing you’d advise women to do to bridge it?

MAY 2021

While it is a bit difficult to narrow this down to merely one single piece of advice, my answer is ownership. Women need to take ownership of every decision they make regarding their personal and professional lives. We need to repeatedly tell ourselves that we can do the hard things, including taking ownership of our career paths by focusing on our professional development. Taking ownership means being the leader we wish we had, knowing that leadership is not about title or position. Finally, we need to know our value and advocate for ourselves. Women are so good at advocating for others, but we tend to shy away from asking for that raise or that promotion. Take ownership by researching pay, benefits and experience level of similarly situated positions in your field, advocate based on this knowledge, be willing to take a risk and make a move if necessary.

SARAH E. BOMHOFF INVESTMENT STRATEGIST THIRTY NORTH. Pay yourself first. The sooner money is invested, the longer it has to accumulate. As long as your monthly bills are manageable, the principle of “paying yourself first” encourages using anything extra to maximize your retirement or other long-term savings before considering prepaying loan principle, especially on long-term, low-interestrate debt. Prepaying your mortgage or other long-term debt is tempting, but doing so at the cost of your own retirement savings means your debt can actually set you further back than just the amount you owe.




Hard Hit But Hopeful Port of New Orleans CEO Brandy Christian shares her thoughts on the cruising shutdown and where New Orleans will stand when it’s over. BY RICH COLLINS


of America’s ocean-going cruise industry, New Orleans lost an important component of its tourism economy. Since mid-March 2020, the Port of New Orleans has lost 338 individual “ship calls” that would have carried an estimated 1.5 million cruise passengers. It missed out on approximately $21 million in revenue from per-person cruise fees and parking fees. And the Greater New Orleans economy has forfeited $250 million in overall economic impact. While cruise ship passengers spend money on New Orleans hotels, restaurants and attractions before and after their excursions, it is generally less recognized that about half the total economic impact in the city from the cruise industry comes from the cruise lines themselves and their employees. “People always think about the economic impact of a passenger, but it’s a huge industry,” said Brandy Christian, president and CEO of Port NOLA, which hosts ships from Royal Caribbean, Norwegian Cruise Line and Carnival Cruise Lines. “With the ocean-going cruises, we’re about 90% home- Right now, ported, which means they start and end the the CDC is in cruise here. When that happens, the ship charge of the gets all of its supplies and services here. It no-sail order. gets cleaned here. They get all of their fruits and vegetables, alcohol and dry cleaning We are hopeful Carnival will here. Everything happens here.” While all that work and restocking is be able to sail going on, the crew members themselves this summer, but they have bring plenty of business ashore. “The crew has been on the ship sailing not received from port to port, so when they come into clear guidance. town, they go to the local Walmart to get their supplies,” said Christian. “They do Brandy Christian, their insurance business. They’re taking president and CEO care of their banking.” of Port NOLA



MAY 2021

All that traveling to and from the ship provides lots of work for transportation companies, plus cruise lines ordinarily employ about 160 longshoremen to load and unload the ships. It all adds up to a lot of spending in the city, but “right now, all of those local businesses are not providing those goods and services,” said Christian. “And the longshoremen have been basically furloughed throughout this entire pandemic.” AN UNCERTAIN SUMMER

It’s unclear when the U.S. cruise industry can get back to business, and industry groups have been getting impatient. Much of the frustration is directed at the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, whose “conditional sailing order” has amounted to a ban on any U.S. embarkations. Industry advocates say the CDC’s guidance, issued last October, is out of date and includes requirements that would be impossible for the cruise lines to follow.

“It’s things like the crew can’t get off the vessel for six months — and no one can do that,” said Christian. “There are just things that couldn’t be implemented, or there wouldn’t be the resources within every port to do it.” Industry advocates have pointed out that theme parks, airlines, hotels and other industries have been allowed to reopen, and cruises in other parts of the world have resumed without problems. The Royal Caribbean Group, in fact, is scheduling cruises this spring and summer out of Israel, Cyprus, Greece and other countries with fewer restrictions. Back home, the cruise industry has been making its case for the CDC to issue new guidance and clear the way for ships to sail again. “Right now, the CDC is in charge of the no-sail order,” said Christian. “We are hopeful Carnival will be able to sail this summer, but they have not received clear guidance. We’re in a tight window here because they obviously need time to ramp up to get crews deployed. Obviously, the summer is a very

important season for the industry, so it’s a little concerning that the CDC has not given clear direction at this point.” Port NOLA counts itself among those who are hopeful for a summer return, and stands ready to host at least one Carnival ship, but isn’t planning on any cruise-related income until the fall just to be safe. “I think the cruise industry desperately wants to be able to sail this summer,” said Christian. “They’re counting on it, so we’re hopeful for that. But we’ll probably just be safe with our own budget planning.” SOME GOOD NEWS

Despite the unprecedented year, Christian is optimistic about the future of cruising in New Orleans. One good sign: the return of river cruises to the city at the end of March. The riverboats are much smaller than their ocean-going counterparts, and they don’t leave the country’s borders, so that cleared the way for a quicker return. On March 21, local officials celebrated the christening of a brand-new riverboat, the American Countess, which was recently manufactured by Gulf Island Fabrication in Houma. The shipyard literally cut an old gaming paddle wheeler in half, added another 60 feet of length to the hull and converted the vessel into a gleaming new riverboat capable of holding more than 250 guests. It will join several other ships operated by the American Queen Steamboat Company and American Cruise Lines that travel up and down the Mississippi to make stops in Natchez, Mississippi; Memphis, Tennessee; and even Minneapolis. All that contributes to Christian’s optimism. “It’s always been an extremely resilient industry,” she said. “People that have cruised are a very loyal customer base, [but] a very small percentage of the population has cruised. So, there’s a lot of potential for new market share.” New Orleans, in particular, she said, is in a good position when things get started again. “Coming back from the pandemic, people are going to want to stay closer to home,” she said. “They want to be able to drive to a home port, and Florida, Texas and New Orleans are probably going to be the top choices. We do feel very confident in the cruise industry, and even more so in New Orleans’ position in the cruise industry. We’ve had nothing but really positive indicators from our partners that New Orleans will always be a strong home base for them.” n

It’s always been an extremely resilient industry. People that have cruised are a very loyal customer base, and a very small percentage of the population has cruised. So, there’s a lot of potential for new market share. Brandy Christian, president and CEO of Port NOLA








We are looking at innovative ways this crisis from all sides. We are aggressively pursuing options to provide affordable infill scattered-site housing for New Orleans homebuyers. We also need to provide new types of housing to compete for the workers who are now untethered from their offices. Where appropriate, we need to be building modern, smaller scale units, not large luxury condos, but amenitized one- to two-bedroom units in larger mixed-use multifamily developments. This is our focus for the next three years.

Right now, we are working on a 44-unit rehabilitation project. But these days it seems I am spending as much time with advocacy as I am with development. Regulatory fixes like inclusionary zoning make little dents but are far from enough. We need more housing that is naturally affordable, and this happens when we build more densely. We have to start making the connection between housing prices, homelessness and the environment. My professional work and my advocacy are increasingly centered on making this connection.


Affordable housing is critically needed. What are your latest projects in this area?



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Affordable housing begins and ends with education and taking the necessary steps to be settled. For buyers, I connect them with lenders with grant programs to decrease their loan amount. For renters, I attempt to educate them about programs to assist with their purchase. Step one is to educate the buyer on the importance of credit and how to use it. Step two involves educating the buyer on budgeting and what deductions can be taken then added back into their income. Step three is about finding a home within their monthly budgeted amount, and then step four is closing on that home.

TIM THOMPSON HEAD OF BROKERAGE URBAN PROPERTIES Over the last few years, we have assisted Anthony Marullo in acquiring hundreds of units throughout the NOLA metropolitan service area, which he converts to voucher programs because of the lack of supply in New Orleans. New Orleans is short tens of thousands of units. Marullo is willing to spend the money to upkeep, renovate and continue to operate affordable housing. We are currently assisting Marullo in closing on two complexes in Uptown New Orleans.


