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Mississippi Entrepreneurs

Mississippi Entrepreneurs

Copyright Date: 2014
Pages: 240
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    Mississippi Entrepreneurs
    Book Description:

    The seventy stories inMississippi Entrepreneurscollectively draw attention to the tenacious and courageous journeys of Mississippi men and women who risk fortune and futures to create successful enterprises. Most tell "how they did it" uniquely and in their own words, bringing to life their entrepreneurial spirits. Family members and former colleagues pick up the storyline for legendary entrepreneurs who have passed on, recalling vividly the characteristics that set them apart from the competition.

    Usually a passion for creation inspired these go-getters--whether casting red-hot liquid steel into industrial products (Fred Wile, Meridian); constructing buildings (Roy Anderson III, Gulfport; Bill Yates Jr., Philadelphia; and William Yates III, Biloxi); making agricultural products grow ( Janice and Allen Eubanks, Lucedale; and Mike Sanders, Cleveland); delivering and installing furniture ( Johnnie Terry, Jackson); using technology to improve systems ( John Palmer and Joel Bomgar, and Toni and Bill Cooley, Jackson; and Billy and Linda Howard, Laurel); expanding food operations (Dr. S. L. Sethi, Jackson; and Don Newcomb, Oxford); or sharing the sheer love of music (Hartley Peavey, Meridian), food (Robert St. John, Hattiesburg), art (Erin Hayne and Nuno Gonçalves Ferreira, Jackson), or books (John Evans, Jackson; and Richard Howorth, Oxford). Social and cultural entrepreneurs made their marks as well, including those focused on social justice (Martha Bergmark, Jackson); access to health care (Aaron Shirley, Jackson); and public education ( Jack Reed, Tupelo). Few if any books have focused exclusively on this aspect of the state's history.

    Altogether the stories, accompanied by seventy black and white photographs, illustrate common traits, including plentiful vision, fierce drive, willingness to take risks and change for a better way, the ability to innovate, solve problems, and turn luck (both good and bad) to advantage. Most of these entrepreneurs generously share the rewards of their hard work and ingenuity with their communities.

    eISBN: 978-1-62674-050-1
    Subjects: Business, History

Table of Contents

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  1. Front Matter
    (pp. i-iv)
  2. Table of Contents
    (pp. v-x)
  3. FOREWORD Entrepreneurs and Economic Development in Mississippi
    (pp. xi-xii)

    This book tells the very important and often neglected story of Mississippi entrepreneurs. Entrepreneurs are the people who create the companies and most of the jobs in any state, including Mississippi. Here are stories of folk with vision and commitment who were not afraid to take a risk. Mississippians have always been a hardy lot with a bent for business. In fact, the farm economy, upon which the state’s employment was based for generations, involved running large and small businesses characterized by constant uncertainty. Business ventures later expanded into the growing industrial and services sector. In my opinion, the small...

    (pp. xiii-xvi)
    (pp. xvii-1)

    The seeds for this book were planted several years ago by Tim Medley, when he said: “We need more enterprise creators in Mississippi. All of our kids wanted to be professionals—doctors, lawyers, teachers, bankers, accountants—because that’s what we encouraged them to do. We considered this to be the safe and respectable way to make a living.

    “What we need to do is to change the aspirations of our young people so that more of them will value the business of risk-taking and enterprise creation. This has occurred elsewhere, resulting in prosperity, good jobs, good education and a generally...

    (pp. 2-5)

    Victor Mavar is storyteller and teacher as he tells how his family’s Biloxi, Mississippi, seafood business shifted from people to felines, from canned oysters and shrimp to cat food. While the pivotal point in the business story may be H.J. Heinz’s 1988 acquisition of Kozy Kitten cat food from the Mavar family, Victor Mavar’s passionate backstory is one of successive generations carving out roles in the family business, sustaining his parents’ immigrant ingenuity and work ethic.

    Mavar’s parents were born in the late nineteenth century on neighboring islands in Austria-Hungary, now Croatia. Driven from their homes by extreme drought, they...

    (pp. 6-9)

    “Can you get me one of those foundations?” is the question that Philip B. Hardin, founder, CEO and chairman of Hardin Bakeries Corporation, posed in early 1964 to Tom Ward, Sr., his tax attorney, business associate and friend. Arriving in Ward’s Meridian, Mississippi, office with the Wall Street Journal in hand, Hardin was excited about a front-page story on the Lyndon Baines Johnson Foundation, the work it did, and its estate and tax benefits. Sixty-three years old at the time, Hardin (1891–1972) had built the bankrupt Meridian bakery he purchased in the early 1930’s into a profitable regional bakery...

    (pp. 10-13)

    George A. McLean (1904–1983) is vividly remembered for his leadership in transforming Tupelo and rural Lee County, Mississippi, from one of the poorest areas in the country’s most poverty-stricken state to a thriving model of community and economic development. McLean had plenty of help from local business leaders and farmers motivated by the prospect of a more prosperous life. But it was his vision that created the pathway for transformation.

    McLean was not the most likely candidate for a powerful leadership role in conservative Northeast Mississippi, made more destitute by the 1936 tornado that nearly took Tupelo off the...

    (pp. 14-17)

    The 1950’s television commercial jingle for “Dumas Milner Chev-ro-let” would still ring familiar to many Mississippi children who grew up in those years watching shows likeLassieandGunsmoke. Dumas Milner’s entrepreneurial drive led to success in numerous types of business, but his first love was automobiles. “He was the largest General Motors dealer in the world,” according to Betty Beasley, who joined Milner Enterprises in 1960 and stayed on as his executive assistant through the dispiriting wind-down of the late businessman’s empire over a quarter of a century.

