For Brown Eagle CEO Lela Mae Wilkes, her years on the DBDC board of directors has meant a chance to serve the greater Baton Rouge business community. The DBDC, a business incubator supported by DEMCO, helps small businesses compete and grow by providing shared services, office space and warehousing.
“We’re available for our expertise,” said Wilkes. “If you want to know about warehousing, I would be there. I’d be someone you would call on, come see the warehouse and what we have done. There are people on there from banks who are available if you’ve got questions about financing. We’re there to serve the entrepreneur.”
Wilkes’ roots growing up on the family dairy farm in Pride, Louisiana taught her to appreciate the value of hard work and the sense of accomplishment that it brings. From feeding baby calves to planting a field, Wilkes and her family consistently did whatever needed to be done, working as a team to accomplish goals. Those experiences form the foundation of the wisdom she now shares with today’s up-and-coming business owners and entrepreneurs.
But that wasn’t the only lesson Lela Mae took from her parents’ farm: She was grateful for her parents teaching her that “there weren’t men jobs and women jobs.” Everyone was expected to do their part and take care of farm responsibilities. In college at Northwestern State University, Wilkes felt thankful to professors who gave her every opportunity to succeed as a woman in business. These experiences helped pave her path as a pioneer in the petrochemical service industry years later.
“I’m blessed to be where I am in large part because of a family that taught me the value of working hard, as well as schools where opportunity was not dependent on gender or social status,” said Wilkes. “Being able to share that wisdom with others is a real blessing.”