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Mississippi Entrepreneurs

Mississippi Entrepreneurs

By Polly Dement
Foreword by Jesse L. White
Hardcover : 9780615838328, 240 pages, 70 b&w photographs, June 2014

Profiles of over eighty of the state’s diverse and visionary enterprise creators


The stories in Mississippi Entrepreneurs collectively 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.


"Passionate. Adventurous. Confident. Driven. Risk-tolerant.

Again and again, the same personality traits show up in the extraordinary collection of business owners Polly Dement features in her new book Mississippi Entrepreneurs. But the book is as notable for the breadth of business characters, ideas and models it catalogs as for the recurrent themes it sounds.

Dement's book features 70 stories about nearly 90 different entrepreneurs (some of the businesses highlighted are run by a husband and wife, parent and child, or siblings), most of whom achieved significant financial success and personal gratification by founding and operating business enterprises in Mississippi. . . .

The people who are her focus, all doing very different things from one another to make quite comfortable livings for their families, seem to have only two things consistently in common: personality traits such as those singled out at the beginning of this review and the fact that they all call Mississippi 'home. '

There is promise in that finding for all of us, a promise with greater return for the reader who invests a bit of his or her treasure and a bit more time in acquiring and enjoying Mississippi Entrepreneurs. "

- Andy Taggart, Clarion-Ledger

"Mississippi Entrepreneurs shines a bright light on enterprise creators across a spectrum of business, social, and cultural ventures. Polly Dement's interviews and moving accounts of these courageous risk-takers reveal how they turned vision into flourishing reality; meeting needs that range from growing food to serving it in restaurants; towing barges on the Mississippi River to solving IT problems remotely; enriching community culture through art, music, and books to providing access to healthcare for underserved people. This fine book should be read by every person who dreams of starting a venture. All will be amazed by Mississippi's homegrown enterprises. "

- William Ferris, Joel R. Williamson Professor of History at University of North Carolina and author of The Storied South: Voices of Writers and Artists

"Aspiring business owners will be well-served by the instructive and inspirational stories of the diverse women and men profiled in Mississippi Entrepreneurs. Their personal and professional characteristics tell much about their success in a range of ventures and in the community. Mississippi's economy has benefitted from their vision, risk-taking, and creativity; this book is a well-deserved 'thank-you' and a frame for new enterprise. "

- Reuben V. Anderson, Mississippi Supreme Court Justice (Retired)

"Entrepreneurship is needed in our country now more than ever, yet the subject remains shrouded more in myth than fact. Mississippi Entrepreneurs brings the stories of those featured to life, making them real and accessible. The more such talented people we have building new enterprises in our communities, the stronger our society will be. "

- Andrew Yang, founder and CEO of Venture for America and author of Smart People Should Build Things