Her grandfather was a New Orleans advertising executive, so Virginia Saussy figures that promoting her native city is in her blood.
Earlier this year Saussy left her friend Mignon Faget’s jewelry empire to put her considerable marketing talent to work raising the profile and sales of Sucré, a New Orleans-based maker of high-quality desserts Saussy describes as “the ultimate confection experience.”
With two retail stores here, a thriving website and sales to wholesale groceries around the nation, Saussy thinks the 5-year-old firm could well become a national brand.
“Just like Mardi Gras, it’s something that’s a great New Orleans export handcrafted in the city,” Saussy says. “I think the company has amazing potential.”
Saussy, meanwhile, remains busy in her off hours with the all-woman Krewe of Muses, of which she is a charter member and chairman of theme and floats committees.
Wildly successful, with 975 riding members and a waiting list of 1,000, Muses is the most racially and socioeconomically diverse krewe in Mardi Gras, Saussy says proudly.
Muses made it a point to involve people in its parade who used to think they didn’t have a role in Mardi Gras, from the riders themselves to group such as the Pussyfooters, Saussy says. “These women have such enthusiasm; I think they define what the spirit is all about.”
“I think New Orleans is a great city because I think people can change the world from here,” Saussy says. A longtime civic activist, she started the “Broadmoor Lives” campaign when post-Hurricane Katrina flooding ravaged that neighborhood and Mayor Nagin’s Bring New Orleans Back Commission proposed turning large swaths of Broadmoor and other areas of the city into green space.
“I moved back into my house in the fall right after the storm and started gutting and mold remediating,” she says. She got riled up when the city program, she says, told her it would give her $30,000 to move out of her $400,000 home.
“It didn’t devastate us; it pissed us off,” Saussy famously recalls of 2006 after the green space idea went nowhere.
Saussy, who relocated to a house on the Uptown parade route in 2009, is also an active member of Women of the Storm. She has made three trips to Washington, D.C., to lobby.
She is irked that the owners of The Times-Picayune are planning to stop publishing it seven days a week: “The idea of reducing us to three days a week perpetuates the laissez faire attitude we have been fighting since the storm!” says Saussy. “We need a citywide march down St. Charles Avenue or Canal Street showing The Times-Picayune that our community and our city is worthy of a daily paper.”
Mentor: My mother, Marcelle Saussy, is the definition of strength! She has always been my mentor. I have also be very influenced by Mignon Faget, who showed me the power of creativity and my good friend Staci Rosenberg, who taught me never to accept the status quo!
Defining Moment: I have had hundreds of defining moments. Each experience, bad or good, makes us who are. But I think it’s impossible for any of us who lived here the past seven years not to call Hurricane Katrina a defining moment in our lives. It showed me just how much I was capable of, and I had no idea how much that was.
Advice for Young Women: Speak up! Always give your ideas voice!
Goals: My short-term goal is to make Sucré an extremely successful, nationally recognized brand and the next great New Orleans export. My long-term goal is to ensure that the Krewe of Muses continues with the same values we all started it with … commitment to our community and the goal to always throw the most entertaining parade in Mardi Gras!
Favorite Things About What I Do: My favorite thing about Sucré is the team! Joel Dondis and Tariq Hanna are both brilliant, visionary men and we have a team of dynamic young individuals, all confident in the future of this unique place. They make me love going to work every day! My favorite thing about Muses is that every year on the week of the parade I feel like a 5-year-old during Christmas! I can barely sit still until we roll and then I cannot stop smiling the entire route.