Business Person of the Month: Kelli Palmer of Breedlove Beauty

Breedlove Beauty Co.

Kelli Palmer of Breedlove Beauty


Instagram: @breedlovebeautyco

When Kelli Palmer started Breedlove Beauty in 2016, she had a very specific goal in mind: to create a Black-owned line of luxury hair care and skin care products made with natural, organic ingredients. Palmer’s vision for her company also included stylish packaging and sleek branding and marketing. Fortunately, her experience working in Communications and Public Relations at LSU gave her an advantage in this area. As a Black woman with natural 4c textured hair, Palmer had a lot of experience making her own products using ingredients like shea and mango butters. Soon her friends and family started requesting that she make products for them and Palmer saw the opportunity to scratch the entrepreneurial itch that had always been there: “I’ve always had the desire to be a business owner. I knew I wasn’t going to work in the corporate world forever.” Palmer’s desire to be a business owner was so strong that she resigned from her position at LSU in April 2016 even before starting the business. She devoted the next few months to getting her business off the ground, and Breedlove Beauty officially launched on July 1st.

No photo description available.Speaking about the benefits of being a business owner, Palmer says that the best part is “the freedom and the ability to create and sell these wonderful products, make a living for myself, and have financial freedom.” She describes herself as a creative and loves the parts of the business that allow her to tap into her artistic side: “I love the marketing aspect, doing photo shoots and the creative content side of the business.” Radiating optimism and positivity, Palmer does not focus on the challenges of running a business, but she acknowledges that finding employees has been difficult and that COVID has caused shipping delays particularly on orders for packaging supplies.

When offering advice to new and aspiring entrepreneurs, Palmer is equal parts pragmatic and inspirational. She emphasizes that “staying on top of finances is one of the most important things. Make sure you get a business account, have all the business money going into the business account and make sure to pay yourself.” She stresses that having a business account and keeping detailed records will help in the future for things like applying for a business loan or leasing a retail space. She also suggests hiring or at least consulting with an accountant, getting a payroll system if possible, and seeking out available resources like grants, small business competitions and the library’s Small Business department. Palmer’s unsolicited (but highly appreciated) library plug transitions into a discussion of her history with libraries. As a teen nerd (her words) growing up in North Baton Rouge, she recalls walking to the Scotlandville Branch Library often for ACT prep classes, to use the computer, to spend hours reading or just to get out of the house. For her, the library was a place of solitude. Today, as the mom of a toddler and an avid reader, Palmer still values the important role that the library serves in Baton Rouge.

Returning to her business advice, Palmer acknowledges that, ofNo photo description available. course, making money is a primary goal of starting a business, but she warns that, “it can’t be all about the money because there are good and bad days. Sometimes you will have all the money and sometimes you will have no money.” She encourages folks to remember that, “if this is what you’re really passionate about you can do it. If you see God doing it for others, it can happen for you too. You just have to put in the work, energy and effort that it takes to get to that point. It may take longer for you than it does for other people, but if you stay focused it’s going to happen.”

Before the interview concluded, Palmer revealed the origins of her company’s name: Breedlove Beauty. It has a dual meaning referring to her desire to “breed love into the world” with her products while also paying homage to Sarah Breedlove (the Black entrepreneur credited as America’s female first self-made millionaire) who is better known as Madam C.J. Walker.

Check out Breedlove Beauty at or on Instagram @breedlovebeautyco.

Business Person of the Month: Maria and Allen Howard of Plant Based Sweets by Lotus


Instagram: @plantbasedsweetsbylotus


“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.

Vegan Chocolate Dipped Oatmeal Cream Pies
Vegan Chocolate Dipped Oatmeal Cream Pies

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,

Vegan Pop-Tarts
Vegan Pop-Tarts

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.”

Order vegan treats for your holiday celebrations online at

Business Person of the Month: Carlos Thomas of Memphis Mac BBQ

Carlos Thomas of Memphis Mac BBQ

2785 Larkspur Avenue, Baton Rouge, LA 70805


Phone: 225-256-6398


For most people, inhaling the remnants of yesterday’s barbecue smoke first thing in the morning is not the ideal way to start the day. But for Carlos Thomas, owner of Memphis Mac BBQ, the smell is invigorating. He clarifies that his restaurant is not “a part of the barbecue bakery system” which involves “putting barbecue seasoning on meat, baking it and calling it barbecue. That is not barbecue.” The smoke, he tells me, is what separates authentic barbecue from the imposters.

Thomas opened Memphis Mac in February 2020 after his family returned to Baton Rouge from Los Angeles where he had worked as a professor at the University of Southern California teaching data science and operations management.

Only weeks after it opened, COVID would force the restaurant to close its doors and Thomas to adapt. He began shipping orders across the country, and locally, the restaurant started selling barbecue meats and sides by the slab, pound, and dozen on Saturdays.

