Biz New Orleans May 2022

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The chambers of commerce of St. Bernard, Orleans, Jefferson and St. Tammany parishes all face varying challenges, but their leadership is more alike than different, and frequently call on each other for guidance and support.

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More Women Turn to Tech More money and opportunity after just a few months of training? p. 24 Claws Out This fingernail artist and entrepreneur is tearing it up p. 66 p. 66

(left) Lacey Osborne, president and CEO, St. Tammany Chamber of Commerce; (back) Elizabeth Dauterive, CEO, St. Bernard Chamber of Commerce; (front) Ruth Lawson, president, Jefferson Chamber of Commerce; (right) Sandra Lindquist, president and CEO, New Orleans Chamber of Commerce




22 10 DINING Wetlands Sake’s quest to source local forced its owners to take a big chance. 12 TOURISM National Travel and Tourism Week this month focused on the future of the industry 14 SPORTS Spring football has returned to New Orleans — with a quirky business model 16 ENTREPRENEUR Whether building transatlantic trading companies or revolutionizing food storage, women have been making their mark as accomplished entrepreneurs for thousands of years.

FROM THE LENS 62 GREAT WORKSPACES The conservation-minded women behind Wetlands Sake have expanded operations to include a tasting room where visitors can sip and see behind the scenes.




72 NEW ORLEANS 500 Mayra Pineda, president and CEO of the Hispanic Chamber of Commerce of Louisiana

MARITIME+PORTS As the fight over a much-needed container facility continues, time is of the essence.

18 BANKING Is bigger better? What does it mean for consumers when smaller banks get bought by bigger banks? 20 REAL ESTATE+ CONSTRUCTION An $80 million affordable housing and healthcare development is under construction in Central City 24 GUEST Driven by a growing industry offering higher pay and relatively low barriers to entry, more NOLA women are seeking tech certifications post-pandemic.



From working out of her living room to working on a hit TV show and boasting a highprofile Hollywood client list, Morgan Dixon has her wellstyled fingertips on the pulse of a growing industry.


Child CareLess No More? Disruptions in childcare cost Louisiana businesses $762 million every year. What’s being done about it?


The Chamber Quartet

Greater New Orleans’ four largest parishes are all run by women — a look at who they are and what they want.




Publisher Todd Matherne EDITORIAL Managing Editor Kimberley Singletary Art Director Sarah George Digital Media Editor Kelly Massicot Associate News Editor Rich Collins

Full Disclosure


once forgot the word “door.” That was the rock-bottom pregnancy brain moment I hit about six months ago. We were leaving the house and I turned around to remind my 11-year-old to close the...OMG... swingy thing behind her. As difficult as working pregnant was, however, it’s nothing compared to trying to stay on top of things once the little one makes its arrival. It’s not easy being a parent at the best of times: Take away traditional school and childcare during a global pandemic, however, and working parents are struggling like never before — especially the moms. Even with school and daycare back, you run the risk of a phone call or email telling you of an exposure or shutdown and to come get your child. Study after study have shown that it’s women who have been most likely to have jobs affected by the multiple pandemic shutdowns and economic slowdown, and it’s women who tend to shoulder the majority of caretaking responsibilities — whether that’s for children or any friend or family member. As I sit here trying to type out this editor’s note, I’m feeling really fried. My youngest daughter turned 5 months old today. She’s a miracle — a gift that could not have been more unexpected or exciting… She’s also made getting my job done a real struggle. We’re currently on a waitlist for childcare with the hopes that the stars will align and she’ll get in right after she’s able to be vaccinated. Until then, however, I’ll keep trying to mute out at least most of the babbling from my little cohost on BizTalks podcasts, nursing her (almost liter-



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ally under the table) on Zoom calls, and pulling late nights while hoping I can sneak in some sleep before she wakes again. But I know I’m fortunate. I have a very understanding boss who, when I apologize for not being at the level I’d like to be right now, reminds me to “hang in there” and that it all goes by so fast. Plus, my art director is also home with a little one and is thus intimately familiar with the insane juggling act. In this, our annual women’s issue, I just want to say I see you, all of you women out there getting it done, no matter what challenges you face. I see you — fighting for your dreams, fighting to make a difference, fighting just to get those emails answered before you call it a night. I hope as you read about the women in this issue — and all our issues — you are inspired as I am by what they are doing. And I hope, like the ladies on the cover, you do not hesitate to reach out to other women for guidance, collaboration, maybe a little brainstorming, or just a reminder that you are, in fact, killing it. Even when it doesn’t feel that way. Hang in there, and thanks for reading.

Perspective Writer Drew Hawkins Contributors Michelle D. Jackson, Ashley McLellan, Chris Price, Jennifer Gibson Schecter, Melanie Warner Spencer, Poppy Tooker, Keith Twitchell ADVERTISING Sales Manager Caitlin Sistrunk (504) 830-7252 Senior Account Executive Jessica Jaycox (504) 830-7255 Senior Account Executive Meghan Schmitt (504) 830-7246

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

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

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



Female Focus


his month we are focusing on women, not only in the pages of Biz New Orleans, but throughout other magazines by Renaissance Publishing. In New Orleans magazine this month, we honor our annual Top Female Achievers, women who are making a difference across the community in the business and nonprofit realms. I invite you to read about these 11 ladies who make up the class of 2022. Visit for more information. The current issue of Acadiana Profile (our regional magazine based in Lafayette) not only published its annual trail-blazers (a section devoted to profiling individuals who are making a mark on their profession in the Acadiana region) but it also has a section spotlighting women who lead in the community and within their industry. You can read more about these five trailblazers and six women at As you continue to read through the pages of Biz New Orleans, our cover story this month highlights the women leading the region’s chamber organizations. With the leadership change at the New Orleans and Jefferson Chambers this year, the business community now has four top females in executive positions. Sandra (New Orleans) and Ruth (Jefferson) join Elizabeth (St. Bernard) and long-time executive Lacey Osborne (St. Tammany) as leaders of our region’s chamber members.



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Caitlin Sistrunk Sales Manager (504) 830-7252

In addition to this month’s cover story, we dedicate a segment of the magazine to profiles on Women to Watch, an annual section highlighting professional women in the community. Continuing with the focus on women, over 80% of our staff is female and their leadership throughout the company is extraordinary. They are all excellent professionals and make our business better. Finally, this month I salute all mothers. May 8th is Mother’s Day and we should celebrate all those in our lives that encourage and help foster the next generation.

TODD MATHERNE CEO and Publisher Renaissance Publishing

Jessica Jaycox Senior Account Executive (504) 830-7255

Meghan Schmitt Senior Account Executive (504) 830-7246


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


It is encouraging to see our vision coming to life. These improvements and enhanced amenities will be beneficial for visitors and residents alike and make New Orleans more competitive in the national event and meeting marketplace. The more meetings and events NOENMCC can host, the greater the economic impact we will be on the city and region.

Ernest N. Morial New Orleans Exhibition Hall Authority President Jerry Reyes speaking about the convention center’s status on its $557 million capital improvement plan in an article on

“We’re about to experience the most dramatic and unpredictable supply chain map since World War II. And if the Russian invasion of Ukraine drags on — which, unfortunately, is likely going to happen — we face a real possibility of a bifurcated global economy...That means supply chains are going to come back to places that are safe and reliable, and it means that corporations are going to make investments in the supply chains in places where they feel they’re going to have geopolitical stability. So, this is an enormous opportunity for us, from Baton Rouge all the way to the Port of Plaquemines.” Michael Hecht, speaking at GNO Inc.’s “State of the Region” luncheon, held March 17 at the Hyatt Regency New Orleans.


Intralox President and CEO Edel Banks

A global manufacturer of conveyor belts headquartered in Jefferson Parish, Intralox has grown dramatically in the last several years thanks to the rise of e-commerce, and now employs more than 3,000 people. Blanks discusses the company’s inception, why business is booming and how Intralox has built and maintained its reputation as a great place to work.


Dr. Michlle K. Johnston

Drew Brees, John Georges, Tania Tetlow, Todd Graves… these are just a few of the people whose leadership styles are analyzed in a new book called “The Seismic Shift in Leadership” by executive coach and Loyola University Gaston Chair of Business Dr. Michelle K. Johnston.




NEWS FROM THE TOP Each month, we ask the top business professionals featured in the New Orleans 500 to weigh in on issues impacting the New Orleans business community. Have an idea for a survey question for the New Orleans 500? Email


WHERE DO YOU GIVE? This month’s respondents were pretty evenly split on where they direct their philanthropy. BY RICH COLLINS


or the April “Question of the Month,” Biz New Orleans asked members of the New Orleans 500 what types of philanthropic organizations they support and if their approach has changed since the pandemic. Thirty-six percent of respondents said they focus their philanthropic efforts on education and workforce training nonprofits. Thirty percent said they spend on social welfare organizations, and 28% primarily support associations, chambers and economic development groups. A smaller group (6%) said they prioritize social clubs. It was clear from many responses that if we’d included an “all of the above” option, it would have been a popular choice. The following are some of the notable responses we received: “As the community foundation for Jefferson Parish, philanthropy is our business. We’re finding that more companies are interested in engaging in initiatives for the betterment of the parish. There’s an increased interest in diversity and equity as well as childcare/early education.” — Christine Briede, executive director of the Jefferson Community Foundation “Home Bank has an employee giving program called Home Bank Helps in addition to the



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Education and workforce training


Social welfare organizations

Types of philanthropic organizations the New Orleans 500 support

28% 6%

Social clubs

bank’s sponsorship and grant programs. We are focused on workforce development and housing security, as this is the best way to build generational wealth and ultimately improve our overall community. We are a community bank, so we are focused on the overall financial health of the places that we live, work and play.” — John Zollinger, executive vice president and director of commercial banking of Home Bank “As a professional services firm, our business depends on a growing and successful community. That includes not just the businesses, but also the residents in that community. Nonprofit organizations are critical to our community. … One of our key values at P&N is to partner with our community so our employees develop a desire to get involved in organizations for which they have a personal passion.” — Philip Gunn, managing director of the New Orleans Office of Postlethwaite & Netterville “Providing the opportunity to educate is more valuable long-term than providing financial assistance. Both are essential, but I have elected to provide financial assistance and scholarships to students at my alma mater and the Family Firm Institute, a professional organization studying family business succession trends worldwide. … We pride ourselves in believing that one cannot go wrong being nice and giving back to a community that has been so generous

Associations, chambers, and economic development groups

to our business. Philanthropy is one of our core values.” — Randy Waesche, president and CEO of Resource Management “We include this statement in our Mackie One core values: We give unskilled, undereducated hardworking people an opportunity to learn a skill and earn a respectable living wage to raise their family independently, without government assistance.” — Earl Mackie, executive managing director of Mackie One Construction “As a people-based organization, CLS takes a company-wide ‘divide and conquer’ approach by encouraging employees to participate in nonprofit organizations. CLS offers all its employees a full paid week of VTO (volunteer time off) each year in support of our commitment to local communities. This is one way we exemplify our ‘Live Oak’ core value.” — Angela Verdin, president of Complete Logistical Services. The New Orleans 500 is a curated list of influential, involved and inspiring executives in the Greater New Orleans region. Each month, the Biz New Orleans editorial team sends an email survey to this list to help gather economic data, as well as valuable insights, ideas and opinions. T









National Travel and Tourism Week this month focuses on the future of travel.

Spring football has returned to New Orleans — with a quirky business model.

Women have been making their mark as accomplished entrepreneurs for thousands of years.



Wetlands Sake’s quest to source local forced its owners to take a big chance.


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.

Ricely Done

Wetlands Sake’s quest to source local forced its owners to take a big chance. BY POPPY TOOKER

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wo local women with great entrepreneurial attitude have given Louisiana’s centuries-old rice industry something new to crow about. Over a casual dinner several years ago, Nan Wallis and Lindsey Beard were discussing their fondness for the Japanese beverage sake. Wallis had recently returned from a long trip across the U.S. where she’d noticed sake selections popping up in eateries everywhere, from white tablecloth restaurants to BBQ joints. “We live in the land of rice!” Beard commented. “Why is no one making sake here?” Her question prompted Wallis to investigate further. Soon after, Beard returned home to discover a bag of rice on her doorstep with a note from Wallis that read, “Someone should be making sake here and I think it should be us!” Through her research, Wallis learned that sake is one of the fastest-growing liquor categories in America. The two agreed that they could only proceed with a sake brewing business if the rice was Louisiana grown. This stipulation proved to be their first stumbling block. After making several trips to the LSU AgCenter Rice Research Station in Crowley, they discovered that Louisiana farmers only cultivate medium and long grain rice — sake is made with short grain rice. Dejected, they

2021, the product hit the shelves. Available in 8-ounce cans, Wetland Sake’s initial offerings included filtered and unfiltered sake with an ABV of 14% and sparkling sakes in passionfruit and blood orange at a lighter 6.5% ABV. This spring, Wetlands Sake welcomed the public into their taproom adjacent to the brewery. Craft cocktail guru Susie Bohnstengel was brought on board to create small batch sake infusions to enhance the taproom’s offerings. Seasonally driven, some of the initial sake agreed if they couldn’t grow it, they couldn’t cocktails included an espresso sock-it-tini, a do it. But weeks later, on a Saturday afternoon, sake paloma, a sakerita and the cosmic sake Wallis’ phone rang. She answered and Dustin smash along with filtered and unfiltered sakes Harold, head of the Rice Research Station on tap. Retractable doors allow the taproom to said he had the perfect rice, a short grain rice flow freely into a spacious outdoor area, perfect variety called Pirogue developed by Dr. Steve for the live music events hosted there. Linscombe. In their passionate commitment to Loui“It looks like a beautiful little pearl — short siana, Beard and Wallis would not rest until grain and high starch,” he reported. every element of the growing and manufac“How soon can we get a sample?” Wallis asked. turing process was done within the state. In “Oh, we’d have to grow it for you,” came the 2022, with 15,000 acres of rice in the ground, surprising reply. the indomitable pair is looking forward to Pirogue only existed as breeder seed, so in having their rice milled here too for the first order to test the rice, an entire acre would have time. “Milling rice for sake is a completely to be cultivated specially, requiring the women different process than our rice mills are usually to purchase 7,000 pounds of seed. capable of,” said Wallis. “Sake rice is polished, “If we’re going to take a gamble, this is it!” rather than milled. In polishing, the hull is Beard and Wallis agreed. never cracked. Our polished sake rice will Five months later, Pirogue passed the compare in quality with the strictest industry brewing trials with glowing reviews and Louistandards in Japan.” siana was on the way to its first sake brewery. This summer will see Wetlands Sake expand Naming their new business Wetlands Sake in into several surrounding Southern states, honor of the beauty and protection including Georgia. Get ready provided by Louisiana’s endangered America! This Louisiana-born, wetlands, they decided to dedicate entirely woman-owned sake 2% of the profits from the company brewery is positioned to take the Catch Poppy to the national nonprofit organizaliquor world by storm. Tooker on her radio tion “Save America’s Wetlands.” A show, “Louisiana * * Fo r a l o o k a t t h e n e w Eats!” Saturdays state-of-the-art sake brewery was Wetlands Sake Taproom, see this at 3 p.m. and constructed in the heart of the month’s Great Workspaces on Mondays at 8 p.m. Lower Garden District and by March page 62. T on WWNO 89.9 FM.




