Business Person of the Month: Randy Richards

EBRPL Business Person

Randy Richards

Photographer, DJ, Author, Publisher, BabelCon Conference Coordinator, Board of Directors for the Science and Engineering Education Foundation.
Contact Information:
(225) 571-5530

“Great spirits have always encountered violent opposition from mediocre minds.”

— Albert Einstein

“Imagination is more important than knowledge.”

–Albert Einstein.

Photographer Randy Richards is a man of many interests and when possible he works these interests into a business.  An author, publisher, DJ, and the owner of a couple of small businesses, he has primarily made his living as a photographer – at least since the early 90s when he was hired by Olan Mills, the largest portrait photography company in the world.  He started in their Kids Division, did a short stint in the Glamour Division learning fashion photography, and finally settled into the Church Division photographing families.

Since starting his own photography company, his work has become ever more eclectic.  He’s done theater photography for the Loyola Ballet, Komenka and Le Petit Theater, as well as portraits for dance recital program booklets.  “In 2005 I was commissioned to operate Santa Clause photos at the Chalmette Cinema, so I dressed up like Santa and had a family member take the photos.  I also began taking Christmas pet portraits, which was a lot of fun.”

Wedding photography led him into another sideline, the DJ business.  “I realized that with a small investment in professional speakers and an amplifier, I could produce excellent dance music.”  Once he started playing music at weddings, Richards got other DJ gigs–Sweet 16 events, anniversary parties, and even a “Heart Walk” for the National Heart Association.

Richards was born in New Orleans and raised in Chalmette, Louisiana. He graduated from Chalmette High School in 1984, then from college in 1989, and moved to Tennessee.  “My mother’s family is from Cades Cove in the Smoky Mountains. I just wanted to get closer to my roots – not to mention it’s gorgeous up there – so I moved to an area near Gatlinburg.”  (His mother had moved to Chalmette when she was young because her father was transferred to Kaiser Aluminum there.)  The move proved beneficial for his career in photography when Olan Mills, which operated out of Chattanooga, hired him.   After five years in Tennessee, he was transferred to Baton Rouge and started a family.

Richards’ schooling had nothing to do with photography: he went to the University of New Orleans for Business, and later to Phillips College for an Associate Degree in computer programming.   He believes anyone with an eye for images can do photography, with or without any formal education.  He does credit his portrait training and glamour training from Olan Mills for some of his success in his own business.  “I’ve always known I had an eye for the camera, ever since I was a little kid.  My brother and some neighborhood kids would make movies using my dad’s 8mm film camera, and later with a video camera.”

After ten years with Olan Mills, Richards established “Dance Partners Photography & Video” with his brother Rick Richards, who has been dancing professionally for over ten years with Loyola Ballet, Komenka Ethnic Dance troupe and performing with Le Petit Theatre and Jefferson Performing Arts Theater. Between the two of them, they have over twenty years of experience in the art of photography and videography, and experience in Digital Photography and Digital Video.  Although located in Louisiana, they will work wherever their customers need them, from New Jersey to California.  Their motto is “We bring the studio to you — and never a sitting fee!” 

In what little spare time he has, Richards likes to spend time with his family, to bowl, visit the zoo, and play Dungeons & Dragons and Warcraft.  He has been playing Dungeons and Dragons since the late 70s. “We had the Basic D&D boxed game in our Gifted & Talented class, and I used to play a Cajun halfling (a hobbit, for you non-D&D folk). The other kids loved it, especially the accent.”   He doesn’t have time to read a lot of books anymore since he’s running so many businesses.  The last book he read was a Star Trek novel “The Q Continuum” by Greg Cox, but his first books remain his favorite.  He cites as his biggest influences Tolkien’s books, such as The Hobbit, Lord of the Rings, the Silmarillion; Isaac Asimov, who wrote I, Robot and the Foundation series, and Margert Weis & Tracy Hickman, who wrote the Dragonlance series.  He’s a movie buff, particularly Science Fiction movies.  “I use my association with BabelCon to teach the younger generation about classic Sci-Fi movies and books. People have heard of great Sci-FI movies like Independence Day, Aliens and Blade Runner, but some classics have started to fade into memory – First Men in the Moon, Day of the Triffids, Them, Colossus: the Forbin Project, Forbidden Planet, and Brainstorm – these classics still hold up today. Fantasy movies like Dragonslayer, Dreamscape, Labyrinth, and the original Village of the Damned, are still plenty creepy and exciting.”