After teaching at the college level since 2000, opening a restaurant would prove to be a unique challenge that Thomas likens to obtaining a third PhD. While he enjoys the freedom it affords and the ability to set his own schedule, the true gift of Memphis Mac has been the opportunity to help people. Thomas knew from the beginning that he wanted to employ people who have had legal troubles in the past, but deserved a fresh start. For him, Memphis Mac was never just about making great food, it was always about the chance “to give people an opportunity who may have been marginalized or overlooked because of the challenges they had earlier.” With that goal in mind he has built not only a growing business, but a second family with his colleagues. When asked about the downsides of being a business owner, Thomas does not dwell on the negatives, but cites managing personalities and the unpredictability of food prices among the challenges.

Memphis Mac is located on Larkspur Avenue just across from the Exxon refinery’s south gates which provides consistent lunchtime business, but Thomas has plans to expand to the southern part of the parish. The restaurant has gotten positive feedback after doing pop-ups around town. In Baton Rouge, Thomas observes, “People love to eat and will pay good money for good food,” but he emphasizes that the food must be good.

When the topic shifts to libraries, Thomas’ passion becomes evident. He calls East Baton Rouge Parish Libraries “second to none” and describes them as, “a focal point for my family since my kids were born.” A self-described egghead, Thomas knows the importance of having a “robust library system that provides opportunities for everyone” and he applauds EBRPL for the role it serves in the community.

In his precious spare time, Carlos Thomas serves as a mentor for the Baton Rouge Youth Coalition and cherishes time spent cooking for his family and discussing current events with his wife.

When asked to offer advice to new and aspiring entrepreneurs, Thomas urges them to “Do what you love because every day is not a good day. You have to be in love with the endeavor.”

Visit Memphis Mac for lunch Tuesday – Saturday from 10:30am to 2:30pm or call to inquire about catering. Holiday catering will also be available this year, so get your pre-orders in early!

Interview by Karla D. Stewart

Business People of the Month: John Walker, Michelle Bolda, Cody Gros of hubley

John Walker, Michelle Bolda, Cody Gros – hubley

6160 Perkins Rd., Baton Rouge, LA 70808

Phone: 800.816.9219

Article by Case Duckworth

In my talks with local entrepreneurs, I’ve found that businesses usually start in one of two ways: either they’re a passion that the founder has been able to monetize, or there is a need the founder has been able to identify and address. hubley, founded by Michelle Bolda, Cody Gros, and John Walker, is of the second type. In a series of SharePoint User Groups meetings at the library a few years ago, they discovered that a number of companies used SharePoint, but not to its full depth of capabilities. They realized that they could build a consulting business around providing services utilizing those depths, and replicate similar infrastructure to multiple clients, saving them money. That’s what hubley’s been doing for a number of clients, locally, nationally, and even globally, for the past five years. One of those clients is the East Baton Rouge Parish Library, so when I heard about hubley’s genesis here, I knew I had to get their story. I sat down with John Walker to talk about their growth, struggles, and plans for the future.

Microsoft SharePoint is a popular enterprise software for corporate intranets, which are like the Internet but private to a corporation. While intranets in general, and SharePoint in particular, can be useful for companies, John says, “most businesses don’t understand the value [SharePoint] can bring,” and end up implementing their intranet from scratch which is not always done correctly and can take a lot of time. As John and the other founders of hubley, Michelle and Cody, were meeting at the library, they realized they could save companies money by building a highly configurable intranet solution and selling it. So they built their product, leveraged existing relationships with businesses they knew were using SharePoint, and launched hubley.

That was in 2016. Five years later, they have twenty employees, clients all over the United States and even internationally, and they’re gearing up to expand even more. John told me that with their new language packs, they’re ready to expand to Latin America, Europe, and the Caribbean. Though most of their team is still in Louisiana, hubley has a satellite office in Birmingham, and plans to expand even more this year. Almost all of that growth has come from organic online searches. “All our leads come through our website,” John says. “People don’t know we’re based in Louisiana until we talk to them,” which has caused a unique issue with local hiring. “We want to hire great people locally and participate in local events – we’re a good success story for Louisiana,” he says. “LED [Louisiana Economic Development] has helped tremendously. Their grants for the software development industry have allowed us to stay in Baton Rouge and hire people more quickly than we would have otherwise.”

Helming a fast-growing startup carries other challenges, too. John mentioned the managerial aspects of running a business, like invoicing, support, and payroll, were challenges, but those were mitigated by two factors: a division of labor and an open-door policy for their employees. “hubley’s founders,” he said, “have three different roles. Michelle is our operations lead, Cody is the technology visionary, and I manage business development and strategy.” Dividing the labor across those three areas of concern helped the original team procure new clients and service their existing clients’ needs as they grew. John added that they make sure to tell hires, “We’re all doing this as a team for the first time, so if you guys have any ideas or thoughts on how to improve processes, let’s chat about it.” That open-door policy, as well as a willingness to explore novel ideas, has led to hubley’s growth.