    Born in 1917 Robert Ernest Milner “was a farm boy from...

    (pp. 18-21)

    Warren A. Hood, Sr.’s contribution to economic development and civic life in Mississippi can’t be fully appreciated without a return to Copiah County, circa 1940. After boyhood days in the Depression that began at 3:00 a.m. milking cows, attending the agricultural high school and freshman classes at Hinds Community College and working for $1.50 a day in his cousin’s sawmill operation, the 23-year-old Hood bought his cousin’s peckerwood sawmill for $900.

    “You just roll a peckerwood sawmill out into the woods and cut timber,” explained James W. “Jimmy” Hood, the younger of the late Warren Hood, Sr.’s sons. “He didn’t...

    (pp. 22-25)

    Even at age 10 W.T. “Bill” Hogg favored theWall Street Journalfor reading material and used his $1 weekly allowance to make loans with interest to friends with holes in their pockets. Growing up around his grandparents’ general store in New Orleans during the Depression, the founder of Valley Services, Inc., a contract food service company headquartered in Flowood, Mississippi, instinctively knew that his future was in food.

    “Bill Hogg decided early to get into the food business because people had to eat, even when times were bad,” said Stan Pratt, former chairman of the board of Valley Services....

    (pp. 26-29)

    People frequently asked the late Owen Cooper (1908–1986) how he managed to accomplish so much. “His simple answer was, ‘Find people who know how to give legs to your ideas and stay out of their way while they do their work,’” said Nancy Cooper Gilbert, the first of his five children. Jo G. Prichard, executive assistant to Cooper (1965–73), said that Cooper’s success lay in his genius for inspiring Mississippians to come together to develop services they needed.

    Cooper was most widely known as the founder and CEO of Mississippi Chemical Corporation, the world’s first farmer-owned nitrogen fertilizer...

  13. JACK REED, SR.
    (pp. 30-33)

    “I’m not an entrepreneur,” protests Jack Reed, Sr., Chairman of the Board of Reed’s Department Store. Indeed, for it was R.W. Reed, Sr., Jack’s father, who founded the dry goods store on Main Street in Tupelo, Mississippi, that became Reed’s flagship store.

    “In 1905 Dad opened a grocery store in Tupelo,” said Reed, “but he saw a men’s store across the street selling neckties for more profit than he got from a 50-pound barrel of flour, so he opened a dry goods store on the spot where the department store remains to this day.” R. W. Reed, Sr. also convinced...

    (pp. 34-37)

    Richard McRae’s 92-year-old eyes twinkle as he talks about McRae’s Spot Cash Store, the dry goods store that his father, Samuel Proctor McRae, founded in 1902 in downtown Jackson. Just what is a spot cash store? “You paid cash on the spot,” said McRae. “No credit.”

    From his office in Saks Service Center on Jackson’s western edge McRae, who ironically was an early champion of store credit cards, recalled a century of change for McRae’s. “My father’s first location was a hole in the wall on Capitol Street, sandwiched between two much larger clothing stores,” he said. “Both competitors announced...

    (pp. 38-41)

    When Roy Anderson, Jr., a U.S. Air Force pilot in the Korean War, returned to Gulfport, Mississippi, from Korea in 1955, he already possessed two of the key tools for the construction business he wanted to start: a degree in industrial engineering from Georgia Tech, the confidence of a star athlete and a surprise asset. Louise “Weezie” Anderson, Roy, Jr.’s wife, had saved $3,000 from his Air Force paychecks.

    To Weezie’s consternation Anderson promptly bought a pick-up truck with the hard-saved money. “If I’m going into business,” he told her, “I have to act like I’m in business and look...

    (pp. 42-45)

    Jesse Brent was named “River Person of the Century” in 2000 byThe Waterways Journal, the “Riverman’s Bible” of the towing and barge industry. The late riverboat pilot, Captain Brent, founded Brent Towing Company in 1956 in Greenville, Mississippi, with one towboat and two barges and over the next quarter of a century built it into a legendary river fleet. Howard Brent, one of Jesse’s two sons, reflected, “Daddy loaned money to other people to start towboat businesses, too. He didn’t see them as competition. There were plenty of products to move on the Mississippi River and its tributaries. By...

    (pp. 46-49)

    “If Frank Spain had been born in the 1700’s, he would have been an explorer,” observed Jane Spain, President of WTVA, Inc. in Tupelo, Mississippi. “In getting from A to Z his inventions to make the journey easier would have been nonstop.”

    The A to Z of inventor Frank Kyle Spain’s journey through twentieth-century communications was indeed nonstop. By the time he received a Gold Circle Emmy Award for Lifetime Achievement in Broadcasting in 2005, Spain had built his own television station in Tupelo, pioneered the use of microwave transmissions to bring NBC’s signal from Memphis to rural northeast Mississippi,...

  18. JOHN H. BRYAN, JR.
    (pp. 50-53)

    “You run it” is what John H. Bryan, Jr.’s father had to say about the family meat packing business when the 23-year-old returned to his hometown, West Point, Mississippi, in 1960 with a bachelor’s degree from Rhodes College and graduate education from the University of Virginia. Bryan’s grandfather opened a butcher shop in 1909, and his father and uncle in 1936 invested $3,000 to found Bryan Brothers Packing Company, which by 1960 was logging $20 million in sales and employed 500 people.

    “The greatest gift you can give to children is to believe in them beyond the usual,” reflected Bryan,...

