Biz New Orleans September 2020

Page 1

The Chase family’s third and fourth generations lead Dooky Chase’s Restaurant


It’s never been easy, or equal, and now COVID-19 threatens even the most iconic businesses

Ship Shape MiNO Marine’s nautical headquarters P. 56

Home Trends Local experts share what’s in-demand P. 24 Insurance Changes What you need to know P. 28 SEPTEMBER 2020








September VOLUME 06 ISSUE 12







Industry professionals share their thoughts on the most in-demand features for homes right now BANKING+FINANCE. . ... 26

Three local bank presidents weigh in on COVID-19’s effects on the lending environment and industry as a whole. GREAT WORKSPACES.........................................................56

MiNO Marine navigates the naval architecture and marine engineering industry with style WHY DIDN’T I THINK OF THAT?. . .....................................60


Two local entrepreneurs are gaining attention for their back-to-basics approach to a grocery staple

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

Up for a James Beard award this month, Bellgarde Bakery was forced to close its doors TOURISM. . ...................... 16

COOLinary 2020 returns, but with pandemic tweaks

INSURANCE................... 28

How has COVID-19 changed the insurance marketplace? Six industry professionals speak out

SPORTS .. ....................... 18

COVID-19 could cost prep players scholarship opportunities ENTREPRENEUR.......... 20

Wear a mask, save a life ... and a business

GUEST. . ........................... 30

Surgeon and businessman Dr. Eric George offers a message of hope

ON THE JOB..........................................................................64

Entergy New Orleans’ new 20-megawatt solar plant is under construction now in New Orleans East


Black in Business The inability of Blackowned businesses to thrive in this region has hurt our economy deeply, and now COVID-19 threatens to wipe many out.

ON THE COVER From Left to Right: Edgar “Dooky” Chase IV, Edgar “Dooky” Chase III, Stella Chase Reese and Tracie Haydel Griffin of Dooky Chase’s Restaurant Portrait by Romero & Romero




It’s Time

Publisher Todd Matherne EDITORIAL Managing Editor Kimberley Singletary

WHILE STRUGGLING TO BATTLE A WORLDWIDE PANDEMIC, this country has also found itself in the midst of a renewed cry for equity. To be sure, COVID-19 has impacted us all to different degrees, but the facts have shown that — both in terms of physical health and economic health — our Black population has struggled, and continues to struggle, the hardest. That may be of less consequence in less diverse cities, but here in New Orleans, where minorities are the majority — making up 60% of our population — its importance cannot be overstated. While having the chance to chat with a few local Black business owners for this month’s cover feature, and picking the brains of some in our community that spend their waking hours working tirelessly to support them, I found myself trying to picture what New Orleans would look like if 60% of our population did not face so many disadvantages based solely on the color of their skin. What, I wonder, would the impact be on our economy if those 60% were given the same access to the business opportunities, the funding and the support that the other 40% have always received? What changes would we see in the problems that have so long plagued this city; to crime, poverty and education levels? How would our workforce change? How would it affect the way we’re able to compete for business on a national and global scale? I wonder what it would it look like to live in an equitable society. It’s understandably hard to picture, as we’ve never in our country’s history come close. But now, at a time when the whole world is upside down, when everything “normal” about our lives seems to have disappeared a lifetime ago, maybe it’s the perfect time to make some changes that ARE in our control, changes that point us toward a future that capitalizes on the strengths of ALL of our population, not just a portion of it. New Orleans is a city unlike any other on this planet, and that is because of people of color. Our music, our food, our culture — everything that makes people flock here from every corner of the world to visit or live here — none of it would exist without them. If we hope to find any real prosperity in the future, I’m convinced that it will only be because we recognized the chance we had to build a longer table — to all move forward, together.

Art Director Sarah George Digital Media Editor Kelly Massicot Associate News Editor Rich Collins Contributors Eric George, M.D., 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 Brennan Manale (504) 830-7298 Senior Account Executive Jessica Jaycox (504) 830-7255 RENAISSANCE PUBLISHING MARKETING Coordinator Abbie Dugruise PRODUCTION Manager Emily Andras Designer Rosa Balaguer CIRCULATION Subscriptions Jessica Armand Distribution John Holzer ADMINISTRATION Office Manager Mallary Wolfe Chief Executive Officer Todd Matherne For subscriptions, call (504) 830-7231

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be excited as schools start up again and football and fall festivals commence — all things that seemed promising back in March when everyone was thinking, “Let’s get through COVID-19, there are brighter days in front of us.” Yet, here we are approaching Labor Day and we’re still wondering what to do about school, looking at whether people can gather in groups and hoping for brighter days ahead. These past six months have been tough, and if you’re like me, you’re looking forward to the days when things are back into focus. There have been bright spots along the way, however, like my daughter getting married in June. We managed to catch things right between when the venues opened in Texas and when they were closed back down. It was perfect timing, and by God’s grace it happened on a beautiful weekend. Here at Renaissance Publishing, we have launched two podcasts, along with new contests and newsletters, as well as published a new cookbook and improved our daily efficiency through the use of technology and the hard work of our staff, all while working remotely and planning for fall redesigns of our titles. Until that day comes when we can host an event that brings us all back together, I urge you to keep up the fight and keep focusing on the bright spots. Todd Matherne







Caitlin Sistrunk Sales Manager

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Senior Account Executive (504) 830-7298

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In The Biz



DINING Bellgarde Bakery was forced to

close its doors

TOURISM COOLinary 2020 returns, but

with pandemic tweaks

SPORTS COVID-19 could cost prep

players scholarship opportunities

ENTREPRENEUR Wear a Mask, Save a Life and a business


Bellegarde Bows Out Up for a James Beard award this month, Bellgarde Bakery was forced to close its doors. BY POPPY TOOKER





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

G R A I S O N G I L L O F B E L L E GA R D E BA K E RY Gill incorporated retail into the mix when revolutionized New Orleans’ breadbasket with he opened the new Apple Street facility. flavors from the past. On a hot, New Orleans COVID-19 upended Bellegarde Bakery. April day in 2009, the 23-year-old California Over 65% of his business evaporated when native stepped off a Greyhound bus, with no the city’s restaurants closed on March 16. In clear intent for his future. Despite that, Gill a crazy twist of fate, Gill received his first was certain that he was home. James Beard nomination for Outstanding Gill moved into a shared Bywater apart- Baker in the midst of the crisis. Although ment on Royal Street where his bread the bakery never closed, trying “everything adventures began. He remembered, “Baking from curbside to walk-up retail,” once the grabbed me. It’s a very solitary activity, a PPP money ran out, so did his options. beautiful ritual that requires self-discipline In a July 17 press release, Gill announced, and commitment. It’s both intellectual and “The financial and emotional toll of physical and engages every one of your COVID-19 has made it impossible to bake senses simultaneously.” He became obsessed bread and mill flour. We have been losing with the process. money since March 15, and there is simply no While experiencing some success selling more left to lose.” Optimistically, he continued, his loaves at local farmers markets, he “Although I hope this is a temporary closure recognized his technical limitations and for Bellegarde, I hope to take this opportunity enrolled in professional baking school in to create permanent change in myself and the San Francisco, graduating with professional world around me. If we want to preserve the certification. After apprenticing in top Bay culture and cuisine of New Orleans, we will Area bakeries, New Orleans called him home. have to nurture its roots.” “The city’s spiritual magnetism drew me in so Gill fears for his beloved adopted home deeply that I feel out of place anywhere else and wonders “how long New Orleans can in America,” he explains. continue if it willfully ignores its own heart: Through extensive historical research, Gill the New Orleanians who are at risk of extincdecided to call his business “Bellegarde” in a tion because brutal social and economic nod to a New Orleans bakery that operated policies have made it unbearable to live back to 1722. The story of that early bakery here.” Despite that, he’s willing to “fight for spoke to Gill’s intentions to “create some- the destiny” of the city he loves by pursuing thing honest and simple with a lot of clarity policy at both the state and city level. and integrity.” On September 25, he expects to be Striving for the perfect loaf at Bellegarde, amongst friends at this year’s James Beard Gill concluded that the secret was the award ceremony. It’s notable that all five of ingredients. “Most conventional white flour the local chefs competing for this year’s Best is dead, while freshly stone milled flour is Chef of the South have included Bellegarde a live food.” So, the baker became a miller, by name on their restaurant’s menus.n too. Beginning with a small, tabletop mill, Gill grew the operation to include a pair of 2,500-pound granite mills as he changed the flavor profile of New Orleans bread with his carefully curated flour, utilizing heirloom ingredients sourced from small farmers. While the poor boy loaf dominated the local food scene, Gill believed that New Orleans bread could be as diverse as the city itself. His efforts were rewarded when chefs began to recognize Bellegarde’s bread as “something with its own flavor” versus poor boy bread, which he says functions “as a napkin you can dump anything on – shrimp, garlic, wine, butter… That bread is never going to talk back.” Strictly a wholesale operation until a 2019 expansion, Bellegarde’s bread was listed Catch Poppy Tooker on her radio show, proudly on top local restaurant menus and “Louisiana Eats!” Saturdays at 3 p.m. and sold in groceries across the city. Last fall, Mondays at 8 p.m. on WWNO 89.9 FM.




