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Propeller Graduation and the Results!

Morgan Sasser_Accelerator Portraits FINAL-28

After 12 challenging weeks of driving to and from New Orleans, sometimes twice a week, the Accelerator Program at Propeller has finally come to an end.  It was intense, informative, enlightening, and all those other adjectives that could best describe a successful entrepreneurial, startup program.  

Before I go any further, I’m going to act like a famous novelist and acknowledge all those people who had a hand in furthering my bright dream of offering weekend immersion trips to bayou country:

The Propeller Team:  Andrea` Chen, Julia Stewart, and Ginny Hanusik for the opportunity, hospitality, and all the pro bono professional help
My tirelessly patient lead mentor, Mike Eckert for guidance, advice, and the name change
The Loyola Interns: Trich Lee, Melanie Boeckl, Eduardo Ruiz, Christian Clark, and Justin Leohn for four weeks of hard work in the midst of exams putting together a comprehensive marketing strategy 
My new and uber-talented graphic designer:  Robin McDowell
All the startup ventures for the encouragement, networking, and naming-drill ideas

And now, to give you what you didn’t even know you were waiting for, the highlights of the Accelerator program as it applies to my businesses.  Presenting the new

Beyond The Bayou Excursions

This past Tuesday night was “graduation” night for all 30 ventures. In order to finish the program, we had to give a three-minute pitch covering all major facets of the business, along with a four-slide Power Point presentation. Easier said than done, my friends, easier said than done. I’ll be honest with you:   Put me in a room in front of hundreds of people, a podium to stand behind, and a screen to stand in front of, and extemporaneous speaking becomes my forté. I can spew out the most interesting presentation you’ve ever seen about heard coastal wetland loss. But stick me in a smaller, tighter space, no podium, and slides on the wall behind my back, and tell me to cover every facet of my business venture in three minutes to three judges sitting only a few feet in front of me? Well, I choke, bomb, freeze up, crash and burn, whatever you want to call failing; and that’s exactly what happened to me in the trial run two weeks ago. But thank my lucky stars that by Tuesday night, I had rehearsed my three-minute pitch so many times, I could almost do it in my sleep. Yeah, there might have been a little stumble or two, but my voice was steady, and I didn’t pass out in front of an audience of about 50 important New Orleans movers and shakers. Heck, I even made eye contact with a person or two.

It’s something like what they call an elevator pitch. You happen to end up in an elevator with a potential business investor or customer, and you’ve got this short window of opportunity to hit the high notes of what your business has to offer and hope something they hear will make him/her want to know more.

So, pretend you are my potential customers, but rather than giving you my pitch aloud, I’m going to share it with you in writing, along with the slides, and see if I can convince you to get your group together and come on down in 2016.

Slide1I’m Capt. Wendy, also known as the Bayou Woman, and my venture is Beyond the BayouSlide2 Excursions in Theriot, LA, which is in the heart of one of the most rapidly disappearing wetlands in the world. Coastal La. loses about 18 square miles of wetlands a year or about a football field every hour due to natural and man-made causes.  This loss impacts human life, marine life, wildlife, plant life, and birds, a fact of which many people are not aware.  The mission of Beyond the Bayou Excursions is to increase awareness of this loss and to foster new appreciation for these wetlands.

Through my book, Before the Saltwater Came, my wetland presentations, and two-hour boat tours, I have educated thousands of people over past 10 years about the plight of coastal La. By combining my experience as a wetland educator and tour guide with my camp rental, Beyond the Bayou Excursions seeks to educate more people via two-and-a-half-day excursions for photographers, bird watchers, and university students. Slide3

Photographers will gain new insight into wetland loss issues as they photograph landscapes, wildlife, birds, and people.   

Bird watchers will gain new understanding of how wetland loss negatively impacts not only the habitat, but also bird species and populations.  

University students will further their education about different types of wetlands, wetland loss impacts, causes, solutions, and restoration methods.

Slide4The excursions are for groups of 4-6 people and include overnight accommodations, meals, and a boat trip into the wetlands.  Additionally, an expert in each field of interest will be available to guide and instruct.

Beyond the Bayou Excursions is a for-profit venture which generates revenue from per-person excursion charges. The goal for 2016 is to book four excursions per month which will increase the boat tour revenue by 75% and the camp rental revenue by 25% over 2015.

I hope you will agree that Beyond the Bayou Excursions are as unique as our wetlands and that you will promote them to your club members and students.  For more information, please visit  Thank you.

So, my friends, after the holidays, I will be busy implementing the marketing strategy laid out for me by the Loyola interns.  I will be emailing out one-pagers to the photography clubs, birding clubs, and university professors. If any of those email me back expressing interest, then I will offer them a free boat tour and offer to pitch the excursions to their club or department heads/professors.  I will be updating the blog page for the excursions, updating social media pages with new name, and designing business cards and flip cards for tourism racks.  

