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Gambit’s 40 Under 40 (2014) 

Our 2014 class of 40 accomplished people under 40

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R. Erich Caulfield, 39
President, The Caulfield Consulting Group

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Book currently reading: The Years of Lyndon Johnson: Means of Ascent by Robert A. Caro
Favorite local bands: Brass-A-Holics, Rebirth Brass Band and Trombone Shorty
Favorite restaurant: Jaqcues-Imo's Cafe
What do you do in your off time? "I love live music. I love movies. I have TV shows I follow."
Dancing or karaoke? Dancing

  Erich Caulfield helps government function better for the people of New Orleans.   The Baton Rouge native has an extensive resume of leadership positions, including serving as chief policy advisor to former Newark, New Jersey, mayor Cory Booker. Soon after, President Barack Obama appointed Caulfield a White House Fellow, and he worked at the White House Domestic Policy Council.

  When Caulfield had a chance to return home to Louisiana, however, he jumped at it. He was selected to be the New Orleans Community Solutions Team Lead for the White House Strong Cities, Strong Communities (SC2) Initiative. Working closely with Mayor Mitch Landrieu's senior staff, Caulfield helped implement federal programs, and his team ultimately helped create dozens of new construction jobs, cut the number of patients waiting to get psychiatric care in emergency rooms by 25 percent and helped nearly 70 homeless residents find housing.

  "In a real way, SC2 represented what government is supposed to be," Caulfield says. "How can you give people who live in New Orleans, which I love, a shot at a better life? That's what it's all about."

  After SC2 completed its two-year run in New Orleans, Caulfield founded The Caulfield Consulting Group and serves as its president.

  "SC2 didn't come with any new money," he says. "It showed me if you're very thoughtful about using what you already have, you can have a great impact on people's lives." — DELLA HASSELLE

Anthony Cerrato, 37
Director of fabrication, Solomon Group

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  Anthony Cerrato creates environments that can transport audiences to another place and time, and his talents in fabrication and scenic art will be exhibited in a huge way when Campaigns of Courage: The Road to Berlin opens next year at the National World War II Museum.

  The project, the largest to date for the Solomon Group, involves creating immersive scenes in nine galleries, representing a desert in North Africa, the Ardennes Forest where the Battle of the Bulge was fought, and other locations pertinent to the WWII campaign.

  Cerrato began working for Solomon Group in September 2012 and already has inked his resume with the Emmy-nominated CBS broadcast set for Super Bowl XLVII, The Train Car Experience at the World War II Museum and sets for Essence Music Festival. Before coming to New Orleans, he directed and produced numerous theatrical works, built sets and engineered scenery in New York City, North Carolina, Detroit and Philadelphia and worked with touring productions and performers all over the world, including Mikhail Baryshnikov, Philip Glass, Richard Foreman and others. — KANDACE POWER GRAVES

Dave Davis, 25
Actor, comedian

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Book currently reading: The Bonfire of the Vanities by Tom Wolfe
Favorite Twitter account to follow: @Obrett11 (@platinumlifestyleplus on Instagram)
Favorite local band: Ballzack
What do you do in your off time? "Practice piano, practice guitar — I have to doodle, draw, build a sculpture, paint. I have to do something every day or I think the day's a waste. I'm also taking voice lessons and improv classes."
Dancing or karaoke? "My back pocket karaoke song is 'Sixteen Tons' by Tennessee Ernie Ford. ... I love dancing, and I love learning different styles."

  Dave Davis is a New Orleans actor who has been featured in True Detective, The Walking Dead and several leading roles in SyFy network features. He also co-founded the music and comedy group Bare Handed Bear Handlers, which will debut a webseries next year.

  The New Jersey native, who attended Ben Franklin High School and Lusher Charter School, spent five years working with the New Orleans Shakespeare Festival and performed the lead in the 2012 production of Hamlet. Davis has racked up a dozen diverse film credits, including "Toby" on the acclaimed series True Detective.

  "I auditioned five times, each time drastically different characters — whether it's a thug, or someone with cerebral palsy," he says. "It was cool to show the local casting directors what I'm capable of, and I've established a relationship with them over the years."

  But his passion is Bare Handed Bear Handlers, a music and comedy group he's in with Owen Legendre. The group produced viral-ready, over-the-top music videos, premiered the short film Guisheppy's at the New Orleans Film Festival, and plans a webseries (Jingle Boys, about a jingle company), and forthcoming feature film.

