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You have purchased 1 articles, and you have 9 remaining before the subscription expires on 12/09/2004 11:09 PM.

April 4, 2004
Section: Local
Page: 1B

Determination pays off
Sylvain Metz

Entrepreneurs take products to masses
By Sylvain Metz

What do a barber, a cook and a teacher have in common? They are all entrepreneurs who created mainstream products now carried by large merchandising chains.

Chris Jarreau, a caterer from Brookhaven, who bottles six varieties of salad dressing recently sold 8,000 bottles to Albertson's grocery store.

Greg Pouchstone, a former special education teacher for adults now living in Gloster, produces thousands of bars of soap daily for grocery stores in Vicksburg and Natchez and is waiting to send out his first shipment to Wal-Mart.

John Campbell, a barber from Starkville invented a skin conditioner when he was 10 and, now, through the help of his partners, has found a home for his product in drug stores around the state.

They represent a sampling of entrepreneurs who took their ideas to the masses.

Getting to that level took luck, hard work and a determination to persevere.

·A caterer for more than 25 years, Jarreau, a single mother, made ends meet by cooking casseroles for local consumption. About 20 years ago, while hosting a 14-year-old French exchange student, the two mixed up a creole vinaigrette for a salad.

"He couldn't speak English. I spoke no French." But both knew the language of food, she said.

At that time, Americans were more attuned to heavier salad dresses, not vinaigrettes.

"We were looking for something lighter. It was what (he) was used to eating."

Jarreau used it on her catered salads and got rave responses. "People just liked it."

She ignored calls by friends and others to bottle the homemade brew. With children to raise, casseroles to cook and vinaigrette dressing to whip up, Jarreau had too much on her plate.

Seeing no future in casseroles, Jarreau changed her mind and began bottling the dressing in her kitchen about four years ago.

With the help of her children, Jarreau mixed up

her dressing while the kids poured them into Mason jars - one bottle at a time.

Jarreau went to Europe four years ago on a mission trip. While there, she went to Paris to try and find the student but could not, she said.

The product, built on an initial investment of $5,000, found success at the Everyday Gourmet in Jackson, the Flower Tree in Brookhaven and the Mississippi Gift Basket Co. in Jackson.

While buying food from Jeff Daughdrill, a salesman for Sysco Food Services, three years ago, he asked her about her product. It was then Daughdrill told her, " `My brother is looking for people like you.' "

David Daughdrill and his partner Chuck Hancock of Hattiesburg are food brokers who own and operate Longleaf Kitchens.

"Within two days, they were at my house. They liked the product. They thought it was delicious."

The three formed a partnership. "They had the business side I didn't have."

The two men "just took it and ran with it."

Out went the Mason jars and in came fancy bottles and labels, using the Longleaf name. The inventory had to be increased. So Jarreau went back to the kitchen and came up with five more vinaigrette flavors: balsamic, raspberry, burnt pecan, blood orange and black fig.

That partnership paid off in November when Jarreau got an initial order from Albertson's for 8,000 bottles for 241 of their 1,500 stores.

In addition, the company sells the dressings on the company Web site for $4.50 a bottle.

"If I can get people to taste it, then I can get people to buy it," she said.

With six part-time employees, Jarreau turns out her products.

Jarreau said her company isn't rushing too far ahead. "We're taking this real slow, waiting for doors to open.

"If we go one step bigger ... I'd love to be able to open a bottling plant here and produce jobs with this product."

·Greg Pouchstone and his wife, Janet, were living in Virginia, just outside Washington, D.C., when he came across a how-to book in a bookstore on making all natural soap.

While expecting their first child, Janet Pouchstone was looking for part-time work to supplement the salary from Greg's job working with mentally challenged adults for the Department of Mental Retardation Services, Alexandria, Va.

Her search would become his new vocation.

The instructions in the book seemed fairly simple, he recalled. "Even I could do it. So we tried it."

Working in their kitchen, Pouchstone produced an oatmeal soap and found a market selling to doctors and area hospitals there.

Wanting to be closer to Janet's family in Natchez, the couple bought a feed and seed store in Gloster and moved there in October 2000.

In a town of 900, sales were far from robust so Pouchstone started making soap again in February 2001, using space at the feed store.

Between Internet sales and sales to retailers like Rainbow Whole Foods Cooperative Grocery in Jackson, the product began to catch on, he said.

In March 2001, Mississippi Soap Co. Inc. was born.

Pouchstone, who makes the soap himself, went from selling 30 bars every three weeks to 1,000 bars per month under the Mississippi Soap Co. label.

"It's just like soup. You just get a big pot (and stir in ingredients). That's all you are doing."

The work slows down, however, when he stops to package his all natural soaps, which come in a cotton muslin drawstring bag. The average price per bar is about $3.

Pouchstone began selling to Kroger three weeks ago and has an agreement with Wal-Mart to provide an initial 6,000 bars of soap and 4,000 bottles of lotion for 13 Mississippi stores for a six-month trial period. Although Wal-Mart granted approval seven months ago, Pouchstone said his vender number is just now arriving this week.

Taking it to this level requires perseverance, he said. "You've got to know what you want. It's expensive and it can be a lot of heartache."

When Wal-Mart accepted his product, Pouchstone had to agree to provide his own displays, which were to be prepared by Wal-Mart's vendors and meet its specifications. The displays cost about $12,000.

