Capital One Bank Graduates its 2019 “Getting Down to Business” Class

A Variety of Businesses Represented in New Orleans

By Lisa Stafford, NOELA Services, LLC

On November 21, 2019, I had the honor of being one of the proud graduates of Capital One Bank’s Getting Down to Business small business development program. The program culminated in a ceremony at Xavier University after 12 weeks of sometimes grueling sessions, covering a broad range of subjects structured to create successful entrepreneurs.  

Carmen Sunda (LSBDC), Angele VonDerPool (Business Builders Management & Consulting, LLC), Lisa Stafford (NOELA Services, LLC), Mark Boucree (Capital One Bank), Tiffany Taylor-Hicks (The Velvet Rope Experience) and Maria LeBlanc (The Workaholic). (Photo credit: Tracie Morris Schaefer)

During the program, coordinated by Capital One Bank Vice President of Community Development, Mark Boucree and Program Administrator, Angele VonDerPool, a diverse group of business owners gathered on most Tuesday and Thursday evenings from August to November to learn about starting, financing, managing and growing their businesses. Their efforts were rewarded before a proud group of family and friends at Xavier’s University Center ballroom.

The Getting Down to Business (GDTB) program is organized each year by Capital One Bank in partnership with the Louisiana Small Business Development Center (LSBDC). Classes are hosted in Houston, Dallas and New Orleans, and participants are selected via a rigorous application process which attracted nearly 160 applicants for the New Orleans session alone. 

Realizing that participants often juggle busy schedules that may involve operating their businesses while working other full time jobs, shuttling kids to school and meeting other responsibilities, Capital One provided a meal on site to ensure that participants could be available to start class on time. Participants also regularly received tips for balancing work with other responsibilities. 

GDTB Classes provide an excellent foundation for small businesses and long term relationships are often established among program participants. Past participants are even afforded the opportunity to provide their services for future classes, such as photography, videography, catering and course instruction. Topics included developing a business growth plan, establishing and improving credit, hiring employees, obtaining insurance, planning for business continuity in the event of a disaster, developing best practices for accounting and recordkeeping, following business laws, improving sales and customer service, networking with other businesses to produce sales leads; and using IT, Cyber Security, cloud-based and mobile solutions.

During the session, participants were required to open a savings account, and Capital One Bank offered an incentive for doing so by matching attendees’ savings, dollar for dollar, for a maximum of $1,000. In a complete surprise during the graduation ceremony, participants were awarded Dell Inspiron 5570 laptops, as well as a bag of other gifts! Graduation is not the end for participants, however, as they are also partnered with a lifetime mentor to provide advice and guidance. 

This program was more than just checking off boxes for objectives met. Participants were held accountable through periodic reports on actions completed. At the end of the course, teams competed for bragging rights and cash by presenting solutions for a real life business problem. That competition was won by the team of Amanda Perkins, Lisa Collins and Ashley Wilson. James Green and Amanda Perkins were voted to represent the class by speaking at graduation, based on their accomplishments and the respect they earned from their classmates.


James Green speaks about his business (Photo credit: Tracie Morris Schaefer)


Case Study Competition winners Lisa Collins, Amanda Perkins and Ashley Wilson (Photo credit: Tracie Morris Schaefer)

The 2019 class was comprised of the following businesses:

Amanda Jefferson, Sticky Fingers, Etc.* (edible art, including cookies, candies and custom treats)

Amanda Perkins, Cat Hospital of Metairie

Ashley Wilson, Freezy Street Ice Cream Company*

Caitlin Kwan, Candlelight Properties (rental properties)

Candias Smith, Iris 1956 Jewels

Courtney McWilliams, MaryMac’s Doggie Retreat

Istarauma Sumeros, Suneva Webcasting, LLC

James Green, Ace Inspection and Structural Services, LLC

Lakischia Smith, WhoDat Barbershop*

Latrice Pinkins, Wink Your Eyes (eyelash extensions, eyebrow shaping and makeup application)

Lisa Collins, Collins Accounting Services Group, LLC

Lisa Stafford, NOELA Services, LLC* (email marketing, digital publications and administrative support)

Nelson and Ashley Burton, Burton Transit (medical and airport shuttle service)

Quevon Solomon, Dust Bunny General Cleaning

Tonya Freeman Brown, Bird of Paradise Bodyworks, LLC (massage therapy)


*New Orleans East businesses

Standing, left to right: Mark Boucree, Lisa Collins, Latrice Pinkins, Amanda Perkins, Ashley Wilson, James Green, Lisa Stafford, Istarauma Sumeros, Caitlyn Kwan, Tiffany Taylor-Hicks, Carmen Sunda, Lakischia Smith, Angele VonDerPool and Maria LeBlanc. Seated: Amanda Perkins, Ashley Burton, Tonya Freeman Brown, Nelson Burton, Quevon Solomon and Courtney McWilliams. (Photo credit: Tracie Morris Schaefer)


The next session of Capital One Bank’s Getting Down to Business program will begin in Spring 2020.


Correction: The previous post stated that classes are held in Atlanta, as well New Orleans and Houston. This is an error. Classes are held in New Orleans, Dallas and Houston.

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