Business leaders share wisdom with young entrepreneurs

Published 12:00 am Wednesday, February 12, 2014

By David Vitrano

LAPLACE – Some of the area’s youngest business owners got some advice from seasoned professionals recently at a CEO Roundtable held at John L. Ory Magnet School in LaPlace.

The event was part of the second round of the River Region Chamber of Commerce’s Young Entrepreneurs Academy and brought business leaders from both St. John the Baptist and St. Charles parishes to share their wisdom as the students, who range from sixth through 12th grade, attempt to get their respective businesses off the ground. The business leaders who took part included: Port of South Louisiana Executive Director Paul Aucoin; First American Bank Sr. Credit Administration Officer Conley Dutreix; Dupont Security Manager/External Affairs Barry Griffin; Louisiana Federal Credit Union President Rhonda Hotard; BC Spa Works/BeautiControl owner Rhonda Louque; and St. John the Baptist Parish President Natalie Robottom.

The 12 students who are part of this year’s class each got a chance to ask the experts a question regarding the business world.

Many of the questions were fairly general in nature and concerned either networking or advice, allowing the experts to draw on their varied backgrounds to tailor the answers to their own particular experience. And if the Young Entrepreneurs learned anything that evening, it was probably that running a business is not a 9-to-5 job and its not a job for wallflowers or those with thin skin.

“Don’t be afraid to fail, and don’t be afraid of success,” said Griffin. “You may fail several times on the road to being successful.”

Persistence seemed to be a common trait among those on the panel.

“Be prepared for bumps in the road,” said Robottom.

 “Everything you do is networking,” added Aucoin.

Keeping a positive outlook also figured highly into the experts’ advice.

“When you’re having a bad day, that’s when everyone’s watching,” said Griffin.

Both Robottom and Dutreix recommended surrounding oneself with positive people, while Hotard said, “Optimism is key. It will get you a long way.”

The dose of realism may be just what the young entrepreneurs needed as they prepare to launch their own businesses, which range from food-related offerings to lawn care to taxidermy and personal robots. The class includes Jacqueline Beisel, Mariah Brown, Julian Charron, Breanna Epperly, Nigel Frere, Jude Guidry, Malik Johnson, Kia Lewis, Mia Meyer, Kaitlyn Cooke, Dyun McKinley and Madeleine Millet.

Prior to the question-and-answer session, past Chamber Chair Mike Palamone introduced the young entrepreneurs and their businesses.

“You all did a great job just by stepping up. You should be real proud,” he said. “Many of us probably wish we had something like this when we were younger.”