We accept the brunch we think we deserve
If you’ve ever brunched in New Orleans, you’ve probably heard of Ruby Slipper Café. Their story begins right after Katrina, when two non-restauranteurs wanted to come back home and rebuild their Mid-City neighborhood. Meet our newest Badass Babe, Jennifer Weishaupt,
Jennifer and her husband Erich founded the original Ruby Slipper Café in
2008, out of a desire to help revitalize their Mid-City New Orleans neighborhood in the
wake of Hurricane Katrina. Over the last decade, that cozy breakfast destination has
evolved into a rapidly growing restaurant group with two brands spanning four states.
A former chemical engineer, Jennifer “retired” from Shell Oil Company in 2015 with 16 years of service. She most recently served as Operations Manager for three oil & gas production platforms in the Gulf of Mexico. Now, she oversees Restaurant Operations, Finance, Marketing, Community Engagement and Human Resources for her own company.
We all just wanted to return home, except our home was the colorful, quirky, often frustrating Oz, not the Black & White flatlands.
Tell us more about the inspiration behind The Ruby Slipper name?
Back in the summer of 2006, when the idea for The Ruby Slipper Café was just forming, I was listening to my favorite local radio station, WWOZ. The DJ was talking about her teenage daughter, who had just returned home after spending her school year in Houston. Her daughter and her friends were reuniting for the first time, and discussed where they evacuated to, who they met & what they learned. She overheard her daughter say “I learned that I grew up in Oz and everyplace else is just Kansas”. And the visual that it gave me that day has stuck with me. We all just wanted to return home, except our home was the colorful, quirky, often frustrating Oz, not the Black & White flatlands of Kansas.
We’re all about the side-hustle and it looks like The Ruby Slipper was your side-gig for a while! What did you love the most about having a side-hustle while maintaining a full time job? What’s the biggest challenge you have faced while having a side-hustle?
I love the side-hustle! Probably the biggest challenge is also one of the things I love the most – you have to find and hire GREAT PEOPLE, who you can trust with your business. It makes it okay to hire people who are smarter then you and let them grow! The challenge is that not everyone is worthy of your trust or capable of performing at the level you need.
What changes did you see in restaurant industry in New Orleans post-Katrina?
Tons of new cuisines and new restaurateurs. There was such a supportive focus on New Orleans by the entire country in those early years, and it really gave a huge boost to New Orleans cuisines and New Orleans born/bred chefs and restaurants.
What are some of the challenges you’ve seen women face in the restaurant industry?
I spent my career in Oil & Gas, so I’m no stranger to male-dominated industries. However, I worked for a major company that focused on Diversity & Inclusiveness and they really worked to develop women in leadership positions. What I have definitely seen in the Restaurant Industry is much more of a “good ole boys” network then I was expecting. I’ve had lots of employees over the years who were surprised that we wouldn’t tolerate their inappropriate behavior towards their female coworkers.
What’s the most rewarding thing about owning a business in New Orleans?
The people that you get to know, whether they are employees or guests, are really amazing! Plus, we have so many visitors to our city each year, it never fails to amaze me how many people know about Ruby Slipper from visiting the city.
Is there a woman entrepreneur who has inspired you?
There are many, of course! The one who immediately came to mind is Tina Meilleur, of Design Your Success. Tina and I have crossed paths in a few different networking organizations, but she was then recommended to me and Ruby Slipper as an Executive Coach, which is the primary focus of her business. Since beginning to work with us in late 2017, she has contributed to the growth & success of so many of our Ruby Slipper leaders.
What is your MUST HAVE menu item at Ruby Slipper/Ruby Sunshine?
That’s an impossible question, because I love so many things (I’m the final taste-tester you know!) But, if I could only have one more meal at my restaurant, it would have to be a Peacemaker Benedict with Cochon & Corned Beef Hash.
Your favorite restaurant in New Orleans besides your own of course?
Are you trying to get me in trouble? I can’t name just one so I’ll name three: My two favorite restaurants to bring people to when they visit are Compere Lapin & Peche. My favorite place I can walk to from my house is 1000 Figs.
Are there any exciting events or happenings coming up at the Ruby Slipper/Ruby Sunshine?
We just opened our first Ruby Sunshine location in Franklin, TN. Our 12th restaurant opened in Old Metairie on April 2nd. Shortly after that, we’ll open in Knoxville, TN. Birmingham, AL is also on deck to open this summer. We’ll be celebrating Eggs Benedict Day at all of our restaurants on April 16th, with a specially priced pairing of our signature Eggs Benedict and our award-winning Bloody Mary.
What piece of advice would you give someone looking to completely change industries like you did?
Do your research both online and through personal resources that are already in the industry. Make sure you have enough cash to survive 6-12 months being cash-negative.