While the common understanding when it comes to leadership is that most business owners and CEOS are men, there are more women-owned businesses than many like to believe. Trust me. I am currently vacationing in New Orleans, Louisiana for a week, and the one thing I have noticed in my time here so far is that many businesses—from restaurants to clothing shops, tattoo shops, and more—are actually run by women, with the vast majority being women of color! Like previously, I have decided to make a series documenting women-owned and -ran small businesses in different states that anyone should definitely check out. So, let us dive right into the French Quarter of NOLA!
A big staple in NOLA is the delicious, Creole cuisine throughout the area. Creole blends many cultural styles—French, Haitian, Spanish, German, and more—to make its own authentic taste full of rich flavors. The first stop to make would be the famous Dooky Chase’s restaurant owned by Chef Leah Chase. Known as the Queen of Creole Cuisine, Leah Chase made what was originally a po-boy sandwich shop and lottery ticket cornerstore into one of the first African American fine dining restaurants in the 1950s. In addition to her signature Creole Cuisine, Chase showcased African American art throughout the walls of the restaurant. Dooky Chase’s Restaurant was the first art gallery for black artists in New Orleans. Many influential public figures frequent here, such as former president Barack Obama and retired American Major League Baseball (MLB) right fielder and senior vice president of the Atlanta Braves, Hank Aaron. With many cultural and historical themes, Dooky Chase’s is a must visit!
Next, perhaps if you are feeling a bit spontaneous, book an appointment with Jacci Gresham, owner of and tattooist at Aart Accent Tattoos, the oldest, continuous tattoo business in New Orleans. When established in 1976, Gresham was the only woman tattooing in the area and the only black women tattooing in all of the United States! Gresham draws a range from realistic portraits of lions with wild manes to bubbly cartoon hearts, honeybees and flowers. The tattoo shop is full of friendly vibes and beautiful artwork.
Lastly, when buying a souvenir to take back, make sure to stop by Lauren Leblanc Haydel’s clothing store, Fleurty Girl. Using just $2,000 from her 2009 tax refund, this single mother of three put everything she had into printing t-shirts that celebrated New Orleans, even moving herself and her children into a smaller home. Just six months after launching her online store, she opened her first retail store on the historic Oak Street in NOLA. Today, business is booming, and Haydel now has six Fleurty Girl stores. “I’m glad I was able to show [my kids] what it takes to believe in something, make sacrifices and succeed, and to do it all in the most amazing city in the world. All of the items that Fleurty Girl carries are inspired by New Orleans and most of the items are made by local New Orleanians.
There are a ton more women-owned businesses throughout the French Quarter of New Orleans. Each with their very own inspiring stories underneath. The entire city is full of cultural, historical, and influential aspects that many women have helped build to create what we see today.