It takes a lot not only to start a business but also to keep it running these days.
It has always been that way. But with a little push from friends and family and a little financial help, it can be done.
Beth Taylor, president of Letter B Productions in Hattiesburg, knows the trials and tribulations of starting a business, as she has experienced it firsthand. The
divorcee’s story, although fairly atypical, is likely a story a lot of entrepreneurs can relate to.
One morning, Taylor went to work and discovered her job had been abolished. It had been a job she was not happy with, but she had stayed with it nonetheless.
After her job was abolished, she took off three months.
“During that time I decided if I was ever going to work that hard again, that I was going to work for myself and my clients,” she said.
Taylor started her business with help from her mother, whom she borrowed $25 in order to purchase stationary. She gave up her condo since she could no longer
afford it and lived in a friend’s spare bedroom Monday through Friday. Another friend and her husband had Taylor over for dinner nightly. And yet another let Taylor
borrow her computer.
On the weekends, Taylor would drive to New Orleans to stay with her mother or to Laurel to care for a sick friend.
Then one day one of Taylor’s friends opened a counseling practice that she would use during the evening, and Taylor was given the opportunity to use the office during
the day for her business.
She recalled the Realtor being interested in her business venture.
“The Realtor said, ‘So you’re going into business? What are you going to do?’”
Taylor’s friend answered for her and explained it was a public relations and marketing business, and that she would be interested in helping the Realtor with her
“She is the No. 1 Realtor in residential sales in Hattiesburg,” Taylor said of her first client. “You don’t get any luckier than that. It was like somebody sprinkled magic
dust and said ‘make this happen.’”
For 13 months, Taylor used the computer that she had borrowed from her friend and worked with cardboard file boxes set up on the floor.
Today, Taylor is president and owner of Letter B Productions, where she works on political consulting, video production, marketing, public relations and advertising
for clients. She is now in her 11th year of business.
“I remember one night I was working late in the office and I decided to call it quits and turned around and looked at all the computers. The next morning I called all the
people who had been such an influence in my life and asked them how I could thank them.”
David Monistere, a certified safety professional, is the president of Professional Safety Services, Inc. and had a somewhat different story to tell.
“We didn’t have to go into a lot of debt before we got the business started,” Monistere said. “We set up and established a relationship with a bank before we ever
opened the doors and that’s, of course, important.”
When Monistere began his safety training and consulting business for industry in 1993, there were two employees. Today, there are four.
“From a standpoint of expectations, we had a customer base and cash flow going in,” Monistere said. “The expenses were higher than we anticipated. But we didn’t
get into it to get rich. It’s been fun and a learning experience. I don’t regret it. We’ve grown in a lot of ways as a result of having run the business for the past several
When he began Professional Safety Services, Inc. in 1993, Monistere fulfilled an ambition he had had since he had graduated from college.
“I just felt that was the best opportunity in 1993,” he said.
But even successful entrepreneurs have found it difficult to start their business.
“In retrospect, I wish I had known about the Small Business Development Centers at the community colleges,” Taylor conceded. “I certainly would have used their
Bill Breazeale, CPA and attorney, is director of the Small Business Development Center (SBDC) at Jackson State University and had a few suggestions to those
interested in starting their own small businesses.
“It has to be something you enjoy and know about,” he said. “That’s the key to it.”
But the wisest thing to do, Breazeale said, is to go into the SBDC when beginning a business. After researching and finishing a business plan and projections, it is time
to get a loan and then a business license.
“If someone has the money and they want to start a business, if they have their state license and Federal ID number, they can go ahead and operate,” he said.
Breazeale’s best advice: “Research your business. You need to research it, like it and understand it.”
Del Hawley, a finance professor and the associate dean for administration at Ole Miss, said there are a lot of ways the Ole Miss business school can help. One course
called Business Planning and Entrepreneurship, which he team teaches with marketing professor Faye Gilbert in the MBA program, is especially helpful to students
looking to start their own business.
The course requires students to design and develop a new business and the business plan for it, including the marketing and financial research. The business school has
also required its students to know a little about e-business as well; last year Hawley required his students to develop an e-business.
During the course, outside businessmen and women speak to the classes about businesses they have started.
“The MBA program is really very much an applied program,” Hawley said. “It’s not focused specifically on entrepreneurship, although much of what we teach is
applicable to small business.”
Like Breazeale, Hawley believes the most important thing about starting a new business is to have a good idea to back it up and a good plan behind it. “A lot of
people start a business without really thinking it through all the way,” he said. “Sometimes it works, sometimes it doesn’t. Just diving in and going doesn’t usually get
With any new business startup, though, there is something to remember.
“Be prepared to work more than an eight-to-five day or a 40-hour week,” Monistere said. “The hours are generally going to be longer.”
Taylor said, “It’s the hardest job you will ever have. But it’s also the most rewarding thing I’ve ever done.”
Contact MBJ staff writer Elizabeth Kirkland at firstname.lastname@example.org or (601) 364-1042.
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