  19. W.C. FORE
    (pp. 54-57)

    He’s known throughout the South as “Dr. Dirt,” especially among construction contractors on the Gulf Coast. W.C. “Cotton” Fore, president of W.C. Fore Trucking, Inc., headquartered in Gulfport, Mississippi, earned the Dr. Dirt sobriquet using his expertise in excavating, grading, hauling and engineering the right mix of dirt to prepare an astonishing range of construction sites. Fore, who has a memory to envy, rattles off 53 years of projects, starting with a $250 job to grade a used car lot. By the time Hurricane Camille devastated the Mississippi Gulf Coast in 1969 Fore owned four heavy-duty trucks, two bulldozers and...

    (pp. 58-61)

    “People think you can have an idea, patent it and companies will beat your door down wanting to get it,” said inventor William H. “Bill” Seemann. Reflecting on a fiberglass composite product called C-Flex that he developed in the 1960’s, initially to make stronger, faster sailboats, the founder and president of Seemann Composites, Inc., in Gulfport, Mississippi, said, “I learned that having a good idea is not worth a lot unless you can make the product and market it yourself.”

    The story of what ledFortunemagazine to name Seemann one of the “Heroes of U.S. Manufacturing” in 1998 begins...

    (pp. 62-65)

    “Southern Pipe has sold enough plumbing pipe to circle the Earth 12 times,” said Marty Davidson, Chairman of Southern Pipe and Supply. The third-generation owner of one of the nation’s largest privately-held, independent wholesalers of plumbing, heating and air conditioning materials, Davidson is acutely aware that only “a small percentage of family-owned companies make it beyond the third generation.” He has, however, distilled the founding entrepreneurial spirit into his own dreams and led the company through growth his predecessors never imagined.

    “My grandfather had the vision to see a plumbing supply company in a pile of junk,” said Davidson. In...

  22. LEO SEAL, JR.
    (pp. 66-69)

    When category 5 Hurricane Camille roared ashore on the Mississippi Gulf Coast on August 17, 1969, destroying weather-recording instruments with its intensity and flattening almost everything in its path, causing nearly $1.5 billion in damages, the late Leo W. Seal, Jr., had been president of Hancock Bank for six years. Schooled in banking by his father, Leo Seal, Sr., who steered Hancock Bank through the Depression of the 1930’s, the younger Seal had a conservative approach to banking that valued safeguarding depositors’ money above all else.

    “Leo could remember waking up one night in 1932 when he was eight years...

    (pp. 70-73)

    “What Mama thought was the worst thing that ever happened to her turned into the best thing that ever happened to her,” said Bobby Mahoney, president of Mary Mahoney’s Old French House Restaurant. The “best thing” is the seafood restaurant, the Old French House, that Mary Mahoney (1924–1985) founded in 1964 across the beach highway from the Gulf of Mexico in Biloxi, Mississippi.

    Her life story begins nearly four decades before the “worst thing” inspired Mary’s vision for a gathering place with panache, liquor that flowed despite “a blue law that was ignored in Harrison County” and food, required...

    (pp. 74-77)

    Coffee arrives in a ceramic cup, not styrofoam, at Yates Construction’s headquarters in Philadelphia, Mississippi. Lights in the LEED Gold-certified building (a rating system for Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design) are powered by solar panels on the roof. The company sets annual targets for reducing its carbon footprint, and incentivizes staff to earn LEED accreditation to support an increasing number of sustainable construction projects.

    What’s interesting is that William G. Yates, Jr., embraced sustainability in its most fundamental form (defined by Merriam-Webster as “able to last or continue for a long time”) early-on for his own company, which celebrates...

    (pp. 78-81)

    Can music serve as a metaphor for business? John N. Palmer, legendary founder of SkyTel Communications, says it is so. That realization came later. The music came early.

    “There was no air conditioning when I grew up in Corinth, Mississippi, so everybody had windows open. And all you could hear was music,” said Palmer. “I took piano for five or six years and loved it.” It was decades later, in a conversation with his good friend and virtuoso pianist Jonathan Sweat, that Palmer made the connection between music and his success as an entrepreneur. “I realized that piano may have...

    (pp. 82-85)

    Hartley D. Peavey stands by his claim, “Would I have given it all up to become a rock star? Absolutely.” The “all” is Peavey Electronics Corporation, the company that 24-year-old Peavey founded in 1965 in the attic above his father’s Melody Music Store in Meridian, Mississippi. Today “Peavey” is synonymous with amplifiers, sound systems and guitars that rock stars and musicians of all sorts love. Peavey himself is immortalized in Hollywood’s Rock Walk of Fame.

    What millions don’t know is that systems like MediaMatrix, which Peavey introduced in 1993, control sound in giant public spaces like airports, sports complexes and...

    (pp. 86-89)

    Linda Howard and Billy Howard, Sr., share a (very large) office overlooking Howard Technology Park near Laurel, Mississippi. They make most major decisions together for Howard Industries, an electrical products manufacturer with a billion dollars in annual revenues, and they often finish one another’s sentences. It comes as no surprise that Billy proposed marriage to Linda over 40 years ago on the same day that they met—and Linda quickly said “yes.” The Howards are a team.

    “Billy is the CEO,” said Linda, who also says (while Billy will not) that he is a genius. “As an electrical engineer he...

