Book currently reading:
A Little Life by Hanya Yanagihara
Favorite local band: Dreaming Dingo
What do you do in your off time? Trains her chickens to play musical instruments
Allison Albert's career change is one of a kind. After working as an accountant for years, she moved back to New Orleans in 2015 and was hit by a taxi. When she'd finished recuperating, she traveled to the Amazonian jungle, drank some tea and had a vision: She would start a business making costumes for pets. "I started simply," Albert says, "with a lion mane for dogs and a lion mane for cats."
Today, Pet Krewe has 22 different costumes for dogs and cats — pirates, unicorns, spiders and more. Albert's designs have become top sellers in their category on Amazon.com and are available on more than a dozen websites. (You can find them locally at Petcetera NOLA and Kawaii NOLA.) Ten percent of every purchase made on her website goes to animal shelters, and her "models" come from the Jefferson Parish SPCA. Albert is proud of a 100 percent success rate in adoption. She soon will add 15 more costumes to her line, and her dream is to get Pet Krewe creations into big-box retail outlets. In the meantime, she tends to her own pets at home, which include dogs, a cat and chickens. — KEVIN ALLMAN
Dr. LaKica Amos, 39
Dentist and owner, Dentistry by Design
Book currently reading:
The Hollywood Commandments: A Spiritual Guide to Secular Success by DeVon Franklin and Tim Vandehey
Favorite local band: Trombone Shorty & Orleans Avenue
What is your hidden talent? Playing piano
Growing up in rural north Louisiana, LaKica Amos always was interested in health professions, but it wasn't until she shadowed a dentist while a student at Xavier University that she understood how the profession can help people feel better about themselves. Now a dentist with her own practice, Amos also helps spread smiles with a variety of mentorship and outreach programs.
"It wasn't until I was out of college that I began to see minority and female dentists, so that's why I mentor high school and college kids in my office, so they can feel comfortable and a part of this environment," says Amos, who visits areas with little access to dental care and offers free screenings. Earlier this year, she launched Project Smiles to provide free dental care to a local person in need, and this year it went to a local service-industry worker.
"A healthy smile helps in your self-esteem; it helps in your career," she says. "My practice philosophy is to keep it simple and focus on the patient with good, quality care with the awareness that dental health can affect your overall physical and mental health." — FRANK ETHERIDGE
Dr. Kiana A. Andrew, 38
Assistant Clinical Professor of Psychiatry, Tulane University School of Medicine
Book currently reading: The Color of Law: A Forgotten History of How Our Government Segregated America by Dr. Richard Rothstein
What do you do in your off time? Dance, play kickball
What is your hidden talent? As a teen, she was Louisiana State champion double- dutch jumper
Having achieved her childhood dream of becoming a doctor, psychiatrist Kiana Andrew has combined her medical training and public health background to treat patients caught in the combination of criminal justice and mental health systems.
"Part of my job is to work with the mentally ill who are part of the incarcerated population sent to the state psychiatric hospital in Jackson," Andrew says. She deals primarily with women who are facing felony charges and have been deemed incompetent to stand trial, due to reasons ranging from an inability to work with their attorney to not being on proper medication.
"I want to put a human face to a felony charge and help people realize that these patients are human — that there's a life story to the women sent to prison," she says. "They have a life and a family and there's so much more to them than just their charge." — FRANK ETHERIDGE
Bradley Bain, 39
Senior software engineer, TurboSquid, @bradleybain
Book currently reading: The Amazing Adventures of Kavalier & Clay by Michael Chabon
Favorite local band: Rebirth Brass Band
What is your hidden talent? Cooking
A strong sense of community and social commitment inspired Bradley Bain and his wife, Daniela, to move back to his native New Orleans from Austin, Texas in 2012 — and continues to inform his high-tech career and myriad civic endeavors.
"The fact that there's a high-tech scene here, creating job opportunities that didn't exist 10 years ago, shows a lot has changed in New Orleans in the last few years," Bain says. In addition to engineering software (mostly for internal analytics) at TurboSquid, he volunteers with education-outreach program Young Audiences of Louisiana and is chair of the Jewish Community Relations Council, a social improvement and advocacy group.
"I hope to continue to develop professionally but also stay engaged in civic pursuits, because I want to create an environment that's great for our children and great for our friends," he says. "You can't do that in a vacuum. You have to give back." — FRANK ETHERIDGE
Gabrielle Begue, 35
Co-Founder and Principal, Clio Associates
Book currently reading: Wheels for the World: Henry Ford, His Company and a Century of Progress by Douglas Brinkley
Favorite local restaurant: Turkey and the Wolf
Drink of choice: Greyhound
Having grown up in her family's historic Faubourg Marigny home, Gabrielle Begue's love of New Orleans architecture inspired her departure from a successful publishing career in New York City. She returned home to preserve the city's structures and styles in projects large and small. Begue's efforts have earned her firm awards from the Louisiana Landmarks Society.
"I wanted a reason to come home and I wanted to get my hands dirty," says Begue, who has helped restore landmarks from the Pontchartrain Hotel to Oretha Castle Haley Boulevard storefronts and assisted the City of Gretna in establishing historic district guidelines. "We are helping people, developers and architects preserve buildings in a way that allows New Orleanians to see the practical side of preservation in terms of both meeting the bottom line and preserving the city in a way that makes sense for the future.
"What we do is complicated," she says. "A lot of it is tax-credit consulting, but one fun aspect is digging into the history of these buildings, detective work to uncover layers of history that is both enriching and endlessly exciting." — FRANK ETHERIDGE
Gemma R. Birnbaum, 33
Director of the World War II Media and Education Center, National World War II Museum
Book currently reading: This Is Just My Face: Try Not to Stare by Gabourey Sidibe
Favorite local restaurant: Tal's Hummus
What is your hidden talent? Wiggling her ears when no one's watching
Gemma Birnbaum is spearheading a new center that will bring the National World War II Museum's materials to students around the world.