Star Trek costumes

In the late 90s Richards hosted a series of Gen Con events, one of which included the co-creators of D&D–Gary Gygax (who died March 3rd) and Dave Arneson, and other big names in Gaming including Frank Mentzer, Lisa Stevens (now CEO of Paizo Publishing), and Anne Brown. “This got my name known in the industry, although at the time that wasn’t my goal.  I was just trying to have fun and spread the joy of gaming.”  He’s been a guest speaker at several Fantasy and Gaming conferences and serves on the board of directors of BabelCon, whose next conference will be here in Baton Rouge, July 19-20.  Special guest at this years conference include actors-Richard Hatch (Battlestar Galactica); John Hertzler and Suzie Plakson (Star Trek); Bob May (Lost in Space) and paranormal expert Kalila Smith.   There will be Star Trek style dancing by green-skinned ladies, an indoor Renaissance Festival, a live cast performance of Rocky Horror Picture Show, Nightmare Theatre, a Pirates of the Caribbean interactive, and model rocket discussions, as well as Gaming-D&D, roleplaying games, historical war games and video, board and card games.

In 1998, Richards had a game adventure entitled “Dark Magic in New Orleans” published in the Nov/Dec copy (issue #71) of Dungeon Adventures Magazine. “After receiving scores of complimentary letters from people all over the world, I decided to start writing on a regular basis. With all my traveling with work there really wasn’t time, but while driving I would make notes on anything available: cardboard boxes, gum wrappers, Styrofoam cups — anything!”  He had been writing stories since his teens, but now he wanted to try a book.  Starting his own photography business cut down his traveling, so he could spend more time with his daughter, but Richards also found he had more time for writing too.

As he copied all his notes from various scraps of paper, he realized they had accumulated into a swamp theme.  He settled on the title, Dreadmire, since the swamp was a deadly mire, dreaded by all.  In 2002, he had enough to be a coherent book. From concept to completion, the book took approximately fifteen years to produce; ten years to research (including visits to real marshes and swamps), three years to write, one year to edit and one year to illustrate with the help of several artists.  When people ask what it’s about, he says, “Cajun Hobbits in an evil version of the Atchafalaya Swamp, with giant cockroaches, undead mosquitoes, demonic fungus, malevolent cypress trees, mud dwarves, slime dragons, man-eating plants, and weregators, thrown in for good measure.”  The book is a game accessory, and the three Dungeons & Dragons rules books are required to play the game.  “I heard some people have bought my book just to use the background material, ignoring its game components.  It has a lot of local flavor, and very detailed swamp material.”

In 2003 Spellbinder Games contacted him about publishing his manuscript. They had seen him at various conventions: Gen Con, Dragon*Con, CoastCon, and Crescent City Con or read his works in Dungeon magazine. They promised him control over the project and faxed a proposal, which he signed right away. Spellbinder Games was destroyed during Hurricane Katrina.  In June of 2007, the game publisher was purchased by a consortium of Fantasy authors.   “In a strange twist of fate, using the profits I made from Dreadmire, I was able to buy into the company.”  Richards is the major company holder, and acts as Project Coordinator. They will be publishing more Gaming books in the near future, and a novelization of Dreadmire is in the works.

When asked about the future of Baton Rouge, Richards said that as an artist, he did not feel qualified to comment.  But when the question was brought down to this city’s acceptance and friendliness to his interests-Gaming, Science Fiction & Fantasy, and conventions for such, he became loquacious.  Richards says that on the whole Sci-Fi fans and Gamers do not socialize much, and have a hard time connecting with others with the same interests. That’s why conventions remain staples for us “geeks.”  (If you want to gain an understanding of him and his friends, Richards thinks the new TV series “The Big Bang Theory” pretty much sums them up, albeit in a humorous way.)  “Before Katrina, it was hard to find Sci-Fi and Gaming fans in Baton Rouge.  There were here of course, but the community has vastly increased since the New Orleans diaspora.”  He offers the unusually rapid growth of BabelCon as proof.  The first year they had 80 attendees, then 450, and BabelCon number three might break 1,000.  “In my opinion, Baton Rouge is hungry for this kind of fun distraction.  We’re all stressed out because of the storm.”

Like a lot of Sci-Fi/Fantasy readers, Richards is a book collector, who’d rather buy books than check them out from the library. In the last ten years he says the only things he’s checked out are videos.  When he wrote his gothic horror story “Dark Magic in New Orleans” he did research at the LSU Library where he found wonderful historic maps of 1890s New Orleans as well as local background material.   But he thinks electronic media will mostly replace books.  “Me and my nerd and geek friends predominantly find local libraries to be functionally outdated, thanks mostly to the Internet.  It’s not the local library system’s fault – most libraries seem to be stuck in time.” He thinks libraries of the future will feature more electronic rather than physical books.

