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From Jugging School, an Internship, and Entrepreneurship, DeNae Howard has her hands full


A work/life balance is hard enough to juggle as a student, but student-entrepreneur DeNae Howard likes to stay busy. DeNae is a graduate student in the University of Missouri-St. Louis Master of Business Administration program, she also earned a Bachelor of Science, in Business Administration in Accounting with a Certificate in Entrepreneurship from the university last May. Along with schoolwork, she runs a cookie business with her sister De’Ana called NaeAna’s Gourmet Cookies, has an internship at Prosper CPAs, and works at her family’s restaurant called Gobble Stop Smokehouse as the Store Manager. Even with many activities on her plate, DeNae and her sister took over the business they grew into as teens.


When asked about the creation of NaeAna’s Gourmet Cookies, DeNae described how her father began making and selling cookies in 2009 from their home. As her family began to seek business outside of desserts, DeNae’s father passed down the recipes to DeNae and De’Ana. Once DeNae and her sister perfected the recipes, they became the new co-owners of NaeAna’s Cookies. 


In the beginning, the journey was not easy for DeNae and De’Ana. To DeNae, the hardest part about a new business is “managing everything, with a startup, you typically are the one fulfilling all of the roles from providing goods and services, doing background work like payroll, and any fillings, administration work, and managing all of the tasks is the most difficult part.” Having a family of entrepreneurs doesn’t make the path any easier, especially with school responsibilities. NaeAna's Cookies Image  


To-do lists are the key to balancing school, an internship, and entrepreneurship for DeNae. She explained that “creating a to-do list helps me…writing and planning everything out from my days to my weeks and delegating tasks from there”, she takes at least one day a week for relaxing and rejuvenating. 


DeNae is still learning through her entrepreneurship journey but credits the UMSL Entrepreneurship and Innovation Center (formerly UMSL Accelerate) and the Entrepreneurship Program for support and guidance. In November of 2022, she won first place and received a $150 gift for her business at UMSL Accelerate’s Idea Bounce Competition. The class she is most grateful for is the UMSL Accelerate capstone, DeNae took what she learned throughout the program and applied it to her business. This has helped her to become more business savvy and understand true entrepreneurship. In the MBA program, DeNae continues to expand her knowledge in business and experience new things. She is gaining “new experiences through volunteering at Volunteer Income Tax Assistance (VITA) and taking the initial steps to prepare for the CPA exam.” Although she doesn’t spend much time on campus, DeNae continues to feel the support from her classmates and professors. Her courses are familiar with additional topics and concepts that help to advance her entrepreneurial and accounting career. 


In the future, DeNae hopes that NaeAna’s Gourmet Cookies can participate in more popup shops, strengthen its marketing efforts, and eventually open a brick-and-mortar or cookie truck to cater events around St. Louis. She also plans to obtain a CPA certification. These goals will allow her to “establish a platform that will enhance visibility and success of black entrepreneurs”, including herself. If giving any advice to her peers about their entrepreneurial goals, DeNae encourages them to “just start, I think there are a lot of people and resources on campus that can help you even if it’s just an idea…this is what the [undergraduate] entrepreneurship program encourages.” 


There isn’t a doubt that DeNae Howard’s hard work and dedication will bring success in her future entrepreneurial endeavors. She said, “my journey as an African American business leader is just beginning.”