One of the most exciting and interesting aspects of entrepreneurship is that there are so many niches, fields and areas of specialty that didn’t exist as recently as just 20 years ago but today provide opportunities for the creative and ambitious to build entire lifestyles and careers. What’s also unique and special about these emerging fields is the way they blend entrepreneurship and business know-how with a higher mission – to help others or to help the environment or just to do things with an eye on making the world a better place. Chenese Lewis is an entertainer, entrepreneur and multimedia success story, who is one of the original plus size influencers in the country. Chenese is a Baton Rouge native, who moved to L.A. to launch her career in the early 2000s and, not long thereafter, won a plus-sized beauty pageant. She went on to become a plus size model, and an advocate for women’s positive body image and self-esteem. Chenese was an influencer before most people even knew what that was. She launched the first podcast focused on plus sized women in 2008, before most people knew what podcasts were. In 2014, Chenese returned to Baton Rouge, where she is based today and continues to grow her company, hosting virtual events and making headlines in national publications.  Paula LaFargue is founder and Designer of The Maybe Collection, a Baton Rouge small business that ethically makes comfortable, functional, beautiful women’s garments produced with minimal environmental impact for an accessible cost. Paula started the company in 2016, after spending 10 years designing clothes for nursing moms, children and utility workers – not all at the same time. She strives hard to have the smallest possible environmental impact in every aspect of The Maybe Collection – from the materials she sources, to internal operations, to packaging. Paula is a mother of two young children, and a native of Baton Rouge, who attended the Fashion Institute of Technology and cut her teeth in the fashion industry in New York then Chicago before returning home in 2009.  Chenese Lewis and Paula LaFargue are not only assets to the Baton rouge business community, they're also touching the lives of so many women around the country in important ways. You can see photos from this show by Jill Lafleur at our website. And here's some more lunch table conversation about Baton Rouge influencers and retailers. See for privacy information.
Although we’re living in an age of hyperbole where headlines and politicians are apt to cast everything in terms of absolute disaster or unprecedented achievement, it might be surprising but no exaggeration to claim that there are institutions and scientists in Baton Rouge that are world leaders in healthcare. Dr. John Kirwan is Executive Director of the Pennington Biomedical Research Center. “Pennington” as it is mostly referred to locally, is a 30-year-old facility in Baton Rouge that is arguably the most prestigious research institute in the world focused on chronic diseases diabetes and obesity. Recently Pennington has become home to a bariatric treatment center that is expected to attract the most severely obese patients from around the world. Dr. Kirwan came to Pennington in 2017 from the famed Cleveland Clinic, where he was working on a cure for type II diabetes. When he came here he brought a couple of dozen researchers with him, along with their millions in federal research dollars, making John Kirwan his own Baton Rouge mini economic development engine. Dr. Barbara Griffith is Chief Executive Officer of Woman’s Hospital in Baton Rouge. The hospital is one of the largest birthing centers in the world, delivering more than 8-thousand babies a year, as well as providing a host of other healthcare services to women and babies. Dr Griffith started out as an emergency medicine doctor with 20 years clinical experience. She had only been in the position of CEO of Woman’s Hospital when she was met the emergency nobody saw coming: the global coronavirus pandemic. Healthcare has been a hot topic for years, decades, probably forever, but at no time in recent memory has it become more important than in this era of COVID-19, as we as a state, nation and planet try to navigate a pandemic that has upended every aspect of our lives and society, and especially our healthcare system. It’s extraordinary how work being done in Baton Rouge is so central to the path of healthcare worldwide. You can see photos from this show by Jill Lafleur at our website. And check out more lunchtime conversation about the changing world Baton Rouge healthcare. See for privacy information.
