As the Junior League of New Orleans (JLNO) celebrates its 95th year of service to the community, its commitment to women’s leadership continues to evolve. Adhering to its recently adopted Issue Based Community Impact model, the League chose women in the economy as one of its main areas of interest several years ago, with a particular focus on female entrepreneurship. It is no secret that on the whole, women make less money than their male counterparts and do not advance as far — or as quickly — in the workplace.
To circumvent these inequities, many women have established their own businesses. As JLNO President Alice Glenn puts it, “If you can’t get promoted into the C-Level suite, then you have to start the company!” Still, this is no easy feat. “Women have less access to capital than men,” explains Alice, an entrepreneur herself. “They often do not enjoy the same kind of networks and insider institutional access that men do.”
With these obstacles in mind, JLNO initiated the Woman Entrepreneur (WE) Fellowship Program in 2016 to support growing women-owned businesses in New Orleans. During the year-long fellowship, one woman-owned business receives access to JLNO members for mentorship and networking, as well as in-kind resources from partners like Fidelity Bank, Trepwise and LaPorte CPAs. In selecting the recipient of this prestigious award, members of the WE Fellowship Committee consider a variety of factors, including each company’s mission statement, social impact, and capacity to benefit from the League’s assistance. Aspiring entrepreneurs themselves, Committee co-chairs Paige Farrell and Kristy Wypych agree that the 2019 cohort of finalists was especially diverse, including owners of an innovative nail salon, a company specializing in plant design and local crafts, a gym focusing on improving women’s fitness while increasing their self-confidence and a marketing firm with mobile backpack advertising.
Ultimately, judges awarded the Fellowship to Lauren Meyerscough, the CEO of Cocktail & Sons, a line of all-natural, handcrafted syrups, cordials and concentrates for the home and commercial bar. A former business formation and compliance attorney, as well as a service industry veteran with a background in bar management and consulting services, Lauren co-founded the company with her husband, Max Messier, who is also an award-winning bartender and spirits consultant. With over 22 years of combined bartending experience, they proudly produce all of their syrups with Louisiana sugarcane, containing no additives, coloring agents or artificial additives. They offer their Core Four line year round, consisting of Spiced Demerara, Oleo Saccharum, Mint & Lemon Verbena and Honeysuckle & Peppercorns. There are two seasonal varieties: King Cake, offered from Epiphany to Mardi Gras, and Watermelon & Thai Basil, appearing on shelves in late summer. Their limited release flavor, Fassionala, coincides with the spring and fall strawberry harvests. They can even create custom syrups for large accounts seeking a taste of something quintessentially New Orleans.
Raised in a family of entrepreneurs, Lauren “grew up thinking that [running a company] was totally normal.” She was never shy about suggesting changes to managers when she was an employee; always taking note of how she could run her own company differently someday. Still, she acknowledges she did face challenges as a woman in business.
“Whether we like it or not,” Lauren says, “men are still seen as the leaders.” She often has to spend time explaining her role in the company before she can describe her actual business to potential customers.
Yet Lauren likes to keep the focus on the unique offerings of Cocktail & Sons. Drawing on the success of what she calls, “the Betty Crocker model,” she suggests most ready-to-drink mixes are too simplistic. “They aren’t able to be customized to any particular palate,” she says, “nor do they give you a particular sense of ownership over your cocktail.” Cocktail & Sons syrups, on the other hand, simultaneously demystify mixed drinks and allow the at-home cocktail crafter to get creative with their beverage. As a bartender in Shreveport once told Lauren, “I love these syrups because they make anyone a good bartender.”
It wasn’t until late 2017, when Cocktail & Sons received the Garden & Gun Magazine Made in the South Award, that Lauren began to enjoy recognition in a wider market. Because these awards usually go to distilleries and breweries, Lauren and her husband were pleasantly surprised when Cocktail & Sons was chosen as a finalist and ultimately won the drink category. “After that,” she says, “we saw a significant boost to our sales that never quite died down.”
Currently, Cocktail & Sons collaborates on various consulting projects across the Gulf South. Although their hearts and ingredients are rooted in Louisiana, their ultimate goal is to branch out across the globe. “Long term, we’re going international,” Lauren proclaims. “Our dream is to be able to send this slice of Louisiana all over the world, so that’s what we’re working toward.” She anticipates the WE Fellowship will help her achieve this goal. “I’m hoping that this partnership with the Junior League can provide mentorship and insight from members in the New Orleans economy to continue to grow our business here and abroad,” says Lauren. In this way, JLNO not only supports women’s entrepreneurship in New Orleans, but also worldwide.
Lauren wants to give back to other up-and-coming female business leaders by sharing insights from her own experience. Lending words of wisdom, she encourages women to stick with it and not take no for an answer.
“If I would have given up the first, second or even hundredth time someone turned me down,” she says, “this company would still be a pipe dream.” She stressed the importance of persistence and truly knowing your customers to best serve their needs. She has been able to turn, “a lot of soft ‘maybes’ into a hard ‘yes’ by understanding the needs of our consumer and being able to pull those solutions out for them.”
Lauren will be able to share this advice on a continual basis through the League’s annual WE Fellowship Alumnae Networking Event, which is open to all women business owners. Although the Fellowship lasts only one year, it provides an enriching, life-long connection among WE Fellowship winners and other women entrepreneurs.
2019 WE Pitch Competition Finalists Included:
Girls Gone Buff, winner of this year’s audience prize, promotes women’s health and wellness through strength and endurance training, as well as instruction in correct exercise techniques.
FAIT | NOLA is New Orleans’ first mobile plant store and design studio, making the natural world accessible and enjoyable for city residents.
Southern Swings Nail Bar and Spa provides a pedicure unlike any other, offering outdoor pedicures on porch swings instead of standard pedicure chairs.
Visionary Entertainment Media Group helps clients increase sales and brand awareness and sustain interest in their products through unique marketing campaigns based on in-person connections using backpack billboards.