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

What Is The Future of Travel?

National Travel and Tourism Week this month offers predictions. BY JENNIFER GIBSON SCHECTER




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bearers that make New Orleans such an outstanding destination.” Romig said the importance of NTTW to New Orleans cannot be overstated. “The pandemic literally shut down the travel and hospitality industry for well over a year. The return of this annual observation, held each May, is significant as travel, meetings, events, etc. have returned,” she said. “It is even more significant in New Orleans than other major destinations because the hospitality industry is a major economic engine for our region. A healthy hospitality industry is a major boost for tens of thousands of people who work in some capacity in hospitality.” NTTW, which is organized by the U.S. Travel Association, incorporates various themes. Among them are that the “future of travel is” facilitating our recovery; rebuilding America’s workforce; more sustainable; greater mobility; seamless, secure and in-person; more globally competitive; and more inclusive. Destination marketing agencies can choose from those themes and create their own to facilitate the most powerful messaging for their region. The NTTW French Quarter Parade on Tuesday, May 3, will kick off at 9 a.m.. Companies will register in advance, while locals and tourists are welcome to join the parade and the gathering at the end. The parade will culminate by honoring Champions of the Industry, people who represent New Orleans culture through cuisine, sports and the outdoors, arts


wo years ago, the streets of the French Quarter were empty, your favorite restaurant was closed or carry-out only, and Jazz Fest only happened on the radio and in our hearts. There is no denying that the global pandemic derailed tourism and left most in the industry questioning the future. National Travel and Tourism Week, being held May 1-7, 2022, is a time to look ahead and dream differently. Led locally by New Orleans & Company, this year brings the return of in-person events and a social media campaign to explore the #FutureOfTravel. New Orleans & Company, formerly operating as New Orleans Convention & Visitors Bureau, is a nationally accredited, 1,100-member destination marketing organization and the largest private economic development corporation in Louisiana. As part of its mission, it delivers National Travel and Tourism Week (NTTW) with a New Orleans twist. Planned events include a French Quarter parade May 3, and YLC’s Wednesdays at the Square and Hospitality Industry Job Fest May 4 . “The future of travel is vital to economic recovery from the challenges brought on globally by the pandemic,” said Mary Beth Romig, associate vice president, public relations for New Orleans & Company. “We must welcome international visitors and professional meeting attendees back to provide stability within our hospitality industry and to sustain our culture

and museums, and hospitality. As of the time of writing, the exact location and parade route are T.B.D. Romig pointed out that the timing between Jazz Fest weekends might draw visitors staying in the French Quarter. Louisiana’s Lieutenant Gov. Billy Nungesser — whose role is to work with tourism leaders throughout the state — has been invited to attend, in addition to several other dignitaries and industry leaders. On Wednesday, May 4, from 9 a.m. to 2 p.m., the Hospitality Industry Job Fest will be held at the New Orleans Ernest N. Morial Convention Center in Hall B. More than 65 companies are participating with the goal of recovering the tourism and hospitality industry workforce. Priority has been placed on jobs that offer competitive wages, benefit packages and the opportunity for advancement and life-long professional growth. Beyond hotels and restaurants, companies such as Audubon Nature Institute, Habitat for Humanity and Orangetheory Fitness are slated to attend. Many companies will conduct in-person interviews onsite and make immediate job offers, so job seekers are encouraged to bring résumés and be interview-ready. Advance registration is not required. LCMC Health will also be onsite to administer free COVID-19 vaccines. Later that day, NTTW will be represented at YLC’s Wednesdays at the Square from 5 p.m. to 8 p.m. at Lafayette Square. New Orleans & Company is a partner and sponsor of the event series and will be incorporating the NTTW campaign into the May 4 concert featuring Shamarr Allen and Margie Perez. In 2020, National Travel and Tourism Week was exclusively a virtual event, and in 2021 New Orleans & Company was able to safely hold a job fair. The return of the parade in 2022 is a sign that the future of travel is looking up. Find more details online at nttw/ and and follow the social media campaign on Twitter and Instagram via @neworleansandco #nttw22 and #FutureOfTravel. T






Q: WHAT IS THE BEST ADVICE YOU EVER RECEIVED? A: Nothing worth having is going to come easy. Running a business is hard work, wipe your tears away and keep going, don’t quit.

Q: WHAT HAS BEEN THE BIGGEST BENEFIT OF BEING A POWER MEMBER? A: Being able to meet some amazing women and build business relationships. There is so much information available to help you grow your business. The banking products and bank officers are amazing. Perfect for small business owners.

Q: WHAT DOES POWER MEAN TO YOU? A: POWER means stepping out on faith to pursue my dream. Working hard and never giving up. Believing that I can chieve anything I set my mind out to do and help others along the way.




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.

Spring Breakers

Spring football has returned to New Orleans — with a quirky business model BY CHRIS PRICE



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their home cities in 2023 (with four remaining in Birmingham) and all eight to play in their designated cities in 2024. Games will be broadcast on Fox — an owner in the league that has reportedly committed as much as $200 million to the league’s operations over three years and is looking to add an additional $250 million from investors — along with NBC, FS1 and USA, with some contests streamed on NBC’s Peacock app. The league’s opening game was broadcast by Fox and NBC, marking the first simulcast of the same football game by networks not owned by the same company since Super Bowl I in 1967. While ticket sales are important to any team’s success, this year admission is just $10 per person, with children aged 15 and under admitted for free. The league is also betting on increased viewership and associated revenue due to the advent of legalized sports gambling, now allowed in-person in 30 states and online in 18. Player salaries will be limited to $45,000 for each team’s 38 active roster players (53 in the NFL), $15,000 for each team’s seven practice squad players (14 in the NFL), and $600 weekly during training camp. Players will also receive win bonuses of $850 per win and $10,000 for winning the championship. That’s quite a difference from NFL players’ 2021 minimum salary of $660,000. To differentiate itself from the NFL, the USFL has instituted some unique rules, just a couple include the allowance of two forward passes behind the line of scrimmage — similar to the XFL in 2020 — and three options for point(s) after touchdown. Teams can go for a 1-point PAT kick or drop-kick from the 15-yard line (same as the NFL), try a 2-point conversion from the 2-yard line (also same as the NFL), or attempt a 3-point conversion from the 10-yard line (same as the XFL in 2001 and 2020). The biggest conversion in question, however, is can Saints fans be converted into Saints AND Breakers fans? For that, we’ll just have to wait and see how things play out. T



he New Orleans Breakers know how to make a splash. When the football team kicked off their inaugural United States Football League (USFL) season in the Crescent City in 1984, they did so via a parachutist jumping from the rafters of the Louisiana Superdome to deliver the game ball to the playing field. Seen as a rival to the then-hapless New Orleans Saints — whose then-owner, John

Mecom Jr., wanted to sell or move the NFL team — the Breakers raced out to a 5-0 start. Unfortunately, the team finished 8-10 in what would be their lone season in the Big Easy. The team enjoyed locals’ support, averaging 30,557 fans per game, but when the USFL decided to move their season from the spring to the fall, in direct competition with the NFL, the Breakers didn’t think they could directly compete with the Saints and packed up and relocated to Portland. Nearly 40 years after their first incarnation, the New Orleans Breakers are back as part of the new USFL, launched on April 16. The new league has drawn some familiar names to its ranks. Brian Woods is the league’s president. Former Dallas Cowboys full back and television color commentator Daryl Johnston is the executive vice president of football operations, and Mike Pereira — who grew to prominence as FOX’s go-to reviewer of officials’ questionable calls during its broadcasts of NFL games — is head of officiating. Larry Fedora, who was head coach at the universities of North Carolina and Southern Mississippi, will lead the Breakers. Due to an interesting business model that took a page from the book of the COVID-19 precaution plan, local fans will likely only see the team play on television this year. While the club carries New Orleans in its name, the team will not play a down in the Crescent City this year. The USFL has decided to focus on getting its footing through broadcasting. All eight of the league’s teams will be based in Birmingham, Alabama — home of the league’s headquarters – for the 10-week regular season this year, playing at either Protective Stadium or Legion Field, with two rounds of postseason action scheduled for Tom Benson Hall of Fame Stadium in Canton, Ohio, in a setup similar to the National Basketball Association’s 2020 “COVID bubble” season when all games were played in Orlando, Florida. If the league survives — recent spring launches including the Xtreme Football League (XFL) and the Alliance of American Football (AAF) folded during or after their inaugural seasons — it wants half the teams to play in




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.

Working Women

Whether building transatlantic trading companies or revolutionizing food storage, women have been making their mark as accomplished entrepreneurs for thousands of years. BY KEITH T WITCHELL

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ike so much of the business world, entrepreneurism throughout history has been a male-dominated field. The situation is improving, however: The number of successful female entrepren e u r s h a s g ro w n b y a b o u t one-third in the last 15 years, and investment in women-owned businesses exceeded $40 billion last year. The playing field, however, remains far from level, but there are some great cases of enterprising individuals who succeeded in the face of gender-based obstacles. In the 3,000-year history of ancient Egypt, there were perhaps five female pharaohs. By far the most prominent was Hatshepsut, who reigned approximately 1479 – 1458 BC. She reopened vital trade routes over which her male predecessors had lost control and commissioned many buildings and statues. Another renowned female monarch was Queen Elizabeth I, whose 44-year reign stabilized 16th century England, laid the foundation

for the unification of Great Britain, and began became the first woman to appear on the cover the maritime dominance that ultimately led to of Business Week in 1954, a mere 25 years after the largest empire in history. the magazine was first launched. The first woman entrepreneur in America In the second half the 20th century, various was Margaret Hardenbroeck, who emigrated to media began to create springboards to success New York from the Netherlands in 1659. She for women entrepreneurs. Most visible in this built a transatlantic trading company and owned category is Oprah Winfrey. Starting her career as real estate in several colonies. A century later, a newscaster, Winfrey built a huge media empire during the Revolutionary War, Mary Katherine and become a major philanthropist, ultimately Goddard was a successful printer in Baltimore becoming the first Black female billionaire. She who published numerous pro-revolution matehas also used her stature to support many other rials. Her rewards for this included being raided women entrepreneurs, including Spanx founder by the British, and being the only woman to sign Sara Blakely, whose concept was rejected by the Declaration of Independence. multiple male investors before Winfrey stepped up. Two interesting examples of women entreEntertainment is another field that has preneurs in the early 19th century were Rebecca opened windows to entrepreneurship; megaLukens, owner and manager of the Lukens Steel stars such as Rihanna and Beyoncé now have Mill in Pennsylvania — considered to be the multiple businesses and are among the world’s first female industrial CEO in the U.S. — and richest women. the buccaneer Anne Bonny, who at her peak The 21st century has seen women entreprecommanded some 1,800 ships and possibly neurs succeed in a much broader range of busi80,000 pirates. nesses. While the list is, thankfully, far too large to Women of color faced even greater challenges cover, a couple interesting examples include Anne than their White counterparts. Elizabeth Hobbs Wojcicki, co-founder and CEO of the ancestry Keckley was a slave and exceptional seamstress research company 23andMe; and her sister Susan who gained her freedom and moved to WashWojcicki, who was part of the Google startup and ington, D.C., where she established a successful is now CEO of YouTube. Their third sister, Janet, dressmaking business. With clients including is a successful anthropologist and epidemiologist, Mary Todd Lincoln, she is regarded as the first rounding out quite the interesting family. Black female entrepreneur in American history. Locally, we have some great local examples At the beginning of the 20th century, Madam as well. Better Bedder, whose unique bedding CJ Walker developed and marketed hair prodaccessory successfully attracted “Shark Tank” ucts for Black women successfully enough that funding, was founded by Northshore entreshe became our nation’s first Black female preneurs Nita Gassen and Judy Schott. And millionaire. She was also a major donor to Black truly paying all this forward is Andrea Chen, causes and institutions, including the NAACP co-founder and executive director of Propeller, and Tuskegee Institute. the New Orleans business incubator that is Walker also represents the path other Amernurturing the next generation of entrepreneurs. ican women often took to entrepreneurial While still underrepresented overall, the success: the cosmetics, beauty growing number of successful and fashion industries. Iconic women entrepreneurs opens up entrepreneurs in these fields the possibility that the biases and Keith include Mary Kay Ash, Diane obstacles will eventually disapTwitchell’s blog, von Furstenberg, Estee Lauder pear, and entrepreneurism will “Neighborhood and Elizabeth Arden. In another truly be open to all, regardless of Biz,” appears “women’s products” area, Brownie ethnicity or gender. T every Thursday on Wise, the founder of Tupperware,









Is bigger better? What does it mean for consumers when smaller banks get bought by bigger banks?

An $80 million affordable housing and healthcare development is under construction in Central City

Driven by a growing industry offering higher pay and relatively low barriers to entry, more NOLA women are seeking tech certifications post-pandemic.

REAL ESTATE + CONSTRUCTION As the fight over a much-needed container facility continues, time is of the essence.