Takeout Shrimp Etouffee? We Got Dat. COOLinary 2020 returns, but with pandemic tweaks BY JENNIFER GIBSON SCHECTER




so hard to stay open will have been worth it, and that it will provide financial resources that will likely be necessary for the survival of most of our local restaurants.” LeBlanc said his restaurants were created with locals in mind, designed to serve as neighborhood spots. Still, 25% of the restaurants’ guests pre-COVID-19 were tourists. Now, none of them are. As for the shift this year to include delivery and takeout in the COOLinary experience, LeBlanc welcomes it. “I think it will positively influence our sales, but, more importantly, I think it will allow us to go to where people are to offer our hospitality experiences to them there,” he said. “The reality of our current environment is that many people still do not feel safe dining in at restaurants. We want to be sure that those people, who have been very supportive of us over the past two years, can enjoy COOLinary this year, too.” Sonnier said the team at New Orleans & Company is promoting COOLinary through a variety of media campaigns, including social media, traditional media, print ads, billboards, earned media opportunities and signage at baggage claim at Louis Armstrong New Orleans International Airport. The primary audience is local, but they are also working with drive-in markets to bring in tourism. “We are working with media as far west as Baton Rouge and as far east as the Gulf Coast to invite those who live nearby to visit New Orleans and build on COOLinary dining to plan an extended stay at one of our hotels,” said Sonnier. New Orleans & Company is highly aware of the impact COVID-19 has had on the employees of the hospitality and tourism sector, like the 50% to 70% of the staff laid off from LeBlanc and Smith restaurants. The organization has been working closely with city, state and federal governments, as well as public health agencies to facilitate the safe and phased reopening of New Orleans. “One of our team members serves on the Governor’s Resilient Louisiana Commission and has worked closely with the governor, the Louisiana Department of Health, the fire marshal’s office and other state agencies to develop safe and healthy standards and restrictions for reopening businesses,” said Sonnier. “The commission is also developing a strategic vision for how to build a more resilient Louisiana economy as we emerge from the pandemic.” To learn more about participating restaurants and their menus, visit n


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


on hiatus ­— families unable to hold a repast to celebrate a loved one who has passed on; graduation ceremonies replaced with virtual commencements held on front lawns; the cancellation of the NFL preseason and uncertainty for the Saints regular season — we find ourselves holding on to what we can, even if our traditions may look a little different. One late summer/early fall tradition that managed to continue this year is COOLinary New Orleans, or COOLinary for short. The event is organized by destination marketing organization New Orleans & Company and has been held annually for 16 years. It celebrates New Orleans restaurants and entices diners with prix fixe menus from Aug. 1 to Sept. 13, showcasing local cuisine, albeit possibly from your living room this year. “We added delivery and take-out offerings this year because the dining landscape has changed since COVID-19,” said Kristian Sonnier, vice president of communications and public relations for New Orleans & Company. “Delivery and takeout options are now part of the new normal we are all experiencing. Our restaurant community has done an amazing job adapting to all the mandates, restrictions and changes involved in trying to keep their facilities open. Those restaurants that are able to provide takeout and delivery, in addition to dine-in, are happy to have a few more service offerings to try to remain operational and keep their workforces working.” COOLinary is built around special two- and three-course lunch menus for $20 or less and three-course dinner and brunch menus for $39 or less at restaurants in practically every neighborhood in New Orleans. Over 70 restaurants are participating this year. “This is about half the number of restaurants compared to last year,” said Sonnier, who quickly noted that New Orleans & Company is pleased with the number considering the hardships the industry has faced over the past five months. One restaurant group returning this year is LeBlanc and Smith, which operates four participating businesses, including Cavan, Longway Tavern, Meauxbar and Sylvain. This is the third year it has participated in COOLinary. “Prior to COVID-19 shutting down our entire industry, COOLinary was a way to get reacquainted with locals returning after summer and a nice shot in the arm financially after slower July sales,” said Robert LeBlanc, CEO and creative director of LeBlanc and Smith. “In this post-COVID-19 world, we hope COOLinary will be a validation from many familiar faces that fighting



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Will They Get to Play? COVID-19 could cost prep players scholarship opportunities BY CHRIS PRICE




powerful back and hope I can show coaches more film … if we have a season.” The joy leaves his face as he considers the opportunity that is seemingly escaping him, and the fact there is nothing he can do about it, undoubtedly wondering if coaches can’t see the progress he’s made in the last year, will they be willing to offer him a scholarship? “I would prefer to play a delayed or shortened season than having it canceled,” he said. “I think we will have a season, and our coaches seem positive, too.” Dalmado’s mother, Michelle, echoed her son’s hopes for the year, but expressed concern that if football season is impacted in Louisiana, but not in other states, those players will have more to show to entice collegiate coaches’ attention. In addition to providing film, high school prospects are typically invited to college campuses on game weekends to meet coaches and players and get a better understanding of the university and its football program. It’s a huge part of the recruitment process, but with safety protocols in place to fight COVID-19’s spread, player visits aren’t happening as usual, further limiting the relationship progression between future players and coaches. If he can’t play or make on-campus visits, Dalmado said he will rely on film from his junior and sophomore seasons, talking and texting with coaches and recruiting coordinators, and continuing to get stronger and faster. With an older son already enrolled at LSU, Michelle Dalmado said obtaining an athletic scholarship for Jake would be economically beneficial, but the Dalmado family is more focused about the prospect of him realizing a life-long dream. “This would be a big help with the financial burden of having two sons in college, but we’re looking at this as his achievement – the realization of his goal to compete at the next level. Being recruited is an interesting process. We are proud of him and look forward to what the future holds.” n


Chris Price is an award-winning journalist and public relations principal. When he’s not writing, he’s avid about music, the outdoors, and Saints, Ole Miss and Chelsea football. Price also authors the Friday Sports Column at


football practice in the late summer Louisiana heat and humidity, Jake Dalmado has had one burning question in the back of his mind: Will he get to play this season? For the more than 1 million high school football players across the country hoping to take the field this month, there was hope that staying home from school in the spring and summer would mean they would be able to return to school and the field in the fall without concern. However, like Jake snaking his way through opposing defenses, the COVID-19 pandemic has been as elusive and hard to take down. Professional and collegiate programs have taken multiple steps to alter their seasons in the face of the disease, including cutting inter-conference games as well as the number of games played, but with different high school athletic associations governing play across the 50 states, the prospect of playing a full or contracted prep football season in 2020 is as much an enigma as ever. In July, the Louisiana High School Athletic Association voted not to allow football games until the state enters Phase 4 of the K-12 reopening from the current pandemic. Like most players nearing the end of their high school career, Dalmado, a running back at Archbishop Hannan High School in Covington, is looking forward to making memories with his teammates while he can. “I am very much looking forward to senior year,” he said. “It’s the last year I get to play with my high school friends. It will be heartbreaking to not have a senior season. It’s a special year. If we miss it, we can never get it back.” But there is more on the line for Dalmado than missing an opportunity to play his last season under the Friday night lights. Like thousands of players looking to make it to the next level, Dalmado, who rushed for 1,359 yards and 16 touchdowns on 181 carries as a junior, has received a couple of coveted athletic scholarship offers already, but would like the opportunity to further show off his skills on the gridiron in hopes that he might draw attention from as many schools as possible. “It is an honor to be recruited to play college football, and I’m excited and look forward to playing at the next level,” he said. “I have had a few coaches tell me they will follow my senior season. I have gained 15 pounds while improving my 40 (yard dash) time since last season. I have become a more


Wear a Mask, Save a Life… …and a business BY KEITH TWITCHELL





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.

SMALL BUSINESS OWNERS ARE STRUGGLING I’m sure the possibilities are truly endless with so many things right now, which makes here, and even if you are not going to turn it all the more unfortunate that it falls on this into your new entrepreneurial venture, businesses to enforce regulations like face maybe your next evening entertainment can mask wearing — and that selfish patrons are be coming up with your own set of brilliantly forcing them to do so. creative mask ideas. Since every reputable medical and scienI really do hope this put a much-needed tific expert on earth says wearing masks smile on your face (one that you are hiding helps lessen the spread of COVID-19, it is with a mask if you are reading this in public). beyond comprehension that a significant But I want to end on a slightly more serious portion of the population still refuses to note: We truly are all in this together. Solving do so. All this does is put people’s lives and the coronavirus problem — at least until health at risk, set our economy even further there is a viable vaccine — is one of those back and cancel football season. “death by a thousand cuts” solutions, and we It also puts business owners, and their each need to be part of that solution. We employees, in a really tough position. allow so much to divide us, yet we are in a But as Mark Twain said, “Never argue time when we simply must be on the same with a fool, people might not be able to team. tell the difference.” So, instead of trying to This includes supporting our local busipersuade people to do the right thing, maybe nesses and entrepreneurs; in turn, that goes it’s worth trying to entice them instead. beyond spending our money with them. It And therein lies an entrepreneurial oppor- is in each of our hands to enable us to move tunity, one your humble columnist offers up forward, socially and economically. It is freely to anyone who is positioned to run with. within our power to keep business owners What if we could make mask-wearing and employees safe. Wearing your face mask sorta, kinda fun? Maybe even an opportu- is being a team player. nity to make a clever personal statement in Hey, there could be a mask in that. n the process? So, on the theory that we could all use a good chuckle or two right now, here are some ideas for face mask statements in the age of COVID-19 (full disclosure, I stole or adapted a couple of these). • “Keep Drew Brees safe, wear a mask” • “It’s for ya mama n’em” • “We’re New Orleanians. We wear masks.” • “My other mask is for robbing banks” (I recommend NOT wearing this to the bank!) • “I’m not being safe, I’m hiding from my kids” • “Anybody seen my snorkel?” • “Just pretend it’s Mardi Gras” • “This mask blocks viruses and broccoli” (or pick your least favorite food in the world) • “Keep calm and mask on” • “Not a political statement” • “My doctor made me do it” • “I can still eat crawfish faster than you” • “Worn on the Bayou” • “My lips are NOT sealed!” • “Stolen from Charity Hospital” • “When the going gets tough, the tough wear masks” • “Real men wear masks” (Real women too!) • “Jazz Mask” (I could see this done like sheet music) • “They all masked for you”




REAL ESTATE+CONSTRUCTION Local professionals discuss the in-demand features and hottest trends

BANKING+FINANCE Three local bank presidents weigh in on COVID-19’s effects on the lending environment

INSURANCE How has COVID-19 changed the insurance marketplace?

GUEST Surgeon and businessman

Dr. Eric George offers a message of hope.



JOHN COGNEVICH PRESIDENT STONE INTERIORS NEW ORLEANS “We are seeing many customers coming in our showroom wanting to lighten up their existing kitchen by changing out a darker color granite and using lighter materials such as quartz, marble or quartzite. People are turning to a more bright and airy feel in their color selections. There has also been a huge interest in adding outdoor kitchens. I believe that the kitchen is a true gathering space where families come to share meals and spend quality time cooking and entertaining.”





“People are focusing on the kitchen space and are specifically in search of high-end stoves and more space to cook. Many are being more adventurous while cooking — trying to make homemade bread or pasta, for example — so they want the space to do this and are looking for quality appliances. Homeowners are also being bolder with tile and cabinet color choices. Outdoor projects like landscaping, vegetable gardens and even chicken coops are also priority projects for many homeowners. I personally upgraded my landscaping over the past few months and included some beautiful uplighting.”

“We are seeing a lot of homeowners tackling home improvement projects, mostly centered around creating office and homeschool spaces for parents and kids to work/ learn remotely. These projects might include turning a guest bedroom or dining room into a flex space with built-in bookcases and/ or built-in shelving for organizing work and school supplies. Other improvements are focusing on outdoor space as an extension of living space, which might include covering a patio to provide shade for outdoor play for kids, upgrading their grilling/ outdoor kitchen space or the ultimate exterior improvement — adding a pool!”





With people spending more time at home, many are turning to home improvement projects. What are the most in-demand features for homes right now and what do you think will be the next hottest trend?

“A person’s home and its comfort and function are now top priorities. We have experienced an explosion of basic work orders like homeowners taking care of, or repairing long-existing problems or issues they had previously put off. We are also noticing an increase in jobs for non-essential upgrades and quality of life additions to outdoor spaces. People are now much more likely to finally take care of that window that has been leaking, or those wooden shutters that are rotted and falling off the house. With more people working from home, scheduling work to be done at home is not the obstacle it commonly was before and I would expect this trend to continue for some time.”

