Meet Cohort 1 (Fall 2015)

Ciara Mercadel: Together We Can NOLA

Ciara Mercadel is a native of New Orleans who earned her bachelors degree from Dillard University in sociology/criminal justice. She also earned her Masters degree from SUNO in criminal justice, with an emphasis on juvenile Justice. She earned another masters from Walden in public administration, with an emphasis on nonprofit management.

Together We Can NOLA is an organization that will provide women and youth with a community where their voices are heard. Their visions, desires, and needs are met. We will work to instill leadership abilities, guidance, and empower each woman and youth that enters the program.

Kishonda Webb: Silk Webb

We sell custom made, one of a kind products.  We have everything from wood burned jewelry, clothing, paintings and furniture to indian suits. We aim for originality and quality. 

LaQuanta McKay: Peppa Maison, LLC

LaQuanta is a hair stylist in the greater New Orleans area. She is a graduate of Moler Beauty College. After graduating, LaQuanta worked for Regis and Smart styles, before venturing out on her own. She is currently working on being a contract stylist and having her own salon.

Nniki Guyton: Changing Stages

Changing Stages is located at 11120 Haynes Blvd. We are a 4 star facility. Here, at Changing Stages, we strive to provide your child with a happy and safe early childhood developmental program.

Sarah Grieshammer and Sean Loughran: Zippy Fruit

Zippy Fruit is a mobile vending cart selling fresh fruits accented with chili, lime, and salt - a healthy delicious snack with a spicy twist. We came to New Orleans from California two years ago for work in the film industry. We fell in love with the city, deciding to make New Orleans our home.

Shantrise Sykes: Five Star Creole Dishes, LLC

Shantrise is a New Orleans native, U S soldier, entrepreneur, and cook. At Five Star Creole Dishes, we make those familiar cuisines we all love, heart healthy and worthy of a five star taste status to you.

Shelita Ratliff: SHELITA

Shelita's Boutique, located in New Orleans, Louisiana, will open open in late 2016. I always wanted to be an entrepreneur as far as I can remember. Owning a boutique has been planted in the back of my mind for quite sometime now. In 2012, I received my bachelors from Columbia College in General Studies, with a minor in Business. Shelita's Boutique will be a online and pop-up shop store that caters to women size 14-24. I decided to focus only on women plus size because I know the struggle of shopping in your size as a full figured woman. My goal is to make the shopping experience for women of size like no other with trendy and unique styles. Basically, clothing that fits, shows off personality, and feels good.

Soleil McLaughlin: 1TEAM Athletic Care, LLC

Soleil McLaughlin is a certified Athletic Trainer Licensed in the state of Louisiana. She is also certified nationally. She received her B.S in Athletic Training from Valdosta State University and her M.S in Exercise Science at Arkansas State University. As a resident of New Orleans for almost 3 years who has worked outreach with local schools, Soleil feels that there is a great need to provide better care for our youth athletes. For this reason, she created 1TEAM Athletic Care, an organization created to provide quality athletic training services to those unable to afford traditional fulltime AT contracts. Choosing 1TEAM, you can rest assured knowing that all decisions are made with the athlete’s well-being in mind.  “The Athlete is our Concern.” For more info on the services provided, please go to

Betty Washington: Dream City Family Entertainment Complex

Dream City is a Family Entertainment Facility that will provide activities for skating, laser tag, 8 lanes of bowling, food court, birthday party rooms, event rooms and other family activities.

Celeste Polanco: Paparazzi Merchant

Though our fashion-forward jewelry and product parties are centered on fun, Paparazzi fulfills a serious mission. We believe that trendy accessories can be available, and affordable, to women everywhere. We know that wearing a new look, and feeling confident in your appearance, builds amazing self-esteem.

Michaelisha Pipe: Food Truck Vendor

Born and raised in the traditions of New Orleans, Michaelisha is excited about providing homemade New Orleans food at cultural events such as second-line parades.