The Greater Baton Rouge Business Report presents the 21st Century Business Forum, a monthly series featuring America’s top business minds and thought leaders, sponsored by the East Baton Rouge Parish Library and Home Bank.
Former champion quarterback Drew Brees—now a studio analyst for NBC Sports and prolific businessman and investor—shares his insights about leadership and success in this episode of 21st Century Business Forum.
During his athletic career, he amassed an unprecedented collection of records, milestones and accolades—both on and off the field—during a 20-year NFL career as quarterback with the New Orleans Saints and San Diego Chargers. He led the Saints to victory in Super Bowl XLIV and was named the game’s MVP.
Today, he’s a successful entrepreneur: He’s co-owner of Surge Adventure Parks with 15 locations, and franchise investments in Dunkin’, Jimmy John’s, Walk Ons Bistreaux & Bar, Happy’s Irish Pub and Stretch Zone, among others. He also serves on the boardsof b1BANK and the equity firm Franworth, and is a global brand ambassador for PointsBet.
The Brees Dream Foundation has contributed more than $45 million to help improve the quality of life for cancer patients and provide care, education and opportunities for children and families in need. In 2006, Brees won the Walter Payton NFL Man of the Year Award, one of the league’s highest honors that recognizes a player for his excellence on and off the field.
If you’re a current or aspiring entrepreneur, we know you’ll benefit from the Library’s FREE resources for businesses including Gale Entrepreneurship articles, Newsbank, EBSCO, Sage Researcher and more! Visit the Digital Library at ebrpl.com/DigitalLibrary to explore.
Need a kid-friendly outing? The children’s room at the Main Library on Goodwood is showing a children’s movie every day of the holiday break at 2:30pm. Bring your kids to the library for some wholesome family fun while school’s out!
Have you ever wondered why some gardens outshine others? Could it be their landscape design? The Baton Rouge Botanic Garden Foundation will host a FREE Garden Discoveries presentation on Saturday, January 8 at 10:00 a.m. at the Main Library at Goodwood led by Buck Abbey a Landscape Architect and retired professor of the LSU School of Landscape Architecture. Abbey will demonstrate in real time how quality landscape design emerges through the art of drawing. He will incorporate principles of design along with art elements of line, texture, color and form. The audience will be able to watch and see what arises from site analysis through concept development to a final plan.
BankPlus presents Red Stick Revelry, Baton Rouge’s official New Year’s Eve celebration, partnering with the River Center Branch Library for its noon celebration for kids – Red Stick Rising. For the ninth year, a 9-foot tall LEDlighted Red Stick will rise into place 60 feet above the North Boulevard Town Square where it will sit until it descends in the countdown to midnight to ring in the New Year. Starting at 11 a.m. on New Year’s Eve, the River Center Branch Library will host storytelling, arts activities, and a special performance by Clay Achee, creator of Ziggy and the Junkyard Band and the new LPB show “Ziggy’s Arts Adventure.” Clay will perform songs with his puppets and talk with the kids about puppeteering. At noon, everyone is invited out to the Town Square to sing “Auld Lang Syne” as the Red Stick rises.
Red Stick Rising was created to give kids their own special New Year’s Eve tradition. Later that evening, entertainment kicks off in Davis Rhorer Plaza, adjacent to the River Center Branch, at 8:00 p.m. with live music by Press 1 for English and The Michael Foster Project, two all-new laser light shows and fireworks over the Mississippi River when the Red Stick drops at midnight.
Along with presenting sponsor BankPlus, both events are made possible by Visit Baton Rouge, the Office of Mayor-President Sharon Weston Broome, the EBR Library, the Greater Baton Rouge Arts Council, Downtown Development District and others. All events are free and the public is invited.
Do you have library fines? Now is the time to knock them out because Food for Fines is back for the month of December! We will waive $1.00 of late fines for each non-perishable food item you donate. You can drop off your donation at the circulation desk at any of our 14 libraries. No fines? You can still donate too! All of the food collected goes to the Greater Baton Rouge Food Bank. Last year we collected 8,305 pounds of food! Let’s try to surpass that amount this year! Drop off your food donations today! For more information, call (225) 231-3740.
“If you can imagine it, we will try to make it vegan,” Allen Howard proclaims during our Zoom call. But don’t be deceived by his use of the word “try.” Allen Howard speaks with total confidence in his and co-owner Maria’s ability to “veganize” anything your heart desires. And as the name implies, Plant Based Sweets by Lotus is dedicated to making all your favorite desserts vegan-friendly.
This small home-based company is the creation of charming married couple, Maria and Allen Howard. After adopting a vegan lifestyle, they realized that the dessert options were severely lacking, so they set about recreating all their favorite sweets with vegan ingredients. Already avid cooks and bakers, the Howards were excited to take on the challenge and after about a year of working on recipes, they began posting their creations on social media. “We put it out into the universe and hoped that people would take notice, “Maria recalls. “The rest is history,” they say in unison.
The two Army veterans started the company in March 2019 with the mission of making vegan food “available and accessible and showing that it can be tasty!” Maria tells me. “It doesn’t have to be intimidating or scary,” Allen adds. The pair bring their individual backgrounds, cultural traditions and foods (Maria is Latina, from New Mexico by way of Long Beach, California and Allen is Black American originally from Kenner, Louisiana) and infuse them into the recipes they create. Maria views it as a chance to get back to their roots by incorporating, “how we were raised and the foods we grew up eating and loving.”
Maria and Allen enjoy the flexibility that working for themselves offers. They value the chance to travel, meet people new people and learn about their vegan lifestyle journeys, but running a business is not without challenges. In addition to the normal ups and downs of business, COVID introduced numerous uncertainties from ingredient shortages to their normal pop-up locations shutting down. Despite these hurdles the couple remain positive about what the future holds for Plant Based Sweets by Lotus. Maria tells me, “We’ve managed to make it work and it feels really good. We’re not in a rush to have a bakery. We’re letting everything flow and happen on our own timeline.”
When they’re not busy working, the Howards take time to relax and explore nature (they love camping), but even during downtime it always comes back to food, whether they’re cooking together or coming up with new dessert ideas. Maria visits the library to research the history of a dessert before she attempts to make it. “I like to know the history and where it came from,” she says. The Howard family has a long history with libraries. “The library has been thoroughly engrained in our family since the beginning,” Allen tells me, fondly recalling frequent visits to the library from the time their kids, now teenagers, were born.
A truly community-minded business,
Plant Based Sweets by Lotus regularly prepares desserts for It Take a Village Baton Rouge, a local non-profit that provides meals for those in need every Sunday. “They make people feel like people no matter how hard life has hit them,” Maria says of the organization that holds a special place in her family’s heart.
The Howards are brimming with optimism and wisdom when they offer advice to aspiring entrepreneurs. Maria urges people not to focus on getting ‘likes’ on social media, remembering that it took over a year for their business to gain 1000 followers. Allen suggests, “Stay focused. Stay consistent. Stay positive. Because it’s going to be hard. There will be days that you want to quit and ask yourself ‘why did I start this?’ But when you’re doing something that you love doing, those days won’t be so bad.” When they need a morale boost or a bit of motivation Maria and Allen remember the words they learned during their time in the Army: “Suck it up and drive on.”