As New Orleans approaches its Tricentennial, we marvel at how many watchable people the city has created in its 299 years to date. There have been pirates, soldiers, spiritualists, rogues, musicians, physicians, chefs, (Did we mention rogues?), artists, writers and more, all worthy of being watched because of the accomplishments they might deliver.
We define a Person to Watch as someone doing something new and interesting worth giving attention. In some cases it might be someone who has already been watchable but that is moving in a new direction. (Our list has not been flawless. Over the years there have been a few that have wound up in jail, but that only validated our thesis that they should have been watched.) Most of our selections, however, achieve the greatness that we had anticipated, or greater. How will this class do? We’ll be watching.
Alyson Kilday Co-founder, Damesly Partner, Hop & Jaunt Creative Agency
When Alyson Kilday saw a chance to combine two of her favorite things — travel and connecting people — she jumped on it. The result is a creative new business she launched almost one year ago called Damesly.
Damesly is a travel company that connects women by hosting workshops for professional and personal skill building in destinations around the world.
Enjoy a photography workshop while hiking and exploring the Grand Canyon, or a PR workshop while cruising down Lake Powell. International destinations for 2018 and 2019 are already in the works to Japan, the Bahamas, Iceland and Argentina.
This fall, Damesly will also host a trip in New Orleans designed to connect makers and small business owners of New Orleans with women looking to unleash their creativity to take their business or project to the next level.
Andrew Petersen COO, Bluefin Data
Andrew Petersen is determined to change the relationship between governments and the seafood industry.
“We intend on accomplishing this with a technology system that automates processes, saving people time to focus on the more important aspects of business and life,” he says.
His company, Bluefin Data, was the $10,000 first-prize winner at New Orleans Entrepreneur Week’s Water Challenge in March.
This year, Bluefin Data will release its software system called VESL, designed to be the heart of data collection and management in the seafood industry. VESL will capture information on when and where a catch happened, along with environmental data and who is buyingand at what price.
“We plan to start with all five Gulf States,” says Petersen, “then move our way up the East and West Coasts, and finally taking the leap to international regions.”
Charlie Munford Owner, Charlie’s Sausage and Two Run Farm
“It has a really spicy and smoky flavor and a smooth buttery aftertaste that just lingers on your tongue and makes you happy for a long time.”
That’s how Charlie Munford describes Charlie’s Wild Boar Sausage, which the owner of Two Run Farm launched this past year.
“We have been able to take a troublesome pest and make it a culinary specialty,” he says. “I get no end of satisfaction from that.”
Munford says his short-term business goal is to be sure that “all 7.5 billion people in the world have tasted our sausage.” The company just received approval to launch the sausage under federal inspections, meaning it can be sold anywhere in the country.
“We have discovered that 15 to 40 percent of customers who try our sausage at a demo buy a pack on the spot,” he says. “That’s how good it is!”
Toya Boudy Entertainment Chef & Cooking Instructor
When it comes to Cajun and Creole cuisine, Chef Toya Boudy has a flavor all her own.
In addition to hosting a popular YouTube channel, “Cooking With Chef Toya,” the New Orleans native has appeared on TLC and the Food Network, including on “Guy’s Grocery Games,” a reality show starring Guy Fieri. Recently, Boudy also took home the title of “Next Best Cook,” on Hallmark’s Home and Family Channel.
Her first cookbook, Cook Like A New Orleanian will be released this year.
“It’ll be the first interactive cookbook from a New Orleans chef,” says Boudy. “This was just a dream at first and now it’s a piece of me that I can pass down to others.”
What’s next for Boudy? Currently she’s gathering the ingredients for a national TV show.
Lauren Bott Owner, Crowe Jewelry
Lauren Bott was a costume designer and buyer working on a film in New Orleans when one day she found herself frustrated — she couldn’t find a certain piece of jewelry she was looking for. So, working out of her kitchen, she decided to make what she needed.