The Future of the Class-A Workspace is Here And it’s healthier, happier and more efficient BY JILL TRAYLOR PHOTO BY SARA ESSEX BRADLEY


already underway in the design of offices and workplaces, increasing emphasis on workplaces that support health and wellness and hybrid models of face-to-face and remote collaboration. Design teams are finding that design elements intended to promote occupant health that used to be “hard sells”—interventions that promote physical activity, provide improved air quality (through higher ventilation, better filtration and operable windows), or support flexible working models — are now in high demand. Similarly, we’re anticipating demand for office renovations and the need for reprogramming of existing interior spaces as companies look to fully reopen safely. How can New Orleans (and the real estate market collectively) position itself to capture this demand? The city has a viable existing stock of Class-A workspace. How might these properties be repositioned to attract continued interest from companies looking to relocate from East and West coasts and cement the New Orleans market as one that is simultaneously forward-thinking and affordable? Three projects serve to illustrate this notion: One is a transformation of an existing 1980s building, one a clean-sheet new construction project, and the third an adaptive reuse of a historic structure. What we’ve found is that designing for ways that support health is key to high-performance, energy-saving workplaces that will continue to be in high demand even as the nature of “office” work continues to change. Two years ago, early in the design process of a renovation for a Baton Rouge-based private company, the client team realized the shortcomings of their aging mechanical



MAY 2021

Jill Traylor is the director of interior design at EskewDumezRipple, a New Orleans architecture, interiors, and urban design firm. An integral leader in numerous project success stories throughout New Orleans (The Shop at the CAC, Palmisano Headquarters, and Tsunami New Orleans to name a few), Traylor brings a holistic outlook to design, navigating big picture elements down to the details— hand-picking finishes and artwork to complete a vision.

systems and the poor ventilation it afforded employees. In tandem with architectural interventions meant to revitalize company culture and teamwork, the team advocated to rejuvenate the building systems and interior finishes to provide better indoor air quality, light and outside views — shown to improve cognitive performance and employee satisfaction. The building’s existing heating and cooling central plant was married with a high-performance Dedicated Outdoor Air System with Energy Recovery Ventilation (DOAS+ERV ), providing more than twice the level of fresh air of typical standard practice, yet cutting energy use by two-thirds. Today, as the building opens, it provides higher fresh air flow than old standards, and feeds this air through the building once (rather than recirculating stale air), which is consistent with the latest recommendations from industry organizations and the CDC on modifying workplace ventilation systems

to minimize the transmission of diseases that spread through the air, such as COVID-19. The big takeaway of interventions like this one? The strategies that help make the building better for the happiness and productivity of occupants two years ago are the very same ones that result in substantial health and safety considerations during the current pandemic. Similarly, the Center of Developing Entrepreneurs in Charlottesville, Virginia, was designed to deliver an indoor working environment informed by the latest research on how air quality, daylight and views impact human cognitive function, yet with an anticipated energy use of about one-third that of typical office buildings (helping put it on track for LEED Platinum certification). Several months ago, midway through construction, the design team revisited floor plans and design elements for COVID-19 consideration. Incorporating more “handsfree” hardware and fixtures and digital

messaging, as well as increasing the distance between co-working “hot desk” seats (along with the preordained considerations for air quality) ensure that the building can open safely this year regardless of an uncertain future. This is not to say that healthy workplaces should always separate. In a post-pandemic world, great workplaces will continue to highlight the importance of integrating space for socialization. One project in particular serves as a salient example for repurposing existing, underutilized building stock. For decades, the Contemporary Arts Center (CAC) here in New Orleans has served as a cultural catalyst dedicated to the presentation, promotion and production of art. The third and fourth floors of the CAC building, however, had always been underutilized. CAC representatives searched for years to find a way to generate a profit from the upper floors, always falling short. Finally, in the fall of 2017, we completed a 40,000-square-foot renovation with local developer (and now tenant) the Domain Companies, transforming the CAC’s third and fourth floors into art-filled co-working space for a group of creative professionals across a range of industries. The heart of The Shop is the commons area, designed to facilitate conversation and connection. Shortly after opening, The Shop achieved its target goal of 100% occupancy. The Shop represents an aspect of the workplace we’ve lost sight of during the pandemic: the person-to-person connection. Beyond desirable goals like walkability, connection to culture and a unique aesthetic, The Shop boasts a space designed to offer small businesses the opportunity to grow, to network, to make chance connections with neighbors in the communal space. While The Shop has all the requisite technology integrations to conduct Zoom and other video conferencing meetings, its allure comes in the time spent popping in to a neighbor’s space, or staying for the after-hours cultural programming. What we’ve learned across all these projects is that the future will likely encompass a range of options. Workplace design solutions have the twin goals of desirability and practicality. What works for one client may not work for another. As designers, our challenge is always to provide not just boilerplate solutions, but to start with a client’s concrete problems, mission, vision and goals for their organization. COVID-19 has brought into sharp focus the fundamental challenge in workplace design: to allow people to work closely together to unlock the potential of collaboration, while supporting the health of every individual. As we look to reopen our workplaces for a postCOVID-19 world, we’re convinced emphasizing this message front and center is a crucial key in elevating the city’s attractiveness to a national audience. n




POWER PLAYERS These three women are positioned to shape the future of hospitality, space exploration, recreation and environmental stewardship in the region.



“We don’t have the type of operating reserves to allow us to make visionary and bold choices... When you’re looking at a 170-year-old park, having a small endowment and limited reserves aren’t options.”



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PARK PROTECTOR In February, following an extensive national search, Cara Lambright became the new CEO of New Orleans City Park, one of the oldest and largest urban parks in the country, following a year that threatened its survival. Now, she’s eager to make moves to secure its future.

According to Lambright, “We were really running into reserves, even the endowment, parks across the United States, Cara Lambright that are kind of the no-go zones.” She credits heard a common refrain from constituents about successful fundraisers like Celebration in the Oaks their beloved spaces: “Fix it, but don’t change it.” In her new role as CEO of New Orleans City Park, and Floats in the Oaks, as well as state funding, with helping carry the park through a rough time Lambright takes that sentiment to heart, seeking but says it is not enough to sustain the park for to preserve elements that have endeared the park the future. to generations of New Orleanians while planning “It’s just keeping us steady,” said Lambright. “We improvements needed to strengthen its future. don’t have the type of operating reserves to allow Lambright has resided in some of the world’s great cities, from Bangkok to Brussels to London. us to make visionary and bold choices… When you’re looking at a 170-year-old park, having a small She completed a certification in Urban Park endowment and limited reserves aren’t options.” Executive Leadership and most recently served Lambright plans to open a new dialogue with as the executive director and COO of Houston’s the public about its role in supporting City Park Memorial Park Conservancy. through unrestricted giving (separate from the “When I finally entered public space about 10 years ago, it was such a fit for me personally,” efforts of Friends of City Park, a 501(c)(3) organization that raises money for targeted projects). said Lambright. “I love the arts, I love safety net services, I love nature. And suddenly all these “We’ve found it acceptable to support cultural institutions for hundreds of years… and somehow things intersected in a park.” Growing up, the Dallas native and self-de- the parks are still suffering from this idea that they are fully supported with taxpayer dollars,” scribed “parkie” spent summers visiting family in New Iberia and was always drawn to New Orleans. she said. “That’s just not the case.” Lambright said public support will be critical for She sees vast opportunity in City Park’s 1,300 acres and emphasizes the benefits of its central location, the park to provide its three core responsibilities: safety, clean restrooms and litter-free grounds. an advantage not found in most cities. Lambright believes City Park can be as iconic and instantly “Parks need maintenance,” she said. “It’s not a pretty word, but it’s true. We can’t keep building things if recognizable as New York’s Central Park, London’s we’re not able to maintain them.” Hyde Park and San Francisco’s Golden Gate Park. If City Park can mobilize philanthropic giving In Lambright’s mind, this post-Katrina, on a larger scale, she believes smaller local parks post-pandemic period is the ideal moment to reflect upon the 170-year-old park’s mission. will benefit as public funds will be freed up to Though the pandemic brought a surge of visitors, support neighborhood and pocket parks. She also hopes to convince city and state government of it also pummeled the park’s finances as many the park’s role as a catalyst for economic developincome-generating activities (like amusements ment — attracting film shoots, sporting events and the roughly 800 weddings held each year) and increasingly, tourism. That was particularly were halted. Park leaders reduced the number of true during the pandemic, as bar and restaurant staff by nearly half.