By the way, these excursions are replacing my Bayou Woman Adventures, which never quite took off, BUT that in no way means that I would turn away any group of 4-6 women that wanted to come down and enjoy their own excursion.  That includes families, too.  It’s just that for the sake of the program, and my deferral to the experts, I needed target markets based on market research.  So, we shall see after I’ve done all I can do to promote this new venture, if it will pay off in the end.

Meanwhile, we’re gearing up for a couple of Bayou Christmas celebrations, which will include lots of delicious food and delectable goodies that we only indulge in once a year.  

I’d love for you to tell me what your holiday plans are, what’s on the menu, and give me some feedback about my Beyond the Bayou Excursions, if you like.

Merry Christmas,

~ BW ~

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  1. The best of luck in this new venture.

    We are planning to have an early Christmas this weekend with the great-grandkids. Then on Christmas, we will visit our sons home to deliver gifts, then go to our daughters that evening to have a Christmas dinner, deliver gifts and visit our son in law who is recuperating from last weeks heart surgery. We are blessed to have him around this Christmas and hopefully many more. So, dinner will be heart healthy foods and maybe a sneaked slice of pecan pie (his favorite).

    1. Oh, I’m sorry I didn’t recall that your son-in-law had suffered heart problems. So glad he’s on the mend, and I know you’re happy to still have him here this Christmas. I think pecan pie sounds divine! Maybe I’ll make one this year!

  2. Well done, BW! That’s a brilliant pitch—short, but clear, comprehensive, and memorable! Hopefully you will get a great response, because it’s a really good programme you’re offering.

    You asked about Christmas….well, on Christmas Eve afternoon we all go to the crib service at church for tiny children. Even though ours are now 24, 26 and 31, they still love to go, having been (in their times) Mary, Joseph, donkeys, angels, stars, wise men, sheep and all points west! In the evening we have a special candlelight dinner with a big puffy oven pancake filled with hot spiced apples, after which my daughter and I will go to midnight mass to sing in the choir.

    On Christmas morning people open stockings at leisure, then a traditional breakfast of sliced oranges and pomegranate, followed by toasted pannetore (Italian Christmas bread). Presents are distributed by my husband, always with a joke for each one, and we all watch as each of us opens one present at a time, so we get maximum pleasure from each one. Then at noon our other guests arrive, usually two or three friends who would otherwise be on their own, and we have a traditional lunch starting with Christmas crackers (you know, the kind you pull, with silly jokes and little gifts and paper hats inside which everyone puts on) and then a light salad to start, turkey for carnivores and Greek feta turnovers for vegetarians, plus mashed potatoes, gravy, sprouts, carrots and cranberry sauce, and at last an ice cream pudding.

    In the afternoon we listen to the Queen’s speech on television, and in the evening most of us settle for a light fruit and cheese snack—except for the two sons, who repeat the entire Christmas lunch all over again! :-))

    I wish you and your family, and everyone else here, a very happy Christmas and a safe, healthy, peaceful and prosperous 2016!

    1. Thank you, Kathy. It’s so great to hear from you. I remember reading some of this Christmas traditions a couple years ago. I’m so intrigued by your traditions. And listening to the queen is like another world to me, but a charming one just the same. I wish you and yours a very Merry Christmas and a Happy New Year!

  3. I am excited of this new venture for you and glad to know that if us gals just want to gather for a Bayou Adventure we still can, either way it is going to be awesome and I wish the best for you. You have got something real unique. Our Christmas will be going to the boats in Shreveport to eat with family and friends (no dishes to clean no food to cook!) and then afterwards coming home and spending time with my daughter and her fiance which I have missed dearly. But my sister in law, my niece my daughter and I are discussing a trip to Camp DuLarge in the summer of 2016, but one step at a time I have to retire first!!! Have a very Merry Christmas and a Prosperous New Year!

    1. I would love for you girls to come down. A group of 4 would be great! You know I’d love to see you, and I miss Amy, too! The Thai place just isn’t the same without her smiling face! Merry Christmas, old friend!

  4. Congratulations, Wendy. I know your new endeavor will be fabulous because I speak from experience with a day spent with you on a Bayou Adventure!
    Have a Merry Christmas.

    1. Bev, I hope to be speaking to your photography club in Baton Rouge soon. They are part of the marketing plan–one of several clubs. I’ll be speaking to bird clubs, also. So, I might be looking to you for a little back up testimonial! I’m ready for your ladies to come back and stay for a weekend excursion! Merry Christmas, Bev!

  5. Congrats on your completion of the Propeller Project. I must have missed the explanation of what Propeller was about. I’ve been wondering for some time now what you were up to. I’m sure you learned a ton of good stuff with the Loyola folks. No slouches there. You are one smart chica, so take what I have to say with a grain of salt if it doesn’t sit right with you. Here are my two thoughts on what I take from what I read.