The petro-chem sector may be Louisiana’s largest industry in dollar terms, but food is no doubt number one in the mindset of the collective culture. Louisiana is blessed with so many regional cuisines, restaurants and food entrepreneurs. On this edition of Out to Lunch Baton Rouge two colorful, local food entrepreneurs share their unique journeys, including how COVID has impacted the way they do business. Spuddy Spuddy Faucheaux is owner and chef of Spuddy’s Cajun Cooking, a local business based on the River Road in Vacherie that specializes in Cajun smoked meats. For more than 25 years, Spuddy’s was a small restaurant too, beloved by locals. But that all changed in December 2018, when a crane on a passing barge hit the bridge over the Mississippi near Spuddy’s restaurant, changing traffic patterns, rendering the restaurant unprofitable and forcing Spuddy to lay off half of his employees. So Spuddy reinvented his business. In September 2019 Spuddy launched the Cajun Cooking Experience, which invites visitors into the kitchen to learn about how Spuddy works his magic. The venture took off and was an immediate success. And then Covid hit. Now Spuddy is forced to tweak his business yet again. Chef Motto Chef Chris Motto is an old friend of Out to Lunch. Motto, as everybody calls him, is the Chef at Mansur’s on the Boulevard, which is where Out to Lunch recorded every week until the pandemic. Motto has been the award-winning chef at Mansur’s since 2009 and has been one of the leaders of Baton Rouge’s restaurant community. A native of Denham Springs, Motto has also proven he believes in Baton Rouge and in doing everything he can to make it better. You may remember – back before the pandemic – in early 2019, Motto was a finalist on FOX’s reality cooking competition Hell’s Kitchen. In line to win the whole thing and become a head chef at a Gordon Ramsay restaurant, Motto backed out and walked off the show just one week before the final. He said he did it because, “I want to raise the culinary standards in Baton Rouge. That’s what I’ve been working on the last five years. I’m not ready to give up on that.” Since then, Motto has had his own Hell’s kitchen to deal with – running a restaurant amid a pandemic. Photos by Jill Lafleur are at our website. Check out another local legendary food entrepreneur who dropped by for lunch with Stephanie: Ted Kergan, owner of most of the Sonic outlets in the state. See for privacy information.
There’s an old saying about how you can never go home again. Which means, actually, that once you’ve moved away from a place and you come home, it’s different than it was when you left. But sometimes, what has changed is for the better and creates new opportunities for those who return. On this edition of Out to Lunch, Stephanie meets two young entrepreneurs who left town but are now back home in Baton Rouge with new companies and concepts that a new Baton Rouge is ready to embrace. Apps Land in Baton Rouge Chris Boyd is the founder of Apptitude an IT firm that specializes in app development, app repair, and web development. Chris is young, like I said, but he does have 10 years experience under his belt, which he got during his years as a student at LSU and, then, in Houston, where he worked, first with Continental Airlines and then with high-paced teams at WordPress, Hearst Corporation and Rice University. In 2012, Chris participated in the NOLAbound project, which encouraged people from key industries to start businesses in New Orleans, and Apptitude was born. In the years since, Chris has grown the firm and expanded into Houston, where he has built apps for the Houston Zoo, Marriott, Lagunitas Beer, and most recently the Virginia Department of Health to help people keep track of their COVID exposures. The Millennial Behind Millennial Park Cameron Jackson is a former college athlete who returned to his native Baton Rouge after graduating and is currently working on a plan to transform an undeveloped section of land across from Baton Rouge General Medical Center’s Mid City campus into an outdoor food court. Cameron is calling his development Millennial Park, and he is modeling it after outdoor food courts he has seen in cities like Dallas and Houston, where food trucks are clustered at parks where patrons can sit, eat and socialize. Millennial Park has a unique twist: inspired by recent travels to Jamaica, Cameron is using re-purposed industrial shipping containers instead of food trucks. A recreational space built from shipping containers has potential in an area that is in dire need of redevelopment and fresh ideas. Photos from this show by Jill Lafleurhere. And here’s some more lunchtime conversation about the benefits of being back home in Baton Rouge. See for privacy information.
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