    (pp. 90-93)

    Mississippi is the corporate home to the largest producer and marketer of shell eggs in the U.S., thanks to Fred Adams, Jr., an entrepreneur whose vision for marketing consumer-bound eggs benefited not only Cal-Maine Foods, Inc., headquartered in Jackson, Mississippi, but also the entire egg industry. Now chairman emeritus of Cal-Maine Foods (NASDAQ: CALM), Adams—recognized by his employees as an effective delegator—charged Adolphus B. “Dolph” Baker, president and CEO of Cal-Maine Foods, and Delores McMillin, Adams’s long-time assistant, with telling his Cal-Maine story.

    A Mississippian might ask, “Why is a home-grown company called Cal-Maine?” Baker recalled, “In 1969...

    (pp. 94-97)

    “Chief Martin had the ability to look into an empty field and see what was going to be there,” recall associates of Phillip Martin (1926–2010), Chief of the Mississippi Band of Choctaw Indians, whose lands cover 35,000 acres in parts of ten east-central Mississippi counties. Elected tribal chief in 1979, Martin had returned home in 1955 from 10 years’ service in the U.S. Air Force in post-World War II Germany, Japan and the U.S., including San Francisco and Maine. He married Bonnie Kate Bell, “a beautiful young Choctaw Indian princess,” according to Martin’s autobiography,Chief, and he told her,...

    (pp. 98-101)

    Joe Frank Sanderson, Jr., pulls up the crop condition report on his computer and looks worried. There’s rain in the forecast for Mississippi farmers, but the Corn Belt in summer 2012 is experiencing its worst drought in half a century. Drought signals diminished crops and higher prices for the corn that helps feed the 75 million chickens that Sanderson Farms, Inc. , has in the field at any given time.

    The CEO and chairman of the Laurel, Mississippi-headquartered poultry producer, the third largest in the United States, muses, “Feed as a percentage of our total cost of goods sold was...

    (pp. 102-105)

    Eleven-year-old Hassell Franklin sat in front of Elvis Presley in the sixth grade in Tupelo, Mississippi. “Elvis wasn’t like other kids,” said Franklin, chairman and CEO of Franklin Corporation, one of the largest privately-owned furniture manufacturers in the United States. “While we played ball during recess, Elvis would sit on the school steps and play his guitar.”

    Like Elvis, Hassell Franklin also knew something about drive. Growing up on a small farm north of Tupelo, at an early age Franklin operated a watermelon stand in the summers in front of the family’s home. “My dad would mark 45 or 55...

    (pp. 106-109)

    “My mother was my key motivator. She always pressed me to have my own business,” said W. G. “Mickey” Holliman, co-founder of Tupelo, Mississippi, furniture manufacturer Action Industries and from 1996–2008 CEO, president and chairman of Furniture Brands International.

    Growing up in Shuqualak, Mississippi, eight-year-old Holliman sold soft drinks and ice cream at the general merchandise store his father operated for a plantation owner. Promoted by his father to store clerk, selling goods from groceries to hardware, young Holliman also worked in the hay and cotton fields. All the while, he internalized his mother’s advice, “Get a good education,...

    (pp. 110-113)

    Take the “Medical” out of Jackson Medical Mall, and passersby on one of Jackson, Mississippi’s, main arteries would be looking at the crumbling ruins of Jackson Mall, in 1969 the largest enclosed shopping mall within a radius that included Memphis and New Orleans. What became an empty shell by the 1990’ s today is filled—all 900,000 square feet—with abundant healthcare and human services; the Jackson State University School of Health Sciences and the Jackson Heart Study; and retail, including an 18,000-square-foot grocery store.

    The 53-acre complex could be called a monument to the vision of Dr. Aaron Shirley,...

    (pp. 114-117)

    An unlikely entrepreneur, Dr. John Bower is a physician whose passion for patient care drove him to create businesses to fill unmet needs of people with kidney failure. There was not a single kidney dialysis unit in Mississippi when the young Virginia doctor arrived in 1965 at University of Mississippi Medical Center (UMC) in Jackson to conduct research with Dr. Arthur Guyton on high blood pressure, the leading cause of kidney failure prior to the increased incidence of diabetes. Word got around that Dr. Bower had built an artificial kidney unit to support the transplant program at the Medical College...

    (pp. 118-121)

    His belief that “there’s no downside to anything” shaped the business philosophy of Dr. Satnam L. Sethi, president and CEO of Jackie’s International, Inc., headquartered in Canton, Mississippi. The hospitality corporation employs approximately 1,800 people and includes almost 60 restaurants, hotels and convenience stores in Mississippi, Tennessee and Louisiana, with upcoming expansion into Alabama.

    “It’s relative,” observed Monica Sethi Harrigill of her father’s tolerance for risk. “He has never had a fear of a downside.”

    Understanding what’s relative requires the imagination to picture 10-year-old Sethi and his family living as refugees in a 10-foot by 12-foot tent, home for six...

    (pp. 122-125)

    “Some people go by the book when they create a business,” said James D. “Jimmy” Alexander, Chairman of the Board, A&B Electric Company, Inc. “We failed to get the book.”

    Jimmy and Ann Alexander, who is A&B Electric’s corporate secretary, may not have had a business plan when they founded the Meridian, Mississippi, company in 1974, but they had a partnership in marriage and work strong in complementary assets. “Jimmy had been in the field for an electrical contractor for 18 years,” said Ann, who worked in the office of the same company. “He always had a vision. I’m the...

    (pp. 126-129)

    “Around 75 percent of our business has been in the air pollution control market,” said Tommy E. Dulaney, president and CEO of Structural Steel Services, Inc., based in Meridian, Mississippi. He founded the steel fabrication company in 1975, “when power companies were cleaning up coal-powered plants” to comply with the Clean Air Act of 1970. We fabricate support steel for big, heavy structures, like scrubbers, which are often constructed above existing plants. We also provide support steel for new plants—26,000 tons for Mississippi Power Company’s Kemper County plant, for example.”

