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Gambit's 40 Under 40 (2013) 

An annual look at 40 New Orleanians who are making the city a better place

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click to enlarge PHOTO BY CHERYL GERBER
  • Photo by Cheryl Gerber

Zak George, 34
Dog trainer/ founder, Dog Training Revolution

Atlanta native Zak George moved his dog training business to the Crescent City last year. His Dog Training Revolution classes offer a unique set of communication tools to help dog owners build relationships with their pets.

"I have a very firm conviction in teaching dogs from the inside outwards, and making them want to do the behaviors," George says, adding that his teaching philosophy is about good communication, not choke chains and punishment.

After competing for two years in dog Frisbee competitions and winning several titles, as well as spending three years with the Extreme Canine Stunt Dog Show, George saw potential in teaching the same kind of relationships he had with his dogs to other pet owners.

"That opened my eyes to the bigger picture of teaching people about their dogs," he says. His border collie Venus also inspired him.

George also has been active on YouTube since 2006, and his channel, which offers free training clips, has attracted 15 million views. "I thought, 'I love entertainment, I love dogs, let's combine them,'" he says. "My first eureka moment was my first video that had 500 hits." He pitched television projects which led to a starring role in Animal Planet's Superfetch and the BBC's Who Let the Dogs Out, as well as appearances on late-night hotspots including CBS' The Late Show With David Letterman and NBC's Late Night With Jimmy Fallon.

George also gives back to animal rescue groups through Dog Training Revolution. For every registration promoted by local groups such as Animal Rescue New Orleans and the Louisiana Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals, George donates 25 percent of registration fees to those groups (about $50 per sign-up).

"It's important and it's the right thing to do," he says. Dog owners can sign up for classes via email: zakgeorge@me.com. — Alex Woodward



click to enlarge PHOTO BY CHERYL GERBER
  • Photo by Cheryl Gerber

Darryl Glade, 35
Co-founder, SNAP Real Estate Photography

As a real estate agent in New Orleans, Darryl Glade saw firsthand the need for high-quality photographs of buildings that were on the market, leading him to co-found SNAP Real Estate Photography in the summer of 2012, during his third year at Loyola University New Orleans' College of Law.

"While I was a real estate agent I saw the need for photography for listings," says Glade, a New Orleans native who also earned a Master of Business Administration degree from Loyola. "I saw how it helped listings sell for higher amounts and quicker."

Since its founding, SNAP has grown into the largest real estate photography service in the region, serving New Orleans, Baton Rouge, the Northshore and the Mississippi coast. He plans to enter six to 10 more Southern cities in the next few years. Glade says one key to his company's success is the ability to produce the photos in less than 24 hours.

"My drive is to create a sustainable business that is able to grow organically within the city of New Orleans, and to continue to create jobs and have a positive impact on local economy," Glade says.

SNAP has hired nine employees, Glade says, and the company is growing by one to two hires per month. He says he expects that growth to continue for a long time.

"It's very exciting to have a direct impact on the economy in New Orleans," he says.

Glade also has served as an executive mentor at Loyola, where he introduced incoming freshman to the local business community in an effort to encourage graduates to stay in the area.

"It's a lot of fun and I'm really excited about being in New Orleans and the future of New Orleans," Glade says. — Marguerite Lucas



click to enlarge PHOTO BY CHERYL GERBER
  • Photo by Cheryl Gerber

Candice Gwinn, 38
Fashion designer/ owner, Trashy Diva

Seventeen years ago Candice Gwinn moved to New Orleans from suburban Atlanta with a bag of vintage clothes and $5,000. She opened Trashy Diva with a partner in a small shop on Decatur Street that's now a nightclub restroom. In 1999, Gwinn launched the Trashy Diva clothing line, a collection of vintage-inspired frocks ranging from size 0 to 24.

"We couldn't get vintage (clothing) we liked at affordable prices anymore," Gwinn says. "We added more and more dresses. Every year, we doubled our collection."

Today, there are seven Trashy Diva locations throughout New Orleans: two dress stores, two shoe stores, two lingerie stores and one accessories shop. More than 75 boutiques worldwide carry the Trashy Diva clothing line. Celebrities ranging from Taylor Swift to Sophia Bush have been spotted wearing the dresses.

"We've sold to ... well, name any young celebrity who has come to New Orleans," Gwinn says.

