Home / Features / Business / MBOA Minority Business Opportunity Awards
Tuesday, June 11, 2024

MBOA Minority Business Opportunity Awards



Each year, the Business Development Connection of the Greater Shreveport Chamber celebrates outstanding business owners and professionals who are making a difference in our community through the Minority Business Opportunity Awards, presented by Willis Knighton Health.

These awards celebrate the tenacity, innovation and diversity that exist in the Northwest Louisiana business community and highlight the leadership and passion that drive local entrepreneurs to build businesses of substance and impact. As you will see in the following pages, this year’s honorees are no exception.

We are delighted to be honoring Maxine Sarpy as the Lifetime Achievement Award Recipient and Yokem Toyota as the Business of the Year Recipient.

This year’s class of honorees for our Emerging Business of the Year, Small Business Owner of the Year, Top Business Professionals of the Year and Non-Profit Professionals of the Year include a rich tapestry of entrepreneurs as well as educators and non-profit executives. Each of these individuals represents a relentless determination to expand opportunities for others and contribute to improving our community.

We hope you will join us on Thursday, June 13, at 6:30 p.m. to celebrate our honorees and hear their stories. For reservations or more information, please visit https://www.shreveportchamber.org or call 318-677-2500.

Lifetime Achievement Award

Mrs. Maxine Elizabeth Prescott Sarpy, a native of Houston, Texas, was raised in Houston and El Paso. In 1962, she made history as one of the first African American students to graduate from the University of Texas School of Nursing in Galveston, Texas. After graduation, she served as an instructor at the university until her marriage to Dr. Joseph Sarpy Jr. in 1963 and moved to Shreveport, La. Within weeks of relocating, she became involved in the local Civil Rights Movement by rendering medical assistance, alongside her husband, to the Rev. Dr. Harry Blake at Little Union Baptist Church.

In 1966, Sarpy was one of two individuals invited from each of the 13 Southern states to participate in a conference in Washington, D.C., to discuss the implementation of the Voting Rights Act. Upon her return to Shreveport, she spearheaded efforts at Little Union to organize a group to work with several churches to bring federal registrars to the area to assist African Americans in registering to vote. This initiative significantly increased the number of registered black voters.

In 1968, her activism continued with the integration of downtown businesses and helped manage the first picket line protesting discriminatory hiring practices. In 1970, she joined her husband and other activists in founding BULL (Blacks United for Lasting Leadership), initiating a lawsuit to reform Shreveport’s city government to provide opportunities for African Americans to serve on the city council. In 1984, Sarpy’s tireless advocacy culminated in her historic appointment as the first woman to serve on the City Council.

Throughout her life, Sarpy’s impact reverberates through numerous civic, corporate and community organizations, including the Caddo-Bossier Port Commission, where a street is named in her honor, Sarpy Boulevard, Shreveport Mayor’s Women’s Commission, the Community Foundation of Northwest Louisiana, the State Fair of Louisiana board, SWEPCO, University Health System, the Board of Christians and Jews, and served as a past president of the Parish Council. She is a charter member and past president of the Shreveport Chapter of The Links, Incorporated, founding member and past president of the Inner-City Entrepreneur Institute, and a proud life member of Alpha Kappa Alpha Sorority Inc. As a Eucharistic minister and lecturer, her commitment to service extends to her church and various organizations.

Despite her numerous accomplishments, Sarpy’s greatest pride is in her family. She has one daughter, Dr. Julie Marie Sarpy Walford, and husband Lawrence, and one “God-given” son, Mark Danny LaCour, and wife Alana, along with two granddaughters and four great-grandchildren, numerous nieces and nephews, and her beloved cat, Georgiana Sarpy. To this day, her love for her family and community, coupled with her unwavering dedication to justice and change, continues to guide her in the fight for justice and equality, always with love and peace.

2024 MBOA Honorees

The Business Development Connection (BDC) of the Greater Shreveport Chamber will honor outstanding business owners and professionals who are making a difference in our community at the Minority Business Opportunity Awards (MBOA) Dinner, presented by Willis Knighton Health System. The event will be held on June 13 at Sam’s Town Hotel & Casino.