T H R O U G H O U T H E R C A R E E R as a consultant to

closures routed tourists to the park who might not have visited otherwise. Lambright’s growing list of priorities includes repairing and restoring infrastructure, like the park’s WPA-era bridges and buildings. She is also committed to improving transit and accessibility within the park to make it easier for visitors without cars to reach spread-out attractions. Other goals involve habitat and environmental design, from mapping tree assets and creating a forestry plan to improving water management and planting meadowlands that absorb more water during rain events. Lambright is exploring ways to improve the layout on the park’s less developed north side by consolidating scattered ball fields, a move that would optimize recreation space while also creating a contiguous habitat and improving water flow. Though she is a tenured park operator, Lambright says she learns something new every day — from roller coaster certification requirements to details about the park’s 150 staff members, many of whom are 20-year employees. But her most important role is helping understand and strengthen the relationship between park and community. “I hope as we continue our dialogue with the public that we can all remember how critical City Park is to making New Orleans livable,” Lambright said. “The pandemic really shed a light on that in a way that will serve us in the future, as hard as it was. I think people understand that it matters more than ever, and that’s half the battle when you’re managing a park — to have people not take it for granted.”




SPACE INDUSTRY In late December, Mary Byrd went where no woman has gone before when she was named associate director of Stennis Space Center.



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“There were some who thought I got a job along the way because I was a woman. While they were hurtful, they also energized me to work harder to prove them wrong.”

Byrd feels grateful to be part of the biggest test A F T E R M O R E T H A N T W O D EC A D ES working in project at Stennis in more than 40 years: “I was one of NASA’s most exciting centers, Mary Byrd thought her next career move might be retire- just a child during the Apollo program, and I will now have stories to share with my grandchildren, ment. Instead, she was offered the position of telling them their ‘Mimi’ was a part of history.” associate director of Stennis Space Center, the When reflecting on the early days of her own highest leadership role ever held by a woman in professional history, Byrd recalls some instances the organization. of gender bias but says they only served as motiThough Byrd says she was content in her vation to excel. previous role as director of the Stennis Center “There were some who thought I got a job along Operations Directorate, the choice was clear: the way because I was a woman,” she said. “While “That was where I was going to be called to serve they were hurtful, they also energized me to work until retirement.” harder to prove them wrong.” Byrd is excited to have a seat at the leadership Since those early days, Byrd believes the STEM table. After 26 years with NASA, the sudden fields have become very welcoming to women, spotlight has taken a bit of getting used to, but particularly at Stennis, where she says staff Byrd appreciates the attention her glass-ceiling members are recognized for their hard work, skills breakthrough has garnered — from friends on and knowledge. She is committed to mentoring Facebook to more official media recognition. young people interested in STEM, a tribute to “I have always taught my daughters that there is the high school teachers who supported her own no limit to what you can do as long as you set your interests in math and science. goals and work hard toward them,” said Byrd. “It Byrd also credits role models closer to home has been really special for me to be the first woman including her father and two brothers — all engiin one of the top leadership positions at Stennis.” neers and fellow LSU graduates — as well as her Though Stennis Space Center may be best mother, a former educator. known for its rocket-testing capabilities, the “It was easy for me to say I’m going to go into federal city is home to more than 50 federal, engineering,” said Byrd. “I had a lot of encouragestate, educational and private organizations ment along the way.” and produces a direct economic impact of $650 Much of the encouragement today comes from million to communities within a 50-mile radius. Stennis’s employee population tops 5,000 workers, Byrd’s partner, a senior Stennis engineer, her two daughters and their husbands, one of whom also 30 percent of whom live in Louisiana. works at Stennis, as well as her grandchildren and Byrd’s tenure at Stennis has included plenty of two “fur babies.” historic moments, many of them centered around Byrd is pleased to see the resurgence of enthuthe space shuttle program. Currently, Stennis is siasm for space exploration, with NASA efforts home to flight and development testing for the like the Artemis program as well as interest in RS-25 engine, which will power the core stage of companies like SpaceX and Blue Origin (which NASA’s new Space Launch System and Artemis have also used Stennis for component testing). program, scheduled to carry the first woman to “I hope to see the type of excitement across the the lunar surface in 2024. country that we had back in those Apollo days,” Stennis recently experienced a milestone in she said, citing the millions of social media hits that project with a successful “hot fire test” of the coverage of NASA’s Mars Perseverance Rover the core stage. That experience exemplified the has received as a positive sign. excitement Byrd finds in her work. “It’s about 8 Now that she has settled into her own groundminutes and a few seconds, and when it lights off breaking role, Byrd is thinking ahead to another — I have to be honest — I get teary eyed,” she said. milestone: watching the first woman walk on the “If you didn’t hear [the roar of engines], you could surface of the moon. “I really look forward to that,” have heard a pin drop because people were on the she said. edge of their seats, waiting and anticipating it to go through that full duration. When it stopped, you could hear everybody yelling and screaming — there were a lot of virtual high fives.”



M A L I C A R O W H A S L I V E D and worked in Four Seasons properties around the globe, including stints in Washington, D.C., Jordan, the Maldives and London, but it took an interview for the biggest job of her career to bring her to New Orleans. “Literally from the first moments I stepped into the city, I knew it was home,” said Carow. The 26-year veteran of the Four Seasons organization started her career as a server in the Chicago property and worked her way up to hotel manager in London. When she considered applying for the general manager position in New Orleans, however, Carow hesitated: “I almost discredited it because it was such a large opening.” The 341-room hotel and luxury residences, scheduled to open in June, occupies the site of the former World Trade Center at the foot of Canal Street, overlooking Spanish Plaza and the Mississippi River. Construction began in 2018 after a contentious process among developers who had submitted proposals for the property. Then came COVID-19, casting a long shadow over the travel industry. Through it all, Carow said the teams involved in the project have remained committed and optimistic, excited to be part of a new era for the riverfront and welcoming the city’s post-pandemic chapter. Carow was especially drawn to the property’s strong culinary focus, which dovetails with her background in food and beverage. “As you’re looking for your first general manager position, you want to make sure there’s a comfort zone,” says Carow. “For me, knowing it was so food-and-beverage-centric was comforting because that was not just my experience, it was my passion.”

The lobby bar, as well as a separate restaurant, that they follow us where our properties go.” Miss River, will be overseen by local chef partner The Four Seasons has tried to create a true Alon Shaya. The restaurant will feature celebra- sense of place with its New Orleans location, from tion-oriented service, with touches like a somme- locally made or inspired artwork to locally hired lier table and a “food stage” for plating elaborate staff. According to Carow, the property plans to dishes. The second restaurant (still unnamed) will hire as many as 500 employees by year-end, and be a collaboration with chef partner Donald Link. their commitment is to hire from the city. “You can never leave the doors and still hit two of “We knew we weren’t going to enter this market the best chefs in New Orleans,” said Carow. and try to give our brand’s take on New Orleans The hotel will offer nearly 30,000 square feet — it had to be authentic,” she said. of meeting-and-celebration-friendly event space, At the organizational level, Carow believes including two ballrooms with river views and an the company has gotten better at fostering and outdoor event lawn and garden. Visitors can enjoy developing its women leaders, as evidenced by the observation decks on the 33rd and 34th floors, the growing number of women general managers. a cultural attraction that will not be run by the According to Carow, there are many paths to Four Seasons but accessible through the building. general manager today, a departure from a more New Orleans marks Carow’s seventh Four rigid career progression that she says was not Seasons property, and she says it offers a little bit always kind to women. of everything. “Now we’ve got general managers from the “I think that’s unique because as hoteliers we’re marketing realm, finance, human resources — I always saying, ‘Oh, I wish we had just one more think you’re going to see more women achieve restaurant or I wish we had 50 more guest rooms,’ that role because the avenues to get there are and here, it’s like it’s been delivered,” she said. “Now more bountiful than they were 10 years ago.” we have to worry about filling it!” The new role and city have made some adjustThere is reason to believe filling it will not be ments necessary for Carow. In the strategy-focused a problem. Carow predicts that leisure travel will role of general manager, she has been flexing her rebound soon — an advantage for New Orleans. On “delegation muscle”: “It’s not easy because for a the business side, meeting planners are signaling project I feel so passionate about, I want to be demand from clients seeking a unique experience involved in everything but know that I just can’t.” without international travel. As for their new home, Carow, her husband and “I’m hearing that from other general managers in young son are enjoying life in the Bywater neighthe city,” said Carow. “If you can’t go overseas, then borhood and looking forward to post-pandemic make it New Orleans.” She is also hopeful about celebrations like festivals and Mardi Gras. the return of international direct flights and the “We bought our wagon and cooler,” said Carow. support of Four Seasons brand loyalists: “We know “We’re ready for next year.”


