Jennifer Kelley – P.O.W.E.R.ful Women
Executive Director of Louisiana Hospitality Foundation
Q: How would you describe your company?
Our mission work is focused on the state of Louisiana, I work from home in Metairie. The majority of our fundraising activities occur in the New Orleans and Baton Rouge metro areas, but we help hospitality workers and culinary students all over the state.
We are a 501c3 non-profit organization dedicated to supporting Louisiana’s hospitality industry workforce.
We operate two grant programs:
- Education grants – Supporting workforce development programs directly related to the hospitality industry; providing access to culinary and hospitality education
- Hospitality Worker Crisis Grants – Financial assistance to individuals working in the hospitality industry dealing with an emergency outside of their control (such as a house fire, auto accident, medical emergency, natural disaster such as floods and hurricanes, and death)
Q: How many employees do you have?
Just me (plus our unpaid board of directors and volunteers)
Q: When did you launch?
We were founded in 2006, although the inspiration and process to formalize the non-profit began before Hurricane Katrina.
I came on board in February 2015 as their first employee and executive director. (The organization was previously managed by volunteers.)
Q: How were you inspired to start your business?
(Note, I didn’t start the organization.)
After working in mostly sales and marketing positions for twenty-plus years, the opportunity to use my network, skillset and knowledge to work at an organization that helps others was inspiring. I came on board as the Executive Director to help grow the Foundation’s ability and capacity to assist our hospitality workers who serve others, day in and out, when they need it most, during times of an emergency.
Q” What were the biggest obstacles and how were they overcome?
When I came on board, we had two really big challenges = mission awareness and financial resources. Because we are strictly focused on hospitality workers, some people have confused us with industry-related trade organizations such as the restaurant and hotel associations. However, we work very closely with these groups, but have a very different focus and mission. We continue to overcome this awareness challenge by meeting with industry leaders including owners, managers, and human resource executives at hotels, restaurants, bars and casinos, in order to educate them about our hospitality worker crisis grant program. As we continue to build up our mission awareness, we will also grow financial support. Traditionally, our revenue has come from special events that we have produced either ourselves or with community partners including the Louisiana Seafood Festival (which is on a hiatus), the Gold Medal Chefs Gala, Horses, Hops and Cops featuring the Budweiser Clydesdales, Crawfête, the Fidelity Bank Champions Club at Zurich Classic, Santa’s Kitchen and Wine on the River New Orleans. We are also encouraging companies and individuals to consider making a one-time or recurring donation through our website.
Q: What local resources have you used?
We depend on volunteers and partnerships to do our work in the community. As a staff of one, we invite others who believe in our work to get involved. Fidelity Bank has stepped up really big by featuring our organization as a Community Partner, by promoting our work through the P.O.W.E.R. program, sending volunteers to our events, and providing a financial donation that directly supported hospitality worker crisis grants.
Q: What local resources have you used?
A few of the local resources that I’ve leaned on to transition from the “for-profit” to “non-profit” space include educational training materials and workshops from:
- Louisiana Association of Non-Profit Organizations (LANO) www.lano.org
- Greater New Orleans Foundation www.gnof.org
- Blue Cross Foundation www.bcbslafoundation.org
Q: What is your big focus right now?
I’m excited to be working on a new marketing and fundraising campaign called P.O.W.E.R. Palates, a promotional program produced by Fidelity Bank, benefiting the Louisiana Hospitality Foundation.
P.O.W.E.R. Palates runs July 1-31, 2019 and features powerful women in the hospitality industry. Consumers are invited to visit participating bars and restaurants across New Orleans to support these women, and consider purchasing a featured dish or drink that will help raise money for the Louisiana Hospitality Foundation. To view a list of participating locations and features, visit www.fidelitybankpower.com
Q: What is the best advice you ever received?
Stay focused on the “why.”
Here’s an example: my mentor recommended to start every board of directors meeting with a “mission moment” that would share an impact story about someone who benefitted from the work of the Foundation. I took that a step further, and now start every committee meeting, board meeting, and any other meeting with a mission moment. It helps set the tone for the meeting and remind everyone why we are here – to help others!
Q: What success have you had in the last year?
Through a focused effort, I have met more people within the Louisiana hospitality industry, especially our hotels, than ever before. New connections help catapult creativity, inspiration, and opportunity. For example, the Baton Rouge Lodging Association has chosen our Foundation as their charitable partner for 2019!
Q: What has been the biggest benefit of being a POWER member?
The biggest benefit of being a POWER member has been expanding my professional network outside of the hospitality industry. I enjoy meeting business-minded women from all walks of life and learning about their challenges and successes. I learn from others.
Q: What does POWER mean to you?
To me, POWER means potential, which is born inside each individual. It also means passion, which is an opportunity to share the degree of care someone has for something.