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Small companies doing big things with Mississippi-made products

Just a glance at the directory of goods-producers that are members of the Mississippi Department of Agriculture and Commerce’s Make Mine Mississippi program reveals the broad diversity of products made right here in the Magnolia State. Many of these producers are small affairs, but their unique creations are making a big splash with customers across Mississippi and beyond.

Hanging By A Thread, LLC, Fruit of the Earth Basketry and Magnolia Honey Jelly & Gifts are just a few of the small companies finding a wide audience for their locally-made products.

Hanging By a Thread

When Kerry Scott was laid off by the airline she was working for when 9/11 occurred, she began looking around for something to do. Fortunately for her, she didn’t have to look farther than her childhood home.

Scott’s mother once owned a custom drapery shop. Thus, Scott grew up around needle and thread, and decided to begin producing handmade pillows from her home in Hernando. Over time, she fielded more and more inquiries about embroidery services. So, she purchased an embroidery machine, and with that Hanging By A Thread was off and running.

Today, Hanging By A Thread does a thriving business, finding customers farther and farther out for its children’s products (burp pads and bibs) and its fine linens. In fact, Scott now has sales representatives in the Carolinas, Georgia, Alabama, Arkansas, Louisiana, Tennessee, Florida and Kentucky. (A sampling of Hanging By A Thread’s products is currently on display at the Jackson-Evers International Airport as part of the Make Mine Mississippi display.)

“I just so excited — thrilled with what’s happened,” says Scott, who owns Hanging By A Thread and utilizes family and friends to produce her creations. “I would love for it to be nationwide.”

For more on Scott and Hanging By A Thread, call (662) 449-5198.

Fruit of the Earth Basketry

Family roots are the largest part of the story of Fruit of the Earth Basketry and Bessie Johnson. And she is determined to pass on the art to future generations.

“I started weaving baskets as a child,” says Johnson at her home in West Point. “I was in the 4-H Club, and I grew up in a community where all the older women did it.”

In the late 1970s, Johnson began showing her work at exhibits, and at the same time began teaching basketry classes in Mississippi public schools. By the early 1980s, she was garnering media attention, and “business just mushroomed.”

Still a one-woman operation, Johnson continues to weave baskets made from native materials. Originally, she used pine needles exclusively, but has since branched out to black walnut, chinaberry and corn shucks. In addition to baskets of various sizes and shapes, she produces handmade ornaments as well as gourds.

“I have always used the gourds in my ornaments, so it was just natural to begin producing gourds,” she says.

Johnson says she gets orders from all over Mississippi and beyond, and is thrilled by her success.

She also continues to promote basket weaving, passing on the legacy. Both her son and daughter weave baskets, and she still teaches her art in public schools and holds basket-weaving classes.

For more on Johnson and Fruit of Earth Basketry, call (662) 494-2813.

Magnolia Honey Jelly & Gifts

Magnolia Honey Jelly & Gifts started in a church kitchen, but now finds its home in a facility in Woodville that encompasses a retail store and a warehouse as well as a commercial kitchen. And, the company is looking to grow even more.

“We’re looking to be Woodville’s next industry,” says co-owner Raven Lewis, who says the company employs three, “and many more during Christmas.”

Company founder Shan Miller moved to Woodville with her husband, David, in 1995. David had inherited a large family home that was in need of repairs. Looking for ways to defray construction expenses, Shan recalled a delicious honey jelly she had sampled, and decided to try her hand at it.

Magnolia Honey Jelly & Gifts currently produces a plethora of products sweetened with honey, including jelly, pickles and fudge sauce, such as Lemon Mist, Chocolate Lace and Strawberry Splash.

Magnolia’s products are not only sweetened naturally, they contain no preservatives or additives. That “all-natural” tag has proven popular.

In addition, the company produces wooden bowls, boards, trays, spoons, tongs, ladles and spatulas under the banner Wooden Bowls, Etc.

Today, its products can be found in stores and gift shops in Arkansas, California, Louisiana, Mississippi, New York, Oklahoma, Tennessee and Washington. And the horizons are expanding – Lewis says Magnolia is currently exploring international markets.

Magnolia is housed in 4,000-square-foot facility in Woodville. Far from a church kitchen, the facility is divided between a full commercial kitchen and a retail store, and the company has a warehouse for its raw materials and finished products.

For more information on Magnolia Honey Jelly & Gifts, call (601) 888-7500.

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

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