By Amyre Brandom-Skinner
Many know him as a dual-degree senior at Xavier University of Louisiana but to the New Orleans community he is a business owner that gives back as often as he can. Marloes Booker, 21, studies physics and electrical engineering as a major by day, but when he takes his student cap off, he puts on the hat of an entrepreneur, as the Founder of RedBeans Nola. During the Spring 2018 in his junior year, his business began serving the Greater New Orleans homeless populations with bowls of red beans and rice.
In Orleans and Jefferson parishes, the homeless population jumped 2.4 times higher than its pre-Katrina numbers according to a 2012 study conducted by UNITY, Greater New Orleans. A majority of the city’s homeless seeks refuge in an estimated 42,000 post-Katrina abandoned properties across the city. This chronic homelessness or long-term homelessness in the city stands at 48-percent of the homeless population, where the national average is 35-percent, according to the UNITY report.
“Many students at Xavier are reticent when it comes to actually launching a business but Marloes is an exception,” said Mark Quinn, an Assistant Professor of Business at Xavier, who directs the Entrepreneurship Program and serves as the Director of Xavier’s Small Business Incubator. The X-ncubator is a program that helps entrepreneurs start and grow their business venture. Booker applied for membership to the program and was admitted to the X-ncubator in the Fall 2018 semester. He hasn’t looked back since.
“Before it was a thought, a business, and even a brand [Marloes] spoke of the success of RedBeans Nola,” said David Ford, a Xavier junior. “Being able to witness his vision come to life from the beginning continues to inspire me,” Ford said.
The future of this startup is boundless because the founder continues to tie his business venture with the personal dedication to correct some of the conditions that the New Orleans’ homeless population endures, namely hunger.
“I am motivated every time I pass by someone who is homeless and hungry,” Booker said. Instead of helping an organization that caters to the homeless community in this city, Booker decided to launch his own business to be a part of the solution.
His strategy is simple: make a profit that funds his philanthropy.
“Often people confuse the business as a non-profit because I feed the homeless,” Booker said. “However, only a certain amount of the profits/proceeds goes towards feeding the homeless,” Booker said.
Booker sells handmade gemstone bracelets and t-shirts in order to make profits. The gems in each bracelet are rare and authentic. His relationship formed with Global Vendors has made it possible for him to continue to create custom designs for each bracelet. He also sells t-shirts that are made with original designs. He sells the bracelets for $15 to $30 and the t-shirts are sold for $25.
“The business would be easy to manage if I did not have to balance making sure bracelets are made, packaged, shipped, and studying every night,” Booker said.
Then he taps into his local and campus networks as a natural market.
In following Xavier’s mission, he continues to use business skills to make his community more just and humane. “He’s sold bracelets and t-shirts to countless Xavier students, but he was never shy about asking them to serve as well,” Ford noted.
Booker has enlisted campus organizations, clubs and fraternities and sororities as partners of RedBeans Nola when they host events. Students were eager to buy products from their fellow Xavierites when they heard of the work that he has begun by himself. Many assume that RedBeans Nola is a non-profit, but Booker is quick to correct them.
“Unlike many entrepreneurial students, he recognizes that his own business is a job and his business can be a viable substitute to having jobs that many students have,” Quinn said. Since Jan. 15, 2018, this startup has fed more than 2500 people. As a New Orleans native, he has grown up seeing the need for change. At a young age, he was given advice that he has never forgotten.
“Master P came to speak to my sixth-grade class about starting businesses and having financial freedom,” Booker recalled about how he first got motivated to serve his community. “Since then, I have started multiple businesses from selling snacks, cutting grass, washing cars, selling sneakers, and a bunch more,” Booker said.
Finding a way to uplift his community and the people in it has never been something that comes hard to Booker. His continuous hard work and “grind” has gotten him featured in various entrepreneurship newsletters and he was invited as the guest speaker for various events on campus.
“I would not be surprised to see him starting other businesses soon after he graduates and in the long-term having a successful career as a serial entrepreneur,” Quinn said.
His friends and advisers see the potential that RedBeans Nola has and its rapid growth as a testament to the diligence of its founder. With a popular following for his business among his peers, Marloes continues to see the impact that his first startup has made.
“Often times, people miss out on serving the community because they feel as if their way of serving is not as impactful as someone else’s way of serving the community,” Booker said to encourage his peers to establish a startup. “God gave each and every one of us gifts and talents that were meant to not benefit us, but to benefit the world around us.”