Gwinn gets inspiration for her designs from her customers and the 30 women she employs in her stores, as well as gaps in her own wardrobe. "Usually, it's something I want," she says. "I think, 'I want this,' or customers say, 'I wish I had this.'"

The dresses are manufactured in a private workshop in China, and Gwinn creates original prints with New Orleans-centric designs ranging from sacred hearts to French Quarter scenes. Though she plans to open Trashy Diva stores in other states, Gwinn hasn't yet found the boutique culture she's looking for outside the Crescent City.

"There aren't a lot of places that have that New Orleans feeling," she says. "We're grateful New Orleans is such a wonderful city: People are interesting and wear colorful, fun clothing, so I can design what I want and have people be receptive to it." — Missy Wilkinson



click to enlarge PHOTO BY CHERYL GERBER
  • Photo by Cheryl Gerber

Jason Hemel, 38
Founder, Peristyle Residences

Jason Hemel's vision for Peristyle Residences is an assisted living facility that feels like home for elderly people living there. He founded the business in 2011 as a way to help seniors and their families by providing direct care, using the knowledge he gleaned from working in larger institutions and applying it to Peristyle Residences.

"There are some beautiful buildings I have seen that are nice and extremely home-like, but no matter how nice it is, when you have 75 to 100 people living in the same structure, it still has an institutional feel," says Hemel, who has worked in the senior living industry since college, including stints as chief operating officer and later vice president of development at St. Margaret's. "You still have a laundry department. [Residents] still have to eat when everyone else is eating."

Peristyle Residences offer single-family dwellings that have been modified to conform to Americans With Disabilities Act requirements for doorways and bathrooms. The complex also offers 24-hour care. Because there are only six residents living in the complexes, they can create their own schedules, Hemel says.

"Others are homelike, but Peristyle Residences are home," he says. "Our caregivers are cooking home-cooked meals. ... If the residents want a late breakfast, that's fine. If they want to sleep until 10 a.m., that's fine."

There are Peristyle Residences in New Orleans, Metairie, Gretna and Hattiesburg, Miss., and Hemel says he wants to add two more in the New Orleans area in the next year.

The New Orleans native also serves as president of the board for A Shared Initiative, a nonprofit founded by ASI Federal Credit Union to help small businesses and low-income residents. He also is on the board of Bayou Boogaloo.

"It's very rewarding to get to know [the residents] as people," Hemel says. "A lot of people look at me and ask if I really like taking care of old people and I [say] 'Yes, we give meaning to their life.'" — Marguerite Lucas



click to enlarge PHOTO BY CHERYL GERBER
  • Photo by Cheryl Gerber

Dr. Tracey L. Henry, 32
Internal medicine physician, Ochsner Health System

An Alabama native with Louisiana lineage, Tracey L. Henry has combined career focus with deeply held convictions about establishing herself as an expert in public health policy.

"I'm driven by the idea of being a complete doctor," she says. "Advocacy is usually an overlooked part of our profession, but we must care for the people that need our help — and not just the ones that make it in the doors."

In college, Henry majored in psychology "to better understand myself and how to better help others," she says, before earning a master's degree in neuroscience at Tulane University. She completed medical school at Georgetown University. Her tenure in the nation's capital allowed Henry access to politicians and policymakers, whom she successfully lobbied via the Campaign for Access to Essential Medicines for funding to distribute the HPV vaccine to girls in developing countries.

As a physician with Ochsner, Henry has donated services to the homeless and indigent through The National Association of Free and Charitable Clinics. In her position on the Louisiana Medical Society's Board of Governors, she has written opinions on public health policy that were delivered to Gov. Bobby Jindal.

Henry also has visited local schools as part of the Doctors Back to School program. "It's helpful for those students to see a woman of color that's a physician," she says.

While lightheartedly saying she enjoys shopping, photography and the New Orleans Saints, Henry is concise when stating a professional philosophy that doubles as a career goal: "Health care is a right, not a privilege," Henry says. "I want everyone to have access to ... quality health care, and I believe that this is possible if we change the way we deliver and finance health care." — Frank Etheridge



click to enlarge PHOTO BY CHERYL GERBER
  • Photo by Cheryl Gerber

Darren Hoffman, 29
Kristen McEntyre, 34
Founders, Tutti Dynamics

Want to take music lessons from a New Orleans jazz master? Thanks to Darren Hoffman and Kristen McEntyre, there's an app for that.

