Raymond — There’s strength in numbers, and businesswomen in Raymond are taking the old adage to heart with the formation of RIBBONS, an organization that brings together the majority of the city’s business owners, which just happen to be female.
RIBBONS, also known as Raymond Innovative Business Belles of the New South, was the brainchild of a few original members who decided they “needed to claim the town and do something,” said RIBBONS president Angela Wilson, owner of Sweet Pea’s floral design shop on Main Street.
And what they have done is take the sleepy town of approximately 2,000 and help turn it into a thriving municipality, bustling with economic confidence and community optimism.
“We’re not just here to promote our businesses,” said Wilson, “but also the community.”
Since that first meeting of RIBBONS in the fall of 2003, the group has grown to include more than 30 businesses, all owned or influenced by women, with the list growing each day. Several new establishments have opened just in the last year, with merchandise including everything from monogramming to greeting cards. Happy to Bee, B’Arcy Designs, In Stitches and 3 Bees in a Honey Pot are new to Raymond and have had encouragement and assistance from RIBBONS.
“As women, we all love the ‘little things’ that make small businesses succeed — displaying, decorating, promoting and marketing,” said RIBBONS member Gebby Smith, proprietor of A Touch of Grace gift shop, which opened its doors in 2002.
Even veteran retailers can see the benefits of the association, with a main purpose of networking and sharing ideas that do promote business, but also enhance the cooperative atmosphere of the local area.
“It took these young people stepping out to form RIBBONS to make me feel connected,” said the organization’s secretary Jane Mullins, who’s been making custom stained glass in her store, The Glass Garden, for more than 25 years.
“I’m not a lone entity anymore, but part of a group,” she said.
Brenda Davis, owner of historic Dupree House and Mamie’s Cottage Bed and Breakfast, agreed.
“It’s created a buzz in Raymond that’s never been here before,” Davis said.
All the conversation created by RIBBONS, Davis added, has helped invigorate the hometown spirit.
“An added bonus has been the sense of community that’s come from this,” she said.
From providing a red carpet entrance for a pilgrimage play premier to hoisting scarecrows on the town square as sponsors of the annual harvest festival, RIBBONS members “will support any local activity, event or project. We want visitors to come to Raymond — and we want them to come back again,” Wilson said.
Immediate plans for the organization include participation in the upcoming Easter Bonnet Parade and Egg Hunt, annual Country Fair, completion of the Natchez Trace and patriotic happenings surrounding July 4.
Successful, progressive and fun
Raymond Mayor Isla Tullos said that these women have developed a certain camaraderie and unity that allows them to be progressive, but also to have fun.
As an example, Tullos said she witnessed first-hand how merchants worked to ensure a successful Valentine’s season.
“Yes, I know they did it for economic benefits,” Tullos said, “but they achieved a ‘happening’ here. Raymond has been the beneficiary of the creative imaginations and hard work of these ladies. Business is humming, and there’s an excitement in the air,” Tullos said.
Another positive outcome of RIBBONS has been the respect the members have gained for each other.
“There’s mutual admiration and appreciation for each individual’s hard work,” Wilson said.
While it may sound to some like a sorority or sisterhood, Wilson is quick to point out that men in business are welcome to join at any time.
Dick Kilby, president of Merchants and Planters Bank, with its main office in Raymond, credits these women with being a forward-thinking group that has helped promote the city’s economy and culture.
Kilby said, “They’ve brought an enthusiasm to many projects that were lying dormant. It’s taken these enthused, productive females getting involved to heighten Raymond’s image.”
Contact MBJ contributing writer Harriet S. Vickers at firstname.lastname@example.org.