RACHEL J. JONES VICE PRESIDENT TRITON STONE GROUP “We are seeing a huge influx of people renovating and upgrading their homes, and we have been seeing many notable features on repeat, including large islands with waterfall edging. Marble in the kitchen is still big, and hidden pantries are very coveted right now, with cabinets that open up into another room. Mattefinish appliances, undercabinet lighting, hidden plugs and glass tile are big, and color is back! The next hottest trend will be all voice-activated kitchen fixtures and appliances. We are seeing whole homes built with everything connected to voice activation.”

JOSH FOGARTY PARTNER SATSUMA REALTORS AND SATSUMA PROPERTY MANAGEMENT “As our daily lifestyles change with the current times, there is a focus on spending more time at home. Over the past few months, I’ve noticed homeowners prioritizing the renovation and improvement of outdoor spaces as well as the addition of swimming pools. With the added bonus of a nearly year-round pool season in New Orleans, a private pool at home feels like the next ‘coolest’ trend. Additionally, it could add value to your property.”




Banking on Change Three local bank presidents weigh in on COVID-19’s effects on the lending environment and industry as a whole. BY RICH COLLINS


have not had the year they were expecting. “​The pandemic has changed everything, and banking is no exception,” said b1BANK Market President Christopher Keene. Banks have had to manage the Paycheck Protection Program lending process, move most of their customer service online, protect their own employees, and most importantly, pivot to serve businesses and individuals experiencing financial distress as a result of the disruption caused by COVID-19. “The pandemic accelerated trends that were already going on,” said Guy Williams, president and CEO of Gulf Coast Bank. “Banks are doing more business online, less in branches, and there are fewer new business loans because of all the uncertainty. We are a tourist- and oil-dependent economy, so it would be hard to open a business related to entertainment, hospitality, food service or energy right now. On the other hand, there’s high demand for home improvement, pools, motorhomes and boats, so related businesses would be well received.” Fidelity Bank President and CEO Chris Ferris said the biggest change is how online banking has moved front and center. “The pandemic exposed what I would call some mid-to-late adopters to digital services like online banking, mobile banking, bill pay, remote check deposit and personal payment systems,” he said. “I highly suspect that the uptick in use we are experiencing right now will continue in the future. Banks will need to commit to staying abreast of digital trends.” Ferris said the technological awakening applies to the bankers themselves, who have become more comfortable with digital tools such as Zoom and Microsoft Teams.




The pandemic accelerated trends that were already going on. Banks are doing more business online, less in branches, and there are fewer new business loans because of all the uncertainty. Guy Williams, president and CEO of Gulf Coast Bank

“I suspect even after the crisis is over, virtual meetings will be accepted if not encouraged. Also, electronic forms acceptance will become more mainstream. The need to physically sign paper is likely to decrease on many documents.” DOING BUSINESS FACE TO FACE (OR MASK TO MASK?)

Williams said branches are “important, but not as important as they used to be, so we’re not planning to open any new ones in the foreseeable future.” However, Williams and his fellow bank presidents all agree that customers will continue to come into brickand-mortar branches to solve problems and open new accounts. Ferris said that business customers, especially those in retail services, still have a need to visit branches to complete cash transactions, such as getting change and depositing coins. “However, my belief is that branches will continue to see a decline in transactional business,” he said. “Instead, clients will visit them when they have more complex needs and need consultative advice or for problem resolution. This likely means the skillset of the associates in the branches will evolve.

“The current crisis and scramble for PPP loans taught business clients that they should know their banker and have a relationship with that banker. A branch will still be a safe, secure and professional space to conduct business and to have discussions about more complex needs and initiatives.” Keene, with b1BANK, agrees that relationships are what will bring customers into physical branches. “We have the same digital technology that all of the bigger banks do, and the majority of our customers use it for day-to-day banking transactions,” he said. “But they know if they need us, they can come down to a local banking center and work with a banker. We take pride in the relationships we have built in the community and our branches are where those relationships develop.” NEW NEEDS

Without a doubt, customers’ priorities have changed during the pandemic and banks are pivoting to take care of them. Williams said that since there is now a greater need for financial planning, Gulf Coast has dedicated more people to that service.

Keene, meanwhile, said his teams have developed programs with multiple options to help clients experiencing financial hardship. “We were proactive in helping customers apply for Paycheck Protection Program loans and will be participating in the Main Street program,” he said. “Our bankers will continue to help our clients analyze their current financial situation and make recommendations ... to ensure they reach their long-term goals.” Said Ferris: “Our clients are all having their own unique experience so while we have implemented some blanket actions like waiving late fees and suspending payments, we are looking at each client individually and using our consultative approach to assist in their needs. That may be working out payments, restructuring or in many cases assisting and planning what opportunity comes next. LOW RATES AND LOWER YIELDS

The low interest rates of 2020 have been great for anyone looking to refinance their mortgage or other debt, but they’re making it harder for bank customers to make money on the money they’ve saved or invested. “Unfortunately, low interest rates are here for a while,” said Williams. “Safety is important. We encourage folks not to chase yield in a down market. No one likes less yield, but it is better to broadly diversify investments and accept a lower yield.” Ferris agrees. “The best advice I have is to talk to the professionals,” he said. “Turn to a certified financial planner who will look at many factors including your age, dreams for yourself and your family and most of all your risk tolerance. What is right for an unmarried 26-year-old beginning his or her career is not the same for an [older] individual dreaming of retirement. The younger an individual is when they begin a conversation about what they want their financial future to look like, the better prepared they will be.”

My belief is that branches will continue to see a decline in transactional business. Instead, clients will visit them when they have more complex needs and need consultative advice or for problem resolution. This likely means the skillset of the associates in the branches will evolve. Chris Ferris, president and CEO of Fidelity Bank


As with many challenging situations, though, Keene said the pandemic is not without its silver linings. “A positive for b1BANK has been the increase in one-on-one communication with our clients, strengthening relations,” he said. “Our bankers understand our clients’ businesses and longterm goals. We are navigating this pandemic together, with, in some instances, multiple conversations a day, to help our clients plan for immediate needs and continue to stay on track to attain those long-term goals. While we continue to use technology to make banking more convenient for our clients, it’s the partnerships we have strengthened that will continue past the pandemic.”n BIZNEWORLEANS.COM








“As far as workers’ compensation is concerned, if an employer is operating a business that has any predictable risk of significant virus exposure, such as healthcare, then the workers’ comp carrier may want to verify that the business is following all recommended guidelines regarding operating safely. This normally would be accomplished through engagement between the business and the workers’ comp company’s loss control or risk management department. The best way for a business to adapt is to educate itself on what the guidelines require and keep up-to-date on them as the guidelines can, and do, change.”

“Commercial insurance is in a hard market that happens every 10 to 20 years. Unrelated to COVID-19, the insurance market was already working through increasing rates and less underwriting ‘enthusiasm.’ Underwriters are in the enviable position of being able to choose what they want to write and leave the rest on the scrap heap. The broker’s job is to tell and sell the story of that neglected account in an environment that limits face-to-face connections.”

“On the employee benefits side, a recent Marsh McLennan survey showed dramatically increasing focus on employee wellbeing programs. Many existing and new employee assistance programs are designed to provide emotional support for employees, which is increasingly important during COVID-19... With respect to costs, for some months now we’ve seen cost decreases due to layoffs and reduced utilization of procedures. However, we are projecting an increase in claims spending on group plans due to an increase in inpatient COVID-19 testing and utilization, which will likely occur later in the year and into 2021. How this effects renewals over the next year is yet to be determined.”

SEBRINA BUSH HILLARD PRESIDENT INSURANCE DESIGN & PLACEMENT, INC. “The final effects of COVID-19, as it pertains to the property and casualty part of the insurance marketplace, have yet to be seen. Long term, pending litigation and legislation may change the cost of business income insurance and what is considered property damage, and may create a whole new mechanism for how widespread risks are managed. In the short term, small businesses should be working closely with brokers to think through key pressure points and ensure exposures are sufficiently insured, as well as look at ways beyond insurance to mitigate that risk. COVID-19 has really highlighted the need for the insurance industry to be proactive to marketplace changes and to provide solutions prior to issues reaching critical mass.”






How has COVID-19 changed the insurance marketplace and what should employers or individuals be doing to adapt?

“LAMMICO provides professional liability insurance to medical providers, hospitals and facilities throughout Louisiana and Arkansas, as well as other states... As we recover, most of our providers have returned to the new ‘normal’ and are busy with their full-time practice. The pandemic has reinforced the importance of healthcare professionals in our society and their need to be vigilant about the financial strength and stability of their medical professional liability insurance company. A sound company can help ensure their coverage needs continue to be met in times of uncertainty. “

BRIAN KELLER SENIOR VICE PRESIDENT AND CHIEF MARKETING OFFICER BLUE CROSS AND BLUE SHIELD OF LOUISIANA “Employers are now thinking about how to return their employees to the workplace while keeping them safe and healthy. To help, Blue Cross developed an Employer Toolkit with input from our medical directors that gives suggestions and guidelines for employers. The toolkit is available at ... For those individuals searching for health insurance, our advice is not to panic. Louisiana has never had a better health insurance safety net than it has right now.”

THE FASTEST GROWING CHAPTER IN THE GLOBAL EO NETWORK IN 2019 EO Louisiana is a chapter in the Global Entrepreneurs’ Organization (EO)

which is a peer-to-peer network of more than 14,000+ influential business owners with 195 chapters in 61 countries. Founded in 1987, EO is the catalyst that enables leading entrepreneurs to learn and grow, leading to greater success in business and beyond.


To engage leading entrepreneurs to learn and grow.


To build the world’s most influential community of entrepreneurs.


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To learn more about EO Louisiana visit us at




We Have Been Here Before Surgeon and businessman Dr. Eric George offers a message of hope. BY ERIC GEORGE, MD


our community, it also provides enduring hope. In our not too distant past, we faced one of the worst natural disasters in our history. I speak for all when I say it challenged our understanding of nature and its capacity to inflict grave harm. Hurricane Katrina entered our homes and upended our lives. It not only disrupted our sense of normal, it called into question whether our community would function the same again. Reflecting on memories from 2005, I recognize many patterns with today. History repeats itself, the saying goes, and while it may not replay events in precise detail, it certainly reproduces themes that carry the illusion of déjà vu. And in my déjà vu, I find comfort in the knowledge that we have stood at the base of this mountain before with the impossible task of reaching the summit, all without comprehending the duration or difficulty of the journey ahead.




