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Acadiana Lifestyle

Acadiana “Passionpreneurs”

03/17/2015 09:35AM ● By Aimee Cormier

By Coretta J. Perkins  | Submitted Photos

ChallengeOpportunity.  Flexibility. Creativity. These words describe motivating factors in people who work at fulltime positions yet yearn to explore opportunities outside their current professions. In modern day language they are known as “Passionpreneurs,” entrepreneurs who pursue their passion and creative interests as sideline careers. 

Passionprenuers bravely take center stage in their lives by producing work that is fulfilling and beneficial to others in a multitude of ways. As they pursue fulltime careers and lead busy lives, the spark of possibility has driven them to create sideline businesses showcasing their God-given talent, hobbies, and creative interests. 

We interviewed six “players” in Acadiana whose passion for entrepreneurship has taken them center stage.  Here, they share information concerning their passion-fueled sideline businesses, the process involved with getting it all done, and the production—the finished product or service.

The Player: Ebony Smith

The Passion: Smith is a licensed obstetrician nurse practitioner who served in the United States Marine Corps as a Corporal. In 2008 an advertisement for a Wilton® cake decorating class caught Ebony’s attention. After she had taken two classes, she began to post pictures of her creations on Myspace. The pictures began garnering much attention and “The Sweet Diva” was born.

The Process: As a wife, mother, daughter, sister, and nurse practitioner, Smith leads a full life. Nevertheless, she strives to maintain balance and organization while nursing full time and managing her business part time. “I don’t bake for clients during the weeks of my husband and son’s birthdays nor on major holidays,” she explains. Smith continues to learn by taking classes and expanding her skill base.

The Production: Ever so intricate, the Sweet Diva’s creations are stunningly life-like. In fact, she thinks of her cakes as her “babies.” Smith’s ultimate goal is to own and operate a storefront bakery. Visit The Sweet Diva on Facebook at or send an email to

The Player: Shelly Harris

The Passion: Harris, former nutritionist for 10 years, is a wife and mother. With the birth of her third child, she began to sew small items such as hair bows, baby clothes and pillows. Her sewing hobby grew into a passion and evolved into her home-based custom décor business named “The Whole 9 Yards.” The challenge of bringing designs to life fuels her passion.

The Process: Harris enjoys the flexibility she has in sewing. “I can sew anytime throughout the day or night, and in between I can still be fully present for my family,” she says. 

The Production: Harris treasures playing an integral role in assembling someone else’s “nest.” Willingly embracing the aspect of growth for The Whole 9 Yards, she understands the possibilities are endless. For help in feathering your nest, email Shelley at

The Player: Paul Schexnayder

The Passion: Schexnayder is an associate with Aflac and a traveling art teacher in Iberia Parish by day and an accomplished artist and gallery owner by night. He doodled as a child, and those doodles blossomed into a fervor to produce art in some form over the last 25 years. His strong desire to create art daily fuels his passion.

The Process: “I use sketchbooks to draw and explore ideas for future works when inspired,” Schexnayder says. “My sketchbooks are accessible and easy to carry as I move throughout the day.” He and his wife, Lee, opened A & E Gallery in New Iberia in 2009, where over 20 artists exhibit various forms of artistic media. Two years ago he also created the “Happy Cajun” product line.

The Production: Schexnayder’s art and the A & E Gallery have enriched the artistic and local community by showcasing beauty and providing a space to create, learn, and grow. His future plans include expanding the Happy Cajun product line and having his art featured in various galleries around the country. For more information visit and

The Player: Freddie Decourt

The Passion: Decourt is a licensed commercial, general, and residential contractor with 32 years of experience as well as a residential designer and real estate developer. His passion is art, and he is an artist. 

The Process: Although Decourt attempts to stay balanced by dividing time between his professional career and his passion, he admits, “Art sometimes takes over.” Nevertheless, he uses his God-given skills to integrate his passion into his professional life. Decourt says, “As an artist I would be lost without a creative outlet.” 

The Production: Decourt, greatly influencing New Iberia’s art scene, was instrumental in starting the New Iberia Art District and Art Walk and developing the Art and Cultural Commission. He and his wife, Janita, own the NILA Gallery in New Iberia. Decourt is passionate about improving his community. He takes pride in contributing to the community’s cultural foundation through the medium of art.  For more information visit

The Player: Dale Langley

The Passion: Langley has been in the manufacturing industry for 30 years. Currently, he is a General Manager at Schuyler Maritime. Langley believes, “You don’t have to stand tall, just stand up.” In 1999 he and his wife, Janie, did that by opening the 10-acre Leaning Oak Farm in New Iberia. Langley developed a passion for farming when he was reared on a farm with his grandparents. He acknowledges that farm life helped him learn life lessons and build moral character.

The Process: Langley credits Janie with running the day-to-day operations of Leaning Oak Farm. Fulfilling their mission means, “getting back to our roots and teaching others the same.” The farm is a true labor of love for Langley and his family. The work is not done for monetary gain but for the sheer joy of farming and teaching others the benefits of farm life.

The Product: Leaning Oak Farm offers tours, birthday parties, farm consulting and animal sales. Langley expresses hope of their farm’s becoming a permanent fixture in Iberia Parish. For more information visit on Facebook at

The Player: Sandra Copelin

The Passion: Copelin is a seasoned hair stylist. Her love of people and establishing a home-based business led to her passion as a wine consultant with the Napa-based company Wine Shop at Home.

The Process: Sandra’s easy-going and cheerful personality allows her to flow effortlessly from hair stylist by day to wine consultant at night. She holds the tastings in a volunteer host’s home.

The Production: Fun and educational, Wine Shop at Home tastings literally bring handcrafted, limited edition Napa-quality wines to one’s home. “I enjoy the flexibility and the excitement of meeting new people while educating and sharing in the experience with the hosts and guests,” says Sandra. For information on bringing cheer to your home, Sandra can be reached at

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