The global pandemic led to more businesses pivoting to an online-first workflow, which helped bolster hubley’s business. “It was scary in the beginning, with corporations tightening budgets,” he said, “but a lot of leadership teams figured out quickly that employees need to work together better from home, and that’s hubley. So we were able to service that need.”

I finished our interview by asking John if he had any advice for an entrepreneur starting out, or himself in the past. He said, “Stay focused on the core items you’re trying to tackle, the core needs in the marketplace. If you feel strongly that there’s a need you’re helping with, be patient. It doesn’t happen overnight.” He added, “Also, be open to team members’ feedback, and those of your clients’. And be sure to create a collaborative, welcoming atmosphere. We love working at hubley. That’s important.”

From an idea on a whiteboard at the East Baton Rouge Parish Library to a fast-growing tech start-up, hubley’s founders have pursued their vision by finding a pain-point and fixing it in their product. They’re constantly looking to improve and deliver software that can improve corporate communication within organizations. I know from experience that hubley has streamlined processes here at the Library, so I’m glad they’re here in Baton Rouge.

Business Person of the Month: Chef Amanda Schonberg

Chef Amanda Schonberg, Chef Schonberg’s Sweets
Phone: (225) 590-0364
Facebook: Chef Schonberg’s Sweets


When I sat down (over Zoom) to talk to Chef Amanda Schonberg at about 2:00 P.M., she was preparing for an evening class with her Baking for Business students. She’d already finished all of her baking for Chef Schonberg’s Sweets – her main cottage business – as well as cleaned the house, eaten, and found the time to read for an hour. After we’d met, and after she’d taught her virtual class, she was planning to do paperwork for her bakery clients, follow up on orders, have dinner, and relax with her husband for an hour before bed. When I asked how she’d been able to cram so much into her day, she replied, “I’m a big fan of time-blocking” – the practice of focusing on one activity for an extended length of time, rather than bouncing between tasks as they require – “it’s all about balance and block scheduling.”

Chef Schonberg wasn’t always a chef, of course. When she was young, she helped her aunts and mom cook – her mother’s famous dish was a pound cake imbued with a liqueur like Disarrono – but she originally went to school for medical coding. She realized fairly quickly that wasn’t for her, though, and went to culinary school instead. Afterward, she decided to make alcohol-infused cakes her unique selling proposition, and Chef Schonberg’s Sweets was born as a cottage bakery. She became quickly successful – “I baked cakes for some celebrities, Food Network stars, musicians, authors,” she told me – and other chefs started noticing. “People were like, ‘Well if you can do it, I can do it too, will you help me?’ And it’s not like I don’t mind helping for free!” she laughed. “But when I noticed it picking up, I realized that this in itself could be a business also,” so she started Baking for Business, a virtual learning platform to help other cottage bakers realize their potential.

Cottage bakeries are poised to become more profitable in the current economy, says Schonberg. During, the COVID-19 pandemic, she’s been able to stay open when so many other businesses have had to close. In fact, her business has doubled during lockdown, because she’s been able to “put on my gloves and my Lysol and have contact-free delivery.” And she thinks this is only the beginning. Although a sense of normalcy will eventually return, she thinks many of the changes in the past year will be permanent. “We’re going to look back when we’re 70, 80, and it’ll be like when people talk about the stock market crashing. I see this as being the big boom for online businesses, or businesses that offer delivery.” And in fact, evidence of the economy’s move to online shopping is evident even now. Chef Schonberg shared the news that Godiva, the famous chocolate brand, is closing all of their storefronts, which she says is going to increase the demand for cottage bakers.

However, when I asked if she’d ever thought about moving out of her house and into a storefront, her answer was an emphatic “No.” “I love baking from home,” she says, both for the tax and storefront savings, and because “for me personally, it’s more exclusive. People like knowing they’re getting something that’s personalized for them,” that was made by someone who they can see, even if socially-distanced.

Of course, because she doesn’t have a physical store for people to drive or walk by, marketing is all the more important. Chef Schonberg is a maven at marketing, which she attributes to her previous experience managing retail bakeries, as well as a lot of reading from the library, which she makes sure to tell her students. “I was just telling them about the library last night,” in a class called “Idea to Income” – “Y’all have so many great resources, from SCORE, to SBA, even validating recipes.” She also told me that she gets all of her marketing books from the library’s shelves, and encourages her students to make its use.