    One, “Bayou Woman” was your brand, just like Pioneer Woman, and I feel like you subordinated your brand name underneath all these new trappings. I don’t see what you gained by changing your business name to Beyond the Bayou Excursions. Bayou Woman Adventures was a great name. Two, aren’t you a certified Coast Guard Captain? What happened to “Captain Wendy” in all this? She seems to have gotten lost in the shuffle too. I would have encouraged you to keep the Bayou Woman and Captain Wendy monikers front and center, now and always. Those four words truly capture who and what you are.

    I still love what you do and wish you and your family all the best this Christmas season.

    1. I feel like the teacher just took me to task, LOL! But let me explain: First, Capt. John Swallow already reminded me that Capt. is a credential hard-earned, but I couldn’t wait for the designer to get the logo edits done for this post, which is to add Capt. in front of Wendy. Second, I have NOT changed my brand. I am still Bayou Woman. The reason for the name change for the adventures is because they were for women only. Even though the term “Bayou Woman” in the name Bayou Woman Adventures, referred to “me”, some male marketing professionals felt it would continue to be misleading. And since there is now a broader target market, a more inclusive one, hence the need for a new name. None of these changes came about easily, Brenda, believe me! Lots of exchange, research, consideration, etc. Beyond the Bayou Excursions is just the new name for these trips. Does this help clarify things?

  6. I agree with what Brenda says above. Even though Bayou Woman and Captain are there in the materials, I’d make sure that in important places like the header, I’d have it say “Beyond the Bayou Excursions with CAPTAIN Wendy “Bayou Woman” Billiot. That Captain needs to be front and center, both as a way of indicating that you’re licensed to operate a boat, and as a way of pulling in people who automatically screen out any offerings that don’t come from a professional captain: e.g., fishermen and many photographers.

    Otherwise, it looks great, and exciting. I know one person who is ready to come down for a day on the bayou and in the swamps — just as soon as she knows her new camera and has a better lens for wildlife photography. I’ll bet she might even give you some free pub on her blog, too, along with glowing reports, fantastic photos, and etc.

    Christmas is coming? Really? Oh, my gosh. I jest, of course. This year, I actually have managed to get packages mailed in time, which is huge. And I’m cutting way back on decorating and cookie baking, which has helped, too. It’s going to be a quiet day, but I’m looking forward to dinner with friends.

    1. You may read my explanation to Brenda above! The pro bono graphic design help was the last thing they gave me, and we almost ran out of time, but she is willing to go back and make a couple tweaks for me without charging me, so I’m grateful for that. I just couldn’t wait for the edits before writing this post! I haven’t done any baking, and I’m sure my kids are going to be upset if I don’t make Gingerbread cookies and sweet potato pies. I just don’t seem to have the umph to get motivated to do it. Dinner with friends sounds wonderful! We will have holiday finger foods and gift exchange with part of the the family on the 22nd; Christmas Eve service; then Christmas morning holiday breakfast at Dotter’s and gifts. Maybe take a ride down the other bayou to see The Captain’s family Christmas Day and crash their dessert table with coffee early afternoon. Merry Christmas, Linda!

  7. And after ALL that explaining, I find I have an email from the sweet little graphic designer with the udpated versions! Thank you, Robin McDowell!

    1. AwwwwwwWWWwww Wendy! You’re too sweet. Just read the comments above, so me know if you ever need changes or a “Bayou Woman” brand. Can’t wait to experience a tour in 2016!

      Warm thoughts to you and your family this holiday season!

  8. Love the new brand! I think its great that you now have an entire team to help with promoting your business. You’ve been going it alone for too long. From a business standpoint, it just makes sense.

    1. Appreciate that, Choup, and you’ve been on my mind a lot lately. It’s been way too long, my friend. We need a fishing trip to catch up! A friend of mine slaughtered the trout this week at your old spot, Sleepy Island, out at Bay Moncleuse! Merry Christmas from my bayou to yours!

  9. Please forgive me for being so tardy in my reaction. I’m still culling and reacting to the political and gun issue material I received during the week that Jamie and his kids were here, but all I can say is that I am totally proud of you. The venture sounds like it can’t miss and you will be fantastically pleased.
    We’re off to San Antonio on Wednesday to visit with Andy and his family. Our best wished for a Merry Christmas, a Happy New Year, and a truly wonderful beginning to “Beyond – – -.”

    1. I trust you had a wonderful Christmas with Jamie and some of the grandchildren. You’re forgiven, as they say, better late than never. I’m happy to have your leave a comment, Bobbie. And it was so great seeing you at the hardware store the other day. I really appreciate the encouraging words . . . to the Bayou and BEYOND!!!!!

  10. We are so proud of you ! Still say , I do not know how you do it all!!!!!i know this was a lot of hard work and sacrifices to finish this class. I pray that it will pay off for you. Hope you have a wonderful New Year!!!!!!

    1. Thank you both! And this is just one of the reasons I hardly ever get to visit when y’all come down to the camp. Problem is, I don’t do it all! My office is a disaster area, and lots of menial tasks go undone as a result of my being so otherwise busy. I hope to get by to see y’all later today if the invitation still stands and I can get away from home. Happy New Year to the both of you, too!