Monday, December 16, 2013

Entrepreneur's Sweet Tooth Mixes Business, Pleasure, Profits

by Maniko Barthelemy

When a sweet iconic staple like Hostess Brands, with an 82-year track record eats the bitter plate of bankruptcy, why would anyone open a pastry business, after the company’s fall? For a New Orleans woman the answer was easy. “You just have to start,” said Imani Ruffins.

Photo courtesy of Imani Ruffins for Ruffins' Faith Pastries, LLC
Ruffins owns Ruffins Faith Pastries LLC, an online dessert catering company she launched in February, using her top secret personal recipes. No boxed cakes are allowed in her kitchen. “I love cupcakes and at $3 each buying them became real expensive, so I started baking my own,” said Ruffins. Consistent orders for specialty cakes and muffins keep her phone ringing, creatively decorated apples also popular. “I was baking for my family, trying different things and then a friend of a friend asked me to bake and it kind of went around like word of mouth and my business grew fast,” said Ruffins.
Photo courtesy of Imani Ruffins for Ruffins' Faith Pastries, LLC
Cupcakes start at $30 for an order of 24. Candy-covered apples start at $30 for an order of 10. She’s undoubtedly in a highly competitive industry but worth may be worth the risk.  Just like busy consumers stretched for time, buy fresh, flavor-filled, fully cooked meats or meals from grocery stores, people want and will pay for homemade baked treats they don’t have time to make. Experts project sweet success for the baking and pastry business, predicting $310 billion boom by 2015.
Photo courtesy of Imani Ruffins for Ruffins' Faith Pastries, LLC
Part of the reality surprises Ruffins, who has a full-time job in criminal justice and is finishing her bachelor’s degree. “I had so much unexpected business I had to shift to weekends only,” said Ruffins. The other benefit of the positive numbers, may suppress noise from her critics.  “I was told, ‘I’ll never make it without formal training or school and people won’t want to spend money because pastries aren’t a high demand and I’m going to lose money before I make money’ ” said Ruffins.
Moving into 2014, Ruffins plans to take another chance, expand her brand, and send a message to her children. “I’m working with my brothers on a plan to start a food truck business in New Orleans and we really want to work together and get our children involved in the business,” said Ruffins.
For more information, log on to or e-mail Imani Ruffins at 

Leave a comment about this article and suggest other business owners you know have a great story to

Monday, December 2, 2013

Fashion Designers Send Powerful Message to Community

by Maniko Barthelemy

Bold, beautiful, and brave women in trendy fashions sashayed through the courtyard at Hotel Storyville in New Orleans, highlighting the importance of a non-profit organization committed to helping women find jobs.  “I’m all for a Dress for Success event because I support anything that helps women feel beautiful and encourages them to feel comfortable and confident,” said Daniela Zapata, owner of Full Blossom Chic,
Hotel Storyville and “The Little Black Dress” organization sponsored a “Garden Party Fashion Show” Nov. 24. to raise awareness and reemphasize the importance of Dress for Success. Dress for Success is an international non-profit organization that provides career counseling and professional attire to help women entering or re-entering the workforce.
In Louisiana, where nearly 150,000 people are reportedly unemployed, having help from organizations like Dress for Success is exactly why people like Tileda Dunn, didn’t think twice about volunteering as a model. “I just went on an interview a few weeks ago and got the job,” said Dunn.
Dunn returned to the work force after spending five years as a stay-at-home mother. She was one of a dozen models showcasing unique and fabulous fashions by flagship retailers, independent designers, and boutiques reflective of the season, but Dunn was also a stunning symbol of victory over adversity. “I don’t think I would have gotten the job without the help of Dress for Success because I didn’t have the proper clothes and couldn’t even borrow clothes from my friends because none of them are my size so I wouldn’t have been confident when I went on that interview,” said Dunn.

Through partnerships with other non-profits, candidates are referred to Dress for Success. “Most of our clients come to us with issues and are ready to go back to work and become independent,” said Midge Donald, executive director of the New Orleans chapter of “Dress for Success.”
In addition to raising awareness and highlighting success stories, organizers wanted to encourage more people to volunteer. Drew Douglas, a retired media professional was ready to sign up. “This was inspiring, positive and motivating,” said Douglas. He plans to volunteer as a resume writing consultant clients.
Since 1998, with the help of people like Douglas, hundreds of women like Dunn have walked through the doors of Dress for Success for help. Often, they leave with hope and a renewed sense of pride.
Nearly 50  people, a combination of residents and small business owners, attended the party with a purpose at Hotel Storyvile. For information on how to volunteer or donate your gently used suits to Dress for Success, you can attend the Dec. 5 party at Chico's, 5605 Magazine St., from noon until 5 p.m., call (504) 891-4337, or log on to
To find your local Dress for Success chapter, visit
What do you think about organizations like Dress for Success? We invite you to comment at You can remain anonymous.