Is bigger better? What does it mean for consumers when smaller banks get bought by bigger banks? TONY ADAMS Market President First Horizon New Orleans

JOHN ZOLLINGER Senior Vice President and Director of Commercial Banking Home Bank

Like anything in life, there are positives and negatives that come with any big change. On the positive side, in general, bigger banks introduce technology first and have more physical locations, which will allow for easier access to your money. This is a generality, and most community banks can compete from a technology perspective because the products and services that banks offer are homogeneous. On the negative side, it is much more difficult for a bigger bank to pay personal attention to the consumer and that connection is generally lost and service becomes very impersonal.



Banking is about people and relationships rather than size. Through change—Iberiabank to First Horizon and now ultimately TD—we have and will continue to retain the incredible people who take care of our clients. And yes, as we grow and get larger, we can provide more resources to our clients, including a larger balance sheet and advanced technology to protect and serve our clients. TD, in particular, is known for its consumer banking expertise, extended hours of operation and legendary customer service. That, combined with our New Orleans team, provides a very compelling opportunity for our clients.

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GUY WILLIAMS CEO Gulf Coast Bank and Trust

When your banker is local, you benefit from having more than a banker who is an expert in your industry: They also understand your business, share your vision, and believe in the positive impact your business can make in your community. At b1BANK, our decisions are made locally, resulting in faster results, and our lenders are part of the decision-making process, giving clients a voice and supporting their goals.

Chris Palermo, Marketing President, b1BANK

Bigger and better for Toronto. Bank mergers are creating industry consolidation and real benefits for some cities, but not New Orleans. Recently, TD Bank announced the acquisition of First Horizon, the recent acquirer of IberiaBank. The merger announcement also disclosed $610 million in non-interest cost savings, which means that almost one-third of First Horizon/ Iberia employees will lose their jobs. All of the job losses will be absorbed by the banks being acquired. For us in New Orleans, that means job losses. It also means a brain drain as talented professionals leave. For Toronto, it means bigger budgets and salaries for senior executives. Charitable contributions and civic leadership are concentrated in headquarters cities. This is good news for Toronto, home of TD Bank.

There is also an almost perfect inverse correlation between bank size and rates paid on consumer deposits. The bigger the bank, the lower the interest paid to consumers. As we lose a local bank, consumers will now see the lower deposit rates that are common for super regionals. Is bigger better? Not for smaller cities and consumers.

CHRIS FERRIS President and CEO Fidelity Bank

When a bigger bank buys a smaller bank, often what is lost is a personal touch and local decision making. Local, community banks pride themselves on investing in their community because their team members also live and work in the community. Smaller, local, community banks often understand the nuisances of the community and the local industries that can thrive. They have the unique understanding and perspective that a larger bank may not have. What a consumer might gain are more branch locations across a multi-state region in many cases.

There used to be a perception that a larger bank has more technology. That may have been true when computers took up a whole room, but that is just not the case with digital technology today. Most smaller banks are now able to offer the same technology as larger banks.




A LITTLE HOPE ON AFFORDABLE HOUSING FRONT An $80 million affordable housing and healthcare development is under construction in Central City BY DREW HAWKINS



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DID YOU KNOW? Headquartered in New Orleans, Gulf Coast Housing Partnership has been “real estate problem solving” for 14 years with projects from Texas to Florida.


t’s no secret that New Orleans has its fair share of problems, but perhaps none hit closer to home than the city’s affordable housing crisis. Like many other major cities in the country, the Big Easy has experienced some serious economic struggles over the past few years. In addition to a global pandemic, however, we’ve also had to weather multiple natural disasters, the effects of which are still very much present. After Hurricane Katrina 17 years ago, the city lost almost 100,000 mostly Black citizens, many of whom have not been able to return to New Orleans. Much of the population decrease New Orleans has seen can be attributed to under-

investment in new affordable homes, a lack of living-wage jobs, and a series of disasters that continually challenge the city’s ability to rebuild and recover. Hurricane Ida — and most recently, devastating tornadoes — have further exposed the ongoing challenges to the city’s housing stock, our economy and our infrastructure. Part of the problem, according to the 2022 Housing For All Action Plan put out by HousingNOLA, is that more than 58,000 households in New Orleans are what’s known as “cost burdened,” meaning they’re paying too much for their homes. If a household is paying more than 30% of their income in housing costs, such as on rent or mortgage payments, utility bills, and home insurance, they’re cost burdened. A 2020 Brookings Institution study found that the median wealth of a white family in America ($171,000) is approximately 10 times that of a Black family ($17,150). Homeownership is a huge part of building wealth in this country, and in a predominantly Black city like New Orleans, where income gaps run along racial lines, increasing access to affordable housing can be a real wealth-building game changer. “Not only do we have an affordable housing problem, we have a greed and race problem,” said Alexandra Stroud, principal at Urban Focus, a real estate development and consulting firm that worked on HousingNOLA’s report. “The number of vacant units in this city could serve the demand for affordable housing.” Stroud said there’s a negative bias against providing units to people with lower incomes. “...Which is crazy because this would just allow teachers, police officers, hospitality workers and retail workers to afford to live here,” Stroud said. “Low income does not mean unemployed.” Urban Focus provided guidance on construction costs and how to interpret some of the market data, as well as assisting with information about the current lending climate for projects for HousingNOLA’s “Housing For All Action Plan.” Stroud said the process for investors and funding for affordable housing needs to be made simpler. “To make the impact we need to make, the red tape and bureaucracy surrounding funding smaller developers needs to be removed,” she said. But that’s not to say there isn’t any progress being made. Just recently, a 210,000-squarefoot-project was announced at the site of former Brown’s Dairy in Central City. The project, dubbed “H3C,” which the developers say is a reference to their belief in “culture, commerce and community,” will be located on the site of

Not only do we have an affordable housing problem, we have a greed and race problem. The number of vacant units in this city could serve the demand for affordable housing.

Alexandra Stroud, principal at Urban Focus

the former dairy’s processing plant parking lot, between Oretha Castle Haley Boulevard and Baronne Street. The $80 million new-construction affordable housing and healthcare development is being led by Gulf Coast Housing Partnership (GCHP) and Alembic Community Development. “I moved to New Orleans in 1993, and affordable housing was as much of a crisis then as it is today,” said Kathy Laborde, president and CEO of GCHP. “The aspirational ideas from HousingNOLA, combined with a strong state housing policy, coupled with significant capital resources, could be very impactful.”

H3C will include 192 income-restricted units, with 92 units reserved for residents 55 years or older. Additionally, there will be 12,600 square feet of commercial and community space anchored by DePaul Community Health Centers. Also on site, Belle Reve New Orleans, formerly Shelter Resources, will operate the Belle Reve Center, which will connect residents to resources, services and programs available in the community to address their current and future needs. Laborde said one of this project’s main goals is to provide outcome data that will incentivize broad investment in affordable housing. She wants to show that it’s worth the risk. “H3C will provide affordable housing to our residents and convenient access to healthcare which will encourage and provide the opportunity for better healthcare outcomes,” Laborde said. “We can then quantify those improved healthcare outcomes to result in increased investment in affordable housing.” Housing and healthcare may seem unrelated at first glance, but if people are struggling to afford housing, they’re likely also struggling to access medical care. By addressing both at the same time, H3C seeks to improve health outcomes for its residents. “Accessibility represents one of the major barriers to health care, which are called social determinants of health,” said Michael G. Griffin, president and CEO of DePaul Community Health Centers, which will operate a health center at H3C. Griffin said that people in underserved areas are more likely to visit the emergency room to address healthcare issues that could have been prevented or managed by seeing a primary care provider. Emergency visits are expensive for both the patient and the health care industry overall. “The convenience of our health center for H3C residents totally eliminates accessibility challenges,” Griffin said. “Residents will have access to holistic, compassionate health care that includes primary and preventive care.” Complex problems can sometimes require complex solutions, but when it comes to improving the lives of people with lower incomes in this city, sometimes the solutions can be simple: give them a home and access to medical care. Of course, the challenge is, and will always be, funding, but projects like H3C that aim to tackle two issues at once may show that it’s not only good for people’s well-being, it’s also a good investment. T




DID YOU KNOW? Louisiana was the fifth largest state exporter of goods in the U.S. in 2018 (the latest information available) according to the Office of the United States Trade Representative.


NO CONTAINING THIS BATTLE As the fight over a much-needed container facility continues, time is of the essence. BY DREW HAWKINS



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ew Orleans has always been involved in international trade. But when the city was first built, the galleons and merchant vessels of the day that sailed into port ranged in capacity from around 600 to 1,500 tons. The 20-foot shipping containers loaded onto today’s megaships can, in theory, hold up to 28 tons apiece, and some of the modern, ultralarge container vessels (ULCVs) can hold more than 20,000, 20-foot equivalent units (TEU). “Greater New Orleans needs a new container facility in order to accommodate the larger, ‘post-Panamax’ ships that are too tall to pass beneath the Crescent City Connection,” said Michael Hecht, president and CEO of Greater New Orleans, Inc. The bridge over the Mississippi River has become a literal barrier to the city’s goal of becoming a major player on the world’s shipping stage, and other ports in the Gulf aren’t sitting around waiting for us to catch up. “If we do not accommodate these ships, then the future of trade for the Gulf of Mexico will belong to Mobile, which has no height restrictions, and has already passed us in container volume,” Hecht added, noting that Louisiana must build a container terminal in order to remain competitive in international shipping. “It is not an exaggeration to say that the future of international trade for Louisiana, which supports one in five jobs, hangs in the balance.” Greg Rusovich, chairman of Louisiana Board of International Commerce (LaBIC), added that the clock is ticking. “We’ve been dithering about this for a long time, going back and forth in terms of where and how and if, and now is the time,” he said. “Other states are not waiting. They’re making major economic development investments in ports and international trade. We need to quit delaying, and get this project done.” Everyone wants a container facility — so what’s the hold up? LOCATION, LOCATION, LOCATION

The Port of New Orleans wants to build the Louisiana International Terminal (LIT) in Violet, down in St. Bernard Parish. The

proposed site is closer to the mouth of the river than the port’s main operations and has enough draught—and no overhead obstructions—to receive the giant shipping vessels of the future. Port NOLA has acquired more than 1,100 acres, initiated the permitting process with the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers, and is working on terminal designs and finalizing negotiations with financial partners, terminal operators and ocean carriers. But despite these investments and plans, the future of the proposed facility isn’t set in stone. Opposition from local residents and groups centers around the potential negative impacts the facility would bring to the region. “The proposed project is to be developed in a historic neighborhood with suburban neighborhoods located on both sides of the development,” said Robby Showalter, president of Stop the Destruction of St. Bernard, which mounted the “Save Our St. Bernard” (SOS) campaign to oppose LIT. Showalter, a 63-year resident of St. Bernard Parish, spent 39 years in the international shipping industry, where he specifically worked with cargo containers. “I have been to ports all over the country and around the world, and I have never heard of a port being located in an established neighborhood,” Showalter said. SOS has said the project will increase traffic and impact the environment, add to already high levels of pollution, and affect drainage in a region that was severely damaged by Hurricane Ida and will likely face more large storms in the future. “Destroying 1,100 acres of pollution-eating wetlands and replacing it with pollution-generating trucks, ships and equipment will destroy an already sensitive environment here in St. Bernard as a result of the pollution generated from refineries located here,” Showalter said. The SOS campaign against the container facility is joined in their opposition by a lawsuit filed by residents that aims to stop the project. “LIT would have serious negative environmental impacts and cause catastrophic damages to all citizens of the parish,” said Sidney Torres III, the attorney representing residents pro bono in their lawsuit against the Port of New Orleans. “The operations of the proposed terminal necessarily will co-opt virtually the entire public transportation infrastructure, destroy valuable wetlands and other facilities crucial to proper drainage, threaten the security of the residents and commercial concerns in the parish, and create damaging noise, light and aerial emissions, among many other public concerns.” Port officials said they’ve been actively sharing information and learning about Violet

It is not an exaggeration to say that the future of international trade for Louisiana, which supports one in five jobs, hangs in the balance.

Michael Hecht, president and CEO, GNO, Inc.

and St. Bernard Parish residents’ issues with LIT for more than 15 months. “Port NOLA is working with regional planners, local, state and federal delegations, as well as private partners to build a new transportation corridor for the parish to serve terminal traffic and provide an additional hurricane evacuation route for residents on the eastern end of the Parish,” Christian said, adding that recently, the port held three public open houses in the community, where attendees could voice their opinions and ask questions. A lifelong resident of St. Bernard Parish, Torres said he believes port officials have been disingenuous in their attempts to engage with and assuage the concerns of residents. “They’ve provided very little information on the container terminal’s impact on the local community and environment,” he said. “The information they do provide is empty PR spin. When pressed, their standard response is that it is too early in the process to know.” In addition to environmental concerns and impacts on residents’ quality of life, opponents say Port NOLA’s proposed container facility still may not be able to receive the megaships that may soon be able to handle up to 33,000 TEUs or more. “This location in Violet would have been a game changer 50 years ago but is not forward thinking in the world market today,” Showalter said. “The current ships that maneuver up the Mississippi River [can handle] between 3,000 TEUs and about 8,000 TEUs. The only reason that Port NOLA is looking at Violet is that it’s in their jurisdiction.”

Showalter points to the Port of Plaquemines as a better location for a container facility. He said it’s further down the river, can receive larger ships, and won’t be as much of a public nuisance. Maynard “Sandy” Sanders, executive director of Port of Plaquemines, said he has plenty of room to accommodate a facility and the large ships it would attract. “I’ve got ample property, I’ve got the widest part of the river, I have no overhead obstructions, and I’ve got unencumbered land,” he said. However, Port of Plaquemines doesn’t have as much rail access as Port NOLA, with its six Class-A rail lines. Railroad infrastructure is critical when it comes to unloading and shipping the containers the facility would receive. “It’s no secret, there’s no rail,” Sanders said. “Everyone understands that, but we’re working to remedy that.” He said the port plans to build new rail lines and reroute existing ones currently running through residential neighborhoods. It’s not perfect, he said, but every port has obstacles they have to overcome. “I’m not trying to paint the Mona Lisa over dogs playing poker,” Sanders said. “But we’re working to remedy the problems.” Port NOLA, however, said potential sites for a container terminal have been studied for more than 25 years, including locations at and close to the mouth of the Mississippi River, and on the east and west banks of the river. “Without question, the Violet site is the ideal location for the Louisiana International Terminal,” Christian said. “Navigation studies performed by the U.S. Coast Guard and Louisiana river pilots proved the site’s naturally deep water, navigational advantages, along with its location within the federal government’s existing 100-plus year Risk Reduction System, and proximity to the multiple interstates, illustrate Violet as the premier site for this investment.” Time is a factor in this decision. The need for a new terminal is even more pressing in light of the supply chain issues the country recently faced, which redirected international shipping traffic away from the ports on the East and West coasts to ports in the Gulf, opening up opportunities for local ports to step up expand operations. Everyone involved in the process wants a container terminal. Even groups opposing the Violet location recognize the necessity. In the end, the solution may not be a perfect one, but one that everybody can live with. T




MICHELLE D. JACKSON is the president & CEO of PR Solutions LLC, a business consulting firm specializing in strategic marketing and public relations. She is also the founder of i.Invest Competitions and executive director of LifeSkills Foundation, a 501 (c)(3) nonprofit dedicated to youth and youth entrepreneurship.

