The coronavirus jumped over the Pacific Ocean, then spread across the United States, eventually landing in rural Southern Louisiana, a place as unique as any in the country. For the communities in this region, the pandemic created layers of economic hardship, especially in the oil and gas industry. For Peter Labat IV, this meant being laid off from his job transporting cargo from Port Fourchon to the offshore oil rigs in the gulf of Mexico, a job he had been doing for six years. Like so many others, Peter had to completely change his lifestyle and find a new job.

Luckily, he had a plan in place for a moment like this. Back in 2013, he had started woodworking as a hobby. Since then, it has evolved into a passion. When he lost his job in oil, he decided it was finally time to pursue his own small business as a carpenter. “For seven or eight years I was an enthusiast, but 2020 is when I made the decision to start a company and dedicate my time and effort to making woodworking a viable source of income,” Peter says, thinking back to the beginning of his adventure into entrepreneurship. His family was able to buy a house, allowing him to operate from home doing custom woodworking that ranges from furniture to artworks and many things in between.

Peter’s business is certainly not a one-man show. His wife, Vania, manages all the inner workings of the business so that he can focus on his craftsmanship and teaching his son, also named Peter, the tricks of the trade. Vania created their LLC, manages their finances, and oversees their project and expense tracking. 

She even puts in hours inside the shop getting her hands dirty! Only with such teamwork is a project like theirs possible. Each family member plays an integral role in helping create something from nothing; an impressive feat during a global pandemic.

As the business grows, as it most certainly will, they will need more help. But for right now it’s truly a family affair, one they will cherish for the rest of their lives. As is the case with most small businesses, getting off the ground wasn’t easy and required a lot of work. eter decided to apply to LaunchNOLA’s Business Academy to better understand the intricacies of back-of-house operations. 

“The program makes you get really specific and really intentional about setting up the structure of your business. It helps take the business from an idea to an actual structure.”

In the six months spent with his cohort, Peter gained important business 

connections, a strong support system, financial know-how, and traditional business acumen; all of which has been critical for his business to grow and eventually thrive.

               Peter was part of LaunchNOLA’s thirteenth graduating class and the second class that was convened almost entirely online due to the pandemic. During a year of uncertainty and adversity, Peter and his fellow cohort members were still able to make the most of their time learning how to be successful entrepreneurs. They realized there was a need for more one-on-one connections and spaces to facilitate them. So, the cohort went above and beyond and made a Facebook group, exchanged contacts, and even met up outside of class in order to connect and share ideas in person. “Peter was an integral part of this process,” says Nika, LaunchNOLA’s Program Coordinator. “He was the brain of the operation, and never hesitated to ask questions. His enthusiasm was contagious for the entire group.” Going forward, Peter knows he has a support system of fellow entrepreneurs that will help him out if he’s ever in a bind.

          Thanks to LaunchNOLA, Peter and his family now have a strong foundation to maintain momentum. Living through a global pandemic, he has made the most of his situation, using the loss of his previous job as an opportunity to blaze his own path forward. Reflecting back, Peter says, “I used to work with guys that were doing woodworking and thought it was really cool. Then I started looking around and realized I could work on projects around my own house. This is absolutely something I want to be doing everyday.” With his passion for carpentry and the help of LaunchNOLA, he has turned a hobby into a trade that will earn him a living and benefit the community at the same time. His beautiful woodworks add immense value to the local small business network in New Orleans.

From charcuterie tables to bed frames, there is now a place for New Orleanians to purchase custom woodworks that they can pass down to the next generation. Peter is looking forward to expanding his business and adding skilled job opportunities to the area. There will certainly be more obstacles for Peter on his way to becoming a successful entrepreneur, but now that he’s part of the LaunchNOLA Family, he has many tools, friends, and supporters to help him overcome.

Learn more about Peter’s business, The Labat Wood Shop, and place a custom art or furniture order by visiting their Facebook page or Instagram page. LaunchNOLA is currently recruiting for its Green Business Academy, a business development program that supports entrepreneurs entering the burgeoning green infrastructure sector. The program will begin in mid-September, 2021. More information and the application can be found at LaunchNOLA.org/apply.

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