RIVERFRONT Proclaimed among the most anticipated hotel openings in the world in 2021 by Forbes, Four Seasons Hotel and Private Residences New Orleans will open May 15 under the guidance of General Manager Mali Carow.

“As you’re looking for your first general manager position, you want to make sure there’s a comfort zone. For me, knowing it was so food-and-beverage-centric was comforting because that was not just my experience, it was my passion.”





MAY 2021

Lifting Each Other Professional mentoring relationships can bring incredible career benefits, but 63% of women have never had a mentor. Why is this and how can we make a change? by Kim Singletary illustration by Amber Day


going to bridge the gender gap.” If a woman’s ideal mentor happens to be a man, however, that can also work very well. Local businesswoman Jennie Campbell is the perfect example. Recently recognized as a 2020 Enterprising Woman of the Year by Enterprising Women magazine, Campbell, president and CEO of Stewart Steelwood Investments, is a passionate advocate for the powers of mentorship due to a mentor she said changed her life. “I met Frank Stewart in 1991 when he attended a Boy Scout conference where I was the opening speaker,” said Campbell. “I talked about the 11 steps of self leadership. Apparently, he liked the speech and he reached out to me. He opened the door.” When Campbell formed her second company, Stewart became an investor, and in 2009, he asked her to be the CEO of one of his companies, Stewart Steelwood Investments. “He gave me the greatest gift, that of his time, knowledge and experience, and his belief in me,” she said. “He taught me that true leaders are going to think outside the box and that even when you make a wrong decision, it’s about how you recover, move forward and show you’re still a leader.” But how do you find and build a great mentoring relationship no matter what the gender of the mentor? Let’s start at the beginning. OULD YOU LIKE to be more satisfied with your career? Have your business find more success? Would you like to get paid better? Get that promotion you’ve been wanting? A good mentoring relationship can help with all of this, and more. According to a much-touted study conducted by the HR department of Sun Microsystems in 2006 that followed over 1,000 employees over a five-year period, employees who took part in the company’s mentoring program were promoted five times more often and were 20% more likely to get a raise than those who didn’t participate. Mentoring benefits also extended over to those doing the mentoring as well, who were found to be equally as likely to receive a raise and even more likely (six times) to get promoted. Mentoring, in fact, has been so widely proven to be beneficial to both employees and companies (who commonly see greater levels of retention and employee satisfaction) that 71% of Fortune 500 companies have mentoring programs in place (Association for Talent Development, 2017). When it comes to who’s more likely to be a mentor, however, the “men” in mentorship stands out. According to a 2019 study by Olivet Nazarene University, 82% of men who participated were mentored by another man, while only 69% of female participants were mentored by another woman. The data isn’t surprising given that mentors tend to be high level executives and women hold just 24% of senior management roles globally and make up only 6% of Fortune 500 CEOs. For women



of color, the wage and leadership gap with men is even greater. When Urban Land Institute Louisiana decided to launch its first-ever mentorship program for young professionals in the summer of 2019, a clear difference in the makeup of participants became evident. “Of the 15 young professionals who came into the program looking for mentorship, 10 of them were women,” said Nicole DePietro, manager of ULI Louisiana. “But on the other side, of the six people who signed up to be mentors, only one was a woman.” The one female mentor was the chair of the Women’s Leadership Institute, a program of ULI Louisiana. “It’s not surprising really,” said DePietro, “as real estate development is very much a male-dominated field, especially at the upper levels. That’s actually the reason ULI started the Women’s Leadership Institute on a national level.” The lack of equal representation at the highest levels of business is exactly why Torrie Kranze, the youngest person ever to be named CEO of the National Kidney Foundation, professes the importance of women leaders who have reached top levels to make the effort to reach out. “I make sure I’m out there in the community and I think — having formerly been a recruiter — I have a pretty good eye for talent, so when I see potential in someone, I’ll seek them out. In the past 10 years I’ve probably mentored 10 young women, all of whom I’m still very close to. Women have to be there for each other. That’s the only way we’re

Finding a Mentor

What she gave me was a great deal of confidence and ambition, and as a woman I think sometimes it feels like you need permission to feel that. She always had such great advice when it came to navigating issues as a woman. Tania Tetlow, Loyola University’s first female president

What do you look for in a mentor? A possible mentor is someone who typically has reached a level you aspire to or has experience and success that you feel would benefit you in reaching your own goals. “Your core values, personally and professionally need to be in alignment,” added Campbell. The ability to relate to someone is important, which means that professional women and business owners of color may find it more challenging to find a mentor due to a lack of representation at high levels of business. “You want someone who you can identify with, who knows your struggles and challenges,” said Tiffany Carter, director of the Women’s Business Enterprise Council South’s (WBEC South) Enterprising Women of Color Business Center, which launched in January at the WB Collective in New Orleans Warehouse District. Carter said mentorship is a huge component of the new center. “We create a casual, comfortable space and opportunities where you can strike up those conversations that may start with kids and life and then move on to contractors and vendors. It’s amazing to see how quickly women connect.” Recognizing that financial issues can be especially pressing, in January WBEC South also hired Marigny deMauriac to serve as a business and finance coach to any business owner who needs it, free of charge. Though

based at the WB Collective, deMauriac will serve WBEC South’s entire footprint, which includes Alabama, Louisiana, Mississippi and the Florida Panhandle. Beyond finding someone who you can connect with, you also want to make sure you’ve done some self-reflection and looked at exactly what your needs are and what you’re looking for in a mentor. “You may find the right person in a different industry than yours, or even a different type of organization,” said Klassi Duncan, vice president of the Center for Entrepreneurship & Innovation — Urban League of Louisiana. “The best person may even be more of a peer. We need to be more creative when it comes to thinking about the possibilities.” Once you know what you want, how do you find the right person and make the connection? “Look in your closest circle of friends and colleagues,” said Mayra Pineda, president and CEO of the Hispanic Chamber of Commerce of Louisiana. “Talk to women you know and ask them for referrals.” Deb Elam, president and CEO of a strategic solutions consulting firm called Corporate Playbook™, is passionate about empowering women to “shatter glass ceilings.” She advises women to identify the person they want to meet and then, taking what they know of the person, ideally figure out how to meet them in a casual setting, for instance at a volunteer event. The first-ever black female corporate officer at GE, Elam has been named among the “50 Most Powerful Women in Philanthropy” and recognized with the National Association of Female Executives’ Women of Excellence Legacy Award and the National Urban League’s Women of Power award. She said the first step can also be just making a simple ask. “Ask if you can get on their calendar, for a time to meet, not more than 30 minutes,” she said. From there, Elam said it’s crucial to follow up. “Send a quick email saying you’d love to stay and touch and maybe add in a connection point. Note something you have in common or talk about an article you read on a subject of interest you share.” For those who’d like some assistance in finding the perfect fit, there’s Loyola University New Orleans’ Women’s Leadership Academy, where both Duncan and Pineda have served as mentors. Launched three years ago with the goal of helping women achieve their career aspirations, the 10-month program just started again last month and, in addition to small growth group meetings, high level speakers and Individual Development Strategy exercises, it includes one-on-one monthly mentorship meetings with a mentor chosen to fit each woman’s specific needs. The WLA was formed under the leadership of the university’s first female president, Tania Tetlow, who said she reached out to her first mentor when she was 16 years old.

“When I was young, I wanted to be Lindy Boggs [the first woman elected to Congress from Louisiana],” said Tetlow. “I thought she was just the greatest possible person, so I wrote her a letter, and, to my surprise, her staff reached out and she actually sat down with me for an hour to talk. Then she hired me as an intern.” When Boggs later retired and took an office at Tulane University, Tetlow was able to “learn at her elbow” as a student worker. “What she gave me was a great deal of confidence and ambition,” said Tetlow, “and as a woman I think sometimes it feels like you need permission to feel that. She always had such great advice when it came to navigating issues as a woman.” Tetlow advises women to “feel people out” when it comes to finding a mentor. “Whatever results, whether it’s a formal mentorship or just some advice, it’s worth it.” She notes, however, that there are some things to look out for. “You don’t want a person who sees you as an extension of themselves. Look for someone who asks you good questions, who doesn’t just pontificate.”

