Profession: Sole manager, CCC Holding LLC
Hometown: Ada, Oklahoma
Family: Widow of the late Norman Saurage III, with five children: Susan Saurage Altenloh, Stephanie Saurage, Hank Saurage, Jennifer Saurage Moreland and Matt Saurage
Years with company: 62
Donna Saurage didn’t always view herself as a businesswoman. Even though she has represented Community Coffee Company for decades and played an essential role in growing the business, she didn’t earn a paycheck.
In the 1950s, when Saurage married into the Community Coffee family, it was expected that she would stay home and raise her children while her husband worked. Five years ago, Saurage’s husband, the late Henry Norman Saurage III, was diagnosed with ALS. Donna Saurage became the sole manager of CCC Holding, the parent of Community Coffee Company.
Saurage says her husband, a third-generation Community Coffee owner, always talked to her about what was going on at work and would confide in her when he was worried about something.
“He would go back with a solution or how he would deal with something,” Saurage says. “I felt like I always worked for the company. When you have a family business, the women are involved.”
As a young adult, Saurage joined the Junior League of Baton Rouge, which she credits with teaching her how to get involved and make a difference in the community through serving on nonprofit boards. The list of groups Saurage has worked with over the years totals more than 50. She has served as chair of the Public Affairs Research Council of Louisiana, Mary Bird Perkins Cancer Center, Woman’s Hospital and the Louisiana Association of Nonprofit Organizations. She was also a founding board member of New Schools for Baton Rouge and served as chair of that organization as well.
In the 1980s, Saurage helped create and launch Community Coffee Places, bright and colorful stores in six Louisiana cities where the sole focus was on coffee or tea. Customers could buy whole bean coffee and they could redeem coupons for merchandise or a percentage off their purchase. The stores were a tremendous success and, says Saurage, the precursor to today’s coffee shops.
Saurage also introduced the city to its first all-suite hotel as general manager of the Residence Inn of Baton Rouge, and later she recruited executives for Sales Consultants of Baton Rouge.
Education has always been important to her, and with a large number of donation requests coming into Community Coffee, she and her husband made the decision to focus on education. She helped create the Community Cash for Schools program, where proof of purchase labels are collected by schools and redeemed for money.
“We knew a good education was important for the people who worked for us,” she says. “It’s direct dollars for schools, and it’s been very effective.”
Saurage says attending employee meetings at Community Coffee and seeing the employees’ excitement for the mission is something she finds most memorable.
“They call it ‘our company,’” she says. “They’re like members of my family. We say taste the difference that family makes, and it really does make a difference.”
The company is celebrating its 100th birthday this year, and Saurage, 80, has no plans to step down. “As long as the brain cells are working well and I have the energy and the good health, I’d like to keep going as long as I can add value,” she says. “I still think I can make a difference.”
1957: Marries into the family business
1979: Develops The Community Coffee Place speciality coffee, tea and premium gift store in Baton Rouge, New Orleans, Houma, Lake Charles, Alexandria and Lafayette
1983: Staffs and opens the Residence Inn All-Suite Hotel of Baton Rouge as general manager
1986: Becomes a professional recruiter with Sales Consultants of Baton Rouge
1973–2019: Serves as an advisor and seminar presenter to nonprofits on board governance, board development, building effective boards and philanthropy
2014: Becomes sole manager of CCC Holding LLC
2014: Becomes a member of the Community Coffee Board of Directors
A life-changing experience
My husband Norman’s death. I went from my parents’ home at age 18 to 58 years of marriage. I was 76 years old and had never lived alone.
Worst advice received
To sell the company. I am so glad we didn’t!
Advice for young women
Do unto others as you would have them do unto you. Be fair, decisive, inclusive, respectful, assertive, kind, wise and compassionate; and avoid being gullible, aggressive, self-indulgent and mean.