It isn't scheduled to open until 2019, but Birnbaum (along with two distance-learning educators, a videographer and a historian) already is hard at work on the World War II Media and Education Center housed within the museum's forthcoming Hall of Democracy. The center will have enhanced multimedia production abilities and ambitious distance-learning programs for sharing the museum's holdings with people who might never make it to the facility.
Birnbaum long has been interested in parallels between catastrophic historical events, such as the Holocaust and other genocides. She says sharing those parallels with students — especially those visiting from war-torn countries — helps them make sense of history and perhaps feel less alone.
"I just want every student ... to understand a little bit more about the world and how it became what it is today," she says. "If we're not looking at some of those lessons ... we're missing the point." — KAT STROMQUIST
David Scott Bode, 33
Musician and Director of technology commercialization, New Orleans BioInnovation Center
Book currently reading: Two Years, Eight Months, 28 Nights by Salman Rushdie
Favorite local band: Donald Harrison
What is your hidden talent? Pingpong
By night, you can find David Scott Bode blowing his saxophone in venues across the city in acts such as the New Orleans-flavored reggae of One Love Brass Band. By day, he's busy helping the city advance as a hub for the biotech and environmental industries. Joining the New Orleans BioInnovation Center in 2013, his work in direct-business assistance for area life science, biotechnology, clean energy and health food firms has generated $28 million in investments and 138 jobs.
"Our long-term mission is to put New Orleans on the map as a place where you can build a high-tech business," says Bode, who studied music at Loyola University and the University of New Orleans before earning a Master of Business Administration degree from Tulane University.
"The mindset has changed a lot since Katrina to become more entrepreneurial," he says. "We've long been known as a place for great food and great music. While I want to contribute what I can on the music side, there's also now a lot of excitement about becoming a place for high-tech innovation in these growing industries." — FRANK ETHERIDGE
Nathaniel Bossick, 28
Transitional housing program director, NAMI New Orleans,
Book currently reading: The New Jim Crow by Michelle Alexander
Favorite local restaurant: Lola's
What is your hidden talent? "I bake a lot. I'm really good at bread."
After moving to New Orleans in 2012, Nathaniel Bossick realized there was a disconnect between services provided to help homeless people and their time in shelters. "The cycle wasn't being broken at all," he says. "There was nothing to follow them. Our goal was to ensure recidivism isn't happening."
Bossick, who earned a master's degree in social work from Tulane University, has served as the transitional housing director for the National Alliance on Mental Illness' New Orleans chapter since 2016. The chapter serves at least 120 people a year and offers a gamut of services to help break the cycle of homelessness.
Among unique challenges facing homeless people in New Orleans are the traumas of surviving Hurricane Katrina and gentrification shifts pushing locals into shelters. Bossick says he hopes to see the eradication of stigma surrounding mental health care and changes to requirements for housing assistance.
"We're hoping to move homelessness as a system from a reactionary standpoint to one that's more proactive," he says. — ALEX WOODWARD
Mea Boykins, 28
International Speaker & Consultant
Favorite local artist: PJ Morton
Favorite local restaurant: Munch Factory
What is your hidden talent? Training to be a pilot
Mea Boykins built upon the success she Achieved raising scholarship funds for fellow students at Spelman College in Atlanta to create a multi-faceted, self-determined career track with a goal of empowerment and equality across the globe.
“In December 2015, I partnered with the United Nations in Barcelona and planned a fundraiser benefiting Syrian refugees. Thanks to a successful event, I raised enough to house two Syrian refugee families, which was one of my most proud moments in life,” says Boykins, who went on to earn two international master’s degrees after graduating from Spelman. She and U.S. Rep. Cedric Richmond recently hosted a successful fundraiser for local educational nonprofit STEM NOLA.
Boykins started her nonprofit about six years ago at the age of 22, and her company Global Management and Marketing offers a fleet of packages, from business development to strategic-partnership consultation. She also delivers speeches on international stages, and is director of strategic relations at Noirbnb, a travel company that provides accommodations and event experiences, creating a better experience for travelers of color.
“I want to continue on the track I’m on to work around the world, helping with everything from homelessness to youth empowerment, and to hopefully one day change official policies.” — FRANK ETHERIDGE
Aron Y. Chang, 33
Urban designer and educator,
Book currently reading: Cityscapes of New Orleans by Richard Campanella
Favorite local restaurant: Stein's Deli
What is your hidden talent? Cooking
After earning a Master of Architecture degree from Harvard University, Aron Y. Chang's interest in affordable and sustainable housing issues inspired him to tackle perhaps the greatest threat to housing in New Orleans: reducing the risk and improving the relationship of New Orleans' built environment with the water that surrounds the city.
"I worked with a great team of designers, educators and water experts with the goal to find ways to empower youth and adults to make sure New Orleanians have a meaningful say in what our water infrastructure looks like," Chang, a Tulane faculty member and a founding member of the Greater New Orleans Water Collaborative says of his role in helping the Waggonner & Ball architecture firm create the Greater New Orleans Urban Water Plan. Chang also serves on the New Orleans City Council's Environmental Advisory Committee.
"Whether we're talking coastal land loss or urban flooding, our relationship to water is the biggest environmental challenge we face," he says. "Our goal is to ensure that citizens living in the city have the knowledge and the tools to help reshape that relationship to water." — FRANK ETHERIDGE