The key to overcoming the crisis in 2005 was not to run from it but go after it. We came together as a community and problemsolved, innovated and sacrificed. The federal and state government instituted tax credits to stimulate development. Investors and entrepreneurs capitalized on these incentives, funding projects and developing businesses that revitalized infrastructure, real estate and other sectors of our economy, while creating meaningful jobs. Professionals continued to re-enter the workforce and contribute to improving the human condition. We didn’t welcome the problem, but we certainly didn’t run away from it. As a community, we carry a special responsibility when it comes to forces beyond our control. We face threats on two levels: reality and perception. As reality goes, we must improve the actual conditions of our community, healing whatever ails us. In the way of perceptions, we must convince

Dr. Eric George is an internationally renowned hand surgeon, serial entrepreneur, investor, philanthropist and author. He is the founder and CEO of ERG Enterprises, Hand Center of Louisiana and Omega Hospital, as well as chairman of East Jefferson Ambulatory Surgical Center. He is also a thought leader in the areas of leadership, entrepreneurship and investing, and regularly contributes to leading media outlets, including Entrepreneur and Forbes.

the world that New Orleans is open for business and remains a safe vacation destination. We face the thorny task of addressing real and artificial problems, while managing the dance between them and reconciling the differences that emerge. And that’s where COVID-19 creates more difficulty. Unlike disasters of our past, the virus eliminates an important tool in the arsenal of our recovery: an efficient and accurate feedback loop. It takes weeks before we learn the outcome of our perceptions and subsequent actions. A fast and accurate feedback loop makes all the difference in battling a threat of this magnitude. Without feedback, we can’t settle the dispute between reality and perception, which creates unique challenges for our community. The absence of feedback clearly highlights the challenge of our task. Without a vaccine or anti-viral medication, our only defense is to double down on the fundamental approach we took to recover from Hurricane Katrina. And by we, I mean everyone. From the top down, we need infectious communication, collaboration, unity and problemsolving. We need courage to reopen our economy and diligence to keep it safely working. While we have made significant progress in easing the spread of the virus, our work is just beginning. If Katrina taught us anything, surviving the storm proves easier than recovering from it. I believe positive change can come from this pandemic if we stay vigilant. With challenge comes opportunity, and given the nature of the virus, we can reinvent ourselves. While rebuilding our economy, we can begin diversifying it, easing our dependence on tourism and hospitality. As we return to work, we can reimagine how we work. We can also revisit our crisis-planning and -response systems, improving their resiliency for global catastrophes, which overwhelm crucial support systems. Natural disasters, global pandemics— these deadly, uncontrollable forces do serve a purpose. Most importantly, they show us our deficiencies and tell us what needs improvement. How we come together and solve this problem will not only determine its ultimate effect on our region and the world, but it will determine how we deal with our next crisis, whether caused by climate change or another pandemic. As we demonstrated after the hurricane, we need to see the problem and go after it. If history foreshadows our future, we will serve as the standard for the rest of the world. Let us embrace that responsibility. n



The inability of Black-owned businesses to thrive in this region has hurt our economy deeply, and now COVID-19 threatens to wipe many out. BY KIM SINGLETARY PORTRAITS BY ROMERO & ROMERO


IN JUNE, the National Bureau of Economic Research came out with its first report on COVID-19’s effect on small businesses and, as was to be expected, the news wasn’t good. From February through April, the number of active business owners in the United States dropped by 3.3 million, or 22% — the largest drop ever recorded by the bureau, in operation since 1920. But while the shuttering of nearly a quarter of U.S. businesses is hard to comprehend, the reality is far worse for minority-owned businesses. Asian-owned businesses fell by 26% after just the first full month of the pandemic and Latino-owned businesses fell by 32%. But the hardest hit by far was Black-owned businesses, which dropped by 41%. In February of this year, there were 1.1 million Black-owned businesses operating in the U.S. By April that number had plummeted to 640,000. Part of the reason for the drop is that the proportion of Black businesses in what are termed as “essential” industries is lower than the overall national percentage of businesses that fall into this category — 66% vs. 76% — which put them in a less favorable position during COVID-19. According to the U.S. Census 2012 Survey of Business Owners, four in 10 Black-owned businesses are in the service industries, including healthcare, social assistance, repair and maintenance, administrative support, waste management, and personal and laundry services. Black-owned businesses also tend to be smaller. In 2012, 95% had no paid employees. As such, it’s not surprising that they also tend to have lower revenues. Nationally, 67.3% of firms without employees reported annual sales of less than $25,000, while 57.9 % of businesses with paid employees reported annual sales of more than $249,999. But these are all national statistics. What about the Greater New Orleans area? In 2012, the Data Center came out with a report on inclusive entrepreneurship that highlighted a staggering statistic for metro New Orleans: While minorities made up 47% of the area’s total population (and climbing), they owned only 36% of the businesses and those businesses received a pitiful 2% of the total sales receipts.


“When it came out, that statistic really created a jolt,” said Lynnette White-Colin, vice president of small business ecosystem development at the New Orleans Business Alliance. “It became a real rallying cry for people to take action.” In 2018, the U.S. Census American Community Survey reported a different demographic makeup for New Orleans, placing the Black population at 59.74% of the city’s total population. “The power of entrepreneurship is its ability to create wealth for families and communities,” explained Klassi Duncan, vice president of the Urban League of Louisiana’s Center for Entrepreneurship and Innovation. “Our [Black-owned] businesses have the ability to create jobs and strengthen our economy. As such, it is in all of our best interest to support them in whatever way we can.” According to a 2016 profile of the city, Black New Orleanians tend to be poorer not just than their white counterparts, but the Black population nationally. The profile was developed by the Racial Wealth Divide Initiative at CFED — the nonprofit now known as Prosperity Now — as the first step under the Building High Impact Nonprofits of Color Project, funded by JPMorgan Chase. Among the findings were that the city’s Black unemployment numbers were 2.1% higher than the national average, and while the average income of New Orleans whites was $5,377 higher than the annual national average, Black workers made $10,194 less. Unsurprisingly, the poverty level of the Black population in New Orleans was 6.1% higher than national averages and 71% lacked the savings to live above the poverty level for three months if they faced the loss of a job, a medical crisis or any other significant income disruption. The same situation was true for only 29% of white residents. The reality is that minority-owned businesses tend to hire minorities, which, WhiteColin says, is critical in New Orleans. “Fifty-two percent of our Black men in this city are unemployed,” she said. Pre-COVID-19, the unemployment level in New Orleans for white residents was 5%, for Black residents it was 15%. As we find ourselves in the middle of not only a global pandemic, but within earshot of a new rallying cry for equity, some who have dedicated their livelihoods to helping minority businesses reach the success of their white counterparts say now is the perfect time for change. More than just about doing what’s “right,” it’s an economic necessity. Providing Black-owned businesses with what they need to thrive would logically result in increases to the city’s income tax base and homeownership levels, while lowering poverty, crime and unemployment numbers. In speaking with multiple businesses and area organizations, the same three topics dominated the conversation. Change, they say, lies in improving three areas: equal access to private and public opportunities, equal access to capital, and having the support and guidance needed to help existing businesses first, survive the current pandemic, and then go on to thrive.




A business owner for 30 years, Michelle Gobert’s most lucrative contract to-date was creating signage at the airport’s new North Terminal last year.




and signage, said, in a way, this year is no different from the rest. “I’ve been in survival mode since day one,” she says. “I started this business right out of college, making 200 calls a week to get customers, and we’re still doing that.” A franchised business owner, Gobert owns Image 360 (previously known as Signs Now Center) on Poydras Street and its sister business, Signs Now, in Slidell. Together, the shops employ 15 people, including Gobert’s daughter, Christian. After graduating from Xavier University, Gobert’s plans were to become a CPA. It was her new husband, a systems engineer whom she met while interning at IBM, who had the dream of becoming a business owner — he just wasn’t sure what kind. Inspiration struck, said Gobert, in an unexpected place — during the XXIV Super Bowl at the Louisiana Superdome on Jan. 28, 1990. While everyone else was focused on the battle between the San Francisco 49ers and the Denver Broncos, Gobert’s eyes were elsewhere. “I was noticing all the signage, all the different kinds, and the graphics,” she says. “That experience changed the way I looked at signs, and I thought, I can do this.” Eight years later, she returned to the Super Bowl in San Diego, this time to provide the signage she’d once admired. “Our contract was for 800 signs,” she said. “We made a majority of them in advance and then we moved our operations on site for one week so we could provide lastminute signs as needed.” For the next 16 years, Gobert’s relationship with the NFL continued. Her last Super Bowl was Super Bowl 50 (2016). When the Super Bowl returned to New Orleans in 2013, she said she was shocked to learn what the Harahan-based company chosen for the signage was paid. “They got more business off that one Super Bowl than we got from the NFL in 14 years.” Gobert still does some work for the NFL, and has also had partnerships with the NBA and NHL, but her most lucrative client to-date is much closer to home — the Louis Armstrong New Orleans International Airport. Image 360 was selected as the prime contractor for the signage in the short-term parking lot at the new North Terminal and as a subcontractor for the signage inside the terminal. Gobert said the airport contract resulted from her own raw determination — for three years she attended every outreach meeting the airport hosted — as well as the airport’s decision to break the work into smaller parts and permit DBEs (disadvantaged business enterprise) to act as primes. “Solomon Group was selected as the prime for the internal signage, and fortunately that job had a DBE component and they selected us,” she said. “Those jobs made 2019 a really nice year.” While being a DBE can have its advantages in some cases, Gobert says it’s been frustrating to watch non-minority businesses chosen over and over for the larger contracts. “There’s three businesses that I can think of that used to buy from us, and now they do five, six, even 10 times the volume we do.” Still Gobert says the timing of the airport jobs could not have been better, as they have helped the company survive the current pandemic, along with the fact Image 360 falls under the category of an essential business. She has since pivoted to creating COVID-19 related signage and acrylic shields for organizations like her alma mater, Xavier University, locally owned Liberty Bank, and many restaurants.

