It may be state pride or business savvy or a combination that inspires business owners to join the Make Mine Mississippi program. Administered by the Mississippi Department of Agriculture and Commerce (MDAC), the program began in 1999 and has 892 registered companies statewide, including the Mississippi Business Journal. All of the state’s 82 counties, except one, are represented. Companies register in 30 categories representing a wide variety of products — everything from specialty foods to computers and soap.
“It’s basically a voluntary logo identification program,” said Donna West, MDAC’s division director of market development. “It lets retailers, consumers and people all over the nation know this product was made in Mississippi.”
To qualify for the program, the company’s product must be at least 51% produced, manufactured or value added in Mississippi. Registered companies do not have to use the official logo, she said, but most of them do.
“It’s a very colorful, visual logo, and the members say it helps market their products,” she added. “People stop and look at it and ask about it, especially at trade shows. Some companies say shoppers realize the logo represents a quality product and may be willing to spend a little more for it.”
Member companies are eligible for state matching funds to use for trade show expenses, advertising and label printing. The recipient must incorporate the Make Mine Mississippi logo into the activity for which they were approved. Many members participate in a wholesale show in June that is sponsored by the Mississippi Development Authority.
“Half or more of the members are small businesses, although the list really runs the gamut,” West said. “We have big companies like Viking Range and Peavey Electronics to Magnificent Products, Old South Winery and Mickle’s Pickles.”
Mary Jennifer Russell, 32, is the owner of Sugaree’s Bakery in New Albany, which she started four years ago. The bakery focuses on 10 different flavors of old-fashioned layer cakes that include strawberry, chocolate, banana, caramel, coconut, German chocolate and rainbow (five layers of five different flavors with cream cheese frosting).
Russell and her husband, Regan, who helps with paperwork and taxes, work with two distributors to put their products in six states. They have five full-time employees and periodically employ seven others.
“We appreciate the help from Make Mine Mississippi. We do use the logo,” Russell said, “and find that people like to support Mississippi-made products.”
Delta Pecan Orchard of Tutwiler, owned by Suzanne and Michael Powers, sells gourmet pecans at trade shows, on the Internet and through wholesalers. Their products are available in 10 states. The eight-year-old business has a commercial shelling plant and cooking facility. They employ 15 people during the harvest season and three throughout the year. They use the Make Mine Mississippi logo.
“We go to 40 trade shows a year and sell a lot at them. Business is pretty good right now,” Suzanne Powers said. “We add value to pecans. Our newest product is pure honey with pecans in it that can be poured over pancakes and waffles.”
She said the product is selling well. Delta Pecan Orchard buys honey from local beekeepers.
Lester Jackson bought Road Hawg Snacks two years ago and moved the enterprise to Louisville where his son-in-law, Eric Gregory, runs it. They make cotton candy and peanut brittle, selling through wholesale distributors and directly to some stores.
“Our products are now in six states,” Jackson said. “Last year was good, and we’re looking to make this a better year.”
He said the Make Mine Mississippi program has been helpful and Road Hawg Snacks is hoping to start using the logo soon.
Contact MBJ contributing Lynn Lofton at email@example.com.