Emerging Business

of the Year Honorees

Circle M Productions — Madison Keen
High Gravity Glassworks — Michelle Pennington
Kids College STEAM Early Learning Center — Dr. Katraya Williams & Benji Williams
TITLE Boxing Club Shreveport — Brent Smith

Small Business Owner

of the Year Honorees

Wesley Eckles — Wesley Eckles State Farm
Chauncy Horton — SNA Contracting, LLC

Top Business Professional

of the Year Honorees

Lyndsi Alvarez — Precision Waste Solutions
Golden A. Ellis — Rhodes Realty, LLC
Kamala Glenn-Taylor, PhD, LMFT — Brentwood Hospital
Marie Nicole Johnson-Watts — Overton Brooks VAMC
Erin Smith — LSU Shreveport
Delanee Wade — Southern University at Shreveport

Non-Profit Professional

of the Year Honorees

Emily Hamann — American Rose Society
Jacob McCarty — Volunteers for Youth Justice
Andrea McKnight — David Raines Community Health Centers
Dayana Reanez Nye — NWLA SHRM
Adia Garrick Wells — Ignite Classical School
Alison Young — Louisiana Association for the Blind

Business of the Year

Yokem Toyota

Lifetime Achievement Award

Maxine Sarpy

Business of the Year

Since 1970, Yokem Toyota has been a trusted, family-owned cornerstone of the Shreveport automotive scene. Offering a diverse array of new Toyota models alongside a carefully selected inventory of quality pre-owned vehicles from various manufacturers, Yokem Toyota caters to a wide range of customer needs and preferences. Beyond sales, they provide comprehensive vehicle service options and operate a collision center capable of handling all makes and models.

Yokem Toyota is deeply committed to personal service and community involvement. It strives to create a welcoming and efficient customer experience at every visit. The knowledgeable team is dedicated to assisting customers in finding the perfect vehicle and maintaining their cars in excellent condition.

They place a high value on building lasting relationships within the community, ensuring each customer feels valued and connected. With decades of experience, Yokem Toyota upholds a tradition of automotive excellence, contributing positively to local development and sustaining its reputation as a reliable and respectful business in Shreveport. They continue to adapt and innovate, ensuring they meet the evolving needs of their customers while maintaining the warm, family-oriented service that has defined their business for over 50 years.

Emerging Business

Circle M Production: Madison Keen

Madison Keen is the owner and CEO of Circle M Production. Circle M’s mission is to help business owners and entrepreneurs strategically present themselves as experts in their fields by providing them with a consistent brand identity. They assist their customers in building and maintaining a polished brand that attracts ideal clients. Circle M provides an elevated professional presence with personalized social media management, website design and branding photoshoots.

At Circle M, every brand has a unique story to tell. Their goal is to help clients tell their stories in a professional, concise and memorable way. They take the time to get to know clients and their businesses so that they can develop a tailored marketing strategy that truly reflects their vision and goals. Circle M’s team provides excellent customer service, and they make the process of creating content easy and fun!

High Gravity Glassworks: Michelle Pennington

High Gravity Glassworks, owned by Michelle Pennington, is a glassblowing studio offering educational workshops to the public. Participants engage in the entire process of crafting a piece of glass art. Additionally, the studio provides intensive courses tailored for individuals seeking comprehensive instruction in glassblowing techniques, encompassing basic blowing and sculpting methods.

As part of its commitment to serve as a platform for artists to exhibit and sell their creations, High Gravity showcases works by various artists, complementing the studio’s offerings. Among its services, the studio specializes in memorial art, which incorporates cremation ashes into artworks. Furthermore, couples can celebrate their love by combining glass colors at their wedding ceremony and allowing staff to use their mix to create their forever work of art.

Kids College STEAM Early Learning Center: Dr. Katraya Williams and Benji Williams

Dr. Katraya and Benji Williams own Kids College STEAM Early Learning Center. Kids College’s mission is to prepare today’s young minds for tomorrow’s leadership opportunities by partnering with families and the community. They strive to provide a safe and nurturing environment where each child has equitable access to a high-quality foundation for learning.

Focusing on science, technology, engineering, arts and mathematics (STEAM), Kids College encourages creativity, critical thinking and collaboration. It is shaping the leaders of tomorrow, instilling in them the values of integrity, empathy and resilience. With a strong foundation built on knowledge, character and a growth mindset, the young minds of today at Kids College are well-equipped to embrace the challenges and opportunities that the future holds.

Their vision is to help eliminate opportunity inequalities and leave a legacy of lifelong learners.

TITLE Boxing Club Shreveport: Brent Smith

In May 2022, Brent Smith opened a TITLE Boxing Club in Shreveport. The club offers signature boxing classes that focus on fitness, stamina, confidence and stress relief.

Brent was first introduced to TITLE Boxing Club during a trip to Texas. After returning to Louisiana, he couldn’t find a boxing workout compared to his experience. Smith knew there was an opportunity to bring TITLE Boxing Club to Northern Louisiana and signed on to bring a location to his hometown of Shreveport. Brent is a Shreveport native and a proud alum of CE Byrd High School, Grambling State University and Louisiana State University-Shreveport.

