Bossier Chamber Business Awards
Recognizing the accomplishments of area businesses
What do a community college, a women’s clothing store and a restaurant owner have in common?
All three were recently recognized at the Bossier Chamber of Commerce’s 72nd Annual Gala.
2019 Business, Small Business and Business Person of the Year awards were presented at the CenturyLink Center event.
“It is important to recognize small business owners who take a chance on their dreams and employ many people within our community,” said Chamber president and CEO Lisa Johnson. “It is equally as important to recognize the accomplishments of our larger businesses, which employ large amounts of our workforce and make a large impact on our economy.”
Johnson also emphasized the importance of shining the spotlight on an individual.
“Recognizing a business person each year helps to let our business professionals know that we notice their efforts within their business and the community,” Johnson said. “Even if you don’t like the spotlight, it is always nice to be recognized for the hard work you put in. Many times, the work of our Business Person of the Year serves as inspiration to the rest of our business community.”
BUSINESS OF THE YEAR
Bossier Parish Community College
You probably don’t think of a community college as a business. After all, it doesn’t sell fast food, insurance or lawn mowers.
It sells something more important. An education. “Our business is talent development and meeting the workforce needs of Northwest Louisiana,” said Dr. Rick Bateman, chancellor of Bossier Parish Community College.
However, since 2008, the “business” side of BPCC has become more critical than ever. That’s when state funding began to be severely cut, forcing colleges and universities to find new ways to survive.
“All of higher education has had to operate in a more lean way,” Dr. Bateman said. “What I think we are being recognized for is the way we have become more efficient, while also providing a first-rate product to our customers. Businesses have customers. Our customers are diverse. Our students are our customers. They choose with their purchasing power, whether they have a TOPS scholarship that’s paying for their tuition, or they’re reaching into their own pocket.”
Even though you could make a case for Dr. Bateman’s position being as important as the CEO of a corporation, he prefers to think of himself first as an educator – something he’s been for 27 years.
“Education is still a big part of what we do, but we’re not going to be able to educate the citizens of Northwest Louisiana unless we are more efficient, more productive and better stewards of the resources we have available to us.
Though based in Bossier Parish, BPCC’s mission reaches across parish – and state – lines. The school, which offers classes in a traditional setting as well as online, expects an enrollment of more than 21,000 students for the 2019- 20 academic year.
“Caddo Parish actually sends us more students every year than Bossier Parish,” Dr. Bateman said.
“When we look at a heat map of the students enrolling at BPCC, we notice they come from just about every zip code in the state. In growing numbers, they are coming from East Texas and South Arkansas. We’ve begun to market ourselves as the community college of the Ark-La-Tex. We want folks to see that we are a solution for them, whether they are in the 10 parishes of our primary service area, or even if they’re in another state that we border, or any part of Louisiana. As our online programs grow, we want more and more folks from all over the country to see the value our programs provide.”
SMALL BUSINESS OF THE YEAR
Simply Chic Boutique
Britney Spivey remembers it well – that feeling almost 10 years ago when she and her husband, Paul, opened their own business.
“We were scared to death about just making rent on our thousand square feet,” Spivey recalled.
”I remember thinking it was so awkward to tell people we had named our store Simply Chic Boutique. I literally quit my job as a pharmaceutical rep and bought a car for $1,000 – with no A/C – and drove it for the entire first year while we scraped by.”
Fast forward. The Spiveys have gone from “scraping by” to owning/franchising five Simply Chic Boutique locations – Bossier, Shreveport, Natchitoches, Baton Rouge and Mandeville.
Spivey has a good idea of why the business has been successful. It has nothing to do with location, parking or selection of merchandise.
“There’s a need for women to come in and feel special,” Spivey said. “I really hope that’s what we deliver to our customers. Whether they buy a dress or not, when they leave, they know they were respected and honored in our store, and they leave having a positive experience. I feel like we meet that need in our community – loving on women and supporting women in our community.”
Spivey describes Simply Chic Boutique as a “girly store.”
“We enjoy color and fun prints,” Spivey said. “We definitely try to respect that Bossier is a market where people are not afraid to get a shirt at Old Navy or Target, so we like to keep our price points affordable. We really dress girls from their teenage years, all the way to – we have customers in their 70s. We try to do plus sizes as well, so it’s every shape, size, background and ethnicity to represent every woman.
Even though Simply Chic Boutique has expanded beyond Bossier, the success of its first location – in Spivey’s hometown – is extra special for the Airline High School and Northwestern State University graduate.
“I was loved and raised in this community,” Spivey said, “so it’s nice to come back and build a business here.” She added, “(The award) is sweet, because it’s recognition that we’ve made a mark and maybe we’ve made a difference in people’s lives. We’ve been honored that the community has supported us for 10 years, so it’s kind of the cherry on top.”
BUSINESS PERSON OF THE YEAR
When Beau Hays decided to expand his popular food truck business to a brick-andmortar restaurant, he could have chosen any location.
He settled on what at the time was a renovated – and largely unproven – East Bank District.
“The proximity to the casinos, the access to I-20, and the fact there are 1,900 hotel rooms within a half-mile,” Hays said, explaining his decision. “It made sense that little area would do a lot more than it was doing. For us, we just kind of took a chance.”
That “chance” has turned into success. BeauxJax Crafthouse is one of two businesses (Frozen Pirogue is the other) Hays owns in the District. Plus, he has an interest in a third District business, Bayou Axe.
One of the reasons Hays’ businesses are doing well is that he knows his audience and has tailored his offerings to their wants.
“We draw a little bit of an older clientele,” Hays said. “People with families, 35-55, they have kids, probably go to church on Sunday,” Hays said. “They come out and have a good time on the weekend, grab a bit to eat during the week. I think it’s a good fit for Bossier.”
But Hays sees even more potential for the District.
“I think of a familyfriendly Beale Street (in Memphis),” Hays said. “It’s family-friendly during the day, and later in the evening, it becomes kind of a nightlife scene.”
And it sounds like Hays is close to contributing again to that vision.
“We’ve got some plans in the chute for some things we want to do to really kick up the live music scene,” Hays said. “We’re looking at those lots behind us to potentially put in an amphitheater right behind all three of our businesses. We feel like that would draw a lot of tourism traffic. The idea is to build that whole area into a destination.”
While Hays is very appreciative of his recent recognition from the Chamber, he wants to make one thing clear.
“This is very much a team effort,” Hays said. “I just didn’t like this being an individual award. There’s a lot of hard
work that came from a lot of people to get us as far as we have come.”