Bright Lights, Bigger City
As a kid growing up in the small, rural town of Mamou, I had huge aspirations of starting my own business one day. At least once every couple of months, my mother and I would come to Lafayette to go to the Acadiana Mall, among other places. As we drove into the city, I would gaze out of the passenger side car window at the office buildings and businesses, the likes of which you would not see in my hometown. I knew that one day I would have an office in a building like the ones I would see when I would come to the city. My mother knew the aspirations I had and would talk to me about the impact she knew I would make as I grew older, which further motivated me. I eventually graduated from high school and moved to Lafayette to attend college. This is when I began to fall in love with Acadiana.
As I reflect on what I love most about Acadiana, I believe that it is the ingenuity and creativity of the people. This mindset spans the region and has created many entrepreneurs, many of whom I have seen create businesses within structural constraints and using limited resources. I have had the honor of working with many of them, most of which are minority-owned, as they started businesses and created side hustles to generate income to support their families.
It is no secret that Acadiana is known for its culture, creating a good foundation from which local entrepreneurs produce products or perform services. People within the Acadiana region are utilizing its food, arts and culture to fuel their entrepreneurial endeavors. They have found ways to monetize their skills to cook and prepare Creole and Cajun cuisine, utilize their ability to capture the beautiful sights of our region on canvas and through photography, produce and perform music unique to our culture, and much more. They are making a living while being a part of our cultural economy. I am proud to have built a business that has been able to assist them along the journey.
Many of my philanthropic efforts and volunteerism are focused on teaching financial literacy and entrepreneurship to the youth in Acadiana. It is the most fulfilling thing that I do as I often see a younger version of myself in them. Like the adults that I work with, I try and teach them how to use Acadiana’s unique culture as an asset for their entrepreneurial pursuits. I believe that doing this will expose them to the opportunities that exist locally, help them build an appreciation for the region and prevent Acadiana from losing bright, young talent to other cities and states.
Growing up in Acadiana has had a tremendous impact on me and I plan to continue doing my part to make it a better place for all.
Corey Jack is an entrepreneur, the founder of Youth Literacy Foundation Acadiana and a past Acadiana Trailblazers honoree.