You’ve Found Someone. Now What? A successful mentorship relationship, like any successful relationship, is one that benefits both people. But how do you make sure that happens? One of the most important things is for both of you to agree on a set of boundaries. How often will you meet? What form of communication works best for both parties? The goal is to show mutual respect for the value of each other’s time. When it comes to advice for mentees, one thing stands out: Be prepared. “I just had a mentee that I was so impressed with because every time we met, she was so prepared,” said Duncan. “She had thought about exactly what issues she wanted help with and what specific questions she had.” It’s equally as important for mentors to be thoughtful about the relationship. “Make sure you have the right skills to help the mentee and that it’s someone you are genuinely interested in,” said Kranze. “And when it comes to helping them, you want to make sure you’re empowering them and providing guidance to help them find their own answers, not just give them answers. My first mentors gave me so much independence and autonomy but at the same time they were always there and approachable when I had questions. And they asked me great questions too.” Above all, Pineda advises all parties to “have fun with it.

Make sure you have the right skills to help the mentee and that it’s someone you are genuinely interested in. And when it comes to helping them, you want to make sure you’re empowering them and providing guidance to help them find their own answers, not just give them answers. Torrie Kranze, CEO, National Kidney Foundation

“Every time I mentor someone, I always feel like I get so much out of it, sometimes personally, sometimes professionally, sometimes both.”

More Than a Mentor While a great mentorship can provide invaluable guidance and support, Elam advises everyone looking to advance their career to also find themselves a sponsor. “A sponsor is someone with some real juice,” she said, “someone senior to you that will throw your name in the hat when opportunities come up.” She said it’s not that women lack ambition, it’s that they often lack access. “You want someone who’s willing to leverage their influence to help you succeed,” she said. Elam advises everyone she can to read the book “Forget a Mentor, Get a Sponsor” by Sylvia Ann Hewitt to learn more about the difference a sponsor can make. Contrary to the title, however, she thinks it’s good to have both mentors and sponsors. “Mentors can give you that coaching, feedback and perspective,” she said. “And a mentoring relationship can lead to sponsoring.”

The Time is Now Opportunities for women in the region to brush up on leadership skills and reach for that next level have rapidly increased in recent years. In addition to the launch of programs like the Women’s Leadership Academy and Enterprising Women of Color, the New Orleans Chamber of Commerce’s annual Power Up: Women’s Leadership Conference launched in 2019 and Junior League of New Orleans will host its second annual Women’s Leadership Summit on Nov. 5, 2021. The pandemic has also provided many women with an opportunity to look more reflectively on their career, and in some cases led them to take the leap and start their own business. Professional networking site LinkedIn reported that from March through November of 2020 the number of female entrepreneurs on the platform grew by 5% — more than double its pre-pandemic average. “Most of the world didn’t close,” said Carter of the pandemic shutdown, “which has created the perfect platform for women to get ready for when it does open fully again. Now is the time to think differently, to make those connections. We want women to be there, on the front line, fully capable to respond when those opportunities come.” n




Every year, Biz New Orleans dedicates its May issue to the women who are propelling businesses, industries, communities – and the workforce as a whole – to new heights. The number of women-owned businesses is on the rise, and female professionals are leading initiatives and innovations that bring continued prosperity to our region. As the achievements of these women grow in impact and magnitude, so does our focus on celebrating their wisdom, tenacity and dedication. Our second annual class is comprised of path-makers who are raising the bar for women professionals everywhere. Join us in celebrating this year’s Women to Watch!



Stacie Carubba ASSOCIATE BROKER AND PARTNER • ATHENA REAL ESTATE In college and her professional life, Stacie Carubba didn’t quite feel at home until she was helping others find theirs. When a tough life transition prompted enrollment in real estate classes, Stacie was rewarded with a new life and sense of self. Since acquiring her real estate license in 2015, she has sold over $35M and been the top producing agent at her brokerage the past four years. “My business is a true reflection of me,” says Stacie, Associate Broker and Partner at Athena Real Estate. “Real estate is such a personal industry— when people call me to help them buy or sell, they are calling me because they know they can trust I will go the extra mile for them.” Stacie has been recognized by local publications time and again and is listed in Marquis Who’s Who in America in 2021 for the top one percent of real estate professionals in the country. She credits her parents and grandfather for her creativity, attention to detail, and business and negotiating acumen. “After my grandfather passed away, I adopted his famous words, ‘Results, not excuses,’ as my tagline to both honor his legacy and to promise my clients exceptional service at all times.” Athena Real Estate 118 W. Harrison Ave., #301 New Orleans 504-507-8331 (o) 504-434-SOLD (c)






Highly respected by colleagues and clients alike, Cameron Strayhan has used her integrity, vast market knowledge, and disciplined sales strategies to become a preeminent real estate strategist of luxury residential sales across the Emerald Coast, specifically along the 30A corridor of Santa Rosa Beach, Florida. Cameron attributes her professional success to a solid combination of legal training, tenacity and relationship building. For over 10 years, she has used her powerful negotiation skills to stay ahead of the curve in a dynamic, ever changing industry. A graduate of LSU and Loyola University New Orleans College of Law, she spent several years practicing law focused mostly on closing real estate transactions before segueing into real estate sales. “Being a lawyer gives me an advantage in understanding and explaining to customers the potential traps in any home sales transaction, as well as the pitfalls of homeownership in communities with associations governed by extensive rules and regulations,” says Cameron. A community-minded mother of two, she volunteers her time on school boards and to fundraisers benefiting education. She invites potential beach buyers to reach out. Beachy Beach Real Estate 10343 E. Co. Hwy 30A Seacrest Beach, FL 850-687-0766 (c) • 850-231-3060 (o)



MAY 2021




Since 1976, the newly renamed Catholic Community Foundation (CCF) has served the Greater New Orleans area’s deepest needs by connecting generous donors with charities in the Archdiocese of New Orleans and in the larger community. The Foundation’s Women’s Giving Circle unites a group of philanthropicallyminded Catholic women and helps them understand these needs and how they might effect real change. “The field of philanthropy is constantly evolving, and women are playing a much bigger role in giving back,” says Jane Trufant Harvey, Co-Chair. “For us as Catholic women, being generous is more than tithing. It means giving of your time, talent, and treasure.” Annually, the Women’s Giving Circle chooses a specific impact area. Members learn about organizations whose lifegiving missions reflect their faith and make a difference in the community. Through the power of combined philanthropy, the group leverages a pooled fund to transform lives for selected organizations. Since 2016, the Women’s Giving Circle has granted nearly $900,000 to more than 50 organizations. Last year, the 176-member group adapted its usual programming to virtual events and put $173,000 to work in the community. CCF would like to recognize the Circle’s 2021 Executive Committee members: Lauren Brennan Brower, Jane Trufant Harvey, Darlene Robert, and Jan Tate. Catholic Community Foundation 1000 Howard Ave., Ste. 800, New Orleans 504-596-3045






As one of her grandmother’s over 100 grandchildren, Rosie Ricks Knop knows a lot about family and the challenges many people face when matching finances with a family’s needs. “I want everyone to know that there is a way out of paycheck to paycheck life and that there are people who care about your journey and want to help you move forward,” says Rosie. Whether in her role as Financial Advisor with Compass Capital Management or as a member of the American Business Women’s Association, Rosie is able to help both families and entrepreneurs grow their assets and prepare for the future. Her areas of expertise include Risk Management, Cash Flow Strategies, Retirement Strategies, and Business Solutions. Rosie credits her mother’s passion for helping others as well as her education in Theatre from the University of Southern Mississippi for helping her become the leader and mentor she is today. “Many misunderstand what you gain from a degree in Theatre, but I truly learned who I was as a person there,” she says. “I learned how to be a business woman, how to run a meeting, how to lead major projects, what true teamwork looks like, and how to truly do more with less.” Compass Capital Management 3445 N. Causeway Blvd., Ste. 1000, Metairie, LA 70002 504-322-7870 Rosie is a Registered Representative and Investment Advisor Representative of Securian Financial Services, Inc. Member FINRA/SIPC. Compass Capital Management is independently owned and operated. Tracking# 3546858 DOFU 04-2021