The Shift to STEM

Driven by a growing industry offering higher pay and relatively low barriers to entry, more NOLA women are seeking tech certifications post-pandemic. BY MICHELLE D. JACKSON



hen the history books are written about the impact of COVID-19 on the New Orleans workforce, the stories will depict a community thrust into chaos — jobs lost, careers dwindled to uncertainty, and a oncethriving tourism and hospitality industry flattened by stay-at-home orders. Fast-forward two years after the first case was discovered in the city, add two hurricanes, a tornado and rising crime, and the local workforce faces immediate challenges. Heavily driven by hardworking mothers, sisters, daughters and wives, the city’s job market has seen unprecedented shifts that have led more women to pursue jobs in different fields other than hospitality — particularly tech. “New Orleans is known for its growing tourism industry, but the city is also a great place to build a tech ecosystem,” said Kelvin Gipson, director of Delgado’s Workforce Development IT Division. “COVID-19 forced working women to re-evaluate their career choices, which increased interest in IT fields. Women are the bedrock of the city’s growth; when they invest in themselves with improved education, certifications and professional development, we all win.” According to the 2020 Status of Women in Louisiana report, the state is last in the United States for what women earn on average



fee is typically considerably less expensive than a college course. “At Delgado, working adults and individuals looking to shift careers can take a virtual certification course with night classes for IT skills like Scrum Master in less than a week. Or they can register for courses like IT Fundamental, AWS Cloud Foundations and Cybersecurity and earn a certification in less than four months,” said Gipson. “Our fees vary, but rarely do they exceed $400 per course, which includes the cost to take the final certification exam.”

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compared to men – 69 cents to the dollar. Black and Latina women are worse off – they make on average 47 cents and 53 cents, respectively, compared to White men. Approximately two-thirds of minimum-wage workers are women, and they rarely fit the stereotype of being young people in entry-level jobs. Half are over 25, many married with some amount of higher education. Most are working full-time to provide for their children and families. “It’s exciting to see more women in tech in the New Orleans area,” said Jessica Jackson, an information systems trainer at Ochsner Health Systems and recent graduate of Delgado Workforce Development IT’s Scrum Master program. “Women bring a unique perspective to the field, and our voices need to be heard.” STEM occupations in Louisiana are projected to grow 18.3% through 2024. According to the Pew Research Center, women in STEM fields make higher wages than women in non-STEM fields. In 2019, median earnings for full-time, year-round workers aged 25 and older in a STEM job were about $77,400. The comparable median for workers in other non-STEM occupations was $46,900. Earning a tech certification differs from earning a tech degree in several ways. First, tech certifications are often taught in a non-credited course that does not require a college degree. The course introduces students to tech skills in a short, hard-charged training cohort, and the

“Although most of my students are men, women are starting to move more into the tech field,” said Lakitha Johnson, Delgado IT instructor and certified SAFe® 5 Scrum Master and Network + practitioner. “More women realize that all tech jobs don’t require building computer hardware. The leadership skills they possess in areas like data organization and project management translate well in the IT world.” Johnson shares similar experiences with other women seeking promotion and new opportunities by completing certification coursework. “Although I’ve been an independent consultant for more than 15 years, when the pandemic hit it was a serious reminder to assess my marketability in and outside of New Orleans,” said Desiree Young, principal consultant at VentureWalk and a recent student of Delgado’s tech certification program. “As a Black female with a STEM background, I knew my experience as an engineer and project manager could be strengthened. Seeking technology certifications was the most effective way to remain attractive to the marketplace.” “Because of my tech certifications, I have been more than able to double my salary and build a network of practitioners,” said Sunny Jordan, an agile coach and contractor with the Louisiana Health Department. “Due to COVID, I felt that it would be best to take my career into my own hands. By doing so, within three months, I was trained and ready for a new career.” T




THE CHAMBER QUARTET The chambers of commerce of St. Bernard, Orleans, Jefferson and St. Tammany parishes all face varying challenges, but their leadership is more alike than different, and frequently call on each other for guidance and support. BY BETH D’ADDONO PORTRAITS BY ADRIENNE BATTISTELLA 26


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Four of the largest chambers of commerce in the Greater New Orleans region are led by someone dedicated to promoting community, business vitality and economic development in their respective parishes. All four manage with a combination of empathy and advocacy in St. Bernard, New Orleans, Jefferson and St. Tammany. All four also happen to be women.

Since only approximately 27% of women in the workforce rose to c-suite positions in corporate America at the end of last year —according to a 2021 report by global consultants McKinsey & Company — that’s a pretty big deal. Each of the four women who lead our local parishes brings a unique combination of financial acumen, leadership skills and deep community involvement to the table. They all radiate a passion for seeing their parishes, and the region, prosper well into the future and a commitment to setting businesses small and large up for success. Skilled at building consensus with grit and grace, each leader is a committed collaborator, forward thinker, and strong advocate for raising other women up along their own journey.

THe EnERGiZER Elizabeth Dauterive has dealt with a lot in the three years since she became CEO at the St. Bernard Chamber of Commerce. In addition to multiple hurricanes, there was the game-changing pandemic, and, most recently, a tornado hit the community of Arabi on March 22, leaving one person dead and many homes destroyed within an 11-mile path of destruction. “Although a hurricane damages a larger area, the devastation from the tornado was more than I’d ever seen before,” she said. “Houses completely ripped apart, gone. That was shocking.” Once again, she said, her community rallied. “The people in St. Bernard Parish wrap their arms around each other. Our first responders, friends, neighbors, the immediate outpouring of love and caring was just beautiful.” At 31, Dauterive is the youngest of the four CEOs, a La Place native who went to school in Metairie and fell in love with a boy from the parish. She and her husband, Jordan, and their two sons, Dawson, 4, and Bishop, 1, live in Arabi, which Dauterive says she loves for its smalltown feel. “This is a community with deep roots, where families have lived for generations,” she said. “It’s a place where people care about each other, where parish government is accessible, where people feel safe.” Dauterive’s background is steeped in hospitality and event planning, with experience producing festivals and working as an event manager for Marriott. After her first son was born, she was looking to work closer to home. The former CEO for the St. Bernard Chamber was a friend from high school. “I reached out to her to see if she might need any help with chamber events,” she said. “She told me her job was opening up and encouraged me to apply.” There was one small detail Dauterive left off her resume during the interview process. During high school and into college, she’d had a side hustle working as the mascot for the New Orleans Zephyrs. “I mean, why would I include that, right?” she said. Little did she know that one of the board members who would interview her was Walt Leger, one of the former owners of the team. “One of his first questions was why didn’t I include that on my resume? Who knew it would help me get the job?” Since beginning her leadership role in 2019, Dauterive’s focus has been on growing membership — now at about 225 businesses — as well as attracting more diverse businesses and business ownership. “We have a wide range of businesses — from fishing mom-and-pop retail, to restaurants, to fishing charters. Our mission is to provide the resources and representation that our business community needs to thrive.” Understanding the political landscape, especially for someone not originally from the parish, took a minute. “I had to learn the ins and outs of how things work here,” she said, “but I’m a person who dives right in.”

ThE CONnECToR Most metropolitan chambers of commerce include promoting tourism and economic development as part of their mission. “We’re a bit unusual in that New Orleans and Company and Greater New Orleans, Inc., are already handling those two missions very well in our community,” said New Orleans Chamber of Commerce President and CEO Sandra Lindquist. “As such, we are able to focus on being a chamber that helps all businesses, especially small businesses, in our community.” Lindquist brings more than 20 years of experience in economic and community development to her job, having held positions at the Jefferson Parish Economic Development Commission, Tangipahoa Economic Development Foundation, The Idea Village, and working with fellow chamber CEO Lacey Osborne at what was formerly known as the St. Tammany West Chamber. Her inclusive style was front and center at a recent Chamber After Hours event at the New Orleans Ernest N. Morial Convention Center, as Lindquist moved through the crowd, remembering names, businesses and connections with ease. “Connecting businesses together is at the heart of what we do,” she said of her 1,200-plus members. “We make

(left) Elizabeth Dauterive is intent on growing St. Bernard Chamber membership and securing a standalone office address. (right) Encouraging collaboration and partnerships is a high priority for the New Orleans Chamber’s Sandra Lindquist.

Often being the youngest person, and sometimes the only woman, in the room wasn’t something she said she ever worried about. “I never had a problem, or if there was one, I didn’t notice it or let it affect my job,” she said. “I always just ask myself, ‘Is this idea or business going to benefit members?’ That’s always the focus.” Looking ahead, Dauterive wants to grow the chamber’s presence in the community, increase staff and secure a standalone office address to increase chamber visibility. She said she often relies on the other three chamber CEOs for input and advice. “We all work well together,” she said. “It’s a great example of women empowering women. We all are working toward the same thing — what’s best for our community.”



connections so they can start working together, gain new clients, new transactions. Whatever tools it takes to help our members navigate the issues of today, that’s what we are here for.” Staff members and volunteer ambassadors serve as event greeters at chamber events, making a point to personally welcome attendees and connect them to other members. The return of in-person events has been enthusiastically welcomed, said Lindquist, 52, an Austin, Texas, native who came to Tulane University to earn a master’s degree and never left. “We’ve done 17 events since January, and 15 have been in person,” she said. After 11 years as executive VP and COO at the New Orleans Chamber, Lindquist took over as CEO on January 1, 2022, when her predecessor, Ben Johnson, retired after leading since 2009. So far, 2022 has been a year of milestones, as one significant program after another has returned to the chamber calendar. On Feb. 11, the first quarterly luncheon held by the chamber since 2020 drew more than 500 attendees to hear City Council members Helena Moreno and JP Morrell discuss issues affecting business owners throughout the city. Bringing together women business leaders is a passion for Lindquist, who created the chamber’s first Women’s Leadership Conference in 2019. The second in-person version of the event sold out on March 18, with more than 550 attendees gathered Once two chambers — St. at the Hyatt Regency New Orleans. Presented Tammany East and St. with sponsor Fidelity Bank P.O.W.E.R (Potential of Tammany West — the St. Women Entrepreneurs Realized), the conference Tammany Chamber of brought 16 women’s organizations together for Commerce, led by Lacey networking and professional development. Osborne, now includes “It was a fabulous day of women supporting over 1,000 members. women,” said Lindquist. “We were able to celebrate our successes and talk about issues that we all have as women. We all have to be so ‘on’ all the time. This was a place where we could show up for each other and share our vulnerabilities and our strengths.” With an emphasis on collaboration, not competition, Lindquist said her goal is for the chamber to continue to stay relevant while impacting the community, not just in Orleans Parish but the region. one in the east and one in the west. After some management issues, the St. “We need to talk about the difficult issues that we’re Tammany East Chamber dissolved in 2019. facing as a city and region,” she said. “We need to be the “We are now one organization with 1,030 business member stakeholders,” consensus builders, to continue to build partnerships. she said. When Slidell became part of the chamber, Osborne said she Working with our businesses to help their development expected a three-to-five-year transition. That was before a global pandemic. and growth is at the heart of what we do.” “We are still in recovery for sure,” she said. “Our biggest challenges are finding and keeping employees, and that’s across all sectors of business.” An inclusive manager who relies heavily on volunteer leadership, Osborne is focused on building bridges to breach the east/west divide. “We opened an 1,800-square-foot office in the heart of Olde Towne and we’re still working on connecting with all of the Slidell members,” she said. While recruiting new members is ongoing, retention is also critical, and Osborne is proud of St. Tammany Chamber’s 93% retention rate. “Slidell has such a strong sense of place and community,” she said. “But really all our parish communities do — from Abita Springs and Folsom to After 31 years working for chambers of commerce — two Lacombe and Covington. Connecting our businesses takes education and in Baton Rouge, seven in Iberville and 22 in St. Tammany building trust.” Parish — Lacey Osborne has learned not to let work Current challenges range from concerns over infrastructure and traffic to a issues keep her up at night. series of contentious votes on sales tax options in the parish. “I’ve been around a long time,” said the 65-year-old “Politics is not a dirty word, it’s a reality and it’s hard,” she said. mother of two and grandmother of four. “At this point, Her immediate goals include continued outreach to build membership, I sleep well. I’ve learned to let things go. Prioritizing is growing staff to take the place of waning volunteers and ongoing education a daily thing.” programs to help increase informed voter involvement. Although she considers herself a glass-is-half-full kind When it comes to sometimes being the lone female voice in a room, she of person, Osborne said she’s more of a realist than an said she credits having four brothers with making things easier. optimist. “It’s not about being one of the guys,” she said, “it’s about knowing that “I believe in working with what you have.” I’m their equal. I haven’t encountered too much pushback.” Osborne’s job is very different than when she started She said she remembers years ago, when she first started at the Iberville 22 years ago in St. Tammany, which had two chambers, chamber, she went to a legislative meeting in Baton Rouge. “I came back to


the office and told my boss at the time, ‘I was the only girl in the room.’ He corrected me and said, ‘Woman — you were the only woman in the room.’” Just as she’s been fortunate to have help and guidance in dealing with challenges, she said she’s most proud of the chance she continues to have to help other organizations grow and deal with their own challenges. “This job is really a calling,” she said. “I feel very blessed.”


