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pays off Sylvain Metz Staff
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
Seeing no future in casseroles, Jarreau changed her
mind and began bottling the dressing in her kitchen about four
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
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
"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
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
·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
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
"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
"I think other companies should look at using these
adults. They are a wonderful resource. They do an incredible
·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
Making little progress, the company realized it needed
more, so they developed a skin therapy shaving system, Van
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
"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
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
Mississippi has 15 business incubators.
Since its inception, almost 200 new businesses
employing more than 1,200 employees have been developed in the
·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
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 pi.org
Mississippi Development Authority
ON THE NET
·For more information about Longleaf Kitchens, visit
its Web site at www.longleaf foods.com
·For more information about the Mississippi Soap Co.,
visit its Web site at www.ms soap.com
·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
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
Copyright (c) The Clarion-Ledger. All rights reserved.
Reproduced with the permission of Gannett Co., Inc. by