Courtney Esteen didn’t let growing up in poverty stop him from accomplishing his goals in life.
Today, he is armed with a smile and owns a business with a goal to give back and leave a positive mark on the community.
Esteen owns Flavors Daiquiri Café in Tyler. In addition to being open for food and drinks, he is offering free family movie nights, network mixers for young professionals and a special promotion to encourage getting the COVID-19 vaccine.
“My whole mission at this point of my life is to do whatever I can to put smiles on people’s faces and give back as much as I can,” Esteen said.
Esteen’s passion comes, in part, from growing up around others who helped him and his family when they didn’t have enough.
The New Orleans native was raised by a single mother and is the youngest of four children. He recalled Christmases as a child with no gifts and no fireworks at Fourth of July and New Year’s celebrations.
“You notice poverty growing up,” he said. “When you’re going to school and you see other kids dress better and are cleaner than you are, then you understand that something is different in their home versus mine.
“When you realize that those opportunities aren’t there for you, that’s when you also need to realize how to generate those opportunities.”
Those experiences became the motivation that shaped him into the man he is today.
In high school, Esteen began his career at Winn-Dixie where he learned how to work for the things he wanted and where he worked around successful people he wanted to be like.
After graduating high school, he skipped college, saying it wasn’t for him. Instead he began working in the food industry, first as a dishwasher then moving his way up to cook. After working on Bourbon Street for a while, he went into catering then returned to cooking again.
While he worked in the food industry, Esteen said he recalled a childhood dream to become a police officer. So, he did. He served as a police officer from 2003 to 2005, including during Hurricane Katrina.
He had his first child with his wife about eight months before Katrina hit and said he had to make a decision about whether to prioritize the residents of New Orleans or his wife and child. Naturally, he chose to focus on his family.
After his two-year stint as a police officer, he moved to Texas and returned to the food industry where his heart was.
“In the end, it’s not about being rich, but it’s about being accomplished,” he said.
Esteen met his future operations manager, Ashford Norwood, who would trust in his vision.
Before that though, he went into corporate sales, which opened doors into what he would be doing next. He traveled across East Texas and learned customer service skills and how things work behind purchasing systems.
Esteen saved money and decided to run with his main dream — to have his own establishment.
In 2019, Esteen’s dream came true when he established Flavors Daiquiri Café in Tyler.
“Being from New Orleans, food and drink is what we do,” he said.
Since opening, Esteen has led many community efforts that he wished to see as a child.
For example, in August 2019, he held a backpack drive for children of lower income families. Through the effort, he distributed 225 backpacks containing school supplies, such as pencils and notebooks, to families. Additionally, the event provided haircuts to more than 50 children, had a DJ playing music and children enjoyed hot dogs and chips.
As things continue to open back up, Esteen is excited to hold more events.
“Again, I was at school before and didn’t have something, so I know how it feels and if I can help that next kid get that feeling, because it stuck with me so I know it’ll stick with them as well, so if I could do something to help them overcome that,” Esteen said.
He said his establishment is not all about adults having fun with alcohol and music. It’s about a family environment and children also having a good time by enjoying free movies. The family-friendly environment also offers cornhole, darts and karaoke.
Another event Esteen led featured a network mixer for business professionals of Tyler to meet and collaborate. He said it was especially important for minority-owned businesses.
“For me it’s all about building relationships and relationships can build a business,” Esteen said. “And I’m 100% focused on giving back. Anytime we can give back.”
More good work is on the horizon for Esteen, along with a new business venture.
When he first opened Flavors Daiquiri Cafe, Esteen also got an office in Tyler’s Plaza Tower to conduct business.
“That was done with my vision of growing as a company,” he said.
Esteen has been studying real estate and has now completed every class. He will be taking the exam to receive his real estate license in a few months. He also plans to attend Tyler Junior College in the near future to take business administration classes to learn more about the industry and how to manage his businesses more effectively.
“I don’t want to stay stagnant,” he said. “If I want to get better, I have to educate myself to have the knowledge to get better and be better. It’s wrapping up real estate school and jumping into TJC.”
Not only will Esteen be taking on a new career, he also is signing a lease for a. new restaurant where he will serve wings.
Esteen said he’s excited for the new venture because it will provide more jobs in Tyler. The new restaurant will feature 14 types of flavored wings, three types of wedge salads and a happy environment.
In the fall, Flavors Daiquiri Cafe will be hosting “Taste of New Orleans,” where visitors can experience an authentic jazz fest and can learn about Flavors.
“Who knows what the future may hold. We want to grow our food service side and get more community people involved and feed the homeless, but we’re one small business,” Esteen said. “We can try to do what we can but we can’t do it all.”
He hopes the events he hosts are an opportunity to inspire others to do the same.
“The day that I close my eyes,” he said, “I hope to leave behind a memory of, ‘That guy changed my life,’ or ‘He helped consult me with my business.’ … That’s through treating my employees well, give back through promotions for the community or give back by hosting events.”