“We wanted to know about their best practices, what is helping their city to thrive.” Listening to 36 speakers over the course or two-and-a-half days delivered a ton of real-world information that is already benefiting our members, she said. “We are looking to deepen the profiles of our various communities — places like Old Gretna and Kenner, to show off their potential, especially to a younger generation. Jefferson Parish is such a family-friendly community that also happens to be close to where a lot of people work.” Growing membership on the West Bank is another goal as the chamber celebrates its 25th year of being the voice for Jefferson Parish businesses. With its own political action committee, the chamber actively advocates for policies that benefit its businesses and communities. “I really enjoy the political side of the job,” said Lawson. “We have a great working relationship with the parish administration.” In her new role, she said regionalism is always on her mind. “We need to approach issues within the business climate as a region. We have chamber round-table discussions to talk about what we’re all facing — the similarities and the differences — and how to tackle the problems. Divide and conquer isn’t always the answer.” T

Ruth Lawson became the newest member of this group of female chamber leaders when she took over as head of the 850-member Jefferson Chamber of Commerce in December 2021. When a nationwide search was mounted for the position, she rose to the top of more than 100 applicants during what she described as a “vigorous” interviewing process. Lawson, a resident of Gretna, brings a wide array of relevant skills and experience to her position. Most recently, she was executive director of the Jefferson Parish Finance Authority, where she managed an operating budget and portfolio of approximately $20 million in investments, cash and securities. She is also intimately familiar with the challenges of running a business — along with her husband, Lawson owns and manages several Smoothie King franchises. A graduate of LSU Law School, Lawson has applied her legal skills as chief administrative officer for Jefferson Parish and as inhouse counsel for Barriere Construction Company in Harvey. “I’ve enjoyed the government and public side, as well as being a part of the private sector,” she said. Like her fellow CEOs, Lawson is thrilled at the success at the return of in-person events, and proud that her organization safely held events last year, including the chamber’s annual meeting, a meet and greet with legislators in Baton Rouge, and last May’s Tour de Jefferson, which drew more than 600 cyclists. After two years of virtual, hybrid and modified events, the chamber returned to the home of the New Orleans Saints for its main fundraiser, the Black & Gold Gala, which was held at the Ochsner Sports Performance Center on April 8. Lawson, 35, credits her legal training for a management style that is both analytical and direct, two qualities that she said serve her well when dealing with male counterparts. “Women generally have a much different approach to leadership,” she said. “Age and gender can present different challenges. I always try to communicate ideas and opinions succinctly, and I think as women we can sometimes couch our views, come off as apologetic for taking a position. We can’t hesitate to speak our minds and opinions in front of a group of men Armed with a strong who may think differently than we background in finance, business and law, Ruth do. Who knows? We might open their Lawson became the minds up to something new. It’s all Jefferson Chamber’s new about self-confidence.” president in December Although she’s still settling in, 2021. Lawson said she’s proud of what she’s accomplished so far. One highlight has been taking a group of business and education leaders and council members to Nashville to meet with their counterparts in that city.



CHILD CARE-LESS Disruptions in child care services annually result in $762 million in losses for Louisiana businesses and $1.3 billion for the state economy and have proven to be especially devastating for working mothers. So, what are we doing about it?



Pandemic-era life

has been a grind for parents of young children, especially those juggling career demands with 24/7 caregiving. Little ones accustomed to the routine of nursery school or day care were forced to adjust to new situations while moms and dads struggled to make it through the workdays (and nights) while somehow keeping all the plates spinning. But the challenges related to unpredictable child care coverage don’t stop at home. On the other side of the equation, the country’s child care industry has been pummeled by the instability of repeated closings and reopenings, social distancing, staffing shortages, and risks of caring for a population of unmasked, unvaccinated children — and their exhausted parents. “Child care is the invisible backbone of America’s economy,” said Jen Roberts, CEO of child advocacy organization Agenda for Children. “There is nothing like a disruption to that for folks to really realize the significance of it.” In New Orleans, the child care sector, which operated on narrow margins even prior to the pandemic, faces economic and employment challenges seen nationwide. Federal COVID-19 dollars have brought some relief, but child care providers are still seeking a longer-term funding model to grow their beleaguered workforce and serve more children, particularly infants and toddlers. The good news? The dire care situation of the past two years highlighted the critical role of early education in keeping the economy running. That urgency, plus the growing body of research showing that high quality early education helps produce children more likely to read on grade level, attend college, and have better lifelong health and financial outcomes, has fostered exciting innovation in New Orleans to increase quality and access for kids. “The list is endless,” said Libbie Sonnier, executive director of the Louisiana Policy institute for Children (LPIC). “Education can be the great equalizer and can also help families get back to school and work. The time is now.”

The High Costs of Care

Child care can be a huge financial burden. According to the LPIC, for a low-income single mother with an infant, the average cost of care ($7,500 per year) represents 44 % of her likely income. For a low-income couple with two young children, the share of income spent on child care reaches a staggering 58%. But it’s not just low-income families that struggle. Even using median income data, an Orleans Parish household with two small children is likely to direct roughly 31% of its income to child care (based on data from the U.S. Census Bureau and the 2020 Louisiana Child Care Market Rate Survey). On the provider side, child care centers felt the pinch of pandemic-related closures. A fall 2021 survey of child care providers conducted by LPIC found centers each reported around $300,000 in losses since March 2020. Margins were reduced further as centers operated with lower teacher-child ratios and higher costs for cleaning materials and other virus-mitigation measures. Child care breakdowns take a far-reaching toll on the broader economy as well. LPIC research puts the annual cost of parental absenteeism, turnover, and other expenses related to child care disruption at $762



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staff, not just bring staff on. We want to make sure they are treated as the professionals that they are.” Wilcox believes one answer lies in elevating the profession in the eyes of current and potential staff: “We have teachers. We don’t have child care workers. They are doing intentional learning, lesson planning, engaging with young learners. We are intentional about descriptions and words we use with this profession because… we have to respect what these teachers are doing… People still see it as ‘babysitting’ or ‘women’s work’ because there’s not a lot of money in it… but we have to show people this career is worth it.” Even with the incentives, Wilcox said the hiring situation remains a struggle. With a waitlist of more than 150 children, she is unable to open additional classrooms without the staff to manage them. The JCC Nursery School and Pre-K Program also faces a long waitlist and shortage of staff. According to JCC Executive Director Leslie Fischman, some teachers are leaving for higher-paying jobs in the city’s public schools, but others are just burned out. “I think COVID has worn people down, particularly teachers of all ages because they are really on the front end of all this,” said Fischman. “They were teaching kids who weren’t vaccinated… so they are like first-responders in my opinion. But they are so important and so needed… because they make such a difference in a child’s life.”

Areas of Need

million for Louisiana businesses and $1.3 billion for the state economy. Sonnier believes that quantifying those costs has helped private and public sector leaders appreciate the value of early childhood education and care. “We’ve worked really hard to make this an economic issue… a workforce issue, not just of tomorrow, but today,” said Sonnier. “If moms, dads and caregivers can’t go to school, go to work, or look for work, our economy is not going to take off the way it needs to.”

Desperately Seeking Staff

Early childhood education faces a familiar set of postCOVID-19 employment issues. Child care workers have historically received low pay. Louisiana’s average wage for workers in this sector in 2019 was $9.77 per hour according to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, the 49th lowest wage in the country (Mississippi was 50th). In an effort to attract and retain staff, providers have increased wages – mainly through government relief funding – but still lack longer-term solutions. Rochelle Wilcox is CEO and owner of Wilcox Academy of Early Learning, which operates three centers in New Orleans. She blames low wages and unstable funding for a workforce turnover rate that went from an already challenging 40% to more than 55% during the pandemic. Wilcox has increased wages and offered bonuses, hazard pay, 401k matching, sick time and vacation time. “And they deserve it,” she said. “We want to go higher… The goal is that we want to be able to retain

The greatest area of unmet demand in New Orleans (and across the country) is infant and toddler care. Classrooms for those age groups are staff-intensive and costly to run, so many providers simply can’t make the math work. Angelique Belisle is the school director for Educare New Orleans, part of a nationwide network of 25 schools that combine early education with family engagement programs in areas like financial literacy and health and mindfulness. Her center’s funded enrollment is 168 children, but current enrollment is 141, which Belisle attributes to the teacher shortage, as well as some parents not yet feeling comfortable returning their children to school. Like others, Educare families’ greatest demand is for infant/toddler spots. “We are hopeful that with the new school year, we can bring on more staff members,” said Belisle, “but


we are now at a stalemate with hiring… and can’t open a classroom.” Many parents are also seeking care hours beyond the standard weekday 9-to-5 window — a difficult, and expensive, wish for providers to fulfill. “I’m sure parents would like as many hours as a child care center could give them,” said Fischman. “The problem we have is staffing and keeping our teachers fresh. It’s a long day, and it’s not easy. And you have to think about it – kids here are sometimes with us more waking hours than they’re with their parents.”

“Women’s” Work

Child care disruptions have taken an outsize toll on the workforce participation of mothers with young children. According to research from the Federal Reserve Bank of Atlanta, women with children under age 6 comprised 10% of the labor force in the United States in February 2020, but nearly a quarter of the job losses during the period from February to May 2021.

Some organizations are going to great lengths to meet employees’ child care needs. Ochsner Health started exploring the possibility of offering onsite child care in 2015. “It came up every year in the employee engagement survey, in open forums,” said Melissa Love, vice president of Professional Staff Services and the Office of Professional Well-being

Multiple surveys of parents during the pandemic also found mothers reporting a greater share of child care responsibility or concern than fathers. According to Belisle, many of Educare’s parents are single mothers, so child care barriers have clear impacts. “When mom does not have somewhere for her little ones to go or does not have a center she can afford to send her child to, it definitely affects her ability to go to work or to school… Mom is truly the one affected by what’s happening now.” On the plus side, the pandemic drew attention to the undervalued work of women in the child care field. As Jen Roberts says, “There has been increasing recognition for the women in particular who educate young children during the earliest years and how hard those jobs really are… and how important they are to our economy and to people’s lifestyles.” The challenge lies in translating that appreciation into sustainable wage and workforce growth.

for Ochsner Health. “After an extensive research and planning process, Ochsner opted to build an early learning center from the ground up near their main campus on Jefferson Highway. They selected an outside company, Bright Horizons, to operate the center. The Ochsner Early Learning Center opened in June 2021, with

Signs of Progress

Despite the hardships of the last two years, New Orleans is gathering momentum on the early childhood front. In 2017, the city was among a small number of municipalities in the country to begin dedicating local funding to the City Seats program, which offers access to free, high-quality early childhood care. That program started out serving about 50 children; it now serves nearly 400 and draws matching funds from the state. In 2018, Agenda for Children created the Early Childhood Opportunity (ECHO) Fund, which provides microgrants and grants (with plans for loans in the works) to support early learning programs. With support from foundations, individuals, state funding and additional partners, funds can be used for teacher pay raises, professional development, or other early learning needs. The ECHO Fund has given more than $2 million to over 200 organizations in New Orleans to date and has created special programs for areas of targeted need, like Hurricane Ida relief. The School Readiness Tax Credit program allows businesses with a Louisiana tax ID to contribute up to $5,000 to Child Care Resource and Referral agencies (including Agenda for Children, which works on behalf of 13 South Louisiana parishes and directs contributions to the ECHO Fund) as a fully refundable tax credit. The most recent development was the April 30 ballot proposal in Orleans Parish to raise a millage dedicated to expanding early childhood access and wraparound services, with funding committed for 20 years. At press time, the result of the ‘Yes for NOLA Kids’ proposal was not yet determined. If passed, the funding would increase families’ access to quality care and allow child care center operators to expand their operations and provide a stable funding source for teacher pay raises, classroom resources, and more. Whatever of the outcome of the vote, Jen Roberts said she is proud of the city’s progress on behalf of its children. “This is a pretty dramatic first time in the country that a city is trying to focus specifically on infant and toddler care, so that in and of itself will yield a lot of national attention,” she said. “The innovation that New Orleans has put forth and the stake in the ground says we really care about our youngest citizens.” T

capacity for 210 children (ages 6 weeks to 5 years). The center also provides backup care for employees’ children and elderly family members. Operating hours (6 a.m. – 8 p.m.) are designed to support parents working 12-hour shifts, which are common within the organization. “That is something that was very important to us,” said Love.

Rates are intentionally kept at or just below market competitive, and scholarships are available to qualifying applicants. “We have actually invested over $400,000 in scholarships for the families that are currently enrolled,” said Love. “We wanted all of our employees to be able to consider it as an option.”




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 36


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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!



Leading Entergy New Orleans with Deanna Rodriguez, President & CEO, are Sandra Diggs-Miller, Vice President of Customer Service, and Courtney Nicholson, Vice President of Regulatory & Public Affairs. Together, this diverse leadership team helps change the way the company interacts with customers, employees, and stakeholders. Entergy New Orleans experienced an extremely active storm season last year. Hurricane Ida, a catastrophic Category 4 storm, made history, knocking out power to Orleans Parish and Southeast Louisiana customers and causing record breaking damage to the company’s distribution system. The company persevered, restoring power to the city within 48 hours and the majority of customers in less than 10 days. “Facing the destruction of Hurricane Ida while I was new in my position was one of the biggest work challenge I have faced—fortunately, the team’s incredible talent, expertise, and dedication led us to a successful response,” says Deanna. For 2022, Entergy New Orleans is focusing on strengthening its electric and gas systems, identifying opportunities to offer more green power options, and developing new and innovative tools to assist customers in managing their bills and energy usage. “My mission is to ensure our customers know that we care about them—we strive every day to improve their reliability experience, assist them in sustainability goals, and provide the products and services they need,” says Sandra. In addition to serving in their leadership roles, all three women are working mothers. “Transitioning into a new leadership role while also adjusting to becoming a first-time mom has been redefining,” says Courtney. “The support of my family and colleagues has helped me rise to the challenge.” Entergy New Orleans 1600 Perdido Street, New Orleans 1-800-Entergy BI Z N E WO RL E AN S.COM




Since 1961, the University of New Orleans College of Business Administration has provided excellence in higher education, research, community leadership, and service. From its renowned business programs to community-involved faculty to acclaimed research centers, students are prepared to succeed in a demanding job market. “Everyone has something to contribute,” says Dean Pamela Kennett-Hensel, PhD. “Provide them with opportunities, and they may surprise you. I draw motivation from our students—many of whom are first generation college students and many of whom work to put themselves through school.” Appointed the first female Dean of UNO’s College of Business Administration in January 2022 after a national search, Pamela wears a lot of hats. In addition to serving as leader of the college, she also serves as a Professor of Marketing, the Annette Weinberg Bernstein Chair in University

Management, and the Freeport-McMoRan Professor of Corporate Social Responsibility. A Fellow of the Marketing Management Association, Pamela has published extensive research on marketing education, consumer behavior, and corporate social responsibility initiatives.

to share their expertise and wisdom with students. The school’s advisory councils maintain open lines of communication with dedicated local professionals who provide outside opinions and honest feedback on how the school can better serve students and the community.

