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Mississippi Market celebrates 10th anniversary

Jackson — In 1996, the Mississippi Economic and Community Development, now the Mississippi Development Authority (MDA), launched a networking event aimed at connecting Mississippi manufacturers and craftsmen with buyers and retailers. Then executive director Jimmy Heidel said, “It’s our goal to see this event build to a point where buyers put the Mississippi Market on their calendars along with large markets in Dallas and Atlanta.”

It seems Heidel’s hopes have been realized. For the 10th year, retailers from across Mississippi and eight surrounding states will converge at the Mississippi State Fairgrounds for the Mississippi Market. The two-day event will be held June 9-10, 2006, at the Mississippi Trademart.

The Mississippi Market, which drew approximately 1,400 buyers and retailers last year, offers a vehicle for Mississippi manufacturers, artisans and wholesalers to exhibit their wares in a business-to-business event. As example of the show’s growth, the MDA only invited 1,300 buyers and retailers to the inaugural event.

Only credentialed retail buyers can attend. The show is not open to the general public. Buyers must provide a tax number and two forms of buyer credentials. Thus, exhibitors are guaranteed a targeted audience. And, the MDA attempts to insure that participating companies tell their stories and present their products and services effectively by offering a “how-to” Exhibitor Workshop. Held April 4 this year, the workshop covers such topics as planning basic forms and printed materials, product costing and profit margins, shipping issues and more.

“I’ve heard from many previous exhibitors that their business picked up considerably after participating in the Market,” said Michelle Frith, coordinator of Mississippi Market. “The show offers buyers who do not get the opportunity to go to national shows a chance to see Mississippi products.”

The typical mix of products includes gifts, jewelry, home accents, personal accessories and gourmet food. All Mississippi-based companies with products for resale in stores are encouraged to exhibit at the event as well as companies with products or services to be used by exhibitors or retailers.

A sampling of 2006 exhibitors as of April 20 included Carriage House Candle Co. of Carrollton, d’Morri Soaps of Gulfport, Flathau’s Fine Foods of Hattiesburg, Mom Em’s Marinade of Magee and Whimzie Art & Interiors of Oxford.

Suzanne Powers of the Delta Pecan Orchard in Tutweiler, a 2006 exhibitor, said, “The Mississippi Market has provided us with a wonderful opportunity to present our quality pecans for ‘testing’ to a receptive audience. We also have the opportunity to tell our story, how we grow the pecans in the Delta, shell our pecans in our commercial shelling plant and our roasting process.”

Olivia McCullough, owner/artisan of Olivia Pottery in Summit, is even more enthusiastic about the show.

“Mississippi Market literally put me in business,” she said. “I was a very small home-based business and went to the Mississippi Market, and my business took off. This is the only market I show at.”

In addition to the convenience and the opportunity to get in front of thousands of potential customers, exhibitors also like the show’s price tag. The basic exhibitor package includes a 10’x10’ booth, directory listing with contact information and product description, link on the Mississippi Market Web site as well as access to the Exhibitor’s Lounge.

The cost for all this is $355. (The early bird special, which ended April 21, offered a $100 discount. Early registration also entitled exhibitors to up to 75 customized invitations for current and prospective buyers.)

Buyers and retailers have found the show a great “one-stop” shop, as well. In 2005, Mississippi buyers and retailers came from as far away as Gulfport, Senatobia, Greenwood and Grenada. Buyers also hailed from Alabama, Arkansas, Florida, Louisiana and Tennessee, and even from such far-flung places as North Carolina and New Jersey.

The Mississippi Market Web site, http://www.mississippimarket.org/, offers a wealth of information about the show, including 2005 and 2006 exhibitors and contact information, information on event sponsors for both 2005 and 2006, information for buyers, show schedule and driving directions, information on local hotels, a photo gallery and more. Online registration is also available.

For more information, visit the Web site, or call toll-free 1-888-886-3323.

Contact MBJ staff writer Wally Northway at northway@msbusiness.com.

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