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Former NFL pro excels as advertising entrepreneur

Clinton — When NFL kicker Jaret Holmes was mulling his future, several options came to mind.

With his degree in exercise physiology, he could pursue work in the medical field, perhaps by selling pharmaceuticals or branching into physical therapy. But the idea of being his own boss greatly appealed to him, so he began asking his teammates what they did in the off-season.

“One of my buddies owned a specialty advertising company, and had a partner that ran it full-time,” said Holmes. “I rode with him a couple of times, and liked the concept. He had a broad spectrum of items to play with, and he met with people of all professions. I liked the fact that it wasn’t limiting in any way.”

Next, Holmes had to decide where to locate his business. A native of Clinton, he had played football at Hinds Community College before heading to Auburn University. His first NFL gig as a kicker was with the Chicago Bears in 1999. He was with the New York Giants in 2000, the Jacksonville Jaguars in 2001, and most recently with the Carolina Panthers.

Getting back home

“At the ripe age of 29, I’ve been to just about as many places as you could hope for, just about every country in Europe, and all over the country here playing football,” said Holmes. “After living in New York and Chicago and all these other fast-paced cities, which was fun, I quickly found out I was just a good ol’ country boy and enjoyed the easier pace of life. I wanted to come home to Clinton.”

In April 2003, Holmes established Holmes Specialty Advertising, selling an almost limitless variety of specialized promotional products for all genres of the business world. But setting up the company was the easy part.

“It was a little tough getting out of the sports arena that I’d done for 20- some-odd years, but it wasn’t too hard because this company required little overhead to get started, plus I was doing it out of the back of my house, so I was saving every bit of money I could,” said Holmes. “But I enjoyed getting out and talking to people, so the job fit my personality really well. The only tough part was learning the products and figuring out what fit each customer, and that luckily came naturally as I met people. Getting started went a bit smoother than I expected, but there were some ups and downs to make it grow.”

That first customer…

Holmes’ first big order came from Morgan White Insurance in Jackson, but his first customer came from his older brother, Derek Holmes, then president of IKON Office Solutions of Mississippi, Alabama, Arkansas and parts of Tennessee and Florida, who followed Holmes Specialty Advertising’s progress and, last November, joined the company.

“After I got through a full year and really understood the business and what it would take knowledge- and effort-wise to get on the streets and make it happen, I knew it was going to be something we could do long-term,” said Jaret Holmes. With an accounting degree from Mississippi College and 15 years of sales experience, Derek Holmes’ talents complemented his brother’s.

“Leaving a Fortune 500 company after 13 years was like pulling the trigger,” said Derek Holmes. “But it’s worked out very well.”

This month, the Holmes brothers plan to move into a new 1,500-square- foot building at 130 East Northside Drive in Clinton. They hope to hire the first non-family employee by June 1 and expand their offerings to more unique personalized products.

“Lots of people have ideas, but can’t put them into actual products,” said Jaret Holmes. “They might have an upcoming event and want a product to wow people. That’s where we come in. We can search our database and give them five to 10 options. For example, we can get snow bean pillows in any shape and color they want. We did a safari hat for one client, who was blown away because they didn’t know it was possible to do.”

After surpassing the two-year mark of entrepreneurship, Jaret Holmes said he has no doubt that he made the right choice.

“Coming from the NFL lifestyle, and trying to wean a company from the floor up obviously required a fairly big risk,” he said. “With my background, I could have started off with a fairly nice salary. Making the decision that I wanted to be my own boss and control my own destiny was the best business decision I’ve ever made.”

Contact MBJ contributing writer Lynne W. Jeter at lwjeter@yahoo.com.


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