[The East Baton Rouge Parish Library has understood this need and is rapidly collecting video – both movies and documentaries – on all subjects, and books on audio and CD.  The library offers electronic databases for use at the library, as well as from the home computer.  Through Overdrive, a feature on the library’s homepage, patrons can access all kinds of e-media for download.  Hundreds of titles of electronic books, video materials and audio books (fiction, nonfiction, children and teens) are available through Overdrive.]

Randy Richards has enjoyed meeting many different types of people during the course of his photography career, but finds working with children the most rewarding.  He estimates that over the last twenty years he’s taken roughly 1.2 million photographs, which is quite an achievement.  “That’s a lot of families. I’ve learned a lot about people, possibly enough to become a sociologist.”  The personal philosophy by which he lives is, “Achievement is the knowledge that you have studied, worked hard, and done your best. Success is being praised by others, and that’s nice, too, but not as important or as satisfying. Always aim for achievement and forget about success.” This philosophy has worked for Randy. By doing the things he loves, and making businesses out of his interests, he’s managed to find personal satisfaction as well as success.

Business Person of the Month Archive

Business Person of the Month: Donald G. Luther Jr.

EBRPL Business Person

  Donald Luther


Donald G. Luther Jr.
Director:  University Products LLC



Besides working as the Director of the family business University Products, LLC, Donald Luther is an entrepreneur who has been involved in many business ventures in such diverse fields as Construction, Food Service, Maintenance, Substance Abuse and Mental Health Rehabilitation, Finance, Real Estate, and Education. “I work as long and as hard as it takes to accomplish the needs of any and every business in which I’m involved. Some days work takes very little of my time, while other days, I may not get to sleep at all. I’ve had failures as well as successes; however I never fail to try!” Luther cites his enjoyment of the ever changing work experience at University Products, which currently manufactures a vaccine for cattle. “This business has given me the chance to work with people from all walks of life, from farmers and field hands to scientists and politicians.”

Luther was born in Plaquemine, where his father had a veterinary practice. But when the Vet School opened, his father went to work for LSU. His mother, a Ph.D. in Child Psychology, also worked in Baton Rouge. With both parents working here, it made sense for the kids to commute for their schooling, too. He and his siblings attended St. James Episcopal Day School. After the family moved to Baton Rouge in 1979, they enrolled in public school. Luther attended Kenilworth Junior High and Robert E. Lee High School before going to Louisiana State University. “I dropped out of LSU, because I did not take education seriously in my first two years at the University. I preferred to drink and chase Stacey Harrison.” He refers to Stacey, whom he married in 1984, as “the love of my life.” They have one daughter, Brandy Nicole. “I quit drinking almost 23 years ago and started working to support my new family.”

“I am the only member of my family who does not have a college degree.” Many in his family have multiple degrees. His father earned a Doctorate in Microbiology while he was working at the Vet School, and his wife is currently working on a Master’s in Library Science. Luther does not want anyone to take his success as a sign that education is not important. “I feel that I am the exception, not the rule. I would like to correct the mistake I made as a young man and complete my college education and I encourage others to do the same.” He did not stop learning when he left college though; over the years he has attended seminars and other educational programs to expand his knowledge in his various fields of interest. Lately he’s started taking courses at Baton Rouge Community College with an eye toward getting that degree he passed up in his youth.

The Luther Family formed, University Products L.L.C., in 1999. All family members have shares in the company, though he and his younger brother are the ones actively working alongside their dad at this time. (Several of Luther’s other business ventures also include family members.) An active Pharmaceutical Manufacturer, the company is involved in the production of Anaplasmosis Vaccine, as well as the development of other products, including a novel vaccine for H5N1 (bird flu) and other potential pandemic influenza strains. The company licensed a specific technology from Louisiana State University that is used to make Bovine Anaplasmosis Vaccine. This vaccine was developed at the LSU Agriculture Center’s Veterinary Science Department by a team of three scientists–L.T. Hart, Ph.D., W.J. Todd, Ph.D., and D. G. Luther, D.V.M., Ph.D. Their research, done in the late ’80s and early ’90s, led to a patent for the process of separating the Anaplasma marginal initial bodies from the red blood cell antigens of bovine blood.

