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Small Business Awards 2023

The Chamber Annouces the 2023 Small Business Award Winners!


The West Monroe West Ouachita Chamber of Commerce is proud to recognize the winners of the 2023 Small Business Awards presented by Ouachita Valley Federal Credit Union and Glenwood Regional Medical Center.

Nominations were accepted from Chamber members in the following categories:  Emerging Entrepreneur, Small Business, Female Champion, Community Champion and the Silver Plus Award.  And the winners are:

  • Innovator of the Year: This special award selected by the Chamber Panel is presented to a business that has shown innovation and adaptability and either recreated their model or helped create an entirely new market.

This business is clearly a sweet labor of love. This year’s winner saw opportunity and embraced change during COVID. Opening in 2022 they are the first and only company in Louisiana to be licensed to produce their products. Not only have they gone through the trouble to create a new business, but they have become FDA approved to wholesale and distribute the sweet treats they produce. Recreating a new experience based on the candy you love – this year’s winners have created quickly expanding market sure to please everyone!

Congratulating Misty Bowman – Freeze Dried Bayou Bites for this year’s Innovator of the Year!

  • Emerging Entrepreneur – 2 Winners were presented this year: Lisa Hughes – Stoneybrooks Senior Care & Thirsty Farmer – Savannah and Michael Ray!

Our first winner for the 2023 Emerging Entrepreneur Award recently took on an existing facility after 30 years in the industry bringing a dream to life. With an unbelievable passion for those they serve, this year’s winner brings compassion, and a drive to ensure our older citizens never loose dignity even when facing memory issues. Never without a smile on her face, this year’s winner is a truly kind person working daily to improve her business. While only having her current business a little over a year, we have a feeling this year’s winner will continue the entrepreneurial spirit long into the future.

Join me now in congratulating Lisa Hughes – Stoneybrooks Senior Care!

Our second winner for the 2023 Emerging Entrepreneur Award have literally been cultivating opportunity to come to market for over 6 years while they honing their craft. Investing in Ouachita Parish and creating a new brand that is quickly expanding this couple works tirelessly to ensure their customers have a wonderful experience including live music and displays of work by local artists. This couple embraces entrepreneurial spirit and aren’t afraid of the hard work it takes to bring dreams to reality.

Congratulations Thirsty Farmer – Savannah and Michael Ray!

  • Small Business – Scott and Gayle Frick – Music City Studios

This team brings a new level to the cultural arts in our region. Through their talents they have given new artists voice, and unparalleled opportunity. Sparing no expense they have created a space where artists can thrive, experiment, collaborate and reach the potential inside. They also offer a sense of community and support many non-profits through partnership and lending their considerable music talents with others who share their passion.

Partners with the Chamber in our Brown Bag Concert Series and nearly every other public event we host, the Chamber is honored to present this year’s small business award to a pair of creative entrepreneurs -

Congratulations Scott and Gayle Fick – Music City Studios

  • Female Champion – Tonya Hamilton – Hamilton House Inn and The Perfect Find

Investing in a dream takes a rare person… and bringing that vision to life when others are skeptical takes a true entrepreneur. More than a business owner, this year’s winner can be seen everywhere. From cooking breakfast and ensuring clients have the perfect experience to adding a little bling to a shopping experience – we see this year’s winner literally running around downtown, always smiling and always investing in others. Never shy to take on a task, pick up a hammer or invest her own money into making our community better she has demonstrated unwavering commitment to seeing our community thrive and is inspiring to all those who are fortunate enough to work with her.

Congratulations Tonya Hamilton – our 2023 Female Champion Winner!

  • Community Champion – Flying Heart Brewing and Pub – West Monroe

The challenges of COVID and natural disasters did not dampen their team’s enthusiasm to become a part of our community. The day after Hurricane Laura and before their groundbreaking, two of the owners traveled to West Monroe to help with storm cleanup, despite personally not having electricity at home. They’ve shown early on a true commitment to the community they serve. Moreover, through their Cares initiative, they have given back to numerous non-profits and community organizations hosting fundraiser events which have raised significant funds and supplies for organizations such as the Downtown West Monroe Revitalization Group, the Kiroli Foundation, and the Louisiana Purchase Gardens and Zoo – just to name a few.