“What I found was a very expensive hobby that slowly evolved into my passion,” she says. “Bott’s creations have since been featured in TV shows including Scream Queens, Treme and True Detective, along with films like Now You See Me and The Best of Me. Sandra Bullock even wore some of her earrings to be photographed for the cover of People Magazine in 2015.
The first brick and mortar store for Crowe Jewelry opened this past February at 3903 Magazine Street.
“The magic of the creative process,” she says, “starting with a pen and paper and taking the ideas to the bench, catches me by surprise every time.”
Mimi Holaday Founder, Halo Mimi LLC
This past March, New Orleans native Mimi Holaday walked away from New Orleans Fashion Week 2017 as the winner of both the Top Design Competition and Yelp People’s Choice awards for her first collection of stylish hats.
After working as a designer for three years, Holaday started making hats two years ago. She is currently launching an online store, finishing renovation on her mobile boutique and hopes to host her first popup shop this fall.
Holaday says her ultimate goal is to get her hats in two stores: Luisaviaroma in Florence, Italy and Lane Crawford in Hong Kong.
“They are the Ferraris of fashion boutiques,” she says. “To show your work in these stores means to meet a quality and design standard serving international fashion influencers around the world.”
Dr. RaeNell Billiot Houston Superintendent of Catholic Schools for the Archdiocese of New Orleans
On July 3 of this year, Dr. RaeNell Billiot Houston became the first black superintendent of Catholic schools for the Archdiocese of New Orleans.
Formerly the associate superintendent, Houston and her husband are the parents of three girls, which she says has helped bring extra passion to her career goals.
“One of the things I am most excited about is our special needs initiative,” she says. “We are piloting programs designed for special needs students. For me, it’s personal. My nine-year old daughter has Down syndrome. She is such a blessing to our family. As superintendent, I will work diligently to build effective and sustainable programs that meet the various needs of ALL of God’s children.”
Jackie Dadakis COO, Green Coast Enterprises
“Louisiana regularly ranks as the highest per-capita user of electricity for residential customers of all 50 states,” says Jackie Dadakis, COO of Green Coast Enterprises. “We are literally throwing money out the window in our uninsulated/over-air conditioned homes.”
Green Coast Enterprises develops real estate and performs a continuum of real estate services in the Southeast, with a special focus on coastal areas threatened by climate change.
The company works with clients including the City of New Orleans, the Recovery School District, and several fellow real estate developers to design and renovate buildings to be more energy efficient. This year, Green Coast opened its largest real estate project to date — The Pythian.
“The work we have done at Green Coast has shown our buildings can be using 35 to 50 percent less energy and still be comfortable.”
Dan Forman CEO, Dependency Pain Treatment Centers
“People with addictions have been treated poorly for so long, both by the medical profession and society as a whole,” says Dan Forman, who launched Dependency Pain Treatment Centers (DPTC) in 2016. The company is a local network of outpatient healthcare clinics that provide medication-assisted treatment and counseling for patients with substance dependency and chronic pain.
“Right now, only 10 percent of people with addiction get help,” he says, so Forman has been busy creating programs that remove the barriers of time commitment, cost and stigma from addiction treatment, offering outpatient services at locations in Marrero, Kenner, New Orleans and Metairie.
“There is no cure for addiction yet,” he says. “Until we find one, we’ll bring the most innovative tools to the community to keep the disease in remission.”
Trevor Schoonmaker Artistic Director of Prospect.4: The Lotus in Spite of the Swamp Prospect New Orleans
Since 2015, Trevor Schoonmaker has balanced having a young family while holding two full time jobs — chief curator at the Nasher Museum of Art at Duke University in Durham, North Carolina, and artistic director of Prospect.4 in New Orleans.
Prospect.4 is the fourth iteration of Prospect New Orleans, a citywide triennial of contemporary art that presents the work of local, national and international artists in unique venues. It will open this fall, Nov. 16-19, and include 73 artists from more than 25 countries showing across 17 venues throughout the city of New Orleans, on exhibit through Feb. 2018.