She also stressed the importance of community: a mantra of hers is “serve the same area that you sell.” She’s a member of the Mid-City Makers’ Market and Partners One, which facilitates local bartering, which Schonberg regularly takes advantage of. “Last week, I locked my keys in the car. And I called the mechanic, didn’t have to pay for it because I used trade, and he said, ‘Hey, don’t worry about it, but for Valentine’s Day, I need a cake for my wife and my mother-in-law.’ And I said, “Deal!’” She credits her flexibility as a cottage business and the vibrancy of the Baton Rouge small business community for those smaller successes.

As our interview came to a close, I asked her what advice she’d give to a budding entrepreneur. She had two: “Use all the resources that are readily available,” whether that be the library, other entrepreneurs, or your community, and “begin with the end in mind.” She plans all of her moves, and that’s brought her success.

Article by Case Duckworth

Business Person of the Month: Jeremy Beyt, co-founder of ThreeSixtyEight

Jeremy Beyt


(225) 615-8443

When we sat down to talk to Jeremy Beyt, co-founder and CSO of progressive marketing agency ThreeSixtyEight, the country was in a similar position to where it was when he decided to start his own business. Back then, it was just after the Great Recession’s crash in 2008, and he was in commercial real estate.

“My job was really sad,” he told us over Zoom. “I was breaking a lot of bad news to people in terms of the evaluation of their property, and so what I started to do was, in a way to soften the blow … I was designing our reports to look really nice. I put really bad news in a really nice graph.”

Those nice graphs became popular among his coworkers, and they started asking him for design work. Though his work started out as “really horrible,” he says, eventually, “it clicked. Maybe I could make money doing this.” So he quit his job, made no money for a couple of years, and learned design, while he session drummed at night.

He admits that he and his partners were “young enough and single enough to not need any real money,” which helped them throw themselves at the business. And a few years later, they were able to rent an office three hundred sixty-eight feet away from another design firm, Big Fish – and as Beyt says, they had an idea.

“We were talking about, ‘Hey, we should merge instead of compete with each other, because we’re both in Baton Rouge,’” and they started Operation Three Sixty-Eight. With Big Fish’s access to larger, national brands, like General Electric, NASA, and Paramount, ThreeSixtyEight were able to find the gaps (or as Beyt calls them, “opportunities”) in their clients’ marketing, and fill those gaps.

Today, ThreeSixtyEight is an agency with national reach, though they also work extensively with local businesses. They’ve worked with businesses as diverse as Ochsner Health, Waitr, and Rakuten – and they were able to achieve that due to three main techniques.

“Number one,” Beyt says, “you have to know your purpose. … You have to take the time to define it and write it down and know it.” Knowing the business’s purpose is important to connect with investors, to differentiate with consumers, and to avoid burn-out, which is the hardest part of being an entrepreneur.

Secondly, Beyt and the other founders of ThreeSixtyEight had perserverance, what he calls “the most undervalued skill in any entrepreneur.” When ThreeSixtyEight started, there was a class of other web design companies as well, but as time went on, those shops closed, or merged with larger companies – but ThreeSixtyEight perservered and is still around today. Beyt says it took “five years to feel worth it,” so if you’re looking to start a business, be prepared.

Finally, Beyt stressed the importance of building a network – something he found particularly hard: “As a creative, as a marketer, I hate the idea of networking, I hate the idea of sales,” but eventually he was able to “drop the cynicism and skepticism, and just enjoy meeting people, and be truly curious in what they do … and inevitably, when they need your help, they’ll call.” Beyt credits his business partner Kenny Nguyen for teaching him that.

When we asked him for more advice for budding entrepreneurs, Beyt recommended writing to someone else in the field for advice and mentorship. In fact, he says, “the higher up an executive is, the more willing they are to mentor, because they get to a point where they understand the value of mentorship and leaving a legacy. Don’t be afraid to ask.” He still stays in touch with a mentor he emailed on a whim ten years ago.

He also recommended using the local library for events and for training. ThreeSixtyEight hosts a speaking event, Assembly Required, using the East Baton Rouge Parish Library’s conference rooms, which are free for the public’s use. He also recommends the free Team Treehouse training to his employees who want to learn web design and coding.

The most important advice Jeremy Beyt had for new entrepreneurs, however, was simple: become one. “Baton Rouge needs entrepreneurs. There’s a big opportunity in Baton Rouge that a lot of people overlook, especially graduates. And I don’t blame them, because on the surface, it’s easy to leave.

“But here’s the thing – Baton Rouge, it’s like a Twinkie. It’s kind of boring on the surface, but when you bite into it, there’s a lot to love, in the middle. So give it a chance – there’s an opportunity there. There’s a lot of hunger in Baton Rouge, for innovation, for progress, for change … there’s a really big community of people right under the surface that are all really hungry. So there’s an opportunity for anyone that’s entrepreneurial, not only to be successful, but also to make a difference in the community.”

That’s what ThreeSixtyEight have done.