Recently appointed Senior Associate Dean, Christy Corey, PhD first joined the UNO team in August of 2005, just days before Hurricane Katrina hit.

For Assistant Dean Enjilee Bailey, the motivation to work in higher education stems from her experience as a first-generation and double remedial student. A New Orleans native, Enjilee is a graduate of Warren Easton Fundamental High School, UNO, and Liberty University. She credits her college success to the support she received from UNO faculty, staff, and fellow students.

“This was the most challenging start to a job I’ve ever faced, but I was determined to contribute to the rebirth of this great city and keep higher education on track at UNO,” says Christy. With a PhD in Organizational Psychology, Christy utilizes the 3Ts in her role as a leader: Teamwork, Trust, Transparency. She values the diverse leaders across New Orleans who lead with vision and purpose and make a lasting, positive impact on the community. “In UNO’s College of Business Administration, a big part of our mission is to engage members in the Greater New Orleans business community and create meaningful connections between them and our students, faculty, and staff,” says Christy. “With our industry partners, we develop partnerships, internships, experiential learning opportunities, and job opportunities for students.” UNO’s College of Business Administration invites industry professionals to campus

UNO College of Business Administration Kirschman Hall • 2000 Lakeshore Drive • New Orleans •



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“Navigating college sometimes comes with obstacles for first-generation college students, and my goal is to show them that higher education is possible,” she says. Enjilee remembers being a new student in a new environment and is able to place herself in students’ shoes. One of the greatest rewards of her job is seeing a student who once struggled achieve their goal of graduation. Enjilee was awarded the First Year Advocate Award by UNO in 2016.

(Left to right) Christy Corey, PhD, Senior Associate Dean; Enjilee M. Bailey, Assistant Dean; and Pamela KennettHensel, PhD, Dean




Gina Rachel CPA, TAX DIRECTOR POSTLETHWAITE & NETTERVILLE Gina Rachel is all about balance—balancing books as a Tax Director and CPA, balancing work and life, and balancing the many ways she can help others. “I always wanted to be able to inspire people and help individuals and clients in difficult situations,” says Gina. “I especially enjoy helping those with issues with the IRS or carryback refunds.” Known for her patience and attention, Gina remains calm when problems arise, always focused on finding the right solution. Inspired by her hardworking father and independent mother, Gina values being in a position to care for herself and for others, whether clients, young professionals, or interns. At P&N, Gina specializes in taxes— her adeptness in the profession helped her deliver a $4M refund claim. “What really inspires me is being able to provide the best value to my clients and get them to a place where they don’t have to worry about tax issues,” says Gina. A longtime member and past chair of the Society of Louisiana Certified Public Accountants, Gina has served in numerous leadership roles there and with the National Association of Women Business Owners. She is a member of the American Institute of Certified Public Accountants and a current member of its council representing Louisiana CPAs nationally. “I try to get involved with organizations that are meaningful to me, and P&N supports that,” she says. Gina participates in programs that aim to curb human trafficking, help high school students transition to college, and support children with trauma or disabilities. Postlethwaite & Netterville (P&N) One Galleria Blvd., Suite 2100, Metairie 504-837-5990



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Named a Top 10 Real Estate Influencer in 2021 by Biz New Orleans, Stacie Carubba excels at a career involving the perfect balance of creativity and conviviality. Fostering relationships across the community and making a difference in peoples’ lives are two of Stacie’s favorite aspects of her work in real estate. “Real estate is a personal business, and it’s rewarding to be a part of such a big transaction in people’s lives,” she says. “I pride myself on being a resource, confidant, and sounding board throughout the deal.” A lifelong resident of New Orleans, Stacie was highly influenced by her grandfather, a local teacher known for the adage, “Results, not excuses.” Today, she applies the motto to her brand as a promise to clients and colleagues to achieve results while taking a “no excuses” approach. Stacie does indeed get results—she’s been the highest producing agent at her brokerage for the last five years and has amassed over $55M in sales. Stacie loves providing guidance and professional opinions and strategies for clients. Her goal is to educate and empower them to make informed decisions that provide long term benefit. “I will never force someone into a deal or tell them what to do—ultimately, they have to feel comfortable with the terms,” say Stacie. Stacie works hard to manage expectations that may stem from unrealistic reality television or social media. Known for her knowledge and communication, she remains solution-oriented, always focused on achieving clients’ desired goals, delivering “results, not excuses.” Athena Real Estate 118 W. Harrison Ave., #301, New Orleans 504-507-8331 (o) • 504-434-SOLD (c)





As a child, Alyssa Fletchinger Higgins was an eager volunteer, helping her father, Daryl Fletchinger, launch a business centered on joy and celebration. “As the first official ‘product tester,’ I’ve been involved in choosing and stocking inventory since I was eight years old,” says Alyssa. Today, Alyssa serves as Vice President of Plush Appeal – The Mardi Gras Spot, which has grown from distributing toy-grabbing cranes to supplying the city’s Mardi Gras krewes and people around the world with products that delight. “I feel so lucky to have grown up in this industry, and in this city, surrounded by all the joy that New Orleans has to offer,” says Alyssa. “I think that’s why I feel so strongly about spreading joy to our customers each and every day.” Carrying on the family legacy, Alyssa acts as a trusted resource for customers—including Mardi Gras krewes—and provides counsel on innovative product design and development. Featured in Vogue and Forbes magazines for her work, she loves pushing the envelope and providing customers with items that surprise and elate them. Plush Appeal – The Mardi Gras Spot is making a conscious effort every year to make Mardi Gras more sustainable. Eighty percent of beads sold are made of recycled materials, and the company works with local nonprofit organizations that resell used beads to krewes. Community-minded, Plush Appeal also works with the Junior League of New Orleans and the philanthropic arms of krewes. After Hurricane Ida, the team collected nearly 3,000 diapers for families in need in partnership with the JLNO Diaper Bank. Plush Appeal – The Mardi Gras Spot 2812 Toulouse St., New Orleans 504-482-0000



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Numbers have always made sense to Jessica LeBlanc who found a passion in accounting as early as high school. Now a CPA, consultant, and real estate broker, Jessica combines her love of numbers with a love for helping others better understand their finances and real estate assets. Known for her analytical prowess and exceptional listening skills, Jessica is innately tuned in to what makes a balanced transaction in business and real estate. “I love being very analytical, but anyone that knows me, knows that I love to laugh and socialize—connecting with others is really what drives me. Helping others understand and achieve their financial or real estate milestones is such an enjoyable process.” Jessica acquired an MBA from UNO in 2004 and has over 20 years of experience in accounting and financial consulting. Her specialties as a consultant include business consulting, forensic accounting, litigation support services, and outsourced accounting services. While working towards her accounting degree, Jessica worked for a law firm with its own real estate title company. Working on these transactions led to a love of real estate that would dovetail with her financial interests. In addition to her certifications as a CPA and CFF, she is also a licensed real estate broker in Louisiana, Colorado, and Pennsylvania and oversees CPA Realty, LLC, a residential and commercial real estate brokerage firm that also offers property management services. She received the National Association of Realtors’ certifications of Real Estate Negotiation Expert and e-Pro and has also received the Commitment to Excellence Endorsement. Jessica D. LeBlanc, CPA, LLC 504-812-7105 CPA Realty, LLC 504-812-8807





A native New Orleanian with roots in numerous neighborhoods, Lisa Julien grew up watching the strong and resilient members of her parents and family as their hard work led them down successful paths in law, civil rights, and business. A graduate of Emerson College in Boston and Parsons the New School of Design, Lisa was pursuing a career in Fashion Design in New York when she realized that New Orleans held her heart and her future legacy. She returned to New Orleans to contribute to the rebirth of the city in 2010 and found her calling in the fulfilling world of real estate. “I was surprised at how much I love the work—every day I get to wake up and help someone move into the next chapter of their lives,” she says. A consistent Top Producer and a PRC-certified Historic House Specialist, Lisa is known for her efficiency, friendliness, and problem-solving skills as a Realtor at Crescent City Living and Co-Team Leader of Juniper Ivy Group, a real estate team focused on customer service. Passionate about helping people, Lisa enjoys improving the lives of others both professionally and personally. “Watching and mimicking my family has inspired me and taught me that it’s possible to be both successful and empathetic,” says Lisa. In addition to her volunteerism for the Susan G Komen Foundation, she began volunteering for a local church, aiding the congregation’s efforts in feeding the community on a mass scale. She is also a board member for HousingNOLA, an organization working to solve New Orleans’ affordable housing crisis. Crescent City Living 3205 Orleans Avenue, New Orleans 504-247-7306



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The Bernard Group & Fidelity Bank JOLIE BERNARD PRINCIPAL OWNER AND CHIEF STRATEGIST THE BERNARD GROUP, LLC KIVA DAVIS REYNOLDS SMALL BUSINESS RELATIONSHIP MANAGER FIDELITY BANK Jolie Bernard and Kiva Reynolds are partners in purpose—both women have a passion for community engagement and making connections between people and potential. By working collaboratively, they are able to expand their individual footprints to help more people across communities in the Greater New Orleans Region and surrounding parishes together. As Principal Owner and Chief Strategist for The Bernard Group, Jolie offers strategic communications and branding consulting. In 2021, her firm received a PRSA New Orleans Chapter Anvil and Award of Excellence. At Fidelity, Kiva focuses on small businesses, helping clients achieve their financial goals. A 2020 Graduate of the Accelerated Leadership Program at Fidelity Bank, Kiva was named the 2021 Ambassador of the Year for the New Orleans Regional Black Chamber of Commerce. For both women, community is a cornerstone of their passion and work. “My mission is anchored in living selflessly and working tirelessly to create meaningful, purposeful, and impactful outcomes for as many people as I can,” says Jolie. In addition to her executive leadership role at The Bernard Group and in several non-profits, Jolie is also the founder of four non-profit organizations of her own: The Future Forward Foundation, Alton J. Dugas Foundation, The Soapbox Campaign, Inc., and The Monarch Society. Using her knowledge and expertise to help clients achieve financial success, Kiva is consistently inspired by her clients’ accomplishments. She has watched many emerge from some of the most challenging personal and professional years of their lives during the pandemic. Kiva enjoys her ability to work together with clients and team members to make a difference in the community she’s proud to serve. The Bernard Group 504-909-5650 Fidelity Bank 504-569-3406




LaTanya LaBranch BROKER/OWNER WEICHERT REALTORS - LABRANCH & ASSOCIATES As Broker/Owner of Weichert Realtors - LaBranch & Associates, LaTanya LaBranch makes it her mission to help families create the generational wealth they deserve. Motivated by those she assists—especially millennial buyers— LaTanya was named Realtor of the Year in 2019 by the New Orleans Metropolitan Association of Realtors, the largest real estate association in Louisiana, and became its first female African American president. With a lifelong interest in real estate, LaTanya purchased her first income-producing, multi-family property at only 24 years old. This experience inspired her to continue looking for and acquiring investments. Today, she helps others do the same. “My pastor, Bishop Tommie L. Triplett, always said that when you do something, it should be done with a spirit of excellence—don’t cut corners or halfway do anything, and that’s the approach I take with my work,” says LaTanya. LaTanya also credits her parents’ example for her success. Watching her (left to right) mother and father work together Jamicia Ard, to provide for their family has Erica Dejan, cultivated in her a desire to be her LaTanya best self for others, her parents, LaBranch and and her own family. Tequila Mullen Over the years, LaTanya has learned how to deftly manage both people and finances. A debt-free business allows her to manage the office without the stress and pressure of overhead expenses. Without early financial backing, LaTanya established her business on her own, working hard to pay for what she needed to succeed. She feels fortunate to now help others ensure a financially secure position through their real estate investments. Weichert Realtors - LaBranch & Associates 10555 Lake Forest Blvd, Suite 7A New Orleans 504-300-0820 • 46


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Candace Washington’s path to Vice President of Member Engagement with OnPath Federal Credit Union (formerly ASI FCU) began in Terrytown, where she grew up under the eye of a hardworking mother who encouraged her children’s best. After a UNO advertising class inspired an interest in consumer behavior, Candace sought ways to utilize her skills to help others, eventually working for area nonprofits. As a single mom of then four-year-old twins, Candace pursued an MBA that would grant more knowledge and experience. She entered the world of financial marketing focused on inspiring, encouraging, and offering opportunities to underserved and underbanked communities across New Orleans. Her work in marketing has helped business owners, families, and individuals thrive, strengthening the local community and economy. “I knew that OnPath provided low-cost lending and banking services to help people obtain their financial goals,” says Candace. “What I didn’t realize was that the credit union was committed to making members’ lives better.” Always a fan of a challenge, Candace and her team led the rebranding of the 61-year-old company in 2019. As an African American businesswoman, Candace recognizes the weight of her feat and relishes the chance to inspire young girls and women who want to work in marketing or finance. “I believe there’s opportunity behind the door if you only knock,” says Candace. “It’s up to you what happens when it opens.” This year, she will serve as President of the forthcoming OnPath Foundation, which will support the community through financial education, scholarships, and program funding. She also supervises the credit union’s marketing agency, 3131 Media Solutions. OnPath Federal Credit Union 3131 N I-10 Service Rd. E, Metairie BI Z N E WO RL E AN S.COM




