Renae Trahan and her husband own All Star Signs & Specialties. Trahan recently won the Women in Business Champion award in the Louisiana Small Business Awards from the Louisiana Economic Development office and the U.S. Small Business Administration.
I'm actually a Berry girl. Born in Lafayette while my dad was finishing up at USL but totally grew up in New Iberia. Graduated from NISH in 1989. Ended up back in Lafayette, graduated a true Ragin’ Cajun and never left. My influences were definitely my parents, Roy and Linda Pontiff. Both of them were hard-working during the week and fun-loving on the weekends. They taught me that if you want something you have to go out and get it for yourself. Neither one has been without a job at any time in their adult life. They taught me to be frugal and make it with what you have. My husband Hunter has a love-hate relationship with that last trait.
Both my parents are financially minded. I have a deep passion for accounting. I absolutely love when my balance sheet balances and starting new folders for the new year. My first job was with a bank, but shortly after I landed a job with a local CPA firm. That is where I learned to love corporate accounting. I determined I was so much better behind the computer. My family teases me because I can spend hours upon hours sitting at my desk working the numbers. In order to continue that passion when we bought All Star, I started a contract bookkeeping firm, Abacus Management. I currently have three bookkeepers who work with me, and we maintain 12 clients.
In 2008, my husband and I decided to sell his family’s car dealership amid the largest bank bailout in our government’s history. He bounced around for a few years and ended up with a job in the specialties industry. Still not fulfilled, I prayed for direction. One day, Hunter got a call from a friend asking if we would be interested to buy his sign and specialties company. My first response was “Hell yeah!” I had been doing other company’s accounting for 20 years. I was so ready to tackle my own. I just knew with his knack for sales and networking and my business experience, we would make a great team. We were amazed at how everything seemed to just fall in place in three short months. Guided by prayers and rainbows, the stars aligned, and we closed on the purchase July 11, 2016.
I really didn’t think of the award as that big a deal. I didn’t even tell my family. There is probably some woman out there way more deserving than me. I am fortunate to have my husband as a partner and that sort of eases the mind. Yes, I put in a lot of hours. Yes, there is no door I won’t walk through. Yes, “We can’t do it” is not in my vocabulary. And, yes, I have been shot down a time or two. My role at All Star is different than I imagined. I actually have a bookkeeper. It is a bit out of my comfort zone but obviously it’s my path. Some days are easy. I feel confident and have clarity, and other days are a challenge. On those challenging days you will find me scooting off to do bookkeeping somewhere.
Since we opened we have survived the 100-year flood of 2016, what seemed like never-ending construction on Verot School Road, even a major oil slump only to have this COVID-19 crisis in our fourth year. Everyone keeps telling me just get through that first five years. God, what hurdle will you throw at me next? It is during our biggest struggles where we learn and grow. It is now that you have to step outside the box, roll up your sleeves and get uncomfortable. This too shall pass. And after this does pass and we do survive, we will sit back and have a good laugh.
Women starting a business should definitely take advantage of your local small business center. They were a huge help in guiding me through the purchase and applying for my certifications. Once established, there are so many avenues for assistance in areas of business development, financial management and networking. Second, I keep a list of goals. Sometimes it takes me a month or a whole year to scratch out, but the list stares at me every day from my desktop. Third, find your motivation. Mine is leading by example for my kids, getting out of debt and (whispering) I hate to fail.
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