Building the Busiest Community Business in New Orleans

GED
Harvard
Inc. 500

From GED to Harvard Then Inc. 500

Successful businesses don’t just sell to you, they involve you. They speak to your soul, fill your heart and invite you to be a part of something greater. This was Jane and Scott Wolfe’s view from the day they opened the doors to their first small store in the center of New Orleans’ Ninth Ward. At 19 and 20 years old, they lived this belief every day. And because of it, they grew their business until that small grocery became a multi-million dollar chain of stores stretching throughout New Orleans’ food deserts. But just as they reached that peak, disaster struck.

In their new book, From GED to Harvard Then Inc. 500, Jane and Scott tell the story of their success, devastating loss, and their drive to rebuild not just for their sake, but for the people who helped their businesses thrive. This is the story of building one of America’s fastest growing companies on more than just hard work and ingenuity: it was also built on heart.

Jane and Scott Wolfe

Building the Fastest Growing Business in New Orleans

Out of the devastation of hurricane Katrina, Scott and Jane Wolfe built a business that has become a cornerstone of their community tucked between the French Quarter and New Orleans’ 9th Ward.

With an emphasis on compassion and empathy, the Wolfes put the wellbeing of their employees at the forefront of everything they do. More than opportunistic business owners, Scott and Jane recognized that their loyal employees were—and still are—critical to the long-term success of Melba’s. The couple resolved to run their business as an employee cooperative, giving those that helped grow Melba’s a say in its future and a share of profits. It’s a business ethos that has been decades in the making and now they are sharing their story with the world.

Find out how a New Orleans po-boy shoppe shakes up the status quo
From GED To Harvard Then Inc 500 - Book Cover

The Book

From GED to Harvard to Inc. 500 offers the dual perspectives of New Orleans restaurateurs, Scott and Jane Wolfe, each telling the story of the long-odds they faced building one of the most beloved restaurants in New Orleans. In 1982, as teenagers, the Wolfe’s bought a rundown market in New Orleans’ Lower Ninth Ward. Setting out to build a business that their community could take pride in, the young couple revived the old Wagner’s Meats shaped it once again into a neighborhood fixture, eventually growing the business to ten locations over the next 25 years. Then, Hurricane Katrina destroyed everything they had built. Always resilient, not even a force majeure like Katrina could keep the Wolfes down for long.

Discover the inspiring story behind the people who built Melba’s Famous Po-Boys

Engaged Entrepreneurship

What comes to mind when you think of the modern entrepreneur? While running a 24-hour New Orleans Po’boy shop might not be your first thought, perhaps it should be. For Scott and Jane Wolfe, entrepreneurship comes with a much higher responsibility than positioning a business for a buyout offer. They believe it is their role to lift and empower their employees, customers, and community. “We are not business people.” says Jane, “We are teachers. Every transaction is an opportunity to teach our team and serve our customers and community.”

“Business is about lifting up where you stand,” Jane said about the Engaged Entrepreneurship that she and husband Scott practice at Melba’s in their home city of New Orleans. Focused on enhancing literacy in their community, Scott and Jane have partnered with local authors for their Lunch & Literacy initiative and created a reading nook in Wash World (the laundromat attached to Melba’s) to infuse more books into the New Orleans community.

  • Jonathan Walton
    Jonathan Walton
  • Colson Whitehead
    Colson Whitehead
  • Sarah Broom
    Sarah Broom
  • Kim Vaz-Deville
    Kim Vaz-Deville
  • Liz Williams
    Liz Williams
  • Chelsea Clinton
    Chelsea Clinton
  • Hillary Clinton
    Hillary Clinton
  • Bertha Harris
    Bertha Cooper Harris
  • Jami Attenberg
    Jami Attenberg
  • Jesmyn Ward
    Jesmyn Ward
  • Janet McKenzie
    Artist /Author Janet McKenzie
  • Zachary Lazar
    Author Zachary Lazar
  • Walter Isaacson
    Author Walter Isaacson
  • Sybil Morial
    Former New Orleans First Lady Sybil Morial
  • T.R. Johnson
    Author T.R. Johnson
  • Melissa Rogers
    Melissa Rogers
  • Eddie Glaude Jr.
    Eddie Glaude Jr.
  • Andrea Davis Pinkney
    Andrea Davis Pinkney
  • Rupert Scofield
    Rupert Scofield
  • John Warner Smith
    Louisiana’s Poet Laureate John Warner Smith
  • Sister Helen Prejean
    Sister Helen Prejean
  • Carol Allen
    Carol Allen
  • Harriet A. Washington
    Harriet A. Washington
  • Marc Morial
    Marc Morial
  • Walt Handelsman
    Walt Handelsman
  • Barbara Brown Taylor
    Barbara Brown Taylor
  • Alexandra Boiger
    Alexandra Boiger

“Scott and Jane Wolfe’s journey epitomizes the values of perseverance, passion, and a commitment to community,” said former Mayor of New Orleans, Marc Morial. “They have defined what it means to function as a double bottom-line business in twenty-first-century New Orleans.”

Speaking

Scott and Jane Wolfe deliver stirring keynote speeches that testify to the values upon which all their businesses were built. When leaders celebrate their local community, empower their employees, and refuse to accept “business as usual,” magical things happen! Engaged entrepreneurship isn’t a fancy slogan, it’s a lifestyle and business model that the Wolfe’s have used successfully to build multi-million dollar businesses that support and enrich their communities.

Check out Scott and Jane’s availability