Donald Luther Family Photo
Board of Directors (Circa 1974) from the website Donald Luther, Jr. is the red jacketed boy standing by his mother. Asked why he is the jr. rather than his older bother, he said the first son got a name of even greater honor, that of their grandfather.

Anaplasmosis, a disease affecting both beef and dairy cattle, is more prevalent during the summer months in Louisiana and along the Gulf Coast. The disease is spread by insects and from cow to cow by the transfer of infected blood. The blood parasite invades and destroys red blood cells causing the animal to develop severe anemia or a low red blood cell count. Calves usually survive the infection and develop immunity, but adult cattle can die from it. “While Anaplasmosis can decimate a herd, so can many other diseases, weather conditions, predators, and even financial ups and downs,” says Luther. “Farmers have many costs involved in bringing their products to market, and theirs is not a ‘cost plus’ market. They have to take what the market offers for their product, which all too often is not that much and sometimes even a loss. Vaccination for Anaplasmosis is just one of many choices for our farmers to make.” Infected animals can be treated with the antibiotic Tetracycline, but usually by the time a farmer notices the clinical signs of the disease it is too late to administer the antibiotic without causing great stress to the animal.

Louisiana State University licensed the vaccine to Pitman-Moore which started the USDA licensing process. While the USDA efficacy and safety studies were ongoing, Mallinckrodt bought Pitman-Moore and marketed the vaccine for three years under the name, Plazvax, before being acquired by Schering-Plough. Plough, sued by users of an earlier Anaplasmosis vaccine which sometimes caused cows to abort their calves, declined to use this new technology to produce a vaccine. Schering-Plough’s decision not to produce and market Plazvax resulted in no commercially available vaccine for Anaplasmosis. “Currently, public and private organizations around the world are attempting to build a better mouse trap, as relates to the treatment and eradication of Anaplasmosis.”

In 1999 Luther’s father was contacted by dairymen in Florida about the defunct vaccine. Dr. Luther told them he could make it, but the USDA would not allow him to ship or sell the vaccine. Obviously these gentlemen had some clout; they appealed to the USDA and got approval for production and sale of the vaccine as an Experimental Anaplasmosis Vaccine to veterinarians in Florida. Around the same time, Louisiana cattle owners urged our Department of Agriculture and Forestry to have a vaccine made available to control outbreaks in several south Louisiana parishes, and the State Veterinarian, Dr. Maxwell Lea, contacted USDA officials. The USDA has since approved the use of the vaccine in Florida, Louisiana, Texas, Oklahoma, Arkansas, Oregon, Nevada, Tennessee, Mississippi, Indiana, Iowa, Illinois, Kansas and Puerto Rico, but they are not approving any more states at this time.

The vaccine is not licensed by the USDA partly because there are no USDA licensed facilities in Louisiana. University Products would like to obtain this licensing and move to full scale commercial production of this important agricultural pharmaceutical. “We are currently approved by the USDA to make the vaccine for Experimental Use only. We are in the process of getting full USDA approval; however, it is an expensive and time consuming process to get both the lab and the product approved.” The Experimental Vaccine employs the same purification procedure as did Mallinckrodt’s Plazvax and uses the same strain of Anaplasma marginal. Though the USDA has not carried out efficacy or potency tests on this experimental vaccine, hundreds of thousands of doses have been produced since early in 2000. Unlike other vaccines for anaplasmosis, this vaccine has been used in cows in all stages of pregnancy with no ill effects. “To this point the only complaint we’ve had was the thickness of the first vaccine made it hard to use. That first vaccine was mixed in an omni blender, which made it very thick. We have since homogenized the vaccine as did Mallinckrodt; it is now about the thickness of milk.”

As a native Louisianan, Luther is a big proponent of our state as well as the city of Baton Rouge. “When I was a little boy, my ‘Granny Wiggins’ told me I was the reason God made Louisiana; with this in mind I believe Louisiana is the greatest place on Earth and it is only getting better!” He believes Baton Rouge has been behind the curve in our infrastructure, and Katrina related growth only exacerbated our existing problems (traffic, sewerage, crime, education, etc…). “Baton Rouge is like business; if it is not growing it is dying. My passion for politics comes from my desire to see that we have the best leaders to deal with all of our issues while we continue to grow.”