This year’s winner truly steps up for the community when it is in need - from donating 50 gallons of bleach to River Cities Humane Society for Cats to suppling food and donations in times of crisis they set an example like no other. From furry friends to veterans causes to community development, this winner proudly steps up time and time again to lift others up.

Congratulations Flying Heart Brewing and Pub West Monroe – Our 2023 Community Champion

  • Silver Plus Award – J&H Boots and Jeans

The business receiving this award started 40 years ago with an act of love from a father to a daughter. When one of the owners of this business found herself in a difficult situation, her dad, a respected businessman in the community, knew her story wasn’t over. He came up with an idea to put his daughter to work running a business selling tools. As the store’s reputation grew, another opportunity occurred. The store began selling a new item, boots, so quickly that they decided this was the meat of the business. They sold off all the tools and renamed the store J&H Boots & Jeans. A couple of years later, one of Mr. Haze’s other daughters found herself in a similar situation, and you guessed it, she joined the store. With her addition one of the most iconic business partnerships in our community’s history was born. Over the past 40 years this little hole in the wall tool shop transformed into a thriving western business that not only is a staple in our community but known in the industry nation-wide. The sisters never took their blessings for granted and have given back generously to their community through many donations and sponsorships over the past 40 years. Haze Gentry would have never imagined that the silly idea of a small tool shop out of an act of love for his little girl would grow into a thriving business known throughout the industry.

Congratulations - J&H Boots and Jeans

Chamber Announces 2022 Small Business Award Winners

The West Monroe West Ouachita Chamber of Commerce is proud to recognize the winners of the 2022 Small Business Awards presented by Ouachita Valley Federal Credit Union and Glenwood Regional Medical Center.

Nominations were accepted from Chamber members in the following categories:  Emerging Entrepreneur, Small Business, Female Champion, Community Champion and the Silver Plus Award.  And the winners are:

  • Emerging Entrepreneur – 2 Winners were presented this year: CAKE and Tech Savvy
    • Our first winner for the 2022 Emerging Entrepreneur Award hosted their ribbon cutting at their new downtown location in September of 2021, after navigating the challenges of opening a new storefront while operating and continuing to serve their clients to an exceptional level, they have made an impact in our downtown. Sisters who are known for lifting each other up during life's joys and challenges – they truly embody the entrepreneurial spirt and raise the bar when it comes to customer service, kind attention and love for their work.  That teamwork now beautifully represents the spirit of running a family-owned small business. Everyone who enters CAKE is greeted with genuine smiles and kind words, no matter how busy Emily and Becky may be with custom orders or baking specialty items for their display cases. Their passion is apparent with every delicacy they make, from a tiny French macaron to an extravagant custom wedding cake. CAKE is destined for continued success because of a special combination of talent, positivity, and family determination. Congratulations CAKE – Emily and Becky!
    • Our second winner for the 2022 Emerging Entrepreneur Award goes to a man (and business) with a true heart of gold.  He has an undying passion to serve those who serve others ensuring his clients make lasting investments in their own businesses that work to their needs and not only his financial gain.  He founded his company in effort to help schools, non-profits, and companies that serve others manage their IT needs so they can serve their mission without distraction.  Nathan and the staff that he has recruited are reliable, kind, and have a heart for this community.  Many programs in our community have benefited from his honest approach to ensuring businesses are open, data is secure and assets are protected. Congratulations Tech Savvy – Nathan Tremaine