Carrita TannerCloud FOUNDER AND CEO • CREATIVITY JUSTIFIED AND CARRITA CLOUD & ASSOCIATES With an innate creative drive and years of experience in strategic planning and brand management, Carrita TannerCloud is a perfect fit for the advertising industry, where creativity and innovation provide constant inspiration. “To have the opportunity to assist businesses and organizations in scaling their businesses through impactful advertising campaigns, creative branding and innovative software solutions is something I enjoy every day,” says Carrita, Founder & CEO of Creativity Justified. “My mission is to help build brands that serve clients’ audiences as opposed to just selling to those audiences.” This approach has earned Carrita and Creativity Justified recognition as the 2020 Newsmaker of the Year in Advertising by New Orleans CityBusiness. Additionally, Governor John Bel Edwards recognized Creativity Justified for its participation in the LED Mentor Protégé Pilot Program with Blue Cross Blue Shield of Louisiana. Carrita credits her parents for her persaeverance, work ethic, patience, and compassion, all tools that were essential in not only protecting and growing her company during the pandemic but also doing the same for her clientele. Creativity Justified pivoted to offer more services, including business strategy/ development and consulting along with digital marketing solutions. Each summer, Creativity Justified sponsors an internship program in addition to community engagement activities within the Lakeshore Villages community and surrounding areas. Creativity Justified 1310 Brownswitch Rd. Ste. D, Slidell 844-3-CREATE (327-3283)






A natural problem solver, New Orleans native Linele Barrow’s journey to President/CEO of DRC Staffing began with just that: a problem that needed solving. “After working for several staffing agencies—in my experience as a black woman searching for accounting jobs—I was passed over for jobs that I was qualified for and offered lower paying jobs as compared to my peers of equal experience,” she says. Frustrated with the lack of visibility and appreciation, Linele was struck with an idea, a solution for helping herself and others. With DRC Staffing, she created a candidate-focused agency providing premier staffing solutions for accounting, healthcare, and construction professionals. “My clients are important to me, but my candidates are just as important,” says Linele. “I want to make sure they are heard, valued, and appreciated for their talents.” Linele credits all the people she’s encountered in life—her supportive father, Lionel Barrow, Jr., her inspiring children, and even those individuals who brought difficult life lessons—for making her who she is today. “I have always dreamed of returning the blessings to others, helping others how I have been helped along my journey,” she says. “My company affords me the opportunity to do that.” DRC Staffing 3500 N. Causeway Blvd., Ste.160, Metairie 504-273-0330



MAY 2021




A former business development analyst, ad agency executive, magazine publisher, and art gallery owner, Marguerite Oestreicher took a unique and circuitous path into nonprofit management. While this doesn’t sound like a likely resume for a nonprofit housing leader, she credits every life experience she’s had as helpful and relevant to where she is today. At a young age, Marguerite accompanied her father on a genetics research trip to the Mississippi Delta, where he conducted interviews with sharecropper families about sickle cell anemia. This early exposure to abject poverty—something she didn’t fully understand at the time—left an impression on young Marguerite that would influence her future. Later, during Hurricane Katrina, Marguerite lost her home like thousands of others, triggering a reset of priorities and purpose. “Recognizing our mutual dependence on one another and on access to contacts and opportunities made me want to effect change and make a positive impact,” she says. She went back to school to study nonprofit management and never looked back. Despite the pandemic, Marguerite and her team are focused on building a stronger future for the city they all love. New Orleans Area Habitat for Humanity will be introducing new ways to build and new programs later this year. New Orleans Area Habitat for Humanity 2900 Elysian Fields, New Orleans 504-861-2077






From the time she was young, Claudia Dixon has always been… clever. Raised by an educator, she was told she was “wise beyond her years,” attributed to an inquisitive mind and persistent spirit. Her road to accounting somehow started as a love for math while she attended Sacred Heart of Jesus School and later, St. Joseph’s Academy, both in her hometown of Baton Rouge, Louisiana. Years later, she put those same skills to use during her tenure in banking and finance. After 12 years in the corporate environment, the Baton Rouge native decided to apply her knowledge of financial analysis, management and accounting to her own firm, J Beck Accounting & Consulting, which provides full-service accounting solutions to individuals and businesses. Services include grant management, budgeting, payroll and financial coaching. “I veered towards accounting because I love working with numbers—they’re so conclusive,” she says. “Also, the transition from banking to my own accounting firm was easier for my customers to digest.” In addition to working as a consultant and accountant, Claudia is the co-founder of Music and Money, a non-profit that promotes financial and arts education using concepts found in popular music lyrics. The signature fundraiser, Emerald City, happens annually in May. A devoted mother of four, the primary focus throughout her life and career has been communitybetterment through financial empowerment. Her aspirations are to continue investing in the communities where she lives and raises her children. J Beck Accounting 501 Government St., Ste. 105 Baton Rouge 225-380-0387 52


MAY 2021




Kelly Waltemath still views every workday as different and special after a childhood tied to real estate and a seven-year career in the industry that began immediately after college. The young girl that grew up walking and biking in the neighborhoods her father and grandfather developed, eyeing the homes under construction with curiosity and enthusiasm, today specializes in new construction herself and is a Realtor and Managing Member/Owner of the Kelly Waltemath Group, LLC. “Every aspect of the real estate business fascinates me and excites me,” says Kelly. “I love everything about it—from interior design to flipping homes to frequently working with homebuilders to build custom homes from scratch. Seeing a client walk in a home and have that ‘it’s the one’ face is the cherry on top.” After graduating LSU in 2014, Kelly joined Keller Williams and hasn’t looked back. She has been a top producer at Keller Williams five years in a row and has consistently been in the top five percent of realtors in the Gulf States Region. More than a buying or selling agent, Kelly enjoys the business of real estate, growing her team and company just as her family did. “I consider myself much more than a Realtor to my clients—I endeavor to be a friend for life,” she says. Kelly Waltemath | Keller Williams Realty Services 1522 W. Causeway Approach, Mandeville 504-236-8587 •






Leaders learn from experience, and Brittany Major has spent a lifetime observing, implementing, learning and growing as both a person and a businesswoman. “I like to think that I’ve evolved and taken lessons from all of my professional experiences, beginning with my very first job in high school,” she says. With an extensive and accomplished resume of global finance and banking experience, Brittany is now at the helm of Major Services, Inc. a family-owned and operated IT firm founded by her father, Bobby Major, Jr., in 1994. Brittany understands how evolving technology can improve or impede a business and its operations, and she looks forward to taking her family’s business to the next level. Major Services is well-equipped to tailor IT systems and related manual processes to support the business needs of private or public organizations. Their suite of services includes: business process re-engineering with the goal of analyzing company workflows and improving productivity, managed service provider solutions for administering a variety of systems, and staff augmentation to respond to client needs. Major Services 2751 Toulouse Street, New Orleans 504-488-1300



MAY 2021




Interested in both the scientific advancement of building and design as well as the artistic creation of beauty, Angela Morton found architecture to be an ideal intersection of both as a young student at the University of Virginia. “The idea that architecture could be of the world and also made to protect us from the world, that architecture was a part of nature but also what set us apart from the natural world really appealed to me,” she says. Angela takes a both and—not either or—approach to life and enjoys the collaborative nature of her Mathes Brierre team. Whether working with architects, designers, clients, contractors or craftsmen, being able to draw out the best from collaborators and make a safe space for open dialogue is key—it always produces something bigger. Always observing, Angela also enjoys seeing how people use their space over time. “Mathes Brierre has been in practice for more than 125 years,” she says. “It’s rewarding to renovate projects that are part of the firm’s portfolio, to see how well things have adapted to changing times and needs.” Angela is a graduate of the NORLI program, a member of the AIA, and Past President of AIA New Orleans and AIA Louisiana. She is LEED accredited and NCARB Certified. Mathes Brierre Architects 201 St. Charles Avenue, Ste. 4100, New Orleans 504-586-9303





Victoria Carney Rodriguez MONKEY MONKEY COFFEE & TEA

Victoria Carney Rodriguez entered Monkey Monkey Coffee & Tea in 2015 to apply for a job at the urging of her friend, an employee of the quaint Mid City shop. The moment she stepped through the doors, Monkey Monkey immediately felt like home. That day, Victoria was hired as a barista shift lead, and four short years later she was offered the opportunity to take full ownership of the business. “I’ve had a love for coffee my whole life,” says Victoria, “My grandmother gave it to me as a young child, and I have always associated it with love, family, gathering and the start of a productive day.” Victoria now shares her passion for coffee and food with her own blossoming family and community at Monkey Monkey, and it’s important to her to employ people who share that same passion. “Everything we serve is handmade, and love for our craft is essential,” she says. Victoria feels her mission as a business owner is to give employees, products, and customers the respect and attention they deserve. Monkey Monkey’s positive, warm environment is no doubt the result of her openness to growth, self-improvement, and the changes we all face in life. Monkey Monkey Coffee & Tea 4641 S. Carrollton Avenue, New Orleans 504-324-4899 @monkeymonkeynola