Luther’s spare time is spent with family and friends. His favorite type of reading includes topics like politics, science, gadgets, and Louisiana history. Currently he’s reading “Managing Ignatius” by Jerry E. Strahan and “The Day Huey Long Was Shot” by David Zinman. He believes libraries are one of the most important assets of any society “Our public libraries offer a seemingly limitless opportunity for anyone and everyone to freely explore ideas and educate themselves.”

His personal philosophy is summed up by the Golden Rule; Do unto others as you would have them do unto you. In this spirit he volunteers time to several local organizations and causes. “I want to protect the weak and the vulnerable, to give a helping hand, and then educate the poor to help them to help themselves.” His causes are related to education, the sick, the old, the young, the hungry, and the poor (The Food Bank, Mary Bird Perkins Cancer Center, St. Jude, Sam’s Helping Hands, etc…) Like many people who give to society he finds that he often receives more than he gives. “I donate time, money and resources to my causes for completely selfish reasons, and I do not expect, nor do I want, any public recognition for doing so.”

Logo for Hot Diggity DogsA dynamic man with a host of ideas and interests, Luther has irons in many fires. “While I have had many failures in my life, my successes are what keep me going. I work hard at not making the same mistake twice.” His newest venture, Diggitty Dogs, is a hot dog and Coca-Cola shaped itinerate vending cart that serves gourmet hot dogs, sausage poboys, Frito pies (made to order before your eyes) along with chips and cold Coca-Cola. “While Diggitty Dogs is in its infancy, it appears to be a hit. I hope to keep it simple. A fresh bun for bread, a tube of meat and all the condiments you can eat! Who doesn’t love a hot dog? My partner Albert E. Tolle III, AKA “The Hot Dog Man”, and I feel that we are well on our way to weenie wealth.” Whether dealing with cutting edge science in search of cures for man and beast or pursuing ‘weenie wealth’ Donald J. Luther, Jr. puts his heart into every project.

Business Person of the Month Archive

Baton Rouge Area Chamber Business Guide

EBRPL Business Tip

In December 2007, the Baton Rouge Area Chamber of Commerce, (BRAC) announced a new feature on its website. The BRAC Business Guide is a one stop information resource for current business owners and entrepreneurs planning to start new businesses.

The December 10, 2007 BRAC press release describes a two fold purpose for the guide. “The first provides information on starting a business, while the second provides insights into expansion for existing businesses.”

The guide contains sample business plans, a vast amount of forms, and contact info for filing the required food, beverage/alcohol permits, and occupational licenses.

There is a terms/disclaimer statement on the introductory page of the site. The Getting Started section has a very nice step-by-step, walk-through process on taking your business from concept to reality.

Tax Strategy Booklist

EBRPL Business Tip

It’s a good time to plan business tax strategies for the new year. Here is a list of recent titles in the library’s collection on the subject of small business taxation.
422 Tax Deductions For Business & Self Employed Individuals /
Bell Springs Pub., c2003.
Deduct it! : Lower Your Small Business Taxes, 2nd Edition
NOLO Press, c2005.
Tax Accounting For Small Business: How To Prepare A 1040C
Small Business Advisors, Inc., c1996.
Tax Savvy For Small Business: Year-Round Tax Advice For Small Businesses, 10th Edition
NOLO Press, c2006.
Tax Smarts For Small Business
Sphinx Pub., c2004.

Titles listed above are linked to the Library’s online catalog so you can see title locations and status. Once you’re in the catalog, click on the picture of the book cover for a synopsis and other information.


EBRPL Online Resource

Scrennshot of AccessScience homepage  

AccessScience provides an outstanding collection of science reference materials available online from your home computer! It offers easy access to full text articles from the latest edition of the McGraw-Hill Encyclopedia of Science & Technology, Research Updates from the McGraw-Hill Yearbooks, and the latest Science News ® headlines. There are thousands of biographies, illustrations, videos, tutorials, and even podcasts. 

This online encyclopedia is tailored to both students and researchers looking for the most relevant, readable, and trusted sources of science information available. Use AccessScience for all your science information needs!

Some examples of what you can find on AccessScience include:

  • A biography of Albert Einstein
  • An image gallery of a young supernova, also available as a PowerPoint presentation
  • Current science news with titles such as “Vitamin D: Some people need much more” and “Sister Planet: Mission to Venus reveals watery past
  • An article in the study center that answers the question “How does flouride affect teeth?”

To get to AccessScience from the East Baton Rouge Parish Library homepage (

  1. Choose Online Databases from the left sidebar on the homepage. If you are home or outside of the library, you will need to enter your library card number.
  2. From the Database Page, choose AccessScience near the top of the left hand column.