Business Person of the Month: Pam Cannatella

Cannatella’s Grocery might not fit the immediate picture of an entrepreneurial venture — the Baton Rouge store is an outgrowth of a Melville, LA, staple that’s been in the community for nearly a hundred years, and as a family business, the Cannatellas aren’t interested in endless growth.  When I talked to Pam Cannatella, fourth-generation owner and operator of the new location, however, it was obvious that she is just as much the entrepreneur as the flashiest techno-hypist in San Fransisco, even though she may not be firing cars into space.  Pam provides an important service to her adopted community here in Baton Rouge, and she plans on doing it well for a long time.

The Cannatellas moved into their location at 3869 Government Street in 2019, in response to a shrinking population in Melville, where the “Old Store” has been based for nearly a hundred years.  They immediately liked the new building for its resemblances to the original, and they stocked it full of prepared and shelf-stable foods that they thought Mid-Cityers might appreciate — including a lot of organic foods.

“As we started seeing our customers come through,” though, Pam says, “I realized that they are really more traditional shoppers … they’re buying more of the prepared foods, because folks around here, they don’t really have time to cook.”  Luckily, Cannatella’s is widely known for the quality of their prepared foods, which Pam’s husband Grant makes at their Melville location, and which Pam drives to the store in Baton Rouge every day.  The prepared foods have been so successful that they’ve seen demand for some products double, such as their most popular, meatballs & gravy and lasagna.  Of course, Pam took it in stride: every night at closing, she inventories the store’s freezers and coolers, then Grant cooks what’s needed, enabling Pam to replinish the stores each morning.

All the back-and-forth between Melville and Baton Rouge has meant that Pam has had to be less-involved in her Melville community, where she was mayor a few years ago.  However, she hopes to become more involved with the Mid-City Merchants, the Mid-City Redevelopment Alliance, Associated Grocers, and other groups here in Baton Rouge and around the country that work with the small business community.  She did say that the lack of clear regulatory direction in Louisiana was a burden, even with the benefit of being in business for generations: “I think there needs to be kind of a one-stop-shop, someone to walk you through” putting together a business.

After the initial hurdles, though, Cannatella’s location in Baton Rouge has been doing pretty well.  They were lucky during the COVID pandemic, and haven’t experienced much loss in revenue.  Pam has been experimenting with new product lines, including making pastas in-store, and she has a lot of plans for new merchandise and food storage, to keep up with the demand for “Heat-and-Eats.”

More than anything, she loves visiting with her customers.  She says, “Every day, there’s somebody that walks in here that has a Melville story.  Either they know somebody from Melville, or they’re from Melville — there’s some Melville connection.  They tell me these old home stories.”  She’s living proof of her mantra — “Do what’s right, work hard, and everything else is going to fall into place” — and with Pam at the wheel, I think people will be talking about the Canatella’s in Baton Rouge for a long time to come.

Post by Case Duckworth

Business Person of the Month: Kenniece Webber of Boodha Noony

Kenniece Webber


Boodha Noony

Contact Information: (225) 963-9995, boodhanoony@gmail.com


We should all be taking better care of our skin – you only get one. Kenniece Webber of Boodha Noony Body Ritual can help.

“Over the years I have struggled with depression, extreme anxiety, blotchy skin, sports injuries/surgeries, motherhood, relationships, health issues, grief, and self-worth. Fortunately, at the age of 26 (after the birth of my second child), I made a conscious decision to seek and incorporate natural solutions into my daily habits as an added assurance in managing what I found to be common human challenges,” says Webber. “My daughter’s skin was too sensitive, and I had to start considering alternatives to over-the-counter products.” The result was Boodha Noony. “I began creating a specialized soothing butter made from essential oil blends and carrier oils.  Every product has been tested on my family for over five years now.  I am overjoyed to report that eczema, asthma and depression are being managed with our good diets and Boodha Noony’s premier Body Ritual.”

The owner of Eco Simple Living, an organic lifestyle consulting firm, Webber’s line of body rituals (multipurpose lotions designed to soothe and moisturize skin) was a family favorite for years before she developed them for sale. “Initially, it was named Eco Simple Treats,” Webber says, but “my family had its own special name – Dat Noony Butter. So as my sister and I began to play with different names, Noony butter was where we began.” The name comes from a longstanding nickname: “My full nickname is NoonyCat.” And Boodha? That came from a brainstorming session on what Webber wanted her brand, both the skincare line and her wider work with Eco Simple Living, to be. “I did not want the practice of Buddha spelling. So after some research, I found the archaic spelling of Buddha, which was Boodha.  I love the historical context of words and because that was a very historical spelling I figured I had enough spiritual connectivity to create a new, revolutionary essence of its name.”