  "We're working on the script now, and when that's done, which is the hardest part, we're getting the money, we're getting the team and we're going to take over," he says. "We plan to make movies the rest of our lives." — ALEX WOODWARD

Greg Dietz, 38 Ted Neikirk, 38 James "Jammer" Orintas, 38
Owners, Theo's Pizza

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Books currently reading: World War Z: An Oral History of the Zombie War by Max Brooks and Triumph Forsaken: The Vietnam War, 1954-1965 by Mark Moyar
Favorite new album/CD: From the Hills Below The City by Houndmouth
Favorite local band: Honey Island Swamp Band
Favorite restaurant: Sylvain
What do you do in your off time? "I love playing with my kids. I coach my kids' soccer teams. I love jogging at Audubon Park. And playing tennis with my wife."
Dancing or karaoke? Karaoke

  In November 2004, three college friends went out on a limb and opened a new pizza restaurant on Magazine Street. Fast-forward 10 years, and the owners of Theo's Pizza have successfully added two more locations and a food truck, all while managing to consistently give back to the community.

  As one of the first restaurants to open on Magazine Street after Hurricane Katrina, the trio served up pizza, water and beer, working tirelessly to keep spirits hopeful and bellies full while people were cleaning up after the storm. Since then, Theo's has continued to engage with the community and donate whenever they can.

  Every month, the three owners personally host a birthday party at the Salvation Army Center of Hope, providing pizza, party favors and laughter for the kids who reside there. The company also supports numerous other organizations, including Boys Hope Girls Hope, Heart Gift, The Pro Bono Project and the Susan G. Komen Foundation.

  "We are more than excited to do that," Dietz says. "What we feel is this: we rely on the community to be successful. Therefore, we feel its only fair to give back."

  Besides, he says, it always brightens an event when the company donates a couple of pies. After all: "Pizza is an everybody food." — DELLA HASSELLE

Jeffrey Doussan Jr., 31
Owner, RoadSNAP, @jdoussan

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Book currently reading: The Lean Startup by Eric Ries and Business Adventures by John Brooks
Favorite Twitter account to follow: @gselevator
Favorite local band: Cowboy Mouth
Favorite restaurant: Square Root
Dancing or karaoke? Karaoke

  Jeffrey Doussan, Jr. is the owner of RoadSNAP, a transportation technology and traffic safety company that aims to get people where they need to go safely and efficiently.

  Doussan, a seventh-generation New Orleanian, has always been an entrepreneur, from starting his first business at age 8 to consulting for businesses around the city.

  He started RoadSNAP six years ago and has since expanded the company into six states, with offices in New Orleans and Raleigh, North Carolina. Doussan says though the high-tech products are an important part of his company, "where we can make a difference, and affect everyone's day, is on smaller roads, pedestrian areas, and we have some great things going on in the city of New Orleans, specifically where we're trying to push New Orleans to be a biking and walking city."

  RoadSNAP supports sustainable urban design by providing the devices and the safety countermeasures needed to implement the city's Complete Streets ordinance, which says that all roads must accommodate all users, including drivers, cyclists, pedestrians and the disabled.

  "The projects that we're able to do in New Orleans are the ones really touching the locals," he says. "The Lafitte Greenway is going to open next year. You're going to see our products on the Lafitte Greenway."

  He plans to build on his company's core values and provide solutions that have a positive impact.

   "It's about solutions that matter and make a difference for the user and do something for our city and for our society. My next big challenge is enlarging the size of my family and staying in New Orleans and making sure that New Orleans is a vibrant place to continue to have family here. And hopefully my kids will stay here." — JEANIE RIESS

Jolene Fehler, 39
Executive director, Funny Bones Improv, @fbimprov

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Book currently reading: Outlander by Diana Gabaldon
Favorite new album/CD: Ray LaMontagne's Supernova
Favorite local band: Country Fried
Favorite restaurant: Bhava
What do you do in your off time? "Play with my kids and listen to live music."
Dancing or karaoke? "Really, both. ... I'm an Organ Grinder, dancing in a dance krewe. ... I sing very badly Don't Stop Believing by Journey."

  Jolene Fehler's nonprofit Funny Bones Improv brings laughs to children in hospitals in New Orleans and Chicago, including several monthly performances in the Crescent City since 2009.

  "To watch kids' transformation from sadness and stress to laughing and smiling and just being a kid is incredibly special," she says. "It gave comedy a purpose to me."

  Fehler and a few comedian friends first performed at a children's hospital in Chicago in April 2008. Funny Bones' volunteer players now perform four times a month at Tulane Hospital for Children, Ochsner Medical Center and Children's Hospital (and in Chicago, they perform four times a month at Rush University Medical Center, Advocate Lutheran General and Oaklawn Hospital). Fehler also is a "laughter yoga" teacher, and she does corporate improv training for workplaces.

  She has performed improv comedy for more than 13 years and studied improv at the Second City Theater in Toronto and Chicago as well as Chicago's IO Improv and Annoyance.

