Mississippi Entrepreneurs could be classified as a coffee table book since it’s bound with cloth and has a beautiful Mississippi River scene photo on the dust cover, and has content suitable for browsing. However, it’s more than a coffee table book. It’s something of a history of business in Mississippi and, more importantly, full of inspiring stories of 72 people from every region of the state and all manner of endeavors.
“We wanted every part of the state to be represented,” said author Polly Dement. “It also includes entrepreneurs in creative and social issues; not just business people.”
These stories draw attention to the tenacious and courageous journeys of Mississippi men and women who risk fortune and futures to create successful enterprises. Most tell “how they did it” in their own words, bringing to life their entrepreneurial spirits. Family members and former colleagues pick up the story line for legendary entrepreneurs who have died, recalling vividly the characteristics that set them apart from the competition.
The stories illustrate common traits, including plentiful vision, fierce drive, willingness to take risks and change for a better way, the ability to innovate, solve problems, and turn luck to advantage. Photos also help tell the stories.
The first story in the book begins literally at the southernmost tip of Mississippi with Biloxi’s Victor Mavar, Sr. whose parents immigrated from Croatia to establish themselves in the Coast’s seafood industry. Island View Casino owner Rick Carter, builders Roy Anderson, Jr. and Bill Yates, Jr., produce growers Allen and Janice Eubanks, Billy and Linda Howard of Howard Industries, John Palmer and Joel Bomgar, Hartley and Mary Peavey, and the late Choctaw Chief Phillip Martin are among the varied entrepreneurs whose stories are included.
Independent bookstore owners John Evans and Richard Howorth are included, along with chef Robert St. John, restauranteur and arts patron Malcolm White, and artists Erin Hayne and Nuno Goncalves Ferreira. Social and cultural entrepreneurs include Martha Bergmark, who focused on social justice, Aaron Shirley who focused on access to health care, and Jack Reed, Sr. who focused on public education.
The author, Polly Dement, was reared in Vicksburg and graduated from Millsaps College. She worked in Washington, D.C., for many years, including work writing profiles of the witnesses who testified before the Senate Watergate Committee. She now lives in Santa Fe, N.M.
Seetha Srinivasan, former executive director of University Press of Mississippi, served as book project director.
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