The owner of two successful businesses, Webber does not want to stop there. “I would like my business to grow beyond just Baton Rouge and get my products into a major store chain to offer a fully natural alternative to skin products that saturate the market today.” While, she says, “You must always realize that there is a financial risk. Sometimes the cost of making quality products can be very expensive. Stress is also another issue,” it is also true that financial planning and tax preparation are necessary problems that “come with the privilege of owning your own business.” “Never give up – always stay focused and never give up. Remember: better to chance a dream than live a nightmare. Never accept failure; always use a mishap to fuel and feed your growth and ascension to even better and bigger things,” concluding, “Overall, there are far more things to love and like than dislike.”

For new business owners, Webber says research and having a realistic understanding of your personal finances are crucial. “Always be on the lookout for trends and who else in your area who may be doing the same as yourself,” she says. “Most of all, social media is a major tool that is used to ‘spread the word’ of your product not just locally, but globally. You would be shocked when you get a request for an order from Canada or New Zealand!” Webber sees that Baton Rouge seems to be getting bigger every day, both in terms of population and in the number of opportunities available for new businesses. “Years ago Baton Rouge used to be a small college town with a major focus on the petrochemical industry. Now there are so many different industries, especially in the entertainment industry,” she says. There is room for everyone, and owning your own business can be wonderful: “You are your own boss and you aren’t micromanaged. Your ideas are never shut down you have the ability to work at any time you want to on your own schedule.”

Having helped write a children’s book herself (The Chicken and the Egg, available from Amazon), Webber is a big fan of libraries. “The library is a cultural centerpiece and wealth of ideas for everyone in the community to come together and appreciate. You can tell a whole lot about a city and community by their library system. It is very important to me in that it has a wealth of local information that may not be available online,” says Webber. For businesses, “The library also offers so many free programs that help with business planning that you would have to pay for elsewhere.” (You can learn more about EBRPL’s Small Business Services online.)

The best advice Webber can give, though, is “Live! Be yourself and no on

e else!”

Find Boodha Noony products online and at local stores and arts markets.

Business Person of the Month: Gabby Loubiere of Brew Haha!


Brew Ha-Ha!

711 Jefferson Highway

Baton Rouge, LA 70806

Brew Ha-Ha! has been a part of the mid city landscape for nearly thirteen years. Its signature cake balls, which come in a wide variety of flavors and cause cravings all over Baton Rouge, are the result of owner Gabby Loubiere’s ability to turn unfortunate business circumstances to true successes. Brew Ha-Ha once had a second location. “While we had that store, we did lunches over there, because it was not going to make it as a coffee shop. Then on the weekends we would bring the extra cake balls to this store, to Jefferson. It started to create this hype: on Thursdays or so, sometimes Wednesdays, people would start calling to see how many cake balls we were bringing here. It was just this crazy little phenomenon that would happen.” Loubiere’s business was one of the first to sell cake balls, and the original recipes started with Loubiere’s grandmother, who won

The cake ball case and coffee counter.

countless culinary competitions for her pralines and other candies. They have changed and expanded as Brew Ha-Ha! has grown, and are still the best in town. “I guess it’s my grandmother’s candy-making skills that are still pumping through me.”

In addition to a variety of seasonal decorated options, Loubiere designs and makes cake ball wedding cakes. An invention of the peak of the cake ball craze, they started for Brew Ha-Ha! when a friend of Loubiere’s approached her about making one for the friend’s wedding. They’re made out of sculpted styrofoam, covered first in tulle and then in cake balls on skewers. “People who are traditional don’t necessarily love it;” nevertheless, it has become one of the creations in which Loubiere takes the most pride: “There’s a lot of pressure that goes into a wedding cake that somebody’s – hopefully their favorite day ever, other than the day they have children, so it’s nerve-wracking and stressful. But every time I set one up I cry a little at the end that I get to even be a part of that. They’re absolutely stunning.”

Loubiere had no prior experience in coffee shop management, and had not even worked in one before. “I just went to them when I was in college. I went to Southeastern and LSU, but mainly when I was at LSU, Highland Coffees was how I got through my shifts at The Chimes, and how I made it through college. So I knew I loved coffee, but I really didn’t know anything about it.” A friend approached her about opening a coffee shop in an available storefront in the shopping center where Brew Ha-Ha! still lives, but backed out at the last minute. “I decided to go ahead with it; I had her blessing…So I went at it solo. I knew nothing. I hired a cluster of girls that worked at a CCs, [and] I just kind of learned as I needed to.”

The coffee shop was originally set up because owner of shopping center really wanted a coffee shop to replace Perks, formerly across the street, which left mid city sadly caffeine-free when it closed. “It was scary in the beginning, because there was no one – there were a few other tenants in this shopping center, but there were just no people. You almost expected to see tumbleweeds going through the parking lot. Right away I joined the Mid City Merchants, a panel of probably about forty or so merchants then.” There are now nearly 150. “We’ve kept this very ‘this is my roots’ vibe in the neighborhood. People that live in this area are very passionate about this area. They’re super excited about the changes, sometimes adamantly so – I sit on the fence of, 80% of me usually sides with the homeowners, because I get it; I love that we have this love, family, curb appeal thing that happens. Growth is beautiful too, and I love that so many merchants want to be in mid city now. But we have to keep the culture alive that was here, and that was family and heart. It feels so good in this part of town, and I want to build it and build it and build it, but build it in a way that the feeling stays the same. I think that’s attainable, because there’s so much passion here.”

