Minority Business Opportunity Awards
Greater Shreveport Chamber recognizes diversity, leadership
Each year the Greater Shreveport Chamber celebrates outstanding business owners and professionals who are making a difference in our community through the Minority Business Opportunity Awards. These awards celebrate the tenacity, innovation and diversity in Shreveport-Bossier and highlight the leadership and passion that drives 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 Mr. Roy Griggs of Griggs Enterprise as our Lifetime Achievement Award Recipient. This award recognizes an individual who, throughout their long career, consistently exemplifies the highest standard of professional excellence and has dedicated many years to providing service to our community.
We will also name Sam’s Town Hotel and Casino as our Business of the Year Recipient. This award recognizes those businesses in our community that create opportunities for minority individuals and has a strong philanthropic commitment to the region.
Our 2021 celebration will be extra special because we will be holding it in-person at Sam’s Town Hotel & Casino. This is our first in-person evening event in more than a year, and we are looking forward to finally being able to celebrate with handshakes, high-fives and maybe even a few hugs. We hope you will join us on Thursday, June 17, at 6:30 p.m. to honor these great businesses and terrific individuals. For tickets or more information, please visithttps://www.shreveportchamber.org or call 318-677-2524.
– Timothy J. Magner, Ed.D., President Greater Shreveport Chamber
Lifetime Recipient of the Year Roy Griggs
Roy Griggs is CEO and owner operator of Griggs Enterprise Inc. Throughout his career, his focus has been on driving results through collaboration, partnerships and relationships. Mr. Griggs continues to make contributions, not only within the Shreveport-Bossier community where he lives but within the wider business and economic landscape of the Ark-La- Tex.
Mr. Griggs holds positions on numerous boards, including an appointment by Gov. John Bel Edwards to the Louisiana State Racing Commission, serving as president of the Port of Caddo-Bossier Commission, president of the Boy Scouts of America/ Norwela Council, as well as membership in Rotary Club, the Greater Shreveport Chamber and the Shreveport- Bossier African-American Chamber of Commerce. His philanthropic contributions include serving as title sponsor of the Shreveport Regional Arts Council, Mardi Gras Krewe of Harambee and Chef Orlando Chatman Golf Tournament as well as supporting contributions to the Junior League, Committee of 100 and Sheriff’s Safety Town, among others. In April of this year, a $2 million campaign was launched to establish the Roy Griggs School of Business at Southern University Shreveport.
To increase transparency in the Shreveport Police Department and bridge the gap between the force and its citizens, Mr. Griggs founded The Concerned Business People of Shreveport. This group raised $200,000, which was presented to the city of Shreveport to purchase body cameras for the Shreveport Police Department.
During the COVID-19 pandemic, Mr. Griggs’ McDonald’s provided 1,150 meals to front line workers at LSU Oschner Medical Center, provided over 1,000 Be Our Guest cards to firefighters and EMS workers, and sponsored Coffee with a Cop held in Jefferson, Texas, and Shreveport with both police chiefs in attendance.
Roy’s robust energy drives him to serve the community with a passion as he continues to make a transformative impact on the lives of others.
Business of the Year Recipient Sam’s Town Hotel & Casino
Sam’s Town Hotel & Casino is one of Shreveport’s favorite gaming entertainment destinations. They operate a 30,000-square-foot casino with about 1,000 slot machines and 16 table games, a 514-room hotel, three restaurants and a convention center. The hotel and casino are a major tourism destination attracting hundreds of thousands of visitors each year to downtown Shreveport.
Promoting diversity and inclusion has always been an important part of the Boyd Gaming and Sam’s Town culture. The property is named after Sam Boyd, who was one of the first casino owners in Las Vegas to promote diversity and job opportunities for all. Boyd Gaming was recently recognized as the highest-rated gaming company in Forbes magazine’s list of America’s Best Employers for Diversity and are proud to continue Sam’s legacy to this day.
Sam’s Town is a major employer, providing good-paying jobs for hundreds of people in our community. They spend millions of dollars each year with local businesses, providing small and mid-size businesses opportunities to grow and prosper. They are proud to be a part of this community and are committed to ensuring that Shreveport-Bossier is a better place because Sam’s Town is a part of it.
TOP BUSINESS PROFESSIONAL OF THE YEAR HONOREES
Cathy Gates, Jean Simpson Personnel Services Inc.
Cathy was born and raised in Louisiana and has lived and worked in Shreveport- Bossier for 39 years. She has led a successful business development and management career and is currently employed by Jean Simpson Personnel Services as a customer relations manager.
Cathy has served as a Chamber Diplomat since 2009 and on the Advisory Board for seven years. A four-time recipient of the Diplomat of the Year Award and a recipient of the Chamber VIVA Award, she is also a longtime member of BOMA. She has served as administrative executive for the board since 1998. She is a past recipient of BOMA Allied Member of the Year.
