Sometimes entrepreneurs find fame and fortune by inventing a new product or service that creates an entire new industry. Bill Gates, for example, invented the personal computer. Steve Jobs created Apple products. Elon Musk is building rockets and electric cars. But sometimes, success in business comes from less ambitious successes. Like addressing bad odors. Or figuring out how to make it easier to make a bed.


Maria Bhacca is CEO of Aerowest International, a Baton Rouge based company that specializes in scent marketing and odor control for some of the country’s most prestigious hotels, hospitals, and universities.

Maria Bhacca, the sweet smell of success

Maria Bhacca, the sweet smell of success

Aerowest manufacturers and services its own line of professional air freshening dispensers and 50 fragrances. Aerowest is nearly 140 years old and was originally based in New York until 2012, when Maria and her husband bought the business and relocated its headquarters to Baton Rouge. Since then, they have slowly grown Aerowest throughout the country.

Maria didn’t imagine herself the CEO of a company that treats malodors. She came to the U.S. from her native Italy more than four decades ago to get her PhD in foreign languages and literature. She ended up staying and running a travel agency before making the jump to the fragrance and odor control industry. It’s a fascinating story!


Judy Schott and Nina Gassen are the founders of a business that sounds so silly it doesn’t sound like it’s even real, much less the big success that it is becoming.

Nita Gassen, things couldn't be going better in the bedroom

Nita Gassen, things couldn’t be going better in the bedroom

The two Mandeville moms of several now-grown children got tired of making the bed, and more specifically, lifting the heavy mattress to tuck the sheets in. So they invented a way to make the bed more quickly. It’s called Better Bedder and it looks like a giant headband that goes around a mattress.

Judi Schott, once upon a mattress, an entrepreneurial dream come true

Judy Schott, once upon a mattress, an entrepreneurial dream come true

Judy and Nina found a seamstress on the west bank of New Orleans to make the bands and started selling them online and at art markets and home shows during the weekend. Then, in the fall of 2020, against all odds, Judi and Nina landed a spot on ABC’s Shark Tank. The episode aired in early 2021 and local fans got to watch while Judy and Nina wowed the sharks with their mattress-sized headband and secured an investment from the hit show’s Lori Greiner for $150,000. Since then, it’s been a whirlwind of activity as demand for the product has soared.

Stephanie Riegel hosts Out to Lunch at Mansurs on the Boulevard

Stephanie Riegel hosts Out to Lunch at Mansurs on the Boulevard

This show was recorded live over lunch at Mansurs on the Boulevard in Baton Rouge. Photos by Erik Otts.

Check out more lunchtime conversation about Baton Rouge entrepreneurs with app builder Chris Boyd and Millennial Park creator Cameron Jackson.