In 2016, JLNO embarked on a new initiative supporting the growing entrepreneurship sector in New Orleans and matching the extensive network of the Junior League with emerging women-owned businesses. Through this Woman Entrepreneur Fellowship, a host of innovative, creative and ambitious women-owned businesses competed in the first WE Pitch Competition during New Orleans Entrepreneur Week. While all participants demonstrated the breadth and depth of female ingenuity in entrepreneurship, there was one winner who took the cake—or in this case, the pie. After wowing judges and audience members with their business plan and tantalizing concoctions, Marielle Dupre and Nicole Eiden took their pie-baking business, Windowsill Pies, from pitch to fellowship.
Working with the WE Fellowship committee, Marielle and Nicole were able to not only enhance the visibility and network of their brand, but also further key business elements. As Amanda Goldman, WE Fellowship Committee Chair, said, “The WE Fellowship experience benefited Windowsill in a variety of ways – the business gained more exposure through winning the Pitch at NOEW and through its feature in Lagniappe. Windowsill used the cash prize towards a commercial oven, and the mentorship meetings put Nicole and Marielle in touch with a network of business owners who dispensed invaluable advice on how they could move their business forward.”
Nicole underscored this point further, noting that perhaps the greatest benefit of the WE Fellowship was their ability to advance their federal trademark application, which was just recently approved after nearly a year. Working with the JLNO committee, Nicole and Marielle were connected to the pro-bono legal services of the Chaffe McCall law firm who guided Windowsill Pies through the daunting process. For Windowsill Pies, completing the application wouldn’t have been possible without JLNO’s support. Nicole said, “We would have put it on the back burner and it would probably bitten us in the end.”
In addition to this technical assistance, Nicole and Marielle benefitted from a range of mentorship meetings as well. Amanda said, “We initially met with Windowsill Pies to determine their needs as our WE Fellow. Windowsill Pies initially expressed its interest in scaling its business as a wine and dessert shop. We arranged various mentorship meetings with business owners who provided practical advice from operating stores, accounting and payroll tips, and web design.” As a result of this early assessment, the WE Fellowship committee arranged a particularly memorable meeting for Nicole and Marielle: a four-hour conversation with Jean Stickney, mother of JLNO Active member Rachel Stickney and owner of Praline’s by Jean. Nicole said, “She [Jean] was just so lovely, she talked to us for like four hours and had some great advice.”
Nicole and Marielle are looking forward to their final mentorship meeting through JLNO with the Pelican Club, and are also planning to take advantage of the web design assistance provided through their $2,500 technology grant as part of the WE Fellowship. And though these opportunities in and of themselves are transformative for Windowsill Pies, the exposure and visibility over the past year has created significant returns as well: from the cover story on the Lagniappe last year, Nicole and Marielle were featured in New Orleans Magazine “People to Watch” list and were contestants on a cooking show where they won a $10,000 cash prize.
But despite the extraordinary successes and benchmarks over the past year of the WE Fellowship, Nicole maintains that it is the greatest impacts are the most difficult to track. “It is important to have tangible results—it can’t all be in name only—but some of the best parts are the credibility that winning provides you and having people know about you,” Nicole said. Additionally, the WE Fellowship provided Windowsill Pies with a nuts and bolts understanding of business—clarifying how things work and “demystifying the funding process,” Nicole said. This is especially critical as Windowsill Pies moves towards its ultimate goal of opening their own shop. Nicole said, “When we open our shop we won’t be opening cold—people will know about us. That gives me the confidence to take this risk.”
While Nicole and Marielle continue to work toward a brick and mortar shop—and fans of their pies eagerly await the new establishment—they are equally as excited to see what’s in store for the next WE Fellowship recipient. As a personal friend of this year’s winner, Becky Wasden of Two Girls One Shuck, Nicole is looking forward to seeing where the WE Fellowship can take this new business. “She [Becky] has done so much in a year—it’s going to be really awesome for her!” Nicole said.
Co-Founders Marielle Dupre and Nicole Eiden of Windowsill Pies speak to the audience of NOEW about their unique and delicious pies. Photo by: Evie Hunnicutt