35 year old Iam Christian Tucker of New Orleans, LA was a proud Baton Rouge City Police Officer for 3 years before she took over the family business in 2008. Integrated Logistical Support Incorporated, doing business as ILSI Engineering is a Civil/Structural Engineering firm also specializing in Program and Construction Management. “Our portfolio consists of mainly government clients, but we also have a few large scale private clients. Our largest private client is Deep South Studios, a major movie production studio. My main focus is on growing ILSI to its fullest potential as an 8a certified civil infrastructure firm. Though we are small, we boast the asset of 5 full time PE’s on staff with vast local experience; there are not many firms around the area who can say the same.”
Q: How did you get started? Tell us your motivation for starting this business.
A: I was raised in the family business as a child, I initially wanted nothing to do with it as I sought a career in law enforcement and had aspirations of eventually joining the secret service or US Marshalls. But my father has other hopes and dreams for me, and impressed upon me that entrepreneurship was embedded in my DNA. My grandfather was a funeral home owner and operator for years in Bogalusa, and my father and mother ran a firm decades ago called Tucker & associates. He saw more potential in me than I saw in myself, and I thank him for pushing me out of my comfort zone and into something more challenging and rewarding than Law Enforcement. I indeed loved being a police officer, and loved the teamwork aspect in the criminal justice field. I have tried to bring some of those same aspects that I love into the career realm that I am in now.
Q: What are you most proud of (related to your business)?
A: I am most proud of the people who keep me and my business in the hunt, my dedicated employees. I have a saying that goes; “You always take care of those who take care of you”, and that is why I lay ILSI’s successes at their feet as well. There is something to be said for the folks that come in everyday and give their absolute best, and also understand and buy in to the goals we have as a company as a team. I am proud of them, and proud of the work we do as a team.
Q: As an African American/Black entrepreneur, what were some of the biggest challenges and/or surprised you faced when starting your business?
A: Some of the biggest challenges and surprises I have encountered in the Engineering and government contracting industry is the lack of diversity in decision making, the lack of diversity of thought, and the lack of transparency in certain deal making aspects. I think you go into new situations with an optimistic mentality, thinking that people will choose the candidates who are most qualified for the job over other aspects, but that is definitely not always so.
I believe that the more women & minorities are given opportunities to assume leadership and decision making roles,not only in government, but in the C-suites and Board rooms; the more people will have to de homogenize their thought patterns and approaches to inclusion and business strategy.
In my experience, when people are forced to get more comfortable with the uncomfortable, it opens their mind up to possibilities that may have not otherwise been explored or acknowledged.
Q: What advice do you have to fellow African American/Black entrepreneurs starting business?
A: My advice to folks that look like me who want to start a business is, BE RESILIENT! It is always much easier for someone to simply tell you “No” to something, keep finding ways that can make sense to find a “yes”. Create solutions that make sense, the simpler the solution the less explaining and selling it needs. Be sincere, be honest, don’t bite off more than you can chew, and lead with your heart and not your ego. It is much more say to be sure of yourself when you are passionate in what you deliver and why you deliver it.
Q: New Orleans is such a “robust” entrepreneurial ecosystem. What are the resources (people, networks, organizations, programs, books, articles, etc.) that you have found most useful in starting and/or growing your business?
A: There are so many different organizations that have been helpful to me that it is hard to only name a few without leaving folks out. But in a quick answer? … SBA district office in New Orleans is the absolute best in the NATION. The Good work Network will always hustle to find new and innovative ways to help a small business, and if they don’t have it they will find a way to get you access to it. The Collaborative is an excellent collective of minority business owners who are actually in the trenches working hard everyday, when it comes to finding like minded business owners to help effect policy that behooves a small disadvantaged business, they are the group to seek for peer networking.
Q: Is there anything else you would like to share about your business or your personal story?
A: I would like to make sure that people understand that owning your story and how you got to where you are is part of who you are. Sometimes life can constantly put us on a scale, always making comparisons to others in similar situations. I believe the saying goes “Comparison is the thief of joy”, so stop comparing yourself. Everyone elevates themselves and finds their path in a different way, that is what makes one unique. Make sure you own your path, and let your journey help to empower you.
Q: Is there anything you know now that you wished you had known earlier in terms of starting or operating your business?
A: I wish I had known and still struggle to figure out how to ensure time to take care of yourself. The fast paced world of constant meetings, networking, proposing on opportunities, etc can really eat up every hour of the day and day of the week. I am learning that self care is imperative, and you must take the time to take care of yourself in order to help lead others. I have joined with a group of like minded, hard working professional women to help us hold each other accountable to simply take care of our wholistic selves, mind, body, and soul!
LinkedIn: Iam Tucker
For your business needs:
Address: 5130 Tchoupitoulas Street, New Orleans, LA 70115.
Phone number: (504)523-1619;