MAY 2021




A native of Northern Ireland, Elaine Garvey’s path to working in New Orleans at one of the top 100 CPA firms in the country was not one she envisioned. As a student of the liberal arts and law, Elaine refined her knowledge and skill in a variety of subjects, and as a student of the world, travelling for months on a shoe-string budget, Elaine refined her world-view. Elaine’s education and experience led her to a 20-year career with a global accounting firm. Today, she serves as a Director at Postlethwaite & Netterville, a large regional firm whose people made her feel right at home. “Working with so many great people over the years has been key to my success,” says Elaine. “Leaders gave me a place at the table when perhaps I wasn’t the most obvious choice, and that’s what I want to carry forward,” she says. At Postlethwaite & Netterville, Elaine’s client roster is largely nonprofit, education, and community-focused organizations. Elaine also serves on several boards, including the board of the Louisiana Endowment of the Humanities. Postlethwaite & Netterville 1 Galleria Blvd., Ste. 2100, Metairie 504-837-5990






Megan Naccari always knew she wanted to own her own business, and at the age of 22, while attending John Jay Beauty College, she wrote her first business plan. Seven years later, Megan is Owner/CEO and Aesthetician at Saintly Skin, a medical spa that employs one doctor, two nurse practitioners, two aestheticians, a massage therapist, and administrative staff. “My father was always self-employed, and growing up, I always admired his compassion for his employees—he taught me to be patient and kind with my employees and my customers,” says Megan. “I have a successful business thanks to his guidance.” At Saintly Skin, Megan and her team use quality products and state-of-theart medical equipment, providing effective skin and body treatments to help people look and feel their best. The team prides itself on and is distinguished by its robust training and education. “I look forward to my clients returning, ecstatic with their results,” says Megan. I genuinely enjoy my work and turning customers into friends.” During the pandemic, Saintly Skin was proud to distribute over 600 free to-go facials for frontline workers experiencing skin issues from wearing masks and PPE. Saintly Skin 3000 Kingman St., Ste. 101, Metairie 504-475-5510



MAY 2021



Rosalind Thibodeaux BROKER • THIBODEAUX REED REALTY • CITY COUNCIL DISTRICT B HOPEFUL Life is made up of chapters, and perhaps no one knows that better than Rosalind Thibodeaux, Broker at Thibodeaux Reed Realty and New Orleans City Council District B hopeful. The Council candidate and real estate broker reflects candidly on her non-traditional pathway, from early days as a rebellious teen and young adult, to a more responsible student and employee, before arriving at devoted mother with a drive to serve. “My success came because there was no other choice—I was tired of letting people down, and I wanted my children to have someone they could be proud of,” says Rosalind. Today, Rosalind calls herself the most rewarded Realtor, not because of her list of professional accomplishments but because of her ability to be there for her children and family. “My children influence how I guide others,” says Rosalind. “I lead in a way that I want them to lead. I follow when I should, admit when I am wrong, and don’t take on more than I can handle. I am honest before all else.” Rosalind’s new chapter in politics began in storybook fashion with a strange encounter with a generous homeless man at a Mardi Gras parade. What happens next? She looks forward to finding out. Thibodeaux Reed Realty 504-354-8462 (o) 337-658-0181 (c)






Growing up, Michelle Craig had friends and family members who had a lot of negative experiences with lawyers, but when she learned that the profession included freedom fighters, social activists, politicians, change-makers and entrepreneurs, she realized law school could be a springboard to other worlds. As Owner and Managing Attorney at Transcendent Law Group (TLG), Michelle works in areas where she shares a passion—areas that influence the fabric of society—such as labor and employment law, small businesses/entrepreneur law, and education law. “Empathy and understanding are important, says Michelle. “I am tough and effective, but that doesn’t negate my ability to have compassion and see the big picture in a legal situation.” Michelle has moved and traveled extensively, living in the Gulf South and studying in Baton Rouge and Aix en Provence, France. These travels taught her that people want the same things— happiness, love, justice, and equality— and that we have more in common with one another than differences. This understanding, combined with TLG’s quality collaborative approach, has garnered her and her firm frequent recognition and a reputation for sparking innovation, getting results, and leading future generations. TLG is committed to service. Michelle started an organization called DiversiTea, and TLG supports others like UNCF, Dress for Success, and The Innocence Project. Transcendent Law Group 1441 Canal Street, Ste. 317, New Orleans 504-459-4557



MAY 2021




Recognized by Gambit Weekly, Where Y’at, and New Orleans Magazine as one of the top day spas in Greater New Orleans, Woodhouse Day Spa has also been ranked a Top Workplace in the Times-Picayune four years in a row. The Spa Directors of its four locations are key to the company’s success and the spa’s ability to thrive despite the hardships of 2020 on the industry. Thanks to Loren Carollo (Metairie), Heather Horton (Baton Rouge), Danielle McGee (Slidell), Domonique Ovide (New Orleans) and their dedicated teams, Woodhouse has continued to offer its tranquil, transformational environment as a respite for relaxation. “We have such amazing, loyal team members who have helped heal our guests during such a stressful time,” says Domonique. Danielle agrees: “It’s truly a privilege to work in this industry with such incredible people and the mentors we’ve had along the way.” At Woodhouse, making a change in someone’s day brings the entire team immense joy and satisfaction. “Remembering the smallest details and seeing our guests’ smiling faces when they notice is what inspires us to go the extra mile,” says Loren. “My nail technician always gave me a special escape, almost like a therapy session—that’s what inspired my journey into the spa industry and what we hope to do for others,” says Heather. Woodhouse Day Spa New Orleans • Slidell • Metairie • Baton Rouge





MAY 2021


WORKSPACES Gambel Communications moves to a

new, larger space that mirrors its founder’s vision for the company

WHY DIDN’T I THINK OF THAT? Two Northshore friends

charmed the “Sharks” and walked away with a big business boost

ON THE JOB Lauren Ramos is part of a strong

female team that have led The Fillmore through its most challenging time.


Relationship Building Gambel Communications moves to a new, larger space that mirrors its founder’s vision for the company BY MELANIE WARNER SPENCER PHOTOS BY SARA ESSEX BRADLEY

Gambel Communications celebrates its 12th year in business in new, custom offices in Metairie. Founder Betsie Gambel worked with her brother, architect Tommy Merick Duplantier, and contractor Tom Leblanc of Kemper Construction to realize her vision for the more than 3,000-square-foot space. The offices showcase a bevy of art from Gambel’s personal collection.


Gambel Communications at its location on Metairie Road behind Royal Blend Coffee & Tea. Founded in 2009 by Betsie Gambel, the company had long outgrown its charming, 1,000-square-foot offices. In 2019, Gambel finally found the perfect new home. With the help of her architect brother, Tommy Merick Duplantier, and Kemper Construction, Gambel was able to achieve her vision for offices that allowed the company to cater to its needs, and those of its clients and the community, well beyond the capabilities of the earlier space while still leaving room to grow. “We knew we had outgrown the office on Metairie Road years ago, but nobody wanted to move because we loved the space,” said Gambel. “We loved the location. We loved the newsroom environment. At one point, Amy [CEO Amy Boyle Collins] and I were sharing the office with the conference table [in it]. We did great work there and people would walk in and say, ‘This is just so y’all.’ ” Gambel said she had been looking for a long time before discovering a building on Ridgelake Drive in Metairie. It included a residential apartment on the second floor, as well as a warehouse space, and would provide more than 3,000 square feet of space. “I knew I could make it work with my business,” she said. “The biggest challenge was we wanted a significant conference room that community groups could use, where we could have classes and large capacity press conferences and meetings. What attracted us to this building is it used to be a swimming pool company, so [on] the side was a two-story warehouse. I didn’t know what I was doing to do with it, but I brought my brother over, and he said, ‘This is easy — this is where your conference room is.’” Duplantier redesigned the first floor to include three small offices, an executive office



MAY 2021

We have built our business on relationships. People come to us to put people and ideas together to create strategies that arise from relationships. Betsie Gambel, founder Gambel Communications

with a conference table and large conference room, which has a second-floor gallery. “It’s just exquisite,” said Gambel. “Gorgeous light fixtures, lots of natural light, a credenza built in on the side for coffee service. It has large, [ADA compliant] bathrooms — it’s beautiful. I knew how many private or semi-private spaces I needed, and I knew I needed two conference rooms. That was the No. 1 challenge. How do we convert this empty warehouse into something that

complements the rest of the building? Tommy was masterful. He and Leblanc just worked beautifully together and created this absolute showstopper.” Upstairs, Gambel said they took a softer approach in a mix of collaborative spaces and partition spaces, as well as an area for lunch and breaks. The combination borrows from co-working space design, allowing flexibility for the different work styles of staff members and types of projects.





