After thirty years in the interior design business, Cleveland native Jane Easterly began producing bags out of recycled fabrics and sample books. Her newest business venture, Recycled Elements of Design, is taking off thanks to a bright vision and help from ECD's Business Enterprise Resource Office.
Recycled Elements of Design
After almost thirty years as an interior designer in Cleveland, Tenn., Jane Easterly was at a vendor's event when she saw a wall covering rep's hand-made bag. The bags, given away as door prizes, were made from discarded wall coverings. It was an "Aha!" moment for Jane and after brainstorming with a fellow designer, she began to make prototypes using leftover samples and materials from her interior design work.
Her second business, Recycled Elements of Design (RED) was born out of leftover sample books and inspiration from an event giveaway.
Jane and her designer began taking sample books apart and using the fabric to make what she calls "bar bags" - a purse big enough to hold your credit card and identification for a night out. The size of the fabric scraps dictated the size and shape of the purse, and Jane later began making larger pieces including clutches, tote bags, baby bags and yoga mat bags. She even made leather purses using discontinued leather given to her by a furniture rep.
Everything is one- or maybe two-of-a-kind, given that they were working with samples. Her overhead is low - using floor covering samples, vinyl or ceramic tiles as embellishments and cords from sample books as straps.
As with every new business, Jane faced challenges in launching Recycled Elements of Design. Though her products spoke for themselves and she always had a good response, she needed help pricing her goods, identifying her target audience and developing a marketing plan.
A family member and friend both encouraged Jane to learn more about ECD's Business Enterprise Resource Office. After she received information from BERO about applying for a micro loan, she met with a business development counselor to develop a business plan and complete the application.
Together, they developed a plan for marketing and generated leads for setting up a website. In just a matter of weeks, Jane learned that she had been approved for BERO’s Rural Small Business and Entrepreneurship Loan Fund.
The microloan has allowed Jane to develop and hone her marketing plan to grow her business. She was also able to hire an outside professional to refine her logo and work with her on her website. Jane believes she is on the right track to bring RED’s products to the national level.
When Carl Kestler promised his grandfather that he would be famous one day, he didn't know how or when he would come through on that promise. After meeting husband-and-wife duo Scott and April Mason, the three were able to make it happen with the help of the Kingsport Chamber of Commerce, Kingsport Office of Small Business Development & Entrepreneurship (KOSBE), the Small Business Administration (SBA), and the Tennessee Department of Economic and Community Development Business Enterprise Resource Office (BERO).
More than 100,000 Jars Later
Nearly four decades ago Carl Kester of Bartlesville, Okla., promised his grandfather that he would be famous one day. Little did he know at that time, that he would make his grandfather famous by marketing the secret family recipe barbecue sauce that was the brainchild of Grandpa Kester.
Husband-and-wife duo Scott and April Mason met Carl Kester at a tradeshow in Cookeville, Tenn., where he was selling products based on old-fashioned recipes that he and his grandfather, Trigger Beeler (as he was affectionately called by family and friends), worked on during Kester's youth.
April Mason was ecstatic when the opportunity to start a family-owned business presented itself. After attending Tennessee Tech, a public university in Cookeville, and graduating with a bachelor's degree in Housing and Design with a minor in Art, she had worked for several family-owned businesses and learned that owning a small business could empower her to control her destiny. She eagerly welcomed the challenge.
Scott Mason is a 17-year member of the Tennessee National Guard and also a full-time EMS helicopter pilot for Wings Air Rescue in Greeneville, Tenn.
In 2006, Scott and April Mason founded Mason Distributors with $10,000 cash and a $50,000 line of credit on a joint account and began commercial production of Trigger Beeler's original recipe salsas and barbecue sauce in San Antonio, Texas. Quality packaged medium-heat sauces derived from all natural ingredients boasting extra low salt and sugar levels on the nutritional labels are shipped to a temperature-controlled warehouse in Gray, Tenn., and supplied to Food City Grocery Stores (operating 100 units throughout Kentucky, Virginia and Tennessee); Food Country Grocery Stores; the Stock Pot in Johnson City, Tenn.; the Tri-Cities, Tenn., area; area Walgreens; and Earthfare Organic Food Supermarket in Johnson City, Tenn.
