On this edition of Out to Lunch, Peter Ricchiuti, Stephanie Riegel and Christiaan Mader meet at the nexus of the Latinx Hub City Pang Wangle. Okay, let’s unpack that:
There’s no two ways about it – this is a tough time to be in business. There is help available to get through this rough patch – in the form of business loans, and even grants. Some are through Federal agencies, some are from State agencies, and there’s money available from city governments in New Orleans, Baton Rouge, and Lafayette.
Getting a hold of this money is not easy. Typically, businesses benefit by being a member of a business alliance to help them navigate the maze of regulation and bureaucracy. But some businesses are too small to join alliances like the Chamber of Commerce. For those small owner-operator businesses, getting access to financial expertise of any kind is challenging.
You might be a great hairdresser, house painter, or plumber, but that doesn’t mean you have great – or even any – business skills. Now, imagine having the added problem of not being able to speak English. That’s the position many Latinx self-employed people find themselves in, in Louisiana. And that’s why there’s an organization called El Centro. El Centro provides business assistance for Latinx entrepreneurs.
Lindsey Navarro is Executive Director of El Centro. There’s a local Hispanic Chamber of Commerce, but that’s not El Centro. If there was ever an organization that truly exists to help the little guy, it’s El Centro.
Before a previous disaster, Hurricane Katrina, blew Stephanie Riegel and her family to Baton Rouge, Stephanie was a journalist and news anchor at WWL TV in New Orleans. One of Stephanie’s colleagues there was fellow journalist, Jennifer John.
Stephanie is still a journalist but Jennifer John is not, she’s the founder and CEO of a company with an intriguing name, Pang Wangle.
The story goes that while Jen was out in the field reporting, she was so sick of getting bitten up by mosquitoes and other bugs that she created a line of bug resistant clothing for women: scarves, wraps, pants, hats, and bags that are not only stylish and lightweight for life outdoors in the South, but they’re also impregnated with a safe and long-lasting bug repellant.
Things had been going pretty well since Jen launched Pang Wangle at the end of 2017. And then along came Covid 19. But, instead of decimating Jen’s business like so many others, the pandemic got Pang Wangle coverage in the Los Angeles Times, the Washington Post, New York Lifestyles magazine, and on a coveted Buzzfeed list.
Over the course of the last few months, journalists have found themselves asking what seems like an endless list of questions for which there are often no known answers. How long will this economic downturn last? What happens when your government assistance runs out? What is the future of education, of the tourist and convention business, the entertainment industry, air travel… The list goes on.
But, in the midst of all this uncertainty, there is one economic question that we get a definite answer to on this edition of Out to Lunch Louisiana. And that question is – Why, during the course of this pandemic and unprecedented economic uncertainty and record unemployment – why are bicycle sales through the roof?
To answer that question, we’re not turning to an economist or financial pundit, we’re turning to Meg Arcenaux, owner of Hub City Cycles in Lafayette.
You can also check out other bike related conversations.
Photos by Jill Lafleur.