JLNO welcomes its first WE Fellowship winner
While American pie might be a ubiquitous term for our country’s favorite dessert, New Orleans has more readily embraced beignets, Bananas Foster or our beloved snowballs as our sweets of choice. After Junior League of New Orleans’ inaugural Woman Entrepreneurship Fellowship (WE Fellowship), all that stands to change. This year’s WE Fellowship winner, Windowsill Pies, is poised to shake up the New Orleans culinary scene with Louisiana-inspired and uniquely New Orleans twists on classic pies.
Windowsill Pies’ co-owners, Marielle Dupré and Nicole Eiden, have been friends from their days waiting tables together at Mat and Naddie’s restaurant, and joined forces more than four years ago to leverage their combined culinary experience and start Windowsill Pies. Between their time together at Mat and Naddies and their first pie venture, each entrepreneur had ample opportunity to hone their abilities in the kitchen. Marielle attended the California Culinary Academy in San Francisco and returned to New Orleans as the assistant Pastry Chef at Bayona restaurant and later worked in the bakery at Whole Foods. Nicole had also been working in the New Orleans restaurant industry and called Marielle with the idea to bake pies.
Windowsill Pies began its operation out of Nicole’s home and rented space at the former Blue Plate Diner. As their business grew and evolved, Nicole and Marielle secured a permanent commercial kitchen space Uptown, and their pies took flight. Through distribution at all New Orleans-area Whole Foods stores, monthly appearances at the Palmer Park Art’s Market, and custom desserts for Dick and Jenny’s and Louisiana Pizza Kitchen restaurants, Windowsill Pies’ unique spins on classic southern pies have quickly become new hallmarks of New Orleans’ culinary ingenuity. “It’s an honor to stand out in a crowded field,” Nicole said.
But with growth comes growing pains. According to Marielle, “We realized the limitations of our current distribution lines this holiday season.” With both proprietors currently baking pies during the day, waiting tables at night and juggling their personal lives, they realized the moment had come to seriously advance their business to the next stage. To do so, they scanned session offerings for the Idea Village’s New Orleans Entrepreneur Week, and came across an ideal opportunity: the JLNO WE Fellowship.
Nicole and Marielle assembled a compelling application, were accepted as one of five finalists in the pitch competition, and then engaged in the hard work of creating a business pitch. “The process alone was invaluable—we felt that no matter what happened, refining our ideas, working through our goals, talking about our goals and working with Kevin Wilkins, owner of Trepwise, a consulting firm that serves entrepreneurs, was amazing,” Nicole said. Having never pitched their business prior to the WE Fellowship, the guidance of Trepwise proved critical. “We know that making pies is the core of our business, but we would skip over that,” Marielle said. Through the refinement and encouragement of the Trepwise team, Marielle and Nicole were prepared to tackle and win the WE Fellowship Pitch Competition.
Nicole and Marielle have high hopes that they will be in their own shop a year from now—“getting more pies in people’s hands,” as Nicole put it—and look forward to working with JLNO to advance their financial, accounting, real estate and marketing skills, while simultaneously building brand awareness in a new audience. Having come so far on their own know-how and talent, Nicole and Marielle’s experience in the WE Fellowship speaks to the assets and opportunities JLNO can provide to female entrepreneurs. “Being part of a structured mentorship is what two DIY-people like us need,” Nicole said.