By Arnold Lindsay
Clarion-Ledger Staff Writer
Debbie Hankins knew the printing business front and
back, she knew the clientele when she wanted to buy out her
All she needed was a banker. And she found one glad to
Five months later, she has 13 full-time employees and
represents the type of small business owner who statistics
indicate will be around for a while, said Thelman Larry
Anderson, loan officer with the Central Mississippi Planning
and Development District, which loaned Hankins money to
complete the purchase.
"I would say that the number one thing she had is she
had developed a good relationship with the banker. She had
somebody who believed in her. She had experience that showed
she could do the job in all facets of the business she was
acquiring," Anderson said. "She had a good relationship with
(customers) as well. And that was a very positive aspect of it
? that made it very attractive to the lender."
At 43, Hankins' Triple H Enterprises, doing business in
Flowood as Nick Clark Printing, is going strong.
Hankins represents one of the 106,205 self-employed
Mississippians, according to the U.S. Small Business
Administration's Office of Advocacy. Of the 53,509 businesses
across the state, 97 percent are classified as small
businesses, which typically employ less than 500 people.
The vast majority of those businesses, 38,300, are
owned by women, and the growth continues, said Janita Stewart,
SBA district director.
"Our loan volume remains up and this has been going on
all of last year," Stewart said.
In fiscal 2001, which ended last September, SBA made
501 loans, a 26 percent increase over the previous year's
total of 399. From October to February, 173 small business
loans totaling $44.8 million were made, Stewart said.
Tammy Phillips, vice president of Community Bank in
Jackson, who assisted Hankins in securing business loans,
agreed small businesses are thriving, and banks assist clients
by finding multiple funding sources.
"I would say small businesses are one of the major
sources of why we're here. They're our bread and butter,"
Phillips said. "We make every effort to accommodate everyone
of those that's possible."
But despite the thriving small business climate,
aspiring business owners must be financially stable and have
credit that withstands intense scrutiny.
John Campbell is president and chief executive officer
of ShaversChoice, creator of a skin conditioner
named SC3 that promises to reduce razor bumps and soothe
irritated skin. He is finally on the way up, but his finances
stopped lenders from touching him.
The admittedly financially strapped Campbell had
exhausted all avenues for growth. After a solid market entry
in 1995 when he appeared on the Home Shopping Network and sold
his 7,000-jar inventory in eight minutes, he had only been
able to sell a few jars here and there.
For years, Campbell's outlook remained bleak until a
once-in-a-lifetime chance encounter occurred last Dec. 6.
It brought Campbell face to face with Ridgeland
investor Brenda Thornton, who was at the Mississippi
Technology Center in Starkville on business.
Within minutes of the noontime meeting, Campbell's
story compelled Thornton to break stride and listen. She liked
the product and now backs him financially.
"If either one of us had been one minute late we never
would have met. That's why we believe it was in God's plan,"
Thornton said. "I just instantly knew this was something I
wanted to be a part of. I've helped John put together his
business plan and Web page."
Currently the pair is working on plans to mass produce
the product, courting major retailers for shelf space and
gathering user testimonials for marketing purposes.
Campbell, who also believes that God intended the
meeting to occur, said he had gone to visit a friend and was
on the verge of losing his house when he met Thornton. The few
dollars he had earned cutting grass, cleaning gutters and
doing other odd jobs was not enough.
"I had to file bankruptcy... it was a day-to-day thing
trying to keep my lights on. I was trying to keep my home and
it seemed like I didn't have a friend in the world," Campbell
said. "I started to tell (Thornton) about my trouble. Not only
was she able to help financially, she rolled up her sleeves
How likely is the Campbell scenario to be repeated?
"Not very likely," said Henry Thomas, director of the
Jackson State University Center for Business Development and
Economic Research, who said Campbell's persistence was a
worthy attribute of small business owners.
"Part of luck is learning to be able, and having the
knowledge and skill to take advantage of opportunities,"
Thomas said. "Lucky things happen to people who are prepared.
There are other people who would have met (Thornton) and
wouldn't have had a product ready and wouldn't be able to take
advantage of her skills."
Stewart said startup money is always available, if
business owners search hard enough. The SBA even administers a
program that would have set up Campbell's business and taken
partial ownership until the loan was repaid, she said. One
such program, the Angel Capital Electronic Network - AceNet,
provides assistance from $250,000 to $5 million.
Campbell also had the luck of being a friend of G.C.
Cameron, lead singer for The Spinners, who has passed out SC3
more than a dozen times during his tours across the country.
Those who use it, he said, speak well of their results.
"I just came in from Topeka, Kan. So I gave a couple of
the sky captains, the guys who take care of us, some of the
product, and they seemed to appreciate it," Cameron, a native
of McCalls Creek, said. "I think it has incredible potential.
It's something that someone should have focused on a long time
Debbie Hankins recently acquired Nick Clark Printing in
Flowood. Hankins said it was a gut feeling to buy the
J.D. Schwalm/The Clarion-Ledger
John Campbell of Starkville, inventor of SC3, a skin
care product, struggled to find financing until a chance
encounter led to a deal.
Brian Albert Broom/The Clarion-Ledger
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