A third generation entrepreneur, Dr. Kim Carter Evans grew up watching her grandfather and father operate their respective small businesses. At only nine years old, she followed in their footsteps, starting her own cleaning service for elderly neighbors. Before graduating high school, she operated three additional small businesses. “This field chose me,” says Kim. “My personal vision is to ultimately create a life I don’t need a vacation from while helping others do the same— build wealth through entrepreneurship.” Over the 20-year span of her career in business, community, and economic development, Kim has consistently served and fought for small businesses and entrepreneurship initiatives, resulting in over $18M in contracts procured, over $10M in resources raised to support small business development, and countless millions in capital deployed to support the growth and sustainability of small businesses. A servant leader, Kim’s passion to serve entrepreneurs prompted her PhD. Early in her career, Kim worked on the City of New Orleans business development team before going on to serve at the state level and eventually the federal level with the US Department of Commerce’s Minority Business Development Agency. She then worked for the Ewing Marion Kauffman Foundation, a non-profit dedicated to entrepreneurial development. “In every position, I saw that minority businesses lacked access to affordable capital and business advisement,” she says. “This realization redirected me to seek an opportunity through TruFund Financial Services that would allow me to leverage my experience and have greater impact in my community while building kingdom and community wealth.” In addition to her work with TruFund, Kim is a three-time best-selling author and international motivational speaker. TruFund Financial Services, Inc. 935 Gravier Street, Suite 1120, New Orleans 504-293-5550 •



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With an entrepreneurial spirit and a commitment to living a spiritual life both personally and professionally, Darlene Poché Robért opened Robért Fresh Market in 1994 alongside her husband and high-school sweetheart, Marc Robért. Motivated by God and family, Darlene and Marc grew their business to six fresh market grocery stores before Katrina presented them with one of the biggest challenges of their lives and forced them to start anew with each location. Her resilience and dedication to work and to helping others has led to her current position leading the Board of the Catholic Community Foundation (CCF). Since 1976, 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 Women’s Giving Circle was founded by Darlene, her friend Stacy Pellerin and a group of philanthropically minded women in the community. To date, the group has distributed over $1M, transforming lives across numerous organizations. “The Foundation touches so many lives in so many ways,” says Darlene. “I’m humbled and honored that the Archbishop entrusts me with this role.” As co-owner of Robért Fresh Market, Darlene also enjoys the opportunity to give back through her company, which donates to a variety of fundraisers, ministries, and schools throughout the community. In addition to serving on the Board of CCF, Darlene also serves on the Women’s New Life Center Board and Robért Resources Boards. She has been honored with awards from St Elizabeth’s Guild, Jesuit Mother’s Alumni and Notre Dame Seminary. Catholic Community Foundation 3330 N. Causeway Blvd., Suite 361, Metairie 504-527-5778 BI Z N E WO RL E AN S.COM




A Southwest Louisiana native, Jill Knight Nalty moved to New Orleans 35 years ago and began her career in the financial sector, working with Hibernia National Bank and First Commerce Corporation, before retiring to focus on raising children and volunteering in the community. She returned to the financial sector in 2019, and after a recent promotion from Business Development Officer, she now serves as New Orleans Market President of Argent Trust Company. At Argent, Jill leads her team as they provide individuals, families, businesses and institutions with a broad range of wealth management services. Jill emphasizes an ability to listen in any relationship as integral to its success. “As professionals who listen first, we are able to earn the trust of our clients and confidently recommend the best course of action for them,” she says. Jill’s style of leadership was highly influenced by the honorable servitude displayed by her father, a longtime district judge. “Being a true fiduciary means I am honor bound to put my client’s best interests first,” says Jill. “After all, a good trustee is a good servant.” Jill believes in the importance of women taking control of their own financial wellness and serves that passion as a member of Argent’s focus group on Women | Wealth | Wellness. Passionate also about community activism, Jill serves on the board of Baptist Community Ministries and is a recent graduate of the 2021 CABL Leadership Louisiana class. Argent believes in community support by supporting several non-profits including Children’s Hospital, KID smART, and Louisiana Children’s Museum. Argent Trust New Orleans 201 St. Charles Avenue, 24th Floor, New Orleans 504-291-8860



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Julie Ragusa’s passions—photojournalism, culinary arts, animals, and roller derby— have taken her across the country and world, but, upon returning home to New Orleans, Julie discovered that one passion outweighed the rest: real estate. After founding the first roller derby league in Belgium, being named creator of the “best biscuit in Mississippi,” and a 10-year career as an Executive Chef, real estate provided the key to success and fulfillment. “I have not looked back,” says Julie. “My goals and my successes continue to motivate me, and my mission is to empower others. I assist them in real estate transactions from beginning to end and long afterwards.” As a Real Estate Advisor with Engel & Volkers, Julie thinks of herself as a one-stop concierge and experienced guide that can lead to the most rewarding venture in people’s lives. Julie credits excellent communication, strong ethics, and market knowledge for her success. In a sea of realtors, she has learned how to stand out and go the extra mile for clients. In 2021, she ranked in the Top 10 agents in her office. “I have combined all of my past careers and experiences as an executive chef, photographer, film producer, roller derby rock star and pet sitter and streamlined them into my career as a realtor,” says Julie. “As a result my style is a mixture of creativity, vision, passion, aggression and dependability—I think outside the box and can multi-task anyone under the table. Simply put, I want to make my clients happy,” she says. Engel & Volkers 820 Oak Harbor Blvd., Slidell 504-323-4772 (c) • 985-646-2111 (o) Each office independently owned and operated. Office licensed in Louisiana and Mississippi.




UNO Transportation Institute BETHANY STICH PHD, PROFESSOR AND DIRECTOR CAROL SHORT M. ED, ASSOCIATE DIRECTOR Whether by boat, car, plane or train, arrivals to the transportation industry differ person to person. Carol Short’s father started a family tradition by working in the railroad industry, followed by her sons in maritime, while Bethany Stich started her career as a flight attendant awestruck by the complexities of moving people and goods. “Transportation is not traditionally a field young people are exposed to or know much about,” says Carol. “It’s important to us that we raise awareness about the opportunities this industry provides.” Bethany and Carol lead the UNO Transportation Institute (UNOTI), providing educational, service, and research initiatives around passenger and freight systems. The Institute promotes innovative policies and practices for users and providers of transportation through academic programs, theoretical and applied research, outreach activities, and strategic partnerships with both public and private sectors. “Not many people realized how fun and engaging the transportation industry could be until the pandemic hit—all the sudden, everyone wanted to understand the supply chain and where their toilet paper and Christmas presents were,” says Bethany. “People now understand how important transportation is, from the truck driver to the train master to the port director. Increased time outside also brought new appreciation for sidewalks and bike lanes.” Bethany and Carol established an inclusive, caring, and supportive environment where learning flourishes through traditional coursework and applied research. The Institute developed Louisiana’s first Master of Science in Transportation degree program. With outreach as a main function, UNOTI works with local, national, and international industry organizations. Individually, both women are also involved with local non-profits. UNO Transportation Institute 2000 Lakeshore Drive, New Orleans 504-280-6519 52


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JEDCO LACEY BORDELON, VICE PRESIDENT & COO JANET ROJAS GALATI, DIRECTOR OF INDUSTRY RECRUITMENT ANNALISA KELLY, DIRECTOR OF STRATEGIC INITIATIVES & POLICY KELSEY SCRAM, DIRECTOR OF MARKETING & COMMUNICATIONS Many of the key leaders driving the economic development strategy and policy for Jefferson Parish are women—at Jefferson Parish Economic Development Commission (JEDCO), the innovative approaches of Lacey, Annalisa, Janet, and Kelsey have helped establish the organization as a recognized leader in economic development. Lacey spearheads the updating of Jefferson Parish’s long-term economic development strategic plan, oversees the development of the Churchill Technology & Business Park, develops customized incentive agreements with new and expanding businesses, and is JEDCO’s point-person for the issuance of taxable and tax-exempt revenue bonds. She was key in the attraction of US Foods and Avondale Marine to Jefferson Parish. Janet focuses on recruiting businesses that align with Jefferson Parish’s top industry clusters. Her solutions-driven thinking has brought a wave of new opportunities, programming, and project accomplishments to JEDCO. Annalisa develops creative solutions for growing Jefferson Parish’s targeted industry clusters and fostering high quality of life. She helped oversee the development of the first model home built through the Terrytown Neighborhood Revitalization Pilot Program, secured a $600,000 EPA Brownfield Assessment Grant to re-energize under-served communities, and manages a variety of initiatives. Kelsey uses marketing and communication strategies to drive brand awareness and tell JEDCO’s story. She led the organization’s full rebrand, launched several popular event series for local business, managed the development of the Spend Local JP campaign and is the voice of the Jefferson Parish Pulse podcast. Shaping the future of Jefferson Parish, these women—along with their majority women team—are motivated by a desire to serve their community with integrity and social equity, creating space for growth and impact at every level. JEDCO 504-875-3908 BI Z N E WO RL E AN S.COM



Triton Stone KATIE JENSEN, PRESIDENT RACHEL J. JONES, VICE PRESIDENT Kenner natives, sisters Katie Jensen and Rachel Jones come from a family of entrepreneurs. Their father taught them the ropes of owning and running a family business, which they then pursued in 2006 with the opening of Triton Stone. What started as a passionate effort to help rebuild the city following Hurricane Katrina has grown to 28 locations across the Southeast and the Midwest. One of the largest importers of natural stone, quartz, sinks, tools, and tiles in the country, Triton Stone Group’s family of employees has grown to 350 individuals across the country. “My goal as a leader is to keep our family culture together as we continue to grow,” says Katie. “I know that there are no limits to our success as long as we continue to invest in our amazing team.” Rachel agrees, noting that one of the biggest takeaways from her experience is that “it’s all about the people. Employees who are valued and who find fulfillment in their work are vital to the success of the company.” Rachel feels blessed to contribute what she loves to the family business: marketing, brand consistency, and employee satisfaction. With a business degree and minor in entrepreneurship, Katie enjoys fulfilling her dream of running her own company. In addition to her role with Triton, Katie currently serves as Treasurer on the board for the Natural Stone Institute and will be the second female President in the organization’s history in 2023. In 2020, she was designated as NSI’s Person of the Year and recognized for her volunteer and leadership efforts as well as her overall passion for the industry. Triton Stone 6131 River Road, Harahan 504-738-2228



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When Torie Kranze started at the National Kidney Foundation of Louisiana 26 years ago, the organization’s focus was on the dialysis patient and their care. Over the past 10+ years, Torie has led the organization through a shift in the medical community, which is now more focused on prevention, education, and transplantation (with an emphasis on living organ donation and pre-emptive transplantation). This shift has brought meaningful change through more lives saved and improved quality of life for patients. “When I became CEO in 2004, the next year brought my first challenge in Hurricane Katrina with our efforts to keep the office open and make sure patients were accounted for,” says Torie. Every year since has presented its own challenges with the pandemic most recently forcing new strategies and flexibility on Torie and the organization. She and her team responded by developing innovative patient programs in transportation, mental health, and school curricula as they now begin aiding a new population of patients suffering some stage of kidney disease caused by COVID-19. “The most rewarding part of my career is putting people together—I’ve done this as a recruiter, now as a CEO, and as a person who can actually help find a kidney donor/match for patients,” says Torie. Torie believes in giving back both professionally through her work in the nonprofit sector and in her personal life. She has served on the board for Save our Cemeteries, chaired Human Rights Campaign dinners, and served on the committee for French Quarter Citizen’s Gala. She currently serves on several Fore!Kids Foundation committees. National Kidney Foundation of Louisiana 8200 Hampson Street, Ste. 425, New Orleans 504-861-4500





As a third-generation St. John the Baptist Parish resident, Katie Klibert is deeply rooted in the River Region and has a vested interest in its continued growth. Her role as Commissioner for the Port of South Louisiana enables her to assist directly with that growth and economic development. “With 17 years of experience in telecommunications and infrastructure, I have a unique perspective on the challenges and growth opportunities for the Port of South Louisiana,” says Katie. “The Port and its commissioners make decisions that ensure the sustainable economic future of our region.” Katie and her family choose to live and work in St. John, where she focuses on creating and sustaining a viable living and working environment in Louisiana for her son and future generations. Klibert currently serves on the St. John the Baptist Parish Community Action Civil Service Board and serves as Vice Chair on the Louisiana Workforce Development Area 14 Workforce Investment Board. She is a member of GNO Inc.’s NextGen Council, designed to introduce new leadership to GNO Inc. and to develop business leaders with a regional perspective. “Social responsibility is not just for the corporate sector,” says Katie. “As residents of the River Region, we should seek out organizations that can help better our communities. In a post-Ida world, we can volunteer and give back to a genuinely suffering region.” Katie credits her adaptability and self-advocacy for helping her attain the leadership roles she enjoys today. Port of South Louisiana Globalplex 155 W 10th Street, Reserve



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Julia Fishser-Cormier’s two biggest driving forces are her home and her work—fortunately for her, the two are remarkably intertwined. As a third-generation resident of St. Charles Parish, Julia is grateful for the community that molded her: the family that provided for her, the schools that educated her, and the mighty river that continues to provide a life source for growth, development, and a high quality of life. As Chief Commercial Officer for the Port of South Louisiana, Julia is part of a powerhouse team that represents the next generation in the River Region’s success. “Our initiatives look very different from our ancestors’ ideas,” says Julia.” Agriculture, energy transition, and multimodal infrastructure are common terms amongst our team—we are speaking a new language, and I’m proud to be part of this shift in economics at the Port of South Louisiana.” Always intrigued by the law, Julia was elected to the St. Charles Parish Council in 2012 and will finish her last term in 2024. Compelled to help maintain and protect the community that defined her, Julia made flood protection a priority in office. The Parish now has a closed levee system on its Westbank, which proved its worth against Hurricane Ida’s direct hit last year. For Julia, success comes with doing your best work and being the best you can be. Inspired by her family, she strives to leave the world better than when she entered it. “None of what I do is ceremonial,” she says. “If I’m not making a difference, it’s time to move on to something else.” Port of South Louisiana Globalplex 155 W 10th Street, Reserve





