Success Stories

Mama Reta’s Kitchen brings the soul to food in Lake Charles

“The LSBDC at MSU worked with me to develop a business plan so that I’d understand how to operate my restaurant profitably,” Durgan said. “I consider the LSBDC my ally and I would recommend that anyone planning a new business talk with them.”

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When you’re a great chef, it’s only right that you pursue your own restaurant. That’s what Reta Durgan did in Lake Charles. After working in the restaurant business, she decided she wanted her own and reached out to the LSBDC at McNeese State University where Center Director Donna Little helped carve out her dreams and make them a reality.

Now, Durgan is the owner and chef of Mama Reta’s Kitchen, LLC, located at 345 Broad St. in Lake Charles, bringing home cooking and soul food to southwest Louisiana.

The LSBDC at MSU helped Durgan write a business plan, develop three years of financial projections, develop a menu list and explained start-up inventory. After several years of directing Durgan to a successful position, including connecting her with LSBDC restaurant consultant Dianne Sclafani, she was finally ready to officially start her restaurant business.

The LSBDC at MSU helped her acquire $25,000 in capitalization and create eight jobs.

“The LSBDC at MSU worked with me to develop a business plan so that I’d understand how to operate my restaurant profitably,” Durgan said. “I consider the LSBDC my ally and I would recommend that anyone planning a new business talk with them.”

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Noah’s Ark Child Care and Development Center

A day care center needed to demonstrate it is prepared to manage emergency situations while safeguarding its clients in the event they are forced to evacuate or seek shelter.

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With all the anxieties parents tend to feel as they drop their children off at day care, the last thing they should have to worry about is how their little ones might fare during an emergency. Noah's Ark Child Care and Development Center recently took that concern off the table, with help from the Louisiana Small Business Development Center at McNeese State University.

Noah's Ark cares for dozens of young clients daily, offering early childhood and summer programs for kids up to 12 years of age at its facility in Sulphur, Louisiana.

Chris Duplechin, who is director of Noah's Ark, initially met the counselors at LSBDC when she was assistant director at another day care center. She had worked with the small business consultants to help develop an emergency preparedness plan for that center, and she knew that Noah's Ark needed to take similar steps. 

Louisiana requires that day care centers demonstrate emergency readiness in order to receive state license to operate. But more importantly, the families of the children entrusted to Noah's Ark need to feel assured that the children are being looked after in a safe environment by staff who are prepared to handle unexpected events.

LSBDC consultant Donna Little says Duplechin's previous experience with emergency planning for a day care center was a plus in moving ahead with the plan for Noah's Ark. "It's often hard to convince a small business to spend the time it takes to put together a real plan because it interferes with their everyday operations," Little says.

Duplechin welcomed the chance to tap into LSBDC's expertise. She provided all the information needed to begin developing a handbook, including complete contact and other information about the day care center's staff, and a comprehensive database of the client children and their families. She says LSBDC staff produced drawings of the day care center and developed a plan for how everyone would evacuate or seek shelter in the event of a serious storm or other emergency event. 

"They helped me design the whole plan to evacuate," Duplechin says. "They did the drawings of the building, typed it up, put it in a book, and made a disk for me so that I could (open the document) and make changes as needed."

Duplechin says as a result of having the detailed plans in hand, the center can now hold drills so that staff can rehearse procedures they will follow to protect the children or evacuate before various potential emergencies, such as a tornado.

"Now we know what we need to have in our emergency kit, when to evacuate and exactly where we should go," she says.

The plan provides a measure of security that parents are glad to hear about when they bring their children to the center. In fact, each parent is asked to sign a letter saying that they have seen the emergency handbook and understand how it will be used. 

Duplechin says the help she received from the LSBDC is what made it possible. "If I had to do it all by myself, it would have taken a lot of time that I don't have," she says.

For more information on emergency preparedness, visit or contact LSBDC at MSU at (337) 475-5529 or The LSBDC is funded in part through a cooperative agreement with the U.S. Small Business Administration, Louisiana Department of Economic Development, and participating universities. All opinions, conclusions or recommendations expressed are those of the author(s) and do not necessarily reflect the views of the SBA.



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Healthy Image LLC

"We didn't know what kind of challenges we faced. We never started out with an office and employees so when we got to that point, we needed help"

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While Kristy Armand was director of marketing at Memorial Hospital in Lake Charles, LA, she heard through the grapevine that a large company was looking for a marketing agency. She called up two close friends, they brainstormed for a name, designed a logo and before long landed the client. Within a couple of months they had a few more clients and their entrepreneurial experiment turned into a full-fledged business.

"We just never knew it would grow the way it did. In the beginning I kept my full time job and we worked on it at night," said Armand.

Healthy Image, LLC, is now a full service marketing and advertising firm with more than 100 clients. One by one, the partners quit their day jobs over the years until they were all on board as full-time employees in 2008. Grown from spare bedrooms in their homes, Health Image LLC didn't understand many of the regular needs of a business until they experienced growth.