“I am honored to play a small role in bringing world class contemporary art to New Orleans,” says Schoonmaker, “while also introducing more of the international art world to New Orleans and its dynamic arts community.”
Steve Trotter Regional Vice President, Centerplate
If you’ve ever had anything to eat or drink at the Mercedes-Benz Superdome, Smoothie King Center, Champions Square, National WWII Museum, Ernest N. Morial Convention Center or the Shrine on Airline baseball park, you’ve enjoyed the work of Centerplate, the exclusive food, beverage and hospitality provider at all of these locations and more.
For almost 20 years, Steve Trotter has been with the company — during Hurricane Katrina, he served as general manager of the Superdome and New Orleans Arena.
Trotter says he is gearing up for a busy year which will include New Orleans Baby Cakes fully up-and-running, preparing for tricentennial events, being part of a major renovation at the National WWII Museum and, of course, handling a full slate of Saints and Pelicans games alongside their partners at SMG.
Marcello Benetti Musician, Composer, Improviser “My first memories of playing music was in kindergarten drumming on anything I could find with my crayons,” says local drummer, Marcello Benetti. “I really had no choice to play music, it was inside me waiting for me to realize it.”
Born near Venice, Italy, Benetti is a proud New Orleans resident who has embraced the local music scene, not only performing with top artists locally and abroad, but producing the annual H.I.P. FEST (Hosting Improvising Performers) in New Orleans with his friend and fellow musician Jeff Albert since 2013.
In March, Benetti released his latest album Il Vizio! It’s the first time Benetti composed, arranged, and produced an entire album by himself.
“I’ve also just finished writing music for a childrens’ book that I composed for my son Rocco,” says Benetti. “It will be published some time this year.”
Jennifer Weishaupt Co-Owner and operator (along with husband Erich Weishaupt), The Ruby Slipper Café
What happens when a chemical engineer and electrical engineer get together? If you’re husband-wife team Jennifer and Erich Weishaupt, you open a successful breakfast and brunch restaurant, of course.
The Ruby Slipper Café has grown from a single neighborhood café in 2008 into a seven-unit chain in three states. The Ruby Slipper opened in Baton Rouge this past July and the company’s Mid-City restaurant and “world headquarters” is moving to a roomier location under construction on Broad Street and slated to open this fall. Mobile, Alabama and at least two other locations are on the agenda for 2018.
The Ruby Slipper Café grew out of a post-Katrina need to return a blighted corner store to commerce in the Weishaupt’s flooded neighborhood.
The ultimate goal, says the couple is to grow to between 20 and 30 locations, building The Ruby Slipper Café into the Southeast’s top breakfast and brunch restaurant.
Richard Carthon CEO/Founder, FollowMyCal
Google Calendar, Microsoft Exchange, iCal — there’s no shortage of digital calendars to help organize your work, home and play. But wouldn’t it be great if there was one central location that enabled you to add and share events across multiple platforms? What if your family and friends could view your calendar, add to it and share events with you?
Now they can with FollowMyCal. The social calendar platform is the creation of Richard Carthon and was a finalist at the 2016 NOEW Big Idea competition.
Carthon’s goal is to make FollowMyCal a nationally recognized name within the next year, and he’s not afraid to do whatever it takes.
“One of the hardest challenges I have ever faced was getting my first investor to invest in me,” says Carthon. “I received 56 no’s before I got my first yes… The biggest lesson I took is that you do not need everyone to see your vision or tell you yes, you just need one.”
Kristi Brocato Owner, The Basketry
Kristi Brocato was a college student with $500 and a dream back in 1995 when she started The Basketry.
The multi-million-dollar company has since provided custom-made gifts and gift baskets for every kind of corporate and personal occasion.
“I once did a gift basket for President Clinton filled with a New Orleans tie, cigars and local gourmet foods,” says Brocato.
Headquartered in Luling, Louisiana, The Basketry also gives to the community, including through its Give Back Initiative for the homeless.