Erin Monroe Wesley, Kristina Lagasse Sarai, and Raiza Pitre are three women who prove every day what it means to lead. In their leadership roles with Cox, they demonstrate how to live one’s truth while empowering peers to excel and modeling behavior that creates a true collaborative environment. “I’m proud to work for a company that puts its people first and is committed to improving communities,” says Erin. A Shreveport native, Erin worked in the highest offices of state government before achieving her aspirational career role as a corporate executive in government affairs. Erin challenges her team to live Cox’s team culture: “Be Innovative. Be Bold. Be You.” Unable to pursue schooling past eighth grade, Kristina’s Filipino mother impressed upon her daughters the importance of education. After graduating law school, Kristina joined Cox’s government affairs team. “This position affords me the opportunity to advocate for our business, employees and customers,” she says. “It’s incredibly rewarding to take part in public policy discussions, especially when it comes to bridging the digital divide in our communities.” Raiza credits her hardworking immigrant parents for her own tenacious work ethic. She began her journey at Cox 15 years ago and worked her way up to Agent Channel Manager. She helps businesses with their telecom needs and improving their efficiency. Raiza credits Cox’s mentorship programs in helping meet her personal and professional goals. Together with the Cox team, these women champion inclusion and diversity, empowering one another to build a better future together. Cox 1-844-303-1014 58 BIZ N E W ORL E ANS

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While working in television, Kelly Theard realized that she preferred to be behind the scenes. Inspired by her father, she attended law school, learning the importance of communication and teamwork before rising the ranks to Managing Partner at Deutsch Kerrigan. As an attorney, Kelly enjoys her role being part of a team, ensuring everyone has a voice and helping others fulfill their potential. As a volunteer and board member of New Orleans Area Habitat for Humanity, she relishes being a part of another behind-the-scenes team and helping hard-working families achieve their dream of home ownership. “I realized very early on that success is directly related to how you play as a team,” says Kelly. “Teamwork is a key concept to the Habitat model. We’ve all seen images of Habitat volunteers working together to raise a wall or paint a front porch. But what most people don’t realize is that the family who will purchase and live in that home is also working side by side with volunteers, putting in the sweat equity it takes to become a first-time homebuyer with Habitat.” Deutsch Kerrigan is a proud sponsor of Habitat’s Women Build (May 13-14, 20-21), an annual event in which women come together to raise funds and build a house for a hard-working family to buy and live in. The firm will provide the funds needed to build the home and sponsor a team to work alongside the future homeowner on the construction site. “Women Build is hard work but also a fun way to give back and improve the community we all call home,” says Kelly. To participate, visit or call 504-861-2077. New Orleans Area Habitat for Humanity 2900 Elysian Fields, New Orleans 504-861-2077 •






The conservation-minded women behind Wetlands Sake have expanded operations to include a tasting room where visitors can sip and see behind the scenes.


Mayra Pineda, president and CEO of the Hispanic Chamber of Commerce of Louisiana

M.A.D. Nails Owner Morgan Dixon has her well-styled fingertips on the pulse of a growing industry.


WETLANDS SAKE 634 Orange St, STE B // Instagram: @wetlandssake Facebook:


The conservation-minded women behind Wetlands Sake have expanded operations to include a tasting room where visitors can sip and see behind the scenes. BY MELANIE WARNER SPENCER




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iven that it’s made from fermented rice — one of Louisiana’s top five agricultural crops —sake is one of those products you can’t believe hasn’t been produced here for decades. While others may have considered brewing it, Nan Wallis and Lindsey Beard, the entrepreneurs behind Wetlands Sake, were the first to make it happen. They started brewing in the summer of 2020, with distribution rolling out in 2021 and a new taproom opened in January of this year.

The Louisiana wetlands inspired the name, design and altruistic mission behind Nan Wallis and Lindsey Beard’s sake company, located on Orange Street in the Lower Garden District. The owners worked with the architects at studioWTA and Curtis Herring Interior Design to achieve their vision.

The 6,557-sqare-foot facility celebrates sense of place with visual nods to the company’s branding namesake — Louisiana’s wetlands — at every turn and a commitment to conservation with 2% of the company’s profits going to Save America’s Wetlands. (Donations to Save America’s Wetlands can also be made on the company’s website.) To achieve their vision for the design, Wallis and Beard worked with studioWTA, a firm known for its environmentally conscious design. What were your (or the design team’s) goals for the design and why?

Tracie Ashe: The primary goals were threefold: To create an operations-based layout that would also function as a performance-like space, as the owners wanted visitors to be able to view as much of the brewing process as possible from the tasting room; to maintain a strong connection to the shared porch across the front of the

building; to upgrade the building for energy efficiency plus sustainability as it was transformed from a simple warehouse to a fully-conditioned structure. Curtis Herring: To create a [taproom] with an organic and earthy feel, reflective of the Louisiana product. We chose reclaimed cypress wood, carpeting with a lichen motif, wood grain luxury vinyl tile flooring, an earthy color palette, and a central mural depicting Louisiana rice. The application of these elements is thoughtful and organic. What was the biggest design challenge and how was it overcome?

Ashe: The biggest design challenge was converting what was previously an unconditioned warehouse to a weather-tight building which could be conditioned to the temperatures required for the sake preparation and brewing processes.

QUICK LOOK Date of opening Brewing operations, summer 2020; Distribution, 2021; taproom, January 2022 Square footage 6,557

Persons in Charge Nan Wallis, founder/ CEO and Lindsey Beard, founder/ president Architect Tracie Ashe, partner in charge, studioWTA along with architects Alyce Deshotel and John Philip Mouton Interior Design Curtis Herring Interior Design



Besides being the only sake brewery in Louisiana, “The thing that sets our sake and brewery apart, said co-owner Lindsey Beard, “is that we grow our own unique Louisiana rice, which is the main ingredient used to handcraft all of our sakes.”

What is the design’s standout feature?

Wallis: When you are in our taproom there is a wall of glass windows that allow you to see our entire sake production area. So, you can actually see Wetlands Sake being brewed while you are enjoying one of our nine sakes on tap. How would you describe Wetlands Sake to someone who hasn’t ever visited?

Beard: Wetlands Sake taproom is warm, comfortable and inviting. There is a great vibe and a good buzz, so people tend to come and hang out. We have a garage door that in good weather is always open onto our roomy covered porch and outdoor patio seating areas. How did you offer something different or set yourselves apart from similar businesses in New Orleans?

Beard: Wetlands Sake is the only sake brewery in Louisiana. The thing that sets our sake and brewery apart is that we grow our own unique Louisiana rice, which is the main ingredient



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used to handcraft all of our sakes. What makes our taproom unique in the U.S. and Japan is that we have nine craft sakes and craft sake cocktails on tap. Since this is our women’s issue, what, if anything, is noteworthy or different about working on a project for a woman-owned business as a partner in a woman-owned architectural firm?

Ashe: This project was particularly significant for me, as it was ongoing during the time in which studioWTA made the transition to a 100% women-owned business. The weight of that change was something I and my partner, Julie Babin, felt strongly through 2019 while the brewery was in design, then under construction. Our founder, Wayne Troyer, started this project with me but was soon too ill to continue, and did not live to see it complete. I’m grateful that one of the first projects completed after his passing was one that I worked on with a team of strong

women owners. Their determination and vision were a driving force, and one I admired throughout our work together. How do you promote a positive work atmosphere for the staff?

Beard: We have regular sake tastings built into our brewing schedules, which allow our staff to spend time together as a team and to appreciate the fruits of their labor. What are your biggest challenges (on the business side)?

Wallis: Supply chain disruption issues have made resources that we utilize in brewing and canning our products very difficult and expensive to obtain. What goals are you looking to meet in the near future?

Beard: We plan to distribute our products in several new states in the next 12 months. T





CLAWS OUT From working out of her living room to working on a hit TV show and boasting a high-profile Hollywood client list, Morgan Dixon has her well-styled fingertips on the pulse of a growing industry. BY ASHLEY MCLELLAN


M.A.D. NAILS 4209 Magazine St. Instagram @madnails // Facebook M.A.D. Nails //


organ Dixon is a triple threat in all the best ways. An artist, entrepreneur and social media star, Dixon’s New Orleans-based salon — M.A.D. Nails, named for her initials — has garnered the attention of local and national celebrities, as well as a following of more than 37,000 on Instagram. Yet, while everyone is currently mad about M.A.D. Nails’ top-of-the-line nail treatments for individuals and parties, nail products and more, Dixon is far from an overnight success. She

Now that pandemic restrictions are beginning to ease, salons are experiencing an overall bounce back and a renewed demand.



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M.A.D. Nails founder and owner Morgan Dixon has created a following of more than 37,000 on Instagram, with a celebrity client list that includes style icons such as Solange, Issa Rae and Niecy Nash.

has been hard at work for more than 10 years producing a career born out of both creativity and necessity. “Something in me told me to get my nail license while I was an extremely broke college student,” Dixon said. “My sophomore year of college (at the University of North Florida in Jacksonville), I was working random jobs as a server in restaurants — while also in and out of every retail job that would hire me — and I just grew tired of spending so much time in places I knew wouldn’t take me past a certain point.” Always a creative person, Dixon figured out how to do hair at a young age and started taking clients in her dorm room and making house calls to make extra money. “After a while I knew I needed to get a license before I got fined, so I decided to go to cosmetology school,” she said. “When I signed up, I realized I could not afford to do that, and the best next option would be to get my nail license.

..Nails were honestly the reason why I got my first job in high school (just so that I could get my nails done because my mom told me she wasn’t paying for it).” Nail art trends consistently make fashion headlines in publications such as Allure, Bustle and Harper’s Bazaar, while at-home kits from companies such as Olive & June have soared in popularity during the pandemic. Now that pandemic restrictions are beginning to ease, salons are experiencing an overall bounce back and a renewed demand. A recent report from Marketdata notes, “the U.S. nail salons industry was worth $6.5 billion in 2020, down 19% from the prior year. The total market is forecast to rebound and grow 18% this year, with 9% average yearly growth through 2025, to a value of $22.6 billion.” Celebrities such as Issa Rae, Faith Hill, Solange and Niecy Nash (all prior M.A.D. Nails clients) inspire potential customers to reach



out to the professionals to achieve a look that cannot be recreated at home — which translates into big business for the cosmetic industry at large. “The nail care market According to MarketResearch. is estimated to com, “the ‘average’ nail salon reach $11.6 billion nationwide was estimated to by 2027.” Globe gross $287,000 in revenues in Newswire 2019, with a 17% profit margin. “The global nail However, salons in some states, polish market is expected to reach and those that are part of a fran$19.4 billion by chise, can average up to $575,000.” the end of 2026.” Social media and the attention Statista garnered by an ever-growing “The average prices audience on Instagram proved to for nail services be an invaluable tool in Dixon’s in the US in 2019 growing business, which she ranged from $22.75 for a basic manicure founded after she took a trip to to $51.29 for a full New Orleans to do nails during set of gels.” Statista Mardi Gras and never left. “The demand for nail “Social media has been my No. 1 technicians is high, marketing tool,” Dixon said. “It’s and it’s expected funny because Instagram was just to grow by 10% between 2016 and getting started around the time 2028.” Bureau of that I became a nail tech, so it’s Labor Statistics been something that I’ve used “Number of U.S. from the beginning to grow my nail salons: There business. Living in Florida, New were 27,963 U.S. York and New Orleans, I’ve always nail salons with known that to reach the commupayroll (employers) in 2019, up 50% nity I had to understand social from 18,600 just five moments. Before this opportumedia marketing tools to get years earlier. Most nity I was working in a local salon people in these different areas to are “mom & pop” and my name was slowly getting notice me. Social media is someestablishments.” around the New Orleans commuthing that allows [me] to reach nity for the nail art I was doing. people that, unfortunately, we She told me that she reached out would have a harder time reaching to some people on her Facebook to ask who was out to in everyday life. Do not get me wrong doing great nails in the city and multiple people though, word-of-mouth is also a very important mentioned my name.” marketing tool these days and unfortunately Dixon’s initial attempts at launching her gets forgotten about.” career proved challenging. She noted that For Dixon, it was that word-of-mouth finding mentors was not really an option. Still, connection that led to her involvement in the being a self-starter, a skill she learned early on hit TNT television program “Claws,” — a dark in life, was the key to creating a long-lasting and comedy series about five diverse nail artists in successful business. Central Florida, now in its fourth season — and “I remember reaching out to a lot of different soon a booming business with clients that now nail artists I saw at the time to see if they could reach well beyond New Orleans. provide me with some mentorship, but unfor“An amazing woman by the name of Lauren tunately, I think a lot of them saw a mentorship Boudreaux reached out to me and asked as being some form of competition, and I was if I would be interested in joining the nail gracefully declined any opportunities. If you department team. She, at the time, was the think about it, the industry was very different nail department head, and brought me in and at the time. And even prior to that, there were provided me with such an amazing opportunot as many opportunities for nail techs outside nity. When I say word-of-mouth does more for of working in a traditional salon. Seeing that I people than they realize, this is one of those




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Returning clients look to Dixon and her team of nail artists for the latest in not only nail art, but style trends and accessories at the Warehouse District salon.

was not going to find a mentor, I just began to create opportunities for myself.” M.A.D. Nails currently has a team of nine employees, and the Warehouse District salon is set to expand this spring. A wide menu of treatments includes acrylic applications, manicures specially curated for men, women or groups, manicure spa treatments, pedicures and more. Prices can range from $25 to $175, depending on the type of manicure or applications and the time it takes for each treatment. “I meet so many amazing people on a daily basis, but the ones that mean the most are the ones that I’ve been doing nails for going on seven-plus years now,” said Dixon. “My favorite clients are definitely the people who have seen me grow, trusted my process and stuck with me when I didn’t even know where I was going in my business. I have literally had people coming to me since I was doing this out of my living room and are still sitting in my chair today. They will never understand how much that love, loyalty and trust has meant to me and been the driving force for me to still be inspired to be in business today.” T




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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Mayra Pineda

DID YOU KNOW? A native of Tegucigalpa, Honduras, Pineda served as Consul General of Honduras from 19901994 — years after moving to New Orleans. In this capacity, she worked to promote international relations between Honduras and Louisiana.

President and CEO of Hispanic Chamber of Commerce of Louisiana PORTRAIT BY GREG MILES

What’s your favorite festival? New Orleans Jazz & Heritage Festival What’s your favorite Jazz Fest food? Pheasant gumbo What was your first job? I worked as an administrative assistant and translator for an engineering company. If you weren’t doing what you’re doing now, what would your dream career be? A lawyer What’s something exciting on the horizon for your company/ organization? “Expanding our digital and financial literacy programs throughout the state”



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