Owner and Founder of The Mississippi Gift Company
By Becky Gillette • Photography by Johnny Jennings
When Cindy Tyler founded The Mississippi Gift Company in Greenwood thirty years ago, it was a very different retail market. Their niche was providing mail-ordered corporate gift baskets filled with Mississippi-made goodies. When The Mississippi Gift Company started out, the company was sending out catalogs near and far.
“The catalog business was a very expensive proposition and, at one point, we were sending out 30,000 catalogs to businesses and customers all across Mississippi,” says Tyler. “Then came the Internet and, in 1997, we were one of the first Mississippi companies to have an e-commerce site which exposed our business to additional out-of-state customers, including former Mississippians who wanted to give a gift from home. Many of the major businesses and corporations within Mississippi love giving our exclusive gift baskets to their clients to show off the quality goods that are made in Mississippi.”
The Mississippi Gift Company has beaten the odds to survive and grow over three decades. An average of one in five new businesses in the U.S. fails within a year and sixty-five percent don’t make it past ten years. Tyler attributes their success to the Mississippi makers and artisans who create incredible handcrafted goods, combined with wonderful, loyal customers across the U.S.
“When we started The Mississippi Gift Company more than thirty years ago, we were tired of the same mass-produced goods,” Tyler said in an anniversary letter to customers. “So, we set out on an adventure to search the back roads of Mississippi to find and curate handcrafted, locally made goods. It was our vision to offer you the best our state has to offer by searching for hard-to-find, handcrafted goods that reflect your Southern heritage, taste and style. And, yes, honestly to help dispel the image that some across the country have of our state. (Guess what; we wear shoes and know how to spell). In fact, Mississippi has some of the most talented musicians, writers, storytellers, chefs and artists in the country. It has been an honor to find and share the best of our state’s talent and these tasteful goods and share them with you over the years.”
Tyler says it is the relationships with their customers and vendors that have blessed the company and afforded them the opportunity to grow and continue to offer the best Mississippi has to offer. Their most popular items are gift baskets and boxes filled with various Mississippi gourmet foods and gifts. People love these because they are unique, one-of-a-kind and exclusive.
Customers can choose a ready-made gift package or they can create their own gift box or basket filled with items that they know their gift recipient will love. In the food category, cheese straws, jellies, jams, pecans and various mixes are popular. They also carry Mississippi-made pottery, kitchen items, candles and home décor including artwork. All total, they offer more than 2,000 items made in Mississippi.
Tyler says customers like that by buying from The Mississippi Gift Company, they are supporting hundreds of small businesses helping create jobs, keeping tax dollars in the state and showcasing the quality products made right here in Mississippi.”
They now have more than 85,000 customers from all fifty states, and the company’s Mississippi-made products have garnered over 2,000 glowing five-star reviews. TheMississippiGiftCompany.com is consistently in the top ten percent of the 366 million U.S. websites, and Google recently featured The Mississippi Gift Company in the Google Economic Impact Report.
“We were also fortunate that Southern Living recognized The Mississippi Gift Company as one of the South’s Best Boutiques,” says Tyler.
At an early age, her mother taught her the Golden Rule, so Tyler treats others as she would want to be treated in all that she does. She also follows her mother’s advice to trust and give everything over to God.
“We strive to offer the best quality products and service that we can,” says Tyler. “We have put together an incredible team and have some of the most amazing customers and vendors that anyone could ask for. We are focused on people and processes to make it as easy as possible for our customers to do business with us.”
Some people might be surprised to find a business like this in Greenwood rather than a larger town. But, Tyler says being in Greenwood is one of the things that makes their business unique. Another is the fact that they search Mississippi and curate the best foods and gifts and ship them to the customer right out of their fulfillment center in downtown Greenwood.
“Being located in the Delta has a certain mystique that adds to the uniqueness and exclusiveness of the gifts that we offer,” says Tyler. “We are Mississippi, authentic and local. Every product we offer is made with passion here in our home state, proudly handcrafted by small-batch makers, local artists and small family businesses to ensure that customers’ gifts are unique, exclusive, and, yes, the most meaningful.”
Tyler says it also helps their business that Greenwood is one of the premier luxury tourist destinations in the Southeast due to the Viking Cooking School, the Alluvian Hotel, and top-notch dining and shopping offerings.
“It is amazing the number of people who visit Greenwood for a girls’ getaway or a couple’s trip, many from other parts of the country and within a five-hour driving distance of Greenwood,” says Tyler. “We are fortunate to be part of this experience.”
Beth Stevens, executive director, Greenwood-LeFlore County Chamber of Commerce, says The Mississippi Gift Company is not only successful as a business but is a wonderful marketing tool for their community as a whole, as tourists and locals alike support this business and see it as an opportunity to send or take home a little piece of Greenwood and Mississippi.
“Cindy and her husband Tim, are the epitome of creative entrepreneurship,” says Stevens. “They have taken a basic, simple concept of selling only goods made in this state and have turned it into a thriving business that is loved in the Greenwood community and beyond. We are very proud to have them as part of our retail community.”
Christmas is their busiest time of year. This past season they had twelve employees to help with the fulfillment of the orders and creating gift baskets. Shipping is fast. For gift recipients in Mississippi, Alabama, Louisiana, Tennessee or Arkansas, in most cases orders arrive the next day. If the recipient lives in other states, the gift should arrive in two to five days.
Tyler also attributes their success to loyal and efficient employees.
“Our staff turnover is low because we all work together so well as a team and believe in our mission of providing the best Mississippi made foods gifts and home decor available to our customers,” says Tyler. “We have one full-time employee who will be celebrating her twentieth anniversary with us in 2024 and another who will be celebrating her tenth. They all add so much to our business and help make us who we are today.
“Mississippi Gift Company is like a family, and we are there to help each other out and nurture and encourage each other. The seasonal help that comes in to work during the fourth quarter are usually high school and college age girls. Many of their parents say that it is like finishing school in that the girls learn responsibility, hard work and dedication as this is typically one of the first jobs they have ever had. Also, they have an older group of employees who are like family who act as role models and mentor each one of them in her growth and development.”
What she likes the most about her job is definitely the people. Tyler also loves being able to offer unique gifts that help people celebrate special moments in their life.
“Over the past thirty years, we have developed relationships with many of our customers and love that we can be a part of their celebrations,” says Tyler. “The hardest part of the job is the long hours during the fourth quarter holiday rush, but it is very rewarding and fulfilling to know that we were making so many people happy during the holiday season and other times of the year.”
Tyler and her husband, Tim, also just celebrated their thirtieth wedding anniversary. They have one son, Cole Tyler, twenty-three, a recent accounting graduate from Mississippi State University. He is currently in graduate school for his masters in accounting and studying for the CPA exam.
“So, I am an official empty nester,” says Tyler. “When I’m not working, I enjoy spending time with my family and friends and traveling. We have a game day condo in Starkville and enjoy staying there when we can and visiting our son. I enjoy tennis and I am on a women’s tennis team, which I enjoy very much. After the holiday rush, I look forward to getting into pickleball with my husband and taking some fun trips.”