    Dulaney, who “got into the steel business by accident”...

    (pp. 130-135)

    Publisher Sam Lawrence named the journey that authors make between Lemuria Books in Jackson and Square Books in Oxford for book signings and readings the “I-55 tour.” But the connection between bookstore founder-owners John Evans (Lemuria) and Richard Howorth (Square Books), “soul brothers” by their account, runs much deeper than the roadway connecting the two Mississippi towns.

    Different in personality and style, operating in radically different markets, the two entrepreneurs each started with a vision for enriching cultural life in their hometown with a community-centered, independent bookstore. With Square Books in its mid-30’s and Lemuria approaching 40, Howorth...

    (pp. 136-139)

    “Warehouses are my favorite type of property,” said Leland Speed, Chairman of EastGroup Properties, the industrial REIT (Real Estate Investment Trust) that today owns and manages over 30 million square feet of warehouse space near major transportation centers in cities like Phoenix, Los Angeles and Tampa. “People love to talk about businesses that are glamorous or a lot of fun, but there’s probably not any money there. What you really want to do is be in something like waste management.”

    Speed’s warehouses, however, are no ordinary warehouses. “They are front parkrear load tilt-up concrete buildings that look like the office...

    (pp. 140-143)

    Will Primos, founder and president of Primos Hunting, has traveled all over for “shoots” not historically part of Mississippi’s hunting scene. The Primos video team has shot footage of elk hunting in New Mexico, deer stalking in Kentucky and turkey shoots in South Dakota for the company’s hunting video series called THE TRUTH. Will and fellow employee-hunters star in shoots forPrimos Truth About Hunting, a thrice-weekly series Primos produces for the Outdoor Channel. And moving images are just a start on Primos offerings to hunters.

    Headquartered in Flora, Mississippi, Primos Hunting designs and manufactures hunting calls for every type...

    (pp. 144-147)

    “Getting into the game and believing you can be a player is 99.9 percent of achieving success,” said Toni D. Cooley, cofounder and president of Madison-based Systems Electro Coating, LLC, a tier-one supplier to Nissan of electrocoated frames and other vehicle components, and a tier-one supplier of seats to Toyota. “I learned that from Doc,” she continued with a nod to Dr. William “Bill” Cooley, the other member of the daughter-father team that owns and operates two other Jackson-headquartered enterprises—Systems Consultants Associates (SCA) and Systems IT.

    “Notice that the word ‘systems’ is in the names of all of our...

  42. B.T. JONES
    (pp. 148-151)

    “In 18 months of being in business we moved from the trunk of my Volkswagen to a company that had roughly $18 million in annual contracts,” said Booker T. (B.T.) Jones, President and Chief Executive Officer of MINACT Incorporated. Founded by B.T. Jones in 1978, MINACT provides education and training services to disadvantaged youth through contracts with the U.S. Department of Labor’s Job Corps program.

    Of paramount importance to Jones is the fact that since 1978 over 10,000 young women and men have received education and training for careers through Job Corps programs that MINACT operates. “We have placed about...

    (pp. 152-155)

    In 2000 Ernest L. Burdette, Robert E. Sandoz and Frank J. Wilem, Jr., sold Triton Systems, Inc., located in Long Beach, Mississippi, for an undisclosed amount. An ATM (automated teller machine) manufacturer, the company sold to Dover Industries (NYSE: DOV) bore little resemblance to the enterprise the three-some founded in 1979. The constant: a strong partnership that stayed true as entrepreneurs with no business background—an ocean engineer, a physicist and a computer programmer—found their “one thing” and turned the opportunity into a grand slam.

    Frank Wilem, author of two novels,The PassandThe Keys, tells the story...

    (pp. 156-159)

    Terry’s Installation and Delivery Services, Inc., bustles with activity at its headquarters off of East Fortification Street in Jackson, Mississippi. A company truck departs for Ft. Polk in west-central, almost-to-Texas , Louisiana, its crew on a mission to install furniture for the U.S. Army. Office staff field telephone requests to schedule installations—everything from modular work stations to shelving and doors. Johnnie Terry walks in, clearly the CEO—the man who built his company on the philosophy, “Always do what you say you’ll do.”

    Terry’s focus on building a reputation shaped the business model for his company. “We don’t use...

    (pp. 160-163)

    When navy attack submarine USS Mississippi—commissioned June 2, 2012 in Pascagoula—slipped into the Gulf of Mexico, it moved in precious silence engineered in part with 52, 650-pound metal brackets produced by Southern Cast Products. “Absent this technology, even vibrations from the crew’s footsteps on the floor of a submarine could transmit through its hull, betraying its location,” said Fred Wile, president of the Meridian, Mississippi, steel foundry. “Our castings are part of the isolation vibrators used to connect the submarine’s floor to its hull, keeping the sound signature of the sub as quiet as possible.

    There’s nothing quiet...

    (pp. 164-167)

    John Dane III, president and CEO of Trinity Yachts, LLC, made a decision when he was 13 years old that foreshadowed his paths in the worlds of business and sports. An eighth-grader at “a very structured, disciplined all-boys private school in New Orleans,” Dane recalled, “I was in the line-up as starting pitcher for a Saturday baseball game. I had started sailboat racing with my father when I was eleven, and there was a regatta I wanted to sail in that Saturday. When I told the principal I would miss the game, he said, ‘You need to make a decision,...