Owner Gabby Loubiere sitting in part of Brew Haha!’s new expansion.

A recent expansion has already boosted sales, especially of lunch items. “People flow,” Loubiere says. “When you move things around, you realize quickly if the flow is there.” Though Brew Ha-Ha! has served breakfast, brunch, and lunch for the last several years, the menu was recently posted publically for the first time, because of the owner’s new confidence in their capacity. “Before, we kind of did it as an added bonus to people who came here already, but we didn’t market it too much, mainly because our kitchen area was so small and we were trying to keep up with the cake balls. Now we have a lot of space, so we’re putting it out there that we do this. It’s a simple menu, we have nothing over eight dollars.” A roaster, part of the reason for the build-out and a long-time goal of Loubiere’s, is next. She is full of ideas on how best to display it – “We may even quarantine it off with bulk bean bins with roasted beans, where people could maybe come in and scoop by the pound.” Blends from Brew Ha-Ha! Roasting Company may include light, dark, decaf, flavors, and even holiday specials: “Gabby Lou’s Brew,” for one. Gabby Loubiere herself is already looking several years down the line, which will hopefully include pre-bagged distribution into local restaurants and marekts; she has so many ideas for potential growth that watching her develop them in real time is inspirational.

Mid city is increasingly known for its seasonal neighborhood arts festivals: Art Thaw in February; Hot Art, Cool Night in May; A Mid City Night’s Dream in August; and White Light Night in November. “The fall one and the spring one are just unbelievable. Back in the day, I would fret for weeks preparing for those events,” but Brew Ha-Ha!’s success has allowed Loubiere to relax a little and let the artists come to her. “I get approached by artists from Lafayette, New Orleans, Hammond, and God bless them – they have huge arts markets there. I really, really stick to local, local artists. Preferably, I’d like them to live in walking distance. But if not, in Baton Rouge.” Since the event is free and open to the public, it used to be much less productive for artists, and expensive for the businesses using free refreshments to entice customers. However, the rising popularity has allowed them to cut back a little on free treats, so sales for everyone have gone up, solidifying the event’s place in the local art and business communities. “We have probably 60 to 70 merchants that participate, all of which have anywhere from 2-10 artists. It’s really unbelievable some of the talent that we see. And the prices are amazing, because these are people that are up and coming or they haven’t achieved this super-celebrity-ism as an artist, so they keep their prices affordable,” Loubiere says. “The whole art atmosphere here is probably one of the best things that we have going on. And people flock from everywhere.”

Being a small business owner is not always easy, but Loubiere has great advice for potential entrepreneurs. “First of all, you have to be completely passionate about what you’re trying to do. If you’re trying to do it for the purpose of acknowledgment or getting rich, just go get a job. A lot of people I see get into business, self-employment, because they think it’s limelight and luxury. You have to live it, you have to love it, you have to respect it. You have to be present with your employees,” she says. “That’s just the world we live in. If you’re not 100% invested into what you’re trying to put out there, it’s going to show completely through. And you have to know your market – what do people want? What do people need? How are you going to communicate? It is so easy nowadays with social media to get your opinions out there. We have these overnight food bloggers that just yesterday were regular people, and now they’re Food Bloggers. You really have to pay attention to everything that you’re doing, because you’re on display. So I think the main thing people have to focus on is, it’s not that easy, be passionate, and remember that people are only going to support you if they dig you, and they’re watching everything you do.”

The most important thing is to “learn from [your] mistakes: try it, and if it doesn’t work, get out of it. Yes, there are tremendous perks to being self-employed. But they definitely are outweighed by the stresses and the responsibility. Where’s your heart at? Why are you doing this? If you love it, and you feel good about it, you have to be prepared to fail. And then, let’s go! Go for it! What have you got to lose?”

Stop by Brew Ha-Ha! for coffee, a cake ball, and a peruse of their Little Libraries today.

Business Person of the Month: Brad Jensen of Bricks and Bombs

Taken from owner’s website with permission.

Bricks and Bombs

449 Hearthstone Drive

Baton Rouge, LA 70806

Brad Jensen developed his first T-shirt brand, Icon, at eighteen, while studying graphic design at LSU. Bricks and Bombs is the culmination of decades of artistic development, business savvy, and a good bit of luck.