“We’re at probably half of our normal sales, but we’re fortunate in that we haven’t had to cut staff,” she said. “Still, our PPP is long gone, and the fact is we don’t have any contracts lined up for the future. Every day I wake up starting from ground zero, wondering, ‘What are we going to do next?’” Currently, Gobert’s biggest hope lies in securing a contract with Ochsner. “We don’t know what it would look like yet,” she says. “We were contacted by Thrive New Orleans to fill out a capability statement, and now we’re just waiting to hear. If we could get in with Ochsner or LCMC, that would be huge. We could afford to hire more people, including a creative director, and pay higher wages.” The New Orleans Business Alliance (NOLABA) is also working to make more connections between businesses and corporations. As part of the organization’s InvestNOLA initiative, the organization launched a Procurement Council last June — a group of approximately 20 public and private institutions who meet monthly in an effort to be more intentional about their spending. The council then posts opportunities on NOLABA’s website. “We are lining up the pipeline to match the opportunities and help these institutions make personal connections to Black-owned businesses,” says White-Colin. “Last year the council and other partners awarded more than 18 contracts totaling about $8.5 million and created 53 jobs that paid above a living wage.” White-Colin said the public sector contracts have been good as far as equitability, but they aren’t enough to close the huge gap between businesses of color and their white counterparts. “The public sector represents about $1 billion in projects on an annual basis,” she says. “While the private sector could do 50 times that much.” Chuck Morse, executive director of Thrive New Orleans, a nonprofit focused on providing affordable housing and job and business training, agrees that the biggest opportunity for change lies within the private sector. “The problem is that minority businesses have been largely unable to secure the big contracts with our anchor institutions,” he says. “People tend to do business with people they know, with those they’ve always worked with. But if you’re going to move the needle, this is where the needle has to move.” In 2014, Morse created Launch NOLA, an effort to help underserved urban entrepreneurs with revenues of up to $150,000 to grow their businesses. “It’s all about creating those connections. When a business owner comes to me, one of the first questions I ask is, ‘Who would you like to meet? Who in this city do you think is untouchable? Right now, with minority businesses it’s like standing on a well fishing for minnows, but if we were to open the gates and allow these businesses to have an equal shot, well, it would be a game changer for this city.”


Of Black-owned businesses nationally shuttered after the first month of COVID-19 — almost twice the rate of businesses as a whole, which fell by 22%, the largest drop ever recorded


Of Black-owned businesses have no paid employees


Of New Orleans’ population is Black


Of New Orleans sales receipts go to Blackowned businesses, even though they make up 36% of the city’s businesses


Of New Orleans’ Black population lack the savings to live for three months if hit with an unexpected financial disruption. The same is true for 29% of white residents.




“I’ve been told ‘no’ so much that I’ve come to expect it,” says Otis Tucker, owner of T.I. Contracting, of his struggles with securing loans. Boasting an 820% growth rate, Tucker’s company was just ranked one of the fastest-growing private companies in America.




Contracting (formerly Trucking Innovation, LLC), graduated high school and, unable to afford college, found himself in search of a future. “I went on the old search engine Ask Jeeves and typed in ‘good paying jobs with no college degree’ and truck driving popped up,” he says. “It said you could make $50,000 to $120,000 a year. My mom made $25,000 a year and had to support four kids, so I thought if I could do this, I could make something of myself.” Tucker earned his commercial driver’s license and began driving around the country. When Hurricane Katrina hit, he came home to his family and began driving locally. “I would get to the No. 2 or No. 3 spot in an established company, but I could never get any higher,” he says. “I knew at that point I needed to strike out on my own.” In 2013, using money he’d managed to save over the years, along with a personal bank loan, Tucker purchased his own truck and Trucking Innovation was born. He continued as a one-man operation until 2016, when he was able to secure his first government contract with the Sewerage and Water Board of New Orleans. “I used kind of the Uber model and hired about 10 to 15 guys to use their own trucks to fill the purchase orders,” he says. “That gave me the ability to bid more contracts and bring on more drivers. Eventually, I bought more trucks. Last year I 1099’d over 70 people and brought in $3.5 million. I now have 20 employees and 14 trucks.” T.I. Contracting was just ranked in the 2020 Inc. 5000 list of fastest-growing private companies in America. The company’s 830% growth rate gave them an overall rank of 572. But despite his success, Tucker says securing financial support has been a continuous struggle. “I’ve been told ‘no’ so much that I come to expect it,” he says. Tucker’s experience is far too common. According to the latest data from the Federal Reserve, Black-owned businesses are far less likely to be approved for bank loans than their white counterparts — only 46.5% receive approval compared to 75.3%. They also receive less than 1% of the venture capital, and for Black women that number drops to 0.2%.

In order to help minority startups get off the ground, local nonprofit Fund 17 began awarding them micro loans in 2012, but has since moved to a crowd-funded approach, in partnership with online lending platform Kiva, that facilitates 0% interest business loans of up to $15,000. The effort is part of a program Fund 17 calls Capital Ready, which also offers one-on-one help with personal and business finances and assists businesses with applying for other capital. “We started the partnership with Kiva in 2016 and have since helped nine entrepreneurs raise over $41,000,” said Fund 17 Executive Director Antonio Alonzo. “Our goal is to expand the capacity of the program during COVID-19.” For more established businesses like Tucker’s that are looking to grow further, NOLABA’s InvestNOLA initiative includes a partnership with JPMorgan Chase’s $150 million Small Business Forward Program geared toward helping businesses with minimum annual revenues of $1 million. Along with three local, Black-led community development finance institutions, which match private funds with federal funds, NOLABA is building a $10 million fund for entrepreneurs of color. “The capital is patient,” says White-Colin. “The businesses get what they need, and our innovative repayment structure is based on benchmarks in growth planning.” JPMorgan Chase has invested $1 million in New Orleans through InvestNOLA in the past two years as one of four pilot cities it chose for its national Ascend program, the goal of which is to build wealth in communities of color. “New Orleans is one of the cities where we see the greatest opportunity,” said Greg Hassell, executive director of JPMorgan Chase. When Gobert went looking for funding for Image360, she turned to Liberty Bank, the largest of 21 Black-owned banks in the nation, the only one in Louisiana and one of 150 minority depository institutions (MDIs) in the country. “With MDIs, about 80% of loans are to people of color, while with the majority of banks that number is in the low single digits,” said Todd McDonald, senior vice president at Liberty Bank. As a business, MDIs also rely on outside support. Liberty Bank depends on support from corporations, foundations, individuals and even other banks. Among the bank’s supporters are IBERIABANK, First Bank & Trust, Hancock Whitney, Fidelity, and Chase. The more financial support a bank receives, the more they can turn around and offer support to their community, and on that end, McDonald says things have been looking up. “Most MDIs have trouble raising capital,” he says, “but the amount of calls we’ve been receiving now from potential investors is night and day compared to pre-COVID-19 and preGeorge Floyd times. This is actually the most attention I’ve seen in my 17 years with the bank and that’s really exciting.”

OTHER ORGANIZATIONS ASSISTING LOCAL MINORITY BUSINESSES CAMELBACK VENTURES Supports innovative, diverse leaders ready to take their social impact venture to the next level through a rigorous, six-month fellowship program. GOOD WORK NETWORK Since its founding in 2001, the organization has worked with women and minority small business owners in New Orleans through various programs that assist with making contacts, finding contracts and securing capital. NEW ORLEANS REGIONAL BLACK CHAMBER OF COMMERCE Awarded 2019 Chamber of the Year by the United States Black Chambers, Inc., NORB supports, promotes and educates member for sustainable growth and seeks to empower and sustain Black businesses and entrepreneurs in the Greater New Orleans region. PROPELLER Dedicated to growing and supporting entrepreneurs in tackling social and environmental disparities, Propeller has a strong focus on equity and supports businesses through its Impact Accelerator program and 10,000-square-foot incubator building. SOUTHERN REGION MINORITY SUPPLIER DEVELOPMENT COUNCIL Since its founding in 1973, has assisted major corporations with developing and enhancing their small business utilization programs with an emphasis on MBEs. Also helping businesses pivot into new sectors. Boasts “largest database of ethnic minority businesses in the Gulf South.”






The third and fourth generations of the Chase family are fighting to secure the future of Dooky Chase’s Restaurant.



Fighting for Survival COVID-19 IS THREATENING THE FUTURE OF EVEN THE CITY’S MOST ICONIC INSTITUTIONS. DOOKY CHASE’S RESTAURANT is more than just a place to get a good meal. From

its humble beginnings as a Treme sandwich shop in 1941, it has grown to a kind of second home for thousands of New Orleanians, a place where families have turned to celebrate the biggest events in their lives. Throughout almost eight decades, the restaurant has also been the regular meeting place for a wide array of organizations. It served as a safe space for civil rights freedom fighters and social activists of all races to meet and strategize and has even entertained sitting presidents. The restaurant’s famed proprietor, Leah Chase, grew to notoriety as the “Queen of Creole”— the nation’s preeminent Creole chef. When she passed away on June 1, 2019, at the age of 96, the loss was felt throughout the city and in the culinary community worldwide. Since her death, other members of the family have stepped in. Her daughter, Stella Chase Reese, now serves as president of the family business, with her brother, Edgar “Dooky” Chase III as vice president. They are joined by two members of the family’s fifth generation: Tracie Haydel Griffin, whose mother was Leah’s late daughter Emily, now manages front of house operations, while Edgar “Dooky” Chase IV, or “Dook,” serves as the restaurant’s chef. Together with the help of other family members, they are determined to guide the iconic establishment during a time that continues to challenge all restaurants in unprecedented ways. Like many other establishments, Dooky Chase’s takeout menu fills the void left by less crowded dining rooms. For Reese, the move brings back memories. “All throughout my high school years, and maybe into college, I would work the takeout register on Friday nights,” she said. “Friday nights were when people would cash their checks, sometimes with us, and they’d have money in their pockets and were looking for a good meal.” Reese says takeout saw Dooky Chase’s through the 1950s and ’60s until tourists started to find it. It was again the savior when the restaurant was finally able to reopen two years after Hurricane Katrina. Due to the size of the restaurant, it has been able to still serve some private events safely — with temperature checks and contact tracing — led by Griffin’s guidance as a trained nurse with a background in public health. Its famed buffet, however, remains closed, as does the second restaurant opened in New Orleans’ new airport terminal, Leah’s Kitchen, which closed March 12. The family has still managed to donate over 4,500 family meals to the community. It’s what they say Leah would have wanted. In mid-August, Dooky Chase’s closed for two weeks to undergo repairs and technological upgrades Reese says are necessary to provide guests with the safest,

most enjoyable experience upon their return, but Chase notes that this time recovery will be much different from Katrina. “The whole country, the whole world is going through this, so there’s nobody coming to help us,” he said. “Plus, the tourists are few, which means we’re all pulling from the same community.” Reese adds that while the restaurant operated for years as a very informal bank for its customers, even providing the occasional loan, that is no longer the case. “Now we’re the ones looking to borrow,” she said. “We’ve got the whole family in on looking for every grant, every opportunity we can find.” The calls for help from the business community are plentiful right now as “pivot” has become the word of the hour. For the Urban League’s Center of Entrepreneurship and Innovation, that’s meant transitioning all services to an online format and working to handle an influx of businesses reaching out from across Louisiana. “Our first few calls offering help with PPP funding were attended by over 1,000 people from all across the state,” said Duncan. “And for those businesses without employees, we’ve been able to assist them with applying for EIDLs (economic injury disaster loans) and SBA express loans.” Duncan says business advisors are also working with owners to develop pivot plans and to look at contracting opportunities both locally and nationwide. “Many state and local contracts haven’t stopped,” she said. “We’re helping small businesses to work together to bid on larger projects. We can build capacity through partnerships.” Of the 13 businesses that have taken part in NOLABA’s InvestNOLA initiative, WhiteColin says 10 together have experienced over $4 million in losses from March until the end of June. “If this goes on for another 12 to 18 months, they’ll need $20 million to survive.” Fortunately, organizations like Thrive New Orleans, Fund 17, Urban League and NOLABA are only a few of those working to help minority business owners, along with CDFIs like Hope Credit Union and MDIs like Fidelity Bank. “The difference between this and Katrina is that people are not displaced,” says Duncan. “And over the years we’ve developed a strong ecosystem of support with so many access points. That’s something we can be proud of.” Still, as even the most iconic institutions fight for survival, it’s a scary time. “My biggest fear is that we’re going to lose all the progress that’s been made,” said WhiteColin. “We’re going to lose these businesses that are such an integral part of our economy and our society. It’s horrifying, honestly. It keeps me up at night, but it also keeps me motivated.” n




UNP R ECEDENTED TI M ES CAL L FOR UNP R ECEDENTED M EA SUR ES. As our city, our state and the world adjust to ever-shifting standards of normalcy, businesses are finding innovative ways to adapt and position their teams for continued success. While the road to recovery may be paved with uncertainties and challenges unique to each industry, one thing is certain: New Orleans is no stranger to resiliency, and our professional community has all the expertise, prowess and determination needed to emerge stronger and more prosperous than ever. In this exclusive section, Biz New Orleans asked business leaders about their tactics for readjusting, working remotely and staying focused on their corporate missions during the historic COVID-19 pandemic.