Despite the costs and the wait, Pouchstone is optimistic.

"Wal-Mart will really put us on the map," he said.

As for that packaging, Pouchstone said he will contract with the Mississippi Industries for the Developmentally Disabled in McComb. They'll be able to package 2,000 bars per day.

"I think other companies should look at using these adults. They are a wonderful resource. They do an incredible job."

·It's not just the inventors who must endure. Those who partner with and put up the money for the idea also face obstacles to success.

That's been true marketing Shaver's Choice, a skin conditioner 51-year-old Starkville barber John Campbell developed when he was 10 years old, according to Michael Van Velkinburgh, chief operating officer for SC3 LLC.

Campbell, who is now writing a book about his experience entitled Dreaming on My Cotton Sack, said it was a hard road to get his product to market, but "I always knew it would happen. I couldn't say when, but I never gave up."

The product, then produced in stainless steel vats in his garage, is a skin conditioner that promises to eliminate razor bumps while relieving shavers of skin irritation caused by shaving.

Campbell had worked on it for 40 years trying to get it off the ground before he met Brenda Thornton in December 2001 who was on a business meeting in Starkville for AmFed, a writer of workers' compensation. Based in Ridgeland she was, and remains, chief information officer for the company.

Then retired, Campbell was still trying to get his product to market, Van Velkinburgh said.

Seeing an opportunity, Thornton, along with Van Velkinburgh and a silent partner, invested in his company and formed SC3 LLC with Thornton serving as president.

The company took on that challenge. One of its first tasks was to ensure the quality of the product.

"We were not completely pleased with the stability of the product, so we found a chemist who had long experience with skin care products, Tom Hart, a New Jersey chemist with patents on Sweet 'N Low and a patent on the first aloe vera formula for Vaseline," said Van Velkinburgh.

With an initial investment of under $100,000, SC3 then began looking for customers.

Van Velkinburgh, who took over marketing operations in March 2002, began by targeting the beauty and barber industry. "We believed in the product. It was fantastic. It worked and did everything it said it would."

Still, the company was facing stiff competition. Although it was initially marketed as an ethnic product, the company still faced competition from giants like Colgate and Gillette.

Making little progress, the company realized it needed more, so they developed a skin therapy shaving system, Van Velkinburgh said.

The company took the product to the Food Marketing Institute Trade Show in Chicago last May, a market Van Velkinburgh knew having worked in the grocery business before.

The strategy worked and contacts were made with several suppliers from various chains.

The next step was to change the packaging and give it mass appeal.

"When we inherited the product ... it was in white plastic jars with black writing. It had no shelf appeal," Van Velkinburgh said. "We knew we had to package it to compete.

"As the target market widened, we soon realized we had a product to cross all gender and racial lines."

Since then, the company has picked up Fred's, local Super D Drugs, Service RX in Ridgeland, barber shops and two government exchanges including the Navy.

Products range from $5.99 for a tube of Shaver's Choice After Shave Skin Therapy, to $34.99 for the Shaver's Choice Care Package.

The Internet has also proven to be a solid source of revenue, Van Velkinburgh said.

The key, Campbell said, is "never give up."


The following are resources for helping small businesses promote their product.

·Mississippi Market: At Mississippi Market manufacturers, artisans, wholesalers and service providers display their wares to retail store buyers who attend the show to source products and place orders.

Since 1999, exhibitor participation has increased by 104 percent to 137 vendors, and the number of buyers attending has increased 20 percent to 921.

In 2002, exhibitors reported sales to 1,407 new customers.

This year's Market is June 11-12 at the Mississippi Trademart. Exhibitor and buyer registration information and forms are available at www.mississippimarket. org.

·Incubator Network Program: Business incubators offer entrepreneurs facilities and services to help their companies grow.

Mississippi has 15 business incubators.

Since its inception, almost 200 new businesses employing more than 1,200 employees have been developed in the program.

·Contract Procurement Centers: The Mississippi Contract Procurement Center is a consortium of five centers in Jackson, Greenville, Columbus, Meridian and Biloxi.

MSCPC annually aids Mississippi businesses in obtaining $200 million in federal, state and local government contracts.

From the contract dollars, approximately 4,500 jobs are created and/or retained annually producing nearly $121.1 million in household income.

·Services for Entrepreneurs: Counseling and information is offered at no charge for existing firms or for individuals interested in starting of business.

Typical services include, finance, accounting and marketing.

An Entrepreneur's Tool Kit - a start up workbook for new businesses - available in print or electronically, may be downloaded from MDA's Web site - www.mississip

Mississippi Development Authority


·For more information about Longleaf Kitchens, visit its Web site at www.longleaf

·For more information about the Mississippi Soap Co., visit its Web site at

·For more information about Shaver's Choice, visit its Web site at www.shaver


Chris Jarreau of Brookhaven had been making homemade salad dressing for years, using them in her catering business. Upon urging from customers, she began bottling and selling it in a small kitchen she built off her house. The product's popularity has grown so that Albertson's stores has ordered 8,000 bottles.

Barbara Gauntt/The Clarion-Ledger


John Campbell developed Shaver's Choice skin conditioner. The product has since been reformulated, repackaged and is sold throughout the state.

Brian Albert Broom/The Clarion Ledger-File Photo


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