Its success indicates sufficient local demand for low salt and low sugar food products to support further innovation and growth in production.
Mason Distributors attributes their success to three areas: exceeding customer expectations, manufacturing quality and continually offering a unique and distinct product.
As new business owners, Scott and April quickly realized the benefits of joining the local Chamber of Commerce, which they credit with helping boost their business and confidence. Asking for help and allowing help from the Chamber, Kingsport Office of Small Business Development & Entrepreneurship (KOSBE), the Small Business Administration (SBA), and the Tennessee Department of Economic and Community Development Business Enterprise Resource Office (BERO), Mason Distributors developed and implemented their business plan and an integrated marketing campaign.
Balancing work and family life has been the Masons greatest accomplishment. By establishing their own standards, setting proper limits and boundaries, and getting organized, Scott and April are able to maintain a thriving family business, while taking charge of their time, creating time for themselves and their friends, and taking some time off to enjoy quality family vacations with their daughters Avery and Aubrey.
Mason Distributors future plans include exploring additional markets through contracting and exporting, hiring a warehouse manager and bringing their manufacturing to Tennessee to further support the local economy. By manufacturing their products locally and using raw ingredients made by businesses and workers across the region, Mason Distributors intends to become a Pick Tennessee Product manufacturer, which will afford them the benefits of the ongoing marketing campaign of the Tennessee Department of Agriculture - a campaign which helps consumers identify and choose Tennessee produced and processed agricultural products and puts buyers and sellers together.
It should be no surprise that April and Scott dare to dream, and commit to making their dream a reality - a dream that one day Trigger's salsa and sauces will be available nationwide.
For more information, visit www.triggerbeeler.com.
Lizz Harris had been an artist for many years and had taught art in both a public school and studio. After experimenting with fiber, she began using silk to create unique women's clothing. After being referred to the BERO office by the business department at Cleveland State Community College, Lizz eventually became the recipient of the BERO Rural Small Business and Entrepreneurship Loan funded by the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act.
U.S. Veteran Ted Dunn launched a new career as an entrepreneur after a 30-year career with General Motors. Ted is the inventor of a multi-purpose trailer hitch that provides a one-stop hook-up. With the help of ECD's BERO office, Ted was able to successfully launch his product.
T and C Corporation
Native West Tennessean Ted Dunn, is an eight-year veteran of the United States Marine Core and a 30-year retiree from General Motors.
After a fulfilling career, Ted turned to a new line of work. He has recently launched a multi-purpose trailer hitch that provides a one-stop hook-up - called the D-Wyng. As inventor, designer and engineer of the D-Wyng, Ted turned to the ECD BERO office to secure funding for the manufacture and marketing of the product.
BERO directed Ted to the Rural Small Business and Entrepreneurship Loan Fund program, which offers below-prime-interest-rate loans to entrepreneurs, home-based and part-time businesses. He was approved and is now the first small business in Henderson County to receive this microloan.
In preparation for the launch of the D-Wyng, Ted also received assistance from The Tennessee Small Business Development Center at Jackson State Community College, the University of Tennessee Procurement Technical Assistance Center and BERO.
Ted is married to Cora and is the father of six children.
Pennington Seed and Supply Co. was the overall statewide winner of the 2009 entrepreneurship video contest - "What Makes You an Entrepreneur?" - hosted by ECD's BERO office.
Pennington Seed and Supply Co
Founded in Gates, Tenn., in 1972, Pennington Seed and Supply Co. began as a country general merchandise store specializing in hardware, feed and seed. In 1974, the company relocated to Dyersburg, and, in 1991, Pennington's Gourmet Pecans were added to the company’s product inventory.
Pennington's continues to be a family owned company that is currently owned and managed by Hal Michael Pennington. In 2009, Pennington's participated in ECD's statewide entrepreneurship video competition - "What Makes You an Entrepreneur
In 2010, an ECD photographer and videographer traveled to Dyersburg to capture Pennington's on film. Click here to watch the video created for Pennington Seed & Supply.