MAY 2021

The second floor, formerly a residential space, was redesigned to include a mix of collaborative spaces and partition spaces, as well as an area for lunch and breaks. The combination borrows from co-working space design, allowing flexibility for the different work styles of staff members and types of projects.


2701 Ridgelake Drive, Metairie YEAR BUSINESS WAS ESTABLISHED





Betsie Gambel, founder; Amy Boyle Collins, CEO

The large conference room is open, contemporary and convertible, designed to adapt to a variety of uses. “We have it set up as a typical, long rectangle table, but we can [configure] it as a classroom [or] theater style,” she said. “We have the big monitor TV at the end so it’s very usable for group settings to Zoom or for a virtual press conference. You can be on the gallery upstairs and overlook what’s going on downstairs, [so if ] you wanted spectators you could do that.” At Christmas, Gambel said they converted the conference room to a Windsor Courtstyle tearoom for the staff ’s holiday party, complete with candelabras and tea service. “The next day we were holding a press conference,” she said. “It maintains this forward-looking positive character.” Positivity and connection are at the core of Gambel’s mission. Each member of the staff is tasked with taking part in the community at large through work with nonprofit organizations they are passionate about supporting, like the Junior League of New Orleans or the Press Club of New Orleans, and also via leadership groups, such as the New Orleans Regional Black Chamber of Commerce or the Jefferson Chamber of Commerce. “We have built our business on relationships,” said Gambel. “People come to us to put people and ideas together to create strategies that arise from relationships. Civic or nonprofit work really strengthens those relationships and that connection. We really like taking Camellia Beans and pairing them with Tabasco and Leidenheimer Baking Co. to do a house float — putting different clients together for benefit or just introducing them because we know they share the same values or philosophy. We love that.” n


8 full-time and 3 part-time ARCHITECT

Tommy Merick Duplantier, architect; Tom Leblanc of Kemper Construction, contractor FURNISHINGS AND ART

Select pieces from Betsie Gambel’s personal collection, including works by Adele Sypesteyn, Rhenda Saporito, Nell Mabry, Ida Kohlmeyer, Nurhan Gokturk, folk artist Bob Markley and, most recently, a Derrick Franklin-designed Orpheus flower from a celebrity float that was acquired for Krewe of House Floats.

The first floor has three small offices, as well as an executive office with a conference table and large conference room, which has a second-floor gallery to accommodate spectators. The conference room is built with flexibility in mind and can be converted to work as a classroom or configured for a press conference or event.




Making Their Own Bed Northshore friends charmed the “Sharks” and walked away with a big business boost. BY ASHLEY MCLELLAN PHOTOS BY SARA ESSEX BRADLEY

Northshore friends and entrepreneurs Nita Gassen and Judy Schott are the founders of Better Bedder, an invention that simplifies bed making. The pair recently hit it big on the TV show “Shark Tank,” an experience that has immediately impacted the success of their business thanks to national and international exposure.


residents Nita Gassen and Judy Schott hit the small screen to take on some big sharks. Representing their invention, Better Bedder, the duo won big on ABC’s business-pitch TV phenomenon, “Shark Tank,” when all three Sharks — host-investors — presented offers. In the end, the women accepted $150,000 from Shark Lori Greiner in exchange for 18% of their equity. Currently manufactured at a facility in Gretna, Better Bedder aims to simplify bed-making and keep sheets in order by operating as “a giant headband that wraps around the sides of a mattress to keep both the fitted and flat sheets in place.” According to the company’s website, the invention helps “seniors, the disabled, neat freaks, sleepers who run marathons at night and kick the sheets loose, and people who want to make their beds but are too lazy. Now all these folks can make their beds with little effort in just seconds.” Schott, a New Orleans native, attorney and COO of a Northshore insurance company, and Gassen, a liability insurance professional originally from Luling, were blown away by their experience on “Shark Tank.” “It was amazing. We knew we would be nervous, so we probably over-prepared. The Sharks were unusually nice to us, even Mr. Wonderful [Kevin O’Leary],” Gassen said. “Once we got an offer from Barbara [Corcoran], we immediately felt a sense of relief. To have three offers was amazing. The whole thing was truly surreal.” Schott said the two prepared for the appearance by practicing and rehearsing every scenario they could think of. When their episode finally premiered, they said those closest to them were surprised.



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We are looking forward to the day when Better Bedder is a name recognized worldwide. Nita Gassen, co-creator and business owner

“Most of our family and friends had no idea that we made it to ‘Shark Tank,’ as we were sworn to secrecy, Gassen said. When it finally aired, reality set in, not only for our family and friends, but for us as well.” Gassen and Schott were smart to be prepared. If chosen, many “Shark Tank” candidates have seen the success of their companies skyrocket, both due to the national exposure the show provides, as well as the investment and mentorship of the Sharks as well. Some everyday household products that got their boost from the show include sock company Bombas, sponge company Scrub Daddy, bathroom essential Squatty Potty and online flower retailer The Bouqs. According to Schott, Better Bedder has already seen a significant sales bump since the TV appearance in February. “We immediately saw an increase in sales and interest from consumers and hotels around the world such as Australia, Finland and the UK,” she said. “We knew if we could get the opportunity to share the Better Bedder with the world that they would see

the value, especially seniors and those with disabilities.” Gassen agreed, noting that the impact of their appearance proved to be monumental to the company’s sales status. “In the month after the ‘Shark Tank’ episode, we [were] projecting to sell more products than we’ve sold since our inception,” she said. “We are really so thankful for all of the support we have received, especially our Louisiana support.” Better Bedder ranges in price from $39.99 for a twin-sized unit to $69.99 for a California king size and is available online and via infomercial. Plans are currently in place to expand into major retail stores by 2022. For now, however, the company is still a family affair for Gassen and Schott, with additional friends pitching in on projects when needed. “We still only have two full-time employees, myself, Nita, and my daughter, Blake Amelie,” Schott said. “We have several friends, and every member of our families participates in some aspect or another, including website

design and marketing. We have done our own marketing and website design and even scripted and produced our own commercials using family members as actors, which includes Judy’s 92-year-old mother-in-law.” Schott and Gassen have also been approached with many new opportunities, which the duo is exploring, including interest in Better Bedder across the hospitality industry, as well as those interested in finding out more about their success. “We are currently working with hotels, AirBnBs, and resorts, as well as the RV market,” Gassen said. “We are looking forward to the day when Better Bedder is a name recognized worldwide. We also have been approached by several companies, including a Texas computer software company, asking about our marketing. On our next adventure, we hope to help others with their online marketing. We will show them how we took a product that didn’t exist three years ago and catapulted it to ‘Shark Tank,’ and zero sales to over $2 million.”n

10 TOPSELLING SHARK TANK PRODUCTS 1. Bombas socks $225 million lifetime sales 2. Scrub Daddy sponges $209 million 3. Squatty Potty bathroom footstool $164 million 4. Simply Fit Board balance board $160 million 5. The Original Comfy blanket sweatshirt $150 million 6. Tipsy Elves ugly Christmas sweaters $125 million 7. The Bouqs online flower retailer $100 million 8. Sleep Styler heat-free hair rollers $100 million 9. Lovepop pop-up greeting cards $80 million 10. Cousins Maine Lobster seafood business $65 million SOURCE: USA TODAY, 2019

Better Bedder is manufactured locally at a Westbank sew shop, and works, according to the company, like a giant headband, keeping both the fitted and top sheets in place. Once installed, Better Bedder promises to keep bedding looking neat with ease.



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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Stage Change Lauren Ramos is part of a strong female team (eight of the 10 managers are women) that have led The Fillmore through its most challenging time. PHOTO BY CHERYL GERBER

SINCE OPENING IN FEBRUARY 2019, The Fillmore has filled the second floor of New Orleans’ Harrah’s Casino with top live music acts, including The Foo Fighters, Duran Duran, Lizzo and Willie Nelson. Since the pandemic, however, the 22,000-square-foot space’s music hall (seen here) has remained dark, but its smaller spaces have continued to host private events. Lauren Ramos, senior sales manager with Live Nation (operator of The Fillmore) said the venue has also recently found use as a rehearsal space. “We’ve got some great names coming in to rehearse for the ramp up to touring season,” she said, “which we’re hoping will be late summer and early fall.” n

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