[Image Content Provided by Where Y'at Magazine Contributor Cassandra Damascus]

Lady Bosses of New Orleans

11:18 March 13, 2017
By: Cassandra Damascus

Want to be inspired? Read what these female business owners have to say about the entrepreneurial life and the challenges and joys they face.

Precision Payment Systems, Alison Burns

Lady Bosses of New Orleans

In a nutshell, Precision Payment Systems is a credit card processing, point-of-sale system managing gift/loyalty cards, and electronic checks. Burns got her start when her position at her former company was eliminated.  She continued her role outside of the company by contacting members of her business network to spread the word that she wanted to dive into outside sales. Six years later, Burns is still in the industry because of her strong analytical and logical methods of thinking. She blended her joy of helping others with her forte of saving money to create Precision Payment Systems.

Did you have entrepreneurial or start-up experience prior to Precision Payment Systems?

“Never. When I first started in this industry, I was just a plain ole employee of a processor. I have natural leadership skills (not boasting, I just know some things about myself), so I fell really quickly into mentoring and training of others. Some folks thought I was nuts; I had only $100 after bills and didn’t have an implementation timeline. But I have faith, and I knew that I knew that I was supposed to set up my own shop to serve others through this avenue. When there is a will, there is ALWAYS a way.”

What has been your biggest challenge?

My biggest challenge has been doing this alone. Don't misunderstand,­ I am in no way, shape, or form complaining. Wearing all the hats and juggling all the balls has for sure made me more understanding of my customers, and I hope it will help in making me a better boss. But it is definitely not easy; there have been a lot of long days and nights and lost friends because of it. I've had to budget and sacrifice. I'll forfeit a Galatoire's Friday to pay half of my annual fee to a business networking organization!

How did you overcome or are working to overcome the challenge?

Overcoming these things have taken time and a lot of questioning/brainstorming:­ What am I good at? What am I not good at? What will help grow the business? What is hindering me? I have been uber-fortunate to have an investment group who was in the audience that I pitched to in 2016 when I was a finalist for the Woman Entrepreneur Fellowship at NOEW.

When Alison took a hard look at the work she had done alone, she was thrilled to see that she had saved local business tens of thousands of dollars. The day Alison participated for this article, she had just received word that everything had been signed off on and her investment is official!

Do you have any advice for other women thinking about starting their own company?

I don't mean this in any way sexist, but we are still playing in a man's world. Act like it. Take charge. Don't apologize. Use assertive (but not arrogant) language. Be logical. Don't lead with emotion. But here's the fine line: still act like a woman. Women are better at details in general ­ we remember the type of whiskey a business associate drinks or that their mom is going through something. Ask, nurture, and genuinely care (because people see through artificial caring pretty easily). I live by this quote from the Zig ­ "You will get all you want in life if you help enough other people get what they want." There are 2 words in life that I don't even know why they exist. They are so dumb. Those words are "no" and "failure".

  1. "No" is the short version of "find another way". There is ALWAYS another way. It may not be immediate. It may be harder. But dig deep, because it's there (don't be manipulative or fake, though. GENUINELY find another way).
  2. “Failure”; It's really true that there is no such thing as failure. If you are going after something you genuinely want, you won't fail. I promise. You'll work like crazy. You may get mad. You may cry. You may want to give up, but if you feel called to it, you'll make it happen. It may not be in your way or on your timeframe, but you won't fail as long as you remove "no" from your vocabulary and give it every ounce you have. Remember that us entrepreneurs are a small number, and there's a reason for that. But the blood, sweat, and tears are only for a season. It is truly the most rewarding thing I have ever done and my proudest accomplishment in life!


Tales of the Cocktail, Ann Tuennerman

Lady Bosses of New Orleans

Ann Tuennerman got into the cocktail industry by accident! Tuennerman continues, “ I started The New Orleans Cocktail Tour to share our city’s rich drinking history with tourists and locals. The one­ year anniversary of the tour became the first Tales of the Cocktail. I found the members of the cocktail industry to be incredibly supportive. It was clear that there was a need for an event like Tales. So we brought it back for the second year and then a third and fourth and now we’re celebrating our 15th anniversary this year.”

Did you have entrepreneurial or start-up experience prior to Tales of the Cocktail?

I’ve always had an entrepreneurial spirit, organizing all kinds of side projects businesses throughout my career. In 1997, my mom and I purchased the first­ ever franchise for Three Dog Bakery. I learned a lot from that experience. Mostly that franchising wasn’t really my thing as I wanted the freedom to pursue my own ideas. That led me to create The New Orleans Cocktail Tour and then Tales of the Cocktail.

What has been your biggest challenge? How did you overcome or are working to overcome the challenge?

Our biggest challenge is one that affected so many New Orleans organizations—Hurricane Katrina. At the time we were only a few years old, still getting established when the storm hit. We didn’t know what was next for our city and home, we just knew we had to come back the next year if Tales of the Cocktail was going to survive. So we scraped money together to bring Tales back in 2006 and because of that, we’re still here today.

Beyond that, growth has always been a challenge. We’re a non­profit so we want to invest as much as possible back into the cocktail industry through events, scholarships, and other programs. But as we expand to offer more opportunities for cocktail professionals we’ve had to add more people and move into a larger office space. We are doing well but every stage of entrepreneurship presents a new set of challenges.

Do you have any advice for other women thinking about starting their own company?

If you have an idea for a business. Do it. Don’t wait. Nothing kills an idea like the slow passage of time. One of my favorite books of all time is by Susan Jeffers called Feel the Fear, Do It Anyway. It’s so true. It’s scary starting a new company, I won’t deny that. But you’d can’t let that fear stop you. I haven’t always been successful. Every year we try new things at Tales of the Cocktail. Some work. Some don’t. The point is to not be afraid to fail or you’ll never challenge yourself.


Lionheart Prints, Liz Cooke

Lady Bosses of New Orleans

Lionheart Prints is a line of hand­-lettered greeting cards and gifts. In 2013, Liz Cooke was let go from the stationary shop she was working at. Although it was a difficult loss, Liz picked up the pieces and channeled her retail and design experience into something of her own.

When asked about how Cooke found her niche, she said, “My niche kind of found me. As a designer, I was always drawn to typography, but didn't know that hand­-lettering was my thing until people started responding to it really positively”. Early on, Cooke had posted a “doodle” to Instagram and it was spotted by Lauren LeBlanc Haydel. Haydel licensed Cooke’s “doodle” for a t-shirt and that’s when Cooke became known as a hand-letterer before Cooke even knew it herself!

Did you have entrepreneurial or start-up experience prior to Lionheart Prints?

“I swear, it all started with selling Girl Scout Cookies. My mom was really smart; in addition to taking orders door to door, she would place a big order projecting which flavors would be most popular”. When the cookies arrived, Cooke said she set up her table in the common area of the law school and sold enough cookies to send her to camp every summer.

What has been your biggest challenge? How did you overcome or are working to overcome the challenge?

Recently, we had to stop taking custom projects. It was really fun designing invitations for brides, but in the end, it was entirely too time-consuming and I never had much time to focus on new products— or when I did, the designs were very rushed because I was operating on my customer's timelines instead of my own.

Most of our business is wholesale, and retailers always want to see what's new, and if you don't have anything new, you don't stay relevant. So it's been really hard saying no to people, but it feels great saying yes to our bigger goals and creating new designs I'm really proud of.

Do you have any advice for other women thinking about starting their own company?

Take it one step at a time and don't get caught up in the comparison game. Just follow your heart and make what you want to see in the world, your enthusiasm will be reflected in the work and that's always captivating no matter what.

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