It begins with the name – or, not quite, but the name is fantastic, so we’ll start there. “The short story,” Jensen laughed, “it’s from some misinterpreted Clash lyrics.” He carried them around for years until the opportunity to use them struck. “It became a little bit more of an analogy for what I wanted to do with the store and the gallery space initially, and that was, the bricks being a symbol of a building block, something to support a wall, or in my case what I was hoping to build was a community of artists and creatives. And then bombs, of course, being a symbol of destruction, and that juxtaposition of building a community and destroying some ideas of what people thought art is.”

The store opened in 2009, but Jensen’s work on Icon and on other artistic and screenprinting projects is at least ten years older. “I got a job at a screen printing shop and learned how to print my own shirts, and then learned how to print stickers, and learned how to print posters, and then I started incorporating Icon into my fine art,” he said. “I went around to a lot of bike races, I rode BMX, growing up, so it was kind of like a bike-rider thing, and then it sort of evolved into my artwork, and still clothing, and posters and stickers and hats and other things too; it kind of became a brand.”

He was working across the street in a studio in the back of a friend’s shop, what is now a Crossfit gym, when he saw Bricks and Bombs’ current location open up. At first, it seemed like a great office space, somewhere to work outside of his home; the front was, if nothing else, great storage, and a place where people could find his shirts more easily. It was very minimalist, just plain white walls and a T-shirt rack. “It was meant to be store by day, gallery by night, and there wasn’t a lot that had to happen to make it transform into that space,” Jensen said. Bricks and Bombs recently hosted a traveling poster show, and has highlighted skateboard deck art, tattoo and graffiti artists, photography, sculpture, and the senior shows of graduating LSU students. The shows are something he wants to get back to this year: “The more events that we have in between those that are already established,” he said, referring to White Light Night, the Ogden Park Prowl, and other annual MidCity events, “the more we can make this a destination place – make people realize that MidCity is something more than just those bookended events.”

The neighborhood, like so much of Baton Rouge, is slowly changing for the better. “When I first moved in over here, it wasn’t quite like it is now. It’s been an evolving thing. But it showed a lot of promise,” said Jensen. “Someone told me once that Baton Rouge is the kind of place where you’ve got to get in, stake your claim, and ride it out. And I’ve been riding it out for seven years now, and that’s a positive thing for sure. I’ve definitely seen Saturdays becoming more and more of a day when you can rely on people walking in, when before it was kind of hit or miss. There were a lot of Saturdays when I wasn’t open because I wanted to be doing something else, when no one was walking in. It’s getting there.”

Jensen’s growth as a business person was very organic, based as it is on ideas he’s worked on since he was eighteen years old. “It was an opportunity that I saw. When I first opened up, I thought I’d just try it for a year. I wasn’t risking a lot, other than a year’s worth of rent, because … I had a product, I had a service that was already in place, so this just kind of became a more permanent fixture for all those things that opened up some opportunities.”

But if you’re just starting out, his advice would be to “Do your research, for sure. Think about what it is that you can offer the area. I think that’s the biggest struggle with an artist and a business, or any business, is that you have an idea of what you want to do – and I’m guilty of this for sure, I didn’t start my business thinking, oh, Baton Rouge really needs another T-shirt shop! That was what I was interested in doing. I can understand the challenges now, and I still kind of grapple with it, with what does the area around me need, versus what I want it to be, versus what will it support?”

“I do everything myself. Everything in here, I’ve designed it, I printed it, I folded it, I orchestrated it all,” he said. “I think the attitude that’s over here is a little bit different from everywhere else. People come in here and they know that you can’t find this kind of stuff everywhere else, especially not locally made or locally designed. I think what I’m offering is an opportunity to get involved with the shop – I’m doing some artist series shirts, and I do other events with artists in here. I have kind of an open door policy; I’m not very discriminatory like some of the other galleries. They operate differently than I do. I can be a little less conscientious of bringing someone in, take a risk of having their artwork hanging up in here.”

Really, for Jensen, it’s still about that contrast between bricks and bombs – breaking something down so you can build something better. “I’ve done some nontraditional things. When you hang a skateboard with some cool graphics up on a white wall, it kind of takes on a new meaning – it’s all of the sudden this utilitarian device that people view in a different light. They see the art for what it is, not just a piece of wood with wheels on it. That’s what I was seeking to show people, especially in Baton Rouge – if they didn’t grow up in a subculture, like BMX or skating, to enlighten them to some other aspects of culture that they may not be aware of,” he said.

“It’s all very interwoven, being a graphic designer. I don’t see it just as design, I see it as just as much of a fine art too. I guess when you take that graphic design and you screenprint it, put it on a poster, limit it and put a number and a signature at the bottom, it becomes not just a graphic design piece, it’s an art piece” – or wearable art, like a T-shirt; or mobile art, like a skateboard.

Like Jensen said about the library, in Bricks and Bombs and the rest of the midcity area, “A lot of people don’t realize how many great resources are tucked away.” Stop by and check it out.