OUT TO LUNCH finds creative business consultant Aileen Bennett conducting business Acadiana style: over lunch. Each week Aileen invites guests from Acadiana's business community to join her. Beyond the foundations of the Acadiana economy - oil, cuisine, music - there is a vast network of entrepreneurs, small businesses, and even some of the country's largest companies who call Acadiana home. Out to Lunch is the cafeteria of the wider Acadiana business community. You can also hear the show on KRVS 88.7FM.
There are two ways of launching a successful business these days. One is to come up with an idea. Write a business plan. Create a pitch. Hire a pitch coach to sharpen your message. Go through a business incubator, followed by a business accelerator program. Go to friends and family for financing. Then raise investment capital, and finally become profitable.
The other method is to stumble by chance into an already existing business, buy it off the owner, and discover – having had no formal training - that you’re a natural at business, and that before you know it you’re expanding and diversifying just like the business planners tell you. Except you don’t have a business plan. That’s pretty much what happened to Nancy and Jesse at The Kitchen Shop in Grand Coteau.
Technically their names are Jesse Poimbouef and Nancy Brewer, but everybody in Grand Coteau – and way beyond – know them simply as Nancy and Jesse. If you don’t know about The Kitchen Shop, and you’ve only ever driven past Grand Coteau, it’s hard to grasp quite how extraordinary this business is. The range of kitchen equipment and gadgets in the front of The Kitchen Shop is staggering. And in the back of the store there’s a small pastry shop and bakery that racks up online and real-life reviews that frequently describe the pastries as best-ever.
If you think The Kitchen Shop in Grand Coteau is more like something you’d find in Manhattan, that might be because Nancy was one of Manhattan’s leading pastry chefs. And Jesse was an artist there, before they decided, 25 years ago, to get out of New York and move to Lafayette with no plan, no job, and no home.
Diversification is the kind of thing successful businesses do to expand. For example, Amazon started off selling books only. Now it’s diversified into selling, well, pretty much everything. On a markedly smaller scale, The Kitchen Shop diversified into women’s fashion. It started out with Nancy’s frustration at not being able to find anything fashionable to buy for herself to wear, and culminated in a spin-off business called Pistache Dress Shop.
Pistache is an equally unexpected find in a small Louisiana town and is now a stand-alone business in Grand Coteau owned by Nancy’s former protégé, Alyce Ray.