Hoffman and McEntyre founded Tutti Dynamics and earlier this year launched the Tutti Music Player, an app that provides videos of musicians such as Jason Marsalis, Shannon Powell, Lucien Barbarin and Steve Masakowski performing in ensemble settings. Users can get the instructive views they want by manipulating videos to focus on specific musicians from multiple angles or isolating specific instruments. The app also provides access to traditional teaching tools like tempo control, video looping and sheet music.

Tutti Music Player caught the attention of education administrators at Jazz at Lincoln Center, who brought Tutti Dynamics on board for its 2012-2013 Essentially Ellington series, a high school band competition that requires students around the country to learn an entire program of big band compositions. The team at Tutti Dynamics recorded Wynton Marsalis and the Jazz at Lincoln Center Orchestra, then made the performances available for participating bands to study.

"In the past, they sent out sheet music and audio recordings, but nothing really interactive that can get the student closer to the masters," says Hoffman, who already is working on recordings for next year's Essentially Ellington program.

The Tutti Music Player is being used in more than 300 high schools and at Tulane University and Boston's Berklee College of Music, where instructors can record content to use in lieu of textbooks or other conventional instructional materials.

Hoffman got the idea for the Tutti Music Player after graduating from film school at Florida State University and moving to New Orleans to study percussion at the University of New Orleans. He wanted to document the techniques he was learning, so he used his background in filmmaking to create a proprietary recording system that uses more than 20 cameras to capture musicians in the studio.

"I had a vision in my mind of all these locked-down cameras so the information would stay consistent while the viewer can observe it and learn from it without any distractions," he says.

As Hoffman prepared to launch Tutti Dynamics, he found a kindred spirit and business partner in McEntyre, who moved to New Orleans in 2008. McEntyre studied digital media and finance at Stanford University, and she bonded with Hoffman over a mutual appreciation for New Orleans jazz.

McEntyre calls the Tutti Music Player "a new standard for interactive music" that gives students and teachers access to a wide variety of jazz players and styles.

"We're really excited about the potential for Tutti," McEntyre says. "There are incredible musicians here and great support for the entrepreneurial community, so we think New Orleans is the perfect place to build this company." — Brad Rhines



click to enlarge PHOTO BY CHERYL GERBER
  • Photo by Cheryl Gerber

Daniel Jatres, 30
Program manager, Regional Planning Commission bicycle and pedestrian programs

If he's not biking on the Mississippi River trail Uptown or installing bike racks with Where Ya' Rack? on city sidewalks, Daniel Jatres likely is doing something big with a bicycle.

The Regional Planning Commission's (RPC) bicycle and pedestrian program director also serves on statewide advisory boards for bike safety and infrastructure, works with national bike groups, and advocates for Louisiana's two- (or several-) wheeled community. Jatres helped create and pass the city's Complete Streets legislation, which ensures all city planning projects are built for all users, whether on feet or wheels — and not just cars.

"The end product is going to be something good for the neighborhood, for the people using the roadway, regardless of how they're using it, and not the '50s and '60s mindset of moving cars from point A to point B," he says.

Jatres joined the RPC in 2007 and has managed a multi-million dollar transportation safety program and outreach campaign, working with law enforcement statewide to ensure bicyclists' safety, and launching a media campaign to make drivers aware of bike riders. This past summer, RPC updated its bicycle map along with a guide to safe cycling, now available in Spanish and Vietnamese at www.norpc.org. Over the last year, he has worked with Jefferson Parish to update its bicycle master plan, which will be made available to the public for comment later this year. With Where Ya' Rack?, he helped install bike racks throughout the city to expand bike-parking options.

"The benefits of having transportation choices — whether health, economic, or quality-of-life benefits — touches on so many areas it gets to the point where you develop interests and allies across professions," Jatres says, adding that he has helped build bike-friendly relationships with the city's health and public works departments. "New Orleans is at a point where those interests are becoming increasingly cohesive." — Alex Woodward



click to enlarge PHOTO BY CHERYL GERBER
  • Photo by Cheryl Gerber

Tamika Jett, 26
Choreographer/ dancer/ owner, Passion Dance Center

Tamika Jett has had visions of becoming a choreographer and owning a dance school since she was a child. She looked up to her teachers at Benjamin's School of Dance in New Orleans and credits the instructors there with teaching her the craft and equipping her with life skills.