One Step at a Time The only thing you can control is how you approach the unpredictable.


has always embraced risk. Her fearlessness and determination, coupled with her drive to create a solid foundation for her family, propelled her through the ranks of the restaurant industry and led her to establish three successful restaurants with her husband, Luu Tran. When faced with the challenge of adapting to a global pandemic and a transformed business climate, Nguyen was ready to meet the task head on. It might have been impossible to prepare for, but with the livelihoods of so many riding on the decisions she made as a business owner and leader, Nguyen chose to persevere. After all, the ups and downs are all part of the process, and if Nguyen has it her way, this new challenge will lead to growth. In what ways are you thriv ing and pushing forward as a business during COVID-19? We stayed open the whole time. During the restriction period, we followed guidelines and continued with takeout orders. It was essential for us to remain open. We closed down one location, but to stay afloat, we had to keep Magasin Kitchen open. It was a hard decision, and after discussing it with our staff, we decided to go day by day and fight. We all have families, and for my team, this was their only source of income. Filing for unemployment was not an option for them. We had the opportunity to remain open or

to close, and I was happy we stayed open. Our takeout has always been a considerable revenue source for business; although we lost half of our dine-in sales, we must say that we were incredibly blessed and received tremendous support from our landlord at South Market District. Are there any lessons you have learned? We learned that we couldn’t control a lot of things, and most importantly, we learned that our staff and community need us just as much as we need them. Samin Nosrat says the beautiful thing about cooking is that it’s a pretty quick process, and really, it doesn’t allow much time to get attached to the results: whether a dish stinks or turns out beautifully, you have to start over from scratch again the next day. So we start every day fresh and embrace the good, the bad, the new and the uncertain. I have to stick to that, because that will be the only way to survive. How have you maintained a sense of company culture? Our staff stood by us, and I’m beyond grateful we have them. They hung in there, helped out and did everything in their power as if the business was their own. Half of our staff is second and third generation, and the language barrier was a challenge. Still, the underlying language of love is so transparent, and they understood the importance of either thriving or failing together. What has been your ex perience w ith the change to remote working? It has been great. I handle the internal side of the business, and given the time at home, I was able to come up with several side hustles for the industry, such as wholesale. I was able to link up with a high-reward networking program that can help us market the restaurant and allows diners to earn reward points. This has made me extremely productive, and I’m naturally the type of person always to have a plan in place, so I was grateful for the time.

“ ”

We start every day fresh and embrace the good, the bad, the new and the uncertain. K I M N G UY E N OWNER





Investing in Relationships Communication and commitment can strengthen bonds during uncertain times.

AT TOUPS WEALTH MANAGEMENT, LLC, every action and decision is made with the client’s best interest in mind. That’s not just because it’s their duty as a fiduciary wealth management firm, but because the financial advisors at Toups Wealth Management want to help every client pursue their goals and maximize their wealth. With over 20 years of experience, founder Troy Toups has guided clientele through the many highs and lows of the market by staying abreast of the latest shifts, trends and insights. That certainly hasn’t changed during the ongoing pandemic. Now more than ever, Toups and his team are refining and revamping their investment strategies to establish long term plans with the goal to help their clients feel more confident.

In what ways are you thriv ing and pushing forward as a business during COVID-19? These are challenging times for any investor. Some of the most important decisions investors can make happen during uncertain times. We’re making sure our clients know that we’re controlling what we can control. We’ve been able to alleviate some of the anxiety by reminding our clients who own individual stocks that the companies we are investing in will be around for a long time, and when the markets are down, we are adding to these companies. We have learned that certain market disciplines implemented in the past have prepared us for the unexpected and rapid market decline. Market volatility will always

exist, so it’s important to be prepared and take action when opportunity presents itself. Are there any lessons you have learned? Any new technology you’ ve embraced? Communication and flexibility have been key with the office staff and our clients. Making sure the office runs smoothly and that clients are not left in the dark has been of utmost importance. Most of our business is face-toface, appointment-based meetings. Out of consideration for our clients and staff, we switched to virtual meetings through Zoom, which we had not used prior. Having the ability to see us on the call seems to give the clients some relief, and we have been able to maintain our pre-COVID levels of availability and commitment to our clients. What has been your ex perience w ith the change to remote working? We’ve had staff physically available at the office since March, while others worked remotely. We have always had the flexibility to work remotely, but until recently, we have not done so for this extended period of time. It has been helpful to have someone at the office to ensure business is being processed in a timely manner. It has also been helpful to our staff who usually drive longer distances to work, since this has allowed us more time to work for our clients instead of spending time on the road. While working remotely can present challenges such as lack of cohesion or elongated response times between staff, we have found that daily Zoom meetings have eliminated this concern. The biggest drawback has been not being able to shake hands or give a hug. Do you anticipate your business w ill change in any way when the community opens back up? If so, how ? I believe the cautious measures we have taken will continue. I’m sure we will hold more face-to-face meetings, but I do believe that since clients have had the opportunity to familiarize themselves with technology for online meetings, that will continue to be an option. We’ve had to cancel a few of our events this year, and we are looking forward to having those gatherings again. As long as we can continue to make adjustments, I believe Toups Wealth Management will be able to meet future challenges head on.

“ ”

Be prepared and take action when opportunity presents itself T R OY TO U P S FOUNDER












201 St Charles Ave #2420 | New Orleans | (504) 291-8800 |

This year, Argent Trust Company celebrates its 30th anniversary as a leading, independent, fiduciary wealth management firm providing comprehensive wealth management solutions to individuals, families, businesses, and institutions. Well known in North Louisiana, the Ruston-based company expanded with a New Orleans office a few years ago and is proud to be the state’s only independent, nonbank affiliated trust company. “Our goal to protect, manage, and grow our clients’ wealth is accomplished through humble confidence, integrity, and independence,” says Jill Knight Nalty, Business Development Officer at Argent. Argent manages over $30 billion in client assets in 31 markets across 12 southeastern states. In 2019, the company was recognized as an INC 5000 Honoree for its exceptional growth, and this year Argent received a PAM (Private Asset Management) Award for Best Philanthropic/Educational Initiative. A new

member of the New Orleans Chamber of Commerce, Argent joined in 2019 when it opened its new offices in Place St. Charles. Its membership has helped grow the company’s brand across Greater New Orleans while helping Argent network and partner with other local businesses. While relatively new to the New Orleans area, Argent has already established itself as a forward-thinking, community-minded company by sponsoring or partnering with a variety of local businesses and organizations such as Children’s Hospital New Orleans, KIDsmART, PRC Julia Jump, NOMA Art in Bloom, Crimestoppers, New Orleans Wine & Food Experience, Louisiana Children’s Museum, Jewish Endowment Foundation, and various professional associations.

Pictured: Jim Breaux, Jill Nalty, Mark Milton and Cathy Gotzkowsky

“Our goal to protect, manage, and grow our clients’ wealth is accomplished through humble confidence, integrity, and independence.”




141 Robert E. Lee Blvd, #206 | New Orleans | (504) 218-8664 |

Businesses, organizations, and individuals make and implement world-changing decisions every day using technology. Having access to reliable Information Technology (IT) personnel and proven IT solutions can make all the difference, whether providing a product or service to a defined customer base or the entire community. Avexon, LLC, is a local, certified WomanOwned Small Business with an experienced and highly specialized team of advisors that provide a variety of IT services and support, such as engineering services, project management, and industry-leading hardware and software products. “To continue to grow such richness of talent, we constantly invest in our Avexon network,” says Kimee Boudreaux, President. Avexon’s advisors are trusted by customers, thanks to their client-focused approach to collaboration and communication as well as the company’s reputation for quality results. The team, whose management is made up of all New Orleans natives, enjoys using IT solutions

to help grow the local infrastructure and benefit the community at large. A significant portion of Avexon’s customer base is made up of state and local government agencies and area educational institutions. “Part of our mission is to improve their technological foundation with cost-effective solutions,” says Ted Nass, Director of Engineering. Already involved in a number of parish chambers, Avexon joined the New Orleans Chamber of Commerce to grow its local business network while promoting women working in technology and the benefits of a diverse team. Avexon supports a number of charitable organizations and advocacy groups—like Women in Technology—and those that empower children in technology and assist children in need. Pictured left to right: Ted Nass, Director of Engineering; Kimee Boudreaux, President; Kerri Glynn, Director of Administration

“Part of our mission is to improve their technological foundation with cost-effective solutions”




(504) 304-8444 |

Just like the New Orleans Chamber of Commerce, Cox is deeply invested in the New Orleans community. Cox was one of the first companies to support the Chamber following Hurricane Katrina, and just as the company was committed to reimagining a better, stronger future then, Cox remains committed now with a mission to bring residents closer than ever before. With 30 years of history in New Orleans, Cox is a Founding Chairman’s Council member in the Chamber of Commerce, actively advancing a strong New Orleans. Recently, Cox announced a $10 billion nationwide investment in its products and infrastructure, offering New Orleanians a new world of possibilities through smart and connected devices. “Cox is in the connections business and, now more than ever, we are helping people and businesses use technology in ways they never imagined,” says Kevin Monroe, vice president

of the New Orleans market. “We are excited to leverage these same robust resources to reimagine the possibilities that bring us closer.” Part of Cox’s commitment to New Orleans also includes being a philanthropic partner for area organizations. Since the COVID pandemic began Cox has donated meals to frontline healthcare workers, provided $25,000 to Second Harvest Food Bank to help feed area families, and donated $180,000 in PPE supplies to Ochsner Health System—all on top of its regular charitable donations. Since March, Cox has provided more than 36,000 families in need with reduced-cost wifi through the Connect2Compete program aimed at closing the digital divide. Together with the Chamber of Commerce, Cox looks forward to helping South Louisiana emerge stronger and closer than ever from recent challenges. Pictured: Kevin Monroe

“Cox is in the connections business and, now more than ever, we are helping people and businesses use technology in ways they never imagined.”