    (pp. 168-171)

    “God gives you a double bucket of ignorance when you need it,” said Gail Pittman, reflecting on her first years in the pottery business. “I started out in 1980 painting pre-made clay bowls on a revolving spice rack in my kitchen in Jackson and eight years later moved into a 1,500-square-foot studio, bought my first commercial kiln, hired three employees—one of whom was my mother, who couldn’t work on Tuesdays because of bridge club, and took out a $10,000 loan. But for ignorance, I would probably have run the other way.”

    Pittman, founder and president of Gail Pittman Inc.,...

    (pp. 172-175)

    “When a book goes out with ‘Mississippi’ on the spine, it sends a powerful signal that creative and intellectual endeavors are thriving in the state,” said Seetha Srinivasan, director emerita of University Press of Mississippi (UPM). What is found between the covers of UPM titles changed radically under Srinivasan’s stewardship during her nearly-30-year tenure as the Press’s first acquisitions editor (1980–1998) and then as its director (1998–2008).

    With the vision to see opportunity in UPM’s dual mission to publish both scholarly and regional books, Srinivasan began to shape the press’s identity by asking renowned scholars, “Will you publish...

    (pp. 176-179)

    Calling themselves “one good man” is James E. and Thomas M. Duff’s self-deprecating way of describing complementary skills that have enabled them to build a $2 billion enterprise. The truth is,bothof the Duff brothers are good men.

    “Tommy’s a business machine. He just loves business,” said Jim Duff, whose older brother graduated from the University of Southern Mississippi in 1980 with a bachelor’s degree in business. “Jim is dyslexic,” said Tommy Duff. “He compensates for difficulty with reading and comprehension with a great ability to deal with people and more common sense than anybody I know.”

    Today Jim...

    (pp. 180-183)

    The custom-built lakeside home on 235 acres in Meridian, Mississippi, is the fulfillment of Farida and Abdul Lala’s youthful dreams. Built on the foundation of the late entrepreneur Tommy Webb’s home, which had inspired wistful longings in the young couple, the Lala mansion has an indoor garden and movie theater. In the basement beneath the elegant living quarters is the corporate headquarters of Lala Enterprises, the engine for the Lalas’ dreams.

    Abdul Lala, president and CEO, explained, “Lala Enterprises is a management company for our hotels and restaurants and several other hotels that we manage.” Farida Lala, vice president and...

    (pp. 184-187)

    Prior to their 1989 leap into the casino business, partners Rick Carter and Terry Green were restaurateurs. Carter’s first restaurant, the Catfish Shak in Lafayette, Louisiana, opened in 1983, was immediately “so successful that I didn’t have time to count the money. I’d just bag it up, take it home and put it under the bed,” said Carter. In 1986 Carter and Green, who had “known each other since we were kids in Gulfport,” opened a Catfish Shak in Houston, home to Green and his construction business.

    “But that year oil dropped below $20 a barrel and Houston was crashing,”...

  52. ED MEEK
    (pp. 188-191)

    “I’ve been forced to make some money, but that’s just part of it,” said über-entrepreneur Ed Meek somewhat tongue-in-cheek. “I just love to make things happen. That’s part of entrepreneurship. You’ve got to have that drive.”

    Meek’s most famously-known enterprise was Oxford Publishing Inc., publisher of trade journals and producer of trade shows, including “the largest beverage and food show in the western world—The Show in Las Vegas,” according to Meek. His enterprise-creation proclivity blossomed as a college freshman at the University of Mississippi in Oxford, which remained his enterprise headquarters.

    “The first day I arrived on the Ole...

  53. FRED CARL, JR.
    (pp. 192-195)

    “To survive in a small town with your own construction business you have to be an entrepreneur on steroids,” said Fred Carl, Jr., founder of the Viking Range Corporation, headquartered in Greenwood, Mississippi. A fourth-generation contractor who designed most of the homes and commercial structures he built, Carl’s segue into the design and manufacture of professional-grade ranges for the home came at the inspiration of his wife, Margaret Leflore Carl.

    In 1981 “we were planning a new home in Greenwood and Margaret said she’d like to have a heavy-duty range similar to but larger than her mother’s Chambers range with...

    (pp. 196-199)

    “We’re located on Airport Road because 80 percent of our work comes from out of state” said Liza Cirlot Looser, founder and CEO of The Cirlot Agency. A global brand strategy, integrated communications and business development firm, The Cirlot Agency is headquartered in Jackson, Mississippi, with an office in Washington, DC. The firm works with clients who are not just “out of state” but international as well. In 2012 Looser was chosen president of the Mississippi World Trade Center.

    Looser’s global focus does not diminish her passion for working with Mississippi businesses. Rather, it is a testament to her survival...

    (pp. 200-203)

    Downtown Jackson, Mississippi, is alive with the feel of urban comeback, a work-in-progress. The Mississippi Museum of Art and its Art Garden draw children and grown-ups alike, while new restaurants and old ones revived attract customers from Madison and Rankin as well as Hinds counties. But this wasn’t so in 1985 when Malcolm White and his late brother, Harold (Hal) White, opened a restaurant called Hal & Mal’s in a defunct freight depot on Commerce Street.

    “When my little family and I moved into an apartment upstairs from Hal & Mal’s the only other downtown resident was the governor,” said...

    (pp. 204-207)

    “The Mossy Oak brand is about connecting people with the outdoors,” commented Toxey Daniel Haas III, founder and CEO of Haas Outdoors, Inc., headquartered in West Point, Mississippi. Mossy Oak, the camouflage pattern and outdoor lifestyle company that Haas founded in 1986, is the first, best known, most prolific and profitable of the companies comprising Haas Outdoors, a holding company.

