Making business a family affair

by

Published: September 4,2000

OXFORD — Amanda Sutherlin, Debbie Sutherlin, Doug Sutherlin and Richard “R.D.” Sutherlin are not only family, they’re business partners.

“We’ve pretty much experienced it all except for retail clothing, which I don’t want to do,” said Debbie, the mother of 21-year-old R.D. and 22-year-old Amanda.

Debbie and her husband Doug opened their first business — an antique and gift store called Doodle Dandy — in El Dorado, Ark. Then the couple opened the Hungry Bear, a fudge and popcorn kiosk at the local mall. They then expanded their Hungry Bear business to Texarkana, Texas and Shreveport for the Christmas season. Before moving to Greenwood, S.C., Debbie and a friend opened a shredded tissue paper company — Shredds — which sold in all the major markets in the U.S.

“The kids were real involved with that,” Debbie Sutherlin said of Shredds.

After moving from El Dorado to Greenwood, S.C., Debbie became a Main Street director and helped a friend with a catering business in the nearby town of Clinton.

Perhaps it was their parents’ passion for business that prompted Amanda and R.D. to become interested in running their own businesses, but whatever it was, the two siblings are both doing very well as young entrepreneurs. And their parents are supportive of them and excited about the prospects that lie ahead.

Amanda Sutherlin now runs Veranda on Jefferson, a home furnishings, home accents and gift store with the help of her mother. She also manages Tan Lines, a tanning business on Jackson Avenue. R.D. runs Oxford Paint Supply with his partner, Steven Treloar.

Doug and Debbie Sutherlin moved to Oxford in May to be closer to their children and Doug, who works as a nurse anesthetist, has provided the capital for the three business ventures. The Treloars own half of the paint store.

But out of all the business ventures, Veranda on Jefferson has been the business that has required the most financial involvement. The others, as Debbie put it, “have been really get in there and get it done.”

All the involvement seems to have paid off, though. Already, after only five months in business, Oxford Paint Supply has been ranked number five by Farrell-Calhoun.

“It’s been amazing,” R.D. Sutherlin said. “It’s amazed the company all the way up to the president as far as Farrell-Calhoun.”

R.D., who started out in school majoring in political science and then switched to business, decided to give running his own business a go because he had become tired of school.

When the opportunity arose to go into business with his friend Steven Treloar, R.D., who left school with three semesters to go until graduation, became very interested in the idea and decided to begin working on the business plan. Treloar, who had worked at Sherwin Williams for six years, provided some knowledge of the paint business and it was not long before Oxford Paint Supply opened to sell Farrell-Calhoun paints.

“Everything worked out great,” he said.

And when he looks back on leaving school, he knows he made the right decision.

“It was a good idea. I can’t see myself going back and changing it.

“But,” he conceded, “it’s a whole lot more work than you can imagine. We find out every day something else is involved.”

R.D.’s sister, Amanda Sutherlin, has two stores under her belt, but still insists that her brother is “the perfect little business man.”

The weekend Oxford Paint Supply opened was the same weekend Amanda bought Tan Lines, located on Jackson Avenue West. The tanning business had seen some loss in clientele but Amanda was sure she knew of a way to revive it.

“I just got rid of the generic tanning bed look and made it classy and fun for college kids,” she said.

And although Tan Lines was business number one for Amanda, her first love is Veranda on Jefferson.

“I’ve always been interested in decorating, and when I decided I wanted a store, that was just automatically what I was going to do.”

Amanda had always told Marie Outlaw, the former owner of 1013 Jefferson Avenue where Veranda on Jefferson is now located, that she would one day own the little purple building.

“She’d laugh because I was only 18 years old,” Amanda recalled. Then one day, Amanda Sutherlin happened to run into Outlaw.

“I asked her if she wanted to sell and she said she was going to call me that night. It was just one of those things that was just meant to be. It just fell into place.”

So Debbie and Doug purchased the deep purple house with the white trim and began leasing it to their daughter. Debbie now helps Amanda run the business.

“Someone downtown told me if you can’t make it in Oxford, you can’t make it anywhere,” Debbie Sutherlin said.

Sutherlin LLC, the family’s company, now owns half of Oxford Paint Supply, Veranda on Jefferson and Tan Lines.

“We brought the whole family under one umbrella with three businesses running under it,” said Doug Sutherlin. “Their chances of success are a lot better.”

“I’m very, very proud,” Debbie said of her children. “I’m really proud of the people they’ve turned into, and I know all the times we had to miss doing things. We had a business and it paid off in the long run.

“But,” she admitted, “they’re kids. Not all the time, but most of the time.”

Doug Sutherlin agreed with his wife.

“They’ve done exceptionally well,” he said. “I’m proud of both of them.”

Contact MBJ staff writer Elizabeth Kirkland at ekirkland@msbusiness.com or (601) 364-1042.


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