Small Business Owner

Wesley Eckles: Wesley Eckles State Farm

Wesley Eckles owns Wesley Eckles State Farm. The company has been providing exceptional service to the Shreveport-Bossier community since 2014. Their mission is to be the heartbeat of our community and to embrace the responsibility of being present and depended upon, just like a good neighbor! As the owner of Wesley Eckles State Farm, Wesley is passionate about seeing others grow and reach higher heights.

Wesley Eckles State Farm assists families with auto, home, renters, life, retirement planning and supplemental medical insurance. Over the past few years, the agency has increased its staff to eight full-time and six part-time members. May 2024 marked the agency’s 10th anniversary.

Chauncy Horton: SNA Contracting

Chauncy Horton, owner of SNA Contracting, is a third-generation contractor and community builder in Shreveport. He continues a legacy established by his grandfather, Johnny Horton Sr., a pioneering African American contractor and pastor. Inspired by his example, Chauncy has dedicated himself to positively impacting his community. His commitment to Shreveport’s growth and well-being shines through from organizing events to serving and leading initiatives.

After graduating from CE Byrd High School and LSU Baton Rouge, Mr. Horton has equipped himself with the skills and knowledge to contribute meaningfully to the city’s development. With a deep-rooted connection to Shreveport and a passion for community betterment, he stands as a beacon of hope and progress, carrying forward his family’s tradition of excellence and service.

Top Business Professional

Lyndsi Alvarez

Lyndsi Alvarez has been with Precision Waste Solutions (PWS) since 2012. She was finishing a dual degree program in environmental science/marine biology and quickly decided that she could not only help grow women’s roles in the waste and recycling industry but also advance sustainability efforts for the company and its clients.

Over the past 12 years, her role has progressed from an entry-level accounting role to a regional sales manager to the vice president, then president and now CEO. She has carefully chosen her all-women executive team. PWS is one of the country’s first women-owned and -managed waste and recycling consulting firms, and it operates at a national level.

Golden A. Ellis

Golden Ellis is a distinguished Realtor known for her exceptional real estate achievements. With a proven track record as a top producer, she’s lauded for her client dedication and real estate acumen. Beyond her professional success, Golden actively contributes to community service. As a board member for the Girl Scouts of Louisiana-Pines to the Gulf and secretary for the Shreveport-Bossier African American Chamber of Commerce, she empowers young women and fosters economic growth. Her involvement in The Junior League of Shreveport-Bossier Inc. and The Elk’s Lodge #122 Auxiliary underscores her commitment to philanthropy. Through her non-profit, Golden Angels, she champions financial literacy.

With over a decade in banking, Golden’s expertise enriches her real estate guidance. She lives in Shreveport with her family, and her multifaceted background reflects her dedication to positive impact.

Kamala Glenn-Taylor, PhD

Kamala Glenn-Taylor, PhD, currently serves as the director of clinical services for Brentwood Hospital in Shreveport, La. She is a licensed marriage and family therapist and holds certifications as a certified dialectical behavior therapist and certified clinical trauma professional. She is trained in Somatic Attachment, EMDR and Dissociation.

Kamala is an adjunct marriage and family therapy professor at Abilene Christian University. She is also co-CEO of KW Ministries, which aims to help people with a “Desperate Cry” through resources that include devotional series, motivational blogs and therapy services. She is the author of “Reaching People with a Desperate Cry: Eight Coping Skills to Heal” and “Reaching People with a Desperate Cry: A Therapeutic Approach to Finding Who You Are Meant to be.”

Marie Nicole Johnson-Watts

Marie Nicole Johnson-Watts is a native of Chicago, Ill., and has epitomized the practice and principles of servant leadership throughout her professional career, offering 12 years of services such as housing/employment support, community outreach and addiction/mental counseling. She has a Bachelor of Arts degree from Grambling State University, a Master of Science from Grand Canyon University and a Postmaster of Science in Marriage and Family Therapy.

Mrs. Johnson-Watts serves as an HR specialist at veteran affairs VISN 16 and is dedicated to enhancing both the veteran and employee experience. Mrs. Johnson-Watts is the CEO of Beyond Grace, LLC, which provides supportive services to youth. Marie Nicole is married to Willie Watts and has two beautiful children, Kayleigh and Xavier.

Erin Smith

Erin Smith is an accomplished certified digital marketing professional and leader who has made it her mission to make more room at the table for other women, people of color and LGBTQ+ individuals.

While often behind the scenes or done quietly, her community involvement aims to set a good example for her two children and others in her circle of influence. Her caring heart and hopeful spirit, coupled with her wicked determination, have led her to where she is. Erin is the director of media and public relations at LSU Shreveport and a co-owner of Maltshop Marketing. She is married to her best friend, Robert Smith, and has two children, Tristyn and Gavyn.