For every gift that a customer buys, the company donates a “shelter gift” — basic toiletries and necessities. For Brocato, the effort is a natural way to share her success with others. “We can’t go through this life being satisfied with opening our doors every day and watching our numbers climb,” she says. “We have to make a difference.”
Christy Boutte Owner and artist, Art By Christy Gallery
An artist, Christy Boutte set an ambitious goal for herself — to open her own gallery before the age of 30.
In 2002 she did just that. Well before her self-imposed deadline, Boutte opened Art by Christy Gallery in Historic Old Gretna.
“As a deaf person, I realized early on there were limited options available to me in a traditional workforce,” she says. “In art, that isn’t so. Some say having a disability can enhance one’s art, showing a perspective that might not be normally considered.”
She says her next challenge to conquer is the Internet.
“Times are changing rapidly and the traditional gallery/stable of artists system is no longer the only viable path to be a successful artist. I am constantly experimenting with ways of creating engaging content online that will hopefully bring new fans to my artwork.”
Kid Chef Eliana CEO, Eliana Cooks! LLC Chef, Cookbook Author and Personality
At the age of four, Eliana de Las Casas was already in the kitchen cooking away. By the time she turned eight, she was food blogging and creating cooking tutorials for kids on YouTube. In 2010, at the age of only ten, de Las Casas released her first cookbook.
Last fall, she was named the Teen Grand Champion on the Food Network show “Chopped,” a title that came with $25,000.
“With my winnings from Chopped, I started my own spice company,” she says. “I currently have one spice blend released called Spice It Up! Creole Seasoning.”
Now a senior at New Orleans Center for Creative Arts, she’s a budding adult with lots of plans for the future, including a line of cookware and chef wear for kids. Her fourth cookbook, From Pallet to Palate: Cooking Seasonally with Rodale will be released in Spring 2018.
Simone Reggie Owner, Simone’s Market
Condos, boutiques, restaurants, even a video game developer — all have opened on Uptown’s Oak Street in the past year and a half. But no live/work neighborhood can be complete without a place to grab groceries, and that Oak Street now has, thanks to Simone Reggie.
Reggie opened Simone’s Market, 8207 Oak Street, in December 2016. The 1,650 square-foot market focuses on local and regionally sourced food.
“The market is a giant puzzle and I have been working to put the pieces together and create a work flow that is efficient and productive,” says Reggie. “Also, tweaking the model to better serve what the customers want. We are now working on expanding our sandwiches and prepared foods selection and growing to have fresh seasonal meals for people to dine in or take out.”
Elizabeth Pearce Founder and owner, Drink & Learn
For five years, Elizabeth Pearce helped to create the Southern Food and Beverage Museum, serving as its original curator. Since leaving that position in 2009 she has journeyed out on her own and created Drink & Learn, an interactive experience that introduces people to the rich history of New Orleans through its famous cocktails while either strolling the French Quarter or kicking back at the Empire Bar of Broussard’s Restaurant.
Pearce also serves as Education Specialist for the Sazerac whiskey company, conducting trainings on their historic brands both regionally and nationally. She says she hopes to soon be adding audio tours and a podcast to her offerings.
“I particularly enjoy how surprised and delighted people are by these stories,” she says. “No one expects such rich history through booze!”
Todd Andrews Co-founder and President, tasc Performance, Inc.
Since opening in 2009, tasc Performance has aimed to reinvent performance apparel in an unexpected way — with bamboo. The company’s clothing promises the performance of traditional polyester offerings, but with a more natural material made without all the chemicals.
Todd Andrews and his father, Al, co-founded the business, headquartered in Metairie, which opened its flagship store at 3913 Magazine Street in February of this year.
This year tasc will be focusing on “launching new product categories in our flagship store on Magazine Street, on our website, with fine retail stores, destination resorts, and major events,” says Todd Andrews. As well as “growing our digital, PR and marketing presence on a national basis.
The Andrews’ ultimate goal? “To build a major lifestyle brand headquartered in New Orleans.”