    What a deer or turkey sees when it comes across a human clad in a Mossy Oak camouflage pattern is—in the mind of a hopeful hunter—nothing unusual. Haas, who started hunting at age five with his father, Fox...

  57. HU MEENA
    (pp. 208-211)

    Speed is a hallmark of C Spire Wireless—and not just the velocity of its data transmission. “We’re innovators and we’re fast followers,” said Hu Meena, president and CEO of the Ridgeland, Mississippi-headquartered telecommunications and technology company. “When we see a trend developing, we try to get in front of the trend and get there first.”

    In 2013, for example, the drive to be first in the marketplace powered the first phase of C Spire’s initiative to bring ultra-fast 1 Gbps fiber to home Internet service for Mississippians. The nation’s first statewide roll-out of the 1 Gig service, targeted initially...

    (pp. 212-215)

    Robert St. John was in the Purple Parrot Cafe’s kitchen at 4:00 a.m. on the day he traced his entrepreneurial path forMississippi Entrepreneurs, testing recipes with Chef Jeremy Nofkee for his new cookbook,An Italian Palette, his third publishing collaboration with artist Wyatt Waters. “We get in the kitchen early to test recipes, before the prep cooks get started,” said St. John, his enthusiasm and creative energy undiminished after a prolific quarter century as restaurateur, chef, syndicated foodhumor columnist and author of nine books.

    President and CEO of the New South Restaurant Group (NSRG), St. John has created five...

    (pp. 216-219)

    “We’re like a giant housecleaning service for commercial customers,” said Ronnie West, president of HydroVac Industrial Services, headquartered in Columbus, Mississippi. HydroVac’s customers are giants, too. “Weyerhaeuser, Georgia Pacific, International Paper, Michelin, Mercedes, Toyota, Nissan, Nucor, Honda and Severstal, just to mention a few.”

    Instead of a fleet of hand-pushed Hoovers, HydroVac fields over 40 vacuum trucks, each with “a vacuum hose so big that it takes two people to hold it,” according to West, “and can suck up anything from concrete debris to diesel fuel.” Instead of buckets and mops West’s crews shoulder hydroblasters, “high pressure water blasters strong...

    (pp. 220-223)

    City Drug Store in Ripley, Mississippi, was the incubator for the dreams of teenager Don Newcomb, who went on to found the McAlister’s Deli and Newk’s Express Café franchises. “I was always an entrepreneur,” said Don Newcomb. “As a kid growing up in Blue Mountain I went into the hog raising business with the school superintendent. He would give me scraps from the school lunchroom every day, and I’d raise the pigs. He would sell his half of the litter, and my family would butcher and eat my half.”

    Newcomb’s life-changing break came when T. E. Guyton, owner of City...

    (pp. 224-227)

    “I had a vision of what I wanted to do, but not the scale,” said Allen Eubanks, co-owner with his spouse, Janice Eubanks, of Eubanks Produce in Lucedale, Mississippi. “I just loved growing produce.”

    Allen came by his love of farming naturally. “When my grandfather held me as a baby, he told everybody, ‘This is going to be my little farmer,’” said Eubanks. “I was destined from birth.” Pat Eubanks, his grandfather, traded pecans and grew peas, butter beans and watermelons on land granted to the family in 1896 under the Homestead Act. Charlie Eubanks, his father, switched to row...

    (pp. 228-231)

    Brothers Hunter L. and Daniel K. Fordice, III, third-generation owners of Fordice Construction Company, headquartered in Vicksburg, Mississippi, oversee a diversified company whose history is tied closely to that of the Mississippi River. Their grandfather, Daniel K. Fordice, Sr., founded the company in 1948, filling a construction niche made by human efforts to control the mighty river.

    “Papa Dan worked with the Memphis District of the Corps of Engineers on the design of an articulated concrete mattress to use in the Corps’ revetment program, part of the flood control response to the Great Mississippi Flood of 1927,” recollected Hunter Fordice...

    (pp. 232-235)

    Start with fried polenta with rosemary-infused mushrooms. Enjoy the restaurant’s hustle and buzz while savoring a glass of Elk Cove Pinot Gris with jumbo scallops over angel hair in a sherry reduction with corn, grape tomatoes, shitake mushrooms and spinach. Then try to imagine the start-up days for BRAVO! Italian Restaurant & Bar over two decades ago when its business plan warned direly-needed potential investors:The three shareholders and partners have never worked together as operators of a restaurant, and BRAVO! is the first business venture of any kind for each of them.

    Despite this daunting reality, along with three...

    (pp. 236-239)

    “Enterprise Corporation of the Delta (ECD) was just a concept when the Foundation for the Mid South hired me in 1994 to implement it,” said William “Bill” Bynum, chief executive officer of Hope Enterprise Corporation, a regional community development financial institution headquartered in Jackson, Mississippi. “The idea was to provide capital for business development in the economically-distressed Delta communities in Mississippi, Arkansas and Louisiana and to connect businesses with markets.”

    ECD was renamed Hope Enterprise Corporation (branded HOPE) in 2011 to reflect its larger footprint in the Mid-South and to encompass Hope Credit Union, which ECD sponsored in 2002. HOPE...

    (pp. 240-243)

    They met at the grocery store, but not picking through the mushrooms or squeezing avocados. Kathy and Greg McDade’s lives crossed in 1984 on career paths in their native Arkansas with Safeway, Inc., a large grocery store chain. By 1995 Safeway’s Arkansas division had been sold and sold again, Greg was district manager for 20 stores and Kathy was the corporate deli director for over 50 stores. “We had experience at the corporate and store levels,” said Kathy McDade, “and we shared a dream of owning our own business. What better to own than a grocery store?”

