Venture: Element2 Beverage
entrepreneur: Keisha Devaney
Propeller program: 2022 Impact Accelerator (Food)
How did you come up with the product idea?
This was my son’s business. He started as a student project at St. Augustine High School. He passed away tragically in his 2019, so in 2020 his father and I took over the management. While in school, he took a business course, traveled to Coca-Cola and wanted to open a Coke-like beverage business. He did the research, tested it, and then launched it. His product was launched in his 2018. He started this in his 2016 when he was 17 years old. He did research and launched it in his stores in supermarkets and convenience stores around the city. We’re just following the blueprint of what he started.
Tell us about a challenge you experienced in reaching your customers and how you overcame it.
Distribution was a challenge. We have purchased several vehicles and have been able to hire a delivery driver to actually deliver the product and another challenge is the supply he chain issue. All of our products have experienced challenges in obtaining supplies and raw materials. However, we have set aside a warehouse full of products. We have been persistent in calling our suppliers to check and that has helped us overcome that.
Do you have any advice for entrepreneurs entering the consumer goods space?
It’s rewarding. I know it’s hard, but with consistency and persistence, you can succeed. It helps us to provide quality products and quality customer service. We really connect with our acquired customers. CPG requires community involvement in order to acquire customers. Make a presence – it’s hard being on the road. People want great presentation, flavor and your story. I knew nothing about the beverage industry. I have a healthcare background. But I have learned a lot since I inherited it from my son 3 years ago. Take it from me, I’ve learned, and so can you. Take advantage of these resources, both in the city and online.
entrepreneur: LeeSa Maria Rhodes
Propeller program: 2022 Impact Accelerator (Education)
What has been the most successful thing in tackling education inequality?
Organize youth and educators to remove barriers faced by students affected by immigration and/or criminal courts. This summer we launched our first Aspire Fellowship. Our young people have built solidarity across race and immigration status, learned about organizing past and present, met several community groups and leaders, and come up with solutions. Our youth led a district-wide training hosted and attended by NOLA Public Schools educators. In addition, ALAS youth spoke before the Orleans Parish School Board on Superintendent Williams’ initial recommendations for his 100-day plan.
How did you redirect your service during the pandemic?
The pandemic has increased demand for immigration services and created federal restrictions, making it more difficult to connect each student with a lawyer, and courts taking longer to deal with cases. We have turned around by increasing support for educators who pair legal representation with and strengthening and adding new attorney partnerships to underwrite student cases.
What are you most excited about this coming school year?
This year ALAS is excited to train educators at our new and returning partner schools. We have grown to serve 23 of her schools and welcome organizations working with other interested her K-12 schools and K-12 youth. If your school or educational outreach organization is interested in contracting for training, please contact us at: [email protected]
Propeller is a nonprofit organization that helps entrepreneurs grow nonprofits and small businesses to address social and environmental inequalities in New Orleans. For more information, please visit the following URL: gopropeller.org.