  "I want Funny Bones to be in 20 big, or little, or any cities, because there are kids in hospitals in all these places," she says. "Whether they're there for a broken arm or something more serious, it's pretty spectacular to get to laugh with them and share something beautiful." — ALEX WOODWARD

Gabriela Fighetti, 36
Deputy Executive Director, The Institute for Innovation in Public School Choice

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Book currently reading: Station Eleven by Emily St. John Mandel
Favorite Twitter account to follow: @peterccook
Favorite local band: Hurray for the Riff Raff
Favorite restaurant: Peche
What do you do in your off time? "Hang out with friends and, now that it's fall, go eat and drink outside."
Dancing or karaoke? Karaoke

  Gaby Fighetti directed the Recovery School District's (RSD) successful development and implementation of OneApp, a centralized citywide student enrollment system that gives students choices in schools; she now will establish school choice policies across the country. 

 Her experience with OneApp propelled Fighetti into a new job in September working for the Institute for Innovation in Public School Choice, where she will try to forge policies in educational districts across the country that will give all children a fair chance at a good education.

  Fighetti arrived in New Orleans to become executive director for student enrollment at RSD when the city was recovering from Hurricane Katrina and struggling to function without a centralized public school system. Driven by what she describes as the sense from childhood (spent in the good public schools of middle-class suburban New Jersey) of the "fundamentally unfair" reality of children's ZIP codes determining their school and their school determining their destiny, Fighetti launched OneApp within eight months of coming to the RSD. The app, which is in its fourth year, now has 90 percent participation among schools in the city and places 90 percent of applicants in kindergarten through ninth grade in one of their top three school choices.

  "I came down to New Orleans with the purpose of creating a more fair and equitable enrollment system, and that idea is very dear to me," she says. "I'm a real geek for this; I'm a real believer in school choice. In the long term, I'm looking to help districts build one like we have in New Orleans and then ensure that the system is serving families as well as it can. It's really hard work, but I'm excited to do this." — FRANK ETHERIDGE

Benjamin Foley, 37
General manager of offshore renewables, Keystone Engineering Inc.

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Book currently reading: Edge of Eternity by Ken Follett
Favorite new album/CD: Jason Isbell's Southeastern
Favorite Twitter account to follow: @BillSimmons
Favorite local band: Papa Grows Funk
Favorite restaurant: Brigtsen's
What do you do in your off time? Goes to New Orleans Saints games and plays with his daughter
Dancing or karaoke? "It depends on how many cocktails I've had. I'd probably do karaoke first."

  Thanks to Benjamin Foley, clean energy may soon be a lot more affordable.

  Foley is general manager of Keystone Engineering Inc., a local firm with more than 25 years' experience with oil and gas projects. Recently, however, Foley and his team have been a tour de force in a new sector: offshore renewable wind industry.

  Keystone Engineering recently designed an innovative new structure for wind turbines, which will decrease costs associated with the industry. Using Foley's "Twisted Jacket" technology, developers can construct large-scale wind farms that produce clean energy. The invention is being used at two new East Coast wind energy projects that recently received $47 million in funding from the U.S. Department of Energy.

  Wind farms are slated to use the design in Europe and Asia, and the Keystone team is working with the National Renewable Energy Laboratory in Boulder, Colorado, to study and build larger turbines.

  "To develop offshore wind to power major eastern cities is very important to reduce reliance on foreign industry and to reduce environmentally deleterious energy practices we use," Foley said. "Unfortunately, it's quite expensive to generate wind power. People have a tendency to say they're all for ecologically sound technology, but not if it costs them more money." — DELLA HASSELLE

Cherie Melancon Franz, 37
Founder, Thinkerella; @MyThinkerella;

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Book currently reading: Gone Girl by Gillian Flynn
Favorite Twitter account to follow: @FleurtyGirl
Favorite local band: Rebirth Brass Band
Favorite restaurant: Vincent's Italian Cuisine
What do you do in your off time? "I play with my kids."
Dancing or karaoke? Karaoke

  Cherie Melancon Franz found an ingenious way to introduce kids to the fun side of science: make it a party game.

  She founded Thinkerella in March, coming up with the idea after a spa-themed party her daughter attended. Franz thought parents needed an activity option for parties that was fun and educational.

  Thinkerella is a mobile science lab that offers fun, nontoxic activities for kids 3 to 13 years old. By building ball shooters out of noodles, or making snow out of polymers, children can develop a love for science while having fun at birthday parties, youth group meetings and after-school sessions, Franz says.

  "Each kid gets a lab coat and safety goggles, and they turn into little scientists as soon as they put them on," Franz says. "I started it because I wished a company like that had existed sooner for my daughter: You plant the seed of science, but it's all very fun and exciting."

  Thinkerella has been a success and has expanded to include ThinkerKids, an after-school program conducted at 10 local elementary schools in the New Orleans area. Franz regularly hires teachers to help with the programs and has taught more than 1,000 children about the fundamentals of physics, chemistry, aerodynamics and more.

  After all, as Franz says, "You're never to young to change the world." — DELLA HASSELLE


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