William DiPaola President and COO, Dat Dog Enterprises
Known for his laid back, Hawaiian-shirt-wearing style, William DiPaola is not exactly spending his days kicking back and lounging on the beach.
DiPaola is the man behind the recent move to take New Orleans’ favorite hot dog restaurant and share it with the world.
Under his direction, Dat Dog will expand to Baton Rouge with the first of three locations later this year. The successful chain of five restaurants will also be moving into Houston, with 25 restaurants planned over the next 10 years.
“My long-term goal is to spread the beauty of what we do,” he says, adding: “Dat Dog does not sell hot dogs. It may seem as if we do, but I would say that we sell freedom of expression…All walks of life are welcome. We embrace the South Louisiana mentality: come as you are and do what you want.”
Emily Madero President/CEO, French Quarter Festivals, Inc.
Very few people are able to say they have their dream job, but Emily Madero has had that privilege twice. On April 3, Madero left her position as acting CEO of The Idea Village to become president/CEO of French Quarter Festivals, Inc.
“I made the decision to take a big leap and transition into a new job after 10 years,” she says. “It’s tough to leave an organization and people that you love, but it has been equally exhilarating and rewarding to dive into a new chapter.”
In 2018, New Orleans will celebrate its tricentennial in concert with the 35th anniversary of French Quarter Festival April 12-15.
“Expect an incredible lineup to mark this historic moment,” says Madero, “and new features that will embrace other important elements of our cultural heritage, such as dance, traditional crafts, and visual and culinary arts.”
Gerald L. Parton President and CEO, East Jefferson General Hospital
This past May, Gerald Parton was named president of East Jefferson General Hospital — the fourth CEO in the hospital’s 46-year history.
Prior to accepting the position, Parton served as regional vice president of Quorum Health Resources in Brentwood, Tennessee. He has a strong background in healthcare management.
“The past year I managed 10 hospitals in Colorado,” says Parton, “assisting them with overall management including financial and quality issues.” He says his greatest career achievement so far was working with five hospitals to develop a regional network.
This is not Parton’s first time living in New Orleans, before Tennessee he worked for a decade as CEO of Tenet Healthcare at Meadowcrest Hospital and Doctors Hospital of Jefferson.
“Healthcare is an ever-changing business,” he says. “We are closely watching the new healthcare legislation and how it affects East Jefferson General Hospital and our patients.”
Jean Lorent Founder, Jean Lorent
An engineer working in the Gulf of Mexico, Jean Lorent decided to start doing some creations with leather as a hobby a few years ago. As her skills and enjoyment of her new pastime grew, eventually it became a business.
Jean Lorent’s full grain leather bow ties, wallets and suspenders are now sold at approximately 30 stores nationally, including a handful in New Orleans. In addition to leather, Lorent designs and handcrafts items in exotic materials like snake skin and crocodile.
Since starting her self-named business in 2015, Lorent has been busy creating new designs and sourcing new colors and patterns. The company is currently working on introducing its women’s collection to a national audience.
“Our goal is to be recognized as a lifestyle brand,” Lorent said.
This year Jean Lorent was selected as a finalist for the Belk Southern Designer Showcase. She will release a new collection of handbags this fall.
Michelle Cheramie Ingram Owner, Zeus’ Place and Zeus’ Rescues
Since opening Zeus’ Place in 2006, Michelle Cheramie Ingram has been in the business of helping animals, and business is good.
Ingram opened a second location on Napoleon Avenue in May of this year, a building that houses both Zeus’ Rescues (her nonprofit) and Zeus’ Place grooming services.
“Within twelve hours of signing the lease for the second location, the opportunity presented itself to open a third location in the Beacon at the South District Market Downtown,” said Ingram. “We’ll open there in October!”
In 2016, Zeus’ ventures rescued, reunited, and/or adopted out a total of 575 dogs and cats — over 250 of whom were dislocated due to the Baton Rouge floods.