"We didn't know what kind of challenges we faced. We never started out with an office and employees so when we got to that point, we needed help," said Healthy Image partner Kristy Armand.

Armand eventually consulted with Donna Little at the Louisiana Small Business Development Center at McNeese State. Little provided financial analysis and helped the company learn how to interpret their balance sheets and profit and loss statements. She also helped with basic business duties that Healthy Image had skipped over because they were one-man operations founded in a home.

"We never knew about occupancy licenses, employees, workers’ compensation. Because we started the business without a physical location, we skipped many of those steps," said Armand.

In the course of a short period of time, Healthy Image has gone from a few healthcare marketing clients to dozens of clients in multiple industries. In 2003, the company also started Thrive, a health-related publication. Over the years it had grown from 10 pages in newsprint to its current 80 full color glossy pages with a spine. As the magazine has grown, so to has the need to effectively manage and operate two distinct companies.

Armand said they worked with Little to learn how to make the magazine more profitable and how to avoid making common mistakes. Through the help of their bookkeeper, they found ways to trim costs and increase productivity by restructuring commission schedules for advertising representatives. Armand said they also needed to learn how to carefully balance time and capital between the breadwinning Healthy Image marketing firm and the growing magazine.

"They helped us take a look at where the expenses were going. With running two businesses, there were a lot of things going back and forth that we were not paying attention to. We've reduced expenses and increased profit because of their guidance," said Armand.

Contact us today to learn how the LSBDC can help you gain control of your finances

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Hope Therapy Center

With help from the LSBDC at McNeese State University, Kim Anderson and Sonya Brooks secured $100,000 in capital to jumpstart their business.

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Kim Anderson and Sonya Brooks had a shared vision to open a therapy clinic that provided customized treatment plans with evidence-based approaches from licensed therapists. 

Anderson, former Director of Rehab for Physical Therapy Specialists of Baton Rouge, and Brooks, a Clinical Supervisor for Language Pathology, reached out to the Louisiana Small Business Development Center at McNeese State University for assistance with starting their business. 

Without prior business experience, Anderson and Brooks needed guidance on all aspects of the startup process, which included determining whether or not their business would be feasible. Business Consultant Kyle Ardoin assisted the soon to be entrepreneurs with identifying revenue streams and developing financial projections and a financial model which were used to determined the feasibility of what would become Hope Therapy Center. With LSBDC, Anderson and Brooks also obtained $100,000 in capitalization to jumpstart their business. Ardoin also helped structure their business and develop an operational agreement.

Since the opening of Hope Therapy Center, the staff, treatment center, and specialized therapy programs have been expanded. “Opening our own clinic allowed us to hand-pick those therapists who share our vision and ethics,” said Brooks. “And our goal is to continually challenge each other to try new and innovative approaches to treatment.”

Today Hope Therapy Center is a successful business with annual sales exceeding $500,000.

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Center for Chiropractic and Rehabilitation

"As physicians, we spent eight years being educated in the clinical sciences, not in business or finance. We had a concept of what we wanted to do and where we wanted to go as a business, but the steps that must be taken to get there require expert counsel..."

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The Center for Chiropractic and Rehabilitation relocated and expanded its operations in the spring of 2010. Specializing in chiropractic, medical massage therapy, spinal decompression traction, and spinal rehabilitation, the Center offers non-medicinal, non-surgical treatment for spinal or other musculoskeletal conditions. Owner, Dr. Donald R. Thigpen, graduated cum laude from McNeese State University in 2000 and was valedictorian of his class at Texas Chiropractic College. His experience includes anatomy lab instructor and rotations in neurosurgery and rheumatology. He is also a nationally certified and licensed massage therapist. Joining Dr. Thigpen is Scott DeRouen, DC. and Damon Cormier, DC. These three doctors provide a combined 40 years of highly qualified experience in their respective fields.

Before expanding his business venture, Thigpen sought the resources of the LSBDC at McNeese State University. LSBDC at McNeese State University helped Thigpen develop a 36-month financial projection and identifying revenue streams, which combined to create a financial model, which was used to secure a $685,000 commercial loan. The loan helped purchase a building that now houses the Center. Business Consultant Ardoin also helped with the organizational structure and operating agreement.

“As physicians, we spent eight years being educated in the clinical sciences, not in business or finance. We had a concept of what we wanted to do and where we wanted to go as a business, but the steps that must be taken to get there require expert counsel,” said Thigpen.  “Our consultations opened our eyes to what initial expenses we would be facing, how to involve our accountant and attorney in the process, and how to avoid common pitfalls faced by first-time business owners.”

Since seeking LSBDC assistance, sales have increased by 5% and 3 jobs were created.

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SEED Center
4310 Ryan St, Ste 162
Lake Charles, LA 70605
Phone: 337-475-5529

M - F 8:00 am to 4:30 pm




Parishes Served: 
Allen, Beauregard, Calcasieu, Cameron, and Jefferson Davis