Dellanee Wade

Dellanee Wade is a graphic designer, businesswoman and instructor based in Louisiana. She and her business partner launched their creative agency, Maltshop Marketing, in 2019. In addition to her business, Dellanee is an adjunct instructor at the University of Louisiana at Monroe (ULM), the University of Arkansas at Monticello (UAM) and Southern University at Shreveport (SUSLA).

Inspired by the design world, Dellanee’s work allows her to explore the qualities of visual material through image-making techniques to improve the communities in which we live and work while displaying an authentic commitment to diversity, equity and inclusion. Dellanee is heavily involved, from solo exhibitions to professional organizations, where she continues to be a powerful force to evoke change and inspire those who once felt they could not CAN.

Non-Profit Professional

Emily Hamann

Emily is a photographer, graphic/web designer and social media/digital advertising specialist with over 15 years of experience. She currently runs her LLC, Social Butterfly Advertising & Design, and works with the American Rose Society.

As the “social butterfly,” if you know her, you know she has her hands in quite a few SBC projects, businesses and non-profits/organizations. The most recent endeavor is Out of the Closet, a free community closet focused on gender affirmation and her work with the Krewe of Highland and their neighborhood.

In the last 15 years, she’s come to know and love Shreveport more than she thought possible. She feels lucky to be part of a growing community of impressive people with whom she can learn and collaborate.

Jacob McCarty

Jacob McCarty currently serves as the director of Families in Need of Services for Volunteers for Youth Justice. He is originally from Cotton Valley, La., but has lived in Shreveport with his wife, Shelby, and daughter, Athena, for the last 10 years. Jacob absolutely loves our city.

Jacob’s career has mainly been in the ministry and service-related sectors. At 19, he was accepted to his first youth ministry job and has known since a young age that his calling was to love people and show them that they were worth something. He has been involved in non-profit work since 2016 and is very committed to ensuring our city’s people feel loved and valued. He is also the student minister for a local church, ClearView Church.

Andrea McKnight

Andrea McKnight serves as development director for David Raines CHC, advocating for quality health care for the underserved in Northwest Louisiana across four parishes. In addition to promoting health care services to meet the needs of communities in health care deserts, Andrea also capitalizes on her passion for philanthropy by initiating outreach that gives back to those communities in need. Her career path has given her a unique position to pour back into the community she calls home and find purpose in helping others.

Andrea also owns a consulting firm that specializes in cultivating brand identity and organizational culture for national and local businesses. Her firm particularly focuses on elevating the brand and culture of non-profits, small businesses and minority-owned businesses.

Dayana Reanez Nye

Dayana Reanez Nye currently serves as the president of NWLA-SHRM. With an impressive 20-year career in HR, she has made significant contributions to the field. Her expertise and dedication have left a lasting impact.

She is also the board outreach director for the HHA and Toastmasters Club 718.

Dayana received the prestigious SHRM National Pinnacle Award for her outstanding contributions to advancing the HR profession for the project Northwest Shreveport Inclusion, which she created and implemented. In 2018, Dayana was honored with the HR Community from NWLA -SHRM for implementing the first diversity and inclusion conference in NWLA SHRM.

She is also the director of the Area People Central Region for a national company, TSC. Dayana holds a BE in educational leadership and administration. Her educational background has undoubtedly shaped her leadership journey.

Adia Garrick Wells

Adia Garrick Wells, a graduate of Hampton and Georgetown universities, has been in education since 2011 after completing medical school and is the founder and head of the Ignite Classical School. She previously worked at Esperanza College of Eastern University as a department head. This opportunity led to a lead clinician/behavioral health position in the school system, where she counseled children and families from kindergarten to age 19.

In preparation for the launch of Ignite Classical School, Mrs. Wells taught a sixth-grade class at a local classical school and K-3rd special education classes. After completing her state certification requirements, she started a doctoral program in Christian education that will be completed in December 2024. She also participated in a three-year classical apprenticeship and two school founder fellowship programs to solidify Ignite Classical School. Adia and her husband, Robert, have two sons.

Alison Young

Alison Young is the vice president of development for the Louisiana Association for the Blind (LAB). With over 20 years of leadership experience in the Shreveport-Bossier community, her biggest achievements and impact have been during her six-year tenure with LAB. Her passion for telling LAB’s story propelled her to lead development, marketing, public relations and e-commerce efforts.

Alison is a powerful force in the workplace and uses her assets and abilities to serve all team members and departments within the organization. Alison is passionate about her faith and is inspired daily by her husband of 22 years and her 15-year-old son.


The Forum News