ENERGY SMART PROGRAM (504) 229-6868 |

Energy Smart is a comprehensive energy efficiency program developed by the New Orleans City Council and implemented by Aptim Environmental & Infrastructure. The program helps residential and business electric customers save energy and money by reducing the upfront cost of energy efficiency upgrades to their homes and facilities through financial incentives. For nearly 10 years, Energy Smart has worked with numerous business customers throughout Orleans Parish to reduce their energy usage and save money through installing more energy-efficient building equipment, systems, and products. “Energy Smart helps make the economy stronger and our real estate more sustainable,” says Kristin McKee, Program Director with APTIM. “We help customers from all market sectors, size and location, and we work hard to ensure equity throughout the city,” adds Derek Mills, Entergy New Orleans’ DSM Program Manager.

Energy Smart provides cash incentives to existing and new buildings for a variety of projects such as LED lighting, lighting controls, HVAC, building automation, chillers, motors, retro-commissioning and demand response. To date, Energy Smart has paid approximately $29M in incentives to over 86,000 participants, saving those customers nearly 236M kWh. McKee and Mills, along with Ross Thevenot, Energy Smart Program Manager, have enjoyed a fruitful partnership with the New Orleans Chamber of Commerce and helped to build awareness of the program and its incentives. Pictured left to right: Derek Mills, Entergy New Orleans, DSM Program Manager; Kristin McKee, Aptim Environmental & Infrastructure, Program Director; Ross Thevenot, Entergy New Orleans, Energy Smart Program Manager

“Energy Smart helps make the economy stronger and our real estate more sustainable.”



CHRIS FERRIS Fidelity Bank | 1-800-220-2497

With a century-long history of serving the residents and businesses of New Orleans, Fidelity Bank operates with a mission of being “Here For Good,” a three-part undertaking that involves giving back to the community, making decisions that support long-term commitment, and taking a consultative approach to meeting clients’ goals. A $900M community bank with 17 branch locations, Fidelity also makes the dream of home ownership possible for thousands of locals each year through its mortgage division, NOLA Lending Group. Chris Ferris joined the Fidelity Bank team six years ago. His commitment to excellence quickly led to his being named Chief Banking and Operations Officer and later assuming the top role as President and CEO. Today, Chris drives engagement with the local community by maintaining a values-based organization focused on the needs of the community.

Fidelity Bank has a long history of being a Chairmen’s Council Member with the New Orleans Chamber of Commerce, and Chris currently serves as a Chamber board member. “I love the spirit of New Orleans in that everybody wants the city to succeed,” says Chris. “Our business community has a deep understanding of what’s good for the city is good for them—we have a competitive marketplace but our business community wants all businesses to survive and thrive,” he says. Recently, the Fidelity Bank POWER program— a nearly 1,000-member program for women-owned businesses—sponsored the Chamber’s highly impactful Woman’s Leadership Conference. Additionally, Fidelity Bank works with hundreds of non-profits through its community partner program while serving as the Official Bank of the Zurich Classic. NOLA Lending Group is a proud partner of the New Orleans Saints.

“Our business community has a deep understanding of what’s good for the city is good for them.”



DOUG MATTHEWS Matthews Construction | | (504) 453-0902

Doug Matthews, Owner of Matthews Construction, has been in or around the construction business for all of his adult life, and as someone who is drawn to the diversity of people and buildings, he couldn’t be in a better city for it. Doug and his team have over 150 years of combined experience in construction, ranging from residential and commercial custom builds to renovations, additions and remodeling. Matthews Construction also offers fabricating from its in-house, full-service mill shop and high-end stair builders. “We are extremely fortunate to work with and be inspired by the city’s great architects, homeowners, and business owners,” says Doug, who joined the New Orleans Chamber of Commerce to be involved in the business community in a more formal setting. He describes his Chamber membership as educational, fun, and a great way to get to know and support local organizations.

Often sought for its historic building expertise, Matthews Construction recently won an Award for Excellence from the Louisiana Landmark Society for its historic renovation of the Il Mercato building at Magazine and Race Streets, and the company is currently restoring two historically significant buildings on Children’s Hospital’s campus. “Our mission is to perform the highest possible degree of quality work at the best possible price,” says Doug. Community-minded, the Matthews Construction team has been involved in helping Greater New Orleans navigate the COVID-19 pandemic. “We are the lucky ones, having been deemed essential,” says Doug. As a way of giving back, Doug encourages volunteerism among the team by paying for their time volunteering with meal delivery programs and donating blood.

“Our mission is to perform the highest possible degree of quality work at the best possible price.”




1340 Poydras St #2130 | New Orleans | (504) 888-7608 | Excellent event design and management is what NOCCI has been known for across its more than 30 years of dedicated service to the association, hospitality, and meeting community—and now, the company is excited to exceed client expectations in a virtual world as the only certified Virtual Event & Meeting Management Specialists in Louisiana. Despite the ever-changing times, Ashley Stagg, VP of External Operations, Gillian Stagg, VP of Internal Operations, and Nicole Tusa, VP of Sales & Marketing, are continually creating the innovative, engaging experiences that elevate audience impressions while infusing New Orleans’ unique culture into its award-winning event designs. According to Tusa, NOCCI’s exclusive certification highly qualifies NOCCI to plan, manage, and provide any virtual event or meeting completely turnkey. “We have done the research and hard work so that our clients can achieve their goals stress free,” she says.

While the company will still be positioned to manage in-person events and logistics for conventions, festivals, galas, and more, NOCCI will also expand the business of designing and producing memorable events to online platforms, whether the smallest board meeting or a multiday extravaganza. A proud member of the New Orleans Chamber of Commerce since 2009, NOCCI sees the Chamber as a driving force behind the local business community and the foundation for countless connections and business opportunities. According to Ashley Hilsman, Events Director for the New Orleans Chamber of Commerce, NOCCI was invaluable in transforming its Women’s Leadership Conference from an in-person event with over 600 attendees to a completely virtual experience. NOCCI helped the Chamber with everything from developing new sponsor benefits to setting up its virtual platform and mobile app. Pictured left to right: Nicole Tusa, Gillian Stagg, Ashley Stagg

“We have done the research and hard work so that our clients can achieve their goals stress free.”




Northwestern Mutual 111 Veterans Memorial Blvd. Suite 940 | Metairie | | | (504) 831-8146

Steven Dugal, CLU, ChFC, LUTCF, CLF is the managing partner for Northwestern Mutual, Louisiana-Mississippi. Over his 31 years at Northwestern, and throughout the last 12 as a managing partner, he’s come to a full understanding of the importance of a robust local business network, which led him to the New Orleans Chamber of Commerce. Northwestern Mutual’s network covers areas across Louisiana and most of Mississippi, and its network office is also located regionally. After exploring the Chamber, Dugal found himself extremely impressed with the large membership base (over 1,000 companies strong) and robust events calendar. Northwestern Mutual is a financial securities firm with a focus on lifestyle protection—it works with individual clients on a one-on-one basis to offer life, disability, and long-term care insurances that best suit clients’ needs. The firm pairs these offerings with services in growing assets for retirement, education, and other life events to ensure that clients can grow toward and continue to thrive in the lifestyles that best suit them.

“Matching Northwestern with the Chamber— with its large base of employers, opportunities and membership—felt like the ideal decision,” says Dugal. Dugal has found membership in the Chamber to be productive and effortless. The Chamber makes it easy for members to be active and involved by providing a large-scale and diverse breadth of events to suit member needs. What’s more, Dugal says, they serve a membership that looks and feels like the community—which is one of many reasons he is a proud member of the New Orleans Chamber of Commerce. In addition to supporting the Chamber, Northwestern is also proud to support the New Orleans Pelicans, now serving as the team’s official financial planning partner. Pictured: (Top, left to right): Anitra Nicole Blue-Francis, Anjea Vindel, Christine Hunger, Jeff Goldberg (Middle) Bill Ball, Steven Dugal, Avril Habetz, Katy Simpson (Bottom) Paige Held, Kristinia Dupuy, Annie Juttner, Jordyn Eaton

“Matching Northwestern with the Chamber—with its large base of employers, opportunities and membership—felt like the ideal decision”



TODD MATHERNE CEO, Renaissance Publishing

110 Veterans Memorial Blvd., Ste. 123, Metairie | (504) 828-1380

Todd Matherne, CEO of Renaissance Publishing, initially joined the New Orleans Chamber to take advantage of the networking opportunities—but soon Matherne saw just how much more the Chamber brought to the table. He cited the wide variety of offerings the Chamber provides to their members, from learning events with specialty speakers to educational luncheons focused on both individual and corporate improvement—all of which make Matherne and Renaissance proud to be a Chamber member. Renaissance, a niche publishing enterprise that furnishes the region with titles including New Orleans Magazine, Biz New Orleans, New Orleans Bride and others, also works with businesses to produce custom in-house titles on demand. These custom partnerships include Ochsner, the New Orleans Saints, the New Orleans Jazz and Heritage Festival and other organizations across the city and region. Renaissance’s publications specialize

in cutting through the general media noise to get directly to the heart of the topic, ensuring that their readers get a true sense of place on every page. Matherne credited the Chamber’s networking prowess and quarterly luncheons as helping the publishing house keep an ear to the ground and stay informed about the personality, trends and topics that are important to the business community and the city as a whole. His position on the Chairman’s Council gives him a unique insight to the behind-the-scenes networking and inner workings of the Chamber, which has given him a stronger understanding of the Chamber’s role in strengthening the greater New Orleans community. There is a value, Matherne said, in creating a welcoming business environment— encouraging local businesses to develop and grow ultimately grows the city, the economy and the future of New Orleans.