If that’s not enough, she also co-founded Freret Market and directs both it and the Freret Street Festival.
Rupa Mohan Chief Exercise Officer, The Sweat Social How do you stay motivated to work out while traveling? Rupa Mohan has the answer, at least for visitors to New Orleans.
Mohan’s business, The Sweat Social, offers travelers a way to explore the city while burning calories through customized fitness events like scavenger hunts, fun runs and group yoga.
In 2016, the company was a New Orleans Entrepreneur Week Big Idea finalist and won the $20,000 Peter Mayer Marketing Award. “I love working with individual travelers but we found a market niche in working with conventions, conferences and meetings,” Mohan says. “We found that business travelers especially seek out our services.
The ultimate goal is to expand The Sweat Social to other cities.
“I want travelers to know our brand and seek out our services,” she says, “regardless of where they are traveling.”
Mike Maenza Founder of SWEGS Kitchen Brent Jouandot CEO Jonathan Maki Director of Brand Development Amy Davis Registered Dietitian and Nutritionist
In any list of America’s healthiest cities it can be assured that New Orleans is nowhere near the top. SWEGS Kitchen —an acronym for Small Wins Equal Great Success —wants to change that.
Founded in 2015 in Mandeville, the restaurant already has four locations in the Metro New Orleans area. It is finding success by taking a healthier approach to classic New Orleans dishes and comfort foods — reducing or eliminating the salt, saturated fats and sugars, as well as many added chemicals — without compromising taste and at an affordable price point.
In addition to continuing to open more locations, the SWEGS team’s future plans include developing brand awareness and market shares in the greater New Orleans area and developing more partnerships and studies with medical specific organizations, specifically targeting diabetes, heart and kidney foundations.
Salvador Bivalacqua Co-founder, Seven Three Distilling Co.
A lawyer by trade, Salvador I. Bivalacqua is a partner at the law firm of Galante & Bivalacqua.
Along with his wife, Eileen, he also runs the day-to-day operations of Seven Three Distilling, which he opened with his childhood friend, Jeff Rogers, this past March.
In addition to spirit tastings and sales, the distillery offers daily tours that include a history of Storyville and the historic Treme neighborhood, where Seven Three operates at 301 N. Claiborne Ave.
Committed to using grains and cane grown in Louisiana, the distillery’s award-winning St. Roch Vodka reached statewide distribution in under 60 days.
Bivalacqua says that several more spirits will be following soon, including Gentilly Gin, St. Roch Cucumber — a flavored version of St. Roch Vodka — Marigny Moonshine, Irish Channel Whiskey and Black Pearl Rum.
David “Buck” Landry, Ph.D. President, University of Holy Cross
A former member of University of Holy Cross’ Board of Regents, David “Buck” Landry, Ph.D. became the university’s 18th president in 2014. Known for decades as Our Lady of Holy Cross College, the university underwent a name alteration last year and is now known as University of Holy Cross. As president, Landry says his ultimate goal is to make UHC “a regionally recognized university in the Gulf South.”
“We are looking at a five percent growth rate in students,” he says, “and adding new academic programs at the graduate level in health sciences, including a master’s in physician assistant and in biomedical sciences.”
His proudest accomplishment as president so far is getting a new dormitory started last year. Now under construction, the dorm will serve 150 students.
Stephen J. Watson President & CEO, The National WWII Museum
On July 1, Stephen Watson was named the new president and CEO of The National WWII Museum, just as the museum heads into the busiest construction phase in its history.
By early 2018, the plan is to break ground on the Hall of Democracy — which will house new research, education, and media initiatives plus a special exhibits hall — as well as the Bollinger Canopy of Peace and the Higgins Hotel & Conference Center. Following that will be more projects that will eventually quadruple the size of the original museum by 2021.
“At the same time, we are beginning to develop a long-term strategic vision to expand our education and access initiatives to reach audiences both in New Orleans and across the world,” Watson says. “We believe the museum has the opportunity to become the primary, go-to authority on World War II.”