"It wasn't just about dance," Jett says. "It was about being a lady, (having) grace and poise." One of her favorite teachers, Fernand Jackson, was a dancer for the prestigious Alvin Ailey American Dance Theater in New York City. "I didn't know what being an Alvin Ailey dancer meant at the time, but I knew that I wanted to do everything Fernand did so that I could be like him," Jett says.

Jett's goal has always been to leave an impact on the city and to provide young people with better opportunities than she had. She attended the University of New Orleans for a year, hoping to teach at Benjamin's School of Dance, but she was displaced after Hurricane Katrina and the levee failures. She enrolled at Louisiana State University and founded Legacy Dancers with three other New Orleanians.

"Legacy, I think that was major," Jett says. "We used to do jazz, hip-hop. After my summer internship in New York at Broadway Dance Center where I learned from great choreographers like Frank Hatchett, Luam and Rhapsody James, I was ready to go back and teach everything I'd learned."

That meant not only choreography, but work ethic and the mission-driven approach to life she found common among New Yorkers.

In 2010, at the age of 23, Jett founded Passion Dance Center, where she works with other choreographers teaching hip-hop, ballet, jazz, tap and tumbling. She choreographs for musicians and background dancers and books talent. On Mondays, Jett hosts "Twerk and Werk" classes, though she says the word "twerk" is not in her vernacular. "I call it p-popping," Jett says. "I don't know what 'twerking' is." — Megan Braden-Perry



click to enlarge PHOTO BY CHERYL GERBER
  • Photo by Cheryl Gerber

Amy Johnson, 34
Dancer, producer

Amy Johnson spent her childhood emulating the dance moves she saw in old movies and on MTV, when that network still showed music videos. So as an adult dancer, she cites those two categories as her biggest influences, with an emphasis on Michael Jackson and Vera Ellen.

The Minnesota native moved to New Orleans in 2007 and was a street performer, meeting musicians and other dancers with whom she still performs today.

"My story isn't very original," she says. "I followed the music."

Johnson has helped re-establish the city as a destination for swing and jazz dancing. She primarily is a dancer and tours globally with Meschiya Lake and the Little Big Horns. She also started the New Orleans Swing Dance Festival and Ultimate Lindy Hop Showdown five years ago, a festival of dance classes, contests and performances that draws dance enthusiasts from all over the world. Johnson founded and operates the Welbourne Jazz Camp in Middleburg, Va., a music and dance camp for adults that's open to beginners and professionals alike.

As if those things didn't comprise a full-time job, Johnson also is the brains behind The Chorus Girl Project, a set of vintage dance classes for adult women that began about a year ago at the New Orleans Healing Center. Johnson says she already is considering adding another class.

Asked whether the projects could exist anywhere except New Orleans, Johnson says probably, "but they wouldn't be as cool. Dancers here have access to so much music." — Jeanie Riess



click to enlarge PHOTO COURTESY GENERATIONALS
  • Photo Courtesy Generationals

Ted Joyner, 32
Grant Widmer, 31
Generationals

Ted Joyner and Grant Widmer formed Generationals in 2007 after the power-pop duo returned to New Orleans from their Baton Rouge digs, where the band performed in The Eames Era. After regrouping as a duo in New Orleans (and naming themselves after a popular 2008 election-season term), Generationals released their debut album, 2009's Con Law, as well as its follow-up, 2011's Actor-Caster, on Park the Van Records, the then-New Orleans-based indie rock label. This year, Generationals released Heza on Polyvinyl Records, home to Deerhoof, of Montreal, Xiu Xiu and other influential indie rock acts. Following Heza's release, the band embarked on a sweeping, headlining national tour followed by a European tour in August. After three years on the road, the band now headlines and sells out shows across the country. (Generationals will perform at the 2014 Buku Music & Art Project.)

"We kind of grew into being a headlining band on the road," Widmer says.

"A year or two later, we're still doing it," Joyner says. "(There's) this great realization that, 'Wow, we can do this as our job for a little while as well.'"

Now back home, the Jesuit High School graduates are working on Heza's follow up with producer Richard Swift of The Shins. The band expects to record in January.

"It's a new chapter in our career," Joyner says. "It's our second record with Polyvinyl, but our first making one on Polyvinyl," adding that they are longtime fans of the label.

"We like them, they like us," Widmer says. "They're helpful, good people and we intend to stick around."

That goes for New Orleans, too — it's their hometown, where they have helped ignite a renewed interest in independent rock. "It's famous for a certain kind of music, a certain kind of food, but there's always a left turn where new directions can be taken," Widmer says. — Alex Woodward

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