Cathy attributes her successes in life to her faith, family and the connections she has made through years of community involvement.
Felicia Lynn Bell, City of Shreveport
Felicia Bell was born at Dover AFB, Del. She was a “military brat” until her dad retired with 30 years of service from Barksdale AFB in 1991. She graduated with honors from Bossier High School in 1984 and graduated from Louisiana State University in Shreveport with a Bachelor of Science degree in management and administration in 1989. She has been a dedicated employee with the city of Shreveport’s Department of Community Development, Bureau of Housing and Business Development, as a management assistant for 24 years.
Ravon Dominique, MHA, BSN, RN, Brentwood Hospital
Ravon Dominique is an authentic leader with high regard for the needs of her subordinates and those who have entrusted their behavioral health needs to her care. As a native of Shreveport, La., Ravon is driven by the need for additional mental health services and awareness in the Shreveport/Bossier City area.
As a strategic business partner in her role as chief nursing officer at Brentwood Hospital, Ravon plans and implements processes to provide the community with exemplary mental health services.
Rene’ Whitaker Davis, SWEPCO
Rene’ Whitaker Davis was born and raised in Shreveport, grew up in the Pine Valley neighborhood, and graduated from Captain Shreve High School. After high school, she relocated to Houston, Texas, to attend the Houston School of Court Reporting, where she graduated as a court stenographer. After graduation, she returned to Shreveport. She has been with SWEPCO for over 24 years and serves as the customer operations supervisor.
Valarie Jamison, Parish of Caddo
Valarie Jamison has been a procurement professional and business executive in the Shreveport-Bossier community for more than 20 years. Valarie is the purchasing manager for the parish of Caddo, where she is responsible for purchasing all goods, services and contracts on a best price/ best quality basis. She is also the company’s representative for their Advantage Caddo Program, where she advocates and promotes small and emerging businesses throughout the city and state. By supporting these businesses, Valarie provides them with technical and professional assistance. She connects them to business opportunities locally and statewide, which in turn lead to job creation and economic growth.
Valarie formed the Riverboat Procurement Round Table that was highly recognized by the Louisiana Gaming Division of Louisiana Attorney General’s Office. This program successfully formed relationships between vendors, buyers and community leaders and has now expanded to the public sector.
NONPROFIT PROFESSIONAL OF THE YEAR HONOREES
Carly Koen, United Way of Northwest Louisiana
Carly Koen is the vice president of donor relations for United Way of Northwest Louisiana, where she is empowered to change lives by connecting donors’ passions to our community’s greatest needs.
Carly grew up in Longview, Texas, and attended Austin College in Sherman, Texas. Upon graduation, she joined Teach for America, a nonprofit that confronts educational inequity by placing teachers in underserved communities across the nation. Carly was placed in the Mississippi Delta, where her work with students sparked a lifelong passion for education and nonprofit service.
Erica McCain, MA, CNM, Dress for Success Shreveport-Bossier
Erica McCain is a native of Shreveport, La., and received her BA and MA from Southern University A&M College in Baton Rouge, La., and a certification in nonprofit management, emphasizing philanthropy from Texas A&M University-College Station, Texas. Erica has served as the executive director for Dress for Success since June 2018, bringing over nine years of experience in the nonprofit sector. Her skill set ranges from organization advocacy and community liaison to fund development and economic growth.
McCain was the 2014 National Philanthropy Day Chair for North Louisiana, an event that recognizes leading philanthropists in the area.
Taylor Jamison, Strategic Action Council
Taylor Jamison is a native of Shreveport, La., and a graduate of the University of Louisiana at Monroe. Taylor joined the Strategic Action Council & Minority Supplier Institute staff in 2014 as the director of strategic and corporate partnerships and was promoted to executive director in 2018. Taylor brings a wealth of experience in community outreach, government relations and external affairs. Taylor also serves as director of marketing and client relations for Blanchard, Walker, O’Quin & Roberts, PLC. From his experience working with SB Sports Commission, Southern Strategy Group and the city of Bossier, Taylor understands the importance of the intersection between policy and politics.
Verni Wright Howard, Providence House
Verni Howard is a native of Shreveport and the daughter of the Rev. and Mrs. C. F. Williams. She is a graduate of Caddo Magnet High and LSU, where she earned BS and MPA degrees. After more than 18 years of corporate and nonpro fit banking experience, including with Regions Bank, Whitney Bank and JPMorgan Chase, Verni became the executive director of Providence House in December 2015. Since that time, education and workforce development have been her two primary initiatives. In 2019, an extension of BPCC was erected at Providence House, open to residents and the community. Providence House is also the only 4-STAR Child Development Center in Caddo Parish.