  • Small Business – Lyla Corkern, Finding Solace
    • This business owner and her team truly live to better others. This owner is a true servant to others and believes in the mission to bring mental health support, service, and advocacy to everyone she can reach.  She has built a thriving mental health private practice from a small building with only two people to a large setting that can serve the community but still feels accessible.  Walking through their doors feels like walking into what we would all like to call home.  There is truth in the name of her company as it is a place of refuge and peace for anyone to come in an ''as you are'' way to be able to find the tools to navigate life. The team at Finding Solace have grown and expanded to meet the high demand of community members needing mental health counseling and therapy. Moreover, Lyla uses her voice to spread the best messages about Mental Health. Eradicating the stigma, and using humor and powerful knowledge to bring about change. Congratulations to Finding Solace!
  • Female Champion – Debbie Bourg, DBK Dance and Performing Arts
    • For over 44 years, this community icon has been doing much more than educating students in performing arts. The life lessons learned in the studio are intentionally designed to teach students the value of serving their community. Students learn to serve in ways that go far beyond entertainment. The talented and well-trained staff equally share a very strong passion for teaching young people the intrinsic value of serving others. They believe that young people who learn empathy, compassion, and respect develop a greater sense of self-worth. When added to strong work ethic, discipline, and confidence, you are creating successful human beings! These women devote countless hours above normal above normal class schedules to students to ensure they reach their greatest potential. In the 44 years they have been in business, they have contributed their time and talent to the March of Dimes, Cerebral Palsy, Susan B Komen Race for the Cure, Ministry of Inspirational Therapy, Kiroli Park, The Children's Coalition, and The Cancer Foundation League of Northeast Louisiana. Their annual Fashion Fusion Event has helped not only to raise thousands of dollars for local Cancer patients and families but gives recognition and support to so many small businesses in our community. This year's Event raised over 80,000 for the Cancer Foundation League! That money stays right here for the patients and families of our community! Moreover - DBK teaches young people to ''Dance from your Heart and Give GOD the Glory!''  Congratulations to Debbie Bourg, DBK Dance and Performing Arts Center – our 2022 Female Champion Winner!
  • Community Champion – VCOM - Edward Via College of Osteopathic Medicine Louisiana
    • In less than four years, this business has established itself here in Ouachita Parish and made an enormous difference for the people of this community.  In addition to the millions of dollars in economic support that it has funneled into the area, the students, faculty, and staff have also given of themselves in volunteer efforts and in-kind gifts.  In fact, from May 1, 2021, until now, their organization has clocked over 7,570 volunteer hours.  They have hosted blood drives, school supply drives, toy and supply drives for the local children’s home, and have raised funds for numerous community groups.  When last fall’s hurricane season saw hundreds of evacuees seeking refuge at the Civic Center, VCOM-Louisiana faculty, staff and students were among the first on the scene to help those affected.  It is clear – that VCOM has come into this community and embraced it as their own in a way we have not seen before. Congratulations VCOM Louisiana – Our 2022 Community Champion
  • Silver Plus Award – Gretchen Kovac, Gretchen Kovac Construction
    • This year’s winner is deserving of this award due to a well-known legacy of her business in the northeast region of Louisiana. Successful in a difficult field for over 44 years – they have created a unique brand developing subdivisions in our community and creating over 750 homes. Her impacts to community include donating the lot for the first St. Jude home, building the St. Jude home, donation of lots to Habitat for Humanity, and donation of lots to municipalities for infrastructure improvements. Mrs. Kovac has served on multiple boards within our community and demonstrates excellence in every project she tackles. Congratulations to Gretchen Kovac, Gretchen Kovac Construction!


The Chamber also presented a special award, the 2022 Innovator of the Year awarded to Lyndsay Turner, Pure Drip Wellness. This special award selected by the Chamber Panel is presented to a business that has shown innovation and adaptability and either recreated their model or helped create an entirely new market.

  • This business has been a dream for the business owner for many years.  This visionary owner wanted to bring a unique experience to our community. Something different. Something not already offered. This business offers a tranquil place to health and restore the mind, body and spirit. Opening in July 2021 Lyndsay Turner and her team at Pure Drip have created a successful, innovative business, offering Yoga and wellness classes along with infrared saunas. Congratulation to Pure Drip Wellness, this year’s Innovator of the Year!”

“With an outstanding group of nominees, totaling over 75 across the categories we are prouder than ever to present this year’s Small Business Awards! As you look at these winners’ names you will see a community that is actively invested in building a brighter, diverse, and prosperous future! Today we are honored to recognize long term achievement, community investment, and true entrepreneurship that only occurs in an environment where neighbors care, where leaders look to the future, and where public and private partnership reach for common goals.” Said Kristopher Kelley, Executive Director of the WMWO Chamber “Today – we celebrate the bright lights of our community. Today – we highlight not just members, but role models for our community. These nominees are the West Monroe West Ouachita Chamber – and we are stronger than ever because of them.”

These awards are possible with the support of these generous sponsors: Century Next Bank, Finding Solace, GO CARE, Graphic Packaging Int., Johnny’s Pizza House, Lazenby & Associates, Origin Bank, and Paramount Healthcare Consultants.

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