“Matherne credited the Chamber’s networking prowess and quarterly luncheons as helping the publishing house”




2727 Prytania Street, Suite 20 | New Orleans | CELL (504) 722-7640 | OFFICE (504) 891-6400 |

A native New Orleanian, Tricia King lives and breathes this city and its wide swath of diverse neighborhoods and properties. With more than a decade of real estate experience and long list of awards of recognitions to her name, Tricia is known for both her hospitable approach and real estate prowess. She has also been honored for her community involvement, recently receiving the Gardner Realtors Lifetime Achievement Award for her dedication to community service. A proud member of the New Orleans Chamber of Commerce, Tricia is also a sustaining member of the Junior League of New Orleans, Orléans Club of New Orleans, and the Preservation Resource Center. “Real estate is all about relationship building, and so is the Chamber,” says Tricia. Tricia loves having a front-row seat to the fascinating inner workings of the local business community and being able to grow her network. Additionally, she and her clients

benefit from firsthand knowledge of various projects and developments being planned around the city. “This information and these connections are invaluable to me as I help my clients achieve their real estate goals. Chamber membership has expanded my network and community even more,” she says. A top-producing REALTOR® with Gardner Realtors and owner of Tricia King Exquisite Properties, Tricia offers clients—whether buying or selling—the added expertise of being a Historic Residential Specialist, Accredited Buyers Representative, Seller Representative Specialist, and Real Estate Negotiation Expert. She has been awarded nationally for her innovative use of technology, and delivers high-profile media promotion and effective marketing. Tricia King Exquisite Properties Gardner Realtors

“Real estate is all about relationship building, and so is the Chamber.”




WestWind Coaching Co. 4603 S Carrollton Ave., New Orleans | (504) 250-3807 |

Matt Hahne has a simple mission: “I help entrepreneurs get everything they want from their business,” he says. The Owner of WestWind Coaching Co., Matt is a Professional EOS Implementer®. He uses the Entrepreneurial Operating System® to help business owners get their time back while improving the organization’s accountability, discipline, and focus. Passionate and enthusiastic, Matt uses his insights from over 35 years in local businesses—including four of his own—to build companies stronger. “When everyone in the organization is crystal clear on your vision, executing that vision with more discipline and accountability, and advancing as a healthy, cohesive team—that’s not a dream,” says Matt. “That’s a very realistic goal for every business.”

A serial entrepreneur since the age of seven, Matt is locally known for solving crisis problems in the maritime industry and as a U.S. Navy Reservist. WestWind Coaching Co. recently joined the New Orleans Chamber of Commerce because its goal aligns with his: help the small businesses of our region. “Entrepreneurial, family, and small businesses are the lifeblood of South Louisiana,” he says. “So many companies are trying to navigate the tricky transition from one generation to the next—I want to help with that in order to keep that lifeblood flowing.” In addition to membership in the Chamber, Matt belongs to numerous veterans’ and maritime associations. He co-founded the Louisiana Financial Executive Group and is launching Visionary and Integrator peer groups this month.

“I help entrepreneurs get everything they want from their business.”


WORKSPACES MiNO Marine navigates the naval architecture and marine engineering industry with style

WHY DIDN’T I THINK OF THAT Two local entrepreneurs

are gaining attention for their back-to-basics approach to a grocery staple

ON THE JOB Entergy New Orleans began construction

on a 20-megawatt solar plant


On Course MiNO Marine navigates the naval architecture and marine engineering industry with style BY MELANIE WARNER SPENCER PHOTOS BY SARA ESSEX BRADLEY





engineering company MiNO Marine’s managing partners Kenneth Humphreys and David Bourg went looking to build their company headquarters, one of their main concerns was finding a space large enough for their needs. The company lucked out with a swath of land in Jefferson that enabled


“The architects proposed a ship shape for the design of the building’s entrance and conference rooms,” MiNO Marine’s managing partner Kenneth Humphreys said. “It is well integrated with the rest of the building and subtly conveys the nature of our business.”



119 Causeway Blvd., Jefferson NUMBER OF YEARS IN BUSINESS







Kenneth Humphreys and David Bourg, managing partners

them to build their 4,500-square-foot headquarters to their specifications. “We were fortunate to find an undeveloped, sufficiently large piece of land to develop,” said Humphreys. “The property size eliminated many of the challenges you would expect with a new construction project, leaving the big challenge we all face — the budget.” The partners worked with SCNZ Architects for the building and interior design, resulting in a striking, modern facility that Humphreys said is designed to create a comfortable work environment that encourages collaboration. “The architects proposed a ship shape in the design of the building’s entrance and conference rooms,” Humphreys said. “It is well integrated with the rest of the building and subtly conveys the nature of our business. We are an engineering firm

that supports vessel owners, operators and builders. We have clients from around the world, with the majority of our business coming from U.S. clients working in the Gulf of Mexico, the East Coast and inland rivers/waterways.” MiNO’s services range from concept design to full vessel production drawing practices. The company has completed more than 30 marine construction and dredging projects. Humphreys describes the company’s work as “pretty standard fare” for the industry, so in order to seek out an advantage in the marketplace they have worked to incorporate other elements and services into their repertoire. “We offer high-end engineering analyses using the finite element method and computational fluid dynamics,” Humphreys said. “In addition, we count among our






The partners worked with SCNZ Architects for the building and interior design, resulting in a striking, 4,500-squarefoot, modern facility that Humphreys said is designed to create a comfortable work environment that encourages collaboration. Company partner David Bourg created the artwork hung throughout the building, which is located on a swath of land in Jefferson Parish on the south end of Causeway Boulevard by the Mississippi River.

employees a wide variety of backgrounds including a tug captain, a regulatory surveyor, an aeronautical engineer and a jazz musician, to name a few.” To keep the MiNO Marine crew happy and productive, Humphreys said the company provides flexible schedules, generous leave, competitive salaries and interesting projects. “Like most small business owners [the biggest challenge is] wearing a lot of different hats every day and the cyclical nature of the energy sector,” he said. But Humphreys said he is looking forward to growth in the coming months. “We’d like to see construction begin on a couple of the concept designs we have prepared for clients in the wind energy and energy exploration sectors.” n




Since Sliced Bread Two local entrepreneurs are gaining attention for their back-to-basics approach to a grocery staple. BY ASHLEY MCLELLAN PHOTOS BY SARA ESSEX BRADLEY

Viola Heritage Bread co-owners Carla Briggs and Kathryn Conyers craft small-batch sandwich loaves, and more, chock full of healthy ingredients like oats, whole wheat, rosemary and sweet potato.


as the start of a worldwide pandemic may not be an ideal situation, but local entrepreneurs Kathryn Conyers and Carla Briggs have done just that, and they’re finding success. “This is an exciting time [with our company], and there are a lot of unknowns,” said Briggs, who, together with Conyers launched Viola Heritage Breads from her mother’s kitchen in March. “I think within the pandemic, you lose all the fear. We said, let’s just jump in and see.” Marrying Briggs’ culinary skills crafted by learning and training at Johnson and Wales University culinary school and baking bread at Emeril’s Restaurant with Conyers’ background in finance and law, the duo’s handmade sandwich bread has quickly




gained devoted customers both locally and as far away as North and South Carolina and Pennsylvania, thanks in part to media attention on WWL-TV and outside the city with a writeup in The Tennessean newspaper. “Sales have been good,” said Conyers. “We are at the point of return customers, and market customers are coming back.” “We are getting more local out-of-towners, from Houma and Thibidoux, for example,” added Briggs. “The emails [we are receiving] are great. [Customers] always comment on how they love opening the box and smelling the bread first before even tasting it.” Viola Heritage Breads currently includes cornbread, tea cakes and rolls, plus four varieties of sandwich breads — Ambition Brioche, Royalty DNA Whole Wheat,

Collaboration Oats and Seeds and Rooted Sweet Potato Rosemary — which all have one thing in common. “I could live off of PB&J’s,” said Conyers. “It has all the food groups. It’s a requirement that all of our breads make a great PB&J.” The company has already been approached by a few local grocery stores and is in negotiations to provide wholesale bread to a few local restaurants, but their revenue currently lies in online and local sales. Passionate in their desire to provide a nurturing, handmade product that evokes family and tradition, Conyers and Briggs deliver loaves themselves to porches, stoops and front doors all across the area. “We are a part of great memories — something you don’t get from big companies

We’ve been to every part of New Orleans within a 30-mile radius, delivering the same product to people of all backgrounds. Kathryn Conyers, co-owner of Viola Heritage Breads

DID YOU KNOW “We brought on another that make the bread we eat. You should know who makes the baker, Breanna Bolden, a chef Louisiana’s Cottage from Nicholls State, an Africanbread that is a part of your daily Food Law allows American woman,” said Conyers. life,” Briggs said. “Deliveries are home-based “We wanted to be intentional on super hard, with long hours, but production of who we hire, how we develop then you get to see the nice lady certain food items for companies with them, and what they can add to waiting on the porch for her tea sales of less than the mix. Also, we think of her as cakes. There is a very real expe$20,000 per year. having a shared experience. As rience with people wanting that Black women who have gone connection with their food.” into white male-dominated environment in The company is currently operating the kitchen, we have that shared experience under Louisiana’s Cottage Food Law, and and we also know it’s a safe space to encourage recently moved to a commercial kitchen learning the craft.” as part of their relationship with Thalia For Conyers, the biggest surprise about Market inside Thalia Restaurant in New Orleans’ Lower Garden District. In addi- starting the business has been how it has connected the two with the community. tion to providing more space for additional “We’ve been to every part of New Orleans production, the move has also allowed them within a 30-mile radius, delivering the same to add a third person.

product to people of all backgrounds,” she said. “There is a common thread we have in some way. We can all relate in some way. It’s kind of a surreal thing. After we are done, we are like, ‘Wow, we are reaching a lot of different people with the same commonalities.’” For Briggs, the business always comes back to the basics — a love of baking and a connection with the community. “This is something we love to be doing. It’s bread, it’s not the end of the world if it doesn’t come out perfect. [Kathryn and I] have different experiences, but we have joy and we are blessed to be able to do this. It’s also fun. I love baking bread, and that smell! I could be in a bad mood, and once that bread comes out, everything changes.” n

You should know who makes the bread that is a part of your daily life. Carla Briggs, co-owner of Viola Heritage Breads

BREAD BASKET Bread, rolls and tea cakes from Viola Heritage Breads are priced between $8 and $12, and can be ordered in advance and picked up from the Thalia Market, 1245 Constance St., on Wednesdays and Saturdays from 1-3 p.m., or delivered across the Southshore for a $5 fee. Titi’s Bread boxes, with two sandwich loaves and one sweet treat, are available for shipping across the U.S. via USPS, starting at $25.



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.







Powering the Future In March, Entergy New Orleans began construction on a 20-megawatt solar plant on approximately 90 acres of NASA’s Michoud Assembly Facility in New Orleans East. The company says the investment is being made in an effort to improve service reliability while creating local jobs at a time when the region is struggling with the economic impact of COVID-19.


distancing on the job easy for those assembling the nearly 70,500 solar panels that will comprise Entergy’s New Orleans Solar Station. Engineered to withstand 134 mph hurricane conditions, the panels will provide clean energy to more than 3,100 area homes when the station is completed — estimated to be in the third quarter of this year — the equivalent to offsetting the emissions of nearly 6,150 passenger vehicles in one year. The plant will generate approximately 150 jobs during its construction. n