Verni believes that education and job skills are the tools needed to break the homeless cycle … permanently. Verni has been a finalist for numerous awards including the Virginia Shehee Influential Woman Award and the Athena Award, and is a recipient of the Blue Cross Blue Shield Angel Award. She is a Rotary Club Paul Harris Fellow, a member of the Louisiana 4-H Foundation’s board of directors, Christus Highland Quality, Strategic Planning/Finance Committees, the Choice Neighborhood Implementation Advisory Group, Bancorp South CRA Advisory Group and an ex-officio member of the board of Providence House.
EMERGING BUSINESS OF THE YEAR HONOREES
LaTonya Mister SOW & REAP Physical Therapy, LLC.
Dr. LaTonya Mister, DPT, is a native of Mississippi and a military spouse. She started SOW & REAP Physical Therapy, LLC in 2019. Dr. Mister decided to name the clinic SOW & REAP because she has a passion for both women’s health and orthopedic physical therapy. SOW stands for Strength Of a Woman and is the women’s health and pelvic health side of the clinic. Dr. Mister also offers holistic treatments for women’s reproductive issues on the SOW side of the clinic called yoni steaming and yoni eggs. REAP is the orthopedic side of the clinic where traditional physical therapy is provided. Mister is also certified in dry needling, and that service is offered on both sides of the clinic.
Paul Anthony Pratt, Paul Pratt Allstate Agency
Paul Pratt Allstate Agency is a new start-up exclusive scratch agency with a professional focus on statewide insurance and financial services. Paul owns and operates P-Square & Associate Inc., a Louisiana corporation that Paul Pratt Allstate Agency opened on April 1, 2019. Allstate is an American insurance company that has been operating for more than 90 years. In addition, Paul operates Pratt & Associates, a fullservice lobbying firm specializing in Louisiana local and state governmental issues and community relations. Pratt navigates corporate clients through complex and complicated legislative matters with a proven track record.
Paul is an Allstate Agency owner in Shreveport, La., and was formerly employed with Chesapeake Energy Corporation for nearly 10 years as the director of corporate development and government relations in the Haynesville Shale.
SMALL BUSINESS OWNER OF THE YEAR HONOREES
Dana Jeter Williams, Jeter Therapy Group
Dana Jeter Williams, a Zwolle native, owns the Jeter Therapy Group, a multidisciplinary clinic specializing in speech, occupational and physical therapy for both adults and children. Jeter Therapy Group has seasoned clinicians trained to work with various deficits, including autism, hearing loss, developmental delays, neurological disorders, stroke patients, dementia, swallowing, fine/gross motor delays and voice disorders. Dana became a speechlanguage pathologist after one of her daughters was born deaf and said she “wanted to understand how to help her, and that led me to help others.”
Dana Williams, whose passionate and determined personality fits her profession perfectly, has special training in many areas of speech language pathology. She opened her clinic to fulfill the need for quality therapy services in not only the Shreveport-Bossier area but the surrounding rural areas and is offering parents/children in outlying communities speech-language, feeding, voice and aural rehabilitation services
Dr. Joslin Mar-Dai Pickens, Vegans on the Run
Vegans on the Run is a family-owned and -operated 100% vegan, organic comfort food experience. As foodies, they understand how important it is to capture the taste of Grandma’s kitchen, full of flavor while maintaining a compassionate alternative without causing any harm to any of our animal or human friends. Customers never have to worry about what is in the food. People often ask why they make traditional foods with a vegan twist, and their answer is simple: “We are human and humane.”
Due to the pandemic and COVID-19 safety, they are currently operating as a curbside pick-up eatery, opened for lunch. Customers can enjoy daily themed lunches like Taco Tuesday, Wing Wednesday, Meat-Free Friday, Sunday Brunch and Soul Food Sundays, along with special event catering, private chef services, social media cooking segments and meal preparation service.
Richanjit Sidhu, Super S Stores
Mr. Sidhu is an experienced executive with a diverse background. His company owns and operates multiple gas stations with convenience stores in the Shreveport metropolitan area, all of which were built within the last five years. Before moving to the Shreveport area, he had a successful IT consulting practice in Washington, D.C. He provided consulting services to multiple government agencies such as the Department of Homeland Security and Department of State.
Sarah Smith, MA, CCC-A, Better Hearing Systems of Northwest LA, LLC
Better Hearing Systems of Northwest LA was established in July 2006 in Bossier City to give people personalized hearing health care. This business has grown under the supervision of Sarah Smith, MA, CCC-A to now be a twolocation practice to assist more people with their hearing needs.
Sarah Smith joined the audiology community to allow everyone to hear all of life’s important moments while restoring a person’s hearing to gain independence and be more socially connected to others. Her goal is to provide the best hearing health care for the people in Shreveport/Bossier area while continuing to grow both locations and giving back to the community.