    The McDades began...

    (pp. 244-247)

    In 1993 Dick Molpus was a third-term Mississippi Secretary of State with plans to run for governor as a Democrat in 1995 when he came across an article in theNew York Timeson TIMO’s (timber investment management organizations). “I put that article in my reminder file for after the gubernatorial election just in case I needed a job,” said Molpus, president of the Molpus Woodlands Group, LLC (a TIMO), Molpus Timberlands Management, LLC, and the Molpus Company.

    Defeated in a hotly-contested race against the incumbent, Molpus “decided to get into this business of marrying forestry with money management.” In...

    (pp. 248-251)

    “If our farmers are successful, we’re successful,” said Mike Sanders, who by 2012 had led Jimmy Sanders, Inc.’ s farm supplies and services operation into eight states with revenues well on the upside of half a billion dollars. Figuring out how “to help our farmer on his turnrow and make him more money” changed radically over six decades for the three generations of the Sanders family engaged in the Cleveland, Mississippi-based business.

    When Jimmy Sanders founded Jimmy Sanders Seed Company in 1953, “the business was strictly supplying seeds and fertilizer to farmers,” said Mike, Jimmy’s son. “When he went into...

    (pp. 252-255)

    When Mississippi’s Jim Barksdale was CEO of Netscape Communications Corporation (1995–1999), headquartered in Mountain View, California, he recognized that “we were having problems hiring people with skills central to technology-driven companies—from fields like engineering, technology, science and mathematics.” In 1997 he teamed up with venture capitalist John Doerr to found TechNet, a network of technology leaders “whose first goal was to improve public education.”

    While Barksdale, Doerr and leaders from companies like Intel, Oracle and Microsoft worked together through TechNet to increase accountability in public education, “the idea for creating the Barksdale Reading Institute began to form,” he...

    (pp. 256-259)

    With not a gray hair to show for his roller coaster ride as CEO of Smart-Synch, Inc., Stephen D. Johnston in May 2012 sold the Jackson, Mississippi-based company for $100 million to Itron, Inc., headquartered in Liberty Lake, Washington. Thirty years old when he joined the technology start-up in 2000, Johnston, an investment banker in his first career, attracted millions in venture capital to fuel the company’s growth and in 2004 became its CEO.

    Both SmartSynch and Itron have been center stage in the creation of smart grids, primarily for the utility industry. Itron, both partner and competitor to SmartSynch...

    (pp. 260-263)

    “Where are the people in the mission statement?” asked Betsy Bradley when she “jumped into the strategic planning process” already underway in 2001, as the newly-selected director of the Mississippi Museum of Art (MMA) in Jackson, Mississippi. “We changed our mission from ‘To collect, preserve and exhibit art’ to ‘engage Mississippians in the visual arts.’”

    “The chemistry between a human being and a work of art brings about transformation on a personal level, then spreads out to change relationships and have a generative, healthy, healing influence on the community,” said Bradley. She used the new mission statement “as a launching...

    (pp. 264-267)

    For 19 years Jill Beneke led development of new enterprises for Deposit Guaranty National Bank of Jackson, the venerable financial institution that hired her straight out of the University of Mississippi’s School of Business Administration in 1981. Over a decade ago Beneke decided the time had come to create and run her own enterprise. She established PILEUM Corporation, an IT consulting and systems integration firm. and is its chief executive officer and president. “We help our clients refine their business objectives,” said Beneke, “then our engineers design the solutions to drive that business, and we provide the hardware, software and...

    (pp. 268-271)

    The Mississippi Center for Justice isn’t social entrepreneur Martha Bergmark’s first start-up enterprise. In 1973 Bergmark—a graduate of Murrah High School in her hometown, Jackson, Mississippi—and her husband, Elliott Andalman, started a civil rights law firm in Hattiesburg, Mississippi. Five years later she capitalized on President Jimmy Carter’s commitment to take Great Society pilot legal aid programs to scale and founded federally-funded Southeast Mississippi Legal Services, which with 12 attorneys became the largest law firm in Hattiesburg.

    “My dedication to public interest law comes from my passion to make sure that our promise of justice for all in...

    (pp. 272-275)

    Joel Bomgar uses abundantly the car as metaphor when talking about Bomgar Corporation’s high-octane growth—and no wonder. His inspiration for the remote support technology company came while logging thousands of miles on his 1979 Buick LeSabre, providing on-site support to people with computer problems to put himself through Belhaven College in Jackson, Mississippi.

    “I was driving from client to client in the Mississippi heat to provide IT services for a local company, frustrated by gas costs, unbillable commuting and unproductive windshield time,” said Bomgar. “Over Christmas break of my senior year, I decided to solve this problem on my...

    (pp. 276-280)

    “It is wonderful to imagine how our creative economy could flourish if all the talented Mississippi artists had a clear idea of paths available to help scale their vision,” said Erin Hayne, co-founder of NunoErin (2006), a Jackson-based art and design enterprise whose projects range from experiential furniture to large-scale works of public art. Hayne and her co-founder, Nuno Gonçalves Ferreira, talked about their “approach of a creative team partnering with a seasoned business team.”

    But the story gets ahead of itself. While completing her Master of Fine Arts in fibers from Savannah College of Art and Design, Hayne, who...

    (pp. 281-286)
  76. INDEX
    (pp. 287-290)