Jackie Abston, founder of NOLA T-Shirt of The Month Club. Photo by: Gavin Johnson
According to the 2016-2017 Junior League of New Orleans annual report, approximately 90% of our active members work outside the home. Of those League women in the workplace, many have chosen to follow their passion for self-employment.
From contributing to New Orleans’ booming hospitality industry to providing vital professional services, JLNO entrepreneurs shape our local economy and build our Crescent City community.
Here are three.
NOLA T-Shirt of the Month Club
Jackie Abston founded NOLA T-Shirt of the Month Club with her husband, John. Their company was borne out of their mutual love of New Orleans and an unwavering belief that it is a place like no other. The only way to properly tell that story, they decided, was through fashion.
“We celebrate everything – life, death, food, music,” Jackie said. “We wanted to package the spirit of New Orleans and ship it to people across the country every month. We wanted our business to be more than just a t-shirt company. We wanted it to be a community.”
So, in November 2015, Jackie invested just $20 into placing Facebook ads. She hoped that their growing social media following would translate into customers willing to pay a $15 monthly subscription fee to receive a creative t-shirt reflecting their pride in the city.
It worked. In addition to a long list of subscribers receiving t-shirts from their company in each month, Jackie now operates a retail shop at 3646 Magazine Street. There, customers can choose from a variety of designs, like those depicting the ubiquitous “Geaux Cup” or saluting the beloved Saints quarterback Drew Brees, or they can order custom t-shirts for any occasion.
For Jackie, owning a small business meant relying on the lessons of her childhood: hard work, honesty and living by the “Golden Rule.” These things, she says, have led to her success as an entrepreneur.
“Treating people with kindness and respect seems elementary, but it’s what I live by,” she said. “As a leader, it’s a huge responsibility to practice the behavior you want others to follow.”
Sarah Wild spends each day, as she puts it, “making tomorrow brighter” for non-profit organizations. Her company, Wild Fundraising, develops fundraising strategies to support charitable groups across America, from Girls on the Run New Orleans to McGroarty Arts Center of Tujunga, California.
Founded in 2014, Sarah launched her fundraising businesses while attending graduate school, hoping for a sensible way to earn a living while completing her studies. But instead of it simply serving as a temporary job, fundraising became her long-term career.
“I found my niche, seized the opportunity and built a great deal of momentum that took me not down the public sector path, but into the business world,” she told Lagniappe. “Wild Fundraising is ideal because I can stay connected to causes that inspire me, but also earn a great living and have the flexibility to try new ways of doing business and collaborating with others.”
Wild Fundraising manages “the entire spectrum of grant and sponsorship solicitations for small and mid-sized charities,” which spans from discovering funding opportunities to crafting annual reports. While her office is based in Mid-City, she serves non-profit clients across the country eager to expand their charitable reach through greater funding.
Sarah said “passionate and capable women” have taught her how to overcome adversity and achieve big things in the business world. Learning from their experiences – and her own – have been the key to delivering results for her clients.
“I am afforded the advantage of perspective,” she said. “I have seen this same work over the years from many angles, which helps me to anticipate and be responsive to clients’ needs and expectations.”
Tara CPA Firm, LLC
For Kimberley Tara, entrepreneurship is a key feature on her family tree.
“Growing up, both of my parents had their own businesses, so I guess you could say it’s ‘in my blood,’ she explained to Lagniappe.
But for Kimberly, the appeal of owning her small business was far greater than honoring a family tradition. It allowed her to swap her role in public accounting with self-employment, giving her a solid work-life balance while meeting the unique needs of each client she serves.
As a Certified Public Accountant (CPA) and a Certified Tax Coach (CTC), Kimberly specializes in “proactive tax reduction strategies” to legally save families and businesses as much money as possible. She also performs traditional tax compliance work.
Kimberly views “every client relationship as a partnership,” and she believes that her success is intrinsically connected to the success of her clients. The key to her business, she says, is forming real and lasting relationships with those with whom she works.
“What I love in my current role, versus still working in public accounting, is the direct interaction I get to have with my clients,” she said. “I love working one-on-one with them!”
For Kimberly, the time management skills she employs to keep up with her growing family and volunteer commitments are also useful in assisting her clients whom, like her, multi-task every day.
“As a wife, mom, daughter, friend and business owner, there are just never enough hours in the day. I prioritize my time greatly, so that neither my personal life nor my professional life suffers,” she said. “I bring this same outlook to my clients when I’m working with them on their needs. I understand that they are juggling so many things in a business.”