Business Hall of Fame

E.J. Krampe addressing the audience at the 23rd Annual Business Hall of Fame Awards after being named Business Person of the Year.

Acadiana's business community came out in force Tuesday night to honor the community leaders in business and to raise money to help give future generations a hand in pursuing entrepreneurship.

The  23rd annual Business Hall of Fame highlights business leaders in the community and their contributions and raises money for Junior Achievement of Acadiana, an organization that helps teach area students the skills they'll need to succeed in life and in pursuing business dreams of their own. Last year's event raised over $68,000.

"What we're definitely hoping is to bring recognition to our programs here in Acadiana and show what we've done over the past year," said Lauren Fitts, development director for Junior Achievement of Acadiana. "We currently reach about 4,000 kids a year, but there's about 90,000 in the public school system here in Acadiana so we have a ways to go."

Honorees were:

  • Gus Rezende, co-owner of Social Entertainment, Rising Young Business Person of the Year.
  • Edward "E.J." Krampe III, MacLaff, Business Person of the Year.
  • Heidi Melancon, Small Business Development Center at the University of Louisiasna at Lafayette, The Richard E Baudoin Jr. "Friend of Business" Award.
  • Christl Mahfouz, Ace Specialties, Small Business of the Year.
  • Will LaBar, CGI, Large Business of the Year.
  • Gregg Gothreaux, Lafayette Economic Development Authority, Laureate.
  • Ema Haq, Bailey's Companies, Laureate.

The common theme among the seven honorees was that although at times things can be tough and the work can be hard, being a business owner or entrepreneur can be extremely rewarding and fulfilling as well. 

Mahfouz spoke about the challenges of facing fear and the unknown through the story of how her small business of less than 50 employees secured the production rights for President Donald Trump's campaign merchandise.

Meanwhile, Rezende spoke on the numerous hurdles he had to surmount coming from Sao Paulo, Brazil, to America for college, starting numerous local businesses like Central Pizza, Tropical Smoothie Cafe, Dix "Almost Famous" Daquiris and Social.

"I had a vision," Rezende said. "It wasn't super clear, but I wanted to do this thing called entrepreneurship full time. I knew I had the energy, the will and the enthusiasm and the drive. As life today moves so fast, it's easy to forget where I came from and how amazing and challenging this ride has been."

Krampe, president of MacLaff, which operates 45 McDonald's locations with over 2,600 employees across Louisiana, spoke not only on the lessons he learned from his father and in his many years in business, but also about how, as business leaders, those in attendance should also volunteer and give back to that community.

"Make time to serve your community and the institutions that you hold dear," Krampe said. "In doing so, you get back far, far more than you give. I'm grown and learned so much by serving here in Lafayette... The truth is, without making time to serve, I wouldn't be half the business person, half of the leader or half of the friend that I am today."

Acadiana Business Today: More from Acadiana to Greenville: When the Greenville/Spartanburg area needed to diversify its economy, it hit a grand slam with the BMW plant; Junior Achievement's Business Hall of Fame honors business leaders

Follow Dan Boudreaux on Twitter, @dan_boudreaux