By Carlie Kollath/NEMS Daily Journal
This month marks the first anniversary of our Homegrown feature, which runs every Sunday on this page.
The feature was started as a way to highlight small, locally owned businesses throughout Northeast Mississippi. The vast majority of the names on our list comes from nominations.
Business Editor Dennis Seid and I take those nominations and look for businesses that have been around for at least a year, but many have been around much longer. Take this week’s Homegrown story, for example. Wood Eye Clinic has been doing business in Pontotoc for 30 years.
We also look for diversity in the type of business, the location and the ownership.
I’ve written nearly 50 mini profiles for the series. I didn’t know much about some of the businesses before I interviewed them. Tupelo Fire Equipment was one of them. The company is on Cliff Gookin Boulevard and outfits firefighters. Plus, it customizes fire engines.
I’ve written about restaurants and shops where I’ve been a customer for years.
I’ve left each of those interviews feeling like I’ve met a great American. Yeah, it sounds cheesy. But these small business owners are the foundation of our country – and they provide so many of the experiences that make life enjoyable.
They know your name when you grocery shop with them. They can customize your dinner at the restaurant because they are the owners and the chefs. They’ll call you when a new shirt comes in they think would look perfect on you.
Sure, they have a vested interest in making you and me happy as customers, but there’s a different level of service when people are passionate about what they do. And these small business owners have to be passionate because most of them are devoting their entire lives to the operation.
When they aren’t at the business, they are fielding phone calls or talking to people in the community about their business.
We look at the Homegrown series as a way to thank the owners for what they do. To thank them for the long hours and the late nights and for the toilets they may have to clean. They don’t have the corporate backing of the big chains, so they have to work even harder when times are lean.
And maybe one of our small businesses will grow into a national brand.
Last week, the New York Times’ Wonkblog posted data showing the U.S. has the smallest small-business sector among wealthy countries. About 34 percent of employees work for companies with 50 or fewer people. Greece has the highest percentage, with 75.7 percent.
But the U.S. topped the chart with our percentage of employees working for companies with 250 or more employees – 52.7 percent. Greece came in last, with 13.6 percent.
Don’t get me wrong – we need the big businesses as much as we need the small businesses. I shop and eat with them all. But I think our small business owners need more of our thanks. The big companies get the attention, and sometimes small businesses get lost in the shuffle.
We’re trying to change that with our Homegrown series. Help us by nominating your favorite locally owned business in Northeast Mississippi by emailing firstname.lastname@example.org or email@example.com.
Contact Daily Journal business reporter Carlie Kollath at (662) 678-1598 or firstname.lastname@example.org.